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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript, 8/2/2016

Guests: Paul Rieckhoff, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin, John Lewis

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 2, 2016 Guest: Paul Rieckhoff, Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin, John Lewis

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST. That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

In the presidential election of 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain pretty badly. Obama beat McCain more than 2-1 in the Electoral College. Obama that year, he won Indiana. He won North Carolina. He even won an electoral vote in Nebraska.

Obama v. McCain was not a landslide, ala LBJ in 1964, or Ronald Reagan, 1984. But Obama beat McCain pretty soundly, beat him much worse than people expected heading into that election.

Election night 2008 was on November 4th. And then 2 1/2 months later, the end of January, 2009, it was time for George W. Bush to leave office. It was time for Barack Obama to be sworn in as the next president of the United States.

And you know what Barack Obama did on the last night before he became president, the last night before his inauguration in 2009? He spent that final night before his inauguration at a black tie celebratory dinner honoring John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please, everybody, thank you.

First of all, everybody looks fabulous.

I am here tonight to say a few words about an American hero that I`ve come to know very well. And admire very much, Senator John McCain.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And then, according to the rules agreed to by both parties, John will have approximately 30 seconds to make a rebuttal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That night before his inauguration, the night before he was due to be inaugurated in 2009, the soon-to-be president did this event in honor of John McCain, praised John McCain as a rare and courageous public servant. He brought John McCain up to the front of the room to join him on stage, he thanked him for his service to the country. He praised John McCain as an example for all Americans to follow.

Everybody always says, it`s the whole belt way line, if that darn Obama had only reached out to Republicans when he first started out as president then things would have gone so much better for him all these years. Honestly, the night before he was sworn in as president, he spent that night, celebrating John McCain, celebrating the guy he had just beaten in order to win the presidency.

And then famously the very next day, inauguration day, while Obama was being sworn in, the Republican congressional leadership held a fateful dinner in Washington, D.C. that day, at which they pledged to each other that they would work with the new president on absolutely nothing. They would object to everything the new President Obama did, no matter what it was. No matter even if they agreed with him on principle and on policy, they would say "no" because it was him. They would block absolutely everything.

So, that two-day window is a great snapshot, right, of the two parties at the start of the Obama era. The Democrats are all excited about how everybody`s going to be working together now. They have such respect for their colleagues across the aisle. They`re hoping for a new bipartisan era.

The Republicans were literally pledging to one another that they would never, ever, ever, ever work with the Democrats on anything, no matter what the Democrats wanted to do. Good luck, Mr. President.

The parties are not mirror images of each other. They are not the same. They don`t think the same. They don`t act the same. And I think the more you appreciate that about Barack Obama over the course of his presidency, both from when he started and how he`s governed and how he`s behaved towards Republicans all along, I think the more you appreciate that about him, the more remarkable his statement was today, about the race to succeed him as president this year. In particular, what he thinks is going wrong on the Republican side of that race this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There have been Republican presidents with whom I`ve disagreed with. But I didn`t have a doubt that they could function as president. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn`t do the job.

And had they won, I would have been disappointed, but I would have said to all Americans, they are -- this is our president, and I know they`re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy, and our constitutional traditions and rule of law. That our government will work. And then we`ll compete four years from now to try to win an election.

But that`s not the situation here. And that`s not just my opinion. That is the opinion of many prominent Republicans. There has to come a point at which you say, enough. And the alternative is that the entire party, the Republican Party, effectively endorses and validates the positions that are being articulated by Mr. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: There has to come a point at which you say, enough. That was President Obama speaking at a joint press availability with the prime minister of Singapore who`s in town for tonight`s big state dinner.

And again, President Obama, despite what his critics say, just the evidence shows that he is not a guttural reflexive partisan on issues like this. He never said that John McCain or Mitt Romney was unfit to hold the job of the presidency. This is not like typical political rhetoric from him. This is the president who spent the night before his own inauguration as president at a dinner honoring John McCain.

