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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 9/15/17 Trump admin vs. ESPN

Guests: Jill Wine-Banks, Deepa Seetharaman, David Jolly, Maria Teresa Kumar, Asawin Suebsaeng, Zerlina Maxwell, Karine Jean-Pierre, Richard Painter

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: September 15, 2017 Guest: Jill Wine-Banks, Deepa Seetharaman, David Jolly, Maria Teresa Kumar, Asawin Suebsaeng, Zerlina Maxwell, Karine Jean-Pierre, Richard Painter

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. You know, I feel like we keep so much track of who is going before the grand jury and the names and the aides. As you were saying, why did this spokesman go? I feel like we`ll going to be hearing a lot more about each of these social media platforms.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Well, yes, and it will be interesting to see both from a business perspective and from an investigatory perspective how much they will either be willing to explain about what happened on their platform and how much they`ll try to hold on to as a trade secret. Facebook is not going to be able to keep this -- the same public profile they`ve got on this -- for much longer.

MELBER: Right, the old saying, you can`t be neutral on a moving social media platform, something like that, train platform.


MADDOW: Right.

MELBER: I don`t know. Rachel, have a great weekend.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: I am Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

We have a potentially huge development we`re tracking here in the Russia inquiry this Friday night, what Bob Mueller might have in his possession and what it could actually tell us about how far along the investigation is going. We`re going to explain that in just a moment.

Also, politically, why some conservatives are calling President Trump`s new deal style with Democrats a season of betrayal. And the very latest on the White House face off with ESPN, their so-called culture war.

But, first, the breaking news from St. Louis. This is the scene there right now we want to show you tonight. Several hundred protesters are in the streets, and they are protesting, breaking news, an acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer who was on trial for murder, for killing a Black man after a car chase.

Now, today, Judge Timothy Wilson found that former St. Louis police officer -- his name is Jason Stockley -- not guilty of the charges of first-degree murder. The shooting occurred all the way back in 2011 of a man named Anthony Lamar Smith who was 24 years old.

A lot going on here that`s important. Joining us now from St. Louis with more is reporter Casey Nolan in our local NBC affiliate.

Casey, tell us what you`re seeing and the background you can provide.

CASEY NOLAN, KSDK-TV REPORTER: Well, what we`re seeing is a bit of a pause in what`s otherwise been a pretty active march that`s covered at least five miles or so here since about 7:00 p.m. Central Time.

Throughout the day here in St. Louis, the protests have been kind of ad hoc in different parts of the neighborhoods, kind of sporadic, but they seem to have kind of coalesced here. I`ll show you a little more of what we can see.

This is the central west end neighborhood in the city of St. Louis. Locally, people would tell you it`s kind of a high-end neighborhood. A high-end residential area, a lot of shops, restaurants, things of that nature.

And the message here, a couple of different --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope to send a message.

NOLAN: Hang on one second.


NOLAN: A couple of different chants, if I can try --


NOLAN: -- to summarize what I`ve heard so far tonight. One was: get out of the bars, get into the streets.

I think if you can -- if I can overgeneralize a little bit, this is a fairly sympathetic crowd in this particular neighborhood. However, the message to the people who are in the bars, get out of the bars, get into the streets.

Also, early on, it was: if you`re going to kill our people, we`re going to kill your economy. So the idea being, on a night when a lot of people are out on the sidewalks having dinner, business is going on, the idea being to shut that down.

We have an interstate not too far from here. The crowd tried to get to that. The police blocked that off. There`s a large police presence there, Interstate 64, that runs through the heart of the city. The crowd just turned around and came back here where we really haven`t seen much of a police presence.

Again, we`re kind of paused now. We got --

MELBER: Right.

NOLAN: -- I would say, 500 people, roughly. It`s hard to count. If anything, this crowd`s gotten bigger over the last couple of hours and the five or so miles that they`ve marched.

MELBER: And walk us through some of what has been such a big piece of evidence on the ground in St. Louis because this is a case that hasn`t gotten as much national attention, and yet there was very strong evidence against the officer.

Apart from the shooting itself into the police car, there was audio evidence that the community was very upset about that showed the officer speaking about killing the person before they even engaged. Some of the things that we know have been on the minds of protesters.

Walk us through that in the wake of, as I`ve reported, an acquittal, a judge finding a not guilty in this murder case.

NOLAN: Yes. The thing that was captured on audio was, I`m going to -- we`re going to kill him. We`re going to kill that blank, don`t you know?

[22:04:58] And then from there, about 45 seconds later, Jason Stockley actually did kill Anthony Lamar Smith as he said he would. His attorney says it was in the heat of the moment, and he doesn`t even actually remember saying it.


