All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
February 20, 2014
Guest: Darryl Isherwood, Staci Berger, Elana Schor, Nikki Silvestri, David Weigel
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
And for the first time since his re-election, for the first time since
those traffic problems in Fort Lee, Governor Christie went face to face
with his voters today.
The political strategy here was obvious because there are two things
that have made Chris Christie the national political figure that he is.
The first are those town halls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I sat here, stood here, and very
respectfully listened to you. If what you want to do is put on a show and
giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your
question. So, if you`d like to --
With all the important issues that we have going on in this state,
you`re wasting these people`s time with a question on whether we plan
questions in the audience.
When you get this microphone in your hand, you`re going to feel an
indescribable but undeniable desire to make a speech. Take my word for it.
I feel it all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the thought ever crossed your mind to run for
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Just a small taste of the YouTube sensation that was the Chris
Christie town hall. But what really made the tough-talking governor a
national contender was his handling of the aftermath of the 2012 Superstorm
Sandy. There, we met the governor as pragmatic problem solver working with
a president from the other party for the good of his state, a governor
willing to criticize his own party when he had to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: There`s only one group to blame for the continued suffering
of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John
Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That political appeal all folded into the stronger than the
storm theme. Right town to those ads paid for with Sandy money which a
federal inspector general is now auditing.
But, of course, back then, the response to Sandy was good for the
governor as reflected in the spike of the governor`s approval following
Sandy, a level of approval that did not deflate until bridge-gate sunk in.
And so, if you are Chris Christie or one of his political advisers,
what better way to get your mojo back than to do a Sandy town hall?
But there`s a problem. As we have extensively reported here on ALL
IN, despite the all mythos around the Sandy recovery, it`s not going nearly
as well as advertised.
From the Fair Share Housing Center, data strongly suggesting a racial
disparity in how the money has been given out.
The biggest contractor overseeing the distribution of nearly $800
million in federal Sandy aid quietly fired with no real explanation.
Another contractor after that fired with no real explanation.
A new poll nearly 3/4 of state aid applicants felt they have largely
been forgotten in the recovery effort.
The "Asbury Park Press" that endorsed Chris Christie saying, "Answers
are overdue on bungled city aid."
Another report by the Fair Share Housing Center showing the Christi
administration and recently fired contractor HGI, erroneously rejected
people who were eligible for Sandy funding. Nearly 80 percent of people
who appealed their rejections eventually won their cases. Four out of five
people rejected won their appeals.
Now, initially the Christie administration`s response was to point
fingers. They blamed FEMA, FEMA provided data for the high error rates.
But in a statement to ALL IN when we reported this story, FEMA
defended that data and integrity and the problems were squarely on New
Jersey and the Christie administration.
And after our report aired, New Jersey re-opened the appeals process
for folks that had been rejected. So, here we are again with Christie once
again trying to blame the Obama administration for the second time in less
than a month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The entire flood insurance business in this country has
been taken over by the federal government. It`s called the National Flood
Insurance Plan which all of you painfully now know, NFIP. I said that
should be a new "F" word in there. FEMA the new "F" word.
We`re stuck with dealing with federal system that is broken. The idea
that the federal government should be given anything else to do is crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yes, you see it`s all the federal government`s fault. It`s
not Chris Christie`s fault or his administration. It`s the feds. It`s
those bureaucrats in Washington.
Now, there were plenty of people at today`s hearing who applauded and
thanked Governor Christie, though not specifically for his administration`s
Sandy response. And there were also plenty of people who stood up to tell
him how their lives have been devastated since the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom passed away Saturday night in a rental
house because we can`t go home yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my home. It was knocked down back in
April. We`ve been wait-listed and denied for all the grants.
CHRISTIE: We`ve asked multiple times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to go home.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: My house is still broken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One of the people who asked a question this morning was Tom
Largey, a lawyer born and raised in New Jersey, and he wanted to know about
the companies behind the state`s response to Sandy.
TOM LARGEY, SEA BRIGHT RESIDENT: Why was HGI fired? Why did you pay
them $50 million? And why did you privatize most -- why did you privatize
most of the grant program? You didn`t have to do that.
CHRISTIE: I just disagree with you. OK? So you say not to privatize
it. The alternative, the alternative is --
CROWD: Answer the question.
CHRISTIE: I`m answering the question. The alternative -- the
alternative is to have hired thousands of additional government employees
to be able to administer this program. Who is going to administer it? I
am not going to bring on more people who I have to pay health benefits for,
pensions for, over the long haul to run a program that by its very nature
is a temporary program. That is the type of people that you bring in
private contractors to run.
HAYES: Tom Largey didn`t know if he would get into today`s town hall
or if he would get to confront the governor in person. But when we spoke
to him this morning, he did know he had a lot of questions.
