updated 3/18/2015 10:08:58 AM ET 2015-03-18T14:08:58

Date: March 17, 2015
Guest: Daniel Levy, Josh Marshall, Gabe Scheinmann, Jonathan Allen, Anne
Gearan, Joe Conason, Lizz Winstead, David Weigel

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Bibi in the fight of his life.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

"Let Me Start Tonight" with breaking news from Israel. The polls are now
closed, the results beginning to trickle in. Exit polls show that Benjamin
Netanyahu`s party and the center-left opposition are neck and neck, each
with about 27 seats in the Knesset.

But that is only part of the story here. The question now is this. Who
will be tapped to form the next government? And can they build a coalition
with the smaller parties?

Up until today, it looked as though the center-left coalition was gaining
ground against Netanyahu, but Netanyahu threw his lot in with the far
right. He broke sharply with the U.S. and most of the world, vowing
yesterday to never allow a Palestinian state on his watch. He aligned
himself with the right here in the U.S. and aggressively pushed to sink the
administration`s negotiations with Iran.

Today, in a last-minute Hail Mary that reeked of racial fear-mongering,
Netanyahu warned his supporters that, quote, "Arab voters are going to the
polls in droves."

So what happens next in Israel, and what does it mean for U.S. and Israeli
ties? NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell is at Likud
headquarters, Netanyahu headquarters, in Tel Aviv tonight. Netanyahu is
now addressing his supporters there.

Andrea, let`s just go to the bottom-line questions here. Netanyahu wanting
to declare victory here -- can he form a government? And will he get the
chance to form a government?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Israeli politics is
about as complicated as you get. This is a parliamentary election.
According to the exit polls, it`s a virtual tie, a dead heat. But there
are more small parties who are natural partners of his hard-line stance,
which he is repeating tonight in his speech in Hebrew, of course, to his
supporters here.

So it is increasingly likely, in this crazy world of Israeli politics, that
he will be able to form the government. But the process is, once they
count the votes and decide if it is as close as the exit polls indicate,
then the president of Israel, who is pretty much a titular job (INAUDIBLE)
job -- he gets to decide whom (ph) he has, Isaac Herzog of the more -- the
former socialist, who is the center-left candidate, who came in virtually
tied with Netanyahu in the exit polls, or Netanyahu, to form a government.
Whoever gets that first chance can start wheeling and dealing and trying to
cajole these smaller parties.

The very interesting thing is that according to the exit polls, at least,
the party that came in third was this new coalition of Israeli Arabs, who
had always been splintered. So they actually did produce a stronger vote,
according to what indications we had. And that was clearly what inspired
Netanyahu to do what had never before been done, from all of our reporting,
came out, made a statement. The Israeli judge said that he couldn`t go
live because it was election day, so he went on Facebook and said, They
cannot shut us up. And this is just a very strong pro-security, anti-
Palestinian state mandate.

If he does form this government, it has huge implications also for the
White House because as strong as he is -- you can even understand in Hebrew
-- he is absolutely determined not to permit a Palestinian state. And that
has been bedrock Israeli and U.S. policy going all the way back to the Camp
David accords. This is a big setback for the Obama White House -- Steve.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Andrea, on that point then, the relations -- I mean,
clearly, the White House was hoping there would be a change in leadership
in Israel. If Netanyahu is able to form a government, if he`s basically
returned to power, what is that relationship going to be like, then,
between the Obama White House -- they`re there basically for two more years
-- and Netanyahu?

MITCHELL: It`s going to be absolutely poisonous because part of his
statement today -- and we interviewed top Likud officials, his party -- is
that he accused the U.S. of pouring foreign government into his -- foreign
money, rather, into his opposition. So he accused the U.S. of trying to
spike the election against him. And the Likud official said that it was
the State Department that did this through some of their non-government --
support for non-government organizations.

This has not been proved, of course, but this is going to be a very tough
road ahead for Secretary Kerry and for President Obama.

KORNACKI: All right, thank you to NBC`s Andrea Mitchell in Tel Aviv
tonight. You see the scenes on your screen there. That`s Benjamin
Netanyahu. He is essentially trying to declare victory over there, still
an open question, though, if he will be able to form a government in
Israel, the votes just being counted right now. Exit polls show a very
close race between his party and the main opposition, but a lot of the
smaller parties there could give him an opportunity to form a government,
clearly a result here that the Obama administration was not hoping for and
a lot of implications there.

Daniel Levy is with the European Council on Foreign Relations. He was a
special adviser to the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak. Josh
Marshall`s the founder and editor of TalkingPointsMemo. And Gabe
Scheinmann is director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center. They all
join us now to talk this over.

So Daniel, let me start with you. What is your sense -- I know it`s a
fluid situation right now. Netanyahu is projecting the confidence of a
winner right now. Do you think it`s likely, when the dust settles on this,
that Netanyahu is going to be the prime minister of Israel? And what does
that mean for the U.S.-Israeli relationship?

