All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
June 19, 2014
Guest: Christopher Hill, Brandon Webb, Spencer Ackerman, Ali Noorani, Ruth
Conniff, Scott Raab
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
In the face of growing chaos in Iraq, President Barack Obama today
announced renewed American military involvement in that country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have had advisers in
Iraq through our embassy and we`re prepared to send a small number of
additional American military advisers, up to 300, to assess how we can best
train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.
American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq. Going
forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action
if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If
we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: As many as 300 additional military advisers announced today.
That coming after the president had already announced the deployment of 275
military personnel to provide security to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and
other facilities. There`s still an option for targeted military action as
you just heard which could mean airstrikes.
President Obama also stressed the importance of a political solution
with secretary of state John Kerry slated to go to the Middle East and
Europe this weekend.
The situation on the ground in Iraq does not appear to be improving.
With competing claims about whether Iraq`s largest oil refinery in Baiji is
under the control of ISIS or the Iraqi government. "The Associated Press"
reports videos airing on Arab television show the black flag of ISIS flying
from a building within the refinery complex.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects are carping. Senators John McCain,
Lindsey Graham today said that while the president`s decision to send
military advisers is a positive step, he should not condition greater
military action upon political change in Iraq. As for Republicans who
weren`t in national office for the first Iraq war, there was eager
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Do we deal with them now when they
still have not created that caliphate, or deal with them five or 10 years
down the road when they`ve established the safe haven and significant
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: In the last five years, America has receded
from leadership in the world and into that vacuum have stepped nations like
Iran, like Russia, like China. As we`ve abandoned our allies. The
consequence has been to make the world a much, much more dangerous place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Regardless of how congressional leaders may or may not try to
frame the current crisis, the American public is pretty clear on what they
want. They do not support the U.S. going back into Iraq, with 74 percent
opposed to sending combat troops to Iraq.
Joining me now is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent.
He joins us from Baghdad tonight.
And, Richard, what are the latest reports you`re hearing on the ground
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: People here in
Baghdad welcome this action. They are nervous in this city. There is a
curfew in place here. When you walk around, you see police and militia all
over the streets, checkpoints almost everywhere.
There is real fear here that ISIS militants could, perhaps not invade,
although that`s still a possibility, a less likely one, but more likely
that they could bring chaos to the city by putting car bombs on the streets
or suicide bombers. People here want the U.S. to bomb now. If you ask
anyone here, they think the barbarians are at the gates and want those
barbarians smashed by U.S. airpower because they watched their own army
dissolve. They watched their own army run away from the fight.
In Mosul, they ran away from the fight with two army divisions
collapsing. They recognize here in Baghdad and nationwide, that the army
didn`t live up to the challenge and would like to see the U.S. come in and
back up the army.
And make no mistake, although this is not a combat mission and there`s
not going to be American troops here kicking down doors and doing searching
homes like they did in 2005 and 2006, and all the other years that U.S.
troops were on the ground, it is still a military intervention because the
U.S. troops are going to be here working with the Iraqi forces, making them
more effective, making them more lethal, picking targets, guiding Iraqi
troops to insurgent locations, showing the Iraqis how to do tactics, how to
take back the half dozen cities or so that have been overrun by militants
So, it is a military mission, but one by remote control.
HAYES: There`s a growing sense Stateside that part of the blame for
this is Nouri al Maliki, himself, in the way that he has governed and the
way that the government has treated the Sunni minority in that country.
What is your sense about the political temperature in Baghdad around Nouri
al Maliki? Do people blame him for what`s happening or are they rallying
around him in the face of this possible ISIS incursion?
ENGEL: I would say they blame him. A lot of Iraqis are extremely
angry with Nouri al Maliki because the situation is so bad. The situation
economically is in trouble. The security situation is zero. The country`s
in collapse. The Kurdish north is gobbling up territory and expanding its
zone of influence.
The Sunnis are allowing these militants from this al Qaeda monstrosity
to fester in their midst. And the south is just trying to figure out how
it can hold on to power. Things here are in a state of collapse, and when
things are collapsing, you blame the authorities. And they are blaming
The question is, and this is what we are hearing from sources close to
the political negotiations, Maliki doesn`t really want to go anywhere.
Maliki wants to ride this out, and if you look what might happen over the
next few days, he might win. Maliki is incredibly unpopular now because
the situation is terrible. You can imagine if this was the United States,
what the president`s approval ratings would be. They would be minus 1,000
if the United States was ever in a situation like this.
OK. So here we are in Baghdad, but let`s say the U.S. starts
intervening and 300 advisers start to have some success. They guide the
Iraqi troops to retake maybe Mosul or retake Tikrit or at least push the
militants back. Then, suddenly, Maliki starts looking like a hero. Like
the country, the guy who pulled the country back from the abyss.
