Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 14, 2017 Guest: Michael Signer, Carol Anderson
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: They are already made a seat for you for all holidays. My parents are so in love with you, they won`t leave me alone.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: It just so happens that I am prepared to become a Maddow.
MADDOW: Very good.
REID: I`m ready to do this. Let`s do it.
MADDOW: Very good. All right. Plan B ready and waiting. Thank you, Joy.
REID: Have a great show.
MADDOW: Well done.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
OK, if you drive north from San Francisco, you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, you will find yourself on Highway 101 headed into the northern part of northern California. And if you keep going straight up that highway, about 120 miles up highway 101 from San Francisco, you get to a place called Ukiah.
And 33 years ago, in July 1984, on Highway 101, just outside Ukiah, California there was an armored truck traveling up that highway in broad daylight and the truck got ambushed. It was a portion of the highway that was on an uphill climb. The armored car was fully loaded, and had to slow down as it was chugging up that incline, and that`s when the robbers struck.
There were other drivers who saw it happen. That was in broad daylight and they described a pretty professional operation.
Two pickup trucks were involved. Once the armored car started to slow down on that uphill climb, one of the pickup trucks pulled in right behind it and then another pickup truck pulled right in front of it. So, one right behind, one right in front. They`re boxing in the armored car as it was layering up the incline.
And then in what appeared to be a well-coordinated action, guys with guns leaned out of the two pickup trucks, one in front of and one behind the armored car and they shot out the tires of the armored car, and that forced the armored car to a stop. There were reportedly six gunmen altogether, all of them had their faces covered with bandanas or ski masks. There were three guys in each of the two pickup trucks.
After they brought the car to a halt, they then used high powered gun, maybe rifles of some kind, to shoot out the reinforced glass on that armored vehicle and that`s how they got inside of it. They got the doors open and they took off with 10 to 15 heavy bags full of loot. It was all witnessed by other people on the highway, broad daylight.
They drove away up 101 in these two pickup trucks. They dumped them somewhere nearby and they got in a different vehicle and they sped off.
It was fast. It was professional. I was a very heavily armed operation. And it turns out they got a huge haul from that one armored car heist -- $3.6 million in cash from that one armored car.
And some of the money disappeared, was never accounted for again. But when the government filed its indictment the following year, against the gang that had pulled off that heist on highway 101 in northern California, the government in its filings said that they had been able to trace some of the cash that was stolen from that armored car in Ukiah.
And the list of where that money went changed everything: $300,000 went to a particularly virulent and violent chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina. Another aggressively organizing Klan leader in California got $250,000. The National Alliance, a Nazi group based in Washington, D.C., they got $50,000. The Aryan Nations up in northern Idaho, they got $40,000.
That one heist, that Ukiah armored car heist, it wasn`t just a huge multimillion dollar robbery. It was also supposed to fund the start of the next civil war in the United States of America. The guys who robbed that armored car on Highway 101 back in 1984, they were part of a neo-Nazi gang that called itself the Order.
And the Order is best remembered now for having assassinated this man, a Jewish talk radio host in Denver, in 1984, a man named Allen Berg. But most of the crimes committed by the Order weren`t just murder and assassination which we remember them for now. Most of their crimes were about money. When they robbed armored cars and they robbed video stores and they robbed banks, all of these robberies that they committed all up and down the West Coast, they were all designed to collect cash to arm and fund a violent movement that was going to wage a race war in America, a race war that would ultimately create a white`s only homeland in the United States.
And these guys in this gang, the Order, they weren`t the only people who had that idea at the time. A year after the Order was indicted and the whole gang went on trial, it was a married couple in Wyoming, a married couple stormed this elementary school in Cokeville, Wyoming, and the couple took hostages.
They had guns and bombs. They took 150 kids and teachers hostage at that elementary school. They held them all hostage for 2-1/2 hours. They had a ransom demand. In exchange for the lives of all of those kids and teachers, the couple demanded a multimillion dollar ransom that they said they would use to finance a white supremacist revolution for a new white separatist homeland in America.
