July 30, 2014
Guest: Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Robert McCartney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A cheap impeachment.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this evening`s House vote to sue the president
of the United States. Is this impeachment lite, as some are calling it, a
way to brand the president as bad without the trouble and noise of putting
him on trial, or is this the first bitter assault on the man in the White
House, a tar-and-feathering to precede the worst? Is this the beating that
precedes the execution?
Excuse me, is there any other way to see this spectacle than as a
condemnation by the U.S. Congress, minus the due process of an actual
impeachment, a quickie executed by Republicans before heading off to
vacation, Something to chuckle about, perhaps even savor on the family
camping trip? Well, that`s certainly the way the hard right back benchers
see this, this theater of the absurd, this travesty for television, this,
as I said, impeachment on the cheap.
And all this so Speaker John Boehner can keep the dogs from the gate,
throwing a haunch of red meat out there, hoping that this will satisfy
them, or at least give them the -- give him the time it takes for them to
Good luck, Mr. Speaker. But I hope you are aware that you`re paying for
this time with the dignity of representative government in this free
society. How much of that are you willing to give away before facing the
inevitable reckoning between the party of Lincoln, which you`re a member
of, and the pack of jackals who`ve gotten into the tent?
Congressman Mo Brooks is a Republican from Alabama and Congressman Jim
Clyburn is a Democrat from South Carolina and the assistant Democratic
But back to the big breaking news tonight. Moments ago, the United States
House of Representatives continued their assault on President Obama, taking
an historic vote to sue the president of the United States. The result was
not surprising. The House voted heavily along party lines, with 225
Republicans voting yes to sue, and 196 Democrats and five Republicans
voting no on a resolution to authorize a lawsuit again the president.
Let me go to Congressman Brooks. Why would you vote to sue the president?
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, first, let`s be clear. Speaker John
Boehner, President Barack Obama -- that`s a little picture. The big
picture, as, if you look at history with Richard Nixon, Johnson in Vietnam,
and any number of actions that have ensued since then and that will ensue
in the future, is whether there is anything that can be done by the House
of Representatives or by the Senate to make sure that a president obeys the
And the proper way to do that is to seek a writ of mandamus to compel the
president to do something via court order or a declaratory judgment, so
that all of us can understand what the law actually means.
And this will be binding going forward, so if you happen it have a Democrat
House or Democrat Senate or a Republican president, it cuts both ways. But
I think it`s important to our constitutional process to be able to
establish what the House and the Senate cannot do vis-a-vis the separation
of powers with (ph) the president of the United States. So the bigger
picture going forward is this is very much bipartisan.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about your picture on this. Had Mitt Romney
won in 2012, when he was in charge of bringing into action the Affordable
Care Act and he had decided for reasons of efficiency to delay the
implementation of the employer mandate, would you have sued him?
BROOKS: If there was the opportunity to do so, to question whether a law
was being properly enforced, yes. But please understand that I`m one of
those that is somewhat of an independent Republican. I do what I think the
Constitution requires of us. I obey my oath of office as best I can. And
if you`ve got a president that is crossing the line in a serious way and in
a clear-cut way, hopefully, so that you don`t have very much of a
litigation issue, then yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`ve just -- you`ve just defined the issue, sir. You
said because this president delayed the implementation of the employer
mandate in the Affordable Care Act, he should be sued. Wouldn`t--
MATTHEWS: Are you saying that`s a precedent? Now, you just said a minute
ago you wanted to set a precedent here.
BROOKS: That`s not what the bill says.
MATTHEWS: Would you apply that precedent--
BROOKS: Wait a minute. The legislation that passed the House doesn`t say
MATTHEWS: It says the speaker of the House is entitled now to go forward
and gain counsel to pursue civil litigation against the president of the
United States on this issue.
BROOKS: On the Affordable Care Act.
BROOKS: There are any number of aspects of the Affordable Care Act, if the
president is acting contrary to law, then seeking a declaratory judgment
action from a federal court judge or a writ of mandamus from a federal
court judge -- I mean, Chris, there are hundreds of thousands of lawsuits
that are filed annually across the United States of America--
MATTHEWS: I know. I just want to know--
BROOKS: -- as a way for people to resolve--
MATTHEWS: -- if you`re being fair here.
BROOKS: -- disputes -- it`s a way for people--
MATTHEWS: You`re saying that this is a precedent--
BROOKS: -- to resolve disputes in a peaceful fashion.
BROOKS: And this is a way for a very important issue to be resolved in a
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we`ll see. Let me go over to Jim Clyburn.
Congressman Clyburn, thank you for joining us. And give me your sense of
what you think the motive is because I find this very narrow here. When
you`re going after the president`s ways of implementing a law, whether it`s
his law or it`s his predecessor`s law, it`s a question of executive
management. How do you best do it?
And the irony here is this is pro-business. Republicans never liked the
employer mandate, and here`s the president`s charged, he`s being sued in
civil court, basically, for having done what the Republicans would love to
have done, which is to put off the employer mandate. I just think it`s
being done in a partisan fashion. Your view.
