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updated 5/7/2014 11:20:55 AM ET 2014-05-07T15:20:55

HARDBALL
May 6, 2014

Guest: John Wisniewski, Michelle Bernard, Lola Adesioye, Michael Tomasky

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Star witness in Trenton.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this breakthrough in the Christie case. Today,
right on television, a Christie aide said on the record that she had been
told to destroy evidence, to cover up the efforts by Trenton officials to
punish mayors who didn`t play ball. The person she said gave that order
was Bridget Kelly, the Christie aide who sent that eye-popping e-mail,
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

More damning than this evidence of cover-up was the insiders` culture of
the Christie operation that was exposed today, this time on the public
record. The star witness who testified, Christine (sic) Renna, said she
thought the fact the office might have been punishing a mayor for political
reasons and then destroying potential evidence was business as usual,
certainly nothing to blow the whistle over.

With this, the New Jersey investigating committee got its first on-the-
record testimony of the inside culture of a governor`s office where
punishment and reward were apparently meted out in the run-up to his
reelection. And the big question, from how high up did the orders come?
As Christine (sic) Renna told probers today, she didn`t think started with
Bridget Kelly. She described her as someone who took her guidance from
those above. As I said, all this, now long suspected, is out there for the
legislators, the media and the national Republican kingmakers to see.

The notion that this tight scrutiny on Governor Christie represents a
partisan attack today lost out to the fact that we are now hearing real
officials talking real official business in the New Jersey governor`s
office. The prospect is now the reality. People are now testifying.

John Wisniewski is the Democratic assemblyman from New Jersey and co-chair
of the committee investigating the bridge scandal. And Brian Murphy`s an
MSNBC political analyst and former managing editor of Politicsnj.com.

As I mentioned, for the first time on television, we saw a Christie
employee under oath today describing how her boss told her to destroy
evidence. This is Christina Renna recounting a dramatic conversation she
had with Bridget Kelly back in December, when reporters were getting the
first real indications that something had gone terribly wrong with those
lane closures.

Here`s Renna.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINA RENNA, FMR. CHRISTIE AIDE: She led by saying, I didn`t know
anything about this, the lane closures. I countered with, you know, Well,
yes, you did because Mayor Sokolich called Evan and I e-mailed you about
it.

And that`s when the tune started to change. That`s when her demeanor
changed. And she knew exactly what e-mail was talking about. And she
sounded very nervous. And then she said, you know, just do me a favor and
get rid of it. I said, you want me to delete the e-mail? I said that to
her. And she said, yes, listen, I`m getting a lot of questions, and I`m
just really nervous. And you know, I can`t take getting grilled about this
over and over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Assemblyman, what`s this mean?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Well, what this means is that
the investigation that we`ve led so far by getting documents has taken a
new direction with the testimony of Christine (sic) Renna. What`s
troubling, more even than the fact that Christine (sic) Renna was asked to
delete an e-mail, was the fact that she felt uncomfortable in going to
anyone in the governor`s office to say, Hey, this sounds wrong. This seems
wrong. What do I do about it? Her testimony was she was afraid that
reporting the request to destroy the e-mail would have cost her her job.

MATTHEWS: Well, Christine (sic) Renna also revealed this piece of dramatic
and a potentially damning revelation, describing how she apparently didn`t
think Bridget Kelly had done anything wrong by requesting that she destroy
that potential piece of evidence. In fact, Renna told lawmakers that she
didn`t tell anyone about Kelly`s request until January 9th, the day after
the Bergen "Record" blew this story wide open by revealing that Bridget
Kelly had been directly involved.

Here`s Renna today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENNA: I didn`t think it rose to a level of having to go to an ethics
officer for it. I just -- I didn`t, not at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you were aware at that time that there were
legislative hearings on this issue.

RENNA: I was, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And notwithstanding the fact that there were
legislative hearings on this issue, Bridget Kelly asks you to delete an e-
mail from your own personal e-mail account. You delete it, preserve it
somewhere else. But you don`t think it rises to the level to talk to
somebody?

RENNA: I didn`t, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Brian, when I hear that -- and I`ve read it and seen it a couple
of times today -- what I hear is a culture in which it`s considered
business as usual to punish a mayor and also to cover up the fact that you
did it by deleting evidence. I don`t know any other way to watch that than
the way she described. She may be wrong, but her assumption is that was
the world in which she worked.

BRIAN MURPHY, FMR. MANAGING EDITOR, POLITICSNJ.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL
ANALYST: Right. And set in that context, I mean, it is a stunning thing.
There are legislative hearings going on at the time that she`s asked to
delete this. There are press stories that have been going on and on for
weeks now. And according to Christie`s own testimony, he`s already asked
people in his administration to begin digging into this.

I mean, it`s one thing for Bridget Kelly to ask her to do this, but when we
-- I think the thing that really gives us a sense of what the culture is,
is the fact that Christina Renna went ahead and deleted the e-mail after
Bridget Kelly asked her to do this, right? She forwarded it to her other
personal account, but she did, in fact, delete it from the one that she had
kept it in previously.

