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updated 4/2/2014 11:30:13 AM ET 2014-04-02T15:30:13

HARDBALL
April 1, 2014

Guests: John Wisniewski, Greg Miller, Ron Suskind, Dana Milbank, Michelle
Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tough guys.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this bucket of goo coming out of the Chris
Christie report. All those pristine claims of good government, forget
about it. That big, fat denial that there was a political motive behind
the George Washington Bridge closure, that there was no evidence of
partisan bullying or big-shot payback, that, too, forget about it.

Because guess what? Buried right there in that Christie legal report is
just what you figured was buried in the story itself -- muscle, tough guy
talk, a hard, orchestrated push for reelection endorsements and talk of
revenge.

First there was that list of mayors specifically targeted to back a second
Christie term in Trenton. And yes, again there was brutal talk of payback
for those who didn`t get in line -- I could claw his eyes out, pour
gasoline in his sockets and light him up. And that was for the governor`s
appointee on the bridge commission.

As for the mayors who didn`t come across like Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken,
we learned that the governor signed off on what appeared to be an act of
political retaliation against her. It`s right there in the e-mail from his
political adviser, Mike Duhame (ph), to Bill Stepien, the governor`s
campaign manager.

So whatever happened in the chain of command that led to the George
Washington Bridge mess, this is the Chris Christie world it happened in.
And this is the box the scandal arrived in.

John Wisniewski is a Democratic assemblyman in New Jersey and the co-chair
of the committee investigating Chris Christie. And Brian Murphy is an
MSNBC contributor and the former managing editor of Politicsnj.com.
Gentlemen, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here.

MATTHEWS: Assemblyman Wisniewski, were you surprised at the way in which
they buried all the ugly talk in this report? I mean, when you start
talking about putting lit gasoline in somebody`s eye sockets and you talk
about revenge and payback and, We`re going to put this -- make this person
choose, are they with us or against us, it`s exactly the culture we were
looking for, and there it is in plain sight, right in the report supposedly
to help the governor.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NJ ASSEMBLYMAN: Chris, if I started to go through all
of the things that I was surprised about with this report, we`d be here for
a long time. This report makes conclusions without facts. It buries
details deep in the report. It`s far from a report that exonerates
anybody.

MATTHEWS: Right.

Wisniewski: What it does do is generate tons of questions that need to be
answered.

MATTHEWS: Remember how they said the -- Mastro, the chief attorney here,
who said, Well, we couldn`t find a motive? And then we realized that
buried in the report is approved targets, exactly what we`ve been talking
about from the beginning, that there was some kind of targeting of the
mayor of Fort Lee for some kind of whatever, pressure, payback, whatever,
revenge.

And there you have him number two on the list of people that are going to
be targeted. What kind of a motive is this guy looking for, this
prosecutor -- this defense attorney in this case?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, clearly, this was a political operation. When we look
at all of the connections, we see that Mayor Sokolich was somebody that
they sought an endorsement from. Mayor Sokolich was somebody who didn`t
deliver an endorsement. And there was clearly a lot of disappointment
within team Christie that was involved in trying to secure that
endorsement.

And what this report shows is that that disappointment manifested itself
with a lot of bad language, at least, and raises the suspicion of what
happened with the bridge and was that related to their disappointment in
not getting the endorsement from Mayor Sokolich.

MATTHEWS: You know, Brian, if I were writing a screenplay for "Boardwalk
Empire," the interesting Jersey stories over the years coming out of
Trenton, even, I`d say, can you actually find somebody that says, The only
trouble is David is/was a true friend of mine. Now I can claw his eyes
out, pour gasoline in his sockets and light him up.

I mean, this talk -- I know they didn`t mean that. I`ll be honest about
that.

BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

MATTHEWS: That`s clearly not what they were going to do. It isn`t really
the kind of stuff where they saw people up in some basement somewhere,
like, you know, Johnny Brasco (sic) or something. But it certainly sounds
like the lingo.

MURPHY: It`s the tough talk. And it`s hard to believe, after reading
that, that there isn`t some -- some way that they intend to make good on
their -- at least their threats and their talk about exacting political
revenge.

I mean, what -- and then what we see and the way this usually happens is
that they have discretion to give favors and take away favors. And you can
see that happening in the way that they`re going get back at Dawn Zimmer.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MURPHY: I`m not convinced that the whole bridge operation has something to
do with Sokolich not endorsing. But clearly, there`s something. They`re
unhappy with Mark Sokolich, and there`s some kind of trigger. And though
they`re not really expecting to get his endorsement by that point, they`re
clearly willing to squeeze people who they`ve -- who they think they have a
relationship with --

MATTHEWS: OK --

MURPHY: -- and who they think they have some leverage over.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this whole situation with Dawn Zimmer, just
mentioned there by Mr. Murphy, which is that the -- nothing in the report
put out by the governor, paid for by the taxpayers of New Jersey, does
anything to deny that a lieutenant governor walked up to an elected mayor
of Hoboken and said, If you don`t play ball in this development project,
you`re getting screwed. And then this is all about a project that has
nothing to do with anything but the governor`s interests. He wants this
done. I know it shouldn`t be this way, but it is.

