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updated 4/16/2014 11:53:33 AM ET 2014-04-16T15:53:33

HARDBALL
April 15, 2014

Guests: Kendall Coffey, Michelle Bernard, Edward Markey, Jon Ralston, Wayne
Slater

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: View from the bridge.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this developing picture in New Jersey. From the
beginning, Chris Christie has denied any knowledge of the tactics used by
his staff people. He first tried sarcasm. Did someone think he, the
governor, was out there putting down the traffic ones? He then turned to
dismay, saying it mystified him that people under him would think this was
the way he did business, this punishing of a mayor by shutting down the
George Washington Bridge -- mystified -- hold onto that word.

We now know, no thanks to Christie himself, there was a mandatory directive
coming from the governor`s reelection campaign not to return phone calls
from certain mayors` offices. Quote, "Do not rush to return the mayor`s
phone call." That was the directive from the Christie campaign, the
governor`s aide, Christina Renna, told Christie administration lawyers.

Well, this squares directly with David Wildstein`s declaration that there
was to be radio silence with the Fort Lee mayor, just as there was to be
with another mayor who had failed to support Christie in his reelection
bid, and of course, with Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak`s vicious line
that he would -- he could claw his -- that`s David Wildstein`s -- eyes out,
pour gasoline in the sockets and light them up. All this coming from a
"for us or against us" team that served Christie right up until he decided
to deny being the team leader, which was precisely the time this whole
escapade went public.

Well, today, April 15th (INAUDIBLE) the misabrison (ph), the picture
becomes clearer. We see a governor`s office governed by a mandatory
directive to favor or punish mayors who play ball. We hear the mayors
being cut out, condemned to "radio silence" -- that`s the phrase -- for not
backing Christie`s reelection effort. We see the pattern of playing
hardball to achieve an all-important political end, a big majority for
Governor Christie in 2013, big enough to impress even the dimmest, most
skeptical of right-leaning Republicans, impress them or steamroll them,
whatever gets the job done, whatever worked to put Chris Christie on the
road to the Republican presidential nomination.

Brian Murphy is an MSNBC contributor and professor at Baruch College in New
York. Kendall Coffey`s an MSNBC legal analyst and former U.S. attorney.

Well, Governor Christie says he has no idea why his staffers shut down the
George Washington Bridge in an apparent act of political payback. Here he
is late last month telling reporters he`s still mystified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It mystifies me on every level why
this was done. And I hope some day to have an answer to why it was done,
but I certainly don`t have a crystal ball and I can`t tell you if or when
I`ll ever know. But do I hope to? After all this, you bet I hope to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Brian Murphy on this. It seems to me that this
is like an old Polaroid film. It`s developing in front of us. Christie`s
defense is he didn`t understand the MO applied in the case of closing the
bridge. He didn`t recognize the culture or the mindset or whatever. It
was just all new to him. He`s dismayed by it all.

And yet we`re finding out now that coming out of Christie`s campaign from
Bill Stepien himself, the campaign manager, is this mandatory directive
going to Bridget Kelly`s office, basically telling her, Don`t return this
mayor`s phone call, favor this guy over that guy, the very thing we were
looking for. I would call it in many ways a smoking gun because it does
show, along with that list of favored and unfavored mayors we got a while
ago, the pattern here, the world in which Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein
and Bill Stepien were working.

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That`s right. You know,
Christina -- and this is from Christina Renna`s -- the memo that was given
by Randy Mastro as part of the -- it was disclosed yesterday, the interview
memo with Christina Renna, who`s one of the directors of intergovernmental
affairs in the Christie administration.

And frankly, it`s one of the most interesting memos in the entire stack
because the portrait that we get of how this office operated is that
there`s actually a lot of -- you know, there`s a sort of culture of
retribution. There are little throwaway lines in the memo, like, you know,
they would be mad at mayors and Renna wouldn`t know why.

Now, Renna`s a senior sort of manager in this office, but Bridget Kelly
often wouldn`t tell her why. Often, Bridge Kelly seemed annoyed with her.
They had a pretty bad working relationship. And there`s a line in the memo
that it wouldn`t be uncommon for staffers -- you know, staffers knew enough
not to ask questions beyond, you know, what information was given to them.

Staffers made it a common habit to run personal e-mail accounts and conduct
state business under personal e-mail accounts. And they wrote a lot of
stuff down. It wasn`t just that they had a list of people to talk to and
to court, they also thought that there was a list available of people whose
calls they shouldn`t take. So the merger between --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It was so patterned (ph) here. I want to go to Kendall Coffey
here because the line you just raised there, Brian -- Can we get a list of
hands-off mayors? In other words, the ones being punished. No, we can`t
get it. It would change -- it would just keep changing daily anyway -- I
mean, the frivolousness, Kendall, with which they talk about the fact
they`re punishing in the office -- Well, this guy`s off-base with us today,
we`re not talking to him, radio silence for that guy. He`s on the list
there, right with Fulop, the Jersey City guy.

