March 27, 2014
Guests: Mahi Ramakrishnan, Loretta Weinberg, Sahil Kapur, Nia-Malika
Henderson, Errol Morris, David Corn
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: What about the pilot?
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, we vet this new report by lawyers for Governor Christie`s
administration that neither admits nor denies he was told of the George
Washington Bridge closures when they were occurring. But the report does
accuse Bridget Kelly of having an affair with another Christie official.
But "Let Me Start" with this front page story in "USA Today." It says
the Malaysian government, which runs the Airlines, believes the pilot was
the one responsible for taking it hundreds of miles off course. It said
that investigators from the government are pressing relatives of the pilot
for information on his behavior leading up to takeoff.
So as we`ve been doing on this program, we focus tonight on the person
flying flight 370 and the path he took at 1:00 o`clock in the morning on
March 8th. Mahi Ramakrishnan wrote that story in "USA Today" and joins us
now from Kuala Lumpur.
According to your sources in the investigation, Malaysians believe the
pilot is solely responsible for the course of that airplane. Is that based
on -- what evidence is that based upon?
MAHI RAMAKRISHNAN, "USA TODAY": Well, for now, my source in the
Malaysian police say that they are looking into the family and they`re
trying to get a proper interview with the wife because they believe that
she holds the key to the mind makeup, to what he could have been thinking,
because they believe that he might have flipped, and they would like to
know what is the reason that has caused the flip. And my source says that
the best possible person who can give them any insight is going to be the
Now, he also told me that they have spoken to the wife, but she`s not
telling them everything. And so they hope to pursue talking to the wife in
order to get a better understanding as to what the captain may have been
thinking before he actually diverted -- that caused him to divert the
MATTHEWS: What indication does the government have that led them to
believe that the pilot took this plane on a strange course that had no
reason to exist except something in his head?
RAMAKRISHNAN: I`m not -- I did not report anything about what the
government thinks or says. I actually reported a piece about my source in
the police force, my well-placed source in the police force, who has been
on the investigation from day one.
Now, he says, based on the evidence that they have collected and based
on ruling out the possibility of anyone else on the passenger or crew list,
that he believes that the pilot diverted the plane, and that is based on
what he investigated and what he told me.
Now, the investigation is ongoing, and we may get something else. I
do not know. We might get something else that can take the story forward.
But for now, all I know is what the source told me, and that is they
believe that the captain diverted the plane.
They believe there is a reason. They believe there is a motive. They
have ruled out financial consideration as a motive. They believe that he
had just flipped, and they need to talk to the wife or any close family
member to get a better understanding as to what may have caused him to just
MATTHEWS: Do they have any suspicions yet as to what caused him to
flip, as he put it, the investigator?
RAMAKRISHNAN: Well, for now, they say that they are talking to the
wife. They believe that she has -- she will be able to give them
something. That doesn`t mean -- he says that it doesn`t mean that she
knows that he`s going to divert the plane or crash it or whatever. But he
just says that he believes that the wife will be able to tell them
something, but she is not forthcoming with information. He says that it
could be because this could be a shock. She could be grieving.
But whatever it is, he says that they are pursuing investigations with
the wife, and they hope to get more information. And this is -- as I said,
it`s a progressing story, and I`m at it and I hope to get more information
from him. I do believe that he knows more than what he`s telling me, but
that he is all that he`s telling me for now.
MATTHEWS: OK. A stunning report by Mahi Ramakrishnan for the "USA
Today" and for us tonight from Kuala Lumpur.
And joining us right now is NBC News correspondent Tom Costello, who`s
been following this story for the past three weeks. Tom, I have to tell
you -- you and I were talking, and you`re the expert in trying figure out
that flight path. You don`t know how to put this together, maybe. I
shouldn`t say you don`t because you`ve been doing a brilliant job.
I wonder how we do put together, as a world right now, this new
investigation by the Malaysian government into the pilot and to why he took
that plane on the course he did.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just say that, you
know, we`ve been talking to government officials, who say that, you know,
the FBI has been looking at the computer hard drives and the flight
simulators that the Malaysians gave to the FBI, asking them to do an
And so far, according to our sources, they haven`t seen anything yet
that would lead them to any conclusions about a nefarious action here.
They don`t have any concrete, you know, evidence coming out of those hard
drives that would lead them to believe that there`s -- that they can
pinpoint the captain.
That said, most people do think the captain probably steered this
plane on a southerly course. Why? We don`t know.
Let`s talk about the weather today in that area.
