PoliticsNation, Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
May 15, 2013
Guests: Emanuel Cleaver; Bob Shrum, Joy Reid, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Tom Meyer, Wendy Murphy
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris.
And breaking news from the White House. President Obama is about make a
statement on the IRS controversy where officials are accused of selecting
conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
The president met with officials from the treasury department which
oversees the IRS late this afternoon. Earlier today, attorney general Eric
Holder testified about how he has ordered a criminal instigation into the
Joining me now, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Chris Matthews.
Bob -- Chris, let me go to you first. What do you want to hear from the
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR, HARDBALL: Well, you know, I think Reverend
Al, this is one area where I don`t think the president has any guilt
personally. Any responsibility personally for what happened. He is,
however, head of the executive branch. He has to answer offer for it. The
United States government which has a certain image with certain people has
a positive image with me, but there are people out there on the right and
the center right who don`t like the government.
This is an example they will argue of government malfeasance, corruption,
bias, whatever. And so, he has to deal with it. He has to put out this
fire. The way you put out fire in politics is you fire people, you remove
the bad apple so you can say the barrel is clean. If he doesn`t do that
over time. He may not have to do it tonight, but if he doesn`t make sure
at some point within a few months, the people responsible for what looks
like biased treatment of tax returns are gone, then people will all know in
this country, right, left and center, they`re still there in the IRS
looking at their returns and IRS will not have a good image. It will have
a bad image.
SHARPTON: I think that one of the things, you`re the man, I said the
godfather of the beltway. You know Washington politics. But, a lot of
people around the country have been hearing the right wing push this hike
the president or some of his political operatives have ordered this, were
behind this when there is been no evidence or allegation by anyone that
we`ve heard from in the IRS so far that even remotely has said that. I
think you said that in your opening statement here.
MATTHEWS: You know, that`s a checkable fact, Reverend. And that is a
checkable fact. This isn`t some murky weird thing like these Benghazi
talking points. This is something to either happened outer didn`t. Did
someone from high up or anywhere in the campaign for the president call up
people in the IRS, people that they didn`t even know. These are
bureaucrats. These aren`t politicians. They are GS-16 and 17`s. They
make a decent income. They have influence and power but they are not
involved in politics at all. It is hard to imagine. It is really hard to
imagine for me that someone who is a total political cowboy like the people
in the White House would even know these people`s phone numbers, wouldn`t
even know how to reach them. And certainly, not call them and tell them
what to do. Because the minute they did that, these people would run
across to their supervisor and say somebody tried to influence us
politically. So, I think the president, by all, you know, gut instinct
tell me he is clean as a whistle in this baby. And it isn`t something he
can BS about it, if you will. It either happened or it didn`t. I don`t
believe it happened. And by the way, nobody has any evidence that it did.
I want to bring in Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri.
Congressman, what do you think the president needs to say in his statement
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think he needs to be
forthright and I think that he has been. Perhaps, the one thing missing
that, at least, the media wants to know about because of the Associated
Press issue is, look, I`m going to get to the bottom of this. Whoever is
found to have been responsible for it. It is no longer a federal employee.
The president did not give orders in spite of what`s going on on the blogs
to the IRS, to go after his political enemies. I think the president needs
to be exactly what he has been. I think people want him to be a little
stronger in terms of, you know, who is going to do an investigation and
what he`s going to do after it`s over as oppose to -- I mean, I`m not sure
that it is helpful for him to say I found out about it on TV. The TV news.
But, to go after this issue because he hasn`t done anything wrong.
These people are obsessed with the president. He has taken control of
their soul. And their obsession is prolonging our recession. And so, he
has to be able to get us past this issue as best as he can considering that
they will try to drag this thing out for another two or three years.
SHARPTON: Let me bring in political guru, Bob Shrum.
Bob, your feelings on this, both Chris Matthews and the congressman pointed
out and I`ve been arguing, that we`ve got to separate the reckless
allegations that some are making that there`s some accusation against the
president from what the president needs to do to govern. In fact, the
person that was the commissioner at the IRS at the time these things was
happening was a Republican appointee. I mean, that`s how ridiculous the
notion it is to me that this was ordered by someone. But the president has
to do something definitive tonight. What do you think he has to do?
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think he is going to be very strong
and I think very tough. I think he will either have an investigation or he
already had made decision.
Look. Chris and I have both been in presidential campaigns. It would be
suicidal if you had the capacity to do it, to call these IRS people and say
we want you to go after our enemies. No one in their right minds can think
the president or anyone associated with him politically did that.
I do think that it is incumbent on the president tonight to make an
absolutely clear that this is intolerable. He has already said that. And
to go out of his way to say we are going to get to the bottom of this. We
are going to find out how it happened.
