IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/18/2016

Guests: Jeff Sharlet, Jonathan Chait, Roxana Saberi, Shane Bauer, Ruth Conniff

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 18, 2016 Guest: Jeff Sharlet, Jonathan Chait, Roxana Saberi, Shane Bauer, Ruth Conniff


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

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He voted to let guns go onto Amtrak, guns go into national parks.

HAYES: Democrats square off in the most heated debate yet, with the Obama legacy taking center stage.

CLINTON: I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it.

SANDERS: We`re not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act. I helped write it.

HAYES: With two weeks until voting begins, the race is neck and neck.

SANDERS: When this campaign began, she was 50 points ahead of me.

HAYES: Then, Trump versus Cruz gets downright nasty.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald seems to be a little rattled. He`s a little testy about it.

HAYES: Plus, American prisoners come home from Iran. And guess who still isn`t happy.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president lives in his own world. If he believes that`s the product of strong American diplomacy --

TRUMP: We`re getting four back. They`re getting seven.

HAYES: And British parliament debates whether to keep Donald Trump out of the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His policy to close borders is bonkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is free to be a fool, but he`s not free to be a dangerous fool in Britain.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


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

With just two weeks to go until the Iowa caucus, last night Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in the most anticipated and heated Democratic debate of this election, with the racial politics of the Democratic Party serving as the backdrop, co-sponsored on the eve of Martin Luther King Day by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in South Carolina, the first primary state with a sizable African-American population, and just one block away from the church where a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners just months ago.

In this context, with Hillary Clinton in a real race with Sanders in the two early primary states, last night`s fights were largely about how these candidates would protect and build on the legacy of the first black president. Both candidates shared the stage today, the ceremony in South Carolina marking the first Martin Luther King Day without the Confederate flag flying above that state house.

But last night, the interactions between the two were far more contentious, trading blows on everything from health care to Wall Street regulation. After a week of waging war with Sanders on the details or, according to her, the lack thereof, around his single-payer health care plan, Clinton sought to portray herself as the protector of the historic health care reform achieved under President Obama.


CLINTON: Here`s what I believe. The Democratic Party in the United States worked since Harry Truman to get the Affordable Care Act passed. We finally have a path to universal health care. We`ve accomplished so much already.

I do not want to see the Republicans repeal it. And I don`t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it.


HAYES: Clinton spent much of the night trying to latch herself to the president`s legacy and the coalition of voters that elected him twice, arguing that she is running to consolidate his victories and will continue to incrementally improve upon them. Sanders, while having nothing but kind words for the president, is offering up a vision of more dramatic change.


SANDERS: The vision from FDR and Harry Truman was health care for all people as a right in a cost-effective way. We`re not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act. I helped write it. But we are going to move on top of that to a Medicare for all system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andrea, Andrea --


HAYES: While Sanders is calling for big changes, Clinton appears to have recognized her path forward is to embrace the president and use him essentially as a kind of wedge between her and Senator Sanders. Last night she rather deftly turned the critique to her ties with the financial industry which are substantial into a defense of the president.


CLINTON: Where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don`t just affect me, I can take that, but he`s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.


HAYES: Right now, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are polling within 20 points nationally among white voters. In the two predominantly white states early in the primaries, the senator from Vermont where he is spending his time is neck and neck with Clinton in a statistical tie with her in Iowa and leading in New Hampshire.

Where the former secretary of state continues to hold a massive lead, as in over 40 points, over the senator from Vermont, is with non-white voters. And you simply cannot lose non-white voters and win the Democratic primary. Something both campaigns are clearly cognizant of.


LESTER HOLT, NBC MODERATOR: Just over a week ago the chairman of the congressional black caucus endorsed Secretary Clinton, not you. He said that choosing her over you was not a hard decision. In fact, our polling shows she`s beating you more than 2-1 among minority voters. How can you be the nominee if you don`t have that support?

SANDERS: To answer your question, when the African-American community becomes familiar with my congressional record and with our agenda and with our views on the economy and criminal justice, just as the general population has become more supportive, so will the African-American community, so will the Latino community. We have the momentum. We`re on a path toward victory.


HAYES: Joining me now, Perry Bacon, NBC News senior political reporter, and Ezra Klein, MSNBC policy analyst, editor in chief at Vox.

And, Ezra, let me start with you. I thought last night was fascinating because it ultimately was a kind of inter-left debate about the legacy of the Obama presidency. Ultimately what does the Obama presidency amount to?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Yes. And it`s been fascinating to watch what I think a lot of people expected would happen here is that Bernie Sanders would come into the race if he gained traction, which obviously he has. He would push Hillary Clinton to the left. And he hasn`t actually done that. She`s not swung very far left on any particular issues.

