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updated 1/22/2014 10:36:29 AM ET 2014-01-22T15:36:29

HARDBALL
January 20, 2014

Guests: Bob Ingle, Marlene Caride, Patrick Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Something is broken in Hoboken.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Let me start tonight with this big weekend story from Hoboken, New Jersey.
The mayor of that city, Dawn Zimmer, has now spoken with federal
authorities about a message she said she received last summer from Governor
Christie, delivered, she said, by his lieutenant governor.

The message that if she didn`t back a local project being pushed by
Christie`s former aides, the hurricane money would stop flowing to Hoboken.
Well, Zimmer said she recorded that conversation in her personal diary and
has turned over that diary to the U.S. attorney`s office. She`s offered to
testify under oath and even to take a lie-detector test.

In response, the lieutenant governor of the state has denied tying the
hurricane funds to the favored project, which, of course, opens the
question of what she did say to the mayor in that parking lot, and why she
did cite the two issues and what did she mean when she said the message was
coming from the governor?

A partisan of the governor, former RNC chair Haley Barbour, says Mayor
Zimmer may have written her diary entry at the present time, but inserted
it back in the summer, an unlikely possibility, giving the presumed need of
the mayor to then to have left those pages for that day blank so she could
fill them in later. As someone myself who`s kept a political diary, I
don`t honestly know how you do that.

Anyway, MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist for "The Washington Post," and Bob Ingle`s a reporter for "The
Asbury Park Press" up in New Jersey. He`s co-author of "Chris Christie:
The Inside Story of His Rise to Power."

Mr. Ingle, I want to go to you on the inside. So much of this is about the
inside. So let`s start with Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer`s interview Saturday
morning on "UP" -- on MSNBC`s "UP" with Steve Kornacki," in which she
describes a pull-aside in the parking lot of an event at the Hoboken
ShopRite, where she says the lieutenant governor of the state delivered a
bracing message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAWN ZIMMER, HOBOKEN MAYOR: The fact is that the lieutenant governor came
to Hoboken. She pulled me aside in the parking lot, and she said, I know
it`s not right. I know these things should not be connected, but they are.
And if you tell anyone, I`ll deny it.

And so these -- I mean, the bottom line is it`s not fair for the governor
to hold Sandy funds hostage for the city of Hoboken because he wants me to
give back to one private developer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, earlier today -- this morning -- New Jersey lieutenant
governor Kim Guadagno challenged the mayor. Let`s listen to her account.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO, NEW JERSEY: Mayor Zimmer`s version of our
conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not
withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. Any suggestion --
any suggestion -- that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project
in New Jersey is completely false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, shortly after the lieutenant governor spoke that way,
Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer released this statement. "I am genuinely
disappointed that Lieutenant Governor Guadagno has lived up to her promise
that she would deny linking Hoboken`s application for Lindsey" -- or
actually, "for Sandy hazard mitigation funding with expediting a private
development project. I met with the U.S. attorney for over two hours
yesterday" -- that would be Sunday -- "answered all their questions and
turned over my journal, in which I describe my conversation with the
lieutenant governor and Commissioner Constable. I stand by my word, remain
willing to testify under oath, and I will continue to answer any questions
asked of me by the U.S. attorney`s office."

Mr. Ingle, this story -- I guess it comes down to -- it`s not so much "she
said, she said," as one person kept a diary entry and has, to me -- you
know, you have to wonder about the motives for coming out with it. But
it`s obvious the motives of the lieutenant governor, she`s going to deny
it, because if she ever admitted such a conversation, she would look
terrible.

BOB INGLE, "ASBURY PARK PRESS": That`s right. Well, she didn`t deny there
was any conversations. She says that the mayor misinterpreted perhaps what
was going on. The lieutenant governor --

MATTHEWS: How would that be done? How would you misinterpret a
conversation in which we talked a development project, we talked the
hurricane money, and we say, The governor sent this message to me -- to you
personally through me? How do you misinterpret that?

INGLE: I don`t know how you would. It sounds very clear to me. But
that`s where they`re going with it. I noticed that the lieutenant governor
didn`t say anything about taking a lie detector test, the way the mayor
said she would. And there wasn`t anything about whether she would testify
to that under oath, either.

MATTHEWS: Does she always talk like she`s a POW?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Seriously. That wasn`t a normal serious speech pattern there,
whereas I have to say, Zimmer talks -- talks spontaneously and normally,
like a person talks. It`s a difficult situation for her. But the
lieutenant governor came out and spoke -- no questions were acceptable by
her. She read something that looked like it had not necessarily been
written by her. It seemed to be very formal and painful, and she would --
(INAUDIBLE) almost a high school kind of exclamation points added to each
word. Your thoughts.

INGLE: I think she was being very, very careful because I think the
statement that she made has been lawyered because they think that somewhere
down the road, they may be asked to testify about this in a court of law.
Lying on TV is one thing, whoever does it. Lying to a federal official is
a crime within itself. So people have to be very, very careful.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of
Hoboken, has already spoken, apparently in detail, to U.S. officials for
two hours? That sounds to me like she went into detail. And I understand
that the law, as you understand it probably the same way -- you lie to
investigators for the U.S. attorneys, you`ve got a problem with the law.
You`ve already committed a felony.

