Inflation is high. The GDP has shrunk. But the job market has never been better. The Washington Post's Damian Paletta helps make sense of the U.S. economy today.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is charged with violating federal banking laws and lying to the FBI. Federal prosecutors say he paid an apparent blackmailer $3.5 million to hide misconduct. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch takes on the world’s most powerful sports organization. The White House weighs its options after a court ruling keeps an block on President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. More contenders enter the already-crowded 2016 presidential race. And a federal judge sets a timetable for releasing Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Susan Glasser Editor, Politico.
- Gerald Seib Washington bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal.
- Tamara Keith White House correspondent, NPR.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Justice Department charges global soccer officials with corruption. The 2016 presidential race grows more crowded and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is indicted for violating banking laws and lying to the FBI.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to discuss the week's top national news stories, Susan Glasser of Politico, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal and Tamara Keith of NPR. Of course, you can watch our program as we are video-streaming live. You can simply go to drshow.org and click on "watch live." You can call us on 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. You can send a Facebook message or follow us on Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. JERRY SEIBThank you.
MS. TAMARA KEITHWelcome, Diane.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERGood morning.
REHMGood to see you. Jerry Seib, this story about Dennis Hastert came out really as a shocker. I mean, what do we know about the indictment for a payment scheme?
SEIBWell, it came out of the blue and it was a shocker. And I think we know some things pretty clearly because the indictment was pretty simple and straight forward, but there's an awful lot we don't know as well, that he was indicted for having tried to evade federal money laundering laws by the way in which he withdrew large amounts of money from a bank account in order to pay someone identified in the indictment as individual A who was clearly blackmailing him because of some previous wrongdoing earlier in life, which is not identified in the indictment.
SEIBAnd so there was clearly an attempt to extract a bribe that seems to have been successful. Congressman Hastert was paying that money, but trying to do it in such a way that it would avoid detection by federal authorities. And then, this is the classic problem in these cases, he apparently lied about what he was doing with the money and why he was withdrawing it to FBI investigators when it came on their radar screen.
SEIBSo that's what we know. What we don't know is what the backdrop was of the tension, the wrongdoing that was alleged to have occurred between the congressman and individual A.
REHMSusan Glasser, we're talking about $3.5 million. Where did that come from?
GLASSERWell, that's an extraordinarily large amount of cash. Remember, this is cash that we're talking about. Hastert was not a wealthy man. He was a high school teacher before he came to Congress. He served in Congress for many years. He has been a lobbyist at a big firm, Dickstein Shapiro, in recent years since he left Congress and the Speakership.
GLASSEREven lobbyists don't necessarily have $4 million in cash floating around so I think that's part of the story that we're still gonna be finding out about. There could be further part of this investigation. We just don't know on the money, where it came from and, obviously, we don’t know the details involving individual A.
GLASSERI think the way the indictment is very carefully worded, there's a suggestion they were trying to withhold the details of this wrongdoing, but they made a point of identifying the fact that Hastert had been a high school wrestling coach in the very first sentence. That's very odd. That's not a normal thing for a federal indictment so there's some implication that perhaps it had something to do with his background as a teacher, as a coach.
GLASSERWe don't know that. And it also said that this was an individual that Hastert had know for "most of his life."
REHMTamara Keith, how did the FBI get onto the story?
KEITHWell, the money laundering laws and other laws, such that they exist, if you're withdrawing more than $10,000, then it sets off alarm bells. Banks notice and they notify authorities. So this is also how Elliot Spitzer was caught in the prostitution scandal, also with big withdrawals of money or moving money around in ways that sets off these alarm bells.
KEITHYou know, it's anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism that these rules exist and then they noticed. The problem, as happens in so many cases, is it isn't even as much the crime as it is lying about the crime.
REHMYeah, sure. And Jerry, once again, this money, the amount of money, where in the world could that have come from?
SEIBI think that's a mystery. I mean, as Susan said, that's not clear at all. Everybody who knew Denny Hastert when he was in Congress knew him not to be a wealthy person, quite the opposite, you know, former teacher. Congressmen are paid well, but they're not paid lavishly. They have a...
REHMMarried for how many years?
SEIBI don't know, but for a long time.
REHMMany years. Yeah.
