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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 03/12/15

Guests: John Feehery, Sandy Berger, Matthew Vandyke, Marq Claxton, RyanReilly

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hate mail. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. And if you`re in public life, you get hate mail, sneaky little notes either through the Post Office or slipped under the door. You also have people saying things about you that aren`t true, that (ph) hiding in a pack so they don`t have to stand up and answer for it. Nothing has been quite so underhanded, however, as passing around this letter to sabotage the dead serious talks with Iran. The legion of critics continues to grow for those 47 U.S. senators who signed a letter to Iran`s leaders in an attempt to scuttle the nuclear negotiations, in addition to Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, among others today, and today, the German foreign minister went after it and those who signed it. And The New York Times seemed to sum it up with this headline for its editorial today, "Republican idiocy on Iran." They said it was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president, which it was. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright weighed in, as well, saying the stunt was very damaging. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: It`s as if somebody had written -- a group of members of Congress had written a letter to Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis and prevented some agreement to be made.   I think it`s totally inappropriate, and in many ways, damages to the system. I`m surprised it`s even legal, frankly, I mean, in terms of how you get involved in negotiations. And I think it`s very, very damaging to us. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think Iranian leaders think about this? ALBRIGHT: I think they probably think we`ve lost it -- I mean, seriously. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Apparently, even the supreme leader of Iran said the senators` letter was a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within. He`s fairly sophisticated about us, whoever wrote that. I`m joined by "Mother Jones`s" Washington bureau chief and MSNBC political analyst David Corn and Republican strategist John Feehery. Gentlemen, let`s go through it. Let`s hear your point of view. I... (LAUGHTER) DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Watch out, John! MATTHEWS: I know. I`m going to let you talk. I think it`s contemptuous of the president. It fits right in with having Bibi Netanyahu speak in the chamber. It`s right up there with "You lie." It`s right up there with the whole pattern of calling him a -- somebody from Kenya, absolute disrespect of this president, and this is the latest and probably the worst of it.   That`s what I think. I think it`s about him. I think they have absolutely no respect for his office or his dignity. And that`s what they`re up to here. JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I... MATTHEWS: And I can guess why. Go ahead. FEEHERY: I agree with you in one sense, that they disagree with this president and don`t like him... MATTHEWS: Disagree? FEEHERY: And they don`t like him very much. I would say about Tom Cotton, I know Tom Cotton, I like Tom Cotton. Tom Cotton has an amazing biography serving in Iraq, so he knows a lot about war. So I think that we have to understand where he`s coming from on this. Now, if he -- it wasn`t just Tom Cotton... MATTHEWS: Did you read what he said yesterday? FEEHERY: You can`t blame... MATTHEWS: He wants regime change in Iran. That`s what he wants us to be in the business of. I think we`ve had some experience with a regime change lately. FEEHERY: Well, I -- I... MATTHEWS: It`s our job to go around the world toppling governments?   FEEHERY: I would like to see... (CROSSTALK) CORN: Iraq went so well. FEEHERY: I would like to see new leadership in Iran, as well... CORN: Well, everybody would... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... what that means? You want to fight a war. CORN: But that`s they said about Iraq. Now, he may have served... MATTHEWS: It`s neocon talk. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... very language of the neocons.   CORN: He may have served in the Iraq war, but you know, that doesn`t give him the ability now to sort of understand geopolitics better than any other neoconservative who led us into the Iraq war. And now they want to do essentially the same in Iran because if you don`t -- their option to not dealing -- or trying to get a deal with Iran is war. And we... (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: And I -- and I -- I would say that there`s very little, almost no appetite in this country for going to war with Iran. MATTHEWS: Tom Cotton, regime change. FEEHERY: I think there`s -- I think there`s... MATTHEWS: If you kill the talks... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: If you kill the talks, what`s the option? FEEHERY: I think there`s a lot of regime... MATTHEWS: What`s Tom Cotton, your hero`s, option play? What`s the play... (CROSSTALK)   FEEHERY: And listen, I`m not necessarily supportive of this letter. MATTHEWS: What is his plan? FEEHERY: I would say that 46 other senators joined him. Listen, I think the plan is that they do not trust John Kerry. They don`t particularly trust... MATTHEWS: What`s their plan? FEEHERY: Well, I think... MATTHEWS: Go to war. FEEHERY: I think their plan is short of war, increasing sanctions, and really put the pressure... MATTHEWS: Who`s going to help us do that? FEEHERY: Well, that`s a good question. CORN: Well, that`s the other thing... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: ... war is the option. FEEHERY: Well, I think war is the wrong option, frankly. MATTHEWS: I think this is spooky, this stuff. Anyway, Senator John McCain said the letter was a rush job. He told Politic, quote, "It was the kind of very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm." That`s his (ph) snowstorm. He went to snow (INAUDIBLE) "I guess they probably should have had more discussion about it," McCain said, "given the blowback." So he`s backing away from it. Rand Paul said they misdirected the mail. They thought they were sending this to the White House and they sent it to Teheran. Don`t they have stamps? Don`t they know what they`re doing? FEEHERY: I mean, Tom Cotton has been in the Senate for about three weeks, right? MATTHEWS: What`s he doing this for? FEEHERY: And -- well, listen, don`t blame Tom Cotton. Blame the other 46 other guys who signed the letter... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: ... it was a sting operation? (CROSSTALK)   FEEHERY: I think there`s deep distrust of what John Kerry and President Obama are trying to do... (CROSSTALK) CORN: But wait a second. That may be, but there are appropriate ways to express a policy disagreement and inappropriate ways. And I think what happened here was Tom Cotton, who says he`s talked to Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives in town, came up with this nifty idea, and they started sending it around the Senate. And what do you know, really most people saw it as a poke in the eye for Barack Obama, so John McCain didn`t have... (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: It`s not exactly breaking news that the Senate Republicans disagree with President Obama on a lot of issues... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Do you personally believe that Barack Obama would let the people -- the mullahs have a nuclear weapon? (INAUDIBLE) have one. FEEHERY: I don`t personally believe that he would... MATTHEWS: Well, why... FEEHERY: But I do think that they... (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: A few of those 47 Republican senators are trying to slither away from their signatures. I mentioned Rand Paul yesterday said the letter was actually meant to be a message to the White House. Here he is. He`s not usually like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: And I`m not particularly happy with being lectured to by the administration about the Constitution. This is an administration who I believe has trampled the Constitution at many turns. I signed the letter to Iran. But you know what? The message I was sending was to you. The message was to President Obama that we want you to obey the law. We want you to understand the separation of powers. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Anyway, today, Senator Lindsey Graham had a similar message, saying the letter was justified because the president threatened to veto legislation that would require congressional review of a nuclear deal. Here`s Lindsey. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When he threatened to veto that piece of legislation, he was telling me and the body, I really don`t care what you think about the policies that you created. So I thought it was time to let the Iranians know, the president, and anybody else in the world that`s listening that there will be no relief to congressional sanctions without Congress having a say. (END AUDIO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, the old expression from the Kennedy administration was, Defeat -- victory has 100 fathers, defeat`s an orphan. They`re all slithering away. They`re all saying, Well, I didn`t quite mean it. Anyway, potential Republican candidates for president, however, are all backing the senators` action, including Rick Perry, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal. Jindal said in a statement, "Every single person thinking about running for president on both sides should sign onto this letter to make clear to Iran that they are negotiating with a lame duck president." You can`t get much lower than that.   CORN: You know, these guys... MATTHEWS: Why are these guys trashing our president to the mullahs? I mean, what do you -- I never -- (INAUDIBLE) I think I`ve heard a lot, but that... FEEHERY: Well, listen, this is not... MATTHEWS: These guys have so little respect for Obama. FEEHERY: This is not the first time that a Congress has disagreed with a president... (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Disagreed? FEEHERY: You remember the 1980s... MATTHEWS: Yes, I know! FEEHERY: ... when President Reagan was trying to fight the Iran -- the... (CROSSTALK)   FEEHERY: ... Iran-contra was because of a disagreement with the Congress and the president. (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: The treaty of Versailles was a disagreement between the (INAUDIBLE) This happens, and it`s part of the deal. CORN: No, no, no! FEEHERY: And you know what? They`ve sharply disagreed... (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: ... and they have a right to do -- to voice their disagreement! CORN: They have the right to voice their disagreement. FEEHERY: Right. (CROSSTALK) CORN: They don`t have the right to write to a foreign enemy on their own terms and say, Don`t pay attention...   (CROSSTALK) FEEHERY: They have a perfect right to do it! (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Read the Logan Act sometime. FEEHERY: The Logan Act specifically says that members of Congress are not part of that! It`s not a Logan Act... (CROSSTALK) CORN: It`s inappropriate and there`s a way... MATTHEWS: ... speaking for the government, but Congress doesn`t speak for the government. CORN: But there is a way for them to express their... MATTHEWS: OK, thank you... CORN: ... views without doing it in this manner, and that was...   (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I think it`s part of the low treatment of this president, is what I think it is. Anyway, thank you -- and (INAUDIBLE) why it is that way. John Feehery, thank you for joining us. You had a difficult job here. You were the Washington Generals against the Globetrotters. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And you lost by 15. Anyway -- you`re supposed to lose by 15. Anyway, thank you, David Corn. I`m joined right now by Sandy Berger. Of course, he`s the former national security adviser for Bill Clinton. He`s now chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group. Anyway, Mr. Berger, thank you for joining us. This -- well, talk about the precedence, the protocols. This struck me as completely extraordinary, this letter writing. SANDY BERGER, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It is extraordinary, Chris. And when you weaken the power of this president, you weaken the authority of the presidency. Power is indivisible. And so they may be shooting at this president, but they`re undercutting the authority of our president and of the presidency. They`ve undercut the president in the midst of a delicate negotiation, and they`ve sent a message throughout the world that the president doesn`t necessarily speak authoritatively for the United States. Leaders around the world every day make decisions based upon their perception of the reliability of the president speaking on behalf of the United States, and to the extent you call that into question, you call American power into question. So I see this more (ph) than as a one-off ploy. I see that -- this as a group of people who talk about a strong America having contributed to a weaker America.   