Show: POLITICS NATION Date: January 17, 2016
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, I`m Al Sharpton. And this is "Politics Nation."
We begin this Sunday with breaking news. NBC News received word just a short time ago from a senior U.S. official saying that those former American prisoners who wished to depart Iran have left the country. Iran released five Americans yesterday. We`ll go live to Iran in a moment for more on all that.
The surprise release came as the U.S. and Europe lifted some economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were removed after the U.N. nuclear energy agency certified that Iran met all its commitments under the landmark nuclear deal.
Iran`s president this morning hailed the deal as a quote "golden page in Iran`s history." Secretary of state John Kerry in Vienna yesterday evening announced the details of the deal and the release of the American prisoners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m very happy to say that, as we speak, we received confirmation that five Americans who had been unjustly detained in Iran have been released from custody and should be on their way home to their families before long.
After more than two and a half years of intense multilateral negotiations, the international atomic energy agency has now verified that Iran has honored its commitments to alter and in fact dismantle much of its nuclear program in compliance with the agreement that we reached last full. Today we can confidently say each of the pathways Iran had for enough for a nuclear weapon has been verifiably closed down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: NBC`s Ali Arouzi is in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
Ali, tell us more about the status of the freed Americans.
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Al, we`re hearing a lot of mixed reports this morning. There were reports coming out from Iranian state media that they were still detained here. So we weren`t sure just until a few minutes ago that we heard from the state department that all five have been released.
Now, we don`t have a lot of details about when they were released, on what carrier they left Iran or where they`re heading, but we do have confirmation that they were released. And this came as a big surprise here. We knew the nuclear deal was being sealed. That the implementation day was going to happen yesterday. But as for these four Iranian-American citizens, that came as a big surprise to everybody here and a very pleasant surprise. It shows how much negotiation and back channeling has been going on between the United States and America through the course of this nuclear deal and obviously thousand built up a lot of momentum at the end of this.
President Obama got a lot of criticism for not including these four Americans in the nuclear deal, but it is now evident that there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to free these guys. And obviously we saw the fruits of all of those negotiations this morning and yesterday, as these four or five people have been released back to their families.
Now, obviously we don`t know any of the details of how exactly they`ve been released or what negotiations went into this, or what state they`re in, physical state, mental state, but I`m sure a lot of that will come out over the course of the next few days, as they`re debriefed.
SHARPTON: And we are being told in some reports that the release was coincidental to the report from the international atomic energy. What has been the reaction there to the lifting of sanctions?
AROUZI: People are very excited here about the sanctions being lifted. They have been anticipating this for a long time, over the last many years, but especially over the last three or four years, economic sanctions have really hit this country very hard and it`s been very difficult for Iranians to maintain a normal lifestyle, to transfer money to bank accounts, their purchasing power has been dramatically weakened. They are hoping now this will turn everything around. They`re hoping there will be more goods on the shelves in the stock markets here. Iranians will have more money in their pocket to purchase more things. And very importantly, also for Iranians, they want to join the international community and come in from the cold. Regular Iranians are tired of being seen as a pariah in the global community and they`re desperate to change that image - Al.
SHARPTON: You mentioned President Obama had been criticized about not including the four Americans, which clearly seems to now have not been the case, but there, has there been political opposition there to the release of the hostages of the Americans? Has there been any noticeable or visible opposition to what has transpired there?
AROUZI: It`s a very good question. Usually there would be, but we haven`t seen any of people here saying they shouldn`t have been released. There say hard line element in Iran that I`m sure wouldn`t want them to release but they didn`t vocalize it because it shows how important this deal was for the Iranian establishment, to get it pushed forward and have nothing endanger the deal.
If these guys were kept here or if there was a big noise made about not releasing them; that could have hurt the deal. That could have put more criticism on Iran. But the establishment was very careful not to do that. I think the clearest thing was that they were kept here for so long shows that, you know, how much animosity there is between the two countries, but it also shows a warming of relations between the two countries that we didn`t hear a lot of criticism about their release, that they were sent out of the country without a lot of fuss, that they weren`t put on state television to make some sort of statement. They were let go with very little (INAUDIBLE) to meet their families.
SHARPTON: NBC`s Ali Arouzi, thank you very much this morning for joining us.
Let`s bring in NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin.
This morning, Israel expressed criticism on the deal. Could it derail this?