So I think, you know, the idea that -- that -- we had talked a lot about
the culture and what the culture would permit and what kind of office this
was, and whether would tell us what kind of administration Christie has.
And I think we got a great glimpse of it today. It`s not that they just
operate politically, it`s that -- right? Something like this, where you`re
being asked to delete an e-mail about an issue that`s on the front pages of
newspapers -- that doesn`t meet the bar of what you would go to an ethics
officer for.

MATTHEWS: Well, Renna also testified today, gentlemen, that Bridget Kelly
wasn`t the architect, as she thought, of the lane closures. Here`s her
exchange with a Democratic assemblywoman -- assemblyman Louis Greenwald.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS GREENWALD (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Do you believe that Bridget
Kelly broke from what was her persona, her responsibility, and for whatever
reason, in the exchange of e-mails around Evan to you, broke from her
normal course of action, and that Bridget Kelly orchestrated and was the
architect of the theory around a study and to take it from three lanes to
one. Do you believe that?

RENNA: I wouldn`t say she was the architect, but she was instrumental --

GREENWALD: OK.

RENNA: -- in the process. I believe that, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, she`s not the architect. Assemblyman Wisniewski, what
does that tell you? I also want to get something clarified. Do you
believe that Christina Renna was keeping a secret here because she was
afraid to go public with it, or she thought it was the norm in the office?
What is it?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think that`s part of the troubling pattern that`s
emerging here. Chris, if you remember, back in December, we heard
testimony from employees of the Port Authority, and they said closing the
lanes was wrong, it was unprecedented, they knew it would add (ph) badly
(ph). But they also said they feared for their jobs. They dared not cross
Mr. Wildstein and blow the whistle on it. And here again, we have a woman
saying, You know what? I didn`t want to raise the issue about this e-mail
deletion because I was afraid for my job. I mean, that`s troubling --

(CROSSTALK)

WISNIEWSKI: -- in state government.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t hear her say that. What I heard her say, what is it
sounded like, the way I watched it a couple times, it seemed to me she was
saying, I don`t think it rose to the level that I should report it.

WISNIEWSKI: Well, she said that. But then under further questioning, and
when we asked her, you know, Why wouldn`t you go to the governor`s chief
counsel --

MATTHEWS: OK.

WISNIEWSKI: -- she said, If I went there, he would call Bridget Kelly,
and then I would get in trouble and I might lose my job, essentially. I
mean, that`s a troubling set of circumstances for any governmental
administration to operate under, where the people have to act under fear of
their job before they could do the right thing.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how high up this goes, then I`ll go to Brian.
Assemblyman, what about this issue that she raised saying that Bridget
Kelly, who the governor has pointed to as the perpetrator here, as the
initiator of all this problem with the bridge closings and the punishment
and all that of the mayors, of Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee -- the
governor`s put all the onus on that woman we`re looking at on the tape
here.

And now we`re hearing from Christina Renna, who worked under her, saying,
Whoa, she`s not the architect. She takes guidance from other people. How
do you read that?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, that`s a significant development because, obviously, the
Mastro report wants to have all of us believe that this was something that
Bridget Kelly orchestrated. The testimony today said that while she may
have been involved, she was not the architect, which means that we need to
continue to dig to find out exactly who the architect was.

MATTHEWS: Was it your reading of what she said today under oath that the
architect was her boss -- I`m sorry, the architect was above her boss,
above Bridget Kelly?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, the architect was -- well, the testimony leads you to
the conclusion that there was somebody above Bridget Kelly that was
directing her efforts. I mean, that was the clear sentiment given by
Christine (sic) Renna when she talked about how Bridget Kelly would operate
--

MATTHEWS: OK.

WISNIEWSKI: -- that she would take orders from above. What we don`t
know is who "above" is and how far above it goes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let`s go to the logical conclusion that it`s Bill
Stepien, Brian, because he`s her former boss in that Office of
Intergovernment Relations, but then he`s now the campaign manager, who`s in
charge of getting those mayors to endorse the governor. He`s the guy.
He`s the kingpin. He reports to the governor. What do we make of all
this?

MURPHY: I think that map is really important in understanding how the New
Jersey statehouse functions. It`s clear that they share information in
that building on a need to know basis.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MURPHY: Bridget Kelly hadn`t been in that job for long enough, I think, to
become someone who`s truly a member of that trusted inner circle in the way
that Bill Stepien was. And I think people who -- you can tell from the way
that Christina Renna discussed this today that there`s this sense that just
on the day-to-day interactions people have, that people above her, too, are
being told information on a need to know basis.

And that comment that Bridget Kelly made to her about, Trust no one, right,
like something out of "The X Files" -- Don`t trust anyone here -- boy, does
that speak ill of how that office is run. I mean --

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s -- Brian, let`s take a look at that office again.
Let`s look at it on the screen here. Here you have a ceremonial office,
the only thing separating it -- look at -- hold it up there a bit. The
governor`s on the left side as we`re looking at it, that ceremonial office,
and there`s Bridget Kelly on her office, and Bill Stepien`s former office,
right across from that.