COSTELLO: It has been horrendous. We have a real, live satellite
loop coming from the Weather Channel. The weather`s so bad that, in fact,
they had to divert planes today that were headed down into that area, send
them back out to -- back to Perth, Australia. The reason, they`ve got
extremely high winds, high waves, icing conditions. It was just simply too
dangerous for them to proceed.
I do want to, though, tell you about these new images coming from the
Thais. Now, the Thais today came out -- Thailand, in other words, came out
and they released these images. And it really looks like you`re just
looking into the dark and you`ve got some stars you`re looking at, these
white specks here. The Thais say their satellite captured 300 different
pieces of debris.
Now, they don`t know if that is debris from the missing plane. But
what`s interesting about these pieces of debris is that they are very close
to -- in proximity to these pieces of debris that the French think they
spotted over the weekend. You may recall 125 specks, very poorly defined
through the cloud cover. And the French think that that may be also debris
from the plane.
Where exactly are we talking about? We`re talking about 1,600 miles
southwest of Perth. These dots -- all of these dots here represent
sightings that the French believe that they have of the debris field. And
so now you`ve got another sighting coming from the Thais, and the Japanese
today said they have also spotted something in this same area that`s
leading them to believe they may be onto a debris field.
But because of the weather, still no ships and no planes have gotten
into that area, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I guess I go back to my conundrum, and I`m sure it`s in
your head, as well, Tom. All this great reporting on where we spotted the
wreckage, it looks like, the debris pattern there, all the satellite
technology seems to point to the same thing, as well as the fact that the
fuel would last about that long.
Trying to put that together with a pilot who, according to this
government effort, investigation effort, is that he somehow flipped,
heading off into this weird course. It still doesn`t put it together for
us, does it, that they would fly another seven hours after the guy, quote,
"flipped," if that`s what happened -- if that`s what happened.
COSTELLO: Yes, I think you`re absolutely right. The question we`ve
all been asking for now for almost three weeks -- three weeks tomorrow this
plane`s been missing. And that is, if somebody decided that they wanted to
commandeer the plane and commit suicide, why fly the plane for seven or
eight hours? Why not just do it right there over the Gulf of Thailand? We
don`t have any answers.
If there was some sort of a catastrophic mechanical failure in flight
and they turned the plane around to go back to Kuala Lumpur, that would be
a theory, except suddenly, you`ve now gotten multiple other turns that
would cause you to think maybe that no longer holds water. I mean, the
whole thing just really doesn`t make any sense.
And if, in fact, this is the plane, if these are pieces of debris
about as far south as you could go before you exhaust the fuel in the plane
and your engines run out and you literally do a nosedive into the water,
then it would appear this plane was on autopilot.
So the same question we were asking last night, was the crew dead?
Was everybody in the back, all the passengers dead? We simply don`t know.
And the last point about this that`s critical is that we`ve only got
about nine days left of battery life on those underwater pingers attached
to the black boxes. If they don`t find the debris, or even more
importantly, if they don`t find the wreckage, presumed wreckage location,
to listen for the black boxes, we may never find the wreckage and never
find the black boxes.
And without them, we may never know what happened.
MATTHEWS: Tom, the satellite photography is amazing to me, the fact
that so many countries, including Thailand, have this kind of technology.
But have we yet had an airplane spotting of what was picked up on the
satellites yet, of all these efforts through all these days?
COSTELLO: No. And in fact, we`ve had individual planes and pilots
say they thought they see something, but they`re whipping by at 200 knots
per hour. By the time that they come around again to try to get a better
visual on it, they lose it.
I mean, you`re literally talking about -- you know, this weather here
is so atrocious that you`re talking about waves of 10 to 30 feet high,
rolling whitecaps. And you think you see something and your mind starts
playing tricks on you, and then it`s lost in the sea of whitecaps. It`s
just so, so difficult to spot something when you`re 300 feet up. That`s
the minimum -- that`s as low as they`re going, 300 feet. And still, 300
feet to try to spot something that`s the size of, you know, what, some sort
of a seat cushion or whatever is very difficult.
MATTHEWS: These pilots must have nerves of steel. Thank you so much,
COSTELLO: All right.
MATTHEWS: Great reporting, again.
Coming up: Defending the bridge. Lawyers employed -- get this --
employed by Governor Christie`s administration say he may or may not have
been told about the lane closures while they were actually happening. But
the lawyers say for sure -- this is the part I don`t like -- that Bridget
Kelly was having an affair with one of the other Christie officials. Why
are they telling us that?
Plus, Benghazi bingo. Democrats tell Darrell Issa, You`ve got
nothing. It`s all about muddying up Hillary in 2016, and you know it.
And the unknown known. A new documentary nails Donald Rumsfeld as a
banal bureaucrat unaware of the Iraqi horror that he ignited. Will the
perpetrator ever come clean?