MATTHEWS: Yes, I just wonder whether when Bill Clinton, the president you served, was engaged in those last -- 11th-hour, I should say, talks at Taba (ph) trying to reach a deal between Yasser Arafat and the Israelis, and if somebody on the Republican side had called up Yasser Arafat or sent a letter with 47 signatures on it saying, Don`t trust Clinton, he`s a lame duck -- I mean, what kind of talk -- what kind of game is this? BERGER: It`s a very dangerous game, and you know, once this precedent has been set, it`s out there in the public, you know, system. And again, you know, I don`t know how you expect President Obama to drive the best deal possible if the other side isn`t sure he can live up to his commitments. And the other part of this that bothers me is it plays right into the hands of Ayatollah Khamenei, who has said all along that the United States can`t be trusted to live up to its commitments. It undercuts the moderate -- moderates in Iran who seek to forge an agreement, and plays directly into the hands of the hardliners. I`m not sure what the purpose of that is. MATTHEWS: Well, it`s to undercut their foreign minister, as well. Thank you so much, Sandy Berger, for joining us. And coming up -- right now, we`ve had heard a lot about people heading to Syria to join up with ISIS. Well, tonight, we`ll talk to someone who`s recruiting former American soldiers to return to Iraq to fight -- well, to train fighters against ISIS. As Congress debates the ISIS war plan, these guys are out in front in the fight. Plus, two police officers were shot last night in Ferguson, Missouri. Who did it? There`s now a manhunt to get the shooters. And another scandal with the Secret Service, do you believe it? Two agents are being investigated after they crashed their car into the White House barricade after a night of drinking. Finally, is Hillary Clinton too big to fail? I love that phrase. That`s the large question facing Democrats today as the party`s only real candidate for president in 2016 tries to end the controversy over her e- mails. Wow! And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Take a look at this. It`s a satellite photo over Syria taken in 2011, four years ago. You can see pockets of light throughout the country there. That`s positive.   Now look at this. This is what Syria looks like right now. You can see it`s much darker. Scientists in China analyzed the satellite there, the images, and found that 83 percent of the lights in Syria have gone out since the civil war broke out there -- actually (ph) getting dimmer in more ways than one. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright called what`s happening in Syria a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe of the first order. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Iraqi forces have made some progress this week in their fight against ISIS. Their assault on the ISIS- controlled city of Tikrit, which is now in its tenth day, finally broke the ISIS defensive lines. Yesterday now -- that was yesterday. Now Iraqi security forces and Shi`ite militias are making a rapid push to the center of the city. Well, that`s good news. Meanwhile, ISIS militants have again regained (ph) priceless artifacts in that country, this time in the ancient city of Korsbad (ph). Anyway, in a moment, we`ll be speaking with an American who has gone to the region to help in the fight against ISIS. He`s recruiting other Americans to do the same. First I`m joined right now by NBC`s chief global correspondent, Bill Neely, who`s in the city of Erbil in Iraq. Bill, give us a sense of what`s happening on the battlefront there both in Tikrit and in northern Iraq. BILL NEELY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. Well, what we do know is that Iraqi forces have broken through the suburbs of Tikrit, and they`re heading towards the center. Really, beyond that, it`s very contentious, and we don`t know. Some of what the Iraqi government forces are saying really is just fantasy. One militia leader is saying 75 percent of Tikrit is in their hands and there are only 150 ISIS fighters left. Iraq`s prime minister, Haidar al Abadi saying victory is close. The defense minister says Tikrit will have fallen within two days. I think that`s wildly optimistic because we saw car bombs going off today, ISIS firing mortars. There are snipers. They`re dug in, remember, to a complex of presidential palaces that Saddam Hussein had in Tikrit. Remember, he was born there. So I think progress will be very slow. Remember how long it took the forces to take the tiny village of Khobani, and Tikrit is much bigger than that. Remember back to 2004 and the American difficulties in Fallujah. So this will be a long, hard campaign. And this is just Tikrit. We`re not talking about Mosul, which is 10 times the size of Tikrit. That`s sometime in the future. But today, I was with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, a different theater of war slightly north of Tikrit, and they have taken ground from ISIS with the help of allied war power -- war -- air strikes. So U.S. and coalition warplanes pounded ISIS positions for three days and three nights, and two days ago, they overran ISIS positions and pushed them back. So with the help of air power, things can be done relatively quickly, and the Kurds are a disciplined force. Tikrit`s slightly different. I mean, there are helicopter gunships, but remember, there are no U.S. warplanes operating in the Tikrit area. This is being done wholly by Iraqi militias, and those are Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and Iranian commanders on the ground helping in that assault.   