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'Up with Steve Kornacki' for Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Saturday show

Date: May 16, 2015
Guest: Jim Hall, Angela Rye, Ben Domenech, Evan McMorris-Santoro, Blake
Zeff, Steve Clemons, Wesley Clark, Bob Franken, Michael Kay


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Was the Amtrak train hit by a projectile
before it derailed?

And good morning. Thanks for getting UP with us this Saturday morning.
Two big stories dominating the headlines right now. One, the jury
sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for the Boston marathon bombing.
More on that in just a few minutes. The other big headline this morning.
The NTSB revealing that the Amtrak train may have been struck by an object
before it derailed this week outside of Philadelphia. We will have the
details on that in just a second.

Also, ahead in the show, today Mitt Romney stepping into the boxing rink
against believe it or not, Evander Holyfield. Our own Kasie Hunt was
there. She`ll have a full report, you`re not going to want to miss that.

Plus, the new financial disclosures that show the Clintons earned more than
$30 million in just the last 16 months. Twenty five million of it alone in
speaking fees. We`re also going to be looking into the question of how
exactly two or three dozen or how many republican candidates now could
actually fit on a debate stage. Is that even possible?

But we begin this morning with the investigation into what caused that
Amtrak train to derail outside of Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Now, last
night, for the first time investigators said that something suspicious may
have with hit the windshield of train 188 just before that accident. And
that a projectile hit another train, original Philadelphia septa commuter
train on the same stretch of rail track just moments before the Amtrak
crash. And according to NTSB spokesman Robert Sumwalt, an assistant
conductor on the Amtrak train believes that she heard the engineers of both
of those trains discussing the projectile in a radio transmission but she
couldn`t be sure of that recollection. The NTSB says it is looking at
video footage from both trains for any sign of any projectile and that
they`ll bringing in the FBI to help. Officials also say, they have now
interviewed the engineer of the Amtrak train Brandon Bostian is his name.
He told them that he was not tired before the crash. He wasn`t sick,
wasn`t on his cell phone. But he also told them he can`t remember anything
about the crash itself.


ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: He recalls ringing the train bell as he
went through the North Philadelphia station. That`s not a normal station
stop for him. But he`s required by regulations to sound his bell. I may
have said horn. He`s required to sound his bell as he goes through past a
station stop. And he did that. He recalled doing that. But he has no
recollection of anything past that.


KORNACKI: And MSNBC`s Adam Reiss joins us now from the 30th street train
station in downtown Philadelphia. So, Adam, surprise revelations at this
press conference yesterday. I don`t think people is seeing the expected
this is what we would be talking about today, the possibility of a
projectile maybe playing a role here.

ADAM REISS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Not at all, Steve. A new twist in the
investigation. Investigators say he`s been very cooperative. In fact,
he`s agreed to comeback if they have more questions for him. As you
mentioned before, the last thing he remembers, ringing his bell as he
passed through the station in North Philadelphia. But he remembers nothing
about the accident itself. He wasn`t fatigue. He wasn`t ill. This was a
regular run for him from New York to D.C. and back to New York five days a
week. Now, what is interesting, an assistant conductor on the train with
Bostian says over her radio she heard a nearby engineer on a septa train,
that`s a metro train on a parallel track say that he was hit by some type
of projectile through his window. We also learned an Acela train in the
nearby area also suffered from something similar, a projectile through
their window. Now, the NTSB says we can`t draw any conclusions over this.
They will going to reassemble the train and inspect it. Amtrak says they
should have service back, temporary basis on Monday, a full service on
Tuesday -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Thanks to Adam Reiss in Philadelphia for that. Now,
for more on this investigation, I`m joined by Jim Hall, former chairman of
the NTSB.

So, Jim, you heard it from Adam right there, not only you have that
commuter train, the septa train, not only do you have the recollection from
somebody on the Amtrak train of a word potentially of a projectile but also
an Acela train. So, maybe three trains now. What do you make of these
reports of projectile?

JIM HALL, FORMER NTSB: Well, that`s an important piece of information that
factual piece of information that will be included and folded into the
investigation. However, that certainly does not negate the facts, Steve,
that a positive train control system would have prevented -- slowed this
train down, regardless of any type of human error or that could have
resulted in the acceleration of the train going into the curve.

KORNACKI: Do you though -- when you start seeing the talk and the reports
of the projectiles, I mean, the possibility of sabotage, of something
intentional here from somebody not on the train is at least raised. What
do you think of that?

HALL: Well, during my tenure at the NTSB, in the 1990`s as chairman, there
were two incidents involving sabotage that were investigated and prosecuted
as a result by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. So this, again, is an
important piece of information, but we have to wait and see how it fits
into the overall investigation of this tragedy.

KORNACKI: And yes, we talk about the FBI being called in here, does that
tell us anything? Does that say anything to the fact that the FBI is
called in? Does certain criteria need to be met for that?

HALL: Now, the FBI is always monitoring the NTSB actual investigations.
And it is very common for the board to ask for support from the FBI if
there are any allegations of possible criminal activity. And that`s what
is happening in this situation. And they do have a forensic capability
that will assist in looking at this windshield of the accident train to see
-- accident engine to see if it was possibly caused by a projectile rather
than damage from the accident sequence.

KORNACKI: Yes, we`re being told that the FBI will be looking at a quote,
"fracture pattern" in the left side of the train`s window that`s opposite,
apparently, where the engineer was standing when this accident took place.

Jim Hall, a former chairman of the NTSB. Thanks for taking a few minutes
this morning. I appreciate that.

And turning now to the other big headline this morning to Boston and to the
jury that has now sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for the marathon
bombing there in 2013. Now, four people were killed in that attack. And
its aftermath, and over 200 were injured. The jury deciding unanimously
that death is the appropriate punishment for Tsarnaev. Rejecting the
defense`s contention that he was under the influence of his older brother
Tamerlan. Only two of the 12 jurors believe Dzhokhar had shown any remorse
after the verdict has read. Several jurors openly crying. The end of 61
days of emotional testimony. Survivors and the families of the victims
reacting to the sentence last night. The parents of victim Martin Richard
were opposed to a death silence. They sat in silence as the verdict was
read. They said nothing afterwards. Karen Brassard, a permanently injured
by bombing shrapnel, she view this sentence as closure.


to get our lives back and not have to concentrate on what`s left to be done


KORNACKI: Now Tsarnaev becomes the first person in this country to be
sentenced to death for terrorism since Oklahoma City bomber Timothy


message, that we`re not going to tolerate terrorism. And I think whether
you agree with the death penalty or don`t, I think the message sends that,
you know, they`re not going to blow up our marathon, they`re not going to
blow out our city.


KORNACKI: And to discuss the decision and the aftermath I`m joined by this
morning`s panel, Angela Rye, a political strategist, former executive
director of the Congressional Black Caucus. Ben Domenech, he`s a senior
fellow at The Heartland Institute, publisher of the Federalist. And Evan
McMorris-Santoro, a White House reporter with BuzzFeed.

So, let`s talk about this decision in Boston. Because this was
interesting. Because to me, this really gets to the heart of what you
think of the death penalty. Because when you talk about the death penalty
so many times, well, actually there might be some evidence here that this
person didn`t do it. We can`t be entirely -- this was not a case where
there was any doubt about guilt. Everybody knew this guy was guilty. And
the severity of the crime, it doesn`t get much worse than an act of
terrorism at the Boston marathon. So, this really came down to, do you
think that when there is no doubt, and when the crime is truly ghastly and
truly heinous, this country, the state should be putting somebody to death?
And the jury in Boston comes back and said yes.

BEN DOMENECH, THE HEARTLAND INSTITUTE: I think the jury here had a very
difficult task. And I think that they clearly, it weighed on them
emotionally. It was something that they clearly had a lot of different
conflicted sort of views about. Ultimately they reached this conclusion.
And I can`t see that I disagree with that. I think it is something that is
clear, that is -- if you`re going to have the death penalty. I think it
should be for cases like this when there is no question about the actual
person`s guilt. It`s only a question of what the influence is here. The
question now of course is how this plays out in the future and the kind of
appeals and process that we see people go through in cases like this can
often be lengthy. The legal experts in this case though believe that there
may be relatively few measures there that allow for those lengthy kinds of
appeals. So, it would be interesting to see --

KORNACKI: Have you guys thought about it, if you were on that jury, how
you would have thought about this case?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think this is extremely tough. In
part because I don`t believe in the death penalty. And I that think in a
situation like this where he took so many lives so quickly and injured so
many people, he should rot in jail. I think that that is the ultimate form
of punishment. And at the same time, I can understand the families, the
loved ones, all those people who were scared for days after that bombing at
something that`s so significant to the Boston community and the nation
overall, I can certainly understand why people would support in this case
like where you said, speaking of reasonable doubt, there is absolutely no
reasonable or unreasonable doubt in this situation. So, it`s really tough.