SEIBAnd so this whole -- one of the reasons this was all so jarring is that none of this comports with people's view of Dennis Hastert, you know. Sort of solid Midwestern guy, Midwestern values, you know, not a wealthy person, not a high-liver. It just doesn't add up and people got the indictment and I think they had to think about what happened to the Denny Hastert we knew.
REHMWhat about the blackmailer, him or herself? Do we have any clues?
GLASSERWell, I think that the indictment was very careful, in fact, to give us basically no information about this unnamed individual A, except there is a clear implication that at least the U.S. attorney's office clearly found Hastert or believed that Hastert had engaged in some sort of wrongdoing towards this person earlier in his life. But I think that Jerry's point about Hastert and how at odds this is with him, you have to remember, he was the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history.
GLASSERHe served during a period -- he was almost an accidental speaker, though. He came in as a result of the scandals involving Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston and he -- both of whom were basically sort of knocked out of these leadership roles in Congress because of personal affairs that they had had and then he presided over the House in a period of many scandals, which managed more or less not to touch him.
REHMSo if convicted, I mean, what are the rules about sentencing for this kind of offense, Tamara?
KEITHThey're saying that it's up to five years in prison for each of the charges and I think there are only two actual charges and $250,000 fine. He's already resigned from his job at the lobbying firm. His bio has disappeared from their website. This is a sad story, in some ways, and it's a sad story because we don't know what happened to individual A or what the misconduct was, but this -- he, you know, Dennis Hastert had a successful career and that's over.
KEITHI mean, it's -- this is just lights out.
REHMYou know, once again, one wonders is this simply a Washington story that nobody else in the country is going to be interested in or is it one more example where people will say all of those folks in Washington are simply rotten?
SEIBWell, you know, that was one of my first thoughts last night in pondering this, that, you know, it's not the details of the story like this. It's the drip, drip, drip of stories like this that, I think have the cumulative effect. And, you know, we live in an age of cynicism and I think all these things add to the cynicism. The first order of cynicism is about politics in Washington and that's, you know, that is a likely effect of this whole episode.
REHMAnd talk about cynicism, we now have officials from FIFA, sorry FIFA, Susan, the world soccer governing body, arrested in Switzerland and one wonders what's going on here.
GLASSERWell, you're right, Diane, in many ways, to make that pivot on the question of institutions and, you know, what can we put our trust in, especially where the intersection with large amounts of money and opaque, unclear, very political bodies. Now, the scale of corruption alleged, of course, is breathtaking.
GLASSERIt's massive. The flipside is, this is not an American institution and, actually, you know, we're playing a different role here, which is that the U.S. justice department, right, has sort of suited up, put the white hat on and said, we're gonna charge back out in the world, basically, and clean up this sort of international mess that, in contrast, by the way, to the Hastert situation where people really are shocked, it wasn't like, as far as I can tell, one of these open secret type deals or, you know, where sometimes, right, a high official is arrested and people say, well, gee, we knew it all along, that's clearly not the case with Dennis Hastert, who, as Speaker, did not have any kind of reputation for personal corruption or indiscretions.
GLASSERHowever, FIFA, for a long time, I would say that was an open secret. There was a long sense that there was a pay to play aspect to the decision-making that some of these countries did not seem to be the obvious winners, countries like Qatar or Russia winning the decision of FIFA to host the World Cup, an incredibly prestigious, obviously, economically-valuable decision.
GLASSERAnd so, you know, this was something that was actually much discussed. It must've been 'cause it even reached me and I'm certainly not an avid soccer insider. And yet, it was the U.S. justice department which decided to pursue the case. And actually, our new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, it was her office in Brooklyn which had taken the lead, so although she's not become the attorney general, she spoke the other day, I think, with the authority of the actual line prosecutor in announcing these really shocking indictments.
REHMWe're talking about $150 million in bribes, kickbacks, that sort of thing, Jerry?
SEIBYeah. And maybe not the end of the line on that figure. I mean, the U.S. officials have been pretty open to saying there might be more. I mean, so they've indicted six or seven people. They have a couple of cooperating witnesses already. They may have more now that they have those people arrested and so I'm not sure we're done here the graft and corruption story.
REHMJerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Just before the break we were talking about FIFA, the speculation that it could be even more than $150 million in bribes, kickbacks, in exchange for things like support for sites for FIFA World Cup events. Of course Vladimir Putin says it's all the U.S.'s doing, trying to keep Russia from getting the World Soccer Tournament.