LARGEY: Why should the 15,000 people that applied for the RREM Grant,
that needed to (INAUDIBLE) in the Bay Shore, trust you? Why should we
believe it`s been distributed fairly?
HAYES: Largey was planning to move into a cottage on his parents`
property in Sea Bright, New Jersey, and then Sandy hit.
LARGEY: Until Sandy, they never got water anywhere near coming into
the house. The back three feet of water came in. Outside, there was
between eight and nine feet of water.
HAYES: We went with Largey back to Sea Bright, to the house he`s been
fighting to get federal Sandy aid money to rebuild.
LARGEY: They have no money to raise the house. A lot of people are
in the same situation. Insulation, wiring, piping, electricity, sheetrock,
paint, molding, utility boxes, stairs, tile, bathroom fixtures. It`s a
HAYES: And there`s a reason that Largey is frustrated with the
Christie administration`s response.
LARGEY: I took two trips there, two letters, many calls to the
managers. Just to find out months later in November, November 28th, after
we applied on May 25th, the first day you could apply online on their
computer system, that we`re on the wait list.
HAYES: Largey has largely accepted he and his parents may not get
money, but he still wants to know the people of New Jersey are being
LARGEY: I hope Mr. Christie and his administration explains to
everyone, proves to us now that the grant process was fair and sure there`s
not enough money, but the people who did get it deserved it and money
wasn`t wasted. And he didn`t prove it to me today.
HAYES: So far, Tom`s still waiting for answers, for his parents and
for the people of New Jersey.
LARGEY: My parents are a little fortunate, we`re be able to muddle
through this. There are a lot of people who probably won`t be able to.
HAYES: And today, on a day when the governor was trying to address
Sandy aid failures, a bill to more strictly regulate how the state spends
federal money intended for Hurricane Sandy recovery was approved by a state
Not a moment too soon, since we`re also learning the Christie
administration gave more Sandy funds to the controversial Belleville
project than previously thought. That was the senior center that got built
in an area not barely devastated by Sandy, reportedly $10.2 million went to
that project, instead of $6 million.
Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs said
the project changed, required a recommitment by the agency in December.
Joining me now are: Darryl Isherwood, politics editor for
NewJersey.com, Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community
Development Network of New Jersey.
So, there`s a lot to parse through from the town hall today.
First of all, what was your reaction to the town hall today?
STACI BERGER, HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT NETWORK OF NEW JERSEY:
I thought it was interesting they pointed fingers as they`ve done all along
at the federal government.
It wasn`t the federal government that inappropriately and unfairly
rejected people. It wasn`t the federal government that didn`t put up the
right information on Spanish language Web sites. It wasn`t the federal
government that lost people`s applications four or five times.
Those problems, the things people are really frustrated about and feel
they`re not getting heard and they`re not getting help, those things are
directly the responsibility of the Christie administration.
HAYES: It was not the federal government that hired two different
contractors, one who paid I believe $39 million and another $10 million in
BERGER: Ten and a half.
HAYES: -- for ten months of work before quietly firing. That was not
the federal government. That was a Christie --
BERGER: Parting ways.
HAYES: Parting ways. Right. I`m sorry.
That was not -- the federal government did not tell Chris Christie`s
administration to hire those folks.
BERGER: No, they had no role in that. The federal resources that
came into New Jersey are supposed to be the most flexible kind of federal
funding that`s available to states can design programs that work best for
their jurisdiction. These were the programs that the Christie
administration set up and decided they wanted to pursue. Nobody made them
HAYES: Darryl, we`ve been covering ever since that notorious e-mail
dump which is just this unfolding mystery that we all still want to get to
the bottom to. Why did he do it? What was the motive? Who knew? All of
This Sandy problem, which is related in certain ways because of the
mayor`s allegations from Hoboken, about the way Sandy aid was improperly
used and threatened, this is a growing political problem for this governor.
This is his signature accomplishment and it is not some kind of, like,
lefty liberal MSNBC conspiracy. We talk every week to the citizens of New
Jersey, some of whom are Christie voters, who are increasingly at wit`s end
about what is on with Sandy recovery.
DARRYL ISHERWOOD, NEWJERSEY.COM: Yes. What you saw today is they
lost control of the Sandy message. This was, as you said at the open, this
is why he`s here. He was Mr. Sandy, he was the guy in charge. He was down
at the beach with the president with the fleece.
And now, you`ve got these front-page headlines, money is going to
strange places, people are not getting the money, the money is not doled
out fairly according to some reports.
And so, I think what you`re seeing is he`s really struggling to get
that message back. To get back in control of that message and it`s tough.
And this is sort of the thing we all have sort of waited for. You
know, and this is --
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
ISHERWOOD: Let`s go back almost a year when there was gubernatorial
aspirations for different Democrats. Christie`s approval numbers were
through the roof. There was this feeling, wait a while because of the
sheer volume of the damage and the sheer amount of money, it had to -- this
had to happen.
