August 21, 2014
Guest: Bobby Ghosh, Kendall Coffey, Paul Singer, Michelle Bernard
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bad guys.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with the latest danger from the Islamic
terrorists, the readiness of thousands born and raised in the West to join
their jihadist ranks. These are not young idealists who go off to join the
Peace Corps or lost souls of old, off to bury their heartbreak in the
Foreign Legion. Hardly. Drawn to the fighting and the killing, they are
acting out a bitter, murderous ambition to fight and kill alongside those
from the Mideast region, those from Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries
who comprise the great number of ISIS zealots.
One such killer from the West is heard in the moment before he cuts
the throat of American journalist James Foley. We`re only going to play a
very short portion of that video so you can hear his British accent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, nobody who does that has the loyalty to any
land or value beyond the Islamist horror he has joined and for which he is
ready -- and a ready hand in atrocity. The man on that tape is thought to
be the ringleader of a group of three British Islamists, sickeningly
referred to as "the Beatles," who guarded many foreign hostages.
According to "The Guardian" newspaper, he nicknamed himself John after
John Lennon and is believed to be from London. NBC News spokes to someone
involved in recent negotiations for hostages in Syria, and that person said
the three British Islamists were abusive, frequently beating prisoners.
Well, the challenge to us in the United States, how to deal with this
building threat. Do we treat ISIS as a criminal enterprise and go looking
for the individuals, like -- well, like J. Edgar Hoover went looking for
communists, or do we use Secretary Kerry`s word and crush the whole motley
crew of them? Is this an investigation followed by a manhunt or is this
Steve Clemons is Washington editor-at-large for "The Atlantic" and an
MSNBC contributor, and Bobby Ghosh is managing editor at the digital
Bobby, thank you for joining us. First of all, your view about these
arrivistes, these people coming from places like London. I assume they`re
Islam -- Islamists, meaning radical Islamic people who believe in the
zealous killing of anyone who doesn`t share your own confessional look at
But how do you see it? What do you know about these people like this
fellow -- I shouldn`t call him a fellow -- this guy who killed our American
BOBBY GHOSH, QUARTZ: Well, Chris, what these guys seem to have is
something more in common with someone like Anders Breivik, you remember,
the Norwegian who slaughtered children in cold blood, or with Adam Lanza,
who went into that school in Stony Brook (sic) and killed children there.
They have this -- this sort of sadistic, this -- this sort of damaged goods
And you add to that the availability of a -- if you like, an
international association of sadists, which is what ISIL really is.
GHOSH: And they can go there and sign up for this type -- and it
allows them, it gives them license to play out their worst fantasies, to go
and slaughter people in cold blood. And add on top of that a layer of
That last part, the religious justification part, in my view, is the
sort of -- is the cherry on the cake. Underneath all of that is a sort of
psychopathic tendency that you see in societies around the world, but in
most societies, they don`t have this kind of outlet. ISIL invites people
like that from around the world to come and join them.
MATTHEWS: That was a rich assessment because I think often of the
criminal element -- I mean, real criminals who kill people. They don`t
just do it for the money, they do it because they like to do it. They`re
Let me go back to Steve Clemons. It is kind of frightening, however,
to -- whenever you have someone who was born in -- or lived in the West.
We`d like to think that we are at least generally a welcoming culture, that
you would feel at home in, even if you come from a background in the Middle
East, for example. But it`s now clear, at least in the thousands -- and of
course, there`s 1.6 billion Islamic people in the world. In the thousands,
there are people who are not just ill-fitted for life in the West, they
want to kill people from the West. Your thoughts, Steve.
STEVE CLEMONS, "THE ATLANTIC," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we have 350
million people in America, and as you know, we`ve got some bad people here.
And we do want to be welcoming, but this isn`t just welcoming others in.
We have people in the United States, U.S. citizens, that have joined up in
this. You know, these are transnational, turbocharged criminals engaged in
And what they are able to do is to penetrate societies. And I think
it`s something we need to kind of step back (INAUDIBLE) We`re having a lot
of discussion about, you know, the NSA and tracking people, and I`ve been
one of the people who`s been concerned about, you know, the degree to which
we haven`t had checks and balances in that system.
But when you have something like this, you begin to see in British
society, American society, France and others, places where we`ve got young
people going to join up, and they could very well come back...
MATTHEWS: Well, are there any...
CLEMONS: ... and basically metastasize...
MATTHEWS: Let`s clarify this. Let`s -- not to profile, but let`s
clarify this. Are they -- they`re Islamic people, in the general pool of
Islamic people. There are no Christians or Jews joining ISIS, right?
CLEMONS: No, but I think that they`re -- when you look at...
CLEMONS: ... some of the people that have gone in...
MATTHEWS: Am I right about that?
CLEMONS: They`re not all -- they`re not all Islamists. I mean, these
MATTHEWS: They`re not -- well, then what would be...
CLEMONS: ... murderers. These are...
MATTHEWS: ... the religious motive? What would be the religious...
CLEMONS: ... awful murderers.