In addition to their guns, that couple who took all those kids and teachers hostage, they brought in bombs, as I said, but they were homemade gasoline bombs. Ultimately, a bunch of the kids that they took hostage ended up getting burned. But the only two who died that day were the two hostage takers.
Throughout the 1980s into the 1990s, there were regular national white supremacist meetings. They called them the annual Aryan Nations Congresses. Up in northern Idaho, they held a big piece of land up there until things started to fall apart for them, the Aryan Nation, in 1988. A bunch of the Aryan Nation`s security guards were out patrolling while drunk one night. They ended up beating up and shooting at a Native American mom and her son who had the misfortune to pass by while the drunk Nazi guards were out patrolling the perimeter of that Aryan Nations land.
Ultimately, a lawsuit was brought on behalf of the woman and her son by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and in that legal strategy, they basically came up with a way to bankrupt the Nazis into losing that land up in northern Idaho. The Nazis were forced to vacate and then the town`s fire department got practice and great satisfaction on systemically burning down all the Nazi`s buildings one by one after they had been evicted via bankruptcy.
The United States of America, the modern United States of America, has a stubborn problem with neo-Nazism and overt violent white supremacy. It always seems amazing every time it surfaces, but we have always had it. And over time, they go through various, ridiculous and self important names and iterations and patterns of symbolic behavior, right?
But over time, it`s all the same basic idea and at its core, it`s always violent. It`s the Order. It`s the Klan. It`s the Aryan Nations. It`s the Christian identity movement.
Now, they want to be called the alt-right. OK, whatever. Their ideas are not new. Their violence is not new.
As a country, we have weathered extreme incidents of their violence. Even just in the modern era. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1985 killed 168 people, including dozens of kids, brought down a federal building. Today, a 23-year-old extremist from Oklahoma has been arraigned for trying to blow up a bank in Oklahoma City to try and follow in Timothy McVeigh`s footsteps.
In 2012, a neo-Nazi covered in swastika tattoos who played in a bunch of white power bands, he stormed into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He shot and killed six people in the temple, shot and wounded four others.
In 2015, another white supremacist shot and killed nine people, shot and wounded three others at a landmark African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. He said his motive for that shooting is that he was hoping to start a race war. They`re all hoping to start a race war. They`re always trying to do that.
This is a -- this is a persistent infection in white American culture and it can be quite fatal. And what I`ve learned over the course of my 44 years is that this infection in modern American white culture doesn`t get better over time. And apparently, it never goes away.
We are having a particularly bad outbreak of it right now, this year. February, Kansas, two Indian engineers shot in a bar by a guy who was screaming racial and religious slurs at them. One of the engineers was killed. The another was wounded, as was a bystander who tried to save them. That was February.
Then in March, Midtown Manhattan, a 66-year-old African-American man literally minding his own business walking down the street, attacked and stabbed to death at random by a white man with a sword by a man who drove to New York City from Maryland, specifically because that`s where he thought he could get the most media attention for his plot to kill radical black men on the street. That was March.
In May, Portland, Oregon, two girls on a commuter train, subjected to a torrent of racial and religious abuse by a guy who was screaming at them and threatening them, passersby intervened on behalf of the girls. Two of them get killed, one of them is seriously wounded.
That happened at the same week that this young man, a student at Bowie State University was stabbed and killed three days before he was due to graduate and just after he had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. The young white student who killed him was a member of hard core right wing online groups. That was in May.
And now, this weekend, Charlottesville, Virginia, a torch lit neo-Nazi, white supremacist march and rally is followed the next morning by a young man who was described as a Nazi sympathizer, driving his car at speed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19 others.
We are experiencing something right new that is not new but we are having a particularly bad outbreak of it this year. And even if you are cognizant and aware of the long history of this stuff that we`ve got to contend with as a country with this problem in American culture and politics, there are, I think, two things that are going on right now in this particular outbreak we are having of violent white supremacism.
