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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

Guests: Michelle Bernard, Ron Suskind, Jeremy Peters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Dick Cheney declares war on Rand Paul.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this great, new, enticing Republican war
between its hawks and its doves. We hear that Dick Cheney -- and that`s
exactly how he pronounces it -- is now attacking Rand Paul for being an
isolationist. The sharp reason for Cheney`s nasty shot at Paul, which he
delivered recently at Sheldon Adelson`s Las Vegas kissing booth, could be
that Paul had accused Cheney of pushing the Iraq war because of his
connection with the oil equipment company Haliburton -- in other words, for
personal financial gain.

Well, the war actually runs deeper than this on the Republican side. Rand
Paul, like his father Ron, thinks the people who got us into the Iraq war
violated the very nature of their oaths to use the U.S. military power only
for the defense of this country. They believe the war was bought for
ideological reasons, shrouded in the dishonest claim that Iraq possessed
nuclear weapons capable of hitting the U.S.

Cheney for his part hates the prospect, getting more real with each new
national opinion poll, that his own Republican Party might denounce him in
history by selecting a presidential candidate who openly and starkly turns
the party against the Bush-Cheney record on Iraq, one that many now see as
the Cheney record, given W`s far greater passion for oil painting these
days than for anymore oil warfare. As he stands at his easel, W couldn`t
be less interested in defending what was done in Iraq, including the
186,000 people killed in that misconceived, wrongly advertised freedom

Joining me tonight is David Corn, MSNBC political analyst and Washington
bureau chief for "Mother Jones." Ron Suskind also joins us, the Pulitzer
Prize author of four books on presidential power, including the Bush-Cheney
administration. And his new book, "Life Animated," is about the unique and
remarkable way his own autistic`s son has learned to communicate.

David, here`s what your magazine, "Mother Jones," reports today. Quote,
"Rand Paul says Dick Cheney pushed for the Iraq war so Haliburton would
profit." And the article links to a video of Rand Paul in April of 2009,
just before his announced his Senate bid out in Kentucky, ripping into Dick

Paul is speaking at a student Republican event at Western Kentucky
University. Let`s listen in.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There`s a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in
1995 defending Bush number 1. And he goes on for about five minutes. He`s
being interviewed, I think, by the American Enterprise Institute. And he
says it would be a disaster. It would be vastly expensive. It would be a
civil war. We`d have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five
minutes, Dick Cheney, saying it would be a bad idea, and that`s why the
first Bush didn`t go into Baghdad.

Dick Cheney then goes to work for Haliburton, makes hundreds of millions of
dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he`s back in government and it`s
a good idea to go into Iraq.

The day after 9/11, George Tenet`s going in the House and Richard Perle`s
coming out of the White House. And George Tenet should know more about
intelligence than anybody in the world. And the first thing Richard Perle
says to him on the way out is, We`ve got it, now we can go into Iraq. And
George Tenet, who supposedly knows as much intelligence as anybody in the
White House, says, Don`t we need to know they have some connection to 9/11?
He says, It doesn`t matter.

It became an excuse. 9/11 became an excuse for a war that they already
wanted in Iraq.


MATTHEWS: You know, that`s an amazing thing, David Corn of "Mother Jones,"
to read something that sounds so much like my own and perhaps your own
critique of the war, that it was fought for ideological reasons, and
financial reasons to some limit or who knows what extent, something to do
with oil, something to do with this Cheney world vision of -- I don`t know
what it was, something about war.

And there to have Rand Paul sticking it to him on that tape, and now have
Cheney come back at Adelson`s little kissing booth out there in Vegas last
week sticking it back at him.

what`s really interesting here is not that he`s just saying that -- you
know, that Cheney pushed the war for ideological reasons or even to have
access to oil. If you listen to that tape closely, and another tape that
he said a similar thing, he`s actually saying that Cheney fought the war to
benefit -- or pushed for the war to benefit Haliburton, to generate profits
for Haliburton.

That`s a lot different than saying we wanted it to able to control oil or
for the neo-con thing. And he goes even further at the end of that clip by
saying that Cheney exploited the horrific tragedy of 9/11 to start this war
to benefit Haliburton.

I mean, a lot of critics on the left and a few on the right have raised
things like this, but I think Rand Paul is really pushing this to a really
far degree, essentially accusing Cheney of betraying the country for
profits for his old company.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make -- what do you make of that -- what do
you make of that charge, David, yourself? I mean -- I mean, I don`t know
what his fiduciary or his financial connection was. Once Cheney went into
the administration as V.P., running for vice president, was he still making
a buck off Haliburton?

CORN: Well, I think there were some delayed compensation agreements. It
still kicked in later, so if Haliburton does well, it probably would be
good for him.

