Date: December 4, 2014
Guest: Paul Butler, Midwin Charles, Philip Holloway, Melissa Mark-
Viverito, Val Demings, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Federal case.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight on HARDBALL, the grounds for a federal case against the
officer or officers involved in the death of Eric Garner. Is what we see
in these pictures reason in itself to bring one or more officers to trial
in federal court? Was this citizen denied his rights under the law or was
he treated fairly? It`s a fair question to ask, a decision that the United
States Justice Department will have to make. And if Attorney General Eric
Holder gets his way, we will get that answer soon.
We will also get to some other big news tonight, the government
shutdown being pushed by the hard Republican right right now, that and the
first strike -- the first strike -- just scored by a secretive figure in
the Hillary Clinton campaign -- or camp, rather, to undercut the candidate
some believe could become her number one hazard on the road to the
But let`s go to now to the story that has fired up the streets of New
York even as I speak. NBC`s Stephanie Gosk is with the protesters in Foley
Square in lower Manhattan -- Stephanie.
STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good evening, Chris.
Actually, these protesters are on the move, and if it`s anything like last
night, they`ll continue to be on the move. Minimum destruction, maxim
disruption seems to be kind of their motto. And what they do is, once they
gather, they head out to close off streets. Last night, it was the West
Side Highway. It`s unclear tonight where they`re going to head.
Early estimates, there are about 5,000 people in this crowd right now,
so they`re moving slowly. There`s also, as you would imagine, a pretty
heavy police presence here. You know, one of the things that has angered
this crowd particularly is the secrecy of that grand jury process. And
they were hopeful that all of that evidence, the same way it was released
in the Ferguson case, would be released in the Garner case. Instead, what
they got today was just this minimal trickle of information that really
shared none of the relevant witness testimony, particularly from those
police officers, that they really wanted to hear -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Are the people there mainly -- are the people mainly
African-American? I can`t tell. Are they a diverse crowd? Can you tell?
GOSK: It`s a very diverse crowd. And it also represents a lot of
people, to be honest, protesting quite a number of different things.
Obviously, what has galvanized them and brought them here overall has been
this case. And as we`ve seen -- and really, these protests started back
with the Ferguson decision, the crowds seem to be growing in size.
But unlike Ferguson, they have been mainly peaceful here in New York.
But anyone trying to get around this city tonight or last night is going to
have a very difficult time -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for that reporting, Stephanie Gosk.
Let`s go now right to MSNBC`s Amanda Sakuma. She`s with us by phone,
and she`s following the protesters to the Brooklyn Bridge. Amanda, tell us
what you can see there.
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC (via telephone): Hi, Chris. You know, we have
hundreds of protesters here gathered, trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
There are now police barricades up, but they are able to slowly inch their
way. So there`s a very short walkway to come through and they`re very
slowly funneling (ph) back (ph).
But they have many streets here blocked off. There`s a heightened
police presence all around. But things remain peaceful. They are chanting
very peacefully. And this is more than just about Eric Garner (INAUDIBLE)
There are workers unions, there are students, there are advocates. There`s
a very diverse crowd out here, and I think it -- they`re trying to prove
that this is a growing movement.
MATTHEWS: Are they able to shut down the bridge?
SAKUMA: You know, they`re trying right now. (INAUDIBLE) pedestrian
pathways. There are some cars that are on the street, but they haven`t
been able to fully shut down the bridge quite yet.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Amanda Sakuma at the Brooklyn
I`m joined right now by Professor Paul Butler at Georgetown University
law school. He`s a former federal prosecutor himself. Philip Holloway
joins us also. He`s a criminal defense attorney. And we also have former
prosecutor and former police officer -- both of those titles went to him.
And Midwin Charles also is a criminal defense attorney. We got a lot of
people tonight. I want to hear from everybody.
My main focus right now with Mr. Butler, Professor Butler, is a
criminal case in federal court. When you look at the pictures -- I`m going
to show some others afterwards what happened with the victim, Eric Garner,
just laid there and laid there for minutes and minutes. There was no sense
of emergency or urgency. He just -- maybe he died in those moments.
PAUL BUTLER, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW: Didn`t treat him like a human
being, treated him like a dirty dog on the street. So I don`t get why
there`s no homicide case. That`s the easiest case to make. So we don`t
know what the grand jury saw that we didn`t see in that video, why they
didn`t charge him with at least voluntary manslaughter, at minimum
So the feds now have to come in. It`s an old tradition in the South.
When African-Americans were victims of violence, often, state prosecutors
wouldn`t bring the case. So the feds have to step in then. It`s a high
hurdle, it`s not impossible. There are federal charges...
MATTHEWS: What would be -- what would be the murder -- what would be
the charge? You say homicide. That carries a lot of possibilities. What
would you say, recklessness, strangling? I mean, what would it be?
BUTLER: So if we`re looking at New York law, again, I`d say voluntary
manslaughter. I think the cop just lost it. And when you lose it, when
you kill in the heat of passion because you`re mad at a guy...
MATTHEWS: The guy with the chokehold.
BUTLER: Yes. That`s voluntary manslaughter.
