updated 5/4/2006 11:19:38 AM ET 2006-05-04T15:19:38

Guests: Richard Ben Veniste, Edward MacMahon, Kristin Breitweiser, Chuck Schumer, Peter King

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  What about the real killers of 9/11?  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the historic attacks, or Ramsey Binalshid who was right in the middle of it.  And the others that the government now holds in secret captivity.  Why aren‘t they being brought to trial?  Today Zacarias Moussaoui got life.  When will the others get death?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews.  After a week of deliberation, an American jury of nine men and three women spared the life of al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, who conspired with al Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks against this country. 

Moussaoui, the only person charged in the worst terrorist attack in this country‘s history showed his opinion of his sentence as he was led from the courtroom.  “America, you lost,” he said and clapped his hands. 

Tonight, we will talk to the people intimately and emotionally involved in the 9/11 attacks.  Former mayor, Rudy Giuliani of New York who led his city through that tragic day and testified at Moussaoui‘s trial.  And Kristen Brietweiser who lost her husband in the attack against the World Trade Center and is now one of the activists for the families of the victims.  The man who devoted years investigating the attacks, former 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben-Vineste.  And political leaders.  In New York, Senator Chuck Schumer, the senator from New York, and Congressman Peter King, also of New York.  All that in a moment. 

Now here‘s Rudy Giuliani. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR:  I testified in the penalty phase of the trial.  And it was much more difficult than I thought it would be, reviewing all that, going over it, seeing the films of it. 

And, you know, obviously I‘m personally involved in this, but I would have preferred a different verdict.  But it does show that we have a legal system, that we follow it, that we respect it.  And it is exactly what is missing in the parts of the world or a lot of the parts of the world that are breeding terrorism. 

So maybe there is something good that can come out of this in showing these people that—at least showing the ones that have any kind of an open mind that we are a free society, a lawful society, a decent society, that we have respect for people‘s rights and that we can have disagreements about whether the death penalty should be imposed on somebody like Moussaoui. 

I think it should have been.  I‘ve been a lawyer more of my life than anything else.  And I respect a jury‘s verdict.  I sat in front of this jury for about three or four hours.  They look like very, very careful and very decent people.  And I am sure they did the best they could. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is going to hearken back to the Boston Massacre when once again back in the old days the American people chose to honor the restraints of laws rather than passions? 

GIULIANI:  You know, it does say something pretty remarkable about us.  Doesn‘t it?  I mean, we probably haven‘t had anything that emotionally affected as much as September 11 in a very, very long time.  And I could tell that these jurors were very emotionally affected by this as I was when we went through all of the events.  And they heard a lot more testimony after me that as compelling or more. 

And yet they were able to come to what they regarded as a rational judgment.  It has to say something about what America is like.  And even though I am disappointed that they didn‘t reach the death penalty result, I would have preferred that, I have great respect for what they did here.

MATTHEWS:  Where is the rationality in deciding, as they did today unanimously, that this man, Zacarias Moussaoui, was responsible in some way for all the damage done to your city of New York and to the Pentagon on that horrible day of 9/11, 2001, but was not responsible for the deaths that occurred day. 

GIULIANI:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  How does that make sense? 

GIULIANI:  I don‘t know.  I knew—obviously knew my testimony in the case.  I don‘t know the rest of the case.  I don‘t know how they would come to that conclusion.  I mean, from what I knew of the case and what I read in the paper, it seemed to me he knew about this.  He could have prevented it in a very real sense. 

Had he given up the information that he knew then, you know, more than likely all of these people that died, including some that are very close friends of mine, would be alive, and therefore you hold him accountable for it. 

But, you know, the law is complex.  There are lots of other testimony.  There was this whole insanity thing that was played out.  I am sure the jurors, you know, reached the verdict they thought in conscience was the best one. 

So it is a complex set of feelings that I have.  I would have preferred to see the death penalty, but I kind of stand in awe of how our legal system works that it can come to a result like this.  It has to say something about us to the rest of the word. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you disappointed? 

GIULIANI:  Yes, I‘m disappointed.  I believe that the death penalty was appropriate in this case, should have been applied.  But then at the same time—and maybe this is like the contradictory, complex feelings we all have about September 11 and everything that‘s come from it.  At the same time, I have tremendous respect for our legal system. 

It should be amazing to the people in the other parts of the world that don‘t have something like this how a group of 12 very decent Americans can come to the result that it just wasn‘t appropriate to have a death penalty here, and that they‘re free to do that, they‘re protected in doing that, and even those of us who disagree with them respect them for coming to that conclusion. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Mayor, when you think about the crime that was committed against your city and against this country on 9/11, 2001, and the people that—you saw them jumping out of buildings from 100 floors.  Rather than face burning alive, they faced dying from a huge fall. 