But I -- you know, we`ve talked about this, about Cheney, about George W.
Bush, trying to sort out their specific motivations for this lousy war and
for the faulty case they use to present it. Sometimes gets hard. I think
there were a lot of different things going at once at different parts of
the administration. They had a lot of different reasons to do this.

But you know, I would have to be -- as much as I`m a critic of some of the
things that Dick Cheney has done, I would even find it hard to believe that
he actually plotted this war for the lead purpose of enriching Haliburton.
I mean, I think that`s really --

MATTHEWS: Well, the point is --

CORN: -- pretty far to go.

MATTHEWS: But your reporting is most powerful here because who is
asserting this? Not you or me --

CORN: I know.

MATTHEWS: -- not somebody from the center left or left, a war critic,
but somebody who`s definitely a Republican, a libertarian at that.

Ron Suskind, what do you make of the fact that Rand Paul has actually put
himself on record -- and by the way, as of we`re hearing from the reporting
from David`s magazine, he has not taken it back, that Dick Cheney, the most
recent Republican VP and the man behind the war, many people believe, did
it for his own financial advantage. That`s a hell of a charge.

RON SUSKIND, HARVARD CENTER FOR ETHICS: Yes, I think Rand Paul is out on a
tree limb here that might break. The fact is, is that he`s going to be
asked, What proof have you got? The fact is, is that -- is that there were
many reasons, as David talks about, for why we went into the war, none of
them, virtually, offered to the American people for their decision.

Here`s a case where if Cheney had incentives in terms of this war and his
own personal compensation, you know, I don`t think that is an easily
provable case, even if there`s any evidence to show.

I think what`s interesting here, though, is I think Rand Paul`s -- I don`t
know if desperation would be the right word, but his pointedness here shows
that the Iraq war is very much front and center for this new crowd of

Look, ambition fires and sharpens the senses, and here`s a case where
ambition is driving Rand Paul to say, We don`t want to be affiliated with
Bush-Cheney, and I`m going to draw a line in the sand.

And I think he may get other people joining him because at this point, the
fact is, 10 years, 11 years after that invasion, I think this is when the
wheel comes around. And I think you`re going to find more Republicans
saying, Bush and Cheney, how do those guys get to call themselves
Republicans and go after them?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that`s so true. By the way, a lot of politics,
I`ve noticed over the years, is what you don`t say, the things you hide.
And clearly, this party is not out there trumpeting its hawkishness about
going into another country, except -- and we`ll get to this in a minute --
the case of Dick Cheney, who`s already talking to Rand.

Anyway, "Mother Jones" magazine also obtained secretly recorded audio, as I
said, of Dick Cheney speaking at Sheldon Adelson`s Republican Jewish
Coalition event in Las Vegas a little more than a week ago. And it shows
the former VP speaking approvingly about bombing Iran, Israel bombing Iran.

Cheney describes a dinner he had with an Israeli general who flew Israeli
Defense Force missions that destroyed Iraq`s nuclear reactor in `81,
Syria`s in 2007. Let`s listen to Cheney`s recollection, fond recollection,
of that dinner conversation.


the table after dinner and he said, "Two down, one to go." I knew exactly
what he meant.


MATTHEWS: "One to go," David. What else could it mean but Iran?

CORN: Yes, it obviously means Iran. I don`t think anyone would deny that.
And what`s even chilling about listening to that -- it was not a well
recorded tape, but you can hear it if you listen carefully -- is the
audience kind of chuckling and then applauding the notion of going to war
with Iran. And so that was behind closed doors. It`s Sheldon Adelson`s,
you know, kiss the ring fest last weekend, two weekends ago.

And you know, it`s amazing that they think they can get away with talking
in those terms about yet more war in the Middle East. They`re looking
forward to it. They want it.

And you know, back to the point you made a second ago, Chris, I think, you
know, while the Republican Party may want to get away from Bush and Cheney
to some degree, there are a lot of people in the party, John McCain and
Bill Kristol and others, who are not going to sit by and let Rand Paul, you
know, define what`s going on. This is going to be a whole `nother aspect
of this civil war that we`ve been talking about --


MATTHEWS: -- resolvable -- this doesn`t seem to be something, like how
much money to spend on agricultural supports. Do you make it 10 or 15 or
around 12? How do you compromise in the middle between these total hawks
who are always -- I call it like a Pez dispenser. They always have a war
they want to fight. There`s always one ahead of them they`re hungry for.
This time, it`s Iran, of course, or getting into Syria, but it`s Iran

And people who say that was the wrong road to take the last decade -- back
to you David Corn. How do you resolve that -- that Grand Canyon of
difference between hawks and doves in the Republican Party going in toward
an election when you have to pick a candidate?

