June 18, 2013
Guests: Elijah Cummings, Jim Himes, Chris Noth
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: You mean there`s no scandal?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Once there was a whiff of scandal -- you
know, that whiff of scandal over at the IRS? Well, now we learn there`s
not even that whiff. No, not even a whiff, no, just one desperate
California congressman whose bluff has been called.
And with us tonight, the man who called the bluff, U.S. Congressman Elijah
Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
Congressman, thank you about this whole thing. You have produced today a
lot of information, a lot of transcripts. Tell us what they show about
whether there was a scandal at the IRS, a screw-up, or what.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: It shows,
basically, that there was a Republican -- a conservative Republican manager
in the Cincinnati office, Chris, who felt that it was his duty to look at
And so one of his managers under him said, Look -- this was back in
February of 2010 -- said, Look at this case, and I think we -- you know, we
need to take a look at it because they are asking for -- to do political
activity but they want the tax exemptions.
And so the manager, this conservative Republican -- self-proclaimed, by the
way -- said, You know what? You`re right. And he sent the case up to the
Washington office of the IRS.
And so, basically, Chris, you know, when you look at all of the
transcripts, there has not been one single syllable alleging in any way
that the White House was involved in this targeting. But yet and still,
our Republican chairman and other chairmen in the House have gone about
saying that there was some enemies list and that the administration was not
being forthright and that they were involved.
Well, there`s nothing like that. It basically started with one man who
believed that he was doing his job. And he so happened to be a
conservative Republican, and spent six hours with our committee in an
interview, and he was very candid and very honest. And he felt that what
he was doing was consistent with what he was supposed to do in the job that
And so you know, you know, I think, basically -- I got sort of tired,
Chris, of seeing transcripts being leaked, parts of transcripts being
leaked by our chairman, but at the same time, not -- not -- transcripts of
this particular gentleman not being put forth so that we could get a
And all I want to do is make sure that the American people have the
MATTHEWS: You know, you`re a very humble guy, Congressman. And you`re the
ranking member on that committee, ranking Democrat. I got to tell you, you
know, we cover the news every hour around here on MSNBC, and this story has
been popping around here for more than a month now, the big scandal at IRS.
And maybe you`re so much inside that you don`t realize the noise that`s
been created by this crazy charge of scandal.
Somebody in the White House, somebody in the campaign, somebody has an
enemies list at the White House, somebody got the people, the bureaucrats
over there, to go and attack the enemies of the White House, all this, all
this, all this is nothing, right?
CUMMINGS: Yes, that`s exactly right.
CUMMINGS: That`s exactly right, Chris. The interesting thing, this past
weekend, our chairman had various reporters in his offices, reviewing, in
some instances, full transcripts and allowing them to see various
transcripts. But the interesting thing is that he did not reveal one
syllable of the transcript that we released today.
And all -- and I keep telling our chairman and our committee this is about,
CUMMINGS: You know, you could release all the transcripts, for all I care,
and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads. But let`s not, you
know, cherry pick a few facts, a few lines from a transcript, and then give
one impression, when exactly the opposite will be seen if the entire
transcript -- of all the transcripts are put out there. And that`s what
this was all about, period.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me that it`s worse than just a failure to
deliver on a promise. It looks to me, the way the chairman of the
committee`s handling this and handling your disclosure today of the
statement from the person over there who ran the operation, who said it had
nothing to do with politics or anybody outside the IRS...
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
CUMMINGS: ... or even that unit...
CUMMINGS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: ... it seems to me there`s a cover-up here of what -- instead of
a guy looking for a cover-up, there`s a guy committing one. Now, that`s my
charge. You don`t have to make it.
But let me hear you -- let`s go through some of the findings here. We now
have insight into how this mess all started. The very first case was
flagged in Cincinnati, to remind everybody. It was a group manager, the
self-identified Republican, actually, who centralized these cases for
consistency because they were all similar. In other words, those files for
non-exempt -- non-tax-exempt status -- or tax-exempt status were all sort
of identified as Tea Party.
It was a Cincinnati-based screener under him that developed the
inappropriate screening criteria using terms like "patriot" and 9/12. And
the manager didn`t learn about those screening terms until over a year
after they were put in place.
You found that, to date, no witnesses have identified any White House
involvement here. In other words, this was a technique used, shorthand
like we often do in any business, government or non-government, to try to
get a job done. It turned out it was tainted because it was generalizing
about a group that had a -- groups that had the same name.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think, Chris, if you read the transcript, it`s clear
that this Republican -- conservative Republican manager, you know, had --
he put his party hat to the side, and he was doing what we would hope that
any public employee would do, and that was be independent and do the job
according to the law.
And clearly, the IG came back and said there was some mismanagement here.