INGLE: That`s exactly right. She would have to be very careful about
that. I think she went to talk to them because she expected that she was
going to be held up to scrutiny and people were going to question what she
had to say. And I think that she wanted to go talk to those officials and
get it on the record just to show that she means it and she`s not backing
off.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Gene. This story`s got fascinating
personality now. You got Zimmer, who -- I mean, we all try to figure
people out when we watch them on TV. She`s seems she`s telling it all her
way and totally comfortable telling a story she doesn`t like to tell, but
she`s telling it in her own words, whereas this other -- lieutenant
governor comes out and painfully reads a script.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well,
that was -- it did seem like a hostage statement, the way she read it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes. Sadly.

ROBINSON: Look, you know, she`s got the diary, right? She`s got the
journal that she kept. And she noted --

MATTHEWS: Contemporary account.

ROBINSON: Exactly, so a contemporary account --

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the charge by Haley Barbour, normally of
sound mind.

ROBINSON: Oh, come on.

MATTHEWS: He said, I`m a recovering lawyer, in that great accent of his.
And the said, You could always go back and write it in.

ROBINSON: Well --

MATTHEWS: But if you look at the actual text of this thing --

ROBINSON: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: -- it was scribbled in it at the time under duress. It wasn`t
something went back and planted --

ROBINSON: The problem is, you don`t know where to leave the blank pages --

MATTHEWS: That`s what I said!

ROBINSON: -- in your journal, do you?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: -- you don`t know where to leave them. So that`s kind of
unlikely. I mean, this -- this -- it seems clear to me that this is
certainly what she heard. Now, this is -- now, I guess the lieutenant
governor --

MATTHEWS: You know, Haley must not be a birther, but this sounds like
birther talk. This is like birther talk. You know, 50-some years ago,
Mrs. -- Mrs -- .

ROBINSON: Right! Exactly!

MATTHEWS: -- -- the formerly (ph) Miss (ph) Obama, whatever, went back
and dug up the plan.

ROBINSON: They put those ads, those birth ads in the Honolulu newspaper --

MATTHEWS: Let me go to some of the information we`re getting here because
it just -- everything seems to be somebody`s a friend of Christie`s. I
mean, we don`t know what role this guy played in the law firm, the guy who
was -- what`s his name, Samson, who -- first of all, he`s his transition
head. Then he`s head of the Port Authority, which must be the nicest plum
book (ph) in the world, great jobs over there, up to a quarter million a
year.

And then he`s -- now he`s running this law firm, which`s he created, and
the law firm just happens to have the account of this thing called the
Rockefeller Group which is building this project in Hoboken, or wants to.

He`s got an associate member firm member named Lori Grifa, who also worked
for the governor. There does seem to be a lot of circumstance here that
would lead you to believe that the governor did have an interest in this
project. All his people that he had fobbed off onto that elephant`s
graveyard over at the Port Authority, and then later has them as lawyers.
And I wonder why they`re top lawyers in the firm.

I only watched "The Good Wife." My idea, if you`re married to the
governor, that`s a good deal. If you used to work for him, that`s a good
deal, if you want to practice law. Your thoughts.

INGLE: Well, certainly, Christie has made a career out of hiring people
that he has worked with before and people that he went to school with and
that sort of thing. So it fits right in. He tends to have a circle around
him that he trusts, and those are the people that he goes back to again and
again.

MATTHEWS: Which one`s going to be secretary of defense? Which one`s going
to be secretary of treasury?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`ve already got -- I`ve already got what`s her name figured out
for secretary of transportation. There will be traffic problems at the
bridge this weekend!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, this guy can pick `em! But I do think -- I want to
know, can you report that he`s been loyal to people after they`ve left his
service and looked out for their law clients and law business, like may
have happened here, where maybe, maybe, Mr. Samson, maybe is someone the
governor cares about, he cares about his project because he`d like to keep
his good will. And same with Lori Grifa, who also is with that firm who
all represent this project.

And all of a sudden, the lieutenant governor is said to have come in and
said, The boss wants this project approved, or you`re dead meat, basically.
Does it all fit together or not for a reporter?

INGLE: It`s a two-way street. He`s loyal to the people around him, and
they`re loyal to him, too. So it doesn`t surprise me that he`s loyal to
people. If you take a look at the Chris Christie book that I wrote, you`ll
find out that he has friends going all the way back to grade school that he
has kept in very close touch with.

MATTHEWS: And employed.

INGLE: Employed.

MATTHEWS: And kept employed.

Anyway, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer, who`s at the heart of this matter, said
the governor was holding Sandy funds hostage on this weekend`s "UP" With
Steve Kornacki. Let`s listen to her report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZIMMER: The bottom line is, it`s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy
funds hostage for the city of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to
one private developer. And it`s important that -- I know it`s very
complicated for the public to really understand all of this. But I have a
legal obligation to follow the law, to bring balanced development to
Hoboken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as I said this morning, New Jersey lieutenant governor Kim
Guadagno said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUADAGNO: Being a Sandy victim myself makes the mayor`s allegations
particularly offensive to me. The suggestion that anyone would hold back
Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. There`s a high school elocution thing going on
there.