And when your chief qualification for the Senate is that you grew up
castrating hogs, you`re bound to be in for some ridicule. Joni Ernst, meet
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We have new figures on how many people have signed up for
insurance under the new health care law, and they`re remarkably good. 1.8
million people have enrolled so far this month, and that means a total of 6
million people have signed up since October.
We don`t yet know the breakdown of the enrollees, of course. The
system, we do know, needs a lot of young, relatively healthy people to join
in. But after the disastrous October rollout, the government lowered its
goal of people signing up by the March 31st deadline from 7 million to 6
million, and they`ve now hit that target. That`s good news.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Not guilty, case closed. Well,
Randy Mastro -- he`s the lawyer hired by the Christie administration to
investigate the governor`s office -- has declared Christie innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY MASTRO, ATTORNEY: We found that Governor Christie had no
knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge realignment idea and
that he played no role whatsoever in that decision or the implementation of
it. We further found no evidence that anyone in the governor`s office
besides Bridget Kelly knew of this idea in advance or played any role in
the decision or the implementation of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We were told that these lawyers were hired in the public`s
interest, but judging by the massive report they put out today, it`s pretty
clear whose interests they`re serving -- Christie`s. While there`s no
question that there is damning evidence against Christie`s appointee, David
Wildstein, and his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, there`s still no
clear motive as to why they carried out this act of what appears to be
As the report states, what motivated this act is not clear. But what
seems clear is that what these lawyers set out to do here, exonerate
Christie by attacking Wildstein and Kelly.
And moments ago, ABC`s "World News" with Diane Sawyer aired an
interview with Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: When things were first reported,
I said, This can`t possibly be true because who would do something like
that? Sometimes people do inexplicably stupid things. And so that`s what
makes it so hard, then, to -- as the guy in charge, none of it made any
sense to me, and to some extent, still does not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Loretta Weinberg is a Democratic state senator from New
Jersey and the co-chair of the committee that`s investigating the lane
closures. And Brian Murphy is an MSNBC political analyst and professor at
Baruch College. Thank you.
Brian first. You know, the lingo in this whole thing, that they were
realignments, they weren`t bridge closures, the euphemism thrown at this
whole mess by these lawyers obviously trying to make their guy look good --
but then to trash not just Wildstein for being -- what did they call him,
crazy -- but to go after her, Bridget Kelly, who everybody sort of thinks
about in this case as the person who`s most human in this whole case, as
some woman scorned, who had an affair with Bill Stepien, was dumped by Bill
Stepien -- why are they telling us all this in this so-called legal report?
What`s the probative value of going into the private life, if it is
the private life, of Bridget Kelly? That`s the part that I thought stunk
here. Your thoughts.
BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST : It`s building the narrative,
right? What they`re trying to do and what their report does, even in a
more -- I mean, I wasn`t expecting to get any real new information out of
this. But I expected it to be written in a way that would at least give
the reporters who`ve been looking at this some pause and think maybe -- you
know, maybe the narrative that they`re presenting has got some merit to it
and some factual basis. But it`s written in such a shilly kind of way that
it makes it really hard to take seriously.
I mean, right, you`ve nailed it. They worked -- you know, they worked
these little details in there, with Wildstein delivering these crazy ideas
and Bridget Kelly having this relationship with Stepien, which frankly, you
know, I knew about. Other people covering this story have known about it.
We haven`t talked about it because it hasn`t seemed relevant and we
don`t want to in a roundabout way suggest what this report is explicitly
suggesting, which is that there`s some kind of a lovers` quarrel driving
this story here, or that in some way, Bridget Kelly was compromised or a
dependent position which made her do something that Bill Stepien wanted her
to do, or you know, there was some kind -- some kind of interest that was
driving her behavior.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let me go to Senator -- let me go to Senator
Weinberg on this because there is a human factor here. First of all,
referring to her not just of having a relationship with this guy, Bill
Stepien -- and by the way, belies any kind of intelligent assessment as to
why they brought this up -- but then to throw in that she was dumped by
him. I mean, why do they bring that up? What`s the point, except to say
she`s sort of an unhappy person? The other guy is crazy, she`s somewhat an
unhappy person, and therefore, don`t blame the governor for any of this
because these people aren`t to be believed. Your thoughts.
LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: First of
all, how do they know that Bill Stepien was the one who cooled this
personal relationship? That is so gratuitous and so inappropriate.
And let me say that the kindest thing I can say about this report is
that, pretty premature. They draw certain conclusions without ever having
a discussion with any of the main characters in this drama, without ever
having a discussion with David Wildstein, Bridget Kelly, Bill Stepien. And
how about David Samson and Bill Baroni, Bill Baroni, who was sent out to do
the cover-up, which wasn`t a very good cover-up?
