May 1, 2013
Guests: Morris Davis, Erica Lafferty, Dan Klaidman, Vinsen Faris
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Friends.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Whose side are you on, the side of a
terrorist who attacked hundreds of people, killing three, wounding dozens
and dozens more, or are you on the side of the country you`re living in,
the country you`ve come to study in, learn from, become an adult in, on the
side of the person identified as the killer or on the side of those he
killed and those he deliberately tried to kill?
Well, before someone starts singing "That`s What Friends Are For," I
encourage a deeper grasp on what we may well be looking at here because
it`s disturbing enough we have two brothers here suspected of turning on
the people of the country that gave them a home. Well, now we have the
prospect of another trio trying to cover it up, hiding a suspected mass
terrorist who could well have gone on to more mass terrorism. This is
serious, even if the suspects weren`t.
Pete Williams is NBC News chief justice correspondent. Pete, this case,
it`s hard to read. What can you read in it? We have three new suspects, a
couple of them for hiding -- obstructing justice, perhaps another for not
telling the truth to federal investigators.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, everyone emphasizes here
that there`s no indication they had anything to do with the bombing itself.
There`s no suggestion here that they knew about it in advance or were in
any way involved in the bombing. This all has to do with what happens
And according to the FBI, these three were all friends of the younger of
the two bombing suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. And they say that after the
bombing, they were texting with one of the -- the younger bombing suspect
and said that the pictures that the FBI had put out looked a lot like him.
And according to the FBI, he texted back, "lol," and "take whatever you
want from my dorm room."
They say they went to the dorm room. They took out a backpack. They
looked inside, saw that it had empty fireworks tubes. And so they decided
to take the backpack and they took it to their apartment, the two -- the
two students who were here on student visas took it to their apartment in
New Bedford. And this is what the FBI says was inside. The FBI eventually
But they say they kept it at the apartment and then after they saw the news
reports Friday morning that the two bombing suspects had been identified as
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, they decided to throw the backpack away.
And the FBI says it found it five days ago in the landfill in New Bedford.
Now, the two are the exchange students, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias
Kadyrbayev, and the third person who`s identified as an American citizen,
Robel Phillipos of Cambridge. They`re charged with -- the two exchange
students are charged with obstruction of justice. Phillipos is charged
with making misleading statements to investigators because the FBI says, at
first, he denied any of this, and then later admitted it.
Now, their lawyers -- they`ve had a brief court appearance, Chris. Their
lawyers came out and said they were not trying to cover up a bombing, that
they had no idea that these things were of evidentiary value, that --
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what they would say.
WILLIAMS: And that`s what they did say, so --
MATTHEWS: Yes, and it`s also what they would say. It`s called a defense
WILLIAMS: Right. They completely deny the charges. And they say they --
they sympathize with the people of Boston and they are as shocked and
horrified as anyone.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this. Is the another charge they could have
been hit with -- for example, accessory after the fact?
WILLIAMS: If -- yes. If the FBI was convinced that they knew about the
bombing and did this in order to cover it up. But the charges don`t go
that far. And you know, Chris --
MATTHEWS: Why not? Let me just try a point of law here. If we know they
covered up the backpack and very well, presumably, because they knew it was
part of the evidence because they saw it on TV, they saw everything on TV -
- that`s why they went over to the dormitory to remove this stuff -- what
other possible motive could they have had except to help this person avoid
WILLIAMS: Well, my understanding of it is it goes to their state of mind.
You know, we`ve known that the FBI was looking at these young people for
the last week or so and trying to decide whether this was simply turning a
blind eye or -- or having some additional knowledge.
The FBI does not allege in these court documents that the younger Tsarnaev
told them he was involved in the bombing. This was their own suspicion.
They thought, Boy, you know, maybe he might have been involved. We better
do this. And I think that may be the dividing line.
But of course, remember, that the government can always revise these
charges later if it learns more.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. That`s why I asked because the government put the
face out of the Tsarnaev brothers in order to help apprehend them --
MATTHEWS: -- and these people took that information from the FBI being
on television and used it to help them get away with it.
WILLIAMS: That certainly --
MATTHEWS: I mean, this to me isn`t -- this isn`t some casual thing of -- I
mean, it seems to me it was a deliberate act to go to the dorm, a
deliberate act to hide the stuff, a deliberate act to put it in the
dumpster, and they were caught.
WILLIAMS: Well, that`s certainly the way --
MATTHEWS: Now they`re saying they didn`t want to -- they didn`t want to do
what they obviously did want to do, which was to help this guy they knew
get -- here`s a larger question. Do you think the FBI is trying to
establish their mindset in terms of Islamist terrorism? Is there any
evidence, since they came from Kazakhstan, which is an Islamic-dominated
area, that they may have shared sympathies with the jihad?
WILLIAMS: If that is their suspicion, there is absolutely nothing --
WILLIAMS: -- in court documents today about anything of that nature.
It`s limited solely to their actions. But a couple other things emerge
from the court documents, Chris, that I should just mention here.
WILLIAMS: One of the most interesting things, I thought, was that one of
them said that he and Tsarnaev and some of their other friends set off
fireworks a couple of months ago along the Charles River, and the two
foreign students said that a month before the bombing Tsarnaev told them
that he knew how to make a bomb.
MATTHEWS: Wow. And they did find the material. They found the fireworks
that had been emptied of the powder.
