January 17, 2014
Guests: Louis Greenwald, Loretta Weinberg, Michael Powell, Bennett Barlyn, Bennett Barlyn, Michael Powell, Judith Browne Dianis, Ryan Haygood
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Operation road hog.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. With at least a dozen subpoenas
issued by this week`s end and a growing list of officeholders past and
present scurrying for protection, both legal and political, the reputation
of New Jersey itself stands on trial.
It`s not just the reelected Chris Christie who faces peril, but those
in both parties in the legislature, as well as in the governor`s office.
Can the leaders and key investigators in Trenton get to the bottom of this
operation road hog that has disgusted the country, or will they be blocked
by a political buddy-buddy system that protects the politician while
ignoring the public?
Will the good politics now of catching the perpetrators and preventing
such acts from happening again overwhelm the people who have committed
those acts and sought to hide them? Will the good politics of catching the
bad guys in this episode beat the bad politics of those who now nervously
wait for the wheels of justice to commence?
As the machinery of this investigation emerges this Friday with each
new output of subpoenas, this is the question that looms. As those looking
for the truth go to war with those seeking to hide it, who`s going to come
out on top? Will there be enough juice behind the probe to overcome what`s
already been unearthed as a huge potent blob of denial and self-protection?
Louis Greenwald`s a New Jersey assemblyman. He`s the majority leader
and serves on the special investigative committee himself. Loretta
Weinberg is a state senator whose district includes Fort Lee and has been
fighting to get to the bottom of this scandal since it began.
And now we have the final list of subpoenas issued by the special
legislative committee investigating the deliberate George Washington Bridge
traffic jams, or as I call it, operation road hog.
And here they are -- Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie`s deputy chief of
staff who was fired by the governor, Bill Stepien, who was Christie`s
campaign manager, Charles McKenna, Christie`s chief counsel. Port
Authority chairman David Samson, Bill Baroni, the former deputy director of
the Port Authority appointed by Christie, David Wildstein, a New Jersey
political appointee at the Port Authority, Kevin O`Dowd, his chief of staff
and appointee to become New Jersey attorney general, Regina Egea,
Christie`s designated new chief of staff, and Mike Drewniak, press
secretary, Maria Comella, communications director, Christina Genovese,
Christie aide, Matt Mower is Christie`s former regional political director
for his reelection campaign, and Evan Ridley, another Christie aide,
Phillipe Danielides, senior adviser to the Port Authority`s chairman, David
Samson, Christina Lado, the Port Authority`s director of government and
community affairs for New Jersey, and Paul Nunziato, the Port Authority
police union president. Also, Nicolle Davidman, who worked on fundraising
for the Christie campaign, Colin Reed, who was Christie`s deputy press
secretary, and the entity Christie for Governor, Incorporated, and the
office of the governor itself.
Let me go to assembly leader Louis Greenwald, sir. Thank you. Give
us a sense of what you think this wide spread of subpoenas tells you about
the nature of the investigation now being undertaken.
LOUIS GREENWALD (D), NJ ASSEMBLY MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Chris, we
have cast this net based upon the advice of counsel from the original e-
mails that were turned over and a scan of those e-mails and an
investigative review of those e-mails to see where the points of connection
These subpoenas are -- really, they are a discovery tool. They are
nothing more than that. They are not to cast blame or take anything from
that as to allegations of what role these people may have played.
But from being a part of the e-mails and that e-mail chain and the
point of connection, we believe that they are key figures that would be
able to provide insight as to, where is the root of the power, of the abuse
of power, and how deep it goes. You know, our suspicions are clearly that
it goes deeper than Bridget Kelly and that the people on that list would be
able to provide that information.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the governor`s statement that it was
really Bridget Kelly who`s behind all this, who lied to him and basically
implied that she was the one who initiated this whole bridge closing, based
upon what was unearthed as an e-mail statement about it from her that said,
Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.
He makes it sound like that`s the beginning and the end of this saga.
Is that accurate, as you know it?
GREENWALD: Well, I would find that very hard to believe on the
Bridget Kelly that I know. She served the state legislature as a liaison
to the governor`s office, very talented staffer, very responsive to us.
But she was not someone who, when we dealt with her on public policy, that
she would make a decision on her own. She routinely would say, Let me go
back and check in with the front office. I`ll be sure to get back to you.
To her credit, she always did. But she was not someone who would take that
initiative or have that authority to make that decision on her own.
I would find that very hard to believe, that she would have
masterminded the closure of the bridge solely on her own. And that`s
really what`s led to this investigation.
The governor himself, I think, must be having a hard time believing
that because he has launched his own investigation and hired outside
counsel to review his executive office. I applaud him for that. I think
any executive would have done that. I wish he would have done it sooner,
but I think that`s the right move.