I suspect Chris is right. This is a couple of GS-16`s, GS-17`s, whatever,
who on their own, decided to this. It got found out. It has come out.
And the Republicans and this is where congressman Cleaver is right, they
are so obsessed with their hatred of the president that anything that
happens, they want to blame on him.
You know, I don`t think the country is going to buy it. I think the
country understands assuming the president does what he has to do tonight.
I think the country understands and Obama has nothing to do with this. And
what Congress really ought to be doing instead of making these kinds of
wild charges, what these Republicans in Congress really ought to be doing
is focusing on things like jobs, immigration, education, things that really
matter on people`s lives.
SHARPTON: Well, maybe that`s what they don`t want to focus on.
But Chris, let me go back to you. Could this ultimately, this obsession
that congressman Cleaver talks about, could this ultimately end up back
firing on the Republicans? Are they over jumping the runway here?
MATTHEWS: Well, I would think that would be justice if it did happen. If
they did keep saying the president was involved in this. They can say
fairly and authoritatively, it is his job to fix it.
But, I will tell you, reverend, one piece of this thing that we have to
keep in mind as we deal with effective government, and those of us who
believe in effective positive government have to be the ones to make it
work. The right wing loves it when they screw up because it makes their
case. The liberals, the progressives, the reasonable people will say, you
know, I need the government. I need not just to protect me. I need it to
do a lot of things I want done to keep this society OK.
But the problem is there are people in this circus maybe 10 percent, I
don`t know what, maybe 20 percent on a bad day, who want this president to
have an asterisks next to his name in history books that he really wasn`t
president. You know, like the guy in baseball who used drugs. They want
to be able to say well, he really didn`t have that batting average. He
really wasn`t the first African-American president. He really didn`t do
health care. He really didn`t kill bin Laden. There is an asterisk.
They`ve been fighting for that, the people like Donald Trump since day one,
they can`t stand the idea that he is president. And a piece of it is
racism, not that somebody in one race or group doesn`t like somebody in
another race or group. It is sense that the white race must rule. That`s
what racism is.
And they can`t stand the idea that a man who is not white is president.
That is real. That sense of racial superiority and rule is in the hearts
of some people in this country. Not all conservatives. Not even all right
wingers. But, it always come through with this birther crap and these
other references and somehow trying to erase Obamacare, erase his record in
history and big part of it is bought into by people like John Boehner who
is not a bad guy but he knows the only way to talk to the hard right is
talk their language. And that`s it. This guy shouldn`t be president
somehow. That he isn`t president somehow. That he is an asterisk, just
like, you know, Barry Bonds or somebody took drugs so he didn`t really have
the batting average.
SHARPTON: You take away everything. That`s what white supremacy is.
That`s not calling all of them that. But clearly there is an element
Congressman Cleaver, I saw you wanted to get in.
CLEAVER: Well, you know, we have got so many real issues to face that it
is almost obscene that we are going to lose some time dealing with a
nonissue. I`m not saying the president doesn`t need address the IRS issue.
But the big vote this week will be the affordable health care act for the
37th time, Reverend. The 37th time. And Virginia Wolffe said all extreme
feeling are allied to madness. And I think the obsession has created a
madness and all people can do is think, Obama, there was a traffic
accident. Oh, the Obama. You know, it is going to be 90 degrees. Obama.
And I think that that is a sick kind of a thing going on in a small group
SHARPTON: You know, bob, I saw the day where the deficit has actually
shrunk. Something the Republicans have been saying, that`s what they want
their big deficit hawks. That deficit is actually shrunk even beyond what
anyone expected. They are not discussing even that. $200 billion less
deficit than we thought it would be. And yet, that`s not even being
I`m not saying the president shouldn`t address the IRS. I think he should.
I think he should discuss the AP and Benghazi. I don`t think that there is
any evidence that he directly did anything but discuss it. But let`s not
put jobs on the back burner. Let`s not put immigration and let`s not put
deficit reduction on the back burner, Bob?
SHRUM: The deficit will be down 2.1 percent of GDP by 2015 which is well
within the range that economists think it should be. But, the hatred of
the president, and Chris is right about this. Much of it is rooted in
racism, is so intense that there is no interest in dealing with these other
Also, Republicans are deeply divided on everything except trying to repeal
the affordable care act which isn`t going to happen. So they are going to
focus on the scandals. It is a way for Boehner, for consolidate as base.
It is a way from McConnell to appease the tea party. And I think you asked
a smart question as few minutes ago. I think this could come back and bite
the Republicans politically.
Look back to 1998 when there was an intense effort to impeach President
Clinton. And the Democrats went out there in the mid-term and said,
impeachment, scandals, it is all they are talking about. We ought to be
talking about education, Social Security, the environment which were the
real issues at that time.