When you think about that kind of victimhood and you are reacting to it now, and you think about a man who deliberately went out to take flying lessons, not so he could land a plane, but so that he could take a giant airplane and fly it into a building like the World Trade Center, is that the crime you think of, or is it the keeping of the secret between then and now?  What is the crime in your heart that this man committed? 

GIULIANI:  No, it‘s—in his case, it‘s keeping a secret and knowing as I know, you know, the legal system and the law enforcement system and how it works, had he disclosed it, then all those little pieces that maybe were out there that should have been put together would have been put together. 

And, you know, we‘ve been struggling for years to figure out should the FBI have known more?  Should this person have known more?  Should that person have known more?  In fact, here was the guy who knew more ...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GIULIANI:  ... and didn‘t tell anybody.  He didn‘t give anybody the connector that would have very likely have prevented all of this and all those wonderful people would be alive, and children that I know who don‘t have fathers would have fathers. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the courtroom, Your Honor, for you going in and testifying in the sentencing phase of this trial.  Did you—I remember Scott Turow once saying in a courtroom a prosecutor has to point the finger, basically, has to look in the eye of the bad guy and say he did it, he‘s the killer.  Did you do that day?  Did you look in the eye of Moussaoui?

GIULIANI:  I looked at him twice.  I looked at him twice but the way the courtroom was set up, I was looking at the jury much more than I was looking at him because he was sitting behind me.  And it was a very strange experience.  And I then saw him when I came in.  I saw him when I testified, but when I was testifying, he was not in my line of sight. 

I would have to look over my shoulder to see him.  It was a very strange experience having him that close to me.  I mean, it was all that I could do ...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it must have been awful.

GIULIANI:  ... to contain my feelings about that as well. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about the jury, because you‘ve faced many juries as a prosecutor in big cases?  You‘ve put bad guys away, and you‘ve had to convince 12 juries of men and women of different backgrounds that a man deserves serious punishment.  Did you have a sense when you looked at that jury you were making your case? 

GIULIANI:  I saw from—my testimony was a couple weeks ago, so a lot of things have happened since then.  And I didn‘t get to see the rest of it, but it looked to me like they were a very serious group of people.  And I know that the way that the prosecutor, Mr. Novak, presented the testimony, it was extremely powerful.

MATTHEWS:  You will be asked in the days ahead, Mr. Mayor, whether justice was done today.  Was it?

GIULIANI:  Justice was done.  Sure.  I mean, this is the system that we have for justice.  It was a trial.  It seemed like it was a fair trial.  I think the judge was fair.  I think the jurors were fair.  It‘s just not the result that I would have come to. 

But I think—I think that if you believe in this system, you have to be willing to deal with conclusions that are maybe different than the one you would like as long as it has been carried out in the right way. 

I do think there is a value to this.  I think the greater value would have been if he had been executed, but I think there is value in demonstrating to people what America is like.  We can have these kind of emotional disagreements, then there‘s the law and we‘re going to follow it. 

MATTHEWS:  So you don‘t think that jury‘s inability to reach a unanimous decision for death showed a lack of guts or lack of will? 

GIULIANI:  No. .  I would never say that.  I‘ve prosecuted many cases.  I‘ve been in court many times and I was on the jury myself.  I have great respect for the jury process.  From everything I can tell about these people when I testified in front of them, these were very serious conscientious people.  They reached the result they thought was the right one.  You and I may disagree with it.  I do.

MATTHEWS:   Do some people get on to juries involving capital cases that shouldn‘t be there because they‘re not really vetted properly. 

GIULIANI:  I can‘t say that happened here though.  Of course that happens.  Either way some people get on because they have—they have an agenda against the death penalty.  Some people get on because they‘re going to impose the death penalty no matter what. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this question.  The man who is now going to face life imprisonment without parole, probably solitary most of the time, said on his way out of the court room tonight, this is Zacarias Moussaoui as he was led from the courtroom he said, “America you lost,” and clapped his hands.  Your reaction to that.

GIULIANI:  He is wrong as he has probably been wrong for a very long time.  America won tonight.  America demonstrated something that the places that he came from, I doubt they‘d be able to demonstrate, and not a lot of places could demonstrate.  It demonstrated that the legal system that we have that was so—that we would like to see the rest of the world have something like it, it works, that it works to be fair even if we disagree. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)             

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a reaction to HARDBALL from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

We‘re joined right now by Edward MacMahon, one of Moussaoui‘s defense attorneys. 

Let me ask you, what do you think of what was just said by Rudy Giuliani, Mr. MacMahon, about your client, that the greater value would have been if he had been executed? 

EDWARD MACMAHON, MOUSSAOUI DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I mean, that‘s the mayor‘s opinion.  The jury disagreed with him.  Everybody in this country is entitled to their own opinion. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we are all going to hear it tonight.  Let me ask you, Mr. MacMahon, do you believe that congratulations are in order for the defense team now that he got life instead of death? 

