All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 04/23/15

Malcolm Nance, Jonathan Horowitz, McKay Coppins, Eric Boehlert, Michelle Goldberg, Christopher Swain


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN –

commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism

HAYES: The president makes a stunning announcement.

OBAMA: We believe that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an
al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidentally
killed Warren and Giovanni this past January.

HAYES: Tonight, what we know about the drone program that
accidentally killed two hostages including an American.

Then, the Clinton campaign under siege from multiple Clinton cash
stories is responding for the first time.

And two new reports proving Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have one message
for voters and an entirely different message for their billionaire donors.

ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.

An unprecedented moment in American history this morning. President
Obama appeared on camera in a surprise address to announce the stunning
news that two al Qaeda hostages, Warren Weinstein, an American, and
Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, were accidentally killed in a U.S. drone


OBAMA: Based on information and intelligence we have obtained, we
believe that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda
compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidentally killed
Warren and Giovanni this past January.

As president and as commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for
all our counter terrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently
took the lives of Warren and Giovanni.

I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States
government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.


HAYES: Both of the hostages had been working as aid workers in
Pakistan when al Qaeda abducted them, Weinstein in 2011, Lo Porto in 2012.

Weinstein`s wife Elaine said in a statement on behalf of the family,
quote, “We are devastated by this news and the knowledge that my husband
will never safely return home. We were so hopeful that those in the U.S.
and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his
release would have done everything possible to do so. But those who took
Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility.”

Now, two Americans associated with al Qaeda were also killed in the
drone strikes according to U.S. officials. Ahmed Farouq, a deputy al Qaeda
commander, and Adam Gadahn, the terrorist organization`s top spokesman and

President Obama said he`s ordered a full review of what happened.


OBAMA: It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war
generally and our fight against terrorists specifically mistakes, sometimes
deadly mistakes, can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart
from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is
our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from
our mistakes.


HAYES: According to the White House, the drone strikes were not aimed
at specific individuals within al Qaeda. They fell into a broader category
first identified by the New York Times in 2012, what`s known as signature
strikes, which target training camps and compounds in areas controlled by

Here is White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest describing the


U.S. officials had determined, with near certainty, that an operation could
be carried out against an al Qaeda compound that was frequented or at least
where at least one al Qaeda leader was located.


HAYES: This type of drone strike has come under repeated criticism
for what`s seen as a lack of precision and a greater likelihood of hitting

In fact, in 2013 under pressure from the Pakistani government, the
Obama administration actually scaled back its drone program in Pakistan
according to the “Associated Press”, instructing the CIA to be more
cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping
the practice of signature strikes.

While the overall number of disclosed strikes in Pakistan has
plummeted since its peak five years ago, that practice apparently still
lives on. We still don`t know exactly who we are targeting.

Joining me now, former U.S. intelligence officer Malcolm Nance who has
personal experience identifying targets with drones.

Malcolm, thank you.

I guess the first question is, how does something like this happen
from your long experience in the intelligence community and sometimes
actually working on drone targeting? What do you make of this?

little bit about identifying where hostages are kept. Throughout the
1980s, I worked for almost seven years trying to identify locations of
where we had hostages in Lebanon. There were 77 Westerners who were kept
inside various locations inside Lebanon. It is virtually impossible to
determine where a hostage is kept unless you actually see them physically
move or you gain intelligence on where they`re at. Some of them were kept
as long as five years in a basement.

So, if we`re going to look at this with the very regrettable accident
which occurred here, it would have been very hard to know precisely where
those hostages were without seeing some activity. In this case, we did see
the activity of people who were operating around the compound, and that is
a much, much easier signature to see because we can follow and identify the
weapons and see where people are caching things.

But, you know, if a hostage is kept in a basement, there is virtually
no way of identifying that unless you actually get intelligence about when
the food is being brought in or something.

HAYES: Am I correct that the way that these so-called signature
strikes are being done is we may not even have any human intelligence on
the ground. This is entirely through the very high resolution powerful
cameras we have on the drones that we`re flying essentially start to, over
a period of surveillance, make some judgments about what kind of facility
the facility is, even in the absence of someone saying, oh, yes, that`s an
al Qaeda safe house?

NANCE: Sure. Well, let me just say this first. I`m not read into
the program which killed on this particular strike, but I have used and had
it downstream and see sensor data which showed me the activities that are
going on in particular compounds. In the old days, we used to use repeated
satellite imagery and passes to conduct the type of signature or some form
of electronic censoring to determine what the signature of these facilities

But now, we can actually sit there, and I am certain they did
thousands of hours, collective man-hours, of watching what was going on in
that compound, how many donkeys are in that compound, where the children
are in the immediate vicinity of that compound, who goes up mountain, who
goes down mountain. All of this creates a picture. And especially if you
do have some indication that these are high-value targets, whether they
have a large body-guard team, whether they drive in a Toyota Land Cruiser
as opposed to a Hilux. These are the sort of things that give you an image
of what`s going on inside that compound.

