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updated 3/25/2014 12:14:55 PM ET 2014-03-25T16:14:55

HARDBALL
March 24, 2014

Guests: John Cox, Daniel Rose, Evy Poumpouras


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in
Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. They died at sea, every passenger and
crewman on that plane. But how? In a mighty explosion? Did a nanosecond
of horror convert a routine flight into a seven-hour zombie flight down to
the southern Indian Ocean, or did someone -- the pilot, the first officer,
a visitor to the cockpit -- pull the plug, cutting off 200-plus people from
the rest of mankind for the final hours of their lives?

All we know now is how it began, with those last words from the first
officer a little after 1:00 o`clock in the morning March 8th, and how it
ended, according to today`s fateful verdict, slipping into the south Indian
Ocean a little after 8:00 AM that same morning.

What did happen on that plane? What is there for relatives and the beloved
to contemplate for the rest of their lives, and for us who travel by air to
imagine, to consider each time we head skyward? Yes, Kuala Lumpur, we have
a problem. There is just so much we don`t know about Malaysia Airlines
flight 370. Can a jetliner, a 777, just disappear? Can we be left not
knowing even what happened even when it was still flying?

Robert Hager is an NBC News contributor and former NBC News aviation
correspondent. And Captain John Cox is an MSNBC aviation analyst. He was
a commercial pilot for 25 years.

It was devastating news for the families of passengers on board flight 370.
Earlier today, the Malaysian prime minister told the world that
sophisticated new analysis from a British satellite firm concluded that the
Malaysian jet went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: Using a type of analysis never
before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed
more light on MH-370`s flight path.

It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that
according to this new data, flight MH-370 ended in the southern Indian
Ocean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Bob Hager, we just heard the verdict there. It sounds
conclusive. It seems like closure. It tells us that seven hours after the
plane lost contact, left the radio transmission with the ground, that
everyone died.

The question, I guess, has to be this. What was it like for the
passengers? Was there a sudden cataclysm in which the conversion of a
normal flight into just horrific -- made no sense, were all unable to
breathe to -- or was it a long period of terrorist kind of activity on the
plane? How do we even know the difference between those two profound
different realities?

ROBERT HAGER, RET. NBC AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You don`t. I mean,
we have nothing to guide us one way or the other. And by the way, my own
opinion is that after kind of dismissing the possibility of some natural
catastrophe or mechanical catastrophe on board, I think it`s time to go
back and look at that a lot more closely because such a long period of time
has passed.

But what you do know is on the end of this flight, the period where it`s
out there in the Indian Ocean, it`s traveling on a straight line, and it
just travels for hours on that straight line, which suggests that at that
point, the cockpit crew, whoever is left of the cockpit crew, would be
incapacitated or dead, more likely, if it was a decompression or heavy
smoke or something like that, which also suggests that, mercifully, the
passengers might have been dead for that whole stretch out over the Indian
Ocean, as well.

The final end there -- you were asking about that -- and we don`t know
this, but I mean, the way a plane typically comes down when it runs out of
fuel, and that must be what happened here is eventually, it ran out of fuel
-- if one engine goes first and then the other one, it`s apt to spiral
down. There is a scenario under which it could come down more gradually.

But I think the spiral is a better chance, in which case, the wreckage
would break up and you`d get the small pieces, if, indeed, that`s what
we`re seeing out there by satellite.

MATTHEWS: Captain Cox, are you of that same verdict as of this moment,
that it was cataclysmic event right around 1:00 o`clock, when they lost
contact, rather than a long period of chaos and hell on a plane that may
have been going on for hours?

JOHN COX, MSNBC AVIATION EXPERT: Well, let`s go back to a couple of
things. One, we don`t have any evidence either way, and we need to be real
careful about not overrunning the evidence. But let`s go for just a second
and talk about the spiral that you just mentioned.

If -- and we have reason to believe the autopilot was engaged. Even if one
engine quit before the other, this is a very, very sophisticated autopilot
system. It`s going to maintain the track even with one engine out and one
still operating. So the concept or idea that this spiral thing, that it
began to spiral, is not consistent with what you would -- find what the
airplane would do.

This is one of the most sophisticated jets in the air. It is a very
capable airplane. Consequently, the autopilot is totally capable of
keeping the airplane in flight. And then as the second engine fails and
the generator loss occurs, then and only then is the autopilot going to
disconnect.

So when you -- there`s a number of pieces in here. There`s a lot of
speculation. But we need to be real careful about staying focused on the
data that we have and not the speculation beyond it.

MATTHEWS: Well, did you accept the verdict of the prime minister today,
based upon the British experts, that the plane flew for all those hours
from 1:00 to 8:00 o`clock, roughly, AM into the south Indian Ocean?