We need some clarity as to tax-exempt status, who should get it, things of
that nature. And so, again, here was a man who was trying to do his job,
and that`s basically what he said.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Darrell Issa. Here`s the chairman of the
committee`s reaction to you. I want to know what you think of this. Boy,
this is crocodile tears. Quote, "I am deeply disappointed that ranking
member Cummings has decided to broadly disseminate and post on line a 205-
page transcript that will serve as road map for IRS officials to navigate
investigative interviews with Congress. After unsuccessfully trying to
convince the American people that IRS officials in Washington did not play
a role in inappropriate scrutiny of Tea Party groups and declaring on
national television the case of IRS targeting was solved and Congress
should move on, this looks like flailing. Americans who think Congress
should investigate IRS misconduct should be outraged by Mr. Cummings`s
efforts to obstruct needed oversight."
He seems to be implying something that you`ve never said, that you never
said that this didn`t have to do with the IRS. He`s planting a strawman
here. The charge from him has been from day one, political hanky-panky
from the White House. He issues code, like "Washington" all over the
place, always the shell game goal to blame it on Obama. And he doesn`t
have an iota of proof, does he.
CUMMINGS: No. There is absolutely no proof. People can actually see the
transcript. And it`s very clear.
But there`s something bigger than Darrell Issa here. And that, again,
Chris, is integrity. We`ve got IRS employees who thought they were doing
the right thing. They testified that they believed that they were doing
the right thing. But poor management, all kinds of problems within the IRS
need to be addressed.
But there was absolutely no -- absolutely no...
CUMMINGS: They said there was no political involvement. White House was
not involved. And this fellow, this Republican conservative, acted on his
MATTHEWS: Now, you say that`s -- we have enough information now to
basically recognize this has been a problem that`s contained, never went
beyond the IRS operation itself. Why not release -- why haven`t you
released all the transcripts of all the interviews conducted by your
CUMMINGS: Great question. I -- you know, I try to defer -- Chris, you
worked on the Hill -- to the chairman. I don`t like the releasing of
transcripts, to be frank with you. And the only reason we released ours is
because we saw the cherry-picking and just part of the story being told.
But you know, I`ve told the chairman that I want to sit down with him and
to try to determine how best to -- he and I -- to release -- release
transcripts in the future. I still have not gotten a response with regard
to that. We`ve asked for meetings on it. We`ve gotten no response.
And Chris, keep in mind, that before we even released our transcript, the
chairman had told -- had said that to do it would be reckless. And so I
then asked them, you know, What can we do, what portion of the transcript
should we redact so that it won`t be reckless, so that it won`t be a road
CUMMINGS: We have not gotten an answer yet.
MATTHEWS: Well, would you like to see him do the appropriate redactions
just to protect identity...
CUMMINGS: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: ... but would you like to see him basically release the whole
CUMMINGS: Chris, I think that that is going to...
MATTHEWS: Do you?
CUMMINGS: (INAUDIBLE) I want -- let me tell you what I want, Chris. I
want the whole truth, nothing but the truth, period, whatever that takes,
and not a one-sided case where the American public is forming opinions
about something that is only half there and that is not completely true.
MATTHEWS: Well, just to completely finish this discussion, is there any
reason not to release everything?
CUMMINGS: I don`t see a reason not to do that. But again, I`m willing to
work with the chairman to do whatever we can to do a responsible
investigation and not a witchhunt. Chris, Chairman Issa and I, we are
entitled to our opinions. We are not entitled to manufacture facts.
MATTHEWS: I would call more a fishing expedition when you come back in an
empty boat. Anyway, thank you, Congressman Elijah Cummings. Great work
for you. I think we`ve got this -- at least so far, what I`ve heard from
you, sir, it looks to me like this whiff of scandal is not even a whiff.
Anyway, thank you much for coming on.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up here on HARDBALL: Whatever happened to the GOP`s plans
to stay out of women trouble? You know what that is, going after women on
issues where they better not have gone. House Republicans this evening are
voting to challenge Roe v. Wade again, this time by banning abortions after
20 weeks of pregnancy. They`re closing the window on abortions, once again
challenging the Supreme Court.
Guys, if you`re trying to reclaim the middle in this country politically,
don`t leave out the women again.
Also, depending -- or actually, defending surveillance. The head of the
National Security Agency says, Stop worrying about what we`re up to. We`ve
helped to thwart 50 terrorist attacks. Well, that`s a pretty good
argument, if they`ve got it. Could some of those attacks, however, have
been stopped without all this surveillance? Well, maybe, and that`s what
we`re going to learn more about. But also, there might have been more
risk. We`ll learn about that, too.
Let`s welcome, by the way, South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan to the
confederacy of dunces, otherwise known as the birthers. What a group.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my simple request that Congress or
somebody let the American people vote in some way or another about whether
we go to another war or not. Isn`t this a democracy?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s certainly not too early to think about 2016, and
Hillary Clinton just got a big boost from a high-profile U.S. senator.