MATTHEWS: ... motive? What`s the religious motive, if they`re not
Islamic to begin with, at least Muslim to begin with? What -- Bobby, are
there any people that are joining the group -- I want to get clear on this.
Are there any people who don`t share the religious underpinnings, even if
it is distorted?
GHOSH: No, they wouldn`t be admitted into this group. The group is
self-selecting in that respect. If you`re an Anders Breivik, you can`t
join this group. If you`re an Adam Lanza, you can`t join the group. It
doesn`t mean those other people don`t exist. This group will only allow
you in if you say you`re a Muslim.
You may not be joining for Islamic causes. You may be joining, as you
say, for the sheer pleasure of killing people, the kind of mentality you
see, for instance, among some of the Mexican drug cartels, the kind of --
the almost sort of...
GHOSH: ... subhuman desire to inflict pain and death on people. And
it`s important to note they don`t care who they`re killing. The vast
majority of people they`re killing, a huge, huge majority are Muslims.
They`re not doing this for Islam. They`re doing this for the sheer
pleasure of killing people.
MATTHEWS: OK, last month, Attorney General Eric Holder said the
threat posed by Islamist members of ISIS with American or European
passports -- the number he put at about 7,000 people -- was one of the
gravest threats we face.
Let`s listen to the attorney general here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: In some ways,
it`s more frightening than anything I think I`ve seen as attorney general.
You know, 9/11 was something that kind of came out of the blue. This is a
situation that we can see developing. And the potential that I see coming
out, the negative potential I see coming out of the facts in Syria and Iraq
now are quite concerning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today called ISIS
as serious a terror threat as the United States has ever faced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They are an imminent threat to every
interest we have, whether it`s in Iraq or anywhere else. ISIL is as
sophisticated and well funded as any group that we have seen. They`re
beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of
strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well
funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we`ve seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And yesterday, the president spoke in near biblical terms
about the group responsible for Jim Foley`s death. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jim was taken from us
in an act of violence that shocks the conscience entire world. No just god
would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.
ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. From governments and
peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract
this cancer so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection
of these kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is
that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary of State John Kerry went even further,
tweeting, quote, "ISIL must be destroyed, will be crushed." Meanwhile,
Senator John McCain told Reuters, "First of all, you`ve got to dramatically
increase the air strikes. And those air strikes have to be devoted to
Syria, as well. We have to defeat them, not stop them."
I want to start with you, Steve, on the political angle here, and of
course, the question of geopolitically, where we`re headed with this. Are
we trying to get rid of ISIS, and can we do it with these pinprick air
strikes, or do we have to go back in there again or somehow lead a legion
of the willing, if you will, to use a W phrase from the last
administration, that enlists the ranks of the Egyptians, the Saudis, the
Jordanians, the Shi`ites running the government in Baghdad, but also the
Sunnis who are out of that government?
Can we put together an army, leading with our air force, or are we
just going to fight this alone and let them sit back and watch us do it
CLEMONS: You just said it, Chris. Right now, we`re fighting this
alone, and that`s an outrage. The way to crush ISIS -- and frankly, the
only way to crush ISIS, is to draw in the Sunni nations, Qatar, UAE, Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and others that are -- have been part of -- of --
their private sheikhs have been, in part, part of the funding mechanisms,
beyond the shakedowns that ISIS has -- has been doing of banks and people
that it`s been ransoming off.
But unless they come in, ISIS is going to have a way to get
substantial numbers of people in the Middle East to acquiesce to it. And
we think we can take them on in a fight. ISIS has to be choked to death by
Sunni leadership in the Middle East.
CLEMONS: And we should be putting every element of our influence on
getting those Sunni partners in this process.
MATTHEWS: Bobby Ghosh, back in the fist Gulf war, George Bush, Sr.,
who was a lot smarter than Junior, I got to tell you, put together a
coalition around the world. He got the Arab League fighting this war. He
had the Japanese and the Germans paying for it, and he had the Arabs
basically joining us in the field.
Now, my question is, why can`t we put together the Arab League? Why
don`t they hold a vote on ISIS? Or is it a dead organization?
GHOSH: Well, there`s been plenty of criticism of ISIS from various
Arab states. What we haven`t got here is a sort of a focal point. We
don`t have a leadership. As you pointed out, George Bush, Sr. -- he
gathered all these nations together.
Obama hasn`t really tried that yet, and he hasn`t really shown an
interest in doing that. So that`s what`s necessary. Unfortunately, the
fact of the matter is that someone has to take the lead. Nobody in the
Arab world is willing to take the lead. The United States is the only
country that seems to have the wherewithal to do so.
He`s said repeatedly, Obama has, that we`re not going to put too many
boots on the ground and it has to be an effort from Iraqis and from the
Kurds, and so on. OK, that`s fine. But getting all the Arab states
together, and when necessary, knocking some heads together and getting them
to participate in the fight against...