KEITHYeah, so the World Cup is supposed to take place in Russia in 2018. Vladimir Putin definitely does not want to give that up. I actually was in Russia for the Olympics. They have lots of facilities there that they would like to use. But this is also -- this is the kind of thing that is just absolutely perfect for Vladimir Putin's kind of rhetoric, which is: Oh, look at the West, look at America just trying to weigh-in on the world and America exerting itself. And it helps Vladimir Putin's narrative, certainly. So he's having fun with it.
SEIBYou know, I will say that an interesting contrast to that is everywhere else...
SEIBWhere, you know, there's not -- I thought maybe there'd be sort of an ugly-American backlash. Why are the American's getting involved? They think they run everything. But it was actually quite the opposite in most places, where most people hate -- most people who love soccer, hate FIFA, because they know it's a corrupt organization. And the reaction, as far as I can tell in most places was, well thank goodness somebody finally stepped in and...
SEIB...and decided to clean up this mess.
REHMWhat about the president saying he's been clean all the way, looking for re-election, Susan?
GLASSERYeah, I mean, I would be skeptical about that. I think that this is the beginning of the FIFA scandal, not the end of it -- not only because there are more indictments possible but because the scale of corruption reaches into the societies in ways that we've not yet begun to unravel. You know, the details have begun to come out. There's been some excellent reporting in The New York Times and elsewhere that have started to sort of actually look at the individual votes that were for sale. And I think once -- this spurs a whole round of reporting, kind of like, remember the WikiLeaks Scandal and...
GLASSER...the individual -- that had a big macro story at first.
GLASSERBut then it was when it went into individual countries that it started to really take hold and matter. And remember, like, there was Tunisia. The Tunisian Revolution was arguably sort of fostered by the evidence of corruption that happened to be laid out in one of those cables. I think you could see a similar phenomenon here that you really start to go into the corruption in the local -- or the national soccer bodies, the vote buying that was endemic. And I think you really could see, like a pretty rotten superstructure of international soccer (word?) be exposed.
REHMAnd what about Nike? What happens to Nike, Jerry?
SEIBI think that's unclear. You know, the company put out a statement last night saying pretty forcefully, there was no criminal activity. The assertion in the indictment was that there was a scheme set up in which Nike got the rights to be the outfitter of the Brazilian soccer team. And there was a special fund set up where money went from Nike into that fund and then it was disbursed to people in Brazil who had made that decision. There's not an implication -- or there's certainly no explicit statement in the indictment that Nike knew that's what was coming down. So there's a suspicion. But it fit into the overall pattern.
SEIBI think that, you know, Nike is in a big international competition with Adidas to be in the middle of this lucrative soccer apparel and merchandise market. There's a lot of money to be had there. But I don't think there is, at this point, anything clear about Nike culpability. That's not in the indictment. And we'll just have to see.
REHMSo what happens next? Do we expect extraditions? What, Tamara?
KEITHWell, Switzerland has a nice extradition agreement with the U.S., so that should be smooth. I mean, what really happens next is there's an election. There's an election happening today for the presidency of FIFA. And the president was supposed to just -- Sepp Blatter was supposed to just breeze on through and get another term. Now there's some question about that. You know, he has just such a grip on power that countries were afraid to vote against him for fear that there would be retribution later, that they wouldn't get to host a World Cup or whatever it was. So now, obviously, there's this taint of scandal and so one would think that more countries will peel off and that potentially he could lose. But, yeah, time will tell.
SEIBWell, the other thing that happens now is that soccer officials and former soccer officials start throwing each other under the bus. That's really what's going to happen. Because if you're in legal peril, you scramble to deflect the attention away from yourself, to protect yourself by saying, Well, I'll tell you something you need to know about that guy.
SEIBAnd I think we're in for a whole season of that sort of thing.
GLASSERI guess we're all going to become soccer political from this town, too.
REHMI guess so. Well...
GLASSERSoccer law experts.
REHM...we've had an awful lot of news about President Obama's overhaul of immigration. It now may be uncertain until just before he leaves office.
KEITHThat's correct. His executive actions on immigration that he announced last November included a whole range of provisions. Two of those have been challenged by 26 states, led by Texas. Those provisions that have been challenged and are now on hold are an expansion of the Dreamer Program and also a program that would allow the parents of American citizen children to get temporary legal status and work permits. That is on hold. The -- a judge put an injunction in place. Then the U.S. -- the Obama Administration tried to get a stay on that injunction. They lost that. And so now, rather than appealing that to the U.S. Supreme Court, they are moving forward with it.
