BRIANNA BROWN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, TEXAS ORGANIZING PROJECT: We don`t have an -- we, you know, getting -- just getting to the polls. In 2016 we took 2,500 people to the polls in our drive for democracy program because that is an additional barrier that people have.
So I think that it`s important to think about the conversation about like how to expand our democracy by speaking directly to the voters.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right.
BROWN: And in this case voters who are often left out of the conversation.
HAYES: Evan Smith and Brianna Brown, thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
So, he was 19 years old. His name was Michael Donald. He was an Alabaman. He lived in Mobile, Alabama.
And one night in April 1981, 19-year-old Michael Donald was set upon for no reason at all. He was ambushed and attacked, he was beaten and strangled. He was killed. He was then hanged from a tree.
One of the men who attacked Michael Donald that night in Alabama would later admit in court that that teenager, Mr. Donald, had done nothing whatsoever to attract the attention of his attackers. They did not pick on him for any particular reason other than the fact that he was convenient and he was a young black man. He was attacked and he was killed and his body was put on display the way it was, specifically because he was a random victim. All the more terrifying that way, right?
It`s because the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan in that part of Alabama wanted to show their strength. They wanted to show what they were capable of and one of the attackers, one of the Klan members who took part in that murder, he would explain later in court that he and his coconspirators were specifically hoping that this murder would not just generically terrify African-Americans in Mobile, Alabama, they were hoping it would specifically intimidate African-Americans into not participating on juries.
They wanted black Americans in Alabama to be too afraid to show up at the courthouse and sit for jury duty. They wanted all-white juries in Alabama. They thought that killing 19-year-old Michael Donald would be a good way to terrorize the black community in Alabama into achieving that or at least getting them part of the way there.
One of the Klansmen who confessed to that murder, who confessed to why they did it, who actually expressed remorse in court. He told Michael Donald`s mother eye-to-eye in that courtroom, quote, God knows if I could trade places with him, I would. He tearfully expressed remorse to Michael Donald`s mother in the courtroom.
He testified against the other Klansmen. He explained why they did it. He described the crime to the jury. He nevertheless got a life sentence in that killing. One of his coconspirators, another man convicted in the killing, got the death penalty.
But beyond that criminal case that put those Klansmen away for that murder in Alabama in 1981, Michael Donald`s murder also led to a different kind of case that became a real landmark in the fight against white supremacist terrorism. It was the first case of its kind, but it wouldn`t be the last. In a civil suit brought on behalf of Michael Donald`s mother and Michael Donald`s family, not just the individual Klansmen who killed Michael Donald, but the organization they belong to, the Klan itself, their chapter of the Klan was the United Klansmen of America.
The defendants were forced by the court to not just face criminal penalties, but they and the organization they belonged to were forced by the court in this civil suit to pay, literally to pay money. There was a $7 million judgment handed down by a federal jury in Alabama in 1987. Again, the crime was 1981. It took until 1987 for the criminal cases to be over and then for the civil case to produce the $7 million judgment -- $7 million that was to be extracted from the bank accounts, the assets, the garnished wages, the property of the defendants themselves, the killers themselves and from that United Klans group that they belonged to.
Now, if this is ringing a distant bell for you, if you think you might have heard about this case, it`s probably because one of the unforgettable details, one of the unforgettable consequences from that case is that at the time 19-year-old Michael Donald was murdered the United Klans of America, the oldest Klan chapter in America had a headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They had a 7,000 square foot national headquarters.
They had that headquarters at the time they killed Michael Donald. They still had that headquarters at the time the Klansmen who killed Michael Donald were convicted and sent away, including one of them to death row.
But after all of that, after this civil case was brought against the defendants and brought against the Klan itself to make them pay for what they did, not only did they have to pay, did they have to give up all of their property and all of their money, but the title to that 7,000 square foot national Ku Klux Klan headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the title for that property, the ownership of the Klan headquarters was signed over to Michael Donald`s mother, whose name was Beulah Mae. It made national news at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The United Klans of America, the country`s old group of Ku Klux Klansmen is threatened with financial ruin. That`s because of a verdict last night by a jury in Mobile, Alabama, giving $7 million in damages to the family of a black man murdered by members of this group.
As NBC`s Dan Molina reports, this is a new way of fighting back against the Klan.
REPORTER: No comments at all?
DAN MOLINA, NBC REPORTER: Leaders of the largest and most secretive of the Ku Klux Klan organizations were not in a talkative mood last night as they left federal court. Robert Sheldon, imperial wizard of United Klans of America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t have any comments. Move, sir. I`m fixing to go home.