It just seems like all the time, they`re passing around the latest sort of
morning line on who they`re screwing. And then for the governor to come
out and say, I didn`t know this is the way my office worked. Hard to
believe.

KENDALL COFFEY, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, and as you
say, there are really two fascinating points that arise from that. One is
that there`s a list of the favorites and the unfavorites, which in itself
is something that`s intriguing, perhaps distressing to some. And secondly,
they know to keep that list out of e-mail, don`t document it. SO it
basically seems to strongly suggest that they knew that their -- if we
believe that evidence, that there might have been a political agenda and it
was a political agenda that was to be kept under the radar, no
fingerprints, please.

MATTHEWS: Here`s what one of Christie`s top staffers at the Office of
Intergovernmental Affairs -- that`s Christina Renna -- told state lawyers
during her interview. Quote, "Christina Renna believed that Bill Stepien"
-- that`s the campaign manager for the governor -- "kept track of mayors
who were in favor with the IGA" -- that`s the Office of Intergovernmental
Affairs run by Bridget Kelly -- "IGA staff would receive mandatory
directives along the lines of, Do not rush to return this mayor`s phone
call. Renna recalled an IGA staffer asking Renna, Can we get a list of
hands-off mayors?" That`s the ones being punished. "Renna remembered
responding, "You know we won`t get it, and it could change -- it would
change daily anyway."

We also know that Christie`s campaign kept a list of what`s called approved
targets. These were mayors they wanted to endorse -- they wanted to go out
and endorse Christie. Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich was number two on that list,
and they couldn`t get him acting (ph).

Brian, there`s so much overlaying evidence here. What does it say about
the criminal situation here that we now say -- I don`t want to use words
like racketeering or anything, but how about a conspiracy perhaps, a
coordinated effort -- (INAUDIBLE) even non-criminal -- a coordinated effort
to punish or favor mayors based on whether they were helping the reelection
campaign, including the withholding of state funds, the closing down of
bridges?

Does that sound like a criminal case to you, Brian?

MURPHY: I mean, it would have to, right? It would have to be. If that
didn`t -- if there isn`t -- if that isn`t a crime, I`m not sure what
corruption statute -- how a corruption statute could even be meaningful.

The thing that`s interesting to see in all this, though, is how much -- how
much of this is written down and to wonder how much else there is out there
that we haven`t seen because, you know, just the amount of stuff that
they`ve been willing to commit to e-mail, whether they`re state e-mails or
personal e-mails or text messages, is fairly breathtaking.

And whether or not that -- you know, whether or not the use of the campaign
extended into "bridge-gate," whether it extended into the allegations that
are out of Hoboken, that`ll be the ultimate question for the prosecutors
and the grand jury and a jury thereafter. But it certainly looks that way
right now.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it sure does.

MURPHY: -- like there could have been -- there`s the potential for that
to happen, and there are enough prosecutors sniffing around now that
they`re going to find this stuff out.

MATTHEWS: Kendall, you know, as we all remember, Watergate was a sort of
catch-all phrase. Here in this case, could you bring a case against
Governor Christie that did not include evidence that he ordered the
shutdown of the bridge?

COFFEY: Well, you`d have to have a lot more than anything that`s publicly
reported to be talking about a case against him. And what we do think is
this is a situation where we`re not going to see a lot of fingerprints,
haven`t seen any documents so far that directly implicate Chris Christie.
There`s a fair ways to go before we have that conversation.

But there`s something intriguing that I want to highlight in this because
the report was very dismissive of the allegations with respect to the
Hoboken mayor. We remember that about the report. But there`s also this
reference in the report to Christina Renna contacting somebody, saying,
Don`t bend over backwards to help the Hoboken mayor.

That kind of issue is something that if you connect it to everything else,
if you`ve got some proof that`s good stuff, and then you have this overlay
of a culture, of a mentality of trying to keep it below the radar, but make
sure that people, mayors, whoever, gets a message, no fingerprints but
still a message -- that kind of thing would definitely fuel a theory if,
indeed, they have the specific evidence of actual knowledge on the part of
Christie, and some pretty good witnesses with credibility to establish it.