And the Republicans got spanked badly in that mid-term election. The
Democrats defied history and gained a lot of seats in that election. I
think this could happen again. But, the only organizing principal the
Republican Party has is animus toward Barack Obama. So, these are perfect
opportunities for pursue that and the truth be damn.
We are waiting for the president. The president is going to make a live
statement. He met at 4:45 this afternoon with the treasury department
officials. He is to address us around the IRS situation and he will be
speaking any moment.
Chris Matthews, as we wait for the president, the question I think that
everyone around the country is going to ask after this is, all right, the
president is going to lay out a course no matter what he says. The
Republicans clearly will not accept it. I can predict that now. What will
get us past this whole back and forward so we can move on with the issues
that this Senate and congressional term ought to be dealing with?
MATTHEWS: Well, the one thing the president has to do, and I don`t know if
it is even doable, to restore some sense that the IRS that takes big chunk
of your income does it legally and fairly and tries to do it progressively
is basically a good institution. Paying taxes is always owners. People
prefer, of course, not to pay in nickel. But they know that somebody has
to pay for the military. Somebody has to pay for the cost of government.
We want a good government. We want it to work and we want to be strong.
So it has to be paid. What I mean is to people have pay.
But they have to believe like a baseball -- how about a baseball fan? You
have to believe that 99 percent of the time, the umpire is calling at this
time way he`s calling it. It is a fair call. You may not agree with all
the call but you have to believe the guy out there on the field is trying
to call it. And if you don`t, the game doesn`t work and nobody goes to the
So we do have faith in certain institutions. Something as basic as sports,
umpires, refs. You have to believe the IRS are the refs. And if you stop
believing that, then you really get an attitude about government which
feeds completely into the rightwing. They say don`t trust the government.
It is going to come get your gun. Don`t trust the government. The
helicopters a coming. Don`t trust the government because FEMA is coming to
All this crazy paranoia is fed by this IRS story. They don`t give a darn
about the press being bothered or chased after or phone number taken down
by the justice department. They probably don`t care about Benghazi because
they can`t understand it. But they do understand the attacks problem.
Every time I get a parking problem, Reverend, I get mad at the government.
So, I figure they are just doing this to raise money anyway. My parking on
the street somewhere didn`t hurt anybody. They just want my money. So I
have an attitude, too, about taxes.
But you know what? The right wing says government is wrong. Listen. How
many time have they said, abolish the IRA? I don`t know what that means.
It is like they really want to get rid -- they hate the ATF, the IRS, they
hate the government. They`re posies out there. They are militants out
there who want to fight it. They`re getting armed to fight it.
This feeds them. And I`m afraid no matter how you good the president does
his job tonight of taking charge, that these right wingers, (INAUDIBLE),
the people in the hard right, the people out in Idaho and the hills and
places like even Pennsylvania are going to say, I told you that government
is no damn good.
SHARPTON: Well, let me show you this picture. This is Douglas Schulman.
He is the commissioner of IRS when these things happened. He was appointed
by George Bush. He was a Republican appointee. He was in charge when
these things happened.
What I do not is why they are attacking this president personally or acting
as if, Congressman Cleaver, this president of someone on his behalf could
have gotten to anybody under the leadership of this Republican appointed
commission here who would clearly have not only cooperated but they could
have run to him to say they were being pressured by Democrats. This was
the commissioner in charge of the IRS w this happened.
CLEAVER: Well, the problem we have and I think Chris hit it right on the
head. Is that a certain portion of the population, no matter what evidence
is there is going to look at President Obama as being the villain. We have
seen it. I mean, there`s a percentage of the American population based on
polling data that I saw this week still believe that President Obama is a
There is a certain percentage of the population that doesn`t know the name
of the vice president of the United States. So, it will be very difficult
to erase the things that people have embraced, not because their facts but
because of their obsession with the president. And it is sick. And you
know, they simply want this to be a figment of his pigmentation.
SHARPTON: Now, Bob, I think a lot of people also need to remember here,
what`s in question is there were certain tea party groups that were
applying for tax exemption and the suspicion that was raised is whether
they were really trying to do political things and act as though this was a
tax-exempt or a charity under 501c4.
Now, if they only targeted conservatives, it is clearly wrong. We all
should renounce it and repudiate it. But, we are talking about the
questioning was around whether or not they were using these activities to
do political work. And this I think was accelerated a lot lately when you
ended up with Supreme Court rulings.
I think also we`ve seen that accusation on the left. Bloomberg came out
today with a report that some left wing groups, in fact, one was
disqualified. The progressive advocacy organization was not given their
501c4 status. We don`t know any of those on the right yet that was
disqualified or told no.
So again, I think an investigation is in order because we are starting to
hear there were some on both sides. But, I`m saying, if they was none on
the left, it does it, in anyway justify going after anyone based on their
politics if they were doing and applied in the appropriate and proper way.