KORNACKI: Yes. The Associated Press reported yesterday their reporter
called up Tsarnaev`s father after the verdict came down yesterday. They
said in their report that he groaned and hung up the phone afterwards.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, BUZZFEED: You know, what`s fascinating about this
to me is, you know, we used to really have a debate about death penalty in
this country. We talked about it all the time. And now it`s a very
fractured situation, I mean, Eric Holder was personally opposed to the
death penalty but the Obama administration made no effort to talk about it
on the federal level. We`ve had states in the, you know, some northern
states and states have gotten away from it and put more -- in place, and
backed away from death penalty. While a lot of sort of pro-death penalty
states have been working really hard lately to keep it going under a lot of
court pressure and court challenges. It`s fascinating because I mean,
you`re kind of talking about this national case, everybody knows about it.
Everybody has an opinion on this case. Everybody has an opinion on the
death penalty, but this is not a political debate that we actually really
have any more on a national level.

KORNACKI: It seems -- it feels to me like the debate -- it swings between
two places. There`s cases like this where the outrage is so universal.
And people like, this is why we need to death penalty. We have cases like
this, I can remember one in Connecticut a few years ago, where it was a
mother and her two daughters were basically held hostage in their own
house, they were tortured for a day, the house burned down, they died
inside. The father was at work. He survived that. That was in
Connecticut you watched public opinion jump like 30 points in favor of the
death penalty. But then on the flip side, every few months, it seems you
hear about somebody getting off death row who actually doesn`t belong

RYE: That`s right.

DOMENECH: To Evan`s point, it`s interesting that you see at the state
level a lot of situations while there is a death penalty under the law, the
actual process results in people ending up staying in jail for years and
sometimes decades. If you may recall in 2012, there was actually a little
bit of a blip up during the republican presidential debate about the death
penalty in California. And the reason that it was controversial there was
because there were so many people, while they had a death penalty, it
wasn`t actually being used. It was these people who were sort of getting
extended time in jail that`s supposed to having. I actually think it`s
better to not have one at all than have that situation where you have a
death penalty but you`re actually not ever using it. You know, it`s
perpetrating sort of a situation where it isn`t actually the law of the
land, you`re just pretending it is. And I think that that`s the sort of
situation that leads to confused debates on this issue as opposed to having
some clarity.

RYE: I think the other thing that we have to start paying more attention
to as you said -- it wasn`t certainly a debate longer ago, and that is the
difference between correcting behavior, rehabilitation type of punishment
versus like, hard core punishment. And I just wonder, you know, what that
spectrum really looks like for us in this country. When can someone be
reformed. When do you completely give up on them? And when you completely
give up on them, what does that mean? Does that mean death? Does that
mean permanent punishment or lifetime punishment? What does that really
look like? And I think that`s something that we need to really wrestle
with and come to a solution.

KORNACKI: I will say that. I mean, I grew up to Massachusetts, I was
talking to people up there in the last few weeks, there was a big story up
there. Obviously, as it was nationally, I heard it over and over from
people. You know, what? I really don`t like the death penalty. I`m not
comfortable with the death penalty. But in this case, I`m fine with it.
I`m not going to be upset with the verdict. I heard that from so many
people up there. Just a matter of correction, too, I think I was talking
about that case in Connecticut. I`m being told the father of that family
that was tortured and killed was not at work at the time of that. But
anyway, I had to clear that up.

Still ahead, his debates with President Obama have nothing on what Mitt
Romney was doing last night. But, first, a paycheck details that could
make it difficult for Hillary Clinton to portray herself as the champion of
working Americans. That is next. Stay with us.



FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON (D), UNITED STATES: And I do disclose who gave
them to me so people can make up their own minds.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So, she`s now running for president, will you continue
to give speeches?

CLINTON: Oh, yes, I got to pay our bills.


KORNACKI: Well, the Clintons apparently have plenty of money to pay those
bills. With news late yesterday that former President Bill Clinton and
Hillary Clinton reported that they earned more than $30 million since
January of last year. More than $25 million of that coming from speaking

NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker has gone through all of
the documents the Clintons filed with the Federal Election Commission. She
joins us live. So, Kristen, I did a double take when I saw this, $30
million is big, but then this is just in about a year and a half.

a lot of people did a double take, Steve. Hillary Clinton releasing her
financial disclosure forms on Friday. As you point out, they show that she
and former President Bill Clinton raked in close to $25 million for
delivering about 100 paid speeches since January of 2014. A lot of them to
banks, big corporations. Hillary Clinton also earned Steve about $5
million in royalties from her book "Hard Choices." The disclosures put
Clinton in the top one percent of incomers. Now, that could complicate her
message. She has argued that she`s a champion of the working and middle
class. The Clintons have faced criticisms as you know in the past for
being out of touch.

For example, you`ll remember that it was just last year that Clinton said
that she and her family were, quote, "dead broke" when they left the White
House. And that`s, of course, a claim that didn`t really ring true for a
lot of Americans. It`s also worth noting that the flip side to this is
that the Clintons reportedly paid an effective tax rate of about 30
percent. And they of course argue that wealthier Americans should pay more
in taxes. Still, you can imagine the Republicans wasted no time lashing
out late last night. And the statement, the chairman of the Republican
National Committee Reince Priebus said, quote, "The Clintons claim that
staggering amounts of income from paid speaking fees that raise ethical
questions and potential conflicts of interests is simply to pay our bills
shows how out of touch they have truly become.

Now, the Clintons of course deny any ethical breaches. Hillary Clinton
released the information in keeping with the rules of the Federal Election
Commission. And Steve, I can tell you, just looking ahead, she`s going to
be back on the road next week. She`s going to make her second trip to Iowa
since announcing her candidacy, she will make stops in Mason City and Cedar
Falls and you can anticipate that that message of being a champion for the
middle class will certainly be on display there -- Steve.

KORNACKI: Well, we know she`ll have the gas money if she drives that van
out there again. I guess we`ll figure that out at least. Anyway, thanks
to Kristen Welker at the White House this morning. Appreciate your time.
Let`s talk about this with the panel. And I mean, look, I think -- it
seems like do we instinctively think of politicians is just living in this
different world? This bubble or does this put them in a different bubble
when you see $30 million in what, 18 months?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Look, I think she`s got a great new campaign slogan,
which is like, you want to look -- look at what I did for myself in 16
months. You know what I was saying? I know that economic growth.


RYE: We need to hire you for that. That was good.

KORNACKI: Does he charge to give the State of the Union?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Mitt Romney should just offered stock tips.


When Hillary Clinton speaks about this in her speeches and she explains
her, you know, she talks about -- she`s had and how, you know, proud they
are to have done what she`s done and find their way to this kind of wealth.
Their problem is when they get asked any questions about it. I mean, you
know, she said the dead broke thing. One of the dumbest things that could
possibly have ever been said about this. And then he said the --

KORNACKI: Got to pay our bills.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Which is probably the second dumbest thing you probably
say. But I mean, look, everybody who runs for president is generally of a
higher sort of -- be the nominee are generally like, you know, by the time
they`ve reached that point --

KORNACKI: They`re not worried about money.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: They got a lot of money. But the trick is, you can`t
look like you`re really defensive about it. I mean, you can sort of, this
is a positive in your life if you think it is, which Clinton has said she
thinks that it is. She needs to figure out some way to discuss it without
looking like, she`s like how dare you ask me about this unbelievable amount
of money that I have earned in 16 months.

DOMENECH: As Latrell Sprewell obviously said, your guts to feed your
family. But I think that the thing is really going on here is that you
have a Clinton machine that right now is different from the one that they
actually used to rise up in politics. When they were starting out in the
political game at the national level they had the populist appeal of coming
from Arkansas and being closely connected to working class Americans, being
closely connected with the middle class. And having those concerns at the
front and center. The real problem for Hillary going forward is, does she
work for that group of people anymore? Does she represent them? Or does
she represent the people who are paying her a quarter of a million dollar
plus for every speech that she gives? And that`s I think the problem that
she`s going to have in a general campaign.

KORNACKI: You know, the reports say, you can go and find these. You can
see and go find this, you can see which group this is that paid 250,000,
$300,000. I`m just remembering when Bill Clinton ran for president in
1992, he was the governor of Arkansas, his salary as the governor of
Arkansas was $35,000 a year. And now he makes ten times that much to talk
for an hour to some corporate group.

RYE: And I think that part of this is we really do have to remember like
where these people came from. Like Hillary Clinton is not Mitt Romney.
She`s just not. This is a woman who as soon as she finished law school
worked for the Marian Wright Edelman for Children`s Defense Fund. This is
someone who fought for healthcare before it was a popular notion or
arguably not so popular with Jeb Bush`s Apple watch app idea. But I think
that even still, we`re talking about folks who are not that far off from
representing middle class values and middle class people and folks who are
striving to get into the middle class. I do agree with you that they have
epically failed in talking about their financial situation. I hope that as
time goes on they`re very clear about how to speak about this.

DOMENECH: But the reason that they failed is because they`ve spent so much
time in the bubble where this is okay. Where that`s just kind of standard
practice. Where you`re getting paid that much to just go and speak for
less than 30 minutes. And I think that, you know, that sort of cycle where
you`re bouncing --

RYE: You turning down a speaking engagement fee?

DOMENECH: No, of course not.

RYE: Exactly. And that`s my point --

DOMENECH: But I`m also not running for president.

