updated 11/4/2005 10:24:13 AM ET 2005-11-04T15:24:13

Guest: Demaurice Smith, Stan Brand, Deborah Orin, Katrina Vanden Heuvel,

Ed Rogers, Barbara Boxer

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Who is I. Lewis Libby?  He's the man who played the media like a pinball machine.  He's the hardball operative who leaked stories about imminent nuclear catastrophes to the “New York Times,” then directed five heavy weight administration officials, including the vice president and secretaries of defense and state to trumpet what he had leaked on those Sunday morning TV shows.  Why do you think they call him Scooter?  Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews. 

Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's erstwhile chief of staff pleaded not guilty today at his arraignment on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.  He clearly intends on sticking to that not guilty plea by hiring one of the toughest defense lawyers around and saying he'll meet Patrick Fitzgerald in court.  Cheney's ex-chief of staff could be scaring two parties: the prosecutor who must know now that he goes to trial, he faces an extremely tough courtroom lawyer.  Libby is also sending a message to his erstwhile colleagues back at the West Wing: it's every man for himself now.  Ted Wells is not being retained to defense Republicans Bush and Cheney in that courtroom, but the guy they let go: Scooter Libby. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster was in court today.  He joins us now—David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well Chris, with this arraignment, Scooter Libby has now begin to respond to the charges.  And he signaled to prosecutors, the press and the public he has no interest in negotiations or in helping the overall investigation in any fashion. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Back up, please. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  Scooter Libby on crutches because of a broken foot appeared at the court house with new lawyers who are veteran trial attorneys and are not known for cutting deals.  And they stated the vice president's former chief of staff is eager for the courtroom battle. 

TED WELLS, LIBBY'S ATTORNEY:  He has declared that he intends to fight the charges in the indictment.  And he has declared that he wants to clear his good name.  And he wants a jury trial. 

SHUSTER:  Libby is accused of lying under oath and obstructing the investigation of White House leaks that blew the CIA cover of Valerie Wilson, the wife of an administration critic. 

During the arraignment, a court clerk asked Libby if he wanted to waive the reading of the indictment.  Libby said yes. 

Then Libby was asked for his plea, and he said, with respect, your honor, I plead not guilty. 

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald then told the court that much of the evidence collected is classified and that defense attorneys will have to get security clearances.  And the process, which could take months, prompted the judge to set a status hearing for February. 

Libby then left the courtroom and went to the marshall's office where he was fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken. 

Ted Wells, one of Libby's new lawyers, is a highly regarded trial attorney who helped former Clinton Agriculture secretary Mike Espy defeat corruption charges.  Years earlier, Wells represented junk bond king Michael Milken who was charged with nearly 100 counts of fraud, pled guilty to half a dozen, and spent less than two years in prison. 

Wells is considered a strong advocate who is well liked by juries, including those in Washington that tend to be mostly African-American. 

WELLS:  We do not intend to try this case in the press.  Mr. Libby intends to clear his good name by using the judicial process.  And we have no further comment at this time. 

SHUSTER:  In this case, however, the press will play a starring role.  The charges allege that Libby lied about his conversations with reporters, and lied about how he learned classified information used to smear Joe Wilson and his wife. 

One of the government witnesses may be Vice President Cheney.  The indictment alleges Cheney told Libby about Valerie Wilson on June 12, 2003, and discussed it a month later with him again on July 12. 

It was later that same day, according to the charges, when Libby spoke about Valerie Wilson's status with the “New York Times'” Judy Miller and “Time” magazine's Matt Cooper. 

Meanwhile, the investigation of the president's top adviser, Karl Rove, appears to be continuing.  A legal source confirms that Patrick Fitzgerald, as first reported by the “Washington Post” recently spoke with Matt Cooper's lawyer to review the number of conversations between Rove and Cooper two years ago.  Legal analysts say the inquiries signal that prosecutors are still evaluating Rove's inconsistencies to the grand jury. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  As for Scooter Libby, today he waived his right to a speedy trial, agreeing with his defense team that they need more time to prepare for trial once they actually get access to some of the classified evidence against Libby. 

In any case, Chris, Scooter Libby now the defense has begun and now he has to get used to the idea of making appearances here at the federal courthouse instead in the halls of power over at the White House—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you David Shuster.

Demaurice Smith is a former federal prosecutor here in town.  And Stan Brand is a former counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dee, is your nickname?  We'll use that, OK.

DEMAURICE SMITH, FRM. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Indeed, that's fine.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Dee.

Let me ask you first then Stan, what does it mean to say I'm going to try this case in court, not in the press? 

SMITH:  Well, it's two things, one it's to send the signal to the prosecution that we're ready and that we're coming.  The second thing, it's a press conference to potential jury pools where you are saying clear and crystal that we are going to be here and prepare a defense that's going to be rock solid.  It's going to be aggressive.  And we're going to bring it when we stand in court. 

MATTHEWS:  So, Stan, he calls a press conference to say he's not trying the case in the press. 