I think there are two things -- despite that long history of being cognizant of that long history and that violent past that we`ve got, I think we`ve got two things going on right now that are unusual, that are unprecedented. And that just means it`s hard to predict what`s going to happen next, even with all the understanding we have of how this has proceeded in the past, there are two things about what is going on right now that are different, that I think make it hard to understand where this is going this time.
One of the things that`s different is very practical and one of them is political. The practical difference is it`s a very, very granular thing but it may end up being very important. It`s the public identifiability of the participants here. You know, robbing a Brink`s truck on Highway 101 in California in 1984, those guys wore ski masks. They were bandannas over their faces.
Going to the Aryan Nations Congress in the early `90s up in Hayden Lake, in Idaho, that was so far off the grid, those guys felt safe making their homeland up there, because in part, nobody could find them. Even in white power culture, and white power music and gangs, there`s always been an element of covert organizing, right? That`s what the hoods are all about.
But when these guys all turned up at the University of Virginia on Friday night, yes, it was the Venn Diagram overlap between stupid and threatening that they`re all standing there in torch light. They`re all standing there holding their hard way store TIKI torches while yelling their Nazi slogans.
But however you felt about that emotionally seeing it, those torches always made for some really good lighting in terms of seeing what those guys all look like. And there was, honestly, with cell phone technology and the way now and the way that we cover our social interactions as humans, there was at least one camera there for every single human being who was on sight yelling Nazi slogans and carrying a torch. And because of all of those recognizable faces, there has an been this interesting side bar of news all day long today where these neo-Nazis and white supremacists and white separatists who showed up on tape and in pictures being at that rally on Virginia on Friday night, there`s been this interesting side bar in the news where you see them all losing their jobs today or being denounced by their families or having to explain to their college campuses who they really are and what they really think and what they`re doing there.
That`s a very practical somewhat small granular thing, but that will become an ongoing wild card for this movement and for this ongoing violent scourge in the United States that we faced for so long. Every single person who showed up at that torch lit rally on Friday night will be forever identifiable as a person who went to that rally. It`s going to end up being important that they all showed their faces. They were all very well lit. They were all very, very well-photographed.
Anybody who was just, you know, flirting with white supremacy, because it`s the hot new thing in conservative politics in the Trump era, anybody who was there on a whim who is finding themselves and wondering if maybe they`re a Nazi, they will find for the rest of their life that they are identified as a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist for having been at that event. None of them will be able to change that.
You think having an embarrassing Facebook feed is going to affect your ability to get jobs after grad school, right? Imagine what it`s going to do to you for the rest of your life if you`re well-lit on camera, well- defined, identifiable and named as having been one of these guys punching up counterprotesters while screaming Nazi salutes at the University of Virginia in 2017. And that organizing strategy to this by torchlight, that might have been dumb. It may have also been genius on part of the organizers to basically lock in a lifelong commitment from these guys who are willing to show their faces, to quite literally show their faces at that event on Friday night. For all of those hundreds of guys who were there on Friday night, they are now in it for life.
So, that`s one wild card. That is legitimately new in terms of how these movements have operated in modern history. That`s the practical thing.
The political thing, the other thing that`s new here is, of course, for the first time ever in modern American history, these guys think they have a champion not just in politics but in mainstream politics. I mean, yes, you know, David Duke ran for governor in Louisiana and there have always been a house member here or there who was willing to associate himself with the militia movement or otherwise flirt with the extremes, right? But we have never had the persistent neo Nazi and white separatists violent right in this country associate themselves so openly and so lovingly with a serving president.
And there`s been a lot of talk today and over the weekend about what that association means for this president and how this president talks about that movement. But I think it`s also worth looking at what that means, what that connection to a presidency means for these neo-Nazis. What it means for this thing we can`t get rid of, for this persistent source of violence and extremism and terrorism in American culture.
We`ve seen that subculture wreak havoc in various ways by various criminal means every decade we have existed as a country. We`ve never seen one allied with a sitting U.S. president. What does that mean about where that movement goes from here?