That`s very credible to me. And I wonder why they didn`t think they had to
knock it down because they didn`t really knock it down.

MURPHY: Yes, it`s a fascinating thing because they -- they don`t have a
good way to knock that down. And the problem they have, and you can see
this in the way that Randy Mastro tried to deal with it at the press
conference, Dawn Zimmer made a diary. Dawn Zimmer may have not talked
about it until January, but she has a diary that was made almost near
contemporaneous that includes an account of this.

And the danger for them is that this week, I think tomorrow, the Hoboken
city, the local government authority in Hoboken is going to release one of
the town attorneys to speak to the U.S. attorney, and I believe the
assemblymen`s committee, as well. And the thinking is that, at some point,
Mayor Zimmer had a discussion with this attorney immediately after the
encounter with the lieutenant governor of New Jersey and she told him about
what happened. And now he`s going to be free to talk about that in a way
that he hasn`t before.

I mean, the problem for the administration here is that Dawn Zimmer`s
already gone and talked to the U.S. attorney. If she told the U.S.
attorney the story that she`s told everybody else, then either she`s
telling the truth or she`s perjured herself. And that puts the
administration in a really tough spot.

MATTHEWS: That`s a pretty strong situation she`s in because I don`t think
anybody thinks she`s perjuring herself.

MURPHY: She`s got a lot of skin in the game, yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said. Let me go back to Assemblyman Wisniewski.
This to me, the question that jumps out at me -- I have a lot of respect
for the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. And this story keeps
percolating in my head. A conversation occurred in which the governor of
New Jersey, your governor, called upon the governor of New York to
basically call off the probe. He didn`t like all this push from the other
side of the bridge commission people --

WISNIEWSKI: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- going into this thing. He didn`t like Foye`s attitude. Do
you think there is any way you guys can ask the governor of New York to
testify before your legislative committee and find out what happened in
that conversation? Because it`s critical.

WISNIEWSKI: Chris, that`s one of the major components of this
investigation that we`ve yet to fully examine. But we have to look at
those facts. We have to look at whether or not that conversation happened
and what was said.

But what`s really disturbing here is every time we turn over one set of
facts, we see that there are more unanswered questions, such as the one you
just pointed out.

What we need to have is -- let`s be fair (ph). This is not just about
Chris Christie. This is about whether there was an abuse of power, how it
could happen, and how do we prevent it from happening again.

(CROSSTALK)

WISNIEWSKI: -- Mastro report is almost a definite attempt to shut down
the inquiry so that nobody looks any further. And that`s very troubling.

MATTHEWS: Well, just to go back to a familiar reference for somebody like
me and my generation, Brian Murphy, this is so much like Watergate --

MURPHY: It is.

MATTHEWS: -- because what Watergate uncovered, when they lifted up the
rock and they saw the bug life under there, all this stuff that had been
done that didn`t have to do with the break-in at the Watergate compound, it
had to do with the whole way of doing things, the bugging and everything
else that was going on. And all the people like Haldeman and Erlichman and
Colson and all those people, Chapin, that whole list of people had to get
kicked out of office long before the president had to resign because -- and
he was never actually involved in the break-in.

MURPHY: Right.

MATTHEWS: So it`s all part of the culture, which I`m reading here. And
last night, Christie was out there continuing his "I`m clean" tour. Of
course, he went on Fox television with it. Here`s what he said when host
Megyn Kelly brought up the scandals the governor`s trying to hide from him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If you don`t have baggage, they`ll
create baggage for you. That`s politics in America today. That`s the way
it goes. In the end, you know what people -- people don`t judge you on
that kind of stuff. People look into your eyes and they try to decide
what`s in here. And that`s how they vote. They vote for what they believe
is in your heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the problem with that, Assemblyman, is that this story
percolated out of the area, northern New Jersey, local reporting by
nonpartisan people, and the evidence came out. And just like in Watergate,
evidence is going to decide this thing. He`s now arguing it`s bad PR. The
Democrats and the media are out to get him, ignoring everything we`re
looking at in his report is factual, as if it isn`t there.

WISNIEWSKI: Well, the problem we have is that the governor had said at the
outset that he wanted to cooperate, that he wanted to have full cooperation
with the investigation. And now it seems like he`s moving away from that
gradually. He`s starting to make allegations that, somehow, the continued
investigation of this is wrong.

We haven`t gotten to the basic facts of why this happened, how it could
happen, and how we could stop it from happening again. And the governor
seems to want to cast aspersions on anybody who has the temerity of asking
those very basic questions.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what Nixon did.

Anyway, thank you, John Wisniewski, Assemblyman and co-chair of this
investigating committee, and Brian Murphy. Thank you for joining us again.

MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, seven million people have signed up, 7.1, actually,
and the first poll showing it in positive territory. Bill Clinton says run
on it -- we`re talking about "Obama care" -- not away it from. Are
conservatives really ready to take health care coverage away from those
seven million people and the millions more who will get it?