KEITHAnother strategy, which is to actually have an argument on the merits. There hasn't been, yet, a ruling on the merits of whether what the president did was constitutional or not. And so there is going to be a hearing in the Sixth Circuit, July 6, on the merits of the president's executive actions. The states are arguing -- the states that have sued to stop it are arguing that the president's executive actions injure them -- injure them because it would encourage more illegal immigration.
GLASSERWell, I think -- I think this is a very significant court fight, number one, as you pointed out, because it could extend this fight until the -- not only the end of Obama's presidency but, I think just as relevantly, right into the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign.
GLASSERIf this goes to the Supreme Court, potentially, even likely, they wouldn't issue a ruling until the end of next term, which would put it right in late June or early July of 2016. Immigration, obviously, is already a very fraught political issue. Arguably, this is a political lawsuit brought by governors in red states who have been opposing Obama. So, you know, one thing it does is it almost certainly puts this immigration debate right in the middle of our politics, number one.
GLASSERNumber two, I think it is significant that the administration has said they will not insist upon implementing the program. They were -- these things were scheduled to take effect starting this month, the 5 million people. They have, in a sense bowed to the reality here, as commentators have pointed out, right, which is that if you were an illegal immigrant, you would be very wary of taking part in something that was under such a legal cloud anyways. Because you might actually find that this didn't hold up in court anyways or that a new Republican comes in, reverses the order to begin with. So that the program basically, it's viability has already effectively been destroyed by this...
GLASSER...proceeding. Which means that Obama himself will never get to implement it. Possibly, if there's a Democratic successor, it could be.
REHMDo you agree with that assessment, Jerry?
SEIBI do, yeah. I think that -- and I think the last point, the -- leaving the legal arguments aside, the practical effect is...
SEIB...that nobody is going to stick his head up out of the foxhole unless he's sure it's not going to get shot off. And that's kind of the -- that's the position -- people that we're talking about. And mostly we're talking about parents of citizens or dreamers who've been granted status to stay in the country or who are -- children who were born here or who became naturalized citizens -- their parents is largely the universe we're talking about here. And they're going to stay below the radar screen, I would assume, for the most part. And they will be advised by advocacy groups and local people that they deal with not to go down this path until everybody is sure it's going to be clear. And it's not clear. And it won't be clear, as Susan said, for at least another year.
KEITHOne interesting thing, though, I was talking to the Obama Administration about this, one aspect of the president's executive action that is not on hold is this sort of prosecutorial discretion. The order now is don't deport people like these parents. Don't go after these folks. Focus on felons. And so the focus on deporting the bad guys, and actually there are even barriers now, it's more difficult for ICE or whoever to go after sort of law-abiding, undocumented immigrants. That is actually in place. And so for undocumented immigrants, obviously, having a work permit would be helpful to them or, you know, having a document that says you really don't have to leave would be helpful. But there is at least some small level of less fear...
KEITH...as a result of Obama's executive actions, that gets somewhat less attention.
REHMWell, speaking of less fear, let's talk about more candidates -- more and more candidates in this growing field. Rick Santorum announced his second run for the GOP nomination Wednesday. Jerry, how does he stand out in the field?
SEIBWell, you know, at the risk of attracting ridicule, I think you have to take Rick Santorum seriously. Not because you think he's going to win the nomination, but he did win 11 states last time around. There is a base in the party, it's a kind of a populist, working-man's base and that's populist economics, culturally conservative. And he's -- and by the way, that's a bigger and bigger part of the Republican Party. It's kind of the Wal-Mart wing of the Republican Party. And he's going directly after those people.
SEIBHis announcement speech was fascinating. He talked -- he -- it was a -- you take out some of the conservative policy, and it's a speech that a Democrat would have given 25 years ago. The working man, the factory worker, the coalminer, the need to protect these workers. I'm for them.
REHMBut -- but wait a minute. How does that jibe with what this Republican-led Congress has done?
SEIBThat's -- but that's the point. Rick Santorum says I'm for higher minimum wage. I'm for increasing the minimum wage. You know, it's a -- he's bringing a different economic message to the table. And that's why I think you have to take him seriously, because he's not alone in doing that. Mike Huckabee's doing a similar thing, by the way.
