updated 3/11/2005 3:34:47 PM ET 2005-03-11T20:34:47

Guest: Jay Carney, Robin Wright, Stanley Brand, Eugene Sullivan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A suicide has confessed to the murders of a Chicago‘s judge‘s husband and mother.  Is America doing enough to protect its judges? 

Plus, Congress gets tough with Major League Baseball over the use of steroids.  I‘ll go one-on-one with baseball‘s attorney.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.  

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

The murder of a federal judge‘s family in Chicago may be solved tonight.  A Chicago man who committed suicide when police approached his parked car left a note claiming to have killed Judge Joan Lefkow‘s husband and mother. 

Phil Rogers from NBC station WMAQ has more from Chicago. 

Phil, give us the details of this situation, where we got a confession out of a suicide. 

PHIL ROGERS, WMAQ REPORTER:  Chris, this individual‘s name was Bart Ross.  He was discovered in a community, West Allis, Wisconsin, late yesterday.

When police approached the car, he shot himself in the front seat.  Inside, they found a note.  And, in fact, this is a copy of that note which we also received in our newsroom this morning.  On the back of that note this morning, we found this note, which in effect is a confession to the Lefkow murders. 

Bart Ross felt he had been wronged by the American legal system and especially by a series of judges, due to a problem with a cancer procedure he had had done 12 years ago.  He felt he was a victim of medical malpractice, said he could not get a lawyer to take his case.  And, essentially, in the first note, he had a long hit list of people that he had grievances against. 

In the second note, he essentially explains that Judge Lefkow he especially felt a great deal of enmity toward because she had dismissed his case in January.  He explains in vivid detail how he killed her family. 

MATTHEWS:  Phil, what strikes me as authentic in that confession you hold in your hands was the person‘s description of the killing.  He said he didn‘t execute these people by having them lie on the floor and shoot them in the back of the head, but he in fact confronted them and shot them point on in sort of an active, of sort of—almost he had act under that circumstance to defend himself.  Did that strike you that way? 

ROGERS:  That‘s exactly the way he described it.  He said he entered the house at about 4:30 in the morning and was hiding in the basement, intending to stay there all day and wait for Judge Lefkow when she came home in the evening. 

Michael Lefkow‘s office was in the basement.  He came down there and discovered him.  That‘s when he said he shot Michael Lefkow.

Then the mother, apparently fearing something was wrong, shouted down the stairs, “Michael, Michael.”  She came downstairs, he said, and when he confronted her in the hallway, he shot her.  Then he went back and shot each one a second time. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s interesting, because it sounds so much like the sort of self-denial of murders when they say wrong place, wrong time.  I didn‘t really do it.  I had to do it, because they came down the stairs.  It was that—you hear that so often from criminals. 

Let me ask you, are the police operating now under the assumption that he was telling truth in his confession, that he is in fact the murderer of the judge‘s husband and mother? 

ROGERS:  Chris, it certainly sounds that way. 

You‘ll remember, when this crime occurred a week ago, that they put out a composite sketch of two individuals.  But, at the time, they went out of their way to say that those individuals were not together and they couldn‘t guarantee that both were linked to the crime. 

One of the sketches was of an older gentlemen that was seen on the street near the Lefkow home.  And they now believe that that was this man.  They say he matches the sketch very closely. 

MATTHEWS:  So the police to their credit were looking at a wide range of possibilities and suspects, not simply for the person who had been put in jail for having threatened her before—or threatened her life before. 

ROGERS:  Right.  You‘re speaking of Matt Hale. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right, of the white separatist group, yes.

ROGERS:  That‘s right. 

There was a great deal of focus on Matt Hale, his cronies and followers.  And, in fact, as recently as a few days ago, Michael Lefkow‘s law partners said they have received almost no attention in their law office about his old cases.  It was only really yesterday that a lengthy visit was made by the FBI.

The police were really focusing on that white supremacist angle and then this just came out of the blue. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  Stay with us for a moment, please, Phil Rogers of WMAQ.

Eugene Sullivan was a federal judge for 16 years.  And twice in his reign as judge, he was threatened.  In fact, his life was threatened.

Judge, I have to tell you that I was so taken with a colleague of yours who was on the air on another network the other night who said something so compelling.  He‘s said—he‘s about your age.  He said, you know, every time you do what is right from behind the bench, you put your life at risk.  Tell me about that situation. 

EUGENE SULLIVAN, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE:  I agree with my brother judge. 

That is true.  And what‘s scary with this is, you don‘t know the impact that your decision is going to make upon the party.  In every case, there are two parties.  One of them is going to lose.  In this case, if this turns out to be the killer, this is revenge based upon taking money away from him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if this man who confessed to the crime was in fact the killer of the judge‘s husband and mother, he was angry over a civil judgment, something you wouldn‘t associate with the kind of zeal and anger that would lead to killing. 

