PoliticsNation, Monday, April 6th, 2015
Read the transcript from the Monday show
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: April 6, 2015
Guest: Nicholas Burns, Joan Walsh, Dana Milbank, Jamal Simmons, Eric
Guster, Faith Jenkins, Margie Omero, John Fugelsang, Alyona Minkovski
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for
tuning in. I`m live tonight from Washington, D.C.
We start with breaking news on the full-court press from President Obama
selling the Iran nuclear deal. Moments ago, President Obama responding to
Israel`s Prime Minister who says any deal should include an Iranian
commitment to Israel`s right to exist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The notion that we would
condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran
recognizing Israel, is really akin to saying that we won`t sign a deal
unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is
I think a fundamental misjudgment. We want Iran not to have nuclear
weapons precisely because we can`t bank on the nature of the regime
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president laying out the logic of the agreement. Under the
framework, Iran would scale back its nuclear program and it accepted
inspections in return for lifted sanctions now. The fight turns to
Congress. Already, the attacks from Republicans are getting ugly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Probably the best deal that
Barack Obama could get with the Iranians because the Iranians don`t fear
nor do they respect him and our allies in the region don`t trust the
president. Obama is a flawed negotiator. Nobody in the region trusts him.
The Iranians do not fear or respect him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The GOP attacks are predictable, but what`s interesting is some
Democrats are open to a Republican bill giving Congress the power to
approve or deny the lifting of sanctions before a June deadline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I do believe Congress has a role. We are
the ones who impose the sanctions. So we have a role on reviewing any
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But what would that role be? And could Republicans use it to
undermine the deal? President Obama says he`s willing to work with
Congress on Iran, but he also says the U.S. sacrifices none of its strength
by pursuing diplomacy first rather than racing toward a military option.
And he vows the U.S. will defend Israel if necessary. Call it the Obama
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions
without putting ourselves at risk. It`s not as if in all these
conversations I`m leaving all my, you know, rifles at, you know, at the
door. We`re walking these negotiations and everybody knows that we`ve got
the most firepower. The doctrine is we will engage but we preserve all our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to
NATO, now a professor at Harvard University. And salon.com`s Joan Walsh.
Thank you, both, for being here tonight.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Reverend Al.
AMB. NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ambassador, let me go to you first. You heard the president`s
response to the Israeli prime minister. What`s your take?
BURNS: I think it`s a tough spot for the president to be in, but he`s
right on the merits of the issue. One thing at a time. We`ve been -- we
haven`t to talk to Iran strategically and continuously for 35 years. We`re
now in negotiations. We have an opportunity, it`s not a sure thing. But
an opportunity a final deal by June 30th.
We had to focus on preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state
and then take it from there. Obviously, the United States should want Iran
to recognize a state of Israel as a Jewish state at some point in the
future. But to make that, to make that a part of the negotiations and a
condition for the negotiations, I think, will mean the negotiations will
And just one more point to give you some historical perspective when
President Nixon opened up relations with China in 1972, his historic visit,
it took seven more years before the United States actually established full
diplomatic relations with China in the carter administration. These things
take time. We`ve got to focus on nuclear weapons first. It`s the greatest
danger to peace in the Middle East.
And I think what President Obama has done is a good step forward, this
agreement if it can be achieved and if we can hold Iran`s feet to the fire
by June 30th.
SHARPTON: But, you know, Joan, what is interesting is the president`s
selling this plan to Democrats trying to keep his party on-board. We`re
not talking about the fact that Democrats have now said some of them may be
open to the proposed Republican bill that would say they would have to
approve it. That`s his next big test. Democrats. The situation doesn`t
happen often. How do you see this playing out?
WALSH: Well, you know, I really agree with Ambassador Burns who`s laid out
exactly what the president needs to do. We really need to see him work
Congress in a way that he hasn`t often worked Congress, to be honest, to
win support from Democrats. I really -- I know he`s talking to Senator Ron
Johnson and other Republicans, God bless him. I don`t really expect that
to make much difference. I do think that a full-court press with Democrats
will make a difference. And then some of the Democrats expressing some
doubts and reservations and then they`re not sure that the framework is
clear enough, et cetera.