Steve, is yes, as your correspondent Andrea just outlined. The fact that
this is a very tight result between the two major parties does not
necessarily translate into an equal competition to form a governing

In Israel, it is always government by coalition. The magic number for a
majority is 61. The person with a much clearer path to 61, perhaps
unstoppable -- not guaranteed, but it`s looking that way -- is Prime
Minister Netanyahu. His path will likely be a narrow rightist -- very
rightist coalition. He may try to expand that.

What does that mean? Well, I think the cost for what Netanyahu has
achieved -- and let me explain what he achieved. Netanyahu has pulled this
off by cannibalizing his own allies on the right and far right. He
basically got this magic number, which is equal or above the other party,
by taking votes from the far right.

And he did it at the cost of ending the pretense that Netanyahu can be a
man to work with on peace. He unmasked himself. They used to say that
Arafat was unmasked. Well, Netanyahu was unmasked by himself in declaring
that there would be no Palestinian state and that the pretense of
supporting some kind of peace effort was just that. It was not sincere.

That means that not only on Iran, but also on the Palestinian issue, Prime
Minister Netanyahu -- of course the focus is the White House, that he`s at
loggerheads with the White House, but he`s also at loggerheads with the
rest of the world.

I don`t think that means an end to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Of course
not. But I think it makes for a bumpy road. And I think Netanyahu is
going to have a tough time because in the last government, he could put a
fig leaf or a smiling face with his coalition allies on his own
rejectionism. He won`t be able to do that this time around.

KORNACKI: Well, as you`re mentioning right there and as Andrea was
mentioning at the top, Israelis were going to the polls (INAUDIBLE)
Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page warning that right-wing rule
is in danger. And he said, quote, "Arab voters are going to the polls in
droves. Left-wing organizations are bringing them in buses."

He sought to clarify that a little bit later, but those are some harsh
words there, Josh. And that is the story here. In the last couple days,
Netanyahu -- the story of 48 hours ago was he`s on the verge of losing, his
party`s on the verge of losing. He now appears in a much better position,
and he did this by going hard to the right.

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKINGPOINTSMEMO.COM: That`s exactly right. And I -- you
know, Daniel`s summary, I -- as I would have expected, is -- is really
right on target. I think the key here, though, is that he probably can
form a coalition. It`ll be a very narrow coalition. There`s some question
-- there`s one right-wing religious party that it`s not clear whether they
will make it into the Knesset or not. If they do, that makes his -- puts
him in a much better position.

But this will be a very narrow government, a very hard-right government.
And you know, Andrea was saying this will be tough for the White House --
Israel`s a smaller country than the United States. Israel relies on the
United States in a lot of different ways.

I think -- I think if you look at a lot of the Israeli press today, after
these results came out, it is hard to see where a government put together
on these terms is going to last that long. So this is a huge come-from-
behind victory for Netanyahu. There`s no -- there`s absolutely no question
about that.

It leaves him in a vastly better position than people were thinking he was
going to be in a couple days ago, but it`s not a good position. It is a
very thin majority that it looks like he`ll be able to put together. Going
back to Daniel`s point, in theory, he could try to expand out from that and
bring in some centrist parties, and at least by my math, he has to bring in
the Kulanu Party to even get to a majority, but that seems doable.

But it`s hard for me to see how he can build much from there with, you
know, the -- frankly, you know, racist appeals against the country`s Arab
population is -- is -- it`s hard to get much worse than that, but the
specific -- the categorical denial he that will ever entertain or allow a
Palestinian state -- that is a bright red line that he`s been able to fuzz
over up until now. He can`t (ph).

And that puts him at loggerheads with a lot of the other parties in Israel,
very much against -- you know, at loggerheads with the United States, with
Europe. So a lot of -- a big part of the -- what went into this campaign
is that Israel is facing a diplomatic tsunami.

KORNACKI: Well, yes, and that -- Gabe, let me --


MARSHALL: And that`s coming in spades --

KORNACKI: Let me ask you, the longer-term implications -- if Netanyahu
survives here, the terms that he`s won this thing on -- now swearing off
the idea of a two-state solution, something the international community has
wide agreement on that being a goal, he says not a goal, the message he
sent about the Arab population today -- is there a risk of Israel with the
Netanyahu government continuing being a little marginalized in its
relationship with the United States and on the world stage?

GABE SCHEINMANN, THE JEWISH POLICY CENTER: So first, thank for you having
me. But let`s put some things in perspective. This is a big win for
Israeli democracy. You have up to 36 new members of Knesset, a record.
You have up to 30 women serving in the Knesset, a record. You probably
have the best showing by an Arab list (ph) ever in Israel.

I mean, this is -- look around in the Middle East. The Palestinians
haven`t had an election in nearly a decade, and what`s going on in Syria or
in Egypt or in Jordan. This is a big victory.