RYE: No, no, you`re right. But here`s the thing --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That`s all they get?

RYE: Here`s the thing, if I was Bill Clinton, common Bill Clinton who can
find a way to relate to anyone, instead of saying that we need this money
to pay our bills, he should have said, you going to turn down that fee?
Most Americans

KORNACKI: Well, I`ll tell you what, I had a speaking gig down at Rutgers a
little while ago.

RYE: Yes.

KORNACKI: And they paid my NJ transit fares, 14.40 or something like that.

RYE: You should have negotiated that.

KORNACKI: Yes. You know, what, now that I think about it, I think the
rules here at MSNBC bar me from accepting it. I only paid for myself.


I mean, all right. Anyway, still ahead. Thirteen questions that Hillary
has answered since announcing her run. What might she answer, next? That
is coming up.

But first, George Stephanopoulos made the transition from White House
senior advisor to top television journalist and the mistake that`s
threatening to undermine all of it. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: All right. Breaking news this hour. That U.S. Special Forces
have carried out a raid inside of Syria flying into Eastern Syria by
helicopter to kill a top ISIS commander named Abu Sayyaf. That word is
coming from the U.S. Defense Department. We are now working to get more
information on the story to find out exactly what happened there. We will
going to bring you all of the additional details on that raid as they
become available. Again, that word breaking just this hour from the U.S.
Defense Department over a raid carried out inside of Syria.

While we work on gathering more information about that story, let`s catch
up on some of the other headlines making news this morning. Beginning with
the many articles about the fallout since George Stephanopoulos apologized
for not disclosing $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Over the last several years I`ve
been substantial donations to dozens of charities including the Clinton
Global Foundation. Those donations were a matter of public record but I
should have made additional disclosures on air when we cover the
foundation. And I now believe that directing personal donations to that
foundation was a mistake. Even though I made them strictly support work
done to stop the spread of AIDS, help children, and protect the environment
in poor countries. I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the
appearance of a conflict. I apologize to all of you for failing to do


KORNACKI: And ABC News says it is standing by Stephanopoulos. They say he
made an honest mistake and he has voluntarily removed himself from being
the moderator of a future republican presidential primary debate.
Stephanopoulos has already given his critics plenty of ammunition. They
ask whether he can still be credible in covering the Clintons at all, and
covering the Clintons at all means covering the 2016 campaign at all.
Look, there is a longer term story here. Republicans have sort of been
suspicious of George Stephanopoulos since he went into the media, since he
went to ABC basically fresh from the Clinton White House in the late 1990s.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Not just republicans.

KORNACKI: I mean, although we say that that is a jump that happens a lot -
- that wall between politics and the media. Tim Russert was Mario Cuomo`s
guy became --

DOMENECH: Sure. But the expectations I guess are different depending on
which role you play. If you`re one of somebody who is on a panel with
different views and you`ve been in politics. I`ve worked in politics, a
lot of other people have worked in politics. Then there`s not that
expectation that you`ll going to be a neutral arbiter. And I think that
Stephanopoulos had carved out a role like Russert as being a neutral
arbiter and being the host of this debates as someone who is not
representing a partisan viewpoint. This just brings up a lot of those same

KORNACKI: It does. But I wonder, if this came out three years ago or four
years ago, not in the current climate where we spent a month talking about
the Clinton Foundation where she announced the --

RYE: That`s right.

KORNACKI: Does this -- does this look different when he did it?

RYE: It looks completely different. And I would say that now especially
the optics are terrible. But at the same time, I would say, again,
bringing back kind of this very human factor into this. If you have an old
boss who starts a foundation, you are going to support that foundation.
Should he have disclosed it? Absolutely. But I`m not even suggesting that
he shouldn`t have made the donations. I think it is ridiculous that people
divorce themselves from humanity when they were dealing with whether it`s a
journalist, whether it`s a coach of a team --

DOMENECH: Sure. But Stephanopoulos is a nice guy but you can`t start that
interview with Peter Schweizer without saying, hey, just so you know I gave
money to the Clintons.

KORNACKI: Right. So the guy is right.

RYE: I agree with you on that point. I said he should have.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: I mean, there are two -- here. One is now he is like a
candidate. You know, he`s now said that he`s made public apology. We`ll
going to see what the American people have to say about that. He`s like
the candidates he`s covering. The other irony is, some of these republican
push back on the idea of a biased campaign debate moderator is a little
rich after they rebuilt their debate system to say the only people who can
host debates are hosts of right wing radio talk shows. I mean, they have
made a concerted effort to have particularly ideologically biased primary
debate moderators.

KORNACKI: And the complaint here is the more specific complaint that I`ve
heard from conservatives and republicans about Stephanopoulos was in 2012
when he asked questions about the whole issue of contraception. He pressed
the issue in a debate. A lot of republicans felt this was sort of a
manufactured issue that he put on to the national radar that kind of hit
the candidate. So, they`ve been suspicious of him.

RYE: Or could it be something that he legitimately believes in. Sometimes
you work for people who you actually ideologically agree with. So, again,
this, to me is very bizarre, it`s like, okay, he is a democratic leaning
journalist who came out of the White House. Like that is not --

KORNACKI: But I guess the thing is that ABC --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: I don`t know that Bill Clinton`s -- I mean, he came up
with Bill Clinton, he came up through that, you know, system. I`m not sure
that I, you know, he`s going to be covering this second run for the
Clintons, for the presidency, run for the presidency. I don`t know that
that`s --

KORNACKI: We`ve got to -- I think we`re getting more information here. We
talked about the top of the segment word of the raid being carried out
inside of Syria. We said we`d get some more information on it. And I
think we have Kristen Welker live at the White House right now. And
Kristen, with some details on that. Please, take it away, Kristen.

WELKER: That`s right. This is all just breaking right now. We just got a
statement from the NSC, officials confirming that President Obama ordered
this raid and that U.S. personnel were able to capture a senior ISIS leader
who`s been identified as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. This all
occurring in Eastern, Syria. I`ll read you a little bit of the statement
that was just released from the NSC. It says Umm Sayyaf was captured and
just currently in U.S. military detention in Iraq. The operation also led
to the freeing of a young Yazidi woman who appears to have been held as a
slave by the couple. Really important point Steve, no U.S. personnel were

Now, a little bit of background about who this ISIS leader, according to
this statement, Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who among other things
had a senior role in overseeing ISIL`s elicit oil and gas operations. A
key source of revenue that enables the terrorist group according to the
White House to carry out their brutal attacks and oppress thousands of
innocent civilians. He was also involved with the group`s military
operations. So, again, the White House announcing that they have captured
this senior ISIL leader. Of course, we also call that group ISIS. And his
wife as well. And President Obama authorized this operation, again, very
important to point out that no U.S. military personnel were injured in this
capture and in this mission. We will of course continue to get details
about this throughout the morning and keep you updated -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Kristen Welker live at the White House. And yes,
details coming in right now. A lot of information breaking on this story.
Now, we`ll try to put it all together for you. We are going to give you
much more and all of the latest as it comes in. So, please stay with us
throughout the show. And more ahead right after this.


KORNACKI: Breaking news this hour that U.S. Special Forces have carried
out a raid inside of Syria. Flying into Eastern Syria by helicopter to
kill a top ISIS commander named Abu Sayyaf. The Defense Department says,
Sayyaf was involved in ISIS military matters. Its finances and that he
helped direct its oil and gas operations. Special Forces also capturing
his wife. We have here a statement, from the Defense Secretary, from Ash
Carter, with a little more detail. Again this coming from the Pentagon
saying that Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces as they tried
to capture him in Eastern Syria last night and that U.S. forces did managed
to capture his wife Umm Sayyaf.

They say that she was -- they suspect she`s a member of ISIL or ISIS as
many know it. And that she quote, may have been complicit in what appears
to have been the enslavement of a young Yazidi woman who was rescued last
night. And Ash Carter saying in this statement, no U.S. forces were killed
or injured during the operation. The operation represents another
significant blow to ISIL and it is a reminder that the United States will
never waiver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens
and those of our friends and allies.

So, again, we have the panel here with us right now. Breaking news,
obviously, we`re still learning more about this. But just a reminder, too,
of, you know, this week there`s been so much attention on the Bin Laden
raid and some questions raised about that. Somethings walked back that a
lot of attention at least paid to that this week. And now here we have
overnight news of a raid inside of Syria.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Yes. I`m not very comfortable analyzing this raid
because we`re talking about just hearing about it. But I would put some
context on it which is this week, I was with President in Camp David where
he has hosted the golf leaders trying to sort of sure up America`s allies
in the gulf region to fight things like ISIS and other terrorists`
activities. It`s interesting to me that you should have put this in the
context of America going out, I mean, the President just the other day, I
mean, yesterday the day before reaffirming the nation -- the American`s
interest in trying to fight some of these fights and have these battles
against places like ISIS. Now you see, you know a --

DOMENECH: Well, you also see this in the context of the kind of failures
that we`ve seen lately in terms of the push back within Ramadi and so much
of the fighting that`s gone on there. I think that, I mean, it will be
interesting to look at this operation. How long it`s been -- something
that`s been debated and it sounds like the Security Council was something
that was entirely in favor of this and was going in this direction. We`ll
have to learn more because it`s so early.