I really think that they can be brought on board by this president. This
will be and there are still a lot of ifs here. His signature foreign
policy achievement. And an important interest to our country. It`s not
just a great feather in his cap. I think the president will sell it and I
think Democrats will be hard pressed with a few exceptions will be hard
pressed to resist this president and do anything that undermines his
negotiating power or sides with Lindsey Graham who by the way, how does
Lindsey Graham know what the Iranians think about President Obama? It`s so
preposterous. They just don`t miss an opportunity to insult him.
SHARPTON: But, Ambassador, the fact there are some Democrats now openly
saying they may entertain this, what does he have to do to get their --
what he being the president have to do to get them over solidly behind him
in this? And let me show you what the president said about the Congress`
role in this. In his view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We are committed to finding a mechanism for appropriate
congressional involvement and oversight. What I`m not interested in seeing
is folks who are hell bent on just defeating any deal, aren`t interested in
listening to the nuclear scientists, aren`t interested in listening to the
experts but are viewing this purely through the lens of partisanship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, how much of a risk is it, Ambassador, that the Republicans
could use this for leverage in terms of their partisan view and the fact
that some Democrats are not with the president or at least saying they`re
open to a bill that would subject this deal to Congress before the June
BURNS: I think there`s no question that this is a potentially major
barrier to a deal with Iran. That is a failure to get the United States
Congress to go along or the Congress taking action that would make it
impossible for the president to proceed. And as you know, Reverend
Sharpton, the constitution gives any American president substantial
authority to conduct the foreign relations of our country. Congress has a
major role, but this is not going to be a treaty.
This agreement with Iran and the permanent five powers. It`s going to be a
nonbinding agreement, so it doesn`t require Senate ratification. If
Congress chooses an up-or-down vote to approve or disapprove this
agreement, before the president even has a chance to finally negotiate it
by June 30th, I actually think that`s very unwise for the congressional
leadership to go in that direction. They ought to give the president a
chance to complete the agreement, then the president needs to bring it back
after it`s fully agreed on June 30th and sell it to the American people,
convince the American people and the Congress it`s the right way forward.
Congress then has its role because Congress will be asked to lift some of
the sanctions that Congress voted, and that`s the appropriate role at the
appropriate time I think for congress.
SHARPTON: Joan, here`s what GOP Senator Tom Cotton who, by the way, wrote
the letter that 47 other senators signed that was sent to Iran. Here`s
what he`s saying about using military force. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: The alternatives to this deal is a better
deal with continued pressure through the credible threat of military force
and more sanctions. And if necessary, having to take military action. We
need to be serious about the credible threat of military forcing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, you get the feeling, are some in the GOP more anxious,
or at least rather see war than diplomacy?
WALSH: I don`t think there`s any other conclusion you can draw when you
listen to that, Reverend Al. I mean, that is just an amazing thing to have
said, and to stand here when there is so much uncertainty and just be so
cavalier about the use of force and the risk of other people`s children`s
lives is really kind of stunning at a moment when diplomacy. When it seems
like there`s still plenty of room for diplomacy. And diplomacy has worked
and this is a better agreement, the framework of this agreement, it is
better than many people, many skeptics had hoped. So the president has
done much, not everything.
But much of what he had needed to do. He`s asking for a longer runway.
We`ll learn more in the next two months. And this cavalier talk about
military action as though, you know, it`s just something we should promise
or threaten regularly, it doesn`t make sense to the American people. I --
you know, except many Republicans I have to admit.
SHARPTON: Ambassador, let me read something to you that you wrote. You
said, quote, "The framework agreement will put the country at least a year
away from having enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb. That is a
deal worth getting. Even if it does not seem so to Benjamin Netanyahu or
to some conservative U.S. lawmakers." Put this in context quickly for me,
Ambassador. What is the alternative to this deal?
BURNS: Sure. I think, the way to judge this deal is President Obama`s
option versus walking away from the table. And President Obama`s option,
right now Iran`s about two or three months away from having the capacity to
build a nuclear weapon. President Obama`s restrictions on Iran will make
that about a year away. So we`ve lengthen the time when we deny them that
I also think that what Prime Minister Netanyahu and some others are
recommending is that we walk away from the table, we`ll lose the unity of
the world which has been isolating Iran, the sanctions will dissolve.