Now, I personally believe that this strike was probably going after
someone extremely high value like Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda.
But it was probably a safe location that they believed that they could
meet. And as you see, we had very high value American members of al Qaeda
in that compound.

HAYES: “The New York Times” notes in its write-up that Mr. Obama did
not sign off on this specific strike, it said, because he has authorized
the CIA and military to carry out drone attacks without further
consultation if they fit certain criteria. Irony here being that, in the
early part of the administration, there were lots of drone strikes, each of
which at least we were told through the CIA program were signed off by the

Now, there seem to be fewer but they do not rise to the level of
actually getting a presidential signature in the Oval Office.

NANCE: Well, that`s because in the early part of this program, they
went after very specific individuals who would have – once you use a drone
weapon system on them, would give you a very specific chain of events
downstream from the death of that particular senior commander. And now, as
we degrade the organization, you still get very large numbers of people who
would be coming together, training camps.

We have a lot of criticism over the last few years that we weren`t
striking very large gatherings of al Qaeda members in Yemen and
Afghanistan. And so, that seems to have usurped the going after very
individual, specific targeted personnel.

HAYES: That`s a key point, right, from what was called the kill list,
which is a list of names, go after these people, to what are now called the
signature strikes, which appears to be what happened here although we don`t
fully know.

Malcolm Nance, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

NANCE: It`s my pleasure.

HAYES: As of today, at least seven Americans have been killed by U.S.
drone strikes. Besides the three we learned about today, four other were
killed in 2011. Jude Kenan Mohammad (ph), who died in a signature strike
in Pakistan. Samir Khan, accused of editing al Qaeda`s English language
magazine “Inspire” killed in Yemen. Killed alongside him the most famous
example, radical cleric, Anwar al Awlaki. The fourth, Awlaki`s 16-year-old
son killed just two weeks after his father.

Of the seven Americans in total, Awlaki was the only one intentionally
specifically targeted by a U.S. drone strike. The others were killed
inadvertently and they were all Americans who were supposed to have greater
constitutional protections. Six out of seven killed without the U.S.
knowing in advance it was about to kill them, one of them a child.

If that`s just a sample, think what it says about all the other people
this country has probably killed by mistake. The toll seems to have been
particularly high in Yemen where the U.S. drone program has helped
destabilize the country and foster the current conflict there. The U.S.
doesn`t publicly acknowledge the total number of civilian deaths.

But a new study by the Open Society Justice Initiative documents
specific cases of Yemeni civilians killed by American drones. Quote, “The
nine case studies documented in this report provide evidence of 26 civilian
deaths. This evidence casts doubt on the U.S. and Yemeni governments`
statements about the precision of U.S. drone strikes.”

Joining me now, Jonathan Horowitz, legal officer of the Open Society
Justice Initiative, used to work in the American embassy in Kabul as well.

So, when you listen to Malcolm, it sounds like this is a very
thorough, sophisticated thing. The standard that has been used by the
government is near certainty. And yet at the same time you say, well, of
the seven Americans we know about, one was a child, one was targeted
specifically and they, quote, “got their man”. The other five just
happened to be hanging out in these places and appear to have been members
of al Qaeda, although a little unclear how high up they were.

What conclusions can we draw here?

first point to remember is that much of the drone program is done in
secret, right? So the point is, what conclusions can we draw? We don`t
know because the administration has been – has been keeping everything
under wraps. What does seem significant is that, in the report that we
did, in those nine instances, there were civilian casualties, right?

So, the near certainty threshold seems not to be met or maybe not be
taken as seriously as it needs to be. That`s what today`s news about the
January strikes demonstrates as well.

HAYES: Yes, I want to play the president back in 2013, sort of
talking about that what the standard was when he talked about near
certainty. Take a listen.


OBAMA: America does not take strikes to punish have individuals. We
act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the
American people. And when there are no other governments capable of
effectively addressing the threat.

And before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no
civilians will be killed or injured. The highest standard we can set.


HAYES: And we don`t have any sense of what that standard actually
means or what the numbers look like broadly, right?

HOROWITZ: That`s absolutely right. There is very little

A number of things that the president mentioned in that statement, he
spoke about the near certainty standard. We have serious questions about
that. He spoke about the ability to capture before a kill. In our report,
we raise serious questions about that.

And there`s been consistent, consistent reports by government
officials saying they want to be more and more transparent. But it`s not
happening. We aren`t seeing the specific details that the American people
need to know as to why the U.S. is carrying out strikes, where it`s
carrying out strikes, what legal criteria and authority under which it`s
carrying out the strikes.