STAN BRAND, DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEY:  Well, he didn't call a press conference.  He walked outside. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he went out to tell the press.  What's the point of that?  Is this just macho? 

BRAND:  The press wants to hear something from the lawyer of the defendant's side.  And he gives a canned statement about what the case is going to be.  Knowing Ted, he won't be talking to the press.  And he won't be trying this with reporters. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is he out there saying an acquittal means innocent?  I never heard that before.  I thought acquittal meant not proven. 

SMITH:  The message you want to send is that your client is innocent.  And when you get on the courthouse steps and you broadcast to the world as he said, actually using those words...

MATTHEWS:  He actually says, the client says he's innocent.

SMITH:  You want everybody to know...

MATTHEWS:  He still hasn't married the guy yet.

SMITH:  Not yet.  And it's your job to defend him and that's about it.

MATTHEWS:  I understand.

SMITH:  But you want to send the message out there that he is innocent of these charges and you're going to fight them to the end. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The case here revolves around a statement, an indictment, you've all read this indictment.  It's pretty clear.  Isn't it a two-week case, according to Fitzgerald it's a two-week case, is it? 

BRAND:  It's pretty simple. 

MATTHEWS:  What's the case? 

BRAND:  The case is that he spoke to press people who never told him what he says they told him.  And then he went in the grand jury and allegedly lied about that fact.  It's a very simple...

MATTHEWS:  Who's the star witness?

BRAND:  I think Vice President Cheney is...

MATTHEWS:  Because? 

BRAND:  Because he's a high-ranking official who's going to corroborate—and he's going to say...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Cheney's going to come in there, Dee, and say, right, Mr. Fitzgerald, I in fact told my chief of staff this back in June of 2003, and he's guilty as hell.  I mean, is he going to do that? 

SMITH:  Well, I'm certainly not going to guess about what the vice president of the United States is going to say.  But what this indictment says simply is that he provided the information to Mr. Libby, and that is going to be the lynch pin of the government's case.  The real question, why? 

MATTHEWS:  If you were defending Vice President Cheney in this case, you were representing him, I should say, would you try to keep him out of the stand?

SMITH:  I would. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

SMITH:  The evidence that he can give, I would argue, would be evidence that he could give via deposition or other sort of form or other sort of mode.  I wouldn't want his appearance to, A, but a distraction.  B,  he's the vice president of the United States.  He has very important matters to deal with. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you put a guy away—can you put a guy in jail for five or 10, 20, 30 years according to this set of charges by a testimony done on videotape without the jury being able to look—the 12 jurors to be able to take a look at the person and get a sense they're telling the truth? 

SMITH:  Sure you could.  And that deposition, in any way, shape or form, it's not going to be a static, stale presentation, it's going to be a presentation, if it happens that way, where the lawyers on both sides are going to be asking him questions and they're going to be asking him very pointed questions about where, when, who, and why you did this. 

MATTHEWS:  But even Bill Clinton had to face a grand jury.  He had to face at least a jury of his peers, didn't he? 

BRAND:  Yes, but here the scenario's going to be riveting because on the defense side you're going to be trying to show that Cheney was sending him a signal to do it.  He's really almost relying, I think, on the superior order defense that some of the Watergate burglars used.  I don't know how that's going to play out. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's get back and fill that in.  Because we know the first step in this chronology is that the vice president, according to the indictment, told Scooter Libby who Valerie Wilson was.  She was working for the CIA and had some role in sending her husband on that trip to Africa.  Then we know a month later—exactly a month later—neatly, July 12 of 2003, the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, the defendant here today who was arraigned today, goes to see the boss and says how do you want me to deal with all the press questions about Valerie Wilson? 

A couple hours later that same day, he, the vice president's chief of staff tells Matt Cooper of “Time” magazine and Judy Miller of the “New York Times” all about Valerie Wilson.  Is that good enough evidence to convict Cheney as well here? 

BRAND:  No.  I think that's inferential stuff.  The question is going to be what did you tell Scooter Libby?  Or did you tell him anything? 

MATTHEWS:  But there were only two people in the room. 

BRAND:  Well, there it is. 

MATTHEWS:  That's the problem. 

BRAND:  That's the problem.

MATTHEWS:  If they get together like the Menendez brothers they can say anything they want.  You're laughing, right? 

SMITH:  The reference to the Menendez brothers.  I mean, any time you want to throw that out there...

MATTHEWS:  They cooked their evidence ahead of time.

SMITH:  Exactly, no.

MATTHEWS:  They apparently had phones hooked up so they could talk about their testimony.  I mean, nobody's here guilty of murder unless you count the war itself and you want to get big-time about it.

But bottom line here, it's a question of—there's only two guys in the room, you're lawyers, you're a judge, you're a jury trying to figure out the truth of what happened there and they both correspond and say, he never really told me to do it.  But isn't it in the interest of Scooter Libby to say the boss told me to do it?  Does that help him with the jury or the case? 