MATTHEWS: And then talk about the frame of mind here, the vindictiveness
of these -- "them versus us" attitude, the hateful speech that surrounded
Christie. Listen to this. His communications director, Michael Drewniak -
- he was his spokesman -- called the New York Port Authority appointee Pat
Foye a piece of excrement. He also said, quote, "I could claw his" --
David Wildstein`s -- "eyes out, pour gasolines in the sockets and light
them up."

He also e-mailed a colleague "Expletive him NSL" -- that`s a reporter for
the newspaper up there, referring to a reporter for "The Newark Star
Ledger." There`s Christie`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who told
Christie`s top strategist, "We`re approaching a point in time where we have
to have this `So what`s it going to be` conversation with Mayor Zimmer of
Hoboken and Fulop of Jersey City. Are you with us or against us?"

And of course, his appointee at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, wrote
a colleague, "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian,"
referring to Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who didn`t endorse Christie and
who doesn`t happen to be a Serbian.

Back to you, Brian. This culture of us against them, of who`s on the team,
who`s not, who are we going to punish, radio silence, shunning, favoring --
again, I go back to you and the question, is there a chance now for a
larger charge against the governor which involves this whole network he has
created? Or do you have to show that he had a little instruction camp
where he taught each (ph) people how to operate this way? How do you have
to tie him into it?

MURPHY: Yes, I`m not sure how you begin establishing it. Maybe you find
an e-mail that talks about the governor being concerned -- I mean, that`s
sort of what I always assume the smoking gun is going to be. It`ll be
something like that. It won`t be a direct e-mail.

But what`s interesting -- you know, one of the interesting things that
comes out of this is that according to Christina Renna, Bridget Kelly
doesn`t -- she has a reaction after the "bridge-gate" stories first get
written that she thinks it`s weird that Sokolich thinks that he`s being
punished for not endorsing. That`s in Christina Renna`s memo, too, which
suggests that there`s -- there`s another motivation there.

And I think -- you know, again, I`ve always thought that if there`s another
-- if there`s any other motivation than it being about some kind of
political retribution, then you get into money issue. And once you get
into a money issue, you are very clearly into a corruption case.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m looking at the fact that it may well because you can`t
-- you don`t accomplish your ends in punishing a mayor for not endorsing
you. It`s over by then. It wasn`t going to happen.

MURPHY: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: But what you can do is raise the price, or you can say, Fort
Lee`s not a good place to support a development project then because
they`ve got bad traffic problems. And by the way, that fits with the idea
that the plan for the bridge closings was for a full month of closing,
which would have established the fact that it`s a bad investment.

Anyway, thank you, Brian Murphy, and as always, the great Kendall Coffey.
Thanks for joining us.

Coming up: Republicans are joining the competition for women voters, and I
say welcome to the fight. This is going to be a good one.

Plus, Boston strong. It`s been a year now, just a year, since the bombings
at the Boston Marathon. Tonight, we`re going to look at how the city has
found strength and unity in the face of tragedy, a real statement about
Boston here.

And the saga of that anti-government rancher out in Nevada -- you will hear
about this guy a lot more -- who doesn`t want to pay for the cattle -- his
cattle -- to graze on federal land. He`s sort of setting up a kind of
whiskey rebellion out there. He`s joined by the Ted Nugent and the "Duck
Dynasty" guys, the latest folk hero of the far right, really far right.

And guess which is the latest state where Republicans want the option to
secede from the union? Where the Republican Party began, in Wisconsin, of
all states, in Ripon!

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s something you might have missed. It`s a great
example of a political campaign taking its biggest weakness and turning it
into a point of attack against the other side. Former Massachusetts
senator Scott Brown is now running for Senate in New Hampshire, of course,
against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. And while Brown`s critics call
him a carpetbagger, which he is, his campaign is turning that attack around
on Shaheen. Listen to campaign supporter John Sununu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FMR. NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: She represents the ideology
and the policies of the radical left wing of the Democratic Party. That`s
how she votes. She votes with Elizabeth Warren. She votes with Markey.
She is the third senator from Massachusetts!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Smart line and real hardball there by John Sununu, the third
senator from Massachusetts. We`ll see if that one works. I think it`s
going to be a close race up there. Brown trails Shaheen in the latest
polling, but only by a half dozen points.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be wild. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republicans are now fighting back against one of the Democrats` perceived
advantages politically, support among women voters. President Obama had an
11-point lead over Mitt Romney with women in 2012, and last year, in their
post-2012 election autopsy -- that was a bad word -- Republicans called it
an imperative fact to reverse that (ph).

Now they say they have a plan. According to the Associated Press, quote,
"The Republican National Committee plans a new initiative, 14 in 14, to
recruit and train women under age 40 to help spread the party`s message in
the final 14 weeks of the campaign. In addition, they are encouraging
candidates to include their wives and daughters in campaign ads, have women
at their events, and build a Facebook-like internal database of women
willing to campaign on their behalf."

