Date: November 24, 2014
Guest: Joshua Dubois, Val Demings, Marq Claxton, Michelle Bernard, Val
Demings, Joshua DuBois, Ryan Reilly
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Decision day in Ferguson.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews. More than
three months after an unarmed black teenager was shot by a white police
officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a grand jury has now decided whether that
officer should face charges, and we expect to know that decision very soon.
The prosecutor says the decision will be announced at 9:00 o`clock Eastern
time, just two hours from now.
And moments ago, Missouri governor Jay Nixon called for tolerance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Later this evening, the St. Louis
County prosecutor will announce the grand jury`s decision. While none of
us knows what that will be, our shared hope and expectation is that
regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual
respect and restraint. Together, we are all focused on making sure the
necessary resources are at hand to protect lives, protect property, and
protect free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And joining me on the ground from the Justice Center in
Clayton, Missouri, right now is MSNBC reporter Trymaine Lee, and also
joining me, NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloom, and Marq Claxton, director
of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. And also with us by phone is
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who represents the Kansas City area and also
parts of central Missouri.
So Trymaine, let me start with you on the ground. We just heard the
press conference moments ago from the governor, from other officials. What
is the mood where you are right now as the crowd there and really everybody
across the country awaits this announcement at 9:00 o`clock?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Here -- we`re outside the
courthouse in Clayton, and it`s pretty calm here as people are awaiting
this announcement in about two hours. But just about 10 miles from here in
Ferguson, people are already gathered. There are reports of helicopters
flying around. I actually heard one a few minutes ago, whether it be a
police helicopter or news helicopter.
But folks are anxiously awaiting this announcement because it will
inevitably spark some sort of demonstration, whether it`s -- whether
there`s an indictment or a non-indictment. And so folks plan on using this
opportunity, especially with the holiday weekend coming up, to make sure
they continue to get out there and push for -- not just calls for justice
for Mike Brown, but others who have been -- but -- sorry...
KORNACKI: Go ahead. Trymaine, can you still hear me, Trymaine?
LEE: I can hear you. I`m back.
KORNACKI: Let me -- let me ask you a question about the timing on all
this because I think some people are scratching their heads. When there
were demonstrations this summer, protests this summer, to the extent that
there was -- that there was trouble with those protests, it seemed to come
later at night. The fact that this decision to announce this has been held
off until 9:00 o`clock Eastern -- that`s 8:00 o`clock local time out there,
I think has a lot of people saying, Why not wait until tomorrow morning?
Why not do it earlier in the day today?
Was that addressed at the press conference we just heard?
LEE: It wasn`t really. Governor Nixon said that it was actually up
to the grand jury.
But we need to keep a few things clear. While there was some
violence, I think people have this perception that, you know, the crowd of
500 or 600 turned on police or turned on property, and that never actually
happened. Now, to the point that later at night, into the early morning,
there were some problems, on those two days of looting, where police kind
of stood back and allowed the crowd to do what they wanted, there were some
And so whether or not we`ll see a repeat of what we saw in August is
yet to be seen, but those hot fire (ph) days of August were kind of spawned
organically. I mean, the days after Michael Brown was killed, folks poured
out of those apartment complexes that kind of line West Florissant road.
Now this is a different situation. There have been months -- three-
and-a-half months have gone by. People have gotten a little more
organized. It`s yet to be seen whether or not we`ll see the same kind of
spontaneous combustion that we saw before.
But organizers are hoping that those who have gone through all this
civil disobedience training, those who are committed to the causes, those
who have joined other organizations, will, indeed, take to the streets
again one way or the other.
But now we`re just two hours away. We`ll see how folks respond.
KORNACKI: All right, Lisa Bloom, let`s just go through the range of
possible charges here against Officer Wilson. It`s a wide range of
possibilities, starting with first degree murder. That`s charged when the
suspect, quote, "knowingly causes death after deliberation." Penalty then
is death or life in prison.
There`s also second degree murder, which covers, quote, "knowingly
causing the death of another person but without prior deliberation." That
carries 10 to 30 years in prison. There`s also a charge of voluntary
manslaughter, which would cover, quote, "sudden passion arising from
adequate cause," carries a penalty of 5 to 15 years in jail. Involuntary
manslaughter first degree -- that`s for recklessly causing a death, carries
a maximum penalty of 7 years in jail. And finally, there`s involuntary
manslaughter second degree. That covers criminal negligence, carries a
maximum penalty of 4 years in jail, obviously, also no charges at all a
But Lisa, when you look at that range of possible charges, is there a
sense, is there an expectation, if the grand jury were to return an
indictment, where in that list the charges would fall?