MOLINA: But anti-Klan groups were jubilant today.
IRWIN SUALL: I think it`s going to hurt them. I think they`ll find it more difficult to recruit. I think they probably will lose some members as a result.
MOLINA: The crime in question was committed March 21st, 1981. The savagely beaten body of Michael Donald, a 19-year-old black man, was found hanging from a tree. In 1983, Klan member Henry Hayes was sentenced to death for the murder. Another Klansman, James Knowles, received a life sentence.
Now, $7 million in damages awarded to Donald`s family.
BEULAH MAE DONALD, MOTHER: Because that was my baby and nothing they do can bring him back. But I still say I am proud that this came.
MOLINA: Until now, no Klan group had ever been found liable for the actions of its individual members, and the federal court judgment came from an all-white jury.
MICHAEL FIGURES: We think this verdict sends a very strong message across the country that white Southerners, white Mobilians will not tolerate this kind of activity.
MOLINA: It`s not known if the United Klan has $7 million, but the aim was to dismantle whatever financial base the group has and to establish a precedent that can be used by another victims of Klan violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The aim was dismantle whatever financial base the group has and to establish a precedent that can be used by other victims of Klan violence. That case did said a precedent that was used by other victims of Klan violence and other victims of white nationalist, white supremacist, neo Nazi violence.
As I said, it was a landmark case. But that kind of violence is something that never really seems to go away in this country, although, boy, does it have its peaks and its troughs.
Civil rights groups, particularly the Southern Poverty Law Center, which pioneered that technique, they went on to file a bunch of cases like this. Not just against individual criminals that carried out violent attacks because of their white nationalist, white supremacist ideology, but they filed these cases against the groups and the organizers that helped promote this ideology and spread it and that encouraged its violence.
The year after that Alabama case that handed Beulah Mae Donald the keys to the headquarters of the oldest Klan group in America, the year after that, it was a different case, it was a horrific case out of Portland, Oregon. There was a racist skinhead group operating at the time called East Side White Pride in Portland. Three racist skinheads from that group laid in wait. One November night, Portland, Oregon, 1988, they ambushed a 28-year- old man, an immigrant from Ethiopia named Mulugeta Seraw.
He was on his way home to his apartment. They set upon him. They beat him to death. They split his head open with a bat.
All three of those skinheads that committed that murder ended up going to prison for that crime. Obviously, beating someone to death is a crime regardless of why you do it. They were all caught. They were all convicted, they were put away.
But that`s as far as the criminal lawn was going to take it. That was not, however, the whole story of that crime and why it happened. It emerged that a group called White Aryan Resistance, which was headquartered in California, had dispatched its operatives to Portland, Oregon, specifically to try to further radicalize the racist skinheads who were already operating there, to try to incite Portland skinheads to further and more extreme random violent attacks.
For all the groups think the reason violence is so good for their cause, right? I mean, these groups think that violence is so good for them, because they find these attacks intrinsically valuable, right? They`re white supremacists. They seek to hurt and terrorize and kill their perceived racial and demographic enemies. So they see the attacks themselves as a positive.
Further, they hope these attacks will be cathartic. They`ll be inspirational to other people who share the same beliefs but haven`t yet acted them by hurting or killing someone, right? They`re always trying to set off wider and wider and more and more terrifying racial murder and violence and terror. The more the better.
Ultimately, finally, they hope they can engender enough violence and terror and murder against, you know, you name it, people of color and immigrants and Jews and people they perceive as leftists or anybody else they define as their enemy or their target, they ultimately hope to cause as much violence and terror and murder against those populations that they inspire inevitable violent backlash. Because they want it to be a war. They think once the country gets into a full-on whites against everyone race war, they`re quite sure they`ll win and they`ll get their, you know, white homeland or whatever it is they want.
So, in the late 1980s there is this guy named Tom Metzger who had inspired lots of violent white supremacist groups. He had mentored several white supremacist murderers over the years. He and his latest group at the time, White Aryan Resistance. It was run by him and his son. Nice family.
They decided they would put a sharper edge, a more violent edge on the existing race skinhead movement in the late `80s in Portland, Oregon. And so, they sent their guys, the White Aryan Resistance, up to Portland to try to incite the local racist skinheads up there to further and more radical and more violent action. And when those Portland skinheads then killed Mulugeta Seraw outside his apartment building that November night in 1988, the criminals themselves, the skinheads themselves who did it, they were punished by the criminal law.