Also, a new Senate report says the CIA has been lying all these years about
its interrogation program. Bottom line, the key information gained from
prisoners did not come from enhanced interrogation, what most people call
torture. So it didn`t help.

And some conservatives think they`ve come up with a way to win over more
women, get them married off. I`m not kidding. I`m not kidding. That`s
their solution. After all, Mitt Romney won among married women. So the
more married women, the more Republicans. Boy, that`s deep.

And that Chris Christie report has come in for a lot of ridicule, none
harsher than what he got from Jon Stewart last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The results of an investigation commissioned by New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie into the "bridge-gate" scandal have been
released today.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": I wonder what the results will be!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We know that enrollment in the new health care law is exceeding
all prior expectations, and we now have an excellent way of seeing where
people are and aren`t in terms of signing up. Take a look at this map from
the Kaiser Family Foundation. Simply put, the bluer the state on the map,
the higher the percentage of enrollees. Vermont tops the list at 54
percent, with Massachusetts last at 5 percent, presumably because many
people there were already covered under "Obama care`s" predecessor, "Romney
care." Isn`t that something?

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, it was a big day for supporters
of the president`s health care law, which reached a significant milestone
today. Here was the president this afternoon relaying the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, the first open
enrollment period under this law came to an end. And despite several lost
weeks out of the gate because of problems with the Web site, 7.1 million
Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these
marketplaces -- 7.1.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that number, 7.1 million, is actually slightly higher than
the initial estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. And yet it
remains the primary goal of many conservatives to do away with the law
entirely. The new budget, for example, released today by Paul Ryan of the
Budget Committee actually calls for its total repeal again.

And here`s more from the president on that point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Like every major piece of legislation, from Social Security to
Medicare, the law`s not perfect. We`ve had to make adjustments along the
way. But this law is doing what it`s supposed to do. It`s working. It`s
helping people from coast to coast. All of which makes the lengths to
which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to
repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative is so hard to
understand. I`ve got to admit, I don`t get it. Why are folks working so
hard for people not to have health insurance?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, if possession is nine tenths of the law -- and I certainly
think it is -- millions of Americans aren`t going to give up their new
insurance anytime soon.

Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for Salon and Michael Steele is the former
chair of the RNC. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Joan, it looked like a victory lap. Fair enough. That`s what it was
because the numbers -- when you beat the spread, you cheer, right?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And that`s what happened today, they beat the spread.

WALSH: You cheer, and you say, We`ve got more work to do. Certainly,
people want to get more people signed up.

But really, when you look at what the Republican Party has done in the last
six months, Chris, imagine if they hadn`t been rooting against it. Imagine
if they hadn`t been hyping every scare story. Imagine if they hadn`t been
saying, Don`t sign up for this mess, it`s a disaster and we`re going to
repeal it. Imagine if all 50 states had had their own state-run exchange.
Instead, we only had 17 of those. Imagine if all 50 governors had expanded
Medicaid. Instead, we only had 27 states that did that. So it`s an
amazing number, given all the obstacles to it.

And Republicans can`t get their story straight, I`m sorry to say. They
were telling us how bad it was and people shouldn`t sign up. And now
they`re saying not enough people have signed up. So it`s a mess for them.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s cut to the absolutely non-ideological reality of
American life, Mr. Steele, who shares my study of American politics.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, indeed.

MATTHEWS: And Joan, you`ll agree with this. We all agree on this. The
biggest fear of conservatives, or right-wingers or conservatives, over the
last 100 years has been if you give the people a bit of social democracy --
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- you`ll never get rid of it because
people will like it.

Middle class conservative people like my dad will like it, even if they
were against it, because one thing about it is people like help. They need
help. And when they get it, they want it. How can your party campaign as
you did today -- not you personally --

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- but the House Budget Committee under a supposedly smart
guy, Paul Ryan, today came out for repeal.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That seven million people out there, including Shawn (ph) and
the other person mentioned by the president -- he`s got a good point. They
ain`t giving it back. Well, then, what`s your party up to?

STEELE: They`re not -- that`s a good question, what they`re up to. But I
think, in large measure, you`re right. They`re not going to want to give
it back. And if you --

MATTHEWS: So what`s your platform, say, in `16?

STEELE: Well, that`s going to be, I think, part of the struggle. As I`ve
said on this program for a long, long time, you can`t just talk about
repeal when Americans have something in hand. You have to talk about what
do you replace it with. How do you refashion the system not just for the
seven million who are now in the network for the first time, in some cases,
but for everybody who have been affected by this bill.

MATTHEWS: How do you do this hand-off -- how do you do this hand-off,
where somebody has health care, and you say, Give that up, but I promise to
replace it?

STEELE: Well, and so what you say is, so you get the preexisting condition
piece. You get that -- you keep that in place.

MATTHEWS: But that only comes if you have more enrollees.

WALSH: Right.

STEELE: Well, then that`s the rub. That is the rub and --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to Joan here.

STEELE: -- and nobody`s really explained that.