HAYES: Well, wouldn`t they say we can`t tell you too much because
this is a secret program and we`re dealing with people that are obviously
trying to hide from us. If we disclose too much there is a safe house in a
very remote area, right? If we disclose too much about the program, we
will make it essentially nonviable about what it`s supposed to achieve.

HOROWITZ: So, that`s the – that`s the line that comes out. For the
people that we spoke to in Yemen, they know that their family members were
killed. They know they were killed by drone strikes. There is nothing to
them that secret.

And yet the government`s response to them for an investigation or
justice or acknowledgment is silence.

HAYES: So, that`s my question. Today the White House announced they
will be making condolence payments to the families. When we`re talking
about Yemeni civilians or Afghan civilians or Pakistani civilians, has the
U.S. government made condolence payments? Does it reach out? Does it have
a conversation? Does it issue formal apologies?

HOROWITZ: So, again, because of the secrecy, we know very little.
There are some indications here or there that some money may go. But the
people who are affected, who have lost loved ones, they don`t see this as
sufficient. They want an investigation. They want justice. They want

HAYES: They want a review, like the review that has been ordered in
this case in which it happened to be an American and an Italian who were

HOROWITZ: So, I think that`s an important point, Chris, is that today
we`re learning something about the drone program. We`re learning about it
because it was an American that was killed. We aren`t learning about all
the civilians in Yemen or in Pakistan that were killed.

So, President Obama, rightly, gave his condolences and his regrets to
the family. But where are those condolences and regrets to the Yemeni

HAYES: Jonathan Horowitz, thank you very much.

With two elections, one for the voters, one for the donors. Why Marco
Rubio and Ted Cruz are hitting the trail with different stories for
different audiences.

And after leading the charge to oppose her nomination saying she would
disregard the Constitution, Senator Ted Cruz missed the confirmation vote
for Loretta Lynch as attorney general today because he had a fund-raiser to
get to.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: In my view, the obligation of every senator
to defend the Constitution is front and center why we are here.




OBAMA: I want to say publicly for the first time. I`ve been looking
forward to saying this, that I am very pleased that Loretta Lynch has now
been confirmed.



HAYES: Finally, today, the Senate voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as
attorney general making her the very first African-American woman to ever
hold that post, but only after a historic delay. More than 160 days passed
between her nomination and today`s confirmation, one of the reasons for the
historic delay the vocal opposition of one Senator Ted Cruz. He tried to
get the judiciary committee to block her nomination, asked Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell to deny her a confirmation vote on the floor, which
really didn`t work.

We got late news tonight that Senator McConnell did the exact
opposite. According to “The Hill” actually worked quietly to round up more
than 60 votes to end the filibuster of Loretta Lynch. Ted Cruz also wrote
an op-ed urging Republicans to oppose her, to vote no on her nomination.
He told voters in New Hampshire this Saturday he would definitely be voting
against her too.


CRUZ: My vote on Loretta Lynch is going to be unambiguously no.


HAYES: Ted Cruz even left the campaign trail specifically to oppose
her nomination today and to once again urge his fellow senators to join


CRUZ: The Republican majority, if it so chose, could defeat this
nomination but the Republican majority has chosen to go forward and allow
Loretta Lynch to be confirmed. I would note, there are more than a few
voters back home that are asking what exactly is the difference between a
Democratic and Republican majority when the exact same individual gets
confirmed as attorney general promising the exact same lawlessness. What`s
the difference?

In my view, the obligation of every senator to defend the Constitution
is front and center why we are here.


HAYES: That plea didn`t work. Just under an hour after Senator Cruz
yielded the floor, all 100 senators voted on whether to move forward with
the nomination vote, 66 voted yes. And when that actual nomination vote
happened just a few hours later, the final tally was 56-43, which if you
add it together adds up to 99 senators. The one and only senator who
didn`t vote, who left the Senate before the actual vote on whether or not
Loretta Lynch should actually be the 83rd attorney general of the U.S.,
Senator Ted Cruz.

And the reason he missed the vote? He had to catch a plane because he
has a fund-raiser in Dallas tonight.


CRUZ: My vote on Loretta Lynch is going to be unambiguously no.




HAYES: Well, it increasingly feels like there are two elections
happening in 2016. There is one for the big donors and one for the voters.
They only have an incidental relationship to each other, two items of
recent news.

Item one. Senator Ted Cruz, the fiery populist, who announced his
candidacy at the largest Christian university in the world, Liberty
University. Senator Cruz was also this past Monday at the Central Park
South penthouse of, as “The New York Times” puts it – and this is an
amazing phrase – two prominent gay hoteliers.

And on the subject of same-sex marriage, again to quote “The Times,”
the Texas senator struck quite a different tone during the gathering
according to two attendees Mr. Cruz said he would have no problem if one of
his daughters was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex
marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the

This, of course, is the very same Ted Cruz who just a week ago
according to the Christian Broadcasting Network news sends a letter to tens
of thousands of pastors in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearing on
same-sex marriage. Quoting the letter, “The church has not shared the
truth about marriage well. It is tame to repent and to commit ourselves to
courage on this front. The union of man and woman in marriage will always
be relevant.”