AYMAN MOHEYLDIN, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Derailing and diplomatically unlikely. At this particular stage, the deal has already been concluded. It`s well under way. Iran is in compliance according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the sanctions have been lifted.
In terms of diplomatic momentum there`s nothing Israel can do diplomatically now. It already tried to make its case. The prime minister came to the U.S. and tried to lobby Congress, certainly tried to lobby international capitals in the U.N. All of that failed, even costing to a big deal a strain in U.S./Israeli relationship.
What Israel can do and what the prime minister said today is that they will prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon if the Iranians do at some point violate that agreement. How? Probably as we have seen in the past, Israel trying to use any of its covert capabilities to try to sabotage Iran`s nuclear program, if in fact Iran does try to resume it. But at this stage there`s very little Israel can do, but follow the rest of the international community.
SHARPTON: How do we know if they violate the agreement?
MOHEYLDIN: Well, I think there are a lot of mechanisms that have now been put in place. We know, as we heard from secretary of state John Kerry as well the international atomic energy agency which is going to be monitoring Iran`s nuclear program. They have observers on the ground. They know that a lot of material that Iran had to try and build a nuclear weapon has now been shipped outside of the country. So their resources are much more limited but they also have the technical capabilities now to observe and monitor what Iran is doing. And so, as the expression goes, mistrust but verify. And that is still going to be the M.O., so to speak going forward. There may still be a little bit of distrust, but the international atomic energy agency will have the resources on the ground to monitor and observe any operations that Iran has regarding a nuclear program.
SHARPTON: What will Robert Levinson who is still as far as we know missing somewhere in Iran?
MOHEYLDIN: Yes. I mean, there`s a lot of unconfirmed reports that he is still in Iran. Obviously the family of Robert Levinson believe that he is Iran. The reason being is that that`s where he was last seen back in 2007. He was having a meeting there. This was an individual who at one point was a contractor, was an FBI employee, was a contractor believe to be working for the CIA as well according to his family. And in 2007 disappeared while he was on Iranian soil. As a result of that, his family believes that be is inside Iran. The Iranian government, though, so far has not confirmed, has not provided any details about his whereabouts, certainly something of this magnitude would have been involved in these negotiations.
U.S. officials have also been kind of quiet about this. They`re not confirming or denying whether he was part of any negotiations. But it seems as a result of the fact that we`ve seen these four Americans released and him, no information about his whereabouts, it does not look like it was part of this deal. Perhaps given his background, it may be much more complex set of negotiations than what we see now.
SHARPTON: Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you very much for joining me this morning.
NBC`s Ron Allen joins me from the White House for reaction there.
Ron, when can we expect from hear from President Obama on the developments out of Iran?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS` WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Reverend Al.
Soon I think is the answer to that, sometime later this morning I would expect the president will make some kind of a statement. We thought this might happen last night but apparently there was last-minute logistic snags to work out with this prisoner exchange, and we think the president did not come out to say anything until the Americans were safely out of Iranian air space and perhaps on the ground in Europe or wherever their destination is. But once that happens, later this morning we expect to hear from the president.
Senior administration officials who have been talking about this on background and in briefings are heralding this as an example of what diplomacy can accomplish. That`s what we think we`ll hear from the president. You know there`s been a lot of criticism of the Iranian deal. There has also been a lot of criticism of the prisoner swap saying that the Americans gave up too much.
But the president I think is going to say essentially that this is an historic occasion. That it helps the world prevent another war, and that bringing the prisoners home was the right thing to do, once it became clear that that would happen.
The seven Iranians we understand are now free. The four Americans plus the fifth American we believe have left the country. Those who wanted to leave the country, it`s unclear whether they all in fact all the Americans did leave Iran. Hope to get more details on that. But again, the bottom line is we hope to hear from President Obama very soon. And I`m sure that he will be very, very pleased at what`s happening and give assurances to the world that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon and that he`s going to be very ecstatic that in addition to all that, these five Americans have come home -- Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: NBC`s Ron Allen, thank you.
Coming up, how dramatic developments out of Iran could affect the democratic debate scheduled for tonight.
SHARPTON: NBC News received word just a short time ago from a senior administration official who said those former American prisoners who wish to depart Iran have left the country. And some sanctions on Iran have been lifted as the U.N. nuclear energy agency certifies Iran has met its commitments under the landmark nuclear deal.
NBC`s Richard Engel is in Vienna this morning.
Richard, what`s the latest there?