And I think that`s what Maliki is trying to -- what he`s counting on
in that over the next few weeks, he can show gains to the people whether
he`s responsible for them or not and get, become more popular again. And
by the way, that`s how Maliki got to this government in the first place.
He rode the wave of the U.S. troop surge which he took credit for
under David Petraeus and that`s how he became Maliki who he is now. So,
maybe he wants to play the same game again.
HAYES: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, always a
pleasure, thank you.
President Obama was asked several times today about the fate of
current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. And they`re pointing to
Maliki`s pursuit of a Shia-dominated government that marginalized and
persecuted Sunnis as a major reason Iraq is falling apart right now.
While, President Obama wouldn`t commit to any action to remove Maliki,
he also didn`t give him a strong show of support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s not our job to choose Iraq`s leaders, but I don`t think
there`s any secret that right now, at least, there is deep divisions
between Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish leaders. I think the test is before him
and other Iraqi leaders as we speak. Right now, they can make a series of
decisions. Regardless of what`s happened in the past, right now is a
moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It is worth noting amid calls for the U.S. to push Maliki out
that Maliki was our guy. Dexter Filkins of "The New Yorker" describes a
2006 video conference between President George W. Bush and advisers like
this, American ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, turned to the CIA
analyst assigned to his office, "Can it be in this country of 30 million
people the choice of prime minister is Ibraham al-Jaafari, who is
incompetent or Ali Adeeb, who is Iranian? Isn`t ther anyone else?" "I
have a name for you," the CIA officer said, "Maliki."
So, while here in the U.S. extremists call for a form of reinvasion,
the sensible centrist position is to use American leverage to get Maliki to
step down and get someone else in there. What reasons to we have to
believe someone else would work out better?
Joining me now is former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill.
He`s now dean of the School of International Studies at the University of
Ambassador, when the president said it`s not our job to pick Iraq`s
leaders, I think that`s true as a matter of principle, but that hasn`t been
the record of America and Iraq, has it?
AMB. CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well,
actually, you know, I was there in the 2010 election, and none of us was
particularly enthusiastic about Maliki. But you can`t beat someone with
nobody. And the problem was, there was nobody who came forward and
eventually after nine months Maliki because he`s patient, as Richard Engel
suggested, he just waited it out and finally he got the support he needed.
I mean, I wouldn`t underestimate this guy. He`s a really tough guy.
I think the problem has been that when you, you know, try to get some kind
of, you know, tough guy in there, don`t be surprised if he doesn`t listen
to you all the time. And that`s been a big problem with Maliki.
HAYES: What do you think about this idea that conditioning U.S.
airstrikes on Maliki making some political changes, whether that means
changing the composition of the government, or actually stepping aside?
What do you think about that as a kind of diplomatic strategy at this
HILL: Well, it always runs the risk where you say to some unpopular
dictator, hey, work with us, we`ll try to take care of this and, oh by the
way, we`d like you gone. So, that I think requires a little nuance and I
think the president was really trying to do that.
But there is an opportunity here. It`s true that Maliki`s coalition
just won this, or just came out ahead in this election, but he does need to
put together a broader coalition to get the 50 percent plus 1 percent of
the parliament that he needs. And so, I think there are already meetings
among Shia saying do we have to have Nouri al Maliki again? Is there
So, I think they`re working that issue. But I want to stress, too,
that there`s been especially in the U.S. press, a lot of focus on Maliki`s
failure to reach out to the Sunnis. Well, first of all, it takes two to
reconcile, and Sunnis in Iraq, Sunnis all over the Middle East have been
kind of slow to accept the notion that there should be a Shia-run country
in the Middle East because as it is, Iraq is the only one. So, this has
been a tough problem and it`s kind of region-wide, where the Sunnis have
just not accepted Shia government in the entire Middle East.
HAYES: Well, I mean, there`s Iran, right? It`s the only Arab country
with a Shia government.
HILL: Yes. Yes. I`ll qualify that by saying Arab, but Iran is sort
of over there on the east.
But, so this is -- this is an issue, and Maliki knows that -- you
know, there are no secrets here. So, this is going to be the problem we
have. How to kind of get the Sunnis engaged, how do we get the, you know,
Saudis engaged. After all, this problem, and -- by the way, this is group,
they`re not interested in hearing Maliki say, hey, I`ll give you another
deputy sports ministry position.
HAYES: Right, of course.
HILL: I mean, they want his head on a platter. So, I mean --
HAYES: Well, we should also say this. I mean, there were nonviolent
demonstrations by Sunnis that were dealt with in a fairly brutal method. I
HILL: Oh, yes.
HAYES: We should just be clear that the kind of complaints against
the Maliki government by Sunnis isn`t necessarily completely driven by some
kind of confessional animus, right? I mean --
HILL: Absolutely right. Absolutely right. But if you go back to
Saddam Hussein who most Shias see as the last Sunni ruler, if you`re a Shia
from the marsh regions down in the south, you have no interest in seeing
Sunnis back in power. So, this is a tough situation.