BRAND:  That may be a sufficient legal defense to the charge.  He may say well, I was in effect ordered to do this.  Anything that flowed from that was authorized.  The question...

MATTHEWS:  Is that a legal defense?  I was only following orders from the boss?

BRAND:  No, not in the District of Columbia after the Watergate cases.

SMITH:  That's not a legal defense now.  The reason that I smiled is this is the essence of what the trial is going to be about.  It's your job as a prosecutor or a defense lawyer, not only to take the context of the statement when it happened, but then to broaden it.  What's the story?  What's the motive?  Why would they want to do it?

MATTHEWS:  Let's talk about D.C. jurors.  Working people, some middle-class people, racially divided, probably largely African-American.  Will he be able to come in there and say—and a lot of women in this town tend to be on juries for some reason.  I know you get tired, you forget things, you forget your kids' names sometimes, you're yelling at them.   Are they going to try that sort of hokey pokey, we all make mistakes, we all forget stuff? 

SMITH:  I know what I would say in response to it.  When you look at this indictment, one of the amazing things about it is the layers.  The detail, the repetition.  The obvious thwarting of that defense is, it might work the first time.  But, we're talking about two, three, four, five innumerable conversations. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the fact, I'm just a mid-level bureaucrat, this is a big political war that's going on, I get stuck in the middle of it, I'm a scapegoat.  Will that work with a D.C. jury? 

BRAND:  Well, all I'll say about D.C. juries, I think they're the best juries in the world.  They come in, conscientious, they look at the evidence.  They're not predisposed to the government. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think H.R. Haldeman would agree with you on that?

BRAND:  No, but there are plenty of people, like Mike Espy and others...

MATTHEWS:  ... who get off.

BRAND:  And not just African-American defendants get off in front of D.C. juries, because D.C. juries stick to the instructions they're given.

MATTHEWS:  So, they'll leave him on a big shut-off.

SMITH:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  De, thank you.  Please come back.  This is a great team, De and Dan.  De ad Stan, and nobody's arguing here.  Thank you very much for being on the show.

Well, coming up right now, we've got with the upcoming trial of Scooter Libby dominating the news, what should President Bush do to drive the attention to other topics if he can?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  This is a very serious matter.  Compromising national security information is a very serious matter.  But, the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness, is extremely important.  We need to know the truth.  And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Deb Orin is Washington bureau chief for the New York Post. Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation. 

Let's take a look at these new numbers out from the CBS poll tonight.  A new poll out today, the president has a 35 percent approval rating, the lowest in his presidency; 61 percent of the American people now believe that the war in Iraq is not worth the loss of life right now, 57 percent, actually. 

Let me get these numbers, 64 percent say it's not worth it.  We also have a number that shows that Scooter Libby's behavior, or alleged behavior, is worth it to be prosecuted.  Serious enough to be prosecuted. 

Are you surprised by any of these numbers, Deborah?

DEBORAH ORIN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK POST:  Well, this particular poll, I think, is not a representative poll.  It's way over sampled for Democrats.  But, there's no doubt that the president is having a bad time right now. 

There's no doubt that, particularly the news coverage of Scooter Libby and a lot of the hyperventilation, which makes people think this case is a little different than what it really is, have created an atmosphere that's created very serious problems for him.  He's got to get himself out of them if his second term is going to go any where. 

MATTHEWS:  Katrina, why are these numbers what they are?  Thirty-five percent approval for the president and the war, 64 percent say it's not worth it, 61 percent say the charges alleged against Scooter Libby are worth prosecuting. 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, THE NATION:  Hurricane Katrina, the failed war in Iraq, staggeringly high oil prices, a sense that this administration doesn't care about ordinary Americans, that it circles the wagon, stonewalls, misleads Americans. 

The good news is that, I think Democrats are finally beginning to wake up and act like an opposition party.  Credit to Harry Reid the other night for invoking a legitimate rule to go into private session and to demand questions from Republicans who have stonewalled on intelligence, on national security, undermining national security in favor of circling the wagons. 

Let us get some answers.  And let's get, you know, Chris, someone said to me tonight, so you're doing HARDBALL, what are you going to talk about?  I said national health care and why we need it in this country. 

They thought I was serious.  If there was more discussion about that in this country, this administration would sink even faster.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I'm telling you, the media, the media doesn't cover issues that relate to normal people's lives.  Normal people look at this administration and say, what's going on with it? 

They're protecting people who have leaked CIA operatives' names.  They've put us in a bungled war which is killing over 2,000 of our own.  We need national health care insurance, we need to bring our men and women home safely. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that's a political argument.  I think everybody out there doesn't have national health insurance knows they don't have it. They know the situation they're in, Katrina, but they don't know what the hell is going on in Washington is what I'm trying to cover.

I agree with you for what people care about.  They don't need more information about the lack of health care if they don't have it, I have to tell you that.