So even his own actions don`t suggest that he believes that it begins
and ends with Bridget Kelly. And that`s why, quite honestly, we made the
decision we did over the weekend of bringing in Reid Schar, who has
received remarkable accolades from people across the country for the hire.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I`m skeptical, and I`ll say that because I`m an
outsider watching this. But I got tell you, having watched the governor`s
testimony, at least in public -- not under oath -- that he never once had a
conversation with any of his staff people, any of the appointees at the
bridge authority, at Port Authority, never once evinced any evidence of any
curiosity in his part, and is, in fact, used to mock the press for saying,
I`m not going to be a prosecutor, I`m not going to conduct an
Now when he`s caught in this web, he says, I`m going to be the one
investigating my whole team. It smacks of Nixon and the so-called Dean
investigation. There was no investigation.
Anyway, let me go to Senator Weinberg on that. Do you have any
confidence that Chris Christie would unearth the truth here on his own,
having never -- having said, I never tried to do it before because damn it,
it`s not my job. I mean, he has already said, It`s not my job to
investigate what I did.
LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NJ STATE SENATOR: You know, Chris, you`re kind
of hitting the nail on the head. For me, this issue is about -- really,
it`s almost two different issues. It is the crazy part of it that I
describe, who sat in their office and dreamed up a traffic jam in Fort Lee
to last four days and put thousands upon thousands of people in jeopardy
and put our infrastructure in jeopardy? Who thought that up and why?
We don`t have the answer to that. And I agree with my colleague,
Majority Leader Greenwald, that none of us believe that Bridget Kelly did
this on her own. That`s one half the story.
The other half of the story is all the people who were in charge,
whether we`re talking about the governor, the Port Authority commissioners,
none of them, as far as I can see, did anything to actually find out what
went on here.
People have known about this since September 13th. I myself wrote a
letter to the Port Authority on September 19th. I cc`ed the governor on
it. I cc`d David Samson on it. I wrote to Commissioner Pat Schuber. No -
- in fact, some of the documents have been released. There were e-mails
going back and forth trying to figure out how to say, Thank you for your
They actually sent my inquiry to David Wildstein to draw up an answer
for me. I mean, this whole thing is so out of hand. And I have to say
this about the governor. Either he knew and he`s not being truthful with
people, or he didn`t want to know. And if he didn`t want to know, that`s
as much of an indictment about his managerial style as not telling the
MATTHEWS: OK, what I like what I`ve heard about you`ve said,
Senators, here`s the question. You`ve always dealt with Pat Schuber. It`s
like if you worked in a senate office (INAUDIBLE) you could always count on
somebody at some agency to give you an answer. You got to know people.
They would give you quick answers and not waste your time with red tape.
It sounds like you had that kind of relationship with Mr. Schuber.
Then all of a sudden, a guy who`s always been helpful to you as a
legislator, a senior legislator, has all of a sudden clammed up, as if
somebody from on top said, No talking here.
WEINBERG: Well, again, I can only go by what I know. I selected Pat
Schuber because he`s one of the people I voted for to put on the Port
Authority. I selected Pat Schuber because we do have a personal and a very
good and honest relationship. And I particularly selected Pat Schuber
because I said to him, I know when you go on the Port Authority, you are a
former county executive of Bergen County, you will stand up for the people
of Bergen County. And that`s why I reached out to Pat Schuber, who
promised me he would get to the bottom of it. And you know what, Chris?
I`m still waiting.
And I find it really difficult that the governor stated that he fired
Bridget Kelly because she lied to him, but he wasn`t curious enough to ask
her why or who else knew about it or who told her to do this? He never
asked her. Nobody in his staff asked her. He just fired her. A very
curious set of circumstances.
MATTHEWS: Majority Leader Greenwald, I want to ask you about what the
governor has said so far and what you make of it. He said, I believed in
the traffic survey all the way up until mid-December, when the people there
like Wildstein, and of course, Baroni began to deny that there was a
traffic survey. At that point, he briskly asked the staff for one hour,
You got an hour to come forward and point the finger at yourself and say
you done it, you did it. And then after that, he never asked anymore
Does that sound like a person protecting themselves from information
about their own leadership or what? What kind of way to run an office is
that? I don`t believe any of the stories. I don`t have any interest in
them or any curiosity. And all of the sudden I`m giving my staff one hour,
presto, to come forward and point the finger at themselves or I don`t want
to hear it again.
That seemed to be a very well-constructed defense strategy, but not
necessarily the performance of a chief executive you`d like to see in a
state after there`s been this kind of an event.
GREENWALD: You know, Chris, look, it clearly, in my mind, lacks
credibility. But I know you can appreciate that, as Senator Weinberg and I
are active participants in this investigation from the legislative side, I
can`t go on instinct here. I can`t go on what I think. I have to go on
what the evidence shows.