COX: Yes, this data -- the fact that they had the air accident
investigation branch of the U.K. recheck this analysis and concur with it
before sending it to the Malaysian government -- this gives that data very
high credibility. That`s -- the AAIB is one of the top investigative
agencies in the world. So for them to say, This data`s good, the
credibility of it is absolutely very high. So yes, I believe that the data
that was released today from Inmarsat and this cutting-edge technology is
high quality.

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess we`ll go back -- I accept your admonition there
not to speculate, but we are left here with very little information,
Captain Cox, and that is that the flight went on for seven hours. My
question to you is, could an automatic pilot procedure keep a plane flying
on a straight line for seven hours without anybody alive on the plane, a
zombie plane -- flight, if you will? Could that happen?

COX: Is it possible? Absolutely, yes. No question.

MATTHEWS: So there`s no dead man switch, like in railroads. I mean, if
you`re dead, the plane keeps flying.

COX: If the entire crew is incapacitated, the autopilot is engaged, and
the flight management computer has a path or route to fly, it will fly
that. If it doesn`t, if it hits what is known as a discontinuity, it will
fly a heading --

MATTHEWS: OK.

COX: -- and it will continue to fly that until fuel exhaustion.

MATTHEWS: OK. We go back -- let me go back to Bob Hager, who I`ve known
forever. Bob, this is the veteran`s question of your career, I think,
because I don`t know how you do this because we keep hearing, or we did for
days in the analysis we were getting, that you couldn`t have a catastrophic
moment that shut down every possible instrument of communication and all
the data, all the voice, no way to communicate back to command or where you
came from, that you`d just left, in fact. In one instant, all
communication cut off and there`s a catastrophic event that renders
everyone dead.

What would have to -- I thought when the depressurization -- they always
say on an airplane that the little masks are going to come down instantly,
like a -- like a -- like in a car. You`re going to get the cushion, the
air cushion come up and get you. It happens automatically.

It that true that those little masks come down immediately if there`s a
depressurization? And if so, why weren`t the people breathing then?

HAGER: That -- you know, I don`t -- I don`t know the answer to that on
whether they come down automatically.

COX: They do.

HAGER: But -- oh, John says he does. Let`s have him take a crack at that,
then.

COX: The --

MATTHEWS: Captain, how do you have a catastrophic moment where nobody`s
allowed to live more than a second longer to get on a radio or to
communicate by e-mail or anything, completely blackout? How does it
happen?

COX: Well, I`m not sure --

MATTHEWS: And the plane flies for seven hours. So the plane`s still
flying, but everybody`s dead instantly!

COX: Maybe. We don`t know that. Here`s what we do know. First answer to
the question, passenger service units are automatic when the cabin altitude
reaches 14,000 feet. The door opens, the masks come down. That`s
automatic. When you extend them, you start a chemical process in an oxygen
generator, and they will give you around 12 to 14 minutes of oxygen. And
the idea is to get the airplane down to breathable air. That`s how that
system works.

MATTHEWS: OK.

COX: The pilots have a different system. They have much -- they have face
masks and oxygen masks that go on together. And it`s a very tight seal.
And the pilots are trained to put those on at the first sign that the cabin
altitude is climbing above 10,000 feet, which is where they get the first
cabin altitude warning.

There is a useful consciousness time at 35,000 feet, depending on the
individual, of somewhere between 30 to 45, maybe as long as 60 seconds. So
-- and the oxygen masks for the pilots must be capable of being in place
within five seconds. It`s a certification requirement.

Put all of that together, the pilots put these pressure-fitting masks on,
they can breathe, and they have much longer. They probably have 35 or 40
minutes of oxygen at that time.

So we don`t know that a depressurization occurred. If it did, there is
crew oxygen available, and there`s passenger oxygen that`s available
automatically. What happened beyond that, we don`t know.

MATTHEWS: So we`re still left with the conundrum. If they were alive,
even for that 30-some minutes and 14 minutes for the passengers, they
didn`t use that time to communicate with anyone.

COX: It`s even a little bit more complex than that, Chris. If you look at
the fact that they didn`t communicate on any of the radios, that says they
could have failed, they could have been unpowered electrically, or they may
not have been chosen to be used. We don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COX: The transponder was -- ceased to function shortly after the last
communication. It could have experienced an electrical problem, the
component could have failed, or it could have been switched off. We don`t
know.

But what we do know is that the datalink system known as ACARS was stopped
from transmitting data, but the unit itself continued to talk to the
satellites. That takes specialized knowledge and it takes some deliberate
keystrokes into the computer system to disable its ability to transmit
data.

That`s a deliberate act by someone with knowledge. And so that is an
important distinction and difference between all the other forms of the
communication --

MATTHEWS: Right.