And let me say a little gratuitously, Mr. Mastro, with his high hourly
salary, didn`t do a very good report. He issues a report without knowing
the motive, without being able to speak to many of the main people in this,
and then throwing in the gratuitous remarks about this so-called personal
relationship is really -- because they describe David Wildstein as the man
with the crazy ideas. That man with the crazy ideas was hired to be the
governor`s eyes and ears at the Port Authority.
And then they depict -- how are they depicting Bridget Kelly here,
that somehow, she was a woman scorned and therefore kind of gone off wild
MATTHEWS: Dodgy, yes. Not to be believed.
WEINBERG: That`s a woman that he hired in his office.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and, by the way, worked a couple hundred feet from
here, in fact, less than 100 feet across the office from -- let me go back
to Brian about this.
Here is the one I thought was interesting. Wildstein has said that he
told the governor about this when it was happening. Now, this report which
cost all this money, what, 600,000 bucks, whatever, doesn`t even say
whether the governor had a conversation with Wildstein or not during the
course of these bridge -- the bridge closures.
It does, however, even though it says it doesn`t know whether they had
the conversation, characterize it as saying, well, it obviously left no
impression on the governor.
How can they not know whether there was a conversation, these lawyers,
and at the same time characterize it as not being provocative enough to be
in the -- to have grabbed the attention of the governor? One thing or the
other happened. They had the conversation or they didn`t have it. If they
did have it, they got to believe it happened and therefore they have got to
say, here is what happened.
But, no, they just dismiss it. In other words, whether it happened or
didn`t happen, it doesn`t matter. That`s the sort of conclusion they draw
on this whole possibility that that guy, the governor, knew what was going
on -- Brian.
MURPHY: Well, they have read it -- they have written it as if they
already knew what the conclusion was going to be. And it makes it seem to
me like they started the investigation knowing what their conclusion was
going to be.
And my dog thinks I`m a great guy. My mom thinks I`m really handsome.
Did we really think that Chris Christie`s lawyer was going write a report
that incriminated Chris Christie? It seemed unlikely. It turned out to be
And when we look at the product, that narrative is written -- again,
it`s written in such a fawning way to make...
MATTHEWS: You`re right.
MURPHY: ... Christie look like the guy who is in charge, the guy who
wants to find the real culprits here. And it accepts at face value a lot
of the documentary -- there aren`t really that many new documents in here.
And it just -- it writes up what we already knew and what was already
in the public domain. But it writes -- even documents I notice that don`t
seem credible to me and didn`t seem credible are laundered through this
report without any question, right, as if they are -- as if that`s the
story because it`s in the paperwork.
And it doesn`t really do much work to dig any deeper into that, or do
any real scrutiny of what was already discovered by Senator Weinberg`s
MATTHEWS: You`re right.
Senator Weinberg, I got to get back to you about the role of
government. It seems to me that these people, whether it was Bill Stepien,
who was in on this thing, and Wildstein of course at the heart of it, and,
of course, Bridget Kelly, they all were doing the bidding of somebody.
They were all working as agents of the governor.
That`s why they were able to say time for some bridge problems or
traffic problems at Fort Lee, all operating as agents of the governor. And
now he is able toe say, oh, no, oh, no, they weren`t my agents. They were
now doing something on their own.
That to me is institutionally indefensible. Were they in fact
employees of the governor? Where they in fact detailed by him to work for
him politically? Were they all doing this for him? And for him to step by
and say, oh, they were out robbing gas stations or doing something on their
own, the whole heart of this was political. What they were doing was
political in his interests.
MATTHEWS: And that`s what I find. It`s amazing he can skate away
from this and say, oh, they weren`t working for me.
Go ahead. Your thoughts, Senator.
WEINBERG: You kind of touched on this, Chris, where you said, for
instance, he describes lane closures as lane realignments.
MATTHEWS: What`s that?
WEINBERG: His choice of words throughout this report is really pretty
He describes Pat Foye`s e-mail which said, laws might have been broken
here, he describes that as the e-mail that the executive director was a
little put out because he didn`t know about the so-called traffic study.
And he continues to describe the so-called dedicated lanes to port --
to -- from Fort Lee over the bridge. They don`t exist. They`re a myth.
And he adds to that and adds to that. His choice of words -- this was a
lane closure. It was not a lane realignment. Two of the three lanes were
closed, and they carry 25 percent of the traffic that goes over the upper
level of the busiest bridge in the world.