But then there was this lawsuit that was brought not only against them, it was also brought against Tom Metzger and his organization, White Aryan Resistance. And that lawsuit, of course, was not a criminal case. It was not going to add criminal charges against Metzger or his group. It didn`t add additional prison time to anybody`s sentence and, of course, it didn`t bring back the man they beat to death.
But it did put a $12.5 million price on that murder, as the cost to be paid by that corner of the white nationalist terrorist movement. So, I mean, where were these racist thugs and these skinheads and these, you know, Aryan organizers going to get $12.5 million to pay the judgment in that case? Obviously, that`s a reasonable question. They were never going to get all the way there. They didn`t have that kind of money.
But anything they did have, right, their homes, their cars, their bank accounts, their personal property, any donation anyone ever decided to make to White Aryan Resistance, any future wages they might earn, all of that, now by court order would be taken from them. And would go instead to the family of that Ethiopian man who those skinheads murdered in the street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: White supremacist Tom Metzger got one thing right when he addressed the jury in his own defense.
TOM METZGER, WHITE ARYAN RESISTANCE: They want me.
REPORTER: And that is indeed what they got. Metzger calls himself a TV repairman, but from his base in San Diego, he has run a racist mail order and cable TV business called White Aryan Resistance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, ma`am, can I give you a copy of our White Aryan Resistance?
REPORTER: The jury in Oregon decided that from San Diego, he encouraged his followers to invade Portland and commit violence. Encouraged three members of his gang to attack and kill an Ethiopian student here on this street with a baseball bat.
In the end, the Seraw family of Ethiopia, victimized by skinheads, will receive a portion of Metzger`s income and all of his property.
MADDOW: And all of his property. After that -- after that verdict, the father of Mulugeta Seraw told "The Associated Press", quote, this is the happiest I feel since my son died because I know he has not died in vain.
So this tactic has a certain elegance to it, right, when it comes to strategizing against ongoing violent terrorist movements in this country, right? Responding after the fact to the individual attackers and murderers who commit these atrocities -- I mean, it`s obviously necessary but it`s a little bit like pouring waters on the -- pouring water on the ashes after the fire`s already burned through, right?
But if alternatively you can bankrupt these organizations that spread and advance this ideology, if you can cripple their ability to receive funds, to own assets, to have headquarters buildings, to pay their bills to pay for postage, what it is they need to do in the real world to organize and incite and encourage further attacks -- well, that`s more proactive, right? That`s, you know, getting the matches wet, right? That`s clearing out the dry brush. That`s stopping or mitigating the impact of the next fire they might try to set.
One of the most famous of these cases resulted in the I think very satisfying outcome of this Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, in Hayden Lake, Idaho, not only being seized from Aryan Nations after some skinheads from that group beat and shot at a couple of random passers by one night in Idaho in 1988. That land which was an ongoing gathering place for neo-Nazis for years. Ultimately after one of these cases, that land itself was awarded to the family that was attacked by those skinheads.
The family then sold it to a guy who put up sort of a museum of tolerance on the site, which must have delighted the Aryan skinhead guys who had been using it as their camp in the woods for years. That was 2000 and 2001, another one of these cases that made national news at the time that put a real spotlight on that hallmark tactic in fighting at least that era of white nationalists, white supremacist, violent terrorism in the United States.
You know, that news footage I was showing there, you know, it`s old looking, right? We`re a couple of decades at least down the road from that stuff, and now, it sort of feels line the matches are dry again and the dry brush has grown back, right? When the Aryan Nations and White Aryan Resistance and the United Klans of America lost their shirts, you know, lost their robes and their headquarters and their houses and their ability to ever have donations and have their wages garnished and all that stuff -- I mean, surely those kinds of cases and the way those organizations suffered from losing those cases, that surely undercut their organizational capacity, these Klan chapters, these skinhead outfits, right?
But the ideology hasn`t gone away and their movement has been sustained and it certainly exists among us right now and it perceiving itself to have friends in very high places, including in their view in the White House. The shooter from El Paso this weekend is in custody now after having killed 22 people at least and having apparently uploaded a diatribe online echoing the rhetoric of the president`s re-election campaign about Hispanic invasion at the southern border and repeating lots of other longstanding white supremacist tropes that he says he learned about online.