They say attacks like this from President Obama last week are unfair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn`t just about
treating women fairly. This is about Republicans seemingly opposing any
efforts to even the playing field for working families. If Republicans in
Congress want to prove me wrong, if they want to show that they, in fact,
do care about women being paid the same as men, then show me. They can
start tomorrow. They can join us in this, the 21st century, and vote yes
on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Vote yes!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this weekend, U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of
Tennessee had this to say about the war on women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I find this war on women rhetoric
just almost silly. It is Republicans that have led the fight for women`s
equality. Go back through history and look at who was the first woman to
ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, why did --

BLACKBURN: -- four out of five governors --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did the Senate Republicans block this?

BLACKBURN: Well -- well, because the legislation was something that was
going to be helpful for trial lawyers. We`re all for equal pay. I would
love for women to be focused on maximum wage. And I have fought to be
recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys
condescending to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Guys condescending to us. Got to beware here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican
National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst. He`s both of those.
And Michelle Bernard is the president of the Bernard Center for Women,
Politics and Public Policy.

Thank you both for joining us.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was watching -- you know, history is a funny thing,
Michael and Michelle. When Marsha Blackburn, who I love having on the
show, even we disagree a lot, I thought she really made a mistake there
saying that Jeannette, Jeannette Rankin, was this wonderful fighter for
women`s rights and all that stuff.

She was the woman who was so far left, if you will, she opposed World War
I. Then she got back in the House and she opposed World War II, like the -
- after Pearl Harbor, she opposed World War II. She`s an odd emblem of the
Republican Party, given its hawkish ways these days.

Michael, what do you think of Marsha Blackburn`s retort? And what -- let
me ask you a more general question. what should the Republicans do to get
back and erase that 11-point differential between the Mitt Romney vote and
the Obama vote by, say, November?

STEELE: Well, the first thing on the whole idea of women and Republican
Party in history, that`s history. And I think a lot of women today
understand and appreciate the history of Republican Party, as do many
African-Americans.

The question becomes, what have you done for us lately?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: And that I think leads into the conversation we need to have now.
So I admire the push and the drive.

But there`s still substantive questions that need to be answered with
substantive answers by the party for a lot of women out there. And I think
reverting back to, well, you know we were there for the defeating
segregation and we were there for the suffrage movement and we were there
for all these wonderful points of history, which were important turning
points, but we`re now at another turning point for women, and I think this
is the conversation that women are looking to have that the party I am just
not convinced it`s prepared to have fully with women at this point.

MATTHEWS: Here`s one question. We have had a lot of debate here in "The
Washington Post." I`m reading it every day.

MICHELLE BERNARD, FOUNDER, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS AND POLICY:
Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s supposed to be a liberal paper. It`s pretty moderate these
days. It`s pretty darn centrist. And on foreign policy, it can be very
hawkish, as we know.

But on women`s issue, you see Ruth Marcus, who is a liberal, coming out
against this pay equality thing. Instead, it seems like the smart thing
for the Republicans to do is not knee-jerk oppose it, but say, wait a
minute, let`s do a little study and find out what this number really means.

BERNARD: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: If it isn`t 77, if it`s 85, there`s still a differential.

If it`s 93, there`s still a differential. Let`s find out what the
differential is and close it, instead of just saying there`s no 77-cent
difference.

BERNARD: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: That just seems an odd way to go at it.

BERNARD: And there are Republicans who are doing that.

But what`s really interesting if you dig a little bit deeper into the
numbers, President Obama won by 11 points the women`s vote in 2012, but
Mitt Romney, despite Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut and Todd
Akin with his statement about legitimate rape and other people saying that
one could argue that money is more important to men than women, Mitt Romney
got more of the women -- the white women`s vote than George Bush before
him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is that married women, married women?

BERNARD: And it`s white women, overwhelmingly married, typically with
families earning more than $100,000 a year. Their husbands are white males
that also voted for Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: Do they work outside the home? Do these women work outside the
home?

BERNARD: Some of them -- these are women who not buying their purses or
dealing with pocketbook issues from a purse that comes from Target. These
are women who buying purses at Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BERNARD: So their issues are very, very different.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But are they women in the public work -- all women work, I know,
but are they women in the public workplace?

BERNARD: Yes, some of them are women in the public workplace and some are
not.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD: But what`s interesting, Republicans understand that just like
they get the white male vote, they get the white female vote.

If they`re going to be realistic about this new strategy, and I think it`s
great, they should be competing for the votes of the entire American
electorate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, let me go to that, because it seems to me that,
if that`s the case, while I trust you on the numbers, they`re skewed among
minorities against the Republican Party.