MATTHEWS: But what about the trickiness of the coroner`s report, we
talked earlier, where there were three causes of the asphyxiation? One was
the chokehold. One was the weight on his stomach -- (INAUDIBLE) his
condition. He was a heavyweight guy, overweight guy.
Can you charge one guy -- what about the people sitting on top of him?
What about the other officers? And why were they given immunity? This is
the part that disturbs me. If this is not a criminal -- if they`re not
targeting people for criminal behavior, why would you squeeze people with
immunity to get to somebody?
BUTLER: In theory, they were given immunity to give up the goods on
the main cop.
MATTHEWS: So the district attorney wanted to get the guy, or did he?
BUTLER: Well, if he wanted to get him, Chris, he would have gotten
him. Prosecutors -- I`m not going to say it. I`m sick of hearing that
they can indict a ham sandwich. But I`m a former prosecutor. It`s
absolutely true. So the reason there`s no indictment in Garner is because
the district attorney...
MATTHEWS: ... Williams who said that? I think it might have been.
BUTLER: I think it was actually a judge in the New York court of
appeals, Wapner, I believe is his name.
BUTLER: But the man here who did not want the indictment, the reason
the grand jury didn`t indict, his name is Mr. Donovan. He`s the district
attorney of Staten Island. Don`t blame these hard-working men and women of
the grand injury. They just did what -- basically, what they were told.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at information (INAUDIBLE) saw this
picture or not, but we saw it today. It`s additional video from July 17th
that shows what happened after Eric Garner was placed in that chokehold by
a New York City police officer out in Staten Island.
The video was shot by an onlooker and shows police officers monitoring
Garner as he appears to lay unconscious on the ground. Two -- let`s watch.
And you can see there two EMTs have arrived, and several minutes
later, about six minutes, he`s taken away on a stretcher. Garner lays on
the ground for at least six minutes, as I said, before being put on the
stretcher, on the gurney.
At one point, one of the officers is heard saying Garner is still
breathing. But that`s because somebody said through the crowd, Why aren`t
you giving the guy CPR? According to the NBC News, the EMTs were not city
employees. They worked for Richmond (ph) University Medical Center on
Staten Island. The hospital suspended them, by the way, several days
later, which is interesting.
I want to bring in Philip Holloway here now. And I`m getting to a
couple of points here. One is that a number of factors led to this guy`s
death. But then there`s the -- just like -- (INAUDIBLE) not like. When
you see Michael Brown lying in the street for six hours, you see this guy
laying there for six minutes even -- it`s not the way you treat a citizen
who`s at the edge of death. The guy`s not breathing, apparently. He`s not
What did they think his condition was? And why was he still cuffed?
PHILIP HOLLOWAY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That`s -- well, that`s
the $64,000 question that we all want to know the answer to.
I think there`s really two key takeaways, Chris, from this whole
entire incident, if you boil it down to its basics. And this may surprise
you. But in chronological order, the first takeaway is that Mr. Garner
would still be alive today if he had simply put his hands behind his back
as he was initially requested to. That`s number one.
Number two, he would also still likely be alive today if the officers
of the New York City Police Department had not violated their own policy.
That policy has been in place for over 30 years, the policy against using
chokeholds. It causes positional asphyxiation. And it`s lethal, and it is
justified only when lethal force can be justified.
So that`s the two key takeaways. He could have saved his own life,
but the police, if they`d have done their job the way they`re trained to do
and not violated well-settled policy, he would still be alive.
MATTHEWS: Let me stay with you. This is a tax avoidance crime. He`s
accused of selling untaxed cigarettes.
HOLLOWAY: That`s correct.
MATTHEWS: So he`s a white collar criminal, basically. He`s not a guy
holding up cab drivers or anything look that. He`s a white collar
criminal. He may be a big guy, but he`s a white collar criminal. So why
are they using that kind of force against the guy? Suppose he was a tax
cheat or was some guy -- running some operation somewhere at a storefront,
the kind of guys they pick up on "60 Minutes" all the time, the crooks.
Why would they use physicality like this to bring this guy into
control, into custody?
MATTHEWS: It looks like they`re picking up a guy who`s got four
knives on him and a couple guns and he`s just shot a couple people. I
mean, why do they treat him like a street criminal when he only happens to
be on the street? He`s not a street tough, apparently, or is he? I never
heard anybody say he is.
HOLLOWAY: All of -- all of those things, Chris, have to factor into
the overall equation, including, you know, his own physical health. The
crime itself was indeed very petty. I grant you that.
MATTHEWS: "Butt-legging" it`s called...
HOLLOWAY: Nevertheless, the officers have the legal right to arrest
him. And when they chose to do so, he was legally -- you know, he had to
put his hands behind his back and comply with their lawful orders. In some
states, for example, here in Georgia, you can be arrested for speeding.
You can go to jail for 12 months for speeding or running a stop sign.
So whether or not you like the law, even if it was petty, they did
have the right to arrest him.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Midwin -- Midwin Charles. How do you see this
case going to federal court? That`s where I see it. What do you see?
MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it would
surprise me if the federal government did not step in and get an indictment
in this case. I think if anyone just looks at the video, I think it`s
appalling when you look at it. And it`s clear that Eric Garner`s civil
rights were violated.