LISA BLOOM, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: I would say second degree murder or
voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. You know, this case has never been
a whodunnit. We all know that Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown.
He picked up the gun, he pointed it at Mike Brown, he pulled the trigger
intentionally. So he killed him intentionally.
The only question is why? Did he do it in defense of himself or in
defense of another? We know that there was a skirmish at the car, that
Mike Brown then pulled away and ran a substantial distance away. Six
witnesses have said that Mike Brown was then shot with his hands up.
Darren Wilson is accountable for every bullet that he fired out of his
gun. Did he fire those final fatal shots in anger, in hostility because of
an emotional disturbance? If so, that would be murder or manslaughter. Or
did he do it because he was afraid for himself or afraid for another?
That`s something that he would have had to persuade the grand jury to get a
KORNACKI: Let me bring Congressman Cleaver to this. Obviously,
Congressman, you represent a different part of Missouri, sort of more the
western part we`re talking about, St. Louis area here. But obviously, this
is your home state. This is your -- this is your home region.
When you`re looking at the crowds gathering in Ferguson, to a lesser
extent at the courthouse here about 10 miles away, just -- I`m curious what
you`re thinking right now and what you`re expecting to see tonight.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI (via telephone): Well, I was in
Ferguson a week ago. And I think one of the things that has to be
emphasized over and over again, and that is that there are a lot of very
educated, very socially minded young people who have gone through all kinds
of training in order to present their case through direct action, through
non-violent direct action, in a way that delivers the message and as
clearly as possible, and that is that they are angry over the fact that we
have not only Michael Brown who has been gunned down, an unarmed African-
American teenager, but it`s happened repeatedly. We just had one yesterday
in Cleveland with a 12-year-old shot and killed with a toy gun.
But one of the things that I think that needs (INAUDIBLE) I think it`s
been somewhat left out of the discussion, and that is, no matter what the
grand jury does tonight, the FBI and the Justice Department are, in fact,
conducting a parallel investigation. So a grand jury doesn`t mean that
this police officer won`t be indicted. It means that the grand jury is not
going to indict.
Now, the prosecutor doesn`t need a grand jury in order to indict. The
FBI doesn`t need the grand jury in order to present information or evidence
to the Justice Department for an indictment. So this is not necessarily
the end, no matter what the grand jury does tonight, whether they say --
issue a "no true bill," which means that they will not recommend
indictment, or if they say that it`s involuntary manslaughter, which is
probably the only charge, I think, they would probably do.
KORNACKI: Congressman, also, I`m curious of your response to -- we
just heard the press conference from the governor. Even before tonight,
the governor had already called up a state of emergency. In terms of the
preparations, in terms of the public statements that governor`s made, how
he handled himself tonight, how he has prepared the government in Missouri
for the decision tonight, what is your assessment of that?
CLEAVER: Well, I would have preferred that the governor not
necessarily called out the National Guard. However, it`s difficult to know
exactly what to do if you`re in the governor`s seat. And so I think he`s
looking at, you know, the possibility that something could go wrong,
something could go badly wrong, and he would end up being blamed.
Now, I think the governor`s comments tonight -- I would like to have
been involved in helping him or his staff craft what he said because I
think one of the things that is extremely important, and it is that young
people understand that their pain is not wrong. And so we need to let them
know not only that we understand their pain, but I think all decent
Americans, black or white or brown, should also feel the pain of a family
and a community of a young 18-year-old kid shot down.
And so I think, you know, if I had been involved in the drafting of
his comments, it would have been along the lines that, Look, I understand
you`re hurt. I understand that there`s a litany of these kinds of things
happening around the country, and we got to make sure that we deal with law
enforcement at the same time that we deal with the anger that young people
KORNACKI: Marq Claxton, let me ask you -- there`s been a lot of
attention, obviously, from the president of the United States, President
Obama, on down to making sure, to making statements in advance of this
decision tonight, trying to emphasize to the protesters not to turn violent
in any way. Obviously, everybody wants to avoid that.
From a law enforcement perspective, though, I wonder, how would you
draw the line and how does law enforcement draw a line between actions that
are designed to prevent violence from happening and actions that end up
almost encouraging that kind of response?
MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, it`s very
difficult, and it`s a very thin line oftentimes. But let`s be clear about
something. You`re talking about law enforcement professionals, who are
supposedly well trained to address and deal with these type of situations
and just as importantly, they`re paid to address these situations.
Law enforcement is there, and they don`t get paid for what they do,
they get paid for what they may have to do one day. And this is one of the
difficult positions they`re going to be put in tonight. But there should
be no over-concern about law enforcement`s perspective on this.