He had extensive consultations with John McCain after beating him in that election. Consulted with him on national security issues, even consulted with John McCain on who McCain thought Obama should appoint to major national security positions in his administration.

After Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012, he made a big show of inviting Mitt Romney to the White House to have a private meeting with him to consult with him on some of Mitt Romney`s economic ideas. After the election, President Obama went out of his way to praise Mitt Romney personally, to praise even his past performance as a public figure on things like running the Olympics.

So, this president in particular, Barack Obama has not denigrated Republican candidates for president as unfit or incapable of holding that job. That`s not the kind of rhetoric he uses. It`s not the kind of thing that he has said against anybody else who he`s been in political combat with as a national figure.

But that`s where he went today with Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. He`s woefully unprepared to do this job. And this is not just my opinion. I think what`s been interesting is, the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans, including the speaker of the house and the Senate majority leader, and prominent Republicans like John McCain.

And the question I think that they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party, that this is your standard bearer?

This isn`t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily, and weekly, where they are distancing themselves from statements he`s making. There has to be a point at which you say, this is not somebody I can support for president of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party.

And, you know, the fact that that has not yet happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow. There has to come a point at which you say, somebody who makes those kinds of statements, doesn`t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding, to occupy the most powerful position in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama speaking today at the White House, and not just criticizing Donald Trump. Yes, criticizing Donald Trump, but calling into question, calling what is now the increasingly uncomfortable question for leading Republicans, which is where each of them is going to draw the line. Between disagreeing with Donald Trump and still supporting Donald Trump`s candidacy for president.

John McCain himself is in an incredibly awkward situation on that front. Senator McCain is among the sitting members of Congress who have criticized Mr. Trump this week for his picking a fight with the Khan family, who lost their son in Iraq. But even as Senator McCain has differed strongly with Donald Trump on that issue and on several other issues, Senator McCain still says he supports Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. He still supports his candidacy.

And John McCain is up for re-election this year in Arizona, and that stance on Donald Trump is not helping him in his race for re-election in Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD NARRATOR: Donald Trump is dangerous for America.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn`t lose any voters, OK?

I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

AD NARRATOR: But no matter what Donald Trump says, John McCain would support him for president?

INTERVIEWER: Including Donald Trump, you support him?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, yes.

TRUMP: She said he`s a pussy.

Like to punch him in the face, I`ll tell you.

INTERVIEWER: Donald Trump?

MCCAIN: Yes, yes.

TRUMP: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes -- blood coming out of her wherever.

AD NARRATOR: Even Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is distancing himself from Trump. Not John McCain.

Even after Trump said --

TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

AD NARRATOR: McCain repeated.

MCCAIN: I vote for the Republican nominee, obviously. I`m a loyal Republican.

AD NARRATOR: There was a time when country mattered more than his political party. But 30 years in Washington have changed John McCain. We need leaders to stand up to Donald Trump.

ANN KIRKPARICK (D), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Ann Kirkpatrick and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Ann Kirkpatrick is the Democrat who will be running against John McCain in Arizona this fall. If he survives his Republican primary, in which early voting starts this week.

There`s absolutely no political guarantee that John McCain is going to be going back to the Senate next year, because both his primary fight and his general election fights, if he gets there, are going to be difficult. And riding the fence between criticizing Donald Trump and still supporting Donald Trump for president, that awkward position, that neither here nor there position on this most polarizing of figures, it`s not helping John McCain in his own state and his own fight.

As one of the most prominent and celebrated veterans in our country, regardless of the politics, Donald Trump is also just not making this any easier morally for somebody like John McCain. Every single day now, it seems like Donald Trump is trying to make it harder for somebody like senator McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A man came up to me and he handed me his Purple Heart. Now, I said to him, I said to him, is that like the real one, or is that a copy? And he said, that`s my real purple heart. I have such confidence in you. And I said, man, that`s like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: After Donald Trump said that today in Virginia, Illinois Senate Candidate Democratic Congressman Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot out from under her in Iraq, she tweeted herself this picture at Walter Reed Hospital, recovering from her wounds. The caption says, "Donald Trump, this is how one usually looks when you are awarded the Purple Heart." Nothing easy about it.