And even if we agree that the police had the right to sort of take him
down and arrest him, we have to ask ourselves, at what point did that force
have to stop? And that`s the problem. Did he really have to put his knee
on his head and press his head into the pavement? Is that excessive? And
I think that`s one of the things that the federal government`s going to be
MATTHEWS: You know, that`s what got to me, just as a civilian, you
know, Paul? I mean, I`m looking at a guy who had already put him in a
chokehold for 15 seconds, and then he puts another 10 seconds with this --
he put his arm kind of in a straight-arm and then leveraged his whole body
weight as he jams the guy`s head into cement!
CHARLES: And for what?
BUTLER: It just -- you can`t even -- I can`t even watch it. Why were
they doing this, again, for selling -- not even weed but a tobacco
BUTLER: Yes. But this is part of a policy. So when people talk
about the need for broad reform, what the New York police did was stop
doing stop and frisk because a judge said that was unconstitutional. Then
they went to this broken window zero tolerance policy, where for any little
thing, they arrest you because they want to get you in the system. That`s
what happened with...
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s also the philosophy of James Q. Wilson, you
know, years ago (INAUDIBLE) which is if you let people break windows and
break the law with impunity, eventually, they`ll be selling drugs, there`ll
be hookers on the corner. You know, that all comes with it.
BUTLER: Yes, but it results in, things like getting people with
criminal records for loosies. Mr. Brown in Ferguson was stopped for jay-
walking in the street. I mean...
BUTLER: What happens is, it leads to this erosion, this breakdown in
trust between communities and the police who are supposed to serve and
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know. Well, let me go back to...
HOLLOWAY: Chris, can I jump in for a second in regard to...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Mr. Holloway.
HOLLOWAY: All right. Well, in terms of police training, just last
month, I completed a police training course here in Georgia. And it`s
taught that when you`re going to restrain someone, you do so using only as
much force as is necessary to effect the arrest. But if you have to take
them to the ground, you do so in the face up position, as opposed to the
prone position or face down, like we saw in the Garner case.
And the reason that it`s taught that way here in Georgia and elsewhere
throughout the United States is because positional asphyxiation due to
these face-down, prone chokehold maneuvers is lethal. And you don`t know
who amongst us in society has health problems such as Mr. Garner had that
makes people like that especially susceptible to death. So the better
police practice is face up, or we call it supine restraint, rather than
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask all three...
MATTHEWS: ... break out now. I want to start with Midwin.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Charles, do you think there will be a federal case? Do
you think? I mean, objectively, looking at it, do you think there`s enough
here that it`s likely that Attorney General Holder will act here and
intervene and bring a case?
CHARLES: I do. I do. I think the videotape sort of speaks for
itself in the sense of how Eric Garner was treated and how his civil rights
were treated. I think if you look at the tape and see the excessive use of
force -- I mean, I don`t understand how anyone can say this that use of
force was reasonable, particularly since it continued, right?
It`s one thing to say, OK, we`re going to take him down and arrest
him, but why continue the use of force? He didn`t pose a threat. He
didn`t have a gun.
MATTHEWS: He didn`t fight back.
CHARLES: He didn`t have a weapon. He didn`t try to fight back. So
why? Why? And we have to ask those hard questions because, as a people,
as a society, we want our police officers to be held accountable for what
it is that they do.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Butler, Professor, do you think he`s going to go with
BUTLER: I think so. I heard Attorney General Eric Holder last night.
He sounded angry. He sounded like, you know, the police have finally gone
too far. And there`s precedent, case just like this in 1990 in New York.
A man -- police put him in an illegal chokehold. He died. State
prosecution, big fat not guilty. The judge, the trial judge said
miscarriage of justice. The police got up here and lied. So the feds
stepped in. They prosecuted the guy, got a conviction.
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t look dangerous to me. Philip Holloway, your
view. Will there be a federal case taken here (INAUDIBLE)
HOLLOWAY: I think that`s more likely here, certainly more likely than
the case in Ferguson.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
HOLLOWAY: I can certainly see the argument made that there`s probable
cause for at least some type of negligent homicide. Whether or not that
can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt will remain to be seen. But I
certainly can see the case being made out here for that.
MATTHEWS: I think Attorney General Holder`s going to go after a
systemic problem in Ferguson and a particular problem in this case.
MATTHEWS: And I think one of the reasons is people look at that guy
and they sympathize with him as a person. I think he`s -- he`s even a
likable-looking guy. I can`t explain why, but he does seem like a likable
guy. He does not look like a guy who`s going to punch a cop or do anything
else. It`s a sad story.
CHARLES: And most importantly, he didn`t. He didn`t.
MATTHEWS: I know.
CHARLES: That`s what makes this so egregious.
MATTHEWS: So true. Thank you so much. Everybody agrees, I think, to
varying degrees. Anyway, Philip Holloway, thank you. Professor Paul
Butler of Georgetown...
HOLLOWAY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... and Midwin Charles, thank you all for coming up here
CHARLES: You`re welcome.