Missouri`s Claire McCaskill announced today she`s supporting Hillary for
president already, even though the former secretary of state hasn`t
announced whether she`s running or not. McCaskill`s the first member of
Congress to officially get on board with the Ready for Hillary super-PAC.
It`s worth pointing out that McCaskill was an early Obama supporter back in
2008. I guess she likes to be the first one on the train.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the gender breakdown in the
2012 election was stark, as everyone knows. President Obama won the
women`s vote by a 10-point margin. It was so bad for Republicans that they
began a soul-searching "autopsy" to figure out what went wrong.
Well, among other things, women voters went wrong for them. It appears
those lessons, however, haven`t sunk in yet. House Republicans tonight are
bringing to the floor a bill that effectively would been abortion at 20
weeks. Not only does the bill violate Supreme Court precedent, which says
women have a right to abortion until viability, or roughly the 24-week
mark, this bill will also never become law because it won`t get through the
Senate and it certainly won`t get the president`s signature. He has said
Well, even Republican congressman Charlie Dunn of Pennsylvania sees the
political truth here. "I think it`s a stupid idea to bring this up," he
said. "The economy is on everybody`s mind. We`re seeing stagnant job
numbers. Confidence in the institution and (ph) government is eroding, and
now we`re going to have a debate on rape and abortion?" That`s Charlie
Dunn of Pennsylvania.
Well, this sure doesn`t seem like the way for Republicans to win back the
middle politically. Joining me now is an expert, Joan Walsh, editor-at-
large at Salon, and former RNC chair Michael Steele, an expert of a
different kind. His new book is "The Recovering Politician`s 12-Step
Program to Survive Crisis." Both, by the way, are great members of our
The debate on the bill, by the way, the non -- actually, the Pain-Capable
Unborn Child Protection Act, has been heated on the House. Here are two
Congresswomen, Debbie Wasserman Schultz on one side, Michele Bachmann on
Let`s catch the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: This bill is extreme and
it`s an unprecedented reach into women`s lives, into women`s personal
lives. This is a clear indication that the wellbeing of women in this
country is not something Republicans care to protect.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: This is a picture that
was taken of an unborn baby yesterday. This is the age of a baby, the
youngest age, at 20 weeks, that we`re -- that this bill is referencing.
And this is the picture of the mom. We`re here because we care about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there we have it, a hot new debate. This debate wasn`t
ended by Roe v. Wade. The Republicans have been using the issue
politically without having to deal with the calamity, perhaps, that would
come if they did get to outlaw abortion. They get all the advantages of
debating the issue without having to deal with the reality of it because
the court protects them, ironically.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And...
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that it?
WALSH: Exactly. They go at it over and over and over again. They say
that science is on their side, when this notion that a fetus feels pain --
that doesn`t happen until the viability mark, probably 24 weeks. None of
us like talking about this stuff, but again and again, we`re shoved into
having this debate over a bill that will never become law.
And I don`t get it. I don`t know what Michael`s party is doing.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have Michael here. Michael, it seems to me -- I`ve
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Joan!
MATTHEWS: I`ve read a lot of newspapers this morning, and one of the
articles was -- it may have been in Politico -- that the Republican Party -
- I think it was Michael Gershon in "The Washington Post" said you`ve got
to protect your Christian conservative right. It`s the largest chunk of
your party, whether you like it or not, and you`re all suburbanites and
The reason you do this is you think there`s politics here to be gained in
terms of solidifying your base.
STEELE: I think there`s -- Gershon is absolutely right about that. There
is a lot of political calculation going on here. The reason why we saw --
for example, at the beginning of this Congress back in 2011, you had for --
you know, an abortion bill. At the end of the last president`s term,
again, there was rumblings of putting abortion bills on the table.
This is to lock in that base, which, quite frankly -- Chris, you and I have
talked about this -- the base for over 30 years has been looking for the
party to lead the way to overturn Roe versus Wade to give the Supreme
MATTHEWS: How`s this do it?
STEELE: ... or put a Supreme Court in place...
MATTHEWS: How this do it?
STEELE: I think what it does is -- I think it does two things. One, it
says to them, Look, we`re fighting for you, knowing that the bill isn`t
going to go anywhere, but you`re putting it in the context of conversation
around the country.
MATTHEWS: So you think that conversation`s good for your party, to be
STEELE: No, I`m -- no...
STEELE: No, I`m trying to explain to you some of the machinations and the
thinking behind the scenes here.
MATTHEWS: What side are you on?
STEELE: I think we`re -- I think this is a crazy conversation to have
STEELE: First off, for the political reason it`s not going anywhere. But
more importantly, this is not where our strength is. This is not what
women are talking about. Women are trying to find jobs for themselves,
STEELE: They`re trying to move their businesses. That`s a sweet spot for
us. Let`s talk about that. These other issues will take care of
themselves in time.