So, we`re in this interesting moment, where we are asking, once again, if this is where the bottom falls out for Donald Trump.

For the first time today, a sitting Republican member of Congress said publicly that not only will me not vote for Donald Trump, he will actually cross over and vote for Donald Trump`s Democratic opponent, he will vote for Hillary Clinton for president this fall. It`s New York State Republican Congressman Richard Hanna.

He wrote this op-ed for the syracuse.com -- excuse me, for syracuse.com, in which he said, quote, "In his latest foray of insults, Mr. Trump has attacked the parents of a slain U.S. soldier. Where do we draw the line? I thought it would have been when he alleged that U.S. Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he was caught, or the countless other insults he`s lobbed from the presidential podium. For me, it`s not enough to simply denounce his comments. He`s unfit to serve our party and cannot lead this country."

And then he continues, "While I disagree with her on many issues, I will vote for Hillary Clinton for president."

Republicans never do this. You know, they always say Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. I don`t know about the Democrats falling in love part. But Republicans definitely always fall in line.

I mean, this is -- what Congressman Hanna did today is very unusual, historically speaking. Democrats are the ones who do this sometimes. In 1956, Democratic Congressman Adam Clayton Powell crossed over and said he`d vote for Eisenhower for president, even though Eisenhower was a Republican, Congressman Powell said he wanted to support Eisenhower`s pro-civil rights stance.

In the following decade in 1964, it was racist Democrats from the South in Congress who crossed over and said they`d support Barry Goldwater in `64 over LBJ, specifically because Goldwater was against the Civil Rights Act, and they were white Southern Democrats and they like that about him.

In 2004, it was Georgia Senator Zell Miller. He was a Democrat when he endorsed George W. Bush for president, and then spoke at the Republican National Convention and then challenged Chris Matthews to a duel on live television thereafter when Chris Matthews asked him hard questions about why he was supporting George Bush over John Kerry even though he was technically a Democrat.

In 2008, it was Joe Lieberman, previously the Democratic candidate for vice president. He crossed over in 2008 to support his friend, Republican John McCain against Barack Obama.

So Democrats do this sometimes. But Republicans really don`t. I can give you those Democrats who crossed over to vote for Republicans. Sitting elected Democrats who crossed over and said, no, I`m voting for the Republican nominee for president, but there isn`t that kind of list for Republicans crossing over and saying, "No, I`m voting for the Democrat." Not for sitting elected Republican officials. There just isn`t a track record of it.

But Congressman Richard Hanna said he would do it today. And he said he would not support his own party`s nominee for president. He will instead vote for Clinton. Richard Hanna is the first one to do that. Maybe he will be the only Republican to do that.

It should be noted that he doesn`t have too much at stake in the Republican Party anymore because Congressman Hanna is leaving Congress after this term anyway. In his home district in New York, he actually endorsed a would-be successor who was running in the Republican primary to replace him in Congress. That chosen would-be successor for Richard Hanna, actually lost in the Republican primary to a different Republican candidate who happens to be a hard-core tea partier who endorsed Donald Trump.

So, it`s a question right now for every Republican official in the country. Tonight, every Republican elected official in the country who has been at all unnerved by Donald Trump, who has been disgusted by his fight with the Khan family, or anything else about him, they all now have to decide, is Donald Trump the future of the Republican Party?, in which case, I better stay with him? Or is Donald Trump an aberration from what the Republican Party stands for and history will record that I`ll be better off if I keep my distance or if I say no?

Which is it? Is he the future? Is he?

Tonight in "The Washington Post," Donald Trump considerably upped the stakes in this drama for elected Republicans across the country when he told "The Washington Post" that although they`ve endorsed him, he`s not going to endorse either John McCain in his Senate race in Arizona, or House Speaker Paul Ryan and his own re-election battle in Wisconsin.