MATTHEWS: Still ahead -- Rand Paul blamed Eric Garner`s death in part
on the cigarette tax. He did it yesterday right here on HARDBALL. Up
next, we`ll get reaction to the grand jury`s decision not to indict from
some of the other 2016 potential candidates. Hillary Clinton, for example
-- she has spoken out, and Chris Christie also, as we look at a memorial,
by the way, outside the Staten Island bodega where this incident happened.
There it is.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: As we watch these protests on the streets of New York,
including at the Brooklyn Bridge tonight, over the Garner case, Attorney
General Eric Holder today announced the findings of a Justice Department
investigation into the police department in Cleveland, Ohio.
Holder says police in Cleveland systematically engaged in excessive
use of force and violated people`s civil rights because of a lack of
training, supervision and accountability. The report is the result of a
civil rights investigation launched last year, well before the most recent
incident in Cleveland -- you know, the one where police shot and killed a
12-year-old who had been pointing a fake -- what turned out to be a fake
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We continue to watch the protesters in New York, especially on the
Brooklyn Bridge and around the country. Right now, they`re heading to
Brooklyn Bridge, as I said, apparently ready to close it down.
Meanwhile, reaction from the potential presidential candidates in --
for 2016 to the decision not to indict a police officer in the Eric Garner
case is beginning to roll in. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: When I was U.S. attorney, I used
to really, really dislike when politicians who didn`t know a tenth of what
the -- what the prosecutors and the grand jury knew would second-guess
their work based purely for political reasons or out of ignorance.
And so I`m not going to second-guess that work. There are folks who
will review what`s been done and -- and they will take whatever actions
they deem to be appropriate. But I`m not going to get in the business of
second-guessing the work of prosecuting offices and grand juries in a
jurisdiction that`s outside of mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Hillary Clinton addressed the Garner verdict today.
Here she is. She did it while speaking at the Massachusetts Conference for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A lot of
hearts are breaking, and we are asking ourselves, aren`t these our sons?
Aren`t these our brothers?
I`m very pleased that the Department of Justice will be investigating
what happened in Ferguson or Staten Island.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Those families and those communities and our country deserve
a full and fair accounting, as well as whatever substantive reforms are
necessary to ensure equality, justice and respect for every citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, both those comments by political people there were
Hillary Clinton of course is very careful not to render a judgment.
And then, in the other case of Governor Christie, he was very careful in
defending completely the very role of a grand jury. He wasn`t going to
question the very process.
Anyway, the proper role for politicians during events like the Garner
decision is our topic then. What should politicians say or not say when
these things are happening?
Joining me right now is the speaker of New York City Council Melissa
Mark-Viverito, and former RNC chair and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland
Speaker Mark-Viverito, what do you -- what do you a politician should
say? Should they -- I mean, Nixon, you know, notoriously came out and said
Manson, Charles Manson, was guilty and almost screwed the case. But should
politicians speak about the rightness or wrongness of a jury decision?
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: I believe we
have a responsibility, and I think that at least Hillary Clinton was trying
to empathize, right, with...
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s all she did.
MARK-VIVERITO: ... what we have here.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MARK-VIVERITO: And that`s really important at a time like this.
And, you know, I have spoken out. I have said many times that I was
extremely angry and disappointed with the decision. And I said today that
I think the decision was wrong on the part of the grand jury.
And I think that people want to be able to hear that politicians are
being real about their feelings. I`m not trying to play politics. And I
think that what we have to also do is understand that there are systemic
biases that exist. And I think there has to be a recognition of that and
that we have a responsibility to try to eradicate that, right, and to --
and that injustice and to right the wrongs that are systemic in our
criminal justice system.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there`s a problem in New York with police
handling of minorities?
MARK-VIVERITO: Well, I -- there has to be an improvement of police-
I have been vocal about that. There have been steps taken, but we
don`t believe it`s gone far enough. So, I think that the steps that the
mayor has outlined, the retraining, the acknowledgment that stop and frisk
was out of control -- we have seen an incredible downsizing of that, the
retooling of marijuana arrests, there have been efforts that are being
And that only has come, it only has come out of mobilizations, out of
persistence, out of people clamoring for justice. That is how we have
achieved change, so that the people being out there on the streets is
something that I think is a manifestation of that anger.
It`s being done in a very productive way. We have not had any
incidents. And I think that that`s important for that to be respected.
Do you believe that people clamoring for justice, to use your phrase,
means that there`s been an injustice?
MARK-VIVERITO: I believe there has been in this case.
MATTHEWS: No, do you believe that the people clamoring for justice is
evidence that there`s been an injustice?
MARK-VIVERITO: I think people are expressing the frustrations that
they feel that there`s a system that has not been responsive and has not
been meting out justice equally to all communities. And that is something
that has to be recognized. And I think that...
MATTHEWS: Well, just one last time. Do you believe that means that
there`s been injustice, that`s a fact?
MARK-VIVERITO: I believe, in this case -- I believe, in this case,
that there has been injustice.
I believe that the grand jury`s responsibility was just to find
probable cause and kick this over to a trial. And I think that there was
injustice done in this case.
And I can speak for myself. I cannot speak for every single
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the police officers in that case should have
been indicted or some level of -- some level of homicide?
MARK-VIVERITO: I believe that this should have been taken -- this
should have been taken to a criminal trial. That`s what I believe.
MATTHEWS: But the only way you do that is to indict.
