Guests: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Carlos Gutierrez, Michael Chertoff, Joe Sestak, Duncan Hunter, Perry Bacon, Jill Zuckman, Kate O‘Beirne, Ron Reagan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trimming the Bushies. First it was Rumsfeld, now there‘s Gonzales and Wolfowitz. Will Cheney and Rove be the last ones standing?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Goodbye, Gonzales. The drumbeat quickens for the attorney general to walk the plank. Day after day, senator after senator tells the hapless AG to jump. Is this just another sign that the ship of state‘s become a drifting raft?
A Wolfowitz in sheep‘s clothing—has the president of the World Bank now lost the backing of the president of the United States? Has his war buddy in the White House had it with his Iraqi Svengali?
E-mail man—will Karl Rove, the man who delivered Bush to office, beat the congressional demand to turn over his electronic messages about firing those eight U.S. attorneys?
And finally, is this immigration bill declared today just another well-wrapped package that ends up legalizing the millions already here illegally and does nothing to stop the hiring of the millions more who come across the border tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?
We‘ll talk to Senator Chuck Schumer about the calls for Attorney General Gonzales‘s resignation in a moment. And later, immigration with 2008 Republican contender Congressman Duncan Hunter. But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two days after former deputy attorney general James Comey testifies how Alberto Gonzales tried to steamroll Justice Department objections to the warrantless wiretap program, today the issue confronted President Bush. Gonzales had pressured then attorney general Ashcroft while Ashcroft was in intensive care at this hospital. The president was asked if he had sent Gonzales.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kelly, there‘s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn‘t happen. I‘m not going to talk about it. It‘s a very sensitive program. I will tell you that one—the program is necessary to protect the American people, and is still necessary.
SHUSTER: After that dodge about the hospital visit, NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell tried again.
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Was it on your order, sir?
BUSH: As I said, this program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress.
SHUSTER: For whatever reason, the president gave up a good chance to deny without giving up classified information that he sent Gonzales to Ashcroft‘s hospital bed. As for the wiretap program itself and the briefings President Bush mentioned, Gonzales was one of those congressional briefers, and last year he told Congress that nobody in the administration ever had any objections to the program. With Comey‘s testimony that every top Justice official in 2004 objected, including John Ashcroft from his hospital bed, Gonzales is facing more accusations of misleading Congress.
And more Republicans are pushing Gonzales toward the exit door. Today Minnesota senator Norm Coleman said Gonzales should resign. Yesterday, Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel said in a statement, quote, “the American people deserve an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet the standard. He has failed this country.”
Kansas senator Pat Roberts told the Associated Press, quote, “When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it.”
President Bush has insisted that Gonzales is not going anywhere, but that support is not stopping the firestorm of controversy. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee ordered Gonzales to turn over all Justice Department documents and e-mails to and from Karl Rove related to the firings of federal prosecutors. Despite confusion on this point Wednesday night, Gonzales now says almost everything has been given to Rove‘s lawyer, Bob Luskin, even though the documents belong to the Justice Department.
Rove is linked to the dismissal of at least five prosecutors. Furthermore, once the scandal erupted, Rove coached Justice Department officials on how to testify, and the officials then misled congressional committees about the firing.
There are other documents unrelated to Rove that the Justice Department is keeping from the public, and according to “The Washington Post,” those documents show that Gonzales‘s office last year considered firing at least 26 prosecutors, not the eight prosecutors Gonzales claimed in testimony to Congress last week.
Meanwhile, an architect of the Iraq war, Paul Wolfowitz, has acknowledged causing problems at the World Bank. Wolfowitz is under fire for arranging a pay and promotion agreement for his girlfriend, and today the World Bank worked on his resignation.
BUSH: I regret that it‘s come to this. I admire Paul Wolfowitz.
SHUSTER: As deputy defense secretary, Wolfowitz helped lead the case for war with Iraq. He suggested it would pay for itself and made no plans for the occupation. Despite charges that Wolfowitz was incompetent at the Pentagon and in how he handled his girlfriend at the World Bank, President Bush today offered Wolfowitz nothing about praise.
BUSH: And so I applaud his vision. I respect him a lot. And I say, I regret that it‘s come to this right now.
SHUSTER (on camera): As Wolfowitz prepares to go, Alberto Gonzales by contrast seems more determined than ever to stay. So Senate Democrats are ratcheting up the pressure, preparing a no confidence vote on Gonzales for as early as next week.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Late this afternoon, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined the intense drumbeat of other prominent Republicans, including Senators Chuck Hagel and John McCain, who are calling for Attorney General Gonzales to resign.
For more on that Gonzales drumbeat, we turn to Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which heard James Comey‘s testimony Tuesday. Senator Schumer, you and Senator Dianne Feinstein are talking about calling a no confidence vote to remove the attorney general from office. When do you think that vote will be?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, we‘ve spoken to Senator Reid. We hope it can be sometime next week. The bottom line is the only person probably in America who thinks Alberto Gonzales should stay as attorney general is George Bush. And so a no confidence resolution I think might force his hand. So many Republicans—now Norm Coleman—have called for his resignation. Many more have said things, saying that they have no confidence in him. On the Judiciary Committee, composed of very conservative Republicans, by and large, only one member hasn‘t been critical of Gonzales.
