IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 04/15/15

Guests: Claire McCaskill, Anne Gearan, Matt Schlapp, Bob Graham, ClarencePage, A.B. Stoddard, Michael Tomasky

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The attack on Hillary. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco. And Hillary Clinton, out on the road in Iowa, has come under attack, air attack. Darrell Issa is now comparing her to the only president ever forced to resign. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: As Richard Nixon discovered, it`s not the crime, it`s the cover-up. In this case, her destruction of documents, her willful circumvention of laws, her arrogant deletion of documents really is one of those Nixonian moments. Hillary Clinton is brilliant. She`s experienced. The question that people are going to ask as she runs for president is, does she consider herself above the law? (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: So is this how it`s going to be? Three days into her campaign, the former secretary of state is now a moving target for every Republican or right-winger able to reach a microphone, a moving target indeed because just as she`s getting hit from the right, she is more and more making her stand with the Democratic left, declaring again and again her war on an economic and political system she says is stacked in favor of the top.   Meanwhile, the Republican field of candidates begins to resemble a Middle Eastern souk -- you know, an open market where each candidate calls on customers to buy what he happens to be selling. There`s a libertarian here, an establishment type there, an angry demagogue, an evangelist selling revival. The only thing missing in this bazaar is the snake charmer. I forgot to mention Chris Christie, who`s up in New Hampshire selling his New Jersey charm. Also tonight, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee swears the government of Saudi Arabia somehow was involved with 9/11 itself. Let`s see what he`s got. But we begin with Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Anne Gearan is a correspondent for "The Washington Post" and Perry Bacon is senior political reporter for NBC News. Anne Gearan, this sharp attack from Issa -- what does it tell you about the tenor, the stuff we`re going to be looking at in the next several weeks of this campaign already here in April of the year before? ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think it tells us a couple things, Chris. The first is that the whole e-mail flap isn`t going to go away. Hillary Clinton obviously would like to have put that behind her well before she started her campaign. It`s going to continue to be an issue. There are going to continue to be questions about it. And while I`m not agreeing with Issa`s premise, what he said there about the question of whether she is above the law is exactly the thing that is going to be, I think, most troublesome to Clinton going forward. It`s the question of whether she somehow set this system up, whatever the details of it, because she thought she could -- she knew better and she thought she could do it her way, whatever the rules were at the time. And that is the perception problem that she`s going to have to get over and didn`t get over before the campaign started. And the other thing it tells us is that this is going to be messy. This is going to be muddy and ugly, and there`s going to be a lot of stuff thrown at her. And all the small events and handshakes and kind of smiles and good feeling that she`s generated in two days in Iowa are one thing, and the rest of the national political arena, which is sort of a mud pit, is the other. MATTHEWS: Perry, I want to get to this finely tooled weapon they`ve come up with. It`s not that she`s a criminal because you`d have to prove that, and that would raise questions about fairness on their part and overkill. But what they seem to have come up with is this very refined argument that the Clintons, both of them, see themselves as operating by their own rules, somehow different than the law. They don`t feel that rules or departmental guidelines in the Obama administration, any of that stuff applies to them. It`s a very subtle line of attack that sounds perhaps fair, or within -- let`s say within the foul lines. I think they know what they`re doing here. How does she respond to it?   PERRY BACON, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: They do know what they`re doing. And also the element of (INAUDIBLE) probably will talk about Richard Nixon. They can also sort of bring in Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton without saying so. That`s kind of what they`re doing, as well (INAUDIBLE) try to say the Clintons are above the law. Remember the first term and the second term (ph) of Bill Clinton, as well. How will she get past it? I think the key is -- right now, the polls suggest that voters are not very consumed by this e-mail discussion. And as long as she can lead (ph) keep talking about e-mail, people find that to be a little confusing, a little bit -- a little bit, you know, beneath them, like you know, Republicans focusing on her e-mail. If it becomes a broader issue about her being secretive or her being distrustful (sic), that`s one thing. If it remains about e-mail, then I think she`ll be fine. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring in Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She joins us right now live. Thank you, Senator McCaskill. This angle, that Hillary Clinton isn`t a crook -- they`re not going that far, although Darrell Issa was pretty close to that -- it seems to me that they go after this e-mail, which seems like a strange thing to focus a national campaign on, but they`re doing it. And if you look at the numbers in the states, her numbers on honesty and candor are dropping. So however unfair this is, they`re working something here. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think it`s way too early to tell whether or not this gamble that they`re making -- and frankly, Darrell Issa is so over the top. He is like the lead drum major of the Hillary haters, and they`re legion out there. But let`s get to the policies. And that`s what the American people are going to do, Chris. They`re going to look at these people and they`re going to decide who has the stable of a resume that is incredibly varied and strong? Who is confident? Who has gravitas on the world stage? And who cares about them in terms of the policies? This parade of characters they have, none of them even favor increasing the minimum wage. So I think Hillary Clinton is going to be fine. And I think America understands that she didn`t want people pawing through her personal e-mails dealing with her mother`s illness and death and her daughter`s marriage and pregnancy. I think most Americans get that. There should be some ability to have some privacy if you`re a public figure. MATTHEWS: Well, of course, they don`t see it that way. Let me ask you about Hillary Clinton`s posture right now, talking about populist arguments, saying that the deck is stacked to the top, using that phrase apparently three times now, including the video. So she`s on this line now. Is she going to be seen as imitating too -- imitative too much of Elizabeth Warren here, a kind of Elizabeth II, or does this authentic to you, that she is a woman of the Democratic left? Is she on the left?   MCCASKILL: With all due respect, Hillary Clinton has been talking about the issues that help middle class America for longer than Elizabeth Warren has even been thinking about politics. This is a woman who has a lifetime of working on behalf of children`s issues and family issues. She doesn`t have to apologize for her bona fides in this area. And this notion that she`s quote, unquote, "too close to Wall Street" -- I think that comes from the fact that she was a senator from New York. MATTHEWS: Yes. MCCASKILL: I`m not sure there`s anything in her record that would bear out that she somehow doesn`t get that people are afraid they`re not going to be able to afford to retire in this country. So I think -- and by the way, what are the people on the far left going to do? Are we going to embrace Ted Cruz, or is it going to be Marco Rubio? MATTHEWS: Well, clearly, not in the general election you`re not. Thank you for that. MCCASKILL: Right. MATTHEWS: I think that`s an easy one. MCCASKILL: Right. MATTHEWS: Senator, you`re one of my favorites. Thanks so much. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. MCCASKILL: You bet.   MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on. Let`s go back to Anne Gearan and Perry. Anne, this interesting thing -- there is a development today in the news with Hillary Clinton. A spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton clarified her position on gay marriage. She said, quote, "Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right." That goes further than what Senator Clinton said last summer in an interview with NPR. Back then, she said she thought it was best left up to the states. Let`s listen to last year`s position. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: For me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states. And in many of the conversations that I and my colleagues and supporters had, I fully endorsed the efforts by activists who work state by state. And in fact, that is what is working. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, Anne. We`re all developing on this. We`re all evolving. I`m not calling out the former secretary of state. But it is a clarification now. This is apparently today -- we`re told by her campaign team, this is the first time she`s actually come out and said, I`m for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of gay marriage being -- or same-sex marriage being an actual constitutional right. GEARAN: Right. This is a change in -- but more of a procedural one than anything else. She`s been in favor of gay marriage for a long time. What she`s saying now is that, as many activists say, they don`t want it left up to the states because -- and they want a national policy and they want the Supreme Court ruling to guarantee that. And so what Clinton was doing in that statement through her spokesperson is putting her on the side of activists across the country who say, Yes, the changes in the states that have gone their way are well and -- well good -- all to the good and welcome, but it`s not enough. And there are too many states that still have bans, and where bans are still being fought. So a national ruling from the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds is what they`re looking for, and that`s what she backed today. MATTHEWS: I don`t think she`s much behind the news on that because I think Tony Kennedy and the rest, including Roberts, are probably going to be a 6 to 3 for that right. One last question to you, Perry, and that is this. Hillary Clinton, by taking a sort of a leftish position -- I should say a left -- Democratic left position, and really tough one, inequality -- really tough on the rich -- I mean, it is interesting that she`s developed this way.   Is this going to be the best protection she has against the right-wing attacks on her like Issa`s? Because if you`re a tough moving target out there, and you`ve got some edge to your argument, you`re not just a centrist hanging in there because of your resume, but you`re out there with a point of view -- I think that`s a better defensive position to be in when the right throws their crap at her. Your thoughts. BACON: I think it depends on what she actually says in the policy, like, you know, being -- being against the wealthy getting too much money -- I think Ted Cruz has been saying that. That`s not a -- that`s a -- really a policy idea. What the real talk is going to be about -- there`s a move in the country to increase, not decrease, Social Security benefits. There`s a move in the country to have minimum wage at $15 or $11 an hour. There`s talk about really changing campaign finance rules. What I want to see is, like, what are the details? Hillary`s saying she`s