REP. JIM CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you so much for having
me, Chris. You are exactly right. You may recall that the Republicans
voted more than 50 times at trying to delay or eliminate certain parts of
the Affordable Care Act. And one of the things they wanted to do was to
delay the employer mandate.
And as soon as the president moves to delay it, now they`re suing him for
doing exactly what they suggested that he should do in order to give the
businesses of this country an opportunity to prepare for the implementation
of the act.
Look, this is all about using the discovery process to get a peg upon which
they can hang an impeachment resolution. That`s what this is about. We
all know that. Members are saying it. You know, a couple of the five
members who voted against it say it. They`re all in favor of going
straight to an impeachment resolution. So that`s what`s going on here.
The American people are fed up with this. They want to see--
MATTHEWS: Yes, let me get him--
CLYBURN: -- a fixed immigration system, do something about our crumbling
infrastructure, do something about our children being able to attend
schools of their choice. But here we are, with gamesmanship of a size I`ve
never seen since I`ve been here in the Congress.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Brooks on this. It seems to me
that there were four members of the five who voted against it on your side
who basically have expressed the view, This isn`t strong enough. What do
you say to them? They want impeachment, apparently. I`m talking about
Congressman Brown of Georgia, Congressman Jones of North Carolina,
Congressman Massey of Kentucky and Stockman, of course, no surprise there,
Do you think they`re extremists or do you think that they`re ahead of
schedule? What would do if the president failed to respond to a court
order in this case?
BROOKS: Well, first, I agree with you, Chris, and Congressman Clyburn on
the paradox associated with the nature of this suit on the employer
mandate. I would have much preferred that the litigation be concerning
immigration law and whether the president can unilaterally, contrary to
federal law, give work permits to illegal aliens, which in turn costs
American citizens jobs. That`s where I would have preferred the litigation
to be. But unfortunately, that was not what the House leadership decided
So I think there`s some merit to the paradoxical position of the House now
suing the president, if that is, in fact, what the speaker does, on the
employer mandate issue, when I think that the president is doing the
economy good by delaying that because once it`s implemented, it is going to
have an adverse effect on jobs and the economy. That`s my view, and I
think you agree with that and Congressman Clyburn agrees with that.
MATTHEWS: As a commentator, I think that makes much more sense, although I
may not agree with it, because there you have the president grabbing
legislative power, which is the issue -- what`s he going to issue it under,
the office of the president stationery? I mean, who`s -- what are these
work permits going to say at the top of the fold, "Issued by the president
of the United States"?
Anyway, let`s look at what Congressman John Lewis had to say today on the
floor during this vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: From his first day in office, the
Republicans in the House, in this House, have never supported this
president. Every olive branch he extended was broken! But today, Mr.
Speaker, we have reached a low, a very low point. This resolution to sue
the president just goes a little too far. It is a shame and a disgrace
that we`re here debating the suing of the president. The American people
deserve better. We can do better. We can do much better!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Brooks, a last thought because you just admitted
something, that you much would have preferred to vote for a measure that
dealt with something far more controversial, like the president, if he ever
is going to do something (INAUDIBLE) issue work permits as president of the
United States and the executive -- well, certainly not an executive
function. It would be a legislative issue.
But then you went ahead and voted for it. Is there not a willingness on
the part of your caucus to hit the president whenever they can, whenever
they can, as Congressman Lewis just said, hit him hard?
BROOKS: Well, no. On the Veterans Administration bill, by way of example,
bipartisan, went through the Senate, went through the House, addressed a
very serious issue, and the president, I think, will be on board and will
sign that bill. So I don`t think it`s across the board.
But there are significant policy disagreements between this White House and
House of Representatives and the United States Senate. And you`ve seen
this in perpetuity throughout the history of the United States of America.
When you have these policy disagreements, you have these kinds of vigorous
debates. Ultimately, the people decide in the election process every two
But until then, we have to work our way through our disagreements and do
what we can where we agree and try to work our way through our
MATTHEWS: Mr. Clyburn, how much, do you think, of this is at the person of
the president and not at the issue of the ACA and how it`s been
CLYBURN: I think most of it is directed at the president. The fact of the
matter is, I agree with my colleague. That is the way we resolve issues,
at the ballot box. What is going on here is the failure to defeat this
president at the ballot box is now being substituted with this lawsuit.
This is just an attempt, as John Lewis said, to once again to besmirch, to
destroy the effectiveness of this president because they did not get their
way in the policy discussions. We do that every two years. We don`t go to
the courts and ask the courts to carry on our political battles for us.
I remember very well, right after 2000, when there were a lot of people in
our caucus were saying, Let`s impeach President Bush. Nancy Pelosi said
very forcefully, Impeachment is off the table. Now, let`s go forward.