MATTHEWS: In terms of your membership on the Judiciary Committee, would you and other members be considered—would you consider not calling him as a witness again? Is there any other steps you can take to signify your displeasure with his performance?
SCHUMER: Chris, there‘s no purpose for calling him as a witness again. First, he doesn‘t answer the questions. His credibility is low. And then he says he doesn‘t know what‘s going on anyway. I mean, he is a man who—I mean, I don‘t know if he‘s—he seems to me to be a nice man, but he‘s totally over his head in this job. His answers show that he doesn‘t answer directly. He tries to evade the questions. And he doesn‘t belong in one of the most important agencies our government has.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Comey testimony. I‘ve never heard anything so...
SCHUMER: Me, either.
MATTHEWS: ... I guess the word is Gothic. I mean, it seemed like it was out of “The Godfather,” where they went to the bedside of the attorney general, who was so ill that he couldn‘t even perform his duties, and tried to get him to sign a document.
SCHUMER: Right. Well, as you know, Chris, I‘ve known Comey a long time. I helped get him to be the—or approved as U.S. attorney position in New York. And when we met with Comey, my staff did, it was clear that he had a burden on his shoulders. He was outraged by what happened. He‘s a good soldier, and he didn‘t want to say anything, but once we asked him the questions, it sort of came forth like a dam through water.
It‘s an astounding story. I haven‘t heard anything like it in my years in government. You‘d think it was fiction, you‘re right, from something like “The Godfather.” But what it shows is two things. It shows Alberto Gonzales has no place as attorney general. Everyone seems to see that, liberal or conservative. When John Ashcroft, one of the most conservative people around, whose instinct always is to try and, you know, be part of his team, says that he has to resign, something is very rotten in the state of Denmark. And Alberto Gonzales seems to be oblivious to all of this.
MATTHEWS: Well, who sent these Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters to the hospital? Who sent them? Was it the president, the vice president, who was it?
SCHUMER: Well, that‘s the $64,000 question. Comey mentioned that both Cheney and Addington were for going around the legal way of doing this. The office of legal counsel is the Justice Department‘s lawyer, and they said that this was not within the law, and Cheney and Addington still pushed it. Did they recommend to Gonzales that he go to ill John Ashcroft‘s bedside and try to elicit this signature? If they did, there‘s serious stuff, and we‘re going to pursue that, as well.
MATTHEWS: How do you find out who gave them their orders, or gave Comey his—who gave those two their orders, Gonzales and Card?
SCHUMER: Comey clearly doesn‘t know. We could ask Gonzales, and that might be a reason to bring him back, but I don‘t know if we‘d get an answer. He‘d probably say, Oh, I don‘t know, I don‘t know, it was vague, I can‘t tell you.
MATTHEWS: Well, Andy Card‘s not protected by privilege anymore. He‘s out of office. Is that...
SCHUMER: The White House will probably ask for privilege for any of these people, to try and delay the truth coming out. But the best thing that can be done now is for the president to sort of come to his senses, at least in this regard, and tell Gonzales he ought to go. And by the way, Gonzales ought to have the good sense to resign. I mean, he is causing such trouble for the department he‘s in charge of that this idea of stubborn refusal just because you want to be stubborn doesn‘t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the former—or the recent—or actually, he‘s still in office—the deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty, who worked on the Hill for all those years. He came to your House in sort of an ex parte...
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t? I‘m sorry.
SCHUMER: I know you said that the other day, but that...
MATTHEWS: Well, correct me, sir.
SCHUMER: ... was news to me. That was news to me. I don‘t—he has never been to my House. The House I live on in D Street with Dick Durbin and George Miller and Delahunt, I don‘t think he‘d want to step foot in.
SCHUMER: He‘s never visited me in Brooklyn, and I don‘t have any other homes.
MATTHEWS: How do these stories get started? Did you ever have a meeting with him on an ex parte or side meeting with him...
SCHUMER: Well, I‘ve...
MATTHEWS: ... where he came to explain himself?
SCHUMER: Look, I‘ve known McNulty for a long time. We‘re not friends, but we have professional respect. He was the ranking Republican on the crime subcommittee when I chaired it and we passed the crime bill in the House. I did have a phone conversation with him, which has been publicly reported, about asking him to come clean and tell us what went on here. And to his credit, he did.
If you divide Justice Department officials on two sides of a line—nothing to do with liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican—but people who put the rule of law first and people who put politics even above the rule of law, Comey, Ashcroft and McNulty fall on the positive side of the line, where they put rule of law first. Gonzales and a few of the others fall on the other side.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president made Alberto Gonzales attorney general because it would look good for obvious reasons and he‘s a friend of his for obvious reasons, he served with him so many times—but that he was put them as a cipher, as somebody to do what he was told, not to really be a cabinet member?
