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updated 1/13/2014 9:57:17 AM ET 2014-01-13T14:57:17

HARDBALL
January 10, 2014

Guest: Kathleen Matthews

CHRIS MATtide
THEWS, HOST: Sleeping bear.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The big story of Governor
Christie`s two-hour defense yesterday was what he didn`t say.

Why did a governor of his state, a man clearly with his eyes and heart
on the White House, fail to ask anyone, anywhere, any time what the hell
was going on at the George Washington Bridge when traffic stopped for
hours, day after day after day after day, when the Democrats in Trenton
were raising hell, when the media was jumping all over the story, when his
two top guys over at the Port Authority were forced to resign? When all
this was popping on the front page and raging in the nightly news, this big
bear of a politician, this guy who dominates the scene, not once asked what
the hell was happening.

Not only that, he openly and sarcastically refused to ask any
questions. Here he is on December 19th, three months into this donnybrook,
still refusing to act or ask or think to do anything that might alert him,
publicly alert him, to what his people had been up to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You guys all want to keep
chasing it around, chase it around. I mean, it`s your business. But I`m
not running around doing independent investigation. I`m not a prosecutor
anymore, I`m a governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m not going to conduct an investigation.

Well, this is my question, and this is my theory of the whole matter.
I think Governor Christie may have been careful yesterday in laying out a
story that will stand up for him, as narrowly as he defines it. He didn`t
think anything wrong had been done from September on, and when the traffic
jam started up through December, and then he gave his staff a one-hour
window to come clean and went out there and said they were clean.

Well, you have to wonder why this big, boisterous, take-charge guy had
so little interest in knowing what he had to take charge of. And the only
other explanation is that Governor Christie simply didn`t care about the
biggest mess of his political career, didn`t care about the smell of
trouble that had surrounded him, even as he minced his way toward a run for
the country`s highest office.

And that`s an explanation I can`t buy. As I said, I can buy the
explanation that this very political governor, very ambitious governor,
made it his business not to know, not to let people see him knowing what
business his people had gotten themselves into on his behalf.

MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki will be with us in a moment, but let`s start
first with Michael Isikoff. He`s the national investigative correspondent
for NBC News. He joins us from Trenton.

Michael, big picture question. Knowing all you know now, what you`ve
heard, what you can report to us tonight, what is something -- what does
Chris Christie, the governor of that state, got to worry about? What is he
worrying about? Is somebody that`s been hit here hard -- is somebody going
to go public? Are they going get immunity?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right. Excellent questions,
Chris. First of all, we have hundreds of pages of new documents that...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but I want to know...

KORNACKI: ... while there`s no smoking gun...

MATTHEWS: ... what he has to...

KORNACKI: ... here, they do show...

MATTHEWS: ... worry about right now.

ISIKOFF: Right. Yes. What he has to worry about are some really
strong clues that emerged yesterday that David Wildstein, his appointee to
the Port Authority who took the 5th Amendment rather than testify, has got
some bombshells to unload.

At the very end of that testimony -- this got overlooked yesterday --
Wisniewski, the chairman, the Democratic chairman was outlining every --
all the unanswered questions that the committee still has about what
Christie and his people knew and when they knew it.

And then Wildstein`s lawyer says, Well, if my client gets immunity
from the U.S. attorney, from New York authorities and New Jersey
authorities, you`ll get the answers to your questions.

That`s a very subtle hint. We`ve got a story to tell here, but we
need immunity to tell it first. In short, is David Wildstein the John Dean
of this affair?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ISIKOFF: One other clue that got overlooked yesterday. Those
documents that have been turned over by Wildstein, those e-mails, those
incredibly damaging e-mails -- they have all those deletions because the
subpoena only called for documents responsive to the traffic closures, to
the issue at question.

Well, while there are all those deletions, one of the things Wildstein
did include was references to a meeting that was proposed between Christie
and David Samson, Christie`s appointee as chairman of the Port Authority,
in mid-August, just a few days before Bridget Kelly writes that e-mail
saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

So why did he include the references to a meeting between Christie and
Samson in this -- in response to the subpoena? That`s the question. I`ve
been talking to a lot of people here in the statehouse today. That`s a
question they`re asking. That`s something that they`re pointing to that
nobody has really focused on.

MATTHEWS: OK, what have you been able to get out of the documents
that were just dumped on the media?

ISIKOFF: Well, I think what the documents really show is -- just sort
of further underscore what a complete fiasco this was. You have Patrick
Foy, just -- the executive director of the Port Authority, just going
ballistic, talking about the threat to public safety...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ISIKOFF: ... endangering lives, pointing out that -- you know, there
are e-mails from Fort Lee public -- police talking about somebody having a
cardiac arrest, a missing child. The child is later found. But you know,
there were real public safety consequences here.

A couple of other things. This took place the week of the anniversary
of September 11.

MATTHEWS: I know.

ISIKOFF: (INAUDIBLE) pointed out, you know, in terms of the public
safety. And it was also during the week of Yom Kippur. Patrick Foy writes
out, you know, holiest day of the Jewish new year, that this is preventing
people from being -- getting home in time for Yom Kippur.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and also...

ISIKOFF: So there are a lot of...

MATTHEWS: ... that those holidays...