Paul Ryan, like every member of the House, he`s up this year, he`s got a primary challenge in his own district in Wisconsin. That primary is held one week from today in Wisconsin. Ryan`s challenger is running a very aggressive campaign against him, even though the odds are in Ryan`s favor.

But the challenger to Paul Ryan in his home district has courted support from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has had nothing but nice things to say about the guy who is running against Paul Ryan.

Trump also said tonight in the same interview, that he`s not endorsing Kelly Ayotte, who`s the New Hampshire Republican senator who is in a very tough battle this year, against New Hampshire Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan.

So, Trump tonight volunteering to "The Washington Post," he does not endorse Paul Ryan, he does not endorse John McCain, he does not endorse Kelly Ayotte.

So, is the bottom about to fall out for Donald Trump? Because people like Paul Ryan and John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, have been playing a pretty big political cost for supporting Donald Trump, for their endorsements of Donald Trump. They`ve all been trying to thread this awkward line of criticizing Trump here and there, saying they disagree with him on specific subjects, saying that nevertheless, they still support his candidacy. Maybe they don`t endorse technically, but they support it, they`ll support the nominee, but they don`t like to say his name, right?

Donald Trump has been a huge political embarrassment to a lot of Republicans, particularly the most vulnerable Republicans in the country, who are fighting hard this year either in tough primaries, or in tough general election battles, to hold on to their seats. But so far, it is only one, one retiring no-name upstate New York congressman, who is cutting himself loose.

If more Republican members of Congress follow Richard Hanna`s example, if they unendorse Donald Trump, if they say they`re going to vote for Hillary Clinton because they think Donald Trump is unfit to hold the office of the presidency, what are the Republicans going to do? I mean, is Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, going to discipline House members in order to keep them in line for Donald Trump? Really? When Trump is basically helping Paul Ryan`s opponent in his own district?

Senators like John McCain and Kelly Ayotte who are up for re-election this year, can we really expect they`re going to continue to support Donald Trump, even when he says he doesn`t endorse them in their own re-election efforts? And with them being seen to support him hurts them at home a lot more than it helps them?

If any Republican senator comes out and said, I`m going to vote for Hillary Clinton this year, Donald Trump is unfit to be president, is Mitch McConnell going to punish that senator, going to whip senators to keep in line with Donald Trump? Is the Republican Party going to fight to keep their elected officials on the Trump train, no matter what Trump says next? No matter who he picks a fight with next? No matter who he denigrates next? No matter how he shocks the country next?

President Obama called the question today when he said there has to come a point when you say, enough. How many times, how frequently do you have to denounce his statements and his actions before you conclude that he`s unfit to serve as president? And you can say that you`re not going to support him?

It`s a very real and active question for a lot of Republican elected officials right now, including all of the top Republicans in Washington. Of course, the fact that it was President Obama who called that question probably meant they`ll keep endorsing Trump on principle, just because Obama said not to.

The two parties are not the same. They are not mirror images of each other. And the Republican Party right now is in a place they`ve never been in. Are they going to jump ship, or are they going to stick with this guy? Today, the question got called.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We have a big show tonight. The great civil rights icon, legendary Congressman John Lewis, is here for the interview tonight, for a very, very important reason.

And Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, he`s here next. Paul has not really weighed in on TV yet, since this huge fire storm emerged between the Republican presidential nominee and this Gold Star family, who lost their son in Iraq. The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is here tonight next.

Big show tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In April, 2004, a U.S. army specialist named Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq. He was killed in Baghdad. He and his unit had only been in Iraq about two weeks. His unit got into a battle with a Shiite militia in Baghdad, and he was killed by a rocket propelled grenade. That was April 2004.

The following year, in August 2005, Specialist Sheehan`s grieving mother set up camp outside the Texas ranch of Republican President George W. Bush. Directly across the road from the president`s home in Texas, Cindy Sheehan made her impassioned case against the war in which her son had died, and her impassioned case against the president who started that war.