I think what`s more compelling to me is the story that Senator
Weinberg just told. Nobody seems to know anything about this bridge, but
everybody, when they hear about the bridge, seems to know to go to
Wildstein. That to me is what the real linchpin to this is. And I think
that`s the most telling piece. Nobody knows anything about the bridge, but
when something comes up with the bridge, they all go to the same guy.
And when you combine that with the statement that came from Mr.
Wildstein through his attorney today, that, again, if immunity is provided,
he can challenge the credibility of the statements that have been made -- I
haven`t seen too many people make statements yet. But those -- whether --
if he`s talking about public statements, there`s only a few people that
have made those statements, and that`s pretty obvious. If there are people
that have talked to him, again, I hope that that will come out in the
investigation that the Senate and the assembly are undertaking.
MATTHEWS: Well, his attorney says that he won`t speak. He said it
again today, that there`s one way his client will talk, be cooperative. He
told the Associated Press, his attorney did, that if he gets immunity from
the relevant entities -- now, of course, the relevant entities include the
two bodies of the legislature, assembly and senate, but also the
prosecutors in New Jersey, the federal prosecutors in New Jersey and the
southern district of New York, perhaps.
How much immunity does this guy want for his client before the guy
will tell the truth? And does that include you guys cooperating, giving
WEINBERG: Well, you know, we in the...
GREENWALD: Chris, from our side, from the investigations -- I`m
sorry, Loretta. From the investigation standpoint...
WEINBERG: No, I was just going to say...
WEINBERG: Just to clarify, we in the legislature can`t and do not
grant immunity. That`s not part of our legal responsibility.
But I just want to follow up on one other thing. November 25th, Bill
Baroni came to the assembly transportation committee, not under oath, not
under subpoena, and spelled out a cover-up. If the governor didn`t know
until mid-December that that was a cover-up -- anybody who knows anything
about this area of Bergen County knows that it was cover-up. We all know
that there was no traffic study.
But more important, they tried to spell a theory, which I believe they
tried to spell to make people jealous or something, that Fort Lee had some
kind of private road to the George Washington Bridge. They had dedicated
lanes that were only for Fort Lee residents.
That is an absolute untruth, and all of us knew it a minute after
those words came out of Bill Baroni`s mouth. There are no private roads.
There are no dedicated lanes. And if anybody else didn`t know it, then
they really don`t know their jobs.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman,
Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. Thank you both. Please come back on the
Coming up, the apparent vindictiveness that led to the bridge scandal
has prompted other officials in New Jersey to say they, too, were victims
of the governor`s bullying. Tonight, a former county prosecutor in New
Jersey who says his firing was politically motivated.
Also, President Obama tries to balance privacy concerns with the need
to protect the country from terrorists. Today, he pulled in the reins on
parts of the NSA`s controversial phone surveillance program.
And here`s a bit of good news in the voter ID front, something we care
about here. A judge in Pennsylvania has struck down the state`s new voter
ID law, the photo-voto (ph) ID law, saying it made it too difficult for
some people to vote. But that`s exactly why the Republicans passed the law
in the first place, and they`ve said so, to make it tougher on Democrats.
And leave to it Barbara Bush to say it`s time for someone not named
Bush or Clinton to run for president. She is talking you, Jeb.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: If Chris Christie wants to be president of the United
States, he`ll probably need to win the New Hampshire primary, and the big
newspaper up there is taking the George Washington Bridge scandal very
Take a look at this editorial from "The Union Leader" up in
Manchester. "If he" -- Christie -- "was not telling the truth, his
political career should be finished. The American people must not tolerate
any politician of any party who would callously turn the machinery of the
state against the people for his own personal gain."
Keep in mind that that`s a very conservative editorial board up there
at "The Union Leader" drawing a very clear line against Governor Christie.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While the story of the George
Washington Bridge was opened -- has opened our eyes to an unseemly culture
of exacting political payback, the office of Governor Christie appears to
be just one of many examples of intimidation and retribution to come out
In 2010, a grand jury in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, returned a 143-
count indictment of a local sheriff and her two deputies for abuse of power
and misconduct. According to The New York Times, the sheriff was an active
supporter of Chris Christie, but Christie`s appointed attorney general then
moved in, and before long, the indictment against the sheriff`s office was
dismissed for what the state said were charges that sought to criminalize
what it called simply bad management.
Well, there`s no evidence that the governor himself ordered the
dismissal of the charges, but the prosecutors who originally brought the
case were fired, and one of them joins us now. Bennett Barlyn is a former
Hunterdon County prosecutor who has filed a lawsuit against the state of
New Jersey. Also with us right now is Michael Powell, who covered the
story for "The New York Times."
