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To read more about Episode 230, visit the main episode page.
Michael Moore [00:00:14] Hello, everyone. This is Michael Moore and you are listening to my podcast, Rumble with Michael Moore. And it’s one of those rare 60 degree days here in the middle of February. So that can only mean that what we have to listen to during this podcast is the construction work and jackhammering that goes on in the city whenever they can grab a semi-decent day. These are the sounds we listen to, but it seems to have gone away for a little bit here, so maybe it won’t be bothering us. I hope everybody’s doing well and hanging in there. Thanks for all the response to my weekly letter that I send out on Substack. Much appreciated. And today I thought we’d check in to see what’s going on in Flint, Michigan. There was an article recently by the investigative journalist Jordan Chariton in The Guardian about an investigation that he’s done regarding the former Michigan attorney general and the current attorney general regarding racketeering charges that were being discussed against the former governor, Rick Snyder, who is the person responsible for the poisoning of the water in Flint. And then once he was informed that that’s what he’d done, it took many months — a year and a half — before they did anything about it. I’m sorry, I can’t let this issue rest. There has been no justice for the people of Flint. People still get rashes and hair loss and other things from the water there. A lot of it, I think, is caused by the the fact that all the piping, and the plumbing has not been replaced. And I think there’s been information that’s been put out to the public that has led some people to believe that everything’s okay now. And, you know, Flint is getting it together. I don’t think that’s the case. I hear from people every week in Flint. It’s a sad story. It’s not like these other water stories around the country where we have infrastructure problems and lead in the water. That’s not this. This was done on purpose by the former Republican governor. And a lot of people in Flint are asking, “where are the Democrats who have taken over state government in Lansing? Where are they? And why isn’t this still fixed and why is the former governor still not in prison?” So we’re going to get into all this because we have the investigative journalist who wrote this recent piece in The Guardian. His name is Jordan Chariton. He’s been on Rumble before. He will be joining us shortly and we’ll talk about what’s going on, what we can do, and what this means to the rest of the country. So I’m really happy that you’ve joined me today and stay tuned for this.
Michael Moore [00:03:29] Before we actually go ahead and get into that, I want to take a moment to announce that this coming Sunday, February 20th, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time, we’re going to be doing another Substack subscriber Q&A for the paid members of my Substack. It’s a Q&A with yours truly, and we’re going to try and do it a different way this time. I’ll be sending out a sign-up for those of you who are paid subscribers in the next couple of days. On this sign up, it’ll ask you if you’d like to be part of the live Zoom chat with me during this Q&A. It’s the first time we’ve tried this — I’m fine with just having people text the questions, but it’d be nice to see you. And so we’ll try it. We’ll try it live in-person. And by the way, you don’t have to sign up to be on camera if you don’t want to. I think this Zoom that we have can only hold 300 people, but that may be enough for those who would like to be on camera and have this conversation. And if you don’t want to be on camera, you can still submit a question on Substack. But either way, all you have to do is be a paid subscriber. And the reason why we do it this way is to keep the trolls and the haters off a discussion that we want to have with each other. Sorry for the people that are free subscribers, — you know, all the content here, every podcast, every letter I write every week on my Substack it’s all free, no paywall — but we have a couple little perks for those who are paid members who are giving something to help support our work. And this is one of them. And we do this because we like to have the personal contact without the haters joining in. So if you want to subscribe, there’s a link on this platform page for you to do that. You can join for as little as $5 a month. But again, you don’t have to because like I said, all the other content here is free. So look for the sign-up email that you’ll be getting via Substack here in the next couple of days if you’d like to sign up. And if not, if you’d like to just submit a question, you’ll be able to do that then, and also on Sunday during the Q&A. So Q&A this Sunday, February 20th, 3 p.m. Eastern Time for monthly and yearly subscribers to my Substack. I hope many of you can join us. I enjoyed the last couple of ones we’ve had, and please do that.
Michael Moore [00:06:10] So first up, I want to thank our underwriter, Truebill.com, for supporting this podcast and for helping all of you save a little money. So here’s my question — how many subscription services are you paying for each month? Right? We’ve all clicked on a lot and they add up and then we stop using them or paying attention to them, but they’re still deducting this automatically, you know, from our credit card account or whatever. Well, Truebill is the new app that helps you identify and stop paying for subscriptions that you don’t need or want or, like me, simply forgot about. Truebill’s app allows you to see all your subscriptions in one place, and it keeps the ones that you want and it cancels the ones that you don’t want. Now, you know, a lot of these things that we’ve all signed up for, they force us sometimes to actually call them to cancel, or we have to write to them or whatever. Well, Truebill will handle that for you so you don’t have to get involved. And it works, let me tell you. On average, people are saving hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a year because this stuff just gets automatically deducted and if you’re not paying attention — boom! So start canceling your unused subscriptions at Truebill.com/rumble. That’s Truebill.com/rumble. It could save you literally thousands of dollars in a year’s time. Truebill.com/rumble.