I would love to see Speaker Boehner speak up and let everybody know that
impeachment is off the table so that we can have the kinds of policy
discussions that my colleague thinks that we ought to be having--
CLYBURN: That is not what`s going on here, and I think the American people
are fed up with it.
BROOKS: While we`re busy in Washington, maybe Congressman Clyburn didn`t
see it, but speaker has said that impeachment is off the table. And I can
assure you there is zero chance. It`s an effort in futility.
BROOKS: If you couldn`t get an impeachment of Bill Clinton when he
committed perjury, there`s no way in the world you`re going to get 67
Democrat -- excuse me, 67 senators--
BROOKS: -- in a Democrat Senate to impeach Barack Obama, no matter what
the charges are. So impeachment--
BROOKS: There`s zero chance of that being brought--
BROOKS: -- forward in the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just to correct--
MATTHEWS: -- Bill Clinton was impeached, he just wasn`t convicted--
CLYBURN: -- only requires a majority of votes of the House--
BROOKS: And there won`t be--
CLYBURN: -- and that`s what`s going on here.
BROOKS: -- and there is no impeachment--
MATTHEWS: -- respect you both for coming on tonight.
BROOKS: -- effort in the House.
MATTHEWS: I respect you both for coming on tonight. Congressman Jim
Clyburn, of course, and Congressman Mo Brooks, thank you for coming on.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
BROOKS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Obama`s sounding like Harry Truman going
after the modern version of the do-nothing Congress. Republicans can`t
pass any bills, but they have time to vote to sue the guy.
Also, that soap opera corruption trial involving former Virginia governor
Bob McDonnell and his wife -- it`s the cuckold defense. They`re
sacrificing the reputation of their marriage to get out of jail or to
prevent from going to jail.
Plus, Republicans say they`ve uncovered e-mails in which the IRS`s Lois
Lerner calls conservatives "crazy," and also words I can`t even use here.
A smoking gun? Hardly. But the right might like to think it is. This is
not good for the IRS person.
And some over the left and right have finally found something to agree on,
they`ve had enough of Sarah Palin. Good argument.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the biggest issue of the past two weeks has been that
influx of undocumented children along the U.S. with Mexico. Now new
polling shows what Americans think should happen to those children. And
there`s overwhelming support for keeping those kids here if they qualify as
political refugees. Sixty-nine percent, that`s 7 in 10 people, in a new
public Religion Research Institute poll say those kids should be treated as
refugees and allowed to stay in this country if authorities determine it
isn`t safe for them to return home. Only a quarter of Americans, 27
percent, say those children should be treated as illegal immigrants and
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. More now on the politics of tonight`s
historic House vote to sue President Obama. What a shattering day this has
Just hours before that, President Obama launched an offensive against the
Republican Party, mocking them for not doing anything -- that`s his phrase,
they don`t do anything -- and rallying up crowds of supporters with that
taunt. Here`s the president today in Kansas City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The main vote that they`ve
scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my
OBAMA: They`re mad because I`m doing my job. And by the way, I`ve told
them -- I said, I`d be happy to do it with you. So the only reason I`m
doing it on my own is because you don`t do anything.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: But if you want, let`s work together. You don`t have time to be
cynical. Hope is a better choice. That`s what I need you for. Thank you
very much, everybody. God bless you!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is getting political. I love that line, They don`t do
anything. What a slam. Anyway, slamming the opposition party for not
doing anything can be a political golden ticket. Back in 1948, that attack
helped turn the race around for Harry Truman`s reelection campaign. Truman
slammed the opposition party that night at the convention for being a do-
nothing Congress. And back then, he was facing obstruction on the issues
that are resonating today, like the minimum wage, that was an issue, and
whether we have a health care plan, that was an issue, and of course, the
economy after World War II.
Here`s Truman in a stunning moment in the 1948 Democratic convention. It`s
the middle of the night. They have no air-conditioning. It`s 100 degrees.
And here he is one couple minutes turning a campaign for president around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY S. TRUMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I set out -- set out a
10-point program for the welfare and benefit of this country. Among other
things, Stand by price control. I got nothing. Congress has still done
My duty as president requires that I use every means within my power to get
the laws the people need on matters of such importance and urgency. I am
therefore calling this Congress back into session on the 26th of July!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was wild, Howard, because what he did was, he thought he
had lost. Everybody thought it. He didn`t think (INAUDIBLE) everybody
thought this guy`s finished. To err is Truman, remember that line? Nobody
remembers it, but it was. And what he did was (INAUDIBLE) Congress is back
home. They`re having fun knocking the hell out of me. I`m calling them
back into Washington by order of the Constitution. And I`m going to make
them pass everything in their planet (ph) -- in their platform. And the
place went nuts.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, I think -- I think--
MATTHEWS: And he won!
MATTHEWS: Big upset.
FINEMAN: Well, ironically enough, or appropriately enough, President Obama
was in Kansas City today.
FINEMAN: So if you want to draw the Truman connection there--
MATTHEWS: Hence my thinking of Truman!