KORNACKI: A few more details, again, it`s early and there`s a lot more to
come out. But we can also report to you this was carried out, not
surprisingly on President Obama`s direct order. Also that the wife of Abu
Sayyaf Umm Sayyaf was captured by Special Forces. She is now being held --
being detained by the U.S. military in Iraq. So a little bit more detail
there. But as you say, a lot more, you know, still to be learned about
this. We`ll going to keep a close eye on it. And we will keep you updated
throughout the morning. We`ll be right back after this.


KORNACKI: All right. Breaking news this hour that U.S. Special Forces had
carried out a raid inside of Syria flying into Eastern Syria by helicopter
to kill a top commander named Abu Sayyaf. The Defense Department says that
Sayyaf was involved in ISIS military matters. Its finances and that it
helped to direct its oil and gas operations. Special Forces also capturing
his wife. We have some information on him here. You can see in the
monitor who was Abu Sayyaf. He as we say a senior ISIS leader. This is
what we`re being told. He oversaw oil and gas operations, involved in
military operations now. What we`re being told is that this was initially
apparently -- and apparently, these are sketchy details right now. But
apparently, the operation was intended to capture him and to capture his

He was actually killed when he -- this is according to the Defense
Department. When he tried to engage U.S. forces who were there to capture
him. So, he was killed, according to the Defense Department, when he
resisted. His wife, though, was captured we`re being told that she is
being held in military custody in Iraq right now. So, again, lots of
moving pieces here. Lots of information coming in. We`re trying to
confirm what we hear and get you only what we know to be the facts. So,
we`re going to stay on that and keep you updated as we learn more. And
while behind the scenes, the people here do that. We are going to switch
gears and talk a little bit more about what we talk about here a lot in the
show, the race for president 2016 and of course Hillary Clinton.

And one of the headlines this week about how Hillary Clinton has not been
answering questions necessarily from the media so far in her presidential
campaign. In just over a month of running for president she has answered a
total of 13. This is according to national public radio. A minimal amount
compared to some of her competitors on the republican side. So, what
questions is Hillary Clinton avoiding? And when those questions start to
come, perhaps as early as this week, when she travels to Iowa, what are
those questions going to be that she`s not answering? "The Washington
Post" Greg Sargent actually put a list together of hot button issues, these
are issues where the base of Hillary`s own party, where her fellow
democrats want answers from her. They want commitments from her.

So, we thought we would take a look at what some of those issues are here
on the big board with political analyst Blake Zeff who incidentally also
worked on Hillary Clinton`s 2008 presidential campaign. That was a
lifetime ago.

So, Blake, welcome here today to talk about this. So, we`re seeing that
the big unanswered questions with Hillary Clinton, this comes from Greg
Sargent at "The Washington Post." They broke them down into categories.
So, let`s take a look at some of these categories.


KORNACKI: And we`ll start here with the issue of trade. So, of course,
the big thing with trade right now is the TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership.
They have, it`s broken down into two parts. It`s really complicated but
there`s the fast track negotiation and there`s the TPP itself. And Hillary
Clinton saying nothing so far.

ZEFF: Right. And I think the really key way to look at this topic when it
comes to Hillary Clinton is to go back a couple of decades to NAFTA.
Right? To understand the politics in the Democratic Party. You really
have to understand that labor still very skeptical about this NAFTA deal
that was done about 20 years ago and as a result, you`ve got some
skepticism not just on labor but also on the Left about trade deals in
general. And so, Hillary Clinton is, you know, she had some questions
about NAFTA back when she went in 2008 that gave her a little bit of a
tough time trying to straddle between owning some of Bill Clinton`s
accomplishments and not on others. Here she was a member of the Obama
administration, seems to have said some things that were broadly supportive
of it. But now that she`s a candidate, it`s clear that the politics are
not there. The politics of the Democratic Party, the based as liberal
voters are really kind of skeptical.

KORNACKI: So, they don`t want to hear that she`s for it. But she was part
of the administration that`s very much for it. She made some supportive
comments. How long can she keep this up right now before she has to weigh
in definitively?

ZEFF: Well, look, Bernie Sanders has made a big deal about this. I think
Martin O`Malley who looks like he`s going to be in the race by the end of
the month, he is also starting to make some sounds about it. She`s getting
questioned by her opponents. And it looks like, you know, the strategy
seems to be to try to wait it out, to try to stay out of it. Like you
said, there are two issues going on here. On the one hand you have got the
fast track authority. That`s the ability of the President to essentially
negotiate the deal and then get an up or down vote from Congress without
amendments and filibusters and all that. That`s sort of a process part of
it. Right? Then the second part of it is the deal itself which many
people on the Left are very skeptical about. We`re going to get that
procedural hurdle probably taken a care of next week. She`s sort of
waiting it out, not saying too much, it looks like she`s been able to run
out the caucus on that. But the second part of it, which is the deal
itself, I don`t think it`s going to quite --

KORNACKI: Much tougher to that. Let`s take a look at another one here.
This takes us to Wall Street, and so much attention, obviously you talk
about the politics of Wall Street in the Democratic Party, you`re talking
about Elizabeth Warren, you`re talking about Bernie Sanders now, you`re
talking about going after the big banks, breaking up the big banks. How
far is Hillary Clinton going to be able to go on that question?

ZEFF: It`s a key question. Again, you mentioned that there`s sort of
this, this one block of democrats which is as you said, Bernie Sanders,
Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City making big
points this week about that kind of stuff. Then you`ve got another block
of the Democratic Party, that`s sort of kind of what you might call the pro
Wall Street wing for lack of a better term. That`s Andrew Cuomo --

KORNACKI: That was the Clinton White House.

ZEFF: That was potentially Bill Clinton at some point. And so, the
question is going to be ultimately which side does Hillary Clinton sort of
end up on. And I think that she has on certain issues, he`s actually been
pretty progressive on some of these things in 2008. She was pretty tough
on carried interest, the sort of, you know, and taxing certain financial
transactions. But you have people on the Left who really want to see some
of these banks broken up. More taxation when it comes to financial --

KORNACKI: Can she come out and say I want to break up the big banks or is
that too far field for her?

ZEFF: I don`t know if that`s too far field. But the question is, I think
at some point she`ll going to have to say, this is my economic philosophy.
I`m either in this camp or I`m in the other camp. She hasn`t done that
yet. I think over the course of six debates during this primary, she`s
going to have to elucidate that.

KORNACKI: All right. Let`s take a look one more here. This is a run.
So, okay, we have the framework for the final deal.

ZEFF: Right.

KORNACKI: But if this final deal gets announced in June she`s going to
have to say whether she`s for it or against it.

ZEFF: This one I think is a little easier. This one, you know, there`s a
smart young aide named Jake Sullivan who works for her, was also a big part
of the negotiations under the Obama administration when she was a secretary
of state. I think it will be very hard for Hillary Clinton not to kind of
own it and embrace it. Of course there some risks, right? Because you do
have some members of the party who are kind of pro-Israel, little more
hawkish. So, there is that kind of contingent there but I think to me it`s
very difficult for Hillary Clinton to kind of walk away from this given
that she was secretary of state. One of her top aides -- when she was
secretary, but also now as a candidate, he`s part of her campaign, you
know, was a big part of that. I think that she`s sort of I think she`s
part of the Iran deal.

KORNACKI: A lot of questions, a lot of things people are waiting to hear.
No word yet but that could change very soon.

ZEFF: Yes.

KORNACKI: Blake Zeff, thanks for taking a few minutes this morning.

ZEFF: Thank you.

KORNACKI: We appreciate that.

Again, keeping an eye on what we are learning out of Eastern Syria this
morning. More details coming in right now on that raid on the Special
Forces and the capture and the killing of apparently, of an ISIS leader.
We are going to bring you all those details when we come back.


KORNACKI: All right. Breaking news. We have been following this hour
that U.S. Special Forces have carried out a raid inside of Syria. Flying
into Eastern Syria by helicopter to capture and then ultimately kill a top
ISIS commander named Abu Sayyaf. The Defense Department says that Sayyaf
was involved in ISIS military operations, also that he helped to direct its
oil and gas operations and was involved in overseeing its finances.
Special Forces also capturing his wife.

Joining us now on the phone is the Washington editor-at-large for The
Atlantic Steve Clemons. So, Steve, a sort of fuzzy picture that`s just
slowly coming into focus right here. But from your understanding of this
situation, do you know what kind of blow this represents to ISIS?

STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (on the phone): Well, it`s a huge blow in
the sense that this was one of ISIS` kingpins in its racketeering money
operations, oil smuggling and human trafficking. And it`s a huge tribute
to the work of some of what the Department of Treasury, Department of State
and now the CIA have been doing of targeting the people that actually have
been fuelling -- this is the guy who ran the money pipeline in part for
ISIS. So, David Cohen who was the assistant secretary of state for
financial intelligence and recently became the deputy director of the CIA,
this would have been one of the people in his target. So, this is not a
traditional military target. If you could imagine the old Al Capone (ph)
day, this was the money guy. And it`s an incredible fine. Particularly
capturing anyone, including his wife out of this.