HAYES: Well, so that gets to a question about whether this is being
mis -- there`s three possibilities here. One is, it`s hard to recover from
big storms and people are going to be upset no matter what. Two is, that
this has been mismanaged and bungled. Three is there`s actually political
funny business as alleged by the mayor of Hoboken in the distribution of
BERGER: I would definitely pick door number two Chris, for sure. It
has been mismanaged and it`s very plain to see from the folks that
testified today and we heard from last week and have been hearing from for
eight months at this point that people feel like they do not have a clear
explanation of what the guidelines are, what their responsibilities are and
what the state is doing to help people.
HAYES: And that gets to the second order issue which relates both to
the folks we talked to, the person featured in our story, and also
reporters which is, if they were being more open about what`s going on, it
wouldn`t seem so weird or it wouldn`t seem like they`re trying to hide
something. If they say, we put out a press leader today about we are
parting ways with our biggest contractor because they have failed to do
"x," "y," and "z" --
BERGER: And we`re not going to pay them a settlement.
HAYES: And we`re not going to pay them settlement, well, then, OK.
You fire them, you don`t tell anyone for six weeks? I mean, you veto a
bill for oversight? There is no way to get answers or data out of these
people so then you start thinking, what exactly --
BERGER: They didn`t put the integrity monitors in they were required
to approve. The governor signed it to ten months ago. They were supposed
to be effective immediately. We have not seen anything until very, very
recently about integrity monitors put into place.
The other thing that was strange about today is that he said it`s all
the federal government`s fault but he didn`t take any responsibility for
what the state has done or talk about how we`re going to fix it. I think
what people really want to hear is not so-and-so is to blame, so-and-so is
to blame, but how am I going to get back into my house and who`s going to
HAYES: And there is I think a kind of -- the whole appeal of the
Christie brand, right, was this -- Washington`s not working, Washington is
dysfunctional, Washington is mired in partisan squabbling, they`re shutting
down the government. This guy can reach across the aisle, get things done,
right? He`s competent. Whatever you want to say about him, you think he`s
brash, you don`t line the way he treats people in town halls, gets things
Well, this is the central test of this administration from a sheer
ISHERWOOD: It is. And it`s the kind of thing where it`s so fraught
because as you just saw, you know, we report on it every day, but you sort
of look at it in this esoteric way. But you see that video and a guy whose
house was destroyed.
HAYES: Fifteen months ago. Let`s just be clear. That`s 15 months
ISHERWOOD: Right, 15 months later he`s putting up drywall, figure out
where he`s going to live and how`s going to live there. You know, that
really brings this home to people. That`s a dangerous message for the
governor because this was his thing.
You know, he built his reputation on this. He was, before bridge-gate
as we talked about, the front-runner for the GOP nomination for presidency
because of Sandy.
HAYES: And in terms of what the stakes are, to me, when we ask about
what do we want government to do when we have these debates, right?
Protect people. We want to make sure they`re protected. And caring for
them and helping them out when a natural disaster hits. I mean, these are
core, basic functions of across party and ideology, you expect basic
competence from your government.
I have to say right now, all the evidence points to New Jersey and the
Christie administration not delivering on that as of now.
Darryl Isherwood from NewJersey.com, Staci Berger from the Housing and
Community Development Network of New Jersey -- thank you, both.
Coming up, yesterday we brought you the story of Wisconsin Republican
Governor Scott Walker who`s having kind of a tough time right now after
27,000 pages of documents were released in the wake of a criminal
investigation of one of his former aides.
One of those documents is a totally offensive in every possible way
chain e-mail forward and that got us thinking. What kind of people send e-
mails like that around their office? And today another one, and it`s even
worse. We`ll share it, next.
HAYES: Coming up, one of the best things about twitter is the lack of
filter. There`s no one standing between the famous and powerful and their
burning desire to express themselves in 140 characters or less. And
sometimes, the results are astonishing. Stick around to find out who said
HAYES: Yesterday, we brought you the news that 27,000 pages of e-
mails had been released in relation to a criminal investigation of former
aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The investigation goes back to
the time when Walker was Milwaukee county executive. The e-mails
illustrate the synergistic manner in which Walker`s county office worked
with his 2010 gubernatorial campaign which, by the way, is illegal in
Now, Walker himself was never charged with any wrongdoing. But six of
his former aides and associated were convicted including former deputy
chief of staff Kelly Rindfleisch. She was sentenced to six months in
prison, three years probation for violating the law.
Yesterday, I mistakenly said last night she served the six months in
jail when, in fact, she is repealing her conviction. I regret that error.
Now, investigative reporters are still poring through those 27,000
pages of e-mails but there`s one e-mail that I read a portion of yesterday
that stood out. Not because of an abuse of power or corruption, but
because of the sheer jaw-dropping offensiveness. It was an e-mail forward
sent out by Walker`s then-chief of staff, Thomas Nardelli, to his then-
deputy chief of staff, Kelly Rindfleisch and undisclosed others.