That`s ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On January 31st, a week and a half after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Signer, held a rally outside city hall and in front of hundreds of people and a number of what local news reports described as fairly vocal protesters. Mayor Signer of Charlottesville, Virginia, declared that his city would be a capital of the resistance. He then described ways in which he personally as mayor would work to try to stop the president`s agenda.
This weekend, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and white separatists marched on his city, marched on Charlottesville, the demonstrations turned violent and then fatal. Mayor Michael Signer, the mayor who had declared his city a capital of the resistance, was very clear about where he believed those forces got their fuel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL SIGNER (D), CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Responsibility for this coarsening of our dialogue and for the invitation of open bigotry and open incitement goes right to the doorstep of the president and the people around him who chose to dance with the devil in their presidential campaign.
These anti-Semites, racists, Aryans, Nazis, the KKK, they`re always in the shadows, but, you know, they`ve really given -- they`ve been given a key and reason to come into the light.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The White House says tonight that the president does not plan to visit Charlottesville, Virginia, in the wake of this weekend`s mayhem. Something tells me that he will not be missed.
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer joins us now from Virginia.
Mayor Signer, thank you very much for joining us. I know this is a very challenging time for you and your city.
SIGNER: It is. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you --
SIGNER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Sure, I`m happy to have you hear.
Let me just ask you what are you telling your constituents? How are you talking to the people of your city in terms of explaining what just happened and learning for it -- learning from it and moving forward?
SIGNER: Well, obviously, it`s been -- I mean, it`s been a weekend of grieving and a prayer. Three people died who didn`t need to die. And, you know, anybody who has been to Charlottesville knows this is one of the world`s greatest cities. We were just recently ranked as America`s charming city.
We have -- we used to have a weekly newspaper called "The Hook" because that`s the experience that people come here, they go school, they come through and it hooks you and you want to spend your whole life here. It`s very tolerant, progressive, inquisitive, dynamic city. We`re a Southern city too.
And about a year and a half ago, we made a decision to start the hard but really important work of telling the full story of race in our city and by extension in America, and telling the truth about race. That work is so important. It encompasses things like the Confederate statues that were put here during the height of the Jim Crow era.
It also encompasses -- like we put $80,000 toward rehabilitating an African-American cemetery that`s right near the downtown mall. Those people are just as much Founding Fathers and mothers of the city and of America as the white folks have been in your history books.
So, we`re doing all this, but what it did was make us a target for the forces who converged on us this weekend. These are literal Nazis, literal KKK and they all came together in this kind of festival of hatred and bigotry. It was very frightening. People died.
But the question, what I`ve been, you know, asked in the morning and grieving today is, is what do we do next? What do we do now? And I think we actually have a real opportunity to come together and make something of this moment.
I`m reminded, you know, as I`ve been reflecting on it, it`s reminiscent of what happened in charlotte with Dylann Roof. He came to that city and did that horrific terrorist attack with the intention of starting a race war. And what happened? You saw actually, a great flowering of racial harmony and of unity there.
And I think you`re going to see the same thing here. That`s what I`ve been working on today as we sort of are picking ourselves back up. That`s what I`m hearing from the people of Charlottesville and it`s the right city to begin to work on our democracy again.
MADDOW: There`s a real possibility that Charlottesville, at least in the short term, will continue to be seen as a touchstone and as a plot of land to fight over particularly by these groups on the right. I think it`s not unreasonable to expect that they`ll try to come back in some ways to try to show that they`re sort of holding their ground. What about lessons learned in terms of the way this was handled this week, in terms of the amount of violence, in terms of the choices that you have to make, in terms of running the city in times like this?
SIGNERS: Well, first of all, I mean, remember that high moment when McCarthyism collapsed. Our democracy has been through a lot. McCarthyism, Jim Crow, segregation. We`ve come through it stronger through the test.
There was a moment when McCarthyism ended and it was the confrontation when the attorney said to Joseph McCarthy, you have no long last no sense of decency, sir. I think that moment happened this weekend for the alt-right, having been normalized in American politics. Somebody, you know, people died. The nation watched this. This was like Bill Connor turning the hoses on nonviolent protesters in Birmingham.