Federal prosecutors have already announced that that El Paso attack will be investigated as a potential act of domestic terrorism and that killer will be tried because he survived his attack. But in addition to that El Paso case, today in Gilroy, California, the FBI announced that they are looking at potentially the same sort of framing for the Gilroy shooting last weekend, which the shooter did not survive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BENNETT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: We have uncovered evidence throughout the course of our investigation that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies. We are striving to find several things. What, if any, ideology he had actually settled on? Who, if anyone, he may have been in contact with regarding these ideologies? Who, if anyone, helped him or had advanced knowledge of his intentions and why he committed this specific act of violence?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, in this case, the Gilroy case, the shooter is dead. He reportedly killed himself in the midst of all the carnage that he caused. With him dead, there is nothing at all they can do to him through the criminal law, right? That will change the fact of what he did or how he paid for it.
He took his own life. He`s beyond the reach of anyone`s retribution or accountability. Now, this prospect that law enforcement may try to determine if anyone else was involved, if anyone else knew or helped him, that is an interesting prospect if he was, indeed, part of something larger. He was motivated by, inspired by, encouraged by an ongoing violent terrorist movement.
Now, what law enforcement will do about that if they find out the answer is yes will be interesting to see. I don`t think there are broadly speaking any high hopes that, you know, this federal government, that this Justice Department under William Barr, this Justice Department under President Trump is going to take a broadly aggressive tack of this particular type of violent extremism.
But it`s worth thinking about the tactics here, right? This weekend, it will by two years since the huge neo-Nazi gathering and the murderous attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which President Trump proclaimed there were very fine people on both sides. I went back and looked at our coverage immediately following the Charlottesville attack. I was struck by the fact that even at the time, it sort of felt like we could have seen Charlottesville coming.
Remember, Charlottesville was August of 2017. In the six months before the Charlottesville conflagration, there were a whole bunch of pretty high- profile racist attacks in this country, and even though that was only a couple of years ago, most of them have already been forgotten, but the day after the Charlottesville attack happened, here on the show we ran down some of them just in the six months before Charlottesville. I mean, in February of that year, in Kansas, two Indian engineers were shot in a bar by a guy who screamed racial and religious epithets at them. One of those two engineers was killed. The other was wounded, as was a bystander.
The following month, March of that year, midtown Manhattan, young white guy from Maryland drives all the way from Maryland to New York City with a sword so he can randomly stab to death a black man on the street who he didn`t know from Adam. He thought doing it in New York, in Times Square would give them the most attention, because he was hoping to set off more random killings of black men in America with his totally unprovoked sidewalk murder.
Just weeks later, it was Portland, Oregon. Two girls on a commuter train subjected to a torrent of racial and religious abuse and violent threats by a guy on the train. Threatening them, screaming at them, passers by on the train intervened, put themselves between this attacker and the girls he was going after. Two of those passers by were killed, another one seriously wounded.
That same week, this young man who had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, three days away from his college graduation, was stabbed to death in Maryland by a young white student who was a member of a hardcore right-wing racist online group. That was all right in the lead-up to Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the last couple of days, "The New York Times" did a big list of about a dozen white supremacist attacks that have happened in this country over the past six or seven years. I was looking at that list today. Actually none of the events that I just described that happened in the six months before Charlottesville even made this list from "The New York Times" for whatever reason. I mean, not faulting "The Times" for that, I`m just saying there`s been a lot of them in recent years. Kind of even hard to track, even over the last couple of years.
And to the extent that this is not random stuff, to the extent that these are not, you know, bad apples, to the extent that this is the manifestation of an organized white nationalist movement in this country that seeks violence, that is deliberately trying to inspire and encourage and enable racially motivated and anti-Semitic attacks and any other kind of they know that would advance the cause of white nationalism or bring about their fabled race war -- I mean, if you are worried that this federal government at this time may not be inclined to do enough about that, but they may treat these things as if they`re individual crimes, all committed in isolation, just a few bad apples, nothing connecting them. If that is a realistic downside risk of having this president at the head of the federal government at this time, well, then aren`t we back to a question that was first called a few decades ago?
Can the victims of these crimes and their families play a part in shutting down this terrorist movement in a way that the federal government may not be able or willing to do? Can the victims do it? Can the victims and their families bankrupt these organizations and these organizing hubs, right? Is it possible strategically to organizationally decapitate these organizations and these hubs that facilitate this kind of terrorism in America? Can you organizationally decapitate them, even when law enforcement will not?
Hold that thought. Live question. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two years ago this weekend, a young woman named Heather Heyer was killed. Twenty-eight people were injured in a terror attack that was the culmination of a gathering of neo Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The man who drove the car that deliberately plowed into that car and killed Ms. Heyer, just last month, he was sentenced to life in prison with an additional 419 years in prison for that crime.