FINEMAN: Well, ironically enough, or appropriately enough, President Obama
was in Kansas City today.
FINEMAN: So, if you want to draw the Truman connection there, that was--
MATTHEWS: Hence my thinking of Truman.
FINEMAN: And he was, I think, doing the best that the president can do now
by way of a political argument, which is that, I want to do things for you.
And he ticks them off in that speech.
He talks about education, he talks about student loans, he talks about all
of the things that are appealing to his voters and to swing voters and
says, I want to do them. These guys want to do nothing except play
politics. I thought his best line was, hope is better than cynicism. I
think the Republicans may have overshot the mark here.
They have plenty of things to--
MATTHEWS: Freezing the ball.
FINEMAN: They have plenty of -- they have plenty of things to motivate
their base, immigration, the IRS, Obamacare, you name it.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
FINEMAN: But this argument to try to go after him illegally, with the
ridiculous, legally ridiculous case, the guy--
MATTHEWS: The suing.
FINEMAN: The congressman from Alabama was talking about writs of mandamus
and declaratory judgments.
I will save you the research and tell you those have nothing to do with
what they are doing.
MATTHEWS: -- pretty much say he didn`t think this was the right place to
hit him anyway.
CORN: Howard is right. The Republicans -- the Republican base is already
tremendous motivated by hatred of Obama.
MATTHEWS: How about hatred of sloths and slugs?
CORN: Of government, whatever it is. That hatred is there. It will move
them to the polls. They can`t vote against him, but they can vote against
Democrats. They can`t do much to rev that up more than it is.
But what they`re doing is they`re creating what I call a Jay Leno issue,
maybe a Jimmy Fallon issue now, which is something that will become a joke
that enough people will see. A lot of people in America don`t pay
MATTHEWS: What are you talking about, the fact they`re doing nothing or
they`re suing him?
CORN: Suing him. The fact that he`s -- the fact that they are suing him
will become a great punchline.
And people, the few independent voters out there or people who may not be
paying attention, they will get that. It will sound silly and absurd to
MATTHEWS: I have a theory. I have a theory they are already absurd.
And I have a theory of this. When you go into the Department of Motor
Vehicles and you`re waiting in line, it may be three hours, are you really
happy with the guy who seems to be in the back all the time, the guy that
never comes out? And there`s one guy working there. You get a little
ticked at the do-nothing political or government officials.
I think that`s what Obama is working on. These are what they used to call
in Philly the drones, the ones that work in city hall but never do
FINEMAN: By the way, by the way, Chris, in this year, when everybody is so
disgusted with Washington, the president has the chance to hang that
emotion on the Republicans for pulling this kind of thing.
And Republican incumbent -- Republicans are incumbents too. And there are
people who are going to be endangered by--
MATTHEWS: Why did they all roll in line? Why did they all go -- even this
fine gentleman we just had on, Mr. Brooks from Missouri, he didn`t seem he
was very happy with the letter of this law -- from Alabama. Why did he do
FINEMAN: I think he did it because he`s in Alabama and because the Tea
Party people are going to be out there.
MATTHEWS: So, he is a liberal if he doesn`t vote for it.
FINEMAN: They would primary him if he didn`t.
CORN: Yes, they can`t -- anything that`s posed as being against Barack
Obama, they can`t vote against. Republicans, you can`t even have a debate
You know, the only ones who can are the ones who say, this isn`t strong
MATTHEWS: So, if they get to impeachment, that`s what I`m questioning,
because Jim Clyburn, who I respect immensely, was just on, the leader, and
he said, if they get to that, he is implying that they will go, because
they will be afraid to hold back.
CORN: That is a very interesting question. I have to believe that John
Boehner doesn`t want to reach that point. But if he can`t--
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t.
CORN: If he can`t hold back the floodwaters, what happens with that vote?
FINEMAN: Believe me, he won`t stand in the way of it.
And let me tell you something else, Chris. I think the other thing they
are doing here, they think they are being smart by putting the predicate
out here of this lawsuit. And then they are going to--
MATTHEWS: As an alternative.
FINEMAN: Wait a minute. Then they are going to dare the president to do
what everyone thinks he is going to do on immigration. That`s take
executive action on immigration.
And then they will put the two together and they`re going to turn it into
an impeachment on immigration which, for them and their people--
MATTHEWS: That`s what they want.
FINEMAN: That`s what they want.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, I don`t think--
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he could issue work permits by the White House.
CORN: A 20-year mistake for them politically.
MATTHEWS: He shouldn`t take the bait.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you. We`re into hot territory
here, David Corn.
Up next, Jimmy Fallon`s pros and cons of a Joe Biden presidency. That`s
ahead in the "Sideshow." A little mirth.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."
Well, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said this week that
she is launching a subscription-based news service online, one in which she
says she will talk directly to you she says on her own terms. Well, that`s
strange. I thought we have already been getting a hundred proof Palin all
But she has already found at least one new subscriber. That`s Stephen
Colbert. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": This is all part of Sarah`s
continuing mission to protect our freedoms at any cost. Specifically,
$9.95 a month.