NOLAN: We are getting, right now, a bit of a reaction to us being here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black lives matter!

NOLAN: This has been a crowd that`s really not interested in talking to the press. To the mainstream press, if you would. So right now, that`s the reaction you`re hearing.

MELBER: All right.

NOLAN: As she chants, they react. But, yes, you`re right. The audio was an issue. Also, there was a gun in the car that prosecutors said the officer planted, and he said they had DNA evidence to prove that.

MELBER: Right.

NOLAN: The judge didn`t buy it.

MELBER: Casey Nolan from right in the middle of the protest, and we will continue to monitor tonight as it has been such a scene there in St. Louis. Thank you. We`ll check back as events warrant.

I want to turn the page here from that important story to another one, two big developments in the ongoing Russia query today.

The first, a witness speaking outside of Bob Mueller`s grand jury room. And the other is, tonight, a new report that suggests Mueller got some kind of grand issue -- grand jury related search warrant for Facebook as I was discussing briefly with Rachel.

But let`s start with this issue, Paul Manafort`s spokesman, Jason Maloni, who spent about 2-1/2 hours today before the grand jury, speaking, presumably, about something to do with his Manafort work and relationship. That is President Trump`s former campaign chair, now a subject in the Bob Mueller investigation.


JASON MALONI, SPOKESMAN FOR PAUL MANAFORT: My name is Jason Maloni. I`m president of JadeRoq. I was ordered to appear today before the grand jury. I answered questions and I`ve been dismissed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What types of questions did they ask?

MALONI: That`s all I have to say.


MELBER: That`s all he had to say, but other reports circulating -- a BuzzFeed reporting today -- on another secret meeting involving another subject in the same Mueller probe. This is General Michael Flynn who is, of course, under investigation, along with Kushner, a person of interest in the query, and Steve Bannon. All of them with a secret meeting with the King of Jordan back in January.

The meeting occurred around the same time General Flynn was pushing a Middle East nuclear power plant plan that would have ties to Russia. BuzzFeed reporting people close to the three Trump advisers say the nuclear deal was not discussed at the meeting with the King of Jordan, but a federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency about the meeting said the proposal, known as the "Marshal Plan," was one of the topics the group talked about.

Tonight, the "Wall Street Journal" reporting that other news, Facebook has given the Mueller team even more information about these Russian accounts that bought campaign ads on Facebook. More than Facebook gave to Congress.

Now, last week, Facebook had told the Congress about some 500 Russian tied accounts. But this "Journal" report tells us something new, that Facebook gave more to Mueller`s team, quote, copies of the ad, details about the accounts that bought them, the targeting criteria they used.

Now, Facebook policy dictates it would only turn over, quote, stored contents of any account like messages and information on -- and location information in response to a search warrant.

Let`s unpack what could be going on. I`m joined by one of the writers of that "Wall Street Journal" piece, Deepa Seetharaman, and Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor.

Normally, I would go to the reporter but, Jill, because of the search aspect, I`m going to you first. Do you read this as something that would require potentially a search warrant? And walk us through why that would matter.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The search warrant matters because, under Facebook policy, they`re limited to what they would do in response to a subpoena. Whereas, the search warrant will allow them to provide more information.

It`s also interesting the story about it being more information to Mueller than to the Congress. And, of course, Congress has an obligation to make sure our elections are fair and not interfered with. So it`s important that they also get as much information about what the Russians did on Facebook to interfere with our election. So, at some point, they will also need that, but it may be more important that the criminal case go forward first.

MELBER: Right. And, Deepa, what did your sources tell you?

DEEPA SEETHARAMAN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, my sources are telling me that, you know, Facebook has been getting a lot of demands for this information. And, you know, with the -- with -- they provided it to Mueller because he has more power, he has more ability, the ability to actually issue his kind of search warrant, and you have an enormous amount of information that comes with that.

You have the creative of the ad, like what the ads look like, who the ads were targeted to, and all kinds of other information that could really help us understand, you know, how effective these ads were.

MELBER: Yes. I mean, for folks who aren`t, you know, big tech gurus or Facebook users, I mean, people know what you do see. That`s the front end. A lot of this goes to the back end, right? The data, the metadata, any information that might have identifying aspects to it.

[22:10:00] Based on your tech expertise, I mean, Deepa, do you think this is the kind of information that can give Mueller clues he wouldn`t be able to get from anyone other than Facebook?

SEETHARAMAN: Absolutely. I mean, only Facebook has copies of the ads themselves. Only they know who are -- who the buyers are and able to match that with the ad copy. They have access to the -- you know, to the reach of a particular ad, so they could tell how effective it was and who shared it.