ROBINSON: Yes, I --

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what it, but it doesn`t seem like a real person
talking real words. That was scripted. I don`t think it looks like she
wrote those words.

ROBINSON: Well, it`s -- whether she wrote them or not, they should have
had her read them a few times before she went out there.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: No, she -- no, she -- it`s not a great presentation by her,
let`s face it. But you know, back away for a second --

MATTHEWS: Well, why did they wheel her out, put her out like an automaton
--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- like the Hall of the Presidents down at Disney World. She
gives out, she gives a stilted statement and walks back in and doesn`t give
any questions answered.

ROBINSON: Well, it didn`t do them a lot of good, but they`re trying to get
in front of the story, which seems to be breaking like some kind of wave,
right, over -- over -- over the Christie machine and Christie`s political
hopes but --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: This -- because this is bigger than --

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s going to blow up.

ROBINSON: -- the traffic jam.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting for all these other mayors to -- let me go to Mr.
Ingle, lastly.

INGLE: Bob, please!

MATTHEWS: Who is Guadagno? She doesn`t seem like a separate -- Bob, she
doesn`t seem like a separately elected person. Was she selected for the
second term by Christie? How is -- she`s apparently not able to talk to
anybody normally. They don`t let her out, ever. They let her out today to
read this statement -- again, the POW reference. Who is she -- she doesn`t
seem like a political grown-up yet. Is she? I don`t know. I don`t know.

INGLE: Well, she --

MATTHEWS: What is she?

INGLE: She`s a former sheriff. And she is the first (ph) lieutenant
governor that we`ve had in New Jersey. She ran with him the first time.
And the big joke in the press corps was, in the first term, for the first
few press conferences, she always stood about three feet behind the
governor whenever he made a speech, but she never said anything. This is
Chris Christie`s administration, and he`s at the top of the flag.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t need a partner.

INGLE: No!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think she -- anyway, I don`t even know her. She`s
probably a nice person. Boy, I`ll tell you, this is a weird case.

INGLE: She is a nice person.

MATTHEWS: Well, she`s in a terrible situation because if she had this
conversation, or anything like it, how does she explain the fact they
talked about, if they did, the two topics, the development project and
they`re not getting any more money, and then say, The governor talked to me
last night and it`s definitely coming from him. And all -- if these things
are even vaguely close, then they are close and she`s just arguing over
wording now, right?

Anyway, that`s the problem they`ve got right now. And she has a tremendous
incentive, as she said back then, according to Mayor Zimmer, I`m going to
deny this.

ROBINSON: Yes, well --

(LAUGHTER)

INGLE: And she did.

ROBINSON: No, I mean, one would. But you know, this really is a problem
for Christie. And so they`re going to have to, I think, do better than
that and be more specific than that in the denial. It sounds like there
was a conversation, and it sounds like these elements were present in the
conversation. And it`s hard to put those elements in there without it
coming out like a threat.

MATTHEWS: It becomes harder and harder to believe some of these stories.
To believe the position of the governor in his case, you have to believe
that Bridget Kelly, for example, came up with the idea of -- all by herself
in that one e-mail. It had nothing to do with her bosses telling her what
to do.

You have to believe that the mayor here, who comes out rather painfully and
rather, to me, spontaneously and offers up evidence about what happened and
shows her personal diary, offers to take a lie detector test, offers to go
under oath, at great risk to herself for no apparent gain -- you got to
wonder -- well, you got to believe -- at least think she`s worth listening
to in court.

And on the other hand, the people who are defending themselves and denying
all this are simply doing what politicians normally do, deny stuff.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Bob Ingle -- Bob. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Chris Christie is fighting for his political life.
Never mind 2016, his governorship could be at stake. And now a new poll
has troubling news for the governor. NBC`s Chuck Todd`s going to be here,
along with "Double Down`s" Mark Halperin, another pro.

Much more on the investigations in New Jersey coming up tonight in this
program. How far will all of this go? As Christie told big Republican
money men this weekend, even he doesn`t know when his troubles will end.
And that`s probably the truest statement he`s made.

Plus, President Obama says marijuana isn`t any more dangerous than alcohol,
or you could say it`s as bad as alcohol. With more states moving to
legalize it, we`ll talk to two members of the Kennedy family who know all
about addiction.

And "Let Me Finish" with this, with how this story out of Hoboken promises
to ignite a far wider investigation into the current politics of New
Jersey.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: With just 18 days to go now until the winter Olympics in Sochi,
Russian police say they`re on the lookout for as many as four "black
widows." They`re female suspects that may be sent to the games to carry
out terrorist attacks. Police say one of the suspects may already be in
the Sochi area. Police say she`s 22 years old, lives in the Dagestan
region of Russia, has a limp and a scar on her cheek and is the widow of an
Islamic militant killed by Russian security forces last year. There she
is.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After his landslide victory in
November, Chris Christie looked ready to become the face of a Republican
Party eager to win back the White House. As the new chairman of the
Republican Governors Association, he was set up to spend the year criss-
crossing the country, raising money and campaigning for Republican
candidates while amassing a network of backers and donors for a prospective
presidential run.