COLBERT: Sure, that`s more than Netflix. But it`s just as good as "House
of Cards" with even more threatening monologues into camera.
COLBERT: It`s a safe space where like-minded folks can hear things they
already agree with from someone whose poi they already know.
COLBERT: A place where we Palin-heads can gather and ask the important
questions. Among the most popular apparently is, what is your cancellation
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: Because we Palin fans want to be just like her and quit halfway
through our commitment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator John McCain`s daughter Meghan had a different
reaction yesterday -- quote -- I love this -- "I`m not going to subscribe.
I got all my Sarah Palin that I need for one lifetime."
Well, not me. I want to hear the loudest voice always in the clown car.
Next up, some members of Congress and their staff have been temporarily
banned from editing pages on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia after
suspicious edits were made to several high-profile entries on the site.
While the changes were made anonymously over the past several weeks, the
source of the mischief was traced back to several government-owned
computers up on Capitol Hill here in Washington.
But the final straw was an edit made to the page for former Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld, defining him as an alien lizard, an alien lizard.
Here is the quote as it appeared on the Wikipedia page. "Rumsfeld has
refused to answer directly as to whether or not he is in fact an alien
lizard who eats Mexican babies."
MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally, Jimmy Fallon played political pundit last night
in evaluating the pros and cons of a Joe Biden presidency should the vice
president decide to run in 2016. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": He hasn`t
announced anything yet, but there is speculation he might run for president
Let`s take a look at the pros and cons of a Joe Biden presidency.
Here we go. Pro, he will no longer be number two.
FALLON: Con, he will still giggle when you say number two.
FALLON: Pro, for his secretary of state, he will pick someone who is
fluent in several languages and well-traveled. Con, Dora the Explorer.
FALLON: Pro, Biden has already spent hours in the Oval Office. Con,
mostly spinning around in President Obama`s chair. Get up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FALLON: And one more thing. If you`re near New York City, try catching
"Strictly Dishonorable," the Preston Sturges play at The Flea Theater down
in Tribeca. It`s getting great reviews, including those for our son
Up next, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife are on trial
for corruption. Their defense? That she took the gifts so she could spend
time with the fat cat who gave them. The latest on the soap opera strategy
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
The U.N. secretary-general says the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza
earlier today is unjustifiable. At least 17 people were killed in that
attack. Israel says its soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds from that
area and they returned fire.
The House has passed a $17 billion deal to address delays in health care at
And the Peace Corps is pulling volunteers out of three West African
countries amid the largest Ebola outbreak if history. Two volunteers are
reportedly in isolation after coming into contact with a person who later
died from that virus -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
What do you do when you`re a lawyer and your client, an elected official, a
big one, is accused of taking gifts, along with his family taking gifts
from a businessman who is out there seeking influence? Well, the damning
pictures like this have been introduced into evidence of you, your client
actually, behind the wheel of the said businessman`s Ferrari convertible,
which he`d loaned your client.
What do you do? Well, you come out with a totally different narrative, of
course. That`s what lawyers for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and
his wife have done. This blaring "Washington Post" front-page today
headline says it all. "McDonnell Defense Tells of Broken Marriage, Ex-
Virginia First Lady`s Crush," that`s the word, "on Wealthy Benefactor
Well, have you heard of the Twinkie defense. This will be the soap opera
defense. The strategy unveiled yesterday stunned political reporters in
the courtroom. This will no doubt be a humiliating trial for the
McDonnells. Let`s face it, they have brought the humiliation on
"The Washington Post" reports that Maureen McDonnell`s attorney said a
former staff member referred to businessman Jonnie Williams as the former
first lady`s favorite playmate. Robert McDonnell`s attorney said Maureen
McDonnell, his wife, told her husband, told him that she hated him. And
the attorney said former Governor McDonnell would read aloud to jurors an
intimate e-mail in which he appealed to his wife to "help save the
Well, late today, the prosecution`s key witness, business Jonnie Williams,
who is basically the prosecution witness, took the stand. A reporter from
NBC`s Richmond affiliate tweets "Jonnie Williams on why he loaned Virginia
politicians his plane." "You want to have access to these guys, and the
plane gets you that."
Robert McCartney of "The Washington Post" was in the courtroom, in the
front row actually yesterday. Clarence Page is a columnist for "The
MATTHEWS: Very used to front-page stories.
Let me ask you about it. What did you think when you were sitting in that
courtroom reporting on this and all of a sudden they come out with, my wife
and I aren`t getting along, she has this thing for this fat cat, he has
been giving her all this stuff, but what she really wants to do is spend
time with the guy, that`s why she takes all of the gifts, all the designer
ROBERT MCCARTNEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It was stunning.