But at the same time, how do you leap from there to the oval office or to
the Obama campaign?
SHRUM: You leap because you want to leap. Look, the IRS ought to be into
these folks and all of them, not just people on the right, not just people
on the left. The criteria should be neutral. But the reason it goes to
the president and congressman Cleaver is right, Chris is right, is because
there is such a hatred toward him in some part of the population.
Now, I would like to step back and say, that I also agree with Charlie Cook
from the Cook Political Report today who says that a lot of this stuff will
have no impact on the president standing in the country. Because the fact
is, people want Congress and want Washington to focus on issues they really
care about, not just on this beltway stuff.
Of course, people don`t like the IRS. I mean, all of us at some time or
other get frustrated with the IRS. But I think the president will want a
pretty convincing victory in November. Can come out of this with the main
stream of America thinking that he is doing the right thing. Thinking he
is doing what he is supposed to do. Holding the IRS accountable and there
will always be 20 percent, maybe 30 percent of the country who will have a
deep disrespect for this guy. Who thinks he doesn`t belong there and who
actually think that somehow or other he is an illegitimate president.
That`s the asterisk Chris is talking about. It is always going to be there
for those folks. It wouldn`t matter if tonight he was a combination of
(INAUDIBLE). John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.
SHARPTON: Well, I think there is no question about it. And I think there
is a lot of reasons for it. But at the end of the day, Chris Matthews, I
think the American people are going to be fair and deal with the merits as
they see it. When all the smoke clears, there is either fire or there`s
MATTHEWS: Right. I think we`ve got --
SHARPTON: Hold on a minute, Chris. The president is entering. The
president is coming. Let us stop and listen to the president.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just finished speaking
with secretary Lew and senior officials at the treasury department to
discuss the investigation into IRS personnel who improperly screened
conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And I look forward to
taking some questions at tomorrow`s press conference. But today I wanted
to make sure I get out to all of you some information about what we`re
doing about this. And where we go from here.
I have reviewed the treasury department watch dog`s report and the
misconduct that uncovered is inexcusable. It is inexcusable and Americans
are right to be angry about it and I am angry about it. I will not
tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS,
given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our
lives. And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe
you are from. The fact of the matter is that the IRS has to operate with
The government generally has to conduct itself in a way that is true to the
public trust. That is especially true for the IRS. So here`s what we`re
going to do. First, we are going to hold the responsible parties
accountable. Yesterday, I directed secretary Lew to follow up on the I.G.
audit to see how this happened and who is responsible and to make sure we
understand all the facts.
Today, secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the
resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS. Because given the
controversy surrounding this audit, it is important to institute new
leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.
Second. We are going to put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind
of behavior cannot happen again. I directed the secretary to ensure the
IRS begins implementing the I.G.`s recommendations right away.
Third, we will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role. And
our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in hand with
Congress to get this thing fixed. Congress, Democrats and Republicans owe
it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility
it deserves and in a way that doesn`t smack of partisan agendas. Because I
think one thing that you`ve seen is across the board, everybody believes
what happened in, as reported in the I.G.`s report is an outrage. The good
news is it is fixable. And it is in everyone`s best interests to work
together to fix it.
I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens
again. By holding the responsible parties accountable, putting in place
new safeguards and going forward, by making sure the law is applied as it
should be in a fair and impartial way. And we`re going to have to make
sure that the laws are clear so we can have confidence that they are
enforced in a fair and impartial way. And that there is not too much
ambiguity. That`s what I expect and what the American people deserve and
that`s what we`re going to do.
Thank you very much.
SHARPTON: That was the president speaking about the controversy involving
the IRS. The president said, he is angry about this matter and it will not
be tolerated. And he said, he has accept the resignation of the acting IRS
Chris, your reaction.
MATTHEWS: He chopped off the head of the guy running the IRS. He can`t do
more than that. He didn`t just accept, he requested. He fired the guy.
And this guy was the deputy under Shulman. Shulman, he is not somebody who
walked on to the beat today. He`s been there through all the mess. It was
the first step the president had to do.
One thing I like about the Brits. They resign when they blow it. This guy
was told to resign. So, he was fired. This is what a president has to do.
So, I think it is a first great step. Next step, he said he is going after
the people within the agency and get them. I know he has to go with the
civil service and all those rules. You can`t just fire a bunch of people
that aren`t political appointment. But he fired the one guy that is a
political appointment. And I think, big time, I was very impressed. He
did it right.
SHARPTON: Congressman Cleaver, your reaction.
CLEAVER: He was right on target, Reverend. He want s to implement the
I.G.`s recommendations. I don`t know what else he could have done. I
think the outline he just gave the American people was one that cannot be
improved on. He wants to work with Congress on oversight issues. I think
that this ought to be put to bed. I`m sure there are going to be those who
will figure out something that he did not say. I think he touched all of
the bases. And this issue needs to be issued out of the way so we can deal
with the real issues.