MATTHEWS: Politically -- politically, I go back to what we all cooked up
here, which is that old phrase, possession is nine tenths of the law. Once
you have it in hand -- it`s like Golda Meir once said, new facts. That`s a
new fact.

WALSH: It`s a new fact.

MATTHEWS: It isn`t about the theory of health care. It`s about the
reality.

WALSH: It`s about --

MATTHEWS: And I would think that`s a stronger hand for the Dems.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Michael, your thoughts.

WALSH: And, you know, I really appreciate Michael saying we have got to
keep -- let people who have preexisting conditions keep their health
insurance.

But the three of us know and most of the American people know that, to do
that, you require the individual mandate. And when you have the individual
mandate, you`re going to need some subsidies, because some people can`t,
frankly, afford it.

So, President Obama and the Democrats did this through the private
insurance system. They did not do single-payer. They did not have a
public option. They worked with the quirks of the free enterprise system
to make it work. And the subsidies are important. So you`re never going
to get a system, Michael, where you can keep what people like about it,
like a ban on discrimination on preexisting conditions, and not have these
other things that Republicans don`t like.

And, again, you`re not able to say to the 100 million Americans who have
now received free preventive care, because this law did a lot of things
besides just, you know, provide insurance -- even people who had insurance
now have better insurance. You`re not going to take those -- the
preventive care away, the mammograms away from women. I mean, it`s really
-- it`s really quite a ridiculous battle.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: All of those things -- all of those things were independently
proposed by Republicans during the first two years of this administration.
They were summarily -- summarily -- summarily -- if I can say it --
rejected by the Democrats in committee.

Now, the problem going forward --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. What was the Republican health care bill? What
was it called?

STEELE: No, there was not a -- there was not one bill.

But individual -- individual members of the House in various committees did
make proposals along the lines of what Joan just talked about. And we can
go back. You can fact-check that. That was the case. And they were
rejected --

WALSH: But --

STEELE: -- individual bills on preexisting conditions, portability, and
so forth.

MATTHEWS: But what was their method of financing the whole thing?

STEELE: But because --

WALSH: The --

STEELE: -- we were dealing -- let`s just step back from this for a
moment.

We were dealing with the proposal for 30 million people who didn`t have
health insurance.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are you banking on this -- are you going with this Barrasso,
this senator from Wyoming? He is out there saying that Obama`s 7.1 million
thing today is a -- well, let`s take a look at it.

You mentioned -- Joan, let me go back, the new attack, by the way. It`s
from conservatives, that the White House is toying with the numbers.
Senator John Barrasso, as I said, of Wyoming accused the White House of
cooking the books. That`s his phrase. He was asked about that comment
yesterday. Let`s watch and see what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, FOX NEWS` "ON THE RECORD": You have said cooking
the books, the administration. Do you stand by that?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: I do. The -- we still don`t know how
many people who have gone to the Web site to sign up actually paid, so they
actually have insurance, not just signed up on the Web site.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Lindsey Graham, who gets pretty far right lately, he is
saying -- he also went on the attack against the president. Let`s watch
Lindsey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: People don`t trust this
administration to be honest about Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that`s swirling. And let me ask you about
that, because you have stated they don`t trust this administration.

GRAHAM: They will lie to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, your colleague Senator Barrasso says that the
White House is actually fixing the books.

GRAHAM: Totally, they are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You agree with that?

GRAHAM: Yes. They`re not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any facts to back that up?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, tell me how many people who have signed up for
Obamacare have paid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK.

You know, I think that was great journalism there, Joan, by the way.

WALSH: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He said, not only is that true, but it`s also true they cooked
the books. That`s tough questioning.

But my question to you, trying to be tough here as well --

WALSH: All right.

MATTHEWS: -- is the question of -- signing up is a good start. Cooking
the books is a different charge altogether. Cooking the books suggests a
skullduggery. I don`t know where that one came from, and Barrasso came
from with that one.

WALSH: It`s scurrilous. It`s scurrilous. There is no evidence that they
have cooked the books. They have been scrupulous. They have been
conservative the whole time.

It goes back to before the -- remember before the 2012 election, they
cooked the books on unemployment numbers? That was not true. They were
cooking the books on Mitt Romney`s polling. He was going to win. That was
not true.

This is just when they -- first, they are going to say, they`re going to
miss the numbers. There`s no way they can make those numbers. And then
when they make the numbers, they`re going to say they cooked the books.
That never turns out to be true, Chris. We know that. They have got to
stop lying.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you think of ABC, the new ABC/"Wall Street Journal" poll
that shows it`s now relatively popular?

STEELE: It`s 49 percent people --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Look at this, 49 to 48.

STEELE: Forty-eight.

MATTHEWS: It`s a hell of an improvement since last November, when it was
40-57 against.

STEELE: But can I address one thing with --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you think? Is that cooked?

STEELE: No, I don`t think that`s cooked. I just think that people -- as
people have kind of sort of said, OK, we will do this and moved into it,
they`re putting their faith that this is actually going to work.