No one -- we had sort of heard some rumors that this might be coming, that
this might be their defense, that she had sort of romantic inclinations for
Jonnie Williams Sr. But to have it be such a central part of the defense,
basically, the marriage was broken, so how could they have conspired to
subvert Virginia and federal law, how could they have communicated to do
that if they weren`t talking to each other, the idea that this thing would
become basically a "Peyton Place," nobody expected that.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, this doesn`t help the image of politicians. We have
Sanford down in South Carolina. Nobody really, really cares. Well, they
do. But they aren`t supposed to care about people`s marital situation.
But here they are coming out with the fact that the marriage isn`t happy.
There is something missing there and that she is finding it in the person
of this guy who is feeding them all the gifts. And now the guy rats them
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": That`s right.
A trial is a competition between dueling narratives. Two stories. You
have a prosecution story which everyone knows now. We have been hearing
all about the gifts, et cetera, et cetera. Now all of a sudden the
McDonnells come up with the opposite narrative saying basic facts, but that
Bob McDonnell insists that he didn`t know his wife was getting all of these
gifts funded by Jonnie Williams, or that his relationship with Jonnie
Williams was just strictly business.
This is -- it`s kind of hard for me to get my mind wrapped around the idea
that his wife bought him a $6,500 Rolex.
MATTHEWS: What is he doing riding around in this Ferrari and what is he
doing with the golf trips?
PAGE: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, a key prosecution witness, Jonnie Williams, the guy who
is ratting them out, to use the term, is not holding back.
A "Washington Post" reporter just tweeted late today -- quote -- "Jonnie
Williams on his April 2011 NYC, New York City, $20,000 shopping trip with
Maureen McDonnell. It went on for hours. She was happy."
Robert, this is really a gushing, pathetic story, because to play defense
to basically to sacrifice their reputations.
I think that McDonnell is willing to sacrifice his personal reputation,
that is -- and that of his wife, basically, in order to save his political
and professional reputation. I think it is very important to him that he
be found innocent on this. He could have had a deal and he turned it down
that would have--
MATTHEWS: What did they offer?
MCCARTNEY: Well, the reports are, which I believe, that they offered that
he would not have to plead guilty to corruption, but that he would have to
plead guilty to making a false statement to a bank. So it would be one
felony. It would be a felony, but it would just be one.
MATTHEWS: Would that mean jail time?
MCCARTNEY: They probably could have -- I`m not sure if it would have been
jail time. It could have been. But she would have walked. And they
turned that down. The reports are that he turned that down. It`s very
important to him--
MATTHEWS: What is he facing right now?
MCCARTNEY: Oh, he`s facing decades if he is convicted on all counts. It`s
14 counts of 14 felonies.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, I have distance from this. You have a bit of distance
from this case.
I always thought he was clean as a whistle.
MATTHEWS: I thought this guy was a conservative, a traditional
conservative on family values. He`s Roman Catholic, but he`s very much
tied in with the evangelical culture.
PAGE: -- happy too.
MATTHEWS: Well, I had seen them at Mount Vernon one time, an evening
together with them at some big event my wife was involved with. And I
thought they were all right.
You never know what is going on in a marriage. But it`s so fascinating
that a politician now is copping a plea based on not infidelity, but lack
of love. This is so intimate.
PAGE: I think that he is a -- he is a politician, he is a former attorney
general, he`s a lawyer, he thinks -- he has got that little impulse that
says, I can talk my way out of anything. I can get on the stand and
persuade that jury that I`m clean as a whistle and that Johnny William is
the guy that`s the dirty rat here.
Will the jury buy it? That`s the real question. That`s the question we
always ask in this kind of cases. You know, we will have to wait and see
MATTHEWS: Well, your reporting brings up a couple of problems. They`re
not exactly exculpatory. He claims he was not benefitting from this guy`s
largesse, the guy who gave all these gifts to McDonnell`s wife. But the
governor himself, seen riding around in this Ferrari. What does he need a
Ferrari for? His wife is in the car, maybe a gift to her or a loan to her
and he has to be the driver.
MCCARTNEY: He got to drive the Ferrari from this vacation home that`s
owned by Johnny Williams, back to Richmond. It was fun that he got to
drive it. And then they tried to claim that he was doing a favor to
Williams by returning it to Richmond for him. But that turns out to be
But the real -- the Ferrari is, you know, only a small part of this.
MATTHEWS: What else did he take?
MCCARTNEY: The big thing that he took, that they both took, was $120,000
in sweetheart loans to basically bail them out for beach front property. I
don`t know if it was beach front, but beach property that was under water.
They bought it at the height of the market, it dropped in value and he
couldn`t cover the loan. And he gave them $120,000 in loans to make up for
MATTHEWS: You know what strikes me is the old trouble in politics. They
make a moderate income, not a bad income, but a moderate income. And then,
they want it all.
PAGE: Yes. And that brings down so many of them, you know? It`s a
strange kind of hubris that happens. Like you said, with Bob McDonnell, he
seems to be more disciplined and focus than that. But he is now in this
mess. And the question is, can he get out of it?