Senator Ted Cruz is actually consistent at least in saying he would
leave the issue to the states. As a policy matter, totally there is a
world of difference.

And there is the presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio who
according to a new nationwide Quinnipiac poll leads the GOP pack among
Republican or Republican leaning voters. But when it comes to keeping
track of where Senator Rubio stands on comprehensive immigration reform,
you really need an iPhone app or something like that because it changes
like the weather. In fact, after cosponsoring the immigration reform bill
that actually passed in the Senate and then urging the house to do it
piecemeal instead, Rubio is now reportedly simpatico with big-money pro-
business Republican donors who still want comprehensive reform.

Norm Braman, the 82-year-old auto tycoon is reportedly pledged to
spend as much as $10 million to get Rubio elected told “BuzzFeed” news he
and the candidate bonded over immigration.

The author of that piece on Senator Rubio, McKay Coppins, senior
political writer for “BuzzFeed,” joins me now.

I love this. So, OK. So here is Rubio. Rubio is, I`m the
immigration guy ,co-crafts the bipartisan compromise, passes the Senate.
It dies, right?


HAYES: Since its death, he has taken step after step away from it to
the point where he basically I think has officially renounced his support
for it, right? I mean, it`s a little hard to tell sometimes where he is.

COPPINS: Yes, yes, yes. He has renounced the idea of comprehensive
immigration reform.

HAYES: He`s renounced the idea that it was the core of what he voted

COPPINS: Right, what he`s basically said in interviews recently –
and there have been several evolutions on this over the last few years.
His basic argument is, look, we tried it, it`s not going to work. We can`t
do it. The way to do this is we do a series of small, bite-size bills,
right? The first one has to be border security.

The second one is – the problem with – so he goes step by step. The
problem with this is, what he says is this is the more realistic, pragmatic
way to do immigration reform when in fact there is no way Democrats would
ever vote for just a border security bill that doesn`t include concessions.

So, that`s the part –

HAYES: It`s not actually –

COPPINS: Right, it`s not actually pragmatic.

HAYES: Then you have him – he`s also struck a very different, I
think, tone on the trail about immigration. Now, you got him with his
donor buddy, who he and Marco are bonding over immigration. And basically
this guy is confiding in you like, if we get Rubio in there, it`s going to

COPPINS: Well, what I did is I talked to a half dozen Republican fund
raisers, contributors, big people in the Republican money world who have
been courted by Rubio and his campaign. What they told me is that, when
he`s in the closed door meetings with donors and the subject of immigration
comes up as it inevitably does, he is enthusiastic about talking up his
record on immigration. He talks up his experience working on that bill.
He talks about immigration reform and how important it is.

And remember, to the moneyed donor class of the Republican Party,
immigration reform is extremely popular for a bunch of reasons that have to
do with ideology, culture and economic interests.

HAYES: Yes, although this is something I also want to zoom in on
this. We`re talking about two elections here, the donors and the voters.
Big money as a general rule favors comprehensive immigration reform. The
Chamber of Commerce, for instance, probably the big-money donors that
comprise the Republican establishment and favor it.

I feel like that`s a weak preference, honestly. Like I feel like
they, sure, if they could wave a magic wand in the world of the future
they`d like to see it, but also it doesn`t seem to be disqualifying when
people are against it.

COPPINS: Oh, sure.

HAYES: Scott Walker has basically flip-flopped on this, to basically
renounce his support for it, and still seems to be in the driver`s seat in
terms of the Kochs.

COPPINS: No, it`s definitely not a litmus test issue.

HAYES: That`s my point, right.

COPPINS: I mean, remember, Mitt Romney in 2012 absolutely was the
avatar for kind of the moneyed, pro business class. He was incredibly
conservative on immigration. Severely conservative, not in favor of

So, it`s definitely not a litmus test issue. I should mention that
all of the people that I interviewed said, you know, this isn`t the only
issue that is making donors flock to Rubio. They like his foreign policy,
which is very neo-conservative. They like some of his policy proposals.

But it`s definitely a help. It`s something that helps him, which is a
– pretty serious contrast from the campaign trail, where it continues to
be something that`s dragging him down.

HAYES: This point about neo conservative, also there have been
articles about him really courting the kind of neo conservative donor
class. Sheldon Adelson, sort of the top guy in that world, who apparently
is –

COPPINS: We heard today is apparently leaning toward Rubio.

HAYESS: Taking a shine to young Mr. Rubio.

And that`s another place it does seem to me there is what voters want
to hear and what donors want to hear on foreign policy. And there is a
little bit of a gap between the two.