What does that tell you, Assemblyman Wisniewski, about the relationship
between her, Stepien and the governor? Seems to me rather connected
intimate (ph) politically. They`re not all working in different parts --

WISNIEWSKI: Well, what I --

MATTHEWS: -- of the state of New Jersey. They`re working in the same
place.

MURPHY: Right.

WISNIEWSKI: Chris, what I`ve said all along is that you`ve got all of
these people interacting on a daily basis. They`re not separated by
floors. They`re not separated by miles. They`re separated by feet.

And so the question that still comes to mind is, is how could all of this
be going on, and we`re asked to believe that there`s not anybody sharing
information, that everybody`s operating in silos, nobody knows what`s going
on, and that Bridget Kelly felt very comfortable in asking her assistant to
delete an e-mail? It really raises some serious credibility issues.

MATTHEWS: Well, if any one of those three people had a pizza for lunch,
the other two would know.

MURPHY: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: They`re all within smelling distance, Brian. I mean, people
with common sense -- you come to the office, How was your day? What do you
hear? What`s the buzz? How`s the reelection look? We having any trouble
with Sokolich? Who are we having trouble with now? What are we going to
do with Zimmer down there in Hoboken, or up there in Hoboken?

It`s just the -- I`ve been in political offices. It`s constant chatter.
Your thoughts finally here, Brian. How do you see this adding up to the
story? What`s this add to the story today, the fact we now have a public
record, public testimony under oath from Christine (sic) Renna, that she
was, in fact, asked to kill evidence, cover-up, perhaps obstruction of
justice. I don`t know the law. Looks like it. And you certainly have now
the beginning of a picture of the way this thing worked out. Your
thoughts.

MURPHY: Yes, that`s right. And that ceremonial office in the middle,
that`s where the governor has his press conferences. He comes -- when he
comes out for those pressers, he`s coming out of his private office. The
first office that`s behind all the cameras there and to the right, that`s
where Bridget Kelly`s office was. That`s where Bill Stepien`s office was.

WISNIEWSKI: Right.

MURPHY: You can`t go through that hallway without passing them. So I`ve
always thought that the idea that Bridget Kelly can run an operation out of
an office like that, without anybody else knowing about it, is just
completely preposterous. I mean, unless -- unless there was some massive -
- you know, massively effective cover-up on her part, it just isn`t
plausible that you could get away with doing something like that --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MURPHY: -- because the quarters are too tight.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, the argument the governor made on day one --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. Go ahead, Assemblyman. Last word.

WISNIEWSKI: That`s what I was pointing to. When I -- when I mentioned the
issue of credibility, you`ve got people on that first floor -- I wasn`t
talking about Christina Renna`s testimony today, but people on that first
floor who all say that they knew nothing about this, and it`s hard to
imagine, with everybody at such close proximity, that there wasn`t a better
level of communication between people on that first floor.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who`s
chairing this entire investigation. And thank you, as always, Brian
Murphy.

MURPHY: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming- up: The right strikes back today as the first step for
Republicans is they try to take control of the U.S. Senate. If they
succeed this November, it will mean an historic, potentially nasty assault
on President Obama, and yes, of course, Hillary Clinton. The Benghazi
hearings will only be part of it.

Plus, playing the race card. A candidate for governor in Pennsylvania is
trying to bring down his party`s front-runner with a racially charged
attack ad top Democrats say is offensive, slanderous and below the belt.
Ed Rendell calls the ad one of the worst he`s ever seen. He`s going to be
with us tonight.

And the Obama administration is trying to help the Nigerian government over
in Africa find hundreds of school girls kidnapped by Islamist rebels,
threatening to sell them into slavery.

Finally, Robin Wright named me -- moi -- her favorite Washington
correspondent. That`s in the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Take a look at the latest snapshot of the 2016 presidential
race. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, Jeb Bush has inched up
and is now in a tie with Rand Paul at 13 percent. Paul Ryan is close
behind at 12 percent. Mike Huckabee at 10 percent, Chris Christie hanging
up there at 9.

Among Democrats, 64 percent say they`d support Hillary Clinton, while 19
percent say they`d prefer someone more conservative and 13 percent want
someone more liberal. And to me, that sounds like a very good balance for
the former secretary of state.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republicans are taking the first
steps today in their quest to take control of the Senate as a series of
primaries commenced today. And Democrats begin this cycle with 11 exposed
seats in the U.S. Senate.

And here`s what the Republicans will do if they succeed. They`re saying
they will gang up on the president -- they`re saying it -- with the
Republican-dominated House and then the Senate passing bills designed to
hurt President Obama and the likely Democratic nominee for next time,
Hillary Clinton.

Michael Tomasky wrote about this in the DailyBeast. There it is. And here
are some of the ways that he says it`s going to happen. They`ll force
Obama to veto or buckle to the conservative legislation they put up.
They`ll leave Obama and Democrats with no chance to initiate bills of his
own. Republicans could stifle any Obama Supreme Court nominees. That`s a
big one. The DailyBeast article says also it wouldn`t be surprising to see
the GOP give a nominee a hearing, but sit on the vote -- that`s for the
Supreme Court -- leaving the Supreme Court with only eight members until
they see who wins the presidency.

