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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 01/12/15

Guests: Robert Costa, Michael Schmidt, David Corn, Perry Bacon, Kasie Hunt,Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is the free world free from fear? Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Tonight, the eyes of America remain on far-off France, with the fear that it`s not so far off after all. A decade ago, under W., we were told to mock that proud and fine country for its opposition to the Iraq war. We were told, like nitwits, to call our French fries "freedom fries," as if that would make the French wrong and us right about the war. Well, it didn`t work out that way, did it. I mean, in Iraq, that war W. and Cheney and the neocons lured us into, it turned out to be just the latest example of that old maxim, If the French think we`re wrong, as they did before when we went whole hog into Vietnam, the smart thing is for us to think again. And now everything has shifted again, with our stars in Hollywood, the smart ones at least, standing with the millions in the streets of Paris. And our leaders -- well, here`s a good question. Wouldn`t it have been great to pick up the newspaper today and see an American on the front line of that huge rally for freedom on the streets of Paris? Wouldn`t it have been downright exciting to see the leader of the free world out there actually leading the free world? But I don`t know. Maybe there were good security reasons for neither the president nor the vice president to go. But what about John Kerry? He`s our foreign minister, and he speaks French. Is this just another example of the White House needing someone -- I mean a real chief of staff -- to walk into the Oval Office and tell the president, Boss, you got to go, this is bigger than you think? NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel is in Paris for us tonight. Unfortunately, he`s the only one in Paris for us tonight. Richard, the president`s not there. Was he missed? RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, this situation is not over. There is a feeling that France is still on edge. There was an outpouring of emotion yesterday with this enormous rally. They had talked about a million people here, and then when they added it up with the rallies here and in other cities around the country, we`re talking about 4 million people coming out on the streets.   Now about 10,000 troops and soldiers have been deployed. That`s the biggest deployment of security forces since World War II, since VE Day. So this is becoming an event of historic proportions, the worst attack since World War II, the biggest deployment since World War II, the biggest rally since that same time period. So for the U.S. not to take part I think was a missed opportunity, certainly. MATTHEWS: Missed opportunity. Well said. Let me ask you about what the threat is right now. Seventeen people killed in those incidents at the kosher market, and of course, at the magazine. How many more people do they believe now were involved in that conspiracy? ENGEL: Well, the problem is they don`t really know, and that`s why there are so many security forces out. There are reports tonight that French officials won`t confirm that they are still looking for -- that police are still looking for six additional suspects. But frankly, they don`t know. Just a few days ago, they were looking very closely for a woman named Hayat Boumeddiene, and now Turkey says she has not only showed up in Istanbul, but she has been there for -- in Turkey for about 10 days and then traveled into Syria. So a few days ago, France was looking for her and had an all-points bulletin. So I think until they find more people, arrest more people, close in even tighter around this terror cell that has clearly been activated here, they won`t know how many people they`re dealing with. MATTHEWS: One last question about protocol. Why didn`t Eric Holder, when he was in Paris, show up at the rally? ENGEL: That`s a good question, and he was here on related counterterrorism business. He was here with a counterterrorism -- for a counterterrorism conference -- a counterterrorism meeting, I should say, and apparently it conflicted with his schedule. But I don`t know the internal decisions that went on of who was supposed to go, who wasn`t supposed to go. But clearly, a convincing explanation hasn`t been given because you saw those statements coming out of the White House today, people saying that they -- you know, someone more senior should have come. Another reason that I think people, at least in -- on this side of the pond, I should say, are so -- a little bit annoyed by this is there is a sense that the U.S. always champions itself as the leader of the fight against terrorism, and then when a terrorist attack happens, that it didn`t, let`s say, use every opportunity or every effort it could to express solidarity. MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you on, as always, Richard Engel. Thank you for joining us.   Joining us right now from Washington is the "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson and the DailyBeast`s Christopher Dickey. Both are MSNBC contributors. Anyway, yesterday`s rally in Paris drew 1.5 million people in Paris and more than 40 world leaders, actually prime ministers or presidents. Absent from the rally for the free world against terrorism was, as we said, any high-level American. Well, today, White House spokesman Josh Ernest said missing that opportunity was a mistake. He`s very clear on this. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the ambassador to France, and I think it`s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there. QUESTION: How much higher a profile do you think should have -- or does the president think should have been there? EARNEST: Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to have had the opportunity to be there. The security requirements around a presidential-level visit, or even a vice president-level visit, are onerous and significant. And in a situation like this, they typically have a pretty significant impact on the other citizens who are trying to participate in a large public event like this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Gene, husbands and wives have these fights all the time. Why didn`t we do this? Hop come we did that? And it`s passed. The galloping horse of history has passed. There is no chance to be in the front of that rally on Sunday. It isn`t there anymore. The question is, what does it tell us about the thinking? Because optics -- it`s a word the president puts down. But one of the reasons he`s president or is a popular president is because he succeeded a guy named George W. Bush, who didn`t show up at Katrina. EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. MATTHEWS: Not showing up is an issue!   