ISIKOFF: ... aspects to this, yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And those days mark very important occurrences for
the enemies of Israel, and of course, the enemies of the United States that
could have used those to attack us.

Thank you, Michael Isikoff. Great reporting from Trenton.

ISIKOFF: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Steve Kornacki is the host of the "Up" weekend -- it`s
called "Up" on weekends. Love it. And here he is right now. You`ve been
so smart on this stuff.

Answer my open question at the beginning, Steve. My theory here is
that this guy, the governor of New Jersey, is very lawyer -- lawyered up in
his own head. He has -- it`s in his DNA, how to protect himself. All
these months since September, when the traffic tie-ups were order by his
staff, he made a point of not talking to them. He says the other day in
his press conference, I only have two reports, my counsel -- which he had
lawyer -- counsel relationship -- a client relationship -- and his chief of
staff.

In other words, I never talked to Bridget Kelly. I never talked to
anybody. I only have to -- he`s cauterized himself and separated himself
completely from any possible criminality by the nature of the way he
described the situation.

But my question is the dog that doesn`t bark. Why through, these four
months, didn`t he ever inquire about what the hell his people were up to?
And the only answer I can come to is he damn well knew they were involved
and didn`t want to hear it.

Your thoughts?

STEVE KORNACKI, HOST, MSNBC "UP": No, I think that`s -- that`s a very
logical theory, that this was willful ignorance on his part. This was
somebody...

MATTHEWS: And by the way, I`m borrowing it from your analysis the
other day because you used that very term. And I thought it was so on the
mark.

KORNACKI: Well, right. And I think there`s a specific reason why --
if you accept that theory and you play it out, there`s a specific reason
why he might have been confident in that strategy, and that has to do with
sort of the internal mechanics of New Jersey politics.

The current state legislative session is expiring next Tuesday. With
the expiration of that legislative session expires the legislature`s
subpoena authority. It has been subpoenas from the legislature, subpoenas
from the state assembly, that have kept this story alive these past few
months.

The incoming assembly speaker next Tuesday is the product of an
alliance between Chris Christie and a group of pro-Chris Christie Democrats
in the legislature. The expectation before this week, before all the
bombshells this week, was that that speaker was not going to renew the
subpoena authority for the state legislature.

MATTHEWS: But now?

KORNACKI: Well, now there`s no choice. That`s going to happen.

MATTHEWS: The national Democratic Party would assassinate those
people if they didn`t do it.

KORNACKI: And more than that, it`s not just the state assembly
anymore. Now you have the U.S. attorney sniffing around. Now you have Jay
Rockefeller at the Commerce Committee. This thing has just gotten...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s -- let`s...

KORNACKI: ... so much bigger in the last few days.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to what Mike Isikoff pointed out, the John Dean.
I grew up during Watergate. I got to tell you, it follows a certain
pattern. The president of the United States in that case, Nixon, would try
to set it up that, First thing I knew about this, I heard from John Dean,
and then I operate in this certain way, setting it up just like Christie
did yesterday, all -- picking a date, like December something, when I
quizzed my staff and then moved forward and said, I`m clean until then and
clean after then because I -- once I asked them once if they had anything
to do with this, I`m clean when they said no. He sets that up.

My question is why would any of these people, starting with Wildstein,
going to Baroni, going to his campaign manager, Stepien, and certainly
going to Bridget Kelly, who`s now been made the villain of this piece --
why wouldn`t they want to come out at some point and say, You know what?
I`m an office holder. I work for a guy. My mission here is to carry out
his purposes. And one of them is -- political, and I did what I did. I
wasn`t out robbing gas stations for money. I was doing this for him.

KORNACKI: Well, the question here is -- and you take these people
individually, but let`s start with Bridget Kelly because Bridget Kelly`s
the one he really singled out yesterday, and he called her a liar five or
ten times during that press conference.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KORNACKI: And I think the logical conclusion you draw from watching
Chris Christie do that yesterday is this is a guy who is confident there is
nothing that`s going to come out that`s going to contradict him. There`s
no -- there`s no further documentation that`s going to come out...

MATTHEWS: You mean he never talked to her in the office...

KORNACKI: But...

MATTHEWS: ... all these months about this trouble, he never...

KORNACKI: Well, there is...

MATTHEWS: That`s my point, he probably didn`t.

KORNACKI: Well...

MATTHEWS: He made a point of never winking in her direction, never
saying, Take care, you`ll get through this, any sign of collaboration, I
guess.

KORNACKI: That is -- that is one theory, and that is entirely
plausible. However, there is a history with this governor. Just three
years ago in this state, when he was the governor, he fired his education
commissioner, and he held a press conference that was very similar to the
one he held yesterday.

The education commissioner`s name was Bret Schundler. Bret Schundler
had screwed up the state`s Race to the Top application. Chris Christie at
that press conference said the number one rule of this administration is
you don`t lie to the governor.

Now, Bret Schundler admitted that he and his teamed had screwed up the
Race to the Top application, admitted he deserved to go, but he did not
like being called a liar. And so what happened a week later? Bret
Schundler had documents. He had e-mails. He had records. He could prove
that when Chris Christie called him a liar, he had not been a liar. Chris
Christie and his administration had known. Bret Schundler had talked to
them.