He met with some of those donors this past weekend in Florida, and one of
them, billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone, said of the George
Washington Bridge saga, quote, "It upset the hell out of me."

Well, Christie also planned to help Senator Lindsey Graham in his
reelection effort in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina
this spring. In an interview with "The New York Times," however, last
week, Graham, the senator, said, "If you brought him in South Carolina
today, what would we be talking about? We`d be talking about him. Well,
that`s no good."

And it`s not just Christie`s brand that`s in trouble, it`s his second term
as governor may hang in the balance. Last weekend on "Face the Nation,"
though acknowledging it`s still premature, the chairman of the New Jersey
special investigative committee, John Wisniewski, mentioned impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP "FACE THE NATION")

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: If it becomes known
that the governor was involved and he knew about it and he knew about the
cover-up and he was approving the actions taken by his senior staff, that
raises serious questions that the assembly ought to look at, and that ought
to be considered in light of what our responsibility is.

The assembly has the ability to do articles of impeachment. We`re way
ahead of that, though.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Way ahead of that.

Chuck Todd`s NBC News chief White House correspondent, of course, and
political director. And MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin is
the co-author of "Double Down."

Gentlemen, two heavyweights to talk about this. Trying to see a dynamic
situation, the way it might turn out is the hardest thing in the world,
isn`t it?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I would say so.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We`re looking at week two of something that could be a 20-week
program, a 10-week or five-week. We don`t know.

TODD: I can`t imagine it being a five-week. I think we know that.

It feels like this is going go for most of the year in some form or
another. The Sandy allegation by the Hoboken mayor brings the feds into
this, not tangentially, in a potentially front-and-center way, federal
investigation that could actually end up being a bigger deal, if the
allegations prove true, a bigger deal.

MATTHEWS: In other words, if Mayor Zimmer`s words as spoken this week --

TODD: Are factually -- are proven correct.

And we`re going to have an arbiter here. It`s a she said vs. she said,
except we have got a U.S. attorney involved who is going to decide the
facts. That`s a bigger deal than the bridge -- quote, unquote --
"scandal."

MATTHEWS: Is this illegal, a quid pro quo?

TODD: Well, then that would be illegal. Well --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You can`t hold up federal money?

TODD: What she is claiming, if that occurred, it is illegal.

So then it`s -- and you`re dealing with federal tax dollars. It brings the
feds in here. So, it`s a -- this is -- it changes. At this point, I think
that Chris Christie, what he said in Florida, hey, ask me again about the
presidential in a year, he really ought to take that to heart.

I don`t think he can even be thinking about whether he has a national
political future until this is resolved. It`s almost as if everybody
around him ought to take a time-out. And that includes maybe him spending
time on the trail with the Republican governor.

MATTHEWS: Mark, you don`t have to jump to conclusions here any more than
you want to, but it seems you guys are very good at writing that kind of
Teddy White stuff. You`re really good at the picture of the person.

When you -- it`s very hard for a politician. And Nixon is always a great
example, because it was very hard for him in June of 1972 to pull back and
say, OK, I`m not going to have the plumbers, I`m not going to have all that
stuff. I`m not going to think paranoically all my life. I`m not going to
back to Helen Gahagan Douglas and Alger Hiss. I can`t rewrite history, but
I got to go forward.

And it`s very hard for a guy like Governor -- I`m asking you, how does
Christie say I`m not going to change my team, my M.O., I`m going to go a
much different approach to getting things done from the tough guy way I
have been doing it.

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, not
exaggerating the severity or scope of wrongdoing, because we don`t know
what that is, but the analogs we have from modern American political
history really are Nixon and Clinton.

Christie is being covered now not quite like a president, but there is a
lot of scrutiny on him. And what is going on inside his operation now is
what we saw with the Clinton folks, which is you have to adjust to a new
normal, which is there`s two worlds. There is the scandal world,
subpoenas, people testifying under oath, not sure of which colleagues you
can necessarily trust.

And then there is the daily business of governance. And Christie, for his
own psychology, has to get back to the second part, while still dealing
aggressively with the first part. And that is very tough for anyone,
particularly for somebody like him who is used to having his way, doesn`t
get a lot of national scrutiny day to day. Now he does.

And there are so many adjustments he and his operation have to make. I
think that`s going to be the most difficult thing. We have already seen
everyone who knows him well, who has dealt with him --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: -- has already seen he is not his normal self. The bravado,
the confidence, it`s there on occasion. But it`s not there consistently.
It wasn`t this weekend. It wasn`t in his press conference even, where he
was trying to put on a good show.

MATTHEWS: Well, the shoes that haven`t dropped -- and we don`t know what
they`re going to do.

I`m looking for a metaphor here. All the hundreds of mayors in the state
that have had personal relations with this guy, benign, perhaps not so
benign, gray area, where he said, play ball with me, and, basically, my
friendship is worth something, totally legal, as opposed to a quid pro quo,
you know?

TODD: Well --

MATTHEWS: Friendship is worth something in politics, I would say.