SCHUMER: I think the latter is it. In a place such as this, where Vice President Cheney and his staff had such tremendous interest, they wanted somebody who would provide no resistance. Even John Ashcroft had provided resistance. Obviously, Comey had provided resistance. And they just wanted a yes man, and that‘s what they got.
That‘s exactly—of all of the cabinet positions, that‘s the one where there should least be a yes man because rule of law comes first. The attorney general, unlike all the others, doesn‘t just follow the president‘s orders, but he‘s the chief law enforcement officer of the land. And the antics, what we saw went on, is reminiscent of something in a third world dictatorship, not in the United States of America. And it‘s hard to believe that the president and his inner circle doesn‘t quite get that. But I do think...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that Cheney could have been the one who sicced him on Ashcroft in his sickbed?
SCHUMER: It‘s possible...
MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney.
SCHUMER: It‘s possible, and I‘d love to find that out. I will say this. The momentum is growing for Gonzales to step down. Norm Coleman called for it late afternoon. There are now six Republican senators who have, about a dozen more have said—even Pat Roberts yesterday said that they thought he ought to step down on his own. The drumbeat is running. And I think this no confidence resolution will be something that will pass and send a very strong message to the White House.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us, Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SCHUMER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. They helped senators craft a deal on immigration today, late today. Can it really fix the problem?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Bush and a coalition of U.S. senators say they have a deal on immigration. What actually passed Congress? Will it actually solve the problems of illegal immigrants? Carlos Gutierrez is the secretary of commerce, who‘s also the former CEO of the Kellogg Corporation and a Cuban immigrant himself. And Michael Chertoff is the secretary of homeland security.
Secretary Gutierrez, can you tell us this bill, if enacted, will solve the problem of illegal immigration?
CARLOS GUTIERREZ, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Well, this bill is designed to solve a lot of the problems we have today and to confront a dysfunctional system, a system that is not working and to put it in order. So it secures the border, works very much on getting the border right first, provides a temporary work permit, looks at a way of legalizing those who qualify who are in the U.S. Without granting them an automatic path to citizenship. We have an employee verification system.
Very importantly, we‘re making a strategic shift from an immigration system that‘s been primarily driven by family connections exclusively, to one that is driven by what is in the national need and what are the job skills that we need going forward. So this goes a long way, and it‘s a great step forward.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Secretary Chertoff. Let‘s imagine I‘m running a small delicatessen on Connecticut Avenue in Washington. I know which one I‘m talking about. I won‘t mention the name. And I need to hire some people to work in my deli. Now, a couple people come in the store looking for jobs. One has a Spanish accent. I may have reason that they‘re legally or illegally, but they‘re a recent arrival. And then another guys walks in, he looks like he was born in America. He‘s got a very American accent, et cetera, et cetera. How do I distinguish between the two of them? Do I ask them both for tamper-proof ID cards? What do I do to make sure I‘m not breaking the law?
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Here‘s what the system is going to be, Chris. For people who are here as temporary workers or here on some kind of an immigration visa that‘s not a permanent visa, they will get a tamper-proof card, and they‘ll present that to you if you have a delicatessen.
For everybody else, there‘s a system that you can access on line. It‘ll require you to you ask for some identification, like a driver‘s license and some kind of a Social Security card or perhaps a passport. You‘ll be able to check the information there against databases, vital statistics or driver‘s license databases that actually allow you to compare the picture. So there‘ll be a reliable, quick and efficient way you can do the verification simply using your laptop and going on line over the Internet.
MATTHEWS: So there‘s no—there won‘t be a way to cheat. There won‘t be a way for a person to say, I‘m here—you know how it works now, Mr. Secretary. You know all about the problems. There are states like the Commonwealth of Virginia that issue driver‘s licenses on flimsiest of documentation. There are people using those ID cards, those driver‘s licenses, to get on airplanes. How do you stop the use of fictitious or flimsy documentation? You say that...
CHERTOFF: That‘s part of a larger problem which we‘re addressing in a number of ways. But as it relates to the workplace, we‘re basically anticipating every employer is going to have access to the Internet. What you do is, you use the documentation that‘s presented and you compare it to the underlying information or copy of the document in the original database. Now, it‘s never impossible for a highly sophisticated criminal or spy to find some way to play around with that system. But for the very vast majority of people, which is what we‘re worried about, it‘s going to be extraordinarily difficult to game that kind of a system.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez, is it—is it your confident belief that, if this law is enacted into law, it‘s signed by the president, that this will prevent illegal immigration?
GUTIERREZ: Well, yes. This—this law will replace a system that invites illegal immigration. So, the whole idea here is to put some order into our system to stop the illegal immigration, and to also recognize that we have a growing economy.
And, if we‘re going to grow in the future, we need a legal, orderly system of immigration. And that‘s what this is designed to do. Every developed economy in the world is going to have to embrace immigration. If we can do this right, Chris, this will give us a tremendous competitive advantage going forward.
MATTHEWS: Do you think you have the support of Republican members of the House, sir?
GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, the question was asked recently to Senator Graham, and he said that he expects an overwhelming majority to vote in favor of this in the Senate.
We‘re going to work very hard with the House. The important thing is the logic here. This is a bipartisan bill. This finds that middle ground that the president has been talking about. This is the best bill that we have come up with. This is the way forward.
MATTHEWS: Secretary Chertoff, will this prevent or make it more difficult for people to come in this country illegally who—who want to do damage to our country, to kill us?
CHERTOFF: Sure, because what it does is, it allows our Border Patrol and our enforcement agents to focus on the people who are dangerous, who we want to stop at all costs, rather than chasing people who want to be landscapers or maids or...
CHERTOFF: ... who are currently coming in to do economic work.
MATTHEWS: Well, I hope it works. I‘m a big believer in liberal enforced immigration policy. I hope you get to be both on this.
Thank you very much, Secretary Gutierrez...
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... and Secretary Chertoff.
Up next: Does the immigration idea have a chance in the House?
Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, and Duncan Hunter of California, a presidential contender, is going to be here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Will this new immigration bill really stop illegal hiring?
U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, is a 2008 presidential candidate. He‘s also ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. And U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak, he‘s a Democrat from Pennsylvania, also sits on Armed Services. He‘s also a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Let me go to Congressman Hunter.
You just left a meeting with the president on Iraq. Let‘s get to that first. Anything new, in terms of the surge? Is it working? Will we know soon? Where do we stand?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, this was—the president was listening to a number of the—of ranking Republicans.
I gave him my—my position on Iraq, which he—which he‘s already been given in the past, but that was simply this. Everything in Iraq depends on the reliable stand-up of the Iraqi army. And there‘s 129 battalions in the Iraqi army. Every one of them needs to get a three- or four-month combat tour, an operational military tour, where those—those combatant commanders, those battalion commanders, exercise their chain of command.
They—they have to exercise their logistics capability. And, when they are proven reliable, by—by undertaking a three- or four-month operational tour, they can start to rotate into the battlefield, displace American heavy combat forces, American heavy combat forces can come home.
So, everything depends on developing a reliable Iraqi army. That means we have to get all of them into the operation. That was my—my point to the president. He‘s heard it before, but I wanted to make sure that—that I believe that this is a time to ensure that every one of them gets into the fight.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Sestak, just on that point, are you confident that an army that has not been able to do the job will be able to do it in a reasonable period of time, that we can actually have them replace us over there?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: No. I—I respectfully disagree with the congressman.
The most important issue is not the military. I mean, we have trained 325,000 of their military. Half of them do not show up each day, half of them.
Second is, the most important issue is much like General Petraeus and others have said. It‘s about political reconciliation. We‘re merely having our military provide the military cover and political cover for their ministries to get personal fiefdoms of power.
The only strategy that will work is a date that says we won‘t be there, stop this culture of dependency, work with Iran and others, who don‘t want a failed state.
Ambassador Crocker, when I was over there recently with General—
Senator Hagel, said, Iran does not want a failed state.
So, therefore, we need to work with them, because they control some of the extremes, when we‘re not in there anymore, bleeding profusely, like they want us to, to bring about an un-failed state. There is a strategy, but it depends upon leading with a political confidence, not our military.
Let me go back to Duncan Hunter.
Congressman, let me ask you this question about border. You‘re very much—I saw you in the debate the other night on FOX. You were very strong on the issue of building that fence across the Southern California border with Mexico. You believe it worked.
Will this new bill the president presented today with his coalition of senators, including McCain and Kennedy, do the job of stopping illegal immigration?
HUNTER: Well, I don‘t think it will, because the bill cuts my fence in half.
And—and, when we passed this bill, which I wrote in October, passed by the House, the Senate passed it 80-19. It provides for 854 miles of double fence across the smuggling corridors of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
You have to put that fence in place. When we put that fence in place in the number-one smuggling corridor in California, it worked great. It has knocked down smuggling in that sector by more than 90 percent.
So, the Senate bill, off the bat, more than cuts the Hunter fence in half. I don‘t like that. And, so, you‘re going to have the same porous border. You‘re going to have a lot of—of fancy phrases and subsections and sections of new statute, if this thing should pass and be signed by the president, which the world will totally ignore.
And, since we had the last—the last amnesty, we have caught, in 19
in 2005, we caught 155,000 people coming across from Mexico who weren‘t even citizens of Mexico. They came from every part of the world...
HUNTER: ... including communist China.
So, the world is watching our southern border, as long as they recognize that it‘s open. When we pass a bill that gives people the impression there are new benefits to be had in the United States—and that‘s the Senate bill—you will have a stampede for the U.S. border that will overwhelm our border forces.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Sestak, are you going to vote for this bill the president has put together with people like Kennedy and McCain?
SESTAK: I haven‘t seen all the particulars, but I believe I will support it.
Let me just speak about the wall. You know, a wall is something that we should not do. Again, I respectfully disagree. If somebody...