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, again, what we`re getting from the Defense
Department here is it sounds like the intent here was to capture him, to
capture both him and his wife. Getting from the Defense Department that
when this operation, when they`re in there to capture him, he engaged with
U.S. Forces and because of that, he was killed. Given what you`re telling
us about how crucial he was, how integral he was to the financial side of
ISIS, how much more value would there have been for the United States if
they were able to take him alive?

CLEMONS: I think it would have been enormous. Because when you`re taking
on an entity like ISIS, of course there`s the military dimension, you`ve
got the foreign fighters who come to be recruited, you`ve got the whack-a-
mole problem of ISIS, militarily popping up in one part of Syria, other
parts of Iraq. And you`ve got the propaganda and media elements. But the
thing that`s been staggeringly important is to shut down their finances.
And these folks have made, you know, $20 million, $30 million a year in
ransoms. Upwards of, you know, who knows, hundreds of million dollars in
elicit oil smuggling. In the sale of antiquities that it is, you know,
while we see them destroying, it`s threatening to destroy cities like
Palmyra in Syria, destroying other cities and ancient artifacts. They`ve
also been trafficking in these artifacts in bringing money in.

And so, shutting down the money operation has been an extremely high
priority of the Obama administration and treasury and state and CIA and
going after the individuals. So, in this case, he would have had the
blueprint of much of that operation. And my sense is, that while he was
resisted and was killed, it`s not only people we`re talking about, its
records, its computers, its assets, it`s all of that data that will give us
a map of how ISIS operates. And I`m expecting that that impact part of the
-- what we were going after there.

KORNACKI: All right. Steve Clemons in Washington, editor-at-large for The
Atlantic. Appreciate you taking a few minutes this morning. We`ll reserve
the right, if you will, to call on you again later in the show if we learn
more on this. And I appreciate the time for now.

Another full hour of news and politics. All the latest on this breaking
news out of Eastern Syria. Still ahead. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: The U.S. Special Forces kill a top ISIS leader.


KORNACKI: All right. Thanks for staying with us this busy Saturday

A lot of breaking news here right now. Amid word from the Defense
Department that U.S. Special Forces have conducted a raid by helicopter in
eastern Syria, it`s a raid that has killed a top ISIS leader named Abu
Sayyaf. Also, his wife was captured in the same raid. The White House
says the order was carried by the order of President Obama.

We`re going to go back to the White House for details on that in just a
minute. We`re also getting new reporting this hour from NBC chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel. He reports that this was a significant raid.
It was initially a snatch and grab mission. In other words, the goal was
to capture ISIS leader alive.

Senator U.S. military officials telling NBC News that Sayyaf was the emir
of oil and gas operations and was directly involved in ISIL command and
control. Quoting from a source here, he fought the capture and was killed.
This is a U.S. military official telling our Richard Engel. Special
Operations captured his wife which the official said was preplanned.

Now, the wife was identified as an Iraqi who goes by Umm Sayyaf. She was
also allegedly directly complicit in ISIL activities, specifically human
trafficking. The U.S. official military official adding that, quote, "we
are happy to report that a Yazidi slave girl was also freed as a result of
the operation.

We`re joined now by telephone by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor
winner, and MSNBC military analyst.

Colonel Jack, thanks for taking a few minutes.

So, what`s coming into focus here is this was -- this was designed to be
what we`re being told was a snatch and grab mission. They wanted to take
this guy alive. They wanted to take a senior ISIS leader alive.

How difficult is it to actually pull something like that off? We see he
ended up dead here because apparently he fought back. How difficult is it
to take somebody alive?

COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST (via telephone): It`s extremely
difficult because these guys are all protected. They`re in locations where
they move from all the time. And so, it`s tough to pin them down, which
indicates that he`s been on -- under observation for a long, long time.

And if you are going to have a force going in and actually get somebody, it
means it has to be a fairly substantial force, not two or three guys going
into an area. You have to have a security team, you have to have security
and an objective rallying point. You have to have security in the area
you`re going. You have to have the capability to go in and also extract.
You have to have backup and so on. So, we`re talking about a relatively
large number of people involved in this exercise.

The reason that you want to -- they wanted to get him, in particular, is
because of his position in generating revenue for ISIS. Very, very
important for two reasons. First of all, to get him, to interrogate him
and his wife. And second, and perhaps in many respects even more
important, to get the records, get the computers, get all the records and
that generates an enormous amount of intelligence -- the same sort of
thing, same sort of treasure-trove that we saw in getting bin Laden.

So, important to get the guy, much more important to get the records, very,
very useful down the road.

KORNACKI: All right. Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC analyst, appreciate the
time this morning.

Some more details here that we`re getting -- again, this is from NBC`s
Richard Engel -- saying no U.S. soldiers or civilians were hurt or injured
in this raid. Also, this is coming from NBC`s Richard Engel, his sources
telling him that 20 ISIS members, all of them men in addition to Abu Sayyaf
were killed in the course of this raid, in the course of this objective as
they`re calling it.

They`re also saying that there were no women or children who were killed
during this. Quote, "The soldiers were terribly precise, indiscriminant.
They fought into the objective. Under fire, only targeting ISIL and
safekeeping all of the women and children."|

We`re joined now on the phone by General Wesley Clark, former NATO

So, General, when you hear that we`ve taken -- we`ve killed now somebody
who was this intimately involved in the financial side of ISIS, that`s the
reporting we have suggests -- what does that mean to you?

the leadership in ISIL is and where they`re located and what their patterns
of activities are. So, we`ve, obviously, put a lot of effort into
understanding the entire top leadership structure. We have them under
observation much of the time.

Now, this particular fellow, we, obviously, had actionable intelligence on.
So, that means you know where he is and you have a fix on him right up to
the minute that you go in. So, that`s a very exacting standard. It means
we`re really very good at this.

Secondly, this is a big operation to go in, as Jack Jacobs said. You`ve
got to be able to get in, you`ve got to be able to get to the target,
you`ve got to be able to get out. It takes helicopter lift, it takes air
cover, it takes precision, operations on the ground, lots of resources.
So, we`re putting a big effort into this.

Now, this particular fellow, may be a critical person in the ISIL command
because ISIL runs like every other group on money. And we`ve been
targeting the oil pipelines, the oil refineries, trying to shut down the
financial operations.

Here, we got the kingpin. Too bad we didn`t get him alive. But this will
not only take his knowledge off the battlefield, but it will send a further
wave of shock and concern through the top leadership in ISIL.

They`re already under pressure. They can`t operate with the freedom they
operated with last year. And this puts more pressure on. This is the
critical next step in breaking up the top leadership.

KORNACKI: All right. Also some more information now coming in through the
White House. Our NBC`s Kristen Welker is live there. She has that new
information for us.

Kristen, what are you hearing?

WELKER: Steve, that`s right. We`re learning more about this operation,
according to a statement released by NSC spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.
President Obama approved this operation at the recommendation of his
national security team and last night, U.S. personnel who were based out of
Iraq carried out the mission. It was carried in eastern Syria. It was
aimed at capturing an ISIS leader known as Abu Sayyaf, and his wife Umm

It was supposed to be a snatch and grab operation. But during the mission,
Abu Sayyaf was killed when he tried to fight back.

Now, an official told me just moments ago, Steve, that 12 other enemy
fighters were also killed in this mission. No U.S. personnel were killed
however. Umm Sayyaf, the wife, was captured. She`s currently in U.S.
custody in Iraq. U.S. forces also freed a young Yazidi woman who was
apparently being held as a slave by the couple.

I am told by one official that Umm Sayyaf may have been involved in a
broader human trafficking effort. Now, Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIS. I
just heard you talking about. He was involved in the military, but also
had a senior role in overseeing ISIS` oil and gas operations.

This is really significant. And I know you were all just honing in on
this. I`m told it is significant because oil and gas is such a key source
of revenue. So, this is part of starving the economic structure of ISIS.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, quote, "The operation
represents another significant blow to ISIS and it is a reminder that the
United States will never waiver in denying safe haven to terrorists who
threaten our citizens and those of our friends and allies."

President Obama also expressing his gratitude to the U.S. personnel who
carried out the mission.

Important to point out, Steve, that Iraqi authorities also supported this.
This is being seen as a victory. But, of course, the broader fight against
ISIS continues in Iraq and Syria -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Kristen Welker, live at the White House, thank you
for that update. And we`ll look for more as it comes in through the hour.
Please keep us posts.

I also want to say thank you to retired General Wesley Clark for joining us
a few minutes ago as well. Sorry to cut him off abruptly. We wanted to
get to Kristen Welker and to that information.

Again, a lot coming in right now. A lot we`re trying to sort through to
make sure we bring you all the latest as we learn it.

And still ahead, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, we`re going
to go right to him on the other side of this break.


KORNACKI: All right. As we`ve been saying, we are following all of this
breaking news out of Syria this morning of U.S. Special Forces carrying out
a raid that resulted in the death of an ISIS leader, someone who is
apparently intimately involved in the financing of ISIS, also the capture
of his wife. She`s now being held by military forces, U.S. military forces
in Iraq. We are trying, we are working to get NBC`s chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel on the phone from Istanbul. We thought we
would have it for you right now. Apparently, a little difficult in getting
that connection up and running.