But, you know, the Charlottesville case is not over. Ten of the people who were injured in Charlottesville, including three of the people who were hit by that car and survived have now brought a murderer against the lawsuit against not only the murderer who drove his vehicle into the crowd but also, and this is interesting, the leaders of all the white nationalist groups that organized and promoted the Charlottesville event.
There are more than two dozen individuals listed as defendants in this case. Here`s from -- this is a quote from the -- from the complaint as filed with the court.
Quote: The violence in Charlottesville was no accident. Under the pretext of a rally which they termed Unite the Right, defendants spent months carefully coordinating their efforts on the Internet and in person. They exhorted each other. If you want to defend the South and Western Civilization from the Jew and his dark-skinned allies, be at Charlottesville on 12 August.
Also, quote: Next stop Charlottesville, final stop Auschwitz.
In countless posts on their own Websites and social media, defendants and their co-conspirators promised that there would be violence in Charlottesville. The violence, suffering and emotional distress that occurred in Charlottesville was a direct, intended and foreseeable result of defendants` unlawful conspiracy. It was all according to a plan they spent months working out and whose implementation they actively oversaw as events unfolded on the ground. The events of August 11th and 12th were part of defendants` coordinated campaign to intimidate, harass, incite and cause violence to people based on their race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation in violation of numerous, state and federal laws.
This is a call back to a previous strategy that has been used in this country in the past to try to bankrupt and organizationally decapitate the terrorism organization that have used white nationalism and white supremacism as an umbrella in this country for years. In the wake of the El Paso attack this weekend, another recent incidents of white nationalists and white supremacist violence and amid worries about the Trump administration`s attitude toward extremism of this exact kind, should this sort of thing be seen as a viable tactic? I mean, practically, can it work? Is this the kind of movement that could actually be hurt by being bankrupted, by being organizationally disrupted? Could these kinds of legal strategies be a strong alternative, particularly if the federal government is going to be an unreliable partner for the victims of these crimes?
After the Charleston massacre, the Charleston church massacre in 2015, a "Washington Post" reporter was working on the story about the white supremacist who shot and killed nine mostly elderly black worshippers during a prayer service at the Mother Emanuel AME Church. It turns out that gunman had been active on something called Stormfront, which is an online hub for white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
"The Washington Post" reporter who was following that lead went to Stormfront to look for reaction to the Charleston attack, given that one of their own had carried it out. What he found was people on Stormfront celebrating the attack in Charleston.
But the reporter also discovered a whole different story line on Stormfront that he wasn`t expecting, an ongoing robust discussion about the son of Stormfront`s founder, a man named Derek Black. He was the long-expected next leader in waiting of America`s white nationalist movement.
And the discussion on Storm Front was about him leaving the movement, him turning his back on white nationalism and walking away. Finding leads to that story in that unexpected place, that reporter from "The Post" tracked down Derek Black, that former national white nationalist. He spent the next few years researching him, researching that movement, and ultimately produced this best-selling book "Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist."
The reporter behind that story, Eli Saslow of "The Washington Post", joins us now.
Mr. Saslow, I really appreciate you making time for us tonight. Thanks for being here.
ELI SASLOW, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: So I read your book. I learned a lot from it and part of the reason I wanted to talk to you about this tonight is I feel like you gave me some new insight I didn`t have before into sort of the modern structure and the modern evolution of the white nationalist movement. And it got me thinking about your perspective on how to fight it. We have seen in the past people go after the organizational hubs, the leaders of various groups, trying to bankrupt them, trying to sort of organizationally decapitate them to slow down the movement.
Do you feel like with the modern iteration of this movement that might be an effective strategy?
SASLOW: I think it definitely can be effective and it has a place. Unfortunately, I don`t think it`s a way to defeat white supremacy in the United States overall. That`s unfortunately a really tall order because it`s so endemic in what this country is.
But I think these judgments that have been won in some of these cases that you`ve highlighted tonight, they`re empowering for people who historically and currently have been disenfranchised by the white supremacy movement or killed by the white supremacy movement or wounded or injured. And, you know, that matters. To acknowledge that matters.
And our country as a whole has not often been good at acknowledging that pain and suffering that has come on the other end of white supremacy. So I think as a tactic, it`s really useful and it`s emboldening for anti-racists to see that you can win and you can get big judgments against these people.