And there are a lot -- there are enormous number of details that only Facebook has, and they keep that private. You know, that is a big part of the company`s ethos. You know, they don`t like to share advertiser data, which makes it a little difficult for all of us to understand the nature and scope of these ads during the election. But Mueller will have that information. It`s very powerful.

MELBER: Jill, I wonder if you could walk us through the different features of a potential criminal conspiracy. Ultimately, if Bob Mueller`s looking at something illegal like hacking, he wants to see whether Americans were involved.

According to U.S. intel, criminal hacking occurred. That`s not a mystery. It seems that the Facebook piece and the money piece, if there is one, are other ways.

That is to say, even if you put the hacking and the pilfered e-mails aside, the money spent on Facebook ads, or if any money went into other accounts or changed hands, would be distinct and separate potentially criminal conspiracy acts that, if Americans were involved in, would create a hook for Mueller?

WINE-BANKS: Absolutely. And I think maybe what the public needs to know is that an act in furtherance of a conspiracy doesn`t have to, itself, be a crime. So that if you`re spending money, that`s not a crime. But if you`re spending money for an illegal purpose, it becomes part of the conspiracy, so if any American paid for those ads or helped to identify how to target them.

I think the targeting is a very interesting aspect of how they knew who to go after and how to rile up the public because these seem to not be related to a candidate, more to issues, and were intended to rile the base in favor of Donald Trump and to be negative for Hillary Clinton.

And to create events, as well, so that they actually hosted events that brought in a lot of Americans who, of course, did not know that they were being lured there by Russians. And --

MELBER: Well, that`s the weirdest part. I mean, they --


MELBER: The event they staged in Idaho, according to Russian organizers that put up material, was an anti-foreigner event. Of course, it was staged by foreigners pretending to be Americans. You can`t make it out.

And, Jill, I want to play for you Congressman Cummings because we`ve been talking, so far tonight, about money that went to Facebook. Then there`s all the money that went from other companies to the Flynns and what that trail means. Here was Congressman Cummings speaking about this.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: We want them to come in, the folks who -- from these various companies that hired Flynn. We want them to come in and tell us exactly how this thing -- how all this happened. And by the way, Andrea, whether it`s still going on.

It may very well be that this was a major thing that he wanted to accomplish. He traveled all over the world to do it. And so we want to know exactly, is it still going on? And what the communications were with regard to it.


MELBER: Jill, how does federal investigation approach those entities? Some of them may have been doing something that would potentially be lawful, which is influence peddling, right, which we know goes on a lot in Washington. And yet, it seems that Flynn`s failure to accurately report on time at least brings some criminal liability into the picture.

WINE-BANKS: It`s not a coincidence that all of these meetings and all of these relationships were not disclosed.

It`s interesting that they had the meeting with the King of Jordan while they were working for the transition or in the White House itself. They were working on trying to make money through a nuclear deal that could have also endangered the stability of the Middle East, and they were doing this as White House officials or as Trump transition officials.

So there`s an awful lot of illegal activity there and things that are dangerous to our democracy that I think we need to know about, both in terms of crimes, but also just in terms of the politics of it.

MELBER: Yes. Jill Wine-Banks with the law, Deepa Seetharaman with the big scoop tonight. I want to thank you both for joining THE LAST WORD. Have a good weekend.


WINE-BANKS: You, too. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. Up next, we`re going to talk about why the hats are on fire and what it means for Donald Trump.

Plus, later, a must watch response to President Trump`s odd demand that he get an apology after an ESP anchor -- ESPN anchored discussed his, quote, White supremacy.


MELBER: Do you feel something changing in the air? Donald Trump`s first months in office, we all know, were characterized by chaos, much of it self-imposed. And now, we`re hearing the new buzzword may be betrayal.

The claims that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi could have reached a deal with Trump on Dreamers, first reported and scrutinized right here by Lawrence and Rachel when that news broke Wednesday night? Well, that has already driven the GOP base into a full rage by today.

Steve Bannon`s Breitbart has the headline: Trump supporters begin burning MAGA hats in protest against amnesty for no wall deal with Dems. Followed by red lettering there: You have become the swamp.

Now, the article reports on these types of videos, new, from Trump supporters. I actually spoke to one myself earlier tonight. He endorsed Trump the day he announced, but joined me on "THE BEAT" there to explain why he was burning his MAGA hat.

And it`s not just voters on social media, which some might dismiss as isolated. We`re hearing this from some pretty big names. Ann Coulter now talking impeachment, and Steve King saying the Dreamer deal would mean Trump`s base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.

It`s a tall order. Does Donald Trump care? Well, one aide says that you can hardly remember the last time Trump seemed this pleased for a sustained consecutive number of days while in office, according to a "Daily Beast."