WILLIAMS: They -- they found the empty fireworks tubes in his backpack,
and decided, according to the FBI -- the FBI puts it -- the FBI puts it
very squarely. They say right then and there, the students decided that
Tsarnaev must have been involved and they were going to hide this
information to help him. Of course, his lawyers, as I mentioned, denied
that that was their motive.
MATTHEWS: What`s interesting is something you said earlier, I heard this
morning -- later this afternoon, rather. The third suspect, who`s charged,
basically, with not giving honest testimony to the federal authorities --
he might face a larger penalty. Maybe it`s an eight-year term rather than
a five-year --
MATTHEWS: -- because that`s considered more serious, dishonest testimony
in an interview, than hiding evidence? That seems odd.
WILLIAMS: It`s -- it`s obstruction of justice. That`s a five-year max.
And lying to federal agents carries an eight-year max. You know, there are
strange reasons why the penalties are the way they are.
WILLIAMS: And I don`t know, as I say, whether down the road here -- this
is just the very beginning of a long process for these three -- whether the
FBI will file additional charges or what. They certainly can. The next
step will be an indictment before a grand jury. And the government could
file new charges anywhere along the line.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thanks so much, Pete, as always.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Great reporting. Pete Williams, justice correspondent for NBC
Anyway, the attorneys for two of the suspects gave a brief press conference
after the hearing. Here`s what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT STAHL, KADYRBAYEV`S ATTORNEY: Dias Kadyrbayev absolutely denies the
charges. As we`ve said from the very beginning, he assisted the FBI in
this investigation. He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in
Boston that took place as the rest of the community is.
HARLAN PROTASS, AZAMAT TAZHAYAKOV`S ATTORNEY: My client, Azamat
Tazhayakov, feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone that he
knew at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was involved with the
Boston Marathon bombing, just like many other individuals who were
interviewed on campus. He has cooperated fully with the authorities and
looks forward to the truth coming out in this case,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s one reason or two reasons not ever to be a criminal
Anyway, now for more on this story, retired ATF agent Jim Cavanaugh, who`s
an NBC News analyst.
I`m going to ignore all that stuff by those two guys. That`s what criminal
attorneys are paid to do. Fair enough, act like your clients are
completely and utterly innocent, even though they basically admitted all
Anyway, let me get to this question here of the evidence, the bombing
evidence, and how you put it together here, and of course, the question of
motive. We do think, based upon the conversations we`ve gotten evidence
from here, that the Tsarnaev brothers were moved by jihad. They had a
political agenda here.
It`s hard, in all fairness, to understand why these three kids helped them.
But it may well be part -- they may be part of it, as well. Your thoughts,
JAMES CAVANAUGH, FMR. ATF AGENT, NBC ANALYST: Well, I think you`re right,
Chris. I think their participation is clearly laid out in the complaint.
I think that`s probably exactly what they did. If they were around
Dzhokhar, you know, as friends and they were visiting his house, they heard
You know, you can`t be around a guy who`s immersed in that kind of
political ideology that Dzhokhar was and Tamerlan was and not hear their
talk. You`re going to hear their talk. You also --
MATTHEWS: And hear that he`s making -- he knows how to make a bomb.
CAVANAUGH: Right. He also said he know how to -- he knows how to make a
bomb. So when the pictures were released by the FBI and the task force,
they concluded, Oh, they must be the bombers.
You know, defense counsel says they were shocked. They were just shocked
too late. They were shocked too late. They first were getting rid of the
evidence, you know? But I think that`s their participation here is
obstructing and conspiring. And they`ve been caught at it, which is a good
thing for our fight against terrorism because you can`t help the terrorist
MATTHEWS: You know, I think the police are doing a good job here. I mean,
these people that are jumping them all over them at the press conference
the other night -- that`s what people have to do in our business. But I --
I am -- I am really impressed. I mean, they had -- they had a bead on
these guys back -- they had apparently, a violation of their visa
agreement, their student visa agreement.
They were holding them. They were -- now they`re offering rather low-level
charges to basically keep them from flight risk, I assume. And at some
point, they`re going to try to divine or figure out if they can go with
stronger charges perhaps involving their motive and perhaps their sympathy
for the bombing itself. Who knows.
But clearly, they`re doing this plottingly (ph), and they`re effectively
widening the information we`re getting about what happened here.
CAVANAUGH: Well, you`re exactly right, Chris. And we talked the other day
about it, but it`s leadership at all levels. And you know, just for a
sentence or two in your political world, you know, me being a cop, I mean,
you take people like Eric Holder and Bob Mueller, who are constantly being
beat up in the press and the Congress and everything --
CAVANAUGH: -- and they led the task force, and it`s a great job. I
mean, you`ve got to give them their due. They did a great job. And it`s
not easy on that end, either, or in Boston. The U.S. attorney did a great
job, the chief.