HUNTER: It‘s not a wall. It‘s—it‘s two fences with a road in between.
SESTAK: If I might just, sir. If—they will tunnel underneath it or they will climb over it.
Let‘s do what we do in the military. Let‘s get our unmanned air vehicles, Global Hawk, that can see thousands of square miles with a smart sensor, and look down, and then link the information, because it can tell the difference on radar between a coyote and a human being. It links it down to a command center. And then we efficiently send out a Humvee to intercept them.
Second, however, I think that what we need to do is begin to enforce some of our employer problems. Think about it. Since the end of the Clinton administration, until 2004, we used to have, at the end of the Clinton administration, 182 employers who were facing prosecution.
But, no, now in 2004, only four had we enforced. So, no, this effort by them to have more employer enforcement about illegal immigration is good.
And, second, we need to take a step forward in order to have the right process in what is truly a practical issue of 12 million...
HUNTER: Let me—let me respond to that. Let me...
SESTAK: If I just might finish.
You have 12 million illegal immigrants here in this nation -- 12 million. Are we going to find 200,000 buses, when, only recently, we were able to go to four businesses to find the illegal immigrants?
We need to have...
SESTAK: ... secure our borders by smart military technology, and, second, have a very serious way to make sure people get to the end of the line, and appropriately pay fines and back taxes, and then move forward...
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman...
SESTAK: ... at the end of the line.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Hunter, last word.
HUNTER: Let me respond to that.
First, the—my—my good friend makes a point that‘s made by lots of people who don‘t understand the border. You can‘t have simply surveillance systems, because the coyotes will bring, as they have in the past, 1,000 people to the border. They will blow the whistle. You don‘t have to have a surveillance system that blows the whistle. They will blow the whistle. A thousand people come over at one time.
And, unless you have a reaction force that can take 1,000 people coming across the border at one time in what they call the banzai raids, you will not be able to stop them. You have to have an impediment. The impediment that has been proven, that was designed by Sandia Laboratory, is a double fence that means that a smuggler has got to come over the first fence, cross a Border Patrol road, and then sit with down his welding gear and cut through the second fence.
That gives you time to—to catch them. You have to have an impediment. And it works in San Diego. We have reduced smuggling, by 90 percent, of people and narcotics.
HUNTER: Let‘s do what works.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congressmen Sestak and Hunter.
SESTAK: Thank you.
HUNTER: Thank you.
Up next: Can this immigration plan pass? Keep—can Alberto Gonzales stay where he is?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closed lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average losing ground for the first time in five sessions. The Dow felt almost 11 points, the S&P 500 down one point. And the Nasdaq dropped eight points.
Stocks were hurt by a forecast of slower economic growth. The index of leading economic indicators fell a larger-than-expected five-tenths-of-1-percent. First-time jobless claims fell last week for the fifth straight week. Analysts were expecting an increase.
Another gasoline refinery breakdown and the shutdown of a gasoline pipeline caused a surge in oil prices, even though both problems are expected to be fixed today. Still, crude jumped $2.31 in New York trading, closing at $64.86 a barrel.
And 30-year mortgage rates climbed to their highest level in five weeks, inching up to a nationwide average of 6.21 percent.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Attorney Alberto Gonzales took yet another hit today, when Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota called for him to resign.
Coleman said testimony from former Deputy A.G. Comey this week contributed to his decision. Comey testified that former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales went to John Ashcroft‘s hospital bed to get approval for a White House-backed wiretapping program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
COMEY: ... the department as a whole, was unable to be certified as to its legality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Today, President Bush was asked if he had a role in dispatching Card and Gonzales to Ashcroft‘s hospital bed.
Here‘s the question and the answer with NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: There‘s been some very dramatic testimony before the Senate this week from one of your former top Justice Department officials, who describes a scene that some senators called stunning, about a time when the wireless—or when the warrantless wiretap program was being reviewed.
Sir, did you send your then chief of staff and White House counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft, while he was ill, to get him to approve that program? And do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Kelly, there‘s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn‘t happen. I‘m not going to talk about it. It‘s a very sensitive program.
I will tell you that, one, the program is necessary to protect the American people, and it‘s still necessary, because there‘s still an enemy that wants to do us harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, how long will the President Bush stand by Attorney General Gonzales?
I‘m joined right now by Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune” and Perry Bacon of “The Washington Post.” We have got heavy hitters here.
Well, that‘s the question. I have got six Republicans who have sort of begun pushing, McCain, Hagel, Roberts, Sununu, Coburn, and Coleman. The list keeps growing, senator after senator, day after day, pushing this guy to quit.
JILL ZUCKMAN, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE CHICAGO
TRIBUNE”: This is the classic Washington tale that refuses to go the way it‘s supposed to go.
Normally, something bad happens. There is testimony. The president says, “I still support the guy.” And then the person resigns.
And—and this attorney general will not leave. And I...
MATTHEWS: But he‘s being pounded like a pinata.
ZUCKMAN: A pinata, definitely.
MATTHEWS: They just keep banging him. And there‘s no candy coming out.