Michael Moore [00:07:52] Another one of our underwriters that I want to thank today for supporting our work and our voice is Wondrium. Now, as you know, like most of us, I’m sure we’ve had a lot of time to think about things over these past two years, and that time has made me, and others, you, curious in a way where a lot of the junk-food-TV and so-called content can’t really scratch the itch. So I’m delighted to talk about our new underwriter, Wondrium. It’s a streaming service made for lifelong learners. Whether you’re seeking out compelling documentaries or trying to learn a new skill or subject, Wondrium is the place for you. Wondrium has mindblowing premium encyclopedic programing on virtually any topic you can imagine, all designed to move you forward on your journey to learning something new. And let me tell you, there’s some really incredible stuff that’s on Wondrium. There’s a fantastic documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s we’ll call him his right hand man, Leon Vitale. I’ve had him at my film festival in Michigan, and this documentary is called “The Film Worker.” It’s a fascinating story about how this British actor, Leon Vitale, ended up being an integral part of Kubrick’s singular vision over the years, including auditioning. I love this story. Leon auditioned more than 4,000 child actors to find just the right one to play the little boy, Danny Torrance, in “The Shining.” When I had him at my festival, we looked at some of the audition tapes. It was simply amazing. So that’s one of the things you can get on Wondrium — to watch this documentary that I’m sure you haven’t heard of. Wondrium also helps you learn through other engaging videos and audio learning experiences, interactive how-to guides documentaries, and it’s led by teachers and professors and experts who will inspire you and remind you of the fun that exists in learning. So if you want to get excited about learning something new, I highly recommend signing up for Wondrium. And Wondrium is offering my listeners to this podcast a special free 22-day trail membership to celebrate this new year that we’re now in the second month. It’s a great chance to learn new things. To get this offer, though, you’ll need to visit Wondrium.com/rumble. That’s Wondrium.com/rumble.
Michael Moore [00:10:44] So I’m really honored to welcome Jordan Chariton here to Rumble. Thank you so much for coming back on my podcast, Jordan.
Jordan Chariton [00:10:52] Thanks so much for having me, Michael.
Michael Moore [00:10:54] So Jordan, I thought it was important to check back in to see how Flint was doing with the almost 8-year long water poisoning that has taken place that began back in April 2014, where the Republican governor, his staff, and the mayor that he appointed — he removed the elected mayor, and appointed an unelected person who was called like the manager of the city and then did the bidding of the governor’s office. I love listening to you as an outsider who has come to Flint now for many years and done so much great investigative reporting for The Intercept, The Guardian for your own organization, Status Coup. Jordan, for the people who maybe are finding out about Flint for the first time here, can you give them the brief history of this? And then we’re going to get into what you’ve recently uncovered.
Jordan Chariton [00:11:59] Sure. When Rick Snyder became governor in 2011, Flint, you know, like a lot of cities in the industrial Midwest, unfortunately, was economically a bit of a rotting corpse. Obviously, Michael, you showed that in “Roger and Me.” Flint was once the envy of the rest of the world, kind of one of the birthplaces of the middle class, the auto industry, but for many, many reasons by the mid-2010s, economically, it was near bankruptcy. And Snyder ran for governor, fancying himself as an economic wizard who can save distressed cities. So as part of his effort to save Flint, they came up with a “brilliant” idea — they being the state officials in the Snyder administration, city officials in Flint — and that was we’re going to try and erase Flint’s economic problems and debt by having Flint join a completely brand new water system. Flint had gotten its water for 50 years from Lake Huron, which is some of the cleanest water in the world, the Great Lakes, through Detroit’s water system. And Flint did not have problems with water quality when they received Lake Huron water from the Detroit water system. But Flint was also broke. In 2014, it actually had no credit rating and it was legally not allowed to borrow more money. So how does a broke city join a brand new water system? That’s part of what my latest story is about. How does a broke city borrow $85 million to join a new water system? So we could get to that. But in a nutshell, while this new water system, the Karaganda Water Authority, was under construction that Flint would be joining, they decided, we’re just going to use the Flint River for free, theoretically for free. So they only had planned to put Flint on the Flint River for a year and a half to two years while this new water system was being built. And while they put Flint on the Flint River, the State Environmental Department just forgot to add the proper chemicals into the water – chemicals known as corrosion control inhibitors. You know, the pipes all across the country are between 50 and 100 years old so when using older water systems, you’re supposed to add corrosion control chemicals into the water system to prevent lead and other contaminants from leaching off the old pipes. They didn’t do that. And very quickly after the switch in 2014, the switch to the Flint River, residents started receiving browned water, smelly water. Residents, including children, started sporting rashes on their body, losing hair, and essentially both the Snyder administration and city of Flint officials told them, “don’t believe your lying skin or hair,” and told them “your water’s fine.” And that went on for 18 months. From April 2014 through October 2015, Flint residents were receiving poisoned water with lead as well as bacteria and other contaminants.
Michael Moore [00:15:19] And when did the governor or his staff first get an indication that there was something wrong with this Flint River water they were now being forced to drink.
Jordan Chariton [00:15:32] Governor Snyder claims that he didn’t know about the lead problem until 2015. There’s plenty of reporting out there that he knew before then. And I broke, for The Intercept, that although the governor went public to the world about the Legionnaires outbreak in Flint in January 2016 — Legionnaires is the deadly waterborne bacteria that was bred from that water — he says he didn’t know about it until January 2016, but my reporting revealed he knew about it as early as October 2014, so 16 months early. And he did not notify residents. He did not notify the public. And when he first learned about it, it just so happened to be a couple of weeks before his reelection for governor. This was in a time — a galaxy far, far long ago before Trump — in 2014, Snyder reporting indicated he was angling to possibly run for president in 2016. So he knew about the Legionnaires as early as October 2014. That’s what prosecutors and investigators had concluded, which indicates he allowed residents to drink water that he knew was unsafe for a year and a half.