What should concern folk is the priorities of the local government
there in St. Louis. It appears to me quite clearly that the priority is
the protection of certain people and certain property over justice. If you
don`t understand the nature of the complaints, of the concern, and of the
passion that people feel, the protesters feel, then you can never
effectively engage and resolve these issues.
KORNACKI: And I wonder, Marq, when you look back to what happened
this summer -- it`s been several months now, and there`s obviously been --
there`s obviously been communication between law enforcement and between
members of the community, between protesters in advance of tonight.
If there`s one key lesson that you hope that law enforcement and local
government could take from the summer, what would it be?
CLAXTON: Well, let`s be clear about something else. This has been
the most inept governmental and police response that I`ve ever witnessed,
perhaps in modern history, definitely as it relates to dealing or
addressing issues of unarmed civilians being shot by the police.
So it`s difficult to find a lesson or something you could take out of
this that is in any way positive. It has been bungled from the very
beginning. It really is a lesson in what not to do when responding to
these types of incidents -- who not to have speak for you, who not to have
It really is a classic case of what not to do, and it should be a
textbook case for police departments, police agencies and law enforcement
agencies throughout the nation of what not to do because this is an
atrocity, what has occurred up until this point. And I`m talking about
both the governmental response, the prosecutor`s response, and the police
response that occurred over the summer.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you to Trymaine Lee, Lisa Bloom, Marq
Claxton and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. Appreciate all of you joining us
And we continue to follow the developments out of Ferguson, and we`ll
be staying with the story throughout this hour as we wait for that
announcement from the grand jury.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE DOOLEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: I do not want people in
this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up
arms. We are not that kind of a community. I do not want people to
accidentally shoot or harm someone out of fear. This is not the time to
turn on each other, it is a time to turn to each other. We are one
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, welcome back to HARDBALL. More now on tonight`s
big story out of Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury has now reached a
decision in the shooting of Michael Brown. That was St. Louis County
executive Charlie Dooley less than an hour ago calling for calm as we await
that grand jury`s announcement, which is set for 9:00 o`clock Eastern time.
The Michael Brown case has exposed deep and profound wounds in a
community that for generations has battled racial inequity, harassment and
prejudice. The lens of that history is how this case is being viewed. The
refrain from those protesting is that they want justice, but they don`t
trust the justice system to carry it out. So what happens now? What
justice are we talking about here?
Amanda Sakuma is a reporter with MSNBC. She is on the ground in
Ferguson. So Amanda, let me ask you that question. I mean, in terms of
defining -- we hear the refrain "Justice," what does that actually mean to
protesters? Is there something -- specifically what would they define as
justice in this case?
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, a number of protesters
are obviously hoping for an indictment for Darren Wilson, but it is still
unclear whether or not -- what the decision will be.
But they`re also calling for justice not just in Mike Brown`s case,
but also for police brutality all across the country. They`re really
taking his case to really stand for a national issue that they want to say
black lives matter. And so they`re taking to the streets already. We`re
seeing small crowds gathered in front of the Ferguson Police Department,
and we expect those numbers to grow within (ph) as night falls.
And as authorities said earlier today, they reiterated that they
wanted peaceful protests, they wanted things to remain calm, but they also
said that they do not want to see any type of damage to property and they
will not allow any type of violence tonight. So we shall see as the night
KORNACKI: All right, thank you, Amanda Sakuma live in Ferguson.
For more now, I`m joined by Michelle Bernard. She`s the president of
the Bernard Center for Women. Joshua Dubois was a special assistant to
President Obama on matters of faith and community partnerships. And Val
Demings was the Orlando police chief.
So Michelle, let me start with you. I mean, on the issue of...
MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Sure.
KORNACKI: ... and we heard from Amanda saying, obviously, protesters
looking for, at the very least, an indictment here. I wonder, is there any
room -- because there`s certainly a possibility that this grand jury is
going to say, You know what? We looked at the evidence, and we don`t think
that there should be an indictment here. We don`t think this officer
should be tried for manslaughter or anything along those lines.
Is there any room here for the community -- for those protesting this
to say, yes, you know, the prosecutor looked at this, the grand jury looked
at this, the evidence is out there, and there`s no room from that
standpoint to proceed? Is there room for that conclusion to be reached by
any of the protesters, do you think?