RICHARD ENGLE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the deal was announced here. It was about two-and-a-half years in the making. There were two tracks one was a secret track that ultimately resulted in the release of the Americans who were held in Iran and seven Iranians who were held in the United States. Their lawyers confirmed that they have released.
But the main track was of course the nuclear deal itself. And Secretary Kerry was here yesterday. He signed orders eliminating many of the sanctions that were put in place, sanctions that had been crippling the Iranian economy. Now that those sanctions imposed by the U.S. and by many European countries have been lifted, it is possible for Iran to come in from the cold.
Iran can now reengage in international banking. People in Iran can move money in and out of the country. They can eventually do basic things like use credit cards which had been very difficult to do in Iran. And you can imagine what a complication that would be if you`re trying to operate a small or large business. They can trade oil internationally, openly, legally, instead of having to resort to smuggling which Iran has been doing for the last several years. But there`s not an efficient way of doing business. And tens of billions of dollars will be unfrozen. It`s unclear exactly when that money will begin to flow to Iran. But all totaled, it opens up an economy of 80 billion people and reconnects it to the world.
SHARPTON: Now, has it been established that the lifting of sanctions had any direct correlation with the release of the prisoners because there`s conflicting reports, some say it`s a coincidence, some were saying that it was definitely worked out to have been arranged that way? Have you gotten any confirmation either way, Richard?
ENGEL: It is a matter of interpretation. The negotiations over the nuclear deal were ongoing. They have been going on for two-and-a-half years. And because of the relationships that were forged there, because there was direct interaction between American diplomats and Iranian diplomats, the second path of negotiation was launched. So the two paths are certainly related. And it is no coincidence it seems that Iran wanted to quote "clear the decks" according to one official yesterday by releasing the prisoners on the same day that the sanctions were lifted.
But there has been no suggestion that it was a swap, that the prisoners were released in exchange for lifting the sanctions. But yes, there was, it does seem that there was an effort to settle all of the old books and clear the decks in one foul swoop.
SHARPTON: Richard Engel in Vienna, thank you for joining us this morning.
The dramatic developments out of Iran coincide with the big political weekend here in the U.S. ending this weekend and this evening what NBC News/You Tube Democratic debate in South Carolina.
NBC`s Kristen Welker joins me from the scene of the debate in Charleston.
Kristen, you`ve been following the candidates all weekend. How are they gearing up for tonight? Considering it`s the last debate before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Reverend Al, there is a lot of preparation going on behind the scenes. It`s just 15 days before the all-important Iowa caucuses and the Democratic and Republican races too close to call in the Hawkeye state so tonight`s debate will be pivotal.
WELKER (voice-over): With just hours before the Democrats duke it out tonight in Charleston, the candidates courted voters at a dinner here Saturday night.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must stand up for working people and low income people in every state in this country.
WELKER: And they took aim at Republicans, secretary Clinton excoriating some of the language used when talking about president Obama.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both Ted Cruz and Chris Christie called him a "child" the other night. Too often we hear Republicans talking in coded racial language.
WELKER: Meanwhile, Sanders announced he supports a bill that would amend a 2005 piece of legislation which limits liability on gun manufacturers. The move is a reversal for Sanders and it comes after days of attacks by Clinton who use used the issue to paint Sanders as soft on guns. Sanders tried assure the crowd he`s not.
SANDERS: We have got to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.
WELKER: Clinton signaled she would go even further.
CLINTON: We need a president who will do everything in her power to protect President Obama`s actions on gun violence.
WELKER: Meanwhile, the race on the Republican side has Donald Trump and Ted Cruz running neck and neck in Iowa. Trump continuing to slam Cruz for failing to report loans while he was running for Senate. On Saturday, Trump`s jabs drew jeers.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Excuse me, didn`t report his bank loans? Say whatever you want, he didn`t report bank loans.
WELKER: Cruz who has dismissed the flop seized the chance to needle his rival, after getting stuck for a few minutes in an elevator.
CRUZ: All right so who put Donald Trump in charge of the elevators?
WELKER: Yesterday a top Clinton surrogate called on Bernie Sanders to release his medical records. The Clinton campaign quickly distanced itself from that can request. Still a Sanders aide tells me they have raised more than $3 million since last Tuesday and in the wake of Clinton`s stepped up attacks against Sanders.
Reverend Al, it`s all an indication of the fireworks we are likely to see here later tonight. Back to you.
SHARPTON: NBC`s Kristen Welker, thank you.
And remember, the Democratic candidates debate airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on NBC.
