Their Biographies, Issue Positions, Voting Records, Public Statements, Ratings and their Funders.

MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript: "Beto O'Rourke interview."



MADDOW: Congressman O`Rourke joining us now live from El Paso. Sir, thank you very much for your time this evening. I know it`s a -- it`s a busy and difficult time.

O`ROURKE: It`s -- it is and really tough time for El Paso but we are really tough people and just visiting with the families, with the survivors, with all those that assembled behind me at this vigil right outside the Walmart. This community has come back so strong, supporting one another, loving one another and not just here in El Paso but also in Ciudad Juarez which lost seven people who are here buying at Walmart before school starts just like anyone else would. So the way this community has come together, this community of immigrants, this very diverse community. This community that`s 85 percent Mexican-American, it`s just really powerful, very beautiful and the best possible answer I think to this hatred and to the terror that we saw on Saturday.

MADDOW: And as -- as you say, El Paso is a majority Latino population as you say, 85 percent Mexican-American, very close with it`s sister city of Juarez. I am very much still stopped in my tracks by the fact that this was the worst terrorist attack on the Latino community in the modern history of the United States of America. And as a community and as one of the -- the citadels of that community in our country, what do you say as a representative from El Paso, what do you say to the Latino community? To the Latino communities all over the country that really do have terrifying new concerns about their own safety, about their communities being targets for homegrown terrorists.

O`ROURKE: And to some degree they should. You -- you have a president who has repeatedly as a candidate, once in the highest office and position of public trust in the land vilified Hispanic and Latino members of our communities and of this country. Warned of invasions not just once of twice but repeatedly bought as you mentioned, Facebook ads warning of that. Describes people as an infestation or animals who are coming here. Send the United States military to a community like this one, which is one of if not the safest cities in the United States of America, that gins up extraordinary fear in America, anxiety and paranoia. And when you have Trump at a rally in Florida describing this invasion saying what is it going to take to stop these people? And some one in the crowd yells out shoot them and the crowd roars its approval and the president smiles. If that does not send a signal that it`s OK to do this kind of thing, I don`t know what does. Now he`s not the original racist. Racism has existed for as long as we have been a country but he is giving license to people to act on that. He`s making permissible to say awful things and do terrible things. We know for example, on the day that he signed his Executive order tempting to ban Muslim travel in the United States. The mosque in Victoria, Texas burned to the ground. That shooter who walked in and killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was mouthing some of the same lines that the president had used about caravans coming to get us and -- and to take what is ours in this country. So, this is the result of -- of what this president has been doing and we`ve got to stop it. We`ve got to stop -- all of us stand up not just Democrats, not just me, members of the press, Republicans alike. Everybody standing up -- up against this and for an American that respects everyone. Treats everyone with dignity.

MADDOW: That kind of language that you are describing there invasion, infestation, describing people as animals. You`ve been very acute in your criticism of the president for that but also in drawing the historic analogies there, saying that this is redolent of things that have happened in the past that have led to genocide and horrific tragedies. Because you`ve drawn those historic analogies, do you feel like there are lessons from history or are there lessons that we should be learning right now in our country in terms of what can be the anecdote to that? In terms of how you defy not only those sorts of characterizations of people as subhuman but how you mitigate it`s effects. How you stop those sort of dehumanizing imagery from infecting the culture and from propagating more violence?