COX: -- and the ACARS system.

HAGER: But Chris --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- still with the position that it was a catastrophic moment
that cut off all -- it seems like that would require a lot of coincidences
for that to be the case.

COX: This entire -- we have a lot of holes in every scenario that we`ve
looked at. None of them tie all the pieces together. And the holes in
every scenario are quite large. There`s a lot of information to be gained
here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Bob, put it together.

HAGER: Nothing makes sense. I mean, no matter what you theorize on, on
whether it was some kind of murder-suicide or terrorism or whatever in the
cockpit, or if you go the other way with some catastrophic incident that`s
to human-related, nothing makes rhyme or reason right now because we just
don`t have enough information.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I keep finding myself going back to human behavior here,
the way that the prime minister started his assessment days ago. Anyway,
thank you, Bob Hager, as always.

HAGER: Sure.

MATTHEWS: John Captain -- Captain John Cox -- gentlemen, thank you so
much.

Coming up, the next step in the investigation. We move on, finding the
wreckage, the hunt for the black boxes, the search for answers. Will we
ever learn what happened through the technology that`s still out there in
the water?

Plus, many of you remember that old ad, "When E.F. Hutton talks, people
listen." Well, when numbers guru Nate Silver talks, people listen. And
right now, they`re hearing him say that the Republicans are favored to take
back the U.S. Senate this November. But for how long? Maybe just two
years.

And that`s the smart way to understand -- what is the smart way now to
understand Russia`s Vladimir Putin? He`s not Hitler, he`s not Stalin, he`s
not Khrushchev. But who he is? So says Michael McFaul, the former U.S.
ambassador to the Russian Federation, who joins us later. He`ll tell us
who the guy is.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with some hardball questions about how to make
this democracy of ours work for this country.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, how much of a challenge will it be to find the wreckage of
Malaysia Air flight 70 -- 370? Take a look at this graphic. It shows the
depths of the Indian Ocean in that area where suspicious debris has been
spotted. The ocean depth at its shallowest there is about 4,000 feet.
Other parts are 23,000 feet.

And on the bottom there, you can see the relative heights of landmarks like
the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the
Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument -- they all look pretty small
down there -- versus the tail height of a Boeing 777, just under 60 feet.
And if you want to take a closer look at the graphic, go to our Web site,
Hardball.msnbc.com.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While the Malaysian prime minister
today delivered the tragic news that flight 370 was lost in the Indian
Ocean, the mystery of what happened to that doomed flight remains wide
open.

There are different strands of the investigation still ongoing. On the one
hand, searchers continue trying to find debris in one of the most remote
parts of the world -- you can see all that water down there -- the southern
Indian Ocean. Well, today, Chinese and Australian aircraft said they
spotted suspicious objects in the water out there, but so far, there has
been no actual confirmation they come from the Malaysian jet, actually.

If you do locate debris from the plane, he next crucial step will be
finding the data recorder, the black box, of course, that will offer clues
about what happened.

The other strand remains looking into the background of the pilots, the
crew, the passengers on board that plane. The FBI`s involved in searching
the files of the pilot`s in-home flight simulator right now.

The question today with either of these strands, are we any at all or even
closer at all to knowing what happened in the early morning of March 8th on
board flight 370?

Daniel Rose is an aviation attorney and was a pilot. And Evy Poumpouras
was a special agent with the Secret Service, is now a security expert.
Thank you both for joining us.

Daniel, I want to start with you in terms of the black box search. What
are we likely to get? Are we even -- is this a needle in a haystack,
finding a box that you can pick up, I suppose, in the middle of the ocean,
at the bottom of the ocean? It doesn`t float. It goes to the bottom, and
the water down there is, what, 23,000 feet deep in some cases.

DANIEL ROSE, AVIATION ATTORNEY, FORMER PILOT: That`s right, Chris. And
you know, we`re running out of time in terms of getting any assistance from
the box itself, which has this pinger that emits a ping to help locate it.
So you know, we have to find the wreckage first.

We have to validate that the wreckage is actually from the aircraft, which
we seem to be getting closer to. But then we have to work our way
backwards once we identify the area where there is aircraft wreckage, and
figure out where that means the plane crashed, you know, over a week ago,
probably almost two weeks, hopefully, by the time you find it.

MATTHEWS: How close do you have to be to a location to be able to pick it
up electronically?

ROSE: You have to be two miles. And that`s on land. You know, if you`re
under the water, you`re dealing with all these thermal layers, and makes it
even tougher. But you could be more than two miles deep in the -- you
know, the black box could be more than two miles deep into the water. So
it could be very difficult.

I think the more likely scenario is going to be identifying the debris
field where the plane impacted and came to rest in large part, and then
scour that area to see if you can find the black box using submersibles.

