IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, August 28, 2020

Guests: Cory Booker, Michael German, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Radhika Jones, Katie Porter


President Trump abuses federal resources to help his reelection. Interview with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about President Trump's abuse of federal resources. The 17-year-old who shot and killed two people in Kenosha was charged with murder. Ta-Nehisi Coates guest-edits a special issue of Vanity Fair pushing racial equity.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people should know that and I'm tired of telling people that. I know I matter. We know we matter. I'm tired of telling people that. If you don't know that, you don't think that, you need to recheck it. And if you have a problem with us saying Black Lives Matter, you need to check your privilege.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: God bless those athletes. That is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. 67 days to November 3rd. Can the president just pretend the pandemic is over and still win reelection? Tonight, Senator Cory Booker on where Biden and Trump stand after the conventions and Congresswoman Katie Porter on Trump's cheat the vote campaign.

Then, pro athletes draw a line as demands for social justice grow. Ta Nehisi Coates on what makes this moment different. And in the wake of right-wing murder in Kenosha, a reality check on where America's racial violence is really coming from, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Well, we're here. Here we are now officially in the final chapter of this presidential campaign. The final act as it were. Both conventions are over. We're down to three presidential debates, one vice presidential debate, and that's it. 67 days until Election Day and early voting starting much sooner.

The central fact remains after both those conventions and all you've seen this. Donald Trump is an unpopular president in a historical sense. He was elected by a minority of voters. He lost the popular vote by almost three million votes, but, and it's a strong but, he retains a strong, almost unshakable grip on 42 percent of the nation, what is often referred to as his base.

And that story, that has basically been the story of his entire presidency from almost day one, no matter what is happening. From the Muslim ban, to Charlottesville, to immigrant children being stolen from their parents, to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, to Robert Mueller's investigation, to the President's impeachment, to the coronavirus pandemic.

We've now lived through hundreds of news cycles where this, this is so important, but not one thing that we thought was so important is changed, the fundamental structure of Donald Trump's political appeal. 181,000 Americans are dead from the Coronavirus, more than 1,000 died today, and the President's approval rating remains around 42 percent. It's remarkable.

Now, here's the thing, you can't win an election really, with only 42 percent of the country. That's not good enough in a democracy when you refuse to really take any new steps to appeal new voters. You have to scratch and claw and crucially cheat your way to winning. And that's what we're seeing. That's what this whole election has become.

It is just a question as to whether Donald Trump can scratch and claw at the margins and most importantly, cheat his way to being within spitting range of Joe Biden through disinformation and lies like we heard all week at the RNC and crucially, the abuse of the office of the presidency, like we witnessed last night at the White House. Can he put that together to somehow boost his approval ratings and get up to 46 percent of the vote?

Now, here's the thing about the stability of Donald Trump's unpopularity. If you look at Trump's approval chart, there is one very clear point where Donald Trump was at his high point in approval. You can see it there. See in the middle, a little bump that goes up? The most popular he has ever been in his presidency was the two weeks back in the end of March when he pretended to take the virus seriously.

The most popular Donald Trump has ever been was when he faked that he cared about the pandemic killing thousands of Americans saying the virus was serious and that we needed to take serious steps to combat it. Remember, he came out, he did the whole solemnity thing. He talked about the stark project 200,000 deaths, which actually a death toll that we are rapidly approaching. That version of Donald Trump was the most popular he's ever been, when he briefly pretended to care about the grinding death and misery of Americans.

But even though that increases approvals, he just got bored with it. He just gave it up. He couldn't will himself to pretend to care for more than two weeks. And none of that changes the fact the virus is here. He never did the hard work to do anything about it and economy shut. And turning things around would require serious work, and the President is incapable of that. He's not ready or willing or able to invest in it.

And so there they were last night packing everyone in the White House lawn, almost everyone in those shots without masks. It's done. It's over. Happy days are here again. The attendees including Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina who polls show losing his race currently for reelection. There he is sitting there, packed in without a mask.

He had to apologize for not wearing a mask of the White House, saying he felt short of his own standard. That's because the voters in the state that he's trying to win, they understand the virus isn't gone, even though the price to admission to that party last night in the White House lawn was to (INAUDIBLE). And then today, what do we get? Oh look, the first positive test of the RNC events in Charlotte, North Carolina where the president insisted on having an in-person convention.