United States can`t sanction Iran on its own because we need the Europeans,
the Japanese, the Indians to do that. And so I think the president`s way
is a significant step forward. It`s better for the National Security
interests of the United States. I hope he can be successful by June 30th.
SHARPTON: Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Joan Walsh, thank you both for
your time tonight.
WALSH: Thank you, Rev.
BURNS: Thank you so much.
SHARPTON: Coming up, think Jeb Bush is the inevitable pick for the GOP
nomination in 2016. Think again. Why is he apologizing for a, quote,
Plus, "Rolling Stone" apologizes and retracts a story alleging a gang rape
at the University of Virginia. That fraternity is now vowing legal action.
And being interviewed by this comedian is no laughing matter. How John
Oliver got Edward Snowden to answer some hard-hitting questions. Big show
ahead. Please stay with us.
SHARPTON: Breaking news. WNBC`s Jonathan Dienst reporting, prosecutors
have charged a fourth man in New York City in a New York City terrorism
case involving recruitment by ISIS. Three other men were arrested in
February accused of plotting to join ISIS, bomb an amusement park, and
potentially kill President Obama. And tonight, the breaking news,
prosecutors in Brooklyn charging a fourth man in the case.
SHARPTON: Now to the GOP`s road to 2016 is getting rocky today for one of
its biggest names. Jeb Bush in the headlines for a voter registration
error he made six years ago. "The New York Times" digging up his 2009
application and discovering he checked off the wrong box in the race
ethnicity section. Labeling himself, Hispanic. Of course, Jeb Bush is not
Hispanic, and this morning, he Tweeted an apology, quote, "My mistake.
Don`t think I fooled anyone." and he Re-tweeted his son`s message, "Come
on, dad, think you checked the wrong box. #honorarylatino."
Maybe it was a simple mistake, but it also echoed political rhetoric Bush
used in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: If Bill Clinton is the first black president,
I`m definitely the first Cuban at least or Latino governor of the state of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Again, maybe it was a simple mistake, but does he have a serious
problem ahead? The "Times" reports many in the GOP are pushing back
against the idea that he`s, quote, "inevitable." Saying "not so fast."
But if not Jeb, then who? Ted Cruz is already in, and Rand Paul is
formally announcing tomorrow. This is going to be interesting.
Joining me now are the "Washington Post`s" Dana Milbank and the Democratic
strategist, Jamal Simmons. Thank you, both, for being here tonight.
DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST WRITER: Good evening, Rev.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Rev.
SHARPTON: Dana, let`s look at this registration card again. Jeb Bush says
it was just a mistake. What do you make of this?
MILBANK: Well, obviously, Reverend, there`s only one way to resolve this.
And we need to see Jeb Bush`s birth certificate. And not just the short
form, we need the full long form here.
You know, I suspect that this is probably a one-day story and a joke that
will come up. It`s -- it`s pretty obviously a mistake of some sort, but,
you know, it does get at that sort of liability that Jeb Bush has. Not in
a general election, but in the primaries where people are trying to say
he`s been too soft on immigration, and is all about amnesty and, you know,
of course, he has a wife and children who are, indeed, Latino. And they
will no doubt use that at least subtly in some way to suggest that he`s
just too soft on illegal immigration.
SHARPTON: You know, Jamal, "The New York Times" reports, that you know,
the voter registration card may be, as Dana say, a one-day story, but "The
New York Times" reports that Jeb is raising a lot of money, but it might
not be enough. Quote "He is grappling with the Republican Party`s prickly
and demanding ideological blocs. He`s struggling to win over grassroots
activists." And a recent poll showed Jeb is not the front-runner everyone
expected him to be. Governor Scott Walker is in the lead at 15 percent.
Jeb`s three points behind him at 12 percent. Followed closely by Ben
Carson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.
Jamal, what`s going -- what is it going to take to get a clear front-runner
in this race?
SIMMONS: You know, Rev, I -- you know, I thought and I think a few other
Democrats thought that Jeb Bush might be the toughest of the bunch out of
this crowd, but I think there`s something else that`s stacking up here. We
may find out that Jeb Bush, maybe he`s not the smart Bush brother. Maybe
he is not the one who`s the straight talker. Maybe he is the one who we
got to, you know, double check everything that he says to make sure it`s
I think the Hispanic check mark is probably something that doesn`t matter,
unless it becomes part of a pattern along with his behavior with the
Indiana law last week, his wobbliness on some of the education stuff.