[22:20:02] And one main reason here may be, guess what? The positive press which Donald Trump may actually prize more than loyalty to his congressional Republicans. One GOP operative on this point explaining, we got used to the new normal of chaos. Maybe the new new normal is betrayal for really no reason.

Another factor here that`s interesting that we have been unpacking, Trump may be insulated from some of this allegedly bad news. You may know about it, I may know about it, but he may not.

Quote, instead of being able to march into the Oval Office and hand Trump the latest head Breitbart headline or printouts of tweets showing how badly his amnesty drive is playing with his fiercest nationalist supporters, aides opposing this decision now have to go through a process implemented by, of course, John Kelly, the General, submitting official documented requests to even get a presidential meeting.

And according to Axios, Trump is now getting mostly positive feedback for this turn, however brief, however fleeting, however empty, towards alleged bipartisanship. And you can`t get mad about tweets you don`t see.

Joining me now to break it all down, Maria Teresa Kuma is the president/CEO of Voto Latino and MSNBC contributor. Also, I`m joined by Republican -- former Republican Congressman David Jolly from Florida, and Asawin Suebsaeng, a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" who broke that story I just mentioned.

David Jolly, you`ve been in Congress. You`ve gotten those piles of clips that mention you and access your information.


MELBER: How much of this is about Donald Trump only hearing a version of events of praise for these meetings that, as we report, are controversial to just about everyone?

JOLLY: Listen, he ran on his ego, he served on his ego, and so I think it is positive reinforcement he`s hearing. And in some ways, if you go back to the advent of the tea party in 2010, remember, Marco Rubio was their hero. Then he offered comprehensive immigration reform, they kicked him to the curb.

John Boehner, speaker, they -- he was never good enough because he struck deals with Obama. Paul Ryan, the author of the Ryan plan, which was this hallmark of conservatism, is now no longer good enough for the base.

And so Trump is going through that right now, recognizing that to get a deal in Washington, you have to compromise. And the base will never understand that.

MELBER: The base will never understand it, Maria Teresa Kumar, and yet, although I think David`s legislative history there is exactly accurate, most of those other immigration deals were certainly broader.

New polling shows that most Trump supporters do not even favor immediate deportation of Dreamers, so there may be a symbolic politics to this. But people across the political spectrum, if we want to talk policy -- and we don`t always because it`s not always logical.


MELBER: But when it comes to policy, throughout the spectrum, most people think, if you happen to be taken here as a child by someone else, the solution is not to deport you today.

KUMAR: Well, and I think that`s what Trump really understands. He understands his base oftentimes better than a lot of the talking pundits that pretend to understand him such as Rush Limbaugh. And in this case, he recognizes that most Americans, including many of his base, do not believe that young people that have been here and tried to do right by the law should be deported.

And so he is playing into that, but he also know -- he also recognizes that he also needs to appease some of the business because they`re going to, at the end of the day, the ones that fund a lot of the campaigns on the Republican side. And that is widely held that the evangelical movement also actually supports the DACA so -- the DACA and the Dreamers.

So this is one of the few places where he feels that he can make a compromise and still look good, that he is being kind and gentle to Americans. But let`s not forget, at the end of the day, Donald Trump is someone that has shown that he is not necessarily someone that will actually sign the dotted line on this deal.

MELBER: Right.

KUMAR: So the devil is going to be in the details.

MELBER: Right. And that`s -- I mean, honestly, that`s what Lawrence and Rachel were discussing immediately when this broke before the backlash to the backlash. You mentioned Rush Limbaugh.

Asawin, take a listen to Rush on all of this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: So we`ve got Trump dealing with Chuck and Nancy. And everybody appears to be honky-dory and happy.

I mean, Chuck`s happy with it. Nancy`s happy with it. Trump seems happy with it.

Not all of Trump`s voters are happy with it. But apparently, 67 percent fine and dandy with whatever Trump does here, and that -- that`s what the caller said yesterday.

They trust Trump. If Trump`s doing this, then there is a long-range reason that we don`t know yet. They have total implicit trust.


MELBER: Asawin, does that match your reporting?


MELBER: Yes, and the feeling inside the White House that, you know, OK, it might upset congressional Republicans but they`re good otherwise.

SUEBSAENG: Well, in terms of the people inside the White House who are certainly not at all thrilled with regards to the supposed deal framework that the President has struck with Democratic leaders, includes his senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, who is an immigration hard-liner and a complete hawk on these issues and wishes DACA was something that was brushed into the ash heap of history.

[22:25:07] As we reported at "The Daily Beast" yesterday, there were other senior aides in the room during this dinner on Wednesday night, in this high-profile meeting with Chuck and Nancy. Stephen Miller was conspicuously absent.