Michael Moore [00:16:53] You mentioned this other pipeline… So a perfectly fine pipeline that gave us clean drinking water in Flint for 50 years maybe? Some banks got involved, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and decided there was money to be made by building a second parallel pipeline that didn’t have to pass through the Detroit water system, but just go directly from Lake Huron to Flint. But there was no need for this, right? I mean, this was done, I am guessing, for some people to become wealthier than they already were.
Jordan Chariton [00:17:35] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the reason given was that Detroit’s water system, which Flint was the biggest customer, Flint had received its water from the Detroit water pipeline, city officials and Genesee County officials, Flint is part of Genesee County, they claimed that Detroit had been raising the rates to Flint for, you know, ten years, and that if they were to build their own water system separate from Detroit, then essentially their water destiny would be in their own hands and they could set the rates however they would like. The problem with that is Detroit, you know, Detroit really couldn’t afford to lose Flint as its biggest customer. So there are emails that indicate at the 11th hour, Detroit offered Flint to cut its rate in half, 50%, and Flint still left. And there were engineering reports done that indicated if you compared Flint remaining with the Detroit water system versus joining this brand new system, that it would actually be cheaper for Flint to stay on the Detroit water system. Yet the state and city officials went ahead with Flint joining this brand new water system, which in your documentary, you showed the map, it’s literally on the same exact parallel path as the existing water pipeline. So to build a parallel one that again, the reason given was financial — we’re going to save money by creating our own water system — that ended up being false. And also, the difference between the water that Flint received from Detroit and this new water system that Flint was joining, was that the Detroit water being delivered to Flint was finished water. It had already been treated by Detroit’s water system. So by the time it got to Flint, it needed no additional chemicals or anything like that. The new water system, the Karaganda Water Authority, that Flint was going to be joining, that was raw water. So by the time it was delivered to Flint, it would then have to be treated by the Flint water plant, which Michael you know, the Flint water plant was basically dilapidated. It had not been used as a primary water plant to treat water for decades. And at the time that Flint switched to the Flint River, it needed tens of millions of dollars in upgrades just to put in the right equipment. And that was not done.
Michael Moore [00:20:16] Right. If you were to walk inside the Flint water plant, this old, ancient thing — if you wanted to shoot Zombieland 3 in Flint, you would use the Flint water plant as one of the great locations for this. But in all seriousness, though, just to put a fine point on this, when people hear Flint Water Crisis, I now, whenever I see something on TV or something in the papers, we’re lumped in with all the other cities that have the real legitimate problems with lead and old pipes and all this stuff. This was not what happened in Flint. We did not all of a sudden have a lead problem or whatever. It was a political decision made by the Republican governor to try to bring taxes down. And then he tells his henchmen in Flint and other cities, you’ve got to do X, Y and Z to cut costs.
Jordan Chariton [00:21:17] Right.
[00:21:17] And so this was a means to cut costs, to run a scam on people about building a second pipeline that could make the bankers at JPMorgan and Wells Fargo richer. And I just want the public, when they hear this about Flint, to know that we’re not part of some environmental problem. This was a fraud that was committed, and then when they found out the damage that they were doing to the human beings in Flint — did I say human beings? I meant black people, because that’s how they got away with this — because they could do this to a majority black city. They could not do this to Ann Arbor, could not do this to Bloomfield Hills, or Grosse Pointe or any of the places in Michigan that were white and wealthy. They could get away with it in this majority-black city. And these other cities and school districts that the governor took over and installed his henchmen, were also majority black cities or school districts. So I just want to keep reiterating this, that racism plays an important role in this, because they knew — by trying to get away with what they got away with — that the African-Americans of Flint, Michigan did not hold any power, they don’t make campaign contributions, and Snyder, the governor, knew that white Michigan wasn’t going to worry too much as long as it wasn’t their water that was involved here.
Jordan Chariton [00:23:00] Right. I also want to be clear just to look at the dollars and cents of it, because Governor Snyder, you know, this is what happens when you kind of run government like a business. He and his folks, they were just simply looking at the balance sheet. So in 2014, Flint had an annual deficit of $12-13 million, meaning they were losing $12-13 million a year. So what they were paying to the Detroit water system per month was $1,000,000. That, over a year, equals basically their entire deficit. So Snyder and his economic braintrust fashioned if we just get Flint off the Detroit water system, we would basically erase the deficit and then we’ll just use the river for free. We just, well, we just forgot, “oh, well, it requires billions of dollars in upgrades to the water plant.” So they just looked at the dollars and cents, “hey, Flint has $12 billion in deficit. They’re paying $12 million a year to Detroit water. Get rid of that. I could say, Hey, I turned Flint around,” and help his political ambitions with that messaging.
Michael Moore [00:24:11] And how close is the former governor to going to jail?