SHARPTON: Bob Shrum? Your response.
SHRUM: He was clear, simple, direct, uncomplicated which was the key to
doing this right. Not a lot of words, not a lot of explanation, but some
real action. And I think the next step in this will be to go through, to
find the responsible parties, to hold them accountable under civil service
If write them, I would be thinking maybe they should resign before they are
asked to resign or before they are fired. But, it is pretty clear the
president is angry about this. If I were him I would be very angry, by the
way, is angry about this. Wants to get it dealt with and we will see if
the Republicans are now willing to cooperate in a way to make sure this
doesn`t happen again and doesn`t continuously politicized this issue on the
basis of a fiction, concocted by somebody in a dark corner of Capitol Hill
that the president or someone working for him, somehow or other had
something to do with this.
Well, Chris Matthews, when you hear that last part. The president made
three statements. One, the resignation that you clearly reminded us that
was requested. He said the recommendations of the I.G. report. He also
that that they would work with Congress in their oversight. And that`s
where I want to ask the question with Bob just said, will the Republicans
in Congress work along in a unified way in terms of where we go from here
to make sure this doesn`t happen again. As the president said or is this
over tonight? Those three things enough for to us move on.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the president`s third step beyond firing the guy
and then going with the I.G. report saying he will implement it. The third
step was pretty sophisticated and smart. If he basically agrees to love to
death as we say in politics, really gets in there and the ranking members
on Capitol Hill with the committees run by Republicans, and by the way,
they should do it in the Senate side to get a piece of this. It is
controlled by the Democrats. They should probably have the chairs of the
Senate side, the ranking members on the house side join. Perhaps in a
joint committee even to go after this mess and make sure that both sides
agree that it is a problem dealing with the government, not with either
Now of course, people like Issa will try to play it up as much as they can.
But you know, maybe the best move is to make sure that people are in there,
muscling their way in if they have to in this investigation so it doesn`t
become a kangaroo court. And I think that`s a good chance, a better chance
than standing aside. You stand aside and let Issa do this stuff and you`re
just looking for a partisan operation.
SHARPTON: Congressman, you deal with these Republicans every day. How
does this happen or should we let Issa just go for it and hope he undoes
CLEAVER: Reverend, Chris, please understand that statement is not going to
derail the house. Now, maybe some of those in the Senate will move on.
But not her in the house. We have hyper partisanship, we have tribal
politics being played out. And I know some very good and decent people who
are on the other side. Who are going to say, no, the president was behind
it and they will keep saying it.
My experience as I`ve been in Washington has been one of the most amazing
things I`ve seen in my life. People will be proven to be incorrect on
something and wrong and they will continue to say it. Day after day a
night after night no matter what. And I think we`re going to see that in
the house, unfortunately and tragically. But, I do agree with the Cook
report that the president`s approval rating will not suffer because I think
it is one of those situations. The people already who hate him will
continue to hate him. And much of the volume that we`ve been hearing has
been turned up by the haters.
SHARPTON: Bob, you are the first one to mention the cook report and that
it won`t hurt him. Will this energize his supporters? Will this energize
his base? He has come out. He`s been definitive. He`s taken firm action.
As Chris Matthews says, he took the head down of the IRS by his request.
Will this make his own supporters in any way, will it galvanize them?
SHRUM: Well, certainly make them feel better because he took control of
the situation tonight. Also, the more Republicans go after him, the more
that they politicize this, the more I think -- it only galvanizes the base,
it has an effect on main stream opinion because what the president did was
go out there. And in this statement say, let`s work together. In addition
to all the other steps we are taking to make sure this can`t happen again.
If congressman Cleaver is right and the response he gets from people in the
House is Republicans in the House says, no, we don`t want to work with you.
We just want to chase you. We just want to sling mud at you. We just want
to say, you did something you didn`t do. And the only disagreement I have
with anything that`s been said tonight, I understand Congressman Cleaver,
you see some of these guys every day. Some of these folks.
And they seem like perfectly nice human beings. I don`t think they`re good
and decent if they keep willfully telling a lie about the President or
SHARPTON: Well, Chris Matthews, you know Washington well. What do you
think Republicans are doing right now? Are they huddling and to make a
unified response? Or are we going to hear two or three different guys just
shooting from the hip tonight?
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re probably a little dismayed because the President
really did charge. And, you know, I was thinking about fact that the great
thing about our country, and it has been true for a couple hundred years.
With our problems of slavery and things we original sin and all that stuff,
the one thing good about the country which everybody in the world
represents as really good. Every two years we have elections.