ROBINSON: Not showing up makes a difference. And you know, President Obama always says he doesn`t want to pay attention to optics, this is all just theater, the substance is what`s really important. But give me a break. He`s a great politician, and great politicians know instinctively and by the book that optics do count. MATTHEWS: Right. ROBINSON: And so... (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: It wasn`t just a missed opportunity, it was a mistake. MATTHEWS: Didn`t he give a big speech at Berlin when he was running for president... (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: I seem to recall a big speech he gave in Cairo that was all about the optics. So of course, it`s important. And you know, frankly, he should have been there. I mean, it`s not easy to arrange a presidential visit on such short notice. MATTHEWS: But... (CROSSTALK) ROBINSON: It`s a hard thing to do. However, there are a lot of people who get paid to work that sort of thing out.   MATTHEWS: You know, as somebody said the other day, that`s what vice presidents are for. Certainly, Biden went down to -- Christopher Dickey, Vice President Biden -- you may not have noticed this, but he went whizzing all the way down to, I guess, Brasilia for the inauguration of Rousseff recently. I mean, we get him around. He moves around the world, and he didn`t make this stop. Kerry is a find, maybe one of our best ever secretaries of state. He`s a true foreign minister who`s fluent in many languages, especially French. It would have been nice to have him on the front lines there. Your thinks from over there, Mr. Dickey? CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, DAILYBEAST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think you`re exactly right, about Kerry particularly. You know, it was -- I was out there, and it was a horrific situation from a security standpoint and it would have been even more horrible if the president of the United States was there. I think that he did the French security services, French police, and probably the French people a service by not going. But I don`t understand why John Kerry didn`t go. He would have been the perfect man to represent the United States in that context. And I really don`t understand -- it`s truly strange that you have the attorney general of the United States, a man directly concerned with security issues -- in fact, he`s at a security conference. He`s in Paris, and he doesn`t show up at this rally. I think the whole thing was so badly handled that it`s just appalling. But I have to say there`s more talk about this in Washington than there is here in Paris. MATTHEWS: Well, we`re the ones accountable for this. Let me go back to -- stay in there, Christopher Dickey. Let me go back to Gene on this question. We`ve got this whole thing -- you know, when people hack into the U.S. Army, as we`ve just learned, into Central Command -- now, what do we make of that going on? I mean, I think there`s a little spookiness going on, which there should be, because we don`t quite know how many people were involved in this conspiracy to attack the magazine or the secondary action with the kosher shop and all that killing. We don`t know how large this is. But we also know that they`re seeping into every corner of our life. ROBINSON: Well, look, the atmospherics are spooky, as you said. Now, they didn`t hack into CENTCOM. They hacked into YouTube. They hacked into Twitter, right? And presumably, perhaps they used somebody`s password. So maybe they hacked someplace to get a password to get into these other sites. CENTCOM, I believe, as far as I know right now, is correct in saying they did not hack into U.S. Defense Department computer servers or whatever. Nonetheless, it is flat-out embarrassing. MATTHEWS: Yes. It`s the Army. ROBINSON: Exactly. So if you`re U.S. Central Command and your Twitter feed and your YouTube feed are -- you know, have this ISIS flag on them, that`s a very bad thing. That`s really embarrassing. And you shouldn`t have social media accounts if you can`t protect them better than that. MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes Hollywood -- although, you know, they did the usual scantily clad women thing last night, which was the usual parade they put on. But there were some serious things last night. I was impressed, as I watched most of it last night, the Golden Globes -- (INAUDIBLE) yesterday, by the way, for the Globes, and the topic on a lot of the people`s minds was France. Let`s watch and listen to some of the thoughts expressed last night in primetime.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Today was an extraordinary day. There were millions of people that marched not just in Paris but around the world. (APPLAUSE) CLOONEY: And they were Christians and Jews and Muslims. They were leaders of countries all over the world. And they didn`t march in protest, they marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. We won`t do it. So je suis Charlie. JARED LETO, ACTOR: To our brothers, sisters, friends, and family in France, our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts are with you tonight. (INAUDIBLE) je suis Charlie. THEO KINGMA, PRES., HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS: Together, we will stand united against anyone who will repress free speech anywhere from North Korea to Paris. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Christopher Dickey over there in Paris, were the people of France that you`ve met with in the last several hours aware of what a big deal that was to us over here, even if we weren`t well represented officially? DICKEY: Oh, I think there`s that understanding. And I feel -- I think generally, people feel that the United States is very much behind them. You know, it did have a big effect here earlier on in the crisis after the "Charlie Hebdo" massacre when President Obama went to the French embassy and signed the book of condolences. That was something that the French people really responded to very quickly. And you know, President Obama is much more, traditionally, up to this day, as far as I know -- is a much more popular figure in France than almost any French politician is. So I think that there`s a lot of sympathy with Obama and there`s also a lot of sympathy with the American people.   