Whether or not this is a pattern of Jeb Bush where we have to start to
double check and make sure what he says is actually real, and if that`s not
true, we may find that Jeb Bush is an easier candidate to take on than we
SHARPTON: You know, moving on from Bush, Dana, another Republican, Senator
Rand Paul, expected to announce his candidacy tomorrow. But today he
released a video giving a hint about his platform. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It`s time for a new way. A new set of
ideas. A new leader. One you can trust. One who works for you. And
above all, it`s time for a new president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, Dana, you saw the slogan there. "Defeat the Washington
machine. Unleash the American dream." But he`s part of the Washington
machine. He`s in the Senate. How is this going to play with the voters?
MILBANK: Well, he is more and more a part of the Republican and Washington
establishment every day. You know, Rand Paul is a very talented
politician. I think he`s underrated in the campaign, but he`s got a quite
a challenge here. So he`s running as this sort of libertarian in the model
of his father, but in order to make himself viable as a presidential
candidate, unlike his father, he`s tailoring all these positions
particularly on foreign policy more to the mainstream at Republican Party.
So he`s sacrificing a lot of what made him appeal to his base of
So it would be interesting to see how much support he can maintain that
way. I have no doubt that he`ll have his moment in this primary season
like Scott Walker is now and like all the other will. They`re going to go
through the flavor of the week.
SHARPTON: But let me pick up on that with you, Jamal. Because the
"Washington Post" is reporting that Paul is straying away from his
libertarian roots to win over a broader block of the GOP. They write,
"Paul is a candidate who has turned fuzzy. Having trimmed his positions
and rhetoric so much that it is unclear what kind of Republican he will
present himself as when he takes the stage."
Now, how big a problem will this be for Paul? Does he need his base to
have a real shot in this race? He seems to be reaching out. He seems to
be trying to be more of a mainstream Republican. I remember when I had
breakfast with him, didn`t meet in an office where you went in the door.
He said, let`s meet in the Senate dining room in front of everybody.
SHARPTON: He seems to want to send different signals that seem to be far
broader than his libertarian base first would suggest he would be.
SIMMONS: That`s right. Well, the first rule of politics is, of election,
secure your base. Then once you secure your base, then you start venturing
out. It looks like Rand Paul has some more work to do to make sure that
his base feels comfortable with him. And it`s a troubling trend in the
entire Democrat -- Republican primary because the purists on their party,
whether evangelicals or libertarians or the tea party folks, they don`t
seem to be willing to let anybody stray away from the particular dogma of
their pure corner.
So what you got to do as a candidate it seems like is kowtow to one of
these extreme bases and then hope that everybody forgets what you said, you
know, in the early part of the campaign, and supports you later on.
SHARPTON: All right. Dana Milbank and Jamal Simmons, thank you both for
your time this evening.
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SIMMONS: Thanks for being here. Thanks for having me.
SHARPTON: Coming up, "Rolling Stone" is retracting its bombshell story on
an alleged gang rape on a college campus, but will the magazine face a
And the Boston bombing case is about to go to the jury. What was said in
the closing arguments today? The JUSTICE FILES coming up.
SHARPTON: Developing news tonight on the "Rolling Stones" sexual assault
story. The magazine has apologized and retracted the article detailing a
rape on campus at the University of Virginia published last November. In
it, the victim known only as Jackie, described being gang raped by seven
men at Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at a fraternity party.
The story sparked national outrage over sexual assault on college campuses
across the country, but after the "Washington Post" and other news outlets
started reporting, the facts of Jackie`s story did not hold up. After a
months-long investigation, police announced last month they had no evidence
to support the claims made in the "Rolling Stone" article.
The magazine commissioned an investigation by Columbia Journalism School,
which was released this weekend. It found three major failures in "Rolling
Stone`s" reporting involving, quote "basic even routine journalistic
practice." "Rolling Stone" issued an apology to its readers and all those
who were damaged by the story and the ensuing fallout including Phi Kappa
Psi Fraternity. The president of UVA Teresa Sullivan slammed the magazine
in a statement, quote "irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the
reputations of many innocent individuals and University of Virginia."