And the big cherry on the top of this sundae, Benghazi investigations hour
by hour.

Joining me right now, the author of that piece, Michael Tomasky of the
DailyBeast, and MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh.

I want both of you to paint the picture. And I admit this is a get out the
vote effort by me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think people should vote. I think people should especially
vote if they think they`ve got something at stake. Either side, that
should be true. But this side, I think it`s the progressives who have
something to worry about.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Sure. Right.

MATTHEWS: I have looked at these numbers.

TOMASKY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They are not good. So, what is going to happen? What`s the bad
at the end of this tunnel, if they lose the Senate?

TOMASKY: If the Republicans control the Senate, as well as the House,
Chris, as you well know, that means that they control the Senate calendar.
Mitch McConnell, assuming he wins reelections -- and that`s a close race.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He could lose, and the Republicans could still get control.

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: But somebody else would run --

MATTHEWS: Cornyn.

WALSH: Right.

TOMASKY: Republicans run the Senate, they run the calendar. They say what
gets to the floor, what doesn`t get to the floor. They say what the
committees have a hearing on, don`t have hearings on. The House has passed
--

MATTHEWS: Majority control the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TOMASKY: Right. Exactly.

The House has passed a lot of conservative legislation in a lot of
different areas that Harry Reid has just sat on, Harry Reid has just
blocked and said, we`re not even going to bring this to the floor.

WALSH: Right.

TOMASKY: He`s protected Obama in that way. If the Republicans have the
Senate, that legislation all comes to the Senate floor.

Now, Obama is going to veto a lot of it, presumably. But he hasn`t even
wanted to do that. He has had two vetoes, Chris, in his entire presidency,
the least since James Garfield a hundred and something years ago --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TOMASKY: -- who was only president for six months anyway.

So, Obama would be forced into a position to take a lot of stands. And
aside from that, the Republicans can pass a lot of things in appropriations
bills that he`s going to be really uncomfortable with.

MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, I have said this before. I think the Republican
goal is to make President Obama`s presidency itself an asterisk.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t really president, like a guy who used drugs in
baseball or gambled in baseball, one of those things.

WALSH: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Well, asterisk, he doesn`t really belong to be on the batting
list of all time.

I think that if they can use the next two years to stifle the guy, to
smother him politically, force him to spend all his time battling just to
not sign things, they win.

WALSH: Absolutely, Chris.

I think that what they`re trying -- what they would try to do if they had
that power would be repeal his presidency, erase his legacy. It would be
as though he didn`t exist. They would do everything they could to chip
away -- and more than chip away at the Affordable Care Act. We would lose
the contraception mandate. We lose a lot of it, actually.

I don`t think we would lose all of it. Obviously, he would veto it, but
they would be able to chip away at parts of it. They would gut Dodd-Frank.
They would gut, if not repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
So, a lot of the things that the president accomplished --

MATTHEWS: But the president could still veto it.

What about -- here`s where is see those things where he really gets jammed
if you don`t get the Democrats back in the Senate. Supreme Court
nominations. I mean, Ginsburg is a bit old. You never know when they`re
going to want to retire or they have to retire.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: And all the Republicans in the Senate have to do if they run the
place is just sit on that. Just -- they don`t -- they have done this back
with Johnson`s day. Remember that? They just wouldn`t allow him to pick a
Supreme Court justice until he left office and gave it to Nixon.

WALSH: Right.

TOMASKY: That`s right. Now, Ginsburg says she`s not going to retire. She
says she has no interest in that.

But as you say, you never know.

MATTHEWS: Anything can happen.

TOMASKY: You never know.

Now, I talked to about 20 people for this story. And I was surprised at
the number of them, a clear majority of them, Democrats and Republicans,
said, yes, they would give a nominee a hearing. They would almost have to
give a nominee a hearing.

MATTHEWS: For show.

TOMASKY: Yes, for show.

But I can totally see them -- a lot of these people said I could totally
see them just sitting on it, and we would have eight Supreme Court justices
until the year of 2016.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Joan. You`re so on this issue historically. And you
know the reporting.

How close is the Supreme Court to flipping on Roe v. Wade, just flipping on
the whole policy of a woman`s right to choose? It seems to me they have
got four votes, at least four sitting there, don`t they?

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Right. Yes. I think this is very close and I think it really
could flip.

And I think losing any of the more liberal the Democrats -- the justices
appointed by Democrats would be very dangerous for Roe v. Wade. And, you
know, it`s possible that they would give somebody a vote who was very
conservative.

I think the president would have to -- he would have to appoint somebody to
the right of David Souter. David Souter couldn`t get confirmed in this
climate.

MATTHEWS: You`re so right.

WALSH: So, you know, even if they got somebody, even if they picked
somebody, they would work really hard to make sure they were palatable to
the conservative majority. And that`s scary in its own way. So, I think
it`s very, very grim if they back the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we don`t know where Roberts will go on that. If he gets
another ally on the right, he may go with the crowd.