And I know that they liked to hear George Clooney say the kinds of things he was saying at the Golden Globes because it speaks to -- not only to sympathy, but to culture, to the arts, all the things that the French love. MATTHEWS: Yes, they do. I just want to remind everybody of something. When John F. Kennedy was killed and -- it was a year after Charles de Gaulle of France, the president and war hero Charles de Gaulle, had been almost assassinated, many bullets shot into his car. His four tires were shot at. The OAS, the generals mad about the giving away of Algeria and were trying to kill him and almost got him. And yet he came over here, and there he is marching along to the entire parade -- not parade, but the funeral march for John F. Kennedy. De Gaulle came, even when he had been threatened and almost assassinated, he came and stood up in that crowd and was part of our honoring of our lost president. That was a big deal for us, and I think we ought to reciprocate now and then. Lafayette, we are here. We should say that more often. Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson, and thank you, Christopher Dickey. And before we move on, I want to show you the latest cartoon, by the way, by my friend, Chris Hammen (ph) over there. He was on the show on Friday night. It shows, basically, the continued power of the pen over the sword. Great picture there, and a great meaning. Coming up -- Mitt Romney`s gearing up for another run. Perhaps this is from the sublime to the ridiculous. But the Romney camp is taking pops at Jeb Bush. The battle for the center of the Republican Party, such as it is, appears to be on. I guess the Republican establishment thinks -- well, I guess they think they can beat Hillary. Also, federal prosecutors are recommending criminal charges against America`s most famous general, General Petraeus. The question -- did General Petraeus actually leak anything important? Plus, President Obama`s calling for tuition-free community college. House Democrats want a tax cut for the middle class paid for by the rich. It looks like the Dems are finally getting into income inequality. And I`m going to finish tonight with the case of Selma, voting rights for all Americans. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Well, Paul Ryan says he`s not running for president in 2016. Ryan, who was Mitt Romney`s running mate, of course, in 2012, says he`s at peace with his decision. I love the way people think. Anyway, Ryan says he can make a big difference in his big new role as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. This is the first time in history anybody thought that was as important as being president. Anyway, he also says he didn`t want to get ahead of Mitt Romney`s decision making on his own potential presidential run. Nice courtesy there. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, we got a big story now. Mitt Romney wants be president, and he`s saying so. The 2012 Republican nominee shook up the 2016 race late on Friday when he told a group of party contributors he`s actively weighing a third presidential bid. And today, he`s almost certainly going to run, according to "The Washington Post." He`s running. Not only would Romney join an already crowded field of presidential hopefuls, but it would pit him against another mainstream Republican and rich guy, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in a battle for the party`s center. Jeb has already taken steps to differentiate his campaign from Romney`s failed bid in 2012. He`s resigned from several corporate boards, and he said he`s already prepared to disclose over 10 years of his personal tax returns. Big deal there. And in a subtle jab -- or not -- at Romney last month, Bush told a local TV station that he wouldn`t succumb to pressure from the hard right like Romney did in 2012. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: He struggled in the primary because the emphasis on subjects that he was uncomfortable with -- he got off -- I think he got off message, and he got into -- sucked into the -- you know, to the... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vortex. BUSH: ... sucked into other people`s agendas, and I think it hurt him a little bit. So winning with purpose, winning with meaning, winning with your integrity is what I`m trying to talk about.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, Romney`s people are returning the fire, of course, saying Bush is too liberal for the party. In his article, "The Last Temptation of Mitt," McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed reports that a former Romney adviser said this of Bush. "Look, Jeb`s a good guy. I think the governor likes Jeb," the adviser said. "But Jeb is Common Core. Jeb is immigration. Jeb has been talking about raising taxes recently. Can you imagine Jeb trying to get through a Republican primary? Can you imagine what Ted Cruz is going to do to Jeb Bush? I mean, that`s going to be ugly." Anyway, with the barbs already flying, the first proving ground for Romney and Bush will be the war to win the over the Republican donor base, the money guys, the fat cats. And both candidates are able fund-raisers. We know that. Joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst David Corn of "Mother Jones," looking at this from somewhat of an ideological distance... (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: ... and Robert Costa of "The Washington Post," who is looking at it dead center. Robert, I want to start with you, dead center. This guy, you immediately are hearing Jeb is going to be centrist. He`s going to be for respecting same-sex marriages. He`s going to be for immigration reform, meaning people are allowed to come into the country to become citizens at some point. And what else? He`s for Common Core, he`s for educational standards. And Romney immediately says, oh, you have principles? I`m going to screw you. I`m going hard right on everything you stand for because I know you really believe in it and I don`t believe in anything. Is that what -- it sounds like that`s what Mitt`s saying. I don`t believe in anything. I will go right across to the right. ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Look, calling around Romney world, I get the sense that they see Jeb Bush as a possible entry. They`re loving it. They think they can run to the right of Jeb Bush.   As you said... MATTHEWS: On every issue. COSTA: On every issue. And they like... MATTHEWS: But what does Romney believe, though? Does he believe there`s something wrong with common standards for education? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Does he believe gay people shouldn`t have unions of some kind? (CROSSTALK) COSTA: He`s going to run as the conservative alternative, if he runs, against Jeb Bush. (LAUGHTER) COSTA: Look, this is a -- remember... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: You`re saying it so properly. It sounds like... (CROSSTALK) COSTA: Remember what Romney tried to do in 2008. Remember, Romney tried to be that guy in 2008 who opposed John McCain? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What guy? COSTA: The conservative alternative to McCain back in 2008. DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But then in 2012, he was severely conservative. Remember? MATTHEWS: Yes. CORN: I think this is still, I think, to most people a fight between two establishment-oriented candidates. MATTHEWS: But one guy believes in something. CORN: Yes, but they`re both kind of establishment-oriented when you compare them to...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: You don`t see a dime`s worth of difference. I do. CORN: But I don`t think, on the basis of where they`re coming from and where they stand in the party now, Romney may think he can run with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. I don`t think he can. But it seems to me what they`re basically competing for, if you put Romney up against Jeb Bush, is the right to make a salad at a cannibals convention. They`re not -- he`s not going to be able to give the red meat. MATTHEWS: But Romney is saying he will say what they want him to say. (CROSSTALK) COSTA: No, that`s not entirely true. (CROSSTALK) COSTA: Based on what I`m hearing in my reporting, Romney is actually playing close attention to Jeb. When he`s talking to donors this weekend, talking to a lot of senators, he`s talking about poverty. He`s talking about economic empowerment. He is trying -- he knows he is going to have to come to 2016 with a new message. MATTHEWS: Yes, but that`s easy to talk like that, if you`re going to hold the line on things like same-sex marriage, and not really letting Hispanics become citizens and Common Core, all that right-wing stuff. If you`re going to stick there, you can always say, of course I`m for the little people, too, right? (CROSSTALK)   COSTA: Romney knows he has to change to win a general election, to not come across as the rich guy, the former Bain guy. MATTHEWS: OK. CORN: But when you have Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson, and others in the race... MATTHEWS: Rick Santorum is running. CORN: ... running to the right of Jeb Bush... (CROSSTALK) COSTA: The Romney people think that is... (CROSSTALK) CORN: It won`t be so easy. MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s what I think is going on, guys. I want to try something by you both. Forget ideology for a second. COSTA: Yes, sir.   MATTHEWS: Just forget it. They must think they want to get back into the barrel again because they think they can beat Hillary, because if they -- why would you want to get into that mess? Why would Jeb, who`s got everything going for him -- he`s healthy. He`s a happy man. He`s a normal person. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Romney has got everything handed -- he`s got everything. He`s earned it, but he`s got it. Why would they want to go back and get the mud thrown in their face for two years, unless they think they can beat Hillary? CORN: Well, wait a second. MATTHEWS: They must believe they can win this fight against Hillary. CORN: Well, I think everybody gets -- and I think Rick Santorum thinks he can become president. MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no. CORN: rMDNM_No, there`s a certain ego... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: No, that`s a message candidate. CORN: No, there`s an ego-driven quality that a lot of candidates have. And it`s amazing how many people look in the mirror and believe they can be the president.   MATTHEWS: No, they think Hillary -- they think Hillary, although she`s very well-credentialed and smart and liked by a lot of people -- a majority of the people like her -- they must think there`s a weakness there. CORN: They thought that Barack Obama... MATTHEWS: They must think there`s a weakness there. I don`t know what. COSTA: The Romney people have told me they believe Hillary is very weak on foreign policy. They think Romney could run as a heavyweight, even though he doesn`t have the experience. CORN: He`s never done anything with foreign policy. (CROSSTALK) COSTA: They think he can be a real rival to her. MATTHEWS: I wonder whether they think that she might be part of the bad Clinton past they can tag to her. Like, who was it that said the other day she can`t run on the legacy of the `90s? (CROSSTALK) COSTA: That was Jeb Bush talking to donors in Greenwich. MATTHEWS: And what`s that -- what did he mean by that?   COSTA: Well, Bush... MATTHEWS: Is he going to smear her? COSTA: Bush knows he has somewhat of a burden with his family name. CORN: Yes. COSTA: But he believes Clinton will be even more burdened by the Clinton years and the Clinton reputation. (CROSSTALK) CORN: Yes. But that`s... (CROSSTALK) CORN: You`re putting the Iraq war against Whitewater. That`s not something they win on. (CROSSTALK) CORN: They don`t win on that one.   MATTHEWS: That`s when we become soul brothers here. There`s no way in the world that anybody can run and say we were right to go into Iraq, my brother was right. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Take a look at this. An unnamed adviser for Mitt Romney told BuzzFeed -- quote -- "Romney is not going to be intimidating by Bill Clinton sitting in the front row of a debate looking at him." This is the part that`s so legacy. "His dad ran for president. He`s run before." What a candy ass. Why would a guy say Mitt Romney can stand up to Bill Clinton because his daddy ran for -- his daddy lasted about three weeks in that race before he dropped out after he got -- he said that he was brainwashed. He didn`t run for president. (CROSSTALK) COSTA: Romney`s driven a lot by his father`s legacy. And... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What was his legacy? How long -- how many weeks did he last in that campaign? COSTA: Not long. (CROSSTALK)   COSTA: But when you talk to people -- when you talk to people who are close to Romney... MATTHEWS: He lost to Nixon. CORN: Yes. COSTA: ... they -- the Romney family considers themselves a major family in American politics, not the stature of the house of Bush, but they believe they can compete at that level. This is a clan-vs.-clan battle. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the question. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: Can anybody else really when it comes down to it -- we will all be sitting here hopefully in October of 2016. CORN: Yes. MATTHEWS: We will be talking about the debates. We will be talking about how close the election is probably going to be. And maybe the Republicans are catching up to Hillary. Maybe not. Maybe she`s catching back up to them.   Does anybody think somebody who`s not a mainstream person, like a Romney or a Bush, can possibly be in that position with Hillary, running head to head with her? COSTA: Well, Cruz thinks he... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Head to head with her? CORN: Well, you asking us or you asking the 12 other candidates running? MATTHEWS: I`m asking you. Do you believe that anybody can run head to head with Hillary who`s not a mainstream Republican like these two guys? CORN: I think it will be very hard for -- I think Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, any of these other types have a good shot at the Republican nomination... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: But not at being head to head with her? CORN: ... and have a bad time in the general population, because, you know, people have moved away from a lot of these hard-core...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think... (CROSSTALK) COSTA: But the heart of the party is still with people like Cruz. CORN: That`s right. That`s exactly right. COSTA: So, for Romney and Bush, you got to maybe think about putting one of them on the ticket if you win the nomination. MATTHEWS: Well, then that party is about 30 percent. Anyway, thank you, David corn. Thank you, Robert Costa. Up next: Federal prosecutors -- this is tough -- are recommending charges, according to "The New York Times," against America`s best known and maybe most respected general. That`s David Petraeus. There he is. How serious are these charges? That`s the question I want to try to get to if I can tonight with Mike Schmidt, who broke the story for "The Times." And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)   MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, "The New York Times" has reported that FBI and Justice Department officials have recommended to Attorney General Eric Holder that he bring felony charges against Four-Star General and former CIA Director David Petraeus. According to "The New York Times," the officials believe that Petraeus provided classified information to his former mistress and author of his biography, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell. The report also said that the FBI discovered classified documents on Ms. Broadwell`s computer in 2012 after Petraeus resigned from the CIA and their affair became public. Attorney General Holder was asked if he, or his successor, Loretta Lynch, would be making the decision to prosecute Petraeus. Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would expect that to the extent that there is a matter of this magnitude, that would be decided at the highest levels of the Justice Department. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, that would be him. Anyway, the reporter who broke that story for "The New York Times," Michael Schmidt, is here with me now. Michael, I want to know -- I guess we can`t go to sources here, but let me ask you about, is there any way we can tell from you, tonight, about the gravity of what was leaked by Petraeus to his mistress? MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Look, was David Petraeus taking, you know, information -- classified information and giving it to al Qaeda, or was she? No.   But did she have access to things that she shouldn`t have? That`s what the Justice Department said was going on here. Basically, he had an e-mail account, she had a way of looking at it, and he didn`t really do anything to stop it. MATTHEWS: But was it like coloration or what we call the business ticktock, that kind of color? Or was it something truly evasive into national security information? Was it something an enemy could use against us? Do you know or not know? Do you know? SCHMIDT: Well, no, no, no. What I do know... MATTHEWS: Well, do you know? SCHMIDT: Whoa. What I do know is that it was stuff that was held by probably less than a dozen people in the government. MATTHEWS: Do you know the contents? SCHMIDT: We don`t know specifically what the contents were, but we also know that she -- she took stuff herself. She may have taken stuff from him as well. She was in Afghanistan with him. She worked on the biography of him, whatever. And when they went into her house, they found all sorts of stuff dating back to that time, not just when he was CIA director, when he was in Afghanistan fighting the... MATTHEWS: Is there any way that your sources know whether this was intentional or not? I guess it was intentional, the leaking? SCHMIDT: Well...   MATTHEWS: Or is it something she may have picked up from pillow talk? SCHMIDT: No, no, no, this is not -- this is not that. This is -- they believe they have evidence that he was -- he knew what she had... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He was willfully helping her in her work by betraying his responsibilities? (CROSSTALK) SCHMIDT: Correct. Correct. This is -- I don`t think they would be getting -- they would be this far along and taking it seriously... MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let me ask you about that, because maybe you can tell me, because it`s -- a lot of people like this guy. I don`t certainly dislike him. I respect anybody who served his country as long as this guy has, and I think nobly most of the time until he got involved in this mess. But the question is, the people who have to prosecute cases like that, I assume, are public servants. I assume they have a public concern. Do they believe that he was a bad guy in doing this? In other words, did he do something that is criminal, not just technical, but criminal? Do they believe that? SCHMIDT: Bad -- bad guy, they`re not going to answer that, but criminal, yes.   MATTHEWS: Well, they`re about to charge him with a felony. SCHMIDT: Yes, but criminal, yes, criminal, yes. They believe... MATTHEWS: So, they believe he`s a criminal? SCHMIDT: But they -- but some people... MATTHEWS: They believe he`s a criminal? SCHMIDT: Yes. And some people believe there`s a double standard here, that if he had been anyone else, he already would have been indicted at this point and we wouldn`t be this far out. We`re almost three years since it happened. MATTHEWS: Yes. The reason -- the only reason I`m being skeptical, it`s my job. But, number two, I know people like Ted Sorensen, who when he left the Kennedy administration, he was accused of taking some of the papers, using them, you know? SCHMIDT: Yes. MATTHEWS: And Sandy Berger and all that stuff. SCHMIDT: Yes.   MATTHEWS: And I just wanted to know whether it was truly something that truly endangered us or is was something that was just -- well, went against the law. SCHMIDT: Well, Sandy Berger pled guilty to a misdemeanor. Deutsch, the CIA director under Clinton, was pardoned at the last minute while he was negotiating a plea deal. MATTHEWS: OK. What`s your hunch? They are going to prosecute? SCHMIDT: I -- I think that we`re pretty far along in this thing. MATTHEWS: Yes. It sounds like it. SCHMIDT: And they`re pretty serious. MATTHEWS: Sounds like it. Thank you, Michael Schmidt. You would get a lawyer if you were Petraeus? SCHMIDT: Yes. Williams & Connolly. MATTHEWS: OK. They`re a good law firm.   