SULLIVAN:  I disagree with you on that.  I think that money can be a powerful motivator. 

And if you put your whole life and if you lose your home or your job or your...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or you health.

SULLIVAN:  Or your house because of a civil suit, you‘re going to take that as a threat against and you‘re going to seek revenge. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I have to tell you, Judge, anybody who has worked in government—I worked on Capitol Hill for many years—you‘re always getting letters from people.  The top letter is something like, I like what you said the other day.  By the way, that relates to my problem.  And then they give you 20 or 30 pages, frankly, a ream of paper, Xeroxes, about their case they had lost before the federal government. 

They didn‘t get declared for the right disability payment they wanted to get and they‘re determined to get that fixed.  That‘s what you‘re talking about, right, one of these life changing failures to succeed in the bureaucracy. 

SULLIVAN:  That‘s why I think we have to protect our judges, federal and state, against this unseen threat that is going to come from nowhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Phil Rogers, who has been working on this case. 

Do we know whether there was a good reason for withdrawing the federal marshals‘ protection of Judge Lefkow‘s family and house? 

ROGERS:  Well, Chris, we can tell you that when that happened—and

it happened a long time ago—it actually happened last April, a year ago

·         it was made a decision that was made jointly by the U.S. Marshals here in Chicago and by Judge Lefkow herself. 

The case was over.  Matt Hale was in jail and they jointly decided there was no longer any danger.  Now we know for a fact that, if this is correct—and police seem to think it is correct—that, in fact, Matt Hale was unrelated to this, according to them, and so there was no apparent danger there.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder—let me go back to Judge Sullivan.

Whenever you get a—anybody in our business, in journalism—Phil probably has gotten them, too—you get these wacky phone call or somebody drives by your house kind of mysteriously to bother you or whatever, you always sort of figure, I always say, well, if they‘re going to come and bother you and scare you, they are not going to really come and hurt you.  At least that‘s the way I deal with it. 

Is that your experience, Judge, that if somebody is going to send you a letter or make a phone call to you—and, apparently, there‘s only about 600 of these cases of year, where you have an outright threat or a wrong—it is called an illegal communication with a prosecutor or a judge—that they don‘t really cause you trouble.  They just want to scare you a little. 

SULLIVAN:  I think that is the case. 

However, you never know when it is going to be a lethal threat.  And that‘s why we need to start installing things to protect the judge where the judge is most vulnerable.  That‘s at their home.  Historically, judges have been murdered at their home.  We‘re making our courtrooms and houses into bunkers sometimes.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SULLIVAN:  Where we should be throwing some money at protecting a judge in their home with low-cost things like neighborhood watch, informing the neighbors that there is a federal judge living down the street.  If you see something, call the U.S. Marshals. 

MATTHEWS:  I so agree with you.  I think—well, just being an absolute civilian in this matter, luckily, the idea of proactive behavior by your neighbors, friendly involvement, that they know the judge has a risky job, as you did, and you have to face the risk of dealing with bad guys or bad women, I suppose, when they come back to get you, that they have to be on the lookout for the weirdos that show up and hang around your house, the stalkers ,the dangerous looking people.  Is that what you mean? 

SULLIVAN:  That‘s exactly what I mean. 

Before either a terrorist or a professional hits a target, they will have surveillance.  There are some new sophisticated security systems that take that into account. 

MATTHEWS:  What about safe rooms?  Do you think they would work?  In embassies in Third World countries where you have instability and danger of mob action or even killing, they have these rooms where you just—you go those rooms.  You hear a noise outside, you take your family to that room.  You lock the door and you call the police.  Nobody can get at you.  Is that what we need? 

SULLIVAN:  I think that‘s something that should be well considered.  I completely agree with you on that point.  The safe room should have a protected phone line, so that the assaulters can‘t sever the communications.  And I think, if the federal judge wants it, they should have a weapon in the home for them and their family and be trained on a weapon, if they so desire. 

MATTHEWS:  You had to train your sons, right? 

SULLIVAN:  I trained my daughter, my son and my wife on using a handgun and a shotgun as soon as I was—received my first threat. 

MATTHEWS:  I just love these people that say guns don‘t protect you in your home.  If somebody is coming to get you, it seems like a reasonable protection. 

Phil Rogers of WMAQ, great reporter and great report tonight for us on HARDBALL.  Thank you, sir, for joining us. 

ROGERS:  Chris, thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Judge Sullivan is the author, by the way—I should say.  You‘re on the air.  I‘ll want to tell a little bit about you.  You wrote “The Majority Rules,” about the murder of a federal judge.  You are going to be staying with us.  It‘s a novel.  You are going to be staying with us. 