And I cannot help but think of that right now because Chris Christie
confidently got up there three years ago, with all the cameras rolling, and
called somebody a liar, even though there was evidence out there that came
back to haunt him. That was a much smaller-scale matter...

MATTHEWS: OK, here we go...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: ... but there`s a precedent.

MATTHEWS: Now, you know Wildstein a bit, and I`ve heard your story
about you knew him indirectly because he ran your Web site, or paid for it.
But I`m trying to figure the guy out. I`m watching this guy. I really try
to empathize with people in trouble politically. And I`m looking at this
guy.

He obviously has a lot going on in his head. He`s a smart guy. He
knows what`s going on. He knows all the forces at work right now. And
he`s playing his time right now. He is waiting, waiting out the
prosecutors, waiting out somebody`s going to give him immunity so he will
not face any criminal charges because if he doesn`t face any criminal
charges, he may be a lot less likely to face any civil action, which could
be very expensive, you know, even if he doesn`t have deep pockets. So he
wants a deal.

If he gets a deal, isn`t Christie done?

KORNACKI: Well, what Michael Isikoff said is really interesting. And
the most interesting part of that for me this weekend -- I should say, yes,
I worked for a Web site owned by David Wildstein. I haven`t had any
contact with him, you know, since this began.

But what I will say is the most interesting thing to me this week is
on Tuesday night, Chris Christie and the Republicans named Bill Stepien.
That had been Chris Christie`s campaign manager. They say Bill Stepien`s
going to be the next Republican Party chairman in the state of New Jersey.
On Wednesday morning, all of these stories break from the e-mails that
Wildstein gave to the committee.

So if there had been -- if Wildstein was still sort of on the team
with Christie, he -- there would have been a heads-up. There would have
been some way of getting the news to Christie`s team that, Hey, this is
coming. You know, Bill Stepien and others are going to be implicate in
stuff that`s going to be in the press Wednesday morning.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KORNACKI: And there is no way that Chris Christie and his team ever
would have announced Bill Stepien as the chairman of the Republican Party
on Tuesday night if that was going to -- if they knew that was going to
happen Wednesday morning.

So that tells me the idea here that, you know, Wildstein, and there
might be some coordination behind the scenes between the governor`s office
and him -- that`s not going on because if there was...

MATTHEWS: That`s my theory, too.

KORNACKI: Right.

MATTHEWS: He`s cut him off. (INAUDIBLE) at some point, these
people`s livelihoods, what their kids think of them, what their spouses
think of them, what their families think of them, what their neighbors
think of them, their Wikipedia reputations are at stake here, to be blunt
about it.

KORNACKI: Well, he...

MATTHEWS: They`re going to try to clean them up...

KORNACKI: I...

MATTHEWS: ... at the expense of the governor.

KORNACKI: I will say this about David Wildstein, and I owe my career
to him. I`ll freely admit that. But he is a very smart, a very
intelligent person...

MATTHEWS: I think so.

KORNACKI: ... and a very strategic thinker.

MATTHEWS: That`s been my impression, watching him think. I`ve been
watching the guy think the last few days! And I think he`s planning a
return to greatness.

Anyway, thank you, Steve Kornacki. You`ve been a tiger on this story.
You`ve been great. Our network is lucky to have you. Anyway, "Up With
Steve Kornacki" airs weekends, of course, at 8:00 AM. Get up early to
watch him on the weekend.

Coming up, a rare point of agreement between Democrats and
Republicans. They both are loving this Christie ordeal. They love the guy
going through hell right now because a lot of them, even on the Republican
side, just don`t like the guy. He`s a little too independent, I think.

Also, since they won`t support Christie, many Republicans are doing
the next best thing, attacking Obama. Just the other day, Congressman
Grimm, who I like having on this show, couldn`t resist saying Benghazi,
Benghazi, Benghazi, what about Benghazi? What about Benghazi and the IRS?
What about Benghazi and the IRS and Fast and Furious? Never mind that none
of this has anything to do, in either proportion or reality, to what we`re
talking about. But they`re out there vomiting their latest.

Anyway, plus, Christie has a reputation of being a bully, of course.
Christie says it`s not true and his reputation is unearned. Let`s go to
the videotape on that baby.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with why Governor Christie can expect
some more sleepless nights.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: December`s jobs report is out, and while the economy only
added 74,000 jobs, lower than what was expected, the unemployment rate fell
.3 of a point down to 6.7. That`s the lowest percentage since October of
2008, though analysts attribute it to more people actually leaving the
workplace. (sic)

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Has something been missing from
the Chris Christie story these past few days, like fellow Republicans
defending him? Where are they? Anyway, the head of the Republican
Governors Association has had a glaring lack of Republican governors
rallying around him. And that`s Christie.

He`s had some support. U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm yesterday came
on HARDBALL to back him up. Rudy Giuliani is also out there for him. And
of course, Governor -- surprisingly, Governor Nikki Haley`s a pal of his,
apparently, from down in South Carolina.

But those are the small exceptions. Most Republicans have been
holding back, not giving an inch of help to this guy, and some have taken
the opportunity to actually attack him.