MACMAHON:  No, I don‘t think congratulations are in order.  This was a very difficult case to try.  We‘ve got memories of victims and families having to deal with it all the time.  I agree with everything the mayor said about justice being served in this case. 

We were asked to defend the constitution and to defend Moussaoui.  And that‘s what we did.  And, no, I think that to say congratulations in this circumstance would be entirely inappropriate. 

MATTHEWS:  Will you appeal? 

MACMAHON:  I‘m not going to appeal anything.  The guy pled guilty to a sentence that exposed to life in prison and he got life in prison. 

MATTHEWS:  So there‘s no appeal beyond this?  This is just going to happen.  He had only a choice between two punishments. 

MACMAHON:  Yes.  That‘s absolutely correct.  Now it is not to say that somebody someday won‘t figure out some reason to try to appeal this sentence, but it won‘t be me. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

MACMAHON:  Well, because I don‘t think there‘s any grounds for an appeal.  He pled guilty.  The judge accepted his plea.  And he was sentenced to life.  I mean, the only appeal you could take would be an appeal in which he asked to be executed. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he want to be executed?  Do you know?  Or could you—was it too hard to read your client‘s thinking here? 

MACMAHON:  Well, I made a lot of arguments to the jury in this case, and I told then no matter what Moussaoui says, don‘t ever forget the reason he came to our country was to die.  And if you think he changed that plan at some point in time or another—these al Qaeda members, Chris, it is something that none of us could ever understand.  These guys wake up in the morning thinking of ways to die. 

MATTHEWS  Well, you‘ve been close.  How would you say if he were to write for a history book, what moved him to do what he did, to help bring us toward 9/11? 

MACMAHON:  Well, I mean, that‘s a...

MATTHEWS:  Is it religion?  Was it angry? 

MACMAHON:  There‘s a lot of grievances in the Muslim world against American foreign policy.  You could read a book by the former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Scheuer, which details many reasons why a lot of Muslims think America is the ultimate evil in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it because of our lifestyle or because of our support of Israel?  What is it?  What is it that gets to them most, exploitation of their oil? 

MACMAHON:  Well, if you‘re asking me specifically about Moussaoui, I don‘t know.  But, I mean, with the Muslims it mostly deals with the bin Laden.  I shouldn‘t say the Muslims.  It mostly deals with our support for Israel.  I mean, look, the American troops are out of Saudi Arabia.  Bin Laden attacked New York and Washington partially because he wanted the American troops to leave Saudi Arabia. And guess what?  They‘re gone. 

MATTHEWS:  But they were there at the time of 9/11. 

MACMAHON:  They were.  That‘s what I‘m saying.  So why would they continue to attack and have all of this rhetoric against us, if it was just because of the presence of the troops? 

MATTHEWS:  Describe the man you worked with in his defense.  What was Moussaoui like? 

MACMAHON:  He is an impossible human being.  He doesn‘t cooperate with lawyers.  He doesn‘t trust lawyers.  And frankly, he was never at any point in time interested in the defense in this case.  The ultimate—it is almost helpful, actually, if you‘re a lawyer to have a client that you don‘t to have talk to, that you can just do whatever you want. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he a bad guy? 

MACMAHON:  Oh, there‘s no question about it.

MATTHEWS:  Or is that too hard to say?  He is a bad guy, objectively, objectively?  It‘s not just a question of a different culture, a different background, a bad upbringing, it is not about religion and religious belief.  You believe objectively, he is evil? 

MACMAHON:  Anybody who could sit in that courtroom and listen to a human being describe losing their loved ones in the way that they did and find it amusing, yes.  That‘s a bad person.  You don‘t have any—nobody on this defense team ever stood up for Moussaoui as a person.  And we admitted he was here on an al Qaeda mission.  This was a different kind of a case to try as a defense lawyer. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you tell your family when you say you‘ve got to go to work today, I have got to defend Moussaoui?  How do you say that to your loved ones? 

MACMAHON:  Well, you know, I have children that have asked me that question.  And you know what I tell them is what I told the jury in this case is that this case --  in many ways, has nothing to do with Moussaoui.  It is up to us as the American people to decide what to do with this guy.  And if we are going to have a fair trial and a complete trial, then it requires that lawyers—I was appointed by the court to try this case—who will perform that function.

And, you know, I can tell you, I often hear people say, you know, have you been threatened, have you heard any bad words?  And the truth is that I haven‘t.  The American people know that our legal system requires lawyers.  I‘ve heard what Mayor Giuliani was saying.  He‘s exactly right, that justice would have been done in this case if the jury had come back the way he wanted or this way.  Because it is up to the jury to decide.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much Mr. MacMahon.  Edward MacMahon, who was the defense attorney in this case. 