Hey, Michael, by the way, you wrote this thing. Here`s a quote from your
piece about one of my favorite senators, Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Your
article said that, "For a glimpse of what a Republican-controlled Congress
would do, look to the states. Senator Brown says -- quote -- `If you want
to know what a wholly Republican Congress would do, the thing to do is to
look at what they have already done in state capitals, where they can.
Like in Ohio, they have gone after voters` rights, workers` rights, women`s
rights. They would bring that to Washington."

So true. So, they would do voter suppression nationwide. They would just
hit it.

TOMASKY: Boy, that would be a big one. I mean, that would --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, if they could stop black people from voting, they would
have a real advantage. Wasn`t that be the name of their game?

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: Yes. And I think women`s issues, I think they would really clamp
down on that.

The House -- this is another example of the thing the House passed that go
just go in the Senate hopper. The House passed a bill in 2013 that said no
abortions after 20 weeks nationwide.

WALSH: Right.

TOMASKY: Virtually -- life of the mother was the only exception.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TOMASKY: Could the Senate pass that? Would they want to pass that?
They`re trying to reach out to women voters. On the other hand, it`s kind
of who they are.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

And, by the way, if they follow their instincts on that, Joan, and you know
it well, they might just pass it and the courts, even the court we have now
might just accept it.

Thank you, Michael Tomasky. And thank you, Joan Walsh.

Scary times.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the one thing -- by the way, I have said this before.
Only losing five seats is a good night for the Democrats this November.

Up next, by the way, the one thing Jimmy Fallon caught at the White House
Correspondents Dinner that the rest of us, well, everybody else missed.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Late-night comedians finally had a chance to react to Saturday`s White
House Correspondents Dinner, and Jimmy Fallon seemed to have caught
something about the president`s speech that we all seemed to have missed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON")

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": Obama actually
had some pretty funny lines at the dinner, but since he`s not a trained
comedian, I think he was concerned that people wouldn`t know when to laugh.
So he had a very interesting technique to make sure that people knew when
to got to the punchline.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2008, my slogan was,
"Yes, we can." In 2013, my slogan was, "control-alt-delete."

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I remember when a super PAC was just me was buying Marlboro 100s
instead of regulars.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a
harder time than they gave me, which means orange really is the new black.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That orange is the new black is one of the best lines I have
ever heard.

Anyway, speaking of the Correspondents Dinner, I was thrilled to get a
shout-out from Robin Wright of "House of Cards" over the weekend. Here`s
what she told a "Washington Post" reporter when she was asked who her
favorite White House correspondent was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN WRIGHT, ACTRESS: I don`t live here. You guys talk to us as if we
know the ins and outs of the -- I don`t know who anybody is. Is Chris
Matthews a correspondent, considered? I love that guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He covers the White House every day.

WRIGHT: That is -- talk about a bulldog. Right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ah.

Anyway, next up, everyone`s heard of the old phrase from "Baretta." Don`t
do the crime if you can`t do the time.

But Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, there he is, thinks
that kind of political sloganeering oversimplifies crime policy. "Rhymes
and buzzwords may sound good," he as you says, "but they actually do little
or nothing to reduce crime."

Well, Congressman Scott joined Steve Colbert last night in his latest
"Better Know the District" segment. And , you will see, Colbert tried to
help the congressman come up with some rhymes of his own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D), VIRGINIA: Unless it rhymes or unless it sounds tough
--

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": You don`t think you know your
stuff.

SCOTT: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Until you some rhymes into your crime talk, I mean, people don`t
think you`re walking the walk.

(LAUGHTER)

SCOTT: Well, that`s a nice rhyme. And --

COLBERT: Oh, my rhyming is sublime. I can rhyme on a dime.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: See, I`m -- I`m trying to help you, but you got to -- you got to
help me out. You got to spit some signs here. You got to drop a few
rhymes yourself, if we`re going to make the world a better place.

SCOTT: That`s the problem with crime policy. And that`s why we`re pushing
so hard for an evidence-based approach, where you look at the studies, you
look at the evidence, and you support things that actually work, rather
than things that --

COLBERT: Make you seem like a jerk.

(LAUGHTER)

SCOTT: I don`t -- I don`t think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He is so smart.

Anyway, up next: The ugly new attack ad plays the race card in a high-
profiles governor`s race in Pennsylvania. And top Democrats say it`s one
of the worst ads they have ever seen. Now, that`s a statement.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The president of the L.A. Clippers is taking an indefinite leave of
absence. The NBA says will allow a new CEO to begin with a clean slate.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA.

The Secret Service says a vehicle trailed a motorcade through an entrance
at the White House earlier, prompting a lockdown there. The driver has
been arrested.

And Interstate 15, a busy highway connecting L.A. with Las Vegas, is closed
after a fire collapsed an overpass -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the charge of racism is in the air in Pennsylvania, and, shockingly,
this time, it`s taking place among Democrats. Two weeks before the
Democratic primary for governor, which is coming up, the front-runner, Tom
Wolf, is leading his opponents by, guess this, 25 points, which explains a
lot of what`s coming here.