TODD: And this is the part of --

MATTHEWS: And guys that --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Mark just brought up a good subject, an important point where
there`s paranoia. You don`t know who your friends are.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: And you don`t know who your enemies are going to be. And former
friends could turn. People you expect to turn may not. And I think that
that`s what makes this such a difficult --

MATTHEWS: Is it better to be nice or to stay in a -- turn nice all of the
sudden and everybody goes, this guy is vulnerable, he has been nice to me,
or stay S.O.B.?

TODD: Well, it`s -- I don`t know if there`s a --

MATTHEWS: Is it the old --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it better to be feared or loved?

TODD: You know, he governed clearly out of some form of fear, because the
way you`re seeing people now feel comfortable speaking out, and they didn`t
before -- I mean, I think sort of one of the more bizarre defenses that
Christie has come up with as far as the Dawn Zimmer allegations are
concerned, but she said such nice things about the governor before.

And you`re like, I don`t understand why you would bring that up. To me,
that only makes her potentially more credible if you`re not careful. It
actually enhances her credibility.

MATTHEWS: I heard you say that this morning and I think that`s so true.

TODD: And I think --

MATTHEWS: She doesn`t have a vendetta.

TODD: That`s what they`re trying to say.

So, they don`t -- now, it would have been the Jersey City guy that they
have been saying, well, hey we have had problems with him the Jersey City
the whole time. He is always making trouble. Well, at least that is a
logical attack on the Jersey City mayor, by saying, well, he has never been
with us, I think it`s a vendetta.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to something you`re good at, which is polling. We got
one. I think we broke you on this. We might have beaten you to this poll.

A new "USA Today"/Pew poll, research poll, shows Christie`s unfavorable
rating has doubled since last year. According to the poll, 34 percent of
Americans in a national poll view him unfavorably today. That`s double
from a year ago, when it was 17.

I don`t know what that means. What do you make of that, Mark?

HALPERIN: I mean, I`m always interested in the polls.

But I think in this case, all this stuff is meaningless. If Chris Christie
had no knowledge of this incident or any other serious one, he is going to
have to redo his staff. He is going to have to fight back. He is going to
have to delay presidential moves, but he can still have a thriving national
life.

If he knew about any of it, those numbers are going to change in a hurry
and things are going to be much different. There may be some gray. I may
be wrong about this, but to me, it`s basically a binary. If Chris Christie
knew about stuff, I think it`s the death penalty, a political death
penalty.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about the middle ground, the middle case?

I will start you, middle case, which is easy to understand. I have worked
for politicians. You know what they want you to do by pattern.

TODD: That this is the Jersey way, that this is the, he was simply
governing the way everybody governs in the state of New Jersey.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, no, or this is the way the boss wants something done when a
guy is being -- being tough on him, a guy is holding out on him, or some --
you know --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: On the interview with Yahoo! News, I thought it was interesting. He
said -- you know, he was trying to walk that line.

It`s like, sometimes, in private, you got to -- in order to get the deal
you need to get done --

MATTHEWS: You got to look tough in public.

TODD: -- sometimes, you have to be tough and you have to do these
things.

And I think there is part of that that the public does accept. If it is
that narrow band, right, if it is that band, if that is the gray area, it
is recoverable. But the problem -- see, the problem Christie has is
twofold, which is, he never -- the whole point of him was electability.

So, if you take electability away, then why should conservatives compromise
on their choice for a nominee.

MATTHEWS: I see.

TODD: See, this is where this hurts him doubly than simply it brings him
down a notch. It brings him down a notch and it makes conservatives going,
well, why do we have to hold our nose for this?

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chuck Todd.

Thank you, Mark Halperin.

Up next: Chris Christie can`t avoid the late-night comedians.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": "American Hustle," did you
see that one? Very entertaining.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MAHER: About a bunch of sleazy liars screwing over the mayor of a city in
New Jersey.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: Chris Christie says he has never seen it.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: He knows nothing about it. And he takes full responsibility.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back with the "Sideshow."

"Real Time With bill Maher" is back, of course, and just in time for the
news breaking out of the Garden State. Here is more of what Bill had to
say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MAHER: Now, of course, that was the big political story, right, when we
were off, Governor Chris Christie.

You all know what happened there. Governor Chris Christie`s henchman
closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge in an effort to keep people in
New Jersey from getting into Manhattan.

Of course, anyone in New York knows this is what doormen at nightclubs
there have been doing for years.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Of course, "SNL" got into the action, too, with Bobby Moynihan
playing the embattled and emboldened Governor Christie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOBBY MOYNIHAN, ACTOR: It`s great to be here. And I would just like to
sincerely apologize to the people of New Jersey for this entire incident.
And, also, it`s over, so shut up.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Are you concerned this will overshadow the rest of
your term as governor?

MOYNIHAN: Piers, I will not let this scandal define the state of New
Jersey. Instead, New Jersey will continue to be defined by organized
crime, pizza, no-show jobs, a vague chemical smell, and forget about it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, I`m very curious about these new allegations
that you withheld Hurricane Sandy funds to punish the mayor of Hoboken.