When we come back, what more can be done to keep judges safe?  I‘ll tell you, I‘m so impressed by the guts, the courage of these federal judges and prosecutors who put the bad guys off the streets and then have to take the risk of them coming back for them personally, sort of in the way of “High Noon.”  Remember that one, when they came back and got—tried to get Gary Cooper?  This happens in real life, too.  And it happens today. 

We‘re going to have former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt joining us in just a moment.

And don‘t forget, the HARDBALL College Tour is back on the road.  And this Monday, we‘re kicking it off with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  We‘re going to be a full hour from Stanford out in California.  Then we‘re going to have the biggest name in Hollywood today for a whole hour on Tuesday, talk about America with Clint Eastwood.  That is going to be a wild, iconic moment, the Academy Award-winning director of this year‘s best movie, “Million Dollar Baby,” and so many before like “Mystic River” and “Unforgiven” and “In the Line of Fire,” one of my favorites.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, is America doing enough to protect the safety of its own judges?  Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt joins us when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We‘re back with former Judge, former federal Judge Eugene Sullivan, who was threatened a number of times in his career.  And joining us now is Clint Van Zandt.  He‘s a former FBI profiler.  He‘s now an MSNBC analyst. 

And we should tell that you we invited the U.S. Marshal Service and the judiciary security division to join us tonight and they declined our invitation. 

Let me ask you, Clint, I want to ask you something.  We were talking -

·         I was talking with Judge Sullivan and earlier than that with Phil Rogers of WMAQ about this case.  We have someone who committed suicide last night after being stopped by police.  He admitted to the killing of the husband and to the aged mother of the federal judge, Lefkow, who had prosecuted that case of the white separatist.  This turned out to have been a different matter altogether, a civil matter, which raises the issue, judges have to make so many decisions from the bench. 

So many verdicts are rendered by jurors and by judges.  How do we know which are the dangerous cases? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  Yes. 

Well, these are the things you have got to look at, Chris.  There are 2,000 federal judges and magistrates.  There‘s only 3,200 or so U.S.  Marshals in the entire world.  So you can‘t put a marshal on every judge, every magistrate, plus, the thousands of state and local judges.  So you have got to look at, if you have a communication or threat, you look at it.  But I think, you know, you‘ve suggested before sometimes that the real killers, the people who really want to hurt you, they come out of the blue and they don‘t necessarily telegraph they‘re going to throw a punch at you. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Why would they want you to have protection when they‘re coming at you, because they might get caught that way?

Right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s common sense.  Don‘t tell a person to have a—hey, go out and hire yourself a—you know, a bodyguard, so I can then fight with the bodyguard.  You say, no, I think I‘ll kill this guy.  I would assume that‘s the criminal mind at its best, or worst. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, there are—there are a lot of people who want to intimidate you and frighten you.  And they will send you letters and threaten you, your family, you know, your next-door neighbor, or whatever it is.

But then it is this wild card that comes out of the blue.  And I‘m sure, when we are looking at this, this suicidal individual‘s background, even though he lost a case before the judge, we‘re probably not going to see that he mailed her a direct threat.  We‘re going to just see some psychotic ramblings in some of his communications, but probably not a direct threat.

MATTHEWS:  What do we owe our federal judges?  I was telling Judge Sullivan—and he‘s been through this personally.  But I heard a very—boy, it was a compelling case by a judge the other night on television, who said, every time I do the right thing on the bench, in other words, put a bad guy away for serious time, he is not going to like me and he may come and get me. 

VAN ZANDT:  Hey, you know, as an FBI agent, I‘ve put guys in jail.  And they say, when I get out, I‘m going to buy a guy and I‘m going to come and I‘m going to kill you.  So you say, OK, take your best shot. 

But, you know, for the judge, that‘s an entirely different thing.  He‘s not a gunslinger.  He‘s sitting there and he or she is trying to make a decision based upon evidence.  People—there are just people who don‘t like the truth.  And many times, violence is their way of responding to the truth, at least to a judge‘s verdict.

MATTHEWS:  Do these people, as you profile them, that would cause—I assume you have got some general sense of these people.  Are they nuts or are they just angry criminals? 

VAN ZANDT:  No, no.  I mean, there are nuts.  There‘s sometimes you see the rambling.  They write along the edges of the paper.  They talk about electric beams coming into their head telling them to do something. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VAN ZANDT:  But there are other people that are very methodical in what they‘re going to do. 

MATTHEWS:  They want vengeance. 

VAN ZANDT:  But most of the time, those are the ones that are not going to tell you.  They just come and get you. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Judge Sullivan about this. 

Of all the cases you tried, how many—how many worried you about consequences, revenge activity afterwards? 

SULLIVAN:  I—you just can‘t pick them out. 