Let me ask you -- Michael Powell, thank you for joining us from "The
New York Times." This story you ran was in October, and it`s only now,
given the fact that it`s January, and after all these stories about the
bridge closing and the mayhem behind it, if you will, it fits.
Tell me what you think it tells you in itself about what happened.
Does it have a story of itself, or does it need to be appended to the
larger bridge story?
MICHAEL POWELL, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, or you could argue that
the bridge story is part of this -- this long -- this long kind of pattern
of real hardball politics by the governor.
And he has in any number of ways kind of played retribution politics.
And I think this is a -- this, the Hunterdon case is a real good example.
And, of course, the George Washington Bridge is a -- perhaps a spectacular
example of the same.
MATTHEWS: Well, if you look at it in just cartoon terms, a governor`s
person gets indicted for 43 counts. He sends in his attorney general, or
his attorney general jumps in, frees the person from indictment, exonerates
And then now, not only exonerates them, goes after the people who went
after him in the first place and fires all of them. It is pretty complete
a story here of politics, not just -- if justice at all, certainly
POWELL: Oh, yes.
I mean, I think that, look, you have three really top-notch career
prosecutors, Republican, Democrat, independent. They are all -- they all
get essentially their careers trashed for doing their job, for bringing an
indictment. And I talked to the grand jurors. I talked to four or five of
the grand jurors. They all spoke.
And they said, you know, this really seemed like a pretty simple case.
And it was a simple case, it looks like, until the attorney general, who is
appointed by the governor, intervened.
MATTHEWS: Well, in your piece, you showed reaction from several,
several of the jurors in the abrupt dismissal of the indictments against
the sheriff`s office.
In fact, one juror said: "The prosecutor was meticulous, and so were
we. Really, the case felt like a no-brainer until the state killed it."
Another juror said -- quote -- "We had no real disagreements."
And still another juror said -- quote -- "I still get angry. It was
shameful. And I keep trying to put it behind me because it was so obvious
that this was about politics."
Mr. Barlyn, come in. And thank you.
BENNETT BARLYN, FORMER NEW JERSEY PROSECUTOR: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: I know you have got a case against the governor. But you
were bringing a case. You got 43 counts approved by a grand jury. You had
a case. The grand jurors thought it was good case. When did you first
sense politics was afoot when the governor`s attorney general jumped in and
pulled it out from under you?
BARLYN: Chris, we first became aware that this case was somewhat out
of the ordinary when, after the indictments were unsealed, it was reported
in a local paper that one of the defendants, the undersheriff, Michael
Russo, claimed to subordinates that Governor Christie himself, and not the
attorney general, not the lieutenant governor, but the governor himself was
going to -- quote -- "step in and kill the case."
And subsequent events proved him correct. That`s exactly what
happened, not the governor, but the attorney general, who in New Jersey is
an appointed official and really is an -- is basically a subordinate of the
MATTHEWS: When did you know you were going to be big-footed by the
BARLYN: Well, what happened is, after the indictments were dismissed
-- and I wasn`t the prosecutor who presented the case. That was a very
experienced trial attorney by the name of Bill McGovern.
But what happened is, after the indictment was dismissed, and based on
all of the suspicious events that preceded the dismissal, I encountered the
acting prosecutor, the person who was installed by the attorney general
during this period. And I said, look, this is -- this is clearly wrong.
There is no justification. There can`t be any justification for the
dismissal of all 43 counts. There is a very high legal standard that has
to be met to justify the dismissal.
And I was the next day suspended without explanation. I asked for an
explanation. I was told I wasn`t entitled to one, had to turn in my badge,
access keys, so on. My Internet connection to the office was severed
immediately. And for three weeks, I was in limbo, until I received a one-
sentence fax dismissal letter from the director of the Division of Criminal
MATTHEWS: Did you feel all this time that you were under the
punishing hand of Chris Christie at the time?
BARLYN: I felt -- whether it was Christie or the administration in
general, I clearly felt that the actions taken against me were vindictive,
retaliatory, and, most importantly, Chris, were intended to send a message
to my colleagues in the office that, if anybody spoke out, there was going
to be serious, serious consequences.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think of Christie?
BARLYN: Well, it`s difficult to think of him in positive terms after
What`s very interesting is that when I was a prosecutor for the state
in the mid-`90s, I was blogging on a Web site that was focused on criminal
justice issues. And my blog posts are still accessible. I was effusive in
my praise of the governor when he was a federal prosecutor, specifically
because of his effectiveness in combating pervasive corruption in New
So I was frankly just stunned that this administration came in and did
what it did.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Michael Powell, reporting this.
This Michael Russo guy, who was one of the defendants in the original
43-count indictments, he comes forward and tells somebody -- he gets quoted
telling a colleague, "Don`t worry, the governor is going to save us." And
then, subsequently, the attorney general steps in, as I said, used the term
big-footed the prosecution, knocked out the indictments, all 43 of them.