Deborah, let me ask you this about this trial coming up.  What drives people crazy, like me, is they take forever to get started.  I mean, there's only so much information that's valid here, or relevant.  And yet we're talk about a status trial in this Scooter Libby trial for perjury, obstruction of justice, etc.  Not until February.  This is going to hang everything up, isn't it?

ORIN:  Yes, but Chris, what's going on here and the reason the Democrats had their temper tantrum the other day is, this trial is not about the Iraq war.  It's not about national security.  It's about a very narrow issue of whether one man lied. 

And the prosecutor made that clear when he announced the indictments last week.  That's why you have Democrats in a total frenzy, because they realize this trial is not going to be what they hoped it would be. 

MATTHEWS:  What would the motive for this one-man line? 

ORIN:  Who knows. 

MATTHEWS:  Who knows?  Well, you just said.  So, the motive has to do with not making money or stealing anything.  It has to do—

ORIN:  Chris, to be honest I don't know, because it appears that contrary to what a lot of people would like to claim, Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, nor was she outed.  There is no underlying crime there. 

The only crime is lying about what—

MATTHEWS:  Her status was not undercover?

ORIN:  She was not covert.  She was not covert.  If she had been covert, there was law they could have charged under.  You've heard—you have heard charges ...

MATTHEWS:  The CIA referred this to the Justice Department because a covert agent was uncovered and outed.  They brought the charge.  You're saying the CIA was wrong? 

ORIN:  I'm saying that it is very unclear whether the CIA was telling the truth, that's correct. 

MATTHEWS:  So the CIA itself was lying? 

ORIN:  I believe that's probably true, myself.  But the point is, the law—there is a very explicit law.  It has specific provisions.  The provisions did not apply in this case.  If they did, the prosecutor would have made that charge.

MATTHEWS:  She was undercover.  If she wasn't undercover, how come all her neighbors and friends thought she was in some other business altogether? 

ORIN:  You know, that's like saying how come Hugh Sidey submitted an

affidavit trying to keeping Matt Cooper from having to testify that said

everybody in Washington knew it.  You can find people who said they didn't

know it.  You can find people who said they did know it.  The basic point -

·         Chris, she is supposed to be a crack agent. 

Where do you think in the CIA training manual are the directions that the way to keep yourself covert is to send your husband on a mission and then have him go high profile and blab about, attack the White House from every rooftop. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure, you can vouch for her conduct, but her status has been established by the president of the United States, the attorney General, Ashcroft.

ORIN:  No Chris, it has not. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They named the special prosecutor, didn't they?  I'm sorry.

ORIN:  Her status has not been established.  The special prosecutor said very explicitly last week that he had made no determination on whether or not she was covert.  That's a fact.  I mean, he did not issue any charges based on her being covert. 

MATTHEWS:  No, that's true.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But he maintained that he carried a two-year investigation.  And you're saying he did it without knowing she was covert, a fact he could have been established in two seconds? 

ORIN:  Chris, that's what he said.  That's not what I'm saying.  That's what he said.  And the defense lawyers will probably argue the investigation should never have been held. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we're going ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Valid argument.  Let's hear more with Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Deborah Orin when we return.  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We're back with Deborah Orin, Washington bureau chief of the “New York Post,” and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation.”  Let me ask you, Katrina, should the vice president testify in this case as the state's witness against his chief of staff, Scooter Libby? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  He doesn't want to I'm sure.  They want to protect him.  But, Chris, you asked the right question before of Deborah.  The whole issue of motive—what was Scooter Libby's motive?  He was linked at the hip to the vice president, his chief aide. 

If Libby lied, did he lie to conceal the vice president's involvement thereby protecting his boss, thereby not getting this news out in advance of the election in 2004?  These are core questions.  I think we need to keep our eyes on the prize and focused. 

And for Deborah, one, to dismiss what happened in the Senate the other day as a stunt is so abusive toward any concept of minority rights in a democracy.  And two, to deny that this indictment is the tip of the iceberg, and that it's not widening—what did the president know, what did the vice president know?

MATTHEWS:  OK, let her respond.  I think you've offered her an opportunity to respond.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I mean, hyperventilating in terms of not understanding.  You would call the enforcement of the War Powers Act a stunt. 

ORIN:  Wait, Katrina, I'm simply drawing conclusions from what the prosecutor said.  The prosecutor said this was a very narrow case.  The war was not on trial in this case.  There was no charge in the indictment involving outing a covert agent, hence no covert agent was outed, because the prosecutor knows the original Mister X who told Robert Novak that first got this name out, no charges have been put against that person or against Robert Novak, hence there was no outing of a special—of a covert agent because she wasn't covert.  So much as people on the left would love to make this ...

MATTHEWS:  But you're counting an awful lot of people on the left like all the major newspapers. 

ORIN:  Right.  Well, they are.  The “New York Times” is ... 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  All the major newspaper on the left.  Oh, please. 

ORIN:  And the fact that ...

MATTHEWS:  And the wire services and the networks.  Everybody's off base, but you here, you say. 

