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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 07/15/15

Guests: Brad Sherman, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Charles Pierce, Kweisi Mfume, SteveFleischli

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN -- BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Without a deal, we risk even more war. HAYES: Selling the deal. OBAMA: If the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so. HAYES: Highlights from the press conference. OBAMA: Major, that`s nonsense and you should know better. HAYES: Then Trump continues. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ll tell you what a vote that I will win is the Hispanic vote. And the Hispanics love me. HAYES: The latest evidence that the Republican frontrunner is here to stay. Plus, inside the unbelievable escape of a Mexican drug lord. And "ALL IN America: Water Wars", a report from the sky on wildfires raging after years of drought. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire is going to burn more intense and more rapidly. And that`s the biggest effect of the drought. HAYES: ALL IN starts now. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Good evening from the Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco, California. I`m Chris Hayes. It`s not if, it`s when. That`s what firefighters here in Southern California say about brush fires in areas like Norco where homes are built up into the hills in a wild land urban interface. I went up in a helicopter with firefighters in San Diego to see that threat first hand, and that story is coming up. But, first, after announcing the historic Iran nuclear deal yesterday, President Obama began today fighting for the deal. Answering questions at a news conference for more than an hour and displaying an eagerness to address every single one of his critics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Have we exhausted Iran questions here? I think there`s a helicopter that`s coming, but I am really enjoying this Iran debate. Well, topics that may not have been touched upon, criticisms that you`ve heard that I did not answer. I`m just going to look -- I made some notes about the other argument that I`ve heard here. I want to make sure that we`re not leaving any stones unturned here. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The president didn`t just answer his critics` specific questions. He also challenged those critics to offer an alternative course of action, just as he did when critics of Obamacare offered fiery condemnations without explaining what they would do instead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that has already spoken, none of them have presented to me or the American people a better alternative. There are really only two alternatives here. Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it`s resolved through force, through war. Those are -- those are the options. And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: There was one very tense motel in the press conference when the president was asked about the Americans still being detained by Iran. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: As you all know, there are four Americans in Iran. Three held on trumped up charges, and according to your administration, one whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of the nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans? OBAMA: The notion that I`m content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails -- Major, that`s nonsense and you should know better. I`ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody is content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Donald Trump and other critics of the Iran deal have pointed to those prisoners and use them to attack the president. But it is, of course, not Trump and his ilk the president needs to win over if he wants Congress to approve the deal. There are members of Congress who are skeptical of the agreement, including most crucially some from the party`s own party. Joining me now is one of those members, one of those Democrats, Congressman Brad Sherman of California. Congressman, my understanding is you are uncommitted on the deal. What are you reservations? And have you found the president`s case persuasive? REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we actually -- first, I want to put this in context. When the president took office, he was in a very tough position, because his predecessor had not only blocked all new sanctions laws during eight years but had refused to enforce any of the sanctions laws that had been adopted in the 1990s. Now, that will sound odd because President George W. Bush was so noted for his aggressiveness. But you`ve got to realize that sanctions are sanctions on international oil companies, especially the sanctions we adopted in the 1990s that President George W. Bush refused to enforce. So, Iran had gone from zero to well over 5,000 centrifuges. It was going all out. And the president has been trying to put a brake on this program starting from a very difficult position. That being said, this deal has some good aspects to it and bad aspects to it in the first year. And then later on, and by then we`re going to have a different Congress, a different administration. I think it`s got some really big problems. The good part of this deal -- and the critics aren`t given the president credit for this -- is that 95 percent stockpile of enriched uranium -- uranium that could be purified to make ten bombs, has to be shift