Catch this. Here`s Lindsey Graham. He told NBC News`s Kasie Hunt
yesterday that the scandal, quote, "reinforces a narrative that`s
troublesome about the guy. He`s kind of a bully. You know, being candid
and forthright and speaking truth to power is one narrative, but the other
narrative is, you know, he`s a transactional politician. He rewards his
friends and he punishes his enemies."

Well, later, Senator Graham backtracked a bit, saying he was impressed
by Christie`s press conference yesterday, he handled it as well as he
could. Well, that`s certainly minimal.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul, a potential rival for the 2016 nomination
against Christie, joked about the scandal when he was asked during a White
House walkout (ph) yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t know who e-mailed who and who
works for whom. And I have been in traffic before, though, and I know how
angry I am when I`m in traffic. And I`m always wondering, Who did this to
me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He didn`t bother to stop.

Anyway, Christie has never shied away from bashing his fellow
Republicans. Is he suffering the consequences of that now? You know, what
goes around comes around?

Anyway, David Gregory`s, of course, the moderator of "MEET THE PRESS"
on Sundays on NBC, and David Axelrod is a former senior adviser to
President Obama and an MSNBC senior analyst.

David, I want to start with you. As a Democrat, it seems to me it`s
obvious the Democrats are enjoying this, for the reason I would suspect is
that they suspect he might be the toughest Republican candidate for
president in a general election. He gets knocked off, then they only have
to face, at best, maybe Scott Walker, or if Jeb Bush gets back in the game,
of course, but probably face a right-winger who they think they can beat.

DAVID AXELROD, FRM. SR. OBAMA ADVISER, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:
You know, for all the reasons that very few Republicans stood up, Christie
has some broader appeal as a candidate. He is somewhat independent of the
kind of most strident right-wing voices in the party. He just the day
before he got into trouble signed a Dream Act in New Jersey. These kinds
of things enrage the base of the party, but they make him a more appealing
candidate nationally.

So, yes, he was an attractive -- and may well yet be, Chris. I`m not
in the camp that says the guy is done. I think if any of these threads get
pulled, as you suggest, and expose him as having lied at that press
conference, then he is done.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, I don`t think he`s -- I don`t think he will be caught
lying. I think it`s a whole truth more than a lie.

I don`t accuse him of lying at all, never have. What I do think is he
never explained why he never showed any curiosity from September all the
way through December about what seemed to have been the work of his staff
and his appointees at the Port Authority. That`s what to me is the dog
that hasn`t barked here, to use -- the old reference.

AXELROD: I don`t think -- I think that that is a serious question,
but I`m not sure that`s -- that will disqualify him as a candidate.

But if one of those people who were involved in the scheme says, well,
as a matter of fact, yes, I did -- the governor did know about it, that`s
obviously game, set, and match.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s Wildstein, what we`re worried about there.

Let`s go to the Republican side. It`s a little more nuanced, David.
And it seems to me my hunch is the guy plays outside the pocket. He is a
scrambler. He breaks all the rules. Most politicians play inside the
pocket, they play it carefully, they work with their own side. Here is a
guy that went out and worked with President Obama right at the beginning --
right at the end of the campaign last year for president and did his own
thing. Now they seem to not like that.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Well, they also -- I
think some people feel like he was a little too help to feel the president
at a critical time.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: And that`s the Romney campaign. But I think it goes a
little bit beyond that as well.

Some of it is about ideology. But I think that most of it is about
personality. And I think that there is a big ideological fight in the
Republican Party right now. But I think the big test for Christie still
remains personality, leadership, temperament. And it`s why this cultural
question that you raised, Chris, I do think matters a lot, which is these
are not people that he knew for 20 minutes.

These are people who had worked for him for a long time.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: And yet there was the cryptic nature of these e-mails that
it was just -- it just had to be cued up. So how did -- is this just a
rogue operation that took root underneath him without him knowing, without
him sort of sending cues that this would be OK, that this would be
acceptable, this is how we do things?

I think that`s the thing that ultimately becomes a leadership
question.

MATTHEWS: OK.

I have to follow up with that, because I think that`s so to the point
here.

David Axelrod, the fact that, as Chris Jansing said on our air this
morning, that comment, or that cuing up, as you put it, David Gregory,
which was, it`s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, that was a --
that was in the middle of a conversation. That wasn`t a, guess what, I got
this idea to screw this guy by screwing up the traffic, somehow coming out
those two lanes out of Fort Lee, knowing about the geography of the traffic
and all that stuff.

Somebody had a larger conversation about this beforehand, and this was
like D-Day, H-Hour. We`re going to do it now, but we have been planning to
do it for a while. That`s clearly the implication of that e-mail.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Well, it feels that way. But it`s certainly in keeping with
the kind of pugnacious way in which the governor has done his politics in
New Jersey.

And I thought one of the great failings in his press conference
yesterday -- and, by and large, I thought he actually did do very well in
that press conference. But one of the failings was that when he was asked
to be introspective, and when he was asked did he think that his own sort
of demeanor in politics, his own style of politics had somehow sent a cue
or a signal to his staff that no holds were barred and they could do
whatever they pleased, he said no.

And he denied that his style would encourage that in any way. I think
it would have been a good moment for him to be a little more introspective,
because that would help explain some of these other acts that are
undoubtedly going to be uncovered where they were aggressive in dealing
with political opponents.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Let`s look at the bigger picture. You know, they say, in
Massachusetts, David Gregory, that the shape of the field determines the
result. And right now the shape of the field has changed radically in 48
hours. The shape of the field up until now, as we all know, was, this guy
was a front-runner, if not the front-runner, right at the top.