ORIN:  Chris, it's—I am ...  

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Hey, Deborah, is the CIA on the left?  The CIA brought the initial charges to justice. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let's give her a chance.

ORIN:  One of the most amusing things about this whole thing, actually, is how the left has suddenly fallen in love with the CIA.  I find that hysterical.  But I come back to the beginning.  This case has been horribly misreported by the press.  And you have to just go ...

MATTHEWS:  We're reading the indictment. 

ORIN:  Yes, I'm reading the indictment.  You don't seem to be.  There is no outing in the indictment. 

MATTHEWS:  There are prosecutions going on right now for perjury, for obstruction of justice, misstatements.  There's an investigation that continues of Karl Rove.  This is serious business.  But however it started, it's ending this way.  Anyway, thank you Deborah Orin of “New York Post,”  Katrina Vanden Heuvel of “The Nation.”   

Up next, President Bush is trying to move forward as he prepares for a visit to South America this week.  But how much is the Libby trial going to dominate the agenda of his whole second term?  You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  MSNBC' chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell joins us now—Norah. 

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  And good evening to you, Chris.

Well, a difficult day for this White House.  Clearly they thought they would be able to put the month of October behind them, start fresh with the month of November in trying to turn around this presidency as the president tries to bounce back.  But as some admitted today, it may be more difficult than they had thought. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL (voice-over):  The president and first lady left Washington today for Argentina just hours before the vice president's former chief of staff pled not guilty. 

WELLS:  He wants to clear his good name.  And he wants a jury trial. 

O'DONNELL:  But some Republicans think Libby should strike a deal. 

VIN WEBER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  The Democrats clearly want to make alleged manipulation of intelligence in the run up the Iraq war a major issue.  And the trial could focus attention on that. 

O'DONNELL:  But while Libby's lawyer pled not to fight the charges in the media, a trial could force Vice President Cheney and other White House officials to testify. 

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) MINORITY LEADER:  We all know the vice president's office was the nerve center of an operation designed to sell the war and discredit those who challenged it. 

O'DONNELL:  That, say sources, has created tension in the West Wing with the president and some of his closest advisers.  There's already deep concern about Karl Rove's future, who noticeably did not join the president on Air Force One today. 

“The Washington Post” is reporting that White House aides privately are discussing whether he should leave the White House, or at the very least apologize, a move first raised by Senator Trent Lott on HARDBALL.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, ® MISSOURI:  Is he in the right position?

O'DONNELL:  But Mark McKinnon, a close friend of Rove's, said for now there won't be a big White House shakeup. 

MARK MCKINNON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Over time he'll see people shift around, but I don't anticipate any wholesale changes at all. 

O'DONNELL: Still, Rove remains in legal jeopardy.  Today, I asked the special prosecutor about Rove's legal fate.

(on camera):  Mr. Fitzgerald, (INAUDIBLE) investigation of Karl Rove? 

Any comments?

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  No comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL:  Now, Karl Rove still remains under investigation.  A source close to Rove tells MSNBC that, quote, the angel of death passed over us for now—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Norah O'Donnell. 

Let's go right now to Ed Rogers and Bob Shrum.  Ed, you worked—you're a Republican strategist.  Let me ask you about what would you strategize right now?  You've got Karl Rove still under the focus of the special prosecutor.  We don't know that story what it means today that he's still being looked at in terms of possibly giving false statements with regard to his meeting with Matt Cooper of “Time” magazine.  He's still in the glare.  Can he ever get out on the glare? 

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  First, on the premise of your question, I haven't seen an authoritative source say that that is the case.  The special counsel said we will indict or we will be silent.  So, I haven't seen anybody that knows anything say that, in fact, Karl Rove is still under investigation. 

Having said that, maybe he is, maybe he isn't.  It doesn't matter. 

Anybody reading of the law and seeing the chronology of what...

MATTHEWS:  The grand jury closes up next week.  It's the end of this investigation.  What do you with the body?  What do you do with Karl Rove after all of this is over with? 

ROGERS:  He ought to stay right where he is and get back to work.  This president doesn't have a single problem that staff changes would solve.  If Karl Rove were abducted by aliens tomorrow and were never seen again, this president would still have issues in front of him. 

MATTHEWS:  It's kind of Jonah and the whale kind of situation where as long as Jonah's on the ship, the whale's going to keep hitting the ship.  You know what I mean.

ROGERS:  Yeah, I do know what you mean. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it's ever going to go away, this concern about this guy? 

ROGERS:  I think we overestimate the role of staff in Washington.  I don't think out in America people know who sits where in the West Wing. 

MATTHEWS:  Good point.  I agree with that.  There's a lot of anonymity, and return to anonymity.  But here's Bob Shrum, very well known guy who was a staff guy for years.  Bib, will they be able to turn over this, move the head if they keep saying—and get this story off television? 

BOB SHRUM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, look, Ed is as sure that Karl Rove won't be indicted as he was a few weeks ago that Scooter Libby wouldn't be indicted as he was a few weeks ago that Scooter Libby wouldn't be indicted. 