out of the country before Iran gets any benefits. Second, two-thirds of Iran`s centrifuges need to be mothballed before Iran gets the benefits. That`s very important. The bad part of the initial phase of this agreement is that Iran will get its hands on $120 billion or so of its own money. They will use this to help their own people to some degree because they`ve built expectations. But a lot of -- HAYES: Let me stop you there for one second, Congressman, because the president points to this repeatedly and people who back the deal say, the money is coming either way because the sanction regime that has been held together through the P5+1 is just not sustainable any longer in the absence of a sort of negotiating framework or a deal. SHERMAN: I think that they may be right as of today. I don`t think that was true two days ago. But now that the president has declared that Iran will be -- has signed a deal and is being reasonable, I think it will be hard to put the sanctions back on. And I think the president is correct in saying, not what is your alternative, but even more, what alternative do you have, assuming that the president is against you, assuming that European countries have been told it`s now reasonable to do business with Iran? It is not what is your alternative two days ago, it`s what is your alternative today? And I don`t think that we have an effective plan for the next year and a half that works better than accepting the good parts of this deal that the president has negotiated. That being said -- HAYES: You sound, Congressman, like you`ve just talked yourself into voting yes on our air. SHERMAN: No, because we`ve got to make sure this deal is not binding on future administrations, because next decade, Iran gets to build an enormous, allegedly peaceful program, a program so large that just the crumbs from the fringes will be enough to build several nuclear weapons. So, what I`ve talked myself into is to say, for the next year and a half, maybe we should prevent the president from carrying out his policy which has pluses and minuses, and to go war with the president while we`re trying to deal with Iran at the same time. But we`ve got to make sure that this deal is not morally or legally binding on future administrations because we`re going to have to go back with this or that and cajoling retreat and turn to the Iranians and say, you have accepted certain limits for ten years, they have to be extended. HAYES: There`s been a lot about the binding and unbinding, and it does seem to me that what ultimately will bind the deal should it go forward is the performance of all the parties on either side of it since, you know, international law largely can be a fiction in reality. So, I understand that concern. Representative Brad Sherman from California, thank you very much. SHERMAN: Thank you. HAYES: The attacks on the Iran deal have certainly not let up since it was announced yesterday, with some of the right seemingly in competition over who can use the most apocalyptic rhetoric. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Barack Obama has now planted the seeds of World War III. And one day, World War III is going to break out right here because of his actions. DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: He is not a man of his word. He is not a man who could be trusted. SEN. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a terrible deal. Anybody could have done better and you have taken a can of gasoline and thrown it on a fire. CHENEY: He clearly does not understand or chooses to ignore reality. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Today, the powerful pro-Israel group AIPAC called on Congress to reject the deal, which will put significant pressure on members to vote against him. In part to counter that effort, the pro-Israel group J Street seen largely as a more liberal alternative to AIPAC announced today, it was launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to build support for the deal. Joining me now is the president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami. What is the plan here, Jeremy, in terms of what you`re going to be doing on the Hill? And are you essentially going toe to toe with AIPAC on this? JEREMY BEN-AMI, J STREET PRESIDENT: Essentially, we are. I think we`re going toe to toe not just with them, though. We`re going toe to toe with the Dick Cheneys of the world, and Lindsey Grahams and people who brought us the Iraq war and who told us that the troops there would be greeted with flowers and song, to tell them this is the way to deal with a very, very serious threat. As the president said, the goal of this deal is to ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. And this deal achieves that. To defeat this deal would ensure that Iran does break out towards a nuclear weapon with no sanctions in place, or leads us towards military action. So, this is the best of all the available options. It may not be a perfect option, but that`s what compromise and negotiations are about. So, we`ll be explaining that this is the best of all the possible alternatives. HAYES: Are you surprised at all of the rhetoric coming from the Israeli government? Netanyahu talked about a nuclear terror super power, I believe the phrase was. IDF Twitter account I believe tweeting out a link to a history of the run up to World War II. Is that -- is that level of rhetoric surprising to you? Does that make sense to you? BEN-AMI: Well, I think trying to ratchet up the fear is sort of part of the general modus operandi of the right, whether it