BERNARD: I think the only way that anyone who`s looking at this
literally and objectively can reach the same conclusion is if we know a
little bit -- actually, a lot more about the facts. There are many people
out there, who I completely disagree with -- I want to say that first --
who have referred to Michael Brown as a thug who got what he had -- who got
what he had coming towards him, all these talks about him somehow, you
know, accosting the police officer, damage to the police officer`s orbital
socket -- that may or may not be true. Honestly, we don`t know yet. We
need to have the evidence.
If this officer actually truly and objectively had reason to believe
that he was in imminent danger or in fear of his life or the fear of others
and that was the reason why he had to shoot someone who had their hands up,
and from some accounts, was running away from him, I think then maybe
people -- you know, maybe people will reach that conclusion.
It`s difficult. We have heard the evidence. We have heard -- I mean,
we have heard -- we don`t know what the grand jury has heard yet. We only
know what we have seen and read from witnesses that day. And at least from
what I have seen from six people, six witnesses who say that Michael Brown
had his hands up in the air and was compliant with the wishes of that
police officer, I don`t know how you can objectively account for all of the
bullets that tore through his body that day.
KORNACKI: Joshua, from the other standpoint on this, then let`s say
if there were to be an indictment tonight, if the grand jury were to come
back and say, yes, we do think a case should be tried on the following
charge, given all of the skepticism about how the prosecutor has handled
this case -- a lot of the protesters don`t feel the prosecutor`s heart has
been in making any kind of a case to the grand jury -- say there`s an
Do you think the protesters would have any trust -- this is the
prosecutor who has got to turn around and try the case, isn`t it?
JOSHUA DUBOIS, FORMER SPIRITUAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I
think it would be a step in the right direction. It certainly would help
to have the evidence brought out into the open in a full and open jury
trial, and for folks to be able to see exactly what facts occurred on the
I think another challenge though is the prosecutor himself. I mean,
as we know, grand juries are almost entirely controlled by the prosecutor.
And this is a man who is so close to law enforcement, he might as well be
coming into work in a blue uniform and a badge. His father, his uncle, his
brother all work for the Saint Louis County Police Department. His
mother`s a clerk for the police department.
There`s a reason why people are skeptical and they`re smelling
something rotten in the state of Missouri.
KORNACKI: So, how could -- Val, from a law enforcement background
here, how in a case like this -- this is going before the grand jury. As
we said, we don`t know yet, and maybe we will eventually find out, but we
don`t know yet exactly what this grand jury has heard.
How -- what would it take to satisfy people on either side of this,
people on any side of this, looking at this who don`t have access to this
kind of evidence? If we don`t get all of the evidence that`s been
presented to the grand jury, is there anything that could ever come out on
this that would satisfy people about, this is what happened?
VAL DEMINGS, FORMER ORLANDO, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: Well, I mean,
you`re absolutely right. We don`t know yet what we don`t know.
And until the evidence is presented, we don`t know what witnesses have
said, we don`t know what the witnesses who corroborate officer Wilson`s --
or corroborate his account of the incident, what don`t know what they said.
We don`t know if the physical evidence supports or disputes his account.
And so we won`t really know. But I do know that the protesters, the
good law-abiding citizens in Ferguson who are protesting, are seeking
justice. And we`re all just waiting to see what the grand jury`s decision
But unless the evidence truly supports the decision, and the people
clearly understand that, I think it`s going to be a long night and a long
time before these citizens will be -- feel better about what has happened
KORNACKI: And, Val, I`m also curious to just ask you about what
Joshua was just saying too about the connection between the prosecutor
McCulloch here, his family, and his sort of personal connection to the law
The idea that that would make it difficult for him to be truly
objective and sort of to remove himself sufficiently to handle a case like
this,. what do you make of that argument? Do you think that`s legitimate,
there`s a conflict of interests there?
DEMINGS: Well, you know, I won`t say there`s a conflict of interests
until we see a conflict of interests there.
We find frequently in law enforcement communities where people are
related to each other, prosecutors are related to police officers. And so
he is the person that was chosen by the county in Ferguson. And we`re just
going to have to see if the suspicions that people have about there being a
conflict of interest really play themselves out tonight.
KORNACKI: And the other issue here then, again, is let`s say if there
was no indictment tonight. There is, as Congressman Cleaver was saying in
the last segment, there`s still the possibility that federal charges could
Michelle, do we -- do we have any sense, do we have any signals? This
is something that the Justice Department, the administration could be
involved in. Do they have any appetite potentially for getting involved in
BERNARD: With the stepping down of Eric Holder some time in the near
future, we don`t know what`s in store for us at the federal level.
And this is part of the problem and I think why you see so many
members of the African-American community, and others, quite frankly,
outraged by what seems to not be happening in Ferguson. It started with
the Jena Six in Louisiana. And I believe back then, there was a petition
that was going around by Color of Change that said that we -- that
basically we could not allow people like the district attorney to turn our
police departments, our police forces and our court systems into basically
instruments of intimidation and oppression.