Jordan Chariton [00:24:18] I wish I had good news for you, Michael. Essentially, the former governor and several other defendants that have been charged are actively trying to get the charges dismissed under a variety of legal maneuvers, and judges have been hearing those arguments. One of the arguments that Governor Snyder and his, you know, pretty high-powered team of attorneys have been using is that the prosecution team under Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel did not use what they call a taint team. I don’t want your listeners eyes to gloss over, but a taint team is essentially independen legal people who go through discovery and documents to make sure what the prosecution has is not attorney-client privilege. So Snyder and other defendants claim that the attorney general’s prosecutors did not use a taint team and therefore have attorney-client privilege documents. That’s one thing that is basically delaying even Snyder from going forward to an actual trial. Other defendants are claiming that the current prosecutors filed charges after the statute-of-limitations, which for many of these crimes in Michigan is six years. So these things are being heard in court in various settings. And by the way, we should say Snyder, he was only charged with a misdemeanor. So if he was convicted, he would face $1,000 fine and potentially a year in jail.
Michael Moore [00:26:06] Oh, my God. Okay, that’s not happening. All right. So tell us what you have recently learned and what you reported on in The Guardian.
Jordan Chariton [00:26:17] Absolutely. So essentially, you know, the media story about Flint, like you said, was this was kind of just a horrible accident, right? There was not much reporting on to follow the money. So we — myself, Charlie LeDuff out of Michigan, a great reporter I worked with on this — we discovered that that brand new water pipeline that we were talking about that Flint was joining, well, Flint didn’t have the money to join that water pipeline in the year 2014. It was broke. We just discussed how much money they were losing every year. So Flint was allowed to borrow $85 million, even though it had no credit rating and it was broke. Legally, actually, per the state of Michigan law, Flint had already reached its debt limit. So, you know, the $64,000 question, how does a broke city borrow $85 million to join a totally unnecessary water system? So that’s what prosecutors and investigators that were trying this case were investigating in the early years, 2016-2018. These were the original Flint water investigators. When Attorney General Nessel came in, she kind of cleaned house and restarted things. But what we found was that the original investigation team found significant financial fraud behind that deal — the bond deal that allowed Flint to join this new water system — and they were building a racketeering case, which is known as RICO. If you ever watch Sopranos or, you know, some of these mob movies, RICO was developed in the 1970s primarily to go after organized crime and mafia figures. It’s used for other things, too, but those were the big guns that RICO and racketeering laws were used against. So they were building a RICO case to go after state officials who were behind this fraudulent bond deal that allowed Flint to join this water system in the first place. And they were advancing it, I would say, you know, in football terms, maybe on the 5-10 yard line. Actually, one of the investigators had gone public. His name’s Andy Arena. He was fired by Attorney General Nessel and he said at the time that he and the rest of his team were dismissed, they were about six months away from filing additional financial fraud charges. We learned through the story that those charges were going to be racketeering RICO charges over corrupt transactions that were involved in this bond deal, potential bribery, false pretenses — essentially a scam financial deal that resulted in Flint joining this new water system. And ultimately, because Flint joined this new water system, the city being poisoned because to join this new water system, Flint used the Flint River in the interim. Yes. So there’s two separate issues. One, when Attorney General Nessel came in, you know, she claims she recused herself from the criminal investigation, meaning she wasn’t involved and she hired, you know, she appointed the solicitor general of Michigan and another prosecutor to co-lead it. Whether she’s involved day to day or not, it’s obviously under her purview. So what we learned was they not only basically, you know, by all intents and purposes, buried the racketeering case, but in addition to the uncharged — meaning, the racketeering case, those charges were going to be pressed, but Attorney General Nessel and her team never followed up on it — in addition to that, they actually dismissed already filed financial charges against two of the emergency managers that were appointed by Governor Snyder. The original prosecution team had charged two emergency managers. You had mentioned the emergency managers were basically appointed by Governor Snyder to run Flint in place of the elected mayor, the elected city council — basically stooges that were basically running Flint as proxies for the governor. So essentially, Snyder was running Flint through these stooges. Two of those emergency managers, they were charged with false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses for that fraudulent bond deal. Those charges were filed in 2016 by the original Flint Water Investigation Team. Attorney General Nessel and her team dropped those charges in 2019 and they then recharged those same officials in 2021. But the financial fraud charges were gone. They recharged them with lesser crimes, but the financial fraud charges were gone. So what you have here is a major racketeering case that basically just was cut off, you know, cut off on the vine. And then you have other financial charges that were charged but dismissed by the attorney general.
Michael Moore [00:31:24] Why? Why did a Democrat, why did she do this?