Now, when it comes to Netanyahu`s priorities, whether on Iran or the
Palestinian issue, the irony is that even though he did tack hard right
over the last five days in order to get more votes -- and it worked -- the
irony is that it actually may make it more possible for him to implement
how he sees and what he calls a "two-state solution with caveats" because
the far right that doesn`t believe in a two-state solution is actually

So whether he chooses to go or to try to attempt to go with a unity
government with the left and Isaac Herzog, or he reiterates his support for
two states, like he did in the Bar Elan (ph) speech six years ago, the fact
that the Likud has its most seats -- or at least the exit polls say that it
has its most seats in almost 15 years actually encourages those prospects.

KORNACKI: All right --

SCHEINMANN: When it comes to Iran, both Bibi and Herzog and the entire
Israeli people, from far left to far right, are actually united. They
might disagree with how to get there and the tone the Israeli prime
minister has used with the American president, but the Israeli people are
totally united when it comes to Iran policy and what to do.

KORNACKI: All right. It`s just after 1:00 AM in Israel right now. You
saw the scenes there, Benjamin Netanyahu still on stage. We`ll keep a
close eye on what`s happening there as it continues.

Thank you, though, for now to Daniel Levy, Josh Marshall, Gabe Scheinmann.

Coming up, a tangled Web of dysfunction has taken over Capitol Hill. It
has ensnared Republicans, Democrats, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and
Loretta Lynch, the president`s pick to be attorney general. Is this any
way to run a government?

Plus, breaking news. Republican congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois
stepping down. Questions have been piling up about how he spent campaign
and taxpayer cash.

And more pressure on Hillary Clinton to turn over her private e-mail
server. Is the flap over her e-mails hurting her politically? We`ve got
new numbers tonight and a heated debate about that with the roundtable.
That`s later in the show.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: The FBI has arrested a former mechanic with the United States
Air Force for trying to join ISIS. Law enforcement officials say the
mechanic, an American citizen identified in court papers as Tairod Pugh,
allegedly tried to travel from Egypt to Turkey and eventually to Syria to
join the terrorist group.

According to court documents, Pugh tried to join ISIS shortly after being
fired from his job as an airplane mechanic in Kuwait. He had served in the
Air Force for about four years back in the 1980s. Push will appear in
court in New York tomorrow.

We`ll be back after this.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A widely popular bipartisan bill to
help sex trafficking victims has just exploded into a spectacular mess of
partisanship over the issues of abortion and immigration, the possible new
attorney general and President Obama. The fight now includes the White
House, the Republican presidential field, even Hillary Clinton.

How is that all possible, you ask? Well, the Senate was about to vote on
that sex trafficking legislation, but then Democrats noticed that it
contained a Republican provision on abortion. Democrats blamed Republicans
for sneaking that language into the bill. Republicans blamed Democrats for
not reading the bill in its entirety. Democrats are now refusing to allow
a vote on the legislation, and Republicans are refusing to take out the
anti-abortion language.

And now Senate Majority Leader McConnell has tied the vote to the
nomination of the new -- of the possible new attorney general, Loretta
Lynch. Republicans are trying to delay or derail her nomination as a way
of punishing the president for his actions on immigration.

So there you have it, a bill that was expected to sail through the
Republican-controlled Congress has now somehow managed to ignite a fight
over abortion, immigration, the nominee for attorney general and the
president. So what happens now? How do we untangle this mess?

Anne Gearan is national politics correspondent for "The Washington Post."
Jonathan Allen is Washington bureau chief with Bloomberg News.

So OK, we got a standoff here, Jonathan. We got Democrats saying, Hey,
Republicans, naughty, naughty you. You snuck this abortion language in
there. We don`t want it. You got Republicans saying, OK, you want this
new attorney general, you`re only going to get your new attorney general if
you put this bill through with the abortion language.

What`s going to give here?

JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: If only "Schoolhouse Rock" had been so
convoluted, right? This isn`t exactly how a bill is supposed to sit (ph)
on Capitol Hill. I think what`s going to happen here is, ultimately,
Democrats may have to yield on this because they`ve let the process play
out so far without having read that bill that they`ve now put Republicans
in a position where they can say the Democrats are holding up a human sex
trafficking bill over this abortion language, and basically hold up Lynch.

So if the Democrats want to get Lynch, and they do, they may have to yield
on this other provision. Otherwise, Democrats have to try to explain why
they`re against a human sex trafficking bill, and when you`re in politics,
explaining is losing.

KORNACKI: Yes, well, Anne, so I mean, what is the tougher thing here for
Democrats because, I mean, on the one hand you`re looking at, you know, the
first -- somebody who would be -- Loretta lynch would be the first African-
American female attorney general. I imagine Democrats would be making
noise about the idea that Republicans are blocking such a potentially
historic pick. At the same time, like Jonathan says, they have to explain
in a sort of roundabout way that, Hey, it`s because they`ve attached
language to the sex trafficking bill.

How did they get in this mess?

ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, they got into it for
exactly the reasons that Jonathan was outlining there. I mean, it -- one
political, you know, trap after another got -- got set and -- and sprung
here over the last week or so.

