Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 03/19/15

Guests: Steve McMahon, Sen. Chris Coons, Carol Lee, Carol Leonnig, LaurenVictoria Burke, Paul Singer, Lauren Victoria Burke

JONATHAN CAPEHART, GUEST HOST: Back of the bus. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Jonathan Capehart, in for Chris Matthews, in New York. "Let Me Start" tonight with a question for Democratic senator Dick Durbin. Why? Yesterday, Senator Durbin threw a racially charged grenade into the debate over the president`s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Loretta Lynch, the first African- American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar. That is unfair. It`s unjust. It is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: Today, the grenade went off. Senator John McCain took to the Senate floor today to demand a public apology from Senator Durbin. Here`s what he said as Durbin stood just feet away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate, I would say to the senator from Illinois, is for him to come to this floor and use that imagery and suggest that racist tactics are being employed to delay Ms. Lynch`s confirmation vote. Such inflammatory rhetoric has no place in this body and serves no purpose! It was offensive and unnecessary, I think he owes this body, Ms. Lynch, and all Americans an apology. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: Durbin didn`t apologize, he doubled down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DURBIN: I`m glad that I heard my colleague`s comments firsthand, and I`d like to respond to them directly. As of today, Loretta Lynch, who is the president`s nominee for attorney general, has been -- had her nomination pending before the United States Senate 131 days. She has now been pending before the Senate longer than any nominee for attorney general in the last 30 years. She has been on the calendar now -- on the calendar -- waiting for a vote for a longer period of time than the last five nominees for attorney general combined. Why? (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: My question tonight, what the hell is Dick Durbin doing? I`m joined now by former RNC chairman Michael Steele and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. Guys, thanks for being here. To answer the question, what the hell is he doing? I`ll start with you, Steve. STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think what he`s doing, whether or not -- and by the way, I`m not suggesting that what Senator Durbin said is literally factual or true, but whether it is or not, this is what a lot of people think. It`s what a lot of women think. It`s what a lot of what African-Americans think. It`s what a lot of swing voters think. And the Republicans have a problem here, and I think this problem is getting worse and it`s making it more difficult for them on a consistent basis to reach out to moderate swing voters who decide elections.   And I think some of the questions, many of the questions that Senator Durbin asks are absolutely legitimate. The way he asks them might be different than the way I might ask them or somebody else might, but the point he`s making is one that I think a lot of people wonder about and many agree with. CAPEHART: Michael, do you buy that? MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh! CAPEHART: And I would also ask you, you know, is -- is Senator Durbin right? Is there a racial element here to the Republican opposition? STEELE: I don`t buy it. And he`s full of crap! I mean, this is such a -- such a bunch of noise, unnecessary noise. Injecting race into this process is absolutely ludicrous. This is the politics of Washington political nominations. This is how it`s played out. Durbin himself has played this game with judicial nominees who have been African-American, as Senator McCain has pointed out and others have pointed out. So this is absolutely crazy to even bring this into the conversation over what is a political squabble, a tit for tat between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate, and ultimately the White House. You know, I just totally think this is out of bounds and it just takes it to a place it doesn`t need to go. And you know, I`m just tired of, you know, liberals thinking they can play the civil rights card and just throw around these phrases, you know, "back of the bus" and church bombings and all the other stuff that they tend to -- the invectives that they bring up from the past to show how, somehow, this is, you know, tragic beyond words that this is happening. This is politics in Washington. Give me a break! CAPEHART: Well, I mean, there are Republicans who use civil rights imagery and even slave imagery to -- to score political points. But... (CROSSTALK) STEELE: It doesn`t work on either (ph) side. CAPEHART: Correct. But you know, Michael, there are Democrats who view Senator Durbin`s comments with mixed reactions. Let`s take a listen to some of them.   (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I want to ask -- and really this should not be necessary, but I want to ask -- why do we have almost a double standard for Ms. Lynch, for her and her nomination? She is the first African-American woman appointed to head her (sic) Department of Justice, has had her nomination pending on the Senate floor longer than any nominee for attorney general going back three decades. ROLAND MARTIN, COMMENTATOR: I think Durbin was wrong. Yes, I think Durbin was flat-out wrong. And the reason I say that is because the way I look at this here, we know why it`s being held up, to tick (ph) at President Obama, to tick (ph) at Eric Holder, her points on immigration. Really, what you`re doing is you`re helping the opposition now because now they can now focus on you and your comment, versus why she`s actually being held up. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: And you know what, Steve? Doesn`t Roland Martin have a point here? I mean, I usually don`t agree with everything that Roland Martin says, but I agree with him 100 percent there. Doesn`t he have a point? MCMAHON: Well... CAPEHART: And doesn`t Senator Durbin now make himself a distraction to the real issue? MCMAHON: Well, Senator Durbin certainly makes himself a distraction to the real issue, and the real issue, frankly, is whether or not this woman is being treated fairly, whether or not she should be confirmed, why, frankly, only four United States senators on the Republican side have said that this nominee, who`s eminently qualified, is somebody that they would support on the Senate floor. I mean, the fact of the matter is there`s so much to criticize the Republicans for that this actually is probably unnecessary, but it does, as I said, raise a lot of questions that a lot of people have. And I think that was Cory Booker that we just heard from talking about, Is there a double standard here? And the question that I think Republicans have to answer is, is there a double standard here? It looks like there may be. There are a lot of possible reasons for that. Maybe Michael Steele is right. But there are some people, and there are a lot of people, frankly, who believe that some of the questions that are being asked right now are legitimate to ask. And frankly, if you look at the Republicans` record, whether it`s on extending civil rights or blocking voting rights or a whole range of issues that have to do with racial sensitivity, they`ve got a problem here that, frankly, Senator Durbin is just shining a light on. It`s a problem that already existed, which is why they`re so sensitive about it.   STEELE: Well, Steve, this has... MCMAHON: What they ought to do instead... CAPEHART: Go ahead, Michael. MCMAHON: Go ahead, Michael. STEELE: I was going to say this has nothing to do with her race! This has to do with her position on executive orders. This is what this is all about, folks. Her answers on executive orders was not one that Republicans... CAPEHART: The one on immigration. (CROSSTALK) STEELE: The one on immigration, that`s right. There was not one that they liked, and it`s not one that they want. They do not support a nominee who believes that the president could act with this level of impunity. That`s what this is about. It has nothing to do with her race. Now, I think she should be confirmed. I think she`s eminently qualified for the job. But let`s not forget the politics of what`s going on here, and wrapping -- this is why we can`t have a discussion about race in this country because we always wrap the wrong stuff around it. This is politics. This has nothing to do with her race. CAPEHART: This is why we can`t have nice things, apparently. MCMAHON: But Michael...   CAPEHART: Steve, we have to go. Thank you. Well, go ahead. Go ahead, Steve. MCMAHON: OK. CAPEHART: I`ll let you have the last word. MCMAHON: No, no. I was just going to say it is politics, Michael, and frankly, the Republicans are in a political jam here. And if they`d done a little bit more to support Civil Rights, a little bit more to support women`s rights, a little bit more to support voting rights... STEELE: You`d still would have the same result! MCMAHON: ... they wouldn`t be in this... STEELE: You`d still have the same result... MCMAHON: ... in this jam... STEELE: ... if the principle is on this immigration and executive orders. CAPEHART: And with that, we`ll make that the last word. Thank you, Michael Steele and Steve McMahon. MCMAHON: Thank you.   CAPEHART: Senator McCain also took a shot at Durbin`s record. Let`s watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: Perhaps my colleagues, and the senator from Illinois in particular, need to be reminded of their own record when it comes to the treatment of African-American women whose nominations were before this body. In 2012, Janice Rogers Brown, an African-American, was nominated to serve on the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia, a court that had never included an African-American woman judge. The senator from Illinois voted to filibuster her nomination in 2003, and again in 2005! When she was finally confirmed after waiting 684 days, the senator from Illinois voted against the historic nomination! I would never suggest, even with veiled rhetoric, that Judge Rogers Brown`s race was the reason for the Senate from Illinois`s opposition to her nomination. And he should extend -- I say to my colleague from Illinois he should extend that same courtesy to me and my colleagues! (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: And here`s Senator Durbin`s response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DURBIN: When my colleague from Arizona notes the fact that I have voted against African-American women nominees in the past, it is true. And I am not arguing that every member of the Senate should vote for Loretta Lynch simply because she would be the first African-American woman to serve in that capacity. All I`m saying, she deserves the same fair treatment we have given to other nominees for this job. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: Senator Chris Coons is a Democrat from Delaware and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held confirmation hearings for Lynch back in January. Senator, thanks.   SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Jonathan. CAPEHART: So Senator, do you think that Senator Durbin is right? Is the GOP throwing Loretta Lynch in the back of the bus? COONS: Look, what this issue is essentially about, Jonathan, is that Loretta Lynch is a remarkably qualified nominee to serve as our next attorney general, and it raises real questions for her to be languishing on the floor longer than all five previous nominees for attorney general combined. For a total of 131 days so far, we`ve been waiting for a confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch. And I`m not sure there would be this debate, this back and forth that you`ve just summarized if there weren`t other issues where we`re not able to make progress. As you know, I was just in Selma a few weeks ago for the 50th anniversary of the voting rights -- of the incident, both Bloody Sunday and then the successful march from Selma to Montgomery, that led to the introduction of the Voting Rights Act. And I continue to work with my colleagues, with Senator Leahy and Senator Durbin, to try and find a Republican co-sponsor who would join us in restoring the core of the Voting Rights Act that was taken out by the Supreme Court Shelby County decision two years ago. I`m not sure that it would be this poignant, this pointed, if it weren`t for the combination of Ms. Lynch`s remarkable qualifications, how well she did in the confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee and how important the issues are that are going unaddressed -- voting rights, enforcement of Civil Rights, enforcement of the laws against human trafficking. I don`t think this would be quite as sharp an exchange on the floor if we weren`t having such difficulty finding Republicans to take up their historic party`s commitment to Civil Rights and join us in fixing things like voting rights. CAPEHART: And Senator Coons, on that -- on that mark (ph), we are agreed. But back to Senator Durbin and his comments. Do you think they were smart politics or a distraction? We`re spending more time talking about what he said Republicans are doing than -- in blocking her nomination than on trying to get her confirmed. COONS: Well, let`s take at face value what Michael Steele just said on this show, that the real reason she`s being held up is because the overwhelming majority of Republicans don`t like her position on the president`s executive orders. Well, it`s the president who`s nominated her. The idea that the president would nominate someone to be attorney general who has an opposite view from him of the law and of the appropriate scope of his action just is ludicrous on its face. There are arguments being offered here on both sides that I think miss the central point. We have a remarkably qualified nominee, someone who should have been confirmed weeks ago, who is languishing for murky reasons. And I think Senator Durbin was simply trying to highlight the fact that this is an alarming development and that it`s important for us to move forward to this nomination.   CAPEHART: A highly qualified candidate, nominee, who was -- her last confirmation, she was confirmed unanimously. COONS: Unanimously. CAPEHART: Thank you, Senator Chris Coons. MCMAHON: Thank you. CAPEHART: Coming up, our own Andrea Mitchell sat down with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his first television interview since his big victory this week. Netanyahu tried to walk back his pre-election rejection of a two-state solution. But is the damage already done? Plus, Hillary Clinton`s found a foil for her likely presidential campaign, and it`s not anyone running on the Republican side. And don`t look now, but the royals are in Washington. Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, met today with President Obama, and we`ve got that covered later in the hour. Finally, the actress Ashley Judd threatening legal action against people who took to Twitter to threaten her. Starbucks, too, is getting pounded by the Twitter trolls. We`re talking about the nasty side of social media with the roundtable tonight. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: ISIS is claiming responsibility for that deadly terror attack yesterday in Tunisia. The claim comes after police arrested four people with direct connection to the operation and five others suspected of having ties to the terror cell. The attack left 23 people dead. Most of the victims were tourists.   We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The election in Israel is over, and now the damage control begins. Before the vote, Bibi Netanyahu back off his pledge of trying to achieve a two-state solution. He said, quote, "I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel." And according to the Associated Press, when asked if that means a Palestinian state will not be established if he is elected, Netanyahu replied, "Indeed." But today, in an exclusive interview with NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Netanyahu pivoted once again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I haven`t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech in Bar Elan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state. He`s made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. And every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. So... ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: But they are saying... NETANYAHU: ... we want that to change so we can realize a vision of real sustained peace. And I don`t want -- I don`t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change. MITCHELL: But you were reelected on a mandate -- certainly, Israeli voters, your supporters, believe you were reelected on a mandate against a two-state solution. That is the way the White House has interpreting -- the White House says this is divisive, and so divisive that now the administration is saying that they will not stop the U.N. from conferring statehood. They will not block -- or at least, they`re strongly considering not blocking a vote for statehood for the Palestinians. NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, that state would become a terror state. Iran says that they will arm the West Bank the way they arm Gaza. We withdrew from Gaza. We got just a few months ago, not ancient history, but a few months ago thousands of rockets, Andrea, on our heads.   