GHOSH: ... ISIS is something that has to come from Washington. It`s
not going to come from Riyadh or from Amman or from any of the Arab
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re (INAUDIBLE) right now. We`re the air force now
of the good guys, but we are not leading. Anyway, thank you, Bobby Ghosh,
and thank you, Steve Clemons. What a terrible situation we`re in.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: After a quiet night in Ferguson, Missouri, the
governor out there orders the National Guard to leave town. But while
there`s calm on the streets right now, tensions continue over the
investigation into Michael Brown`s death. And it`s going to continue,
Plus, the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.
He`s back on the stand again today, offering what he portrays as an anger-
ravaged marriage. It sounds more like divorce court. If you want to enjoy
the weirdness of life (ph) through schadenfreude, stick around for that
segment of the show tonight. It`s embarrassing, but something to watch.
And a defiant Rick Perry`s in Washington, D.C., today, fighting back
against his indictment. This weekend, he`s off to New Hampshire, by the
way. Could it be that his legal troubles back home in Texas, which is
somewhat partisan when it comes to investigation, is actually helping him
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a reminder that we have a tough,
extremely tough election coming up this fall. You`ve got to get
registered, you got to get planning (ph), you got to vote. Nobody watch
the show unless you`re going to vote! You saw what happened in Ferguson
when you don`t vote.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri today announced that
she will lead a Senate hearing into what`s been called the militarization
of local police departments. The issue`s been a hot one, obviously, after
days of clashes, sometimes violent, between protesters and police following
the death of Michael Brown out in Ferguson, Missouri.
Well, Senator McCaskill last week called for the demilitarization of
the Ferguson Police Department and has been one of the local leaders out
there on the ground in Ferguson, working to deescalate the situation.
She`s on the job, Claire McCaskill.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. On a day-to-day basis right now,
Ferguson, Missouri, has seen a dramatic deescalation in violence. That`s
for the good. Following Attorney General Eric Holder`s visit there
yesterday, there was a relative sense of calm on the streets. And there
were no violent confrontations last night, as you can see. Only six people
were arrested, down from 78 just two nights earlier. Well, the National
Guard is beginning to pull out of the area.
And while there`s calm on the streets, as you can see, we`re seeing a
focus now on the investigation itself into Michael Brown`s death. Local
leaders are ramping up calls for St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert
McCulloch -- there he is -- a Democrat, to step aside from the case. A
group of activists out there say they have a petition with over 70,000
signatures calling for a special prosecutor to be named.
McCulloch has served as the county`s top lawman since he was elected
to the position in 1991. He has deep ties to the police force, which is
common for prosecutors, of course. McCulloch is calling on Governor Nixon
to make a choice, either place his support behind him or remove him from
In a statement today, McCulloch was defiant, saying, "The declaration
of emergency by Governor Nixon grants the governor exclusive power to
remove me and my office from any further involvement in this matter. Only
the governor can answer this question. We have begun presentation of
evidence to the grand jury and will continue to do so in a fair, full and
impartial manner. However, the governor must settle this issue now. To
leave this issue unresolved now leaves the possibility of exercising this
power at a later date, which will cause a significant and unwarranted delay
in the resolution of the investigation and resolution of the case."
Kendall Coffey`s a former U.S. attorney and Michael Steele was the RNC
chair and lieutenant governor of Maryland.
Gentlemen, one (ph) in order (ph), first of all, Kendall, then
Michael. The simple question -- is the demand here by McCulloch, the DA,
who`s been in office all these years, elected all these years, every four
years, that the governor stand up here and make a decision, does he have
faith in him or not, and if he doesn`t, take me out of the case -- is that
or is that not a reasonable demand on the part of McCulloch?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it is
appropriate. I think it`s appropriate in part because the governor knows
as much as he needs to know about whether McCulloch can handle this case.
He`s got plenty of information about this prosecutor`s background.
And McCulloch`s right when he says that, If you remove me two, three,
four weeks from now, that`s just going to delay everything. So I think
it`s appropriate for the governor to decide one way or the other whether
this prosecutor should stay on the job.
MATTHEWS: Michael, the governor has the authority. Should he be
forced to use it one way or the other and stop talking, act or shut up?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he
should act or shut up, exactly. And I think that`s exactly what the
prosecutor is doing here. He`s calling his bluff. And he wants to see
exactly, Are you going to have my back so I can do this trial the right
way, or are you going to participate in a circus atmosphere and let this
thing go on, only to cut me later on?
STEELE: So I think -- I think the prosecutor has got it right. He`s
playing it -- he`s playing the governor hard. And now the governor has to
step up and decide whether or not he wants to keep this prosecutor in
place, given how the community distrusts this individual and distrusts this
MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, and you mentioned there, there`s a
growing cry among local leaders in Ferguson to see McCulloch removed from
the case, citing his ties to the police and his personal history, as well
as his history in office. McCulloch`s father was a police officer who was
killed on the job by an African-American man in back 1964, when McCulloch
was a kid.
McCulloch`s brother, uncle and cousin have all served with the Saint
Louis Police Department. His mother served as a longtime clerk with the
Saint Louis police. And McCulloch has pushed for legislation that would
require criminals to serve longer portions of their sentences.