REHMBut that's what I don't get. You've got what the Republican Party has said it's stood for, for these past eight years. And now you're seeing these people step out of that camp and say, well, no. We're for the man who doesn't have a job.
KEITHWell, Diane, I think you're right to point out that there's a sort of a branding issue here, the idea that this is the common-man's party, the working-man's party is a little bit of a reach given where...
REHMA discontinuum here.
KEITH...the party has been politically, although, Rick Santorum, in particular. I find what's fascinating about what Jerry just pointed out, his announcement speech, he's really -- that is the Reagan Democrat territory, both that part of western Pennsylvania where he's from and those rhetorical invocations of sort of the factory man and the industrial era. To me it all seems very backward looking. It seems like a sort of Reagan-era version of the Republican Party. And I think that that is going to be a hard sell. But I think it's important to remember with such a large field.
KEITHAnd we're talking insanely large, the largest really ever in practical terms.
REHMThey have to find a way to stand out.
KEITHThey are aiming for fragments. They're not aiming for even 51 percent of the Republican Party, never mind 51 percent of the American electorate. They're aiming for specific groups of people.
KEITHAnd in that sense, it becomes much more intelligible. We're seeing this fragmenting of politics.
SEIBAnd I'll tell you the -- another area where this is going to come out and will come to play is free trade. I mean, that's the other area where there's the -- the Mike Huckabees and Rick Santorums of this field are taking the Republican line on free trade, which has been standard and aggressively, if not, completely in favor of free trade and turning it on its head and saying this has been bad for the industrial base of the country, it's been bad for the workers, it's been bad for the economy, we just have to stop this. That's almost an anti-Republican message.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And what about former Governor George Pataki? He's in the race now.
GLASSERHe's in, you know? He was governor for three terms and left office in 2006 -- governor of New York, left office in 2006. You know, there was talk that he was going to run for president in 2008. I think there was talk that he was going to run for president even before that. And he was waiting for the time to be right. And I guess he has decided that now is the right time. The challenge is that a lot of people are, like, who? Because it's been so very long since he's been in office.
GLASSERI have some fun statistics that the folks at Facebook sent out about the amount of traffic and reaction that some of these candidates have gotten in the first 24 hours of their announcement. And just to put a finer point on George Pataki's appeal, there were 81,000 Facebook interactions about him in the first 20 hours -- or 24 hours after he announced. Compare that to Rick Santorum, who got about 250,000.
GLASSERCompare that to Ben Carson, 1.5 million, Hillary Clinton, 10.1 million. So, I mean, George Pataki is in the 10s of thousands of Facebook interactions. I mean, and that includes people just clicking, Like.
REHMAnd let's talk about the Democratic side and Bernie Sanders. Where is he going to go?
KEITHYou know, I think it's fascinating. We ran a piece this week that suggested that, you know, one of the big surprises, arguably, of 2016 so far is that it's actually the old lefty, self-declared socialist, Bernie Sanders, 71 years old, from Vermont, who seems to be emerging as the sort of voice of the disaffected left-wing of the Democratic Party, instead of Martin O'Malley, who will announce tomorrow, his candidacy. He's a sort of what you would imagine, right -- a kind of made-for-TV, you know, perfect hair, 51-year-old vigorous Gary Hart protégé.
KEITHAnd, yet, paradoxically, Sanders is the one. You talk about Facebook energy and interactions, he's become like an unlikely sort of like hero of social media. And so is he going to defeat Hillary Clinton? No, of course he's not going to defeat Hillary Clinton.
REHMBut is he going to help shape her candidacy?
KEITHWell, absolutely, if she, you know, agrees to debate with him. If he, you know, if she's up there on a stage. On some level, you could argue, he may prove useful in sketching her out as a centrist figure in a way that could potentially be useful to her in the general election.
REHMAnd what about Carly Fiorina shadowing Hillary Clinton?
SEIBWell, first of all, I think Carly Fiorina is one of the other big surprises of the year so far.
SEIBI mean, she's gotten traction in a big way, particularly in Iowa but in other places.
REHMAnd by the way, we have invited all of the candidates on. We did hear back from several, including Carly Fiorina.
SEIBWell, she's out there. And that's, you know, she's...