But I want to go back to one point about -- about the cooked books piece.
There is the rest of the story, which we don`t know yet from the White
House. And that is, how many of those 7.1 million people represent the
majority of the pool that they actually need, young people, as opposed to
older, sick people?

MATTHEWS: It`s a good question.

WALSH: It`s a good question.

STEELE: We don`t know that.

MATTHEWS: We understand it`s going up.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: It`s one thing for the president --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We know it`s going up.

STEELE: Well, it`s one thing for the president to out and tout that we got
7.1 million people. We just don`t know what the makeup of that 7.1 is --

MATTHEWS: That`s not the same as cooking the books.

WALSH: That`s not the same.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: It`s not the same as, but what I`m saying is, the administration
is sort of getting ahead of its own narrative, because if it`s shown later
on --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, no. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait
a minute, Michael. I agree with you. Questioning, skepticism is good.

Joan, what I liked about the president today, I thought he was good and
skeptical, and he was reasonable, and he wasn`t bragging. Certainly, there
was lot of cheering. It was a peanut gallery, let`s face it out there,
cheering for him.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Employees.

But what he is saying, if you listened to him, was, we`re not out of the
woods. We have got problems ahead. We have had problems. It`s our fault.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: We screwed up the rollout.

He was very good and I thought transparent in the difficulties of changing
something this big in American life.

WALSH: We have got plenty -- we have got plenty of things to fix, he said.
You know, we need more people to get covered. We all know that we need the
right balance of young vs. old and healthy vs. sick.

He did not claim we were out of the woods. He said it`s the first year,
and it`s the first year of a program that is going to go on for a long
time. I thought, but I loved -- I did love his fighting spirit. I did
love his challenge to help us fix it. Don`t keep up with this garbage
about repealing it.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: And I think it was strong message to Democrats.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you Michael.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Michael, you`re the expert on the Republican Party. This
November, are they smart to call for repeal?

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Repeal?

STEELE: They will. They will. And I want to see every Democrat in the
country now come and embrace this plan.

MATTHEWS: Well, Bill Clinton says get out there and admit it.

STEELE: And run with it.

MATTHEWS: Get out there and do it.

STEELE: And let`s have this debate with the American people between now
and November as to what they really want going forward. So Democrats, line
up, sign up, and get going.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know who has to sign up, Joan.

WALSH: Let`s have it.

MATTHEWS: It`s the explainer in chief.

WALSH: The explainer in chief.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s the explainer in chief, Bill Clinton, gets out there.

WALSH: When one of the best politicians -- when one of the best
politicians of our lifetimes is saying grab this and run with it, I think
they should grab it and run with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, it depends who is doing the selling, him or Alex Sink.
It`s going to matter. It`s going to matter.

WALSH: That matters very much.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to take somebody really good to sell this baby.

Thank you.

STEELE: Bill Clinton better put his hiking shoes on, because he is going
to need it if he is the only one out here selling this thing.

WALSH: He`s ready. He`s not the only one.

MATTHEWS: Well, you can giggle now.

STEELE: I can giggle.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele for the defense, and thank
you, Joan, for the offense, because the president is on offense tonight.

Up next: You knew this was coming. Jon Stewart takes on that report by
Chris Christie`s lawyer that vindicated Chris Christie.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for it, politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Results of an investigation commissioned by New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie into the Bridgegate scandal have been released
today.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I wonder --

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: -- what the results will be --

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: -- of the investigation that Chris Christie himself
commissioned.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Perhaps I will read about it in this scandal`s paper of record,
"The Christie Sun-Times Picayune."

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Time now for the "Sideshow."

You can see that Jon Stewart wasn`t all that, well, surprised by the
results of Chris Christie`s internal investigation. Here is more from his
report about how the governor`s legal team is deflecting blame.

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

STEWART: If Christie is not responsible for this Bridgegate, who is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The internal review heaped all the blame for shutting
down lanes on former Port Authority official David Wildstein and Christie`s
former top aide Bridget Anne Kelly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said -- quote -- this is about Bridget Kelly --
"She seemed emotional. She was habitually concerned about how she was
perceived by the governor. A boyfriend had ended a relationship,
portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently, and dependent on
men for approval and stability."

STEWART: That also explains very clearly why the official report was
titled "Bitches Be Crazy, Right?"

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: As hard as it is for me to speak their names in the same
sentence now, it`s recently become apparent that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas
is trying really hard to liken himself to the greatest man of the 20th
century, Winston Churchill.

Well, this time, the senator showed off a fake tattoo of the former British
prime minister to the folks on FOX as an April Fools` yuk-yuk. Take a
look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I`m proud to stand with Winston Churchill. I`m
proud to stand. And I have got say, my wife was fairly astonished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You -- wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a tattoo of Winston Churchill?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can smell that cigar from here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. Of course, that ink, if you will, it is more like a
blot than a tribute.

Anyway, this is not the first time that Cruz has tried to model himself
after Churchill. Last week, we called him out for his over-the-top
impression of Churchill`s never surrender speech.