So, let me go back to you, Kendall. Is that prima facie -- I mean, I
know -- we all know that prosecutors -- we can watch television, we know
this -- prosecutors work with police. They gather the evidence. They put
together what they need to make a prosecution. They work hand in glove.
Is this extraordinary, this case? Any reason to move him out? Can
you see that?
COFFEY: Well, it doesn`t meet the legal standard, which requires a
personal interest by the part of the prosecutor in the parties, in the
particulars of the case.
I don`t think we see that. Sure, he`s very, very close to the police,
maybe more than most prosecutors. But that`s part of their job and that`s
very common. A different question is whether it would be appropriate for
the governor to go one step farther beyond the legal standard and said,
look, I care about this community. I want to make sure that the perception
is something, whatever it is, that`s accepted by the community.
And that`s a different basis. There are plenty of measures taken by
governors or taken by prosecutors themselves to step down based on public
perception. That`s a separate consideration here. And if the governor
wants to do it on that basis, I don`t think he should be criticized either.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me start with Michael on the political thing
We have all grown up with special prosecutors. And I just want to --
say because evidence support this -- when you name a special prosecutor,
they prosecute. They come in because that`s why they are there, whether
it`s Ken Starr. They follow you like Javert.
MATTHEWS: It goes on and on and on. They don`t leave. They don`t
stop the case, because they`re there for that reason. Is it fair? We`re
talking about fairness here. Is it fair to the possible defendant here,
officer Wilson, if you bring in somebody with the explicit purpose, it
seems, of prosecuting a case and that`s why you brought the person in?
Can you get a fair hearing from someone called for this purpose? I
don`t know. It doesn`t seem like you can. But I want to hear your
STEELE: Well, no, I think you can.
At the end of the day, you`re right. A special prosecutor is being
brought by -- under the insistence of the governor. Yes. That seems to
connote a different approach to the case. But that prosecutor is going to
follow the facts. He is going to follow where the case takes him, where
the evidence takes him. And he`s going to prosecute the officer to the
fullest extent of the law.
MATTHEWS: When have you ever heard of prosecutor -- have you ever
heard of a special prosecutor who didn`t prosecute, who said there`s no
STEELE: Well, I don`t -- see, Chris, I don`t think this would be a
situation of a special prosecutor as we know a special prosecutor in
Washington. I think it would be a matter of putting in place another
prosecutor maybe out of the same office, maybe from a neighboring
jurisdiction to prosecute this case.
It will be someone who is relatively close to the neighborhood. But I
think Kendall has got the right measure here. This is -- you can do the
right thing or you can do the legal thing. And the legal thing is to just
let this thing unfold, keep the prosecutor in place. The right thing is to
deal with the suspicions of the community. You have already seen the
arrests, the violence, and the looting and all of that that`s going on.
And that`s driving this.
And you can dissipate that, Governor, by doing the right thing and
bringing in a team of prosecutors that the people trust.
MATTHEWS: Well -- well said.
Let me ask you, Kendall. Do you think a special prosecutor or someone
brought in particularly for this matter can offer a fair judgment because
they have been given this commission?
COFFEY: I absolutely do.
Look, this case is going to define whatever that prosecutor does for
the rest of his or her career. The eyes of the nation, as has been pointed
out, are on this case. I think the prosecutor is going to want to get it
And keep in mind, Chris, whoever this prosecutor is also has to live
with the police community, wherever it is in the state of Missouri. Police
care about this case, too. So, there`s feelings on both sides of this
divide. And I think the prosecutor would try to call it down the middle.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s just finish up here tonight.
Michael, you first. Do you think the governor feels enough heat to
make a call here and stop hiding behind words?
STEELE: I think the governor is going to have to make a call one way
or the other and he`s going to have to do it before the weekend is out.
MATTHEWS: Kendall, will he make the move?
COFFEY: I think the governor should. I would be surprised if he
MATTHEWS: Surprised if he does what?
COFFEY: If he pulls this prosecutor and brings in somebody else. I
would be surprised.
MATTHEWS: You think he is going to keep the guy in there, McCulloch
Anyway, McCulloch was elected. I say this to people who I love
because you watch the show. Vote. If you don`t like guys like this in
there for all these years, it`s a minority community. This guy is a white
guy. Whether he should be there or not is your call if you vote. If you
don`t vote, it`s somebody else`s call.
I want to talk more about that tonight. You want to give up your
rights, give them up. Don`t vote.
Anyway, Kendall Coffey, thank you for joining us, as always.
And, Michael, as always, my friend.
COFFEY: Hey, thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And coming up at the top of the hour, my colleague Chris
Hayes anchors from Ferguson itself. He will be joined by Missouri Governor
Jay Nixon. So, he can put the heat on him.
And we will be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The governor
of Texas, Rick Perry -- and what a handsome guy he is -- is in a lot of
LETTERMAN: He`s been indicted. They booked him and took his mug
Here we have a -- take -- take a look at the mug shot. There`s the
governor of Texas.
LETTERMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. That`s
not -- here`s the governor right there. There`s the governor.