CORN: You can`t. This is like a cage match between two, you know, very
powerful parts of the party. And you see John McCain`s desperation a year
ago when he hit the Senate floor and called them wacko-birds. You know, we
don`t know -- I think the Tea Party base of the party is conflicted about
this stuff. You know, a lot of them are traditionally Reagan hawks, but
they think they like some of the libertarian Tea Party "forget about the
rest of the world" rhetoric from Rand Paul and others. I think they`re
very conflicted.

But in the Republican establishment, it still totes (ph) very heavily
towards Cheney, the neo-cons and Bill Kristol, and they`re not going down
without a fight. This is a defining fight for the Republican Party, I
believe, as they see it.

MATTHEWS: Well, Ron Suskind, I think that may well be true for Rand Paul.
I think, like his father Ron Paul, he is truly an isolationist in the sense
of he wants the U.S. to basically be Fortress America, defend ourselves but
don`t do any adventures overseas, period. And he probably sees both Iraq
wars in that way.

Do you think he`ll back down and say, You know, I was wrong. I`m going to
eat the crow and say, yes, we should have gone into Iraq twice. We should
have lost all those men over there.

SUSKIND: No, no. The big difference is the landscape has changed. We`re
in a deficit-burdened economy, a sluggish economy. We`ve had two wars that
have yielded so very little, that cost so very much. That is indisputable.

And I think what Rand Paul is trying to do, and as I said, I think others
will, is to say, This is the new Republican Party. We`re moving in another
direction because, frankly, many of the people in the Republican base, say
what they will, will struggling right now in this economy. They don`t want
more foreign wars.

And Dick Cheney`s been saying real men go to Tehran for many, many years.
You know, he talks about the lessons of 9/11. What are the lessons of
9/11? You don`t lie to the American public about a war. No dictator even
does that. It`s too risky. That -- the wages of that are now --

MATTHEWS: And the lessons of Dick Cheney --

SUSKIND: -- being brought on this party.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well, the lessons of Dick Cheney --

SUSKIND: And that`s what`s happening now.

MATTHEWS: -- is take four or five deferments and then become a hawk.

SUSKIND: And you know, what you`re finding, I think, is that there`s a
shift in the Republican Party now, where the base is saying, That`s not us
anymore. And Rand Paul is definitely speaking to them at this moment. And
I think that division, that cage match, as David says -- I think it is a
cage match -- I give advantage to the isolationists right now.

MATTHEWS: OK, I Think we just heard the first guns at Fort Sumter in the
Republican civil war. Thank you so much, David Corn and Ron Suskind.

Coming up: Calling out the enemy and naming names. Democrats are going
after the billionaire Koch brothers by name, who`ve spent millions already
to take down Democratic senators. The Democratic goal is simple, do to the
Kochs what Bain Capital, those Bain Capital, ads did to bring down Mitt
Romney and bring him down early.

Also, we have the first sign that the tires have hit the road in the
Christie investigation. Grand jurors, the real thing, are now hearing from
witnesses up there in Jersey, and the probe is accelerating.

Plus, is Jeb serious? Can you really run for the Republican presidential
nomination by saying a Mexican or someone else crossing the border into
this country illegally is actually committing an "act of love"? And "act
of love" -- that`s Jeb`s words.

And back to Chris Christie. He sure got an earful from "The View`s" Joy
Behar at a recent event in Jersey.


JOY BEHAR, COMEDIAN: Stop it. Don`t bully me. Don`t bully me!



MATTHEWS: Well, Dick Cheney and the Iraq war are also back in the
spotlight because of the Senate Intelligence Committee`s report on torture
that the committee has voted to declassify. Yesterday, former CIA director
Michael Hayden characterized Senator Dianne Feinstein`s motivation for
releasing the report as "emotional." That`s his word. He`s taking heat
from Democrats for that. Let`s listen.


Ignatius earlier this week, and he said --

CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": He`s a columnist for "The Washington

HAYDEN: Right. And he said that Senator Feinstein wanted a report so
scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of
detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.
Now, that sentence, that motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep
emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don`t think it leads
you to an objective report.


MATTHEWS: "Emotional" -- not a smart word to use about a woman leader.
Anyway, today, Democrats, including Senate leader Harry Reid, and Mark
Udall of the Select Committee on Intelligence, took issue with Hayden`s use
of that word, "emotional."

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For years, of course, billionaire
brothers Charles and David Koch have backed a massive political network
dedicated to attacking Democrats around the country. Now Democrats say
it`s time to give them a taste of their own medicine.

According to "The New York Times" Sunday, quote, "Democrats believe they
have finally found a way to fight back, attacking the brothers` sprawling
business conglomerate as callous and indifferent to the lives of ordinary
people while pursuing profit and power by drawing public attention to
layoffs by subsidiaries of Koch Industries across the country, a chemical
plant in North Carolina, an oil refinery up in Alaska, a lumber operation
down in Arkansas. Democrats are seeking to make villains of the reclusive
billionaires. In other words, the goal is to do to the Koch brothers what
the Obama campaign did to Bain Capital in the 2012 election, showing them
to be heartless oligarchs."`

Well, this morning, Senator Chuck Schumer defended the strategy.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: What we`re doing is we`re showing that
these ads that the Koch brothers are largely responsible for -- we`re
showing who`s behind them, people who are closing -- cutting jobs in
Alaska, North Carolina.