And I mean, there are actually, we think, enough Republican votes to
confirm Loretta Lynch should she actually get a confirmation vote. And I
mean, she`s been waiting for that for nigh on 130 days now. And it -- I
mean, it`s -- at some point, that actually, Democrats think, will come back
to bite Republicans because they`re holding up an African-American highly
qualified nominee.

KORNACKI: Well, yesterday, Hillary Clinton went on a Twitter tirade
against Republicans for all this mess, saying: "Congressional trifecta
against women today, blocking great nominee, first African-American woman
A.G., for longer than any A.G. in 30 years. Two, playing with politics
with -- playing politics with trafficking victims and, three, threatening
women`s health and rights."

So, Jonathan, you`re talking about the politics of this. Again, Democrats
seem to think they might have -- they had so much success in elections
past, at least in 2012, with this idea of the gender gap, the war on women,
that sort of thing. You see Hillary Clinton stoking those themes right
there, but it seems like Republicans aren`t as worried about the politics
on this one, maybe.

ALLEN: Well, Hillary Clinton is in a bunker right now, and I think this is
you would call this a diversionary tactic.

There is an effort for her to jump in somewhere where she feels like she
has got some standing and make this a partisan issue. It is to some degree
a partisan issue, but to really enunciate and try to get Democrats back
behind her after -- now we`re talking about two weeks essentially of an e-
mail scandal.

I think this is what`s going on with her right now, is just an effort to
message the Democrats. And to the extent that she can make it about an
issue that is clear and easy for her party to grasp on to, this war on
women idea, all the better.

KORNACKI: Anne, who should Democrats who are out there who are mad about
this abortion language that was inserted into the trafficking bill -- and
if Jonathan is right and this is something Democrats ultimately have to
swallow, who should Democrats out there be mad at? Who dropped the ball on
Capitol Hill, did not notice this language, and let it get to this point?

GEARAN: Well, I mean, certainly committee staffers down below the level of
names most people know should have read this more closely, but that said --


KORNACKI: Who is the top Democrat on the committee?

GEARAN: Well, you can go all the way above that, right? This has now
become a final between McConnell and Reid. They -- this is now a power
play that really almost has nothing to do with the language specifically
and the committee.

This is now, you know, which one of us is going to be able to kind of get
more out of a hostage situation? They each have hostages here.

KORNACKI: Well, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Democratic leader,
is going after Republicans for the messes we have seen since they took over

Here`s some of what Reid has to say.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Any attempt to hold a
confirmation vote hostage because of this abortion provision is a sham.
Republicans really on Loretta Lynch are out of excuses. This Congress is
barely two months old, and yet this is just the latest on a growing list of
examples proving Republicans simply can`t govern.


KORNACKI: So that theme, Jonathan, that Harry Reid is pressing there, the
idea that, hey, Republicans, they have got full control now, they have got
what they`re looking for, and yet they`re not delivering anything, is that
likely to resonate with anybody?

ALLEN: Well, sure, it`s absolutely going to resonate with Democrats, and
they hope that it will resonate with voters outside the Democratic Party.

Democrats are standing in the way of Republicans, filibustering at every
opportunity, tripping them when they can, and then, you know, arguing the
Republicans can`t govern. In this case, you know, the attack from Harry
Reid is that Republicans can`t govern. Of course, the Republican attack
for Democrats on this particular bill is, Democrats can`t read or can`t
take the time to.

So this was amateur hour for the Senate Democrats. And I think it`s going
to end up coming back to bite them on a provision that actually matters to
their base.

KORNACKI: Republicans have made it very clear their opposition to Loretta
Lynch as attorney general has little to do everything to do with her
qualifications, everything to do with their opposition to the president.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think the attorney general
nominee is suffering from the president`s actions. There`s no question
about it.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Doesn`t Congress have a right to say, oh,
no, Mr. President, we understand how this system works? You get to
nominate, but you have over-reaped -- reached here. And we`re not going to
ratify, we`re not going to appoint and approve somebody who`s going to
continue to promote these kind of unlawful activities.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: When asked if she would implement President
Obama`s illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty, she said
absolutely, and she said she found the legal reasoning -- quote --


KORNACKI: Scott Walker going Loretta Lynch as well, his office giving his
statement to the conservative Web site Breitbart News: "Given Loretta
Lynch`s failure to commit to protect Americans from the president`s lawless
executive overreach, that even he said nearly two dozen times, she is not
fit to serve as the nation`s attorney general."

Well, let me ask you about that argument, Anne, that you`re hearing from
Republicans here. On the one hand, I understand. They have a difference
with the president on immigration. It`s also a difference that is being
settled by the courts right now. The courts are stepping in and are
reviewing this thing, but at a certain level here, what would Republicans
or what would any opposition party expect?

This is the president, this is his choice for his Cabinet. Is he going to
put somebody in his Cabinet who is going to blow up one of his signature
achievements? How could any party expect that?

GEARAN: Yes. It`s sort of ridiculous to say at the outset that you`re
going to oppose Lynch because she wouldn`t say bad things about the
president`s immigration policy, when she is being hired to carry out many
of his policies, and many of which at the Justice Department have bearing
on the future of immigration policy.