Late today the fraternity announced they would sue "Rolling Stone" over the
discredited story. Could anyone else face legal action? That`s just ahead
in the JUSTICE FILES.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICS NATION": It`s time for the "Justice
Files." Joining me tonight, criminal defense Attorney Eric Guster, and
former prosecutor and host of "Judge Faith," Faith Jenkins. Thank you both
for being here.
FAITH JENKINS, HOST, "JUDGE FAITH": Thanks, Rev.
ERIC GUSTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: We start with the legal firestorm "Rolling Stone" may now face.
The fraternity at the center of this article, a rape on campus, says it
will sue the magazine. Phi Kappa Psi says the decision to sue comes,
quote, "After 130 days of living under a cloud of suspicion as a result of
reckless reporting by "Rolling Stone" magazine. And clearly our fraternity
and its members have been defamed." Faith, how strong of a case do they
JENKINS: I think they have a case. I`ve seen defamation cases and
lawsuits filed on less than what they have here. I think the challenge for
them is going to be like the challenge is in most civil defamation claims,
and that is proving damages to the fraternity`s reputation, and that means
proving damages against this fraternity as the organization because,
remember, there were no individuals named in "Rolling Stone`s" article. It
was just the fraternity as a whole. So that`s going to be the biggest
challenge for them. I think coming on the back end of Columbia journalism
school`s report that "Rolling Stone" never should have published this
article, they simply didn`t have enough to support Jackie`s claim, I think
that helps them in their case going forward.
SHARPTON: Eric, which means that they could be guilty of the lawsuit, but
the damages be little to nothing because it`s hard to show any individual
damage and it would be questionable how much the fraternity was damaged, or
at least they`d have to establish that.
GUSTER: And that is the case because in civil litigation, the issue is how
much is this case worth? And when you`re looking at a case like this, the
question is, "Rolling Stone" published this article. How much damage did
it actually cause Phi Kappa Psi? Did they lose membership? Did they lose
reputation? And did it cost them any money? Whether it`s actual money as
in dollars and cents, or with their reputation going forward, how much is
that worth? And like Faith said, I believe they have a decent case,
however, the issue is what is it worth as far as the damages that were
caused by this?
SHARPTON: Well, what is it worth, Faith?
JENKINS: Well, it depends, Rev. You have to think about this. When these
civil lawsuits go forward, it could be a number of years before a case like
this could even go to trial and the members of the fraternity that are in
college now, members of the fraternity now, they probably will have
graduated by the time this case reaches court. And how are they going to
prove that they were damages? What are they going to do going forward?
Again, I think they have a case here. I think they could file a lawsuit.
But also that`s going to keep this story in the news for them. And what`s
the defense to a defamation claim? The truth. So then you`re going to
have as a defendant "Rolling Stone" magazine trying to prove the truth of
these allegations. Do they want to keep the story? And the media, and the
news in that manner?
SHARPTON: Now, who else has possible case against "Rolling Stone" if a lot
of the students are going to graduate? Eric, are there any others that may
have a chase here?
GUSTER: Yes, sir. I believe the students have a stronger case opposed to
the fraternity as a whole because the students, they were looked at on
campus as rapists, as people who violently raped a woman, took advantage of
her, gang raped her and they were violent people. So, they have a strong
case individually because their reputations as an individual were damaged
by "Rolling Stone`s" article.
JENKINS: Well, no individuals were ever named.
GUSTER: That is true, but they were all members of the same fraternity,
and because day were members of Phi Kappa Psi on that campus, they were all
individually suspect in this article. That`s the damage I see in this
SHARPTON: It`s going to be very complicated, either way, but --
GUSTER: And take a long time.
SHARPTON: Let`s move to Boston. The jury in the Boston marathon bombing
trial now has the case. And they start deliberations tomorrow. In closing
arguments the prosecutor played the video of the explosion and the minutes
leading up to it. He said this about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Quote, "He wanted
to make a point. He wanted to terrorize his country. He wanted to punish
America for what it did to his people." Tsarnaev faces 30 different counts
in connection with the explosion that killed three people. Seventeen of
them carry a possible death penalty. He pleaded not guilty. But his
attorney admits he did it. Question comes down to whether he was under his
brother`s influence at the time. Eric, if everyone agrees he was involved,
what do you expect to see from this jury?