SCHUMER: The Koch brothers aren`t just sitting there innocently on the
side. They`re spending $40 million, $50 million in ads that are not
focused on their real agenda, which is just eliminating all regulation on
corporations, cutting taxes to virtually nothing, and so there demands a
response. So I don`t feel sorry for them.


MATTHEWS: Well, pay attention to that New York senator. He`s the sharpest
knife in the drawer. And one example, by the way, of the new strategy of
the Democrats is this ad for Senator Mark Begich up in Alaska. He`s a
Democrat, and Begich has been a major target of attacks from Koch-backed
groups this cycle. Let`s watch this comeback here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s behind the attacks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Koch brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The billionaire Koch brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come into our town, buy a refinery --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- just running it into the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leaving a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of Alaskans are losing jobs, and I`m definitely
concerned about the drinking water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t go down there and tell them what to do. I
expect them not to come up to Alaska and tell us what to do.


MATTHEWS: Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post, of course, and an MSNBC political analyst, and Jeremy
Peters wrote this big piece on the Koch brothers for "The New York Times."

I want to start with you, Jeremy. The old Balzac line that behind every
great fortune, there`s a great crime, I somehow think that the Democratic
strategy is to illuminate that, to show that the Koch brothers aren`t rich
by accident. They`re rich because they`re ruthless.

JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That`s exactly right. And that`s the
plan. That`s the plan that Barack Obama and the Democratic super PACs had
in 2012, when they went after Bain Capital.

This is a -- it`s a very targeted and very deeply researched approach that
the Democrats are taking here. What they` done is they have gone into
states where there are key Senate races, Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina,
and they have look to Koch subsidiaries and found where there have been
layoffs, at times layoffs that have coincided with the purchase of millions
of dollars worth of ads in a way to portray the brothers and their company
as callous as they are trying to further their own political and business

Now, is this going to work? I think what the allies of the Kochs and what
other Republicans have told me is it`s -- the Republicans tried this with
George Soros. It didn`t work. It`s very hard to get individuals who are
not on the ballot to become household names, to become people that you are
in effect voting against at the polls.

So I do think we need to take that into account. Democrats will spend a
lot of money doing this, but whether it works I think is a really open
question at this point.

MATTHEWS: Well, Gene, it`s what you do is what you got.

And what the Democrats have -- they don`t have as much money as the Koch
brothers, but they got the names of these guys. They tagged them. People
are beginning to know who they are.

And I think when I read that ad in "The Wall Street Journal" they put in
there, that op-ed supposedly written by Charles Koch, probably written by a
P.R. person in his operation, probably on the payroll, and it makes
basically the case against ethanol subsidies. Out of nowhere, it`s like
product placement.

Is like -- does everything they do have to make them money or avoid them
paying taxes or get them a break? When I see -- when I saw that op-ed, I
said, wait a minute, right in the middle of this ideological pitch against
big government was this big thing here defending their own economic
interests. They had to pay for that ad, it seems to me, in terms of their
own marginal profits.

Your thoughts.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they got a lot of fingers
in a lot of pots.


ROBINSON: So, most issues are going to affect them financially. And look,
by the way, if you`re spending $40 million or $50 million to try to
influence public policy, you`re not a private person then. You`re a public
figure. OK? So, you are fair game.

The question that Jeremy asked I think is a reasonable one. Will it work?
But what are you trying to accomplish? You go into these states where
Democrat -- Democratic senators are fighting for their lives. And one
thing, you know, who knows who the Koch brothers are? Well, the Democratic
base certainly is learning who the Koch brothers are, if the base doesn`t
already know.

And one thing Democrats have to do is they have to energize the base. They
have got to raise a lot of money and they have got to energize the base in
these states and change the nature of the electorate to the extent possible
in order for these Democratic senators to have a chance. So to the extent
that these attacks energize Democrats, I think the strategists could
continue -- could consider this a success.

MATTHEWS: You know what? You know what, Jeremy? Someone I knew used to
say all politics are local. That was Tip O`Neill, of course.

PETERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: And if you could bring into North Carolina, like your reporting
does, a chemical plant in North Carolina, then all of a sudden it doesn`t
mean somebody offshore or somebody we never heard of, somebody named George
Soros or something else.

No, it`s this guy, this brother who just shut down some jobs in North
Carolina. That brings it home. And, by the way, is the Democrat case that
where -- you asked, does it work? Did it work when they focused on Bain
Capital, costing people to lose their jobs? They were pretty rough, some
of those ads. Did they work? Do we have evidence of that?