ROGERS:  Not true. 

SHRUM:  Everybody's going to be in the Republican party, except Trent Lott, and I think that may be a little bit of payback time—they're all going to be for keeping Rove until the day goes, and then they're going to say the president made a brilliant move and Rove made a sacrifice. 

Every administration that finds itself in this position goes through three stages.  The first is denial, nothing happened.  The second is rationalization.  We heard some of that earlier in the show when we heard Debra Orrin say well, she isn't a covert agent.  And the third is change.  And I think at some point the change will come in this administration.

I agree with Ed about one thing, you can't fix this simply by changing the people.  The president's going to have to change some of the policies.  He's going to have to come up with a more coherent Iraq policy that gives people some sense of when we're going to get out, on what terms we'll get out and that we have some reasonable prospect of succeeding there.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let's take a look at the plight going on in the Republican party.  Here's Trent Lott who was on the program the other night.  He of course was the former Republican leader, still the Senator from Mississippi. And of course, Dan Bartlett who is the top official at the White House right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Look, he's been very successful, very effective in the political arena.  The question is should he be the deputy chief of staff for policy under the current circumstances?  I don't know all that's going on, so I can't make that final conclusion.  But, you know, how many times has the top political person become also the top policy adviser?  Maybe you could make that transition, but it's a real challenge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there's Senator Lott questioning whether Karl should have a policy role.  Do you think that's appropriate criticism or not? 

ROGERS:  Karl's incredibly gifted.  He's very smart when it comes to the public policy issues of the day.  He's serving the president and this country well. 

MATTHEWS:  There's the debate.  Do you think Trent Lott was getting a little payback in there for being dumped as leader by this crowd? 

ROGERS:  You can hear it the way you want to hear it.

MATTHEWS:  How do you hear it?

ROGERS:  He was deferring to the president, and the president is keeping his people in place. 

Again, there is nothing about this White House's problems that staff changes would be the answer to.  I really believe that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me try Bob on this, I know he might agree with this though, I'm not sure.  We know now on the record, because we read all about it, the officials at the White House, which everyone assumes is Karl Rove according to the indictment, talked to Matt Cooper of “Time” magazine, talked to him about Valerie Wilson's identity.  Did, in fact, talk to Bob Novak as well about Valerie Wilson's identity.  The very things the president said his staff had nothing to do with.  They weren't involved in that.

We now know on the record they did through a variety of sources, including reading carefully the indictment.  Is this man worthy to be trusted with national security documents with classified materials if it's clear that Karl Rove was talking about classified information to the press.  Is he now a man who should he have a security card yank? 

SHRUM:  If he were applying for a security clearance today, he were a normal person trying to get a security clearance, it is clear under the rules that he would not get one.  It's also clear as “The Washington Times,” not the “Washington Post,” “The Washington Times” White House correspondent lays out today that Karl Rove lied to Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, he may have lied to the president, and he allowed a lie to be told to the American people. 

You know, I'm not sure the standard of employment in the White House should be that you're not yet indicted.  There ought to be a higher standard than that. 

MATTHEWS;  You're saying, by the way—I want you to get your chance here.  You said that there was nonclassified material that Valerie Wilson was under cover. 

ROGERS:  Well, a special counsel has looked into this and brought no charges on what would be a violation of the law to reveal her identity.  It appears that if Karl Rove would have stood on the South Lawn with the Rockettes and a bull horn and announced she was in the CIA, that would not have been a violation of the law, because she wasn't covert...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ...  a lot of sand thrown in his face, dust thrown in his face, and that's why he couldn't make the indictment.

ROGERS:  We're going to have a trial about that a year from now.

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, about the indictment of whether there was an undercover agent outed here.  That's what he said during his press conference last Friday.  He couldn't make a case on the central charge of the outing of an agent because Scooter Libby had thrown dust in his face, is his basic statement.

ROGERS:  I don't think that's the case at all. What he said was, he believes Scooter Libby didn't tell him the truth, but he knows what the truth is. 

MATTHEWS:  He says he was blinded to the truth

ROGERS:  He says he knows what the truth is. 

SHRUM:  Ed, by the way, is in the rationalization phase, and you are not allowed to perjure yourself in front of a federal grand jury, no matter what the underlying charge is. 

I have read the indictment, and this spin, this rationalization that Valerie Plame was not an undercover agent is not what was said by the prosecutor and is not what is said in the indictment. 

ROGERS:  I've read the indictment, too.

SHRUM:  There's just a huge amount of straining here to try to come up with some argument that can be used against a well-regarded Republican special counsel whose brought this indictment. 

ROGERS:  It's not an attack on the special counsel as all.  He said what he said in the indictment.  I read it.  And he said both in the indictment and in his press conference, we either indict or we are silent.  And Bob chooses to read a lot of things into that silence. 

MATTHEWS:  Five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and misstatements.  What do you want? 