And back to what you were saying earlier, regarding how upbeat the President has been in the past couple of weeks with his supposed deal- making with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, it`s important to remember that if the President thought that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan weren`t so mean to him, he would be striking a different kind of deal.

MELBER: Well, you`re making --

SUEBSAENG: As we have reported from --

MELBER: Yes, you`re making a really important point which is, in normal politics, the underlying history matters a great deal. And in Trump`s world, Asawin, there is no history. It`s only today. And if Chuck Schumer is 10 percent nicer to him than he perceives Mitch McConnell, that`s all he seems to respond to, almost like a pet.

SUEBSAENG: Correct. And from our reporting, talking to people in and outside of the White House who are very close to the president, he sees Republican leaders, such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, as insufficiently loyal and thoroughly incompetent and incapable of getting anything done.

And look, I`m not saying that spite is his only motivating factor in terms of what he is doing right now with, in the President`s words, Chuck and Nancy, but how his relationship --


SUEBSAENG: -- or lack thereof with people like Ryan and McConnell has all but ensured that he runs into the arms of other leaders.

MELBER: Incompetence --

SUEBSAENG: And this people just happens to be happen to be Democrats.

MELBER: See, incompetence is just such a funny thing for him to charge. I mean, David, this entire thing, right, this was supposed to be tax month where they were going to unite around that as Republicans.

JOLLY: Sure.

MELBER: But Donald Trump first got cornered by the Attorneys General who said we`re going to sue you over the Dreamers, which is a process that takes months and months and months. But he felt so jammed up, he made a big Labor Day holiday announcement about it and gave the six months. Then he got the blowback to that and now, he`s doing the Schumer/Pelosi thing. All he keeps doing is reacting to other people --

JOLLY: Sure.

MELBER: -- with no plans, David.

JOLLY: He does. Look, the insult here is to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell because Trump could have struck the same deal with them and, frankly, taken a big burden off of McConnell and Ryan`s back.

But, Ari, the big picture here is this. This is the tragedy of Donald Trump, right? A guy who struck two deals in September, a critical month with Democrats.

For many of us, mainstream Republicans, if you will, going back to 2010, we were looking for a candidate to swing us back from the tea party, to get us back to what Buckley used to call the most conservative candidate that could get elected.

The tragedy of Donald Trump is he should have sat down with Chuck Schumer on the night of the inauguration and had cigars on the back porch of the White House and said let`s do a deal, let`s do tax reform and infrastructure.

Instead, what he showed the American people was this divisive rhetoric, this divisive leadership. We saw the Muslim ban. We saw the attacks and so forth. So now, it`s not believable that he is working with Democrats.

Donald Trump was a Democrat, now a Republican. No ideological core, a transactional dealmaker. If he had been that on the campaign trail and he had been that from day one in office, he could have brought the Republican Party back to the mainstream but he blew it.

MELBER: So, Maria, bring us home here, if you will. David`s point is, if Donald Trump were a candy bar, no one would want it because nobody wants a candy bar without a filling. You have cavities (ph).

KUMAR: Everybody`s hangry, you know, for Snickers.

MELBER: Yes, everybody`s hangry. You need some kind of core. Without the core, so bring it home, Maria.

KUMAR: Well, I -- and I think that`s the challenge. I think that of the politicians in that room, Nancy Pelosi`s incredibly astute and recognizes that she has to leverage this as much as possible. I think that Schumer has a New Yorker and feels like he is kind of playing the inside baseball of Donald Trump.

What is going to happen? Nobody knows. We know that, right? Ari, nobody knows.

But we do know that the more that the Democrats are actually fawning over Donald Trump, encouraging him to do the right thing, the fact that Kelly is controlling the information that he receives, you get a sense that there`s much more sense of discipline happening into the White House. He`s actually getting the positive encouragement that seems to feed the narcissistic piece that he -- that actually makes him do the right thing.

But, again, talking to a lot of the folks in the immigration movement, everybody is saying no one is going to take anything for granted. They`re going to continue doing the work that needs to get done because unless they find something that is actually on paper, everybody`s a little mystified. And they`re not sure if this is actually going to be a deal that we`re going to see.

MELBER: Right. And with by "on paper," you mean etched in stone.

KUMAR: Right.

MELBER: Because you worry about him ripping up the paper, too. The travel ban had multiple executive orders and they`re still figuring it out in court. I mean, even the paper needs a little reinforcement.

Maria Teresa Kumar, David Jolly --

KUMAR: You said it.

MELBER: -- and Asawin Suebsaeng, thank you all --

JOLLY: Good to be with you.

MELBER: -- for joining us this Friday night.

SUEBSAENG: Thank you.