She held nothing back. She said president bush lied to the nation. She took out ads against him, accused President Bush of personally killing her son. She kept up that protest outside the president`s house for 26 straight days in the Texas heat.

In the middle of that remarkable impassioned confrontation, President Bush stepped out before the cameras and responded to Cindy Sheehan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: You know, listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her -- about her position. And she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position.

And I thought long and hard about her position. I`ve heard her position from others, which is, get out of Iraq now. And it would be -- it would be a mistake for the security of this country, and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run, if we were to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President George W. Bush never apologized to Cindy Sheehan for his policies. But he did say that he sympathize said with her. And he never disparaged her.

Whatever you think about President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, George W. Bush did not tell a Gold Star family and a grieving mother that she had no right to speak her mind about the death of her son in an American war.

Veterans are often treated as political footballs in our country. But they and their families have never quite been treated the way they are in this campaign right now, by the Republican nominee for president.

Joining us now is the founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff.

Paul, it`s good to see you.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER AND CEO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Good to see you.

MADDOW: Am I right to say this is new? I mean, I never want to say --

(CROSSTALK)

RIECKHOFF: Yes.

MADDOW: But this is an unusual situation, with the Khan family.

RIECKHOFF: This is totally unprecedented. I mean, the wars have been unprecedented to start with, because such a small percentage of the American population has served. But a direct attack on a Gold Star family for their patriotism, their integrity is totally unprecedented.

This is beyond partisanship. This is about honor. This is about integrity. And it`s completely out of bounds.

That`s why you`ve seen universal condemnation of these comments. The Gold Star Families Group, TAPS, almost every veterans group in America, Republican and Democrat leading voices have all slammed, appropriately, Donald Trump and these remarks. It`s almost like we can`t keep up.

I mean, today, it`s the Purple Heart thing. It`s fire marshals. I mean, he even lashed out at babies today. It just keeps getting crazier.

Babies are almost as popular as Gold Star moms. I mean, Gold Star moms are sacred. In this country right now, when so few folks have served, it`s totally out of bounds. It`s not going away. I mean, the veterans groups are organizing. It crosses partisan lines. And I don`t think it`s going to go away.

MADDOW: Well, the thing that has been difficult for me to sort of predict here, everybody keeps talking about this as like breaking a taboo, crossing a line, doing something unprecedented, because of that, we don`t know actually what the response is, there`s nothing like this in history to say, oh, this is the appropriate response, or this is the equivalent political fate that befell somebody else who did this.

So, if veterans are going to keep organizing around this, if we expect the condemnation to continue or even escalate, what is the end game? I mean, does an apology fix this? What`s the way you make this right?

RIECKHOFF: The longer you wait, the harder an apology becomes to fix it. I think, ultimately, this depicts at the ballot. I mean, there are 22 million veterans in America. Our members are extremely diverse. A lot of them are independents. I think they`re political jump ball.

But they voted over 90 percent and they`re extremely influential in their communities, whether they`re delegates or community organizers or teachers, their impact is beyond themselves. And I think we`re going to see that at the polls.

And this is really crossing everything we`ve ever seen before. I mean, President Bush did handle that appropriately. You can attack their position. Every party is using veterans as a proxy, right? This is a proxy war on both sides from Republicans and Democrats. They both in the conventions, but you can`t attack them individually. You don`t attack their patriotism. You don`t attack their integrity.

And Muslim American soldiers who are buried at Arlington, 14 of them are buried at Arlington. So, there`s a lot of issues that are coming out of this, that are more than just the Gold Star families. And that`s why I don`t think this story is dying. It`s evolving and changing. And it really has a lot to do with America`s disconnect from our veterans community, and from our wars.

So, this is opening a lot of bigger issues that are more than just one spat between Trump and a Gold Star family.

MADDOW: The other immediate consequence of this, which I`m not sure we could predict or expect either, is the wave of support that we`re seeing for the Khans as a family. I mean, not only just people reporting on them and what`s happened, but people visiting their son`s grave, people reaching out to them. I mean, I wonder if there`s a way to sort of capture that a little bit, or to try to build on that.