HAYES: So then what about this?
HILL: I think the president has done well.
HAYES: There was the proposal, you know, the middle of the last
decade, it was spearheaded by a man named Peter Galbraith I believe and
Vice President Biden talked about it which is the partition idea,
essentially a Sunni state, Shia state and Kurdish state. A lot of people
have been refloating that idea in the wake of what`s happening now. What
do you think of that idea?
HILL: Well, you know, show me a partition, I`ll show you another war.
HAYES: Yes, well said.
HILL: I think it gets pretty dicey in the central part there. I
mean, look at the sectarian map of the central part of Iraq. So, it`s
easier said than done. I mean, I get the point, the notion`s Iraq`s
borders were not really indigenous. They were somehow imposed by
Europeans, by the Brits and the French.
I mean, I get all that. It`s not so easy to create international
borders. I used to do the Balkans. It was a tough situation there.
HAYES: Well, as it happens right now, ISIS is effectuating their own
kind of partition.
HILL: You got it, you got it. Yes.
HAYES: Former Ambassador Christopher Hill, thank you.
Coming up, more on the president`s announcement that he`s sending
Special Forces troops to Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Once on the fringes of the U.S. military, they are now
becoming central to the war on terror. Behind them, a long struggle for
resources and respect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve always been the redheaded stepchildren.
This seems to have changed since 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Who are the Special Forces? What do they do? Can they be
effective in Iraq? We`ll talk about that, next.
HAYES: Coming up, the most hotly contested primary race in the nation
has already featured an alleged nursing home break-in, a bizarre incident
involved three supporters of the Tea Party candidate locked in the country
county courthouse along with the ballots on election night. Next week is a
runoff, and an update is next.
HAYES: The big headline out of the White House today on Iraq is that
the president is sending 300 of what he`s calling, quote, "military
advisers," to assist the Iraqi military in pushing back against the Sunni
extremist group ISIS or the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.
Now, according to "The Associated Press," those, quote, "military
advisers are reported to be Army Green Beret Special Operations forces.
Since September 11th, 2001, Special Forces have played an increasingly
vital and central role in the U.S. military.
From being on the ground in Afghanistan before the actual invasion, to
the now legendary bin Laden operation in the spring of 2011 conducted by
SEAL Team 6, to just this week`s successful extraction of Ahmed Abu
Khattala from Libya, the man allegedly helped lead that deadly attack on
the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a couple of years ago.
In most accounts, military units like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force have
been overwhelmingly successful in their missions. Because of this, there`s
a temptation to view American Special Forces as a solution to just about
all military problems without really calling on military action.
Joining me now, Spencer Ackerman, U.S. national security editor for
"The Guardian". And someone who used to be in the Special Forces, former
Navy SEAL Brandon Webb. He`s now editor of sofrep.com, daily Special
Operations Forces situation report, features news and analysis from
military and special ops vets.
Brandon, let me start with you. If you`re dropped into Iraq under
these conditions -- I mean, what possible influence can you imagine having
given the scale of the chaos there?
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL/SOFREP.COM: Well, we have to
remember, you know, this is a mission that the Green Berets are very
familiar with. A lot of these guys have existing relationships that
they`ve developed with the Iraqis, you know, during the second invasion.
Not that that makes a situation any better, but they do have -- they do
But, you know, it just -- really what concerns me is the special
operations community as a whole is really fraying at the edges. We`ve been
at war for over a decade, and we`re now starting we`ve been at war for over
a decade, and we`re now starting to see major issues at home. These guys
are doing sometimes 10, 12 back-to-back-to-back deployments.
WEBB: And it`s taking its toll.
HAYES: Well, it does seem in this era, Spencer, that in the Obama
era, if there`s one central -- if the defining strategy of the Obama era is
heavy use of special forces, the rise of JSOC, targeted killing, all this
has really depended on special forces. What is the White House thinking
they`re going to do with these military advisers? What`s the plan?
SPENCER ACKERMAN, THE GUARDIAN: The plan is twofold, and to the
extent we can call it a plan is somewhat of a term we`re going to use
HAYES: Yes, right.
ACKERMAN: The first thing they`re going to do, we understand from
where they`re going. They`re going to go to Baghdad. They`re going to
embed with essentially high-level Iraqi military command units and they`re
going to essentially forment the defense of Baghdad. That`s really looking
to be primarily what they`re going to do and as well sort of look so see
what the else the Iraqi military needs.
Open question. If the U.S. military could not over 12 years
adequately prepare the Iraqi military for a threat like this, what are we
really going to do this time around?
The second thing they`re going to do is collect situational
intelligence, possibly northern Iraq as well to spot for air strikes.