WEINBERG: I say that Randy Mastro chose words to try to undermine
what it is we already know. And I would love Randy Mastro to come before
our committee, the select committee, investigation, present his report to
us only under the idea that we can question him, because I would surely
like to question him.
MATTHEWS: It`s great having you on.
WEINBERG: And then one of his recommendations is we need more
transparency at the Port Authority? Gee, I could have told him that for
free. I wouldn`t have charged for that.
In fact, we in the legislature passed such a bill almost two years
ago. And this governor vetoed that transparency bill.
So now fast-forward, he suddenly found out that we need a little more
transparency here. If I sound a little angry, I am angry. I am angry at
the way they depicted the people that he appointed that worked closely with
him as kind of crazy people that are off the reservation.
This report was done prematurely. They were not able to or chose not
to talk to some of the main people in this. And they issued a report --
and I will venture a guess that some people might say is a little
inappropriate, but I`m going to venture it anyway -- the governor needed
this report, because he is off to Las Vegas this weekend to meet with some
national Republican donors.
And he wants something that says his attorney vetted him. Well, I
have a little bit of a disagreement with that. And I would like some
questions answered about that report.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think, Senator, they`re going have to play a big
price for having skanked Bridget Kelly here. I`m telling you, that was
such a personal shot, not only that she had an affair, which was
irrelevant, but that she was -- quote -- "dumped."
That was -- it made it look like she was upset and the other guy is
crazy. So, everybody here is crazy and upset and not to be believed,
except the governor.
Anyway, thank you, state Senator Loretta Weinberg. Good luck with
And Brian from Baruch College, thank so much, Brian Murphy, for
joining us again.
MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Steve Colbert on that crazy -- actually, this is
a new crazy campaign ad from that Senate candidate who boasted about how
she used to castrate hogs. I guess it works in some part of the world.
And we will be right back after this. Somebody has to do it, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and time for the "Sideshow" now.
On Tuesday, we showed you this campaign ad from a Republican running
for the U.S. Senate in Iowa. Her name is Joni Ernst. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Joni Ernst.
I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, last night, she received a ringing endorsement from
none other than Stephen Colbert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": So, Joni, Joni...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: ... you had me at castration.
COLBERT: Folks, it does not matter what else she stands for.
COLBERT: I am pulling for her whole hog, or whatever is left of the
hog when she is done with it.
COLBERT: America needs more senators who are farm-tough. I mean,
while the other little girls were reading "Charlotte`s Web," Joni was out
back with tin snips making a soprano out of Wilbur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Next up: another 2014 campaign ad that caught my attention.
This one is from Republican with Will Brooke. He is running for the United
States Congress in Alabama`s Sixth District.
In a new video released by his campaign, Brooke uses a .40 Glock
pistol, a .270 Cooper rifle, and an AR-15 to destroy a copy of, guess what,
the Affordable Care Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL BROOKE (R), ALABAMA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is Will
We`re down here to have a little fun today and talk about two serious
subjects, the Second Amendment, and see how much damage we can do to this
copy of Obamacare.
We will have to resort to more extreme measures to get rid of
Obamacare and replace it with a market-based solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, actually, six million people have signed up for that
thing he is shooting at.
Anyway, Mr. Brooke, exactly how much more extreme can you be, Second
Amendment rights against documents?
Up next, Democrats tell Darrell Issa to end his Benghazi bingo, his
witch-hunt. After a year-and-a-half of it, he`s got nothing to show. And
all he is trying to do, of course, is score political points against the
next -- believed to be the next presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
And that`s ahead, and you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for
FRANCES RIVERA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Frances Rivera. Here`s
Authorities say the number of victims from this weekend`s mudslide
outside of Seattle is expected to increase substantially. The official
death toll remains at 16. Ninety are missing.
President Obama says he and Pope Francis spoke about a range of
issues, including income inequality, immigration, and conflicts around the
And an effort to restore long-term unemployment benefits cleared an
initial hurried until the Senate, where it`s expected to pass. Its fate is
less certain in the House -- now back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I have said it, and I mean, it.
I want to go where the facts lead us. But now we`re on some witch-hunt in
the forest somewhere, and the hearing after hearing after hearing, and it`s
gotten to be ridiculous almost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, led by ranking member
Elijah Cummings there, are saying kill it to Darrell Issa and his obsession
In a letter signed by all 17 Democratic members of the committee, they
call for an end to a year-and-a-half-long investigation which has so far
turned up wrongdoing -- no wrongdoing in fact on the part of Hillary
Clinton or the Obama administration.
They write -- quote -- "To date, the committee`s investigation has
been characterized by wild and unsubstantiated political accusations that
turn out to be completely inaccurate after further investigations."