And, unfortunately, white nationalists over the last 50 years have gotten very used to transforming themselves and moving from one platform to the next, one organization to the next. So, it`s a little bit like whack-a- mole in terms of how insidious the, you know, the organization -- the movement as a whole is. And that`s partly because it`s so tied into what the United States, unfortunately, has been.
MADDOW: In terms of that whack-a-mole problem that you`re talking about, I hear you there and I`ve been sort of intrigued but also frustrated by a lot of discussion that`s happening right now about the online presence of white nationalists organizing, white nationalist incitement, you know, these screeds and diatribes being posted on various forums where white nationalists convene.
And I feel like a lot of that discussion is about how outlets like -- that are ostensibly neutral. Anything from Instagram and Facebook and Twitter to places like, you know, even radical -- radical spaces like 8chan and all those things. Whether or not they can be held accountable for this content that happens to sit or travel through those formats.
But one of the things that you wrote about in your book and the history of Derek Black is how some of thee platforms are native grown. A place like Stormfront was an early outpost online for the white nationalist movement and it is part and parcel of how that movement organizes itself and the people who have been leading it.
It seems like Stormfront and some of the other groups -- some of the other online hubs like that might be vulnerable to this kind of a tactic.
SASLOW: I think they have been vulnerable to this kind of tactic. The problem is they`ve moved faster than the tactic catches them. So, you know, Stormfront gets attacked frequently. Its servers get shut down. It gets legally attacked. That gets shut down and then that audience goes to The Daily Stormer. The Daily Stormer comes under siege and people move to Gab or 8chan.
You know, I think, unfortunately, we`re talking about a very powerful connected movement. I mean, these radical domestic terrorist acts are not -- they`re not lone wolf acts. I mean, they`re talking to each other. They`re talking to each other, frankly, through their manifestos and trying to inspire one another to do similar things.
So I think figuring out a way to stop them from having that conversation is going to be very difficult. I`d say the more long-term strategy to potentially have some success partnering with that is to change the conversation that they`re having and that we`re having in the country about what the United States and is has been in terms of often prioritizing the interests of white people.
I mean, I think another complicating thing about relying on the courts to fight white supremacy or to provide some answers to white supremacy is that historically in our country, the courts, the criminal justice system, law enforcement, those have done just as much work and probably more work to enable white supremacy as they`ve ever done to destabilize it.
And that`s included recently. I mean, the rally in Charlottesville happened in part because the ACLU went to court on behalf of those white supremacists days before it happened to restore their permits so they could hold the rally in the first place. So, the courts can break either way.
MADDOW: Eli Saslow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, reporter for "The Washington Post" -- I`m really glad that you`re able to join us tonight. I know it took some rigmarole to get you here. I really appreciate you making the time. Thank you.
SASLOW: It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So hundreds of people had gathered for a vigil in downtown Dayton in memory of the nine people who were killed in the mass shooting this weekend. People held candles. People released balloons into the air to honor the victims. There were local officials who were making remarks.
And something then unexpected happened. Ohio`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine started to address the crowd and something happened. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: We are here tonight --
CROWD: Do something! Do something!
DEWINE: -- because we know that we cannot --
CROWD: Do something!
DEWINE: We know that we cannot --
CROWD: Do something!
CROWD (chanting): Do something! Do something! Do something!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That caught on.
Those shouts from the crowd "do something, do something" overwhelming Republican Governor Mike DeWine, bringing him to a halt in the middle of what otherwise would have been his remarks. That happened on Sunday, just after the Dayton mass shooting.
Now, it seems like it`s possible the governor might have actually heard what people were trying to tell him. That`s next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): Do something! Do something! Do something!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the aftermath of this weekend`s mass shootings, the talking point from President Trump and many Republicans, their central message has been that the issue is not guns but mental illness. The president saying it`s not guns that pull the trigger, it`s mental illness that pulls the trigger.
Forgive me for saying this bluntly, but that`s bullpucky and we can all prove it. First, obviously, we as a country do not have a monopoly on mental illness and yet only in America do mass shootings happen anywhere near this often. Beyond that, though, all of the studies, all of the research disproves the notion that mental illness is the thing you should blame for mass shootings in America. Only a tiny fraction of violent crime is committed by people with mental illness. People who are mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than its perpetrators. So claiming this is a mental illness problem that explains what`s going on in America with gun violence is bull.
Here`s another way you know it, though, another way to know that Republican lawmakers specifically do not mean it and they are not serious about this supposed problem of guns in the hands of the mentally ill, the other way you know that for sure and can prove it is that among the very first things Republicans did after Donald Trump moved into the White House, when they had a Republican House and a Republican Senate and a Republican president, one of the first things they did was take deliberate, specific action to make it easier for people who had been adjudicated mentally ill to get firearms.