It tells the story of a, quote, "nightmare", in which the narrator
wakes up as poor person of color, leading readers to this punch line "I can
handle be a black disabled one armed drug addicted Jewish homosexual on a
pacemaker who is HIV positive, bald, orphaned unemployed, lives in a slum
and has a Mexican boyfriend, but please, oh dear God, please don`t tell me
I`m a Democrat." You know, ba rumba.
Now, when I read this yesterday, I thought to myself, what kind of
work environment exactly would it be OK to get this your inbox and forward
it to an specified amount of coworkers and subordinates.
I happen to work in an office, myself. I`m sure many of you do as
well. We`re all guilty of saying things in the workplace and elsewhere we
probably shouldn`t have said.
But think of a work environment in which a chief of staff sends this
kind of e-mail to his subordinates? An email that is explicitly
homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, and offensive in every way possible.
Well, it turns out it wasn`t the only one.
Here`s another e-mail from Thomas Nardelli to an undisclosed group of
recipients. This one shows the president smoking a cigarette wearing some
kind of special headgear. "New fall hat" says the caption. "ACORN cap
with the nut still attached."
Now, that e-mail skirts the line. Let`s say it`s forgivable in the
What about this one? Which was sent to deputy chief of staff Kelly
Rindfleisch from someone outside of Walker`s staff comparing welfare
recipients to dogs.
"This morning, I went to sign my dogs up for welfare. At first the
lady said dogs aren`t able to draw welfare. I explain to her, my dogs are
mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can`t speak English and have no frigging
clue who their daddies are."
"Expect me to feed them," the email continues, "provide them with
housing and medical care and feel guilty because they`re dogs. She looked
in the policy book to see what it takes to qualify. My dogs get their fix
check first checks on Friday. Damn, this is a great country."
Rindfleisch who go that wrote back to the email sender. "That is
hilarious and so true."
These are the thoughts of people who are in charge of things like, oh,
I don`t know, running the state`s welfare system.
Look, Scott Walker is a guy who got elected governor and survived a
recall in a blue state. He`s a guy who as we reported yesterday big money
Republican donors are looking at to fill the hole created by the Chris
Christie implosion because they think Scott Walker is the kind of guy who
can win nationally by appealing to moderates.
And this is apparently the kind of operation he was running. Think
about what would happen to you if you forwarded one of those e-mail to your
co-workers, to your subordinates? You`d likely be disciplined, might be
fired for good reason.
But not in Scott Walker`s office, because these are the people he`s
hiring, the kind of people who forward you a racist chain letter and not
bat an eye. These are people he`s placing close to him, the people he`s
trusting to run his office, to serve black and gay and Jewish and HIV
positive and poor citizens of Milwaukee County and now, Wisconsin, and
maybe of the whole United States, someday.
Coming up, are you confused about what`s going on in Ukraine right
now? Don`t know whose side you should be on? Don`t know which sides there
You are not alone. We`ll explain what`s happening there and get the
HAYES: A violent upheaval that looks very much like a civil war is
raging right now in a major European capital. Tens of thousands of people
have been on the streets of Ukraine protesting in Kiev`s independent square
since last November. And now, they`re dying.
"The Associated Press" citing Ukrainian authorities and protesters now
reporting clashes between protesters and riot police have killed at least
101 people this week. And this new wave of violence came on the heels of a
very short-lived truce that lasted just hours.
If you`re like me, you`ve been watching this and seeing this image on
your screens almost operatic fire and mayhem and bloodshed and trying to
figure out how you feel about what you`re seeing. As someone who follows
the news and who doesn`t know a ton about Ukraine, I`ll admit, I`m confused
about what I think should happen, in which side I`m on. Though I think
when I see people being shot by government snipers, I know.
Back in 2011, when we watched the uprising take place in Tahrir Square
in Egypt, something we covered on this network extensively, I think most of
us felt like we had a pretty good idea who we were rooting for -- the
people in the streets, the people who are standing up against President
Hosni Mubarak`s torturous regime which had ruled with an iron fist for 30
years and backed by the U.S. government.
Unlike the folks we`re seeing in Ukraine, these people were rising up,
at first nonviolently against massive state repression, calling for
democracy and civil society. I think we all felt we were with those
people. Then, Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Things got very complicated very
quickly, because some of those people we were rooting for turned out to
have had deep ties to the previous regime.