And it feels like the same thing is happening in Ferguson. And once
again, when we get into this debate about the proper role of government, do
we need a big government, do we need a small government, and we hear people
on the right incessantly talking about states` rights, there are people
that wear my skin every day that say, this is why we don`t want to hear
about states` rights, because over and over and over again, our state
governments show us that the only protection, the only time that there`s
equality of law for people of color is if the federal government has the
opportunity -- opportunity to intervene.
And I am hoping that the Justice Department will intervene in this
case, no matter what happens, because as I have said on this program
before, it feels like there`s been a war on black boys and black men in
this country, and we see it over and over and over again. And Michael
Brown is the latest casualty of that war on black boys.
KORNACKI: All right, Michelle Bernard, Joshua DuBois, Val Demings,
appreciate you all joining us tonight.
And up next, we will go back to Ferguson as we await that decision
from the grand jury.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Anxiety runs high as Ferguson awaits the decision of the grand jury.
Law enforcement there has vowed to facilitate peaceful demonstrations,
hoping to avoid a repeat of what we saw back in August.
Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post has been reporting on the ground
there since August. He`s joins us now from Ferguson.
All right, so, Ryan, obviously, we say law enforcement wants to avoid
a repeat. You were there in August. You`re there now. What`s different?
RYAN REILLY, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, you know, we don`t really
know right now, honestly, because we haven`t seen the massive sort of
demonstration that we saw back in August.
And he response in front of the police -- Ferguson Police Department
in recent days has sort of been varied, depending on who is in charge at
the time. On Saturday night, you actually had a commander I think who was
handling things pretty responsibly and handling -- basically going up to
protesters, talking with them one-on-one, treating them like human beings,
and essentially telling them, you know, they had to get out of the street,
if anyone was blocking it, and allowing them to move out of the street
without taking people into custody.
At the same time, there was another commander down the street who took
a journalist into custody who was actually standing on the sidewalk. And
then the Saint Louis County Police Department put out false information
that he was on the street, despite the fact that everyone saw that he was
clearly on the sidewalk at that point, and there was video sort of proving
So it really depends on exactly who is in charge in different
situations. And the -- the structure has been an issue. It`s not very
clear sometimes who exactly is in command in these various situations. And
because there`s going to be such a large response, that could continue to
be an issue here.
KORNACKI: In terms of the other side of it, there`s law enforcement
and then there`s the protesters. And what I keep hearing is, when you`re
talking about the protesters who are from Ferguson, they are residents, or
they`re from right around Ferguson, that these are people who definitely
want peaceful protests, who are there, who are trying to have cooperation
with law enforcement, to the extent they can, and that the issue comes in
when it`s outsiders who come in and -- and, as we saw over the summer,
maybe come in late at night, change the nature of the protest a little bit,
change the nature of what`s going on a little bit.
Is that an accurate perception ever the dynamic out there? And do you
have a sense -- when we say outsiders, what are we talking about? Where
are these people coming from?
I mean, it`s interesting, because in local media, the term outsiders
is sort of I think overused, because there are just so many municipalities
in North County here. I mean, everyone -- everything is interconnected.
So when you say, oh, someone is out of town, that means a couple of blocks
away. There are so many different tiny municipalities in the area.
But I think there are people who also, you know, do want some sort of
conflict with the police. And that`s often sort of the -- they create
situations to actually make that happen. So, sometimes, the best strategy
might be for police to sit back if nothing`s happening.
And we sort of saw that in Shaw last night, which was largely
peaceful. At one point, there was a colleague of mine, a reporter, who got
hit in the head with perhaps a rock. We aren`t exactly -- aren`t exactly
sure. But for the most part, it was peaceful and basically police went
ahead of the crowd and cleared the streets for them as they made their way
And the protest kept moving. There were a couple of tense moments,
obviously, especially I think probably for people who were trying to make
their way through there and were in cars at the time. But everything went
fine and everything sort of went smoothly. And when -- the issue is
sometimes when police can create a point of conflict that people then run
up to and yell at.
That`s what we have -- what we saw often in front of the Ferguson
Police Department. When the police came out and made their presence known,
every -- all -- a lot of the protesters would then rush over there to sort
of yell at them.
KORNACKI: All right, Ryan Reilly from The Huffington Post live in
Ferguson, thanks for joining us. We appreciate that.
And up next, much more from Ferguson as we await that grand jury
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down after less than two
years in the post. Officials tell NBC News he was forced to resign. He
will stay on until a replacement is confirmed.