It remains the case that the lame Jedi mind trick approach of there is no virus isn't actually good politics. You know, the price of entry into the President's freedom of the grave rally was possibly exposing yourself to Coronavirus. But that position is actually not even popular, even in Senator Tillis' home in North Carolina.

The structural dynamics of the race and a reality are still there. That's the gravity around all this orbits. As former Obama speechwriter David Litt points out, more people died from this plague during the four days of the RNC than during 9/11. As the L.A. Times Chris Megerian said, you could roughly fill all the chairs in the White House lawn with the number of people who died of coronavirus yesterday.

There are two basic 10 polls of what we're seeing, an unpopular president who has never had the support of the majority of American people, and the worst catastrophe in this country in generations, with more Americans dying from the virus in the last five months than the American Revolution in the war of 1812, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, the Philippine-American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq War combined.

The only time Trump broke above his approval ceiling was when he pretended he was taking the virus seriously. But we saw last night, he's given up on that. As he said, it is what it is. And so now Donald Trump is going to do everything he can to scratch and claw and cheat his way to a point where he can try to remain in power.

Joining me now someone who is fighting to make sure the President does not destroy the integrity of this election, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey. Is that how you see things now, Senator, those sort of basic structural facts, the President's grip on his base seems damn well near unshakeable, but it's not enough to win an election, and that's where things currently set?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Well, it currently sits with that. And I think he (AUDIO GAP) degree, that he has to take extraordinary steps to try to win this election. And so, what are those extraordinary steps? Well, one, he's attacked the United States Postal Service. He's attacked the whole mail-in ballot process. He's literally gone as far to say, and this was a stunning moment for me to hear the President of the United States say that if I don't win, the election was rigged, which means that he is now, even if you loses, telling us all that he will break with a tradition that goes back to George Washington in which we have the graceful transfer of power.

He will show no grace, he will question the results, that firm base that believes in him will be riled up, and he will incite them in every way possible to not accept that democratic tradition, yet another one of our traditions and our norms that he threatens, and he threatens in in a way that really undermines the very foundations of our democracy. And this is a shameful 67 days, I think, we're going into where we're going to see just a spectacle of dishonor at the end.

HAYES: You mentioned spectacle of dishonor. There's a New York Times report today that's pretty astounding, and it perfectly sort of dovetails with what we saw last night and what you're speaking to, which is that there was a brief video that showed some residents of public housing, federal public housing in New York City criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio. Those criticisms are well-earned and they have been quite frequent.

It now turns out they were essentially tricked into appearing in the video that Trump appointee Lynn Shelton asked for their feedback and interviewed for a while did not tell them that they would be appearing in an RNC video essentially endorsing Donald Trump. They're furious. They say I'm not a Trump supporter. One of them is from Honduras. What's your reaction to finding that out?

BOOKER: Definitely not surprised. I mean, there's so many aspects of that Republican Convention that were con, were serious con. I mean, his speech alone gave fact checkers a dizzying list of his lies and misleading statements. He couldn't even be on the level with the American public about the realities.

He had the lie and exaggerate and now exploit not only those two African-American women we saw there in that clip, and that segment. But even his nationalization ceremony itself was a trickery in misusing his office, and really a sacred ground of the -- of the White House and his official duties. It was -- it was to me just deeply disheartening to yet again, a president who has no respect for our traditions, for our norms, or sense of honor in this country.

HAYES: There's been discussion, of course, of the fact that the display last night was a flagrant violation of federal law, the Hatch Act, the President himself isn't subject to, but all the people that work for him. I saw someone tweeting about how they worked in the bowels of federal bureaucracy. They had an old campaign poster from 1960 as memorabilia in their office they had to take down because the Hatch Act violation, so this is taken seriously by people in the federal government.

It's trikes me that what you're talking there about the abuse of power is the bigger story and through-line and worry in the next 67 days more than the Hatch Act is such, which is we have seen whether it's corrupt machines in states or localities or it's in foreign governments, essentially, the conflation of the state's functions and things for the party or the leader, in which you use the machinery of the state solely to benefit the leader in a kind of self-reproducing system.