HAYES: Brandon, this point you just said about fraying at the edges -
- I mean, do you think it`s the case that the nature of the performance of
special forces operators during this period of war, and the desire to not
engage in large ground wars, means that it`s overly tempting, essentially,
to civilian leadership to use special operations in these kinds of
WEBB: Yes, I think the temptation is there. We do have one of the
most highly trained Special Operations Forces that this world has ever
seen, and just by nature of the way warfare is conducted these days, it
can`t be involved with conventional forces. The problem that exists, and
what Spencer said is that, you know, if we can`t, you know, effect this
long-term strategy in the past 12 years, what good are we going to do by
sending more guys over there? That`s a key component, so I really think is
missing. What`s the preventative long-term strategic objectives?
And then use the Special Forces, you know, to do their jobs and play
their part, but we don`t have a long-term strategic objective. We`re
running around all over the world, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Syria, and
we`re meddling and we`re really not thinking long term in how to prevent
these situations in the future.
ACKERMAN: Brandon is absolutely right. To the degree there is a
long-term objective, it`s, ah, make it stop, make it go away.
HAYES: Right, right. Let me say this. The tactical objective is:
don`t let Baghdad fall.
HAYES: I mean, that, at least, seems pretty clear.
ACKERMAN: Well, here`s the thing. It`s not just don`t let Baghdad
fall because Baghdad is probably not going to fall to any sort of
conventional assault the way that the cities like Mosul and Kirkuk. Yes,
exactly. That won`t happen or very unlikely to happen because you`re
already starting to see unconventional attacks, terrorist attacks in
ISIS` chances are they already know that Baghdad is going to be met
with a lot of Shiite resistance, as well as the cities in the south. The
question is going to be, how do you forment a defensive Baghdad that
accounts for that, that also can deal with sort of counter-provocation
measures that ISIS is going to try to spur?
So, the question is really going to be, do you try and roll back the
gains that they`ve already made on the ground, push them out of Sunni
cities, or alternatively, give the Sunnis a reason to push ISIS out.
That`s a huge, huge question and it`s one that`s not answered by the White
HAYES: Brandon, having been an operator, yourself, in some of these
theaters and having seen the way we`ve come to rely so heavily on Special
Operations Forces, what is your best guess about six months from now are we
going to see more or less operators being put into Iraq?
WEBB: You know, that`s a great question. You know, and it`s a tough
one to really answer. I don`t see this administration investing a whole
lot into Iraq. The situation over there is a mess. And we left it that
way. And I just don`t see a long-term investment in Special Operations
Forces in Iraq.
HAYES: Spencer Ackerman from "The Guardian" and former Navy SEAL,
Brandon Webb. Thank you gentlemen, both.
Coming up ahead on the show --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s alive. It`s alive. It`s alive. In the name
of God. I know it feels like to be God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In the name of God. The modern Dr. Frankenstein wrestles with
the monster he, himself, has created and I will explain in just a bit.
HAYES: We are less than a week away from the most hotly contested
primary election this year. It`s happening in Mississippi where Tea Party
backed insurgent State Senator Chris McDaniel is challenging six-term
incumbent Thad Cochran for his seat in the U.S. Senate.
The race has already featured a truly bizarre nursing home break-in,
an unfolding conspiracy investigation into said nursing home break-in, and
a margin so tight on primary night earlier this month that the two men are
forced to square off again in a runoff election this coming Tuesday.
And so, faced with a fight for his political life in a state with an
open primary where anyone can vote, Thad Cochran is reaching across party
lines encouraging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary runoff on
Tuesday to save him from defeat at the hands of the Tea Party, saying he
hopes, quote, "The more the merrier will prevail in this election", even
reminding folks he used to be a Democrat himself, which would have been
some time before his first election to the U.S. House as a Republican all
the way back in 197 2.
But trying to reach Democratic voters is not necessarily a bad
strategy. As we`ve been reporting, there are lots of Democratic votes to
be had in the South. In fact, there are so many that one of the reddest
states in the South could turn blue. Just a little bit of math.
We`ll bring you that story as part of our special series "All in
America: Behind The Color L" all next week.
HAYES: Rupert Murdoch is our modern-day Dr. Frankenstein.
And he took to the pages of "The Wall Street Journal" today to wrestle
with the monster he, himself, has created. In an op-ed in today`s paper,
he makes the case for comprehensive immigration reform, an initiative that
remains stalled in the House of Representatives.
As you may know, Murdoch is the executive chairman of News Corp.,
which owns a little organization called FOX News. And the personalities on
FOX have been rather outspoken about their views on immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": The problem here is that
nobody believes President Obama will secure the border. They believe he
will give the pathway to citizenship, but nobody believes he`s going to
stop more people from coming in.
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": If this
amnesty bill goes through, and it is amnesty, step one is legalization.
Everything after that, all the triggers to citizenship are phony triggers.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": If we don`t secure our border, we have
a major national security problem.