SEIB...it's -- her M.O. is, I'm here. I'll take -- you give me the question, I'll give you the answer. And she's taking that directly at Hillary Clinton, as gets to your question. So she's basically been stalking Hillary Clinton, saying, I'm out here. I'll take questions. I'll answer anything. You are in a cocoon. You know, who's the better politician? And she took that to South Carolina, where she put herself outside a hotel where Hillary Clinton was appearing to make this point. Awkward, but, you know, it got attention.
REHMJerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal. And we should mention, a federal judge ordered the State Department to disclose 30,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back to the national hour of our "Friday News Roundup." Don't forget you can see our guests as well as listen if you go to drshow.org and click on "watch live." We have a tweet here, Jerry, saying although I'm a big supporter of the DOJ, taking down corruption FIFA, how does fall into DOJ's jurisdiction?
SEIBWell, it's a good question and I think a lot of people asked it this week. Here's the answer. The answer is that the American Justice Department has two hooks into this. The first was that the initial batch of evidence came from an American, from a FIFA official who was an American, who was basically in charge of the Latin American part of the World Soccer Organization. Who lives in New York and who was under investigation for tax evasion. He turned began providing information to American prosecutors as part of his own case.
SEIBThey took that information and ran with it. That's item A. Item B is that because the American financial system is still the life blood of the world financial system, if you're moving money around the world, and as you said before, millions of dollars moved around in this scheme of corruption and kickbacks, it all moves through the American financial system. So, it all passed through New York, eventually, at one time or another. And so those -- and that's the classic way American prosecutors can get at an international case, and that's what happened in this one.
REHMAll right, let's go to Fort Worth, Texas. William, you're on the air.
WILLIAMHi Diane. I wanted to bring up -- you brought up the widening Republican race and Fox News has chosen, once again, to leave Rand Paul off of their poll reporting.
REHMNo. No, no, no. No, people are shaking their head here. Go ahead, Jerry.
SEIBOh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt by shaking my head.
SEIBWell, Fox News, sorry.
WILLIAMQuinnipiac released a poll and even in their headline, they're showing Rubio and Paul polling closer to Clinton while still trailing quite a bit. But when talking about it on air, Fox News chose to show the top ten people minus Rand Paul, and I just -- I don't agree with Rand Paul, but I feel like he has a legitimate voice in their party and I just wanted your panelists' discussion on that.
SEIBSure, it's a fair question. Look, Fox News is in a predicament here. They have to conduct the first debate and they have to decide on their own, without any help from the Republican National Committee, which has kind of said your problem, not ours. Who's gonna be on that stage? And you can't have 15 or 16 people. They've decided you can have 10. And their formula will be they will take the top 10 Republicans as determined in a mix of national polling, just up to time that this debate happens in August. And so, that means, at this point, nobody's in and nobody's out.
SEIBThere's a formula. There are no names attached to it. So, I'm not sure about the Rand Paul episode the caller refers to, but the criteria that Fox has laid out are pretty clear to the extent that they can be clear at this stage of the game.
REHMAll right, to Doug in St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air.
DOUGThank you, Diane. Thank you for taking my call today.
DOUGI have two questions for you. One, what are Hillary Clinton's chances of staying in the primary with all of the email and Benghazi stuff? And the second question is for all of your panelists. Suppose they were to be the media handlers for the Clinton and Republican Party people in there. How would they advise them to go to the black community to reach out to them? Because they're going to need their votes coming up with all the unrest and what's been going on in Baltimore, Ferguson and the like. I'd like to have your response, please.
REHMSure. Thanks. Susan, why don't you take the emails.
GLASSERWell, you know, it's a very interesting question. So far, it appears that the email questions, which are very, you know, I think, disturbing to those who follow the issue of government secrecy and the question of, you know, some of the explanations offered for why Hillary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State, refused to use any government email whatsoever. Putting all of her email on a private server and then making a unilateral self-determination around what was relevant.
GLASSERThose are obviously very disturbing questions. However, they don't seem to have penetrated to the broader public at large. And I think that there's no suggestion, at this point, and again, Benghazi has been investigated over and over again, for a long period of time, and nothing has emerged so far that would suggest any kind of explicit or link that would force Hillary Clinton in any way to certainly drop out of the race. Now, you know, we don't have a crystal ball.
GLASSERAnything could happen. She could have a health problem. There could be any number of reasons, you could imagine, why she doesn't end up, ultimately, as a Democratic nominee. The fact that it would be the email or the Benghazi seems extremely unlikely at this time.
REHMBut the court has ruled that the emails get rolled out. Isn't that right, Tamara?