A nor`easter is set to hit the East Coast just in time to complicate
Thanksgiving travel. Rain is expected in coastal areas, while a foot of
snow may fall inland and at higher elevations.
Secretary of State John Kerry says progress has been made in nuclear
talks with Iran. Talks on the country`s nuclear program have been extended
by seven months.
And now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: We`re back with more on that breaking news of a grand jury
decision in the Michael Brown shooting.
This weekend, President Obama was asked what his message was for
protesters in Ferguson. And here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, first and
foremost, keep protests peaceful. You know, this is a country that allows
everybody to express their views, but using any event as an excuse for
violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.
QUESTION: Are you worried here?
OBAMA: You know, we saw during the summer the possibility of even
overwhelmingly peaceful crowds being overrun by a few thugs.
What I have done is called Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, to
make sure that he has a plan to respond in a careful and appropriate way to
any potential violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: For more now, we`re joined by MSNBC`s Craig Melvin at the
Justice Center in Clayton.
So, Craig, that message from the president, is that something that has
trickled down and resonated with protesters and, for that matter, with law
enforcement on the ground out there?
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: So far. So far. But, again, it`s
still very early, Steve.
The decision itself has not been announced yet. I think we have seen
some pictures from outside the Ferguson Police Department. The Ferguson
Police Department has been -- has become ground zero, if you will, for
protests here over the past week or two.
This is the scene that we have seen outside that police department now
for a number of days. This is the largest crowd we have also seen in a
number of days, although from this vantage point it`s somewhat difficult to
discern precisely how many of these people are protesters and how many of
these folks are -- are people like me and you, people covering the
But we have seen a number of arrests here. We have not seen any of
those violent clashes, but this is where we have seen the most activity
over the past few weeks. Here`s the thing also, Steve. A number of the
larger protest organizers have said tonight is not going to be the night
when they are out.
A number of the larger protest organizers say they have events planned
for tomorrow and the day after that. We have also learned this afternoon
that Michael Brown`s -- Michael Brown`s parents, no matter the outcome,
apparently not going to be seen or heard from tonight. They`re planning an
event for 11:00 tomorrow morning.
So, right now, so far, largely peaceful. A number of the protest
organizers, law enforcement as well, they have said to me over the past
week or so, they have said, you know, this idea that the streets are going
to look like they did in the days after the Michael Brown shooting, that
notion is a silly one.
So, again, it`s early. The decision hasn`t come down, but there are a
lot of folks on the ground here in Ferguson who contend that there is a
chasm between expectations and what will actually happen here.
KORNACKI: All right, Craig Melvin in Clayton, Missouri, just a few
miles from Ferguson, thanks for joining us.
I`m joined now by the roundtable, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene
Robinson, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief David Corn, and opinion
writer "The Washington Post" Jonathan Capehart. All are MSNBC political
So, Gene, let me start with you in terms of we -- we heard what the
president said a couple days ago in advance of this announcement tonight.
Should we be expecting to hear from the president after this? Do you think
this is something he`s going to be weighing in on in the next few days?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in the next few days
-- it kind of depends on what happens, to tell you the truth, if -- and --
and what the reaction is.
So, you know, the president often, when he wades into these racial
controversies, it seems to raise the temperature, rather than lower it. I
think through no fault of his own, but that`s got to be something that he
has in mind if he decides how to react.
KORNACKI: And, of course, the other question people are asking,
besides, will the president weigh in, or should the president go to
Ferguson? And that`s what was asked -- he was asked that this weekend and
also by George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think it makes sense for to
you go to Ferguson after this decision?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I`m going to
wait and see how the response comes about. But what does make sense is for
-- not just me, but my entire administration, to work with willing partners
at the state and local level to see how we can address some of these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Jonathan Capehart, you know, Gene was just getting into
this a little bit. I mean, when the president has waded into racial
matters, the response has been sort of conflicted, I guess you could say
across the country in terms of what it`s stirred up. The president going
to Ferguson, potentially, if that`s something he were to do, how do you
think that would go over? There`s a question in the community, but also
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it depends on when he
would go. I think Gene is right. It depends on what happens after the
decision, and in the days after the decision. The president made it clear,
as he even said, we`ll have to wait and see.
But I would argue that if the president decides to go to Ferguson, it
has to be just -- it has to be more than just for the photo op. It has --
he has to go to say something real and substantive and concrete. And as I
was saying to Robert, the producer, earlier, that I would argue that the
president give a speech on race akin to the speech he gave in Philadelphia
when his campaign was on the rocks. It was, to me, one of the most
important political speeches I had heard, and certainly one of the best
speeches on race ever delivered in this country.