I was on an appeals court.  And so we‘re removed from the drama and the—of a courtroom and the witnesses and the—seeing the—the accused eyeball to eyeball.  But when they come up to the court of appeals, you are a symbol.  You can either uphold or reverse that trial judge.  And, if do you so, you may make yourself a target and you won‘t even know it or suspect it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Judge Lefkow was under protection for a while because she recognized the problem.  And, of course, after a while, she said, I guess the danger has passed.  And maybe it was passed from that one person.  We have to assume that now because of this confession. 

But did you ever—the fact that you had to train your children how to use handguns, that you had to train your wife how to use a handgun, was that after you exhausted trying to get some protection from the government, from the Marshal Service? 

SULLIVAN:  No.  In the first—in the first instance, I was allowed protection until there was a reassessment.  And the Marshal Service came back to me.  They told me that they had decreased their evaluation of it. 

And I, at that point, said, I‘m going to drop the protection, just like, unfortunately, Judge Lefkow did.  But because you want to balance your privacy, you want to be private.  You don‘t want to have a U.S.  Marshal living in your house all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever think of moving?         

SULLIVAN:  In—I think that‘s an option if there‘s an imminent lethal threat. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SULLIVAN:  In this book that I‘ve written, there is an imminent lethal threat and the judge displaces his family while he deals with the threat. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s come back and talk about this very hot issue.  We, of course, had a judge‘s husband and mother killed.  And now we have the guy who did it.  Apparently, he committed suicide, but he also wrote a confession. 

We‘ll be right back with Clint Van Zandt and Judge Eugene Sullivan for more on threats to federal judges and what needs to be done to keep them safe, because they‘re on our side.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with former federal Judge Eugene Sullivan and Clint Van Zandt. 

Judge Sullivan, here‘s the case.  Here‘s the wrapup.  A man goes to jail for attempting to kill a federal judge.  Someone else kills the judge‘s husband and mother. 

Let me ask you, what would we do in this case to have prevented something like this from happening?  Judge, what would you have liked to have seen done that wasn‘t done? 

SULLIVAN:  I would have liked to have the judge have a security system installed in their home.  We can‘t put all the marshals on all the federal judges in the country.  There‘s not enough assets for that. 

But you can take certain preventive measures to stop an attack on your home.  There are some sophisticated systems out there that will pick up countersurveillance.  When—even an amateur or a professional or a terrorist, when they‘re going to hit a target, they‘re going to surveil that target several time before they initiate the hit.  And, hopefully, we can catch them before, not after the incident. 

MATTHEWS:  Clint, would that simply mean that the perpetrator in this case would shoot the judge as he arrives at his house and get him outside?  He would not have to get through the security system.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes. 

Well, you know, we need to understand, had there been a detail on the judge, they would be with her at the courthouse, not with her at her home.  So, I agree with the judge there, that, No. 1, you need a home alarm system.  No. 2, you need lights outside.  No. 3, you need a barking dog.  You know, if you have got those low-cost items, really, you can secure the house.  If they get you, you know, between your house and your home, that‘s something else you have to deal with. 

But at least protect your home environment.  And then let the marshals deal with the threat.  They‘re very good at assessing threats.  They work with the judge on this one.  They‘ll work with anybody else who feels threatened. 

MATTHEWS:  Clint, you mentioned the very low incidence of this over the last century.  It‘s a very—extremely rare situation where a judge, a federal judge...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... is threatened, even, in a lethal way, as Judge Sullivan phrased it.  Is there still, even among the hardest cases of criminal, or people who lose civil suits, a reverence, a respect for federal judges? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, I think there still is.  I think there‘s a respect for judges.  There‘s a respect for judges for law enforcement officers. 

I mean, you know, 50 years ago, you wouldn‘t have seen this happen.  In fact, the first federal judge in the 20th century who was killed, it was 1979.  So, we went through 80 years of that century before anything like that happened.  I mean, I think it is a general respect for law enforcement that has taken place in the last half-century.  And, unfortunately, that continues today. 

MATTHEWS:  And also, that‘s—let me ask you, why are the—why do you think that the threats are going up, then, Clint?  Because I‘ve looked at the numbers there.  We have got them dug up.  And it is up to 674 in 2004.  It‘s up over 100 and some over the previous year. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  You know, it‘s like when anyone else crosses a psychological threshold, whether—as far as threats are concerned, they feel like they‘re venting.  But they feel like life lets them do it. 

Society gets them.  You know, sociologically, we can talk about why crime rates increase, home burglaries.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

VAN ZANDT:  Whatever it‘s going to be.  But I think there are people who feel that they have the right to say that to a judge.  And they‘re wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess that‘s my feeling, that some cars should only honk inside the car of the honker.  It would be a lot quieter out there on the streets.  People seem to get releases out of blowing their horn. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you.  This is the much more serious.  Judge Sullivan, in your case, it‘s a hell of a lot more serious.  Thank you very much, former federal Judge Eugene Sullivan, the author of “The Majority Rules.”  That‘s your novel out there in the stores right now. 