And the Muslim Brotherhood was able to seize some political momentum
and they would in turn propose their own kind of repression. And then the
next thing you know, President Mohamed Morsi, the head of the Muslim
Brotherhood, himself, was in a cage being tried for undermining national
Despite of an attempt to end the military`s grip in Egypt, the
military is in charge of the country again and I feel like I lost the
Similarly, the last time there was an uprising in Ukraine itself, I
thought I knew which side I was on. It was the famous Orange Revolution in
2004, in which a determined middle class came together to protest an
election widely considered to have been stolen from reformer Viktor
Yushchenko, who`s eventually reelected. And the thing that sealed this for
me, I think a lot of people, of course, beside the fact that all these was
accomplished through nonviolent protest in the streets, is that that same
year, Yushchenko was poisoned with a dose of pure dioxin changing the face
of a guy who once looked like this to a guy who looked like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you know who did this to you
VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I
have no doubt this was done by my opponents in the government. That`s who
would benefit the most from my death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, I said to myself, I`m definitely not on the side of
whichever goons tried to poison that guy. Keep in mind, one of his
opponents he was talking about is the current president of Ukraine, Viktor
And that brings me to today, when I`m thinking that I`m on the side of
the people getting shot at by their government. The protesters who are
upset their government decided to walk away from a trade deal with the E.U.
and move close to a full embrace with Russia, but, more pointedly, who are
now really protesting a series of laws first passed, then later repealed,
by the Ukrainian Parliament on their face crush dissent and make Ukraine at
least on paper something that looks like a lot more like a dictatorship
than a fully functioning open society.
So, when I see people getting shot at and bleeding on the streets, I
feel like I know whose side I`m on.
But here`s the thing about that. When Senator John McCain and Senator
Chris Murphy went to stand with these protesters in December, they stood
next to this guy, who is an opposition leader and who also happens to lead
Ukraine`s right-wing nationalist party Svoboda. They were also first
registered as a neo-Nazi Party.
And they`re in the streets right now shooting at police. There`s a
part of me that wonders if asking which side I`m on is the wrong question
and the right question is, how do we avoid a full-out bloody civil war in a
country that`s right smack between Europe and Russia?
Joining me now is NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin.
Ayman, there have been a lot of developments today, the vice
president, Joe, Biden calling President Yanukovych to basically say, pull
back, cease and desist, stop shooting at your own people. What`s the
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Right now, there`s an
intensification of diplomatic efforts coupled with sanctions to try and
shape the behavior of the Ukrainian government.
What they`re trying to do, the United States and Europe are trying to
get the Ukrainian government, which they believe holds responsibility, most
responsibility for the ongoing violence to push their forces away from the
square. The square has been the epicenter of these protests for the past
several months. Thousands of people are in camp there.
And right now, the violence is happening in and around the square
because the government moved forces in to try to break them up. But, as
you mentioned, the protesters have been preparing for this showdown, some
of them with lethal weapons, leading to the killing of these police forces
and that`s why the situation is turning rapidly violent.
But the United States, European Union now imposing sanctions on who
they believe are the individuals responsible for ordering this crackdown on
HAYES: The context here is a country that seems since its
independence in the 1990s gripped in a kind of long-standing culture war
between different parts of the country, one of which actually speaks
Russian, one of which speaks Ukrainian.
And I want to show the electoral maps, because this gives you a sense
of the kind of Ukrainian version of red America/blue America. This is the
2004 map. This is Yushchenko`s victory. And you basically see the
Ukrainian-speaking part of Ukraine voted for him overwhelmingly. The
Russian-speaking part voted for his opponent overwhelmingly.
Go to 2010. You see another map very, very similar in hue. And what
precipitated this, right, was this decision to sort of reject what the E.U.
was offering and moves toward a closer embrace with Russia. The question
is, is what`s happening now a kind of mass uprising against the government
or is it something more like a civil war in which there are two competing
groups of people who are fighting over the determination of this country`s
MOHYELDIN: Well, the situation has actually morphed.
When this began, it began as a policy debate when the president of the
country felt that it`s in the best interest of Ukraine to be closer to
Russia than the European Union. He made a policy decision. That angered a
lot of people. People took to the streets. But it was not violent. It
did not have sustainable street protests, exactly for the reason that you
mentioned. Some of the country does support closer ties with Russia.
However, once these protests began, the government completely
mismanaged the situation because they began to crack down on these protests
using violence and the entire protest movement morphed from being a policy
issue to one about fundamental rights. A lot of young people came out, a
lot of people who were on the sidelines. A lot of people changed their
position, saying this is now a government that is using force, using a lot
of abusive measures.
They passed that law that you mentioned that cut down on protests.
They felt their country was taking a step back. That`s why it suddenly
exploded into something much deeper with a lot of themes similar to what
we`re seeing in Egypt, themes against corruption, abuse of power, things
that transcend policy and have to do with the way the state is being run.
HAYES: What is the way out now?
MOHYELDIN: Well, if you speak to people that are involved in the
negotiations, there are a few major hurdles. This is no longer about
policy. There`s nothing that President Viktor Yanukovych can change in a
policy about Europe or Russia that is going to stop the violence.