Michael, I always ask this question. Why do women have a -- as a group, as
a gender, vote more Democrat than Republican? There are obviously African-
American men out there who aren`t going to help the Republican Party as a
percentage.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Michael. Why do women vote Democrat as a gender?

STEELE: I think a lot of -- I don`t know if it`s so much gender. Yes,
it`s women collectively who are voting that way, but I think it has to do
substantively with the issues.

I think that women are the breadwinners, they are the homemakers, they`re
the single force within any given family, whether they -- there`s a husband
there or male or not, women are large drivers in the economy, in education,
and a host of issues that affect the community.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: And so they`re much more tied in substantively. And I keep using
that word because I think it makes a big difference for a lot of women,
particularly in this cycle, to have a conversation substantively about how
these issues are going to affect us.

MATTHEWS: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: So, Chris, if the party is going to say, you know, you elect us in
2014, elect us in 2016 with the presidency, in 2017, we`re going to repeat
health care, these women are asking today, so, what does that mean for me?
Because I have now for the first time got health care for my kid who didn`t
have it before.

So, substantively, women are going to be asking these questions. And the
party is going to have a lot to answer for, I think, on that front.

MATTHEWS: Well, you should still be chair of the Republican Party.

My view about it is that women -- I have just gone through tax time. OK?

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And once again, the executive skills are most apparent on my
wife`s side of the house.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The piles of paper in the dining room, we`re trying to figure
out everything, get it in on time today, and we have done it. We`re
through.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But the executive skills on health care, who`s got what shot,
what shots the kids have had, who are the good teachers, who are the not
good teachers, who are the good, smart classmates, the knowledge -- how her
parents, when they were alive, had -- she got her father buried in
Arlington.

My wife is the executive. I remember the great -- late great Patrick
Moynihan of New York, senator, saying -- someone said, why don`t you run
for president? And he said, I have no executive skills. My wife does the
checkbook.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, these are so true. Anyway, thank you. My mom used to
do it, too. Thank you, Michael Steele over there --

STEELE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- and Michelle Bernard over here.

Up next, the shoe truthers. This is so hilarious. These people, like
Rushbo, believe that Hillary Clinton actually staged that shoe-throwing.
Somehow, she manipulated this. What is their problem? What it tells me is
some of these nuts on the right -- maybe on the left too sometimes -- will
believe anything.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And the latest proverbial shoe to drop following the scene at a Las Vegas
hotel last weekend when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a
shoe thrown at her while delivering a speech about recycling, of all things
-- well, leave it to the far right to hatch a conspiracy theory about that
incident.

Rush Limbaugh says the whole thing was staged, and not only that; he said
it was designed to distract from, you guessed it, Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I`m sorry. I`m ill-equipped to
comment. Maybe it`s because, in my subconscious, I think it was staged or
set up or whatever.

I don`t know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary, unless maybe
it`s an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and
wackos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: No, I think it makes you look that way.

Well, anyway, well, what if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak?
In this case, George W. Bush`s. Back in December of 2008, of course, the
former president -- he`s a great ducker -- encountered twice a similar
incident, or set of incidents, while holding a press conference over in
Baghdad. Remember that one?

And former presidential candidate Herman Cain tweeted this -- quote --
"Hmm. Fakery from the Clintons? That Hillary shoe throwing thing does
kind of look fake, huh?"

Well, you can say anything these days, and some people will believe it.

Anyway, finally, state Republicans in Wisconsin are set to vote on a
proposal next month that would make secession a part of the GOP`s platform
in the state. The so-called state sovereignty resolution was spearheaded
by Tea Party activists who not only believe Wisconsin should have a right
to secede from the United States, but also that state lawmakers should be
able to opt out, catch this, of all government mandates they deem -- quote
-- "beyond the scope of the constitutionally delegated powers of the
federal government." So, they get to say so.

While Governor Scott Walker is distancing himself from the initiative, it
will get an up-or-down vote in early May. Wow. There`s -- what`s going on
with Wisconsin?

And we will be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The State Department is considering a new round of sanctions against Russia
over actions in Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists came under fire from
Ukrainian troops retaking facilities the separatists had seized.

Frazier Glenn Miller, the suspect in the Kansas shooting spree that left
three people dead, has been charged with murder.

And President Obama joined in a moment of silence paying tribute to victims
of the Boston Marathon bombing, the first anniversary of that -- back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the city of Boston observed a moment of silence, you just saw there,
marking the exact time the first bomb exploded near the finish line of the
Boston Marathon, which was only a year ago. It seems longer. It was a day
of somber tributes across the country, of course, but especially up in
Boston. Four people died in the bombings and subsequent violence from the
perpetrators of that attack.