populist. What does that look like in policy language? She has been close to Wall Street in the past, despite what Senator Claire McCaskill said, and that`s also key. Will she call for greater regulations on banks? The tests will be in the details, not just in the sort of vagaries of language. MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s going to be interesting if she calls for higher Social Security benefits because they have to come from somewhere. And where they come from are people that make a lot of money, obviously. BACON: Right, and Wall Street. MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Anne Gearan. Thank you -- and Wall Street -- thank you very much, Perry Bacon. Coming up, while Democrats have Hillary, of course, Republicans have the most wide-open fight in modern political times. You want experience? You`ve got Jeb. Generational change, you`ve got Rubio. A heat-seeking missile, you got Ted Cruz. Who`s going to break out of the pack and give Hillary Clinton the best fight? Who knows. Plus, Chris Christie isn`t in the race yet, but he sure looks like he`s raring to go. He says he can beat Hillary by putting blue states in play, like New Mexico. Where`d he come up with that one? We`ll put that claim to the test. And the big one tonight, the Saudi connection to 9/11. The former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee says evidence he has and knows exists links the Saudi Arabian government to the 9/11 terrorists. You got that? Senator Bob Graham is going to join us tonight.   Finally, "Let Me Finish" with a man who loved a woman. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We have exclusive video now of man landing a gyrocopter at the U.S. Capitol today. It happened this afternoon. Police arrested the pilot of that aircraft who, you can see there, flew through restricted airspace around the National Mall. According to the Associated Press, a congressional official identified that pilot as Doug Hughes, a postal worker from Florida. On his Web site, Hughes took responsibility for the stunt, saying he was just delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption. The copter landed about a half a block away from the Capitol building itself, and it took two hours before a bomb squad cleared it after finding nothing hazardous. President Obama was briefed on the situation. And we`ll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America. And that is why today I am announcing that I`m running for president of the United States! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)   SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today I announce, with God`s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, grounded by the lessons of our history, but inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States! (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While Democrats have Hillary, Republicans have mayhem. The perennial Democratic presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy once said it`s easier to run for president than to stop. And as you saw in that clip, we`ve got three Republican candidates officially running, and more could be well on the way. It`s the most wide- open field in modern times. Catch this. In a new "USA Today" poll, not a single Republican candidate now can get to double digits. Scott Walker leads, if you want to use that term, at 9 percent. Jeb Bush is at 8. Ted Cruz is at 7, Rand Paul at 5, neurosurgeon Ben Carson right up there with 4. It`s a free-for-all. Ohio governor John Kasich may join the group. He`s telling the press that he`s seriously considering running. And why not? Tonight, we try to light the way, if we can, for you, looking forward in what is shaping up to be a primary season that political people live for. Matthew Schlapp was political director for the second President Bush and is chairman of the American Conservative Union. And David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones."   Matt, this is a home game for you, so let`s get to the facts here. I have never seen such an array of second-tier candidates. So far, no one has really set themselves above the crowd here running and looks like a front- runner. Is there a front-runner? MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: No, I don`t think there is a front-runner. I agree with you. I think this Republican nomination is wide open. I think the Republicans in 2016 are acting a lot like Democrats. They don`t have the next likely guy who came in second last time who they`re ready to coronate this time. And there`s a lot of Republicans who are worried about that. I, for one -- I think this is going to be great for our party. We`re going to have a big, raucous debate on what we believe in, and I think we`re going to come out with a better candidate at the end. MATTHEWS: But everybody is selling something very different. You know that. You know the ideological spectrum better than I do. SCHLAPP: Yes. MATTHEWS: You`ve Rand Paul, who may be the odd man out. He`s not a hawk. Most of the other candidates are hawkish. He definitely talks about less government, less foreign involvement, less war. He`s a classic libertarian. He`s sort of Barry Goldwater without the nuclear button concerning people. SCHLAPP: Right. MATTHEWS: And then you have other guys pushing the evangelical religious stuff, just the opposite of him -- 180. They want to sell values. He`s selling freedom. And then you got the hawkish easterner guy like -- well, you got Cruz agreeing with Chris Christie. They`re both super-hawks. So there`s a lot of different -- I compare to it a souk in a Middle Eastern market, where everybody`s selling something completely different. SCHLAPP: Right. MATTHEWS: All that`s missing is the snake charmer. Of course, I might include Chris Christie there. But your thoughts. What ties them all together? What is Republican thinking this year?   