Jordan Chariton [00:31:31] You know I can’t get their head. Needless to say, she has not answered any of my questions. But, you know, there’s several moving parts here. Number one, Attorney General Nessel, a Democrat or not, did something very unusual as a candidate. She was running to be attorney general and she was publicly, you know, criticizing the investigation, calling it “politically charged show trials.” That’s unusual based on lawyers I spoke with because she had no access to the evidence. All she knew was what the public knew. So she was already, before she became attorney general, previewing that she was going to clean house and this was taking too long etc., etc.. So I don’t know what was behind that motivation. There was reporting that, you know, she, you know, wanted her own team. I’ve spoken with sources who said this was a political thing, she didn’t want the people that the previous attorney general had put in place to get the credit. They were Republican. So whatever her motivation is, she got in there, she cleaned house, and by sources I’ve spoken with, as well as investigators who went on the record, they said there wasn’t even really much of a debrief between Nessel’s team and this team that had been investigating for three years. So I don’t know if this was simply incompetence. I don’t know if this was simply, you know, a political thing where new people come in and think they know better. But they basically cleaned house of the special prosecutor who had filed those financial fraud charges against top officials in the Snyder administration, the chief investigator who used to be the head of the FBI in Detroit, and essentially most of their team. The other element is, if these financial fraud charges went forward, the state of Michigan would be on the hook financially, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in liability because they approved — through the attorney general’s office — they approved an environmental order that basically gave Flint the green light to issue these bonds. So because the state of Michigan had approved it, the state of Michigan, if the financial fraud charges go forward, they’re on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. Then you bring in Wall Street — JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and a third financial institution — they underwrote the bonds, meaning they financed the pipeline construction deal. So JPMorgan and Wells Fargo sources indicated they, too, were facing similar liability, hundreds of millions of dollars, because as part of the environmental order that gave Flint the green light to borrow this money, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo, they were supposed to do their due diligence as part of that environmental order to make sure that the Flint water treatment plant was ready to go, that the equipment upgrades were made, and that the Flint Water Treatment plant had the wherewithal to safely treat the Flint River water. Clearly, that didn’t happen. So actually, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo were sued in 2020 on behalf of 2,400 Flint children. Civilly, not criminally. For what I’m discussing — for their basically pushing this bond deal through without doing their due diligence. So I can tell you, I can’t get in the attorney general’s mind. I can’t state as a fact that this is why they killed the racketeering charges or this is why they dropped the financial charges, but what I do know is there’s seems to be a bit of a conflict here because on one end you have the state of Michigan claiming they’re going to go after the potential criminals and bring justice to Flint. But on the other end, if they threw the book for financial fraud at Snyder, too, I mean, the bill for the state of Michigan, they got away with a $600 million settlement civilly to Flint last year. You talk to most residents, my opinion, that’s not enough. But essentially, there was a lot of liability. There was a lot of liability here.
Michael Moore [00:35:50] Explain why that’s not enough.
Jordan Chariton [00:35:52] Well, essentially, a $600 million settlement to the people of Flint amounts to that of a used car for every child in Flint, you know, a little under $10,000. It is, you know, the children obviously, most of the money is going to the children. That’s great. I’ve gone to Flint nearly 20 times and there’s a lot of adults slowly dying in Flint, too. And most of the money went to children. Obviously, we don’t want to pick between children and adults, but there should be more money to go around for everybody. Children, not only the physical harm, but the mental harm — learning disabilities, behavioral problems, learning delays, women who lost babies, miscarriages. So $600 million for this kind of humanitarian crime, crime against humanity, to me is a drop in the bucket. What it should have been, at the minimum, in my view, over $1,000,000,000. And again, if Snyder, part of the reason that —from sources I spoke with and my own reporting — part of the reason they wanted to get the civil settlement done before advancing the criminal charges was because once the civil settlement’s done, the bill is done, you can’t retroactively go back and ask for more once all parties have agreed. So that’s why it was so important for them to get the state to get the civil settlement done because let’s say you come out with heavy duty crime charges after that against the governor or others, then the state’s liability would have been even higher.
Michael Moore [00:37:36] When I run into people and they ask, “How’s it going in Flint?” They think that all the pipes have been replaced. You know, they heard in the news that all this money it was sent to Flint to undo the damage, and I explain to them, “well, there are some of the mainline pipes out underneath the streets that have been replaced, but all the pipes that go from the main line from the street to the house, and then all the internal plumbing systems in everybody’s home, plus their appliances, whether it’s a washing machine or a dishwasher or whatever their shower, that’s all been corroded and contaminated — none of that’s replaced. I don’t think people understand. They hear in the state of Michigan, somebody puts out a piece of good news, “we’ve replaced all these pipes.” Well, you’ve been there. Tell people what you’ve seen.
Jordan Chariton [00:38:37] Well, first of all, it’s even worse than that. And this got buried partially, if I’m being honest, by Newsweek. In 2018, myself and my reporting partner at the time, Jenn Dize, we went to Flint because we were being told by residents that Snyder and his environmental department were cooking the data, meaning they were cheating on the water testing to basically produce artificially lower lead levels. So we just did something radical and started knocking on doors. And we knocked on almost 400 doors in the summer and fall of 2018. And we found that Snyder’s environmental department had been sending officials into residents homes and collecting samples, but running their water right before taking the sample. Not the night before, I’m talking minutes before. That’s completely against EPA regulations. So they were cooking the data by audit. You know, if you run the water for several minutes, you’re going to flush out potentially high levels of lead copper. So that’s how they got those levels. And Snyder and his team never denied it. They played dumb, but we were working on that story for Newsweek, but for some reason they killed it that week. We broke it anyway. We just self-published it in 2018. It got a lot of buzz, this and that. But basically because it got killed by Newsweek, it was able to be swept under the rug. You advance past that, the testing that has been done, they test very, you know, a small number of homes in the city. They are testing, you know, kind of cherry picking neighborhoods, in many cases, testing neighborhoods that weren’t as negatively affected. So in some cases, they’re testing, you know, 50 or 60 homes and declaring the whole city fine. But any engineer you speak with, they have not changed all of the pipes. They have not touched the main pipes underneath the street. They’ve only been replacing the service lines, which are the pipes from your curb into your home. So the main pipes, which for years have been breaking all over Flint because they were busted by this toxic water, they are only being replaced when they bust. And you mentioned the interior plumbing. It’s not like the water just, you know, skipped over people’s interior plumbing. That is not being replaced. In fact, the former mayor, Karen Weaver, told me on the record, that she went to Governor Whitmer, the current governor, to ask for help funding to start tackling Flint residents interior plumbing. And the governor, this is what the mayor said, told her there’s Flint fatigue in the state legislature and I can’t get any more money for that. So essentially, yeah, you’ve had media really just serve as stenographers, either just regurgitating the numbers that Snyder was putting out there or the numbers that are currently being put out there. But the numbers that are being put out there, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I can tell you, having been to Flint many times, including last summer, there’s residents still getting rashes from that water. I mean, I’ve spoken with them. I’ve seen it. Yeah. There’s there’s residents that still are losing hair in the shower. And not to mention the long term health effects that are not being addressed. Flint doesn’t have Medicare for All. They had short term Medicaid expansion, which is pretty much up. I’ve talked to residents who are near bankruptcy trying to afford environmental doctors because regular internists aren’t the best for heavy metal poisoning and things like that. So this is not over and it’s still very much whatever the word you want to call it, I would call it a catastrophe, but it’s been normalized and kind of in, you know, mission accomplished, so to speak, because the numbers that are being put out claim to be meeting EPA regulations.