MATTHEWS: How many times you deal with politicians that take gifts from
friends. These guys are discovered them when they are governor and start
giving them stuff, and it`s hard for a person to say no, I can`t take that.
I can`t take the baseball tickets. I can`t take the final four tickets. I
can`t take -- I can`t take the loan of the house for the weekend.
Especially when your spouse says, when are we going to have some fun?
PAGE: Yes. And now, he`s painting that as part of this counter-narrative
now that he was so busy with his job that he couldn`t give his wife enough
attention and that`s why she began to roam off to this relationship with
this buddy on the side, who happens to be funding or financing.
MATTHEWS: Once again, I have a difficult view of criminal lawyers. What
they`re willing to say to get somebody off. To me, he doesn`t really
operating like an officer of the court. But then that`s my view. Thank
MCCARTNEY: We`ll see if it works.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a cold view.
Robert McCartney, thanks for joining us, and Clarence Page.
This is a big trial in Washington here. Big story. Washington really is
Up next, newly released e-mails from IRS official Lois Lerner show her
talking trash about the right wing. This is going to be a problem for the
liberals. But is it a smoking gun? Republicans are certainly looking for
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: One more note on the corruption trial of Bob McDonnell and his
wife. At the end of court today, the key prosecution witness, businessman
Johnny Williams, testified that the governor must have been aware of his
lavish gifts to the first lady. Reporter Ryan Nobles of our NBC station in
Richmond tweets, Williams said McDonnell knew about money to Maureen,
quote, "He`s the breadwinner and I am not writing his wife any checks
without him knowing it."
Johnny Williams will be back on the stand tomorrow.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Republicans hope they have found a game-changer in the investigation into
whether the IRS unlawfully targeted conservative groups. House Ways and
Means Chairman Dave Camp today released an e-mail exchange between Lois
Lerner and an unnamed acquaintance in which Lerner engages in what you
might call trash talk about some of those on the right wing.
The exchange took place in November of 2012 when Lerner was apparently
traveling in Great Britain. She writes about women she overheard over
there talking about America`s decline due to the country`s growing national
Well, anyway, the person Lerner was e-mailing with respond to some on the
right are saying the same thing. Quote, "Well, you should hear the wacko
wing of the GOP. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to."
Lerner writes back, quote, "Great, maybe we are through if there are that
many," you can see the bad word there.
Then the other e-mailer says, "I`m talking about host of the shows.
Callers are rabid." Anyway, Lerner responds, "So we don`t need to worry
about alien terrorists. It`s our own crazies that will take us down."
Well, in a letter to Eric Holder requesting the appointment of a special
counsel, Congressman Camp writes, quote, "The e-mail exchange demonstrates
Ms. Lerner`s deep animus towards conservatives. This email shows that Ms.
Lerner`s mistreatment of conservative groups was driven by her personal
hostility towards conservatives."
Well, at the very least, it shows this scandal isn`t going away any time
soon. I think this is gasoline on the fire.
Anyway, Kasie Hunt is an NBC News political reporter. And Sam Stein is the
political editor of "The Huffington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.
Sam, I want to start with you about the depth of this whole thing. If you
put this together with some other things, first of all, the fact that a lot
of these e-mails are missing, that they just went missing like the thing,
that Rosemary Woods back in Watergate days, all of a sudden, something is
missing that everybody is looking for. Put it together with the
conversation that was exposed in April which talks about -- her talking
about having a desire to get a job with this pro-Obama group Organizing for
Action, their D.C. office, it does expose, nothing with the White House but
it does compose her politics which are against the hard right.
And I think, you work in Washington, Kasie works in Washington, it isn`t a
big shock that a liberal works for the government, who may have no contact
whatever with the politicians in the White House.
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, yes, I think there`s two separate
things here. One, was Lois Lerner a partisan in what should be a
nonpartisan job? And all of these instances, all of these antidotes, the
evidence that`s been revealed, and including the disappearing e-mails
suggest that something`s fishy here, that she had animus towards
conservatives. And, you know, I think that`s a legitimate gripe for
Republicans in Congress to bring up.
The second issue is, does the targeting of conservative groups connect back
to the Obama White House or the Obama campaign? At this juncture, there
hasn`t been evidence to tie the two together. Now, you can say, well,
there`s all these disappeared e-mails, perhaps it`s in there.
But the facts that we know now don`t point to an obvious connection. So,
you have to keep these two things separate. But clearly, this revelation
of an email is really embarrassing for Lerner and for her lawyers.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about if you are going to make the skeptical
argument, that she may not had contacts with the White House, but she had
ambitions to become active, to change employment and go work for some pro-
Obama group, Organizing for Action, because she already said, maybe they
have a Washington office in this e-mail, could you say her ambition was to
join politically with the president`s people? And would that be criminal?
STEIN: You could make that jump. I don`t think it would be criminal per
se. But you can make the jump.