What he`s done is pushed her to be much more defensive of Obama. Her approach to blunting Sanders` momentum is to run as a defender of Obama`s record.

But one thing that I do think is worth saying here is how this actually falls down on policy is a really different issue to issue. So, take Obamacare, which was central to their argument last night. Hillary Clinton does not in fact have a plan for going from Obamacare to universal health care. She`s not put forward a path that would actually build in really serious ways on Obamacare. So, the argument she was making is not yet backed by her policy.

And Bernie Sanders, by the way, does not actually have a single-payer plan. He does not have a political way of getting there and nor does he have a policy that is anywhere near detailed enough to say in any respect what he would do with single-payer.

On the other hand, when you look at bank regulation, both of them are much more detailed. Hillary Clinton has a very detailed plan to go significantly further than Dodd-Frank currently does and Sanders has a plan to break up the big banks.

So, I think the sort of lines they`re using where Sanders is the more dramatic change candidate and Clinton is running as the defender of Obama`s record, they actually obscure the policy differences, which in some cases go -- have both of them going much further than Obama and in some cases have both of them making a much more symbolic argument around Obama`s achievements.

HAYES: Perry, this sort of symbolic argument about Obama`s achievements to me ends up being -- I mean, you`ve got a situation that`s never happened before in American politics, right? People running to succeed the first black president. In this case it`s the two people who are leading this pack are both white candidates. The Democratic party, the Obama coalition as a sort of demographic fact is this incredible of multiracial coalition this president was able to stitch together, and it`s fascinating to watch these two candidates figure out how to reconstitute that essentially.

And the big electoral question is, can it be reconstituted in Barack Obama`s absence?

PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In this primary, what you`ve seen is Bernie Sanders actually probably has three parts of that coalition. He`s doing better among young voters who Obama did well with in `08. He`s doing better among independent-minded Democrats. And he`s doing better among those who call themselves liberal.

Those are three blocs Obama won in `08 and Hillary did not win in `08. She`s got the more older Democrats and the more conservative Democrats. The key difference here is, black voters are really the swing voters in this primary because if Clinton maintains that 70 percent, 80 percent you showed in that poll among black voters, she`s going to win the primary. It`s very hard for Sanders to win states like South Carolina, states like Mississippi, states like Alabama if he`s doing so poorly among African- Americans.

So, that`s what she was doing last night, was if you assume the coalitions are going to stay the same, the one coalition she really needs that Obama had is black voters, and that`s why she was campaigning with Eric Holder over the weekend.

HAYES: Ezra, you wrote I thought a really perceptive piece about what kind of Hillary Clinton`s strengths are in terms of who she is when she has worked in government. You talked about people that worked with her. I`ve heard the same people that worked with her, just this tremendous command and mastery, really like willing to get in the weeds, loving to get in the weeds, remarkably well prepared.

And you talked about the challenge of presenting that side of herself in the confines of something like a debate. And I thought this bit from a focus group that Chris Kofinis ran last night was pretty interesting. This is undecided voters sort of leaning Hillary who ended up feeling more affection for Bernie Sanders after the debate. Take a listen.


CHRIS KOFINIS: Was there something in particular that kind of moved you, something that he said that -- or is it just --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just seemed really educated on all the topics. He didn`t seem like he was lacking at all. And he doesn`t take digs at anybody. And that just really felt a little bit like Hillary was trying to take digs. And she just seems to be, well, Obama did all this great job and kind of riding on his coattail.


HAYES: Ezra, this struck me as part of the problem, that, you know, her high point in this campaign was an 11-hour hearing in front of Benghazi, right? It`s hard to create those sorts of opportunities, right? To show that -- like I -- saying I have 11 hours worth of command of details is a tough thing to sell in any kind of format.

KLEIN: I think, though, that -- and I appreciate the kind words. I think that there is something more to what Hillary Clinton is able to do behind closed doors and not in the public`s view that`s important here. Behind closed doors, Clinton is very good at working with Republicans. She`s very good at working with folks she doesn`t agree with. She`s very good at building alliances that aren`t expected.

And she is when you talk to people, they`re very honest. It isn`t just that she`s incredibly prepared. She is that. But it`s her ability to marry the tactical and the strategic, the ability to see the details of policy with what would be the way forward, with what is the opportunity for common ground.

And that requires a sense of -- you know, for lack of a better term, real talk -- an ability to kind of say look, here`s where we really are, here`s what I really think. And that`s the thing you don`t get the sense from her out in public. I think you`re seeing it a little more actually in the debate than you were certainly the week before the debate.