And former FBI profiler, as always, it‘s great having you, Clint Van Zandt.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time on this very point, join Dan Abrams for a special “ABRAMS REPORT” on the Lefkow case here on MSNBC.  That‘s this terrible case of a federal judge whose husband and mother were killed because somebody didn‘t like her judgment and her courage. 

And, coming up, does Congress have the right to subpoena big-name baseball players over steroid use or have they overstepped their bounds?  Stanley Brand, the attorney representing the Players Association and Major League Baseball, is coming here to HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Congress has stepped up to the plate in the fight over steroid use in professional baseball.  The House Government Reform Committee has issued subpoenas for seven current and former Major League Baseball players to testify at a hearing next week.  Major League Baseball is fighting back by hiring a high-powered lawyer.  Stanley Brand represents both Major League Baseball and its Players Association.  And he argues that the committee is overstepping its jurisdiction and misusing its power. 

Stanley Brand joins us now.  And we should point out that we invited the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Congressman Tom Davis, to join us.  But he declined our invitation.  We also invited the seven players to join us.  And we hope they will soon. 

Stan, you‘re a hell of a lawyer.  You represented the House for years, the speaker‘s office.  And you, of course, are the person I recommend anybody to hire when dealing with the U.S. Congress on an ethics or any other matter. 

That said, what is all this talk about—you‘re saying that the committee that has subpoenaed these players doesn‘t have the jurisdiction to do so.  The Government Reform Committee is the old investigating subcommittee of the House.  It has the right to investigate anything. 

STANLEY BRAND, ATTORNEY FOR MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL:  No, not really, because...

MATTHEWS:  It always has. 

BRAND:  Well, that‘s what its rule says. 

But, you know, Chris, these have to be enforced in court.  And the Supreme Court has said that boundless delegations of jurisdiction do not give a witness sufficient basis for determining whether he should answer those questions.  So, while their rules may say any matter, the courts enforcing the criminal contempt statute in federal district court don‘t agree with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about going back to the McCarthy days?  You had the Parallel Committee in the Senate.  The permanent investigating subcommittee can go anywhere, do anything to find out what‘s wrong.  Why is the precedent not valuable here?

BRAND:  Actually, those are my precedents.  Those are my cases, Watkins vs. United States.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRAND:  Where the Supreme Court said that, unless the committee can supply some limits to its jurisdiction, it can‘t wander all over the landscape and ask a witness anything it wants.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

What would it take to get those ballplayers up on the Hill by subpoena?  What kind of a subpoena would you think would be legitimate and within the bounds of propriety here? 

BRAND:  Well, look, I don‘t think the players should be there under any circumstances. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re arguing precedent and you‘re arguing jurisdiction.  Are there any limits to what you‘re not going to deny here? 

BRAND:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Or not going to accept? 

BRAND:  No, because it‘s not just a matter of jurisdiction.  It is a matter of a collective bargaining agreement, the issue of confidentiality.  The federal laws on medical records in the United States are based on confidentiality. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, but, Stan, you know the history better than I do.  Look, you had the quiz show scandal involving the TV networks like this one back in the—not like this one, but the other networks back in the ‘50s.  And they called up Charles Van Doren, the guy who was getting the answers. 

BRAND:  Sure.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It was crooked.  The Congress investigated it.  They exposed it.  And the country never fell for that stuff again. 

What‘s wrong with the Congress exposing using drugs to get the ball to go from the warning track over the wall? 

BRAND:  Well, I wasn‘t their lawyers and I was not around then.  So, I don‘t know what I would have advised them to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know there‘s a problem here, don‘t you? 

BRAND:  If you look at the numbers in the aggregate, since we have put in the testing program...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAND:  We‘ve gone down to 2 percent usage.  We‘ve already seen a dramatic diminution in the results of the drug testing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When you go to a baseball—I‘m sorry.  When you go to a track or OTB, and you bet $100 on a horse, you‘re guaranteed by the racing commission that no horse has been doped up, because they do a saliva test before and after the race. 

How can a ballplayer, a ball—a ballplay—ball—a baseball fan or a guy who bets on a game in baseball, which everybody does, a lot of people do, how do they know the game is not fixed by drugs?  How do they know that one of the players hasn‘t been hopped up or been—his muscles developed, so he can hit that ball over the fence every time?

BRAND:  Well, one of the reasons they‘ll know going forward is because we put an effective program in place. 

We had to bargain that.  We couldn‘t get it bargained up until last year. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRAND:  We‘ve done that now.  And I think you will start to see a big change in the numbers and in the performance and in the approach that everybody takes on this issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me take a look at here—I want to play for—something.  In fairness here, here‘s a letter sent to you, Stan Brand, attorney for the ballplayers and for the leagues, from Chairman Tom Davis of the Government Reform Committee.  It was also signed by the ranking Democrat on the committee, Henry Waxman, of the House Reform Committee. 