You will realize how ridiculous he sounds when you hear the real thing as
delivered by Churchill himself before Cruz`s imitation. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINSTON CHURCHILL, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We shall never surrender.

CRUZ: We shall never surrender!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the only thing Ted Cruz never surrenders is his ego. I
have said it before, but I will say it again, Senator. You`re no Winston
Churchill.

Finally, the Boston Red Sox were honored by President Obama at the White
House early today. You might recall that last season the famously
superstitious team grew out their beards for good luck, and they ended up
winning the world champion -- well, they won the World Series.

So, to prepare for their visit today, the White House tweeted this
photograph. That`s Press Secretary Jay Carney, of course, there with the
Red Sox cap and a fake beard. Hmm.

In turn, the team gave the president a Red Sox jersey, number 44, no less
presented by slugger David Ortiz, better known as Big Papi, who took a
selfie with the president. There it is.

Up next: A Senate report says the CIA has been exaggerating the value of
so-called enhanced interrogation, in other words, torture, all along, all
these years, saying torture works, when there is no evidence that it has.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
happening.

The House has passed a measure to provide aid to Ukraine and impose
sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea. The Senate already
approved the measure, so it`s headed to President Obama, who is expected to
sign it.

The death toll from last month`s mudslide in Washington State has risen to
27; 19 victims have been positively identified; 22 others are missing.

Australian authorities say the search for Malaysia Airlines` missing jet
could drag on for a long time. The searches earlier today in bad weather
turned up nothing. Meanwhile, an aviation industry group is lobbying for
the continuous tracking of commercial planes.

And now we`re going take you back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was and remain
a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The
interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts had
failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right
thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The Fuller Brush Man selling torture.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Not so fast, Mr. Vice President, there. Dick Cheney`s certitude you just
heard is being challenged in a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the
CIA`s detention and interrogation program itself. The 6,300-page report
remains classified.

But "Washington Post" reporters interviewed current and former U.S.
officials with knowledge of it who said the report concludes the CIA misled
the government and the public about torture program, concealed details
about severity of methods, overstated significance of plots and prisoners,
took credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had given up
before being subjected to torture.

Again, Dick Cheney defended the torture program and the caliber of a
detainee that it targeted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: It is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value
were ever subjected to enhanced interrogation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But, according to "The Washington Post" in today`s front-page
story, the Senate Intelligence Committee review will show -- quote --
"Detainees` credentials were exaggerated."

Tomorrow, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence, is expected to hold a vote on her 15-member committee on
whether to release a 400-page summary of the report. That`s a 400-page
summary of a 6,300-page report.

Joining me now is Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of four books
on presidential power, including the Bush-Cheney administration, and whose
new book, "Life, Animated," is about the unique and remarkable way his
autistic son has learned to communicate. Greg Miller is a national
security reporter for "The Washington Post," a correspondent there, who co-
wrote today`s front-page story.

Greg, we got to start with you.

This is so complete a statement, that it -- it just rocks me. To say, in
this breathtaking claim, or report, the Senate committee is saying
basically that torture never helped us. Is that a fair statement?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes,
I think that`s their bottom-line conclusion, that there is just really no
evidence, looking at these millions of CIA internal records, that using
enhanced interrogation methods ever produced any sort of intelligence
breakthrough that was of significant and -- significant value and couldn`t
have been obtained through other means.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s the motive for lying here? What is the motive for
saying it does work, it did work?

MILLER: Well, you know, as we said in the story today, one of the things
the committee avoids doing is trying to assign motives.

But, I mean, institutionally, you can -- you can guess that the agency, you
know, at the time that it set this program up, set these prisons up, it was
under a ton of pressure, and there was a lot of concern that there was
another wave of plots already set in motion. And you do that, you want to
believe that this is worthwhile, that this is necessary.

And so, you know, this is the Senate Intelligence Committee just finished
spending years scrubbing the agency`s own internal files to see whether
there is any evidence that really stacks up.

MATTHEWS: Ron, you`re a great reporter and a great writer. I just want to
make a point, and maybe you agree with me, or not. It seems to me the real
evil of this past administration, the one under Bush and Cheney was
conflation. They would conflate 9/11 with the need to attack and take over
Iraq. They would conflate something called WMD with nuclear.

They would always conflate to their advantage. And here, they`re accused
now by the Senate Intelligence Committee of conflating all kinds of
information that were developed from prisoner interviews or interrogations
which was gotten from torture. They love to catch people in their
laziness, where the average TV newspaper reader or TV viewer isn`t going to
sit down and analyze these quick little shell games they pull. They`re
just not thinking that quick or intensively. And they use that against the
viewer, the citizenry.

Your thoughts in this regard.

RON SUSKIND, HARVARD CTR. FOR ETHICS: I lived that shell game, Chris. Run
back the clock. In 2006, almost all of these allegations were in the 1
percent doctrine, my 2006 book, that created a crisis. The White House and
the CIA together put out a disinformation campaign. That was led by a guy
named John Kiriakou, the only guy from the CIA from all of this mess who is
now in jail.