But Clinton doesn`t -- she is very afraid to tell voters things they don`t want to hear. And something I think that Sanders is able to do and that brings people over to him is he stakes out positions that because those positions actually have detractors, they also have people who really appreciate them.

HAYES: Right.

KLEIN: Clinton seems so paralyzed by her knowledge of how many ways a straightforward position can get attacked that she seems very concerned when taking them. And then she`ll levy those same kinds of very small often technocratic and unfair attacks on Sanders, which again, to that woman`s perspective you that just played, makes her look kind of tactical. They come off as digs. They don`t come off as sort of an appealing way to campaign.

HAYES: Perry, you`re nodding your head in agreement at that.

BACON: I am. I think one of the strike things is Sanders tends to campaign in terms of what I would call values versus Hillary`s often talking about policies.

Like you know, single payer is not going to happen. And I think Bernie Sanders knows that. My guess is his supporters know it too.

But he`s talking in terms of these broad values, and I think that`s appealing to people. It`s a great move for him last night when I think when Andrea Mitchell brought up the Bill Clinton sex scandals and Sanders kind of dismissed the question, said the media`s focused on this.

I think the people do sort of resonate with certain things about the way Sanders is a different kind of politician. You can imagine if Hillary heard a vulnerability about somebody, she would take it on. Sanders took this moment that could have helped him and said, I don`t want to run for president like that.

HAYES: Although to your point, he`s quite a deft politician as the world is learning, he also got in there I think Bill Clinton`s behavior was deplorable, I don`t want to talk about it, which is as political as anybody could do.

Perry Bacon, Ezra Klein, thank you for joining me.

KLEIN: Thank you.

BACON: Thank you.

HAYES: All right. Still to come, Donald Trump focuses his attacks on Ted Cruz, but will Cruz fall as easily as Trump`s previous targets?

Plus, four Americans make their way home after their release from Iranian prison. I`ll talk with someone who knows firsthand how that feels.

And later, as Bernie Sanders` poll numbers continue to rise, do Democrats actually believe he`s electable?

Those stories and more, ahead.


HAYES: In Iowa, which holds its caucuses just two weeks from today, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are separated by just a single point in the polls. With both men desperate to win the state, their once cordial relationship has gotten extraordinarily vicious.


TRUMP: He`s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He`s a very -- he`s got an edge that`s not good. You can`t make deals with people like that and it`s not a good thing. It`s not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.


HAYES: Trump has spent the past few days raising questions about whether the Canadian-born Cruz is eligible for the presidency, painting Cruz as a hypocrite beholden to wealthy interests, and hammering Cruz for questioning New York values.

At one point on an early morning Twitter jag, tweeting out a picture of 9/11 first responders and the wreckage of the World Trade Center asking, is this the New York that Ted Cruz is talking about and demeaning?

Trump`s attacks are generating some blowback from conservatives. At a Tea Party Convention Saturday in South Carolina, Trump was booed for bringing up Cruz` undisclosed campaign loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank.

Two prominent right-wing talk radio personalities, Marc Levin and Rush Limbaugh, are suggesting Trump should change course. Levin telling Trump, "Either cut the crap or you will lose lots and lots of conservatives."

Cruz has long tried to play nice with Trump in an apparent attempt to eventually win over Trump`s voters. But the dam is largely broken. After Trump defended his political evolution by citing Ronald Reagan this morning on FOX News, Cruz suggested the comparison was laughable.


CRUZ: Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big government politics, supporting things like the TARP big bank bailout, supporting things like expanding Obamacare to turn it into socialized medicine. That`s not what Ronald Reagan did.


HAYES: Slight fact check. Reagan was actually a Democrat until he was 51 years old.

Anyway, later in the day, Cruz spent an entire radio interview attacking Trump, prompting this conclusion from the host.


HOST: You`ve basically -- you`ve said it without saying it. Are you essentially saying Trump is a fraud and a hypocrite?

CRUZ: Well, those are your words, Jeff. I like Donald Trump. I respect him. I will point out where we have policy differences.


HAYES: Oh, sure you do, Ted. Of course. Of course.

Coming up, Trump went to Liberty University today to talk to evangelicals and accidentally revealed he is not exactly a biblical scholar. That`s next.


HAYES: Thrice-married billionaire Donald Trump who is on record saying he doesn`t recall ever once asking God for forgiveness spoke today at Liberty University, the evangelical college founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell.


TRUMP: We`re going to protect Christianity. And I can say that. I don`t have to be politically correct.

If I`m president you`re going to see merry Christmas in department stores. Believe me.


HAYES: Trump was introduced by Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr., who had very nice things to say about the candidate.


JERRY FALWELL, JR., PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the great commandment. He treats his friends, his employees, and those in need with the greatest respect, loyalty, and generosity.