MITCHELL: But what about the... NETANYAHU: We don`t want it to happen again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: Yesterday, the White House said it was deeply concerned by comments Bibi made on election day when he warned his supporters, quote, "Arab voters are going to the polls in droves." That was then. Here was Bibi today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NETANYAHU: I`m very proud to be the prime minister of all of Israel`s citizens, Arabs and Jews alike. MITCHELL: That`s not the way it sounded on election day. NETANYAHU: Well, if you hear what I said, you might reconsider what you`re -- what you just said and what you quoted. I`m very proud of the fact that Israel is the one country in a very broad radius that -- in which Arabs have free and fair elections. That`s sacrosanct. That will never change. I wasn`t trying to suppress a vote. I was trying to get something to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party. And I was calling on our voters to come out. (END VIDEO CLIP)   CAPEHART: At the White House today, spokesman Josh Earnest said Bibi`s pre-election reversal on the two-state solution could have repercussions going forward. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly are in a position to evaluate or approach to these issues, given that the prime minister essentially backed away from commitments that Israel had previously made. Words matter, and that is certainly true in this instance. And because of what he has articulated and because of his pretty clear indication that he`s prepared to withdraw from very serious commitments that Israel had previously made to a two-state solution, that does and has prompted us to reevaluate our approach to this matter. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: And late today, the White House said President Obama called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory and the president also reaffirmed America`s commitment to a two-state solution. I`m joined now by White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" Carol Lee. Carol, thanks for being here. CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Sure. Thanks for having me. CAPEHART: So, you have reported that the White House left open the possibility that it won`t shield Israel from unfavorable U.N. resolutions. Is that a serious threat, you think? LEE: Well, right now, it is.   I think, obviously, if you take a step back and you look at where relations between this White House, this administration, and Prime Minister Netanyahu before the election, they were really bad. Things were poisonous. The president and him did not get along. And then you have the prime minister come out and say that -- what the White House saw was a total reversal on his position supporting a two-state solution. The president was very angry and upset by comments that he interpreted as divisive about Israeli Arabs, and so upset that he essentially ordered the shift in the U.S. policy. And it`s a pretty dramatic shift. If you think about, the U.S. policy has been for years that you can`t create a Palestinian state in any other way other than an agreement between the two sides. And they have done a lot to block the resolutions at the U.N. And their statement of -- has always been unequivocal opposition to any motion at the U.N. to try to do something there. And so for them to come out and say yesterday and again today that they`re thinking about reconsidering that position is a big change. And what remains to be seen is whether they follow through with that. Obviously, the prime minister walked back his comments today. Whatever message the president got for him -- from him in that phone call that they had today will be important. I was told by a senior administration official that the president reiterated to the prime minister that he is going to be reevaluating this policy, so the president didn`t back down on that in this phone call. But, more broadly, I think that these two are set to clash on issues , big issues in the coming months, including this Palestinian state issue and Iran. They`re going to come up with a deal probably, a framework of some sort of deal soon. That seems more and more likely. CAPEHART: Right. LEE: They have obviously been at loggerheads for that for a long time. CAPEHART: So the conventional wisdom that the relationship going to get worse now is probably -- probably right? LEE: Yes, I mean, especially -- well, particularly when you look at Iran. The negotiators there are -- have been at it all week. By all reports, they`re going to continue for the next few days. And they`re -- it`s looking likely that they`re going to get a deal. There`s a draft text being passed around, just by semantic differences that the White House is saying that there`s not a draft, there`s no deal until there is a final deal.   CAPEHART: Right. Right. LEE: They`re getting closer. And that is going to be another test of this relationship between the president and the prime minister, for sure. CAPEHART: And that`s coming up at the end of this month. LEE: That`s right. CAPEHART: Thank you very much, Carol Lee. LEE: Thank you. CAPEHART: Up next, there are more questions than answers for the Secret Service after two agents drove their car into a barricade at the White House after a night of drinking. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy is in the hot seat over the incident earlier this month involving two agents who disrupted an active bomb investigation at the White House.   As "The Washington Post" reported, the agents were allegedly drinking before they drove into a barricade on the compound. And after an underwhelming performance Tuesday, Director Clancy returned to Capitol Hill to testify again today. This time, he made an effort to downplay the severity of the incident as it was first reported. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH CLANCY, DIRECTOR, SECRET SERVICE: I have also personally reviewed video surveillance from the evening of March 4. And I welcome the opportunity to review this footage with each of you. Based on the footage, previous reports of a crash are inaccurate. There was no crash. The video shows a vehicle entering the White House complex at a speed of approximately one to two miles per hour and pushing aside a plastic barrel. There was no damage to the vehicle. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: As he said, his assessment of the incident is based on his review of surveillance video. However, in a closed-door meeting yesterday, Director Clancy revealed to lawmakers that additional videos which might have captured the incident more clearly may have been deleted. Here`s how Congressman Jason Chaffetz reacted to the new information last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: There are literally hundreds of cameras surrounding the White House. We saw two angles. But when we asked, can we see a different angle, are there other cameras, the director said he wouldn`t sure they had these tapes, that they may have been erased. Erased? Are you kidding me? There may have been something embarrassing in there, but they weren`t showing us the other tapes. We asked for them formally. We expect to see them, but the director indicated they may not have them.   (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: But in his testimony today, Clancy denied that they were intentionally deleted. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLANCY: We don`t have a system where someone can erase tapes, put their finger on a dial and erase them. But they are by practice at 72 hours taped over. And I know that`s a concern, rightfully so. So, what I did -- I instructed my staff to reach out to the manufacturer, and hopefully we can get the manufacturer in to try to recreate those tapes. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: Hmm. It`s another blow to the credibility of Director Clancy, who was appointed to clean up the agency just last October. I`m joined now by Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post," who was the first to break the story of the agents driving into the barricade at the White House. Carol, thanks for being here. I have to ask you, are your sources, are they contradicting the director here? CAROL LEONNIG, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No. Actually, the director confirmed what we reported.   You know, there`s a -- I understand why the director is pushing hard and saying that there was no crash. What he looked in the videotape, there was no crash. We didn`t report there was a crash. He said on Tuesday, just to remind everybody, in his testimony on the Hill, that the first he heard of this was Monday, five days after it happened. And he said the first he heard was from people telling him that there were allegations that there had been a crash at the White House involving agents who were suspected of being drunk. We reported what he was investigating at the time. These new -- these partial tapes help establish that the guys weren`t going very fast, as we reported. They nudged a barrel. They hit a barricade, a temporary barricade, but they didn`t hit it very hard. They didn`t hurt the car.. But now, while the new director is very strongly asserting that this is not a very serious incident, or at least the driving part of it isn`t very serious, he`s also acknowledging, I have a wealth of potential evidence that is no longer in my possession. And lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats that I interviewed, after he told them this today, are really stunned that a Wal-Mart will keep this for 30 days... CAPEHART: Right. LEONNIG: ... but the Secret Service keeps it for three. CAPEHART: Well, Carol, talk more about that, the reaction that you have heard from folks on Capitol Hill. I mean, they`re stunned by this. But what are they actually saying? LEONNIG: So, Congressman Cummings and I were just on the phone. He`s the ranking member of the Oversight Committee. And he`s, along with Chairman Chaffetz, running an investigation into what happened here on March 4. And what he told me was, it`s really concerning, because that night there was a bomb threat. A woman -- minutes before these agents drived on -- drove -- forgive me -- onto the complex, a woman jumps out of her car, throwing a strange-looking green package onto the grounds and yells in a series of epithets, "This is a bomb." It`s immediately cordoned off and surrounded. And Congressman Cummings said, by their own policy, the Secret Service should have retained all sorts of video footage from this night all over the place, because there was a serious incident. Whether they thought these agents driving on to the complex was a big deal or not, the bomb -- the bomb threat was.   CAPEHART: Yes. Carol, we are going to be reading lots of your stories in the future, so we will have you back. Thank you, Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post." LEONNIG: Thanks, Jonathan. CAPEHART: Up next: Hillary Clinton might not officially be running yet, but she`s giving us more clues about how she will run when she finally gets in the race. That`s next with the roundtable. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. Virginia State Police have launched a criminal probe into the violent arrest of a UVA student early Wednesday morning. Martese Johnson says he was shocked by the incident, but still believes in the community. A law enforcement source says a homeless man from the Chicago area is a suspect who sent a cyanide-laced letter to the White House. And spring officially arrives tomorrow, along with more snow for about 32 million people in the Eastern U.S. Winter weather advisories are posted for eight states -- back to HARDBALL. CAPEHART: Welcome back to HARDBALL.   