And that seems to me what's on the table right now. Like that's the -- that's what we're -- that's what we're facing and either going to seed to or defeat.

BOOKER: Yes. I think you put it the right way. So first of all, you didn't need this convention. You didn't need Hatch Act violations. Just go to Lafayette Park. He turned the mechanism of government on peaceful protesters, gas, rubber bullets for what, was it an urgent national security issue he needed to get out of the White House for? Was he going there to make some incredible statement about the security of our nation or the dealing with -- no, it was for a photo-op.

And so we know who he is, and that's why the last part of what you said, Chris, was so -- just so right spot on this. We know who he is. This is not about him. This is not a referendum on who he is. Ultimately, this is a referendum on who we are in this country and who we are to each other. Because as much as you say, he's trying to rile up his base, the reality is there's enough people to shut this dark chapter down if they will be determined enough to make sure we get out there and vote.

HAYES: So that segue is perfect in the last question. I have sensed a good deal of anxiety, even panic among some people among commentators in the last week or so. There's fears that scenes of civil unrest, you know, cars being burned in Kenosha, for instance, or stores being broken into that. That feeds into Donald Trump story that that helps him. They clearly think that's the case.

And when you say this question of well, are we -- it's about us, and people say, well, we're -- our country is the one that elect him in 2016, I mean, not a majority but like enough in the Electoral College. What is your response to people who are worried about that or having this kind of this intense anxiety at the -- at the end of this RNC week?

BOOKER: Well, I think that folks have to recognize that this is -- I found it absurd at the end of last night that this President is trying to show pictures of what's happening now under his leadership and say that this is what's going to happen if Joe Biden comes in. This is what's happening now. This is the President that has divided this nation, who has incited white supremacists to take actions like a young man with an automatic weapon or semi-automatic weapon out there shooting folks.

This is a guy who has under his leadership anti-Semitism has spiked up dramatically, under his leadership, anti-Islamic attacks have spiked up under his leadership. Under his leadership, you see venom now pouring out as a president is modeling himself how to use the highest office in the land and his Twitter accounts to demean, degrade, and divide.

He is the one that is the instigator, the catalytic agent that is driving our country to deeper divides, deeper hate, deeper division. We got to heal this. It is time for a revival of civic grace. It's time for us to show the depths of our decency, the quality of our mercy. We are better than this as a nation. This leader is driving us in the wrong direction on our virtues, on our values, on our common cause. And so, it's time to end this.

And so, if you believe in those values, let's stop cursing the darkness. We know who he is. It is time for all of us to assume the urgency of being light workers in this time and to bring on a new era and a new dawn.

HAYES: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey there in Georgia this evening. Thank you very much, Senator.

BOOKER: Thank you very much.

HAYES: Coming up, the grotesque right-wing celebration of a teenage Trump fan accused of killing two people in Kenosha. That's next.


HAYES: The Trump camp, including Kellyanne Conway, have been explicit that they think the more chaos the more violence there is in American streets, the more misery there is for Americans, the more it helps them in this election. And so, it was not surprising when the President and other speakers at the RNC this week kept talking about mayhem and violence in our cities.

But we should be very clear about what kind of violence is actually happening in one of those cities, Kenosha, Wisconsin. The spark for what we have been seeing in Kenosha was the violence of a white police officer named Rustin Chesky. He shot a black man Jacob Blake in the back-point plank range, seven times, in front of his three children, after Blake was reportedly trying to break up a fight according to witnesses and his family.

It was that shooting that led to both peaceful protests and also genuine civil unrest in the city of Kenosha this week. We saw cars and buildings burned and businesses broken into. And then the most serious violence on the streets of Kenosha in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, that came from a 17-year-old white Donald Trump fan.

Back in January, he sat in the front row at a Trump rally. He described himself as part of militia protecting Kenosha businesses. On Tuesday night, amidst ongoing protests, he went from his hometown of Illinois to Kenosha, and he was out on the streets of Kenosha with a military style semi-automatic rifle. And that night he shot three people and he killed two of them.