And I don`t mean like someone slipped a longstanding provision into some omnibus bill and nobody noticed that it was loosening some regulation. I mean, they literally signed and Donald Trump passed a standalone law that said if a person is classified seriously mentally by the Social Security Administration, if a person is adjudicated to be too mentally impaired to handle his or own affairs like cashing his or her own checks, Republicans as soon as Trump became president went out of their way to change the law so that after such an adjudication, that person can still get a gun -- after such an adjudication, you couldn`t previously get a gun but they changed the law so that you can, right after you`ve been found to not be mentally well enough to handle your own affairs as far as cashing a check goes.
So, when the president and Republicans in Congress tell you that what they`re really concerned about is mental illness, that`s the real problem, what their real priority is, people with mental illness getting access to guns, you can prove to them that is bullpucky. You can prove it to them not by what they have said, by what they have done.
That said, maybe change is possible. Following the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting this past weekend, the state`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine has just laid out ten proposals for the state`s legislature to take up. And yet, some of them are about mental illness. But they also include things like universal background checks in the state of Ohio and allowing a judge to confiscate firearms from anyone who`s deemed by the judge to pose a threat to himself or to others.
Now, it may seem tempting to say that as lip service. But you could also take it in good faith.
Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning nationally syndicated prize journalist is based in Cleveland, Ohio. She responded this way to this announcement today from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. She posted this on Twitter.
Do we have that? Do we have that? Thank you. Sorry. There we go.
Connie Schultz posted this on Twitter after this announcement from Congressman Mike Turner today. I announce my support for restricting military-style weapons sales, magazine limits and red flag legislation. Read my fullest statement here. Connie Schultz respond, quote, we can`t ask people to change and then not give them the chance to do so.
In other words, consider the possibility that this is real. Connie Schultz joins us now from Ohio.
Connie, it`s great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.
CONNIE SCHULTZ, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING COLUMNIST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So this was I felt like an act against cynicism for you and a big- hearted statement to make. A lot of people I think greeted this with cynicism, assuming that this is something they`re going to say and never do, but you`re essentially saying that this is something that might be possible now.
SCHULTZ: You know where I first learned that as a columnist was when Ohio seemed so radically against same-sex marriage and gay rights and over time incrementally I could see change, and you had to create the space for it, to allow for it.
And I believe Congressman Turner. I saw him the day after the shootings. I saw how emotional he was about it. I don`t doubt his good intentions.
I know that there are people who say, well, wouldn`t it have been nice sooner? Yes, all kinds of things would be nice if they had come much sooner, but I will take them where we find them and whatever gets them here, welcome, because we need major action.
And if we don`t show that support, if we just greet it with cynicism, not only are we being predictably liberal, but we are betraying an awful lot of people who need us to be advocates right now. I`m so grateful to you for what you said about mental illness. Some of the most moving messages I`ve gotten in the last 48/72 hours are from people who have been diagnosed with mental illness and they give me all the reasons that they are sick, all the ways they have dealt with it and how often and how close they`ve come to harming themselves.
Their point, of course, being that they don`t have any attention of getting a gun and killing anybody. And they need our advocacy. So, I really want to start by thanking you for starting with that.
MADDOW: Well, sure. I mean, I do feel like it`s worth calling out disingenuous arguments and also false arguments in this case. But I -- what you`re saying about being open to the possibility of change here, I think also -- it`s almost hard to hear in this environment. It`s like even opening our hearts to that idea that you have to be not just open-minded but willing to work, willing to do the work, willing to meet people where you are, I think it`s -- I mean, I think you`re advancing this in a positive way.
But I just also wanted to ask you substantively what you think of that list of proposals that Governor DeWine put out and that some of the Republican members of Congress from your state are now potentially signaling support for?
SCHULTZ: Well, the first law that Mike DeWine signed as governor was to supposedly fix a law that had limited the length of some guns. He wanted to improve that for gun owners, right? Two years ago, they started allowing guns in daycares unless daycare centers put up signs prohibiting it. That`s a very helpful law, as you can see.
SCHULTZ: So my point is here, the Senate and House leaderships are overwhelmingly Republican, both bodies, and the leadership has made clear already that they are -- they`re very much in opposition of what Mike DeWine -- most of what Mike DeWine is arguing for. Even though a Quinnipiac poll showed I think in July that 90 percent of Ohioans, this is a nonpartisan issue, 90 percent of Ohioans want universal background checks.