She`s not yet an official candidate for president, but Hillary Clinton has already found her perfect foil, the Republican-led Congress and its historically low approval ratings. In a series of tweets, Hillary laced into Republicans on divisive issues such as Iran, abortion, race, and health care. And last week she took aim at her Republican potential rivals sitting in the U.S. Senate. She tweeted: "GOP letter to Iranian clerics undermines American leadership. No one considering running for commander in chief should be signing on." On Monday, she tweeted: "Congressional trifecta against women today, blocking great nominee, first African-American woman A.G., for longer than any A.G. in 30 years. Playing with politics with trafficking victims and threatening women`s health and rights." And again on Tuesday: "Repeal of the ACA would let insurers write their own rules again and wipe out coverage for 16 million Americans." "The Washington Post" writes: "Clinton`s broad-brushed assault is intended to tie all Republicans to what Democrats think are unpopular policies and unappealing overreach of congressional leaders. Clinton`s chosen topics and targets also provide a window on her preparation for a campaign likely to focus on which candidate can best connect with the middle class and economically disenfranchised." Joining the roundtable tonight, Kasie Hunt is a political correspondent for MSNBC. Paul Singer is Washington correspondent with "USA Today" and Lauren Victoria Burke is managing editor of Politic365. So, folks, is Hillary -- is the GOP Congress and their early stumbles just the perfect foil for Hillary Clinton? Lauren, I will start with you. LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, POLITIC365: Well, obviously, it is. This is a Congress that doesn`t do much. They don`t pass much. Now the Republicans are obviously in charge and they`re not showing that they can govern. So, this is a very easy Congress to run against. At some point, it`s got to get I think a little bit boring to middle-class Americans that you`re paying piece $174,000 a year to sort of not put out anything. So, for Hillary to run against that and challenge that is pretty easy, particularly with populist-related issues.   Kasie, is that going to last long? KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jonathan, it`s going to have to last her for a good long while. (LAUGHTER) HUNT: She doesn`t have anyone to turn her fire against otherwise, because she doesn`t have a primary. And I think that`s really her struggle going in here. We have talked a lot with the e-mails about the fact that she might actually benefit from a primary challenger. And the reality is she`s only going to have this Republican consequence to run against. You have seen President Obama do that in his midterm cycle and also some in 2012. I think her challenge is going to be that she can`t do what a president can. She doesn`t have that pen and phone, as he says, that she can then use to take action that can then be a major part of the news cycle. All she can do is attack. And I think that`s a tougher spot to be in than what the president has faced for the last four years. CAPEHART: Right. Well, Paul, all she can do is attack, but if she`s attacking, she`s attacking on issues, she`s attacking on women`s issues... PAUL SINGER, "USA TODAY": Right. CAPEHART: ... health care, fairness, race, you name it, I mean, and she`s doing it all -- she`s doing it all through Twitter. So, are we seeing through those tweets and her comments the foundation, the bare bones of what a campaign at least substantively will look like?   SINGER: Absolutely. In fact, we have a story on our website today about the fact that Hillary Clinton is already laying the groundwork for the first woman president theme that`s going to carry through. People are going to -- she is going to try to make the witch to women that you have to vote for the first woman president. The Republican Congress, of course, is giving her some of those issue toss play with, when they block bills because they have an abortion rider on there. It`s playing right into her strategy. She can talk women`s issues and bad Republican Congress all at the same time. That`s good for her. And I think you`ll see a lot of these issues where the Republican Congress are dealing social issues plays into her strength, which is I`m the only woman running for this office. CAPEHART: Right. You know, "The Washington Post" also writes, "Like his 1990s predecessor Newt Gingrich, House Speaker John Boehner faces near- constant calls from his right plank to put the Clintons at the forefront of House efforts. But one of his own Republicans in the House says not so fast. Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, told "The Washington Post" this, "We shouldn`t be salivating or piling on, even as we ask legitimate questions. In grudging admiration, you have to know that no one is better at making themselves victims than President and Secretary Clinton. I know them, I consider them friends, but having said that, they are also masters of political jujitsu." I mean, with friends like that? It`s incredible. Kasie, what do you make of that? KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I`m not sure Peter King necessarily Republicans all of the Republican Congress in his -- in what he said there. I will say that the toxicity of the Clintons and Republican Congress goes back, so long, and so fraught, we talk so much about the narrative that sort of followed the Clintons through their entire public life. They are -- this is familiar territory to them, standing up against the Republican. You had James Carville saying, hey, maybe she hid the e-mails because she didn`t want Louie Gohmert flipping through them. CAPEHART: Right. HUNT: So, you know, I think that we can anticipate more of this.   