O`ROURKE: You know, I think historically people like Donald Trump are -- are dismissed as clowns or are forgiven because it`s assumed that the economy`s running better. We have law and order where we didn`t have it before. Neither of which are true here in the United States despite what the president is -- is saying but -- but -- that`s -- that`s what I hear sometimes for his apologists in Congress or those people even in my home town who may want to turn a blind eye to things that he`s been saying. But -- but when you connect the dots, you don`t get kids in cages. You don`t lose the lives of seven children who are in our custody who had fled the deadliest countries in the world who are coming here to seek shelter and salvation. That doesn`t happen unless you had a president who`s described them as animals, as an infestation, who has dehumanized them to make it OK to treat them as something less than human. You don`t get the acts of terror or violence. The rise in hate crimes, every single one of the last three years, unless you have a president who is doing this. So I guess our lessons from history is you cannot dismiss this. You can`t say, well he`s just a different kind of politician. Doesn`t know how to talk to the media. This is a guy who`s been very open about what he wants to do. I mean, when in history can we think of in a modern western democracy, when the leader has talked about all people of one religion being inherently defective and should be banned from the shores of -- of that country. It`s chilling, or -- or that rally in Greenville, North Carolina. The chants of -- of send her back to me that is reminiscent of -- of Nuremburg something you would see in Germany. Not something you`d see in the United States of America in 2019. And we can no longer accept it, no longer say that this is an isolated problem. This is on all of us and, you know, in El Paso one of, if not the safest cities in America. You know, we used to pride ourselves on that but no matter our geographic distance from the other centers of power and population, this problem will find you. This problem of gun violence. This problem of hatred. This problem of white nationalist terrorism, it will come find you. So, it`s on all of us. I don`t care how safe you are in your home right now. Unless you stand up and act on it, it -- it will come to you as well. So, I -- I hope that this is what it takes to galvanize us to act on sensible gun policy on stamping out this kind of hate speech and open racism. On ensuring that our social media platforms are regulated so that when someone is trying to incentivize this kind of behavior, they are stopped before it is too late. We have our work cut out for us but I know as a country we are up to it.

MADDOW: I want to ask you about something that Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said before the president`s visit. She, of course, holds the seat you used to hold now in El Paso and -- and she said in the wake of the shooting, of course, that she didn`t think the president should come to El Paso. And in fact, she didn`t meet with the president on his visit today but it was interesting. I interviewed her on Monday -- Monday night and she surprised me when she said with clear eyes and a clear heart. She said for all of her criticism of the president and for all of her belief that he should not travel to El Paso, that he would not be welcome there now. She did say it would matter and it would matter to El Paso if the president apologized for what he has said in the past about immigrants and about the border and about El Paso specifically. The kind of language that you`re just decrying right now in such strong terms. She made the case that while the president has caused a lot of harm, it would materially help if he took back what he had said. If he acknowledged that it was wrong and it was hurtful and he`d say he wouldn`t do it again. I wonder, given the sharpness of your criticism on the president on this, if -- if you agree with her. If you think that something like that might help from the president or -- or do you think it`s just too late for that?

O`ROURKE: No. I think Congresswoman Escobar is exactly right on this point. It would be helpful if the president were to renounce the language that he`s used. If he explicitly said, immigrants pose no threat to this country. In fact, we know that they commit crimes at a far lower rate than those who are born here. If you pointed to my hometown, El Paso, Texas, or McAllen, Texas, or San Diego, California, and said, these communities of immigrants have crime rates that are far lower than cities in the in -- you know -- deeper inside the United States. In fact, their very presence makes us stronger and safer and more secure as a country, I`m not going to hold my breath but if he were to do that it -- it could -- it could only help. And -- and I hope that he or the people around him can -- can help him come to this conclusion. Help him to say the right thing because it`s not just an effort to make up for what happened in El Paso. I don`t know that he can. It`s -- it`s an effort to stop this from continuing to happen in this country and his language right now is so provocative. Has found a home with someone like this killer, this terrorist who literally drove more than 600 miles to bring this hatred and terror to our community. So it`s -- it`s really important that the president act while he still has time to. In the absence of that upon all of us, regardless of the differences including party, to stand up right now and be counted on this important issue.

MADDOW: So, I know that you have cancelled your campaign`s upcoming events in Iowa this weekend. You essentially have left the presidential campaign trail to be at home in the wake of this tragedy. I just want to ask if you know at this point what your plans are. If you have any sense of when you plan to return to the campaign trail? If this is going to change things for you fundamentally? Are you waiting to see how things evolve or do you have a plan at this point?