The follow-up here I think is excellent. I really don`t think there`s a
big mystery, what these players did today. The questions that really come
down to the commanders are, Where`s the hard drive? You know, I`m not
convinced -- I don`t know where it is. Maybe the agents even have the hard
drive. They just went silent in the complaint. They found the backpack,
and the stuff`s in the backpack. You know, maybe the hard -- maybe the
computer was in the backpack. So they could have it --
MATTHEWS: Well, what about -- what about --
CAVANAUGH: -- or they could have not --
MATTHEWS: -- the laptop? Where is the -- where is the laptop? I
thought that was part of the -- the material that was moved out of the
CAVANAUGH: Right. It`s not mentioned in the complaint. And the reason
that this was so serious, this obstruction -- remember, if Dzhokhar and
Tamerlan didn`t get in a shootout with the transit police and the Watertown
police, maybe they could have escaped. And these associates could have
reported them and say, These are our friends and these are the bombers.
But if you`re going to let them get away, you`re also going to let them get
away to bomb again because they had other bombs. So it`s more than serious
to let them get away.
MATTHEWS: What would you look for -- if you get ahold of that laptop, what
would you be looking for? Would you be looking for any contacts in the
former Soviet Union, somewhere in Dagestan? You`d be looking for any kind
of conversation with the mother of both of these young men? You`d be
looking for what else?
CAVANAUGH: Martyr video. I`d be looking for a martyr video. And I`m not
so sure that couldn`t have been made, you know, some time, may even be one
in Russia from Tamerlan. But certainly, all the interconnecting lines is
what the intelligence community and the counterterrorism center and the FBI
want. They want to know who you talking to domestically? Who you talking
to in Dagestan? What sites are you reading? We know they`re probably
reading "Inspire" magazine because the bomb is 80 percent blueprint out of
MATTHEWS: Which is al Qaeda.
CAVANAUGH: But all those things are critical. Yes. And all those things
could interrupt another attack. That`s why this obstruction is so serious.
It could have helped to stop another attack.
MATTHEWS: Let`s think like criminal investigators here. Why -- people
say, Well, kids are friends with each other and they -- it`s us against the
world. Don`t trust anybody over 30, in my generation, you know?
But the idea of watching -- watching the videos and what happened on
Boylston Street that day and looking at them and seeing this guy, who was
in school with you, came to college with you at the University of
Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and watching what we`re watching now, and then
seeing the horror of what happened there and realizing this was an act of
jihad and realizing this was a very deliberate, conspired event, which is
quite horrible and to do it in cold blood and realize that somebody you
know did this thing of blowing people`s legs off by the dozens, this
horrible thing against people who are also your fellow people in a diverse
crowd -- I`m sure there`s all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds
in that crowd today up in Boston. The city`s known for that -- and then to
instinctively go running over and try to help them cover up.
And this isn`t to me a friendship act. To me, it`s an act of enmity
towards the United States. I don`t know how you can see it any other way.
I don`t know how you can say, Well, it`s us against the world without
saying, It`s us against the world. In this case, the world, the United
States. Your view, if you care to offer one.
CAVANAUGH: Well, you know -- well, I think that`s the exact point here.
You know, this is not some kids covering up for a college dorm mate who had
a bag of reefer.
MATTHEWS: He didn`t blot his notebook (ph). He wasn`t hung over this
MATTHEWS: You know? I`m sorry.
CAVANAUGH: That`s right. It`s -- no, it`s exactly right. I mean, he told
them a month before, he made bombs. He probably heard some of his
fanatical talk. You know, when we`re close to people, we hear their ideas.
And also, he sees the picture. He sees the fireworks. The guy tells him -
- Dzhokhar tells him to take anything you want out of the room.
And the complaint says that he believed -- the student believed that he`d
never see him alive again. So clearly, he`s decided they`re the bombers.
I mean, that`s a seminal act of criminality to say, Now I`m going to help
my friend the bomber, the attempted mass murderer, the killer, the guy
who`s flinging a thousand BBs into a thousand people, I`m going to help him
get away. So that`s why the charge is so serious.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think the charges that have been made so far are
serious enough. I don`t think obstruction of justice is serious enough.
To me, it sounds like us disorderly conduct. I think lying to federal
investigators is the beginning of the problem.
He lied to protect his guilt. That`s why he lied. He didn`t just lie. He
lied in this case to protect guilt, or else why would he have lied? So
it`s the guilt, not the lying, that to me is the paramount issue here.
And if I`m a little fired up it`s because I do think it`s the wrong
reaction by American people and people living in this country under our
hospitality, damn it. They`re here because we let them here to study so
they can better their lives. And this is their reaction. This is what
CAVANAUGH: Well, it`s an important --
MATTHEWS: They took sides against the people that brought them here and
let them come and live amongst us and learn and become better adults,
ideally. Your thoughts?
CAVANAUGH: Well, I mean, you`re right. I agree with everything you said.
I think it`s important, too, against -- you know, America`s fight against
terrorists and terrorism that we`re going after people who would conspire
to help them get away.
CAVANAUGH: That`s a strong message, as well --
MATTHEWS: Get away scot-free.
CAVANAUGH: -- to everybody out there.
CAVANAUGH: You`re not going to get away --
MATTHEWS: Nobody`s --
CAVANAUGH: -- even you`re trying to help them get away.
MATTHEWS: Yes, nobody`s going to let me (ph) call them good friends after
this baby. Anyway, thank you, Jim Cavanaugh. I like the way you think.
CAVANAUGH: Sure, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Senator Pat Toomey says many of us believe, that some
Republicans voted against those wider background checks not because they
disagree with them but because they didn`t want to help or even be seen
helping President Obama. Why am I not surprised? Tonight, we`re going to
talk to Erica Lafferty, whose mother, of course, is the courageous
principal at Sandy Hook who died there defending those kids.