HAYES: Trump often references the bible, the only book he says is better than his own book "The Art of the Deal." But at Liberty, Trump revealed he may not quite be ready to teach Sunday school.


TRUMP: Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17. That`s the whole ball game. Where the spirit of the Lord, right? Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Is that the one -- is that the one you like? I think that`s the one you like because I loved it.


HAYES: If you listen closely there, you can hear a little laugh in the audience. That`s because that quote from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians from Saint Paul were the Second Corinthians as the Liberty students know well. When he calls it Two Corinthians as Trump did, as in two Corinthians walk into a bar.

Remarkably, Trump is doing very well among the evangelicals. National polls show that he is either leading or neck and neck with Ted Cruz among evangelicals, despite Cruz` aggressive outreach to Christian conservatives.

Joining me now, Dartmouth University professor Jeff Sharlet. He`s written extensively on the intersection of faith and power and about evangelicals in political life.

Jeff, you know, you watch Trump in front of an audience like Liberty and the pandering is so obviously preposterous and so obviously a put-on that the notion that it has any effect at all is hard for me to get my head around.

JEFF SHARLET, DARTMOUTH UNIVERSITY: You know, there`s a long tradition in evangelicalism of looking for a good tool, someone who`s going to do the job. And I think what Trump was announcing was, I`m going to work for you. In the same way that remember Ronald Reagan was not a particularly devout man but he signaled to evangelicals that he wanted this alliance.

And I think that`s how some in the audience are going to read it even despite his sort of ridiculous misreadings of Scripture.

HAYES: Yes, you also had -- you did have some sort of evangelical backlash today. Russell Moore, a very prominent evangelical, went on a sort of Twitter jag, "This would be hilarious if it weren`t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ." And then on Yik Yak, the social media app that`s used in a lot of colleges, there was a fair amount of ridicule coming from some of the folks that actually attended.

SHARLET: Two Corinthians walk into a bar. Sure. That was one of the comments that one of the Liberty students made.

You know, I think what was interesting to me was how much he stuck to his stump speech. And I think that was kind of smart in recognizing that there`s no way he`s going to convince them that he`s one of them. But he`s going to find these kind of common cause issues. Remember, it was at Liberty University just last December that Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced in that same hall to the same group of students that he was carrying a gun that moment and urged students to get concealed carry so they could defend themselves against terror.

So, when Trump, probably the strongest part of the speech for him, was his sort of long -- his long rant on Paris and fighting terrorism and so on and saying, look, I`m going to give lip service to the bible, that`s enough, but I`m going to be very serious about guns and anti-immigration, these issues that a lot of people there care deeply about.

HAYES: I thought the applause line also about the line, when I`m president they`re going to be saying merry Christmas in the department stores, which is again on its face preposterous. Like the president can`t issue an order telling department stores to say merry Christmas.

But you know, he successfully paints this vision which just in the moment at least it`s a little like the reason you buy a lottery ticket, right? In some rational way, you know you`re not going to win, but in the moment, you buy the ticket you think like oh, it would be nice. Like you`re allowed to daydream for a moment about a world that looks more like the one you like.

SHARLET: And that`s another kind of sort of evangelical trope, whether deliberately or not, he was picking up on, sort of playing out a story, a story how this is going to work. You know, he didn`t just say you`re going to hear merry Christmas. He went on. You`re going to hear it a lot. He added a menacing tone. There was this element of revenge against all those who said happy holidays.

And time and time again, he plays out that story. He doesn`t sound quite like a preacher but he sounds close enough I think for enough evangelicals, he is leading among evangelicals, enough evangelicals to say this is somebody we can work with.

HAYES: So you don`t think -- obviously, Ted Cruz`s father is a fairly prominent evangelical preacher. He has courted evangelicals, you know, quite assiduously. You think this support`s going to stay, this is not, you know, rooted in sand.

SHARLET: Well, I think there`s two differences. One thing that`s important to remember is that Trump -- you compare Trump to Jerry Falwell, as his son did, right? Jerry Falwell was a devout man, a pious man, but he also liked having a kind of bad boy reputation.

HAYES: Right.

SHARLET: Jerry Falwell was the Larry Flynt of fundamentalism --

HAYES: Right.

SHARLET: -- compared to Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson, a son of a senator, was sort of very pious. And Trump is in that tradition.

That tradition goes all the way back in America to Billy Sunday, and that tradition is about charisma, not just charismatic Christianity but charisma. Trump has it. Cruz doesn`t. And I think that`s going to make a tough choice.