And one of the candidates trailing him by so many points, state Treasurer
Rob McCord, is running this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: He spent millions on TV ads, but now serious questions Tom Wolf
can`t answer. Why would he chair the campaign of a man arrested for his
role in a race riot, one that left a black woman dead?

Why would Wolf stand by a man charged with first-degree murder, an admitted
racist who handed out ammunition and shouted "white power"?

For York, Pennsylvania, it was an ugly episode. For Tom Wolf, there`s just
no good answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, now the facts.

In 2001, Democratic front-runner Tom Wolf chaired the reelection campaign
of the mayor of York, Pennsylvania. During their campaign, Mayor Charlie
Robertson was charged with second-degree murder in the death of an African-
American woman during the city`s race riots 32 years earlier.

Robertson was a police officer at that time during the riots, and he was
accused of stirring up crowds which grew violent and led to the death of a
27-year-old woman. Others were convicted of the crime. Robertson was
acquitted. Get that fact, acquitted of the charges.

And this ad deliberately ignored that fact, and, more importantly, the ad
ties Tom Wolf to the racist attitudes or previous racist attitudes of
another person.

Now I`m calling foul. I`m not the only one. Former Governor of
Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, who sits with me now, said -- quote -- "It`s one
of the worst ads I have ever seen," adding it was a style of politics --
quote -- "that makes me ashamed to have been part of this business for most
of my adult life."

U.S. Senator Bob Casey called the ad offensive and said it slanders Wolf`s
character by implying he is insensitive to racism.

We invited Rob McCord to come on. He`s the one who put the ad on tonight.
But he declined.

Former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell is an MSNBC political analyst.
He sits with me now. Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican
National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst.

In the NBA or in college ball, you know, you start to foul the other side
when you`re behind. You try to get the ball back. I don`t get this. He`s
not getting the ball back, Rob McCord, so what good is this kind of an ad?

ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I lost two races before I
started to win, actually.

And they were high-profile races. And you believe in yourself, and you
believe you can do good. So, you become almost obsessed with winning.

But decency has to prevail. And Rob McCord is a decent guy. And what`s
wrong with this ad, Chris, in addition to its tone, is Rob McCord knows
it`s false. Tom Wolf is endorsed by the African-American mayor of York and
every York clergy or elected official.

The state orator general, Democrat, said that what Wolf did by not
disavowing Robertson immediately, Wolf was given the task of talking
Robertson into withdrawing his candidacy for the general election, which he
did two days after the arrest. And Wolf was responsible for talking him
out of it.

So, McCord knows it`s not true. Never put something on, no matter -- you
know it`s not true. It`s wrong. It stirs up racial tension, and the only
one that benefited was Tom Corbett.

MATTHEWS: Michael -- thanks for coming on, Michael.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me that this is not a partisan issue. It is just to
me terrible politics at its worst.

And it seems to me that this is coming off of the situation out there in
the L.A. Clippers. And this is something that somebody said, hey, we can
exploit this thing and it`s in the atmosphere. Pointing the fingers,
appropriately or not, will work.

Also, I don`t understand why you foul this late in a game. You`re 24
points down. You`re not going to win. All you`re going to do is putrefy
the air and probably hurt the party`s chance of winning the general,
although I think most people -- I think Bugs Buggy can beat Corbett. But
that`s just a -- perhaps an overstatement.

Your thoughts?

STEELE: Well, I -- yes, I think that last statement is an overstatement.
I think the governor is going to prevail rather handily this fall.

But set that aside. I think you`re right, Chris. This is a form of racial
opportunism that comes off the heels of not just the L.A. Clippers story,
but also with Cliven Bundy and the general mood in the country with respect
to race.

And the goal here, I think, is twofold. One is to begin to drive the
passions of the African-American community. Unfortunately, I think given
the support that`s already out there for, you know, the candidates in this
race among African-Americans, it`s kind of hard to do that. They`re kind
of set in their ways in this regard.

And I think this drives the passions the wrong way. But you take the shot.
I think the goal here is to take the shot. And he`s taking it with this
ad.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How do you take it back? How do you take it back election
night?

STEELE: You can`t take it back. You can`t take it back.

MATTHEWS: Election night, you stand up on that platform, you hold the
guy`s hand in the air and said, well, I never said he was a racist. I said
it was just bad judgment.

Give me a break.

STEELE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That is not about bad judgment. That ad ties him to a guy who
did --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: By the way, they should have pointed out a fact.

Let me go back to governor on this. He was acquitted.

RENDELL: Acquitted, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It`s not in the ad.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

And Robertson did admit he said some racially insensitive things during the
riot.

MATTHEWS: But he ain`t running.

RENDELL: But -- well, that`s right.

But, again, the point is that Tom Wolf actually acted to defuse tensions by
getting Robertson off the ballot. And Rob McCord knows it. And he`s a
decent guy. I just can`t believe he did something like this. It does -- I
spent, as I said there, Chris, I spent my adult life in this profession. I
believe there`s some great things about politics. But when you see ads
like that, it makes you wonder what you did.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: What do you think the limits are, Michael? As
chair of the party, you had to decide on these things. How far do you put
the knife in when it`s just about winning the election, to be honest? You
would never put that knife in for any reason except to get -- to make up 24
points in the election.