She confronted a U.S. senator, by the way, who voted against that
background check bill, and that was a tough moment for her but a much
tougher moment for the one she was talking to, the so-called senator.
Also, what do we do about Gitmo? This is a tough one, especially among
progressives. Republicans are demagoging the issue right now. No country
wants to take the prisoners that we have, and we can`t just let them go,
can we? But how long can the United States actually hold prisoners without
taking them to trial?
Also, Jon Stewart said it best. He always does. Congress only cares about
Meals on Wheels when those meals are coming down the aisle on a nice
airplane. Anyway, tonight, the head of the Meals on Wheels program himself
is coming here to talk about the suffering because of these cuts because of
And by now, everyone should know you don`t tug on Superman`s cape. You
don`t spit into the wind. And you don`t mess around with Governor Chris
Christie of New Jersey, as some New Jersey folks just found out.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s U.S. Congressman Ed Markey against Republican Gabriel
Gomez to succeed John Kerry in the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts. Markey
beat fellow congressman Stephen Lynch 57 to 43 last night in the Democratic
primary. And Gomez, a former Navy SEAL who is pro-gun, pro-assault rifle
and pro-life, took 51 percent of his primary against two other Republicans.
Gomez is already trying to paint Markey, a 37-year veteran of Congress, as
a creature of Washington, while Markey`s touting his record on the issues
that matter to Massachusetts voters most. The special election is coming
up June 25th.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Now we have proof. Listen to this. And never forget it.
The reason some Republicans blocked that gun background check legislation
is that they just couldn`t bring themselves to do anything that might help
the president, this from Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who`s a
Republican, who co-sponsored the legislation.
Here`s what Toomey told the editors at Digital First Media in the offices
of "The Times Herald" newspaper up in Norristown, PA -- quote -- "In the
end it didn`t pass because we`re so politicized. There were some on my
side, the Republicans, who did not want to be seen helping the president do
something he wanted to get done. Just because the president wanted to do
Wow. And the backlash against senators who voted against background checks
got personal yesterday. At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Senator
Kelly Ayotte faced what could likely be the first of some difficult
confrontations about her vote against background checks for gun buyers.
And the question came from Erica Lafferty, whose own mother was principal
of Sandy Hook Elementary School and was among those, well, in her case,
courageously murdered by gunman Adam Lanza. Let`s listen to their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA LAFFERTY, DAUGHTER OF SANDY HOOK SHOOTING VICTIM: I know that you
did take the time to meet with me in your office in Washington. (OFF-MIKE)
I did want to say thank you for that.
You had mentioned that day the burden on the owners of gun stores that the
expanded background checks would cost. I`m just wondering why the burden
of my mother being gunned down in the hall of her elementary school isn`t
as important as that? Why is that not something that can be supported?
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Erica, certainly, let me just say
that I`m obviously so sorry, and as everyone here, no matter what our views
are, for what you have been through.
As you and I both know, the issue wasn`t a background check system at Sandy
Hook. Mental health, I hope, is the one thing that we can agree on going
forward and getting done, because that seems to be an overriding issue in
all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But, as we will show you later, despite that exchange and the
polling, it is not at all clear which party has the advantage when it comes
Erica Lafferty joins me right now. Also joining me is former Pennsylvania
Governor and MSNBC contributor Ed Rendell.
Governor, thank you for joining us.
And, Erica, like everybody else who watched yesterday that standoff between
yourself and Senator Ayotte, we were very impressed, because you are
civilian, a regular person, not used to political exchange. And I think
you made your point quite well.
Tell us again what drove you to that particular moment and to that
LAFFERTY: I initially went up because I had seen her in her office the day
after she voted no, and was really just looking for an explanation as to
why she did that.
And just like she did yesterday, she avoided the question and just kind of
circled back to something that was completely irrelevant to what I was
MATTHEWS: It seems to me she does it -- in all fairness, she`s a
politician, like everybody else we cover. But she doesn`t seem to have an
answer, because she voted to allow the debate to go on only to vote against
the only thing on the table that might -- might pass. So you have to
wonder why she wanted the debate if she intended to make sure nothing got
I honestly just feel like she doesn`t answer any question. I think maybe
she is still unsure about why she voted, other than that`s what everyone
else was doing. It really just seems like she has no defense. Every time
she`s asked the same question, it`s a different answer over and over.
MATTHEWS: I assume you have come, given the tragedy in your family -- and,
again, your mother must have been an amazing person, an amazing person,
because to confront horror without any warning, without any sort of being
pumped up and just instantly know the right thing to do and to know your
human duty is an amazing thing.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the politics.
What do you think you can get done for your mom in the months ahead?
LAFFERTY: Background checks is what was recently on the table, and what
I`m hoping is the next thing to be brought back up. So, absolutely, I will
see that through.
You know, mental health, I have been saying since the very beginning that
that is a huge piece to this puzzle. So those are definitely my -- my two
main focus areas.
MATTHEWS: And let me bring in Governor Rendell.
And despite the hits that some senators are -- seem to be taking for
opposing expanded background checks, which to me seems minimal, it`s not at
all clear, Governor, that Democrats are the favorite party on guns. I like
the Quinnipiac poll. I got to believe it when it comes out, even if I
don`t like it.