Mike Huckabee is the logical evangelical candidate but he`s going nowhere. So, we see some political calculation on the part of evangelicals, that at least is going to put Trump right in there in competition with Cruz.

HAYES: Yes. Jeff Sharlet, thank you very much. I really enjoyed that. Thanks a lot.

SHARLET: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, the British parliament has a debate about banning Donald Trump from their borders. The highlights, next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve heard of a number of cases where people have been excluded for incitement, for hatred. I`ve never heard of one for stupidity. I`m not sure that we should be starting now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Britain is pretty good at roasting beef. Do you not think it`s better that we just roast Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry. I don`t think a debate like this calls for flippancy at a time like this.


HAYES: In the past, the United Kingdom has banned conservative radio host Michael Savage and Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones. Remember that guy?

And today, members of the British parliament mulled over a decision to prohibit another American from ever stepping foot in the U.K., Donald Trump. The debate was brought on by an online petition that called the U.S. Republican presidential front-runner`s comments about Muslims hate speech. The three-hour event concluded with no vote. Now, the decision to ban Trump is ultimately not made by parliament but by the home secretary.

For the record, I agree with Labor MP Jeremy Corbin, who opposes banning Trump. Nevertheless, an opportunity for members of British parliament to share their thoughts on Donald Trump sure was a lot of fun to watch.


VICTORIA ATKINS, CONSERVATIVE MP: Turning as I must to Mr. Trump, his comments regarding Muslims are wrong. His policy to close borders if he is elected as president is bonkers. And if he met one or two of my constituents in one of the many excellent pubs in my constituency, then they may well tell him that he is a wazzock for dealing with this issue in this way.

JACK DROMEY, LABOUR MP: Donald Trump is a fool. He is free to be a fool. He is not free to be a dangerous fool on our shores.

NAZ SHAH, LABOUR MP: Donald Trump is no more than a demagogue. He panders to -- he panders to people`s fears as opposed to their strengths.

TULIP SIDDIQ, LABOUR MP: This is not just any man that we`re talking about, this is a man who is extremely high-profile, involved in the American show business industry for years and years, a man who is interviewing for the most important job in the world.

PAUL SCULLY, CONSERVATIVE MP: Now, I know we`ve had some examples of when people have been excluded from this country. I`ve heard of a number of cases where people have been excluded for incitement or for hatred. I`ve never heard of one for stupidity. And I`m not sure that we should be starting now.

ALEX CHALK, CONSERVATIVE MP: Can I not suggest that actually this is about buffoonery and ultimately buffoonery should not be met with the blunt instrument of a ban, but with a classic British response of ridicule.




OBAMA: To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


HAYES: Almost exactly seven years ago today at his first inauguration, President Obama outlined his vision for a foreign policy very different from that of his predecessor. And this weekend President Obama made good on that vision, announcing multiple diplomatic breakthroughs with the Iranian regime, a regime once shunned as part of the, quote, "axis of evil."

Just days after the administration secured the release of 10 American sailors detained after drifting into Iranian waters, avoiding what could have been a major incident, the UN declared Iran had dismantled large parts of its nuclear program in full compliance with the international agreement reached earlier this year -- or last year.

Allowing the international community to lift oil and financial sanctions on the regime and potentially begin to unravel Iran`s pariah status.

The next day, the UN also imposed new sanctions over Iran`s ballistic missile program.

Meanwhile, just before the nuclear deal was implemented Iran freed four Iranian-Americans being held by the regime in a prisoner swap with the U.S. The result of 14 months of secret negotiations.

Now, those four Americans, Jason Rezaian, a journalist with The Washington Post, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, and Nosratollah Khosravi Roodsari were released in exchange for seven individuals suspected or convicted by the U.S. of violating sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. also canceled international arrest warrants for an additional 14 Iranians suspected of sanctions violations.

Another American being held in Iran, a researcher named Matthew Trevithick, was allowed to leave the country independently of the prisoner swap.

On Saturday, three of the American prisoners got the go-ahead to leave Tehran on a plane bound for Switzerland, but the whole thing almost fell apart according to The New York Times citing anonymous U.S. officials when at the last minute Iranian authorities detained Jason Rezaian`s wife and mother at the airport, insisting they remain behind.

It was a phone call from Secretary of State John Kerry to his Iranian counterpart that ultimately resolved the situation, according to those reports.

Today, the three Americans were finally reunited with family and friends at a U.S. military base in Germany, where they`re recuperating till they`re ready to come home.

Of course any good news the Obama administration`s relations with Iran was not greeted with enthusiasm by Republican presidential candidates, including two sitting senators who signed onto Tom Cotton`s infamous letter to Iran`s ayatollahs warning them not to trust the U.S. president.