MATTHEWS: This guy is hurting.
ZUCKMAN: And—and—and next...
MATTHEWS: And this is a horrible position to be in.
ZUCKMAN: And, next week, that pinata is going to fall to the ground, and everybody is going to jump on it.
MATTHEWS: Oh, a prediction here on HARDBALL. Jill...
MATTHEWS: ... render that...
ZUCKMAN: Well, next week...
MATTHEWS: ... prediction fully here.
ZUCKMAN: ... the Senate is planning on taking a vote of no-confidence on the attorney general.
MATTHEWS: Has this ever been done before? I have never heard of this.
MATTHEWS: It seems so British.
ZUCKMAN: It‘s a little unusual. You don‘t have it every day. I‘m sure it‘s happened in the past. It‘s not happened any time recently.
I think the senators feel so frustrated that so many details have come out of the Judiciary Committee of bad goings-on at the Justice Department, and—and the head isn‘t—of the Justice Department is not taking responsibility and not stepping down. I think they feel like they have no other choice at this point.
MATTHEWS: You think there will be a vote next week, and you think it will be a majority vote, and you think it will bring about his removal; he will quit?
ZUCKMAN: I think—I think that there will be a vote. There will be a majority vote, more than a majority vote.
And I don‘t know whether he will quit. He certainly hasn‘t given any
any indication that he‘s willing to do so.
MATTHEWS: Perry, what do you think?
PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: If we have 80...
MATTHEWS: This guy gets beaten up harder every day. There‘s—I mean, we had Chuck Schumer on tonight from New York. There‘s not a whole lot of sympathy for this guy now. I mean, they‘re getting really rough with him.
PERRY BACON, STAFF WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: If you have 70 or 80 senators voting against him, which I think is a fair possibility next week, it would be very hard for him to continue his job after that. He‘s weathered the storm so far, in terms of --
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s be (INAUDIBLE) about this. Where does this fellow go? He got put in this very high position, attorney general. It will be the number one achievement for his life, probably. It would be for anybody. How does he walk away and say, well, now I‘m going to go away as a beaten guy, kicked out the door. Where do you go with any pride? Isn‘t it his interest to be tough and stand there and say, I don‘t care what you do? What‘s he got to gain by quitting?
BACON: To some extent I agree with you. I think Harriet Miers sort of took a fall for her job after the Supreme Court nomination. She sort of disappeared from Washington and is back in Texas. So, to some extent, he doesn‘t have a lot of to lose by standing here and standing his ground and forcing the president, whose been loyal to him, to make him resign. I sort of see your point there.
MATTHEWS: You know, Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court took a beating worse than anybody in town. He‘s a conservative African American. He took a hit from the left and the center and he had a few people behind him. But the man just stood there and stood there and stood there. And he‘s still on the Supreme Court. So maybe the rule is take it.
ZUCKMAN: Well, that‘s a lifetime appointment.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he could leave with the president in January of 2009, with the cabinet.
ZUCKMAN: Or he could step down. If he does step down, my prediction is that he goes back to Texas and some friend of President Bush‘s either installs him in their law firm or their company?
MATTHEWS: You are from Chicago, aren‘t you. This sounds like the kind of thing we might expect from that city. Let me go through the names of the people who have called for his resignation, or begun to push. The big names are McCain and Hagel. Pat Robertson is pushing in that direction, Sununu, Coburn and Coleman.
A number of these gentlemen face re-election difficulties, Sununu up in New Hampshire. They lost both Republican congresspeople up there this time. Do you think people are moving in their own interests here?
BACON: Of course.
MATTHEWS: They just punch this guy like a punching bag. They just keep doing it because it makes them look more independent?
BACON: There are senators like Arlen Specter who are criticizing, who I suspect is—Arlen Specter‘s not running for reelection. He‘s sort of criticizing because he generally feels that Gonzalez has misled him frequently. He‘s been complaining about him for quite a long time.
MATTHEWS: OK, give me some insight here. What did he do? I heard some theory about this. Why is Specter—you look on his face, he is so tough when he‘s talking to Gonzalez in his last testimony. What is that about? Is that that he have a hand in squeezing Arlen Specter over the issue of saying he wasn‘t going to bring up judge nominations that would get rid of Roe. v. Wade, and he got in trouble with the party for that?
BACON: I think it‘s a lot of things. I think, you know, Specter‘s been head of this Judiciary Committee for a long time, and throughout this process, he is constantly frustrated with the White House, because they won‘t talk to him. They won‘t listen to him about when he objects to this. And in terms of this warrantless warrant program, Specter was very concerned about it. He kept asking the White House for information. He never got it. He‘s been very frustrated for a long time with Gonzales in particular. So I‘m not surprised that he‘s after him now.
MATTHEWS: One last thing. We‘ve got a little bit of business here. The president and a number of people like Kennedy and McCain brought out this immigration bill. I am admitting right now I‘m a cynic, a skeptic. I have watched this stuff over the years. They pass these big comprehensive bills with lots of language attached to them, like we‘re going to be an English-speaking nation, all this stuff people want to hear. And in the end the people who get legalized get legalized and they continue to flow over the border.