Michael Moore [00:42:25] And it’s called the “Flint Water Crisis.” It sounds so like, what’s the word they use for climate? The climate crisis.
Jordan Chariton [00:42:39] Right.
Michael Moore [00:42:39] We’re beyond “crisis.” This is a catastrophe. You know, I wanted you to come on today in part too, because I wanted you to help pull me and people who still live there out of our despair, because Mayor Weaver said that Lansing has “Flint Fatigue,” right?
Jordan Chariton [00:43:04] Right.
Michael Moore [00:43:05] And you know, if this was, again, a white city that had some money, you don’t talk about fatigue when you’re talking about a white city — “Oh, I really don’t want to hear about Ann Arbor anymore. Please. I have fatigue.”
Jordan Chariton [00:43:22] Right.
Michael Moore [00:43:23] No.
Jordan Chariton [00:43:23] Yeah. You know, I think that obviously Snyder and the Republican regime, they carry the weight of the original sin here. But as you know, there was a whole lot of people in Flint really excited when Gretchen Whitmer was elected. Same thing with Dana Nessel as attorney general. They felt, you know, Democrats coming in and obviously, they were not getting the help that they needed before. They were getting a cover-up under Snyder and the Republicans. And one of the things Governor Whitmer had said during the governor’s debates was that she was going to reopen the water stations, the free water stations that Governor Snyder had shuttered, claiming, “oh, the numbers are good, Flint’s water is back to normal. We could shut down these water pods, which residents depended on for bottled water.” That’s what she ran on. She never did that. Attorney General Nessel, my reporting indicates there’s just a lot of bizarre things going on. There’s a lot of bizarre things in terms of purging the entire investigation team that had investigated this for three years that had already charged 15 state of Michigan and city of Flint officials, then dropping all the charges, claiming deficiencies in their investigation, even though that original investigation had already resulted in two of the top state officials, the health department director and the chief medical executive, a judge ruled that they both had to go to trial after year-long pretrials. So the first investigation couldn’t have been that deficient if a judge had agreed two of the top officials had to face the music in front of a jury. And then you have, again, what I’ve outlined, the dropping of financial charges with no explanation why, not following through on the racketeering charges. Now you have the governor and top defendants citing deficiencies in the new, second prosecution under Dana Nessel. So you just have whatever the reason is, whether it’s incompetence, whether it’s you know, there was not enough political will to go follow the money, in my story, Eric Mays, who is the Flint City Council chairman, he actually says that Nessel let it go. That’s the attorney general. She let it go. He said, “I’m just quoting it. Was it a lack of political or legal will? I cannot say, but it bothers me to this day. Her team hasn’t address it,” speaking about the financial fraud here. And I think that’s what it comes down to, because for people not from Flint listening to this, as a journalist, I’m always telling people, follow the money. These things don’t happen by accident. There’s usually greed involved. There’s usually landowners involved, investors involved, banks involved, politicians involved. And the people of Flint deserve to know what was the root of this, because we know the original narrative, what they fed us. But why was Flint on the Flint River in the first place? Why was Flint joining this new water system? Who broke the law through financial fraud, let’s just call it a scam, to basically, you know, hoodwink the people of Flint into joining this new water system? The people of Flint deserve to know, and they deserve those people to be held accountable. Unfortunately, the current attorney general and her team are not following the money. I mean, I would love to have egg on my face. Maybe tomorrow they’ll announce the charges. Who knows? But they’re not following the money. And the other problem, and you and I have talked about this Michael, previous reporting I did the attorney general’s predecessor, the original team, they were building a case against the governor for involuntary manslaughter, to be clear they were not ready to charge him with that, but that’s the case they were building. They felt they had evidence against him for involuntary manslaughter. So these are major discrepancies between the original investigation, who is building a racketeering case, you know, gunning for involuntary manslaughter against the governor, which obviously would be a very seismic event, and this prosecution who did not follow through on any of those things.