He is in jail for leaking to the press. What he leaked that was most
valuable to the White House, however, was that interrogation really worked,
it worked quickly and it worked on -- that bought them time, enough time
for the actors involved to get off the stage in 2008.

That`s what happens here. They misled the Senate because it was part of a
larger disinformation campaign in the American public.

Let`s be clear -- that is illegal. Illegal by virtue of the NSA, the
National Security Act of 1947, which empowers the CIA, amended in 1991.
You cannot run disinformation campaigns on the American public as an
intelligence agency. It`s the law. You`re supposed to go to jail. That`s
actionable.

MATTHEWS: Well, the vice president would be guilty of, that wouldn`t he?

SUSKIND: Absolutely. And everyone involved in this at that time would be
involved. And more than that, I would be interested in who gave the
disinformation to Kiriakou, probably set him up, then he leaked to it the
press, then he becomes the guy who gets taken down. This is a very classic
model that the CIA uses many times.

Certain guy leaks the information, maybe unknowingly. He gets taken down.
This was not the CIA believing something it didn`t know to be true. This
was a CIA under intense pressure from the administration from the White
House, Bush and Cheney, to give them what Bush and Cheney said they needed.
This is all part of the same thing.

MATTHEWS: OK. By the way, you`ve conflated it with W. And I think it`s
always been the J2 was the vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

SUSKIND: W was involved in all of the briefings as to what the yield from
interrogation was or was not. That`s very clear from the presidential
daily briefs.

MATTHEWS: As well as Cheney.

OK, anyway, Greg Miller, the report you put out today is that neither
Congress nor the Department of Justice got the full story of the terror
program. Your article quote the U.S. official briefed on the Senate
intelligence report saying, quote, "The CIA described its program
repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as
getting unique otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt
terrorist plots and save thousands of lives. Was that actually true? The
answer is no."

So that`s a pretty good assessment of what your report comes out to, isn`t
it? Nothing. Nothing. All the torture, all the moral embarrassment and
guilt of our government not yielding any -- even with KSM, apparently.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed apparently that includes that case. No information
of value, right?

MILLER: Well, so what the committee did here was interesting. They did
detailed case studies of every prisoner in CIA custody over the last 12 or
13 years. And they looked at when intelligence came through, when and
under what conditions it was produced.

And in our story today, we talk about a couple of egregious cases. You
know, Abu Zubaydah is one and Hassan Gul (ph) is another, where the agency
had a tendency when talking about the intelligence game from these
prisoners would conflate what they gave up in early session before they
were subjected to any enhanced techniques with what they then provided
later. And the committee`s report concludes that by far, the most valuable
stuff came before they were waterboarded or subjected to any of those
measures.

MATTHEWS: We`ve heard that before. I`ve heard that through the grapevine.

Thank you, Ron Suskind. You report a lot of this stuff early. I
congratulate you on that.

And, Greg Miller, great front page story today.

Up next, conservatives say that feminists have it all wrong. The road to a
woman`s happiness they say requires a walk down the aisle, MRS degree, if
you will. That`s the solution to all problems.

This is HARDBALL, the place for actual politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: It`s primary day here in the nation`s capital, and we may be
look at a changing of the guard in the Democratic primary for mayor here.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

City council member Muriel Bowser leads Mayor Vincent Gray by two points,
28 to 26. All the other candidates are far behind. Gray was in the lead,
but he has been slipping in the polls because of a campaign funding scandal
involving his 2010 election in the first place. The winner of the
Democratic primary has always gone on to win the general election in the
fall.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Well, the conservative Heritage Foundation celebrated women`s history month
yesterday by evaluating the role of the feminist movement itself, which, of
course, dates back to the 1960s. The message was clear. Feminism has
contributed to a bigger government, they say, to income inequality, to
joblessness, and a decline in happiness. That`s a statement.

Anyway, the key to the survival of women, according to the female speakers
at Heritage Foundation yesterday, marriage. And according to the panel,
marriage is also the prescription to attract more women to the GOP. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MONA CHAREN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It`s very clear why they vote Democrat.
They wind up looking for someone who will, even if it`s going to be -- has
to be a political candidate, somebody who will say, look, we know life is
hard and we`re going to provide a cushion and protection for you from
life`s rude shocks, and that`s very appealing to single women, but it`s the
decline of marriage that`s the star for why people, why their voting
behavior is what it is. I mentioned that search for security is very
important.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SR. EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: It is not surprising that as
the family declines, you see the growth of this state. We do not have a
sex gap here in voting. We have a marriage gap and it`s just easily the
biggest story in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Well, get ready for an onslaught, e-harmony. Lots of people
coming to you, according to the Republican latest pr. The right wing does
have a problem when it comes to the female vote. That`s true, specifically
single females. Mitt Romney won married women by seven points in 2012. No
gender gap for him among married women.

But the president carried unmarried women, single people by a whopping 36
percent over Romney. And that helped him win women general.