COPPINS: Yes, I think neo – on foreign policy I wouldn`t say the gap
is as big. It depends on the issue, right? But certainly, I think the
average conservative voter is in favor of a muscular Republican, you know,
foreign policy. But I think you also, on Rand Paul and his campaign makes
this point a lot, that if you actually talk to a lot of the families,
military families in places like South Carolina and the south, they would
not necessarily be in favor of, for example, saying all options are on the
table when it comes to Iran.

HAYES: Right, a limited war with Iran.

COPPINS: Right. Exactly, they don`t want to send their sons and
daughters off to fight in Iran. So, there is certainly a gap. I wouldn`t
say as large as on immigration.

HAYES: On immigration. And then, of course, the biggest gap there
is, which gets to Ted Cruz, is on marriage equality.


HAYES: I think it`s probably – I think it`s probably inverse. I
think it`s probably 75/25 and 25/75 when you look at donors in the base,
wouldn`t you say?

COPPINS: Gay marriage is a really interesting question. I actually
wrote a story a few months ago about Jeb Bush who was at the time, you
know, gobbling up all the donors and establishment elites in the party, and
a lot of them were saying, you know, when we talk about marriage with him,
when we talk about these issues, he is very – seems very friendly to them.
And the fact that he had stacked his campaign with very vocally pro-gay
Republican operatives was a boon to him and helped him with donors.

HAYES: Yes, it`s going to be really interesting to see. It`s a crazy
setup that we have. I mean, it`s always been the case. Politics time
immemorial, right, saying different things to different constituencies.
But in the post-Citizens United era is really it running two campaigns.

COPPINS: It really is.

HAYES: It`s selecting for sociopaths. It is. That`s the trait
that`s going to win in this.

McKay Coppins, thank you very much.

All right. Some late-breaking news to report tonight out of
Baltimore, two people have been arrests during protests in the memory of
Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died in police custody after suffering a
spinal cord injury which is as of yet unexplained. We`ll go to Baltimore
live for the latest, next.


HAYES: We have just learned that two people have been taken into
custody, according to police, yet another day of protests in Baltimore. An
increasingly tense city and the site of the latest high profile conflict
between citizens and police officers following the death of 25-year-old
Freddy Gray one died Sunday in police custody one week after he was
arrested and suffered a spinal cord injury.

Police said that two people were taken into custody tonight for
disorderly conduct and destruction of property. Also today, Baltimore
police commissioner met with members of the Gray family. The family says
that Freddie Gray`s funeral will be held on Monday.

Joining me now from the scene of the protests still ongoing in
Baltimore tonight, MNBC reporter Adam Reece. Adam, what are you seeing


Six consecutive night of protest here at the western district police
station in Baltimore. I want you to take a look at what`s going on. It`s
essentially a standoff between about 75 police officers and about 100
protesters. They are demanding action, accountability. They want arrests
of the police officers and they want indictments.

Now earlier today, they started the rally at city Hall. They march
through the city, blocking traffic, stopping in the street, laying down in
the street. They went over to the U.S. federal courthouse and they made
their way to the state`s attorney`s office.

Now the investigation continues. The ME`s office released Freddie
Gray`s body to the family this morning. That was a welcome sign for the
family. They were happy to have him home.

And as far as the police commissioner, he met with the family as well
this afternoon. He said he answered all their questions. And he promised
that he would change the culture of the police department here.

He`s urging calm. He says let this investigation work itself out –

HAYES: MSNBC reporter Adam Grace on the scene of this protest in
Baltimore tonight. Thank you.

All right, the Clinton campaign fires back after a bombshell report
alleges a major conflict of interest that led to a flood of cash. That`s


HAYES: Tonight, Hillary Clinton find herself besieged by negative
headlines about her and her husband`s financial interests.

Its` a new cycles very reminiscent of the 1990s when the Clintons
found themselves at the center of an endless series of scandals, ranging
from the genuinely troubling to the utterly absurd and invented.

20 years later and Hillary Clinton finds herself in familiar terrain.
Three stories over the past 24
hours have alleged at the very least incomplete disclosure from the
Clintons about their financial interests. Reuters reporting today the
Clinton family`s charities will have to refile at least five annual tax
returns after the Reuters news organization found errors in how they
reported donations from foreign governments.

A Washington Post report said Bill Clinton made $26 million in
personal speaking fees. Fees from entities who also donated to the Clinton
Global Initiative.

The most specific and possibly damning story for Hilary Clinton comes
from the New York Times, a paper which had access to Clinton Cash, the
forthcoming book of the conservative author, details the sale of U.S.
uranium mines to Russia, a deal that required approval by a number of
agencies, including the State Department then led by Clinton.

The report reveals that in the years before, during and after the deal
was under consideration, the chairman of the company seeking approval
donated over $2 million to the Clinton global initiative, much of which
went undisclosed in an apparent violation of an agreement Clinton herself
made with
the Obama administration before taking over as secretary of state.