MARK-VIVERITO: Exactly. And I believe there should have been
indictment. I said this morning, and I say it again, I believe the grand
jury was wrong.
Well, that`s a pretty clear statement.
What are you thinking, Mike?
STEELE: No, I think the councilwoman has got it exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Do you think politicians should be allowed to -- able to
render justice, basically, say, well, at least in the case of the -- she is
very carefully not that people should be convicted, but there should be a
case, a trial court.
STEELE: I think -- I think politicians can speak on behalf of the
anguish and the pain of a community. And we have seen that.
MATTHEWS: Can they render a judgment about a criminal case?
STEELE: No, they...
STEELE: Well, yes, but it`s after the fact. So, it`s not -- it`s not
-- as you led off with Nixon almost ruining the Manson case by speaking
STEELE: It`s after the fact.
And I think that they can harness this -- this frustration and anger
or whatever and sort of constructively direct it towards fixing a system
that everyone perceives to be broken, particularly in this particular -- in
this case, that there was something that did not work.
What was it that -- that this prosecutor saw that the rest of us
apparently didn`t see that led him to think that this was not a...
MATTHEWS: OK. What did you think of -- what did you think of
Governor Christie`s statement that he`s fine with the decision of the
STEELE: I think he`s a prosecutor. So, I don`t expect him to say
anything that`s going to be outlined of supporting the very process that he
was in charge of for many years.
STEELE: Same with Hillary Clinton.
She gave the generic empathetic speech, but not getting to the
specifics of really what this means.
STEELE: And this is -- this is really a tension within the judicial
system between black America and white America, particularly with young
black men, that we have got to expose and really deal with. And the
political -- political leadership, Chris, I don`t think really has it
within them to do it.
MATTHEWS: Madam Speaker, do you think there will be a federal case?
What are you -- are you optimistic that the feds will move in here and have
a new trial for these police officers?
MARK-VIVERITO: I am optimistic. You have to be optimistic.
And I think, in this case, we have seen it in the case of Anthony Baez
about 20 years ago as well, where the Department of Justice did intervene.
MARK-VIVERITO: Find out his civil rights had been violated, and that
officer went to jail.
So, there have been opportunities where the Department of Justice has
intervened that -- that has resulted in justice for the victims. And I
really -- my heart goes out to the family. The injustice to the Garner
family is one that we all suffer. And that family does not have him coming
home at night.
MARK-VIVERITO: And so for something that, as you have been showing in
the video over and over again, was just incredible to see happen before our
MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. I`m totally with you.
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for joining us, Melissa Mark-
Viverito from New York City.
MARK-VIVERITO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And Michael Steele, as always.
It`s a tricky matter, but I think you were very clear on this.
When we come back, much more on the Garner case. And we`re going to
look at the police culture in this country and what law enforcement can be
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the use of force by police in places like Staten Island this
summer and Ferguson and Cleveland has raised new questions about the
culture of law enforcement altogether.
Joining me right now is the Orlando, Florida, Chief of Police Val
Thank you, Chief. Are you still known as chief?
VAL DEMINGS, FORMER ORLANDO, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: Yes, it`s still a
title that I carry.
MATTHEWS: I love the title.
DEMINGS: Good evening, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It`s really -- it`s got a lot of punch to it.
Let me ask you about -- and this is deadly serious -- police officers.
When -- if you are sitting in a city -- a squad room or somewhere in a
squad car and they`re all watching this tape we`re all watching of these
five guys climbing on this big guy and bringing him down, choking him,
asphyxiating him, causing eventually a heart attack, and then letting him
lie there for a while without any effort to save him, give him CPR or
anything, what do regular good-hearted -- I should say good-hearted police
think of watching -- when they watch that?
DEMINGS: Well, Chris, what I can tell you is, this is a nation right
now in crisis, but it`s not something that we cannot overcome.
I mean, good things can rise out of the ashes, if we don`t fumble the
ball. And I just think it`s important -- as we continue the conversations
about the tragedies that we have seen in several cities, it`s important to
continue to say that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers
in this nation are good, decent, hardworking people who perform their
I have watched the video. There`s been a lot of talk about cameras,
and now here we are with video. The thing that is or has been troubling to
me is once Mr. Garner was on the ground and obviously in distress, in
medical distress, there was no sense of urgency.
And we know that the sense of urgency to render aid can make the
difference between life and death. But we did not see that in this case.
And the video is, I believe, quite clear and convincing. And, believe me,
that that is troubling to good law enforcement officers all around this
MATTHEWS: Explain the need to physically arrest a person, why it`s
important, even with a white-collar criminal, a guy selling untaxed
cigarettes, why you have to physically cuff him? Why do you have to bring
him into custody in that physical manner? Why is that police -- is that a
police normal rule of engagement, or -- if you will?
DEMINGS: Well, it`s always an option to make a physical arrest,
although there are other alternatives of issuing citations or notices to
appear in court, as opposed to making a physical arrest.
And I know there are a lot of departments now looking at those
particular policies. But once a decision is made to make a physical
arrest, there are certain guidelines in order to do that. As we know, the
actions of the arrestee kind of dictate the actions of the police officer.