By the way, you can`t possibly make up 24 points in two weeks. I don`t
know why this guy, Rob McCord, who I`ve never had a thing against, why he
would do this?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think part of it is, you know,
this type of thing draws the bright line. I think for a lot of campaigns,
I`ve been a few where I`ve been the subject and a victim of some of the
racial polarizing, advertising and the like, in Maryland.

But at the end of the day, you can`t pull back from it, number one. It
draws a very bright line as a party official as to where you do not want
the party to go and certainly don`t want the candidates to go, because at
the end of the day, this blows up for not just McCord, but also for Wolf.
When he wins this primary, this now becomes an overhang in some respects
that could get played by, you know, some McCord`s supporters, et cetera.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

STEELE: So, you want to draw a very bright line here, to say you were not
-- I think Governor Rendell is appropriately done so as a former party
official and governor of the state. And hopefully people will listen to
that.

MATTHEWS: Well, the good news is it`s not working. I did phone calls
today. It`s not working among the wards. It`s not working in Philly.
We`ll see.

Thank you, Governor Rendell.

RENDELL: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I serve at your pleasure. Thank you, my governor, my favorite
mayor of Philadelphia.

And, Michael Steele, I think you`re my favorite Republican national
chairman. It`s not even close. It`s about by 24 points.

Anyway, up next, horror in Nigeria. This is serious business, where
Islamists have captured, kidnapped 270-some or 280-something schoolgirls,
hauled them off into the jungle basically, are selling them into slavery,
making them marry people. This is the worst case we`ve seen since maybe
9/11.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Mother`s Day is this Sunday and I want to remind you about our
partnership with the group Born Free, which is working on the ambitious
goal of completely eliminating, believe it or not, the transmission of HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS from mother to child by the end of next year.

No children born with HIV, believe it or not. Scientists say it can be
done.

And if you want to help this very important mission, you can find more
information on our Web site, Hardball.MSNBC.com.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

An absolutely horrific crime in Nigeria is getting the world`s attention
now and sparking outrage. Just over three weeks ago, nearly 300 teenage
girls were abducted in the middle of the night from their school in Chibok,
in the northeast part of the country of Nigeria. There it is on the map.
Their only crime: wanting an education.

The group responsible, an Islamic insurgency group opposes the West`s
influence in Nigeria. And some of the girls have been forced to marry, if
you will, their abductors.

This weekend, the head of the group released a taunting video. Here it is,
"I abducted the girls at a Western education school," it says. "I said
Western education should end. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in
the market."

Well, overnight, eight more girls were reportedly abducted in northeastern
Nigeria by the same group. International condemnation has ratcheted up.
The United States Senate today voted to condemn the abduction.

Hillary Clinton spoke about the incident on Twitter. "Access to education
is a basic right and an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls."
She twittered, "We must stand up to terrorism. #Bringbackourgirls."

Well, she`s not alone, of course, expressing her outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me be clear. The kidnapping of
hundreds of children of Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime and we will
do everything possible to support the Nigerian government.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Our vocabularies don`t fit into how
offensive, a proper way to describe how offensive this is. I think we
should get surveillance equipment down there. This is not acceptable in
any century, much less the 21st.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Let`s call this what it is. One of the
most brazen and shocking single incidents of human trafficking we`ve seen
in recent memory. This heinous crime demands that we take action
immediately to help bring these girls home to their families and bring
their kidnappers to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Well, there was news today that the United States offered to
send a team of military and law enforcement experts to support the Nigerian
government`s efforts. The team will share their experience and
intelligence, investigations in hostage negotiations.

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

And Lola Adesioye is a British-born Nigerian writer and commentator.

Lola, thank you for joining us.

Anyway, today, in an interview with NBC`s Al Roker, President Obama also
responded to the kidnappings in Nigeria.

Here`s our president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a terrible
situation. Boko Haram, this terrorist organization that`s been operating
in Nigeria, has been killing people and innocent civilians for a long time.
But I can only imagine what the parents are going through. So, what we`ve
done is we have offered, and it`s been accepted, help from our military and
law enforcement officials. We`re going to do everything we can do to
provide assistance to them.

In the short term, our goal obviously is to help the international
community and the Nigerian government as a team to do everything we can to
recover these young ladies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Lola, what`s the best reporting right now about where the girls
have been taken?

LOLA ADESIOYE, THE HUFFINGTON POST: There isn`t much, to be honest with
you. There really isn`t. No one really knows.

What people do think is they may taken to the Sambisa forest which is
actually about 60,000 kilometers square, former game reserve -- I mean, a
vast space where the Boko Haram tend to spend most of their time and are
based. They may have been taken there.

But to be honest, nobody really knows.

MATTHEWS: And that`s as big as Yellowstone Park, apparently. It`s
enormous.

ADESIOYE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And I guess that opens the question. You know the terrain. Is
it feasible for a military operation launch from Washington, if we get
troops in over there, does that make a plausible campaign for them to go
into the jungle they`ve never been into and the world of languages they do
not know, seeking out a group of people they don`t know what they look
like? I`m just wondering if it`s feasible.