There are those moments that happen in a nation`s vision and their conscience when the worm turns, so to speak. And I really believe in my bones that happened here in Charlottesville this weekend and it was time for it to happen. It was time for this horrific chapter of normalization of white supremacists, white nationalists, bigots, you know, coming into the public sphere. They need to go. They need to go home and we need to start turning the page.
So, I think is what happened here today. But there is really important work that we have to do ahead.
MADDOW: Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, and a man who has not slept in several days, I know, dealing with a lot there. Sir, thank you for helping us understand what you`re going through. Appreciate it.
SIGNER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The president is back in his hometown tonight. It`s the first time he`s been back to New York City to spend the night since he was inaugurated as president in January. And this is how New Yorkers are welcoming his home -- welcoming him home. This is what`s going on outside his house right now.
We`ve got some live -- are these live images? Yes. We`ve got live images. It`s been thousands of people who have been swarming around Trump Tower over the course of the evening tonight basically to protest the president`s return home. People have been parked outside Trump Tower for hours now.
The crowds have been big and loud. They`ve been moving around midtown Manhattan. They`re not been showing signs of fizzling out any time soon.
And given the first seven months of his administration, him coming back to New York to spend the night since the first night of his inauguration would have had probably resulted in some version of this demonstration in any case. However, the proximate cause, proximate catalyst for people marching to his front door tonight has been what happened this weekend in Virginia, and the president`s grudging response, his lack of a response to the neo- Nazi white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville this weekend and the violent attack there that left one counterprotester, left 19 people injured, left two police officers dead in a helicopter crash while monitoring events.
The protests tonight in New York are not the first reaction that we have had to Charlottesville as a country. As the news started to filter into people`s news this weekend, people took to the streets everywhere.
In Seattle, Washington, people marched on the streets of the city carrying a giant replica of the U.S. Constitution. That march was in solidarity with the protesters who showed up to confront the white nationalists in Charlottesville. Hundreds of people turned out protesting in Seattle. Ultimately, police used pepper spray to break up the crowd in Seattle. That was yesterday. That was Sunday in Seattle.
In Denver, hundreds of people gathered for a rally under a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., they marched two miles to the state capitol. Buckets of rain and hail started falling from the sky in the middle of the Denver march but they kept going.
In San Francisco, people marched down the street chanting, rise up for Charlottesville. Once it got dark in San Francisco, people lit candles and stood in silence. Totally quiet except for one street performer playing the trumpet, I think it is. A little ways off from the distance.
All over the country this weekend, they -- people railed against the neo- Nazis and white supremacists who demonstrated in Charlottesville on Saturday and on Friday night. Protesters surrounded a Confederate statue in Richmond, Virginia, also in Baltimore, Maryland, also in Atlanta, Georgia.
There were protests in Jacksonville, Florida, also in Chicago, Illinois. Also in Tarrytown, New York. Also in downtown L.A. On the steps of Los Angeles city hall.
Also want to show you this footage from tonight this is Durham, North Carolina, just a few hours ago. Protesters ripping down a Confederate monument that had been outside the courthouse in Durham since the 1920s. Protesters taking out their anger on the confederate statute there.
What happened in Charlottesville this weekend has been a flash point across the country. As I said, protests continued tonight, showed no signs of slowing down any time soon. We`ve got our eyes on a lot of different places where protests were unfolding tonight, including in the streets of New York City, outside the president`s apartment.
We will keep you updated as more develops. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The terrorists` tactic of driving vehicles into crowds of people is something we have started to recognize in the past few years as a hallmark of al Qaeda and later ISIS. Al Qaeda`s magazine "Inspire" was the first to start calling on its supporters in English to mount attacks like this in the West, in the name of al Qaeda. They called on al Qaeda supporters to use the simplest and most available heavy weaponry that most people have access to, which is a car or a truck. That was al Qaeda magazine in the fall of 2010 repurposing a Ford truck ad to tell their followers to use vehicles, cars and trucks to drive into crowds of people to help al Qaeda accomplish their terroristic objectives.