Michael Moore [00:47:46] So what do people do now? How do we not let this drop? How how do we deal with the fact that now the Democrats are in charge in the state capitol, but it’s a whole lot more of the same old thing? I mean, you know, this gets just so depressing with people. People give up. People just decide that the whole system is rigged, why bother? And then that’s when the bad guys win.
Jordan Chariton [00:48:18] Right. Yeah. I mean, as a journalist, I’ve tried my best. One of the problems and, you know, this is your state’s media doesn’t seem to have an appetite for this anymore. I literally have broken four stories in two years based on very strong sourcing documents from the criminal investigation — the Detroit Free Press won’t touch it. The Flint Journal won’t touch it. The Detroit News won’t touch it. And that’s the most frustrating part. I go to Flint and I’m talking to residents that don’t even know what I broke because they’re not seeing it on their TV and they’re not seeing it in these news outlets. So, number one, you know, if the residents of Flint have anymore in a rally in them, I would start circling the wagons around these media outlets, you know, nonviolently, obviously. But because these media outlets are normalizing this by burying what’s actually going on, and burying the truth, I would not stop there, though. Again, these residents are tired. I speak with them all the time. They’re physically tired. They’re mentally exhausted. They’ve been fighting for eight years. And then you have the pandemic on top of things. But I mean, I think good old fashioned protest outside governor Whitmer. Yes, she’s a Democrat, but at this point, Democrat, Republican, alien — they’re not giving Flint residents justice. They should be protesting outside Whitmer’s office, outside Nessel’s office, not only for justice, but where is their health care? You and I spoke about this previously, Libby, Montana is 96% white. They had an asbestos disaster that killed a lot of people. And for Libby, Montana, snuck into Obamacare, was Medicare for All. For all the 96% white residents of Libby, Montana. They deserved it. Why doesn’t the 53% black residents of Flint deserve Medicare for All for being poisoned? And by the way, there’s a lot of poor white people in Flint, too. And so I think, you know, to me, we’re fighting a lot of battles, climate crisis, you know, creeping authoritarianism, white supremacy, COVID.
Michael Moore [00:50:33] Yeah, not creeping so much anymore.
Jordan Chariton [00:50:35] Right. But at the end of the day, not just the people of Flint, but the rest of the country, if you let this go in Flint, if you don’t rally for Flint, if you don’t join protests for Flint, what makes you think this could not happen in your city if the people that did this to Flint are not held accountable?
Michael Moore [00:50:54] Right. Well, I’ve believed that, you know, having lived there for a big chunk of my life, that Flint, in the past, has been the canary in the coal mine. And when I made my first film, I was trying to really tell the rest of the country that this isn’t just Flint, this is coming to your hometown. And we all better get busy on it right now. And I remember having a very hard time making that case. People felt bad for Flint, but they they didn’t see that it would be coming to their state, to their city, and then it did. And people trying to just fight and live through the pandemic, it’s hard to wrap your head around all the other things we’re fighting for.
Jordan Chariton [00:51:40] Right.
[00:51:41] And so to those who are listening, you know, where can they go to be brought up-to-date on the latest in Flint, and to participate in trying to create some sort of justice here?
Jordan Chariton [00:51:59] Yeah. So my outlet Status Coup, we’re on YouTube, it’s under status coup news, I probably at this point have 200-300 videos just on the Flint water crisis, and the cover up. I’ve been on the ground reporting in Flint nearly 20 times, so definitely subscribe to my channel, that’s Status Coup. We cover other things too, but if you haven’t read this story, please read it. It’s in The Guardian. It’s at the top of my Twitter. And yeah, I would tell people honestly, you know, at the end of the day, like, you just discussed, people are overwhelmed with multiple fights. But at the end of the day, this is, to me, based on my reporting, this is the biggest government cover-up of this century. I think it’s bigger than Watergate. Watergate didn’t kill anyone. If there wasn’t a president involved in Watergate, nobody would have blinked twice. I mean, not that Watergate isn’t scandalous, but you’re talking about a governor who literally knew his constituents were drinking contaminated water for a year and a half and said nothing. And a cover up of that. You’re talking about, previous reporting I did, that governor’s top officials, their phones were erased. Their phones were erased, messages deleted shortly before the launch of the criminal investigation. You’re talking about a governor whose top advisor known around Michigan as kind of his henchmen was going around the city of Flint offering payoffs to sick residents to keep them quiet. I mean, this is a massive government cover up in addition to a humanitarian crisis. So you would think, for journalists, they would never give up on this because it’s the story of a lifetime. But to me, people need to get involved because this is not just happening in Flint. There are financial deals happening all over this country through the issuing of bonds and other mechanisms. They’re being sold to you as economic development, you know, urban renewal, these kind of things. But there’s a lot of shortcuts being taken, and there’s a lot of “public private partnerships” happening between the government and private corporations that are selling you, no pun intended, down the river. And if this just kind of becomes normal, we’ll recognize it every April 25th. This April 25th is 8 years. Well, you know, some news coverage will have news stories about trust. All the news stories from major outlets it’s, “oh the water’s fine. Now it’s just about trust.” It’s like they’re all in the same meeting, pushing the same angle and rebuilding trust among the residents. Well, I don’t think it’s just a trust issue, because I was just there and I’m talking to residents who are still getting rashes, who are still losing their hair. Residents telling me when they shower, it smells, their eyes burn in some cases. So to me, even though this is eight years later, you have to kind of trick your mind into thinking — maybe it’s a little better than 2016, but it’s still a major disaster. And wouldn’t you want, if this was your community, wouldn’t you want the rest of the country, the world, to still care, to still act? So I really hope not only Flint residents, but outside Flint residents start flooding the governor’s phones, the attorney general’s phones, showing up for protests. You know, I’m a journalist, you’re supposed to just be neutral and be a robot, but I think you’d be a sociopath if you’re just neutral to a city being poisoned and then a cover-up of these people being poisoned, and then them left to slowly die. I don’t think you should be neutral to that. You should want to get to the bottom of it, hold people accountable, help in any way possible to deliver some justice. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. It’s not easy because frankly, the media just kind of buries it. I mean, I know for a fact the outlets I’ve outlined know about the stories I’ve broken, know the information. Some of the editors have even responded to me, but they don’t report it and they don’t follow up on it. So, yeah, definitely check out our Flint reporting — it’s Status Coup on YouTube.