Up next -- God, interesting. You already had the firm picked out. Up next: between President Obama`s call for tuition-free community college and the push for middle-class tax cuts, Democrats seem to be ready, at least appear to be ready, to do something about the income inequality in this country. We will be right back. We`re going to get to that next with the roundtable. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America. I want to bring it down to zero. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: I want to make it free. Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Free. That`s a magic word.   Welcome back to HARDBALL. We have seen, by the way, a remarkable resurgence when it comes to the energy of the Democratic Party since those midterm losses. They feel liberated. Party leaders from President Obama to Elizabeth Warren have tapped into the issue of inequality. That`s the big word now. On Friday, President Obama unveiled a proposal that would make two years of community college free for an estimated nine million students, no tuition. And, today, the party unveiled a major piece of legislation to combat income inequality and taxes that includes a $1.2 trillion tax cut for the middle class, which could come directly from the pockets of Wall Street high-rollers. At least that`s the plan. Is this the new identity of the Democratic Party or the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party? And how does this sound to the right? And how are they going to respond? The roundtable tonight, NBC News senior political reporter Perry Bacon. You`re too young to be senior. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt, who is even younger. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post. (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: No more comments. (CROSSTALK) PERRY BACON, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He can be senior, right? (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: No. You are senior. And let me ask you. We will start with you. You`re covering the Hill. Is this for real, Chris Van Hollen, or is this just a precursor to him taking off, knocking off Steny Hoyer in the battle for the succession? (LAUGHTER) KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I know that`s what you want it to be. No. I actually... MATTHEWS: No, I do. I do want a fight. Go ahead.   HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is called HARDBALL after all. HUNT: It is. It is. MATTHEWS: I want a fight. Is this about getting something done or posing? HUNT: I think it`s about getting something done. I also think that it`s about a realization that Democrats feel like they didn`t go far enough this time around. They pushed forward policies like pay equity for women, like the minimum wage. Everybody loves that stuff. But the view, even among was that... MATTHEWS: That`s point-of-purchase stuff. The big stuff in the supermarket has got to be income inequality. HUNT: Everybody is hurting. The middle class is shrinking. Wages are going down. Everyone looks at that and said, you`re not doing enough. And that`s I think what you`re seeing. MATTHEWS: OK. With the economy rebounding a bit, is this a good time to get on the team, the train, and say, look, it`s getting better, but let`s divide it up a little? FINEMAN: Yes. Yes, absolutely. And if I were a member of -- a Democratic member of Congress who had lost in November, I would say, where were you when I needed you? MATTHEWS: Yes.   FINEMAN: I mean, where was this -- where was this tax plan before the election? Where was the community college proposal before the election? MATTHEWS: Well, where was it? (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: It was buried by leaders in Congress who were afraid of their own shadow. MATTHEWS: Yes. FINEMAN: And most of those are gone. What`s happening now is that the Democratic Party on the Hill is -- and really I think almost... (CROSSTALK) FINEMAN: ... reduced to its essence. MATTHEWS: I got a news flash. I got a news flash for you. The Republicans are controlling the Hill now. FINEMAN: Yes. MATTHEWS: So, while they have had this -- this epiphany, to use a literary term, and they now know that they should have been a bit more left, a bit more populist, a bit more Elizabeth Warren...   BACON: Right. MATTHEWS: ... guess who is calling the shots over there? Boehner and the people (CROSSTALK) BACON: It is pie in the sky. We`re not going -- the Republicans are not going to pass a $1 trillion tax increase. It`s a bit pie in the sky. MATTHEWS: So, what`s going to come out of this? BACON: This, I mean, I think you could see something, like tax overhaul on the Democrats and the Republican sign unto that. Both parties like tax cut, that`s different from -- MATTHEWS: OK. Republicans want to cut corporate taxes down to nothing. Want to cut everybody`s taxes gown to nothing. Democrats want to raise taxes for the rich. What`s the hybrid? What comes out of this as a combination? Does anybody know? Is there a combination? FINEMAN: Well, I think what -- Chris Van Hollen is not a radical, OK? He`s -- the political scene in America has shifted so far to the right that a Democrat proposing a middle class tax cut, that`s a tax cut, and talking -- and the administration talking about college scholarships essentially, that`s seen as a heavy duty populist message. I don`t think so. MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Elizabeth Warren on the populist front now. She`s been notched up another. Let`s take a look at her, another victory. The president`s pick for a top job at treasury, Antonio Weiss, has pulled his name from contention following a backlash from progressives like her, Elizabeth Warren. She just took a trophy here. She knocked this guy off. KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: She did, but don`t forget that this is the only kind of thing she can pull off right now because of the way everything else is set up with Republicans, because buried in the bills that Obama has signed recently or is going to sign, this new terrorism bill that was just passed, includes undoing some of those Wall Street reforms. And that`s a second act from what we saw in the fall, with the big must- pass spending bill included undoing a little bit of Dodd/Frank. That`s her big thing. This is where she has the power --   MATTHEWS: Is she on the level -- I know everybody likes Elizabeth Warren. I understand why. She`s saying something strong, in strong language. When she went out against Citigroup, fine, that`s a smart move, go after some big shot money group. But she went after the Treasury Department. It turns out the Treasury Department opposed the very feature she was railing against and didn`t give them credit for it. Jack Lew and those boys were against that thing and she acted like they were all in bed with them. It`s just not true. BACON: But this appointee is a person of Wall Street. Maybe it`s a sign to Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren is here and she`s going to be really pushing hard. MATTHEWS: Let`s give her credit, let`s give her credit. Here she is, she`s railing here against the Weiss nomination last month. Let`s watch what she did to bring this guy down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Weiss defenders are all in, loudly defending the revolving door and telling America how lucky we are that Wall Street is willing to run the economy and the government. I hope you will join me in saying enough is enough. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: What do you make about her? What do you think -- do you think Senator Warren is strong like Ted Cruz from the other side? I think a lot more respectable, obviously. But she`s definitely talking with a heat and an iron -- FINEMAN: Yes, the content -- MATTHEWS: It means like she`s running for something besides a bill. FINEMAN: Yes. Well, she kind of speaks like the librarian, but she talks tough on these issues. And nobody`s asked her in the last few days or weeks, I think, are you running for president? She hasn`t denied it lately. Since she hasn`t denied it, everybody`s convinced that she`s running. We have a knew feature --   MATTHEWS: Does anybody -- Secretary Clinton, she doesn`t need -- you know, she`s not a trickster, but, you know, the most successful thing that Bill Clinton did was put Al Gore on the ticket with him. He made it about generation. He made it about the South. He made it about something that seemed real and exciting to the country, two women. Why not? Why not two women running? HUNT: Well, you know, she may -- MATTHEWS: Will somebody give me a reason why they can`t do it that way? HUNT: Well, I mean, the Hillary -- the conventional wisdom in the Hillary Clinton camp is they can`t do that. I do think you hit on something. If you saw the focus group Peter Hart did this week and he asked voters -- MATTHEWS: Hillary didn`t do well in that. HUNT: Jeb Bush`s name did not do well. Hillary Clinton did not do well. The one person that stood out -- MATTHEWS: Rand Paul. HUNT: Well, and Elizabeth Warren. There`s this hunger for something new. MATTHEWS: You cover the Hill. What is she running for? HUNT: Well, I think that she has the ability to play a role in the Democratic Party that we haven`t seen as much lately because we haven`t seen people in opposition, right? I mean, Democrats have controlled the White House. They`ve controlled the Senate all this time. All of these -- I think that`s partly what you`re seeing in this Chris Van Hollen plan.   MATTHEWS: Yes. HUNT: And I think that`s what you`re going to see as this campaign evolves. If she decides not to do it, you`re still going to see her using her platform in the Senate to push Hillary Clinton to the left. MATTHEWS: It all ends up with perhaps legislation between now and `16, likely or not, depending on who Republican Republicans run the show. Big speech at the Democratic Convention in `16 you expect in primetime from Elizabeth Warren? HUNT: Certainly a possibility. FINEMAN: If Hillary were smart, she`d be watching everything Elizabeth Warren is doing and do more of it, herself. MATTHEWS: Yes, is that her? Is that Hillary? Is Hillary Clinton the left? FINEMAN: There`s a lot of time for the heat to build up on the left side of the Democratic Party. We`re seeing only the beginning of it. We have a new chart that we`re running at "Huffington Post." MATTHEWS: But I`m asking you, Howard, my friend -- is Hillary a Democratic progressive on the left or is she a centrist like her husband? FINEMAN: I think she`s a survivor who wants to win and I think she`s going to have to move in that direction and she better start doing it soon. BACON: No, she`s not a voice of the left. That`s why Warren is trying to shove her in that direction. FINEMAN: Both can be true. They are complimentary.   The roundtable is coming back when we return a little later. Subject, the big winner in last night`s Golden Globe was free speech. It was very impressive last night, the way the serious people of Hollywood stood out last night. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, actually, Democrats have a shot to take back control of the Senate in 2016. But here`s a wrinkle that could complicate it for the Dems. "Politico" reports Joe Manchin and North Dakota`s Heidi Heitkamp both have their eyes on running for governor, not Senator for reelection in their home states next year. Both are up for re-election in the Senate in 2018. But if they run for governor and win, they could open up seats that would otherwise favor -- well, they could end up favoring Republicans. Earlier today, a third red state Democrat Claire McCaskill said she`ll stay in the Senate and will not run for governor. Everybody wants to be governor. All senators really want to be governors. Anyway, we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Today was an extraordinary day. There were millions of people that march not just in Paris but around the world. (APPLAUSE) And they were Christians, and Jews and Muslims. They were leaders of countries all over the world. They didn`t march in protest, they marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. We won`t do it. So, je suis Charlie.   (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Je suis Charlie. Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. A few hours after world leaders linked arms in solidarity in Paris, Hollywood stars put on their own show of solidarity at the Golden Globes. George Clooney there and Jared Leto and the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association only used the occasion to show their support for free speech. Here they are. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JARED LETO, ACTOR: To our brothers, sisters, friends, and family in France, our thoughts, prayers, our hearts are with you tonight. On vous aime. Je suis Charlie. THEO KINGMA, PRES., HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS: Together, we will stand united against anyone who would repress free speech, anywhere from North Korea to Paris. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIPS) MATTHEWS: Well, Helen Mirren, by the way, showed support on the red carpet with a sign actually, and Kathy Beats waved a message of support on her cell phone. And Amal Clooney, George`s new wife, wore a "Je Suis Charlie" pin on her purse. Anyway, Hollywood did itself proud I think last night by being serious about this.   