GUSTER: The jury is trying to decide whether or not to spare this man`s
life or not. Every defense lawyer who tries a lot of cases have been in
this situation where we`ve had a case where we have to fall on the sword
and say, yes, my client did it, but don`t -- please spare him the death
penalty, don`t kill him. And that`s what this jury is going to have to
decide because this is essentially a long drawn out guilty plea and the
issue is punishment and whether or not he`ll be punished by the death
penalty or life without parole?
SHARPTON: Faith, what do you expect?
JENKINS: I think the real question going -- I suspect that he is going to
be convicted on all of these counts. And I think the real question going
forward is, will his life be spared? And how will his attorney -- he has a
very skilled attorney in Miss Judy Clarke. How will his attorney show this
injure that he deserves any kind of mercy? I just don`t see that sympathy
in a case like this really exists, but, again, it has to be a unanimous
agreement. Once they get to the death penalty phase of this case, it has
to be a unanimous agreement that he gets the death penalty. It can only
take one person to go against that, Rev, but in a case like this, I think
that in order for his life to be spared, I think he would have to take the
witness stand and somehow show remorse. However, I don`t think that`s
going to happen.
SHARPTON: Now, if he took the witness stand and tried to convince the jury
he was under his brother`s influence, even though it`s too late for this
part of the trial, but before sentencing, do you think, Eric, it is
possible that he could turn one member of that jury to say, I think he`s
guilty, but I don`t think he should face the death penalty because there`s
an outside reasonable doubt that maybe his brother influenced him?
GUSTER: That is very possible. When a person`s facing the penalty phase
of a capital murder trial, they want to beg for their life because they get
a chance to look into the eyes of the jurors and say, please don`t execute
me, and this is why. I was under the influence of my brother. I didn`t
know I was doing. I was young. I was influential. And I`m sorry for what
I did. I`m sorry for maiming those people and my part in it, but please
spare my life. And sometimes they get that one juror who wants to spare
them their life and just like Faith said, without a unanimous verdict, they
can`t get a conviction of -- they can`t get a verdict of the death penalty.
JENKINS: I just don`t see that argument going very far in this case. The
prosecutors have done a tremendous and thorough job of painting a vivid
picture of the death, carnage, and destruction that this young man and his
brother caused. And Rev, I have to tell you, when I was 12 years old I
threw a ball and broke a window in my neighbor`s home. And I pointed to my
brother when my mother came over, I said, well, he was responsible, he made
me do it. It didn`t work then and I don`t think it`s going to work for
this defendant in this case.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, we will certainly be watching what happens
tomorrow. Eric Guster and Faith Jenkins, thank you for your time tonight.
JENKINS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Straight ahead, Loretta Lynch has the votes for attorney
general, but what is Senator McConnell saying about a vote?
And John Oliver`s hard-hitting interview with Edward Snowden has a lot of
people talking today. "Conversation Nation" is next.
SHARPTON: Time now for "Conversation Nation." Joining me tonight,
democratic strategist Margie Omero. Political comedian and Sirius XM radio
host John Fugelsang. And "HuffPost Live" host Alyona Minkovski. Thank you
all for being here.
JOHN FUGELSANG, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Thank you.
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening, Reverend.
ALYONA MINKOVSKI, "HUFFPOST LIVE" HOST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Want to go back to President Obama selling democrats on the
potentially historic nuclear deal with Iran. NBC News "First Read"
reports, quote, "The first test for Obama is making sure that his own party
doesn`t scuttle the deal by providing enough votes to override a
presidential veto on bipartisan legislation scrutinizing the deal." The
bill would need two-thirds of the Senate or 67 votes to override the
president`s veto, and they reportedly have 66. Margie, can the President
sell this deal to democrats?
OMERO: I think so because I think the American people want to see
deliberation and thoughtfulness, but also not using important foreign
policy debates as political footballs. As just another venue for the back
and forth partisan bickering. And I think you see a lot of language on the
right that really suggests that maybe that is what people are doing, and
that`s a little bit different from, you know, having something that`s
actually binding is a little bit different from having a way to express
yourself in saying we want to have some conversation about the framework
and the details as they get filled in. I think that`s where you see some
democrats who want to be part of the debate, and the sort of reactionary
language that you sometimes see on the right that I think is going to
alienate a lot of these democrats.