CAPEHART: And, Lauren, were you going to say something on this? LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, POLITIC365 MANAGING EDITOR: Yes. I would say that Peter King, at some point, the Republicans have to link there investigations to what people actually care about. I think Peter King has sort of figured out that that`s really not happening on some of these things. I mean, do people really care about Benghazi? Are they going to make their vote on election day over Benghazi? I think that`s fairly unlikely. There are a lot of -- you know, this is the 45 -- this is sort of the Tea Party wing obviously in the House, but there are a lot of Republicans who do want to get something done and have a report to stand on in 2016. (CROSSTALK) CAPEHART: Go ahead. SINGER: I was going to say, you know, Mitch McConnell said the day after the election, we`re not going to use this Congress to shut down the government and grind things to a halt. CAPEHART: Right. SINGER: We have to achieve something we can run on. These may not be those things. CAPEHART: The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, the nasty side of social media. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: The royals are in Washington. Prince Charles and the duchess of Cornwall met today with President Obama at the White House. And NBC`s Peter Alexander joins us live now. Peter, what happened? PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Jonathan, good to see you. Well, you know, after some sightseeing, some socializing, they got down to a little more business here at the White House. Just a matter of hours ago, Charles and Camilla together as they entered the Oval Office, joined by the president and the Vice President Joe Biden. For the royals, including the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, there also was, as we noted some serious business. Earlier today they went to an armed forces retirement home. There, he later visited a charter school for immigrant families where they`re teaching things like digital literacy, among other things. Camilla had an opportunity to visit with some individuals across the community, including a forensic science center where she saw a sexual assault response team. This has been a pretty exciting whirlwind trip nonetheless for this couple. It was 45 years ago that Charles made his first trip to the White House then. Richard Nixon was president, who famously tried to set the then 21-year-old prince up with his then 24-year-old daughter, Trisha. You know how that worked out. The two of them never got together. Tonight, though, a little more business on tap. The royals will head off to an event not far from here where Prince Charles will be honored with a conservation award before they head off to Louisville, Kentucky, tomorrow -- Jonathan. CAPEHART: Sounds like a great trip. Thank you, Peter Alexander at he White House.   When we come back, the nasty side of social media. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: We`re back. An abundance of Twitter users believe they can troll and rant with impunity, no matter how debasing or even threatening their 140-character posts pose. Actress Ashley Judd says reaction to her recent tweet about a college basketball game elicited such vitriol and personal threats that she`s taking legal action. Quote, "I know it was crime. It was time to call the police and to say to the Twitter-sphere, no more." Starbucks` attempt to get people talking about race relations unleashed tweets so disturbing, a company executive deleted his Twitter account, because he felt attacked. Following my own "The Washington Post" column on Ferguson, my Twitter feed was awash, in belittling race-based outrage from the left made all the more unsettling by praise from the right for folks who usually accuse me of, quote, "playing the race card". We`re back with our roundtable, Kasie, Paul and Lauren. So, to the three of you, have you ever experienced Twitter`s toxic side? And that`s not a rhetorical question. (LAUGHTER) SINGER: Is there another side? Isn`t that what Twitter is for? HUNT: Exactly.   CAPEHART: Is that Lauren? Who`s going to talk about their experience? BURKE: Well, I haven`t had anything that bad happen. CAPEHART: Lucky you. BURKE: But I do bring up race now and again, so you do get. But, you know, it`s an anonymous -- a lot of this is because the anonymity gives people a lot of courage, so they`ll go after you for that. But I`ve not had anything really bad happen. HUNT: Yes. And, Jonathan, I think that Twitter is unique in some ways, in that it`s very hard to defuse, you know? I mean, we`ve all been experiencing e-mail and other technology, people writing really nasty things. My technique has always been to write back to those people and usually come away with them saying, oh, you know, I didn`t actually realize you were a person and thank you for taking the time to write back to me. CAPEHART: Right. HUNT: Twitter is the opposite. I`ve tried that once or twice to engage with the people who do this. They`re just -- it cannot do anything but get worse. SINGER: I will say that the Pew Foundation was out with a new study today that they surveyed people around the world who are developing countries, looking to get Internet access, and 40 percent of them said it would be bad for morality to get the Internet. And this is why, because of this kind of stuff. (LAUGHTER)   CAPEHART: Yes, I mean, I`m almost inclined to agree with this. I mean, Kasie, I do what you do when it comes to e-mail. The nastier the e-mail, the more likely I am to respond because they`ll realize there`s a human being on the other side. But anyway, here`s what Ashley Judd told MSNBC on Monday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: The way things happen on social media is so abusive and everyone needs to take personal responsibility for what they write and not allowing this misinterpretation and shaming culture on social media to persist. And, by the way, I`m pressing charges. (END VIDEO CLIP) CAPEHART: So, Paul, Kasie, Lauren, what`s your reaction to Ashley Judd saying she`s going to press charges? SINGER: Well, good luck. I mean, I don`t know -- if she can -- I honestly don`t know what the legal theory is you go upon, other than abuse of speech, it`s hard to do. Wasn`t there a Facebook case at one point where somebody was able to make a case that you had forced somebody to commit suicide, something like that, bullying, possibly. It`s really hard otherwise. I don`t see where she goes. BURKE: She took some really disgusting tweets. I don`t blame her for trying to take some action. It kind of reminds me of the big blowup that Richard Sherman had to deal with, the Seattle Seahawks. I mean, he took stuff and he sort of let it go. But, actually, I don`t blame her for trying to take some action and pushback on this. SINGER: Right.   