After al Qaeda, ISIS also promoted this type of attack and it`s actually been used a lot in recent years, particularly in Europe. There have been a lot of instances of al Qaeda and ISIS-inspired terrorists using cars, trucks, and heavy trucks to try to kill people on the street. The worst incident, of course, is what happened in Nice last summer on Bastille Day. That one killed 86 people.
This attack this weekend by an apparent Nazi sympathizer killed a 32-year- old woman, injured dozens of others. Tactically speaking, this was an al Qaeda-style vehicle attack, a man plowing into a crowd of people using his car. But because of the type of gathering this was, because of what we know about the perpetrator, there`s also something very home grown about what just happened here.
Tactically, it looks like international terrorism. As Americans, though, we know this as the latest violent manifestation of a violent white supremacist infection that we`ve been unable to eradicate in our country forever.
Joining us now for some perspective on the history and evolution of that movement is Carol Anderson. She`s the author of "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide." She`s a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. Her story today in "The Guardian" newspaper is called "America is hooked on the drug of white supremacy. We are paying for that today".
Professor, it`s a real pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thanks for being here.
CAROL ANDERSON, PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: I wanted you to be with us tonight because I was very much struck by your perspective on this as something that we can`t kick as a country, something that we have an ongoing problem with that seems to be getting worse but it`s something that we sort of latently have. Can you just give us your perspective on this?
ANDERSON: Yes, the way that the article came about, I was trying to figure out how is it that we see it but we`re not being able to in fact move forward. So, we have the Republican Party, that is the party of patriots. But we see these elements say with the Russia investigation.
We see the kind of incompetency but we`re not seeing any kind of pushback and I couldn`t figure that out. And I couldn`t figure out why his supporters were so rabidly for him although a lot of the things in the swamp, didn`t get drained. In fact, it got filled up. How did that happen?
And as I began to look through it, it began to strike me the way that an addiction works. And that is, is that you need the drug so badly that nothing else matters.
And so, family doesn`t matter. God doesn`t matter. Country doesn`t matter. Your friends don`t matter. Your home doesn`t matter.
You need that drug so badly. So, as I started looking at this, that`s what I saw happening with this drug of white supremacy. And like with addiction, it`s not like everyone is addicted to it but it affects everyone around it and that`s where we are right now as a society.
MADDOW: And so, continuing with this analogy, this metaphor that you`re using here, are you effectively arguing that white supremacy is so politically potent, so emotionally potent and emotionally resonant for white Americans and for politicians who are sort of tapping into it that once they start doing that, they can`t function in normal politics?
ANDERSON: Yes. I really am saying that. When you begin to look at when white supremacy has really come to the fore as a full-blown operating principle in American society as the way that the government just openly functions, then what you begin to see is that things go so far off the rails. The language that we use about American democracy is so far removed from the way that we are actually doing it.
And so when I look at, for instance, I`ll go back to the Republican Party and the Southern strategy. Here where you had disaffected whites, particularly of the solid Democratic South, but also from the beginning emerging Rust Belts in the North and the Midwest, beginning to move out of the Democratic Party, because of the civil rights act, because Lyndon Johnson said African-Americans actually are U.S. citizens for all intents and purposes, that that movement -- the Republicans brought that toxin into their party.
And at first, it was just a little bit, a little hit every now and then. But as we saw, it became more and more virulent with each strain, each time they took a hit off it, it was like the base became more -- moved further to the right, more white supremacists, more rigid, more hard line so that there was no place in the Republican Party for the moderates, for, for instance, a Nelson Rockefeller, for example. You won`t find a Nelson Rockefeller now. That movement to the right is what led us into Trump, that trawling in the ground of white supremacy, taking that hit, thinking that you can only be a weekender and dabble in it but in fact it has taken over.
What we have to do as a society is begin to purge that out. It`s almost like we need a 12-step program. The first step of that is to admit that we have a problem. That`s the first step.
MADDOW: Carol Anderson, the author of "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide", the chair of African-American studies at Emory University -- Professor, I really appreciate your being with us tonight. Reading your words about this, reading your book, reading your argument today in "The Guardian" has helped me think about this with a lot more clarity. And I appreciate you helping us understand it tonight.