KEITHYeah. So, that's correct. The State Department had wanted to release all of the emails at once, in one big huge bundle in January of 2016, which, terrible timing. But, so, this federal judge has said let's, you can do this in a different way. Release them on a rolling basis, starting June 30th, they have to release a certain percentage of the emails every month on a rolling basis. It will take until January, but they will release them. Hillary Clinton has said, of course, she wants them all out already.
KEITHBut here's the thing. We could have all the emails sitting in front of us at some point. We will. And it will not answer peoples' questions. Because Hillary Clinton had her emails on a private email server and her lawyers, her team reviewed those emails, decided which ones were work related, were part of, you know, the government's business, and handed those over to the State Department. So, for people who think that she's hiding something, there's no way to prove that she isn't.
KEITHAnd so, it's just going to continue to be that sort of like, well, if you love her, then who cares, and if you hate her, well, you're not going to be satisfied by this.
GLASSERYeah. No, I think that's a super important point, because actually, not only did they make that unilateral self-determination, but they deleted emails that they did not wish to turn over, and that will be forever, you know, her missing minutes on the tape, right?
GLASSERThat's -- we just don't know what we don't know.
GLASSERThat being said, I do think that this broader question about the Clintons and how they handle controversies like this, they have shown an incredible resilience over the years and they're better at playing sort of rope a dope. And navigating these kinds of scandals than any other modern political figure. You know, these are the experts. We couldn't possibly advise them.
REHMAll right, I want to ask you all about the IRS website getting hacked. And nearly or more than 100,000 accounts, Jerry.
SEIBYeah, this was a different kind of hack. This was people going in the front door, not through a side door. Through a site that the IRS has set up where by you and I and everybody can go back in, put in the right personal information and get past tax returns. Not file a new one, but get a copy of an old tax return. These folks, whoever they are, figured out that if you had enough personal information about me or you, you could go on that site and kind of impersonate somebody and if you got enough of the right personal information, you could go through, get a past tax return.
SEIBIf you have a past tax return, then you have all kinds of personal information, including social security numbers, an idea about how you could then take the past tax return, change a few numbers and file a fake, new tax return and ask for a tax refund. So, this happened. It's fairly limited. I mean, 100,000 sounds like a lot, but in the -- considering the millions...
REHMIf you're one of those.
REHMIt's a big deal.
SEIBIt's a big deal. Yeah, and some, you know, there was a case we wrote about of somebody who out of the blue got a 26,000 dollar refund check from the IRS, which they were not entitled to and which the people, the thieves, had thought they had instructed the IRS to wire that money into a bank account, not to send the check to the actual taxpayer. So this was something that was messed up by the bad guys, but it sort of illustrated what's going on here. They're taking tax information, filing fake returns, and then asking for the refund to be sent to a bank account. And then, the real taxpayer is none the wiser until it's too late.
REHMDoes everyone whose tax account has been hacked, do they all know now?
SEIBYeah, I believe so. I believe the IRS has told everyone.
REHMSo what are the long term fixes for something like that? I mean, are we in this new age when absolutely nothing is safe?
KEITHI'm gonna go with yes, Diane. I think it's the future.
KEITHAnd I, you know, it basically crime and, by the way, war, you know, have moved online in ways that we have just not really reckoned with. Our laws and our infrastructure are built around a set of assumptions that no longer are actually, in fact, that are no longer operative. And I think that's a very scary thing. I think that over the next few years, you know, that's going to be just a staple of what we're talking about here in Washington. Is the fact that we have an entire legal structure and governing structure that isn't set up for the way that we actually live and do business.
SEIBBut not just in Washington.
REHMOf course not.
SEIBI mean, you know, Home Depot, Target, you know, we all know the list now.
KEITHI've had to change my credit card number like four times this year. I mean, it's just...
KEITH...you know, Chase and then Target and then Home Depot and it's just, you know, we -- until it is more expensive for these companies to lose our information than it is right now. Right now, for them, it's-- they've made the calculation or maybe it's just through default that this has happened, but they are not spending enough on security, and then they're eating it on the back end. And then all of us are having to deal with the inconvenience and potential cost. And, I mean, we might as well have like a permanent subscription to credit monitoring, because I swear I get a letter in the mail from somebody every few months saying, oh sorry.
KEITHEverything was hacked and we'll give you free credit counseling for a year. It's like, it's just unbelievable.