PETERS: I don`t know what evidence there is.

And, yes, it`s funny you mention that, because a Republican strategist who
worked on the campaign e-mailed me last night and he said, you know, hey, I
read your story and I have just got to say that the political scientists
that have looked at this found no evidence that any of these ads ever

I guess it`s a question you should probably ask a political scientist, not
me, how you measure something like that. I don`t know. I do know what
that they can do is, they can create the perception of candidates as
indifferent to the struggles of working people, and that`s something that
you never want when you`re running for office.

But I do think that Democrats are treading in -- on thin ice in another key
respect. They can overplay this. And you`re already starting to hear them
hammer this point a lot. Harry Reid goes to the floor of the Senate almost
every single day and brings up the Koch brothers. And, yes, it raises
money for them. Democrats will tell you, whenever they put the Koch
brothers in an e-mail that they blast out for fund-raising purposes, they
get back a lot more money than if they don`t mention the Kochs at all.

But in the same way that Republicans hammer issues like Benghazi and the
IRS, people start to tune that out. It becomes kind of a base-only issue.
And I think it has limited effectiveness after a while.

MATTHEWS: Yes, except that this is going to be a base election. And I`m
telling you, look at the intensity factor.

Last word to Gene.

The intensity factor of hatred of Obamacare and hatred of Obama has got to
be matched somehow with intensity on the left and the center-left, doesn`t
it? Don`t they have to find the bad guy here to get them to go out?


Yes, they have -- they have to have intensity on the left. What you do is,
you craft a deferent message for independents and for people in the middle
and a more positive, forward-looking message that offers a new path or, you
know -- and you have to do that, or else you lose the election. You have
to do both.

But if you don`t get that intensity among the Democratic base, you lose
this election.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

Thank you so much, Gene Robinson. And thank you, Jeremy Peters. Good work
on the piece.

PETERS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, it was supposed to be a roast for a former governor of
New Jersey, a guy in his 90s, but it turned out that the joke -- well, if
you could call it that -- was on Chris Christie.

And this is HARDBALL -- that was hardball -- the place for politics.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Joe Biden revealed this week he uses men`s Clinique to
keep his skin smooth --


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: -- while John Boehner revealed he uses Weatherbeater
deck stain.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Time for the "Sideshow," of course.

That was "Weekend Update" having a little fun with a common late-night
topic, John Boehner`s complexion. Well, it`s been the butt of so many
jokes, both inside and outside the Beltway, that the speaker felt the need
to declare to the world that his look was au naturel.


bike. I cut my own grass, ride a bike. You know, I was -- my mother is
dark-complected. So, I`m a little dark.

-- there`s no tanning bed?

BOEHNER: There`s no tanning bed.

LENO: There`s no tanning bed.

BOEHNER: There`s no spray thing, never, not one -- never, ever.

LENO: Never a spray tan?

BOEHNER: Nothing.


MATTHEWS: Now to David Letterman.

Late last week, Letterman of course announced that he would be calling it
quits after more than 30 years on the air, a truly remarkable run that over
the years has playfully mocked politicians, mostly thanks to Dave`s nightly
top 10 franchise.

Well, on Friday night`s "Tonight Show," Jimmy Fallon honored Dave with a
top 10 list of his own.


top 10 reasons --


FALLON: -- I thought of -- the top 10 reasons Letterman is retiring.

Number 10, he wants to quit while he`s still able to compete on "Dancing
With the Stars."



FALLON: Number five, Hillary-Letterman 2016.


FALLON: And the number one reason David Letterman is retiring: Jimmy
Fallon is stealing his bits.

There you go, everybody.



MATTHEWS: Last one was the best one.

And, finally, things got interesting in a recent event honoring former New
Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, who is in his 90s. The roast featured
several comedians and, yes, Chris Christie, who found himself at the center
of the insults, including those from Joy Behar.


JOY BEHAR, COMEDIAN: Let me take a moment to thank Governor Christie for
holding this event. It was very brave for him. He`s had a very few -- a
few tough, tough, right, sir, some tough weeks. Don`t look at me like
that. You`re scaring me.




BEHAR: Don`t bully me. Don`t bully me.

Why don`t you get up here at the microphone, instead of being such a



BEHAR: Do it.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: At least I don`t paid for this.


BEHAR: Who would pay you to do this?


CHRISTIE: I`m asking the same thing about you.

BEHAR: Let me put to you it this way, in a way that you would appreciate.

You`re toast, OK?



MATTHEWS: "Don`t bully me." That`s right up there with, don`t Tase me,

Up next: The Chris Christie investigation is picking up team. Federal
prosecutors are now calling witnesses to testify before a grand jury.
We`re going to find out where this case is headed.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


what`s happening.