SHARPTON: But John, doesn`t that -- if those democrats take that position,
doesn`t that give the republicans leverage to undermine the deal and
undermine what the President and Secretary Kerry has negotiated?
FUGELSANG: Well, the republicans will find any excuse to undermine the
President in any way they can. Let`s not forget they worship Ronald
Reagan, a man who famously and that was praised for talking with our
enemies. There`s a lot of fear out there and we know that there`s a lot of
wartime consiglieres on the right in both Israel and America and not a lot
of peace time consiglieres. And it`s going to really be a test of how well
peace can sell. Iran`s population is majority under the age of 50 now.
The Ayatollahs know their old order is rapidly changing. And the vast
majority of Iranians don`t want to get blown up with a nuke by launching a
nuke of their own. This is going to be a test of intelligence versus fear,
and I hope the cooler heads will prevail.
SHARPTON: Alyona, what`s your take on this?
MINKOVSKI: I just think that it shows that in a historic moment like this
where you finally have negotiations over Iran`s nuclear program, if this
fails, and if it does not go through and is blocked here, it`s all going to
be because of domestic U.S. politics, and this is a big moment for the
world. And I think what it kind of points out for the blatant hypocrisy
there, right, for those that say that a nuclear armed Iran would be so
dangerous. Well, then try this. Try this. And if Iran agrees to a deal
and if Iran goes back on their word, then you can take other drastic
measures but you at least have to let it try to fail after they`ve come to
an agreement before just blocking it head-on.
SHARPTON: She has the votes for attorney general so when will Loretta
Lynch`s vote happen? Fifty one senators have publicly said they will
support her nomination, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn`t budging.
He said he wouldn`t schedule the vote until democrats pass a stalled sex
trafficking bill containing controversial abortion language. Today
McConnell`s office telling "Talking Points Memo" there`s, quote, "Nothing
new on that front." It`s been 149 days since Loretta Lynch was nominated
to be Attorney General.
Margie, can Mitch McConnell keep her waiting forever?
OMERO: I mean, I don`t know. It seems like he`s trying to find more ways
to alienate women voters. One is by holding up Loretta Lynch`s nomination,
two is by having the vehicle for this be a sex trafficking bill where you
have, you know, victims who really need help, and third, because what we`re
debating here is whether or not the fines levied against the traffickers,
themselves, can be used for abortion, not taxpayer funds because that`s not
allowed. That`s not what this is about. This is about fines levied
against the actual traffickers and how do those get used? And it`s really
FUGELSANG: Well, look, Loretta Lynch still wants to keep on locking up
people for using marijuana. She has no problem with NSA spying and
wiretapping. She loves the death penalty. You`d think the republicans
would realize what a good deal they`ve got with her. I could only deduce,
Rev that they must have a secret crush on Eric Holder and they just want to
keep him around a little bit longer.
SHARPTON: Well, Alyona, I mean, the votes are there, and they won`t give
the date. A lot of people, as Margie said in the women`s community,
certainly, I know what my convention, National Action Network this week,
everybody is going to be screaming, where`s the vote?
SHARPTON: How do they press you to get McConnell to call the vote?
MINKOVSKI: I think it just puts Mitch McConnell into difficult position,
right? Because he is the abstraction king and he doesn`t even want to
support something that the President might be pushing forward. And so,
here they find themselves at a quandary because they hate Eric Holder, they
want him gone as attorney general, but nominating or excuse me, pushing
through Loretta Lynch would also admit some kind of defeat because that
means that the President picks someone if they agree with.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that would be probably unfortunately the truth.
Everyone, stay with me. When we come back, John Oliver`s revealing
interview with Edward Snowden. What the comedian got the accused spy to
say. That`s next.
SHARPTON: We`re back with our panel, Margie, John, and Alyona. Next up,
there is truth in comedy, and it turns out being interviewed by John Oliver
is no joke. On last night`s episode of HBO comedy news show, "Last Week
Tonight," host John Oliver asks whistleblower Edward Snowden some pretty
tough questions about why he leaked classified NSA documents to the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, HBO HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT": How many of those documents
have you actually read?