ADESIOYE: I think they have to do it from above, you know? Maybe an
aerial way in, an aerial way of looking at things.

The other thing is that particular region, it borders other countries as
well. So, you`re just not talking about forests. They could have escaped
into countries, which are very close to.

So, it`s a very difficult mission. And remember, they are dealing with
terrorists. So, you know, they`re not just going to walk in and these guys
are going to say, hey, here you go, and take them home.

So, it`s a very, very tricky situation.

MATTHEWS: Michelle, your views on this. I mean, tell me how you go into
this thing.

MITCHELL BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: I mean, you go into it, number
one, and you say that this is just a long -- it is another story in a long
line of history around the world of how we see people, particularly
Islamist groups, view and treat women and girls. We see women regular
regularly kidnapped, abducted and raped as a tool of war. The same thing
is happening in Nigeria. This is a horrific example of what`s happened.

And you have to ask yourself, why it has taken the world three weeks to
begin to talk about, to talk about the fact that this group, Boko Haram, is
a terrorist organization, it`s run by people with very proud ties to al
Qaeda and we`ve got absolutely got to do something about it.

For the people who don`t necessarily care about women`s human rights as
they should, we also need to look at the fact that women`s human rights are
an integral part of the United States national security interests. And for
that reason, in addition to all of the moral reasons why we should be
there, I think we have a duty and a moral obligation to send troops in and
do everything that what we can to get those girls out and stabilize what is
still a very new and very fragile democracy in Nigeria.

MATTHEWS: Lola, tell us about the group, Boko Haram.

ADESIOYE: Well, they started in about 2002. So, relatively new. But
they`ve done a lot of damage in that time. And they`re based most in the
northeastern region of Nigeria.

Now, they claim that they want Sharia law, that they are against the
westernization of Nigeria. Actually, in that part of Nigeria, there are
about 12 states already have Sharia law -- which I think has emboldened
them as well.

I believe they are disaffected, they`re living in the parts of Nigeria
that`s heavily rural. About 72 percent of people in that part of Nigeria,
a poll, compared to in the south, where it`s about 27 percent. And
although they are Islamist, they have been killing Muslims, too.

So, they attack Christians, Muslims, increasingly women and children as
we`re seeing with this. But they are also a shadowy group. We don`t even
know how many there are, maybe in the hundreds. We don`t know well-armed
they are, how much money they have.

So, that`s the scary part of them. They have caused a lot of havoc. But
we don`t even necessarily really understand who they are.

MATTHEWS: Well, the scarier part to me is this is the world we live in
now. As you said, Michelle, we live in the world where people have totally
different ideas than we have, who feel they have a moral right given to
them by God, that they have a right to go in and do this stuff.

Anyway, Boko Haram`s leader once said, quote, to make my point, "I enjoy
killing anyone who God commands me to kill, the way I enjoy killing
chickens and rams." No moral problem with slaying people, taking girls in
a way, making them marry these guys and ruining them basically in their own
communities if they would get out of there.

BERNARD: By threatening to sell them for $12 a child. I mean, they have
no sense of humanity. This guy -- this is a major terrorist group. And we
can`t get back --

MATTHEWS: You know, Lola, this reminds me of when we first saw Taliban
over there, way before we got involved over there in Afghanistan, when they
blew up that Buddhist statue over there, with gigantic history. The sense
of nothing stands in the way of our religious zealotry, nothing.

BERNARD: Their original name was Nigerian Taliban.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ADESIOYE: These guys are deranged. You know, let`s Nigeria is a very vast
country and it`s multi-ethnic and multi-religious. And in the South,
particularly, Christians and Muslims live very happily together.

So, they are using religion to justify their insanity. That`s really the
issue. You know, these are just crazy people. It`s not just to do with
their religion. They are extremists.

I think, as I said, they`re disaffected. They don`t have much else going
on. And this is their way of really trying to advance their own crazy
ideas, which they`ve tied to god because that gives them some kind of power
that they obviously wouldn`t have otherwise.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m saying, maybe I`m a liberal about this. But I`m still
hopeful, OAU, the Organization African Unity, can possibly do something
here, that the Nigerian government can handle the thing and we can help as
best we can. Africa has to move on this. Africa itself.

Anyway, thank you, Michelle Bernard and Lola Adesioye.

ADESIOYE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this horror in Africa.

Over 200 schoolgirls age 15 to 18 hauled away in trucks by a fanatic group
out to destroy modern education. Some of them forced to marry. Others
have died already.

The question always, what can we do? What can our country do to rescue
these girls from what could end up being a lifelong in captivity, one of
degradation, fear and very possibly death at the hands of men who believe
women are to be subjected to the worse in order to make them, in their
twisted eyes, pure.

I hope we can find a way to help and I hope the Organization of African
Unity gets together. And most of all, I hope the world can pressure, or
inspire, or whatever, the government of Nigeria itself to do its duty and
protect its own people.

Imagine the horror those young girls are facing.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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