Michael Moore [00:56:03] You know, when we talk about how we’re all worried about the potential death of our democracy, it’s not just about Trump. It’s stuff like this where people lose their faith in their government of, by and for the people. And when they give up, that is the death of democracy. When Democrats say that they’re for the people, and then they take office and then this still goes on. That’s the death of democracy. When President Obama came to Flint — this poisoning began during his last two years in office, last three years — and he comes there, we filmed him there, he wanted to put the whole thing to rest so he fake-drank water at a rally there at a high school. And the water was okay. Why would you tell them it’s okay when you know it wasn’t okay? And then people give up. And so I, you, others we’re all, we’re not giving up. So, thank you for the work that you continue to do, Jordan. And, you know, if I can speak on behalf of people in Flint, we’re very grateful that you keep digging, deep investigating. And even if the spotlight finds itself on the Democrats, that we don’t care, we’re going to go after anybody who is harming people in cities like Flint. And to everybody listening, I’ll have links to all these things we talked about, and the phone numbers to call the attorney general’s office, governor’s office, email, etc. Please, silence in this case is really a form of violence in the sense that if we, who are not suffering, don’t say anything, don’t do anything about it, then we become part of the problem. So thank you, Jordan, and keep up the good work.
Jordan Chariton [00:58:10] Thank you, Michael.
Michael Moore [00:58:13] Well, that was great talking to Jordan. And I have a couple other things I want to just tell you about here. But first, I want to acknowledge our final underwriter today. It’s Netflix and it’s for the film “Don’t Look Up.” If you haven’t seen this film, you’ve got to watch this film. It’s rare that we get such a brilliant satire like this. “Don’t Look Up.” It’s directed by the great comedy legend Adam McKay, who’s brought you everything from “Vice” to “The Big Short,” to “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.” So much good comedy, something we need right now, but also a great story in this case for what we’re all living through on this planet right now. “Don’t Look Up” is also co-written, the story of it is, by a good friend of mine and a friend of the show, we’ve had him on before, David Sirota. It has an all star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Rylance, Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, Timothee Chalamet, Kid Cudi, and too many others to count. “Don’t Look Up” is the story of two scientists who discover that a comet is hurtling its way towards Earth, and what they attempt to do is try to warn everybody on the planet of this danger with, well, let’s just say, mixed results. You know, not everybody wants to hear the bad news. Sometimes, though, if that’s your attitude, it is all of our detriment. So few films this year, my friends, have tapped the zeitgeist and reflect our current moment like “Don’t Look Up.” “Don’t Look Up” may paint a dire portrait, but it’s also hopeful because it puts things in perspective and lets us know it’s not too late to change things. And the Motion Picture Academy agrees. “Don’t Look Up” has racked up a whole bunch of Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Score, Best Editing, on and on. This is Adam McKay’s second Best Picture nomination also. He was also nominated for “Vice,” the story of Dick Cheney. And it’s his third nomination for screenplay, which he had been nominated before for “Vice” and “The Big Short,” for which he won the Oscar. So don’t miss out on “Don’t Look Up” here during this Oscar season — on Netflix, or on any smart device of your choice. “Don’t Look Up,” from Adam McKay.
Michael Moore [01:00:42] My many thanks again to Jordan for joining me here, again, on Rumble, and for all of his work covering this heinous injustice toward the people in Flint, Michigan. Please be sure to read his latest piece in The Guardian — I’ve got a link for it here on my podcast site — and be sure to check out his on-the-ground, investigative reporting with his investigative group called Status Coup. And it’s available on YouTube. Again, one more reminder before we go that this Sunday, if you’re a paid member of my Substack, MichaelMoore.com, it’s just $5 a month, I’m going to be having my occasional Q&A for paid members. It’s this Sunday, February 20th, at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. So be sure to sign up for it if you want to be a part of the Zoom here, and we’ll be sending out a form on this on Friday or Saturday here to our paid subscribers. So if you want to be part of that Zoom call, and even if you don’t want to be on screen, you’ll still be able to submit questions via the comments that are on my Substack, just as we’ve done in past Q&As. My thanks to executive producer Basel Hamdan, our editor and sound engineer Nick Kwas, our jack-of-all-trades, Donald Borenstein, and everyone who has helped us put together this podcast, and to all of you for listening to it. I’m Michael Moore. This is Rumble. Thanks for tuning in.