KUMAR: Thank you.

MELBER: Now, coming up, this is something really important, a must watch response that just happened to Donald Trump`s demand for an apology after an ESPN anchor called him a White supremacist.


MELBER: The White House is now slamming ESPN after its anchor, Jemele Hill, criticized President Trump as a White supremacist on Twitter. Trump got into it today, tweeting, calling for an apology.

Hill wrote that Trump`s rise is a direct result of White supremacy, period, end quote. Now, that view draws on Trump`s praise for some people at that Charlottesville White supremacy rally, which Trump managed to return to again this week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We look at, you know, really, what`s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying - - in fact, a lot of people have written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.


MELBER: Trump`s refusal to flatly condemn one side in that White supremacy fight and, instead, embrace a broader moral equivalence about the, quote, other side has stirred a pot of racial resentment for weeks now. In fact, this week, you may not have heard much about it, but Congress passed a unanimous resolution to condemn one side, racist hate groups, and reject Trump`s rhetoric.

That debate is, of course, the context for ESPN anchor Jemele Hill`s comments. She also posted on Facebook a new essay by author Ta-Nehisi Coates arguing Trump`s embrace of White supremacy is the core of his appeal. That piece is called "The First White President."

So what would Coates think about this debate, which grows partly out of his provocative essay? Well, tonight, on "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES," he talked directly about how Trump is trying to play the victim by calling on ESPN to punish someone for criticizing him.


TE-NEHISI COATES, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: This is what White supremacists tend to do, going back to the days of slaveholders, who insisted that, in fact, the north was trying to subjugate them and turn them into actual slaves.

[22:35:06] It`s always the White supremacist who is being offended, so it`s him that something`s being done to. So I think it`s, you know, pretty characteristic enough for him.


MELBER: That is the fight between ESPN and Trump, which is partly a battle between a political entity, more or less, and a corporate entity over drawing lines for speech. That`s really a strategic battle when you get down to it.

What about the underlying ethical allegation here? Well, Coates points to public evidence.


COATES: If you own a business that attempts to keep Black people from renting from you. If you are reported to say that you don`t want Black people counting your money. If you say, you know -- and not even reported, just come on say someone can`t judge your case because they`re Mexican.

If your response to the first Black president is that they weren`t born in this country, despite all proof. If you say they weren`t smart enough to go to Harvard Law School and demand to see their grades. If that`s the essence of your entire political identity, you might be a White supremacist.


MELBER: Strong words and a lot of evidence. Up next, Ta-Nehisi Coates explains further why he believes Trump is fundamentally different from other Republican leaders. And I`ll be joined by Zerlina Maxwell and Karine Jean-Pierre to weigh in live.



COATES: I wouldn`t say George Bush is a White supremacist, and I have a lot of problems with George Bush`s --


COATES: -- with George Bush`s policies. I can make an argument for how they, you know, affect Black people in a negative way.

HAYES: Right.

COATES: You know what I mean? But I wouldn`t argue that he`s a White supremacist. I wouldn`t argue that Mitt Romney is a White supremacist. Donald Trump is a particular, specific thing, and I think there`s quite a bit of evidence to back up the charge.

It`s the core of him. He began his career in birtherism. It wasn`t on the way. That was the thing that got it started. That was what kicked it off, you know? And so I think, in that sense, he is different.


MELBER: That`s what got it started. I`m joined now by Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive programming for SiriusXM and a former aide to Hillary Clinton. And Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser and national spokesperson for and a veteran of several campaigns.

Zerlina, on the one hand, the White House appears to want to be in a fight with ESPN.


MELBER: On the other hand, as you hear Ta-Nehisi Coates, a very thoughtful and celebrated author, engaging the underpinnings of this --


MELBER: -- that Barack Obama caused a backlash that many Republican leaders, to their initial credit, did not fully engage.


MELBER: And Donald Trump stood up in 2011 and 2012 and embraced racist birtherism.

MAXWELL: But it was a little complicated because while they didn`t endorse birtherism or say, I agree with Donald Trump that the first Black president wasn`t born in the United States, they would say things like, well, I believe Barack Obama when he says he wasn`t -- he was not born in Kenya.

And the underlying message there is -- you know, if you`re talking to the Republican base, they don`t believe anything Barack Obama says. So if the message is, why believe Obama when he says he was born in the United States? What -- the message to the base is he wasn`t born in the United States.

And I think that Donald Trump stoked a lot of the racial resentment in the wake of the economic downturn. You know, that affected people of all races but particularly White middle -- White working class voters in the Rust Belt. And so Donald Trump stoked that resentment, and he went to the White House as a result. He ran on White identity.