MATTHEWS: I just wonder about that, Joan. I know you`re pro-choice and
I`m pro-choice. I`m trying to -- and I do have concerns about abortion
(INAUDIBLE) I wish we could get together and have the national campaign to
reduce the number of abortions voluntarily because that`s what it`s going
WALSH: Well, these people...
MATTHEWS: It`s going to be legal. (INAUDIBLE) are you going to reduce it
through birth control, through adoption, through all kinds of education.
There are ways to do it...
WALSH: And the same people...
MATTHEWS: ... without interfering with people`s lives.
WALSH: ... who waste their time doing this also are against birth control.
So they`re contributing to more abortion, which they (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: And also, you get into late-term and all this. There are
options for adoption at that point, obviously. It all should be part of a
national discussion that`s a little more (INAUDIBLE)
Anyway, earlier today on MSNBC, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who`s co-
sponsoring this bill to shorten the window for abortion -- she`s managing
the debate -- was asked whether bringing this bill up, given it has zero
chance of getting past the Senate or getting a presidential signature, is
actually pandering, as Michael said, to the Christian right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: No, it isn`t pandering at all. Is
saving the life of women and of babies pandering? Absolutely not. I can`t
believe you would say something like that. My goodness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I just said it again because Michael makes the point -- and we
have made the point -- that this is not going to get through the Senate,
which is pro-choice, basically.
MATTHEWS: And the president`s pro-choice, basically. And this is to what?
Is it feeding people politically on a regular basis, like Michael said at
the outset, so they know you`re paying attention to them without actually
WALSH: It`s feeding -- it`s feeding people politically.
It`s also they think that they`re smart. They`re really clever. They now
put a woman`s face on their anti-women agenda. I want to praise our
colleague Craig Melvin. He handled that situation very well. But she is
someone who went on "Meet the Press" two or three weeks ago and said that
women don`t want pay equity bills.
I mean, she down the line opposes contraception, down the line opposes pay
equity. She`s against the women`s agenda, but she is a woman. And so they
think that they`re being really cute by putting her out there, instead of
Trent Franks, the disaster.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s turn over the pillow to the cold side.
MATTHEWS: Here, we got a new issue here. The Huffington Post rMD-
BO_reports today that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman
Rosa DeLauro, they`re all pro-choice, have briefed House freshmen on what`s
called the "New Women`s Economic Agenda" -- in quotes -- in effect,
rebranding labor issues as gender issues.
It includes raising the minimum wage, more affordable child care, of
course, and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. Leader Pelosi said -- quote
-- "I think it`s an accumulation of issues that come back to respect for
women, whether it`s respect for a woman`s judgment when she decides or has
to choose, but to enter the work force, or how she is compensated. There
is an equal way." Please said: "All these have mothers, all the members of
Congress do. They have daughters. They have sisters. They have wives
they must think are worth their value at the workplace, same as a man."
I want to start with you, Michael. Is this smart for the other side, the
Democratic said, to say, look, maybe we can`t win on some of these somewhat
older issues that have gotten a little less exciting than they used to be
by saying, you know what? These are hurting women, because they`re the
women -- they`re the people that often get minimum wage.
They`re the ones who certainly are concerned about equal pay.
STEELE: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Instead of just saying another labor issue that we have fought
over for 20 years, say, you know what? These are gender issues. Is that
STEELE: It is very smart politics.
And I begrudgingly give my hats off to Nancy Pelosi for framing the
argument this way. It goes back to the point I was just making. So you
have House Republicans tonight voting on an abortion bill and you have the
former speaker of the House talking to women about pay inequities and
creating opportunities and finding a level playing field for them to break
glass ceilings and to advance economically, which again goes back to my
point that this is a sweet spot, it should be, particularly when it talks
about women-owned businesses and creating enterprise zones and those types
of strategies that empower those women who are entering the marketplace and
who have been in the marketplace.
STEELE: But, again, that`s not the conversation we`re having with the
MATTHEWS: Don`t listen to this, Michael. Don`t listen to what we`re
But, Joan, we`re talking about this guy Michael Steele. Do you think that
moderate approach he`s taking on social and economic issues, concern for
women, do you think he might make a really good Republican candidate for
governor of Maryland?
WALSH: He might, but he`s going to have to come and talk to me about
women`s economic issues, too, because these are women`s economic issues.
And you have got Rick Scott vetoing the paid sick leave bill. You have got
Rick -- and then you have got pick Rick Perry vetoing pay equity. So
Republicans are failing on the economic issues as well, Michael. So, let`s
MATTHEWS: Well, Michael`s a different breed -- I think a different breed
of cat in this regard. Aren`t you, buddy?
STEELE: I am a different breed. This is why I`m here and not at the RNC,
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Michael Steele, as he ponders his future.