So it will take some time. But look, Chris. There is no doubt Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it at Congress yesterday. Tikrit will fall eventually. The big question is what happens once it`s fallen? Will there be revenge attacks? And will an Iranian victory in Tikrit, if you like, also represent a victory for the coalition and for the U.S.? That`s one of the big questions, Chris. MATTHEWS: Yes. Thank you so much. That`s NBC`s Bill Neely over in Erbil, Iraq, of course. We`ve heard a lot about, by the way, disaffected people living in the West joining ISIS in the Middle East, people with Middle Eastern backgrounds in many cases. But now some Americans are headed overseas to join the fight against ISIS. Matthew Vandyke`s a graduate of Georgetown School of Foreign Service here in town. He`s documented conflicts in the Middle East before, going so far as to fight alongside the rebels who overthrew Muammar Gadhafi in Libya in 2011. And during that time, he was captured and imprisoned for six months in solitary confinement by Gadhafi`s forces. There he is. Now Vandyke has founded Sons of Liberty International, a group that employs military veterans from the United States to train local Christian troops on the ground in Iraq so that they can take the fight to ISIS. And Matthew Vandyke joins me now. Well, very few people impress me. You do, sir. Tell us what got you into the mood of going over there and joining the fight, apparently ahead of our own ground troops, because we don`t have ground troops fighting ISIS. MATTHEW VANDYKE, FOUNDER, SONS OF LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, what really got me focused on ISIS was, I was friends with journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. And after they were killed by ISIS, I really put my attention onto ISIS and thought, what can I do to have an impact in this conflict? I knew that there were forces on the ground that needed advising and training, so I connected them with U.S. military veterans to get it done. MATTHEWS: And so what are you doing? How many -- what is your progress report? How many people have you gotten in the field? VANDYKE: Battalion size, around 350 just graduated on February 19 from training. And we`re continuing to talk to leaders of different militias now and figure out what the next steps are.   MATTHEWS: Are they engaged yet? VANDYKE: Now yet, no. MATTHEWS: How does that stand in terms of your fighting potential? VANDYKE: They have just been deployed. They should be ready for some of the battles in the next few months, but largely right now they`re a defensive force, and they`re building the confidence of the people. MATTHEWS: You`re ahead of us on this. I was thinking of the history of this kind of effort, Lafayette Escadrille in World War I and of course in World War II it was the Eagle Squadron fighting with the Allies, with the RAF. Americans have gone ahead of our country to fight wars we eventually get into. What`s been the reaction by our government to you, positive or negative or nothing? VANDYKE: So far, positive. We have had meetings with the State Department in Irbil. Those have gone positively. MATTHEWS: In Irbil? VANDYKE: In Irbil, yes. MATTHEWS: Where Bill Neely is right now. VANDYKE: Yes. Yes. I just came from there last week.   MATTHEWS: What I want to know about it, how close to the front have your American colleagues who have been fighting this war, training it, rather, how close are they? Could they get picked off? VANDYKE: They could, except we`re armed, the men we`re training are armed. We take security precautions. This is very serious work, and we take precautions to make sure that nothing happens to our personnel. MATTHEWS: How good of a chance do we have to beat ISIS? The Iranians are doing a good job. The Shia militia from Iraq, they`re all Shia. They differ from us in policy generally, but they`re the only ones on the ground so far with real force strength there. VANDYKE: That`s exactly the problem. This war will be won by militias, Shiite militias, Sunni militias, the Christian militias, each controlling their own territory and kicking ISIS out one by one. There is no national unified force that can fight ISIS in Iraq. MATTHEWS: Can you protect the Christians over there? A lot of us who are Christians have a particular concern obviously our fellow religionists over there. Have you been able to protect them yet? VANDYKE: Well, we give them the tools to protect themselves. That`s the mission of Sons of Liberty International. And the way that we do it is entirely by public support. We provide the training for free and through our Web site,, we accept support from the public to be able to fund it. And the more funding we have, the more we can do. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: What visa do you need to get into this fighting area? (CROSSTALK) VANDYKE: To get into Iraq, you get a visa when you show up in Irbil at the airport.   MATTHEWS: That`s how it works? VANDYKE: Easy for an American, yes. MATTHEWS: A little sloppy, but, anyway, thank you, man. And I guess you`re doing great work. I don`t see anything wrong with it. But take care. VANDYKE: Thank you. MATTHEWS: Take care of your guys over there. Thank you, Matthew VanDyke. Up next, two police officers were shot last night in Ferguson, Missouri. Who did it? That`s the question tonight. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move, move, move. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down. Stay down.   UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Jesus. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he hit? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, in the face. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Well, the scene outside the Ferguson police headquarters turned violent last night when two officers were shot in an ambush. One officer, age 32, was hit in the face. The other, age 41, was hit in the shoulder. Both were released however today from the hospital, in fact this morning. The shots were fired approximately 125 yards, that`s 375 feet away from the station aimed at a line of 25 officers who were monitoring a group of demonstrators following the resignation of the Ferguson police chief. We followed that story last night. And here`s what Saint Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar said about the shooter in a press conference earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON BELMAR, SAINT LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, POLICE CHIEF: I feel very confident that whoever did this was there for the wrong reason, not the right reason, and came there for whatever nefarious reason it was. But I do feel like there was an unfortunate association with that gathering. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s how Attorney General Eric Holder characterized the shooter earlier this afternoon.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What happened last night was a pure ambush. This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord in an area that`s trying to get its act together and trying to bring together a community that`s been fractured for too long. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: A damn punk. President Obama condemned the attack today, saying -- quote -- "Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in Missouri. The path to justice is one all of us must travel together." I`m joined right now by MSNBC`s Craig Melvin, who is in Ferguson, plus Marq Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post. Thank you so much. Craig, you have gotten out there this afternoon. First of all, what`s the latest from the police? Anything beyond what I just said? CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: No, those two officers, Chris, we should note here they are expected to recover fully, the one who was shot in the face, the other who was shot in the shoulder. The bullet went through his back. They are both expected to recover. We can also tell you about four blocks from here this afternoon, a SWAT team entered a home. Three people were taken from that home in handcuffs. They were questioned, they were released, no arrests were made, so at this point, whoever shot those officers still on the loose. I talked to a law enforcement source a short time ago. He said that the police presence tonight is going to be stepped up, visibly stepped up. He also said there will be a number of folks who are not in uniform as well, patrolling not just the area behind me, but also the box surrounding this area. And there`s a candlelight vigil that`s expected to start at 8:00 Eastern, and we would not be surprised if we saw just as many law enforcement officers there as we did folks who were turning out for the vigil.   MATTHEWS: Have you been able to register the public reaction to this, what happened last night, after all that`s gone on after all these terrible months? MELVIN: Disgusted, one word, absolutely disgusted. A number of folks that we have talked to, including a city councilwoman I talked to a short time ago. They said, you have got to -- consider the fact that over the past few days especially, a number of the reforms that protesters had been clamoring for here in Ferguson for months, a number of those reforms are starting to actually happen, the resignation of the police chief. Folks had been calling -- had been calling for the resignation of the police chief since the unrest started. That finally happens, and then to shoot officers hours after the police chief resigns, a lot of folks are scratching their heads here. A number of the folks who were involved in the organized protest movement are saying that`s precisely why no one should think that whoever did this last night is associated with them. MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let me go to Marq Claxton on this. And I don`t know how you can suppose what happened here yet, Marq, but thanks for joining us. But it seems to me that there`s an opportunist -- there`s an opportunist at work here, and not a good one, but a bad guy or two, who saw the cover they got from the demonstrators. They just stood behind them, a football field away, with some kinds of weapons that were capable of hitting targets when the officers were massed together, Marq. MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Yes, it`s a horrific and cowardly -- it`s a horrific and cowardly act. I`m sorry. Can you hear me? MATTHEWS: You`re on. Yes, every word.   CLAXTON: You know, it really is a horrific and cowardly act committed quite possibly by a criminal opportunist or a provocateur. But whatever the reason, that person placed in danger not only the fine law enforcement professionals that, by the way, place their lives on the line on a daily basis and are exposed to type of danger, placed them in danger, but placed the citizens, those people who were peacefully protesting, expressing themselves in a legitimate way. So you have criminal opportunists, you have professional provocateurs who kind of try to blend in to these type of crowds and take the focus away from the issues. And that`s really unfortunate. MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, it`s not ethnic, it`s not new. It`s old. Every time there`s a -- people fish in troubled water. And every time there`s a protest, whether it`s anti-war, the commies show up. They always jump in. They show up. They saw, oh, we will be part of this under the pink umbrella. I was in anti-war demonstrations and they would show up. These old commies is what they were. And in this case, you have guys and every time there`s a dispute here in Washington, over in Georgetown or something, every time there`s like a Halloween party out in public, the thugs show much. They just -- here`s a chance to raise hell. It`s normal, and, unfortunately, it`s sick. (CROSSTALK) RYAN REILLY, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I think what is interesting, yes, it happened now. And people -- they expected this really to happen in November after the grand jury decision, and when you saw that massive destruction and you saw a lot of shots fired, a lot of shell casings found in a parking lot in Ferguson. And that`s really when people more expected a tragedy like this to take place. Thankfully, the officers survived, but going forward, I think it is going to be a real question of how the police respond to this and how protesters handle this and if they change any of their tactics based off of... MATTHEWS: Marq, what`s the police position on gun? I don`t want to get back to just here`s another case for gun control, but I have been listening to I guess a lot of my liberal friends, fair enough, that`s who I listen to sometimes, and they say this is just too many guns around. But I don`t know whether criminals actually buy guns at the store. What`s your experience? Do they get them in hotel rooms with some guy with a suitcase? This is part of the situation. We have a country with so many millions of guns in it. CLAXTON: Well, with the absence of a formalized and complete national policy on gun ownership, you know, different states have different rules and regulations. So, there`s always going to be a gap and an opportunity for firearms, for guns, for rifles, shotguns to be transported from one legitimate area to an area perhaps that is a little bit more stringent.   