But let`s face it. Republicans will be reluctant to give up,
primarily because of the prospect of tarnishing Hillary Clinton, the
Democrats` leading potential candidate for 2016, is just too great.
Joining me right now, from "The Washington Post" Nia-Malika Henderson
and Talking Points Memo`s congressional reporter, Sahil Kapur.
Sahil, thank you much for joining us.
And I`m fascinated by this. What is the target? I know generally
it`s Hillary Clinton, generally the administration. But what are they
actually trying to get the voter out there to believe Secretary Clinton did
or did not the night of this tragedy in real time? What are they saying
she did or didn`t do?
SAHIL KAPUR, Talking Points Memo: Chris, first, thanks for having me
What I would say is, as you said, it`s a two-pronged target. Firstly,
they`re going after Hillary Clinton because they correctly recognize that
Republicans, this is the only thing they have that touches her. And they
want to go after the administration, because when you`re the party out of
power, it helps to have a scandal to charge the White House with.
What they`re suggesting here, though, what Chairman Issa is suggesting
-- again, he is not really asserting things because he doesn`t have the
evidence for it. So he is saying things like I suspect Hillary Clinton did
this or my suspicion is that Hillary Clinton did this.
KAPUR: He`s saying -- So, one of the things he is saying is that
Hillary Clinton ordered Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense at the time,
to stand down and not help the Americans at stake. It`s kind of a wild
charge that has been debunked.
He has also said that she personally tried to reduce security for the
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s stick -- let`s stick -- let`s stick with the
night of, I think, that she was flustered by this, because the charges are
all over the place.
Let`s get back to one thing that it could, if it were ever true, might
hurt her, that she somehow sloughed off the midnight call, the 3:00-in-the-
morning call that she talked about in the campaign, that she somehow was
not responsive in real time, wasn`t thinking every minute that night how to
save anybody`s life who was left.
Is there -- you have said they have already debunked this argument
that she told the secretary of defense to stand down. Is there any
evidence she ever told anybody to stand down, any evidence she didn`t --
wasn`t alert and vigilant in trying to deal with that situation in real
time? That`s what I`m trying to find out. What`s the evidence?
KAPUR: Chris, there is no such evidence to that.
And here is what we know. We don`t have a minute-by-minute of
everything she was doing and thinking at the time, but we do have sworn
testimony from her deputy chief of staff by the name of Jake Sullivan at
the time, who said that she was deeply engaged, she was making calls to
members of the administration and to the CIA director at the time.
She had ordered the department, according to her deputy chief of
staff, to spare no resource on helping the Americans who were there on the
ground at the time. So what we know is what is -- what the sworn testimony
of the people of -- what she said and the people close to her, that the
wild charges that Chairman Issa is throwing out there again sort of an
effort to keep this in the news.
But, let`s remember, 41 percent of Republicans, according to one poll,
think that Benghazi is the biggest scandal in American history. These are
the people that Republicans want to turn out in November.
KAPUR: And they`re not looking to win over the middle segment of the
country. They`re looking to win over the conservative voters and really
turn them out, because Democrats have a disadvantage in that -- in that
area in midterm elections.
Let me go to Nia, because you cover general assignment. And, Nia, you
cover women`s issues too. And it just it seems to me that this is the big
lie. If they have no evidence that she did anything wrong or committed no
sin of omission, if you will, no failure to meet her resolve to try to save
the life of a friend of hers -- Darrell Issa never met Chris Stevens.
Chris Stevens was a friend and also a diplomat working for Hillary
Clinton. She cared about the guy. What evidence do they have that she
didn`t try to save him, as best she could, given the distance and the
timing involved here?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": That`s right.
I mean, they don`t have any evidence. If you look at that Benghazi
report that was -- that was issued in January, it mentions Hillary Clinton
one time. And that was in terms of Republicans talking about their
assessment of it.
But it does fault the State Department. It does fault the State
Department for not providing a security. It also faults the State
Department for not communicating adequately with the CIA, which also had an
outpost there in Benghazi. So --
MATTHEWS: Talk than night. No, no, Nia. I want you to focus on what
they`re really charging here, I believe.
MATTHEWS: Which she was delinquent that night. She failed to meet
the urgency -- emergency situation of this facility coming under fire. And
I don`t see anything around it. You can talk --
HENDERSON: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Any more troops. You always need more people.
HENDERSON: That`s right. There is no evidence of that. I think the
sort of caricature that they`re trying to paint here I think was captured
on the cover of "The National Review", which essentially has a cartoon of
Hillary Clinton fiddling while Benghazi is burning.