MELBER: You say he ran on White identity. Coates talks about it that, if race is in part a myth, Donald Trump, he argues, is the first White president because, in this current modern era, he has appealed so directly and blatantly to Whiteness as a political strategy.

When you see the White House then trying to turn this and say the President, a, should be able to say there are good people in a White supremacist rally, but, b, should be offended when people -- what? -- factually point out that he is --


MELBER: -- giving comfort to people at a White supremacist rally.

MAXWELL: Well, I mean, I think it`s important to always look at the facts. I mean, there are myriad examples of President Trump saying and doing things that some people would consider racist.

Now, I`m not saying that every single person that voted for Donald Trump also shares those views, but they certainly overlooked those views and supported him in the election. And I think that that`s the tricky question.

I think that`s why you get a certain level of defensiveness because in defending Donald Trump`s actions and the things that he said that are racist, right -- saying Mexicans are rapists, banning Muslims from coming into the country, saying Black people live in hell, those things are racist, right, objectively? And so -- and offensive to those communities of people.

And so in order to say that the people that overlooked those things, including the "Access Hollywood" tape also, and voted for him may have some ill feelings towards those groups of people as well, that`s when you get into trouble. That`s when people get very defensive.

And I think it`s important that we`re having this conversation in this country because, until we actually are honest about it, we`re never going to move past it.

MELBER: Karine?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR AND NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: Yes. I think it`s very clear that Donald Trump is a racist. I mean, birtherism, for sure. I mean, it goes back to when he -- his first kind of start in business was making sure that Black people were not able to get housing.

And then you have the Central Park Five and what he did there, in accusing them of being guilty, asking for their execution. And even when they were found not guilty, he still never apologized for anything, taking out that big ad in the `80s.

I mean, it continues and continues. And when he jumped into the presidential campaign, he insulted Mexicans. I mean, so there is a clear pattern. There is decades of patterns here of Donald Trump being a racist.

And here`s the thing. The Republicans, the Republican Party, is indeed -- they built him. They enabled him. Just let`s not forget back in 2012, when Mitt Romney was having his convention, when the Republicans we`re having their convention in Tampa, they invited Donald Trump to speak during the convention. And this is a year after Donald Trump basically was the voice of birtherism.

MELBER: Well, I think, yes. I think --

JEAN-PIERRE: So they certainly --

MELBER: But I think it cuts both ways, right?

JEAN-PIERRE: They certainly gave that --

MELBER: I mean, either it was always this way and Donald Trump is just continuing it, or it wasn`t and he is of something different. I mean, Coates` argument is that he is explicitly, distinctly worse and different than some of these other leaders.

As for where the supporters are, I mean, I`ll say what other people say, and it`s just anecdotal reporting experience. I went to a lot of Trump rallies. I met a lot of great people. I met people who clearly weren`t racist and yet -- and yet -- you have this.


MELBER: And, Karine, let me put up some data on a very basic question. This is 2017. Are all races equal? OK, shouldn`t be a hard question. And about 18 percent of Americans won`t agree with that statement.

So, 2017, 18 percent of people. That would be a floor, not a ceiling, because you might not want to admit that and feel it. What does it tell you that 18 percent of people can`t sign on to the idea that we are equal?

JEAN-PIERRE: It doesn`t surprise me, Ari, because of just look at what -- where we are today. I mean, racism is definitely in -- it`s institutional, right? And even in the interview that Chris Hayes had with Ta-Nehisi, which was where the difference was that -- that there are different levels, right? There are different levels for how people experience racism.

And there are different space -- they`re different, the kind of -- how do I want to say? How did he say that was really perfect? He says that people -- you have to do more in order to reach a level.


JEAN-PIERRE: Like for President Obama to be president, right? He had to be -- gone to Harvard Law School. There was a lot for him to do, where Donald Trump, he had no political, at all, experience.

And so that is -- I feel like that is the difference here. There is a difference in this institutional racism that we see. And so -- and here`s another point, too, that I really want to make sure that I talk about with the ESPN part.

Just a couple of days ago, you had a White Miss Texas say the same thing that a Black ESPN host said. You didn`t hear anything from the White House about that. It was silent --

MELBER: Zerlina?

JEAN-PIERRE: -- about that.

MAXWELL: He also singled out the only Black member of his business council and attacked him when he dropped out after his comments on Charlottesville. He didn`t attack the White CEOs.

I`m not saying that he realizes, in the moment, that he`s attacking the Black people over the White people, but I think that there`s a clear pattern. And it would be a dereliction of our duty if we did not acknowledge that.

MELBER: Zerlina Maxwell and Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you both for an important discussion.

MAXWELL: Thank you.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, the ethics. What happened today with the Trump legal defense fund to foot bills in the Russia probe?