Respondents say Republicans in Congress can do a better job of handling gun
policy than Democrats can. Now, it`s narrow, but after all this
controversy and the disagreement between the 90 percent who want background
checks and all the Republicans, what, 50 -- 46 of them voted -- you have to
wonder that disagreement doesn`t pay a price here?
ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s the way the
question is framed.
I think people don`t -- on handling the gun issue -- I think when the
question is, are you for universal mandatory background checks, people are
overwhelmingly for them. And I think the theory is that the people who
care about universal background checks, we`re all going to go away by 2014.
Only the rabid Second Amendment forces are going to vote on that issue.
They`re wrong. Let me make a prediction right now, Chris. Unless there`s
a revote, unless Kelly Ayotte changes her vote, she will not be reelected.
We are not going away. We are not forgetting about this. There`s a rally
at the borderline between Bucks and Montgomery County coming up a week from
It`s going to be a big rally. We`re not going to let this issue die. We
love the fact that Pat Toomey had the courage to take this on. But Pat
Toomey shouldn`t say it`s over. It`s not over. We can get a revote. We
can win this. We need Pat Toomey to stand up the way he stood up the first
And we`re not going away this time. Newtown changed so much for so many
Americans. People like me and Mayor Bloomberg have been working on it for
10 years. We now are joined by people who understand the issue.
The reason Kelly Ayotte -- I hope Erica understands that. The reason that
she has no answer is because there is no answer. There`s no good answer,
except I`m a coward or except I let partisanship get in the way of it
because I hate the president. Neither of those answers is acceptable.
MATTHEWS: You know, Erica, I think the calculation of people like the
senator you dressed yesterday so forcefully -- and I approve of everything
-- in fact, I rally to what you did -- is that their calculation I think is
this, what the governor just said, that, in the past, before what happened
up at Newtown, the people who cared about gun control like me when I wrote
a letter to my congressman after Bobby Kennedy was killed lasted a few
And then I cared more about the Vietnam War or civil rights. And I moved
around to other issues. I think that`s your challenge, Erica, to keep
people focused on the gun safety issue.
I`m not going to let people forget about my mom or forget about the other
five educators or those 20 kids. And it`s -- it`s disgusting that she`s
letting, you know, a personal vendetta against someone really just dismiss
the murder of my mother. It`s disgusting.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And to say that she cares more about the gun shop owners,
that was an amazing statement you brought out. Anyway --
LAFFERTY: Yes. She was concerned about their burden.
MATTHEWS: Keep it up.
RENDELL: And, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Yes, Governor? Last word.
RENDELL: Erica should know that there are -- Erica should know that there
are millions of Americans with her. We are not going away this time. We
are not going away. And that`s a message to Kelly Ayotte. It`s a message
to Rob Portman. It`s a message to a lot of Democrats, those four Democrats
who didn`t vote for us.
They better vote the right way if there`s a revote, and we have got to get
MATTHEWS: I think we need a permission structure, to use the president`s
latest phrase, to get these guys and women back in the game again.
MATTHEWS: A permission structure where they can find a way to say, I was
sort of right, but now I`m going to be really right. I`m going to do it
right this time.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Erica, it`s great to meet you. You are a star for me
right now, obviously. And your mom must have been unbelievable.
LAFFERTY: She was. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Ed Rendell, as always, sir, thank you.
MATTHEWS: We will be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Governor Chris Christie, of course, has a reputation for speaking his mind.
And, yesterday, we got some vintage Christie when the governor spoke at a
town hall in Long Beach Island -- first the backstory. Ever since
superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc last year, New Jersey has wanted to create a
system of protective sand dunes along its 127-mile Atlantic coast.
Some homeowners don`t want to sign easements giving the state permission to
build those dunes. So, they say they fear the government will eventually
decide to use those easements to build boardwalks, public bathrooms and
other beach project projects. Christie didn`t mince words on that point
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I don`t want to build a road. I
don`t want to build a bathroom. I don`t want to build a shower. I don`t
want to build a hut. I don`t want to build anything except a dune, OK?
Any knucklehead neighbor of yours who is telling you, who -- you sign that
easement, Christie`s coming in here, he`s building showers for people.
There`s going to be a bathroom there. There is a hot dog stand.
CHRISTIE: Before you know it, there`s going to be a Dairy Queen. I`m
telling you, it`s going to be unbelievable.
CHRISTIE: Let me use a word that is indelicate. And there`s some children
here. I see one. There may be more. Cover their ears. (EXPLETIVE
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHRISTIE: That`s what it is.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHRISTIE: Sorry, dude.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, dude. You got to keep saying sorry, dude.
By the way, I hope this Governor Christie keeps in that very narrow, tricky
zone he`s in right now. It`s fun to hear, but it could be politically
self-destructive, a very narrow line he`s walking. Hope he stays on it.
Up next: closing Guantanamo Bay -- lucky for him, I hope -- Guantanamo Bay,
President Obama says he still wants to get it done. Get rid of Gitmo. But
how are you going to do it? This is really tricky and it could be morally
right, but technically it`s going to be a tricky one.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Mary Thompson with your CNBC
Stocks begin the month with a sell-off. The Dow slides 138 points. The
S&P falls 14, and the Nasdaq loses 29. The Federal Reserve says it will
keep interest rates unchanged and will continue its bond-buying program.