What they really want right now is for President Yanukovych to change
the government, either that or for the Parliament to strip away some of the
powers that the president has so he does not keep making unilateral
decisions, and take into broad consideration the wide political views in
Now, that`s not on the table right now. What is on the table is how
to stop the violence, how to stop the protesters. And, more importantly,
the criticism against the opposition is that the political opposition, some
of those individuals that you highlighted in that report, don`t necessarily
represent the people on the street. The opposition is made up of people
that are nationalistic extremists, neo-Nazis, but also liberal, moderate
secularists and others.
And they also are not represented politically. And so you have a huge
divide. Nobody`s really sure who speaks for who in the political
HAYES: NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you so
much for that.
MOHYELDIN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Coming up, one of the biggest sources of water in the
continental U.S. and the company that wants to run a pipeline over it -- a
surprise plot twist from Nebraska coming up.
HAYES: One of the greatest things about Twitter is that it allows you
to virtually jack into the unedited thought stream of strangers.
And that`s all the more fascinating and important when those strangers
are some of the most powerful people in the world, like Rupert Murdoch, for
instance, who is, I think unquestionably, one of the world`s most powerful
private citizens. His media empire spans several continents.
And he uses Twitter like an angry dude who spends all day on
conservative message boards. He doesn`t like something, he`s hitting
tweet. Recently, he had a real zinger which said -- quote -- "Wild winter
in U.S., U.K., et cetera. No respectable evidence any of this manmade
climate change, in spite of blindly ignorant politicians."
And you have got to give it to the guy. It has, in fact, been cold
here. But, funny enough, Murdoch is from neither from the U.S. nor the
U.K. He`s from Australia. And Australia is not cold. Australia is
actually very hot, so hot, it is on fire, literally.
That`s Australia, which just had its hottest year on record, and the
heat waves fanning those flames are becoming more frequent and hotter,
creating some of the most absolutely dystopic, hellish landscapes you can
Rupert, the place of your birth is in flames, buddy. And it`s not
just Australia. We have got data from January from around the world, and,
overall, guess what? It was a very hot month.
Those blue squares over the Northeastern U.S., parts of Russia, means
it was much cooler than average last month, but no record lows, none. Now,
all that red is where it was hotter than average. And all those really
dark red squares, those are all record highs just from last month.
So, yes, Mr. Murdoch, it`s cold in some places and very, very warm in
others, like the land of your birth. And if you don`t believe me, just
look at this heartbreaking headline. Kangaroos are fainting from the heat.
What left-wing propaganda outlet could have published this dispatch, you
ask? Sky News, owned by none other than proud Twitter crank Rupert
HAYES: All right. Ready for tonight`s fun fact?
Almost a third of all the water used to irrigate crops in this
beautiful, bounteous country of ours comes from one source. It`s called
the Ogallala Aquifer. But you can`t see it because it`s underground, but
it is massive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High
Plains Aquifer, is a groundwater storage reservoir that stretches 174,000
square miles underneath parts of eight states from South Dakota to Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And on top of the Ogallala Aquifer is a whole lot of farmland,
beautiful, rich farmland that benefits greatly from the fact that there`s
an easy source of water beneath it.
And there`s a proposal to run a pipeline. You might have heard of it.
It`s called the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport some of the
dirtiest oil in North America, extract it from tar sands up in Alberta,
Canada, down through the Ogallala Aquifer, and to the Gulf of Mexico.
What we`re talking about really is creating a kind of farmland/oil
aquifer sandwich. And you don`t have to be some kind of namby-pamby hippy
environmentalist to maybe think this is not such a great idea.
You might even be, say, a Nebraska rancher who is not so happy about
the prospect of a big Canadian oil company trying to build a pipeline that
threatens the aquifer and could mean you lose control of your land due to
And this has been the basis of a huge political fight in Nebraska for
the past few years, and something pretty incredible happened a couple years
back. Nebraska`s Republican governor, Dave Heineman, signed a law that
basically said to TransCanada, that Canadian oil company that wants to
build the pipeline, you know what, I`m going to hand the power of eminent
domain over to you. You guys, you run your pipeline where you think it
needs to go, use the power of the state to forcibly take control of
people`s land if you need to, and I just have to approve your route.
No, seriously, that happened. This right here, this is the language
of the law signed by Governor Heineman that allows -- quote -- "any
company, corporation or association" that`s in the business of -- quote --
"transporting or conveying crude oil, petroleum, gases and other products
to have the right to acquire whatever land it needs to build its pipeline
using the power of eminent domain."
Well, yesterday we got some good news. A judge in Nebraska said, no,
not so fast, struck down that law, the one I just quoted from, the one that
gave the governor power to approve the pipeline route. That power now
belongs to Nebraska`s Public Service Commission, which now must approve a
new route, a result that may well give President Obama no choice but to
delay the politically explosive decision over whether to give the pipeline
Joining me now is Elana Schor. She`s staff reporter Greenwire. And
Nikki Silvestri, who is executive director of Green for All.