Republicans can construct other policy reasons to want to oppose her, but
to say that they expected her to say -- to give more critical answers on
immigration was probably unrealistic.

That said, she actually conducted herself very well at her confirmation
hearing, and she did get some Republican support, at least rhetorical
support, at the time of those hearings for being forthright and answering
their questions.

KORNACKI: All right, Anne Gearan with "The Washington Post," Jonathan
Allen with Bloomberg, appreciate the time. Thank you very much.

ALLEN: Take care, Steve.

GEARAN: Thank you.

KORNACKI: Up next: Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois is
resigning. He`s been dogged by mounting questions about how he spent
taxpayer and campaign cash.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Breaking news today, Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock
announcing this afternoon that he is resigning from Congress following the
controversy over his office spending habits, Schock releasing a statement
saying -- quote -- "I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of
the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life,
but the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great
distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of
the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I
have set for myself."

The damaging revelations about Schock continued right up until his
announcement of his resignation, today Politico reporting about tens of
thousands of dollars Schock was reimbursed in private auto mileage.
According to Politico, Schock billed the federal government and his
campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car between
January 2010 and July of 2014.

However, when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July of 2014, it had only
80,000 miles on the odometer, according to public records obtained by
Politico under Illinois open records laws. Documents, in other words,
indicate he was reimbursed for 90,000 miles more than his car was ever

A Schock spokesman also telling Politico today -- quote -- "In an effort to
remove any questions and out of an abundance of caution, Congressman Schock
has reimbursed all monies received for official mileage since his election
to Congress."

President Obama`s former chief political strategist, David Axelrod, tweeted
about Schock`s surprising announcement. He said: "Has anyone had a more
meteoric rise and fall than Aaron Schock? Filled with promise and hubris,
the one succumbed to the other today."

For more on the story, I`m joined by Dave Weigel from Bloomberg Police.

Dave, thanks for joining us.

So, we know the political damage from this. It`s cost this guy his
political career. We know there was an ethics investigation that had
already been launched by the House Ethics Committee. He was also asked,
Schock was also asked a couple days, did he break any laws? His response
was, "I hope not."

Could he be in legal trouble here?

DAVID WEIGEL, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, one reason that people resign in
situations like this is so the Ethics Committee investigation goes away.

Michael Grimm is basically scot-free on that count. Other people who have
resigned, Trey Radel, people who have gotten into similar troubles,
basically can walk away from the Congress in every literal sense. I think
that`s basically over, and, look, Schock is not going to leave much of an
impact on the country or on that district.

There were a lot of Republicans clamoring to take that seat. The Club for
Growth thought about challenging him in 2014, but couldn`t come up with the
money to do it -- or -- sorry -- couldn`t overcome his money. It was clear
that he was just a goner in this Congress, anyway. He was becoming just an
embarrassment to himself and the district.

KORNACKI: Well, what about before this? He had 435 members of the House,
but his profile, his public profile was a lot more prominent than the
average member of Congress. It`s why -- one of the reasons we`re talking
about this so much, all over magazine covers and Instagram and all those
sorts of things.

I have always thought of him as sort of the Republican version of Anthony
Weiner, Anthony Weiner before the scandal at least.


KORNACKI: A show horse, not a workhorse. Is there a lot of sort of
private happiness on Capitol Hill among his colleagues?

WEIGEL: So, this happened right as they were leaving a vote, and I
couldn`t talk to many.

There was a little bit of sorrow that somebody who was frankly a very good
fund-raiser and an OK ambassador to young voters was -- he was supposed to
be at South by Southwest two days ago on a panel about millennials. He had
kind of carved out this industry in being the handsome face of youth
outreach, and that was over.

But there`s not that much enthusiasm for a guy who on the way out kept
basically insulting everyone he worked with. When he was confronted by ABC
News at the office, he said, I`m not a crusty old white guy, like a lot of
his colleagues in Congress if you have ever walked through the halls.

When Politico confronted him, Politico, who owned this story left and
right, confronted him in Peoria, he said, well, if anyone -- if you look
through any member of the Congress` -- I`m paraphrasing -- documents, then
you would find something, if anyone had this kind of scrutiny.

He basically scrambled and kind of arrogantly dug his own grave as the
story was being investigated.

KORNACKI: He`s also somebody who I think his political career started when
he was 18 or 19 years old, I think, running in Peoria for the school board
out there.

This is one of those guys I think who was 11, 12 years old looking in the
mirror delivering his State of the Union address. Now he`s in his mid-30s
right now. We still live in an era where a guy like Mark Sanford from
South Carolina can go through that humiliation, come back and serve in
Congress. David Vitter can survive a prostitution scandal. Eliot Spitzer
ran for office again, didn`t win, but he did run.

Is this the end of the line for Schock, or could there still be some kind
of political future?

WEIGEL: The difference -- just to stick to Mark Sanford, Mark Sanford did
approach a comeback with humility.