MOYNIHAN: Oh, really? You`re curious. Well, let me ask you a question,
Piers. How long is your drive to work?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don`t know. Maybe 15 minutes.

MOYNIHAN: Oh, well that`s a nice commute. It would be a real shame if
something were to happen to it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Wait. Wait. I`m sorry, Governor, are you threatening
me?

MOYNIHAN: I don`t know. Am I?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bobby Moynihan is doing great.

It should come as no surprise to Christie that comedians are targeting him
over the George Washington Bridge scandal, but there was still one parody
the normally thick-skinned governor still could not bear. "The New York
Times" reported on Saturday that -- quote -- "The governor could not bring
himself to watch the traffic jam-themed parody of `Born to Run` sung by his
idol, Bruce Springsteen, on `Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,` though he was
told by his college-age son, Andrew, that it was funny."

And according to an interview on Sunday, Fallon had actually given the
governor a warning prior to the sketch, but never heard back from the
governor`s office.

Up next: broadening the investigation into New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie. How far will this thing go?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Officials in Omaha, Nebraska, say two people are dead following an
explosion and collapse at an animal feed processing plant. And 10 others
were injured, including four who are critical.

President Obama and his family spent part of the Martin Luther King Jr.
holiday volunteering. They helped to prepare meals at a soup kitchen.

And U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon has withdrawn an invitation to include Iran in a
conference on Syrian. A key Syrian opposition group had threatened to
boycott that meeting -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In Hoboken, Mayor Dawn Zimmer`s statement today in which she challenged
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno`s comments, one sentence tells us this
story is in a new arena today. Quote: "I met with the U.S. attorney for
over two hours yesterday."

Well, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey is Paul Fishman, who has already
begun a review of allegations that members of Governor Christie`s inner
circle shut down traffic lanes on the G.W. Bridge to punish the Fort Lee
mayor.

What does Fishman`s meeting with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer tell us now
about the scope and stakes of this case as it`s developing?

Michael Isikoff is NBC News national investigative reporter. And Marlene
Caride is Democratic assemblywoman in New Jersey. She serves on the newly
created Special Select Committee on Investigations.

I want to start with Michael. I was watching you this morning on "MORNING
JOE."

This case, I just wonder where it`s going, the fact that already we have
Mayor Zimmer speaking with U.S. officials from the U.S. attorney`s office.
I assume that is already putting her in a position where she better be
telling the truth.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: She better -- she better have told the
truth.

MATTHEWS: In those two hours.

ISIKOFF: Look, that -- that meeting was the potential game-changer here,
because, look, on a Sunday, the U.S. attorney`s office?

The other thing Mayor Zimmer`s statement said is at their request. They
called her in on a Sunday to get this, on a holiday weekend, to get her
story. It is a crime to lie to a federal agent. So she is telling her
story to the U.S. attorney`s office. So, she is locked in. And she turns
over her diary. She turns over her notes, her e-mails, everything they
have got.

They have got no choice now but to -- they, the U.S. attorney`s office, to
now go to the lieutenant governor, go to Mr. Constable, the commissioner,
subpoena the governor`s office and everybody, the community affairs office,
for all their records, subpoena the city.

This now has escalated from what -- yesterday, even before this, all of
Christie`s people were trying to portray this as a partisan investigation
by Democrats in the legislature. Once Paul Fishman came in and did that,
it`s now in a whole new arena. It`s a federal criminal investigation.
That dramatically escalates what is going on here.

MATTHEWS: Assemblywoman Caride, help me out about where you see your
investigation going, because I -- this thing has metastasized, to use a
medical term. It has gone from the bridge closing to the manner in which
this governor of New Jersey, Republican governor, does business, to what
kind of muscle he uses with regard to state money, federal money, which, of
course, brings in the federal government, and the question, what these
mayors are going to be able to testify to.

How far is your committee going, do you know yet, investigating what began
with the bridge closings?

MARLENE CARIDE (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Well, as you know, we
started with the bridge -- well, actually, we started with the toll hikes
being investigated with the department -- with the Committee for
Transportation.

And due to the e-mails and text messages that we received in the course of
discovery, we`re now in the governor`s office. The committee, the special
committee that`s been formed is going to take this and do a very deliberate
and detailed investigation.

Once we have the paperwork that we`ve requested, the documents that we
requested, we`ll see where we go from there. But first we`re waiting for
the documents that we subpoenaed to come in, which would be at the
beginning of February.

And then from there, the committee can sit down, speak with special
counsel. And then choose the path of the direction that we need to
continue in.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: When you first heard about the bridge
closings, did you have an inclination that there is something fishy about
it? Without saying who is guilty, did you have a sense that that was just
a traffic survey for all those days? Did you have a sense when you heard
about the Hoboken mayor testifying or speaking on our network this weekend
that this is not something new in Jersey, that there is something here?

What is your inclination looking at it? Is it something worth
investigating?

CARIDE: Well, to be honest with you, I`m from Richfield. So, I`m one of
the surrounding towns of Fort Lee. When the traffic jam or the traffic
occurred those four days, it impacted the towns in my district, Richfield,
Cliffside Park.

Did I think that there was anything hinky about it? Not at the time.