Elana, you have been going great reporting out of Nebraska on
precisely this fight. Were you surprised by this federal judge`s ruling
ELANA SCHOR, GREENWIRE: Honestly, Chris, I wasn`t.
The landowners had a pretty strong case here. You know, Heineman
effectively came back and changed the rules for TransCanada. He had good
reason to. What happened was Obama, the president, vetoed the original
Keystone XL. TransCanada had to come back hat in hand to Nebraska and
Nebraska`s legislators, who don`t actually affiliate with parties, but
largely sided with the oil company, said, hey, let`s do it. Let`s give you
the rubber-stamp power.
But the law was hastily written, so this is not terribly surprising.
HAYES: So you have now got a situation in which this thing has to be
approved by this Public Service Commission. They can`t basically just do
whatever they want with the route. They can`t run it wherever they feel
they need to run it.
What kind of delay does this mean for actually building this thing?
SCHOR: Well, here`s where the plot thickens, Chris, because the
attorney general announced within hours of this ruling that he was
appealing the decision. Obviously, it went against Heineman. He has to.
He`s a Republican, just like the governor.
And until that appeal is decided, the Public Service Commission can`t
even act. It`s going to sit on its hands as well.
HAYES: Ah. The clock doesn`t start even running until that plays
out, which could mean -- and we know about legal processes -- a while.
Nikki, the reason I wanted to bring you into this conversation is, one
of the incredible things about the kind of David-and-Goliath battle being
waged over the Keystone pipeline is that it stitched together this amazing
coalition of folks, where you have got people of indigenous background in
Canada, Nebraska ranchers, urban folks down in Texas.
You have got this amazing coalition that`s coming together to fight
against this pipeline. How did that happen?
NIKKI SILVESTRI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GREEN FOR ALL: You know, it
happened because this is a much bigger story of a human rights issue.
These tar sands are going to destroy tribal lands. They`re already
hurting children and families in Canada, and people know that if they don`t
act, if they don`t say all together this is going to hurt all of us, that
nothing`s going to happen.
HAYES: Are you surprised by the way in which this issue has gone from
something when, I think, I remember first starting to cover it and
thinking, A., the fix is in, this thing will get approved and built because
the oil companies always win, and, B., this is never going to be a big
Like, yes, I will write about it for my lefty magazine, but no one`s
ever going to be talking about it on prime-time cable news, for instance.
Are you surprised by how inflated the issue has become, where it`s now a
central part of American political debate?
SILVESTRI: You know, frankly, I`m not surprised.
And one of the reasons I`m not surprised is because people are
actually smart. They`re starting to see that the superstorms that are
happening on the East Coast, the drought that`s happening on the West
Coast, all of those things are actually related.
And if we don`t talk about climate change, and if we don`t talk about
making sure that we reduce carbon emissions, that nothing is going to
change. And one of the striking things is that, as you said, it`s a
coalition of incredibly diverse people.
XL Dissent is a student coalition that`s going to be marching on the
White House next month. And it`s said to be one of the largest student
nonviolence actions that has happened in the recent environmental history.
HAYES: Elana, you have covered the Nebraska local part of this. You
have also covered the Washington angle of this.
And in terms of what Nikki was saying, it always struck me when I was
talking to a Nebraska activist trying to kill this that they were very
focused. They were -- a lot of them were motivated out of concern about
global warming and the emissions from the tar sands. But in fighting this,
they were laser-like focused on these bread-and-butter issues of eminent
domain, do these ranchers control their land, and they have been very
effective waging that local battle on local concerns and local turf.
SCHOR: Absolutely, Chris.
I have spoken to ranchers who say, I`m a card-carrying member of the
National Rifle Association. I don`t even really want to talk to you about
climate change, whether or not it`s happening, but I do know this pipeline
is going to ruin my water supply if it leaks. I`m against it, my neighbors
are against it.
And that`s a winning coalition in that state.
HAYES: And it`s a winning coalition that at first had the governor,
the Republican governor -- when this first appeared as a political issue,
when this first fell into this lap, it had him opposing the pipeline.
He and the Republican Senator Mike Johanns were hand in hand opposing
the original route, before TransCanada changed it.
HAYES: Nikki, what is the next step here in terms of keeping this
kind of sustained pressure on? The process is obviously working its way
through. We got the State Department. What is the next step for the
movement of folks that are try to fight this thing?