We accept the results. Even when they`re murky as hell like in 2000. We
say all right. Somebody has got to win, somebody has got to lose. We move
on. In other countries, they never admit that. They hate each other. And
no matter who wins, the other side says, we stole it. Oh, you stole it.
Everything is stolen. And the other side is no good. And there is no
legitimacy. And therefore, because the only way you have legitimate
government at both sides except, like when we`re kids and we`re playing
cowboys and Indians and we`re playing tag, you have to admit you`re it.
You have to admit you got me. You got to have some basic understanding of
how the place works. This country works. The people on the right today
don`t play that way anymore. They don`t say you got me like kids who were
playing cowboys and Indys or whatever good guys and bad guys or even
playing tag. They don`t even play tag. You got me. They don`t even say
you got me. They don`t say -- they keep saying the same trash over and
over again like the congressman said. And they`re led by really rich
people that they sort of respect in a weird way like Trump who just keep
saying this stuff over and over again against all evidence.
You can`t make money that way. I don`t know how you operate like that in
this -- politics. But the new politics on the right is, don`t accept any
idea of honesty, fairness, fact. Just keep feeding that animal instinct on
the right that somehow there must be something wrong here. We`ve got a
president named Barack Obama. There must be something out of kilter here.
We`ve got to get to it. We`ll prove it yet. This sense of, I will not
accept this man`s election. He keeps winning by big majorities. I mean,
you know, you all know what I`m talking about.
SHARPTON: I think you hit it right on the head. This is a very different
crowd though. I would not play tag with them, Chris. If I tagged them,
they would probably call the police and have me arrested for assault.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Bob Shrum and Chris Matthews, thank you for
your time tonight.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
CLEAVER: Thank you, Reverend. We`ll be right back with more on this
SHRUM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We`re back with breaking news. President Obama`s announcement
that he is making changes in the wake of the IRS scandal. And that he`s
holding people accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We`re going to hold the responsible
parties accountable. Yesterday, I directed Secretary Lew to follow up on
the IG audit to see how this happened and who is responsible and to make
sure that we understand all the facts. Today, Secretary Lew took the first
step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner
of the IRS.
Because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it is important to
institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.
Second. We`re going to put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind
of behavior cannot happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And he called on Congress to work together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in
hand with Congress to get this thing fixed. Congress, Democrats and
Republicans owe it to the American people to threat that authority with the
response it deserves and in a way that doesn`t smack of politics or
partisan agendas because I think one thing that you`ve seen is across the
board, everybody believes what happened in, as reported in the IG`s report
is an outrage. The good news is it is fixable and it is in everyone`s best
interests to work together to fix it.
SHARPTON: Joining me now are Joy Reid and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thank
you for being here.
Good to be here.
SHARPTON: Your reaction to the President`s statement, Joy?
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, what? I think you know, it is
Crisis Management 101. Somebody has to get let go. Right? So, that`s
what they`ve done to try to staunch the bleeding because the media is
definitely fixating on this until they do something like that. Here`s the
couple of problem. Problem number one. The interim director of the IRS
who is one of only two political appointees, he was not there when it
happened. He was not in-charge. The guy was in-charge retired a long time
SHARPTON: Who was a republican Bush appointee?
REID: Bush appointee you talked about already Doug Shulman. You can`t get
Doug Shulman, he is gone.
REID: So the poor guy who is there now who is just the interim, and why is
he interim? Because you probably could not get anybody confirm in the --
SHARPTON: But he was a jeopardy in the Shulman.
REID: He was a jeopardy in the Shulman, OK, so fine. Some head had to
roll. That`s fine. Part two. Work with Congress. I wonder if Susan
Collins is going to be one of the people that the President will going to
work within Congress. Because back in 2000, she was one of the half dozen
members of Congress, holding on the IRS sending them letters and demanding
that they look at the NAACP`s 501(c)3 status. Because when they don`t like
a member of the more liberal organization, what they see as a liberal
organization is saying about that President, George W. Bush, members of
Congress, several of them -- Alexander -- Thurman felt quite free to use
The great power of a United States senator or a member of Congress to
demand that the IRS take away the NAACP`s (c)3 status. I`m wondering if
the same Congress that feels no compunction about using their great
authority, and mint power invested by them in the public to try to push the
IRS to take away the NAACP status. Because they have the temerity to
criticize the Bush -- how are they going to work with him on this?
SHARPTON: Well, we -- talked about that last night talking about it.
Not only do you have people like Susan Collins, you had the Speaker of the
House John Boehner today talking about somebody should go to jail.
REID: That`s right.
SHARPTON: .they haven`t even started the investigation.
And he is already locking people up. We don`t even know who did what and
even if there is a crime. So how irrational is it for him to say, this is
SHARPTON: I want to know when somebody is going to jail.