RIECKHOFF: This is a really historical learning moment for America, where they`re learning about Gold Star families. They`re learning a lot about our military. They`re learning about the sacrifices of Muslim Americans.

This is somewhat of a silver lining. And I think the veterans community has always tried to be a voice of reason, to try to calm the heat that`s happening in this country right now in so many different areas.

And what we want to do is bring light. This is a very hot situation. We want to bring light. We want to educate people about the sacrifices of Gold Star families, about our military, about what our Muslim American brothers and sisters are doing every single day in harm`s way.

So, you know, to some extent, thank you Donald Trump for allowing us to have that conversation. The longer this drags out, the more people I think will ultimately be educated.

MADDOW: Yes, and it feels like this is not some flash in the pan issue. This feels like it`s going to be a durable issue.

RIECKHOFF: This cuts to the core of our politics, the core of our nationality.

A lot of the things you touched on your book, and this is cutting in some parts to America`s guilt about being at war for 15 years, and living life uninterrupted. It`s called the ultimate sacrifice for a reason. There is nothing that`s comparable to what the Khan family has gone through. Their son is dead.

And for Donald Trump to compare anything, you know, hired some people, I started a company. His sons are of age. They are probably the same age as Captain Khan was. They could have been in Iraq and Afghanistan and they weren`t.

So, to come after them is going to continue to receive an unprecedented backlash.

MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- thanks, my friend. It`s good to see you.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you. Always. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Lots ahead tonight, including Congressman John Lewis joining us for a very, very good reason. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: At the end of June this year, Democrats in the House of Representatives did something that nobody`s really done before. They held a sit-in as members of Congress on the floor of the House, after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in Orlando, in the clear understanding that the Republican-led house would basically do nothing in response again. House Democrats decided to sit in, to occupy the floor of the House indefinitely, to refuse to yield the floor, basically to try to force the issue of gun reform.

And there were these dramatic confrontations on the floor of the House over the course of the night, as the Republicans came into the house in the wee hours and shouted at the Democrats and tried various parliamentary procedures to shut the whole thing down. And the Democrats ultimately had more than 170 members of Congress participating in this thing, and they held that floor. They sat in for more than 24 straight hours.

It was very dramatic. It was something that had never happened before in Congress. But at the very start of it, there was also a moment where you could see into the past, where the man leading them in this sit-in, by his physical actions, by the way he moved his body, he didn`t just show his fellow Democrats what they ought to do. He showed them how it`s done, in every sense of the word.

Just watch. Watch John Lewis here. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With that, I yield back to my colleague from Georgia.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Thank you. My friend, my brother, for yielding.

Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real. We have to occupy the floor of the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rise up, Democrats! Rise up, Americans! This cannot stand! We will occupy this floor. We will no longer be denied a right to vote.

I yield to our majority whip and leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sit down --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman`s time is expired. Pursuant to clause 12-A of Rule 1, chair declares the House recessed until the hour of 12:00 noon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Congressman John Lewis finishes speaking, gets down on the floor, and assumes the sit-in position. His fellow Democrats are sort of milling around, looking him, seeing what to do. He is a man who has been there, who has done it, who pioneered it. He is clearly a guy who has done this before and he led them physically and he led spiritually and he led politically in what they did.

You can see from the way he sat down, Congressman John Lewis is always described as a civil rights icon, right? He`s always described as a legendary American civil rights activist. But if you`ve ever wanted to know, if you`ve ever wanted to truly get why he is revered the way he is, why he is celebrated the way he is, how he earned the deference and respect he is afforded in Washington, at a time when basically nobody gets deference and respect anymore in Washington, well, Congressman Lewis has done something that I think is fairly beautiful to help you understand that, to help you know why, to help us all understand it.

In November 2013, on this show, we first hosted Congressman Lewis and his colleagues, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, to talk about something they had done, to talk about "March", which is a graphic novel that they had written. And "March" is about the life and the life`s work of Congressman John Lewis.