It sure looks like somebody has a friend in Trenton.
POWELL: It certainly feels like that, Chris.
You look at the -- you look at the sheriff, that is the one who hired
Russo, was relatively -- exchanged a lot of e-mails with the lieutenant
governor. One of the fund raisers for the governor was also questioned in
this case, because he had gotten sort of an illegal I.D. from the sheriff.
And that fund raiser was -- actually was a pretty big friend of the
governor`s, political friend of the governor`s.
Yes. It`s one of these things. It`s kind of like you put your hand
all around the foot of the elephant, and it sure looks like an elephant.
It sure looks like a lot of material for the vetters if this guy ever
runs for president.
Anyway, thank you, Ben Barlyn, with your case.
MATTHEWS: And thank you for bringing us up to date.
BARLYN: You`re very welcome.
MATTHEWS: And, Michael Powell, great reporting, as always, for the
great "New York Times."
POWELL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And tomorrow morning on "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI," the mayor
of Hoboken, New Jersey -- there`s a famous place, the home of Frank Sinatra
-- who says that she too was politically targeted by the Christie crowd.
And that`s "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI," who has done a hell of a job this
week. That`s tomorrow at 8:00 in the morning.
Up next: Stay out of the bushes. That`s what Jesse Jackson famously
once said. But now Barbara Bush is saying the same thing, with a somewhat
different vocabulary, maybe.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."
They say two out of three ain`t bad. But after the presidencies of
his father and his brother, Jeb Bush may be wondering if his time will ever
come. He has got a lot of support within his own party. But when it comes
to his own family, it`s a different story.
In a C-SPAN interview aired yesterday, his mother, former first lady
Barbara Bush, said again she hopes he doesn`t.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I think this is a great American
country, great country.
And if we can`t find more than two or three families to run for high
office, that`s silly. And I think that the Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes,
there are just more families than that. I would hope that someone else
would run, although there is no question in my mind that Jeb is the best
qualified person to run for president. But I hope he won`t, because I
think he will get all my enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "Get all my enemies." I don`t know that she has any.
Anyway, it`s not the first time the outspoken matriarch has downplayed
a third Bush presidency. She made a similar statement last April. But who
knows if Jeb is feeling left out of the family tradition, if you will?
After all, it was he, they say, who had his sights set on the White House
long before his brother, George W., decided to run in 2000.
Well, we dug deep into the NBC archives and found some clips from
Jeb`s younger days. And, as it turns out, politics wasn`t always in his
blood. Here he was campaigning in Puerto Rico during his father`s first
presidential bid back in 1980. That`s 34 years ago. And, as you will see,
he was lot more apprehensive in those days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What`s it like being the professional son of the candidate
JEB BUSH, SON OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It`s not something that I would
like to do the rest of my life, no. I get nervous at first. Just -- I`m
not a politician.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But Jeb evolved by the time his father was in his second
term as vice president. In 1985, Jeb was a lot less apprehensive and a lot
more coy when asked about his political ambitions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYANT GUMBEL, NBC NEWS: Jeb, you`re GOP county chairman in Florida,
right, Dade County. Are you looking to a career in politics? Is that
where your future lies, long-range ambitions? What?
BUSH: If I can get about half the income that you make, then I can
get into politics afterwards.
BUSH: Until I attain that, then I can`t talk about it.
GUMBEL: I wind up doing this for free. Are you kidding?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bryant Gumbel.
Of course, Jeb went on to become Florida`s secretary of commerce and
then governor of Florida. But the question remains, how many Bushes are
too many Bushes?
In other news today, it`s Michelle Obama`s 50th birthday today. And
to celebrate the milestone, the first lady of the country tweeted out this
photograph of herself showing off her newly minted AARP card. "Excited to
join Barack in the 50-plus club today," she wrote. I wonder if that`s
Well, I hope she is spending it tonight watching HARDBALL this
evening, of course.
And, happy birthday, Michelle.
I`m a big Michelle fan.
Up next: the right to privacy vs. national security, the old fight
again, President Obama`s delicate balancing act on domestic surveillance.
He`s going to talk about Snowden, too, here.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.
The worst dry spell in more than a century forces California Governor
Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency. To help cope, residents are
being asked to cut their water us.
Meanwhile, in Southern California, fire crews are battling a wildfire
that has forced thousands of people from their homes. It`s charred more
than 1,700 acres and is about 30 percent contained.