Next, what the lifted sanctions mean for the people of Iran.
SHARPTON: It`s the dawn of a new era for Iran, after international sanctions have been lifted. The focus is now on the future there. For the U.S., the focus is on whether it changes long-term American relations with Tehran.
Joining me now is Cal Perry, MSNBC senior editor for video and digital content. He has covered Iran extensively for "Voice of America."
First let me ask you, what does this mean for people in Iran especially the youth?
CAL PERRY, MSNBC SENIOR EDITOR, VIDEO AND DIGITAL CONTENT: This is a new era. And that`s exactly what President Rouhani has just called it on Iranian state television. He has just given a national address. He has given a press conference. He said this is going to change the way that we do business around the world and it should. It should unlock a massive amount of assets. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars.
We are also talking about a country, and you are looking there at video of President Rouhani giving that address. You are talking about a country, for example, that hasn`t had an upgrade of its aviation system in a decade. Old planes he mentioned that, and we are going to have new planes in this country, air travels are going to be safe again. So it`s going to be a sea change for the next generation of Iranians who have been living under as they would put it oppressive sanctions.
SHARPTON: How much would this change be ongoing turmoil in the Middle East particularly in Syria?
PERRY: Well, that`s going to be another huge question, not only Syria but Yemen as well. I mean, the Iranians have been pitted against Saudi Arabia in countries around the region. And that`s something that the U.S. is now going to have to sort of reassess as we go along here through this process.
They have been on the ground in Syria for years. Hezbollah, especially Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah has been engaged there. And that is something that the people who oppose this deal have been pointing to saying, look, there`s hundreds of billions of dollars is just going to flow to these groups that have been labeled terrorist groups by the United States government.
SHARPTON: What about Tehran`s relationship with the west? Are we going to see dramatic change aside from economic relations?
SHARPTON: PERRY: This happened really fast. I mean, this whole thing has happened very quickly. I mean, the Iran negotiations themselves took 14 months but the release of these four Americans, this speech by Rouhani today, it has all happened very quickly.
I think so. I think we are going to start seeing things like direct flights between New York and Tehran. It will take a year or two. But Look at how Cuba is opening up very quickly. The telecom companies are already there. Some of these companies are sort of already on the ground working. There are companies that have been standing by waiting to get into Iran for years, they`ll be jumping on this.
SHARPTON: Cal Perry, thank you for joining me this morning.
PERRY: Thank you, sir.
SHARPTON: Coming up, you will hear what the candidates for president from both parties are saying about the lifting of sanctions.
SHARPTON: NBC News received word just a short time ago from a senior administration official saying that those former American prisoners who wished to depart Iran have left the country. Iran released five Americans yesterday. And economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted as the U.N. nuclear energy agency certifies Iran has met its commitments under the landmark nuclear deal. Moments ago, Iran`s President Rouhani in a speech said Iran`s supreme leader fully backed the deal with the U.S. and European nations.
NBC`s Keir Simmons is in Germany where the released Americans may be headed.
Keir, what have you learned?
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Reverend Al.
Well, these have been some tense hours. We may now be learning why there may have been a delay, a White House official making clear that one of the prisoners did not leave Iran. Another senior administration official saying those who wish to depart Iran have left.
Now, they have been, we understand, taken to Switzerland. We expect them to now then be brought to this U.S. medical facility in Germany, and they must be breathing a sigh of relief.
SIMMONS (voice-over): Free from an Iranian prison, five Americans, their release a hard-won break-through on a momentous weekend. Former marine Amir Hekmati, an Iraq war veteran, held for four long years by Iran. His family posted thanks on Facebook.
Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor jailed over three years. His wife got the news at home in Idaho.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Surreal, just unbelievable. I woke up my kids around 7:30 and told them that daddy`s coming home and he`s out of the prison and they were just so shocked but they were jumping up and down and excited.
SIMMONS: Jason Rezaian "the Washington Post" Tehran based correspondent held for over a year and a half, often in solitary confinement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spectacular news. We are just so happy. Can`t wait to see him.
SIMMONS: Matthew Trevithick held for 40 days was first to be released.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are very excited. We were very happy to hear Matt`s voice today. We were thrilled that he is out of Iran and we are just looking forward to seeing him.
SIMMONS: In exchange, the U.S. agreed to send home seven Iranians charged with alleged crimes in America, the attorney for one of the accused thanking the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is thankful to the president. He is thankful for all the people here locally, and internationally to help bring this about, and he`s just ready to go on with his life.