And given all the things that we have seen come to light as a result
of the shooting of Michael Brown, and as the president said, the systemic
failures that have been revealed in Ferguson, a speech like that from the
president of the United States would be very, very helpful, I think.
KORNACKI: And, David, there`s the question of the speeches and public
appearance. Those sort of gestures the president could make. But the
other question, what would his administration potentially do if there`s no
indictment return tonight in terms of the Justice Department, the FBI
having their investigation, and federal charges potentially being brought?
Is that something, when you look at the history of the Justice Department
and the priorities of this administration, is that something -- do you
think that`s a reasonable expectation that protesters might have, that the
Justice Department might end up getting involved in this?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It might be harder for the Justice
Department to get involved in the particular case involving Michael Brown
and Officer Wilson. The Justice Department under Tom Perez when he was
assistant attorney general for labor rights, who`s now, of course, the
labor secretary, actually set a record number of investigations of abusive
police departments and negotiated a lot of settlements with those
departments to improve their practices. It`s really been one of the great
success stories of Eric Holder`s Justice Department.
So, whether they can come in and do anything with Ferguson, in the
aftermath of, let`s say, things not going well there, I don`t know. But it
is an area in which the whole Justice Department and the Obama
administration have shown a true commitment. So I don`t think that would
go away at the end of this. So, maybe there`s a way to come in and deal
with what the president called the systemic problems at hand.
KORNACKI: And, Gene, we heard earlier from Jay Nixon, from the
governor of Missouri, there`s also been some indications of a little bit of
tension I think between the White House, between the administration, Eric
Holder at the Justice Department, and Jay Nixon over the actions he`s taken
in the run-up to tonight. How serious do you think that is?
ROBINSON: Well, I think there`s tension among all the players,
because Eric Holder is not pleased with Governor Nixon. Governor Nixon did
not seem pleased with the county prosecutor`s decision to release the
decision tonight rather than say in the daytime. He said that`s their
call. So, all these authority figures seem to be on different pages when
it comes to how to orchestrate this, and what to do, frankly. And they may
well be at odds as to the underlying facts and the merits of a case against
And, Jonathan, I guess that`s one of those questions, the state of
emergency that the governor declared, was that -- you could see certainly,
if we had Congressman Cleaver on earlier who was basically saying, look,
it`s maybe not the best thing. On the other hand, if something were to
happen and he hadn`t didn`t have the National Guard, where he hadn`t
declared a state of emergency, he would be responsible for that.
CAPEHART: Well, see, it was the wrong tone. I mean, I don`t argue
with Governor Nixon`s action. But his tone throughout has one that`s been
punitive and lecturing to people who are demonstrating and protesting with
He could have just said, this is a procedural thing, I have to declare
a state of emergency now, so that if something happens, we can have all of
these assets and resources at our fingertips and not have to wait hours or
days when they might be critically needed. I think from the very
beginning, it`s been a problem of tone as much as message coming from
Governor Nixon -- actually, from all the leaders in Missouri.
KORNACKI: All right. Eugene, David, Jonathan, you`re all staying
with us. More on the other side of the break.
We are waiting, again, for the grand jury announcement from Ferguson,
Missouri. But there was also other news today. A big shakeup in President
Obama`s cabinet. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is out. We`re going to get
to that and, obviously, much more from Ferguson, right after this.
KORNACKI: We are back as we await the grand jury decision out of
Ferguson, Missouri. And our roundtable is still with us, Eugene, David and
There`s another major breaking story today. That`s the resignation of
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The president announced the departure
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve known him, admired him and trusted him for nearly a
decade, since I was a grin-behind-the-ears freshman senator and we were
both on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If I -- there`s one thing
I know about Chuck is that he does not make this or any decision lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Hagel also spoke at the ceremony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, OUTGOING DEFENSE SECRETARY: It`s been the greatest
privilege of my life, the greatest privilege of my life to lead in most
important to serve, to serve with the men and women of the Defense
Department and support their families. I am immensely proud of what we`ve
accomplished during this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The sendoff was cordial, but the reality behind the scenes
was reportedly a different story. Senior defense officials tell NBC News
that Hagel was forced to resign. The White House had lost confidence in
him. According to one senior official, quote, "He wasn`t up to the job."
David, even by the standards of Washington, I think this was something
today. You have these two men, Vice President Biden with them, as well,
appearing before the press. Obama`s reading the statement, it sounds like
a Presidential Medal Freedom citation or something. He`s hugging him,
Hagel is tearing up. And then an hour later, all of these voices are
telling the press terrible things about him.