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: A lot of people coming to the
country are working for drug cartels. A lot of the people have wreaked
havoc upon communities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t care what you call it, regularization,
comprehensive immigration reform. It walks, it talks and it squawks like
another massive illegal alien amnesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This is one of those issues that splits the Republican
coalition. The Chamber of Commerce and elites in the party want it to
happen, while the base absolutely hates it.
Polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and the
Brookings Institution found that people who trust FOX News are much more
likely to oppose a path to citizenship. And if the comprehensive reform
bill fails to move forward, it will be in large part thanks to FOX and the
talk radio hosts to whom it gives a platform.
The final nail in the coffin may have been Eric Cantor`s defeat by
David Brat, who ran at least in part on his opposition to immigration
reform and was endorsed by FOX contributor Laura Ingraham, one of the
ardent foes of reform on the whole network.
If the FOX empire succeeds at killing the bill, it would be a repeat
of the last time comprehensive immigration reform stood a chance of
becoming law, back in 2007. That bill went down after lawmakers came under
major pressure from conservative hosts, especially Lou Dobbs, who waged an
almost nightly campaign against it on his CNN show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, NEWS ANCHOR: Good lord, what a mess. And these arrogant,
little elitists, a dozen of them coming together and jamming this down the
throats of their colleagues in the Senate.
Border security not first in this bill. We can`t even find out what
border security has to do with this legislation. It is all about amnesty.
If you follow the law, you`re punished under this legislation. If you
don`t, you`re rewarded, hence the expression amnesty.
No matter what your views are on open borders, illegal alien amnesty,
I assure you, no matter what your views on this, you`re going to find
elements of this legislation to be absolutely outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Dobbs` opinions on immigration so deeply offended the
sensibilities of CNN, he was forced out of the network in 2009. Where
would he get a job next? Well, he was then scooped up by none other than
Today, Rupert Murdoch seems pretty unhappy with the current state of
affairs, with the GOP-controlled House showing no desire to either take up
the Senate`s immigration bill or write one of its own.
And in a somewhat bizarre spectacle, Murdoch has now been forced to
get on his knees and beg for immigration reform in the pages of "The Wall
Street Journal," a paper that, incidentally, is also owned by News Corp.
Quote: "If we are serious about advancing our economic future and
about creating job growth here in America, then we must realize that it is
suicidal to suggest closing our doors to the world`s entrepreneurs, or
worse, to continue with large-scale deportations."
But try as Murdoch might, the right-wing media monster he helped
create is making immigration reform possible.
Joining me now Ali Noorani. He runs a coalition of conservatives for
immigration reform as the executive director of the National Immigration
Ali, what`s your reaction to Rupert Murdoch taking to the pages of
"The Wall Street Journal" to call for this, while the voices in so much of
the right-wing media are just still just absolutely slamming it?
ALI NOORANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM: Well,
it`s amazing what`s happening.
There`s clearly a divide that`s taking place within the Republican
Party. But when you look more closely not only at the data, but you
actually talk to conservatives on the ground, you realize that there`s deep
and broad support from the conservative community for immigration reform.
So, for example, just last week, 10 Republican pollsters, I mean,
we`re talking about people -- the pollster for Ted Cruz -- they released a
survey that found 80 percent of Republicans and in fact 75 percent of
Republicans who identify as members of the Tea Party in support of
commonsense immigration reform.
Then you look at not only did you have Rupert Murdoch today in "The
Wall Street Journal," but you had Sheldon Adelson today in Politico calling
So, yes, the talking heads, they`re going to talk...
HAYES: But wait a second, Ali. Ali, wait a second.
But your job -- your job is to run this conservative coalition to work
on getting comprehensive immigration reform passed. You`re telling me that
there`s broad support among conservatives for immigration reform. What
you`re telling me is that you`re doing a bad job at your job right now,
because if it`s your task to organize grassroots conservatives, they`re
out-organizing you right now, because they`re kicking your butt.
NOORANI: No. I totally disagree with you, Chris.
So, two examples. One is Renee Ellmers, rank and file Republican
congresswoman from North Carolina. She was attacked just the same way that
Eric Cantor was on immigration reform. Instead of like bobbing and
weaving, what Cantor did, she leaned right into it. She went onto Laura
Ingraham`s show and said, Laura, you`re wrong. I believe we need a
functioning immigration system because it`s good for my district.
Renee Ellmers won hands down. Lindsey Graham, the guy has been voting
for immigration reform for, what, the last seven years. Right? He`s out
there. And he wins 60 percent. So when Republicans lean into it, their
grassroots supporters say, you know what, we`re going to support a leader,
we`re going to support a leader who`s going to fix tough problems.