STEIN: The question, though, is from all the evidence that we found, from
these be on the lookout lists. Was there a concerted effort driven by the
White House, to target conservatives looking for tax exempt status? At
this juncture, all we know is that conservative groups were targeted more
frequently than progressive groups. A lot of them got denied as opposed to
progressive groups the tax exempt status.
But we haven`t put two and two together that the White House was behind us.
MATTHEWS: Kasie, I know you`re a straight reporter, but I`m going to ask
you to do an analysis here. Could it be they don`t have to hit a home run
here? They could hit a triple by proving there was thinking, going over to
the IRS, that it was politically motivated, it was run by liberals who are
out to screw the conservatives. They don`t have to prove any connection
necessarily to have scored here.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: This is a scandal of drip drip drip, one little
thing at a time. And you`re seeing committees up here do that, prosecute
this sort of day by day by day, and considering all of these piles of
evidence that we`re starting to see come out, the things that make this a
little bit fishy as Sam was talking about, this disappeared, melted down
hard drive -- all of this contributes to this idea that there is something
not right here. And the point at which this weighs and means committee
request is jumping off from, is the idea that she denied conservative
groups due process under the law. That`s what they`re criminally
suggesting that she is responsible for doing, and that these e-mails
contribute directly to that body of evidence.
So, they have the bonus of being very easily written into headlines, to
have them say, you know, Lois Lerner`s calls GOP crazy and uses a word that
I won`t repeat here. I mean, that`s a straightforward and direct way to
get at the root of this scandal which has otherwise been pretty diffuse and
hard to grapple with, if you will.
MATTHEWS: Well, Sam, if this story stops right now, and it`s not going to
stop right now, the fact is, she took the Fifth, which is always not
incriminating. It shouldn`t be. But it does suggest she has things she`d
rather not talk about under oath.
And then you get to the fact she was willing to talk on e-mail very
compellingly about her political views, even at the point as I pointed out
this April, it came out, that she was actually eyeballing a job with a pro-
Obama group, I don`t know, and the fact that this Rosemary Woods thing, I`m
recalling it that because that was a famous tag on what Nixon`s secretary
did when she reached 18 feet across the room to put her foot on the pedal
to kill that stuff. That was the most hilarious political cartoons ever.
This was physically impossible to accidentally erase all this stuff.
But do we know anything further about what Kasie called the melted down e-
mail? Hard drive information?
STEIN: What we know is that there were several IRS staffers who
experienced this. Now, it could be coincidental. It could be a
conspiracy. Obviously, each side alleges the exact opposite. But I would
guess or I would gather that Lois Lerner would do herself probably some
good if she reversed her decision at this juncture to not testify.
There`s been so much suspicion heft on her by this drip, drip, drip of
evidence, by the melted down hard drive, by the willingness to evoke the
Fifth Amendment, that at this juncture -- and I`m not a lawyer, but at this
juncture, in terms of public relations, I think it would do some good to
sit before the congressional investigators and explain exactly what she
MATTHEWS: Yes, unfortunately she will be sitting before people who will
focus on what we`re talking about. And they wouldn`t exactly create a
forum for her to explain herself. They would ask her to basically accept
STEIN: It would be a bipartisan forum, right?
HUNT: It would be. And I`m just trying to say, Chris, you know, this is
the Ways and Means Committee that`s releasing this. We`ve seen sort of
competing investigations going on up here in Capitol Hill. Darrell Issa
with the Oversight Committee. Dave Camp with the Ways and Means Committee.
I would say that the Ways and Means Committee has been a measure calmer in
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s certainly the image I have of David Camp, the
chairman, I don`t think of him as any kind of wing nut at all.
Anyway, that`s not a derogatory comment. You`re not a wing nut. But I
think he`s a straight Republican.
Anyway, thank you, Kasie Hunt, and thank you, Sam Stein.
We`ll be right back.
STEIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a positive and impressive push began
today by Rand Paul and Cory Booker, two senators, one a Republican from
Kentucky, one a Democrat from New Jersey, who are not stuck in the old
partisan positions, but are out there trying to do something, which means
freedom and opportunity in the hearts of people who really need a second
Basically, you want to put a statute of limitations on how long you endure
punishment for nonviolent crimes, many of which were permitted in a
person`s youth. It allows ex-convicts to have their criminal record
expunge, treated by laws that they never incurred, if they meet certain
requirements. And this would remove a powerful stumbling block to getting
a job and changing their life. It would give hope that even bad conduct
does not have to carry a lifelong stigma, a lifelong inability to return to
work in our society.
Quote, "The biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our
country is a criminal record," Senator Paul. That`s what he`s arguing,
quote, "People can`t get a job because they have to check off a box saying
they`re felons. I want people to work."
Well, sometimes it takes a cold warrior like Richard Nixon to open the door
to China. Here, it may take a libertarian to do the same for criminal
justice. By the way, I want to congratulate my colleague Ari Melber for
doing some great reporting on this topic here on MSNBC. It`s a great cause
and a great issue.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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