See what a good-looking guy he is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think that first guy was the great Nick Nolte after a bad
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL and time now for the "Sideshow."
That was David Letterman poking fun at Texas Governor Rick Perry`s mug
shot. He was indicted last week for what a prosecutor calls abuse of
power. And we`re going to have an update later on that case, such as it
is, later in the show.
But first a new political ad for another potential 2016 candidate that
was showcased last night by Letterman last night. Let`s watch this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
LETTERMAN: Here`s a political announcement I saw already. This was
like two days ago. Take a look at this.
NARRATOR: He`s been called an elitist. He vacations on Martha`s
Vineyard. He`s been accused of ignoring the crisis in Missouri and
overlooking concerns of the African-American community. Hell, I could do
Paid for by Romney 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Finally, it`s been said that the office of president ages
you more than any other job. But now a time-lapse video shows it actually
Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Notice how the eyes began to turn later in the term?
Anyway, that was put together from the weekly presidential addresses
from January 2009 through this month. What a difference five-plus years in
office will do to you.
Anyway, up next, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is back on the
witness stand in his corruption trial. And, today, McDonnell`s defense
team introduced new evidence they say shows the governor`s marriage was
fairly disastrous. That`s the defense.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
Ebola patients Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol have been released
from the hospital. Doctors say they are no longer contagious and do not
pose a public health threat.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she will appeal a
ruling that declared that state`s death penalty unconstitutional.
And a federal judge has struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in
Florida. However, no marriage licenses will be issued until after the
appeals process is over -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: This is really the campaign of your life, isn`t it?
BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I don`t really look at
it like that. It`s something that I didn`t -- I didn`t ask for. (OFF-
QUESTION: Is it challenging? Is it tough to be up there?
MCDONNELL: I would rather be fishing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s a well-groomed gentleman.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was of course former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on trial
right now. His corruption trial continued today in Richmond, with the
former governor spending the day on the witness stand and testifying about
what he and his legal counsel have portrayed as a broken marriage and his
family`s relationship with a Virginia businessman.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen are accused of accepting about
$177,000 in gifts and loans from businessman Jonnie Williams -- you know
that guy is a little problem, Jonnie -- while he was CEO of Star
Scientific, a maker of dietary supplements. Both Bob and Maureen McDonnell
face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
Well, the defense contends that because of the alleged sad state of
the McDonnells` marriage that they could not possibly have conspired to
receive gifts and loans because they didn`t talk enough to conspire. To
show how broken their marriage is, the defense read an e-mail from the
governor to his first lady, which read -- and this is really -- we
shouldn`t be knowing this, but we are -- "I am sorry for all the times I
haven`t been there for you. I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do
things better. You tell me all the time how bad your life has been with
me. I am spiritually and mentally exhausted from getting yelled at."
That`s a lot of information. Anyway, the governor also testified
today that his wife accepted loans from Williams without him knowing about
it -- quote -- "I was just astounded," he said. "We didn`t need any
Well, apparently, she need. But as "The Washington Post" reports,
that account flatly contradicts what Williams said on the stand, that he
talked with the governor before extending that loan. And the executive had
testified that he felt the need to consult with the governor since he was
the breadwinner in the family.
For more reaction on this soap opera of a trial, we turn to Michelle
Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy and
Paul Singer. He`s the politics editor for "USA Today."
I want to start with you, Paul. I haven`t had you on before.
So, let`s talk about this trial. Can you tell whether the jury is
buying into this notion of this what I might call -- well, I don`t want to
get into trying the case. You try it. Are they buying this whole argument
that it`s not about taking stuff for stuff? Although I`m still skeptical
there was bribery here. I`m still very skeptical that this governor did
something against the interests of that state for these gifts.
PAUL SINGER, "USA TODAY": But the jurors are going to be faced with
$177,000 worth of stuff with -- there are going to be loans for real
estate. There`s the Rolex watch. There`s the little drive in the Ferrari,
the golf club.
MATTHEWS: What did he do for that?
SINGER: Well, for the jurors, how do you then say, well, that`s
probably all OK?
They have to get past all that. And they have to clear all that out
of their minds to get to the legal case, which is, did he really -- was
there quid pro quo here, was there a deal?
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Michelle, we live in Washington.
MICHELLE BERNARD, FOUNDER, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS AND
MATTHEWS: You`re a much younger person than I am, but let me tell
you, I have been here a long time. Ambassadorships are granted most of the
time, if they`re not people in the Foreign Service, on the basis of
bundling a lot of money. They are good people, but they have got to bundle
a lot of money and campaign cash to get the ambassadorship.
When the president like President Clinton was notorious for having
people to the White House, Motel 6 it was called overnight in the Lincoln
Bedroom, all campaign contributors.
MATTHEWS: Money, money, money makes the world go round. These
politicians become your -- quote -- "friends for money."
MATTHEWS: They call the guy, oh, he`s a friend.
MATTHEWS: No, you have been giving him money.