is in this country here or it`s in Israel there. The issue isn`t whether or not Iran is a terrible regime. It`s bad to its own people. It`s a state sponsor of terror. It is meddling in numerous countries throughout the Middle East and causing havoc, and we all agree on that. But as the president said, do you want that country to have a nuclear weapon or not? And if you want to prevent them from having a nuclear weapon through diplomacy and without entering another Middle East war, then support this deal, because they are in fact a bad regime and this is the best way to prevent them having the worst of all possible weapons. HAYES: Let me just get you on the spot to this, because I hear this all the time. And, obviously, there is a certain factual basis to it. We know Qassim Suleimani is strolling around Iraq and he`s -- they`re engaging in the fight in Iraq in ISIS. They`ve been massively supportive of eh Assad regime, which is terrible, bombing children by the tens of thousands in the most horrific way possible. But it all seems strange to me to isolate Iran as if it`s the only regional player that is doing destabilizing things outside its borders. Saudi Arabia right now, a, quote, "ally" of the U.S., who`ve been very aligned with the Israeli government in opposition to this deal, they`re bombing the hell out of Yemen at this very moment. BEN-AMI: Well, the Middle East is the Middle East. It`s a cauldron that is boiling and there are a lot of bad actors and a lot of those bad actors are fighting each other. But the one thing that makes Iran stand out, and the reason why the president and the P5+1 and the world as a whole has come together is because of the threat that this get taken to a whole new level with the introduction of nuclear weapons. And so, that`s why it is so important to keep the focus only one issue. There are so many other bad actors and there are so many regimes around the world that are doing things that the world opposes. But this issue of nuclear proliferation runs the risk of such a dramatically different level of suffering and violence that it has to be dealt with directly and independently of all the rest of those issues. HAYES: So, is the Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu, and I should note also the labor opposition which is supporting him in the opposition of the deal, are they just wrong? Are they just making the wrong calculation? Are they sort of blinded by the way they feel about Iran regime more generally? BEN-AMI: Well, at this point, I think that they are wrong. I think that the notion that there`s somehow a better deal to be had. This is the deal. The choice is between this deal and no deal. And you can`t, once you`ve agreed on the price of the house, go back and say, well, wait a minute. I wanted to pay $50,000 less and I`m not going to move in after all. This is deal. And you either need to take it or deal with the consequences otherwise. HAYES: Jeremy Ben-Ami, thank you very much. BEN-AMI: Thank you, Chris. HAYES: Still to come, Donald Trump puts his, quote, "massive" net worth on display in the latest step to prove he is very serious about 2016. Plus, former President Bill Clinton in front of the NAACP talks ownership for his role and the role his crime bill played in today`s mass incarceration problem. And later, I went up in a fire and rescue helicopter to learn how the drought is fueling California wildfires. That and much more, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: When President Obama was asked today about revoking Bill Cosby`s Medal of Freedom which he received in 2002 from President Bush, President Obama said there was no precedent for revoking it and he preferred not to speak about an ongoing case, even if it`s just a civil case. But he added this: (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I`ll say this: if you give a woman or a man for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that`s rape. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: Today, Donald Trump quite possibly set aside any remaining notions that he is not a real candidate for president of the United States. He filed personal financial disclosures to the FEC, according to his statement released by Trump and possibly written by him. That statement about his financial disclosure was another reminder that Trump is no ordinary candidate. It reads in part, "This report was not design for a man of Mr. Trump`s massive wealth. For instance, they have boxes once a certain number is reached that simply states $50 million or so. Many of these boxes have been checked. As an example, if a building owned by Mr. Trump is worth $1.5 billion, the box checked is $50 million or more. As of this date, Mr. Trump`s net worth is in excess of $10 billion." Those all caps provided by the Trump camp. Today`s statement does not actually itemize Trump`s assets and does not list liabilities, instead claiming they are a small percentage. Furthermore, the FEC has up to 30 days to publicly release the form that Trump says he has filed. But if and when the FEC disclosure form is official, Trump will have satisfied a requirement to appear in the FOX News debate stage. And in addition to being in the top ten in national polls, as required for that debate, Trump ranks first among Republicans in the latest national poll. Trump stands at 17 percent. Bush at 14 percent. Walker at 8 percent. But Trump`s unfavorability rating is also high, which may explain why in a hypothetical matchup with Hillary Clinton, he loses by 17 points. Today, presidential candidate Ted Cruz was scheduled to pay a visit to Donald Trump, which at least prior to that meeting appeared to partially mystify Trump himself. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Ted Cruz calls me and I don`t know why I`m meeting him, to be honest. But I do have respect for him. I respect the fact that, along with a couple of others, he came out and he came out very strongly and agreed with what I said on illegal immigration. And he came out very strongly and he came out early. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: For his part, Cruz seemed eager to kiss the ring. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this presidential race. One of the reasons you`re seeing so many 2016 candidates go out of their way to smack Donald Trump is they don`t like a politician that speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Joining me now, Charles Pierce, writer at large for "Esquire Magazine", staff writer at Charlie, I -- I will admit, I was a skeptic. I was a skeptic in every part of the process. In fact, Trump himself in a statement said, they said, I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t get serious about declaring. I declared. They said I wouldn`t actually, you know, file. I filed. They said I wouldn`t file my disclosure form. Here I am. If you`re the Republican Party right now, you got to think, this is it. This is serious. This is happening. Bunker in for the long term. CHARLES PIERCE, ESQUIRE MAGAZIN: First of all, I would like to compliment your art director because the new set in New York looks great. (LAUGHTER) HAYES: It`s amazing what they do with green screens now. PEIRCE: Secondly, of course, he`s for real. That depends on accepting two principles. Number one, that there is an institutional political entity called the Republican Party, which I don`t think there is anymore. Or else this whole thing would have been nipped in the bud. And second, if you accept that at its face, the Republican Party is demented. And in the modern Republican Party, there is great power in not making sense. And nobody makes less sense than Donald Trump. So, yes, he`s for real. HAYES: The first point there is a crucial one, because I`ve had conversations with people who are just sort of watching this spectacle unfold, saying, why are Republicans kind of letting this happen? Where is Reince Priebus? And the fact is they don`t have power. I mean, there`s nothing to hold over Donald Trump. There`s no leverage over him. He`s so far -- he`s not appearing to raise very much money but he just loaned himself money for his campaign. You know, there`s nothing they can do to bring him to heel. PEARCE: Yes. I mean, he is the inevitable product of Citizens United, because in 2012, you saw the same thing. There was no reason for Newt Gingrich to still be alive. There was no reason for Rick Santorum to still be alive at the end of the process in 2012. They were alive because they had one or two guys who were willing to write them checks. And there`s nothing the institutional Republican Party can do about that. There`s even less they can do about Trump who is so far off the reservation, that you can`t even see him anymore. HAYES: I want to play this clip. Obviously, his rollout was centered on these comments in which he said that the Mexicans coming across were criminals and rapists, a huge amount of criticism for that, being abandoned by business partners. But he`s now committed to winning the Latino vote. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I`ll tell you a vote that I will win is the Hispanic vote. I employed thousands of Hispanics. I`ll create jobs and I`ll get Hispanic vote. I have so many thousands that work for me and thousands that have over the years and the Hispanics love me. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: There are two things about this. One, I love the idea of the people that work for me love me, like I`m the boss of people. Of course they love me. And two, in the latest poll, his unfavorability among Latinos, Hispanics, is 81 percent. So, how do you think that`s going to go? PIERCE: Well, I guess love means never having to tell the truth to pollsters. I mean, as I said, there`s great power in the modern Republican Party, there is great power in making as little sense as possible in your public utterances. And he`s really tapped into that. My favorite part of whole Trump phenomenon are the now burgeoning conspiracy theories that either he is a Democratic stalking horse, or as I heard on a progressive radio show today, that he is a stalking horse for the Koch brothers who is out there only to get rid of Jeb Bush so Scott Walker can be the nominee. But one thing we`re sure on is he has taken all the oxygen out of the room. I mean, people like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have disappeared from the conversation. Scott Walker really needs to win in Iowa or there`s no point in him running at all. And his numbers are slipping there. There is nobody else in the field right now drawing the spotlight this way. HAYES: That`s exactly right. Charlie Pierce, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you. PIERCE: Thank you. HAYES: Up next, new footage from the unbelievable escape of the drug lord El Chapo. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: The escaped Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is still on the loose but new video shows the final moments before he disappeared into a tunnel. The video also shows the tunnel itself which was extremely well-constructed. NBC News Mark Potter got a first hand look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The tunnel that authorities say Chapo Guzman used to escape from this prison extends out about a mile that way to a house in a farming area, barely constructed house, where the tunnel pops out. That`s where we got to enter the tunnel, the opening of the tunnel last night. And we were quite impressed by the construction. It`s very clear that this was done by professionals who knew what they were doing, who had the money to do, and who had the time to do it right. There`s big a generator down there that powers the lights and the ventilation system. We can see support beams at both metal and wood. There`s also more interestingly a motorcycle down there, or there was. We didn`t see it but the authorities showed us video of it. You can see this motorcycle that`s attached to a cart. It`s on a rail system going up and down the tunnel, and one of the officials from the Mexican government told us yesterday that Chapo Guzman actually when he dropped out of the prison into the tunnel, he got on the cart and they carried him out to the house where he then popped up and disappeared. He did not have to walk out of jail, he actually got to ride out of jail. Now meantime, videos have surfaced that show Guzman in his cell moments before he disappeared. Authorities say you could see him dropping down. They say that that is the moment when he dropped into the tunnel, that was at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday. A big manhunt is underway for him in Mexico and in other countries. But so far, Guzman has stayed ahead of that manhunt. Mark Potter, NBC News near Mexico City. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Now, if there is anyone who deserved to be in jail, it is likely Guzman whose organization is as brutal and violent as any in the world including probably ISIS. In the U.S., a place where we`ve constructed one of the most extensive prison systems in the world, there are probably hundreds of thousands of people in prison who should not there be and there is a dawning political awareness they shouldn`t. And now one of the men responsible for constructing that system, President Bill Clinton is apologizing. More on that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools. Every day we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder. When I signed this crime bill, we together will taking a big step toward bringing the laws of our land back into line with the values of our people and beginning to restore the line between right and wrong. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: 1994 when President Bill Clinton introduced the Violent Crime Control Act, law and order and tough on crime rhetoric were centerpieces for his governments and many politicians policies on crime. 21 years later, there not only seems to be a change in tone in the way politicians talk about criminal justice, there also appears to be a willingness to confront publicly some of the massive social ills of massive incarceration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: About one in every 35 African-American men, one in every 88 Latino men is serving time right now. Among white men, that number is 1 in 214. Our criminal justice system isn`t as smart as it should be. It is not keeping us as safe as it should be. It is not as fair as it should be. Mass incarceration makes our country worse off. And we need to do something about it. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: The president`s speech at the NAACP annual convention yesterday came a day after commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent prisoners. But perhaps the most striking example of the shift at least in the way politicians are talking and thinking about crime and punishment came today when Bill Clinton, for all intents and purposes, looked in the mirror before the crowd at the NAACP and acknowledged his own role in filling up America`s prisons. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: And the president spoke a long time yesterday and very well about the criminal justice reform. And I appreciate what he has done. But I want to say a few words about it, because I signed a bill that made the problem worse. In that bill, there were longer sentences, and most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend and that was overdone. We were wrong about that. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Joining me now, former Congressman Kweisi Mfume, Democrat from Maryland, who was one of the 135 roll call votes in favor of the 1994 crime bill. Congressman, to you -- what is your reaction to the Clinton apology? KWEISI MFUME, FRM. CONGRESSMAN: Well, you know, hindsight is 2020 for all of us and I don`t want to be a Monday morning quarterback. Many of us who had raised initial objection against the House version of the bill lost our ability to stop it on a voice vote. And for nine months the White House and the leadership of congress 20 years ago worked to try to put together a package that would pass. And the one that passed, and what made it pass in my opinion, were several things. There was a violence against women`s act which was added to the bill which had never existed in this country before to protect women against violent crime. There was $14 billions in community policing funds for communities and police to work together on programs to cut down on crime. There was an assault weapons ban which had always been defeated by the NRA. That was a part of new bill, and there was an end to something called three strikes and