SIMMONS: Their release announced hours ahead of the historic and controversial nuclear agreement, years in the making. Iran promised to end its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. and Europe unfreezing around $100 billion in Iranian assets.
KERRY: The two tracts of negotiations were not directly related.
SIMMONS: The relationship forged during the nuclear talks Secretary Kerry said opening a path to freedom for the American prisoners.
SIMMONS: There is another side to this story, Bob Levinson, American who disappeared in Iran in 2007 has not been released. The Iranians saying they don`t know where he is. His family saying we are happy for the other families, but once again, Bob Levinson has been left behind. We are devastated.
Reverend, we understand his release was part of the negotiations and that makes it all the more poignant for the family that he has not, he is not heading home today.
SHARPTON: NBC`s Keir Simmons, thank you.
As Democratic candidates gear up for their debate tonight, they are also weighing in on the developments out of Iran.
Hillary Clinton issued a statement praising the swap, but also saying quote "Iran is still violating U.N. security council resolutions with its ballistic missile program, which should be met with new sanctions, designations, and firm resolve, as president my approach will be to distrust and verify."
Joining me now is James Peterson, an MSNBC contributor. Lynn Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for "the Chicago Sun-times." And Robert Trayham, an MSNBC contributor and former Bush/Cheney senior adviser. Thank you all for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Rev.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Good morning.
SHARPTON: Let me start with Hillary Clinton`s statement calling for more sanctions on Iran. Dr. Peterson, is she going hawkish? I mean, what is -- how do you read this?
JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think honestly Secretary Clinton has always been a little more hawkish, even within the Obama administration. I think she shows signs of that. And certainly, I think, her position with Iran is consistent with the positions that she`s taken as secretary of state. So I don`t know if she`s going more hawkish or if she just is more hawkish than the Obama administration on this issues.
SHARPTON: Lynn, how do you read this? Is she trying to distinguish herself from the president here?
SWEET: Yes. There`s a few things going on, on this, and it is a very delicate needle to thread, because she was part of the Obama administration clearly when all these negotiations were going on, and now she is stepping away from it.
But this also appeals to a certain constituency within the Democratic Party. That did break with President Obama on this issue of sanctions. And she has always been more hawkish bringing up the notion, though, that there should be another set of sanctions over and above what is done. It`s something that I hope they explore in the debate tonight because it`s into the clear how you could do that in Congress without undoing the very delicately negotiated balanced meaning between the parties deal that`s on the table now.
So it`s one thing to say it. We need a little more information how she could do it. But in the meantime, it will be a point of separation between her, I believe, and senator Sanders.
SHARPTON: So Robert, how will that work in terms of Republicans and trying to deal with this delicate bipartisan negotiation that Lynn is referring to? And is Mrs. Clinton in your judgment playing to the general election in terms of a more hawkish stand, which might appeal to independent voters?
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with Lynn 100 percent. I mean, this is a tough needle to thread for two reasons. One, she was a part of the negotiations when she was secretary of state. But look, the reality is that she is running for president. And you mentioned, Rev., a few moments ago the independent voter out there.
I think secretary Clinton is trying to play to the Jewish voters specifically in the state I`m in, and that is Florida. Remember, Iran is on record at least the leadership of Iran is on record saying three things. One, the holocaust never happened. Two, we are going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and they also called Jewish individuals pigs. And so therefore, what I think secretary Clinton is trying to do is trying to have her cake and eat it, too, quite frankly, hugging the president saying this is a good deal, obviously getting the Americans back, by saying wait a minute here, we can`t let Iran off the hook here. These are still individuals out there that probably want to do harm to us. And just as importantly want to do harm to Israel. And so, therefore, by playing that to that I think she is stalking a little bit of the hawkish credentials, if you will, with Jewish-Americans.
SWEET: Within the Jewish-American community the view is not monolithic. There`s a big divide. I`m not disagreeing. I agree in part and disagree in part.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Lynn while you had come in there, on Robert`s point, let me raise another question aside from the hawkish or who she may be playing to. Is this an advantage to her being that she was secretary of state, and now it raises whether Sanders really understands international and deals with foreign policy level questions, as impressively as secretary Clinton may?