But I think larger than just the gun issue is the issue of violence. The amount of violence, of course, much of it is associated with guns. The amount of violence is something that as a society we have to begin addressing. And if it includes dealing with gun ownership, gun possession, that type of thing, then I`m all for it. But the larger issue of violence is one that`s really become far too pervasive in our society. MATTHEWS: You know, you`re the first person to say it on television. But I remember looking at statistics, Marq, where you find that people, when they want to kill somebody, they kill them through the most ghastly methods, and oftentimes without any use of a gun. It`s a violent country. Let me go back to Craig for a last word from Craig. What are you looking for tonight out there? Are you going to stay out there all night? Are there people in the streets or what? MELVIN: You know what? There`s no one in the streets right now, Chris. And I was just told -- Jay, hey, Jay, the protests are being moved? The protests, the organized protests, Chris, instead of them happening tonight, we`re told, at this point, my colleague just telling me that they`re going to move to the farmers market, Jay Gray just telling me that they`re going to move to the farmers market, which is about a half-mile. This, of course, where it all went down last night. It is going to be very interesting to see whether that actually happens. Sometimes, we get word that the organized protest is going to move. And then you have got a half-dozen folks that show up one place. Then you have got six or seven dozen that show up somewhere else. MATTHEWS: Yes. MELVIN: But the police response tonight, I`m told -- again, I had a conversation maybe 20 minutes before we went on the air, that they`re going to be out in full force tonight to make sure what we saw last night doesn`t happen again. We should also note, by the way, an eyewitness told me that something that is one of the things that he noticed last night was that a number of officers were actually wearing the body cameras, so presumably investigators are going to be looking at that or have been looking at that throughout the course of the day to get some idea about who did this.   MATTHEWS: Yes, we will see what that protest ends up being like tonight. Anyway, thank you, Craig Melvin. Thank you, Marq Claxton, and thank you, Ryan Kelly -- well, Ryan Reilly. Close enough. Up next, what`s going on at the Secret Service? What is going on? There`s another investigation going on after two agents crashed their car into a White House barricade after a night of drinking. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. An American health care worker infected with Ebola while working in Sierra Leone will arrive in the U.S. tomorrow for treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Divers have found the Black Hawk helicopter that crashed during a training operation Tuesday in waters off the coast of Florida. The bodies of two service members have been recovered. And the Kremlin insists Russian President Vladimir Putin is in good health. Rumors have swirled about his health after a recent trip abroad was canceled because he was said to be ill -- back to HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, prostitution scandals, bungled investigations, fence jumpers that make it within steps of the president`s residence, and now we have got another one, another problem for the guys who we trust to protect President Obama`s life.   The Obama administration is now investigating an incident involving two senior Secret Service agents who crashed their cruiser -- that`s a car -- into a White House barricade last week, disrupting an active investigation into a suspicious package. They did it all after drinking at a party. And one of the agents is Mark Connolly. He`s the second in command on President Obama`s security detail. He`s right up there with him. And, as you see, he`s in these pictures. He`s often to the right, right there at the president`s side. So, he`s quite important to our leader. Anyway, "The Washington Post" broke this story in a big front-page splash today. And as they report -- quote -- " Officers on duty who witnessed the March 4th incident wanted to arrest the agents and conduct sobriety tests, according to a current official familiar with the incident. But the officers were ordered by a supervisor on duty that night to let the agents just go home." Well, late today, NBC`s Kristen Welker reported that according to the two sources familiar with the investigation, the Secret Service agents were driving an estimated one mile an hour into the barricade, which is always a sign of something. A roundtable tonight, Jonathan Allen is the Washington bureau chief of "Bloomberg News", Michael Duffy is the Washington bureau chief for "Time", and Emily Schultheis is "National Journal" political reporter. Emily, you start here. This is -- well, you know, when people drive really slow, I always thought that meant the cops will stop you because they figure you`re drunk. Let`s just go on from there. EMILY SCHULTHEIS, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, this is -- it reads like it`s out of a comic book or out of some fantastical story, the idea that this is -- you know, there is a suspicious package and Secret Service officers are coming back potentially intoxicated, driving right next to the thing as they pull up to the White House. MATTHEWS: Were these guys on duty or not? I thought they were off- duty coming up for a party. They may have parked at the White House for convenience. There`s a new word that I`m using. MICHAEL DUFFY, TIME MAGAZINE DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: Are you ever off-duty if you`re a Secret Service agent and you`re near the White House? I don`t think there`s such a thing. This isn`t just another government agency. This isn`t like the Mint or the FTC. You know, protecting the president is one of the most important national security mission there is. The world almost turns on the office of the presidency. Markets are certainly confident or not because of it, and we have an agency that -- you know, it reminds me of great capitalist Karl Marx repeats itself who says history repeats itself first as tragedy, and then as farce. Just six months ago, they let someone over the fence get into the first floor of the White House just by force -- (CROSSTALK)   MATTHEWS: What`s that tell you? You`re talking like there`s something wrong with these people. DUFFY: It`s completely broken. The leadership is completely broken. MATTHEWS: You hear that? This is systemic? JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think -- I actually would disagree in this way. I think this particular incident is very different in most ways in the other incidents. The one thing that, you know, strikes a chord. DUFFY: Alcohol was involved. So, that`s different. ALLEN: Well, alcohol is involved. But the big thing that is the same is the supervisor told the officers to let these guys go. That`s a systemic issue. But in terms of guys getting drunk -- MATTHEWS: He let them off. ALLEN: Right. But in terms of guys getting drunk at a work party, it was a going-away party for a longtime Secret Service officer, and -- you know, that`s the kind of thing that -- and I`m not excusing it in any way, but that`s the kind of thing that happens that is like not necessarily indicative of a systemic problem. The fact these guys were driving back by the White House and happened to do it at a time where there`s a suspicious package is the worst luck in the history of the world. And to Emily`s point, it`s like the Keystone cops. MATTHEWS: Is there a Great Santini sort of at those ethos among Secret Service agents? You know what I`m talking about, the big going-away party to have fun? SCHULTHEIS: I don`t really know too much about what the -- what the atmosphere is like.   