So, while we work on that, while we work to get the latest from Richard
Engel, who is reporting the story aggressively this morning, we are going
to shift gears for a second and we`re going to turn to, little awkwardly,
but fight night in Salt Lake City. That was last night.

Political debates, of course often referred to as face-offs. Game of
politics referred to a battle. Neither term, though, seemed more apt than
it did last night. 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney
appearing in the ring -- I am not making this up, this is not doctored
footage you`re looking at here -- with former heavyweight champion Evander
Holyfield. They sparred in a boxing match for charity.

And MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt was live ringside at that match last night. She
joins us from Salt Lake City this morning.

We are christening you our senior boxing correspondent, Kasie. You got a
glove and everything.

So, Mitt Romney, 68 years old. I hear he`s got a tough right hook. I
don`t know. He`s up against Evander Holyfield.

What was this all about and what happened last night?

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve, Romney and I did box a
little bit. And he seemed like a potentially tough opponent. But you
know, he does like to say that politics ain`t bean bag, and when we talked
last night, he said that real boxing isn`t bean bag either. But that`s not
quite what went on last night when he did get in that right. And instead
of taking jabs at President Obama as he was used to, he took them at
Evander Holyfield.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, introducing, Mitt "The Glove" Romney.

HUNT (voice-over): On Friday night, the quake in Salt Lake.

Once called "bird legs", now "The Glove", stripping down to take on Evander
"The Real Deal" Holyfield, five time heavy weight champ.

(on camera): Do you have one piece of advice for Governor Romney tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep your hands up.

HUNT (voice-over): Romney scrambling around the ring. Holding his own.


HUNT: In the end, losing again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rushing over to Romney and a white glove has been
thrown in.

ANNOUNCER: Your winner, Evander "Real Deal" Holyfield.

boxer. And -- don`t laugh so hard.

HUNT: To keep it at least a little bit fair, Holyfield did give Mitt some
pointers. That he and wife Ann were happy to show up.

(on camera): OK, I would like you to show me some of your new moves.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT`S WIFE: You`ve been waiting a long time -- you`re going
to put them on?

HUNT: I`m going to put them on.

ANN ROMNEY: We`ve been waiting a long time to do this.

MITT ROMNEY: Exactly right. Are you ready?

HUNT: What do I do here? I put them up?

MITT ROMNEY: Yes, you do put them up. Tag your forehead to remind
yourself to keep your gloves up. Because, you know, if you`re punching,
you know --

HUNT (voice-over): Went into this ring all for a good cause, curing
blindness around the world.

MITT ROMNEY: What we raised tonight, a million dollars will provide
surgeries for 40,000 people. That will be done in one full year. So, it`s
quite an accomplishment tonight.


HUNT: That organization, Charity Vision, run by Romney`s son Josh, the
real beneficiary of all this spectacle, even though we may have gotten
plenty of entertainment out of it, Steve.

KORNACKI: Kasie, I`d just talk to the panel here for a second.

I`m curious what you thought of watching this? Mitt "The Glove" Romney?
This is -- you talking about seeing a side of a politician you`ve never
seen before. That, this takes the cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It would have helped him a whole lot sooner. I think
about the horrible even Mitt documentary. This footage coming out before
the documentary may have helped him. He`s been so stiff and even robotic.
The only thing I didn`t like was them walking in. I thought that was
little tasteless.

KORNACKI: I got to say it, just look at this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look it, is that Ann Romney?

KORNACKI: That guy is 68 years old, by the way. Give him credit. That`s

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re in a world straw poll, what are we going to do,
get rid of it. I think we solved the problem of the Ames straw poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney is a good example of a guy that`s good at
everything in life except for running president. In this case, he shows
he`s good at putting on a show. I`m just curious whether he was able to
give stock tips to Holyfield during the course of it. He`s so effective in
so many different ways at everything but politics. So, as far as he stays
away from that, I like it.

KORNACKI: Let me ask you, Kasie, I saw you sparring. Did you think he
would take a shot at you?

HUNT: He seem today pull his punches. I felt like I handed one or two
more. He was afraid to go all the way in there, which I appreciated.

But, you know, Steve, I actually think that this might solve the Republican
Party`s debate stage problem. They can`t put 20 candidates on stage but
they could put them in a boxing ring.

KORNACKI: I think there`s standard. If you can last three rounds with
Holyfield, you can -- we`ll put you on the stage. See if Pataki could
handle that or something. But anyway --

HUNT: He might come out on top, you never know.

KORNACKI: It`d be bad for Evander Holyfield if that happens.

Anyway, Kasie Hunt, that sounds like a fun night last night. Thank you for
putting that package together for us. That was -- that`s great fun to
watch. Appreciate it.

HUNT: It was. Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: OK. And as we say, obviously, much more we`re learning just in
the last few minutes on this breaking news out of Syria of the U.S. raid.
All of those details we`re putting together right now. Other side of the
break, we`ll give them to you.


KORNACKI: All right. We`ve been reporting this morning on the U.S.
Special Forces raid inside Syria, a raid in which a top ISIS leader, Abu
Sayyaf, has been killed and his wife captured. As we told you earlier,
U.S. military officials telling NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard
Engel that he was the emir of ISIS oil and gas operations.

And Richard Engel joins us now live by phone from Istanbul.

And, Richard, if you would, please just take us through everything you know
right now about what happened.

First of all, it`s quite significant that it took place inside Syria. U.S.
is operating quite openly and deliberately inside Iraq.

But moving inside Syria is a very different kind of mission all together.
There are no friendly forces on the ground. There`s no real Syrian
opposition. This raid was launched deep into the heart of ISIS country,
which means there were U.S. boots on the ground.

This was initially a snatch and grab operation. They were trying to
capture Abu Sayyaf alive. And find out what intelligence me may have had,
find out more about ISIS financing. There was a raid. There was a raid on
a house. Inside the house, there were some sort of compound.

Abu Sayyaf and his wife who is being called Umm Sayyaf was there. There
was a gun fight according to a military official. That Abu Sayyaf did not
agree to go peacefully. He was killed. His wife was captured.

A Yazidi woman, which is a local ethnic group that ISIS has enslaved who
was working as a slave for this family, was freed in the rescue mission or
in this capture mission I should say. And that there were -- there was a
gun battle and that 20 other armed insurgents, security forces in the area
were killed. So, it`s quite a daring operation to have U.S. Special
Operations forces try to do a snatch and grab mission in the middle of is
country. They did seize some communications equipment. They seized some
documents and other bits of intelligence from the home, which the U.S.
military believes can be useful in learning more about ISIS.

And it just sends a very strong message frankly. It sends a message that
the U.S. isn`t going to bomb from drones, but that if necessary, or if the
time and place of the U.S. choosing, they will go on the ground and try and
grab people. So, it certainly sends a strong message.

KORNACKI: And, Richard, we`re hearing so much from people we talked to
already talking about how key it is to sort of undermine the financing, how
ISIS gets its money, how it finances its operations. If the U.S., if the
West can undermine that, that`s such a crucial component in reducing the
power, reducing the capability of ISIS.

How significant in the light of that is this killing? Is this killing and
capture and the information it`s gained from this?

ENGEL: I think the U.S. has already been targeting and other coalition
partners have been targeting the ISIS oil infrastructure. They`ve been
bombing it. That probably has a more direct impact in slowing down their
ability to make money off of it than the killing of one leader, even if he
is the emir of the oil and gas sector according to the U.S. military.

But I think the more important factor is the psychological one. That it`s
sending a message even if you are in Deir Ezzor, which is in eastern Syria,
where there are no U.S. troops operating. It`s incredibly dangerous, no
journalists in the area. It is firmly under ISIS control, that even there
ISIS leadership cannot feel comfortable in their homes, that they should be
worried about helicopters coming into the night to take them away.

Obviously, the oil and gas sector is important but that oil and gas
smuggling will continue after this killing or not. I don`t think this is
going to stop it.

KORNACKI: NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, appreciate you
taking a few minutes this morning.

ENGEL: Absolutely.

KORNKACKI: All right, by phone from Istanbul, thank you for that.

And still ahead, we will also be joined by retired four-star general, Barry
McCaffrey. All the latest on this developing story out of Syria. Stay
with us.


KORNACKI: All right. We`ve been reporting this morning on the U.S.
Special Forces raid inside of Syria in which a top ISIS leader, Abu Sayyaf
has been killed and his wife captured. Retired four star general Barry
McCaffrey joins us on the phone.

So, General, I guess if we could take a bigger picture look at this for
just a minute. If you could assess for us what the strength was, what the
position of ISIS was before this happened right now -- so much talk last
year about how ISIS was on the march -- its influence was spreading, its
presence was spreading throughout the Middle East.

In the year sense then, what has happened? What`s the state of ISIS as we
digest this story right now?

think, you know, under Secretary Carter`s leadership, the U.S. Special
Forces, in particular and also U.S. naval and air force power have
significantly damaged this organization. The significance to this raid is
number one, that is terrific intelligence to take -- he wasn`t the salient
figure, but they had him under surveillance long enough to plan and carry
out a flawless operation.