GREGORY: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he was probably going to have to take on maybe Rand
Paul and maybe even take on even Ted Cruz. But he was sort of the East
Coast -- he was head of the Eastern conference, if you will. He was going
to win that conference.

And now what happens to the Republican Party? And they all seem to be
holding back. My God, they weren`t ready for this. All of the sudden, the
front-runner, the Yankees aren`t going to be the champion this year.

GREGORY: Well, and this is part of the problem of peaking so early.
And he has had a good ride in the media, and he is in a huge media market,
in two, really, in New York and Philadelphia.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: And -- but, of course, he has been a national figure, even
before now.

So he is going to get this scrubbing in real time. He doesn`t have
the ability to kind of go under wraps a little bit, say, like a Scott
Walker and then emerge as a national figure when he tries to run. So I
just don`t think we know.

I think, at this particular point, all the cultural questions, all the
leadership questions, yes, those continue. But they were always going to
happen with him. He was always going to get that scrubbing. But it was
actually David Axelrod who pointed out -- I think it was yesterday --
saying there are very few of these dispositive moments that are so clear
that it`s the end of the game.

We have got a long ways to go here before this stuff really gets
litigated.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: And let`s also point out, Chris, that history is replete
with people who have died and come back, not necessarily because of an
incident like this, but sometimes because of it.

But I remember back in 2008, when John McCain went into the race as a
front-runner, was run -- was written off, didn`t have the resources, had
misplayed the race, and ended up as the nominee. These things have a way
of taking weird twists and turns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: And part of running for president is that you get tested
along the way, and you either -- you either pass the test and get stronger
or you fail the test and you`re gone.

And I don`t think we will know for some time just where Christie fits
in the -- in that -- in that whole tale.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Gregory.

I will see you on that show "Meet the Press" on Sunday, of course.

GREGORY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: A big show on Sunday.

And David Axelrod, love your institute out there at the University of
Chicago.

AXELROD: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The Christie bridge scandal has become gold for
the late-night comedians. No surprise there.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."

While few have come to Chris Christie`s defense, Steve Colbert
announced last night that he is standing by the embattled governor, perhaps
all the way to 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Now I realize he is the
kind of leader I can get behind...

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: .. the kind who says, it`s my way or I shut down your
highway.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Christie is a true conservative.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: He is committed to proving the core conservative value that
government is the problem, even if he has to create those problems himself.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: I can already see his 2016 bumper sticker: "Christie:
Bringing America Together or I Will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) You Over."

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Best of all...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Best of all, his team will make sure you have plenty of time
to read those bumper stickers.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But those Bridge-gate issues right now, they`re calling it,
may prove especially damaging to a guy like Christie, since it reinforces
the very image he sought to downplay, that of a schoolyard bully.

It`s a label he tried again to shed in his press conference yesterday.
But, as Jon Stewart pointed out last night, sometimes, your reputation
really does precede you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is not the tone that I have
set over the last four years in this building. It`s not the environment I
have worked so hard to achieve.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Intimidation,
vengeance, vitriol, that`s not the tone?

CHRISTIE: Damn, man, I`m governor. Could you just shut up for a
second?

STEWART: No, no, that`s not it.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Hold on. Try that one.

CHRISTIE: Did I say on topic? Are you stupid?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: No, not yet.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Just haven`t found it yet.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) OK?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CHRISTIE: That`s what it is.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I think I finally figured out the tone he set: F.U. sharp.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: F.U.!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, we found a few more feisty moments that "The Daily
Show" didn`t get to.

Here are some of Chris Christie`s other highlights from the past three
years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: You know, something may go down tonight, but it ain`t going
to be jobs, sweetheart.

The president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn`t get
involved. Well, then what the hell are we paying for you for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t send your children to public schools.
You send them to private schools. So I was wondering why you think it`s
fair to be cutting school funding to public schools.

CHRISTIE: What`s her name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s her name, guys, real quick? Because the
governor is talking. What is it? Gayle (ph). Talk to Gayle.

CHRISTIE: Hey, Gayle, you know what? First off, it`s none of your
business. I don`t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don`t
bother me about where I send mine.

Thank you all very much, and I`m sorry for the idiot over there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, up next: The right wing is using the attack on Chris
Christie to, what else, attack President Obama.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

Larry Speakes, who served as acting press secretary for six years
under Ronald Reagan, has died. Speakes passed away after a battle with
Alzheimer`s. He was 74.

A chemical spill in West Virginia has led to a tap water ban affecting
300,000 people. It`s not clear when the tap water supply in nine counties
will be safe to drink again.

And the CDC says flu season is in high gear, with the virus now
widespread in 35 states. The majority of cases this year have been caused
by the H1N1 strain -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Governor Chris Christie`s office did get caught red-handed. It
couldn`t have been more clear his deputy chief of staff directed his
appointee at the Port Authority to exact political revenge against the Fort
Lee mayor. There`s actually written proof there -- quote -- "Time for some
traffic problems in Fort Lee." That was the e-mail.