EDWARD SNOWDEN, WHISTLEBLOWER: I`ve evaluated all the documents that are
in the archive.
OLIVER: You`ve read every single one?
SNOWDEN: Well, I do understand what I turned over.
OLIVER: There`s a difference between understanding what`s in the documents
and reading what`s in the documents.
SNOWDEN: I recognize the concern.
OLIVER: So "The New York Times" took a slide, didn`t redact it properly,
and in the end it was possible for people to see that something was being
used in Mosul on al Qaeda.
SNOWDEN: That is a problem.
OLIVER: Well, that`s a (bleep).
SNOWDEN: It is (bleep), and these things do happen in reporting. In
journalism, we have to accept that some mistakes will be made.
OLIVER: Right. But you have to own that then. You`re giving documents
with information you know could be harmful, which could get out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: John Oliver certainly didn`t pull any punches. Alyona, was this
MINKOVSKI: Not really. I think John Oliver did a great job, but it wasn`t
unexpected because I think that we`ve seen time and time again that our
serious or professional journalists, or so they`re called, often do a
really bad job interviewing people and subjects like Edward Snowden. But
there`s a couple other things that I want to hit on here, too, which I
think that, you know, Edward Snowden gave a very good reasoning for why he
put these documents out there which is that he wants the American people to
be able to judge for themselves what kind of government they want. So if
one mistake is made, I still think that that mistake is worth it because
then you have people being able to come to the conclusion as to whether or
not they feel that it`s right for the government to be spying on millions
of American citizens who are completely innocent.
And, you know, one other thing that happened here, too, they showed man on
the street interviews asking people if they knew who Edward Snowden was and
a lot of them didn`t know and I think that a lot of critics of Edward
Snowden have chosen to use that as a big blow against his credibility and
the effect that he`s had. But, you know, Glen Greenwald had a great piece
in the "intercept" today pointing to polls that show that Americans don`t
really know what the three branches of government are, who the Supreme
Court justices are, who the vice president of the United States is.
SHARPTON: All right. But let me get to the rest of the table. I`m going
to run out of time. Margie, does one mistake appear, as Alyona said, a
small token for the bigger picture? What do you think?
OMERO: What I think is really a mistake is to hold up Snowden as a
progressive hero. I mean, he`s posted online about being a gun-toting NRA
fanatic. He`s donated money to Rand Paul. I mean, he`s said disparaging
remarks about seniors and social security. I mean, he -- you know, I think
he is not the hero that sometimes he`s made out to be, and I think John
Oliver, you know, pointed that out in a way that was funny and accessible
MINKOVSKI: But he`s for transparency. Not that many people claim he`s a
SHARPTON: We have to move on. I`m sorry, John, I will make it up to you.
Margie, John, and Alyona, thank you for your time tonight.
MINKOVSKI: Thank you.
OMERO: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, remembering the man known as America`s
preacher, and prince of preachers, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor. The civil rights
icon passed away Sunday at the age of 96. For 42 years, he preached to
14,000 at Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn. I knew him since I
was a young boy. He lived across the street from my pastor. He mentored
generations of preachers, including some of my childhood heroes. In 2000,
President Bill Clinton awarded him the presidential Medal of Freedom for
his life`s work. He was more than a preacher. He was an influential civil
rights leader. A trend setter. He and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. founded
the progressive national convention. It seems fitting and appropriate that
after a long journey of almost 100 years, Dr. Taylor would go see the lord
on resurrection Sunday.
I`ve known and have been blessed to be around Dr. Taylor literally all of
my life. When I received news that he had passed, I talked to his
successor at Concord, Reverend Gary Simpson. As I hung up the phone, I
wondered why was I so sad? Someone in their 90s, you suspect that they
will not live forever, but I thought about how not only was I sad because
we will not have him around anymore, but the likes of him we probably will
never see again. A regal bearing, a silver tongue, a fertile mind.
Integrity unquestioned. He represented and personified the real highest
form of American preaching and the experience of the black church. Gardner
Taylor only happens every once in a while. I`m glad this while I got to
meet him and got to know him. Rest in peace, Dr. Taylor.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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