REHMAll right, let's take a caller in Tallahassee, Florida. Hi there, Anne. You're on the air. Anne.
ANNEI've been wondering for a long time why Joe Biden isn't running. It's just all Hillary and I really like Joe Biden. And I'm wondering did someone get to him? Is there pressure, you know, what's the reason?
GLASSERDid he ask you to call today? I think Joe Biden, in his heart of hearts, you know, certainly wasn't quite ready to give it up. He stands in waiting, should something happen to Hillary Clinton. I do think it would be his personal desire to go for it, although those around him, I think, have, you know, worked with him to make clear that he just didn't have much of a shot against her. He didn't want to take her on.
REHMIf she was running.
SEIBYeah, I think he made a decision some months back to position himself so that he's available if Hillary falls, for whatever reason, but to not actively seek it. He's available for a draft, I think is the position he's put himself in.
REHMDo you think a draft could come if something were to happen? How strong a candidate would he be?
KEITHWell, I think that if it becomes clear that, for some reason, that we are not currently aware of, that Hillary Clinton is a much weaker candidate than...
REHMWe think she is.
KEITH...than she appears to be, then Bernie Sanders is unlikely to be the Democratic nominee. And someone else will get in. And maybe that someone else would be Joe Biden. It's unclear.
KEITHBut it's just pretty clear that if she's not the juggernaut, then floodgates on some level would open. Though, the bench is pretty shallow right now on the Democratic side.
SEIBYeah, but I mean, look, if you're -- this is not an illogical way for Joe Biden to play this. He would be second choice to Hillary. He knows that. On the other hand, if lightning struck and he were drawn in, he's got 100 percent name identification. He would be able to raise money instantly. He would be just fine as a late entering candidate. I think that's a highly unlikely scenario, but if it happened, it's not implausible that he could then just take off. And whether he would win or not, who knows? But who knows anything at this stage? But I'm just saying if that scenario played out, it could happen.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Are you all surprised that the Nebraska State Legislature abolished the death penalty? Susan?
GLASSERWow, given that it was the first time in 40 years, you know, that a conservative state had done so, given that it's not really been on the national radar screen at all, absolutely. I thought it was a fascinating story.
REHMAnd the governor is furious.
GLASSERWell, that's right. You know, they overruled him and remember that this is not only -- this is a very unique legislature. Nebraska is the only state in the country that has a unicameral legislature. It is also officially not partisan, although it is dominated by individuals who are Republicans. It's a very conservative state, but with a tradition of some independence. I was really struck by the story of the legislator who had spent almost 40 years campaigning to make this happen. And it just seemed like one of these David verses Goliath type stories really.
REHMSo, at this point, the governor can do absolutely nothing. It is going to be the law of Nebraska. Really, really interesting. I wonder why those conservatives made those decisions.
KEITHWell, I think that there was a conservative case that was made, that this was something of a bloated government program. That it is very expensive to do all of these appeals. The state hadn't executed anyone since 1997 and so there was a case to be made that this was an expensive program. Also, many states have had trouble getting the drugs that are used to execute people, the drug cocktail has not been available. And it's been tough to get. There have been some botched executions. So, I think that for different people, there have been different reasons.
KEITHThere were also religious reasons. And the fact that several people have been exonerated recently who were on death row. So, it was, you know, I think a lot of different people came to it for different reasons. But there was a conservative case that was made.
REHMI think we cannot end this Friday News Roundup without talking about what's happening in Texas. And the flooding there. You've got 11 inches of rain that fell in Houston on Monday night. The wettest month in Texas history. The death toll has climbed to 24 with 14 people still missing. Really, it's just horrendous. And one wonders, are we in a series of these kinds of disasters?
SEIBWell, I think people have come to expect that. It's very strange. I was home -- in my home state of Kansas, which is to the north, but it was locked in the same weather cycle. And it just -- the clouds just kept rolling up from Texas over and it was like a giant merry-go-round that just kept going around and around. And it's very unusual. Where does it come from? I don't know, but, you know, President Obama was down in Florida this week talking about changing weather patterns because of climate change and you're going to hear a lot more about that in the next seven months.
SEIBBecause it's high on the administration's agenda for the rest of this year.
REHMJerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal. Tamara Keith of NPR, and Susan Glasser of Politico. Thank you all so much. Have a great weekend.
GLASSERThank you, Diane.
KEITHThank you. You too.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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