MATTHEWS: How is it different with this guy Jonnie Williams, who may
be a little slicker than most of them and maybe not the right cut to be an
ambassador? What did he get for all this jewelry and Ferrari driving and
BERNARD: Well, and I think that`s the problem for the prosecution`s
case, at least on the conspiracy counts. There are two bank fraud sort of
false statement counts that I personally think are a problem for the
MATTHEWS: Is that the plea? Can they plea that?
BERNARD: Well, look, I personally, I think I would have. It`s too
late now. But maybe that`s the plea deal that one or both of them should
On the conspiracy charges, though, if you look at what Jonnie Williams
got, he got some meetings in the governor`s mansion. And Mrs. McDonnell
flew around and introduced him to people. There was no real quid pro quo.
MATTHEWS: You know how many people walk out of meetings with
politicians and say what just happened? Nothing.
BERNARD: Exactly. And that`s what he got, pretty much nothing.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. McDonnell was also asked
about the gifts he received from the Virginia businessman.
"The Richmond Times-Dispatch" political columnist Jeff Schapiro
tweeted that Bob McDonnell says people offer gifts to politicians to be
nice, to be remembered for access. And according to a tweet from the NBC
Washington bureau there, Julie Carey, McDonnell testified about driving
around Jonnie Williams` Ferrari around the governor`s mansion, saying, "I`m
entitled to be normal. It was fun."
MATTHEWS: He looks like an idiot.
MATTHEWS: The only thing he didn`t have was one of those alpine hats
on with the feather coming out of it.
SINGER: This is the thing.
The House Ethics Committee once found that there was a widespread
belief that if you give money to politicians you get access and favors.
And yet, they found, nobody in politics was doing anything wrong.
SINGER: So how is it that people believe that they are getting all
this stuff back for all of the money they are giving?
Are they just dumb investors? Oh, I will just throw a lot of money at
the governor, I won`t get anything back.
MATTHEWS: You know this. You know what it`s like.
They love the prestige of being able to say, oh, the McDonnells are
friends of ours.
MATTHEWS: Some people don`t have the right social crowd to hang out
with, so they buy it from politicians.
MATTHEWS: And they say, oh, we`re friends with the Clintons, we`re
friends with the Bushes. We`re friends.
And, by the way, low number license plates, I know those stories.
Some guys will give a ton of money to get a one on their license plate.
BERNARD: Well, and, sometimes, it helps the person`s business to have
the appearance of being close to someone in power and say, I was at the
governor`s daughter`s wedding. And we did this and we did that.
MATTHEWS: The funny thing is, nobody got invited to Chelsea`s
wedding. Did you know that? That was...
BERNARD: Not to Chelsea`s, but to McDonnell`s, yes.
SINGER: But McDonnell did walk in to a meeting with a health officer
with a bottle in his hand, Anatabloc in his hand and said, hey, check this
MATTHEWS: How about Mrs. McDonnell. Not to lay it on her, because
her husband is doing that. She`s out there using the campaign
contributor`s list to this guy, Jonnie Williams, so he could use it to sell
BERNARD: Yes, that`s --
MATTHEWS: That`s an asset.
BERNARD: It is an asset. It is a problem, I think, visually, more
than an actual act of misconduct that rises to the level of, you need to be
put in prison for this. It just looks really, really bad. The whole way
the defense has portrayed her is so awful, so humiliating --
MATTHEWS: Is she going to take the stand and say, I`m as bad as you
BERNARD: No, she`s not going to take the stand.
MATTHEWS: How does the jury deal with that? You`re an expert.
BERNARD: Well, I mean, I think the jury is going to look at this in
two ways. It`s very dangerous. She looks awful. But I think for the four
female jurors that are on the jury, what looks really bad is the fact that
her husband looks like a cad. You know, he has completely distanced
himself from her.
The husband gets the Rolex watch. They know that they are $70,000 in
debt. He has to have asked where the watch come from? His wife gave it to
him for Christmas. How does he now say, my wife was crazy, we had a
horrible marriage, she didn`t love me but gave me Rolex watch? She called
this man and asked him to let me drive his Ferrari around town. She
arranged for me to have these golf trips. It`s horrible.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, you`re in your wheelhouse here.
But let me go here to Paul, it seem it is defense he hasn`t had
communication with his wife since the mid `90s.
MATTHEWS: I mean, does that mean intimacy and all that stuff? We
There is a weird thing about not having a real relationship, yet, but
for public purposes they were the ideal marriage.
SINGER: Yes, but that`s not the first politician you`ve heard this
MATTHEWS: They were like (INAUDIBLE), the wife, you know, the perfect
I`ve seen them around. I thought they were Catholic, very
conservative religiously, you know? Not that it`s better than any other
religion but I`m familiar with it.
MATTHEWS: Very conservative. And yet, now we`re finding out it was
SINGER: I spent a lot of time with John Edwards and Elizabeth
Edwards. Same thing. I mean, you will see these relationships. Keep in
mind, these men --
MATTHEWS: What are they vaudeville acts?
BERNARD: Political marriages.
SINGER: They are sacrificing everything -- everything -- to be
MATTHEWS: For us, to show something.