When we come back, we‘ll talk to Kristin Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. 

Plus, former 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben Veniste, and later, reaction to the Moussaoui verdict from two New York leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and U.S. Congressman Peter King.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Al Qaeda co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole this afternoon.  Let‘s get reaction from Richard Ben Veniste, who served as a 9/11 commissioner.

Your reaction, sir. 

RICHARD BEN VENISTE, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  I think the jury came to a just verdict.  I am very proud of the system.  I am proud of the judge, the prosecutors and the defense in this case. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it overreached to go for death? 

BEN VENISTE:  I don‘t think so in the case of this kind.  It was a stretch, I think, on their theory.  And I think Moussaoui tried to commit suicide by confessing to facts that were patently absurd. 

MATTHEWS:  He wasn‘t the 20th hijacker, in other words. 

BEN VENISTE:  He never was the 20th hijacker.  Conceivably, if one of the pilots had bailed out at the last moment, they might have called upon him.  But there is no indication that...

MATTHEWS:  He never got the training, he couldn‘t have done it.

BEN VENISTE:  ...that they trusted him.  He was incompetent as a terrorist.  He was incompetent as a pilot.  He stood out where others were discrete.  He got himself arrested.  He was a person who was totally unsuited to being a conspirator with others.

And so they never trusted him and they never—there‘s no indication that they gave him the kind of information that he could give up.  He was a ticking time bomb.  He was here to commit murder and to kill himself, but he never got the opportunity.  He never got that far. 

And so the system, I think, sort out between what he was here, what he wanted to do, what his bizarre fantasies here, and what the reality was.  And I think the verdict is one that‘s supportable.  I was very encouraged by what I saw earlier today from the families of victims of 9/11 who I have come to know and worked very closely with. 

And these people are just wonderful human beings who listened, who reasoned.  And although there are splits in their views as to whether death penalty was appropriate here—and let me interject by saying I support the death penalty. 

I think it is appropriate for people who inhumanely kill others, innocent women and children, who take lives indiscriminately for a just society to take their lives.  So I believe in the death penalty.  I didn‘t think that the facts in this case justified it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about the jury‘s decision tonight, but it is interesting.  There‘s two contradictory, it seems to be as a layman, not a lawyer, findings by the jury.  One was that he wasn‘t responsible.  This is one of the aggravating factors. 

They found him not guilty basically.  They couldn‘t reach a unanimous decision on whether he had something to do with the people who died on 9/11.  He didn‘t think—they didn‘t think, the jurors as a group, that he was responsible for people by the thousands being killed that day. 

The same jury, the same verdict, came out and said in sentencing tonight but he was responsible for all the damage done on 9/11, the buildings falling down, people getting hurt.  What is that?  That doesn‘t sound consistent. 

BEN VENISTE:  I think it is an inconsistency.  I was—I also took note of the finding that he wasn‘t a major person involved.  And perhaps, at the end of the day, that precluded the unanimous finding for the death penalty.  All of this ...

MATTHEWS:  If you had been in the jury, what would you have done, based on what you know? 

BEN VENISTE:  Well, I never would have been on the jury based on what I know.  But I would have found his invention of a conspiracy between him and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, of which there was absolutely no evidence that we had ever seen.  And indeed, there was stipulation. 

MATTHEWS:  So what was his game there?  Why was he trying to build up his guilt? 

BEN VENISTE:  Because he wanted to die.  He wants to die as a martyr. 

I mean, this man will say one thing one day, one thing and the other thing. 

He is a despicable human being. 

And it is a tremendous credit to our system that 12 individuals can conclude that despite how despicable and disgusting his comments were—insulting, unremittingly insulting, comments and a man who was here to take lives in the United States, nonetheless, they can do justice and sentence him to a very severe punishment of life in prison without parole.  That, for this man, in my view, is a far more serious punishment than taking his life. 

MATTHEWS:  It was stunning to hear his own defense attorneys say he came to this country to kill. 

Richard Ben Veniste is going to stay with us, and when we return, we‘ll be joined by Kristin Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Richard Ben Veniste who served as a 9/11 commissioner, and we‘re joined right now by Kristin Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks. 

Kristin, thank you for hanging on tonight.  In our earlier edition tonight in HARDBALL, you raised an issue which grabbed a lot of attention from Michael Isikoff, the investigative reporter.  It‘s something I didn‘t know.  We have in our detection, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh.  Tell me about those two men and what role you believe they played in 9/11.

KRISTIN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW:  Firstly, I would like to say three people, three individuals, that had a more direct connection to the 9/11 certainly than Zacarias Moussaoui, they are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Khaled Benatash. 