ANDERSON: Oh, thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
ANDERSON: All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight, including a couple of important developments today that got kind of submarined in the news because of the reaction that`s happening to Charlottesville that I think are likely to drive the rest of the week, at least in terms of what the White House is most worried about.
That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Do you want to know why we don`t do "Cocktail Moments" on this show on Friday nights anymore? Honestly, it`s because nobody needs any more encouragement to drink over and above what is being offered by the world on a daily basis these days.
Por ejemplo, this past Friday night. This past Friday, the president randomly started threatening that he might order the U.S. military to invade Venezuela. That was separate and apart from the threats to start a nuclear war with North Korea.
Then, asked to respond to the Russian president kicking out more than 700 people associated with U.S. diplomatic facilities in Russia, the president responded by thanking Vladimir Putin for doing that. Thank you, sir. May I have another?
The president also announced the completion of a new major overhaul of the nation`s stockpile of nuclear weapons even though there has been no new overhaul of the nation`s nuclear weapons. He announced it anyway. He also spent three days attacking the majority leader in the United States Senate, a member of his own party, at one point suggesting that Senator Mitch McConnell should resign.
And that was also before the president responded to the neo-Nazi torch lit rally and subsequent white supremacist terrorist attack in Virginia with a bizarre statement that all sides are to blame. And all those things have happened just since Wednesday. But don`t forget, John Kelly is the new chief of staff and he`s whipping things into shape and really getting the White House under control now.
There`s a lot going on in the news right now, frankly almost all of it terrible. But as we head into this week, looking ahead at this week, there are three stories that are cooking out there right now that are likely to be uh-oh stories for the White House and that are all, therefore, worth keeping an eye on no matter what else is going on, OK? Three stories.
One, first of all, there`s the news broken by the "The New York Times" this weekend about the man who used to be the White House chief of staff before John Kelly, Reince Priebus. Reince Priebus, of course, was just fired as chief of staff after months of public and private humiliation from the president. "The New York Times" now reports that the special counsel investigating the Russia issue, Robert Mueller, is getting ready to interview Reince Priebus.
Now, Reince Priebus was not only chief of staff for the White House for the first six months of the new administration, he was also in a central senior role during the transition, during the setup of the new administration and, of course, he played a very key role as chairman of the Republican party during the general election campaign and during the Republican primary.
Now, if you`re the Trump White House and you`re at all worried about what the Robert Mueller investigation might turn up, you probably are not psyched about Robert Mueller interviewing somebody who was, A, recently fired and humiliated and publicly blamed by the president after, B, that same person spent the previous 12 months sitting in on almost every significant meeting that happened anywhere involving the president and his top staff. That is a very bad combination if you`re worried about an investigation, right?
A person with really good reason to want to spill the beans, who is also a person who has a lot of beans to spill. So Mueller wanting to interview Reince Priebus, and that causing major shpilkes in the White House, that is one uh-oh story from the White House that is worth keeping an eye on.
Second uh-oh story for them, at least potential uh-oh story for them, happened today in Israel. Back in April, "The New York Times" broke the news that the president`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in 2012 had done hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate investing in downtown Manhattan properties, using financing from the Steinmetz family in Israel. Now, that is potentially a legal concern for Jared Kushner because of legal proceedings in at least four countries that have put the Steinmetz family`s money in the crosshairs due to allegations of bribery and money laundering.
The Kushner family real estate business has dropped its public association with the Steinmetz companies, but they are definitely still in hock to them for hundreds of millions of dollars, which is potentially a problem for Jared Kushner if he did those deals with money that turns out to be dirty and that he either knew was dirty or that he should have known was dirty when he did the deals. We knew about that potential problem for Jared Kushner as of April of this year.