So that is essentially the portrait they`re trying to paint of Hillary
Clinton. And in some ways, it has worked. There was a Pew poll released
recently that said what`s the big negative if you look at Hillary Clinton`s
career, 15 percent of those who were asked that question said Benghazi.
They asked what was the most positive thing, and only 12 percent said her
tenure at State Department more generally.
So, I think the most scrutinized passage and section of her book will
be this Benghazi report. And it`s certainly going to be well vetted by her
team and crafted as she tries to put together this book which I think is
coming out this summer.
MATTHEWS: Well, good. It will be good reading. I do expect it shows
minute by minute pretty much her behavior that night because he`s got -- I
do think, though, both Sahil and Malika, I think some time in the debates
coming up in 2016, there will be a moment when somebody like Rand Paul,
whoever is running against her will just drop that charge right in her face
and she`ll either come back and explode it in his face, or there will be
something else happening that night. But that`s bound to come back.
Thank you so much, Nia-Malika Henderson and Sahil Kapur.
Up next, a first look at the new documentary about Donald Rumsfeld,
"The Unknown Known", which digs into Rumsfeld`s decisions which he and Bush
and Cheney took us to war in Iraq. The film`s director Errol Morris joins
us next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: When it comes to presidential elections, Virginia voters
are more like the rest of the country than any other state in the union.
The new polling shows Hillary Clinton with an edge right now in Virginia
over her potential Republican rivals in every case.
Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Mrs. Clinton leads Chris Christie
by four points in Virginia. It`s Clinton, 45, Christie, 41.
Against Rand Paul that I think is going to win the Republican
nomination, believe it or not, it`s Clinton 48 to 42. She is up by six.
Clinton leads Jeb Bush, believe this, 47-39. They keep referring to
him as the white knight. It doesn`t look like it.
And it`s the same eight-point margin against Mike Huckabee. It`s
Clinton, 49, Huckabee, 41.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Winston Churchill once said history will be kind to me for I intend to
write it. Well, that`s extensively what Donald Rumsfeld wanted to do. A
new documentary out next month, but it`s not what happened.
Rumsfeld is the subject of "The Unknown Known" by Academy Award-
winning director Errol Morris, who spent 33 hours interviewing the former
defense chief. The inherent irony of the film was how badly Rumsfeld
portrays himself not as a man hunted by the demons of his past but as an
unrepentant egoist whose account of history almost whimsical marred by self
contradictions, smugness and evasion.
Anyway, Rumsfeld shows no misgivings about his decisions as secretary
of defense. And despite overwhelming evidence, he remains a contrarian on
the defining failure of the Bush administration, Iraq, a war that it seems
never struck him as an existential decision.
Here is a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you think that they got away with 9/11? It
seems amazing in retrospect.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Everything seems amazing
in retrospect. Stuff happens. Free people are free to make mistakes. And
commit crimes and do bad things.
They`re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. You
have to pick and choose. Well, to the extent you pick and choose and
you`re wrong, the penalty can be enormous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Donald Rumsfeld had seven years to reflect on his 50-year-
long career since leaving office in 2006. Yet, it`s more apparent now than
ever just how little he has learned from his mistakes along the way.
With us now is the man behind the movie, the documentary filmmaker
Errol Morris, and also, MSNBC`s political analyst David Corn of "Mother
Errol, thank you for joining us.
I found this long documentary mystifying, yet it is the Donald
Rumsfeld I have always known. That face, sort of eccentric, sort of
whimsical face on this that I swear has the look of a car bomber because he
has a smile about the most serious, horrible things -- 186,000 people died
in the Iraq war, and he gets sort of chummy about it, and he is sort of
friendly to you.
Does he know what he is talking about morally? Does he know the
decisions he made and went along with that caused that war?
ERROL MORRIS, DIRECTOR, "THE UNKNOWN KNOWN": No. I don`t think he
MATTHEWS: How do you get -- is that why Dick Cheney liked him because
he was such a tool that he didn`t stop and say, wait a minute, are we
really going to war with a country, we`re going to take it over, we`re
going to run that place, kill anybody that gets in our way, cause all kinds
of mayhem, and then we`re going to own it because we don`t like the fact
they fired on some of our -- you know, airplanes? What was his reason for
the war? I still can`t get what Rumsfeld was up to.
I know what the neocons and Cheney were up to and what W. is up to, I
What was Rumsfeld -- why did he want the war?
MORRIS: I think because he`s always in one way or another believed in
war. One of his slogans is weakness is provocative. Perhaps he thought
this display of strength, particularly following 9/11 --
MATTHEWS: You have that. Talk about that document you show which is
we got to hit Afghanistan and one of two other countries or something.
It`s almost like he had a checklist of countries we had to invade.