During that same period of time, a Russian bank, which supported the
deal paid Bill Clinton
$500,000 for a speech in Moscow.

Today, the Clinton campaign fired back on that bombshell report.
Their response coming up. Stay with us.


HAYES: Clinton campaign came out swinging today responding to The
Times report detailing the State Department`s role in the sale of uranium
mines to Russia. A spokesperson attacked the integrity of the piece and
said no one, quote, “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the
theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to
support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”

In another memo published online, a Clinton spokesperson goes on to
say that Hillary Clinton was not involved in the State Department`s reviews
of the sale to the Russians and that the Clinton Foundation donor featured
in the piece, quote, “never spoke to either President Clinton or then
Secretary Clinton about his company.

Joining me now, Michelle Goldberg, senior contributing writer at The
Nation. Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters.

All right, Eric, what do you make of that?

ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS: The uranium story is interesting,
because there`s a lot of stuff missing. I mean, if you look at that deal,
when you read from the Times there`s like, oh my gosh, quid pro quo, we`ve
got a smoking gun here.

That deal had to be approved by the White House, the State Department,
Commerce, Treasury, Energy, nuclear regulators commission, Utah nuclear
regulators. The idea that Hillary Clinton controls all those entities
because someone paid her husband for a speech and she decided she was going
to change U.S. policy?

HAYES: So there`s board – the way the process works is that there`s
this board that`s…

BOEHLER: Intergovernmental…

HAYES: Intergovernmental board that has different stakeholders, that
have to sign off on these deals and the State Department was one of the

BOEHLERT: One of many.

HAYES: Of that board.

OK, so here`s my feeling, Michelle.

There`s a bunch of distinctions to make here. So let`s just focus on
this uranium. To me, what the Clinton people did in pushing back I think
was smart in that they focused on the strongest version of what the article
might allege. Which is essentially quid pro quo.

GOLDBERG: The article doesn`t really allege anything. It hints and
implies and juxtaposes things. The only clear allegation is about the
failure of disclosure, and that`s I think the big problem for Clinton.

HAYES: Right. Explain that.

GOLDBERG: There`s a hint of a quid pro quo –

HAYES: There`s basically like, here`s a quid and here`s a quo, and
they sort of happened around the same time.

GOLDBERG: But they`re right when they say there`s no evidence. In
fact, the evidence of the New York Times story I think is a little bit
weaker than it appears.

Some of this stuff about Kazakhstan came out in 2008 story in the New
York Times, and then there was the allegation that Clinton had flown in
with this, the Canadian mining magnet who`s name I`m not going to pronounce
correctly, and so, but in fact they hadn`t flown in together. At least
according to Forbes which got his flight manifest. Clinton was flying with
Ron Burkle, the mining magnet was already in Kazakhstan, not that this
makes it so much better but it does suggest that this wasn`t him bringing
Clinton along to sweeten the deal.

Already, some of the facts I think are a little bit weaker than the
Times presents them. The one thing in the piece that I think the Clinton
camp has to explain, I think it looks really bad that they haven`t even
tried to explain, is the fact –

HAYES: Disclosure.

GOLDBERG: Right. They had an agreement with the Obama administration
to publicly disclose these donors and they didn`t, and so not only is there
the kind of questionable, what were they hiding, but they just, on their
face of it, violated what was a clear rule.

HAYES: And it`s also not rebutted in the response, right? I mean, the
response just doesn`t address that.

BOEHLERT: Right, because I think the larger takeaway from that
article is we
caught the Clintons in a quid pro quo, we caught the Clintons selling U.S.
policy for a speech to Bill Clinton but it`s not there.

HAYES: Okay, but here`s the thing that drives me nuts.

The strongest version of this is the Clinton bash book from what I
have seen from the excerpts, is this idea of quid pro quo. So in the
Colombia free trade deal, Colombia makes a donation to the Clinton
Foundation, the secretary pushes for Colombian free trade agreement.

That seems pretty ridiculous on its face because the Colombian free
trade agreement is already a policy priority. It`s going to happen

What does seem clear, though, is there`s a lot of money going in the
Clinton Foundation. There`s a lot of people who have interest before the
state department who are donating, right? And given what Hillary Clinton
was walking into, shouldn`t have there have been unbelievable care taken to
put fire walls, to have ethics lawyers flagging stuff, to say to
voluntarily, proactively disclose, to point out possible conflicts of

BOEHLERT: Well, look, I mean, they raised $2 billion and there`s no
evidence that any – yet of any criminal wrong doing, anything that even –

HAYES: There`s a standard below criminal wrong doing, there`s a
standard of the perception of conflict of interest.

BOEHLERT: No, that`s not where this goes.

FOX News wants a federal investigator –


It`s part of a larger plot. It`s always, always, always based on

GOLDBERG: This is what I wrote today, is that there`s people use the
Clinton rules in two different ways.