One of them, Binalshibh, actually made a self-admission on Al-Jazeera television that he was, you know, connected to planning the attacks and carrying through those attacks.  We have him in our custody somewhere in the world.  And most likely, because of what we have done during the interrogation of those individuals, we are unable to prosecute them. 

And I just want to say one thing.  I‘m hearing a lot of talk about being in awe of the American judicial system.  I‘m hearing talk about America winning here.  The reality is—and I don‘t want to detract from the work that the jury did and I‘m very grateful.  I certainly would not have wanted to be in their shoes. 

But the reality here is that we prosecuted the wrong guy.  The people that should have been prosecuted by our Justice Department with regard to 9/11 are the people in our custody right now, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Khalad Benatash.  And we, the American people, need to start asking some very pointed questions to the administration why we are not prosecuting them. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard Ben Veniste, why are we not prosecuting them? 

BEN VENISTE:  well, I think there are probably a few reasons, one of which is the methods that were used to extract the information, as far as know, from Khalid. 

MATTHEWS:  Who approved those uses, those methods? 

BEN VENISTE:  I think that was from the top of the government.  And one can argue about that.  And we don‘t know today how much useful information was obtained.  We know some information that was corroborated.  Of information that we had, some new information, some information that conflicts.  That‘s between Shaikh Mohammed and Binalshibh. 

The one person who I think there is no ambiguity about is the man who

is still at large, Osama bin Laden.  And in listening to the horrifying

stories of individuals like Kristin who have come forward and testified and

been our friends and our companions in this fight to get all this

information out over the years, Osama bin Laden is at the top of the food

chain.  He remains at large, taunted us to this day.  And that is part of

where we need to go to get to closure

MATTHEWS:  But how do we get to bin Laden?  He‘s in somewhere in Pakistan, up in Malakand somewhere right now,  We don‘t know where he is, do we? 

BEN VENISTE:  Well we have diverted a very significant part of our armed forces, our capability, our treasure elsewhere following 9/11.  And so Osama still remains the person most responsible for this attack. 

Number two is the person in our custody, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.  So those individuals, rather than Moussaoui, who was at the most, a marginalized bit player here to do damage and to take lives, but not trusted by the others and not privy as far as I know to any information that would have allowed him to know the time, the individuals who were involved for such an attack.

MATTHEWS:  Kristin, who holds the secret to the rest of the 9/11 investigation?  Who was the one person you‘d like to get to turn him or her to really make it happen, to get the full story?

BREITWEISER:  You know, clearly I think we have the information in our own governmental files.  Whether you want to talk about the 28 pages from the Congress‘s report that deals with terrorist funding from certain foreign governments. 

Whether you want to talk about the CIA inspector general‘s report that is being withheld from the American people, the full FBI inspector general‘s report with regard to 9/11 still being withheld. 

Whether you want to talk about Richard Clark.  He did a post mortem in the days after 9/11 at the request of President Bush and apparently even Commissioner Ben Veniste and the rest of the commissioners were not privy to that report.  It‘s been admitted to that the report was done.  It apparently, no one can seem to find that report.  And I think the American people could clearly benefit from it.

MATTHEWS:  Have you been to see the president?

BREITWEISER:  Me?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BREITWEISER:  I‘ve never been invited, no.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Richard Ben Veniste and Kristin Breitweiser.  Up next, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.  And later, reaction from U.S. Congressman Peter King of the Homeland Security Committee.  He is also from New York.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person tried in connection with 9/11 was sentenced to life in prison without parole today.  He will not be executed.  Here to give us his reaction is New York Senator Chuck Schumer.  Senator Schumer, you‘re right there.  You‘re at 9/11, you‘re at Ground Zero, you know the people who died.  What‘s your reaction?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Well my reaction is that the death penalty clearly would have been appropriate.  If it ever was appropriate, this kind of situation is the case. 

But the fact that he will be in jail the rest of his life surrounded by Americans, not be a martyr, is the other side of it.  So I would have, if I would have voted, I couldn‘t sit in the jury.  But I probably, looking at it from afar, would have preferred the death penalty.  But this is an bad verdict.

MATTHEWS:  Take me right now, Senator, into the cab drivers of New York.  The cabs of New York, into the saloons of New York tonight.  What are they saying?

SCHUMER:  They‘re probably saying what I said.  They would have preferred the death penalty, but sitting there in jail, no life parole, no martyr, all right.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve had Kristin Breitweiser on, she‘s become quite celebrated as a fighter for her husband‘s loss.  She said today, as did Mike Isikoff, one of the best investigative reporters around, as did Richard Ben Veniste, there are still bad guys out there.  Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, you‘ve got Ramzi Binalshibh, and the other name I can‘t pronounce.  But are they going to be caught—they‘re caught, are they going to be brought to justice?

SCHUMER:  Well, you know, they‘ve been in military custody.  And at the beginning, no one questioned it because the first thing you want to do is interrogate these people, see what they know, try to prevent other terrorist incidents.