But if you listen to the right wing these days, the Christie scandal
is nothing compared to their -- their fantasy scandals about President
Obama. They say it`s a drop in the bucket compared to how President Obama
ordered the IRS to terrorize his -- or tyrannize his political enemies, how
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton killed Americans at
Benghazi and orchestrated a massive cover-up there, and how President Obama
covered up the Fast and Furious scandal.

Well, there is only one problem. It`s all utter nonsense, complete
bull, actually. And the sad part, are we really surprised by the method of
operation here?

David Corn is with the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and
an MSNBC political analyst. And, Joy Reid -- it`s good to see you -- is
managing editor of TheGrio and an MSNBC contributor.

When I haven`t seen you for a few days, I begin to wonder, where is
Joy Reid?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And luckily you`re here now, especially in the biggest
story we have had in weeks now. It`s a hot one.

What is this sort of knee-jerk, so`s your old man thing, like you did
in schoolyards?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you say you`re fat. Your old man`s fat. You`re --
this, this...

CORN: Hey, a good -- the best defense is what? A good offense.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: So they want to change the suggest.

MATTHEWS: Did you catch Grimm here last night, the congressman?

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: No, no.

MATTHEWS: Out of nowhere, he starts sort of barfing up all this
stuff.

CORN: Benghazi, yes, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He started -- he said -- he started saying IRS.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He started saying Benghazi, Fast and Furious.

CORN: Well, what is really interesting here is like, even the "Wall
Street Journal" editorialists, who often are a little more sophisticated
than, say, Newsmax...

MATTHEWS: I read...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Today, they go on in their editorial, saying that Obama used
the IRS to spy on political opposition.

That has been so debunked. We have had reports coming out showing
that they looked at all...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But they`re counting on short memories.

CORN: Of course they are...

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: ... because the initial headlines were so hot. That`s what
they think people will recall.

MATTHEWS: Joy, I want you to react to this performance art we saw
from -- I don`t dislike this guy. He seems like a regular guy.

Michael Grimm, Republican from Staten Island, New York, and I think
parts of Brooklyn, here is what he said last night. Out of nowhere, he
started bar offing out these buzzwords. Here he is, Congressman Michael
Grimm, last night on HARDBALL. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: I have been hearing from Democrats
now how outraged they are, they`re angry this, that, the other thing.

From -- you know, from the Democratic Party, let`s be honest here,
from Fast and Furious to Benghazi to the IRS...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. You got your...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I knew you would do this.

GRIMM: Where have the Democrats been angry?

MATTHEWS: I knew you would do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK.

There was an editorial for action right there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s like a little set of buttons.

I said, it`s almost like in "Manchurian Candidate." Just show the
queen of diamonds.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Just show it. Just show the word. Just say Benghazi, and
the right wing starts Twittering and quivering and they get all excited.
And just say Fast and Furious to the gun guys out there, and they go crazy,
and IRS.

And, well, tell me about the P.R., the method of operation and what it
possibly has to do with a very clear, serious scandal in Jersey, which is
on the record now.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, absolutely -- and I actually watched
that last night and was thinking exactly what you`re thinking.

It sort of shows you the extent to which the right-wing media has sort
of body-snatched the political class on the right, where these myths that
live in the minds and nightmares and terrors and night terrors of
conservatives in the base have now infected their ability to do politics.

Listen, this would be equivalent if you had the White House deputy
chief of staff, you know, e-mailing the former campaign manager Jim
Messina, or David Axelrod, who you just had on the show, and e-mailing
those guys in Cincinnati and saying to the IRS, "Hey, time to mess with the
Tea Party."

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: That is not what happened.

What you had here was really frivolous, petty, ugly political
retribution that was done without regard to the affect it would have on
people that are actually constituents of their boss, of the mayor.

MATTHEWS: This scandal begun this Nixon term, this scandal begun with
a smoking gun.

REID: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, to this point, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial
team this morning at the bottom of the (INAUDIBLE) had this sugar plum in
today`s paper. Quote, "Compared to using the IRS against political
opponents during an election campaign, closing traffic lanes for four days
is jaywalking."

Check out this piece of "Politico", which says, quote, "One prominent
GOP fundraiser lamented that Governor Christie was getting pilloried for
standard political activities by a partisan meeting." Standard political -
- where does this guy work?

Anyway, telling the paper, quote, "Obama had the IRS investigate
GOPers, and made the media yawn. That`s a crime. This is silly."

Here is why there`s so wrong. It will make your head spin. Here is
the timeline. On May 14th, the inspector general finds out there is no
influence by any individual or organization outside the IRS. That`s the
so-called IRS scandal.

On June 18th, the House Oversight Committee releases the interview
with Republican IRS screener who says, "We never, never discussed any
political aspirations." That`s a Republican committee, by the way.

On June 24th, under new management, the IRS releases the results of
its own audit, finding no evidence of, quote, "intentional wrongdoing by
anyone in the IRS or involvement in these matters by anyone outside the
IRS. The final nail in the conspiracy coffin said neither one comes on
August 20th when the House Oversight Committee publishes document showing
that the IRS also targeted, guess what, liberal groups.