STEELE: All right, guys.
MATTHEWS: I just love teasing him. Anyway, I have no idea what he`s
WALSH: ... Michael.
MATTHEWS: But I think he would be a fine -- any public official, you would
great at it. I voted for you before. I will do it again.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joan Walsh. And I am a voter in Maryland.
And thank you, Michael Steele.
STEELE: You got it.
Tomorrow on HARDBALL, Senator Joe Manchin, what a great man, of West
Virginia is going to join us here. He is a gutsy guy. He`s defending
himself against attacks by the NRA after proposing a reasonable background
check expansion which would include gun shows. That`s all he`s done,
ladies and gentlemen of West Virginia. This is some wild-eyed liberal, by
Up next, the birthers -- do you hear that? The shameless birthers are
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now the "Sideshow."
First, Jimmy Fallon finds a way to connect President Obama`s approval
ratings to the Miss USA Pageant. Here`s a quick refresher on Miss Utah`s
difficult response to a question about equal pay for women in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we can relate this back to education and how
we are continuing to try to strive to figure out how to create jobs right
We need to try to figure out how to create education better, so that we can
solve this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Jimmy Fallon`s take on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": There`s a new poll
found that the president`s approval rating dropped eight points in the last
And based on how he`s done so far, we can actually see what Obama`s future
ratings will be. Next week, his approval ratings will go up three points.
Let`s see why. Obama makes it illegal for your friends to post photos of
their babies on Facebook.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FALLON: That makes sense.
In July, his ratings will drop five points. Let`s see why. Obama hires
Miss Utah as his speechwriter.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FALLON: Finally, in August, his approval rating will rise 12 points.
Let`s see why. Obama appoints Ryan Gosling as secretary of handsome.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Next, birthers. As P.T. Barnum once said, there`s one born
every day. And there are people in the U.S. Congress today who say that
President Obama wasn`t born in the United States.
Here`s South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan with right-wing radio host
Rick Wiles questioning, as he puts it, the president`s validity.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While all you guys are rounding up and deporting the
illegal immigrants, any chance the House may actually pursue Barack Obama`s
phony identification papers?
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, you know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the original scandal, Congressman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the original scandal.
DUNCAN: In November, people should have -- should have voted against him
in November. And I`m afraid that that wouldn`t get to the Supreme Court,
where it ought to get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if we know -- if we know that they`re lying about
all these other things, why not go back and say, well, maybe the first
scandal was a lie too?
DUNCAN: There you go. I`m all with you. And so let`s go back and revisit
some of these things, because Americans have questions about not only the
IRS scandal, but also about the president`s validity.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What an embarrassment. Jeff Duncan, by the way, the House
Homeland Security Oversight Subcommittee. And he says President Obama is
not a legitimate president.
Next, a congressman introduces his colleague from American Samoa. What
could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot.
Kerry Bentivolio, the Michigan Republican who has a side career as a Santa
Claus impersonator and owns several reindeer, was serving as speaker pro
tem yesterday afternoon when it came time to introduce his colleague from
American Samoa, or as he put it:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KERRY BENTIVOLIO (R), MICHIGAN: The chair recognizes the gentleman
from American Samolia, Mr. Fengu...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Faleomavaega.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Faleomavaega.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, AMERICAN SAMOA DELEGATE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I can see the challenge from the gentleman`s name out there, but
it`s not Samolia.
Anyway, up next, the case for American surveillance. The head of the NSA
tells Congress it`s helped stop dozens, dozens of potential terror attacks
using that technology. And that debate continues here on HARDBALL.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC
The Dow surging 138 points, the S&P up 12, the Nasdaq adding 30 points.
Home construction jumped 6.8 percent in May, as more buyers entered the
market with a low inventory of houses for sale. Consumer prices rose
slightly, up 0.1 percent last month, this as cheaper food prices were
offset by higher energy costs. Chrysler agreed to recall nearly three
million Jeep vehicles after the government said the older models could
potentially burst into flames if rear-ended.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I can be say
unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to
your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails.
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST, "THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW": And have not?
OBAMA: And have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, unless
they -- and usually it wouldn`t be they -- it would be the FBI -- go to a
court and obtain a warrant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was pretty direct and that was President Obama on "Charlie Rose" last
night defending the government`s use of sweeping surveillance techniques,
the details of which were recently exposed by NSA leaker Ed Snowden, of
But despite the administration`s best efforts at damage control, Americans
remain divided about the usefulness of these programs. In a Pew poll out
last night, brand-new number, just barely a majority of people, 53 percent,
think the leaked NSA surveillance programs helped prevent terrorist
But all of that was before today`s testimony by intelligence officials on
Capitol Hill. In a House hearing today, the NSA and FBI declassified
several chilling stories of terror plots inside the U.S. that they said
were foiled with the aid of these surveillance programs.