MATTHEWS: What`s your hunch about how long mankind is -- we see -- I`m
impressed any time that countries get along with each other. We have, you
know, the Chinese and the Australians working together. We`re watching
these flights going out after -- it`s very expensive to go out there and
kill all that gasoline. I`m just wondering how long they`re going to keep
doing this.

ROSE: Yes, I don`t think this is going to stop any time soon. I mean, I
don`t think anybody is going to say, that`s it, we`re giving up.

At the worst, things are going to kind of dwindle down over time in terms
of resources. But I think the Australians are -- have taken charge and
really gotten involved. We`re certainly giving all our assets involved.
And I think it`s just a question of time before we actually find it.

MATTHEWS: OK, Daniel, just bottom line, you probably listened to the
earlier segment, where I`m trying to find out what happened on that plane
in the first hours and minutes after we first lost contact with the ground.

What do you -- do you think the black box will tell us whether there was a
skirmish on the plane, whether there was some kind of Terrorist activity?
Will we be able to get that out of a electronic machine?

ROSE: I doubt it. The cockpit voice recorder only records 30 minutes
back.

So, you`re never going to hear what happened seven hours, five hours, three
hours, five hours. And the flight data recorder records two hours back.
You may get some information there about what systems were working and not,
but I don`t think you`re ever going to get evidence, hard evidence of a
deliberate act, and I think the indication is going to be that it was some
type of a mechanical failure.

MATTHEWS: The question I have goes back to this, how everything -- we were
just talking with Captain Cox and Bob Hager how everything seemed to be
switched off. All of the sudden, at 1:00 something a.m., March 8 in the
morning, everything got switched off.

There wasn`t any more ACARS. There wasn`t any more voice transmission.
There wasn`t anything, any ping or anything coming from that plane. And
all that happened and then everybody was dead.

ROSE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And yet they tell you that if there is a loss of pressure, would
that show up on the black box, that the masks do come down, the pilots have
their masks on professionally, they`re able to survive for 35 minutes? The
passengers are able to survive for 14 minutes in those plastic things that
come down there.

There was a survival opportunity there. Why wasn`t it taken?

ROSE: Yes, you`re not going to get that information from the black box.
But you are going to be able to piece together I think some information
what was the failure that caused it.

And, for instance, we handled the last Boeing in-flight fire case. And
what is particular about, for instance, in-flight fires is that they`re
notoriously random. So it is a sequence of events that could knock out
systems that otherwise don`t logically come into play. For instance, in
the last one, the oxygen system was knocked out.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROSE: And without the oxygen system, that could really explain how this
plane flies along for seven hours.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Evy now.

Evy, thank you for joining us.

Give me the questions that are on your mind in terms of the passenger
manifest, the crew manifest, everything we don`t know about who was on the
plane.

EVY POUMPOURAS, FORMER U.S. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Right.

So, the concern here a little bit is, we`re very focused on finding the
plane obviously for the obvious reasons, and to locate survivors, if that
was even a possibility. But we seem to almost have shifted away from the
other investigative leads that we have.

For example, you brought up the simulator that the FBI is looking at. What
happened with that? The backgrounds of the people on the plane, we haven`t
really heard as much with regard to that. The pilots, what happened to the
pilots` cell phone?

What we need to do when you investigate something like this, you have to
look at everything and work on everything in tandem. You can`t just focus
on finding the plane and that`s that. You have to look at these other
components and give them the appropriate amount of time and effort and
resources.

So, for one, we have a manifest. We have names. Who are these people?
Just because you put some names in a database check and you see that maybe
somebody doesn`t have a significant criminal record or just because
somebody is not on a terrorist watch list, it does not mean that they`re
not culpable, that they`re not capable of doing something nefarious on the
flight.

You need to do a proper forensic profile on all individuals, not just those
on the plane, not just the passengers, not just the pilots, but also ground
crew members. And the thing is, we haven`t heard too much about that. And
we haven`t heard about the simulator or the hard drives. Have we heard
anything?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, we haven`t, Evy.

POUMPOURAS: And that`s the concern. What about that?

MATTHEWS: Anyway, for family of passengers who have waited now for two-
and-a-half weeks without word, today`s news was devastating, of course.

Some of them were told by representatives of Malaysia Airlines. Others
received text messages with the news, and still others learned about it
when the prime minister of Malaysia himself spoke today.

In Beijing, CNBC`s Eunice Yoon was there right after the families were
informed. And here she was earlier today with some very raw reporting.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EUNICE YOON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Now they`re all streaming out of the
room. I`m not sure if you can hear them. You can hear the devastation.
Hold on.

(SCREAMING)

YOON: The security is trying to keep the journalists away right now from
the families. And the families are all now moving into a different
location. But they have obviously -- are in a complete state of disbelief
after finally getting this news that their families are now lost forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Forever.