They‘ve been in military custody a very long time.  And I think at the very least, we‘re owed an answer as to what is going to happen with them.  Will they be tried as Kristin Breitweiser said?  Are they caught up in what they may—the policy decision that this administration has to make on what to do with all these people who are still in military custody.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s tougher than you.  She said, and Michael Isikoff from “Newsweek” is tough.  He said the reason we‘re not getting trials from these guys is the fear that if you get them in a trial, their defense attorneys are going to bring out the fact of how they were tortured, water boarding, all that stuff we‘ve been hearing about. 

The vice president on down do not want to take responsibility for those decisions.  Maybe the president, that‘s what is holding this up.

SCHUMER:  Well, it‘s possible.  We just don‘t know the answer.  The bottom line is that they can‘t keep them just in this limbo forever.  They either have to try him or decide to do something.  And sooner or later, they‘re going to have to decide that.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the New York soul right now.  I remember being up there in those—oddly wonderful months afterward where you get on the subway, like the J train, the bottom of Manhattan.  And there would be a guy playing the sax and everybody is kind of mellow.  And people were saying hello to each other who wouldn‘t have said hello to each other in a million years.  And there was a warm feeling.  What is the feeling in New York right now?

SCHUMER:  Well, you know, New York has bounced back.  And obviously, you look at the population, people are moving downtown. not moving away.  Our great fears in the months afterward that south of Canal Street would become a ghost town, they‘re gone. 

MATTHEWS:  SoHo is very packed.

SCHUMER:  Yes, everybody.  People are moving downtown, they‘re not moving away.

MATTHEWS:  My son‘s down there in college.

SCHUMER:  There you go.  But—so we‘re back, New Yorkers are resilient.  To say there isn‘t a scar in everyone‘s heart that will never go away, that we won‘t be the same, that‘s for sure.  New Yorkers live with that, we live deep in the back of our minds as we go forward, as we progress, that this happened, that this was terrible, that we have to do everything to prevent it from happening again.  It is not the same as it was before. 

MATTHEWS:  How does it work together?  We have got a criminal trial today, which led to life without parole.  We‘ve got a war going on in Iraq right now.  We‘ve got a war on terrorism, which is a general kind of condition we‘re in right now. 

It was said of the Democrats, they thought upon terrorism as a crime, not as a political or a military threat.  They were wrong.  Is that a fair shot, that Democrats looked upon terrorism as a crime under Clinton? 

SCHUMER:  I think Democrats looked at terrorism as a war as well.  I mean, I don‘t think—it is not a crime in the sense that you kill large numbers of civilians.  It is like a military action, which is supposed to bring the capitulation of a nation.  A crime is directed for some kind of economic gain or to get at a particular group of people.  It is—I mean, you may disagree on how to fight a war on terror but it is a war.  It is a war. 

MATTHEWS:  When you drive home—when you fly home...

SCHUMER:  And it is going to be with us.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re unique because you fly home to New York every couple of days. 

SCHUMER:  I do.

MATTHEWS:  And you look out that left side window, if you‘re on the left side, and you see the bottom of Manhattan. 

SCHUMER:  Still can‘t get over it.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think? 

SCHUMER:  I look out my window in Brooklyn—I live in Brooklyn.  Looks out over lower New York Harbor all the time, all the time, you say, those towers used to be there.  In fact, I was married at the top of those towers. 

MATTHEWS:  At the windows of the world.

SCHUMER:  The top windows of the world.  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president of the United States.  Do you think that he was right today when he made his statement?  He didn‘t talk about any further prosecutions.  He talked about this as if this were a closure.  Is it? 

SCHUMER:  Well, again...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ...condemnation in the sentencing of Moussaoui.

SCHUMER:  I don‘t think it is enough of a closure.  Because Moussaoui may have been involved but he was not at the heart of this.  There is not going to be closure here until bin Laden is captured or killed. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the senior senator from New York.  That young lady up there is the junior senator.

SCHUMER:  Indeed.  Indeed.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, he is going to be joining us.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back on HARDBALL talking about the life sentence without parole given to co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in the bin Laden case. 

We‘re joined now by U.S. Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. 

What does this do to you in New York?  Do you feel more like you can sleep better in New York now that you got one of the killers? 

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Well, I certainly supported the death penalty. 

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re with everybody else tonight. 

KING:  Yes, strongly.  I had approximately 150 friends, neighbors, constituents who were killed on September 11, many people in my parish, my neighborhood.  And almost all of them—and I don‘t want to speak for the victims—but almost everyone that I spoke to of the victims‘s families strongly supported the death penalty.  I did.  If there was ever a case where a person was evil incarnate, it was that day. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?  What did Moussaoui do to the people in the streets of New York?  What do they believe he did? 