SHARPTON: I think we have that on John Boehner. Because, let me show you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: My question isn`t about
who`s going to resign. My question is, who is going to jail over this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Victoria, I mean, Houston, come in here. My question is that,
who`s going to resign? Who is going to jail? What`s the charge, Mr.
Boehner and who is the defendant? I mean, how do you go there, Victoria?
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is about beating
the Bush in order to get some type of political response. Republicans,
Democrats, Independents, we all want to get to the bottom of it in terms of
truth. But what we`re seeing is a platform for politics. And in a larger
scope, this is so worrisome because Congress has already come to a
SOTO: We have not seen Congress do anything of substance. We have seen
historically the 112th Congress, the least of any Congress on record. What
we do see is a Congress trying to repeal Obama-care for 36 times. But when
it comes to rolling up your sleeves and more work, we don`t see anything
about that. To get to the light of day we need efficiency and sadly, I
don`t really trust Congress when it comes to efficiency. They showed no
efficiency in the past couple of years. Going forward, if anything, we
need less commissions. Instead of four or five commissions in the
hodgepodge, let`s have one or two commissions focusing on what`s really is
SHARPTON: Joy, when she mentions Obama-care, no matter what, they go after
Obama-care. We had one come out today saying, now remember the IRS.
REID: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Helps to deal with Obama-care. So they`re trying to make all
their political points while again, as I said earlier, no one has ever
said in all of this that the President or any operative of the President
directed anyone in the IRS to do this. How this becomes an Obama scandal
is way beyond logic.
REID: Right. Well, it is an Obama scandal because Barack Obama exists.
SHARPTON: And exists as president.
REID: Exactly. And I think it is ironic that the people who most want to
destroy government are now demanding that the Obama administration
prostrate themselves in front of the Tea Party who are one-third of the
applicants who were reviewed, none of whom were told no. There was a
SHARPTON: Who was told no.
REID: .who told you cannot be a C3. Karl Rove gets to be a charitable
organization that`s doing social work or whatever they`re calling these
501c4. They were democratic organizations that were targeted, too. No one
is asking the federal government to apologize and supplicate itself before
those democratic groups who were told no. The Tea Party groups were told
And what I really worry about Rev is that the IRS is going to become even
more timid about policing this out of control 501c4 situation where you
have groups that are clearly 100 percent political getting a status that
allows them to be effectively subsidized by taxpayers.
SHARPTON: Yes. Because they feel afraid. Those that investigate in that
area. Joy Reid, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, thank you both for your time
REID: Thank you.
SOTO: Thanks, Rev.
SHARPTON: Ahead, we`ll shift gears with a big surprise. From the suspect
in the Cleveland house of horrors. His lawyer is speaking out, saying he
is not a monster. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Ahead, new terrible details about that house of horrors in
Cleveland. And a surprise decision by the suspect, next.
SHARPTON: We`re learning gruesome new details about what happened inside
the Cleveland house of horrors. The man suspected of kidnapping and raping
three women for a decade is behind bars in isolation and on suicide watch.
But today, for the first time we`re hearing from his lawyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So, when the judge at the arraignment says, how do you
plead to kidnapping? How do you plead to rape and whatever else? What are
you going say?
JAYE SCHLACHET, CASTRO`S LAWYER: It is going to be two words. Not guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But Castro seen here playing guitar reportedly confessed to
interrogators saying, he is cold-blooded and addicted to sex and that he
couldn`t control his impulses. His own family calls him, quote, "a
monster." But his lawyers say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG WEINTRAUB, CASTRO`S LAWYER: Well, I think that the initial portrayal
by the media has been one of a, quote, "monster," and that is not the
impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Not a monster? According to Reuters, the basement where the
three women were held had chains coming from the wall and dog leaches
attacked to the ceiling. The women were restrain with them in duct tape in
stress positions for long period that left them with bedsores. But the
news today, he is pleading, not guilty.
Joining me from Cleveland is Tom Meyer, the investigative reporter from
WKYC who got the exclusive interview with Castro`s lawyers. Tom, thanks
for coming back on the show.
TOM MEYER, WKYC-TV REPORTER: Good evening, Al.
SHARPTON: What struck you most in your interview with the Castro strategy?
MEYER: Well, what struck me is that they met with them for three hours in
isolation at county jail. They came away with the impression that Castro
is just a regular guy. That everybody in this town and across the country
is trying to demonize him before they know the entire story. They came
away saying this guy is definitely not a monster. And you have to hear his
side of the story before there is a rush to judgment.
Now, having said that, they only met with him for three hours on two
occasions. So, how well do they really know him? But these are
impressions they came away with. They said they`re receiving death threats
and hate mail already for taking on this case but let me tell you
something. These guys are veteran attorneys. They`re not afraid of
anything. They`ve taken on some tough cases. Craig Weintraub is a former
assistant county prosecutor who works in the same office as county
prosecutor Tim McGinty who is seeking additional charges against Castro.