Meanwhile, Tom Wood, the brother of one of the American victims, Philip
Wood, told reporters today the news from the Malaysian prime minister
offered at least a little bit of closure. That was his word. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM WOOD, BROTHER OF FLIGHT 370 PASSENGER: We have been praying for some
answers. And so this is -- you know, it`s not the answer we wanted. But
it`s an answer.

And it does help to know that we know something. We know the plane went
down. And we want to know more. And hopefully we do learn more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Daniel, and then Evy, I was stunned to read that the press
release put out by the Chinese government basically blaming the Malaysian
government for the death of these people because of the manner in which
they have reported the information. That seems a bit extreme, to put it
lightly, Daniel?

ROSE: Yes, I agree with that, Chris.

I mean, certainly, this investigation and especially the families have not
been handled in kind of an exemplary fashion. But it`s certainly not
intentional. But I just can`t imagine a more traumatic and difficult
experience for these families to go through.

And then yet after all these weeks of bad information coming out, to be
ultimately given the ultimate news about their loved ones in such a fashion
is really troubling.

MATTHEWS: Evy, I think people naturally want to have someone to blame when
there is a horror. I have seen this so many times in so many news stories.
You have got to go somewhere with your anger. You can`t just blame God.
You have got to blame somebody, somewhere, it seems.

POUMPOURAS: I think there is a lot of pain here, significantly because
there has been so many contradictions and changes and misinformation.

So these families, they have been on such an emotional roller-coaster ride.
And then just there has been some mishandling by the Malaysian government
in the way they dealt with this. But again to come out and blame them for
everything, I think that`s a bit harsh.

But at the same time, you look at something like getting a text that your
loved ones didn`t survive, I can`t imagine what that`s like. You have to
almost question yourself, like, where is the logic behind that? That`s not
what these people deserved, a text message.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

POUMPOURAS: You need to be present.

And you can`t do this to these people after what they have been through.
It`s just -- it`s very sad. And it`s also indicative somehow of the way
Malaysia has handled this incident. You kind of see it consistently
throughout, all these little -- these little red flags, these things they
have been doing and you question, how are they making these decisions?

MATTHEWS: Well, we know what countries are judged by, how they`re judged.
They`re judged by how they treat individual people, not the big numbers.

Anyway, thank you, Daniel Rose.

And we`re seeing here how a country treats its people.

Evy Poumpouras, thank you so much for joining -- we will be right back
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Clinton, if you don`t represent women in politics
in America as future president, who will?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": And, also, to add to that --

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: -- when you do run for president, will you reuse the old Clinton
campaign lawn signs?

(LAUGHTER)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Do you still have
yours, Jimmy?

KIMMEL: I probably do, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. That was the $64,000 question at the Clinton
Global Initiative University Forum held in Tempe, Arizona, Saturday night.

And, as you could see, it was a pretty laid-back evening for the Clintons,
with Jimmy Kimmel providing plenty of the comic relief.

Well, Hillary Clinton may pretend to coyness about her plans for 2016, but
it didn`t take much to read between the laugh lines. Here is her answer to
the now famous question, with a little prodding from Kimmel and an
encouraging audience out there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: I am very much concerned about the direction of our country.
And it`s not just who runs for office, but what they do when they get there
and how we bring people together, and particularly empower young people, so
that we can tackle some of these hard decisions we have just been talking
about. So --

KIMMEL: She wants a answer.

H. CLINTON: Well, I have been getting -- I`m getting to it. I`m getting
to it. I`m getting to it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: So let me -- let me say this, that give me your name and
number.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will proudly run your campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: I like your attitude, your confidence. Thank you.

And, no, I`m obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The key phrase there was, give me your name and number.

Anyway, with a reception like that, I would say all signs point to yes. Of
course, the event wasn`t complete without Kimmel himself getting in an
obligatory selfie with the former first family, and in addition to having
the last laugh of the evening at Chelsea`s expense. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: Should you wind up back in the White House, will Chelsea get her
old room back, or will you convert that into a home gym?

(LAUGHTER)

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON: You`re throwing me under the
bus now too?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, polling guru Nate Silver says Republicans are
slight favorites this November to win control of the U.S. Senate. No big
surprise there. But the Democrats, of course, deny the doomsaying.

And that`s ahead. And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Eight people with confirmed dead in this weekend`s mudslide about 55 miles
outside of Seattle. Authorities say 108 people are unaccounted for. They
do expect that number to decline, though.

In Chicago, transportation officials are looking into the cause of a train
derailment that injured 32 people. The public transit train jumped the
tracks and scaled an escalator early this morning.