You start off verbally with giving verbal commands and the -- the subject`s
actions actually dictate the actions of the officer.
MATTHEWS: So, he put his kind of hands back. I wouldn`t say up like
in surrender, but he put them back in a way of saying, I`m not going to let
you put the cuffs on.
You can see the guy. There he is there. He just puts his arms up.
He keeps putting them up and away from the cop who keeps trying to pull
them. And then, all of a sudden, the guy jumps him from behind and puts
him in the chokehold.
DEMINGS: Chris, I have served as a law enforcement officer for 28
years. I have worked with some of the best men and women in law
When I look at this particular situation, it`s on camera. The video
is clear. It`s quite troubling. We know that chokeholds were permissible
throughout the country some time ago. They were banned because of the fact
that they can cause death or great bodily harm.
And when I look at the circumstances in this particular case, it`s
clear and convincing that the officer did violate policy. Chokeholds can
be used, though, in deadly force situations, when there`s no holds barred,
if an officer has the right to use deadly force to save their lives or the
lives of innocent people.
Clearly, in this case, that was not the case. The officer`s actions,
when he made the decision to use the chokehold, he knew or he should have
known that his actions were wrong and should have known the consequences of
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Chief Val Demings from Orlando.
Coming up with the roundtable: Ted Cruz and his band on the right are
at it again. They want to shut the government down. Big surprise there.
Joe McCarthy is at it again.
Plus, the secret figure in the Hillary Clinton camp who is already
undercutting the candidate who could be her biggest rival on the way to the
nomination. It`s Jim Webb. They`re after him for some reason.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, call them the shutdown boys. They are angry and they are being
led into battle by Ted Cruz. Big surprise.
Yesterday, Senator Cruz rallied a group of House conservative red hots
to reject a deal to fund the federal government. It was one week actually
to get the deal to the president`s desk. That`s all they got, or else the
government does shut down next week.
It was a familiar cast of characters of course at yesterday`s Cruz
confab, including the inimitable Michele Bachmann, Steve King. Isn`t he a
piece of work? And Louie Gohmert. They were all there. Cruz wants to use
the government funding bill to wage an all-out war to destroy the
president`s actions on illegal immigration.
He wants to add a person -- actually add a poison pill to defund the
Department of Homeland Security. I mean cut it off, not more TSAs, no more
Immigration, nothing. Everybody has to come in the country illegally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We will not allocate taxpayer dollars...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
CRUZ: ... to lawless and illegal amnesty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right. Yes!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CRUZ: The simple thing that I would urge to every Republican who
spent the last year campaigning across this country saying, if you elect
me, we will stop President Obama`s amnesty, do what you promised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: House Speaker John Boehner does not want another government
shutdown and today held a symbolic vote rebuking President Obama`s actions
on immigration to allow the hard-liners at least blow up some steam. But
the party hard-liners don`t want a symbolic vote. They want to raise hell.
The roundtable tonight: Columbia professor and MSNBC contributor,
Dorian Warren, "Washington Post" reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, and
"Bloomberg" Washington bureau chief, Jonathan Allen.
You know, I don`t where to start on this, but what is -- I want to go
with you, Jon. This plan by the new Joe McCarthy which is always to blame
the government as lawless, they are always traitors to the cause. Where is
he going with this?
Because, you know, demagoguery is not a good career choice. And it
usually lasts for a while, Huey Long, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin. They
had their spurts, like Roman candles, and then they puttered out. Nobody
has ever been a long-term demagogue in this country.
JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: The rest of the
Republican Party is distancing themselves from Ted Cruz on this. I mean,
sure, there were some folks on the capitol steps the other night. They
want to get the government funded. They`re going to have another fight on
Department of Homeland Security in February, maybe March, but they want to
get this off the table, get into the New Year. I think you`re going to
find that in the Senate among Republicans, even more than you`re finding it
in the House.
There`s almost no chance that the government shuts down. I think what
there is some concern about is that it might not be this full year omnibus
and instead do a short-term continuing resolution. If Democrats withhold
their votes for this plan that Boehner has, the government is going to stay
MATTHEWS: Dorian, what do you think of the clown car? I mean, the
clown car shows up. I mean, it`s really objective. I mean, Michele
MATTHEWS: Steve King, not to be sexist at all about it, because Steve
King is a piece of work. Where do they find these people? What kind of
districts keep sending them back?
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s the question. That`s the
structural reason, right? These are districts drawn to advantage certain
kind of extremes --
MATTHEWS: You know who made a mistake? Eric Cantor.
WARREN: Well, that`s right.
MATTHEWS: He created this so far beyond him they wouldn`t elect him
WARREN: It`s great for re-election. It`s not great for governance.
MATTHEWS: They are sending these people to Washington. Cruz --
everyone knew who Cruz was. He`s a cruise missile. When they send him
from Texas, they wanted him to say, no, no, no and rally smaller people to
his campaign, his cause.