Jaye Schlachet defended Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell in the cases
of women who survived his brutal attacks. So, you know, these guys have
been around the block a few times. They just feel that every accused
criminal deserves a zealous defense and their aim is to give Castro the
best possible defense.
SHARPTON: Well, talking about Craig Weintraub, he talked about in your
exclusive interview, Castro`s love for his daughter. The daughter that was
born while her and her mother was captive. And let me show first the
statement that he made to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINTRAUB: I do know that he loves his daughter very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Which one?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He shares that with you.
WEINTRAUB: He loves her.
SCHLACHET: I can tell that you Mr. Castro is extremely committed to the
well being and positive future for his daughter who he loves dearly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So clearly, it seems that they`re going to try to humanize him.
He loves his daughter. But what happens when it comes out in court, how
his daughter was born? That the daughter`s mother was kidnapped and being
held in those kind if conditions continually raped, and that the daughter
was actually the birth of the daughter was allegedly done in a way that
was not medically protective of the daughter. I mean, the facts are going
to be very hard to find some sympathy when they`re trying to raise that he
loves will come out when he says he loves this young girl.
MEYER: I just can`t disagree. That child belongs to Amanda Berry, one of
the three women who was held in captivity. And the baby, Amanda, none of
the women ever received any kind of medical care or saw a doctor in the ten
years that they were held captive. So yes. It will be a tough one to
argue. But I`m going to still be surprised if this goes to trial.
SHARPTON: Let`s bring in Wendy Murphy. Wendy, clearly there is an effort
to humanize Mr. Castro. Can it work in your mind?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: You know, not only does it not
work. I think his lawyers are doing a terrible disservice claiming that
there is humanity in this guy because nobody cares. You know, maybe a
couple of the slave masters in the south were nice guys sometime, too.
Nobody cares. And when he says, look, every monster is entitled to a fair
defense in this country, there is no dispute there. But that`s all he had
to say. That is all he should have said. I`m representing this man
because due process matters in the United States of America and I`m going
to give him the best defense I can. Zip it after that. No one cares that
he loves his daughter.
Not only because that is not possible, you cannot love your child and keep
your child captive with a house full of women in chains in a dungeon in
your basement. That`s not love. I mean, no matter what dictionary, right?
That is not love. Shut up. That`s the message to his lawyers. And if
they keep this up, if they suggest that there was something humane going on
in that house and that sometimes the women actually had a good time, I will
personally file a complaint against the bar of Ohio to strip them of their
license to practice law. That`s how disgusting this trial strategy already
SHARPTON: Now, Wendy, let me ask you, Tom mentioned there may not be a
trial. Could there be a deal made here?
MEYER: Thank you.
MURPHY: You know, I think you`re exactly right. That part of what we`re
watching here is the establishment of some leverage so that he can plead
guilty to something short of life behind bars or even the death penalty.
But you know, what? If you`re a real man, if you actually have an ounce of
humanity, you don`t prop up the child you created from rape and you don`t
wave around the idea that you weren`t such a monster in a house full of
women in cages as leverage.
What you do when you want sympathy is, you fall on your sword, you beg
forgiveness, you offer to get whatever treatment there might be for this
condition and you stop talking. That`s how you get sympathy. Shut up and
SHARPTON: Do you think that the politics of this would be so that they no
matter what could not give this guy a deal at all, that the public would
MURPHY: What`s the deal? I mean, he is likely to face thousands of
charges when the grand jury is done. I`ll be glad to give him a discount
to 1,200. He still going to get life after life after life. I don`t know
that he will ever face the death penalty but it may be that that`s what
we`re watching here. The D.A. is posturing saying, I`m going to get the
death penalty on the table because you killed an unborn child. You`re
going to prop up that you`re a loving father. We`ll meet in the middle
with 12 life sentences. I would be all right with that.
SHARPTON: Wendy Murphy, Tom Meyer, thank you both for your time. We`ll be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Americans have the right to be angry about it and I am angry about
it. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency but specially
in IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Obama addressing the IRS situation. For the last day
and a half, two days, we`ve heard of three very serious issues. Benghazi,
IRS, and the AP. These issues need to be dealt with. I`ve been one to
question the government overreach. But near the studio is a world famous
place called Times Square where people get beat out of their money in a
three-card Monty game. Where conmen move cards around and you forget where
you saw the ball under the card.
Let`s keep your eye on the ball. Don`t turn this into a three-card Monty
game. These are serious issues. We want evidence. We want to know what
really happen. Don`t just blame the president. Let`s get to the facts.
Thanks for watching. I`m al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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