And five former employees of convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff were found
guilty of helping him carry out his Ponzi scheme -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the data-driven political forecaster Nate Silver is out there with
his 2014 midterm election predictions. And Democrats aren`t too happy with
those predictions. Silver predicted that the Republicans have a 60 percent
-- that`s a pretty good chance of taking control of the U.S. Senate this
year. They need six seats to do it. He says they will probably do it.

He says Republicans are heavily favored to capture four of those seats now
held by Democrats. Here they are, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota,
and Montana. No big surprises there. He says an additional four seats
additionally -- currently held by Democrats are what we calls tossups,
Louisiana, that`s Mary Landrieu, North Carolina, that`s Kay Hagan, that`s
Mark Begich up in Alaska, and of course an open seat from Carl Levin`s
departure in Michigan.

He predicts only two seats currently held by the Republicans up there in
Kentucky and then down there in Georgia are possible Democratic wins. They
could be pickups there. But he says they`re unlikely. Hmm.

Well, the Democrats responded with rapid-fire, pointing out that Silver
named his underdogs as Harry Reid in Nevada and Michael Bennet back in
2010, and both of them won. And Montana`s Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp in
`12, and both of them won. So he is not always right.

In August of 2012, Silver forecasted a 61 percent likelihood that
Republicans would win enough seats back then -- would win enough seats back
then to claim the majority. Well, three months later, Democrats went on to
win 55 seats. And that was from a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial
Campaign Committee, who is putting cold water on Nate Silver.

So, Chris Cillizza I think is better actually than Nate Silver.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Breaking.

MATTHEWS: He`s managing editor of the PostPolitics.com and an MSNBC
contributor. And Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

You know, when you go to Vegas, as I used to do once in a while, Chris and
Jonathan, the one way you can surely lose your shirt is to have a system.
If you`re just out there betting, you probably know when to quit. But if
you got a system, you`re convinced you got it figured out, Chris.

And I wonder about, does Silver have a -- does Nate have a system here? Is
he just following what you and I have been watching for months? He has
been busy with sports. But you and I have noticed that we know which ones
are tough -- are going to be the tough ones, like West Virginia. We know
how tough they`re going to be.

Your thoughts about the new listing.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, look, I don`t think -- in defense of Nate, I don`t
think Nate came out and said that he had reinvented the wheel by saying
that Republicans had a better than-even-chance of winning back the Senate.

As you point out and as he is aware, people, independent handicappers, too,
people like Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, they have been saying that things
are moving in that direction. I think everybody is drawn to Nate because
he puts a percent on it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: Now, it`s a percentage based on a model. He is a modeler.

He takes a bunch of factors and puts them into an algorithm. It produces
out these numbers. He would say, as anyone who follows politics closely
would say, Chris, it`s based on the polling information and the algorithm.
So the more polling information you have, the better the result it
produces.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Unpack that word algorithm a little bit. Is he really talking
about the fact of expectations about turnouts in a midterm election and the
kinds of people that tend -- let me go to Jonathan.

CILLIZZA: Sure.

MATTHEWS: It seems like that`s the big algorithm, if you will, the big
number you`d be looking for. If this were a presidential year, I think
he`d be much more careful about predicting demise for the Democrats.

CAPEHART: Right. When you look at Nate Silver`s report. He goes into
what were all the factors that led to the assumptions that he made today.
One of them is presumed turnout. Democratic Party base usually in off --

MATTHEWS: Fades.

CAPEHART: -- off-year elections fades. There`s that. There`s the polling
as Chris mentioned. There are a whole lot of other factors.

And, Nate, to his credit, says look. There is a slight chance Republicans
can take the Senate. And all of these things can change. And then later
on when we have more data, then we will use the algorithm that made him
famous.

I mean, the reason why Democrats are all flipped out and Republicans are
probably very cheered by his report today is because of Nate`s success in
predicting the presidential election. But as you accurately pointed out in
your intro, Nate got it wrong more than once when it came to Senate races,
particularly Heidi Heitkamp in North Carolina.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to something that you cover and Chris you cover
completely all the time. The quality of campaigns, I`m looking at the ads.
As you mentioned in your piece today, the ads for Mark Begich up in Alaska.
A good string of really good ads, a very popular front a candidate puts on
in the campaign year can change everything.

Mary Landrieu has been beating the judge for how many times has she gotten
through difficult years because people like the Landrieu name. They like
the history of that family down there.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think -- look, this is the
difficult part about modeling. My belief is in politics we should take it
the same way that we do in sports, which is you can`t just rely on sort of
the scouts in baseball. My eye tells me this. And the numbers aren`t
conclusive either you. You combine the two.