HAYES: OK. So, then why is this thing dying? Everyone has said, oh,
it`s dying, it`s dead. It got passed out of the Senate. House is not
going to do anything with it. Everyone is saying the death knell was the
If everything you`re telling me is true, then why is it the case that
we`re going to most likely get through this term, get to the elections
without this bill getting passed?
NOORANI: Well, I think Rupert put it really well at his op-ed today,
when he said in essence America wants leadership and they don`t want their
elected officials just as sit-ins to keep their seats warm.
The opportunity is now for John Boehner and his new leadership team to
take courageous action. It`s clear the political support is there. The
question will be, is the political will there on the part of House
leadership to move forward? There is no other issue now that has this kind
HAYES: But that`s not an open question. It`s clearly not there. It
is clearly not there.
HAYES: I mean, even if they`re telling their donors that or they`re
telling you behind closed doors that, the way they are acting, if you just
evaluate their actions, shows that the political will is not there for that
NOORANI: So then there will be consequences for the Republican Party.
Rupert also put this in his op-ed. If the Republicans don`t act, the
administration will act. What will happen then? Then Latino voters, who
would love to be able to vote for Republicans, they will say, you know
what, you don`t represent my interests. I`m going to go with the
You will see the same thing happening with business and the faith
community, who ostensibly are Republican voters. They will look at
Republican members of Congress and say, you know what, you`re not solving
HAYES: Can I ask you a question? You spend time doing this very
difficult work, which I think is actually quite laudable work, because it`s
just -- it`s quite important. You spend time talking to conservatives
trying to make this pitch, right, for why conservatives should support
comprehensive immigration reform.
Do you ever convince anyone? Is this an issue in which there`s a
middle space where people get convinced?
NOORANI: I think so.
I mean, again, somebody like Renee Ellmers -- last summer, we thought
Renee Ellmers was going to be against us on immigration reform.
Conservative pastors, police chiefs and business owners in her district
went to her and said, you know what? We are your voters, we want you to be
She came back in the fall of last year and sent a letter to John
Boehner, said, I want immigration reform to pass. She leaned into it, she
stood by her position over the course of the election.
And across -- I mean, across the entire Republican Conference, we
believe there are growing numbers of Republicans who want to get this done.
This is just really up to John Boehner to put it up for a vote. It`s
really that simple.
HAYES: Finally, here, the president talked to the president of Mexico
today about the sort of growing crisis of unaccompanied minors coming
across the border. It`s overwhelmed U.S. facilities. They have been
trying to figure out what to do with this.
Does the coverage of that crisis hurt your cause? It seems to me the
coverage has been used, particularly in the conservative media, to show
that our borders are out of control and the president is letting in all the
NOORANI: It is a problem, because people don`t understand what`s
happening. The fact is that these kids, these women and children are
fleeing very, very violent places in Central America.
This is not a migration story. This is a fleeing-from-violence story.
NOORANI: So what is -- and the problem here is that, as long as
Congress doesn`t fix the immigration system, we`re going to have kids
crossing a river, instead of going through a process.
And, finally, the fact is that the border is more secure than ever.
These are kids who are not sneaking across the border. They`re walking
across the border and saying, please, save me from violence.
NOORANI: When you look at the deportation numbers, the majority of
deportations are actually along the borders. This is not a migration
story. This is a story about kids in really tragic situations. And we
have got to figure out a solution.
HAYES: Ali Noorani from the National Immigration Forum, thanks so
NOORANI: Hey, thank you.
HAYES: All right.
Coming up, tough day for two Republican governors. Prosecutors say
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is at the center of a criminal fund-raising
keep. And in a potentially blockbuster report, a prosecutor is closing in
on Governor Chris Christie. That reporter who wrote that will be with us
HAYES: Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is believed by
Wisconsin prosecutors to have been at the center of a -- quote -- "criminal
scheme" to violate election laws, along with top Wisconsin Republican
Court documents released today allege that Walker and his allies
illegally coordinated fund-raising with outside conservative groups,
including the Wisconsin Club for Growth, to boost Walker and other
Wisconsin Republicans as they fought against the recall efforts in that
state two years ago.
No charges have been filed against Walker, who won that recall
election and is up for a second term this fall. Court documents surfaced
in relation to what is known in Wisconsin as a John Doe investigation.
It`s a secret inquiry to determine whether a crime has been committed and
That investigation grew out of a separate, earlier inquiry into
Walker`s time as Milwaukee County executive, before he was governor, and
that led to the convictions of six people, including two former Walker
aides convicted of illegally doing political work on county time.
Walker did not respond to our request and invitation to come on the
show to respond to the new allegations. But in a series of tweets today,
he deemed prosecutors` claims categorically false, wrote that two judges
have ruled that no laws were broken and called the inquiry nothing more
than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law.
Joining me now on the phone is Ruth Conniff, editor in chief of "The
Progressive" magazine, who`s been covering this story.