The measures will remain in place until the labor market improves.
Speaking of the labor market, payroll firm ADP says the private sector
added 119,000 jobs last month, well below estimates. That`s it from CNBC,
first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
What do you do about the 166 men now who are being detained at the prison
in Guantanamo Bay? It`s one of the most vexing national security and
political dilemmas President Obama faces right now.
The president came into office, of course, in 2009 promising to shut Gitmo.
And the vast majority of the detainees have not been tried and will likely
never be tried; 86 have been designated for political -- potential transfer
to other countries, either to detention facilities in their home countries
or for conditional release of some kind, some kind of parole or whatever,
some kind of detention. I`m not sure what.
But tensions boiled over in February when several of the men began a hunger
strike down there. And today that number has grown to 100 prisoners now at
Gitmo in a hunger strike, death-defying hunger strike, I should say.
According to the Pentagon, 23 of them are now being force-fed, which is
quite a sight.
At his news conference yesterday, the president was confronted with this.
And he reiterated his conviction that the facility down there at Gitmo
should be closed. That`s an ideal thing. He doesn`t tell us how.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Guantanamo is not necessary
to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in
terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our
allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for
extremists. It needs to be closed.
And I`m going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this
is not something that`s in the best interest of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, all this may be in the best interest of the American
people, but the problem of what to do with the detainees down there
remains. And there seems to be no good solutions right now. Maybe we will
get some in a minute.
Morris Davis is a former and chief -- former chief prosecutor for terrorism
trials at Guantanamo Bay. And Dan Klaidman is a very respected writer. He
wrote "Kill or Capture."
I want you both to get in on this. And I want to learn.
Morris, what do we do with all the people down there? If we can bring some
to trial, we bring them to trial here.
MORRIS DAVIS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right.
MATTHEWS: That`s the easy part. What do we do with people who we know
through interviews, through knowledge of their past are dangerous jihadists
who can`t wait to get out to begin the war again against us? What do we do
DAVIS: If we know they`re dangerous, we`ve got to kind of evidence, we
ought to be able to prosecute them in court, because as the president said
yesterday and as he said back in `08 --
MATTHEWS: What`s the charge?
DAVIS: Well, that`s what we`re going to have to figure out.
MATTHEWS: Can you come up with a charge and railroad them? You know they
want to blow up buildings but they haven`t blown one up yet. How do we
DAVIS: There`s got to be some basis to have that opinion. There`s got to
be some evidence, some act they`ve taken in the past, material support.
MATTHEWS: How about they say "I`m a member of al Qaeda. I`m out to blow
up your country. If you let me out of here I`m going to kill you"?
DAVIS: A lot of people say nutty stuff.
MATTHEWS: You`re suggesting you let them go.
DAVIS: I`m suggesting either you charge them or let them go.
MATTHEWS: Let them go.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. I know that`s a civil liberties argument. I`ve
heard it from my family members. In other words, if you can`t make a case
that books them, that puts them away for serious time, let them go.
DAVIS: Would you tolerate it for --
MATTHEWS: I`m asking, though. I ask the questions. Where would you put
them? Would you let them go?
DAVIS: I would put them --
MATTHEWS: Open the door. Give them 100 bucks and a new suit and say g on
the next plane out of the country? What do you do with them?
DAVIS: We owe them a debt to help them get re-established wherever they
go. Giving them 100 bucks and saying have a nice live is not going to do
MATTHEWS: What should we do?
DAVIS: I think we need to repatriate the ones that we can, like the
Yemenis, the 15 Yemenis.
MATTHEWS: Do we trust the government of Yemen?
DAVIS: We trust them to let us go there and bomb with drones to kill
MATTHEWS: Do we trust them --
DAVIS: It`s a competent government who let us kill people.
MATTHEWS: You think they`ll protect us from the people we send back there?
DAVIS: Well, life is full of risk. I think we got to take some risk --
MATTHEWS: If you were president of the United States -- OK. I get your
If you were president of the United States, you would either convict people
you can of felony charges or release them?
DAVIS: We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. So,
we got --
MATTHEWS: I hear the argument. I know the music. I`m just trying to get
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go right now to Dan Klaidman. Your view on this, by
the way, just to get a sense of your thinking on this if you`ve studied it.
DAN KLAIDMAN, NEWSWEEK: Well, Chris, it`s interesting, because the
question you were just raising is the same question that Barack Obama was
asking in that first year of his first term, which is if these guys are so
dangerous, why can`t be just prosecute them? The answer was, well, we
don`t have the evidence to prosecute them. That doesn`t mean they`re not
dangerous. We`ve got intelligence --
MATTHEWS: Why are you laughing? Do you think that`s funny?
KLAIDMAN: No, I`m not laughing.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. What do you do with that situation? If you believe
as he does -- let`s assume the president believes what he says.
KLAIDMAN: Yes. He`s profoundly --
MATTHEWS: Suppose he believes they`re dangerous. What`s he do?
KLAIDMAN: What he`s done is he`s embraced indefinite detention, which his
supporters on the left are very unhappy with.
MATTHEWS: I know.
KLAIDMAN: And I think he`s unhappy about it.
MATTHEWS: So what should he do?
KLAIDMAN: He didn`t see an alternative.