I would say you make a good point with both Begich and Landrieu, Chris.
It`s hard to quantify this. Moon Landrieu was very famous mayor of New
Orleans, who`s Mary Landrieu`s father. Her brother is lieutenant governor
of the state, Mitch Landrieu.

In Alaska, Mark Begich was the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska. It`s hard to
quantify how much does that -- we know the people. We know these people.
We know the Landrieus of Louisiana. We know the Begiches of Alaska.
They`re not national Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CILLIZZA: It`s hard to figure out how much that should count for. And
that`s why they run the campaigns.

MATTHEWS: And I think in the end, people do vote in Senate races more than
-- especially states like Idaho, Utah, states that are out there all by
themselves, they don`t have big cities. They focus on who the senator is
and they know who their senator.


CAPEHART: Right. And when it comes to Mary Landrieu, she`s been able to
eke it out because part of it is her standing within the African American
community.

MATTHEWS: That`s so true.

CAPEHART: She, if Mary Landrieu wins yet again, if she squeaks through yet
again, it will be because African-American voters came out in the ways that
they did in previous races and maybe even to the numbers that they did in
2008 and 2012.

MATTHEWS: She almost looks like New Orleans. There is something about her
that evokes New Orleans, that family, the face, the whole look.

CILLIZZA: That`s how she has won in the past, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, they have been around forever. And maybe,
unfortunately, Edward Edwards as well, Edwin Edwards as well. But I think
he may have reached the end of his.

Anyway, even if Democrats do lose control of the Senate, it is important it
would only be temporarily because, Chris, as you wrote today in "The Post",
and the others have, the GOPers, the Republicans, probably need to pick up
a neighborhood of eight to 10 seats or even nine to ensure themselves a
fair shot of holding the Senate for more than two years because there are
23 Republicans up compared to just 10 back in 2016.

So, much like the geography of the Senate map in 2014 favors Republicans,
there are a lot of Republican-held seats and traditionally Democratic seats
coming up in 2016. And those states include, this is where the Democrats
are going to do well, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New
Hampshire.

But you know what? I still think it could be a disaster for the Democrats
because if Barack Obama spends the last two years of his historic
presidency without any congressional influence, Republicans in both Houses,
controlling both Houses, sending bills to him one after another that they
have put together and agreed upon and then send to him for his signature,
it could be a pretty distressing last two years for his presidency.

CILLIZZA: The one thing I`ll say, Chris, these things move in cycles. So
the class of 2014 is the class of 2008, obviously a very good year to be a
Democrat, presidential year. President Obama wins overwhelmingly -- 2014
not so.

This 2016 class is the class of 2010, which is a very good year to be a
Republican. It`s just harder to win mathematically in Illinois, in New
Hampshire, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in a year that we expect
presidential level turnout. Those are states that Barack Obama has won in
2008 and 2012 where the Democratic nominee for president, whoever it is,
we`ll start as the favorite. The higher turnout goes in those places, the
more should have -- to their partisan nature they act. And that`s why I
think a Mark Kirk in Illinois, for example, is going to have a very, very
tough race if he decides to run.

MATTHEWS: Crazy horse said to George Armstrong Custer, some day, your
people will outnumber us, but not today.

Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza. That was the Battle of the Bighorn.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan Capehart -- anyway.

Up next, is there anything President Obama should be doing right now to
counter Vladimir Putin? What should be his approach to this fella we`re
looking at right now? I still think he`s interesting fella, and perhaps
stages. But we`ll see.

Michael McFaul, the former ambassador to Russia for us. He is the best
expert on this guy. He is coming here live.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" is reporting today that the first
investigation into what went wrong in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s
office clears the governor of any wrongdoing. But lawyers who conducted
this investigation were commissioned by Christie himself and come with a
law firm that has close ties to his administration.

What`s more? They were not able to interview the three people with the
heart of the scandal, former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly,
Christie`s ally at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, and former campaign
manager Bill Stepien.

By the way, New Jersey taxpayers picked up the million dollar tab for that
investigation.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Europe and America are
united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people.
We`re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s President Obama today in the Netherlands where he`s working to
solidify European resolve to punish Russia`s Vladimir Putin for seizing
Crimea.

Well, toward that end, the leaders of what is now the G-7 late today said
the Russia has been suspended from what had been the G-8 because of its
activities in Ukraine.

And in today`s "New York Times" former ambassador to Russia, Michael
McFaul, lays out what we`re up against in Putin and how we got to this
point.

Quote, "This new era crept up on us because we did not fully win the Cold
War. Communism faded. The Soviet Union disappeared. Russian power
diminished. But the collapse of the Soviet order did not lead smoothly to
a transition of democracy and markets inside Russia or Russia`s integration
into the West."

Let`s take a clear eyed look at who Putin is and what we`re up against with
NBC`s analyst and former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.