We should know who those victims are, who those people are, who's lives he allegedly took. His first victim was a 36-year-old man named Joseph Rosenbaum who leaves behind a two-year-old daughter. His sister described him as a devoted father who loves to draw and play jokes on everybody.

The 17-year-old's second victim was a 26-year-old man named Anthony Huber. Now, Huber chased down the shooter after he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and an incredible act of self-sacrifice and heroism. This is how Anthony Huber's girlfriend described Huber's actions yesterday.


HANNAH GITTINGS, GIRLFRIEND OF ANTHONY HUBER: I just want to say that Anthony Huber was one of the most amazing people ever walked this earth. He had nothing but love in his heart for this city and that's why we were (BLEEP) out here last night. And he took down an armed gunman with nothing but his (BLEEP) skateboard.


HAYES: Anthony Huber was an accomplished skateboarder. His friend said he was a great father of his girlfriend's daughter, and he was always talking about having to be home and take care of his kid. And think about what Anthony Huber did. He saw someone shoot another person in protest and then he threw himself in a live grenade. He chased down that shooter with a semi-automatic rifle, to try to apprehend him, to stop him from committing more violence. And for that, he paid with his life. He's the hero in the story.

But now, that Trump-loving shooter who claim to be in a militia is being celebrated by some of the right. They're justifying, even supporting his actions. And by doing that, they are ensuring that there will be even more like him. I'm joined now by someone who has written extensively on racist militant groups, including their ties of law enforcement in more than a dozen states, Michael German, a former FBI special agent who's now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice Liberty and National Security Program.

Michael, it's great to have you. And I've learned a lot from your writing on this topic. What does it do to watch the 17-year-old shooter who killed two people, it seems quite clear, who has now been charged with homicide, be celebrated, defended by huge swathes of the right in the pro-Trump media?

MICHAEL GERMAN, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: It's dangerous. And this is something that I've been warning about and the Brennan Center has been warning about for some years now, as we've seen an administration that has given a breath to this movement and seems to suggest that what they're doing is targeting the President's enemies.

When the President says that anti-fascists are the enemy, it energizes these fascist groups and encourages them to act in a way that risks life and lamb unfortunately. And it's a problem that I think is going to continue and we don't see any effort. In fact, one of my biggest concerns is there doesn't appear to be an effort from law enforcement to really understand the dangerousness of these militants.

HAYES: We've seen in multiple cities, we've seen people arming themselves quite showily, openly carrying often long guns like the kind of the shooter in question had, and being treated with a kind of (INAUDIBLE) by police who are looking after protests who do not act that way with a lot of the protesters.

In this case, we saw this young man essentially attempt to surrender after he just shot someone in front of a bunch of police cars. And they rolled right past him because they just didn't seem to care. Like how common is that? What does that say to you about that, that dynamic on the streets in these protests?

GERMAN: It's particularly dangerous and confounding for me coming from law enforcement. There's so much intelligence about these far-right militants that we knew in the 1990s has apparently been lost. We knew that when far-right groups went to have rallies in areas, they would target places they knew there was political opposition to draw that opposition out so they could attack them. And law enforcement was very good than about ensuring they didn't have that opportunity.

And to see since 2016, that law enforcement stands back and allows this kind of violence to occur, it allows them to recruit and to organize and to work on their tactics in a way that ultimately will harm law enforcement directly. I mean, one of the important things to recognize about this since the protests following the George Floyd murder have occurred, two law enforcement officers have been killed by far-right militants, and that they don't recognize this is a threat to them directly is a complete failure of law enforcement intelligence.

HAYES: Yes. One of those officers killed in Oakland was mentioned by Vice President Pence in the context as if Black Lives Matter protesters had been the agents of the death of that officer in question. And I've seen conservative Republicans doing a lot of that running together. But it does seem to me like some of the most notable acts of genuine violence, worst kinds of violence and mayhem have been carried out by essentially accelerationist or interlopers or, you know, essentially self-declared fascists on the streets amidst these protests.

GERMAN: Absolutely. And if -- you know, even the FBI recognizes that the far-right militants and white supremacists are the most lethal domestic terrorism threat, and they kill far more people than any other kind of violent terrorist movement. So, the fact that we have law enforcement still affiliating with these groups and not recognizing the dangers they pose, not just to themselves, but to the communities they are supposed to serve and protect, is a significant problem that we need a national strategy to address.