Ruth, can you tell me, first of all, why we`re seeing these documents
RUTH CONNIFF, EDITOR, "THE PROGRESSIVE": Well, Chris, the reason that
we`re seeing these documents now is that the Club for Growth wants this
investigation to go away.
So, they went to federal court and they asked a judge to review
whether the investigation had any merit at all. And in response to that
request, the federal judge looked through all these documents and released
today a whole lot of new information that we hadn`t seen before that
pertains to that very question.
So he has the arguments of the lead prosecutor, a Republican, by the
way, Fran Schmitz, saying this is a grotesque violation of Wisconsin
campaign finance law. And, furthermore, for the first time, we hear Walker
is a target of the investigation and is deemed to be at the center of this
criminal behavior, this coordination.
And the evidence for that is that Walker wrote an e-mail in his own
words to Karl Rove explaining that there`s a coordinated activity that his
right-hand man, the former head of the Republican Party in Wisconsin, R.J.
Johnson, a close campaign adviser of Walker`s, is working with outside
groups and coordinating the efforts and making a pitch to Karl Rove that
Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove`s group, ought to put big money into Wisconsin,
because this is a nationally significant, coordinated effort, for this
triumph of these right-wing groups and Republicans in Wisconsin.
So it really looks like a slam dunk. I mean, this is the smoking gun
that did not come out of the first John Doe investigation. That is to say
that Walker was not only a target, but really at center of this entire
HAYES: So, when you say -- did he use the word coordinating in that
e-mail that he wrote to Karl Rove?
CONNIFF: He said -- yes, he said that Karl Rove is organizing this
entire thing. And the text is in all the news coverage today. And there`s
a lot of news coverage.
So here`s my question. What`s illegal about this, right? I mean,
walk me through this, because I think there`s a few responses you get from
Walker and Republicans. One is that this has been looked over a ton. This
is a partisan vendetta witch-hunt. The other is, this is politics. Like,
this is politics. In fact, the federal district judge threw this out and
said this is First Amendment-protected activity.
Judge Rudolph Randa, the federal judge, only judge in the state of
Wisconsin who`s a frequent flier to Koch brothers-funded retreats for
conservative activists, who`s a member of the Federalist Society, did in
fact write an opinion saying that campaign finance law in Wisconsin should
not apply and that there should be free spending in races, and that there
should be, you know, complete access by outside groups to do whatever they
want to do, run as many ads as they want, spend billions of dollars in our
That`s not the actual -- that`s not what the law says in Wisconsin,
but there are a lot of conservative ideologues who believe that that`s what
the law should say. Randa also in that decision asked that the
prosecutors, insisted, in fact, that they destroy all of the evidence in
And had that happened, had the Seventh Circuit Court not reversed that
decision by Randa, we would never have seen this e-mail from Scott Walker
to Karl Rove. So, you know, yes, there are conservative ideologues who are
arguing really forcefully that this is -- that this is a partisan witch-
hunt, in spite of the fact that it`s led by a Republican prosecutor, that
there ought not to be these campaign finance laws.
But that position is not the position of the law. It`s not a state of
the law in Wisconsin. And right now, what we`re going to find out is what
the federal court thinks of the Club for Growth`s argument that this entire
investigation should stop in its tracks.
And it would be, in the words of "The Washington Post" today, just a
grotesque miscarriage of justice if that were to happen, because the law in
Wisconsin is very clear. This is illegal.
HAYES: All right, so finally here, how is this playing right now in
Wisconsin? What`s the press been like today?
CONNIFF: People are amazed and shocked, because this is the smoking
It is, you know, Walker in his own words saying, you know, we need to
get this act together rMDNM_with all these groups, and R.J. Johnson is the
point person on it, and we`re coordinating.
HAYES: Ruth Conniff from "The Progressive" magazine, thanks for
joining us by phone.
We lost the shot due to weather, but your voice is so gripping, that
it worked anyway. Thanks a lot.
CONNIFF: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: All right, things don`t appear to be looking so good for
Governor Chris Christie either. That story is next.
HAYES: Chris Christie is trying really, really quite hard to put the
Bridgegate scandal behind him.
He even reportedly told donors recently at Mitt Romney`s political
retreat, in reference to the scandal -- quote -- "You will get over it."
But while Chris Christie might be done with the Bridgegate scandal,
the Bridgegate scandal might not be done with him.
"Esquire" today, citing two anonymous sources, is reporting that four
former Christie allies are facing -- quote -- "near certain indictments" by
a U.S. attorney. That includes former Port Authority Chairman David
Samson, a Christie appointee whose law firm has been accused of improper
lobbying tied to Port Authority business.
According to "Esquire," the four facing indictment are being pressured
to serve up dirt on Christie in exchange for more lenient treatment. The
magazine claimed that Samson in particular is under intense pressure to
flip, with one source telling "Esquire" -- quote -- "They have got him
Joining me now is co-author of that story Scott Raab. He`s "Esquire"
writer at large.