Mr. Ambassador, it`s an honor to have you on the program.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: Nuance is all important. Comparisons to other leaders like
Hitler don`t help me at all. I do see a pattern, though, not about Hitler
but this concern about language. I think English is a good unifier. It
doesn`t to be under the law. It`s a good unifier.

And I see the power of Russian and the Russian language in Ukraine and the
way it has been used to re-gather the Old Soviet order in this case with
Crimea coming back to Russia by plebiscite. My question is, do you think
like that Hitler that Sudetenland will not be enough in this case, that
Putin will try to get more of Ukraine where it`s Russian speaking and
perhaps look for an easement between Moscow and Crimea through Ukraine?

MCFAUL: Well, it`s a dangerous time. Any time you make people choose in
terms of their identities, that`s always dangerous, right? I mean, you can
speak multiple languages, have multiple ethnic identities, live in Ukraine
but want to be part of Europe. Be an Irish-American and live in America,
speak French, and German, and Italian.

But when you force people to choose, those are dangerous times. That`s
what Putin`s doing right now in his reaching out to Russian -- ethnic
Russians in eastern Ukraine.

MATTHEWS: And do you think he`ll reach out militarily?

MCFAUL: Right now, I don`t think he`s planning an invasion. I really
don`t. I listened to his speech closely last week. I don`t think that is
what`s on his mind.

But here`s the scenario I worry about. Ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic
Russians start killing each other. Some bar brawl in Donetsk starts and
escalates and the violence escalates. And the government there, the police
force is not able to control that violence. That`s a moment when I think
Putin will be tempted to get involved. And that would be disastrous.

MATTHEWS: Well, Hitler in his case went around instigating those kinds of
crises within Austria, for example. He would create a problem then go in
to deal with it by invading the country.

Do you think he will be aggressive in that regard? Would he instigate bar
brawls in Donetsk?

MCFAUL: Well, I just remind you one of the miracles of the collapse of the
Soviet Union is we didn`t have that. Remember? There are almost 30
million people that lived beyond the borders of Russia, ethnic Russians.
It was relatively peaceful.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCFAUL: Now, we`re starting to see signs of something different, and I do
not exclude the fact that Russian secret police might go in to try to
instigate those kinds of conflicts, yes.

MATTHEWS: How much power does Putin have? I`ve always wondered back in
the -- you`re probably an expert on this. In what point of the history of
the Soviet Union did the premiers or party chairs lose the ability to kill
somebody they didn`t like, that they`re able to just knock people off or
put them away in some prison somewhere?

Is that still a power within the hands of this guy? Could he kill people?
Can he -- does he have that autocratic power?

MCFAUL: Well, there`s no question that he`s weak in Democratic constraints
on his power over the last 15 years and especially over the last two years.
And remember that. He`s been in power 15 years. That consolidates a lot
of power, and when you rally people around the flag like with this recent
annexation of Crimea, that makes you popular.

He doesn`t have a record of killing people, but arresting people, political
prisoners, something that we did not have for many, many years. That`s
come back under the Putin era, yes.

MATTHEWS: Is there any way we can treat him in a way that will influence
him? Or is it all up to him?

MCFAUL: I`m not optimistic, frankly. I think it was right for President
Obama to raise the specter of more serious sanctions should Russia go into
eastern Ukraine. He`s very explicit about that, that he was going to
sanction companies and banks as opposed to just individuals.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCFAUL: But our record of coercing and deterring Russian power in eastern
Europe over the last 70 years is not very good.

MATTHEWS: Ambassador, thank you so much. It`s honor to have you on.
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me end tonight with the week I just spent teaching at the
University of San Francisco.

You know what young people want to know? They want to know how we can make
this democracy of ours work for the country, how we can get good people to
lead us, can find people who ready to be good people.

And when does hardball politics become dirtball? That`s a great question.
The only answer I could come up with was the truth -- when politicians lie
about each other, that`s dirt ball. When they try to suppress the vote
because they can`t win the public support, that`s dirt ball, isn`t it?

And how do we control the power of big money in politics? That`s the hard
one, isn`t it? Because it`s money. If money has a louder voice, a bigger
role than the regular voter, what do you honestly tell the regular voter in
his or her power to guide our country in the best direction?

How do we bring morality to politics? Well, that`s a great question. And
the best answer I`ve been able to come up with which I shared with the
class out at USF is this: if you don`t enter public life with a strong
moral sense of what is right and wrong, you won`t develop once you`re in
there. You`ve got to come in strong and sure because all the pressure once
you`re in is about ambition.

But if you do come in with a strong moral sense, you`ll do OK. In fact,
you`ll do fine because you`ll know when you`re ready to stand up to people
and the pressures of those who don`t come in with a good moral compass.
And that`s going to get you through.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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