And that book, the first volume of "March," it went to "The New York Times" bestseller list, chi think surprised them at the time, I don`t know if it surprised the publishing world, but it went to "The New York Times" bestseller list and it stayed there for 47 straight weeks. It was a legitimate phenomenon.

And it turned out to be the start of an ongoing phenomenon, because "March Book 1" was the first volume of what was always intended to be a trilogy. Book 2 came out and was just as big. It ended up winning the Eisner Award, which is the graphic novel equivalent of winning best picture at the Oscars. The first two volumes of "March" are now being taught in schools and colleges across the country, everything from middle school, all the way through graduate school.

And now, the final book in the trilogy, book three of "March" has just come out. And honestly, it is an incredible accomplishment. It is the history of John Lewis, it is the history of the civil rights movement and his role in it. It`s a book that explains more deeply than anything else I`ve ever read, the methods of the civil rights movement and the moral foundation of the civil rights movement, how far civil rights activists did what they did and won what they won and how they had the strength to do it in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

"March," these three books, whether or not you`ve ever read any other graphic novel, you owe it to yourself. This is legitimately an American cultural phenomenon for all the right reasons. If you have one afternoon or one evening to read something this summer, I`m telling you, if you can read it in one, maybe two. I have bought so many copies of "March" books one and two, I given so many copies of this book away to people, I have become a one-person publishing juggernaut for this book.

But the final episode, the final book is just out. And you should read it. I don`t usually say that on this show. You should read it. But it`s important.

John Lewis is here next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. At times, history and fate meet at a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in man`s unending search for freedom. So, it was, at Lexington and Concord, so it was a century ago at Appomattox, so it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: This way, this is Major Crabb (ph) talking.

JOHNSON: There, long suffering men and women, peacefully protested the denial of their rights, as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted, but there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy, in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people, have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government, the government of the greatest nation on Earth.

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement, which reaches into every state and section of America. It is the effort of American Negros to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. And we shall overcome.

LEWIS: It was one of the most moving speeches I ever heard an American president gave on civil rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: There`s no way to do it justice on TV, really. But that`s as close as we can come. You should read it, really.

Joining us now are Congressman John Lewis and his co-author Andrew Aydin and the artist Nate Powell.

They`re just out of the third and final installment of "March", which is one of the best graphic novels ever created. Gentlemen, it is great to have you with us tonight. Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

LEWIS: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Congressman, we`ve talked about this a couple of times since you decided to do "March." Now that it`s complete, now that the trilogy is done, how do you feel about your decision to memorialize your life this way? How do you feel this has gone?

LEWIS: Rachel, first of all, I must tell you, thank you for having us on.

MADDOW: Of course.

LEWIS: I feel very good about it. This book is a road map. It is a guide. It is a way to educate, inform, and inspire another generation, to be committed to the way of peace, the way of love, and the way of non- violence, to say, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something.

And this book is -- when I open it up, what Nate and Andrew have been able to do is amazing to me. I have to close it sometimes, the drama what people went through just to get the right to vote.

MADDOW: Andrew when you were deciding what to include, how to tell a story, obviously, you`re telling the story of Congressman Lewis`s life but you are also following this imperative, that he has to teach the methods of the civil rights movement, to teach this, to teach it basically, how-to. How do you decide what to keep in and what to focus on?

ANDREW AYDIN, "MARCH" GRAHIC NOVEL CO-AUTHOR: Well, my mother would always tease me that I needed to write for that kid I was once. And so, each time, it was a personal decision of, you know, what would have impacted me at that age.

But John Lewis always says, make it plain, make it real. And you can`t leave anything out because these people`s contributions matter and you have to show that some of the parts and each part that goes into that.

MADDOW: Nate, when you -- you`re making decisions about art and a lot of - - I`ve read it a few times. I`ve given away a lot of copies of this book, and reading the third volume. You use the visual presentation to move people in time when things get very, very dark. We often flashback to President Obama`s inauguration as this sort of clear moment of the congressman`s happiness and it also shows that he survived.