Here`s the FBI`s deputy director, Sean Joyce, discussing the details of two
of those plots, one of which references 702 authority, the legal statute
that authorizes the NSA`s PRISM program that looks at e-mail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN JOYCE, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: In the fall of 2009, NSA, using 7.02
authority, intercepted an e-mail from a terrorist located in Pakistan.
That will individual was talking with the individual located inside the
United States talking about perfecting a recipe for explosives. The FBI
followed him to New York City. Later, we executed search warrants with the
New York joint terrorism task force and NYPD and found bomb-making
components in backpacks.
Zazi later confessed to a plot to bomb the New York subway system with
NSA, utilizing 702 authority, was monitoring a known extremist in Yemen.
This individual was in contact with an individual in the United States
named Khalid Ouazzani. Ouazzani and other individuals that we identified
through a FISA that the FBI applied for through the FISC, were able to
detect a nascent plotting to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.
Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot. The FBI
disrupted and arrested these individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the NSA and the FBI detailed two other cases, one
targeting a Danish newspaper and another unspecified terror plot.
NSA Director General Keith Alexander is also disclosing the sheer number of
plots they have intercepted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: In recent years,
these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S.
and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe, to include helping
prevent the terrorist -- the potential terrorist events over 50 times since
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me now is U.S. Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat of
Connecticut. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Himes, it looks to me, if you listen to what the president said
with Charlie Rose the other night, last night, and you look at the
testimony today, the president could not have been more clear. He directly
denied that the United States government has the legal capability or
intends to do if it did have the legal capability to try to find out what
we`re saying on the telephone or what we`re saying on our e-mail, that it
has to be gone through with a -- if you do get a target opportunity, you
are going to have to go through the courts and get a warrant. And that
would be the FBI, not the NSA.
So, it sounds to me like there`s a lot of room between the scandal here, as
it has been described, and the reality.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, well, part of the problem, Chris, is
there`s a ton of misinformation out there.
People believe that their phone calls are being listened to, that their e-
mails are being intercepted. And the president is right. By all accounts,
from everybody that we have talked to, that is not true.
Now, that doesn`t mean we shouldn`t -- we shouldn`t still ask a lot of
questions about, you know, a historically unprecedented collection effort.
There`s no indication that capturing -- the Verizon disclosure -- that
capturing people`s telephone metadata is illegal.
It -- in fact, it appears to be legal under the Patriot Act. But we
haven`t had a chance as a country to really have a discussion about whether
we`re comfortable with that. And we also haven`t done the work, which we
need to do, of course, to find out when the -- General Alexander and others
say that this has been important to helping us -- or contributed to helping
us with 50 terror attacks, how important?
Those of us charged with oversight need to get into that and find out, what
was it essential, was it tangential? You know, what are we giving up for
what is a an historically unprecedented collected effort here?
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about checks and balances. Did you, sir, know
about all this before Snowden blew the whistle?
HIMES: Well, I didn`t but I`m not a good case study because I`ve only been
on the Intelligence Committee --
MATTHEWS: You`re a member of Congress. Shouldn`t you know?
HIMES: Your average member of Congress who`s not on the Intelligence
Committee, most of those people did not know about it. Now, the
intelligence agency said that they informed the Intelligence Committees.
And somewhere along the line here, you`re run-of-the-mill member of
Congress, that got lost.
So, I wouldn`t tell you whoever`s fault it is. Most members of Congress
were not aware of these programs until Snowden leaked them.
MATTHEWS: When you guys hang around and women hang around the cloak room
and you take the elevator and the escalator together, all day long,
mumbling with each other, talking about the latest scuttlebutt, is it
considered proper or improper for people like Dianne Feinstein and the
Intelligence Committee on the Senate side and the Democratic -- and members
on the House side to share information they get on the Intelligence
Committee? Or are they supposed to keep it to themselves?
HIMES: Well, you hope you`re not talking about it too much on elevators
and escalators. That`s obviously a risky thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, should they share it.
HIMES: I would tell you that programs like this that you showed the
polling that split the American people that really take us to the very edge
of where we should be comfortable in terms of the government collecting our
private information, we need to have a much more comprehensive set of
disclosure for all members of Congress for more than a small group of
people to know about it.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that. I think the country has to have checks and
balances on everything like this including wars. By the way, when are you
going to vote on getting involved in the war in Syria? When are we going
to vote in the Congress on these kind of decisions?
HIMES: You know, Chris, speaking as one member here, there are a whole lot
of areas where the executive to my way of thinking has probably just
stepped a little far over the line in terms of committing troops in terms
of getting information that I`m not sure we`re all comfortable were gotten.