“Your legal analysis is flawed.  And any failure to comply with the committee‘s subpoenas would be unwise and irresponsible.  The use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, is a matter within the oversight jurisdiction of Congress and the Government Reform Committee.  The Committee has properly issued subpoenas.  Any American citizen under these circumstances would be required to comply with the committee‘s request.  Major League Baseball and baseball players are no different.” 

You say they are.

BRAND:  Well, I mean, that‘s a nice statement and I respectfully disagree with it. 

There‘s not a single case analyzed in that letter.  There‘s no legal basis.  And that‘s their position.  They cannot be judge, jury and executioner over their own powers.  That gets determined by a federal court.  If that‘s where this goes, I‘m very, very comfortable that our legal position is sufficient. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a dispute over a fact here, Stan, so help me.  Give me your point of view on this.  And I trust you on this. 

The committee says you want to get these ballplayers up in the style of the old Hollywood tent or something like that, HUAC days, House on Un-American Activities Committee, and force them to name names and somehow give away the names of players they believe to be—to have misused drugs.  Do you believe that‘s what they‘ll do if they get you up there, your players up there? 

BRAND:  Their letter says to the players, we‘re going to ask you about your knowledge of drug use, steroid use within MLB.  I don‘t know how else to interpret that sentence.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, they‘re going to get—will that be the chairman and the ranking member who will—or will it be somebody freelancing up there who would ask a player, who have you seen shoot themselves up? 

BRAND:  Sure.  Well, I mean, look, if they want to negotiate an understanding where those questions aren‘t going to be asked and the chair will enforce that, then that‘s maybe a basis for moving forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there a precedent for having questions off—off—out of bounds? 

BRAND:  Oh, absolutely.  The chair can rule that questions are not relevant or pertinent and enforce that.  Now, the committee could overrule him.  But I‘ve never seen a chairman overruled on that basis by his committee.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, you would advise your clients to accept those subpoenas and act on them and show up next week before the Congress if it is agreed upon by the chairman and ranking member not to ask questions about what they saw from particular players? 

BRAND:  If we—if we can get that kind of an agreement, I think we can resolve this without all the legal back-and-forth.

MATTHEWS:  Have you told Tom Davis, the chair of the Reform Committee, that? 

BRAND:  Oh, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Or Henry Waxman?

BRAND:  That was in—that was in our letter and that‘s been in the discussions with the staff, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And they won‘t accept those—they won‘t accept those boundaries?

BRAND:  Well, in fairness, we haven‘t heard back from them on that point. 

MATTHEWS:  But, at this point, you—your position holds that you would advise your clients to show up? 

BRAND:  If we can reach that understanding and they will live by it, my answer would be, sure. 

MATTHEWS:  And that agreement would be that you would stipulate that there to be no particular instances of drug use that would be identified in the testimony. 

BRAND:  No personal test records, no anecdotal discussion.  We can talk about our program.  We can talk about aggregate results. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you accept a—sort of an oral redaction, whereby you said, I saw this player shoot himself up, but I‘m not going to say his name? 

BRAND:  No.  I don‘t think we should get into any of that. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t want it even in general terms?

BRAND:  No.  I don‘t think that‘s fair to the players.

MATTHEWS:  So, your prescription would be not just no players‘ names used, no team‘s players, obviously, no numbers used of the player on his jersey, but would you say no reference to any drug use of any kind, even if it isn‘t identified with a particular player. 

BRAND:  Well, yes.  I mean, look, this stuff...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a pretty broad prescription, your prescription. 

BRAND:  Well, but Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying, don‘t give me any of your firsthand evidence. 

BRAND:  Chris, this is not a court of law.  This is Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BRAND:  They‘re involved in a legislative oversight inquiry.  This is not an adjudication in California.  And it is not a court. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Can you give them—can you give them protection under some agreement, whereby the courts can‘t further ask them information about an anecdote they share if it doesn‘t give a person‘s name away, so that no—some future prosecutor can‘t say, OK, who was that? 

BRAND:  Well, I don‘t know that I—I don‘t know that I—that we have an interest in barring that from use in a court, if in fact there‘s some case that rises where that‘s relative. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

BRAND:  What I don‘t want to do is parade these people in front of Congress and have all kinds of hearsay while there‘s still a pending criminal in California. 

MATTHEWS:  No, it would be eyewitness.  It would be eyewitness. 

BRAND:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want any eyewitness either. 

BRAND:  The statement is any knowledge, any knowledge. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s a pretty broad description.  Good luck with that one.

Stan, you‘re a hell of a lawyer. 

BRAND:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  If you were on the other side, god help the players. 

Anyway, attorney for—he‘s the attorney for the Major League Baseball players and for the leagues themselves. 