And many more were injured, many losing limbs. Many of those victims and
their families were on hand today, of course, at a memorial service up in
Boston.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered an uplifting and defiant speech, telling
the city they had become the face of American`s resolve, resolve for the
whole world to see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Next Monday, on
Patriots` Day, when I`m told up to 36,000 people line up to start the
marathon, you will send a resounding message around the world, not just to
the rest of the world, but to the terrorists, that we will never yield, we
will never cower.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: America will never, ever, ever stand down. We are Boston, we are
America, we respond, we endure, we overcome, and we own the finish line!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Jeff Bauman lost both his legs in the bombing, and today he wrote an open
letter to the city of Boston. He said in part -- quote -- "I am so sorry
for the four we lost and all their family and friends. We stood together
for a moment at the finish line, and I will stand with you forever. I know
my pain is nothing compared to yours."

This is a guy that lost both legs.

"Not just today, but every day. I`m lucky, I know, lucky to be alive,
lucky to live in this city, lucky to have your love and support. So, thank
you, Boston. Thank you for being there for me and thank you for proving
that nothing will ever stop us from being who we are."

United States Senator Edward Markey is a Democrat from Massachusetts, and
Mike Barnicle, of course, is an MSNBC contributor.

Senator Markey, the thing that struck me about your city and your state,
commonwealth, and so different in other situations, your immediate reaction
was triage, get the people to the hospitals, incredible competence, focus
on risk. People would rush up and help people take care of themselves, get
them ready for -- to be picked up by the first-responders.

Everything was about community. It wasn`t about revenge. The initial
attitude of your city and state was, let`s get it together as fast as we
can and save as many lives as we can now. We will think about justice
later. It was so fascinating to watch.

SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, you know, back on 9/11, two
planes were hijacked by 10 terrorists. There were 150 people from New
England on those two planes.

That`s what began the whole attack on our country. And Boston was part of
that. And Boston learned the lesson. Boston was strong because Boston was
ready on the marathon bombing day. We had done the coordination. The
medical personnel were ready. The city understood that there could be an
attack.

And everyone pitched in just perfectly in order to make sure that the
damage that was done by these terrorists was just minimal. There was great
tragedy, but yet there was a resilience, a response, something that was
almost magical that happened that day.

But it was because this city knew that it could be attacked. It had been
just a decade before. And I think we sent a signal that the whole country
is ready and has to be ready at all times, because they do want to harm us
because of what we stand for.


And Boston is the cradle of liberty. It does stand for all of those
principles that the jihadists hate about us. But we saw the response of
these great people from Boston in a way that we were celebrating today. It
was really a great day of really celebrating the response of everyone, even
as we basically thank those that lost their lives and the families which
are still surviving.

MATTHEWS: Mike, it seemed to be, you always tell how -- you go to these
memorials. I remember -- almost all memorials are the same way. When Tim
Russert was -- died here, you go and you look at the bouquets and you look
at the messages, the personal messages.

And it`s amazing. You don`t really appreciate something until after people
respond to it. And I went to the finish line a couple days after, -- maybe
it was a week after the bombing up there, and I saw all these messages, and
all this sense of silence.

Well, you have been there during that finish line. The way people personal
respond to it was just so powerful.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Chris, I`ll take a stab at maybe
explaining why that occurs uniquely around the marathon. Next Monday, the
marathon will be conducted. There will be roughly up to about 36,000
people in the field. Once you exclude the first 100 finishes, the elite
runners, the winners that get their names in the paper and make endorsement
money and things like that, the rest of the runners, nearly 36,000 are you
and me.

They`re running. They`re neighbors. They`re schoolteachers. They`re
doctors. They`re parents.

They`re running for various causes. But they are you and me. They`re
ordinary people. And for 26 miles, the crowds are thick on the sidewalk,
cheering them on, propelling them towards the finish line.

So, when a tragedy occurs as it occurred a year ago, it`s you and I who are
victims of the tragedy. The collective whole, the people of the
commonwealth of Massachusetts, the people of the United States, we know
these runners, these victims, we know who these victims. We know who they
are because they are us.

MATTHEWS: Well, the president had this to say, Michael, on the anniversary
of the attacks. Quote, "The most vivid images from that day were not of
smoke and chaos but of compassion, kindness and strength: a man in a cowboy
hat helping a wounded stranger out of harm`s way, runners embracing loved
ones, and each other, an EMT carrying a spectator to safety. And today, we
recognize the incredible courage and leadership of so many Bostonians in
the wake of unspeakable tragedy."