Scott, good to have you.
SCOTT RAAB, "ESQUIRE": Thanks for asking me.
HAYES: All right.
This is -- there`s a lot of people working on this story and this is
out past what has been previously reported. So, I mean, how solid are you
guys on this?
RAAB: A hundred percent solid.
And I got to give props to my wife, Lisa Brennan, whose reporting over
20-plus years, in particular within the legal community, has been
HAYES: What`s significant in this report? We knew there was an
investigation. We know that it has been previously reported that that
office, the office of the New York U.S. attorney, has been conducting an
The idea that there are indictments that are being worked through with
these four people, that would be a huge step.
RAAB: Well, I think part of what`s new is foundational.
Both David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, Christie appointees to the Port
Authority, who have since resigned in the wake of Bridgegate...
HAYES: Of course.
RAAB: ... have both made proffers to Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney
for New Jersey, in hope of striking some kind of deal.
According to our sources, both have been willing to give up Samson.
Fishman has rejected those proffers as inadequate. And I think, like any
good federal prosecutor, he`s trying to work his way up the food chain, and
it`s now become clear his target really is Chris Christie at this point.
HAYES: Well, Samson -- let`s talk about Samson for a second. Samson
is a big kahuna. He`s a former attorney general for the state of New
Jersey. He`s in some ways a kind of godfather figure in the Republican --
I don`t mean godfather in the criminal sense -- I mean, like, actual
Godfather, like, kind of mentor both to Chris Christie and in Republican
And I think he -- in New Jersey, it`s not really about party. It`s
about dividing up the money. I think Samson has played both sides over the
course of a very long and distinguished career.
HAYES: Can you talk to me a little bit about U.S. attorney Paul
Fishman? This is someone who is -- I mean, you can imagine how awkward
this kind of investigation in that office would be, given the fact that
that used to be Chris Christie`s office.
You have people presumably going to work every day in that building
who got hired, who sat down in a job interview with Chris Christie. He
brought them on board. He gave them their break to be an assistant U.S.
attorney. Now they`re going to be investigating him?
RAAB: Well, many of those same people came with Chris Christie to
Trenton when he won. And some of the ones who remained in the U.S.
attorney`s office were forced to recuse themselves from the investigation.
One of the reasons the U.S. Department of Justice has sent outside
prosecutors from D.C. is to help with the scope and the range of the
investigation. But it`s also true that one of Samson`s attorneys, Michael
Chertoff, was Paul Fishman`s mentor, and that that hiring was not in any
way a coincidence.
I think that the negotiations we think are going on right now are
primarily between Chertoff and Paul Fishman to try and see what kind of
bargain can be struck that would allow David Samson, who is 74 years old,
reportedly suffers from Parkinson`s disease, has had a wonderful and
profitable career, what kind of plea bargain can be struck so that he would
not have to die in jail.
HAYES: What do we think -- I mean, the political ramifications of
this are, even if this proves not to be the case, right, or if something
changes or they decide things fall apart, that it is precisely the
uncertainty that hovers over the fact that there`s an ongoing criminal
investigation that makes it extremely difficult for Christie to do the
thing that he`s trying to do, which is turn the page.
RAAB: I think his chops as a politician are remarkable. It really
HAYES: I agree, actually. You have seen it -- yes.
RAAB: But once -- in his early January press conference, once the
story was set that the bridge itself, which is only a small part, it turns
out, of the sewage, but once the alibi was that David Wildstein and Bridget
Anne Kelly, by themselves, not only planned and executed the lane closures
on the GWB, but convinced everyone, everyone, including Christie`s chief
counsel, Charlie McKenna, another former U.S. prosecutor -- you know, U.S.
assistant attorney general...
HAYES: Right, AUSA, yes.
RAAB: Yes, and Kevin O`Dowd, his chief of staff, everyone was
befuddled and bedazzled.
HAYES: Right. It was these two people. They ran with it. They
RAAB: That was it. That was it.
RAAB: And the entire Mastro report, $3 million, $5 million, all
reverse-engineered, from my point of view, and many other people`s point of
view, to solidify that alibi.
HAYES: I will say this.
Having done some reporting on -- having done some reporting on U.S.
attorney`s office -- offices -- and having worked with people, or known
people, friends who have worked in U.S. attorney`s offices, when they get
going on something, they tend to dig until they hit something.
RAAB: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: It`s just sort of in the nature of prosecutorial offices.
It`s very rare that they start getting resources together, they start
taking depositions, they start getting documents, and then they say, ah,
there`s nothing here and they walk away.
RAAB: Especially Paul Fishman, methodical, meticulous, no press
conferences, no leaks.
HAYES: Yes, so far.
RAAB: Solid guy.
HAYES: Scott Raab from "Esquire," thank you very much.
That`s ALL IN for this evening.
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