KING:  That he was part of the overall conspiracy.  And even, no matter how large his role was, he was part of the conspiracy to kill Americans, to kill New Yorkers.  He knew what was going to happen, didn‘t try to stop it.  He was over here for the purpose of killing Americans.  So he was part of that bin Laden gang.  And a result of that, if anyone deserves to die—and I do support the death penalty—it was Moussaoui. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of his crack on the way out of the jury room, out of the trial room today when he said, America, you lost and clapped his hands? 

KING:  I think no matter what the verdict was, he would have said that.  If he had gotten the death penalty, he would have said you lost because I am going to become a martyr.  I just think he always has to show or try to show that he is on top, that he is better than we are, that, you know, we‘re the infidels and he is—that he‘s better than we are.  And I think it sustained him. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess you‘ve answered my question.  Because I was going to ask you this question when we asked to you come on.  Because you do speak for the regular guy out there in the boroughs of New York and that part of the country, the ethnic America, the Irish guys. 

When they‘re sitting around tonight talking about this and Friday night, this weekend, what are they going to be saying about this trial, that the jury may have wimped out, the jury wasn‘t tough enough, the guy gamed the system by saying please execute me and the jury said no we are not going to do it, that is what you want?

KING:  I don‘t think there is going to be any anger toward the jury.  I think what you are going to see is people feel that it probably was a tough decision, and they decided not to go for the death penalty.  I think people can understand it in a way. 

I think friends of mine would have voted for the death penalty.  But anybody can understand a juror being in that position.  And if there was any doubt at all, whether he was really involved, so I think they can understand why the jury didn‘t do it. 

I don‘t think you are going to see anger toward the jury.  I really don‘t.  They are going to feel this guy got off though.  Even though, he is going to be locked in a basement.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it is horrible.

KING:  But still he‘s alive.

MATTHEWS:  Apparently, they don‘t give the guy food directly.  We were learning this tonight.  I was watching Dan Abrams, that they put him in a room and then they have a separate room between the room and outside.  They put the food in then they open the vault to the food like a rat. 

He goes out and eats his plate of food then he gets back in his room, his cage.  And then the plate is removed by somebody when he is out of the room.  He doesn‘t have any human contact at all. 

KING:  No, he will be pretty much locked by himself for the rest of his life, which, I think, he deserves, if anyone does.  No, this is not an easy sentence by any means.  I do think, again, in the sense of justice, that a death penalty was more appropriate. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the questions raised here by Michael Isikoff of “Newsweek.”  I know you know him.  He is one of the best investigative reporters around. 

That there are three other people out there that deserve to be tried in this case, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called architect of 9/11, and this other fellow—what‘s his name? -- Binalshibh and there is another guy, and they‘re all part of the actual conspiracy of actually blowing up the buildings that day with the airplanes, the closer even in than this guy was, Moussaoui. 

And then the argument is the reason we haven‘t gotten these guys on public trial so far is because they were tortured with the approval of the top of our administration here and they were water boarded or whatever all of these horrible ways are of getting the truth out of people.  And the administration doesn‘t want us to have that kind of a trial because it will open up all of those wounds.

KING:  Yes, I think they need to make a policy decision up front.  Do you want to preserve someone for trial or do you want to get information out of them that could save American lives?  And I use the example if we had captured Mohammed Atta on September 9. 

Would you have opposed water boarding him, if you knew that there was a plan out there that was going to kill thousands of Americans but you didn‘t know where it was going to come from?  I mean, it is easy to sit back four and a half years later and say well, we shouldn‘t have done this.

MATTHEWS:  But does that explain why nobody wants to have a trial?

KING:  I don‘t know if we could convict these guys at a trial because all of the evidence we got from them was extracted... 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see what you mean.  So you don‘t think it is so much people trying to cover for what they did and they approved what somebody wouldn‘t like them doing.  It is that would taint the evidence. 

KING:  Yes, because this would be a criminal trial in the United States.  Remember, once the investigation focuses on you, you have to be advised of your rights, you haven‘t go be given an attorney.  Obviously, we didn‘t do that.  And I‘m glad we didn‘t do it with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. 

So I mean, and that—I believe from what I‘ve seen, I believe that the interrogation we did of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has saved a good number of American lives.  And to me that was a price worth paying.  There is no easy choice with this. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I make a suggestion to you? 

KING:  Yes sir.

MATTHEWS:  Because we‘re friends. 

KING:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they get U.N.—now that you have got plans now.  Larry Silverstein has got plans to build the new World Trade Center.  It was in the paper today.  They are going to actually have a new World Trade Center.  They are going to fill up all of those space and have big tall buildings. 

Why don‘t they make the United Nations go down there and be there?  So that if anything happens again, they decide to try it again, the whole world is captive to it?  I would love that. 

KING:  Actually it is, you know, again...