While the candidates welcomed news of the prisoner release they found a lot more to criticize.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Now we have a president that has traded hostages in exchange for prisoners who did commit a crime and were convicted after due process and a trial and everything of that sort. And what the president`s now doing, not just with this, but what he did with the Castro brothers and what he did with Bergdahl is he put a price on the head of every American abroad.

DONALD TRUMP, 2016 PRESIDENTAIL CANDIDATE: I`ve been hitting them hard and I think that might have something to do with it. You want to know the truth -- who is using -- it`s part of my staple thing. I mean, I go crazy when I hear about this.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: That`s 21 terrorists helping Iran develop nuclear weapons that they intend to use to try to murder us.


HAYES: That, by the way, is not true.

I`m joined now by Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi who was imprisoned in Iran for 100 days in 2009, later wrote a book about the experience, "Between Two Worlds: My Life in Captivity in Iran," and Shane Bauer, also a former prisoner in Iran, now a senior reporter for Mother Jones.

Roxana, let me start with you. You know, I found myself. You know, certain news stories -- like you do this for a living, certain news stories, surprisingly make you very upset personally, a lot of it you keep (inaudible) distance and then some happy story you surprisingly get to you.

I don`t know what it was Saturday morning that I just felt just incredibly overjoyed by this news.


HAYES: And I must imagine you felt the same way.

SABERI: Yeah, I did. Because I was in touch with the families of the three prisoners, the former prisoners who are now in Germany over the months, over the years with Saeed -- with Amir Hekmati`s family because he was in prison for 4 1/2 years.

They wanted to know what is prison like. They wanted to know what can they do to help to get him out. I also knew Jason Rezaian from Iran. We met way back in 2003. So I was ecstatic. Especially to see their smiles in the pictures today. Wow.

HAYES: And Shane, it sort of came out of nowhere. I`m curious what you think about this idea that we`ve seen. There`s been a critique that basically -- in Marco Rubio`s words, this puts a price on Americans` heads, this creates some sort of negative incentive, this imperils Americans in the future. What do you think of that?


Well, I think with Iran it`s very different from situations like ISIS. Iran isn`t imprisoning Americans to extract a ransom or something like that. But it is imprisoning them for political reasons. I think this release really was kind of a marker showing how much things are changing.

The fact that they released four Americans at one time is a huge deal. I mean, these people have -- you know, Iran`s constantly had American prisoners, you know, as soon as one gets out they have another one. For years now. And the fact that these sanctions were lifted and they were all let out at one time shows a huge improvement I think.

HAYES: Shane, you`ve written quite movingly about your own imprisonment in Iran and the conditions, which were awful, particularly solitary and the kind of brutal mental torture that is solitary confinement. We know that some of these individuals were held in solitary. You would think someone who has experienced some of the moral monstrousness, frankly, of this regime would look askance at any kind of move toward better diplomatic relations or normalization. How do you feel about the broader political context?

BAUER: I mean, I don`t have great feelings toward the Iranian government for obvious reasons. But at the same time I think, you know, if our goal is to be, you know, moving toward improving relations, which would make, you know, Americans safer and make people not end up in these situations in prison, it would, you know, lower the threat of Iran`s, you know -- the nuclear threat from Iran, we have to be engaging. We have to be talking to Iran, which we are now. We`ve been doing for a few years now. And we need to be just easing the tensions.

There was new sanctions put Iran right after these Americans released. These were compared to the old sanctions were pretty minor and very targeted. But I think following up the easing of sanctions by implementing new sanctions is not the direction we want to go in.

We want to be following these good measures with more positive steps forward.

HAYES: Right now some of these folks are in Germany. They`re going to have to try to kind of transition back to normal life.

What was that experience like? What do you think they will experience?

SABERI: Well, it can be overwhelming at first. And I heard that Jason Rezaian wanted to know what was going on in the outside world because imagine you`re in this small cell surrounded by four walls, you don`t know what`s happening outside prison, you don`t even know what`s happening in the hallway.

The news source that you get, like Jason Rezaian`s brother said, is state- run TV in Iran and that`s not the best source of information.

So you just want to read everything you can. You want to be in touch with your loved ones.

It can be difficult to transition back. Some people get post-traumatic stress disorder. That`s a very real thing. It took me a couple years to feel back to normal again. But I found when I returned to something I was passionate about, journalism, that it really helped and hopefully these prisoners can find meaning in their experiences and something that they are passionate about again.

HAYES: Shane, did you -- what was that experience like for you?

BAUER: It was similar. You know, I always imagined when I was in prison that getting out would just be this, you know, just immediate elation. And it was for a moment. But it got difficult. I mean, it`s hard to readjust to freedom. You -- after you`re in prison for a while, your mind changes. You become accustomed to a strict routine, and you`re not used to normal, you know, social situations. And it takes time to kind of develop that ability again.