However, when we started doing our investigation with regards to the
traffic tolls, and we received these documents that show that someone
called for a traffic jam to be caused, that is when things changed with our
committee and the special committee was formed to investigate this, because
obviously someone has abused their power in their position in the
governor`s office.

With regards to Mayor Zimmer`s comments this weekend, I saw them on MSNBC.
They`re serious allegations and very concerning. Obviously, our committee
will have to meet where all the members can speak with special counsel to
determine if our inquiry should also include mayor Zimmer.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. Let me get back to Michael. I thank you for that,
Assemblywoman.

Let me ask you about contemporary evidence. It seems to me that a diary is
dynamite, because every time you hear it, remember the Anita Hill case we
all live through. Did she say something to somebody else about the
behavior of Clarence Thomas and the whole thing? Because it gives
credibility when it happens in the real time.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: No, absolutely. I mean, look, you can test --
I heard Haley Barbour today suggesting maybe --

MATTHEWS: That was just partisan nonsense.

(CROSSTALK)

ISIKOFF: -- after the fact.

MATTHEWS: Well, he also said inserted way back in the pages.

ISIKOFF: Right, right. That`s the kind of thing FBI forensics could
determine if it were to be true. And it would be a pretty, you know, a
pretty brazen thing if the mayor --

MATTHEWS: It would also probably be fraud.

ISIKOFF: Yes, fraudulent activity by the mayor.

But a couple of things. First of all, on the legislative committee, I
think the legislation may be able to get the e-mails and documents they`ve
subpoenaed, but they`re going to have a hard time getting any testimony
right now when you have the U.S. attorney on the scene, because what`s
going to happen is every witness is going to take the Fifth Amendment, just
the way David Wildstein did.

MATTHEWS: OK. They`re not going to let Guadagno talk to the U.S.
attorney, are they?

ISIKOFF: Well, they may have no choice. She is going to get a subpoena.

MATTHEWS: Did you see how scared she was there with that presentation?
She is not ready to face these people.

ISIKOFF: She won`t have to testify.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. I think she is going to keep away from those
agents, too.

Anyway, thank you. Can you do that?

ISIKOFF: Keep way from the agents? No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s good.

Anyway, Michael Isikoff, thank you as always, and Assemblywoman Marlene
Caride from New Jersey.

Up next, President Obama says this is going to be an interesting comment.
Marijuana isn`t any more dangerous than alcohol. You can read it the other
way. It`s as dangerous as alcohol.

We`re going to talk to two members of the Kennedy family coming here right
now that know a lot about addiction, former U.S. Congressman Patrick
Kennedy and his cousin Christopher Kennedy Lawford. I really think this is
one of the hot issues we`ll be talking about for years. Should marijuana
be easy to get for everybody?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with President Obama`s new comments about
marijuana, and two Kennedys who have seen the ugly side of drug addiction.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s time, as Nancy said, for
America to just say no to drugs.

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: So, won`t you join us in this great new
national crusade.

R. REAGAN: God bless you and good night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was, of course, the famous anti-drug message from President Reagan in
the 1980s. But with Colorado and Washington state actually legalizing
marijuana for recreational use, attitudes have clearly shifted in this
country. Well, now, President Obama himself has weighed in on the issue.

Here is what he had to say in a profile piece by David Remnick in the
latest "New Yorker". Quote, "As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as
a kid." This is the president speaking. "And I view it as a bad habit and
a vice, but very different from the cigarettes -- but not very different
from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk
of my adult life. I don`t think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

I don`t think it is more dangerous than alcohol. It departs from what
we`ve heard in administrations in the past.

But president offered this by way of explanation. Quote, "Middle class
kids don`t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do, and African
American kids do, and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less
likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh
penalties."

Well, they`re better lawyered, white kids are.

Anyway, joining me now is the author of "What Addicts Know", a friend of
mine, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, and his cousin, who also joins us,
former U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island, Patrick Kennedy, there he is,
who heads up the smart approaches to marijuana project.

I generally support the president in a lot of things. I mean, I`m famous
for that or infamous from that. But the fact is I don`t think he is right
on this one, because I think people have addictive personalities, and some
people react to freedom differently than others. And we better be ready
for it, because it`s coming now.

CHRISTOPER KENNEDY LAWFORD, AUTHOR, "WHAT ADDICTS KNOW": There is no
question, Chris. I mean, the two most damaging drugs on the planet are
both legal, alcohol and tobacco. We don`t need another legal drug.

We don`t know -- all the evidence isn`t in on marijuana. I agree with the
president in terms of the consequences for some population groups as a
result of this drug being illegal. And I also think that, you know, quite
frankly, if alcohol was illegal today, it wouldn`t be legalized. It is a
very damaging drug. And we need to look at that also.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But it`s been around a long time.

LAWFORD: It has.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Patrick Kennedy on this. It seems to me, I have to
go -- we all deal with our anecdotal experiences in life. I mean, that`s
how you talk, from the experience.

PATRICK KENNEDY (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Right, right.