SINGER: Well, whether for us, I don`t know -- But to be elected.
MATTHEWS: To look a certain way.
SINGER: Yes, to look a certain way.
MATTHEWS: Jack Kennedy and Jackie. We know how complicated that was.
SINGER: These guys want to be elected.
BERNARD: And he was looking at the White House, and had a good wife
to do it.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, you`re an expert of this. I now know what the
Michelle Bernard Center does.
Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Just kidding.
Paul Singer, thank you for joining us tonight, sir. A great
SINGER: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: "USA Today".
Up next, does Rick Perry`s indictment actually make him more appealing
presidential candidate? Talk about a boomerang. This is weird. He looks
better apparently among the Republicans because of this prosecution,
whatever it`s worth, down in Texas.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the latest on the battle for control of the
U.S. Senate this fall.
First to Alaska where the national Republican Party got their
candidate, Dan Sullivan, beat Tea Partier Joe Miller, and we`ll face off
against the incumbent Democrat, Mark Begich. And that should be a tight
race because he`s a pretty good candidate.
Now to new polling on the race in North Carolina. For that, we check
the HARDBALL scoreboard. Here it is. According to a new "USA
Today"/Suffolk University poll, incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan leads
Republican challenger Tom Tillis, he`s the speaker there, by two points.
It`s Hagan, 45-43. It is too close to call. And they`re not getting any
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As we first reported here last Friday, Republican Governor Rick Perry
of Texas was indicted on two felony counts for abuse of power. The charges
said that he tried to pressure the Travis County district attorney, a
Democrat, to quit by threatening to cut off funding to her office.
Under usual circumstance, indictments aren`t good for politicians,
obviously. But Governor Perry, who shows all the signs of being a 2016
presidential contender, finds this indictment which he characterizes as a
partisan witch hunt endears him to the Republican base in the country.
Well, today, speaking at the Heritage Foundation here in Washington, the
indictment was the first topic the defiant Perry addressed in his speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: There are some interesting things going
on back in my home state right now. There are a few public officials in
Travis County who have taken issue with an exercise of my constitutional
veto authority, namely a governor`s power to veto legislation and funding
and the right to free speech. I am very confident in my case. And I can
assure you that I will fight this attack of our system of government.
And with my fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, I am to
defend our Constitution and stand up for the rule of law in the state of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that district attorney, by the way, Rosemary
Lehmberg, is a politically appealing opponent, if you want an opponent for
the governor. This video from her 2013 arrest for DWI is not exactly
flattering, is it? Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEMARY LEHMBERG: Y`all better do something quick because you`re
going to be in jail, not me.
Call Greg. I don`t care if you (INAUDIBLE). Call Greg.
Did you call, Greg? No, did you -- did you let him know you have me
OFFICER: You`ve been arrested for DWI.
LEHMBERG: That`s y`all`s problem. Not mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s y`all`s problem.
Anyway, Perry faces up to 109 years in prison if convicted on both
felony counts. The conservative base can rally around and defend him, of
course, making his 2012 oops a dim memory and replacing it with just the
kind of defiant fighter that stirs Republican primary voters. We`ll see.
NBC News` Kasie Hunt attended Governor Perry`s event today here in
D.C. and NBC News senior political reporter Perry Bacon also joins us.
You know, I don`t want to equate anything and I`m trying to get out of
the cases because it`s not our job. But it does seem to me you got -- you
know, Chris Christie up in Jersey, he`s doing very well in the polls. But
he`s facing whatever Fishman`s up to. You know, we don`t know what the
U.S. attorney is going to do up there.
So, is this a race between getting popular, and winning a presidential
nomination, hoping all that time you don`t get convicted?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Well, the question is how distracting is it,
really, right? Because this -- Perry --
MATTHEWS: It should be distracting.
HUNT: Right. But Perry successfully turned this into a battle of
political perception, as opposed to, you know, something where he`s
defending himself on the legal merits. And Democrats were kind of slow to
pick up on that. It was a real victory for Perry in the beginning. You`ve
seen David Axelrod sort of walk back that initial tweet, every Perry --
every time he talks about it, is hanging on Democrat David Axelrod, saying,
even the Democrats --
MATTHEWS: Lanny Davis and a few other people, too.
HUNT: And several other people.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m skeptical of Texas generally when it comes to
criminal prosecution. I saw the thing with Tom DeLay, just seems like
everybody`s got a political point of view down there. But that picture of
that person calling for her buddy, sheriff, Greg to show up and spring her
doesn`t look like they have clean politics down there.
If you can get picked up on a DUI and all you have to do is call your
buddy to get sprung, that in itself suggests it`s corrupt. I mean, she`s
not exactly operating on a level -- admittedly, you don`t look your best
after being picked up and thrown into a holding cell for DUI.
PERRY BACON, JR., NBC NEWS SR. POLITICAL REPORTER: He`s had two good
moments the last couple of months. First of all, when the president
wouldn`t go to the border, that gave Rick Perry a chance to bash the
president and say he`s Mr. Border Security, and now, you have this, a great
enemy for him to have.