They use Clinton rules to talk about the Clintons don`t think they
should follow the rules and then there`s Clinton rules which is the way
journalists consistently kind of throw out normal evidentiary standards of
going after the Clinton.

And both of these kind of rules exist, right? Like, the Clintons
regularly cut ethical corners and are like a little bit sloppy in their
conflicts of interest and there is this kind of long-standing journalistic
vendetta against the Clintons that kind of allows people to exaggerate and
follow the sort of right-wing conspiracy theories, down all sorts of rabbit
holes and blind alleys to mix metaphors.

And so it makes it – you sort of get a (inaudible) whiplash trying to
figure out what sort of Clinton rules we`re dealing with.

HAYES: So here`s what I wonder. I`ve been to Davos. I`ve covered
Davos. I`ve been around reporting on some of the circles in which these
folks move. And, these are circles in which like, yeah, lots of people give
money to the Clinton Foundation and lots of people have business before the
state department. And there`s going to be a ven diagram, right? There`s
going to be a plausible case to be had about like, was one connected to the

My point is that you have to go above and beyond under those

I don`t understand why you wouldn`t put in the most rock solid ethical
safeguards, why you wouldn`t have compliance officers flagging this, why
would violate your own agreement with the White House on disclosure.

GOLDBERG: Even short of ethical state guards, at least follow the
that you`ve agreed to.

BOEHLERT: Well, again, I go back to the larger picture of this

I`m just going to make a quick side note. What is in the news today?
terms of this permanent infrastructure of fishing expeditions. Hillary
Clinton is going to be asked to testify about Benghazi in June about the
attack, 30 months after she attacked. So the Republicans have this
blueprint for the Clintons, and yes, for the Obamas too. You set up this
permanent infrastructure, you get in the
right-wing media, and then you lure the New York Times to chase it, too.

GOLDBERG: But here`s my –


HAYES: Here`s my question, though. You say lure the New York Times.
And I`ve seen you on Twitter sort of attacking them on the sort of alleged
partnership – I guess not alleged. A partnership with the author.

BOEHLERT: They`re going to appear on the Fox News special this
weekend going after the Clintons.

HAYES: Right. But, the point here though is this does seem a
legitimate piece of journalism and I don`t think they got anything wrong.

BOEHLERT: Well, this uranium story left all kinds of context in terms
of who
approved that deal. If you read that story, at the end you`d think Hillary
Clinton changed U.S. policy mid stream because someone paid her husband for
a speech.

That is not even remotely close to what happened.

HAYES: Can someone explain to me, and again, Bill Clinton can do
whatever the heck he wants. The other thing that I thought when I read that
article was like, why wasn`t there somebody being like, hey, Bill, maybe
you should just turn down this speaking engagement? We don`t need the half
million dollars.

BOEHLERT: Well, we don`t know. Maybe they have. He is by far the
number one
draw. And he has been for a decade.

HAYES: No, but I`m just saying, I`m saying a Russian bank comes in
and it`s like okay, well, some formal process where you say, okay, this
Russian bank wants to pay half a million dollars. Okay. Well, what are they
up to? And someone who says, you know, it`s probably best if you turn down
this half a million dollars.

Half a million dollars is a ton of money, right? It`s easy to say
like, don`t take half a million dollars. But, at the same time, these are
not people that are hurting for cash generally and I don`t know why that
also sort of drives me crazy about this.

But I just feel like it`s one of these things –

GOLDBERG: Yeah. Why leave yourself even –

HAYES: That`s it. It`s one of these things that like, because of the
permanent infrastructure you`re talking about, because they knew –


HAYES: No, no. Respond to that. This was all they talked about in
Hillary Clinton`s confirmation hearings. I was going back through the
transcripts. All they talked about was the Clinton Foundation stuff. They
came up with this agreement.

It`s not like you couldn`t see this coming, I guess is my point.

BOEHLERT: Look, the Republicans have made it a priority, certainly a
year ago, that the Clinton Foundation was going to be either their top
priority in terms
of opposition research, and we here we are talking about the Clinton
Foundation as the number one opposition research. I don`t think that`s by

But I understand your point, your original point, in terms of setting
up a divide.

HAYES: The other thing about it that I think is interesting is we`ve
been going through all this archival tape of the Clintons and you know with
this, Hillary Clinton from the White House, is like, at a certain point
there becomes a sort of background dim during the Clinton in the 90`s. Of
like, you know, scandal, quote unquote. Some somewhat real, a lot of it
not. That it`s almost like living next to a train station, where like it
end up becoming this sort of atmospheric thing.

GOLDBERG: And now we`re kind of remembering like oh, it`s coming.


HAYES: Oh yeah, like, someone coming to your house and like, you live
above somebody and you`re like, wow, that`s loud. You`re like, oh yeah, I
forgot about that.