SWEET: Well, good point. And I think that he is, it is hard for anyone to be more fluent in the language of democracy and diplomacy than an international affairs. And somebody who has lived the life of a secretary of state, no matter what administration. And I think that is the point that Secretary Clinton will build on to show two things, commander in chief credentials, and just that, while Bernie Sanders` big bedrock issues are domestic politics, not international affairs.
SHARPTON: So James, Martin Luther King weekend, holiday tomorrow, does Sanders say well in the spirit of King, we need to have world peace and try to in many ways, in larger to a bigger picture or does he fall for Mrs. Clinton`s showing like I am the grownup here in terms of dealing with foreign policy and she can obviously go into the weeds on what this deal means or doesn`t mean?
PETERSON: She absolutely can. And in fact, I mean, I think secretary Clinton logged more hours as secretary of state than anyone in previous memory. She has the experience. I think that senator Sanders especially in the debate, he is going to have to gesture toward this conversation about Iran because it`s all over the news. It will be brought up at the debate. But I think he will quickly revert back to his domestic agenda starting next week. He has got a lot of ground to cover in terms of sort of picking up the black vote in certain places. This is a week where I think he is going to try to strategically -- and the debates in Charleston.
SHARPTON: Everybody, stay with me. We have a lot more ahead. And remember, The Democratic candidates debate airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on NBC.
In just a moment, what Republicans like and dislike about the prisoner exchange with Iran.
SHARPTON: We are back with continuing coverage of the developments out of Iran. Here is reaction from Republican candidates on what they think the prisoner swap will mean for U.S./Iran relations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bigger issue is we`ve legitimized a regime who shows no interest in moving towards the so-called community of nations. They seem to have an interest to do the exact opposite.
CRUZ: We don`t know the details of the deal that is bringing them home and that it may well be there are some very problematic aspects to this deal.
RUBIO: You know why they were being captured and held hostage in the first place? Because they know that if you take an American hostage, Barack Obama will cut a deal with you. And it`s created an enormous incentive for people in countries and movements around the world to do this against us.
TRUMP: Now I have to see what the deal is for the four people. Because somebody said we`re getting, they`re getting seven people back. So essentially they get 150 billion plus seven and we get four. Meh, doesn`t sound too good. Doesn`t sound too good with you we have to say. But we have to see. I just heard about this an hour ago. But - and I`m happy they`re coming back. But I will tell you it`s a disgrace they`ve been there for so long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I want to welcome back James Peterson, Lynn Sweet and Robert Traynham. Thank you.
Let me ask you, Robert, Trump, the others criticized the deal yet Trump is and other statements taking credit for it. What`s going on here?
TRAYNHAM: I don`t know. Specifically what Donald Trump, you know, he is such an enigma that to try figure him out is just a waste of everyone`s time. But I do think the Republicans do have at least on my side of the aisle running for president, they do have legitimate concerns here. I mean, this is kind of almost like deja vu all over again when it came to the Iran hostage situation in 1979. This is a regime that has never been - that cannot be trusted, simply because they continue to break their word over and over and over again. So we reserve the right as Americans to be able to question this deal.
Now having said that, having the hostages freed is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and it`s a good thing obviously for their families, but now the devil is in the details and hopefully we`ll soon find out what those details really are.
SHARPTON: Lynn, could this possibly help more moderate candidate like Jeb Bush?
SWEET: I don`t think this could help Jeb Bush. I don`t know what could, for example, but I don`t think this one will. We have to know the details. It`s interesting that these, that Republicans in general many of them complain that when the nuclear deal was being negotiated, it wasn`t directly linked to the release of the hostages.
One other thing that I think needs to be brought up, when you talk about Trump, of all the things that are in his wheelhouse, he hears the word "deal" so he`s lit up until -- but he was, you know, somber enough to say I have to know the details. But I think it`s worthwhile to put out there that the seven, that the Obama administration are giving up in exchange, they are people charged with trade sanctions, they`re not terrorists.
SWEET: They don`t have --
SHARPTON: Only trade sanctions.
SWEET: Trade sanctions. And so everything, you know, sometimes when we talk about politics it`s as if everything were the same.
SHARPTON: That`s a very good point.
SWEET: Seven trade sanctions and into the nitty-gritty, what were they trading, were they arms? Whatever. And I understand, you know, I`m not a student of the history of each one of them.
SHARPTON: And we will be digging into that I`m sure.
SWEET: But it sounds --
TRAYNHAM: Hold on, just to interject just for one second. My understanding is, one of those individuals for trade sanctions quote "grave, grave harm to the American foreign policy system."