And frankly with -- you remember two weeks ago, DOJ going after "The
Associated Press". You know, we`re really pushing the line of where we`ve
been historically in protecting civil liberties and freedom of the press
and Congress`, of course, constitutional duty to declare war.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Someone should remind the president and the rest of the
people in this country that even when Japan attacked, the empire of Japan
attacked Hawaii, even then when it was a clear-cut we had to play defense
and go after them, they still went to Congress for approval of declaration
of war. Now, we`re making these wars -- what they`re called wars of choice
and we`re going in and helping the Libyans backing from behind, and then
we`re going into Syria.
How about a little vote now and then? It`s called democracy.
Thank you, Congressman Jim Hines of Connecticut.
HIMES: Yes, I hear you. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let`s turn now to MSNBC contributor Sam Stein with "The
Sam, reading this as a journalist and looking at this stuff the way it`s
come out, and the president`s presentation to Charlie last night, to
Charlie Rose last night, is he closing the door on the fact that -- is he
proving to the American people everything`s on the up and up here?
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: It`s a tough call. On the one hand, you
know, it would be -- it`s logical this program is effective. You`re
collecting so much data that if it didn`t turn out that it resolved or
prevented any terrorism attacks, it wouldn`t make any sense.
On the other hand, if you look -- step back and look at the numbers, you
begin to wonder how effective it actually truly is. General Alexander said
today 50 potential terrorist attacks were thwarted. Ten of them could have
been domestic terrorist attacks.
This is a program that took place over a seven-year period of time. So, it
leads to the question, is it what we`re doing? Is it worth the cost? Is
it worth the potential infringement on privacy?
I`m not sure the president`s made the case yet. I think his administration
is doing a better job than they were last week from purely political
matter, but I think they have a ways to go.
MATTHEWS: They seem a little slow. I mean, certainly, we`re finding out
now there was no IRS scandal. They could have told us that the first day.
And we`re now getting a pretty good defense.
Here`s president, by the way. He called the NSA programs transparent and
said in no uncertain terms, I am not Dick Cheney. He pronounced it
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE, PBS: And should this be transparent in some way.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is transparent. That`s
why we set up the FISA court. Some people say, well, Obama was this raving
liberal before. Now he`s Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney sometimes says he took
it all lock, stock and barrel.
My concern has always been not that we shouldn`t do intelligence gathering
to prevent terrorism, but rather, are we setting up a system of checks and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a great question, Sam. When he says transparent --
most people would say you walk down the street and look in the Saks window
at Christmastime, you can see through the window, right?
STEIN: Not OK (ph).
MATTHEWS: Who can see through the window and see that we`re mining
metadata or we`re using PRISM to go after our e-mails? We didn`t know
STEIN: Yes. Look, so Obama is right on one aspect and he`s wrong on the
other. One is he`s not Dick Cheney. He`s right about that. This isn`t
warrantless wiretapping. You know, they are getting warrants, as they
Secondly, he`s also briefing members of Congress. As I reported, there`s
been at least of 35 briefings on the PRISM program and intelligence
(INAUDIBLE). However, as you point out correctly, this isn`t transparency.
This is checks and balances. But there`s not transparency here.
The FISA court, which is authorizing a lot of this stuff, is issuing its
rulings in secret and a bunch of senators on Capitol Hill have been asking
them to publicize their opinions so that we can get a scope of the
surveillance state. And they haven`t done it. And probably because DOJ is
saying, don`t do it. It would hurt our national security.
So, they have not been transparent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Sam Stein, as always.
STEIN: No problem.
MATTHEWS: Up next, you know him as Peter Florrick for the great show "The
Good Wife". He`s coming here. Actor Chris Noth joins us next right here
in New York City. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Here`s some good news, whether he deserves it or not, for
Florida`s Governor Rick Scott. His approval numbers at an all-time high,
but that`s not saying much. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 43 percent
approve the job he`s done versus 44 who don`t.
Now, the bad news for Governor Scott, he`s still trailing Charlie Crist by
double digits in a hypothetical 2014 gubernatorial race. It`s Crist 47,
for Scott, 37. That`s pretty good for Charlie, and for Scott, an approval
rating below 50 and re-elect number below 40 is not a recipe for greatness
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Anyone watches HARDBALL knows one of my favorite shows on TV is "The Good
Wife." And Chris Noth who plays the politician and the newly elected
governor of Illinois Peter Florrick is one of the stars of the show. It`s
all about his toughness, his velvet glove brutality that sometimes is part
of the politics out there.
Let`s watch this guy in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS NOTH, ACTOR: I thought you only contributed to female candidates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do mostly support female candidates. But I like
your wife. You two are separated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she is supporting you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re trying to work things out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By not sleeping with prostitutes? If I do support
you, do I have to worry about that, another prostitute, another mistress,
NOTH: No, you don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why is that?
NOTH: Because I just told you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter has changed. That`s why.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t believe people can change.
NOTH: You know what? I didn`t either. And then, of course, I went to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh my God. Chris Noth joins us right now.