After checking pings underwater, crews are resuming their searches for the
Malaysia Airlines` missing plane. Black boxes are supposed to emit pings
for about a month before the batteries die out. It`s been exactly a month
since the plane disappeared.

The National Weather Service in warning about severe weather in Georgia as
storms rumble across the Southeastern U.S. And a bill to extend jobless
benefits for long-term unemployed Americans has passed the Senate, but it
faces steep opposition in the House -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: We are back.

There`s been a significant development in the Chris Christie investigation.
It`s getting real. Federal prosecutors have begun calling witnesses to
testify in front of a grand jury. Here`s why that`s important. The grand
jury will ultimately decide whether criminal charges are brought against
Chris Christie himself, David Wildstein, Bridget Kelly, David Samson, or
other players currently embroiled in the George Washington Bridge and
Hoboken matters.

It also tells us a few critically important things about the investigation.
It`s pretty clear that prosecutors are escalating their investigation. In
other words, they`re building a case, and they are very likely honing in on
which federal crimes statutes apply here. As "The New York Star-Ledger"
reports -- quote -- "What began as a preliminary inquiry into whether
federal laws might have been implicated, it has morphed into a deepening
criminal probe to determine whether federal laws have actually been

And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, it reminds us that Christie`s
declarations, that his own declarations of innocence don`t mean a thing
right now.

Kendall Coffey is an MSNBC political analyst and former U.S. attorney, and
Brian Murphy is an MSNBC contributor as well and former managing editor of --

Let me start with Kendall Coffey.

Give us the significance the fact that we heard that Drewniak, his press
guy, his spokesman, that`s Christie`s spokesman, has been called before a
grand jury. What does that tell us?

KENDALL COFFEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it`s a very serious
development. It confirms, just as you describe, that this is, in fact, a
serious active federal criminal investigation.

It doesn`t mean that charges are ever going to be brought, but if we think
this as a house being constructed, the foundation is clearly there, and
it`s further confirmation that the feds believe that if there`s a set of
allegations that can be proven, there`s clearly federal jurisdiction. This
isn`t an event of curiosity. They`re not fishing around. They have a
definite road map as to where they go.

At the same time, they recognize there could be all kinds of detours and
side roads, depending on what information comes forward. The other
significant thing is when you call in a witness who is clearly an insider -
- and who closer, Chris, than -- than to a public figure than their press
spokesperson? Not too many people are closer than that.

When you call in somebody who`s clearly in a significant position into a
federal grand jury to testify, you have done a lot of homework. You have
spoken to a lot of people. You have looked at tons and tons of documents.
So this certainly isn`t the final chapter of the book, but it`s certainly
not chapter one or two.

MATTHEWS: Well,, which covers news at the Department of
Justice, is reporting that federal prosecutors have also met with David

Quote: "Wildstein was camped at the U.S. attorney`s office in Newark last
week, meeting with federal prosecutors investigating the George Washington
Bridge lane closings. Wildstein`s meetings indicate that prosecutors may
have struck a deal with him."

They are also reporting that Charlie McKenna, a former chief of staff --
chief counsel, actually, to Christie -- met secretly in mid-January with
investigators working for New Jersey U.S. attorney Paul Fishman.

Let me -- let me go now to Brian Murphy.

Brian, where do you think the action here is going to be? Is it being led
by the U.S. attorney Paul Fishman in New Jersey? Is there any other
corollary action that`s going to move it along?

BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right now, I think this -- we`re looking
at a pretty serious development. And I think you described it as an
escalation. And that`s exactly right.

But, suddenly, there was a question, I think. If you look how it`s
proceeded so far, right now, the legislative committee has been looking at
the Bridgegate stuff, and the U.S. attorney had had dominion over Hoboken.
Remember all of the Hoboken-related allegations.

Now we see that those two -- those two elements are being brought together
in this grand jury investigation.
That`s a serious -- that`s a serious sign that -- you know, there had been
a question about whether or not a federal crime could have been committed
with what happened at the GWB.

And now it`s clear that -- that people in the U.S. attorney`s office in
Newark think that there was and that they have jurisdiction over that. And
they`re -- they`re willing to bring in one of the most public supporters of
the governor, one of the most public members of his staff to talk to them.
That`s a serious development. That`s a big deal.

MATTHEWS: Let me think about this with you, Kendall.