O`ROURKE: I will return to the campaign trail. I will pursue the nomination of our party to serve this country as president of the United States. But right now, I`m going to focus on my community, on our family, on those families who are grieving right now and on those families who have somebody who`s not yet out of the woods. We are daily visiting Del Sol and University Medical Center to be with our fellow El Pasoans. Tomorrow, I`m going to Ciudad Juarez to visit with families who lost somebody from that side of the border but this is the right place for me to be right now.

MADDOW: Beto O`Rourke, Democratic presidential contender, former member of Congress from El Paso, Texas -- sir, thanks for taking the time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.

O`ROURKE: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Again, Congressman O`Rourke, as he mention there had, is off the presidential campaign trail right now, although he said emphatically there, he will be rejoining the campaign trail. He is in contention for the Democratic nomination for president in his hometown grieving El Paso right now, will be there, it sounds, for the foreseeable future. This was the scene in El Paso as the president arrived there today. It was 100 degrees or more in El Paso today. But Congressman O`Rourke was out there along with all of these El Paso residents and community leaders and elected officials. Veronica Escobar, who I had just mentioned, who succeeded Beto O`Rourke and is now El Paso`s representative in Congress, an exceedingly eloquent and intelligence member of Congress, they are lucky to have her, she was there today as well. She declined an invitation to accompany the president on his visit today, but she was out there in the community. And there did seem to be this feeling in El Paso today that the president`s visit wasn`t helpful. That in many quarters, it was not welcome. And that`s just a remarkable thing for an American city that has experienced a wrenching tragedy, especially when it`s not, you know, a big natural disaster where the city just can`t logistically handle a visit. I mean, this -- in El Paso today was an American city telling the president of the United States that he`s not wanted there because he was a contributor to the violence that has just befallen them. Here was another thing that greeted the president today in El Paso. A giant letter to the president on the front of "The El Paso El Paso Times." Dear Mr. President, quote: For many of us, our parents were born in Mexico. We`re proud of that and we are also proud Americans. America is our country. We are home. Not everyone who visits El Paso has understood this. Mr. President, in your February State of the Union Address, you claimed that El Paso was one of our nation`s most dangerous cities before a border wall was built. Mr. President, that is not El Paso. Some in our community doubt we will be able to change your view of our border community, but it`s important to us that we explain all that is good about El Paso. Our people are scared. Many of us feel our city is still viewed as a target. The hatred that came to us came from an outsider. It did not come from El Paso. Mourners who gathered at a makeshift memorial behind the Walmart where the shooting occurred in El Paso told "The Washington Post" today that the president`s visit would make them feel worse about what has already just happened. Quote: Now`s not the time, said one man, a veteran`s advocate. Quote: We do not need anybody fanning the flames of hate, anger, and racism. There`s enough in this world already. Quote: Maxine Morales, who was born and raised in El Paso, brought her two children to the memorial. She said the president`s rhetoric about immigration and the border have caused deep wounds in the city. At this moment, she says, I am just filled with anger and frustration and sadness, her voice breaking. My parents were immigrants and they came here to better their lives and to make sure that we all had better lives, so that really hits home. It really hurts. At that Walmart where 22 people were murdered, there will be a more formal vigil getting underway in the next hour. As you saw, Congressman O`Rourke is at that site right now. We`re going to be keeping an eye on that site tonight. We`re expecting a large vigil to kick off at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. But all of that is just El Paso. The president also today went to Dayton, Ohio. This is what it looked like in Dayton, Ohio, when the president got there. The president arriving, protesters lining his motorcade, his motorcade route from the airport to the hospital. And then some of the protesters headed over to the back entrance of the hospital, because they were quite sure that`s how the president would get in and out of that facility and they wanted to make sure the president would see them on his way out. The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, has not been shy about voicing her disagreements with the president, particularly in the wake of what just happened there this weekend, but the mayor of Dayton did meet with him while he was there today. You will not be surprised to hear that. Afterwards, he nevertheless lashed out at her publicly. We`ll be speaking with the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, live, coming up. Stay with us.