Coming up, Italy‘s prime minister wants answers after the shooting of a top intelligence officer at that U.S. checkpoint in Iraq.  And, by the way, we‘re going to follow that story. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Italy‘s prime minister wants answers about the U.S. Army‘s shooting of a top intelligence officer at an Iraqi checkpoint.  Plus, should the Bush administration do business with Hezbollah?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Jay Carney is deputy Washington bureau chief for “TIME” magazine.  And Robin Wright is the diplomatic affairs correspondent for “The Washington Post.” 

Robin, tempers are still high in Italy, apparently, over the shooting of that intelligence officer as he aided the rescue of the reporter over there.  Where is that headed right now? 

ROBIN WRIGHT, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Look, this is an issue that has deeply divided the Italian people.  There‘s a strong opposition or questioning of Italy‘s support for the U.S. invasion and ongoing military presence in Italy. 

This is going to exacerbate those kinds of tensions and questions and make this even more unpopular. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the Italian government feel it has to take some shot, get some payment from us in terms of a confession of some sort for this shooting that was so terrible as they were just leaving the country, those people trying to get that woman who had been held captive for all those weeks out of the country? 

WRIGHT:  Well, I think that there‘s a strong feeling in Italy, both in the government and in the private sector, that this is something that the United States has to acknowledge, either through an investigation of precisely what happened, some kind of compensation, that there are a lot of different ways this may have to be addressed. 

MATTHEWS:  Jay, do you have any insight as to what is going to happen here to end—put this case behind the two countries, if it can be done? 

JAY CARNEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”:  Well, there‘s a -

·         you know, there‘s a history here that—that works against the United States. 

And remember when that U.S. military jet severed the cables of one of those trams up...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you‘re right, on that ski lift.  You‘re right. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARNEY:  And killed a lot of people, Italians.  And there was a lot of outrage.  That was investigated.  And, in the end, it was ruled an accident, even though the pilots were clearly goofing around and cost the lives of a lot of Italians. 

So, I don‘t think there‘s going to be much acceptance among the Italian public for a finding in this investigation that simply says no one was to blame.  It was an accident. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we know yet as a matter of fact whether the Italian officials, the intelligence officials, notified our troops that they were coming through to the airport? 

CARNEY:  Well, I think they say that—the driver says they did.  But, as far as I understand it, the United States officials in Iraq say they did not have clear indications from the Italians. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, that fact has to be established. 

Let me to go Robin on the war front over there. 

Thirty people killed today in Iraq in a suicide bombing.  Who is winning that fight, the insurgents or the forces of reform and democracy right now? 

WRIGHT:  Nobody is winning the war in Iraq.  You can make a strong case for arguing that, politically, the Iraqi people have made their first big gains with the formation of a government, an agreement between the Kurds and the Shiites on a lot of very important questions, not only about who will run the government, but about some of the contentious issues of how to divide up Iraq territorially. 

That‘s an important development.  But in terms of military action, the insurgency is clearly not winning, but the U.S. troops are—have no signs of being able to pull down forces any time soon. 

MATTHEWS:  And the casualty rate on the Iraqi side, the number of casualties, it seems to be aimed more at Iraqis than at U.S. service people.  Is that what is going on over there?

WRIGHT:  Absolutely.  And I think one of the really important developments is the attempt by the Sunni insurgents to try to bait the Shiites into some kind of civil conflict.  At the moment, it is an insurgency, not yet a civil war. 

MATTHEWS:  And they want one.  The Sunnis want one.

WRIGHT:  And they want one.  And that‘s why today‘s target was an insurgent blowing himself up inside a Shiite mosque. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll come right back.  We want to talk about Lebanon as it struggles for freedom, that dueling—the dueling rallies over there between the Shia—the Hezbollah on one side and, of course, the Maronites and the Christians on the other, I should say. 

Let‘s talk about that and what our role is.  Are we going to be dealing with Hezbollah now?  Are we going to be dealing with the enemy, with a terrorist organization?  Big question when we come back.  We‘ve never done it before officially.  Let‘s talk if we‘re going to do it now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

“The New York Times” is reporting today that the Bush administration is ready to deal with the Lebanese-based terrorist group Hezbollah as part of the administration‘s efforts to bring political stability to Lebanon. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster provides this background on Hezbollah. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In Beirut this week, it was Hezbollah that put together this, 500,000 pro-Syrian demonstrators in one of the biggest gatherings in Lebanon‘s history. 

Many Shiite Muslims embrace Hezbollah because of the group‘s charity work, including hospitals and schools.  But Hezbollah, formed 23 years ago to fight Israel‘s presence in South Lebanon, has also had a violent side.  In 1983, a Hezbollah suicide bomber in Beirut killed 241 American Marines. 