It seems to me, just look at the possible body of the crime here. If it`s
deliberate, if there`s evidence based upon e-mail and other corroborating
evidence that there was a deliberate effort to basically stop traffic or
slow down lanes, in the interstate situation, a bridge from New Jersey to
New York, if that was done for -- as a political punitive measure and it`s
-- if that`s what I`ve just given you are the facts of the case, deliberate
and a political motive to obstruct people`s movements, is that -- does it
look to you like a crime? Especially in the interstate situation?

state law, New Jersey law, official misconduct. I think that`s a classic
event of official misconduct. Using political power that you have by
virtue of your government position in order to punish or to do something
that`s clearly outsize of what you`re authorized to be doing in the scope
of public service. So, clearly, a New Jersey state crime if it had been

Federal criminal jurisdiction a little more complex. I think the feds are
looking at this was undeniably an interstate facility. It doesn`t get more
interstate than this. And if they can show what would amount to an
extortion under New Jersey law, then that`s a violation of 18 USC 1952.
Proving extortion is not going to be such an obvious situation with respect
to bridgegate because we don`t have a classic scenario, somebody says you
do this or you`re going to be punished.

We have something more like that, of course, with the situation in Hoboken.
The feds are looking at both things, and I think, Chris, if they can find a
pattern and practice of punishment and payback, then I think that`s going
to take them pretty close to thinking they`ve got the basis for some kind
of extortion that combined with interstate facility being used to
manipulate it could indeed amount to provable federal crime.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at the language this guy who`s been called
before the grand jury. That`s Michael Drewniak. He`s been called. Look
at some of the quotes that he`s been caught saying. Pretty colorful
language behind the scenes.

Quote, "Last November, he told David Wildstein, on the bridge commission,
that the New York appointee at the Port Authority," that`s David -- Patrick
Foye, "who shut down the bogus traffic study" was, quote, "a piece of
excrement", a piece of excrement. That`s Drewniak talking, the guy who
talks speaks for the governor

And then in January, he sent this text message to a pal. Quote, "The only
trouble is David," that`s David Wildstein, "is a true friend of mine. Now
I can claw his eyes out, poor gasoline in the sockets and light him up."

I guess that was somewhat attractive or enticing Brian Murphy through the
prosecutors because they`ve got that guy under oath now before a grand

MURPHY: And that`s how he talks about his friends, right? And this is a
family show.

The thing I`ve wondered about is the commonality between the two cases.
And the subpoenas that have issued in Hoboken and bridgegate both involve
the state party and Governor Christie`s campaign. And other lawyers have
suggested to me that they see vulnerability under the RICO statute, that
all you need are two cases, and it`s not as hard to prove the conspiracy.
If you`re looking for that kind of misconduct --

MATTHEWS: Is getting re-elected a criminal enterprise?

MURPHY: Yes, that`s right. And that`s the whole --


MURPHY: That`s why the stuff about them squeezing and leaning on and
trying to influence and punish the various mayors that they were courting
becomes really important, because if they were doing something that
involved, that serves as fraud or official misconduct in trying to pursue
those endorsements, then once you start looking, you only need to find two
cases, in Hoboken --

MATTHEWS: I know what a RICO is. I`m just trying to figure out what the
enterprise is. If the enterprise is bullying itself, I don`t know.

Anyway, thank you, Kendall Coffey. As always, sir.

And thank you, Brian Murphy.

Up next, Jeb Bush says illegal immigrants who cross the border -- this is
the most powerful statement made towards 2016 -- are just doing it to give
their family a better life. He calls it an act of love.

Do most Republicans or most Americans look upon illegal border crossing as
an act of love? Do they have that much compassion? Will that line of his,
Jeb`s, sell? He just made it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Two big political announcements coming this week. According to
local news reports, Ted Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Senator Ted
Kennedy, will run for state senate up in Connecticut. He`ll make the
formal announcement tomorrow. And no surprise here, former Massachusetts
U.S. Senator Scott Brown is ready to run in New Hampshire.

Brown said today, he`ll formerly announce his Senate candidacy in the
Granite State Thursday.

He`ll take on incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen who has a double digit lead
in recent polling.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Will compassionate approach to illegal immigration sell in the Republican
primaries? Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried to make that sell just
yesterday at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of his father`s
presidency. Jeb announced that he would make a decision about running for
presidency in 2016 by the end of this year, but he also laid out this
vision on how he would run a presidential campaign. He did so by testing
his immigration attitude. And popular issue with the GOP base, of course.
He even prefaced his remarks by saying, "I know this is on tape,
acknowledging how controversial his position is."

Let`s listen to Jeb.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I`m going to say this and it will
be on tape, and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to
our country because they couldn`t come legally. They come to our country
because their family`s, you know, dad who loved their children was worried
that their children didn`t have food on the table, and they, you know,
wanted to make sure their family was intact and they crossed the border
because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their

Yes, they broke the law, but it`s not a felony. It`s kind of -- it`s an
act of love. It`s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think
that that is a different kind of crime that should be -- there should be a
price paid, but it shouldn`t be -- it shouldn`t rile people up that people
are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.


MATTHEWS: We already have a real-life example of what can happen to a
Republican who`s too forgiving of illegal immigrants.

Marco Rubio still hasn`t recovered his standing in the GOP. Let`s talk to
some people about it.