SHARPTON: Right. Which is why I`m saying we will dig down into that, James. But I think that Lynn`s point is well taken.
PETERSON: It is. And a little bit of Monday quarterbacking without all the information. We should certainly wait and get the details. We don`t want to be thinking about things three or four or three for seven the way that Mr. Trump is going at it.
SWEET: Right. It`s not a numbers game because the details.
PETERSON: The details are really, really important. And then listen, all of those candidates are old enough to know what that Iran hostage situation was like in the late `70s. They are old enough to know what the Iran- contra.
SHARPTON: Let me ask this before I run out of time, Robert, while I have you. The bromance seems to be over between Cruz and Trump. Is this going to get ugly?
TRAYNHAM: Yes, there is no doubt about it. Look. At the end of the day, these are the two front-runner here. And it looks like Donald Trump most likely will lose Iowa. And the reason why is because there are a lot of evangelicals are gravitating towards Ted Cruz.
The question really becomes, and I know you`re running out of time, Rev., is whether or not Jeb Bush can hang in there until super Tuesday? He definitely has the money to do so because if you take a look at the map after super or during super Tuesday, it really does favors Governor Bush much, much more than any other candidates.
The reality is that if in fact Donald Trump comes in maybe second or first in New Hampshire, and whether or not he can do something in South Carolina, yes, he is a formidable candidate. But if, in fact, he loses South Carolina and loses New Hampshire from a ground game standpoint, I don`t know how he wins mathematically Super Tuesday.
SHARPTON: Well, Lynn acts like there`s no hope at all for Jeb Bush.
SWEET: No, I`m not saying no. His lane is very crowded.
SHARPTON: All right.
TRAYNHAM: I agree. I agree.
SHARPTON: And we have to leave it there. But on Sunday morning, a minister always has to say Lynn, there`s always hope.
Thank you, James Peterson, Lynn Sweet, and Robert Traynham.
And remember, the Democratic candidates debate airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern on NBC.
In just a moment, we`ll ask, how can the west be so sure Iran will keep the nuclear deal?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): this will benefit both the people of Iran and the U.S. To those filed legal problems and exist on the American side, on our side there is no problem regarding investment by the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was Iran`s President Rouhani in a Tehran news briefing on how the nuclear agreement can help the economies of both the U.S. and Iran. The English translation was provided by the Iranian government. Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal have voiced concern that Iran may not continue to comply with the deal`s terms.
Michael Kay is a foreign affairs analyst and retired senior British officer.
Michael, what steps did Iran have to take to comply with the terms of the deal?
MICHAEL KAY, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think there are a number of complex steps which very much involved the depletion of uranium stockpiles, the ability for Iran to be able to produce uranium in the future, so that meant deplete in the number of centrifuges, the Iran hard water capability that was for plutonium. So that has been completely taken offline.
So there are a number of different steps inside the Iran deal in terms of the nuclear component. But I think what we have been seeing is that the secretary of state has, for a while now, said that the deal on the exchange swap with individuals has been separate from the nuclear deal.
SHARPTON: Right. How will Iran`s compliance be monitored down the line now?
KAY: It`s all down to IAEA. And I think it`s absolutely incumbent on the IAEA to ensure that the elements that have been put in place are absolutely adhered to by Iran and that there are measures in place to be able to flip and turn and put the sanctions back on again if there is any breach in what`s going on there.
SHARPTON: Does Iran remain a global threat?
KAY: I think what you`re seeing here on a more macro scale is a strategic pivot. I think you have got to look internally into what`s going on in Saudi Arabia and the domestic power struggle that is how occurring after King Abdullah died and king Solomon is now in place.
Saudi Arabia is becoming more volatile. I think you`re seeing from America a strategic pivot from Saudi Arabia to Iran, because Iran holds the keys to solving Syria. And I think the U.S. has come to terms with that in terms of how we progress for Syria is down to negotiations with Putin, it`s down to negotiations with Iran. Saudi Arabia is really sort of taking a back seat here and I think that`s what we`re seeing on the macro side.
SHARPTON: Foreign affairs analyst Michael Kay thank you so much.
That just about does it for me.
But I have to note, tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. And I want to encourage everyone to honor his legacy by taking king-like actions. I`ll join Melissa Harris-Perry later this morning to talk about Dr. King`s legacy.
Thanks for watching. I`ll see you back here next Sunday. My colleague Richard Liu continues our coverage in just a moment.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END