HAYES: Michael German of the Brennan Center, former FBI agent, thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I appreciate it.

GERMAN: Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, the militant push for racial equity from the streets to the courts. Ta-Nehisi Coates on this moment in American history coming up.


HAYES: The NBA Playoffs are now back on and that follows an unprecedented dramatic strike initiated by the players themselves kind of taking everyone by surprise in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake kind of act of collective solidarity. And in today's announcement from the NBA and the player association, we learn the strike isn't over because the players got tired or they want to play again, but because they negotiate with the NBA, which has now agreed to open its arenas as polling sites to allow voters to socially distance or casting their ballot.

Of course, the NBA and the WNBA, professional basketball, have been undoubtedly the forefront of most social activism. And there's even a case to be made that that the NBA is the most forward leaning institution in all of America since March. Remember, they were the first league to shut down when Utah Jazz player Rudy Bobert tested positive for Coronavirus on March 11th.

And then the following weeks, everything from businesses, to entire states followed suit. They followed the NBA's lead. Then the NBA was the first institution to really figure out how to reopen safely. They devised their bubble in Orlando, they partnered with Yale to develop a quick turnaround saliva test for coronavirus. And with all those tools, they have been remarkably successful at playing basketball and keeping the virus out.

And then this week, the league's players conducted a coordinated work stoppage over police violence, a stoppage that spread to five other professional leagues including major league baseball. People have been interpreting every news event at the lens of who it might ultimately help in the election understandably. But the voters of the margins, whether they're swing voters or low turnout voters, they're generally the ones who are most removed from political media, and this kind of thing can break through.

The YouGov poll found that 57 percent of Americans approve the player's decision to strike. The fight for racial equity is front and center in American discourse and more than it has been in four decades. We'll talk about how this new moment can move America forward with author Ta-Nehisi Coates and Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say her name. Say her name. Say her name.


HAYES: Protests surrounded Kentucky's Junior Senator Rand Paul as he was leaving Trump's speech in the White House last night demanding that he say her name. And her name is Breonna Taylor. She was a resident of his state of Kentucky. She was 26 years old when she was shot dead by police officers in Louisville back in March. Her killers still have not been arrested.

An incredible portrait of Brianna Taylor is on the cover of the new issue of Vanity Fair. It was painted by Amy Sherald, who is best known for her incredible portrait of Michelle Obama. The Vanity Fair issue also includes a beautiful and moving essay about Breonna Taylor's life as told by her mother, in a series of interviews with best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Coates actually guest-edited this special Vanity Fair edition which examines racial justice at this particular moment, incredible lineup of contributors. The fact that after the deaths of Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and now Jacob Blake, and countless others, as Coates writes, "large majorities of Americans now acknowledge racism and police brutality or problems, something is happening."

And joining me now is Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist, National Book Award Winner and Radhika Jones Vanity Fair's editor-in-chief. They both co-edited the great fire September issue of Vanity Fair. It's incredible, incredible piece of work. That image is so striking and has been haunting me since I first saw it when it was unveiled. Ta-Nahisi, let me start with you. In the editors letter where you talk about something happening, what is this something that is happening right now?

TA-NEHISI COATES, GUEST EDITOR, VANITY FAIR: Well, I think, at least at the time when I wrote the letter, because this has always in flux, you know what I mean, as I tried to, you know, articulate. Later in the letter, you know, I think at the time the fullness of the brutality and the violence that is, you know, necessary to maintain racism and white supremacy was being put on display.

I think particularly, the torture and subsequent murder of George Floyd was a lot more than people could take. I think a lot of times, and honestly, we're seeing this in Kenosha right now, a lot of the violence is justified away. Well, you know, you don't know what he was reaching for, you don't know what he was doing, you know? Would you have been in fear in that in that situation?

And I'm not saying those justifications are correct. But I think what happened in the case of George Floyd is it became just too hard. It was just too difficult for people to come up with any sort of justification, racist or otherwise, for torturing someone to death. But the fact of the matter is, you know, as I tried to explain the essay, this happens all the time, you know, in our cultural system, in our cities, and our communities, it's just that this one was caught on film and the whole world saw it.