What`s going on?
CORN: It was a very ugly defenestration. And even happened before he
got up there to speak, I think NBC got that quote up there. It was clear
from the beginning in his confirmation hearings made supporters of the
president grimace as he didn`t seem fully prepared to answer some tough
questions from his own colleagues, including, of course, John McCain. And
in the last year, we`ve seen these tremendous crises that the Pentagon has
had to very nimble to respond to, whether it`s ISIS, Ebola, Ukraine to a
And over and over again, reporters in town heard that he really wasn`t
being heard or listened to or part of the significant deliberations in how
to deal with this stuff in the way that Robin Gates had been and even
Hillary Clinton had been when she was secretary of state.
So, it was surprising weeks ago when it seemed he was committed to
staying because, you know, things are kind of only heating up in places.
Of course, this weekend came the news that the president is extending, he
signed a secret order to extend combat missions in Afghanistan. So, it was
no surprise that Chuck Hagel would be asked to leave. But I think it was
surprised how impolite the invitation was.
KORNACKI: Yes, well, just quickly, Gene, does this tell us anything
bigger about the foreign policy administration? Because the idea here was
this was a Republican secretary of defense and a Democratic president, that
there was this sort of realist foreign policy common ground.
Does this tell us anything about ground opening up there?
ROBINSON: Well, it might be a question as to what it means for the
war and Iraq and Syria. And -- because part of one line you were hearing
today was that Chuck Hagel was picked to be, essentially, a peacetime
defense secretary. And what is now needed is a wartime secretary. And
that`s worrisome. Hagel was all over the map in terms of the threats that
Islamic State presented and he was kind of over the top at various points.
However, congenitally, a Vietnam veteran, they were skeptic about the
second Iraq war, George W. Bush`s Iraq war, he was someone who I think we
could have counted onto kind of put on the brakes. And I worry about how
slippery the slope is getting.
KORNACKI: All right. Thank you to Eugene Robinson, David Corn,
Jonathan Capehart. Appreciate all of you being here tonight.
And up next, back to our top story. The grand jury decision in
Ferguson, Missouri. MSNBC`s Chris Hayes will join us from Missouri when we
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are on high alert right now for the grand jury`s announcement on
whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of
My MSNBC colleague Chris Hayes is at the Justice Center in Clayton,
Missouri, tonight, one hour away from that announcement now.
Chris, you`re out there this summer, you`re back out there right now.
I`m just curious, we`re all anticipating this right now. What are you
thinking? What are your thoughts right now an hour before this decision is
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You know, my overriding thought, I think
it`s worth while to take a moment, to take a step back and think about just
how strange and surreal the process has played out since august has been.
County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, a man who many people wanted to either
step aside or for Governor Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor in his
place. He did not step aside. There was no special prosecutor appointed.
He ended up taking charge of this and presenting evidence to a grand
jury. Again, a grand jury, there is no jury empanelled, this is not a
trial, we are not awaiting a verdict. We are awaiting an announcement of a
possible indictment from a grand jury.
And that grand jury process from almost the very beginning has been
highly anomalous. Prosecutors routinely can charge themselves without
going to a grand jury. If and when they do go to a grand jury to get
charges, it is -- there`s the old saying that a prosecutor can indict a ham
sandwich, and that is because the standard of probable cause in the grand
jury is much lower than a trial. It`s also the case that prosecutors
before a grand jury can basically just present their side of the case.
They can present enough of the case to get probable cause and get an
That is not what has played out here. What`s played out here is a
very strange and highly unusual process in which behind closed doors,
meeting once or twice a week over the course of several months, prosecutor
Bob McCulloch says he would present all evidence to the grand jury and
would not advocate a specific charge, and the grand jury essentially would
be left to make that determination for themselves.
Now, that very rarely happens. We know that there`s been a lot of
testimony. We know that Officer Darren Wilson himself, the man who has
been waiting an announcement at this hour about whether he will face trial
or not, that he testified for hours in front of that grand jury. That,
too, is rather anomalous.
And so, what you have now is all eyes now are on Clayton, all eyes are
on the Justice Center behind me where Bob McCulloch, we believe, the
county prosecutor make the announcement, people have an anticipation as if
this were the verdict itself.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, we are one hour away from that
announcement, not of a verdict, as you say, but the decision from the grand
Chris Hayes, live in Clayton, Missouri, thank you for that.
And Chris will be back at the top of the hour as we await that
decision from the grand jury. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being
Our coverage continues now on ALL IN.
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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, November 24th, 2014