Back to you, Senator. This -- where does this whole thing -- maybe as a
politician, as a political leader, you can`t say so, but is there going to
be justice in this case?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Yes. There is. And we -- we need
justice. We want justice.

We want there to be a trial. We want it to be here. We want all the
evidence to come out. We want the city of Boston to have the justice which
they deserve.

And I think that`s going to happen. The "B" that people are wearing on
their hats these days, it`s not the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Bruins, or
the Celtics. The "B" now is really for the city of Boston.

I mean, it`s a different place today. It`s a special bond. And we need to
ensure that this trial does basically give the victims and give the city
the justice which it deserves.

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator, you say exactly what I felt as an outsider, being
out there a lot.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Ed Markey, and Mike Barnicle of MSNBC.

Up next, how the right wing is embracing that anti-government rancher out
there in Nevada. What is going on out there? Like the Whiskey Rebellion
out in the desert. If you`re against the federal government, you`ve got a
friend on the far right.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Another high profile Republican governor is facing a grand jury
investigation. "The Houston Chronicle" reports now that a grand jury has
been sworn in to look into whether Governor Rick Perry of Texas acted
improperly when he threatened to cut funding for a district attorney`s
public corruption division unless the D.A. resigned after drunk driving
conviction.

Perry, who ran for the Republican nomination for president last time
around, has been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2016. According to a
Perry spokesman, his office hired an attorney to, quote, "insure the
special prosecutor receives the facts in this matter".

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

A dramatic showdown between federal agents and state`s rights militia
groups erupted last week over a parcel of federal land in eastern Nevada.
It`s become the latest cause celeb of the far right.

The standoff is between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and a local
cattle rancher 67-year-old Cliven Bundy. The bureau says that Bundy
illegally grazed his cattle in public land surrounding his ranch and has
done so since 1993 when new grazing laws were implemented. Bundy says the
Nevada state law allows him to use the public land because he says his
family has raised cattle there since 1877. But he owes $1 million right
now in back fees for the grazing rights since `93.

The government has tried to settle the dispute over the last two decades,
but earlier this month, federal agents seized Bundy`s cattle, a move that
brought state`s rights activists and armed militia to the Bundy ranch and
what`s been called the sage brush rebellion. Facing a danger of armed
conflict, the federal authorities stood down on Saturday.

But take a look at how Cliven Bundy son`s Ryan portrayed that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN BUNDY: They`re not coming back right now, no. They have -- they
moved out. They -- we gave them terms of surrender and they accepted those
terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Surrender? Now, prominent conservatives have embraced Bundy`
fight as their own. They see it as an example of government overreach as
they say. They`ll turn Bundy into a folk hero of the far right.

Here`s Mike Huckabee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: There`s something incredibly
wrong when a government believes some blades of grass that a cow is eating
is so an egregious affront to the government of the United States that we
would literally put a gun in a citizen`s face and threaten to shoot him
over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Huckabee, of course, also thinks North Korea has more freedom
than the United States does. So put that in context. With us now is Jon
Ralston, host of "Ralston Reports" from Reno, Nevada. And Wayne -- he`s
coming from Reno -- Wayne Slater is coming to us from "The Dallas Morning
News" in Austin.

Jon, this thing smacks of stunt, of stage craft. Why doesn`t this guy pay
what he owes the government if he`s going to graze his cattle on government
land? He knew what he was doing. He was taking advantage of something
other people have to pay for. He was getting it free. And somehow he now
marks himself as a hero.

JON RALSTON, RALSTON REPORTS: No, he`s not a hero, Chris. He`s not a
victim. He`s no symbol of states rights as Mike Huckabee and others have
seized on.

This guy is essentially a welfare cowboy, who has been grazing on those
lands for free for 20 years, fighting the federal government. He`s lost in
court, and suddenly the BLM, unfortunately, came in such a heavy-handed
way, there were some incidents, and then these militia guys come in and
suddenly, he`s a hero.

Now, the guy is ratcheting up his rhetoric, Chris, and saying he doesn`t
recognize the existence of the United States government, and they`re going
to take back --

MATTHEWS: This is so Waco. This is so Waco, Jon, isn`t it? It`s what you
do as you go completely outside the law for years and years and years. You
drive local authorities crazy. They bring in the federal authorities,
because you just will not obey the law.

And then you declare yourself a hero when they finally take action against
you. Like, we`re -- I don`t know. I just have no sympathy for these guys
who build these cases against the government. The government.

It`s our government. It`s what was elected by the American people. It
operates under a Constitution which they pay tribute to, and believe in.