CAPEHART: Kasie? HUNT: Yes, I think the question -- yes, the question too is, who`s responsibility is this? And does Twitter as a company have a responsibility to do a better job of policing some of this? I mean, they`ve added to the controls and your ability -- ones ability to report abuse, disparaging tweets, assaults, whatever. You know, obviously, there are a wide range of the offensive tweets one could send. But, you know, I think we have to ask ourselves that question. Obviously, it`s the responsibility of the tweeter themselves, but is Twitter contributing to this toxic environment more broadly? BURKE: The tweeters do get involved in this. I mean, we had Kanye West tweet a series of photos of his wife with no clothing on. So, does he expect to get no reaction from that? I mean, he`s doing that divert attention from Kendrick Lamar`s album, but celebrities use it too as a way, as a device to get attention. CAPEHART: Right. Well, speaking of attention, Starbucks got a lot of attention for what it`s trying to do. You know, quite frankly, I admire what Howard Schultz is trying to do, the chairman of Starbucks, who was coming at this from a really pure -- really pure place. But the reaction to what he wants to do in the stores, was just, it`s incredible. You think they were wrong, naive to try to go down this route? SINGER: Well, keep in mind, Starbucks did this with "USA Today". So, as a member of "USA Today" family, I have to applaud this project. I mean, look, race is a part of every conversation in America, whether you know it or not. If you`re watching this program and someone says, which is one is Singer, you`ll say he`s the white guy, right? That`s how we define ourselves to some degree, it`s in every conversation anyway. You can`t -- it`s very hard to start that conversation in the middle of a sidewalk, and say, hey, you`re the black guy, hey, you`re the white guy, what do you think of that? Not sure what they`re trying to get out of that. BURKE: But I think they should be commended for trying, because most of the time, what you hear particularly from corporate America is don`t try to have these conversations. So, Starbucks is trying to actually prompt a conversation. I do think it`s a good thing. It`s a hard conversation to have, they`re about to learn that, but at least they`re trying to do it. HUNT: And, Jonathan, you know, I mean, think about, that really highlights the difference between how we interact with each other when we`re actually elbow to elbow in a Starbucks. I mean, imagine if this actually sparked a conversation between two customers in Starbucks, how they would approach and talk to each other, versus how this played out on social media with vitriol and nastiness on Twitter. I mean, that`s -- I think it just really highlights the problem that we`re talking about.   CAPEHART: Yes -- SINGER: Both problems at the same time. You can have a conversation, you can`t have a tweet. CAPEHART: As long as they`ve had their coffee. You know, I think one of the reasons with problems with conversation on race is that this is such a deeply personal conversation that it requires trust and someone you know. You`re not going to know the person in the line at Starbucks -- well, maybe not that well. BURKE: Well, Jonathan, if you run to Larry Elder in Starbucks, you never know what conversation you might have. It might be better than on Twitter. CAPEHART: It won`t be one. Thank you, Kasie Hunt, Paul Singer, and Lauren Victoria Burke. And when we return, I`ve got some thoughts about the ugly side of social media, and my own run-in this week with Twitter abuse. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAPEHART: Let me finish tonight with this: Ashley Judd is mad as hell and isn`t going to take it anymore. The actress and avid college basketball fan told our colleague Thomas Roberts the other day that she would seek legal action against those who use Twitter to threaten her.   The survivor of rape and incest has been catching hell ever since she sent out a tart tweet during a NAACP championship match on Sunday, a tweet she almost immediately deleted. But that doesn`t stop the avalanche of hate and threats directed at her. In a blunt piece, penned today for "Identities.mic", Judd writes, "Online harassers use the slightest excuse or no excuse at all to dismember or personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though, I`ll describe especially what happened to me." Well, I know of what Judd speaks. But I get abused on the issue of race, the rage towards anyone who dares to enter that arena and say something that defies conventional wisdom also lurks perpetually. After my piece "`Hands up, don`t shoot` was built on a lie", folks used Twitter and Facebook to dismember my personhood. Fellow African- Americans called me a, quote, "sellout" or a, quote, "House Negro". Others said I did it because I wanted, quote, "white people to like me", or that I, quote, "did it for the money". No, I didn`t. I did it because it was the right thing to do. And like Judd, such taunts won`t keep me from speaking my mind. But don`t worry, I`m not going to sue anyone. But if Ashley Judd follows through on her litigious threat against her online tormenters, well, I`ll be with her 100 percent. 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. 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