MELBER: Bring lawyers, guns, and money. That is the famous line from rocker Warren Zevon`s anthem, but don`t forget the next line. How was I to know she was with the Russians, too?

In Bob Mueller`s investigation, people need lawyers and money. And as aides lawyer up, the bills are mounting, which is what made this week`s announcement from an otherwise obscure federal ethics office so interesting. It`s the office which Walter Shaub vacated this summer when he said he could no longer work with an administration weakening ethics.

With Schaub gone, this week, the office rolled back an Obama-era rule that required transparency when donors give to these legal defense funds like the ones that Trump aides want to use. So that would keep everyone in the public in the dark about who`s bankrolling lawyers for Trump aides which is a big deal.

Peter Thiel, a billionaire Trump supporter and Facebook investor, spent years, for example, as a secret funder of lawsuits targeting his press enemies, and it worked. He secretly used the courts to sue and bankrupt an independent media website, Gawker. He was only exposed after he won those lawsuits.

So all of these matters a lot. Secret money, secret donors, secret court agendas. But the Trump administration`s effort here to reverse this rule got hammered, and that led them to reverse their reversal. Now, secret donations as of tonight are back to being banned.

Some people worry that, nowadays, it`s like nothing matters. But here, we should note for you, this pressure worked at least for now. Maybe the administration will try to change it again. We will be watching.

Now, one of the ethics watchdogs working the issue is also pressing Trump in court where it won an order forcing the release of visitors to Mar-a- Lago. The deadline was today. Trump coughed, though, just 22 names. The ethics group says there`s actually over a thousand, so they`re going to keep suing for the rest.

Mar-a-Lago also in the news because Trump just got taxpayers -- I`m not making this up -- to reimburse him for a Mar-a-Lago visit. Quote, the government paid the Trump-owned club to reserve at least one bedroom for two nights. The charge, according to a new receipt that "The Washington Post" got ahold of, was $1,092.

Now, one of the ethics lawyers who leads that group suing Trump is Richard Painter. He worked, of course, for George W. Bush. And he is going to get the last word tonight.


[22:57:04] MELBER: Joining me for tonight`s last word, Richard Painter, a professor of law in University of Minnesota, vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a former Bush ethics attorney.

Sir, walk us through Mar-a-Lago and what it means.

RICHARD PAINTER, VICE CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well, Mar-a-Lago, of course, is the President`s private club down there in Palm Beach. And right after he was elected, the dues apparently doubled from $100,000 to $200,000.

So we have a lot of people joining that club in order to get access to the President. Meanwhile, he`s been taking a lot of trips down there, and we had the United States government billed $500 a night for a hotel room.

That`s a lot of money to most taxpayers. I think we ought to be entitled to know who is coming in and out of there and lobbying the President. And that`s exactly why CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, brought the action in New York, and the judge entered the order.

And we don`t think the President is complying with the order. We`re going to go back to court. We`re going to get those names, and we`re going to find out who`s coming in and out of there.

All they told us today is who the Japanese Prime Minister`s butler was and a bunch of other useless information from one particular visit. And that`s not we -- what we asked for and that`s not what the judge asked them to give us.

MELBER: Right. So they, by one count, have 1,100 names there in this period. They only gave up 22. Is that going to upset the judge? Do you think they`re violating the spirit or direction of that order?

PAINTER: Well, we`ll see what the judge has to say, but it does not look like they complied with the order. That`s not the way I read the order.

They need to disclose who`s coming in and out of there to lobby the President and members of his administration. They`ve been referring to this as the winter White House.

We`re shelling out millions of taxpayer dollars, flying him in and out of there. We reimburse them $500 a night for hotel rooms. We have the right to that information, and we`re going to get it.

MELBER: Do you think it`s a deliberate business strategy, him making these visits and trying to profit off the presidency?

PAINTER: Oh, of course. He`s making a well lot of money on it, and that`s not the only way he`s making money. But we, once again, are entitled to know who is going in and out of there, just like the -- we`re entitled to get the visitor logs on the White House.

And if we have to go back to court, we`re going to keep going back until we get the information. The American people are entitled to it.

MELBER: Understood. Well, it`s an interesting case, to say the least. It`s getting some reaction. And that, combined with the ethics office backing off at least that one rule today, a lot of action there.

Richard Painter, you get tonight`s last word. Thanks for joining.

PAINTER: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Now, if you want to catch me any weeknight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, there is "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER." That is my new show. I hope you`ll check it out. Six p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. on the West Coast.

Monday, I`ll have a former federal prosecutor and the "Wall Street Journal" reporter who broke that Facebook story that we touched on tonight. Hope you`ll tune in.

And don`t go anywhere right now because "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" is next.


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