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t it be good?  Because then you would be blowing up the whole world, not just us.  And you would force these guys to choose sides, the U.N. 

KING:  And it would make U.N. really focus.  It would not just be an academic debate anymore.  This would be for real.

MATTHEWS:  Terrorism is for real guys.

KING:  It would really be life and death.  It would not just be New Yorkers or Americans, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And I could put you down for putting the U.N. at the new World Trade Center. 

KING:  I think it would be, again—Yes.  It would be a good idea to give them a wake-up call, to let them know what we have to live with day in and day out, while they are up there on 42nd Street... 

MATTHEWS:  You are a man of great dignity and great prudence sir. 

Thank you, Peter King, the United States congressman from New York. 

When we return, we will get the scene inside the courtroom today from NBC‘s chief justice correspondent Pete Williams.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Al Qaeda co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui gets life imprisonment without the possibility of parole this afternoon. 

Let‘s go now to NBC News chief justice correspondent Pete Williams, who was at the courthouse when the verdict was delivered. 

Pete, what do you make of the seemingly inconsistent rulings by the jury in the sentencing on those aggravating factors? 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  I think what they found is yes, the killings were terrible, yes, it was clearly pre-planned but there is a question about how much of a role Moussaoui played in it.  And perhaps for that reason they took that aggravating circumstance out. 

Remember, it wasn‘t just an aggravating factor that said the killings were especially brutal and heinous, it was that Moussaoui‘s actions caused the killings to be especially heinous and brutal.  And I think that they felt that his—the answer to that question comes later on when they say that his role in the planning and the actual execution of the attacks was so limited you can‘t blame him for that.  That, I think, is the way to explain it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about when they said that his actions were responsible for the damage done on 9/11, September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, but not for the killing? 

WILLIAMS:  I think what the jury is saying is—and I understand it‘s a good question and frankly I asked it of some of the lawyers afterwards, too. 

And their view on it is this, the jury is saying that they accept the government‘s argument that if Moussaoui had told the truth when he was arrested, roughly a month before the attacks, then maybe the FBI could have stopped one of the hijacked planes from taking off or maybe the FAA could have prevented the hijackers from one plane boarding at the airport. 

So that Moussaoui‘s actions directly caused deaths on 9/11, but what the jury is saying, while that is true, while he could have perhaps prevented one of the planes from taking off, his actual participation in the plan itself was so limited and so tangential that you can‘t punish him with the death penalty.  That seems to be the jury‘s thinking here. 

MATTHEWS:  If you will, the other victims—the other suspects in the case that have to have their trials considered in the future? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, you know, the prosecution twice in its closing argument talked about that because one of the factors the defense asked the jury to consider was look at the guy who is trial.  He is a want to be.  He did not have a direct role. 

And where is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsey Binalshibh, the pay master?  Where are the people that the government says were the masterminds?  Where were they?  And why aren‘t they on trial? 

And what the prosecution hasn‘t said here is don‘t you worry, members of the jury, their day will come.  So at least the government lawyers in court were kind of laying down a marker here that they haven‘t totally ruled out trying these folks. 

Now in what form?  They didn‘t say, whether that would be a military commission, whether that would be—it seems unlikely that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would ever be coming to Alexandria, Virginia, to stand trial.  But some kind of possibility.  And I think that is one thing you have to look at.

Now that‘s a little different from anything the government has ever said in the past.  So the government has laid that marker down, and I think we‘re going to have to see in the days to come how serious the government was about that. 

But, you know, I think the best analysis of the jury‘s verdict is this.  You look at what they said.  It seems, I think—we don‘t know for sure, but there were 12 members of the jury.  It would seem that the verdict here, Chris, was 9-3.  We don‘t know that for sure, but that‘s the best reading of the ballot. 

MATTHEWS:  So let me go back to the whole judicial part of this deal of the war on terrorism, where we‘re reaching what seems to be an important point here, the sentencing to life imprisonment without parole of Zacarias Moussaoui.  Is this really the end of the story for a while, in terms of the judicial proceedings? 

WILLIAMS:  For 9/11, yes.  Remember, he‘s the only person ever charged in a U.S. courtroom for 9/11.  Other terrorism cases, we may will see.  And there will continue to be other terrorism cases.  But in terms of 9/11, I think you‘re right, that‘s really it. 

We‘re going to hear from Moussaoui one more time tomorrow.  His formal sentencing is tomorrow morning back in the same courthouse in Alexandria.  He has the right, as anyone does at the sentencing in a criminal trial, to speak.  And then that is the last we are going to hear of him.  I don‘t think you are going to see Moussaoui do interviews or anything else because he will be held under such tight restrictions.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Great report tonight for NBC‘s Pete Williams.

Join us again tomorrow night.

Coming up right now is “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN.”  It starts right now.

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