He still does I think more town halls per capita on average than most
members of Congress. He`s very open and very aware of what he cost people.
He also had a constituency, because he was an aggressively conservative
governor who fought the Obama administration. Just -- Schock never built a
constituency, apart from appearing on panels and appearing on television.

There is not going to be much appetite for him to ever return, although the
whole attention to this scandal reminds me of Michael Kinsley say, the
scandal is not what`s illegal, it`s what is legal. Schock will end up
having destroyed his ruined his career over a bunch of stupid spending,
thousands of dollars, a few thousand dollars here, a few thousand dollars
there, stuff that no other member of Congress could have done.

But this was doorstepped and investigated by reporters, you know, rightly.
They should have -- I`m glad -- I`m glad he was caught for this, but we`re
going back to a normalcy in Washington with a replacement for Schock, where
far more money is being wasted on official projects and far more money is
being earmarked for official projects.

This guy was just a lightweight, and no one is really going to miss him.

KORNACKI: All right. We will see if that replacement gets the "Downton
Abbey" office or if they remodel it again.

Thank you to Dave Weigel.

Appreciate the time tonight.

WEIGEL: Thank you.

KORNACKI: Still ahead: the roundtable on Hillary Clinton`s e-mail. New
polling shows the flap may be hurting her politically.

Plus, the surprise retirement of a young NFL star who thinks that playing
football may be hazardous to his health.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

House Speaker John Boehner today called on former Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to hand over her private e-mail server to a third party as
part of the House Select Committee`s investigation of Benghazi. Here`s


deserve all the facts about what happened in Benghazi. That`s why it`s so
important for Secretary Clinton to turn over her personal server to a
neutral third party. I think this is the fairest way to make sure that we
have all the documents that belong to the public and ultimately all the


KORNACKI: Hours later, the State Department said that they have no record
that Secretary Clinton signed a form delaying that she had left her
officials documents with the department upon her exit, though there`s no
record of her predecessors doing so either.

All this comes as a new CNN/Opinion Research poll finds a very narrow
majority of Americans, 51 percent of them, say that they believe Hillary
Clinton did something wrong by using a personal e-mail address on a home
server during her time as secretary of state. Likewise, 51 percent of
Americans say that Clinton has not done enough to explain why she used the
private e-mail system.

The poll also found that 44 percent of Americans now view Hillary Clinton
unfavorably. That`s a jump of six points since the poll was last taken in
November. It`s also worth pointing out that it is the highest unfavorable
rating Clinton has received since the end of her presidential run in June
of 2008. That`s after her long and contentious campaign against Barack

I`m joined now by the roundtable, Joe Conason, editor in chief of "National
Memo", Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post", and Lizz Winstead, co-
creator of "The Daily Show".

So, Jonathan, let start with you -- these poll numbers. I mean, she`s back
to where she is was at the end of the only losing campaign in the national
stage. In 2008, this is having an effect.

those poll numbers reflect where the American people are on the Clinton?
Either Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton on fill in the blank -- fill in the
blank issue?

So, I think the problem that the secretary has is that the 51 percent
thinks that she`s done something wrong, thinks that she has questions to
answer, and quite frankly she does. You know, Speaker Boehner calling on
her to hand over the server to the Benghazi House Committee, doing the
umpteenth investigation I think unnecessarily politicizes something --


KORNACKI: What are the -- in your mind, what are the question she has to
answer right now?

CAPEHART: Well, the question is -- well, one, why do you have a -- why do
you have a private server? Two, are we -- can you please assure everyone
that all of the documents that are on it that pertain to your time as
secretary of state are off that private server?

And I think what Speaker Boehner has done to politicize this is to attach
it to the House Benghazi Committee, which there have been so many
investigations that have shown time and time again that nothing -- none of
the conspiracy theories is true. I think --

KORNACKI: Yes, in that sense, it`s reminiscent of the 1990s and

Committee cleared her, controlled by Republicans, by the way.

KORNACKI: How can she put the e-mail question to rest then? Because right
now, what came out of that press conference was basically, look, I had all
of these on my own server, I handed over the ones that I think are the
public`s business, and you got to trust me.

CONASON: If I were cynical, she doesn`t need to care about this, because
the data you left out of the poll that you were quoting shows that she has
a very strong majority that wants her to be president. Fifty-seven percent
answered that poll saying we would be proud if Hillary Clinton were
president, right? Correct me if I`m wrong. I think that`s true --


KORNACKI: But the concern for the Clintons would be look how high she was
riding a few months ago, we`re still more than a year from the election,
and if she`s just watch her negative number jump.

CONASON: Yes, you know very well that there are tides, ebbs and flows in
politics. She`s going to have higher negatives at some point. She was
bound to have a higher negative eventually after leaving the State
Department. There was no question that was going to happen, once she
starts to edge towards being a candidate. That`s just what happens, when
anybody starts to run for president.

Now, if I were the Republicans, I would have to ask myself, does it make
sense to keep doing the same thing to Hillary Clinton that we have done for
20 years now without success?