HAYES: Name, could you tell me a little bit about the sort of conception of this issue which it has all these incredible contributors in a sort of lands at precisely this moment where we're seeing, you know, what is arguably the largest street protest movement, maybe in American history in absolute numbers. How did -- how did this come about?

RADHIKA JONES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, VANITY FAIR: Well, it was in late May after the murder of George Floyd, we were talking to Tallahassee about various ideas. And the question that kept coming to mind was, why is this -- is this different? It seemed different. And Ta-Nehisi just spoke a little bit to the power of that video and the horror of it. But we were seeing protests, you remember, not just in Minneapolis and New York and San Francisco and major American cities, we were seeing protests in Tokyo, in London. We were seeing protests in small towns in Connecticut and Montana.

And so, in a way, the issue one of its goals was to journalistically investigate this question, why is this different and how can we shed light on what is happening in America in this moment. And we went to as many artists and activists and thinkers as we could to help us work through that narrative.

And it is in flux. It's always changing. But we wanted to capture some of it in real time as these protests were happening. And we wanted to make a magazine that would feel like a time capsule, a keepsake even, something that would help us understand whether this week or five years from now or 50 years from now, what it is that we are witnessing and bearing witness to in 2020, which is clearly becoming an incredibly historic year in this country's narrative.

HAYES: Ta-Nehisi, the piece that you have in the magazine, which is it's sort of an as-told to oral history of the life and experience of Breonna Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer. And it's a really a remarkable thing because it's of how sort of just deeply almost sort of novelisticly human it is. It's what her life has been and why she came to Louisville, and that she liked -- it was warmer down there, and the -- and the motorcycle she likes to ride. And all the things that are left out of the, you know, three paragraphs that tend to be a news story is.

But there's a really striking moment where she says that the mayor was calling her, a quote from it that the mayor wanted her to calm people down. The mayor calls again. People are getting real antsy, and he doesn't want them to set the city on fire.

COATES: It's not her job. It's not her job.

HAYES: They are -- they are tearing up the city, and he wants me to come and tell the people to stop. But I won't do it because I know that people don't want to hear from me. They want to hear from him. They aren't looking for me. They want to talk to him. That's his fight, not mine. I thought that was a fascinating moment.

COATES: Yes, no. And I just -- before I answer that, Chris, I have to just append the answer I gave to the first question because I think this is really important. These moments when you know the brutality is on display, this is not the first time this has happened in American history and the historical record for how long have the attention span of the white majority is for, you know, this sort of brutality, the historical record is not a positive one.

So we're in a very particular moment. These moments don't tend to last. We hope that this one will last. And you know, part of that -- part of that or part of, you know, trying to extend that moment is making sure that people understand that when strangers as it were kicking somebody's door, under the color of law and shoot them down, when agents of the state, suffocate a man on the street in broad daylight, when agents of the state pull up to a 12-year-old kid and shoot him down because he's playing with a plastic gun, when that happens, there is an actual human being who people love, who people invested in, who people attributed all of their hopes and dreams to who was killed, who was suffocated, shot down for no other reason except for being born into a system that prizes some people's lives above others.

And it's really important that it's an actual life. It's not a slogan that was killed. It's not a piece of legislation that was killed. It was an actual life that was taken that was erased off the face of the earth. And in the case of Briana Taylor to this very day, and the majority of people who've experienced this, no one has been held accountable. And I have to tell you, I am not optimistic about the possibilities of the powers that be holding anyone accountable today.

HAYES: When you talk about that sort of attention span, which is true, and it's remarkable when you go back to the history of sort of convulsive moments of either social unrest or organized struggles for racial justice, how much history rhymes and how much these moments of consciousness can feel incredibly current and then they kind of end. I mean going all the way back to reconstruction in the 19th century.

And one of the things that that that came out in the issue and Ava DuVernay's contribution and Bomani Jones writes about sports, Radhika, is just how crucial and central culture is to all of this. How much of the discourse happening sort of outside of political media or news media, in the -- in the world of culture and the world of sports, how powerful and how it sort of ends up shaping people's opinions, more than even news coverage?