Is that a deliberate decision by you or are you trying to basically move people emotionally with what you`re saying so they can stick with it so it`s not too dark?

NATE POWELL, "MARCH" GRAPHIC NOVEL ARTIST: Well, I guess cartooning is inherently manipulative in terms of using strengths to convey emotion and content. I think particularly with the third and final volume, there was so much darkness in time, so much homelessness and so much brutality that it became a very -- a very serious consideration along the way, how to structure and pace this particular volume basically so that it can be --

MADDOW: There are so many murders. There`s so much violence. He endured so much. The movement endured so much. You have to hold people through that.

POWELL: Yes, yes, it had to be done. I think that structurally that was one of our greatest challenges, how to thread together the three books, how to convey ideas consistently, but also how to maintain this intimate relationship between the reader and the actual human beings who endured triumphs and paid the ultimately price, you know, without it simply over coming the reader at times.

MADDOW: The moment where you dance for an hour and pass out because you had two beers, that was a good -- emotional recent moment for me.

LEWIS: Yes, that was a moment, a time of fun and happiness sometimes we would leave a jail and go straight to a little club and have something to drink, play some wonderful music and just dance.

I tell my colleagues in the Congress today, whatever you do, just be happy, enjoy life. Be hopeful, be optimistic and never get down.

MADDOW: Are you particularly pleased that this actually is being used as a textbook, this is being taught in schools across the country? Not just colleges, that`s being taught in New York City middle schools. It`s being taught all over the country.

LEWIS: I`m very pleased, gratifying to see teachers, educators, administrators and we need this book. We want it in our classroom. My students need to read it.

MADDOW: Andrew, you know what you`re going to do next? You`ve got another one in you?

AYDIN: You know, I don`t think you can leave out John Lewis`s life from `66 and `68, because from being pushed out of SNCC and the coup from Stokely Carmichael and the murder of Martin Luther King, and he was actually in the hotel room with Robert Kennedy`s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and the rest of the family the night he was assassinated, right? So, it`s a lot of that.

But, you know, with book two or book three, it`s actually two books in there, but they`re connected by the single thread. It`s the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and then leading up to the convention, and then, Selma. What people forget both of those actions kind of came out of the response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

So, I think for us, we`re trying to find a way to show people that it`s not just the Selma campaign. It`s not just the Freedom Summer. You have to show how it`s all connected so young people today feel connected.

MADDOW: Yes, "March Book Three", it`s the third and final element of this trilogy. Well, it`s the third element of this what I think is trilogy. Now, I feel maybe it`s a cliff hanger.

Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin, Congressman John Lewis -- again, congratulations. It is -- what you created is not just a document or a teaching tool. It is a legitimate cultural phenomenon and you have a lot to be proud of. Thanks, sir.

LEWIS: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come, stay with us tonight.

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MADDOW: We potentially have some breaking news tonight on some congressional primaries that we have been monitoring, something which almost never happens in American politics anymore, a sitting member of Congress may be about to lose his seat tonight in a primary. He`s a very controversial member of Congress. That big news is just ahead. Stay with us.

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MADDOW: So, we`re watching primary races tonight in several states. We just got an unusual report out of the state of Kansas. A three-term Republican Tea Party congressman named Tim Huelskamp appears to be on the verge of losing his seat.

Tim Huelskamp is a far right member of Congress. He appears to be moving sort of established Republican challenger named Roger Marshall. The media tonight in Kansas is reporting that they have been asked by the Tim Huelskamp campaign to get out of his election results watch party to which they had been invited.

With 14 percent of precinct reporting, Tim Huelskamp appears to be trailing by about 16 percent. "The A.P." has not yet called this. But it`s looking bad for Congressman Huelskamp.

We`ll keep you posted.

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MADDOW: I have jumped fully into the first block of Lawrence O`Donnell`s A block tonight for which I am very sorry.

But that does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it is way past time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Lawrence, I`m sorry that I ate the top of your show.

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