You know, what I like about this character, and I think the reason why your
wife in the movie, in the TV show, likes you is because she can fix things.
You`re tough. And when you had the relationship with the prostitute on the
NOTH: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- and she was going to squeal you out one more time, you said,
I`m going to tell your gangster boyfriend what you`ve been up to. It was
brutal what you did.
And the other that did bother me, you win the election but you get an offer
of some extra votes you shouldn`t get, some double counting. And you very
casually say, yes, I`ll take them.
NORTH: If it come downs to that.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So what do you think it says about politics the guy is
willing to cheat if it works?
NOTH: Well, this is TV politics, of course.
MATTHEWS: No. Most people who watch the show as good as the good wife,
they think they`re getting a slice of life.
NOTH: I think like all good politicians, he is compartmentalized. And
while he can be a good father, he can, you know, cut the throat of a
political opponent if need be. And cannot look at it as unethical and
still, you know, go on and be a good guy in other matters. So that he
doesn`t -- once he does the act, he doesn`t think about it, it`s done and
on to the next.
MATTHEWS: And how is that different than Tony Soprano?
NOTH: Good question.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about that. I know you call yourself a redneck
Democrat. I want to know, compare that with what President Obama is. Is
he too genteel?
NOTH: I wish -- I wish, and he seems to be getting a little tougher. I
wish some of the other Democrats would start speaking up a little more.
I`d like to see our governor, who is terrific, Governor Cuomo, speak up a
little bit more. He doesn`t seem to be speaking too much on the national
But I think we got to get behind him, although I think this whole Syria
thing is terrible. But I don`t hear enough Democrats with the mouthpieces
that these Republicans have. And the platitudes that come out of their
mouths just like who is going to give them a little tap in the head and
say, liar, you know? Pants on fire.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think the shows on TV right now, "House of Cards", "Good
Wife", "Homeland", obviously. They`re all political and they`re all
fabulous. And just two years ago, somebody would say, you can`t make a
political show work and they`re all working. What`s that about?
NOTH: I think --
MATTHEWS: And they`re all tough.
NOTH: Yes. I mean, "House of Cards" in a Shakespearean level, the
politics, I mean, it`s fantastic. They really go to some dark places.
NOTH: We like that.
MATTHEWS: I want you to take a look at something you have been talking
about here to our producers that is a picture of the body language of
President Obama with the real tough guy that is -- what is the guy? Putin.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look. What does that tell you?
NOTH: Putin looks like a thug here, or he had about five bad oysters. And
it looks like Obama is trying to make the best of just horrible situation.
It`s like what is this, is the Cold War back?
MATTHEWS: That`s what it looks like as they`re talking about Syria.
NOTH: When Kennedy met with Khrushchev and came back and said I was
savaged. I mean, it`s terrible. I feel like in a way, may be this could
be another introduction to the Cold War. I mean, with the situation the
way it is, does he really think he is going to be able to deal with Putin
MATTHEWS: Well, Putin has been -- Syria has been a client state of the
Soviet Union since the Baathists took over back since forever in the Cold
War. Let me ask you about democracy. Do you think we should vote about
whether or not we get in wars or not? Should somebody vote or just do it,
like the president is doing, getting involved with the Syrian war?
NOTH: It should be a vote, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re not voting.
NOTH: But, you know, we don`t seem to learn the lessons of a lot of wars
in the past. You know, I don`t think you can make the same comparison with
Vietnam. But I just wonder sometimes when you look at history if we had
just had the courage, some of our presidents to say I`m not stepping into
this. If we didn`t step -- if during Vietnam, Johnson, who was tortured by
it had suddenly stepped back and said I`m getting out.
MATTHEWS: By the way, you play a politician I believe in. I love Florrick
because he is tough as nails and gets the job done. Not the nicest guy in
the world, but a pretty good husband, at a certain level.
Chris Noth, thanks for joining us.
And we`ll be right back after is.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
Let me say it loud and clear. If we`re going into another Mideast war
after Afghanistan, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after our leading from
behind in Libya, shouldn`t there be some kind of vote on whether we do it
or not? Shouldn`t we do it the right way and end diplomatic relations with
the government of Syria before we start handing out rifles to people that
kill the leaders of that country? Wouldn`t that be the serious, right
thing to do if we ourselves are serious about this?
If we are going to commit an act of war against another government,
shouldn`t we be straight up about it? Or is overthrowing Islamic
governments is what we do now? Is that now the natural business of this
So, why don`t we change the name of Department of Defense to the
"department of killing Islamic people" on global television department,
because that`s what we`ve been doing for a dozen years?
I`m being sarcastic because it`s the only way to describe what I consider
the true American reaction to this thing we now do without even having a
vote on the matter. We don`t bother to declare war because it become just
a normal thing we do. Why declare it when war has become the new damn
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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