We can put the NBC cameras down there tomorrow night, after this bill‘s passed, and there will be people cutting their way through that fence. As long as there are jobs in this country that people will hire you for, people are going to come here. If you can make 200 bucks a week here and 20 bucks in Mexico, or nothing there, or in Guatemala, you‘re coming here. And we all would too. So does anybody here think we‘re going to enforce employer sanctions and really make it illegal to hire people illegally?
ZUCKMAN: It may depend on who the next president is.
MATTHEWS: Will this bill do it?
ZUCKMAN: I don‘t know. Nobody knows. They just put it out there.
MATTHEWS: Why should anybody sign a bill you don‘t know is going to work?
ZUCKMAN: Well, you know, they sat. They hammered it out.
MATTHEWS: Kick the can down the road one more time on issue of illegal immigration.
ZUCKMAN: There is incredible political pressure on every member of Congress back home to try to do something. Now whether this is the something—
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you what the do something is in most of the southwest, in the Anglo districts—
ZUCKMAN: A fence.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thanks Jill, I like your Chicago thinking. Pay off Gonzales with a job back home. Anyway, thank you Perry. Thank you for joining us.
Up next, can Alberto Gonzalez keep his job. HARDBALLers Kate O‘Beirne
We‘re going to go another round on this one with Ron Reagan and Kate O‘Beirne. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The conservative “National Review” called for Alberto Gonzalez to go. More than six weeks ago they did. Today, the “Wall Street Journal” stuck by him. It said that the attacks on Gonzales are much ado about nothing, very Shakespearean. He is still there, by the way. How much is this hurting the president.
Kate O‘Beirne is a HARDBALL political analyst and, of course, Washington editor of the “National Review,” and Ron Reagan is a radio talk show host out in California. Ron, is this story percolating west of the Rockies or is this a inside beltway story? Gonzales, will he survive?
RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, it‘s not an inside the beltway story any more. This is certainly national. This testimony of James Comey I think is really potentially fatal to Gonzalez. Of course, I thought he was going to leave six, eight weeks ago. I thought he would be long gone by now, but he‘s hung on.
This is now, as you saw in the press conference clip that you showed with Kelly O‘Donnell, this is coming back to the White House now. Who sent Andy Card? Who sent Alberto Gonzalez To the bedside of John Ashcroft to strong arm him? Did it come from the White House? It seems to have. Did it come from President Bush? That‘s another question.
MATTHEWS: It seems to be more Cheney‘s M.O. myself. But that‘s just my hunch, having watched this guy for so many years. But you‘re right. And it isn‘t a national security question, Kate. The president could have given an answer to that question. That wouldn‘t have divulged any secrets, just to say, yes, I told them to do it, and they did it.
KATE O‘BEIRNE, “NATIONAL REVIEW:” Well, of course, I‘m stuck inside the beltway and Ron is out there, but I still would find it hard to believe that this is breaking through outside the beltway.
MATTHEWS: OK, suppose the word actually got out that the president ordered two guys to go to a guy‘s sick bed, whose comatose practically, and make him sign something? Do you think that might be—and going around the acting attorney general, Comey, who said no, and the attorney general who is in that sick bed also said no. They sent him back in there around the other guy to try to get him to change his mind.
O‘BEIRNE: It‘s the same story—old story, actually, that‘s been recycled this week. James Comey said no. Nobody did anything like illicit. The orders from the White House were this has to be legal. Give us your best legal advice. I mean, there doesn‘t seem, although it‘s a dramatic story—there doesn‘t seem to be a there there, with respect to having manipulated the legal opinion.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think it‘s extraordinary behavior to send a couple characters into a hospital to try to get somebody to sign something?
O‘BEIRNE: If—let‘s hear what Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales have to say. And I think they ought to explain what they have to say.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the nice way to say it?
O‘BEIRNE: Whether or not that‘s what they were up to.
MATTHEWS: But this guy was formally his acting substitute. Comey was the attorney general, as Ashcroft made clear. If he‘s the attorney general, acting attorney general, the government should deal with him. Why would they go to a guy who is unable to perform his duties, says so, is in a hospital, had just got his gall bladder taken out the day before and try to work him?
O‘BEIRNE: Well, let‘s find out. I mean, he is the attorney general.
It was a temporary status, James Comey.
MATTHEWS: -- history of the movies, when the Godfather—and the kid, Michael, has to come save him from the goons coming in, from Barzini and the crowd. But I‘m not saying the vice president is Barzini. I wouldn‘t go that far. Yes, Ron.
REAGAN: With all due respect to Kate, I think there is a there there. You‘ve got James Comey. You‘ve got Mueller from the FBI, who have looked at this program and decided that it was illegal. They were trying—Card and Gonzales were trying to convince Ashcroft to sign off on something that a lot of people had considered illegal.
O‘BEIRNE: And Ron, their concerns were addressed and changes were made to bring it into accordance with the law.