Still, ultimately, Republicans are rallying around him right now. But
there was a straw poll in June in Texas, among Texas Republicans, Rick
Perry finished fourth. Now, he`s behind Cruz, but also behind Ben Carson.
And if he`s not popular in Texas, I`m dubious to how popular he is.
MATTHEWS: Is he considered light?
BACON: Yes, the "oops" has not been forgotten. Yes, he`s considered
MATTHEWS: Is that his problem, gravitas? The lack of it?
HUNT: That`s exactly what he was trying to combat in that speech I
went to today. He talked -- the speech was all about Iraq and ISIS and
MATTHEWS: What`s he to know about that?
HUNT: Clearly, he was trying to show us essentially everything that
he knew about it and, you know, he sounded a lot more like George W. Bush
than like a Senator Rand Paul.
MATTHEWS: That`s what we need is another hawkish Republican.
HUNT: He wouldn`t rule out sending American troops.
MATTHEWS: But what is the appeal of the guy, besides obviously he`s
been elected a lot of times, he`s a governor, and isn`t that the role model
they want? They want to find an executive to run against probably
HUNT: But as you noted, I mean, a lot of these governors are in
trouble. I mean, you have Rick Perry, of course, in Texas. As you
mentioned, Chris Christie. You also have, for example, I mean, Bob
McDonnell is somebody who`s sort of already fallen off of the list of those
people that we could potentially see as Republican contenders.
So, like you said, go back to your first point, if they get really
distracted, it`s going to really hurt them going forward into the
MATTHEWS: Where do you see this guy? Because I think he looked good
a while ago, then the "oops" line, he couldn`t remember the three federal
agencies he wanted to get rid of which is not hard to remember if you care,
if it`s not just talking points. You would remember the agencies you hate
BACON: He`s not known to Republicans as being a particularly smart
guy, problem number one. Problem number two is, there`s not clear where
his base is. The Tea Party folks love Rand Paul. They love Ted Cruz. The
establishment folks never liked him in 2012. They were still for Romney.
They don`t want him now.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you something good about the guy now that he`s
got problems. I thought when all the African-Americans were stuck down
there trying to get away from Katrina, he offered everybody a home. He
offered a haven which nobody does.
MATTHEWS: It`s always, not in my backyard. Houston and those cities
offered up tremendous services for people in dire need. Who else does that
in this country?
BACON: He`s an electable guy.
MATTHEWS: Am I right?
BACON: That`s the one thing about him. People like him of all
parties. He`s very friendly, he`s very charming if you get to know him.
That`s appealing about him.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get you in here. You asked the governor about his
indictment today. Let`s watch your interview with him, briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Politically, you discussed you your indictment at the beginning
of this. Why to you view this indictment as political if the judge in the
case was appointed by a Republican and the prosecutor served in a
Republican presidential administration?
PERRY: When David Axelrod, Lanny Davis, Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan
Chait all say this is sketchy, outrageous, totalitarian, and McCarthy-ite,
I agree with them. That`s just on the Democrat side of the aisle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Don`t you love it?
HUNT: I mean, that`s, case in point, why David Axelrod might come to
regret that tweet, saying that this was sketchy.
MATTHEWS: I mean, honesty is not the best policy?
BACON: In politics.
MATTHEWS: You know, I mean, it really is right. I hate it when
people say when you agree across the aisle or across the ideological
spectrum, even Chris Matthews -- wait a minute, you`re putting me down as
you`re putting me up. You can`t have it both ways. Anyway, I know it
Anyway, thank you, Kasie. Good interview, you got his attention.
Thank you, Perry Bacon.
BACON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And we`ll be right back after this.
He remembered all the names.
HUNT: He did.
BACON: Yes, he did.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the reminder that we have a
tough, extremely tough election coming up this fall. You can see it in the
In this battle, the United States Senate will decide whether this
president, Barack Obama, has two more years to his term or simply two years
to await its termination. Two years as a lame duck with no support or
leverage from the United States Congress. If you have not registered to
vote, do it. If you`ve not made definite plans to get to the polls in
person or Election Day, earlier when that`s permitted or by absentee, get
on your horse. Get it planned, get yourself organized or else don`t
complain about the direction of this country.
The one lesson we learn again and again is that it matters who is
elected, whether in a small suburb in Missouri where you have an African-
American population not represented in the government there, or in the
It really matters that George W. Bush was president in the early years
of this century. It took a W. to be so influenced by his vice president,
so moved by ideologues as to take this country into Iraq and with that
entry blow up Iraq into the jungle it is today, and, yes, it took a Barack
Obama to shake this country from its historic inability to deal with the
country`s health care challenge. All before him, of both parties had
failed, he delivered. And yes, it matters locally who`s calling the shots.
So, get your plans together. Get your heart, mind and body prepared
to show up and vote this November. The consequences are all around us,
from Iraq, to Ferguson. Nobody`s vote is more important than yours, unless
you don`t show up. Then, everybody`s vote is more important than yours.
That`s HARDBALL. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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