Well, what they`ve done is to set up these periodic review boards. They`re
not courts. But it`s an administrative court in a sense where these people
who are being held indefinitely can go to them and say, you know, review
the case against them, with the hope that at some point they can be
Those have not begun yet. And it`s unclear when they will. That`s one
thing he can do.
He`s got a lot of other things he can do in terms of transferring some of
these people. The Yemenis, for example, if he worked closely with the
Yemeni government, there`s a new government there that works much better
with us. Perhaps they could have worked with them to set up prisons that
were more secure. Perhaps they could have set up some kind of --
MATTHEWS: What`s our record been with people we`ve released to that part
of the world? What`s our record been?
KLAIDMAN: Well, you know what, it`s not great.
MATTHEWS: Do we know they won`t come back and join the terrorist groups?
KLAIDMAN: Let me tell you this. Recidivism rate for terrorists is lower
than it is for criminals in the United States. You assume a certain amount
MATTHEWS: It`s 28 percent. It`s 28 percent.
KLAIDMAN: It`s much higher, I believe, in the criminal justice system.
He`s the president of the United States. He`s fighting a war. When you
fight a war, you do assume some risk as well.
MATTHEWS: So you think a guy that`s been robbing gas stations is the equal
risk to a terrorist?
KLAIDMAN: No. I`m not saying that.
MATTHEWS: You just equated them, so you must think so.
KLAIDMAN: No. I equated the criminal justice system and --
MATTHEWS: You said the recidivism rate, if it`s similar, or lower or
higher, is somehow irrelevant --
KLAIDMAN: Chris, I`m not arguing with you --
MATTHEWS: You don`t think a 28 percent recidivism rate, in other words you
let a suspected terrorist go and he turns out being a terrorist again and
it`s on your watch, you don`t think that`s a serious concern for the
president of the United States?
KLAIDMAN: Absolutely, it`s a serious concern. Then the question becomes
of those people where you want to take a risk, where you`re willing to take
a risk, what kind of a risk are you willing to take? I think if you got to
make those calculations.
And at the lower level, some of these people are low level people as
opposed to people at much higher levels in these organizations like al
Qaeda, you know, you might be willing to take that risk.
MATTHEWS: OK, last word. Ten seconds. What did I say wrong? Why am I
DAVIS: I think we got to go back and be Americans. We`ve got to stand up
and give people due process and live by American values.
MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you. I appreciate your values.
I disagree with your deductions, though.
Thank you, Morris Davis and Dan Klaidman. Gentlemen, thank you for coming
on. This will be an interesting fight which I will conclude with at the
end of the show.
Up next, the head of Meals on Wheels. Now, here`s a good guy. We can
agree on this one. His program is offering help to people and he`s
suffering right now, his program is, because of those automatic sequester
These are the poorest people, old people. People stuck in homes that can`t
get out even to go buy some groceries. These people are being fed by this
program, Meals on Wheels.
And a lot of Southern conservatives even like this program. It`s not just
the Northern liberals, by the way. And the program`s getting screwed so
that the air travelers can get a break on air traffic controllers.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s another name to add to the list of potential
Republican presidential candidates next time: Ted Cruz. Doesn`t that scare
you? The Texas Tea Party senator is considering a run in 2016, according
to "National Review`s" Robert Costa.
Cruz is considered a conservative star by some, but he`s rankled members of
his own party, going public after a closed door Republican meeting and
calling his colleagues squishes.
What high school are we in?
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Why perchance that part of the sequester?
REPORTER: A few hours after voting, members left Capitol Hill and headed
to the airport for a week-long recess.
STEWART: Oh, right, because it`s the problem from the sequester that
affects them. They don`t care about Meals on Wheels unless it`s rolling
down an aisle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: As one of our producers, in fact, their executive producer, John
Reese (ph), said, anybody could have thought of that, but only one guy did.
The guy is brilliant. Anyway, Jon Stewart.
Back to HARDBALL.
It`s hard to beat that line by Stewart, and that clip showing how shameless
self-centeredness runs Congress these days. But when it comes to sequester
cuts, you see it all clearly.
As soon as they are inconvenienced, as with flight delays, they act. But
when it comes to the vulnerable in society, these are poor and the old, who
really depend on these government programs, the sequester is cutting, well,
that`s not so urgent.
In addition to Meals on Wheels, the partially subsidized program that
delivers hot meals to the elderly and the infirm, the following programs
were also hit. Right now, funding for public housing assistance, special
education, the Head Start program for young kids, disadvantage kids, kids
at risk, it helps preschoolers. It`s all in trouble right now.
Vinsen, right now -- Vinsen Faris is the chairman of the board and
directors of the Meals and Wheels Association of America, and David Corn,
of course, is our own. He`s Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and
an MSNBC analyst.
You know, you and I can talk about anything, but this guy actually does
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: He does.
MATTHEWS: And I have to tell you, I`ve always liked Meals on Wheels
because it`s understandable. People that are stuck at home because of
Alzheimer`s, or people stuck at home because of diabetes, or any reason
they can`t get out and go to the store, and look out for themselves, you
bring a meal around.
VINSEN FARIS, MEALS ON WHEELS : That`s exactly right.
MATTHEWS: So, what`s happening now?
FARIS: We are challenged. Sequester is hurting in a big, big way. I was
so glad to hear you say it was a partially subsidized program, meals on
wheels. They receive, on average, less than 30 percent of their funding
from government moneys. It`s one government that works, government-
supported program that works.