ROGERS:  There's going to be a trial about Scooter in a year.  What Bob is doing and critics of the administration are doing are choosing to project their fantasies into the silence of the special counsel. 

SHRUM:  No, no, I think what you're doing and what Deborah Orin did, is take the silence of an incomplete investigation on one question and saying, he said she wasn't undercover.  You are not allowed—

Let me ask you a question, Ed, if you're called before a federal grand jury or a congressional committee and put under oath, are you going to lie to them because you're going, you're not asking me about a crime?  I mean, even if you were right, would you lie to them?

ROGERS:  That's such a ridiculous question, I'm going to turn it back over to Chris, please. 

MATTHEWS:  I'm the moderator here, Bob. 

SHRUM:  No, you don't have an answer to that question.

MATTHEWS:  That's called leading the witness, you can't do it here.

I can lead the witness.

Bob Shrum, Ed Rogers, we'll be right back.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  Do these charges vindicate a serious breach of the public trust?  Absolutely.  If you're going to have a grand jury investigation into the improper disclosure of national security information, you're going to have someone in the position Mr. Libby is, lying to the FBI on two occasions and going before a grand jury on two occasions, and telling false testimony, obstructing the investigation.  That to me defines a serious breach of the public trust. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We're back with HARDBALL.

Political analyst Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Ed Rogers.

Ed, is this a narrow crime, perhaps committed by one person, or is this part of an administration under attack here?  On trial? 

ROGERS:  Well, it looks look the former.  It looks like something very narrow.  I think a lot of the Democrats and critics of the administration haven't just given up hope yet. 

And that's all they really have, is hope that this isn't something much worse.  Hey, I'm still looking for us to find the picture of the student, Bill Clinton, in the Soviet Union or the documents that said Bill Clinton went to the Soviet Union.  So don't give up hope, Bob. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob Shrum, is this a broader charge that's going to be—suppose Scooter Libby goes down for a year on some sort of felony count.  They plead after all, after hiring Ted Wells and showing how tough he is, he ends up pleading the case out, spending a year in Allenwood, is that the end of it? 

SHRUM:  I don't know the answer to that, and I'm a little surprised. 

I thought I was on opposite Ed Rogers, not Joe McCarthy. 

The fact of the matter is that the special prosecutor is still in the middle of this investigation.  There are reasons to believe he is still looking at other people, still looking at the whole range of what happened. 

ROGERS:  That's hope. 

SHRUM:  No, it's not hope.  The Washington Times reports that he is considering other indictments.  We don't know what's going to happen here.  I'm not hoping for it.  I'm just saying that's the reality.  I'll tell you what I wish for, I wish the truth had come out one year ago, because as Patrick Fitzgerald said, he would have indicted in October of 2004, and you wouldn't have a Bush administration to lobby. 

ROGERS:  That would be terrible. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Scooter Libby knew from seven different conversation that Valerie Wilson was working at the FBI and he didn't learn from the press?  Do you think he's guilty of not admitting that? 

ROGERS:  Scooter Libby, today, today, he pled innocent. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe he is?

ROGERS:  I believe that it is possible that the sequencing of these conversations                 could have gotten out of whack.  That he told the truth as he remembered it to be.  But we're going to have a trial.  You're right, you're right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he might be guilty? 

ROGERS:  Well, I think he might be innocent, and we're going to have a trial about that a year from now. 

MATTHEWS:  What would be the motive for hiding all of this information?  I don't get it. 

ROGERS:  If he lied...

MATTHEWS:  Unless the vice president has a much bigger role in this and he's protecting the boss out of loyalty.

ROGERS:  The protection—the truth would not have hurt the boss, so I don't know what the selfish interest was. 

MATTHEWS:  Shrum, what's the one-word motive for all of this? 

SHRUM:  Well, I think the one-word motive at the time was that there was an enormous reaction against revelations and intelligence had been manipulated.  I think they decided to get Wilson and get his wife. 

Thank you very much, Bob Shrum.  Thank you, Ed Rogers.

When we come back, Senator Barbara Boxer, she's got a new book out.  It's a novel, it's fiction, with lots of nonfictional details about the people she works with in the U.S. Senate.  You can learn a lot when these people pretend to be writing a novel. 

By the way, the political debate is on Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. You get down cast, pod cast anytime.  Just go to our Web site, hardball.msnbc.com.

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We're back.  Senator Barbara Boxer is a third term Democratic senator from California, and now she adds novelist to her list of achievements.  Her new book, “A Time To Run,” is her first work of fiction, and as luck would have it, it hits on some of the same hot button topics we're currently talking about on HARDBALL. 

Senator Boxer, congratulations.  The last senator from California to be a novelist was Pierre Salinger, and he wrote a book called “On Instructions of My Government.”  And he told things about Jack Kennedy that he couldn't have told in a real-life book.  Is this your way of telling truths you can't tell on the record? 

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, that's a good question, Chris.  I know it's—this is a work of fiction.  However, it's a composite of all of the people I have met.  And it is—it explores issue like why people become liberals, why do they become conservative. 