Anyway, Dana Milbank was at the Heritage Forum watching. He`s an opinion
writer for the "Washington Post" and he has opinions.

And Michelle Bernard is president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics
and Public Policy.

Even though you`re female, he`s male, let`s start with you, because you
were there.

What is their prescription? Is it normative? Are they saying since most
women who are single vote Democrat, let`s get out of that category and get
them married as if you can control that?

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: You`d think they`d look at the gender
gap and say, what do we have to do to appeal to these unmarried women?
Well, we change our policies in the way we`re talking, they`re saying, no,
no, no, let`s get rid of unmarried women by marrying them off. So, if more
of these women would get their MRS degree, get out of the workforce, stay
home, they`d be much --

MATTHEWS: So, all the women over there, I will now go to you. All the
women, and I think a lot of people, most people do want to get married at a
certain point and they`re looking for the right person, obviously. It`s
all about the crap chute, if you will, trying to find the right guy,
sometimes you get the wrong guy, couple of times. Sometimes, you`ve got to
find the right guy. I know what I`m talking about sometimes.

The fact of the matter it`s not easy, and because some nerd -- not her, not
Mona Charen -- but some nerdish place over there like the Heritage
Foundation says, your answer to your problems, young lady, is to get
married.

That`s not going to change anybody. They`re still going to find the guy.

MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS, AND PUBLIC POLICY:
It doesn`t change anything. More importantly, if you take a look at the
gender gap, this is not a winning prescription for the Republican Party.

If you go back to 2012 and even 2008, the numbers of white women voters is
steadily decreasing. And Mitt Romney sort of closed the gender gap a
little bit between 2008 and 2012, but the women who voted for him, he
completely lost nonwhite women.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BERNARD: So, if you look at the Demographics, the same problem that we
have in terms of Republicans and mostly white men voting for Republicans,
say the same thing for white women. Black women overwhelmingly vote
Democrat. Hispanic women, overwhelmingly Democrat, even if they`re
married. Asian women overwhelmingly vote Democratic --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I like to try to do this. Let`s try to be reasonable from a
point of view we may not share. It seems to me if you`re a married woman,
even if you`re a married woman, you`ve got childcare challenges, you`ve got
education challenges. You have to find most people, a good public school
system. You can`t just go to private school. It`s too expensive.

You need health care, you need childcare after school. If you have living
parents, if you`re lucky to have living parents, older people, you want
their health care. You want their retirement taken care of. You`re
constantly dealing with it. What shots the kids have had, what teachers
they have, what their classmates are like.

Husbands don`t take those responsibilities generally as keenly as the wife
does or the mother does.

MILBANK: Well, they do more and more.

MATTHEWS: And they do care about health.

MILBANK: It`s completely -- it makes a lot of sense to say there are
balances to feminism. They`ve made a lot of improvements in women`s lives
and there are things --

MATTHEWS: But how does getting married get you off the hook in needing
certain --

BERNARD: From the lady`s perspective, if you -- if you are --

MATTHEWS: How is this going to help them?

BERNARD: Republican women by and large, Republican families that earn over
$100,000 a year typically, those are who we see as Republican voters, male
and female. If you get divorced, if your husband decides he`s going to
leave you for the nanny, those Republican women I would venture to guest
are going to be able to -- are you going to be able to start thinking we do
need a safety net because I no longer have a husband who is a large wage
earner that can pay for private schools and pay for the orthodontist and
pay my medical bills.

And once they`re out on their own and they see that there`s not -- they`re
almost preaching a dependency that`s not government but it`s --

MATTHEWS: Sure, what about lousy marriages? What about lousy marriages?
They don`t have a prescription for that, apparently.

MILBANK: No, I mean, the problem is what the prescription is. We can
certainly have a reasonable argument about the tradeoffs. Now women have
earned the right to be just as miserable as men are in the workforce,
terrific. That`s great progress.

But their solution, they say, let`s go back to the 1950s where women
because of their bodies, they say, take themselves out of the workforce.

MATTHEWS: You know what this reminds me of? Blacks don`t work hard
enough, women don`t get married enough. The Republican prescription for
everything is it`s their fault.

Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank. And thank you, Michelle Bernard.

I was quoting Republicans there.

And we`ll with right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Possession is 9/10th of the law. That`s a pretty good way to look at the
Affordable Care Act and what the president had to say today. He`s right.
Are the Republicans ready to take away what people have, the health
insurance that is now a reality in their lives? Are the Republican
candidates and officeholders truly will to say, that`s it, it`s going away,
we`re going back to square one, to the days where politicians decried the
tens of millions of uninsured people hobbling into emergency rooms for
basic health care?

President Obama and a Democratic Congress have together created what is an
Israeli prime minister once called "new facts". Five years ago, when we
argued about health care, we argued about what wasn`t. Today, and in the
future when we argue about health care, we argue about what is.

And "what is" is in the hands of millions of American people now. Health
care is in their possession.

The question is who will have the nerve to go to them and take it away? I
think that is something the Republicans in Congress might have to begin
thinking about long before they actually try to actually do it.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


END

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