Well, today, Benny Steinmetz got arrested in Israel, he and four other people. Here`s "The Financial Times" today. Quote: Benny Steinmetz, the Israeli billionaire, has been detained by Israeli police for questioning on suspicion of crimes including fraud, breach of trust, money laundering, and forging documents. Quote: Police said they`d been investigating a number of people on suspicion that they had worked with their main suspect, who officers did not name, to produce fictitious contracts and business deals, including a real estate business in an unnamed foreign country in order to transfer and launder money.
An unnamed foreign country where real estate`s being used to launder money. Which foreign country is that?
It has been reported since June that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at Jared Kushner`s business dealings as part of his investigation. If those reports that Kushner`s business interests are already under investigation -- if those reports are true, then these arrests today on real estate money laundering charges -- this may end up being another big uh-oh story for this White House.
I said there were three. Here`s the last one. One more. Adam Davidson at "The New Yorker" magazine has been doing some intrepid international reporting this year on Trump real estate deals and the financing of those deals and President Trump`s potential exposure for things like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Adam Davidson has been doing great reporting on this beat all this year, and he has just come out with a new story. And this new story apparently has the White House`s hair on fire, so much so that one of the president`s lawyers on the Russia matter, Jay Sekulow, has now told reporter Adam Davidson on the record that if the special counsel, Robert Mueller, started looking into this specific real estate deal, that Adam Davidson is reporting on, the president`s lawyer says if Bob Mueller starts looking at that deal, that would cause the White House to warn the special counsel`s office that it is exceeding its mandate. And if the special counsel still persisted in looking into this particular deal, the president`s lawyer is now threatening to, quote, lodge a formal objection with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Bob Mueller and end the inquiry.
The president`s lawyer is threatening that if this particular deal is investigated by Bob Mueller, they might see that as cause to try to fire Bob Mueller.
Sometimes I feel like the president`s lawyers are like big, flashing, neon, red arrows that just wander the earth, pointing at stuff to be suspicious about. Don`t look at that. Definitely don`t look at that. Don`t even think about that. You want to know what this deal is and why they`re so bothered by anybody looking into it? Me too.
Adam Davidson is going to be joining us here tomorrow night. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The Department of Justice has very clear rules about when somebody can apply for a pardon from the president. DOJ regulations say people applying for pardons should wait at least five years after they`re released from confinement before they ask the president for a pardon.
Nevertheless, today, we learned that President Trump is contemplating bending that rule already, talking pardons already. Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant firebrand ex sheriff from Arizona was convicted of criminal contempt in federal court two weeks ago. He was found to have willfully violated a court order that would have ended his traffic patrols targeting immigrants.
In 2011, Joe Arpaio was ordered to tell his department to stop those patrols, but he didn`t give that order. He allowed it to continue for another year and a half. And now, a federal judge has found him guilty of criminal contempt.
He`s due to be sentenced in October. He`s 85 years old. He`s facing up to six months behind bars, or not.
President Trump has now told FOX News that he is seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio, saying it might even happen in the next few days. He called Joe Arpaio a great American patriot. Quote: Is there anyone in local law enforcement who`s done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe? He doesn`t deserve to be treated this way.
For his part, Sheriff Arpaio expressed surprise that Trump was aware of his legal predicament but said he would gladly accept a pardon because he says he`s 100 percent not guilty. This, of course, would be President Trump`s first pardon if he issues one, a pardon which has a nearly 100 percent chance of being very controversial, not to mention totally against DOJ rules.
The ACLU has already said if President Trump follows through with the pardon, quote, make no mistake. This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism. Controversial presidential pardons and commutations are not unusual. Lots of administrations have lots of controversies on these issues. What would be unusual is the timing here if he follows through on this promise.
President Trump will have hit the pardon button at warp speed relative to his recent predecessors. President Obama, President George W. Bush, President Clinton were in office nearly two years before granting their first pardon.
But also, maybe, it`s just warming up the whole pardon idea. Last month, "The Washington Post" reported that President Trump was already asking his lawyers about his power to pardon his staffers and his family members, even himself in conjunction with the Russia investigation. So, maybe he`s just, you know, trying to work the kinks out, trying to get good at it before he has to did it for the really important stuff. Buckle up.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END