And the CDC says the flu is continuing its spread across the U.S. It
is now widespread in 40 states -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Snowden disclosures
have identified some areas of legitimate concern. Some of it has also been
highly sensationalized. Part of what we`re trying to do over the next
month or so is, having done an independent review and brought a whole bunch
of folks, civil libertarians and lawyers and others to examine what is
being done, I will be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA and to
initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Obama in my interview with him last month, speaking
on an issue that has been certainly concerning him and the whole country
since the Snowden disclosures began last May, government surveillance of
Now he is taking steps to make good on his promise. In a speech this
morning, the president outlined the steps he plans to take to reform the
NSA`s approach to intelligence gathering. He struck a very careful balance
today, stressing the need for surveillance, while recognizing the privacy
concerns of citizens.
Here are some of the reforms the president laid out: the establishment
of a panel of privacy advocates who will be permitted to argue before the
FISA court on certain cases, in other words, making the case against the
intelligence community in many cases, a reduction of the range of phone
numbers that can be targeted when mapping potential terrorist
communications, and most significant perhaps, that the government should no
longer hold the metadata that they have collected.
That, of course, is the record of phone calls associated with any
particular phone number. Here is what the president had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a
transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it
currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities
we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: However, the specifics of that new approach he mentioned
have not -- yet to be determined and questions still linger about exactly
where that data should be kept.
David Corn, my friend, is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones"
and an MSNBC political analyst. Same goes for Joy Reid, my friend,
managing editor of TheGrio and an MSNBC contributor.
I want to start with Joy, and then I want to go quickly to David. Two
questions I got in mind. It`s all we`re going get to probably.
One, do you have a clear notion? Is the government going to keep this
metadata? In other words, phone calls made, not necessarily tape
recordings of the phones, but phone calls made from you to me, from him to
her, whatever, should they keep that, or keep it in some third-party
locale, if not Verizon or one of the telecommunications companies,
somebody, besides the government?
And what good does that do if they can reach it quickly? I don`t
know. Why it is important?
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
And, Chris, that was sort of the question I had as well, because,
number one, if it is that we`re going to have private company -- a private
third party keep the data, I`m not sure that that would make at least me
feel any more secure. I mean, we have had Target, we have had major
companies have -- had their data breached.
Is the data more secure at a private company? I`m not so sure about
that. Number two, let`s say a government contractor keeps it. Well, the
only time that I can think of that the NSA`s proprietary information and
data was stolen was by Edward Snowden, who worked for a contractor of the
National Security Agency.
REID: So I`m not sure how secure that is either.
So, I really have never been that compelled by the argument that
somehow the data is safer with a private company. We definitely have this
weird level of comfort with private entities like Google and Facebook --
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe, maybe --
REID: But not the government?
MATTHEWS: Maybe, David, you can answer that I heard her skepticism,
Joy. But maybe if that`s their only job is to keep it secret, maybe they
can handle that job. They don`t have any other functions except hold it
like a safe deposit box. And when you go with your combination and your
key and you get it out and take it back. But I still don`t think that
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: With the judge`s order, too.
MATTHEWS: The FISA judge.
CORN: Yes, the FISA judge. If you want to dip into that data, you
need this. I too --
MATTHEWS: But today you don`t need that FISA judgment?
CORN: The NSA doesn`t need that. They have their own protocols.
They can decide on their own to do this. I think -- you know, who holds
the data really isn`t that important, because you can make the argument.
You can trust the government, or you can trust the private contractor or
you can trust Verizon or not trust them.
The question is whether the government should be doing this or not.
And to me, there has been so much focus on the metadata plan, program, that
I think we have lost sight of a lot of the other Snowden revelations,
particularly how the NSA has been getting into the Internet, through back
doors and doing with encryption. Very little of that in the president`s
And just personally, I care more about that, about surveillance
programs that may affect the Internet and online communications, more than
I care about a gigantic phone book and records and whoever holds on it.
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute, let me go back to Joy on this. It seems
to me the United States government has so much potential. Well tracked bin
Laden, for example, I don`t think he could go anywhere near a cell phone
for all the years he was on the lam.
My question is that shows the system is working. They`re keeping
people from using state-of-the-art communications for terrorist purposes
because they can hear everything, or at least track it?
REID: Right. And I think the -- so, the challenge has always been
that those on the libertarian side, left and right, who want to stop
collecting data period, no more big data at all, sort of the government
should be blind to this data, haven`t answered the question what happens
if, let`s say, there is a terror attack and we find out that this suspect
was calling into or out of the United States, and now the government really
can`t backtrack their communications because now there is no data in this
data dump at all.
Nobody is really answered how that`s supposed to work. I think a lot
on the libertarian side would say that`s just too bad. It`s just going to
have to be old-fashioned gumshoe work to find out what this suspect was up
MATTHEWS: That doesn`t sound too good after a building has been blown
up and a couple of thousand people are dead. Yes.
REID: That`s the problem.