you`re out, where if you had three convictions, you got an automatic life sentence. Those were the things that changed over the nine-month period that made the bill palatable. And I think made it caused Democrats and some Republicans to vote for it. But the president in hindsight makes a welcome sort of statement. I think all of us have evolved over time to recognize that you can`t build your way out of crime, you can`t incarcerate your way out of it, that it is long-term and systemic issues that have to be addressed. Years ago the Democratic Party took a beating from Republicans year after year because we were too soft on crime according to them. And so when the party turned in the mid-1990s and decided that it was going to be tough on crime, hence, the proof was in the pudding, because nothing changed, crime continued, incarceration rates did not go down. And the good things about the bill were fine, but the overall problem was that our streets were still very violent. And I think whether the president signed the bill or not there are some larger issues here about systemic poverty, about people not having jobs, about a lack of values and a lack of training and a lack of belief in oneself. And then... HAYES: One second. Let me just stop you there for one second, because I think this is a key part of it. I mean, this was when the Clinton folks would talk about the president`s accomplishments, this made the first cut. I mean this was signature. And not only was it signature, the argument was we signed this crime bill at the crest of a historic rising crime, and then we saw in the next two decades a historic fall in crime. And they wouldn`t necessarily say one caused the other, but they would let you draw that conclusion. It is somewhat stunning that that is now something this president is apologizing for. MFUME: Well, I guess you have to talk to Mr. Clinton to find out why he feels compelled to do it. The fact that he is doing that at the same time President Obama is talking about another approach to the issue and several democratic candidates are, as well as Republicans, I think is some realization that we still have a long way to go in dealing with this issue. A lot of it, as I said before, has to go, in my opinion, Chris, back to some of the long term systemic things that drive it -- segregated housing, lack of jobs and investment in inner cities, the racial profiling that takes place, the tremendous amount of police brutality that has been documented since Rodney King in the last 20 years. There`s a lot going on. So, I try to steer away from a kind of quick fix one size fits all answer, because it really, really is a deep hole. And I think you get out of a hole the same way you got in, one shovel at a time. And there has got to be one effort after another to get that done. HAYES: All right. Kweisi Mfume, thank you very much. Still ahead, more All In America. How years of drought is turning much of California into fuel for wildfires. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE MANDAHL, RESIDENT: You can`t water anything to keep everything, you know, moisturized and to grow, so pretty this hill is all brush, it`s all, you know, wilderness, so it relies on rain. So, yeah, I am concerned. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: For homeowners living up nestled in the hills of Norco, California, the drought poses numerous danger. Not only does it increase the risk of mud slides when the rain finally arrives, because there are less plants to anchor the soil, it increases the risk of wildfires, because the brush is so very try. I went up in a helicopter with the San Diego Fire Department 100 miles southwest of here to see the danger from the air. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS HEISER, SAND DIEGO FIRE/RESCUE DEPARTMENT: What you see in Southern California, you can see it out the window as we`re flying, is we build along the top of ridges because that is where you get the best view, it is where you want to live. And what we do is we look down a slope that is then covered with brush. And fire burns significantly quicker uphill than does across flat land. It preheats ahead of it. It has got that slope so it exponentially moves quicker, faster with more intensity. What has happened, and this is not unique to San Diego County, is we build right at the top of where that arrow is pointed. And that`s why one of our biggest concerns is structural fire protection. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Last year, almost 500,000 acres of land across the state of California went up in flames, destroying hundreds of homes and costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars. This year conditions in the state are even worse. Firefighters in California have already responded to over 3,000 calls by this point this year, that`s 1,000 more wildfires than average over the previous five years, according to the New York Times. Rising temperatures and increasingly dry conditions in the fourth year of California`s drought have departments in San Diego and elsewhere preparing for the worst. I went for a ride in San Diego`s fire rescue helicopter with their chief of air operations to discuss how the historic drought is changing the way they do their jobs. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Tell me about the basic conditions for you in the San Diego Fire Department are looking for in fire season? HEISER: Well, I think San Diego Fire Rescue is similar to all of Southern California right now. What we`re looking at is impact of the drought on the fuel conditions which means dry fuel, a lot of it. And then if you add the wind event, which we know it going to happen, we just can`t predict exactly when right now, add the wind to it and then any degree of slope and you`re going to have a significant fire if there is an ignition. HAYES: Does dryness, does the fact the state has been in this historic trout now for several years, does that increase the risk factor? HEISER: Well, what`s interesting, fire burns dead dry fuel significantly faster than green live fuel. So we really look at how much dead fuel is out there. And what the drought has created is, large pockets of dead fuel which then provide the base for the fire. HAYES: You guys had quite a season last year starting may, 2014. Tell me a little bit about that. HEISER: Well, I think what was unique about that event, was one, it was in May which isn`t typically where we see aggressive active fire behavior. And number two, the majority of the fires we saw were along the coast. And historically for us, you don`t see a lot of fires on the coast, because you have a coastal influence -- more moisture, less dry fuels, occasionally less winds. So, historically in our area, fires start to the east and move to the west. This was a unique situation. HAYES: So you guys had a bunch of fires along that coast, and that`s not something you would, you really dealt with before. HEISER: No. In my experience has not been that we see multiple fires along the coast. Normally fires start copping up more to the east or inland and the occasional fire along the coast. And so it was an extremely rare occurrence. HAYES: Talk to me about what the effect of the drought that`s happening here in California is on the work that you guys do. HEISER: Well, wild vegetation fires need three things, really, they need some terrain that`s slope, they need fuel, and they need the weather, they dryness and the wind to move the fire. And then all it takes is a source of ignition and you have a significant fire. What you see with the drought is an increase with that critical component which is the fuel. So, a larger fuel bed which mean fire is going to burn more intense and more rapidly. And that`s the biggest effect of the drought. It also in some areas is affecting our ability to get water. The tank on the bottom of this whole 375 gallons, the quickest way to fill it is to hover to snorkel, to hover over a body of water and snorkel it up. As the drought continues, those bodies of water dry up, or become less available. That means we have to travel occasionally farther to get water, which means for us less amounts of time we`re spending on the fire dropping water. HAYES: So that is interesting, so what are the bodies of water that you -- obviously you`re not going to drop salt water on... HEISER: We can. It is the last thing we`ll do if nothing else is available. But there is a good example. That pool of water right there. Anything you see on golf courses, we utilize golf course water. Any place that the pilot can safely get into -- one of the challenges is as he`s snorkeling the water up, the weight of the aircraft increases so they need to maneuver around. As they come forward, are they getting enough lift to get out. So they`re looking that allows them to move in and out smoothly and safely with that load. and then enough depth to the water. So, the drought is affecting the location of some of those. HAYES: That`s really interesting. So I hadn`t thought of that. so, the drought increases the amount of fuel because the drier things are, the more dry fuel you have, the more dry fuel the more you have increases your chances of something igniting. And you`ve also got the situation where you`re using bodies of water with this helicopter to snorkel up water and actually work in the fire suppression, and as those bodies of water dry up through the drought, it gets harder to find those. HEISER: Exactly. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: And as Chief Heiser he told me, it is not a matter of if there will be fires, but when. What California should be doing to prepare for an era of more expensive, destructive disasters and more on the battle between farmers and environmentalists over California`s water supply next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: This is the water that makes those cantaloupes possible, right? JOE DEL BOSQUE, FARMER: That`s correct. This is our water supply. HAYES: And where does this water come from? DEL BOSQUE: This water comes from about 400 miles away in the north part of California in Shasta reservoir. HAYES: Most of the water that falls in California, most of the precipitation, snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas, up north, right. How does it get down here? DEL BOSQUE: First of all, it is captured up there in reservoirs, like ours is Shasta. It is allowed to flow down the river. Down at the delta, which is the estuary, it is picked up in pumps and then from there on, it is brought to us by canals. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: all right, with me now Steve Fleischli, he`s the director of the water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Thanks for coming out here. Good to see you. So, we heard this piece last night. And central valley farming at one level it is just a mechanical process, right whereby this food is rung from the ground, but it is at the central of this massively heated, really brutal political battle. Like as soon as you get in the central valley you are seeing signs like congress created the drought and Nancy Pelosi is cutting off our water. And they feel like environmentalists and big city liberals care about their little fish and their salmon and their delta smelt and they cut off their water and environmentalists feel like, these folks are operating off this massive public investment to make money for themselves in all of our collective water. So, I want you to talk about why the water he`s talking about, 400 miles away, why it is so contentious. STVE FLEISCHLI, NRDC: a lot of that water come from the San Francisco Bay delta area and the rivers that flow into it. So like the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River. And that water is critical to fisheries in that area and critical to the fishermen that depend on those fisheries. And so you can`t have fish without water, you can`t have fishermen without fish. And they need that water. But also the water is needed to keep the salt water back. The salt water from the ocean flows up into these rivers. And with sea level rise and climate change, it will flow up even further. And so the fresh water pushes that back into the ocean and that keeps water fresh for crops, for farming in that region, as well as for drinking water supplies. HAYES: Right, so let`s just be clear about how zero sum this is. Because this part of it really is. Like there are other ways there aren`t. But that water is coming from up north. It`s in the sort of snow pack and it`s falling and it`s coming down. And the vector by which it is delivered to everyone, in which it supports the fisheries, in which it supports drinking water, in which it pushes the ocean back, is the same vector by which it goes down to the central valley, right. And the central valley, they want all that to flow down to them so they grow as many almonds as they possibly can. There are interests up north who for all sorts of reasons want to make sure it doesn`t all go down there. FLEISCHLI: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of interests involved here. And everyone has a stake in this. But -- so, it`s not an either/or from my estimation, though, there are solutions that are out there that we can satisfy all of those needs if we use smarter water management strategies. HAYES: They will say in the Central Valley, they`ve got this obsession with the delta smelt. It`s a small fish. It lives in that estuary. And they say what happens is the Endangered Species Act, and the feds, they don`t pump the water across estuaries so these tiny little precious fish can be out there and we`re out here dying in the sun. FLEISCHLI: Yeah, well, let me tell you a fact, and let them try to dispute there, there has been zero water curtailment, zero since 2013 for the smelt. There is been a 2 percent water curtailment for salmon and most of the other curtailment is for water quality for the salt water implications to keep water fresh for drinking and for farming. HAYES: but you have got a Republican congressman who if I`m not mistaken is going to have bill tomorrow that Republican caucus in California`s rallying around that would basically like stick it to the smelt. FLEISCHLI: Yeah. Well, they`re blaming the drought on endangered species and the environment and that`s not the case. I mean, mother nature and the lack of rain is the primary cause of the drought and the lack of water availability. So there is this bill tomorrow in congress that will be voted on that tries to gut the Endangered Species Act, it tries to gut environmental review, when that really doesn`t get to the core of the issue. And there are management practices that we can undertake in farming communities as well to alleviate some of the pressure on the system. HAYES: Can the -- can California adapt in the long-term? Right, so it is a relatively dry place, it has come up with all sorts of ways to kind of use water to support farming for humans. This is drought is an historic drought, it is the worst recorded, but there will be others. And climate models tell us this state will get drier most likely. Is this a long term sustainable thing that can be continued out in the future of climate change? FLEISCHLI: Well, not the way we`re currently operating. And so there`s a lot more we need to do. Half of California`s farms, and I know last night you showed some drip irrigation and that`s really important. Half of California farms still use the old antiquated flood and furrow techniques where you literally just lift up the sluice gates and let the water flow through and flood your farm. HAYES: Is that really true, half? FLEISCHLI: That is true. Half. And also, there is about 20 percent that haven`t even filled out their water management plans that the state required back in 2009, under a 2009 law they are supposed to fill out water management plans and explain how they are going to conserve water. A lot of them they still measure water deliveries, because the water is so cheap that they don`t do that. And they don`t price water on a volume basis. So you get as much water based on the acreage, but not on -- based on how much water you need. HAYES: OK, this is a key thing that I want to keep talking through in the next few days we do this, which is to me, the price signals around water just seem completely screwed. Like, they just -- the inputs are not true cost in any way. And people can take those inputs and then profit off it in a way where the price signaling is not getting past properly. Steve Fleischli, thanks for driving up here. That was really illuminating. Thanks a lot. All right, that is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END