Ryan Grim is "Huffington Post`s" Washington bureau chief, and an MSNBC

Thanks, Ryan.

And Michelle Bernard is president of Bernard Center for Women, Politics and
Public Policy.

Michelle, let me start with you. It seems to me that Jeb is saying
something very Christian, very Roman Catholic. In fact, he is a Roman
Catholic convert. Something that Pope Francis could say and it would be

But as an American public official whose held public office and is a law
enforcement official potentially if he becomes president, to say cross get
border from some other country because you choose to do it against U.S. law
and just move into the country to get a job illegally is not going to sell.

What do you think? Act of love. That might be a stretch for the
Republicans and the Democrats maybe.

MICHELLE BERNARD, THE BERNARD CENTER: Well, I think it is a stretch for
the most conservative part of the Republican Party. I love the statements
that Jeb Bush made about immigration reform over the weekend and talking
about the fact that the Republican Party needs to sort of get rid of this
notion of idealism and sort of idealism and sort of purity test.

The difficulty for Governor Bush if he decides to run is that if you go and
you look at what he has to do at a primary level and you look at
conservative Web sites like and Liberty Voice, you know,
people are out to get him already. They are saying that he and his brother
are progressives, hiding as Republicans. That his stance on immigration
reform, his stance on common core standards and education, his stance on
school choice, for example, are no different than the Democrats and they
don`t want him. And how he gets over that at a primary level is going to
be very difficult for him.

I think he is a great -- an excellent general election candidate on the
Republican ticket, but you know he`s not going to do a Michele Bachmann.
We`re never going to see Jeb Bush talking about, quote-unquote, "legitimate
rape" or, you know, getting rid of the Violence Against Women Act and that
might be what primary voters, conservative primary voters in the Republican
Party are looking for.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Ryan on this.

Ryan, that phrase "act of love", if it`s an act of love for a guy or woman
to cross the border illegally 10 years ago or 10 months ago or 10 minutes
ago, why is it not an act of love 10 years from now? What would stop
illegal immigration if your attitude is that positive of it in terms of
morality? I`m just wondering how it will sell out there in the country?

RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I don`t think it would sell in a
Republican primary. And Jeb obviously knows that. As you said, he
prefaced it by saying that this is on tape. You know, I think this is an
indication that he is leaning very heavily against running, and I think his
calculation here is like, OK, look, I`m going to say what I actually
believe. And if the entire right wing of the Republican Party crumbles off
of the planet and the only thing that`s left is the chamber of commerce and
me, then sure, maybe I`ll take the primary and maybe I have a shot in the

But I think he`s done the math and knows that it`s extremely difficult for
him to win the primary and extremely difficult for him to win the general,
because as centrist or as good of a candidate as he may be, he`s still a
Bush. And that brand is still tarnished despite the former president --

MATTHEWS: OK, I just sort -- Michelle, do you buy that, that he`s just
committing political suicide here, just laying himself down on a matter of
principle, I should say?

BERNARD: I don`t think he`s committing political suicide. I think he
really believes what he`s saying and I also believe that he is daring the
Republican Party to come back and to be a party that people don`t laugh at.
There has to be sanity in the Republican Party.


BERNARD: And right now, he`s the only sane voice. He`s right on
immigration reform. He`s right on common core standards. It doesn`t mean
that he is a wolf in sheep`s clothing. And I think he`s doing something
really important here.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll hear the reaction. It`s coming I`m sure.

Thank you, Ryan Grim. And thank you, Michelle Bernard.

And we`re going to be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story I hope is never finished.
It`s about a couple of young American kids who we knew when we saw them
could do just about whatever they had in their hearts to do, Mickey Rooney
and Judy Garland.


MATTHEWS: Whether it was "Babes in Arms" or "Strike Up the Band," or
"Babes on Broadway" or "Girl Crazy", the theme was can do. We can put on
our own show.

The cause was always urgent, vital, do or die, to raise money for their out
of work parents, to raise money for a high school band contest, to send
orphans on an excursion to their country, to save a college.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got an idea. Our folks think we`re babes in arms,
huh? We`ll show them whether we`re babes in arms or not. I`m going to
write a show for us and put it on right here in Shreveport.


MATTHEWS: Well, the message to America, trust the kids to solve this one,
they`ll pull it off for sure.

Mickey Rooney, who died on Sunday, was the country`s top box office
attraction in 1939. He beat out Spencer Tracy for that spot in 1940, Clark
Gable in 1941. It was never as great for him again, maybe never so great
for a country, still staggering from the Great Depression, fearful of a
Second World War, yet somehow willing to believe.

As Franklin Roosevelt once said, seeing and feeling the spirit of hope so
alive and resilient in the land, much of it because of him, he said, "Thank
God, our problems are only material."

Mickey Rooney, the kid who could, made it to 93.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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