So, it`s a signal again to ISIS, they`re not safe anywhere. Not only from
a smart bomb off a naval fighter jet but also from ground raids, very
closely targeting their operations.

So, you know, maybe a dozen killed, the Special Forces unit infiltrated
Iraq and then conducted this raid into eastern Syria with tremendous

KORNACKI: In terms of -- we have the Defense Department telling us no U.S.
personnel wounded or killed in this operation. How unlikely is that when
you`re looking at something on this scale to come out with no casualties on
the U.S. side?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I visited the JSOC tier one Special Forces unit
under General McChrystal`s command in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the
years and watched them in action. They are some of the most remarkable
fighters on the face of the Earth. But more importantly, they`re networked
into our national intelligence service in a unusual way.

So, I think the majority of their operations, to be blunt, achieve complete
strategic surprise on these targets they go after. And they normally carry
out their missions with no problems. And by the way, irregardless of the
gun fights on the ground, these are dangerous operations, usually
involving, you know, night operations done by helicopter, so that the level
of training of these forces and their integration into the larger picture
is remarkable.

KORNACKI: Retired four star general, military analyst, Barry McCaffrey,
thank you for taking some time this morning.

I want to turn now to NBC`s chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski.
He is joining us on the phone. He has some new details on this raid.

Jim, what are you hearing?

Military officials tell NBC News that this was an intent gun battle. That
these Army, Navy, or the Army Delta Force commandos descended on this ISIS
compound in eastern Syria in Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-winged

They met heavy resistance, a gun battle that went on for sometime, in which
the Delta force commandos killed at least a dozen ISIS fighters. And this
was a fight that actually involved hand to hand combat. That`s how close
they were in proximity inside that compound.

In the battle, of course, they killed Abu Sayyaf, ISIS oil and gas man.
He`s the guy who not only made the oil flow but the money flow into ISIS.
And this could be a serious, serious blow to ISIS financing.

In the process, too, they grabbed his wife. I asked one official, why the
wife. And I was told the wife is a key principal player and a very
important operative inside the ISIS organization. And this battle was so
intense, that as the helicopters lifted off to take off and flee the scene,
they came under heavy gun fire. Several of the helicopters took fire. Not
enough to disable them.

And there were no Delta Force that were wounded or killed in this
operation, which, of course, everyone at the Pentagon and within the
Special Operations Forces considers an overwhelming success at this point.

KORNACKI: Those are some fairly amazing details, Jim. I mean, the idea
that there were no casualties on the U.S. side from what you`re describing,
hand to hand combat, the helicopter coming under attack as it tries to
leave from that level, that intensity of fighting that there`s no
casualties on the U.S. side, that`s remarkable.

I wonder, though, what you are hearing -- you`re talking about the
significance of this guy to ISIS` operations to its financing. Potentially
the significance of his wife as well. Is there a difference, though --
obviously the intent here was to take him alive. The fact he`s not been
taken alive, that he was killed in this gun fight that you`re describing.

Is there any significance to the fact they couldn`t get him alive and they
had to kill him? Does that take away from the value of all this?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Because they grabbed his wife at the same time, any
intelligence that they may have extracted from Abu Sayyaf over any given
time will probably also be something that the wife would also know in terms
of intelligence.

And, look, will ISIS have somebody up and behind him to take Abu Sayyaf`s
place? Yes, probably almost immediately. But this is more than just
killing Sayyaf and grabbing his wife. This is a huge psychological victory
for the U.S. and the coalition forces because ISIS pretty much felt that
they were impervious, that they couldn`t be touched in eastern Syria except
through an occasional air strike.

But this was showing ISIS the U.S. has the intelligence -- and certainly
with the Special Operations Forces, the wherewithal to penetrate their best
defenses and grab one of their top people. So, if nothing else, this is a
huge psychological victory for the U.S., psychological blow for ISIS.

KORNACKI: And, again, for those just joining us, U.S. forces killing Abu
Sayyaf, an ISIS leader who was intimately involved in the financing of that
operation. Also capturing his wife, Umm Sayyaf.

And NBC`s chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski telling us that she
may potentially also have been critical in a role she play with ISIS.

Jim, what do you know about where is she is, where this wife Umm Sayyaf is
now? What`s going to be happening to her now?

MIKLASZEWSKI: Well, obviously, she`ll be taken -- she`s in custody.
She`ll be secluded. She`s not going to be mingled with any other prisoners
that the U.S., Iraq or the coalition may hold. This is considered a pretty
good get when you`re talking about capturing those from the battlefield,
and she will undergo some intense interrogation over any period of time to
extract as much information as they can.

KORNACKI: All right. NBC`s chief correspondent Jim Miklaszewski,
appreciate the time. Again, all new sorts of details we`re learning right
now. Some remarkable stuff from Jim Miklaszewski there again. He`s
describing an intense gun battle that played out in this raid in hand to
hand combat.

Again, the headline out of that in addition to the killing of this ISIS
leader, the capture of his wife, no U.S. forces, no casualties when it
comes to U.S. forces. Remarkable given what was described there.

Much more for you as we continue right on the other side of this break.


KORNACKI: All right. Again, we are closely monitoring the breaking news
out of Syria where U.S. Special Forces have killed an ISIS leader, Abu
Sayyaf. They have also captured his wife, Umm Sayyaf. She`s now being
held by U.S. military forces. Both of them, according to reporting we just
heard from Jim Miklaszewski, the Pentagon correspondent at NBC News. Both
of them apparently intimately involved in the leadership of ISIS and its

So, again, we`re keeping a close eye on that. More details as we learn

In the meantime, though, we are going to turn back for a few minutes to
politics, to the 2016 race, to the GOP field.

The Republican National Committee is facing an unprecedented dilemma. How
do you organize a presidential debate when just about every Republican in
the country seems to be running? As many as 20 candidates are currently
running or exploring running for president on the Republican side. And
trying to fit that many candidates on the same stage and then making sure
they all have a chance to actually say something meaningful -- well, that`s
basically an impossible task.

So, that is what this year`s Republican debate organizers have to figure
out. They have to figure out who they`re going to leave out of the debate?
Who can get away with leaving of the debates?

Now, this is what we used to think about a crowded debate stage. This was
back in 2008 when nine candidates on the Republican side was a crowd. Even
those debates, though, were criticized then for leaving people out.

A congressman, Thaddeus McCotter, at the time, he was a sitting congressman
from Michigan, he was left out. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, he
was also left out, as well as former Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico.
So, three people with some real credentials were left out of those debates
in 2012.

Now, "Politico" reporting yesterday that the closed door guidance from the
Republican National Committee is that 12 candidates will be the maximum
allowed for a debate this year. And Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the
RNC, passing the buck, saying it would be up to the television networks who
produce and air the debates to decide who gets to participate in those

So, we`re just over two months away from the first scheduled Republican
primary debate. That will be in Cleveland. Who should make the cut?
Should it be up to the networks to decide and what criteria might they be
using to make their decision?

To figure out the thorny questions, we have long time television producer,
reporter, political analyst, Bob Franken.

Bob, thank you for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.

BOB FRANKEN, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we`ll face there will be more
people on the stage than are actually watching.

KORNACKI: That`s a nightmare for Republicans.

Well, if I can step back here, so, we want to make sure we can see the
screen. And let`s take a look now. We have a task for you. We`re going
to use our telestrator. So, what we have here, we have -- thin this field
a little bit. We see, there are 16 of the most likely Republican
candidates here. Sixteen is too many on the debate stage.

So, we want to ask you first of all, who are the four you`d cut to get us
down to 12. When you look at this roster of Republican candidates. Can
you see any that jump out at you?

FRANKEN: Maybe Jeb Bush.

KORNACKI: You`d cut Jeb Bush?

FRANKEN: You know, every time he`s asked a question, he seems to mess up
the answers. So maybe he`ll volunteer not to be.

KORNACKI: He may not, but I`m guessing Jeb wants in. I`m guessing the
Republicans want him in.

And you start to look at this field of candidates. And there are some
dilemmas here for Republicans, right? For instance, Carly Fiorina is
somebody who I hear from a lot of Republicans they want her in the debates
because she attacks Hillary Clinton aggressively and they don`t want all
men on the stage attacking Hillary Clinton.

The problem is, when you look at the polls, she`s at about zero percent
right now. How can you create criteria that gets her in the field without
having to take everybody else?

FRANKEN: Well, you could perhaps come up with candidates who are angling
to be the vice president on the ticket. I think that would probably
encompass our friend, Carly. So, that`s one possibility.

Look, there is a solution to this. You have everybody on. Remember the
debates are just one sound bite that is a memorable sound bite. So, what
you do is have each of these guys come up with a killer sound bite and
that`s it. No questions, no answer --

KORNACKI: You reduce the debates --


FRANKEN: Absolutely. Just the killer sound bite and then we have a vote,
and whoever wins the killer sound bite of the day wins the debate.