MATTHEWS: I`m around guys who drank too much and after they drank too
much, we go look for dope, around midnight. So don`t tell me booze wasn`t
a gateway to dope or to marijuana, and I don`t have that much experience
with the other stuff, but I do have that concern about the gateway issue.

Your thoughts?

KENNEDY: So, first, Chris, you hit the nail on the head. Most of us know
about this issue anecdotally. So what we need, Chris, is we need to know
what the science tells us, the science of public health.

So, I think the president needs to speak to his NIH director in charge of
drug abuse, Nora Volkow, because the director Nora Volkow would tell the
president that, in fact, today`s modern, genetically modified marijuana, so
it`s much higher THC levels, far surpass the marijuana that the president
acknowledges smoking when he was a young person, so that he is wrong when
he says that it isn`t very harmful, because the new marijuana is not the
old marijuana. And, of course, the president is making this decision based
upon his anecdotal experience.

We need to have presidential decisions made, based upon public health and
the sound science that the federal government`s invested in, which shows
that this is very harmful. In fact, as my cousin Chris just mentioned, if
it`s legalized, we know rates of use will increase. Availability will
increase and accessibility.

And as you know, Chris, if you have a predisposition to addiction, this is
going to be a gateway. And, frankly, Chris, it`s a harmful drug in and of
itself. Like, I was lucky, Chris, I got in and crashed early, because I
used harder drugs.

Marijuana is insidious. You could be using it for most of your life and
not wake up to the fact that you`re on a slow train to nowhere. And that`s
the damaging part about marijuana for our country.

MATTHEWS: Let me show you the latest polling on this you`re up against.
According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research polling, 55 percent of
Americans believe pot should be made legal. That`s an all-time high.

But you can see just how dramatic the trend towards legalization really is.
If you look at the polling over the last 28 years, since the Reagans made
that famous "just say no" speech, support for the legalization of marijuana
has risen 37 points. It`s a dramatic upward climb.

LAWFORD: We had, you know, George Soros` effort with medical marijuana.
That changed a lot of public opinion. We don`t have, as Patrick said, we
don`t have the science.

And this is a drug that inversely affects young people. It affects them in
terms of their ambition, in terms of psychosis, schizophrenia. We just
don`t have the --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s hit on that. Talk about ambition. It`s a little
elusive.

I do sort of believe that, by the way. I think dope, marijuana, makes you
sort of vague out and sort of lose interest in tomorrow, two weeks from
now, two months from now, where you headed? I do believe that.

LAWFORD: I live in Maui, and I can testify to that.

MATTHEWS: I think it just makes you live for the moment.

But, Patrick, what evidence do we have -- you say science. Do we have any
science to say that a hard-working Harvard law, Harvard medical student,
someone who`s working their butt off to be an engineer will slow down in
their ambition, because they`ve been smoking dope over a time? Do we know
that?

KENNEDY: Yes. There`s hard science. The National Institutes of Health
funded New Zealand longitudinal study that showed loss of I.Q. points that
would knock you from the top quadrant of percentage of those who had I.Q.
to the bottom percentage of those who used -- who have I.Q. So the point
is, it does affect IQ.

But, Chris, to the point of commercialization, the real issue here is
starting a for-profit industry, much like tobacco had an incentive to hook
kids, to get them to smoke cigarettes. And frankly, today, alcohol has
flavored alcohol for young people. They`re advertising hard liquor on
their advertisements, on cable TV.

I mean, if the president feels alcohol is worse than tobacco, what`s he
prepared to do? And I`ll tell you, the president won`t be able to do a
thing. Why? Because alcohol is too powerful an industry to change. And
right now, we have a chance to stop another for-profit industry from
targeting our public health.

MATTHEWS: I`m listening to you guys a lot. Thank you. I respect so much
what you`re trying to say. Slow that train down.

Thank you, Patrick Kennedy.

Thank you, Christopher Kennedy Lawford. The name of your book?

LAWFORD: "What Addicts Know."

MATTHEWS: "What Addicts Know," and you do know a lot.

Christopher, it is anecdotal but it`s really powerful.

Christopher will be signing copies of book "What Addicts Know," tomorrow
night at the Barnes & Noble in downtown Washington. That`s the Barnes &
Noble. Right now, they`re at the White House.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

The story from Hoboken promises to ignite a far wider investigation into
the current politics of New Jersey. I think people want to know how powers
are being used in that state, how federal money is being guarded, how state
money is being used, how the government in that state deals with
development projects.

One powerful reason is that the governor of New Jersey still sits atop the
Republican possibilities for president in 2016. People often complain
about presidents, then and only then go back to how they conducted
themselves before their election to the presidency.

This is a good time, by the way, this being 2014, to study the practices of
the leading Republican candidate for 2016. The fact of the matter is that
this case will proceed and will be judged not by the politics, but by the
facts as they come to light. If it is found that the governor has set up a
political operation that turned on punishing rivals and holdouts while
favoring friends, the question then will be whether the tough-guy tactics
crossed the line into criminality.

If, on the other hand, it is discovered that Governor Christie did not
encourage political revenge, did not signal that this is the way he wanted
political business conducted, then he will be exonerated before the eyes of
the country.

The facts will decide it. And that`s the way it should be.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


END

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