MATTHEWS: And I think this is the whole question is what happens
afterwards if you say you had the capability, but didn`t use it because you
were squeamish about civil liberties, legitimately squeamish. But that
isn`t going to sell. Will it sell?
CORN: I thought the president`s speech today was great, much better
than the actual proposals --
CORN: -- because he talked about the dilemmas and these tensions to
try to get it right.
CORN: And the biggest problem -- he talked about it honestly. He
talked about abuses in the past and potential abuses in the future. And,
you know, ultimately, if you`re going to do anything secret via the
government, there has to be a certain amount of oversight that you can
trust. And up to now for decades we`ve had congresses and often presidents
that aren`t trustworthy when you come to this.
How the president can find a way to restore that trust in a highly
polarized environment, I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Don`t you create a culture?
MATTHEWS: Quickly, how do you react to Snowden today? How did he
read that? If you`re Snowden sitting over there in Soviet Union, I keep
saying Soviet, over there in Moscow, how do you react to it? Was he pro or
CORN: I bet Snowden was absolutely delighted. Not by the changes,
but if you look what the president said thematically, it was all about the
importance, the debate, and all these issues, big issues.
MATTHEWS: He legitimized the concerns.
CORN: He legitimized the concerns, totally.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Joy, your thought. It wasn`t anti-Snowden, I didn`t
think. But certainly he might be in that position of saying, OK, he did
the right thing morally, like John Brown did the right thing morally. But
he got hanged anyway.
So, maybe it`s like that. If you`re going commit civil disobedience,
you have to pay the price, even though you are the good guy. I`m not sure
where he came down on this. What do you think?
REID: I thought he was still expressing the same annoyance that
Snowden go flew the channels that were appropriate, and that there was
hyperbole in --
MATTHEWS: You mean go to Bob Woodward?
REID: Yes, because also look --
MATTHEWS: You mean give it to Bob Woodward? That`s the right
channel, isn`t it?
REID: No, I don`t think this White House gives anything to Bob
Woodward. I think that`s why Bob Woodward is so annoyed at them.
But, no, I think that it was interesting that he did still speak as
the boss of those guys at the NSA and defended their work. I still think
he was speaking from that perspective, not being pro-Snowden. But really
those guys are not happy with what Snowden did. I think he was speaking on
But what was really fascinating is how Ron Wyden, who has been one of
the fiercest critics of these programs rushed right out to declare victory.
I thought that was interesting and to really sort of declare total victory
and say bulk data collection has been ended, which I`m not sure the
president is doing. It was interesting, the politics of the Hill.
MATTHEWS: All right. You`re as old as me.
Anyway, Joy, you`re going to be arguing this. It`s a good, healthy --
REID: It`s a good debate.
MATTHEWS: This is what Americans should argue about all the time,
rights versus security is the argument.
CORN: It is. And the president did a good job of laying out the
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, guys. Have a nice weekend, David Cornyn
and Joy Reid.
Up next, a judge in Pennsylvania, yay, strikes down that state`s voter
ID law. Again, the courts are on the good guys` side. And one Republican
-- the one the Republicans passed and they said so, the leaders up there,
to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Boy, is that malicious?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, here is some news. U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of
Oklahoma has announced he is quitting. He is retiring. He won`t serve out
the rest of his term.
Coburn who is battling prostate cancer will step down at the end of
this year. Meanwhile he acknowledged his health troubles, in his
announcement he said he never intended to serve more than two terms
altogether and views public service as calling, not a career. Coburn`s
exit will set up a special election in very red Oklahoma to fill out the
remaining two years of his term.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Today, a big victory in Pennsylvania for voting rights that provides a
sign to push back to the Republican-led voter suppression effort that swept
through more than 35 states in 2013 alone. A Pennsylvania judge struck
down the state`s voter ID law, writing in his opinion, I love these words,
voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election. The voter ID
law does not further this goal. Well, that`s simple English.
In a map, we`ve shown you many times, you can see here that
Republicans, and it is Republicans in this case, it is a partisan problem,
in 36 states, advanced legislation just last year to suppress the voting
rights of those who vote Democrat. Often they happen to be African-
Americans, minorities, and also young people and older people.
According to the Advancement Project, every one of those bills was
introduced, as I said, by partisan Republicans. Pennsylvania may buck that
trend because of the court ruling today.
Joining me right now is Judith Browne Dianis, who`s co-director of the
Advancement Project, and Ryan Haygood, he`s with the NAACP. Great legal
defense and what an institution that`s been over the years.
So, I want to start with Judith.
I`ve been talking to you a lot about this. It`s almost like an
unstoppable force meets an unmovable object. You know, it just keeps
coming. They don`t get the message. We`ve got these Pennsylvania people
that just openly say it`s for political gain. They don`t B.S. us, they
just say, fewer black votes, fewer big city votes, more chances our guys
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Right. It`s total
manipulation for their own gain. But today, we had a huge victory for
democracy. You showed several times last year, Representative Turzai, who
said, vote for Romney, check.