MORRIS: In one of his memos, he gave me access -- they became known
as snowflakes because he wrote so many, many of them. One of these memos
he talks about -- this is before the 9/11, remember.
He talks about rearranging the map of the Middle East. I remember the
first time I read it thinking, you know Errol, you`re really un-ambitious.
You never really think that way.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they`re going to blow up -- David`s here. David has
written a great book, "Hubris", as you know, Errol. You get a sense of,
you know, the old argument, the road to Jerusalem through Damascus, and
somehow -- through Baghdad, and somehow it will lead to the rejectionist
states will agree to some sort of deal in the Middle East and end the wars
against Israel and be something big and changing. That makes sense.
But what was his goal? Did he believe in that shake it up theory?
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I saw the film. I think it`s great. It
left me disappointed, because at the end of the day, I don`t think I
understand Donald Rumsfeld any more than anyone else does. Maybe he
doesn`t. What comes across in the film is he seems to cloak himself with
this false profundity. He comes up with all these rules and all
generalizations are false including this one. He keeps trying to cloak all
these sort of grand actions that had tremendous impacts on people`s lives
causing deaths in tens of thousands.
MATTHEWS: There`s no sense of human connection here.
CORN: No, and it`s all about this Rumsfeld corporate Zen which when
you start peeling it back, there`s nothing behind it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the film confronts an issue that confused many in
this country after 9/11, the fact that Saddam Hussein was not responsible
for the 9/11 attacks. But that didn`t stop the administration from
blurring the lines in the lead-up to the war.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama gets away and a confusion sets in. People
began to think that Saddam was connected with al Qaeda and with 9/11.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don`t think so. I don`t think the American people
were confused about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2003, in a "Washington Post" poll, 69 percent
said they believe it`s likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in
the attacks carried out by al Qaeda.
RUMSFELD: I don`t remember anyone in the Bush administration saying
anything like that.
REPORTER: Today in a broadcast interview, Saddam Hussein said there`s
only one truth, Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. He
went on to say, I`d like to tell you directly, we have no relationship with
RUMSFELD: And Abraham Lincoln was short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And Abraham Lincoln was short. There you have it, Errol.
You captured this guy.
That wise-ass attitude, yes, by the way, those are also untrue. When
in fact that`s exactly the way they talked us into the Iraq war. Remember
how you felt the whole atmospherics were. We`ve got to get even for what
happened in 9/11 by attacking Iraq.
MORRIS: This is a man -- this is a man who can say completely
contradictory things in the space of, say, a half a minute or a minute or
so and seemingly not even realize he`s doing it. It`s one of the scariest
interviews I have ever done.
MATTHEWS: OK. Compare him to Robert McNamara.
MORRIS: McNamara -- thoughtful, reflective, agonized about the past.
Rumsfeld -- completely unapologetic, pleased with himself, convinced
absolutely in his own correctness, his own rectitude. They couldn`t be
more different than two people could possibly be.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. The film`s called "The Unknown Known."
It mystifies you. It will drive you crazy, but you`ve got to see it.
Thank you, Errol Morris, and thank you, David Corn for your expertise.
The book is "Hubris" -- the best book ever on that war.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this horrid war in Iraq.
You keep hoping, don`t we, that people who do big things we think were
wrong will one day admit it? That they`ll with one of those moments like
in the old Perry Mason show where they just can`t take it any longer and
burst out with a truth once and for all and for all to hear?
I guess lawyers will tell you it doesn`t happen like that. People who
do things do them with such perverse pride of authorship that they take
them to the grave. They know what they did, they`re happy with what they
did, but they don`t want us to have the satisfaction of hearing them admit
it, or at least not the way we want to hear it.
I have yet to hear a crystal clear statement of why we went to war
with Iraq. I know some of the arguments, the one about W wanting to outdo
his father, or to get revenge for Saddam Hussein`s attempt to kill his
I know the geopolitical argument that taking down Iraq would weaken
the peace deal in the Middle East, the argument that the road to Jerusalem
went through Baghdad. I know the oil argument and I know Dick Cheney and
his lifetime practice of not taking his foot off the neck of any opponent
who could get the chance.
But, Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon chief who fought the war -- please,
Don, tell us what it was all about. Please, Don, just spill the beans.
While I watched this long documentary on Rumsfeld, he strikes me the
way he always has, fey, whimsical, eccentric, I suppose. But nothing --
nothing about the real reasons for that war. Nothing about nuclear
weapons, the ones that Saddam never had -- nothing about the threat to the
United States because he never was a threat. Nothing about why 186,000
people should die. What a moral disaster the whole murky stupid W war that
no one will tell us had to be or even why.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, March 27, 2014