There`s no problem here, except when you break the law, then you`ve got to
pay. In this case, the guys gets $1 million free in grazing rights and he
wants it just to be cashed over to him. Given freely.

RALSTON: But what does this, say, Chris, to the 99 percent of ranchers who
pay their fees, who do what the Constitution and the law says.

This isn`t Waco. This is wacko. And all these wackos came down, these
white supremacists militias --

MATTHEWS: "Duck Dynasty" --

RALSTON: -- oath keepers, all these folks came down and caused a near-
violent incident to the point where the governor here and the senator here
had to eventually tell them to calm it down, after they had riled up these
folks, right? These Republican politicians here, they went up there, they
did anti-federal government rhetoric to stir up Cliven Bundy and these
militia folks, nearly caused a riot.

So, the BLM, which had botched this on the front end, then had to leave.
What precedent does that set, Chris, that the federal government backs down
now? What does that say in the future, when these kinds of things happen?

MATTHEWS: Wayne, I notice that a lot of these ranchers out here, the guys
that are the states righters on the far right, had cameras with them. It
looks like they were trying to create a violent incident, they all had
their cameras on, and then were able to say, Waco, again.

Anytime there`s use of force by the federal authorities, they win. So when
the federal authorities don`t use force, they declare a surrender. So they
win both ways.

WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Yes. Well, we had a group in West
Texas, the Davis Mountains, basically a group of secessionists that did the
same thing, that will ultimately a couple of people died in that, a couple
of these secessionists. Waco was another example.

These are clashing world views. And I think you really put your finger on
something important and that is, it`s not that these people are defying the
Constitution, it`s just that their Constitution, their reading of it, is a
very different one that makes them the victim. The lawless partner here is
the federal government. The illegitimate element here are the leaders of
the federal government.

How many times have we heard the government, the federal government is
overreaching and lawless. And the president of the United States is
illegitimate.

It is a rhetorical device that resonates. And it`s not just militia,
secessionists and birthers and Birchers, but it`s actually a larger group
of folks, in places like some parts of Nevada, maybe, certainly here in
Texas, who embrace this far-right ideology and some of the voter who sent
Ted Cruz to the Senate.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder about this. Jon, you know, it sounds like the
confederacy. I mean, we don`t like the taxation, so we attack the IRS. We
don`t like any kind of regulation of safety getting on airplanes, so we go
after the TSA.

One after another after another, every institution of the federal
government is bad. It sounds like Robert E. Lee. I don`t know. Your
thoughts?

RALSTON: Yes, it`s a completely phony issue, though, Chris. That`s not
really what`s going on here. And now you have politicians and people with
megaphones on FOX News and elsewhere, emboldening these folks, that think
that they`re fighting for the rights of all Americans. It`s a completely
phony issue.

They`re not standing up for the Constitution, that the Constitution has a
clause that says loyalty to the federal government. This guy is not a
hero, he`s not a victim, he`s a demagogue and he`s being emboldened by
demagogues.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you, Jon Ralston, and thank you, Wayne Slater.

It just seems to me it`s great fly paper for the crazies. And by the way,
every time Mike Huckabee gets quoted on that, he looks like a fly. What`s
he doing out the there playing this game? I can seen Herman Cain, but
Huckabee has some brains.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this scandal affecting the one
Republican presidential prospect who could have given Hillary quite a run
in 2016.

The pieces of this bridge scandal are coming together, like a jigsaw
puzzle, or more like one of those old Polaroid films that develop slowly,
right there in front of you. We learned today of a mandatory directive to
shut off mayors who failed to play ball with the Christie political
operation. According to summary notes of an interview that Christie
administration lawyers conducted with one of Christie`s top staffers, his
campaign apparently sent an explicit word to the governor`s office that
dealt with them, the one headed by Bridget Kelly, not to rush to return the
governor`s phone call. It was someone in the governor`s office was
supposed to be hands off of because of their failure to join the Christie
reelection effort.

Well, this was pretty much what we`ve been looking for. Governor Christie
has been making noises that he can`t understand how his people got the idea
they were to be playing rough with political holdouts like the mayor of
Fort Lee. But when Bridget Kelly e-mailed David Wildstein there were time
for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, she could have been operating right
off that Christie campaign mandatory directive.

And how about the approved targets list sent out in January of 2013? It`s
precisely the hardball political guidance from the top that the governor
has been denying existed. Well, it does exist and is now in evidence, so
is Christina Renner`s reference to that mandatory directive by the Christie
campaign to make life unpleasant for mayors who failed to hop aboard the
joyous Chris Christie bandwagon.

All of this becomes clear each day as the mist rises off the George
Washington Bridge.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


END

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