JONES: I do believe that. And I believe that that's the role that of a magazine like Vanity Fair can play, you know, a magazine that covers Hollywood, that covers cultural icons. And the reason that we do that is that we know how much influence and power those people have. You alluded to Ava DuVernay's contribution to the issue. She interviews Dr. Angela Davis.

And Angela Davis said something that really resonated with me. She says that our art can begin to make us feel what we don't yet necessarily understand. And I think about you know, the films of Spike Lee, I think about Ava's own work. I think about the novels of Colson Whitehead and Jasmine Ward, you know, these are powerful voices in our culture who are visionaries, literally. They kind of show us around the corner.

So it's it was really important to us putting this issue together to give those icons voices within the magazine because sometimes -- sometimes it's through journalism, sometimes it's through legislation, but sometimes change can be inspired through poetry. Sometimes it can be inspired through a play or a film and we wanted to pay homage to that.

HAYES: You know, Ta-Nehisi, I was thinking today that (INAUDIBLE) was killed on this day. This is the anniversary of his death, I believe today. And if I'm not mistaken, had he lived, he'd be a year or two older than Joe Biden, the current nominee for president Democratic Party. It's not long ago any of this.

COATES: No, no, no, absolutely not. Absolutely not. And I think, you know, one of the things that -- I don't think anybody who is, you know, within the political system, or I guess, you know, maybe I should just restrict that, to the front runners, I understand is like, we keep coming out and giving these speeches and, you know, maybe you know, something that's just above thoughts and prayers, without realizing that there is something in the bones of America that guarantees that until that thing is addressed, Breonna is going to happen again. That's just the way it is.

George Floyd is going to happen again. It's just math. It's one plus one. And, you know, no amount of speeches or request for order or, you know, praise about you know how most, you know, police officers, a good people. You know, I'm sure if I go into a restaurant and I see a rat, most days that restaurant doesn't have rats, but that doesn't make me feel any better about that restaurant.

There are things that are deeply wrong, that are deeply, deeply wrong, and until, you know, that they're addressed on a on a systemic level, I don't think we'll see the end of this.

HAYES: Yes. Radhika Jones, editor of Vanity Fair, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who co-edited this September issue of Vanity Fair which has this incredible portrait of Breonna Taylor, thank you both so much for making time tonight.

JONES: Thank you, Chris.

COATES: Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, despite all the promises to stop, there is still huge damage being done to the mail ahead of this election. Congresswoman Katie Porter fresh off her grilling of Trump's Postmaster General joins me next.


HAYES: A central pillar of the President's reelection strategy, perhaps the most important, is to use the power of the government that he represents, to create an unfair election on his behalf. It's from the setting of last night's speech at the White House to messing with the Post Office through his extremely controversial donor termed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.Even though just last week to joy said he would suspend his recent changes the Postal Service until after the election, today, crucially, the postal union says there are still major problems across America including big delays on priority mail, issues with overtime, and backlog from the removal of those sorting machines from postal facilities.

Louis DeJoy testified before the House Oversight Committee on Monday and defended his actions as Postmaster General, though he did have a hard time answering some of the most basic questions about his job from Congresswoman Katie Porter.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): What is the cost of a first-class postage stamp?


PORTER: What about to mail a postcard?

DEJOY: I don't -- I don't know, ma'am.

PORTER: What if it's like one of those greeting cards or it's a square envelope, then what is the postage?

DEJOY: I'll submit that I know very little about a postage stamp.

PORTER: What is the starting rate for U.S. Post Office -- USPS priority mail?

DEJOY: I don't know. I don't know.


HAYES: And Congresswoman Katie Porter, Democratic of California, member of the House Oversight Committee joins me now. Congresswoman, at first, I want to start with your impression from Monday of DeJoy and what -- and what you learned in that hearing, how it informs you performing your oversight function, and what your concerns are now and towards the election?

PORTER: Well, look, we put it Mr. DeJoy on notice that we were going to be asking tough questions, and frankly, he did not deliver. So, I was disappointed with his inability to answer basic questions not just about the Postal Service, but really importantly, when we asked him who -- I said, you have -- you have said throughout this hearing, you didn't make these operational changes, who did. And he was unable to answer and that is a lack of accountability at the very top of the agency. That should concern us all.