So, your point you made three minutes ago which is it doesn`t matter
that all this is fact, because if you can rely on the public`s short
memory, you can take them back before all this became clear.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, when this story broke we were on the
set actually that day. And you and I and others were very upset and said
this could be a big deal. The initial indications were that there had been
some wrongdoing. It might even have been political.

But as it gets investigated, you know, the headlines come out and show
wait a second, it wasn`t a big deal. It gets less and less impression.
And that first initial impression is what they`re feeding on.

Now, you`ve got to look at something like "Politico". When they quote
the GOP strategists who they don`t bother naming saying this, it`s like
quoting someone saying, you know, the sky was purple, or saying, a dog
meows.

Why do they give people the --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s called objective journalism.

CORN: But it`s not objective journalism to let somebody lie.

MATTHEWS: I know. I think it`s called balance journalism.

CORN: It`s the false equivalence of someone side is making up stuff
that is controverted by the facts. And if you don`t call them out on it,
then you give the advantage to people who lie or who misrepresent.

MATTHEWS: Do you think is going to work, Joy, in your political
analysis? Do you think constantly citing words like death words -- I love
your night terror reference, that`s pretty good for a Friday night. I have
to go to the drive-in to enjoy that one. Night terror, Friday the 13th.

But this idea of just saying the words, the magic words, the poison
pills, just Benghazi, IRS, and Fast and Furious, anything to do with guns
gets the paranoids out there.

REID: No, absolutely, it works with the Republican base. What the
Republican Party`s problem is right now is they have a closed loop of
conspiracy theories and beliefs about President Obama that are unshakeable.
They`re always going to believe those myths at the core of their base.

What this not is it`s expansive because people who to your point can
discern even when the mainstream media plays this game of quoting people
saying things that are blatantly false, people who bother to take a look at
it, people who are politically interested who are not on the far right are
not going to be moved to the Republican position to believe in these myths.
So, Republicans are really closing themselves off from even finding
solutions to real problems to like, for instance, reforming the IRS if
that`s what we wanted to do, because they`re so steeped in myths and lies.

So, unfortunately, it`s doubling down on the worst aspects of
conservatism right now. And when it comes to the situation with Chris
Christie, it`s denial. This is a very real scandal, shutting down that
bridge two days before 9/11, that had real implications and potential
implications for people who needed emergency services.

There was a child that was missing they were trying to look for. This
was real. This was not petty and it was not unimportant.

MATTHEWS: Well, having lived through Watergate, it wasn`t who shouted
the loudest, it wasn`t who made the arguments or repeated it the most
often, it with was the facts of the case.

I think in this case, we`re going to see facts develop in the next
several months. They`re going to trump everything we talked about, for or
against them.

CORN: That`s the bottom line. We can talk now and forever about what
Chris Christie did at the press conference yesterday. But eventually,
there is a U.S. attorney on this, FBI, assembly looking at this as well as
dozens journalists talking to every mayor of every town in New Jersey. And
the documents that came out today, we at "Mother Jones" started finding
really --

MATTHEWS: I`m sympathizing. Maybe it`s my background, my Irish
background. But I want to hear what Bridget Anne Kelly has to say.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think she is the total villain in this piece.

CORN: No.

MATTHEWS: And operating completely outside the framework she is
working in. Who trained her? Who taught her? Who led her?

CORN: Yes, who led her to believe she could --

MATTHEWS: It`s like Scooter Libby in another case. He wasn`t working
for Cheney? Are you kidding me?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t robbing gas stations to pay for the family. He
was working for the boss, like she was.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn.

Thank you, Joy Reid. Thanks. Have a nice weekend, Joy.

REID: Happy weekend.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Kathleen and I, along with two of our three
children were out -- there it is. I got to tell you about this, where I
was for the last two weeks. A little fun here. Also some important stuff
about saving one of God`s great gifts to the planet, which is this
incredible wildlife in Africa I have been long working to try to save.

Anyway, we`re going to talk than in a minute and show you some amazing
pictures. A little candy here on the way out this week.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: More Americans than ever say they`re liberals. According
to the new Gallup polling, the number of voters who self-identify as
liberals is up to 23 percent. Now, that`s the highest number since Gallup
began asking the question back in 1992.

That said, 38 percent identify themselves as conservatives. Another
34 percent as moderates, whatever that means. But the gap between
conservatives and liberals is down to 15 points and shrinking.

You wouldn`t believe it from the media. Liberals are making a
comeback here.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. MATTHEWS: We`re back.

I wanted to finish this week by explaining where I was the past two
weeks. And as promised, Kathleen is right here to tell about the trip we
took. Our family loves taking trips like this one.

Many of you know I first went to Africa back in -- well, one of the 10
trips I`ve head over there as member of the United States Peace Corps way
back in the `60s. I was a trade development adviser, fancy name for a
business teacher in the kingdom of Swaziland for two years, and for me --
that was a big life changer. My wife, Kathleen, has gotten into Africa
like I was into it.

Let`s take a look at some of the pictures and Kathleen will narrate.

Here they are.

KATHLEEN MATTHEWS, CHRIS MATTHEWS` WIFE: This was a trip to Batswana
and Namibia. And, you know, we had been to Tanzania, as Chris said, the
Swaziland. Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda even, but we`ve never been to Batswana
in Namibia, which, of course, in southern Africa.