MATTHEWS: We can do that right now. Let`s look at Mr. Turzai, the
leader of the Republican legislature out there, admitting it`s all about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney
to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIANIS: Done! That`s right.
Well, today, we say, check for democracy.
MATTHEWS: And let me show you another guy, chairman of the Republican
Party, not a bad guy, Robert Gleason, I met him at the Pennsylvania
society, last month. Here he is doing the same thing, openly and
transparently cheering the votes of Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think all the attention drown to voter ID
affected last year`s elections?
ROBERT GLEASON: Yes, I think a little bit. I think we probably had a
better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by 5 percent, which was
big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He beat McCain by 10 percent.
He only beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably photo ID helped a
bit in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And that`s the mere intimidation factor of people being
afraid there was a new voter ID law after the courts had banned it.
DIANIS: That`s right. Because they tried to mislead the voters,
after we got a preliminary injunction. But today --
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this bare-faced admission on the part
of the Republicans in Pennsylvania. They do this to make sure that people
who look like you can`t vote. They just do it.
DIANIS: That`s right. Because they believe that people are going to
vote a certain way. This is the way they try to steal the election.
Let`s go to the NAACP. Ryan Haygood, thank you, sir.
How does this fit into the history of voting rights. Literacy tests,
spell this in Greek, all the old games, poll taxes, and outright, you can`t
vote here, you`re black. And now we have states that fought for the union
in the civil war, that all their leaders have been for civil rights, Hugh
Scott and Bill Scranton (ph), all the good guys, and Ridge (ph), and yet
the rank and file leaders in the Senate and the House up there are openly
against black voting as a political imperative.
RYAN HAYGOOD, NAACP: Sure, Chris. Thanks for having me on your show,
I mean, I think you`re right. I think these photo ID laws are a
bygone area of poll taxes and other impediments to the ballot box. I think
what`s most striking about today`s opinion, though, Chris, is that the
commonwealth of Pennsylvania spent millions and millions of taxpayer
dollars, promoting a photo ID measure that they said they needed the to
protect against this-person voter fraud. And what is striking here is that
the result of this case really is that the only evidence of fraud at the
end of the day is the photo ID measure itself.
The court found that by conservative estimates, a half a million
registered voters and up to 1.3 million voters in Pennsylvania, don`t have
access to the type of ID that the commonwealth was requiring, and
Pennsylvania only was table to provide 17,000 IDs to the class of folk who
is didn`t have the photo ID.
So I think what this case today stands for is a proposition that where
we really should be going, to your point about the history of our
democracy, is toward greater expansion of the franchise. And we`ve seen
the last several elections, historic turnout by a broad class of folks,
people of color, women, young voters, disabled voters. And that is a trend
that we really should be seeking to harness the momentum of, rather than
making voting more difficult for people, as Pennsylvania`s photo ID measure
sought to do.
MATTHEWS: Judith, do you think this is a result of a fear on the part
of older, white Republicans, that they`re losing demographically?
DIANIS: This is definitely about changing demographics. This is kind
of their last stand.
But at the end of the day, Advancement Project and the ACLU teamed up
with the Public Interest Center and we won in Pennsylvania, we won for
voters. We now have a new Voting Rights Act that has been introduced. And
so we`re going to make sure that they don`t get to this.
MATTHEWS: And you`ve got some friends out there like Bernard McGinley
(ph), a good Irish guy.
Anyway, thank you, Judith Brown and Ryan Haygood, just kidding. A
little ethnic there.
By the way, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
Thank you for joining us, Mr. Haygood.
HAYGOOD: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that Pennsylvania judge`s
decision to strike down the new voter law, the new voter law in
Conservatives, we should recall, pay a great deal of attention to
what`s called original intent in the U.S. Constitution. What did those men
meeting in Philadelphia back then intend when they wrote the Declaration of
Independence and the U.S. Constitution? So let me ask a question about the
new voter law in Pennsylvania. What is the intention of requiring that
voters present a state-issued photo identification card? What`s the
Well, fortunately, we know that intention because the leaders who
pushed the law to enactment have told us. They have told us that its
purpose is to reduce the number of Democratic votes. They have told us
this. They have made it crystal clear. It`s not that they don`t like
minorities per se, is they don`t like minorities showing up and voting
Democrat on Election Day.
I salute Judge Bernard McKinley (ph) because of what he did striking
down the new voter law, but also because of why he said he did it. Quote,
"Voter laws", he said, "are designed to assure a fair and free election.
The voter ID law does not further this goal."
What leaves pending appeal, the tool box of voter suppression, now
contains one less tool. To people who believe in democracy, this is good
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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