A few years later, Hezbollah hijacked this aircraft, murdering a U.S.  Navy diver and tossing his body onto the tarmac.  In 1996, Hezbollah operatives working with al Qaeda bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen.  And after 9/11, which Hezbollah condemned, President Bush still listed them as part of America‘s enemy. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A terrorist underworld, including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad. 

SHUSTER:  The president has also repeatedly mentioned Hezbollah in the same breath as Iran. 

BUSH:  It‘s also in our interests for them not to continue funding terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. 

SHUSTER:  But the problem with that simple view of Hezbollah was underscored this week by former President Clinton. 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Hezbollah has made itself a political party within Lebanon and represented a lot of people who thought they were effective on domestic concern. 

SHUSTER:  This morning, “The New York Times” reported the administration is ready to change its foreign policy and accept Hezbollah as a political player. 

But other administration officials now say the story is not accurate. 

(on camera):  Regardless of how the Bush administration wants to characterize its position, the question remains.  Should the United States deal with Hezbollah or not? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Jay Carney and Robin Wright. 

Robin, how do we deal with this?  How does the American government face the conundrum of, if you‘re going to deal with the Shia in Lebanon, the majority of people there, without dealing with their majority organization, Hezbollah? 

WRIGHT:  Well, that‘s the basic question the administration faced.  And I think “The New York Times” was right in some ways, but wrong in others. 

The United States is really looking for some kind of action by Hezbollah, like the IRA, like the PLO did, in renouncing terrorism, to break away from its military wing or to end its activities.  I don‘t see—the administration has indicated to me, anyway, that they‘re not prepared to do anything.  But they do want to make sure that Hezbollah complies, just like Syria complies, with the U.N. resolution that calls for the disbanding of all militias in Lebanon. 

It is willing to allow to it participate in free and open elections.  And if it wins a large representation of parliament, like it has today, that, if it renounces terrorism, the United States is prepared to, you know...

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s a—isn‘t this like the same—this delusion that led to us trade arms for hostages with Iran back in the Reagan administration, the delusion that there were moderate elements that we could isolate from the terrorist elements? 

WRIGHT:  It is a very different issue. 

We‘re not dealing with a rogue regime here.  We‘re dealing with a political party that has, since the early 1990s, repeatedly won a large number of seats in Lebanon‘s parliament.  It does have one of the largest social service networks in the country.  It is one of the largest employers legally, not of militiamen or terrorists or extremists in the country, totally apart from a militia wing.  And it is trying to do what—the United States now is trying to do what it did with the PLO, say, we‘ll deal with you.  We will allow to you function.  We will not—we will take you off our terrorism list if you renounce terrorism. 

And there‘s a big difference. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you believe that—Jay Carney, do you believe that that precedent mentioned, or possible precedent of the Sinn Fein political party, the Republican Party in Northern Ireland, believing that it could somehow separate itself from its military wing?  That‘s a highly problematic precedent at this point, because there‘s no proof that that‘s happened in Ireland even. 

CARNEY:  Well, it‘s certainly, a problem in Ireland.

And the PLO, as we know, renounced terrorism.  But Yasser Arafat, while he was still alive, was certainly allowing terrorism on his watch.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the Al-Aqsa Brigade do for a living, if it isn‘t terrorism? 

CARNEY:  Precisely. 

So—but the problem that the Bush administration faces is, it doesn‘t have—it doesn‘t decide in the end whether or not Hezbollah gets to participate in Lebanese politics, because Hezbollah already does.  And if—and if Syria withdraws and if there are free elections, Hezbollah will be a political power in Lebanon. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CARNEY:  There‘s no choice that the administration has. 

But, with some creative ambiguity about disarming and renouncing militia and renouncing terrorism, with some creative ambiguity about those goals, the administration will have to deal with Hezbollah. 

MATTHEWS:  The president suggested, Robin, that if we go to democracy to the Middle East, we‘re going away from terrorism.  Is this an example where they may be coexistent? 

WRIGHT:  Terrorism and democracy?  I don‘t think so.  But I think...

MATTHEWS:  No, but I mean a democratic party trying to win an election in a free country of Lebanon, for example, but still harboring terrorists?  Isn‘t that reasonable to believe that could continue? 

WRIGHT:  I think the United States is looking for a sequence of events, first, Syria to pull out of Lebanon, and then for the new Lebanese government elected sometime this spring to deal with the problem of Hezbollah, to do it one step at a time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for joining us tonight, Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent for “The Washington Post,” and Jay Carney, deputy bureau chief of “TIME” magazine in Washington. 

Next week, it‘s a great here on HARDBALL.  Coming up on Monday, the HARDBALL College Tour for 2005 and it‘s better than ever.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to be our guest for a full hour from Stanford University out in California.  Then, on Tuesday, this is my favorite show, looking forward to, Clint Eastwood is going to be my guest for the whole hour, fresh off his big Oscar win with “Million Dollar Baby.”

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.    

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