WARREN: But this is the internal tension that the Republican Party
has to deal with, with the extreme right represented by the Tea Party
right, and with moderates, frankly, on the issue of immigration when you
have business interests in the Chamber of Commerce who want some kind of
comprehensive immigration reform, that isn`t exactly go well with the Tea
MATTHEWS: Is this like the French needed the Iroquois to beat the
English? You have to forged strange alliances. They`re not that different
ideologically, just tactics.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, yes. But, I mean,
Cruz has a real strategy here. It`s not for governing. It`s about Ted
Cruz. It`s about 2016. He`s got a real flank in the Republican Party that
really like him. He`s good on television. He certainly gets you going.
MATTHEWS: I have a long memory more than all you guys, and I can tell
you, he`s so much like Joe McCarthy in the way he makes his indictments,
the way he sweats and makes these arguments. Everybody is a traitor but
HENDERSON: Imagine him in a debate against Rand Paul, against Marco
MATTHEWS: He finally got Hagel, by the way. He tried to knock him
out early by saying he`s taken money from North Korea. He must be thrilled
by Hagel`s demise.
HENDERSON: In that confirmation hearing.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the weird thing. He`s going to defund
Air Force One. I mean, this is whacko bird stuff. This seems like Mickey
Mouse. I`m going to cut off gas for your airplane, you know?
ALLEN: I mean, nobody takes that seriously.
MATTHEWS: They don`t? Steve King is there. Michele Bachmann is
ALLEN: So, the congressman from Western Iowa, no matter how you draw
that district, by the way, you`re going to get a pretty conservative
representative. The senator from Texas, one senator from Texas, the other
MATTHEWS: Hiding from --
ALLEN: Look, the more you say things like that, the less they take
you seriously. Now, if they want to go after funding for a particular
agency, there`s a way to do that.
But the president did this in a pretty smart way. He basically said,
we`re not going to prosecute. It`s hard to cut money and create
prosecution by cutting money. I mean, it`s a difficult thing to do.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about a policy situation. You know, they follow
this thing called the Hastert Rule for years now. They won`t do anything
unless they get a majority Republicans. Well, now, they`re scare for
votes. So, they come to Pelosi and say, we need you to get to 218 to pass
MATTHEWS: Does she do? Does she play hard to get?
HENDERSON: Well, I think she`s going to play hard to get. Yes. I
mean, she`s got a lot of power here. And it looks like the Democrats, not
only in the House but in the Senate, are very much mounting for a fight.
And they`ve got this whole, you know, kind of strike --
MATTHEWS: The good news here could come out of this. If you have a
Boehner combination with Nancy Pelosi, even to get through the night and
survive this mess and keep the government alive, could it mean that would
be a precedent for passing a bill with bipartisan agreement? I mean, if
they`re going to have to keep the government going by agreeing with each
MATTHEWS: Yes, exactly. Pass the Senate bill. Hey, while we`re at,
let`s have a vote on the Senate bill we`re all agreeing to have a vote.
ALLEN: I think that`s a big jump from keeping the government open to
an immigration bill that the Republican Party beyond Ted Cruz and Steve
King doesn`t like.
MATTHEWS: You know what? I think Boehner ought to do, pass the
immigration bill and take the heat and be a national hero. He`ll probably
get one of those Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards, wouldn`t he?
MATTHEWS: It`s better to get done. You know, you`re not going to be
speaker forever, but you could be speaker and have the Kennedy Profile in
ALLEN: He`ll be speaker for 24 hours.
MATTHEWS: Are you watching, Mr. Speaker? You could be a Kennedy
Anyway, thank you. The roundtable is staying with us. We`re going to
talk about Hillary. It looks like some of her people take a few buckshot
shots at the opponent already. She was in the White House meeting with the
president yesterday, which I thought was great politics for both those
Is she vulnerable on the left? Or even is that the word for it, on
the more outsider point of view? Is she too establishment? And if so,
does she have a legitimate rival that could exploit her weakness of being
I don`t know. We`re going to find out pretty soon now. She may
announce some time in January.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Stay tuned for the next report on the Chris Christie bridge
scandal. The legislative committee investigating the lane closures has
completed its work and they`ll release their report this coming Monday.
It`s going to be excitement before Christmas.
The committee investigation is one of several investigations into the
lane closures, along with criminal and civil investigations by the U.S.
attorney in Newark, the Manhattan district attorney and the SEC.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable, and it`s going to get
really hot now. Dorian, Nia and Jonathan are all with us again.
Hillary Clinton is nearing a decision on 2016. I personally think the
decision has been well-made, but "Politico" is reporting the former
secretary of state has been meeting with potential campaign managers this
week. And yesterday, she also sat down with President Obama for a quiet
meeting that was not on the official schedule.
But while Clinton is the odds-on favorite for Democrats in 2016, some
Clinton insiders are forecasting it won`t be an easy road to the nomination
Anne Gearan of "The Washington Post" writes that, quote, "Backers and
allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton are increasingly worried about the threat
posed by a motley field of Democratic presidential hopefuls who could
complicate or even derail a Clinton candidacy in 2016 by focusing attention
on her weaknesses."
All that motley field competing for the Democratic nomination is
comprised of three likely candidates so far -- Maryland Governor Martin
O`Malley, independent Senator Bernie Sanders who`s actually a socialist, of
Vermont, and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
But article had an interesting take on Webb, the former Reagan
official turned Democrat, who formally announced his exploratory committee
in a no frills video which he posted on YouTube last month. Well, that
video, according to "The Post" story earned scorn from at least one Clinton
insider. Quote, "Clinton backers snicker a bit about Webb. One strategist
called his Internet announcement a 14-minute," now here`s the phrase,
Jon, is that an attempt to make the guy look unbalanced?
ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. Look, at the very least it`s insensitive to
his military service. Here`s a Navy Cross winner, a guy who threw his body
in front of a grenade to try to shield one of his -- one of his fellow
soldiers. So --
MATTHEWS: So, who`s the sniper here? Who`s putting out the word --
ALLEN: I don`t know which adviser it was, but I will say this --
Hillary Clinton`s advisers are awkwardly both punching down and below the
belt right now. When I say it`s at least ignorant of what he did --
MATTHEWS: Why would you punch somebody that`s got no attention yet?
ALLEN: But let me just -- at most, they`re trying to make it sound
like he`s got PTSD. It`s the swift boating of Jim Webb --
MATTHEWS: It`s more like what Reagan did to Mike Dukakis. Remember
he was getting consulting, he had psychological problems, I wouldn`t want
into insult an invalid?
HENDERSON: And here`s a guy that simply just does not pose a threat
to Hillary Clinton. There is no -- you know a lot about his background.
Most Democrats do not.
MATTHEWS: Well, now, they do.
HENDERSON: His background in Virginia, he barely won that race in
2006, I think he won by like 10,000 votes.
ALLEN: Against George Allen.
WARREN: I think it`s a smart strategy --
MATTHEWS: What, to go after the --
WARREN: Yes, on one hand they say please, we want people to be in the
Democratic primary. Come on. On the other hand, it`s a shot across the
bow to see we will take you down.
HENDERSON: It sort of --
ALLEN: They`re not going to back down? A Navy Cross winner, Bronze
Star, Purple Heart, that guy`s going to back down? If anything, that
brings him in.
HENDERSON: That`s the thing. I don`t think it`s designed to make him
back down. I think it`s designed to pump these folks up --
MATTHEWS: I`m hearing from -- you must be a Nixon fan, huh? Anyway,
he would bring hammers down on flies. Helen Douglas wasn`t going to -- he
beat her by 600,000. If he beat her by 200,000, he would never have had
the problem of his career. What is this idea about you`ve got to stomp any
WARREN: I think it`s --
MATTHEWS: It`s "The Godfather".
WARREN: I think -- no, I think the Clinton camp is still burned from
MATTHEWS: You think she could lose to Jim Webb?
WARREN: But I think it`s a signal to every possible contender that we
are going to come after you, we are going to be gracious on the surface but
we`re going to come after you because we learned our lesson from `08.
HENDERSON: But it`s also a way to kind of frame this idea of this
could be a tough fight when it really wouldn`t be. She`s battling this
image that she thinks she`s inevitable, that she is inevitable.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s review the phrase. You first, "hostage video".
What`s the statement there?
HENDERSON: You know, I don`t know what the statement is. I think it
was a bit of an awkward video. Let`s be honest. I think the most
interesting part of that story was Bill Clinton, who said that apparently
he very much admires the --
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a tactical question. Is a candidate, a
potential candidate, I think -- she`s running, Secretary Clinton admiring
the person who made that comment or is wondering who made it and is mad
about is it?
WARREN: Wondering who made it, probably mad about it. I think it`s
inevitable, there will be leaks, there will be undisciplined folks
affiliated with the Clintons who will say things. The person that is
actually most undisciplined is the former president himself. So, this is a
problem the Clinton campaign will have to deal with. They`re going to
always have undisciplined leaks all the time.
MATTHEWS: I love the way you said that.
Anyway, thank you, Dorian Warren of Columbia University, and Nia-
Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post", and Jonathan Allen of
When we return let me finish with a singular belief that preserving a
society involves a lot more than simply holding the line.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the singular belief that
preserving a society involves more than simply holding the line. A good
society needs to be responsive for those who question whether it is good or
not. To survive a democracy needs to answer to the anger of people,
especially anger that can no longer be denied.
And today, there are two paths of anger in America. One is in the
streets and directed at police brutality, or authority in fact. Indeed at
the system of justice itself. And the other path of anger also deep and
insistent is at the failure of government to look out for the country
itself. To spend loosely and irresponsibly the public`s money, to govern
too loosely and for too many years with the responsibility of ensuring that
only people legally allowed to enter the country actually do so.
And one path of anger believes the state is too severe, too brutal in
enforcing the law and the will of society, and the other path of anger
believes the government has been too weak, too political in meeting the job
of its sworn stewardship.
Neither of these American critics needless to say would think of
giving equal credit to the other. Those angry on the street today and
tonight like any noticeable sympathy for those on the angry right and those
on the right tend to show little compassion for the victims of police
aggressiveness or worse.
But both are real and both paths of anger indeed are experiencing
heavy traffic today and a society needs to address both, not let them stew.
Moving on without dealing with their core concerns is no way to preserve a
society. It`s a way to weaken it. Worse yet, turn it against itself.
It could just be that one of the factors, maybe the main one driving
the anger on both sides of the political spectrum, is the economic squeeze
now, running down hope in so much of American society. Can anyone
seriously deny this?
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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