HAYES: All right, Shane Bauer, Roxanna Saberi, thank you both. I really, really appreciate it.

SABERI: Thank you.

BAUER: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, coming up, do Democrats really want the political revolution that Bernie Sanders promises? That`s next.



CLINT: I`ve spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what`s happening in Flint, Michigan. And I think every single American should be outraged.

We`ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn`t really care.

He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I`ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.


HAYES: Last night completely unprompted and with an opportunity to address any topic she wanted to, Hillary Clinton criticized Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his slow response to dangerous levels of lead in the city of Flint`s water supply.

The crisis started in April 2014 when the city, under the control of a state-appointed emergency managers, began taking its tap water from the Flint River as part of a cost-cutting measure. Soon after the switch was made, residents began complaining about the taste and smell of the water.

Officials maintained the water was safe. Tests later showed the water had massively elevated lead levels, some samples even met the EPA`s definition of toxic waste.

Scientists note there is no safe level for lead in water. And in Flint, a city where 40 percent of its population lives in poverty, there are over 8,000 children under the age of 6 who may have suffered permanent brain damage, because of the lead in the city`s water.

The story has now drawn national attention thanks in no small part to the excellent, dogged, persistent reporting done by my colleague Rachel Maddow, a contribution acknowledged by Flint`s mayor this past weekend.


KAREN WEAVER, MAYOR OF FLINT, MICHIGAN: I have to give a huge shout out to Rachel Maddow. We`ve got to say thank you, Rachel Maddow. We here in Flint will always, always be grateful to you and the role that you`ve played in helping us.


HAYES: Right now in Flint, a federal emergency has been declared. The National Guard has been called in to hand out bottled water, filters and testing kits in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. And the Justice Department announced it is investigating what went wrong.

There are growing calls for Governor nyder`s resignation, including from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. But Snyder pushed back on both Sanders` and Hillary Clinton`s criticisms tweeting "political statements and finger pointing from political candidates only distract from solving the Flint water crisis."

Today in Flint, Snyder defended his response to the situation.

"Obviously I care, I`m here today. We`ve done a number of actions. We`re going to keep working on putting solutions in place."

Tomorrow night following the governor`s state of the state address in Lansing, Michael Moore, proud son of Flint who`s called for Snyder`s arrest, will join me on this program live to discuss this growing crisis. You do not want to miss it.



LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: You call yourself a Democratic Socialist.


HOLT: And throughout your career in politics you`ve been critical of the Democratic Party, even saying in a book you wrote, quote, "there wasn`t a hell of a big difference between the two major parties."

How will you win a general election labeling yourself a Democratic Socialist?

SANDERS: Because what I believe and what I was just saying, the Democratic Party needs major reform.


HAYES: Are Democrats ready for a self-avowed socialist to lead their party and would America elect him? Electability is one of the questions Sanders addressed head on last night.


SANDERS: As Secretary Clinton well knows, when this campaign began she was 50 points ahead of me. We were all of 3 percentage points. Guess what? In Iowa, New Hampshire, the race is very, very close. Maybe we`re ahead in New Hampshire.

In terms of polling, guess what, we are running ahead of Secretary Clinton in terms of taking on my good friend Donald Trump, beating him by 19 points in New Hampshire, 13 points in the last national poll that I saw.


HAYES: Next I`ll speak with one analyst who asked if Democrats can afford the risk of nominating Bernie Sanders.



CLINTON: Now, when I tell you all of this, I`m telling you because I think we can do it. I don`t want to overpromise. I don`t want to come out with theories and concepts that may or may not be possible. We don`t need any more of that. What we need is a sensible, achievable agenda where we roll up our sleeves and we work together.


HAYES: Joining me now, Jonathan Chait, writer for New York Magazine whose latest piece is called "The case against Bernie Sanders," and Ruth Conniff, editor for The Progressive Magazine.

Jonathan, let me start with you. I guess the case against Bernie Sanders, keep it short, but the broad brushstrokes here, particularly I think on this sort of electability. In fact, let me read this quote. "Sanders offers a left-wing version of a hoary political fantasy that a more pure candidate can rally the people into a righteous uprising that would unsettle the conventional laws of politics. It seems bizarre for Democrats to risk losing the presidency by embracing a politically radical doctrine" -- that`s socialism in this case -- " that stands zero chance of enactment even if they win."



Well, so put aside the question of would you rather have Bernie Sanders as president if Bernie Sanders could do everything he wanted versus Hillary Clinton if Hillary Clinton could do everything they wanted because the fact is neither one of them is going to have that circumstance. They`re both going to have to deal with a Republican congress. And that congress is going to block nearly any major economic legislation, because they want to go in the exact opposite direction.