DUFFY: I think this is an agency that used to have a lot of pride in itself and took itself -- its mission very seriously and there`s no sign, systemic or otherwise, that they do that anymore. MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s run through it. You got a point. Here`s a sampling of foul-ups, if you will, by the Secret Service under this president. Less than a year into his term, two reality TV stars were able to get past security checkpoints at a state dinner and actually meet the president. In April of 2012, roughly a dozen agents are caught soliciting prostitutes down in Colombia, ahead of the president`s visit. And two months later, "The Washington Post" discovers that White House agents had been removed from duty to protect a personal friend of the boss, their boss. In September of 2014, "The Washington Post" also reports that the agency bungled an investigation into a shooting incident that left a bullet hole just feet away from the president`s living room. Anyway, that same month, a fence jumper was able to make it all the way to the East Room of the White House. And today, we learned two senior agents while under investigation for allegedly driving into a White House barricade after a night of drinking. That`s occurred. Pattern? DUFFY: We`ll see what both the executive branch does about this agency now, which they already overhauled once. MATTHEWS: They`ve got a new leader there. DUFFY: Well, and so, what can what steps will they take now, especially with the second in command in his detail? MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s the crunch that they let that guys off that night, they didn`t give breathalyzers? ALLEN: I think it`s terrible. I think that`s the part that fits the pattern. I think two guys driving drunk making a terrible decision, one of them being close to the president is kind of a one-off. It`s a different type of thing. The fact that a supervisor is telling officers and thinks that`s appropriate, and knowing they`re under such scrutiny. That fits the pattern of a systemic problem of an agency that has run amuck. MATTHEWS: I think you`re right about the image, because our image of these guys is incredibly fearless, take a bullet for the president and a certain manner of carrying themselves that suggests confidence and professionalism.   Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, Democrats have some big questions this week about their likely presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Somebody calls her "too big to fail", which is an interesting parallel to the banking industry. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, Chris Christie is making sure his party doesn`t move on without him. Allies of the governor have launched a super PAC to raise unlimited money toward a presidential campaign for him. Christie`s super PAC is called America Leads. And Christie`s biggest money man, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, said this week he started raising money. Christie is lagging in the polls as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker duke it out for early front-runner status. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back. And "New York Times" says she`s too big to fail. There`s a phrase. And "The Washington Post" says Democrats are alarmed about her lack of readiness. In the wake of the private e-mail controversy, the spotlight on Hillary Clinton remains bright on the right and in the press. There are now at least three House committees eyeing new probes into Clinton. Now, here is what "The Washington Post" writes today, "Senior Democrats are increasingly word that Hillary Rodham Clinton is not ready to run for president." And "The New York Times" paints a less than enthusiastic portrait of her support with this headline, "Democrats see no choice but Hillary Clinton in 2016. Mrs. Clinton, many Democrats say, is simply too big to fail." That`s their phrase. I`m up with the roundtable again, Jonathan, Michael, who`s "Time Magazine" has Hillary on the cover in its late issue, there it is, and Emily.   So, should I start with you, Michael? That cover -- DUFFY: Sure, absolutely. MATTHEWS: What do you think of that cover? DUFFY: What do you think of that cover? (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I didn`t think it was positive and glowing. It wasn`t joyous. It was a little bit dark I thought. It wasn`t wimp, not that bad. DUFFY: When Democrats get worried about her readiness, that they`re saying is that campaign is nowhere ready to launch, took her three days to do something that could have been done in about three hours. What she had to say wasn`t very convincing. And the staffing was pretty horrible. They put out a fact sheet an hour later. MATTHEWS: Well, wasn`t eight days? DUFFY: Well, they still move at pre-Internet speed. There`s still a steam powered operation in an Internet age. That`s going to be a factor here in whether she can, you know, scale up and do his in a different age than even eight, ten years ago. MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s talk about that. That story seems to be driven by the front pages, not by her enemies necessarily but by reporters on a story that they`re biting onto. They`re not leaving go of. SCHULTHEIS: Right. And this is something, I mean, to come back to the earlier point. I mean, she is -- Hillary is operating on a very small staff right now. That`s why you see headlines today about her staffing up further on the press operations. This is something that had she had that in place, there are a lot of Democrats who feel like she could have handled this more quickly, more gracefully, and overall better.   