REAGAN: Do we know what those changes were? Are you satisfied that you know exactly what those changes were? And what was going on before the changes were made? An illegal program?
O‘BEIRNE: The program was explained to committees on Capitol Hill. I haven‘t heard any charge that the program as currently constructed is illegal.
REAGAN: Was it illegal before they went to Ashcroft‘s room? Was it illegal then?
O‘BEIRNE: Cheney—I don‘t know what the program, because of the nature of it, being a national security program, Ron, you or I don‘t know exactly what the program looks like.
REAGAN: Maybe we should know.
O‘BEIRNE: But Congress, the NSA wiretap program, Congress, the congressional committees, the appropriate ones, have been—
MATTHEWS: God, I love this dialogue. David Mamet couldn‘t write this stuff. We‘ll be right back with Kate O‘Beirne and Ron Reagan. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We are back with our HARDBALLErs, Kate O‘Beirne and Ron Reagan. Well today on “The View,” Rosie O‘Donnell, no surprise here, compared the United States invasion of Iraq to a terrorists act, we being the terrorist. Let‘s take a look at the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “THE VIEW”: 655,000 Iraqis are dead. Who are the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are the terrorists?
O‘DONNELL: 655 Iraqis—I‘m saying you have to look—we invaded—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you calling terrorists?
O‘DONNELL: I am saying that if you were in Iraq, and another country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we killing their citizens, or are their people also killing their citizens?
O‘DONNELL: We are invading a sovereign nation and occupying a country against the U.N.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kate O‘Beirne, what do you make of that charge that we‘re the terrorists?
O‘BEIRNE: You go Elizabeth. Poor Elizabeth. You saw the look on her face. I don‘t think Rosie O‘Donnell‘s foreign policy views are too widely shared for good reason.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, it‘s tough to have her on your side, isn‘t it?
REAGAN: Yes, it can be at times. Let‘s sort of peel black the bluster there and talk about what she is actually saying though. We have killed a lot of civilian in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Now it‘s vital that we win hearts and minds in both of those countries. And you can‘t do that when you are randomly killing a bunch of civilians.
We have a big problem in Afghanistan, where soldiers have shot up families and then somebody show up with a wad of bills and hands them 2,000 bucks. So we killed your son. Here‘s 2,000 dollars, go away.
MATTHEWS: Ron, do you think we‘re randomly killing people in those countries?
REAGAN: Not as a matter of policy, but on the ground you have panicky soldiers who, when they come under fire, have been known, as you know, to drive down a street opening fire on any vehicle they see.
MATTHEWS: -- they are legal cases, because these soldiers have been charged, obviously. But you are saying beyond the ones charged, this is a practice over there?
REAGAN: I am saying it happens in any war, and you have to figure out a way to justly compensate the people whose lives you have destroyed.
O‘BEIRNE: Ron, it has happened less in this war than any war I can think of. And our own American troops put their own lives at risk in order to bend over backwards in order to protect innocent civilian lives.
REAGAN: Well, some do and some don‘t, Kate.
O‘BEIRNE: It‘s a very unfair charge against our military. And Rosie O‘Donnell, not withstanding, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are wholesale targeting innocent civilians.
REAGAN: I agree. I am not sticking up for terrorists. And I‘m not saying that our military are terrorists. That doesn‘t make any sense. But we do have a problem with killing civilians in these countries?
O‘BEIRNE: But we bend over backwards to keep it to a complete minimum.
REAGAN: Let‘s hope so.
O‘BEIRNE: -- as humanely as possible.
REAGAN: Let‘s hope so. We certainly should.
MATTHEWS: Well, the unfortunate reality of these kinds of comments by people like Rosie O‘Donnell and the comment made by Ron Paul the other night is they allow the people who support the war to turn into cartoons those that oppose it. Is that a problem, Ron?
REAGAN: It is a problem, yes. I mean, Rosie O‘Donnell is not the spokesperson I want for the anti-war movement. She just goes too far. Calling our military terrorists is simply factually untrue. It‘s not what they do. But we do have an issue here, as I said. And that should be addressed, but not by Rosie O‘Donnell.
MATTHEWS: Well there is always a distinction between those who criticize U.S. policy, between the nationalists, I being one of them, and those who don‘t like America. And they use every opportunity they can to take a shot at America. I do think there is a nationalist argument, a very pro American argument that it was a mistake to go into Iraq. And it‘s also a price we are paying over there, with regard to killing a lot of people. On international television, people are sometimes in bystanding situations.
Kate, do you want to offer some nuance, or are we all in this together or what? You were bowing your head in support for my words.
O‘BEIRNE: I think you make an excellent point. I don‘t think people with legitimate concerns, either about the initial toppling of Saddam Hussein or the conduct of the war, ought to be pointing to Rosie O‘Donnell, ought to be tarred with Rosie O‘Donnell.
MATTHEWS: I think we have to distinguish between the nationalists critics and the non-nationalists critics. Anyway, thank you very much Kate O‘Beirne. Thank you Ron Reagan.
Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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