So, where does the president still have any power? It`s in the areas that Sanders doesn`t talk about. It`s not in changing the shape of the economy. It`s not in taxes. It`s not in spending. It`s not in creating jobs programs. And it`s certainly not in creating single payer health care. It`s in these regulatory measures, it`s in using unilateral administrative power, criminal justice reform, and foreign policy. It`s in these things that Bernie Sanders isn`t really passionate about.

So I`m arguing that taking a big risk on electing someone who`s pretty far to the extreme compared to where the party has been before isn`t really worth it given that he`s not going to be able to do what he wants to do anyway.

HAYES: Ruth, what do you think of that argument?

RUTH CONNIFF, EDITOR, THE PROGRESSIVE: I think i heard it before. I think I heard it in 2008 when Obama was running against Hillary and we had sort of a similar argument, this is pie in the sky, this is a fairy tale, and there was this tremendous grassroots support, particularly among young people for Barack Obama who seemed unlikely at the time and were sort of having the same discussion again.

And I think what I feel about it is it`s not just Sanders, it`s a whole progressive movement, it`s Millennials, Millennial women who almost by 2-1 prefer Sanders to Hillary. It`s the DREAMers. It`s the Fight for 15 Movement. It`s a lot of people who are the grassroots movement in this country.

And this is not a year where incrementalism really sells to that group of people, after Occupy, after the crash of the financial markets. What Sanders is saying is resonating with people very deeply. And that`s why you see the surge that you see.

And I think to ignore that and to try to steer to the center is actually a risky course. And I think we have to acknowledge that.

Hillary`s candidacy might be risky for Democrats as well.

CHAIT: Can I respond to that point, because there`s a couple of things. First of all, I was a strong supporter of Obama in `08.

Second of all, it`s not parallel at all because Obama had a Democratic congress and a chance to enact a lot of important reforms which he did.

And third of all it`s ironic you mention it because part of what Sanders is doing as Clinton pointing out effectively in the debate is to basically say that Obama hasn`t done much. He`s been a failure. He`s an incrementalist. He`s done too little. And Clinton is really the one who`s trying to build on his successes.

CONNIFF: I would say that Clinton`s worst moment in the debate is when she tried to pivot to wrapping herself in Obama and said that when challenged on the $600,000 in speaking fees that she`s personally gotten from Goldman Sachs I can take that kind of criticism, never mind that. But to criticize Obama, I thought it was really a sleight of hand that didn`t do her a lot of justice. It was phony.

And you know, wrapping herself in Obama and the Obama legacy is one thing, but saying, you know, I`m just going to give you the same thing is to ignore what is going on in this country this year, what`s going on with this grassroots uprising. Why are people discontent? Why did we have the Occupy movement? Why do we have the Fight for 15 Movement and all these young people who prefer Sanders.

And you just can`t pretend that`s not going on and make a credible case that you`re the winning candidate.

HAYES: Jonathan, let me ask you this, which is how about this version, when you`re talking just about electability which I`ve heard this version of, which I think there`s something to, right? If what you say is true, right, if this would be a huge risk and that`s clear to you, right? And here`s this person who frankly in terms of the spectrum of American politics would be something quite different. If Hillary Clinton can`t beat that person in the primary, well then she`s not a very good political candidate anyway, right?

I mean from a pure electability standpoint like in some ways it sort of should cash out that way whether Jonathan Chait nudges it that way or not, right?

CHAIT: Well, no, not necessarily because look, there are more conservatives in this country than there are liberals and the reason Democrats are able to win national elections often is that they put together a coalition of liberals and moderates and they dominate among moderates.

If you start putting yourself in a position where you lose or even just tie among moderates, then you`re going to lose national elections. So even if liberals manage to get a majority of the primary electorate they need moderates to win national elections against Republicans.

HAYES: Ruth, Bernie...

CONNIFF: You`ve got to get people to vote, though. You`ve got to get people to vote. The Democratic Leadership Council is dead. Taking a tinier and tinier slice of the swing voters is not a strategy that`s going to get people out in numbers to vote. And I just think that that strategy is a very peculiar one to try to apply in this election year when you see the level of grassroots discontent.

HAYES: Well, the big question is going to be the open question here, right, from the electoral standpoint is can anyone mobilize the Obama coalition, which is a majority as shown twice, who is not named Barack Obama? And that is as open a question in all of politics that literally no one knows the answer to.

Jonathan Chait and Ruth Conniff, thank you both.

CHAIT: Thank you.

HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.