HAYES: I have to say, we've been reporting on this story and following this story for a month to six weeks. And one of the strangest things about it is that it's all very, like, unclear where this came from and how it got initiated. Like, no one will own up. You know, it'd be one thing to say, look, we made these changes for X, Y, and Z reasons, but it sort of this -- has this weird like it just happened feel to it still.

PORTER: No, I mean, he made very clear that the changes were in the works before he arrived. Great, fine. I take you at your word for what it's worth. Then, though he wouldn't take any responsibility, we asked him who performed these analyses, who okayed this decision? He kept saying throughout the hearing that it wasn't him. I am the 41st questioner on the oversight hearing. I bat last. I bat cleanup. And my question for him was, if you didn't do this, who did, and he couldn't say.

So then, that really leads to how are we going to believe him that he's going to be able to reverse these changes and improve postal delivery, when he doesn't seem to understand or know how these problems got created in the first place.

HAYES: One of the useful bits of data that came from both the Senate and the House was just -- was sort of quantifying the issue. This chart I think is from the Senate committee that shows the decline of on time delivery in the USPS Eastern area for first class mail. You see that steep decline just shortly after DeJoy comes on. This is a real thing. It's not -- this is not just some invented anecdote.

I guess the question is, given the what the postal union saying today, like, what's next? How do you keep the pressure on? How do we make sure that this doesn't get worse and that it's actually reversed?

PORTER: The oversight committee is definitely going to need to following up trying to get answers to questions that we asked that Mr. DeJoy could not answer. And so, I expect the oversight committees work to continue. We do need to get funding to the Postal Service, and of course, the House voted to do just that. And I very much hope the Senate will step up and do the same thing.

But we also need to press the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. I asked Mr. DeJoy point blank, if the Inspector General finds that you engage in misconduct because there's an ongoing investigation, if they find you engaged in misconduct, will you resign? No, he said.

So we need to make sure that the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors is prepared to hold him into account if in fact the Inspector General report shows that he engaged in conflict of interest, financial self-dealing, or other forms of misconduct.

HAYES: And the Board of Governors -- I mean, I did not know much about the structure of the current version of USPS until this story. It's sort of a strange treasure, actually, truth be --

PORTER: Well, don't feel bad, Chris, because neither did Mr. DeJoy.

HAYES: Well, no -- yes, that's right. Yes, maybe I can be the Postmaster General is what I learned from the hearing. No, but the structure is somewhat strange. One, it's kind of weird, kind of hybrid, a public-private entity, but it is -- that board does control things. And it is statutorily a bipartisan board, even though there's a majority by the President's party there. There should be some levels of accountability here. There are people above DeJoy, I guess, is my point.

PORTER: No, absolutely, there are those Postal Service Board of Governors. They actually appointed DeJoy. And so, one of the things that we're trying to understand is what was the process they went through that led them to believe that Mr. De joy was A, qualified at all, which I have questions about, and B, the most qualified person for the position.

Because it's really important to have the most qualified person because now during the pandemic, more than ever, people are counting on the Postal Service to deliver medication, to deliver bills, to stay in touch, and of course with election season coming up.

HAYES: Yes. The final question, I think, is one that's been front of mine here, right? I mean, it's very clear that the Post Office has had significant changes, that they've resulted in real declines in service. It's also clear and just simply on the record that the President has been railing against mail-in voting. He doesn't like it. He wants people to not do it. That his campaign is sued to stop it and stop expanding it in states that he thinks is illegitimate yadda, yadda, spreading lies about it.

There's a question about whether two plus two equals four. That's the intent of what's happening. But I guess the question to you is, are you confident the USPS can process and do what it needs to do for the election this fall?

PORTER: Well, I have incredible confidence in the people who work at the United States Postal Service. These are professionals. Over 100,000 postal workers are United States veterans who have served their country in combat conditions. These are people who are dedicated to providing service. But I do think we need to keep pressing Mr. DeJoy. We need to see that mail delivery rate change. We need to see that chart go back up to show service is actually restored.

HAYES: Congresswoman Katie Porter, as always, thanks so much for joining the show tonight.

PORTER: Thank you.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Friday night, the end of a very long week. And "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


Content and programming copyright 2020 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.