KORNACKI: Well, it`s interesting. I mean, you talk about the power of
these debates. Sometimes we say maybe they`re overrated, there`s other

I think back to 2012 on the Republican side and Newt Gingrich is sitting
back in third or fourth place in South Carolina, his campaign is going
nowhere. And he has that debate with John King and he lectures John King
about the inappropriate questions supposedly about his first marriage, the
crowd goes crazy, Newt Gingrich wins South Carolina by 15 points. I mean,
these debates can really make or break here.

FRANKEN: So, maybe the strategy for each of these guys will be to come up
with the most effective way to trash the news media.

KORNACKI: That always -- that`s the time honored tradition, I guess.

FRANKEN: Absolutely.

KORNACKI: But take a look here. Can you see? I mean, so if we -- Jim
Bush, we see he`s in, right? Ted Cruz, he`s probably going to be in.
Rubio is going to be in, Rand Paul is going to be. Where is the cut line?
I struggle to see it.

FRANKEN: Well, OK, I don`t think it`s much of a struggle to ponder the
possibility that Donald Trump --

KORNACKI: There is one. OK, we`re going to use the telestrator and say,
wait a minutes, that`s not how you use the telestrator. Now, we`re going
to use the telestrator. We`re going to x out Donald Trump. OK, we`re down
to 15.

FRANKEN: OK, then we have George Pataki, not for any other reason than
he`s too tall.

KORNACKI: Too tall? That`s three term governor from a major state.

FRANKEN: That`s right. And perennial candidate, he`s sort of the Harold
Stassen of our era.

KORNACKI: So, you say, you could say no to a guy, a three term governor.

FRANKEN: Absolutely, three-term governor.

KORNACKI: All right. Sorry, George. Bob says you`re out. We`re down to

FRANKEN: OK. Well, we have people like John Kasich who --

KORNACKI: Governor of Ohio.

FRANKEN: Some Republicans who don`t think he`s a Republican anyway.

KORNACKI: First debate, though, is in Cleveland, Ohio. He`s the governor
of Ohio.

FRANKEN: So, he does get the home field advantage.

KORNACKI: See, he`s got to be in there.

FRANKEN: That`s right.

Rick Perry might not want to be in because he might have another oops

Chris Christie.

KORNACKI: Chris Christie wants in. I know that.

FRANKEN: He wants in but he got stuck in traffic on the way over.

KORNACKI: There we go. You brought the one-liners.

What about like Ben Carson, is he or out?

FRANKEN: Somebody has to convince him that debates are not brain surgery.
I suspect that they`re going to want him in for a variety of reasons. He`s
sort of the anti-politician, or he`s trying to fashion himself that way.
So, I suspect, he is going to be in.

KORNACKI: He polls pretty well. He`s sitting at 5 percent.

How about a guy like Bobby Jindal, this is governor of a major state,
Louisiana. Two term governor. If you poll him, he`s down to 1 percent
right now. Is he in or is he out?

FRANKEN: In spite of the fact he`s running the campaign to be the nastiest
campaign. So, I suspect he`s going to be in.

Now, you get to Lindsey Graham, and you have another situation like with
John Kasich, that some of the hard core Republicans don`t think that
Lindsey Graham is anything but a RINO anyway, Republican in name only. So,
I don`t know that he`ll be in.

KORNACKI: So, we`ve got it down to 14. Who is the most likely cut after
these two?

FRANKEN: Well, that`s a good question. I don`t think we should cut any of

KORNACKI: Yes, you want the sound bite debate.

FRANKEN: Absolutely. I want the sound bite debate. But beyond that,
these are candidates who have crossed the line into the credible candidate
line, even though the polls aren`t showing it yet.

But it`s early. It really is early. Maybe have to rethink the idea of
debates this early in the game.

KORNACKI: Yes. And also, I guess it`s just a system of the fact they
don`t have a front runner right now. When there`s no frontrunner, a lot of
credible people can step forward and say why not me?

FRANKEN: The Democrats have the opposite problem. How do they fill the

KORNACKI: Right. They got --

FRANKEN: Hillary -- you know, maybe it would be Hillary and just the
moderator, except that Hillary wouldn`t answer any of his or her questions.

KORNACKI: Oh, there we go.

Bob Franken, thanks for your insight. We appreciate that.

Obviously, much more news this morning on that raid we`ve been following
all morning, Special Forces in eastern Syria killing a key member of ISIS,
capturing his wife. More details ahead on that straight ahead. We`ll
right back after this.


KORNACKI: All right. We`ve been closely following this morning all of the
news about that U.S. Special Forces raid inside of Syria. A raid in which
a top ISIS leader named Abu Sayyaf has been killed. Also, his wife Umm
Sayyaf captured.

MSNBC chief correspondent Jim Miklaszewski describing for us in showing
what involved hand to hand combat between ISIS fighters and Army Delta
Force commandoes. No Americans were killed or wounded in the fight. As
the Special Operations Forces departed, they took Sayyaf`s wife, who`s also
considered to be a key ISIS operative with them.

Now, as their helicopters departed, they were struck by heavy ground fire
but they were disabled and they were able to depart the area safely.

I`m joined now on the phone by Michael Kay, a former senior British

Mike, thanks for joining us this morning. I mean, obviously, the most
remarkable thing here that I`m hearing is Jim Miklaszewski reporting hand
to hand combat here. We`ve gotten reports of at least 12 ISIS members who
were killed in this fighting and not a single American casualty,

this needs (AUDIO GAP) at the moment, Steve, because ISIS has been on the
rampage across Syria and Iraq over the last 48 hours. Specifically, ISIS
put up flags above the government (ph) in Ramadi, which is in Anbar
province, which is to the southwest of Baghdad. They`ve been hitting
Ramadi with multiple VBIEDs, which is vehicle-borne improvised explosive

So, they`ve been going hard there. But they`ve also been going hard in
central Syria, Palmyra, which is where these ancient ruins are. And
they`ve been going hard in Idlib province as well.

So, this is interesting. According to my sources, very high up in the U.K.
Ministry of Defense, U.K. and U.S. SF forces have been operating in Syria
for over a year. They`re not just operating on the tactical side but also
been training with the YPG, which are the Kurdish rebels within Syria and
they`ve been also just sort of expanding the fight, if you like, with
moderates who are engaged not only in the fight against ISIS but also the
Syrian regime.

KORNACKI: Does this point to then, a more significant -- I mean, what
you`re suggesting from the sources you`re talking to, there has been a more
significant, a more robust U.S. or western presence on the ground. This
term where I`m always hearing -- boots on the ground -- and how hesitant we
are to send boots on the ground. We`ve actually had a boots on the ground
presence in Syria.

KAY: I think boots on the ground suggests a mass of soldiers and a massive
capability. We don`t have boots on the ground. We do have Special Forces
capability, sniper capability. We have been working inside Syria and Iraq
at the moment, who are directing air strikes on targets, for example.

That`s the key bit that we`re missing here at the moment. When we talk
about air strikes in Syria and Iraq, what we are missing is the ability to
be able to penetrate an act decisively. So, that`s what the Special Forces
capability gives the west at the moment.

There`s a dichotomy, Steve, going on at the moment with the forces in Syria
which are ISIS, which are the Nusra front, which are associated with al
Qaeda, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah which are operating alongside the
Syrian regime.

And so, there`s sort of a dichotomy at the moment between all these groups
operating within Syria who`s contesting what areas? Now, we know that
Raqqa is the self-proclaimed capital of Syria which is declared but then
you got Nusra, which are very prominent in Idlib Province, which is to the
northeast in Syria. You got the YPG in the battle for Kobani, for example,
that we spoke about a couple of months ago in the northeast of Syria, and
then you got Damascus, which is held by Syrian regime and then, you got
Hezbollah, which is the Iranian by proxy forces, that are helping to
protect Damascus.

So, there`s a lot of protagonist going in Syria going on at the moment.
But what we`ve done, or what the West had just done is they just eliminated
one of the key components of senior leadership with ISIS which may or may
not help in the future.

KORNACKI: And just quickly, Mike, in terms of an operation of this scale
of this precision, how much planning time do you think something like this
takes to pull off?

KAY: Well, I used to conduct -- I used to conduct missions in Baghdad for
many years, between 2006 and 2008. And we were working off an intelligence
network that had been grown for years. I mean, I`m talking maybe a couple
of years and I`d go in every day and I`d talk with the senior leadership
within the SF community and there would be a spider network on the board.

And you look at who the key leadership was, who the value asset was, who
was controlling recruitment, who was controlling logistics, who was
controlling training. Slowly but surely, usually by a mobile phone calls
or cell phone calls, we`d go in and we take those individuals out, usually
on a trigger which was a mobile phone call or something like that. So, it
takes months, years to work out who`s doing what and where their location
is going to be in order to conduct a strike.

KORNACKI: OK. Thanks to Michael Kay for your analysis this morning.
Appreciate you taking a few minutes.

Thank you as well to this morning`s panel, very abbreviated because of the
breaking news but Angela Rye (ph), Ben Domenech, Evan McMorris-Santoro,
we`re going to have you all back again soon. Appreciate you being with us
this morning.

Thank you for getting UP with us this morning.

Melissa Harris-Perry is on up next, staying on top of this breaking news
story out of Syria. She is coming up next.

Have a great Saturday.


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