It`s the wet and drive. Namibia is the dry and Botswana is the wet.
Namibia is this incredible, incredible landscape. You know, a former
German colony there in southern Africa. Botswana is all the delta, green
and lots of lots of animals.

So, we had the chance to walk in the footsteps of baby elephants. We
took safari drives into the desert at night. It was really an incredible
experience.

But you know what? More than anything, Chris, it was about being
together with family.

C. MATTHEWS: Yes.

K. MATTHEWS: And I have to say, trips like this are transformational
and have been in our family. I think our kids had a chance to go to Africa
maybe about five times. You took me to Swaziland for the first time when
we were married.

C. MATTHEWS: `83.

K. MATTHEWS: We took a brand new baby with us.

(CROSSTALK)

C. MATTHEWS: By the way, the great thing about Africa, it`s just
real, no matter what age you are, you cannot -- my daughter, Caroline, is
so in love with that baby elephant. The elephant trainer there on the left
who really knows his stuff and really tweet these animals well.

I`ll tell you one thing -- I like the government of Botswana. It`s
clean, really a clean government. I think Namibia is really good, too.

There are a couple of African governments. You hear all this bad
stuff about Africa, those are countries that kept their act. They`re
protecting resources, the same way we protect Niagara Falls, and Grand
Canyon and even Central Park. They know what conservation means.

Look at these, talk about the Himba people, especially the women.
Look at these people.

K. MATTHEWS: Well, also, you know, this (INAUDIBLE) about the
animals, but it`s really learning about other cultures.

C. MATTHEWS: Talk about this culture. The Himba.

K. MATTHEWS: This is the Himba tribe. They are nomadic, originally
from East Africa. They migrated across the continent.

And the women as you can see are bathed in an okra paint which is a
sign of beauty there. They essentially have these small little villages
and they`re in Namibia. So, they`re protected from the animals. You`re
not going to see hippos like this next to the tribes but you`ll see orcs
(ph) and other animals.

They don`t have formal education. They were trading beads and
different articles we were able to buy from them. And that`s part of their
economy.

And I think that`s the other thing -- being in the travel industry.
You know, I work for Marriott International, I believe in the value of
travel and tourism to really help these economies, worldwide. One out of
ten jobs are from travel and tourism.

In Africa, it`s almost 10 percent of their GDP. So, when you go to a
country like this, you actually feel good that taking a hot air balloon
ride actually has benefits for the local economy as well.

MATTHEWS: What I care about, and get angry about, the killing of
these animals. The seriousness of the slaughter of animals like every
animal you`re looking at, especially the rhinos and elephants. It`s
terrible. Tens of thousands get killed for the ivory obviously and for
these aphrodisiacs effects supposedly of these rhino tusks.

Anyway, look at this here`s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I
really love the fact that a woman of her prominence, a person of her
prominence, worldwide, has gotten into this issue. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a crisis. We
have a wildlife trafficking, poaching, murdering crisis. And, you know, we
can talk specifically about the elephants and in particular African
elephants, and especially the African forest elephants that are now really
at risk.

The poaching of animals is a huge, international, criminal enterprise.
There`s about 20 significant pockets of elephants, both savannah and forest
elephants in Africa that really deserve our protection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

K. MATTHEWS: So, what`s happened here is essentially you have rising
middle classes in China, in Vietnam, in Singapore, they have a huge
appetite for ivory products. It`s a real sign of stature to be able to
have these ivory carvings.

So, it takes the elephants to do that.

C. MATTHEWS: Kill the elephants.

K. MATTHEWS: Killing the elephants runs with sort of the appetite for
the ivory. But also the gun trading that goes on with some of the
instability and the political instability of Africa. It`s a real problem.

C. MATTHEWS: I want to end this, when I first got to Africa and
worked in the Peace Corps for all these years, the one thing the government
officials said, we don`t want to show future visitors to our countries
postcards of the animals. We want them to be here.

K. MATTHEWS: They`re important for Africa`s economy and a dream to be
able to go and see them.

C. MATTHEWS: You`re my dream. Thank you --

K. MATTHEWS: With you.

C. MATTHEWS: Once again, we show the adventures of the world.
Anyway, we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this story that has long legs.

I believe this Chris Christie is going to go on and on for a long
time, a really long time. We`ve got the investigation by the New Jersey
legislature with Democrats leading the charge. We`ve got civil litigation
beginning by those affected by those long traffic blockades.

We see the federal investigators looking at the actions of New Jersey
and its governor`s office. And we`ve got the U.S. Senate digging into this
matter. And we`ve got reporters all over the scene.

People are going to talk. The two people who are forced to quit at
the Port Authority, both Christie men, his campaign manager, his deputy
chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly. They`re going to talk because they can
only make their situations better by talking. They can explain why they
believe they were advancing Christie`s political agenda by doing what they
did.

After all, they weren`t out there robbing gas stations for the cash.
They were punishing a politician for perceived hostility to their guy,
Chris Christie. They will get immunity from prosecution. They will be
free to speak and explain, which is a whole lot better than sitting there
and waiting for the civil suits to target them, and to have their
reputations marinating month after month after month.

As I said at the beginning of tonight`s show, the big question that
looms is why Chris Christie kept himself away from this story as long as he
did.

And that`s HARDBALL tonight. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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