What's the relationship between the press and the politicians?  And it's interesting, I think.  And it's a good read, and guess what?  It starts off with a United States senator, a woman, who is dealing with a very right wing Supreme Court appointment.  And it's just amazing.  When we did this, we had no clue this would be the subject of the day. 

MATTHEWS:  Ripped from the day's headlines!rMDNM_ rMD+BO_rMDNM_ Let me ask you, Desmond Leery (ph), sounds like Pat Leahy to me, the ranking Democrat on judiciary.  That wasn't much of a disguise was it? 

BOXER:  Well, he has this much of a role in it!

MATTHEWS:  OK, but I love the fact that it was easy to pick him out.  Is there anybody else hidden behind these names we should recognize before we buy the book? 

BOXER:  It's a work of fiction.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, OK.

BOXER:  It truly is.  But you will find bits and pieces of—who knows—yourself in there. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I hope not.  Let me—I hope not.  Depending on what state, whether you like me or not, I want to know whether I am in there.  Let me as you this question about the big fight on the floor the other day.  It got kind of personal out there with Bill Frist, the ranking—or the majority Republican leader out there saying this is really bad form, and the Democrats actually making their point.  What happens after that?  Does the dust settle or do people hold grudges? 

BOXER:  Oh, the dust settles.  I mean, all that whimpering and crying by Bill Frist, I mean, give me a break.  All we did is used the Senate rules to call attention to a really critical point.  Did the president manipulate, misuse intelligence to take us into a war that is killing our young people day after day.  And we've got now more than 17,000 dead and wounded. 

So, you know, why is he so upset?  It's the parents of these kids who should be upset.  And we need to get to the bottom of it and finish the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation so we can give people answers. 

MATTHEWS:  As you've watched this case unfold and it went to arraignment today of Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, and who knows what's coming next, probably the vice president in the witness chair, have you learned anything new in all these months as we've gotten closer and closer to some kind of result of this investigation into the leak? 

BOXER:  Well, I don't know if I've learned anything new, but it certainly confirmed what I believed, which is that this administration was ready to really destroy anyone who stood up and took them on, on the war.  And you had Ambassador Wilson doing this, saying that in fact, Saddam Hussein was not trying to buy uranium from Niger. 

And just saying that, he exposed himself to the enemy's list of Dick Cheney and the rest of them over there, and we now know the rest is history.  They went after his wife.  It reminds me of the enemies list during the time that Nixon was president, but you are far too young to remember that. 

MATTHEWS:  I remember that.  Let me ask you about Iraq, because we had Richard Engel on the network yesterday morning.  He was on IMUS, I believe it was yesterday.  And he told the problem—I want you to address this.  He said the problem with bringing down the number of troops without bringing them all home is, once you start to substantially reduce the complement of troops—it's up to about, you know, 150,000 now.

If you start reducing that by big chunks down to below a hundred or whatever, the word will get out on the streets of Iraq quickly that we're reducing our strength and the people left will be more vulnerable to attack. 

BOXER:  See, I think if you really look carefully at what people like John Kerry have said and others, and now many are starting to join in for the call of reducing troop strength here, what you find is that the whole point is to train the Iraqis.  That's the point.  I mean, as they stand up, we stand down.  That's what the president said. 

So, the fact is, even the most—the biggest supporters of the president are starting to say that our troops there really are causing more and more terrorism.  They are fueling terrorism.  It doesn't help us.  If we have a clear mission, there's no reason why we cannot reduce troop strength.  And we've got to start doing it. 

I have talked to some friends and colleagues who say that 80 percent of their National Guard is in Iraq with the best equipment.  You have a Katrina, you see what's happening.  We need the troops home.  The Iraqis have to stand up and defend their country, they need to want freedom as much as we want it for them.  We cannot stay there forever. 

MATTHEWS:  How long can we stay there?  Give me a date.  Is it two more years?  One more year?  Three more years? What?  Because I think this is coming down to it.  I just want to know what you think about the timing of our departure. 

BOXER:  Well, the bottom line of all this is, I'm not going to lay out a timetable.  But what I have done is, I've gone on with a bill that I think is very important, to say to the president, what is your mission?  If your mission is to train the troops, tell us what you need to do that and we'll get out. 

But my belief is we can begin bringing the troops home now.  And once this next election takes place, that's an important milestone.  That's the time that you have got a country, you've got elected people and they have to fend for themselves.  That's what self determination is. 

MATTHEWS:  Out of time.  Senator Barbara Boxer, author of “A Time To Run,” a fictional account which sounds like nonfiction, it's so close to what's going on right now.  Senator Boxer, thank you for joining us on HARDBALL. 

BOXER:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

And, tomorrow, it's been 25 years since Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States.  We'll remember this towering figure in American politics.  And the latest on the CIA leak case, and coming up next week, Maureen Dowd and Senator John McCain.  Right now, it's time for the “ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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