Remember Whitewater, do you remember Whitewater? I think you guys remember
Whitewater. They spent $70 million investigating Whitewater. House
committee, Senate committee, not just Ken Starr, and Ken Starr.

What happened to all of them? Well, Ken Starr lost his opportunity to be
on the Supreme Court and was disgraced. Al D`Amato who investigated
Whitewater in the Senate lost his seat. Lots of the impeachment committee
members lost their seats in 1998, including the speaker of the House.


KORNACKI: So, look, in the 1990s --

CONASON: Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate and became
secretary of state.

KORNACKI: It was Bill Clinton ultimately who survived in 1990s. Right
now, we`re talking about Hillary Clinton. Hillary has not won a national
election yet. She just watched her numbers jump six points. Is there
something she should be worrying about here when more than half are saying,
we think she did something wrong?

Americans look at not necessarily we think Hillary Clinton did something
wrong, it`s I would never get away with that. I think if you really were
to analyze that poll, it was 51 percent of the people saying, how come she
is gets away with that? I wouldn`t get away with that. People who get
away with that are hiding something. That`s what I think they believe.

Second, I think when you look at how do you keep extending the Benghazi
hearings in time memoriam, what you do is you choose -- you parse out the
part of the e-mail story that can live on and on and on. That is, hey,
let`s say, let`s demand the server. They`re not going to give the server.
That means we get to hear wild speculation over and over and over again to
perpetuate all kinds of stuff that`s probably not true that will become
fact, that they will fundraise on, because it`s really not about whether --
people win with the Clintons. The extreme right, like they can raise a lot
of money off bashing Hillary, and Hillary wins being bashed on. It`s like
a win/win.

KORNACKI: James Carville, he`s been an aggressive defender of Clintons`
use of private email, on Sunday, he appeared to acknowledge that she might
have intended to limit the access to her emails.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You wonder why the public is not
following this? Because they know what it is. It was something that she
did, it was legal, I suspect she didn`t want Louis Gohmert rifling through
her e-mails, which seems to me to be a kind of reasonable position for
someone to take.

So, it amounts to -- just like everything else before it, it amounts to
nothing but a bunch of people flapping their jaws about nothing.


KORNACKI: OK. That`s totally different than what she did at her press
conference. At the press conference, she was saying this was a matter of
convenience. I didn`t want to have two devices. I only want to travel on

Now, here`s Carville, close to the Clinton, saying this was premeditated.
This is about keeping information from - he`s saying Republicans, but it`s
not just Republicans, media, too.

CAPEHART: Well, remember, Steve, the word he said was "I suspect she
didn`t want" -- I think the key thing going on in that statement was that
he suspects that she didn`t want Louis Gohmert rifling through her private
e-mail. Why choose Louis Gohmert? I mean --


CAPEHART: And private e-mails -- something that the everyday American can

Would you want some creepy guy rifling through your private mail?

KORNACKI: But doesn`t the every day American understand, she`s not just
thinking about Louie Gohmert? Sure, Louie Gohmert is an easy villain,
especially if you`re talking to the Democratic base. She`s also talking
about the press. She`s also talking about reporters who might have some
questions. She doesn`t want them rifling through her stuff either.

CONASON: Steve, Steve, reporters, our colleagues got every Clinton scandal
wrong for ten years, completely wrong. The headline on the front page of
"New York Times," wrong. Every aspect of Whitewater, wrong. The FBI file
is completely wrong.

KORNACKI: Which headline?

CONASON: The first one about whitewater.

KORNACKI: You`re talking about Whitewater. OK, I`m sorry about that.

CONASON: Well, but the first story in "The Times" about the e-mail was
also wrong, in terms of she violated the law, they got the law wrong. I
mean, this has happened to them over and over again. So the fact that they
have less than 100 percent confidence in the Washington press corps, I`m
sorry, that`s not unreasonable.

KORNACKI: Was she is being too cute here in reserving all of this to her
personal server?

CONASON: Was Colin Powell? He did the same thing.

KORNACKI: Is that -- what kind of a standard -- what did the Democrats say
when Karl Rove was using the RNC server? What did the Democrats say when
the Bush administration? Now --


CONASON: What does the RNC say now?

KORNACKI: But why now? Is it OK because the Bush administration -- the
standard used to be --

CONASON: I didn`t say it was OK.

KORNACKI: So why fall back on that?

CONASON: Well, first of all, there`s nothing like what Colin Powell did.
What Colin Powell did was say, I`m going to convert everybody to e-mail,
I`m going to use my personal e-mail, and then when the State Department
asks him, where are yew e-mails, Secretary Powell? He said, oh, I don`t
know, they`re all gone. And no one cared --


KORNACKI: What I`m hearing was it was good enough for the Bush
administration, it`s good enough for Clinton --


CONASON: Why don`t you care about that? Why don`t you care about the

KORNACKI: Who says I didn`t care about that?

CONASON: So, somebody should care about it.

KORNACKI: So the Clintons --


KORNACKI: It turns Hillary Clinton has a private e-mail server. But we`ve
got to go back -- you`re asking me why (INAUDIBLE) 10 years ago that I did
care about?