MATTHEWS: How many people rely on you?
FARIS: We serve over a million meals a day.
MATTHEWS: And mostly people who, I`d say to people, it`s one thing to be
old, in your 70s, late 70s, early 80s. Once you hit late 80s, you get
FARIS: How about 89, 95, 102?
MATTHEWS: You`re stuck.
FARIS: That`s correct.
MATTHEWS: And you`re running out of money?
FARIS: That`s correct.
And these aren`t people that can go out and shout out in the streets and
make sure that the folks up on Capitol Hill know what is going on. Now,
you`re truly shut in.
MATTHEWS: What`s the meal like?
FARIS: Meal is good. Meal is tasty. It`s not --
MATTHEWS: It`s not like an unhealthy pizza?
FARIS: No. They eat that meal everybody. We would blow (INAUDIBLE) big.
It packs a lot of punch because it`s made per person. It`s probably the
only meal they`re going to eat all day.
MATTHEWS: And it comes in, what, 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon? How does
it come in.
FARIS: Most meals are served around the noon hour. Some receive multiple
meals a day. Some are seven days a week. Unfortunately --
MATTHEWS: How do you get them around? I got to get the facts here. How
do you get these meals delivered? It says on wheels, by car.
FARIS: We have 2 1/2 million volunteers out there delivering. That`s a
lot of miles.
MATTHEWS: It must be a great feeling when you get from that.
FARIS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: When you show up for lunch.
FARIS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: You`re such a happy man.
See what happens when you do good work all day? You`re a happy man.
And this sequester -- let`s get into the numbers, the sequester. This
thing looks to me unfortunately, the president is talking about a
permission structure. He`s going to try to find a way for the Republicans
to back down off of their no new taxes thing. Is he going to do that or
are they going to be stuck with these people?
CORN: You know, I don`t see a way out here for the Republicans. The
president made a calculation early on which in the real world seemed like a
reasonable calculation that to get the debt ceiling, you know, lifted and
get that deal done, the Republicans would agree to come together and
negotiate a big deal.
MATTHEWS: They never agree to this.
CORN: Yes. Negotiate a big deal. But that deal didn`t come through.
Then, OK, each side would get some pain. On the Republican side, it would
be defense cuts. On the Democratic side, programs like these which
Republicans apparently don`t care much about.
But since each side had some skin in the game, that would motivate them to
do something to avoid this.
Well, you know, six months later, the Republicans say, you know what, if
it`s between Pentagon cuts or protecting tax breaks for the rich, we`ll go
with tax breaks for the rich. That was like a big surprise.
And Vinsen was telling me before the show, that years -- even not many
years ago, but in the recent past, this used to be a bipartisan group.
MATTHEWS: What happens with bipartisan support for Meals on Wheels? When
did the Republicans fall off the wagon, if you will?
FARIS: It`s been challenging during this budgetary crisis time. Other
than that, I can`t tell you.
MATTHEWS: Who is fighting for you?
FARIS: We have all across the board. All across the board. But it`s not
MATTHEWS: Is there any leader in Congress we should salute right now for
helping you? Anybody making the case?
FARIS: Well, we are nonpartisan, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question for you.
MATTHEWS: What do you tell an older person, say, a 75-year-old woman whose
husband died ten years ago and she`s relying on these meals? What do you
tell her when this is the last meal she`s going to get?
FARIS: We`re telling her it`s a real challenge. We`re doing everything we
can to find the resources to keep her in the home. And keep her --
MATTHEWS: Do you have a cut off people?
FARIS: We are slowly putting people on the waiting list, slowly putting
MATTHEWS: You mean new applicants.
FARIS: We are reducing the number of days they get the friendly knock on
the door with a smiling face, with hot meal in hand.
MATTHEWS: What`s the favorite meal?
FARIS: Favorite meal, it depends on what part of the country you`re in.
MATTHEWS: OK. Oklahoma.
FARIS: Well, they -- you know, something with mashed potatoes and gravy
goes a long way.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like a comfort meal.
CORN: There`s an important point, too, because when you start cutting it
off, people don`t get their nutrition and they get -- their health care
increases and you pay for that. You pay for that.
MATTHEWS: What a good guy you are. What a good cause, if life could be so
great, as you obviously help make it.
Anyway, Vinsen Faris, who heads Meals on Wheels, he`s chair of that.
And David Corn, who`s journalist like me. Anyway, a very good journalist.
When we return, let me finish with my thoughts about Gitmo. They may
disagree with these two people we had on, but that`s what the show is about
-- honest disagreement. I`m not as clear as they are about the need to let
people go who may come back to kills us.
Place for politics. Back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
Gitmo must go, but where? That`s the scare.
Move the prisoners where you can put on trial to the states. OK. But the
Republicans won`t agree with that. Not in my backyard, they say, or send
the prisoners we can`t put on trial to other countries. But what country
is willing to take them or I should say, what country do we trust to keep
an eye on them?
And this is a real problem. In the old day, we released prisoners of war
when the war was over. They went home. So, when is this war going to be
over? This war on terrorism?
If these were simply criminals, we could prosecute them, incarcerate them,
and then let them go. When are ever going to be able to let go people who
are determined to go to war with us the day they go out?
I`m open to new ideas and we need them.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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