MATTHEWS: You think it`s a mechanics problem, a staffing problem? SCHULTHEIS: I think it`s part of it. I don`t think that`s the whole thing. ALLEN: I don`t think it`s a staffing problem at all. I think it`s a situation which reflects one of the great weaknesses of Hillary Clinton, which is that there`s a belief that there`s one set of rules for her and another set of rules for other people. And it comes out and I think there`s no real way for her to articulate that. I think it took eight days because her staff was arguing about the best thing they could possibly come out -- MATTHEWS: Let me try this by you, guys. Most people are good at answering last week`s question. Almost anybody can figure out how to answer last week`s tough question. How do you answer next week`s? And until you`re ready to do that, you`re not ready for president. So, that`s going to be the challenge, getting geared up. So, when you hear that tough question come zinging at you, like Tim Russert did in Drexel debate, zinging at you and driver`s license in New York, can you handle that? And if you can`t handle the question with an answer right away, you have to answer it with something. You got to say something. And then you got to find a way to get out. And then you go back and talk to your people to get the answer. But this time around, this was rolling disclosure. Nobody in the public likes rolling disclosure. DUFFY: You know, in Little Rock, when she was a lawyer, they called her death. She was a good in the courtroom. She could kill you. MATTHEWS: Death? DUFFY: Death. And that`s how good a lawyer she was. And we all watch her in private and public over the last 10, 20 years. I don`t think I`ve seen her perform -- MATTHEWS: But that`s a prepared -- that`s a prepared case. You prepared for months. DUFFY: Right. She`s that good. I`ve never seen --   MATTHEWS: At that. DUFFY: Yes, but just other day, her eyes were buried in her notes. This was not someone who is sure of her footing. It was quite revealing. I`ve never seen her look down as often. MATTHEWS: What do you think a person like that needs in politics? Is it somebody within three feet of you that says, slow it down, we`ll get to this later. They say, don`t answer that right now. I mean, you need almost -- (CROSSTALK) DUFFY: You need someone who can say, your answer isn`t good enough, you`ve messed up. Your answer isn`t good enough, now let`s fix it this way. And that -- then the candidate has to listen. As Jim Baker said, someone to tell the president you`re messing up, George. And I`m not sure she has that. I think she`ll need it eventually. MATTHEWS: You know anybody around her like that, Jonathan? ALLEN: Not just someone. MATTHEWS: Anybody can say (ph), they had to change that act? ALLEN: Not just people around her. It`s got to be one person. She`s got 10 or 15, 20 people adviser her on communications. MATTHEWS: Are they all saying you`re right, Hillary? You`re always right, Hillary.   ALLEN: Of course. MATTHEWS: They`re always wrong -- ALLEN: Look, I think sometimes they say you`re wrong. We should do it this way. But then they all fight each other and then they start leaking to the press about what they -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Emily, is it that bad? SCHULTHEIS: Well, I think that that`s -- when you were trying to incorporate, like -- you`re talking about various operatives from the Obama campaign, from her team, her inner circle, all the people who worked for her for decades. It`s not easy. And people are going to disagree. And that`s -- it was a problem for her in 2008 and it`s going to be very difficult for her to avoid this time. MATTHEWS: OK. Too big to fail, is that a phrase that means something? ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. She`s too big to fail in the primary and not too big to fail in a general election. And I think there are Democrats right now very, very fearful of that. But Democrats are always very fearful. MATTHEWS: Does she want a sparring partner, like Martin O`Malley? Does she want one, to get her in shape? DUFFY: She should want one, because it would make her a better candidate for the fall. Let`s remember here, every investigation, every scandal, even every impeachment that the Clintons have faced have improved their approval ratings, have set the stage for greater -- just another relaunch. They don`t really -- aren`t susceptible to the same rules of politics that other politicians are.   We`ll see if that`s true this time. MATTHEWS: No, I think it`s true. ALLEN: I think that`s true of him. It`s less true of her. MATTHEWS: We`ll see. Yet to be seen. Although it didn`t work last time. Jonathan Allen, thank you. You`re the tough guy tonight. Michael, you`re too sophisticated for the show. Emily Schultheis, I thank you. > When we return, let me finish with this -- the contentious Republican opposition toward an American president which we`re watching. It`s all part of what they`ve been doing since the beginning. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight where I started. Some day years from now, people will look back on this presidency and see it in sharper contrast. They will read how it started with the Republican Senate leader calling for the president`s defeat, declaring that the business of the opposition from the first day was to ensure the new president: (a), accomplishes nothing, and, (b), gets booted from office as quickly as possible. They will read up a U.S. congressman yelling "you lie" during a State of the Union. They will read how the speaker of the House invited without informing the president, a foreign leader, to denigrate his foreign policy before the entire Congress.   And as of this week, they will learn that a new senator from Arkansas got the signatures of 46 other senators on a letter to the hardliners in Iran, urging that they reject the efforts of this president to keep them from building a nuclear weapon. They will read all this and wonder what was that made this Republican opposition so all out contemptuous of an American president, what it made threat them -- made threat him as below respect, below the dignity historically accorded to his office. They will look at the concerted effort of Republican legislative leaders in three dozen states to make it harder for minorities to vote, even claiming partisan victory when successful in that effort. They will then look at a picture of this president, a picture of this man and perhaps get the idea that the age of Jim Crow managed to find a new habitat in the early 21st century Republican Party. 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.>