CONASON: You didn`t know ten years ago he would you say going to throw
away all those emails.

KORNACKI: I knew about Karl Rove. I knew about Karl Rove and the RNC.

CONASON: Well, very little coverage of that ten years ago.

KORNACKI: I heard a lot.

All right. The roundtable is staying with us.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: MSNBC has learned that Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator, will
enter the presidential race next month. Multiple sources inside Paul`s
camp saying the senator will make an announcement on April 7th. One source
says it will be an official announcement, not just an exploratory
committee. And after that announcement, Paul will embark on a swing of the
four major early voting states. We`ll be back after this.


KORNACKI: All right. We`re back.

We just want to finish up that conversation we were having there about
Hillary Clinton, about the e-mails, about the press`s coverage of it. I
was getting into a little bit there with Joe, but I`ll bring you guys in
for just a second here.

What do you make of the -- Joe talks about the Bush administration, this
was happening too. There should be questions asked about that as well.
What do you make -- we`ve heard that a lot from the Clinton defenders,

WINSTEAD: I just feel, not to pile on my friend Joe, but I do feel like --
I just want politicians to have to answer to FOIA requests. And I think
that when we have this thing where everybody is using their private e-mail,
I don`t think -- I don`t think -- it`s not -- I don`t feel comfortable
trying to have any kind of moral superiority about people that I may want
to vote for or want to support, when they have done the same thing that
somebody says, I just don`t like it.

CONASON: I`ve said and I`ve written --

WINSTEAD: Stop it, Joe! Stop your yelling!

CONASON: I`ve said and I`ve written the same thing -- she would be better
off, meaning Secretary Clinton and the public, had she used the dot-gov e-
mail from the beginning.

KORNACKI: That`s the thing that drives me nuts.

CONASON: I think she believes that --

KORNACKI: That`s the thing that drives me nuts, though, is she won`t just
come out and says that. Well, it was just a matter of convenience, and in
hindsight, I wish, she will not say --

CONASON: It has to be some hindsight now.

KORNACKI: But then you got a guy like Carville out there who`s saying, yes


WINSTEAD: She doesn`t, and that`s --

KORNACKI: But see, that`s what I think people suspect, it wasn`t an
innocent thing from the beginning, where I don`t want two devices --

WINSTEAD: But you don`t know, here`s what you don`t know --

CAPEHART: Don`t forget about the other part of what she said, if anyone e-
mailed her from the office, she responded to them on their dot-gov e-mail
address, so that way it would be captured. She thought that that was

WINSTEAD: That`s such --

CAPEHART: What are you going to say, Steve?

KORNACKI: No, no, what I`m going to say is she is then relying -- what
she`s basically saying is, look, I wanted to be in compliance with the
rules of this the administration not by doing it on my own, but by relying
on other people to do it that I won`t do it.

CAPEHART: Here`s the other thing that Lizz and I were talking about during
the break, and this --

WINSTEAD: Right, you weren`t yelling.

CAPEHART: No, no, but this is the other part of what I wanted to day in
the first stanza I gave, and that is, it would have been far better, and
Lizz said, and I think you made a good suggestion, that it would have been
better if Secretary Clinton had done this, say -- you know what? I think
that the House speaker and the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, should get
together and recommend a special committee, then we`ll have someone from
the National Archives come in and a lawyer from our team, from my team to
go over -- I`ll give you the server. And all of you sit down and look in
an era, a feeling of transparency, but also a bit of confidentiality.

Because we are talking about like work e-mails and personal e-mails --

KORNACKI: That ultimately is what has to happen for the sake of history.
If we`re going to persevere things that happened --

CAPEHART: Sure, sure.


KORNACKI: There has to be an arbiter. There not just say, turn over the
stuff that you want history to reflect about your tenure as secretary of
state, secretary of defense, whatever it is --

CAPEHART: And that`s why I --

KORNACKI: -- there needs somebody else making the call.

CAPEHART: I agree with you on that. And I think that`s where John
Boehner, Speaker Boehner made a mistake, by tying it to the House committee
on Benghazi. If he had just left them out and said we would like this, and
here`s this independent panel. I know this is fairly land here.

CONASON: That wasn`t a mistake.

CAPEHART: No, I know --

CONASON: That`s what they do.

CAPEHART: -- because we`re talking about raising money. But if we`re
talking about history, that`s what should have been done.

WINSTEAD: We can`t have one big 17-minute gap for all of eternity --


KORNACKI: Everybody will put the stuff in that makes them look good, and
take the stuff out that makes them look bad.


KORNACKI: That`s not how you write history, at least it`s boring if you
read that.

Anyway, thank you to Joe Conason --

WINSTEAD: You`re fired up, sir.

KORNACKI: -- Jonathan Capehart, Lizz Winstead.

That`s right. We`ll be right back right after this.


KORNACKI: All right. Join us on HARDBALL tomorrow for all the latest
developments from Israel and what it means politically here at home.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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