HAYES: Michelle Goldberg, Eric Boehlert, thanks for being here.

The man who celebrated Earth Day by going for a swim in a super fund
site, joins me ahead.


HAYES: The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is one of the countries most
polluted waterways, full of toxic sludge, chemicals, and raw sewage. A
heady brew that gives off a distinct stench when you`re near it. I live
near it, so I get a chance to smell it often.

It is so contaminated that in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency
declared it a super fund site, a special designation given to hazardous
waste areas.

For decades, chemical plants, oil refineries and factories used the
canal as a dumping ground essentially for industrial waste.

As Newsweek reports, the concentration of dissolved arsenic in the
water is 60 times that allowed for considered damaging to human health. A
2012 report from the cities Department of Environmental Protection also
found copper, lead, mercury, and an assortment of pesticides lurking in the

As you can imagine, not much is able to survive there. A few years
back an unlucky dolphin found its way into the canal`s waters, that dolphin
is no longer with us.

So, knowing all of that, why would a human want to swim in it?

Joining me now is that person, Christopher Swain, who looks to be in
perfectly good health.

This is kind of your thing, swimming in dirty waterways.


HAYES: Why did you choose to swim in the Guwanus Canal yesterday to
celebrate Earth Day?

SWAIN: I think I wanted to shine a light. You know, one of the things
you realize when your in the dirty water business, dare we say there`s a
business there, is that the temptation is always to Eastern Europe or Asia
or Africa when you`re talking about, ooh, let`s find a really dirty river.

And, really within sight of the United Nations are two of the dirtiest
waterways in North America, the Guwanss Canal, that we are talking about
today, and the Newtown Creek.

And, I think one of the things that we need to look at in situations
like this is, even though the Clean Water Act passed in 72, everything was
supposed to be cleaned up by the mid 80`s, 30 years on, not every water had
enough of a fan base to get itself cleaned up.

HAYES: So, that`s the question. Let`s talk about the Guwanis. In this
case, it does have a super fund designation?


HAYES: They`re doing remediation. They`re trying to develop the area
in such a way to clean up the water way right. There is a process in place,

SWAINE: Yes, there is a process, and there`s actually cause for hope
because they`re starting to get somewhere. It`s a little bit better.

So, in terms of the super fund process, the federal part, the EPA
part, the way to think about that is that deals with muck, the 10 to 20
feet of black mayonnaise spiked with toxic chemicals and heavy metals
that`s sitting on the bottom of the Guwanis Canal.

That doesn`t deal with the runoff issues and the plumbing issues, the
CSO`s, all of that –

HAYES: That`s fascinating. So, a super fund site is, there`s this
residue on the bottom that`s toxic and disgusting and has to be dredged and
taken out.

SWAINE: Right. So the EPA will take out 6 hundred cubic yards of
that. That`s great.

But then the city and DEP are going to have to deal with the banks,
plumbing issues, the reason the sewage ends up in there and a contaminated
runoff. That`s a separate issue.

HAYES: How gross was it to be in it.

SWAINE: Pretty gross. It`s certainly the worst thing I`ve swam in.

HAYES: Oh, it is, really?

SWAINE: Oh yeah.

HAYES: Because you`ve swam in a lot of gross stuff?


I mean honestly, I talked to my mom a little bit about it and she said
she remembers walking in `79 street Bill Basin when she was pregnant with
me, in the late 60`s, and she said it was pretty bad. You know, it smelled
like poop, you could see oil slicks, you could see trash, so, that was pre
Clean Water Act.

I think the closest thing we have to a waterway like that, something
like to go on now, and for the taste and smell for the swimmer, you`re
looking at – or you`re inhaling a bouquet that`s got mud, oil, gas, trash,
detergent, all these
kind of tastes and that also weird grassy, grainy, bad green smoothie
feeling in your mouth after.

And on my gloves and on my suit, you can feel it when I grip, the foam
the Guwanis Canal that you see when you`re walking, right, that`s
emulsified fates and grease that have been stirred up by the turbulence
from the fleshing tunnel. That`s – the stuffs gotten (inaudible). So then
that foamy stuff slims your
gloves and your body when you`re going.

HAYES: How long a process is it going to be until you can kayak in

SWAINE: I think you could kayak in the Guwanis now, and it`s fair to
say that there`s some days, there`s a few days a year when it`s actually
safe for swimming, just because it hasn`t rained and everything is going

What I`m thinking about is when do we call it clean? When do we call
it done?
And my sense of it is that it`s not going to be with the present clean up
plan more than a partial clean up. So I`m saying, what about this? What if
we stay, we`ll call the Gowanus clean when it`s safe for swimming every

HAYES: That sounds good to me. Christopher Swain, thanks for your

SWAIN: Hey, thanks.

HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Steve Kornacki sitting in for

Good evening, Steve.


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