SILVESTRI: The next step is to keep going more of the same and to do
Last year, there was a group of 48 activists that got arrested at the
White House protesting this. And the important thing about that is that it
wasn`t just environmentalists. It was civil rights activists. It was an
actress. Daryl Hannah was there. It was leaders in the business
And, as I said, next month, there will be the largest student protest
that`s happened in recent environmental history. The Sioux Nation even
issued a statement saying that they`re willing to put their bodies on the
line if this pipeline is not stopped. So, we need groups that are willing
to go there when it comes to saying we`re telling you that we can`t do
HAYES: Elana Schor from Greenwire, Nikki Silvestri from Green for
All, thank you both.
More on the Keystone pipeline ahead, including why it`s become
Republicans` new favorite way to troll President Obama. Stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The Keystone pipeline would instantly
create thousands of jobs without costing the taxpayers a dime.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The job-creating
Keystone energy project.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A shovel-ready American energy project.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Look, the president`s
been talking about creating jobs. This is ready to go immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the most important projects on his desk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most studied pipeline in out nation`s
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Keystone pipeline. New
study comes in. Environmental impact, negligible, 42,000 jobs. You`re
going to OK it, I assume.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keystone XL is a terrific point.
MCCONNELL: Most Americans strongly support building the pipeline.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: If you are a Birkenstock-wearing, tree-
hugging Green Peace activist, you should love the Keystone pipeline.
BOEHNER: Listen, we can build it. There`s no -- there`s nothing
complex about the Keystone pipeline. It`s time to build it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That pipeline they`re talking about might once have been a
little regional fight being covered by the local papers in Nebraska. But
over time, it has become -- and I`m not really exaggerating -- the sum
total of the Republican agenda.
Republicans are not going to do anything anymore for the rest of this
election year besides troll the president on Keystone XL pipeline.
Joining me now is Dave Weigel, political reporter for Slate.
Dave, how did this happen? How did this become the kind of guiding
light for the Republican policy for 2014?
DAVID WEIGEL, SLATE: Well, it become really totemic, I think, because
of the 2011-2012 primaries.
A lot of decisions about when this would be built, whether it would be
built were happening in that time frame. You saw Newt Gingrich. You saw
Mitt Romney, most memorably, saying he would build the pipeline himself if
was elected president and Obama hadn`t done it by them.
And I use the word totemic because it means to them more than the
25,000 jobs. It`s a way to present the president as the Luddite, the
president as person who doesn`t believe in the energy revolution.
And I`m in Tampa right now. I was just at a speech by Ted Cruz in
Sarasota, Florida. I was at a speech with him yesterday in Beaumont,
Texas, where he stood in front of an oil gusher. And this is the point he
keeps making. America is having the energy revolution, and the president,
who doesn`t believe in this stuff, is leaving us out of it.
HAYES: There`s this bit of reporting by Robert Costa in "The
Washington Post" about what the GOP congressional agenda looks like for the
rest of the year.
And it says: "Focus on calming their divided ranks. House GOP`s
annual retreat, they devoted their speeches to the necessity of a unified
front, pressuring the president to support the XL pipeline, among other
issues that could be helpful on the campaign trail."
They also really -- they view this as a political winner. They think
they can go out and run ads on this and make hay out of it.
WEIGEL: Yes. And some of the Senate seats they think they`re going
to win in states that voted for Romney by as many as 20 points over the
president, that this will be a winner for them.
They had amazing success in 2012 running on coal in Kentucky, in West
Virginia. There are probably other reasons that they did so well in those
states. But, generally, they found that there`s a portion of their base
that doesn`t believe in global warming, believes in it less the more the
Democrats talk about it.
I have been in Texas and Florida. John Kerry`s speech on climate
change, the fact that John Kerry gave it, the fact that Al Gore exists,
that`s enough for them to discredit the arguments for building this stuff.
HAYES: That is a great point, because all the reasoning that is
happening here is ricochet reasoning.
And, look, I`m not going to lie. We liberals do this, too. Right? I
want to convince you folks watching at home you should not support the
Keystone pipeline, I play you a bunch of Republicans saying they do.
But the point is that the reasoning on climate that is happening on
the right is this ricochet reasoning, which is that liberals say it`s
WEIGEL: Yes, completely.
There are more reasons than that. They do believe that this would
create jobs. They believe -- the official -- the estimate the company
gives, rather than the independent estimate, they believe that it`s going
to drive the price of energy down.
I think what`s hurt some of the momentum is that gas prices have not
increased very much in the last two years really, since the Republican
campaign. What they`re trying to argue is that they would go even further
down. And the reason they have gone down -- they have stayed...
WEIGEL: ... stable is because of an energy revolution that Obama is
stopping. That`s the way they frame it, yes.
HAYES: That`s the problem. They have to make the counterfactual
argument now, as opposed to the sort of high watermark days, particularly
back of 2008, when -- before the crash, when we had high gas prices. It
was drill, baby, drill. Now things are not so high. It`s a harder case to
Dave Weigel from Slate, thank you very much. Enjoy Florida.
That`s ALL IN for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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