And I`m back with the roundtable, Perry, Kasie, and Howard. Howard, you first. You know, a lot of these things are basically beef parades, as one of the great characters once said out there, they`re for show and sex. I thought last night, besides having all of that had some seriousness. I was proud of the fact that Clooney could speak so well about something and the way he did it. And we weren`t over there. The president wasn`t there. Somebody has to speak out. FINEMAN: Two things, first of all, that event in itself is the -- stands for everything that the dictators and the theocrats are afraid of. MATTHEWS: The three-hour show last night. FIENMAN: Creativity, freedom of expression. So, the event itself is always an answer to what was going on in Paris. But in addition to that, you have people who are global figures who have, because of social media, I think they`re more important than ever and more connected than ever to people around the world. You have George Clooney. Yes, I think it`s stand in a way, George -- we didn`t have the president or the secretary of state over there, but at least we had George Clooney. MATTHEWS: Let me go the other way -- FINEMAN: And that`s not to be dismissive. MATTHEWS: Well-said. Let me go the other way, did you watch last night?   HUNT: I did. MATTHEWS: What did you think of Margaret Cho playing the North Korean? I mean, I thought it was Mickey Rooney at Breakfast at Tiffany. I mean, just making fun Asian people in that way, in that cartoonist way, do you think it`s OK? HUNT: I mean, I thought, you know, it`s like anything else -- humor, borderline, we`re talking about these cartoons. I mean, we`re trying to say humor is free speech. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: North Korea is safe apparently now. Go after them. HUNT: I loved Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joking about how we all had to pretend "The Interview" was the movie was the movie that we wanted to see. MATTHEWS: Can I interrupt you for something really important? On last night`s episode of "The Good Wife" -- (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I played myself as moderator of that big debate for state`s attorney between Julianna Margulies character, Alicia Florrick, of course, and her opponent for state`s attorney played by David Hyde Pierce. Here I am announcing that the debate has been canceled for the night, my big role.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: We`ve got a problem. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s wrong? MATTHEWS: We`re calling the debate off tonight. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? Why? MATTHEWS: Frank Prady, he wants to delay. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he say why? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight is not a night for political posturing and 30-second canned responses to questions about racial stratification. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Perry, you watched it? BACON: I did, no Golden Globes, I loved "The Good Wife". And, Chris, you did a great job playing yourself, of course.   (LAUGHTER) BACON: But, seriously, a really great episode, it`s a great debate about Ferguson and what happened in Staten Island that came through in the show. There was some of that in your, you know, mocked debate. There was also some afterwards where the two main characters are debating in the kitchen. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I thought it was great, one guy said we`re going to end racism in America. And they say, no, we`re just going to get a better states attorney`s office. Let`s no over-large our role here. Anyway, Perry -- yes, Kasie? HUNT: I just was going to say. Julianna Marguiles wants strong women on television. One of the other things that came out of the Globes last night was Maggie Gyllenhaal who gave a quite lovely piece about the role of women and Hollywood and how they`re showing more real women on the -- MATTHEWS: Who are both good and bad, and they`re not all -- they`re not angels. HUNT: Right, they`re real. Right. MATTHEWS: Real people, and I agree because Marguiles plays someone bad once in awhile as well. Perry, my friend, my good friend. Howard?   FINEMAN: I didn`t see it. MATTHEWS: I know. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Kasie Hunt. Thank you, Howard, for joining us tonight. When we come back, I`ll be back, let me finish with a powerful new movie, "Selma." I criticized some of the history in this book, this movie. What a powerful movie, what an important movie to go see. I`ll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with "Selma", that powerful new film Kathleen and I saw over the weekend. Look, I still have some real concerns with the way it portrays Lyndon Johnson, what it says about his role, it`s simply not true. It didn`t happen. Johnson was a committed fighter for civil and voting rights. And as I said last week, anyone who doubts, he was a good guy in those fights, should pay attention to what happen to his party afterwards. From the day Johnson passed the civil rights bill in 1964, and just as he predicted, the white South would kissed him and his party goodbye, and it sure it. Whatever you think about politicians, or even white politicians of that era, a good number of them got together and passed the Civil Rights Act of `64, and the Voting Rights Act of `65. They did the right thing for their time and for history. But back to the power of this film, this wondrous portrayal of the people, Martin and Coretta King, and Andrew Young and John Lewis, and all the others who stuck their necks and lives out for voting rights, who led their people to do the same.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as I am unable to exercise my constitutional right to vote, I don`t have command of my own life. I cannot determine my own destiny, what is determined for me by people who would rather see me suffer than succeed. Those that have gone before us say no more. No more. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: If you can`t be moved by that, you can`t be moved. That scene reminded me what it is so important to keep up that fight for voting rights today, against all those and for whatever reasons are ready to trample on the rights of their fellow citizens. As I see it, it is a fight that needs to be fought today and tomorrow. And we`re going to cover that fight with an open prejudice here toward those who believe all Americans have a right to decide their country`s future. It is a matter which I`m particularly proud to lean forward. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>