The thing about that shouting crowd, and I do give Mike DeWine credit for paying attention, that also was a nonpartisan event, Rachel. That was a town of grieving residents who were there to show support for the victims, the people who died, the people who have been injured, the people who love them and cannot even believe yet that they have lost these people. So, that was not your typical -- I mean, it feels very Midwestern in a way. There wasn`t a lot of chanting swear words. They weren`t calling him names.
They were telling him to do something. When you look at the video of that, you see people of all different ages doing that. It was quite moving.
MADDOW: When you talk about that sort of a tableau, and also that poll result of 90 percent support for universal background checks, I mean, even if you only poll gun owners, you will find numbers like that in terms of support for universal background checks.
MADDOW: How do you envision this changing? I mean, when you think about this in an optimistic way, just thinking on that issue of universal background checks, does it take -- I mean, sort of tactical trickery, you know? Does it take some way of doing it where the people who are going to oppose it don`t have access to stop it, or is it going to take some sort of catalytic act of bravery? Does it -- does tragedy help in terms of moving people off the starting line there? Can you imagine it happening?
SCHULTZ: I think what tragedies, multiple, tragedies, plural, are doing is making a different group of people scared. And a different group of people emboldened.
The gun lobby -- you know, I`ve been dealing with the gun activists for almost 20 years as a columnist here. Some of my first death threats came from open-carry people that were so angry that -- at "The Plain Dealer", we started publishing the names and addresses of people getting permits because the state legislature passed a law saying only journalists and law enforcement could find out if your neighbor had a gun in the house, was walking around your children with guns.
So this has been a long battle. They`ve counted on making us afraid, and what I am seeing increasingly -- look, leadership is lonely. You know that. In your own way you`re a leader. It`s a lonely hill to stand on often. That`s why it`s leadership because not everyone can do it.
The thing is we need to see more of our citizens who never imagined themselves doing this. I think of mothers, for example, immediately come to mind who have had it and grandmothers. My generation of women, we are really starting to look at this in a different way. I hear from them every day. That is not an overstatement.
And they`re deciding, you know, it sounds cliche, what answer will I have, right, for the children in my life, for my family? But if you really do ask yourself that question and you look where we are in this country right now, the wrong people have been afraid. The people who should be afraid are these Republicans who think they can keep doing what they`re doing even if 90 percent of Ohioans tell them they want something different.
MADDOW: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist covering Ohio and beyond, one of my favorite people to talk to on any subject -- Connie, thanks for making time tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that Connie Schultz is married to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is also one of my favorite politicians to talk to on any subject. So, there`s my bias.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So here`s something to keep an eye on, and I`m saying that selfishly because I`m not sure this is something I understand so I feel like the more eyes on it the better.
There are two more presidential Democratic primaries coming up, September and October. The rules to qualify for both debates are the same. You need to in at least four polls to get 2 percent support. That`s the polling threshold. And you need 130,000 donors -- 130,000 different people contributing to your campaign.
Now, so far, there are only eight people who are qualified under those criteria, as far as we can tell, for the next debate. But here`s the thing I don`t understand. The DNC has apparently just sent a message to all the candidates clarifying the cutoff deadline for the polls that you`d need to qualify to get into the debate. And apparently, the cutoff deadline for getting into the September debate and the October debate are going to be the same. Meaning the same universe of polls is going to be looked at for both September debate and the October debate.
The reason I don`t understand this is that what this would seem to mean is if you`re a Democrat running for president and you`re one of the 12 to 14 candidates who isn`t going to qualify to get into the September debates, they`re going to give you a whole extra month of time to try to qualify into the October debate. So, the September debate`s going to be much smaller, only eight people and then the October debate`s going to be way bigger again and go back up to the bigger field?
That`s what it seems like the DNC is offering. Like I said, I`m not sure I understand, but watch this space.
MADDOW: One thing to keep an eye on in tomorrow`s news, early in the day, I mentioned the Charleston, South Carolina massacre earlier on this show this hour, the place where a young white supremacist killed nine mostly elderly worshippers at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Tomorrow morning, early in the day, I believe in midmorning, there`s going to be speech made at that church by Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker.
Obviously, this is a fraught and important time for everybody in national politics, but for Senator Booker, one of the African-American candidates running on the Democratic side, speaking tomorrow from that hallowed ground. It should be a dramatic and important moment. So, keep an eye out for that earlier in the day.
We`ll see you tomorrow night.
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