SCHLAPP: Well, the first thing they have going for them is Hillary Clinton is a great unifying force for us. MATTHEWS: OK. OK. SCHLAPP: That`s fair. MATTHEWS: Is that what they agree on? SCHLAPP: The second thing... MATTHEWS: That`s what they agree on, they don`t like Hillary? SCHLAPP: No, no, no. Let me finish. Let me finish. The second thing is, is that I think that Republicans across the country and conservatives across the country, they want to win. They know the stakes of losing again. They haven`t liked sitting on the sidelines while Obama`s been president. And the next thing is -- you brought up all these issues. Yes, these candidates have their particular focus, but they`re going to have to court Christian conservatives. They`re going to have to court hawks and they`re going to have to court people who believe that the government is too big and too intrusive. MATTHEWS: You know, David, looking at it from the other side, from the liberal side, the left side, you know, it seems to me you would see here that they haven`t decided. You just heard Matt say they want to win. DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.   MATTHEWS: Well, normal way of wanting to win is to find someone who is sort of center-right, rather than hard right. CORN: Mm-hmm. MATTHEWS: And yet you also have sort of what used to be -- we called it the NDC attitude on the left, which was November doesn`t count. Ideology is what matters. And that matters in the primary. In the general, to tell with the primary -- the general. We just want to be right. CORN: Right. MATTHEWS: Now the Republican Party, he says that they just want to win. CORN: Yes. I... MATTHEWS: But when I hear Rand -- when I see Rand Paul out there, or I see Ted Cruz out there, I see people selling their ideology, rather than selling the fact that they`re going to win. CORN: Well, I think there are competing sentiments within the Republican Party. I think the Tea Party pretty far right, pretty excessive fever that has pushed the Republican Party far to the right, pushed Mitt Romney to right, has pushed them to the right in terms of being obstructionist in Washington, that fever hasn`t burnt out. And you have people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and maybe Mike Huckabee and others who are going to be playing to that and trying to fan those flames. We have had Jeb Bush say quite explicitly that he doesn`t want to play that game, that he wants to be sort of a candidate for a larger group of people and centrist and who can win in November.   MATTHEWS: Let me go back to you, Matt. It seems to me, watching this thing, somewhat dispassionately, I have noticed, for example, that Jeb Bush is now going to give a commencement speech at Liberty University. You know, he is a Roman Catholic convert. His family was Episcopalian. And somehow he finds himself comfortable in that evangelical crowd. His father had to do some of that stooping last time when he ran. He had to go out and say he was born-again and all that. He had to say things he never was taught religiously in his growing-up years. They have to do all this. Ted Cruz is at Regent or Liberty. They`re all - - does the Republican candidate in 2016 have to be focused on the religious right? Do you have to tag that base before you can be the nominee? SCHLAPP: Well, there`s two things there. Well, first of all, evangelical voters, this is a totally legitimate group of people to go after. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I`m just saying, do you have to tag up with them? Do you have to be with them? (CROSSTALK) SCHLAPP: Look, the question of faith in our politics is important. And evangelical Christians, born-again voters are an important consistency. And it`s a very important consistency for the Republicans. As you know, we kind of grabbed most of them from Jimmy Carter. Why would we want to let them go? We want to make our coalition bigger. We don`t want to make it smaller. MATTHEWS: But -- well, sure, but there are so many ground rules if you go that direction.   Jimmy Carter -- you have to be against -- you have to be for traditional marriage, against same-sex marriage. You have got to be very tough on abortion rights. You have to take a lot of stands that are going to make you a tough candidate in the general. Don`t you agree? SCHLAPP: Yes. And I think that if you look at the polling on abortion, it`s actually moving our way. I agree with you that gay marriage, the polling is actually moving the other way. But there are -- but standing up for traditional marriage, if you do it with the right tone and you court people and you are respectful, we can make that argument. And I think that the country is big enough and strong enough to be able to have people of faith living alongside people who believe in the -- in gay marriage and the gay rights America. Come on, America can do this. MATTHEWS: Here is Dr. Ben Carson, the respected neurosurgeon, and he`s also has been a FOX News favorite, going out to announce he is running for president. He is going to do it on May 4, apparently. Dr. Carson, you could say, isn`t afraid to speak his mine. Now, Matt, I want you to pay attention to what he says here. Here he is, Dr. Ben Carson. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been told that he said we`re living in a Gestapo age. What do you mean by that? DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: I mean, very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you`re not supposed to say Nazi Germany. But I don`t care about political correctness. Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is -- in a way, it is slavery.   UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think being gay is a choice? CARSON: Absolutely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you say that? CARSON: Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they`re gay. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to be president? CARSON: No, I don`t want to be president. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t? CARSON: Why would any sane person want to do that? (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Hey, Matt, where do you stand on some of those positions of Dr. Carson? He is a likable guy. He is certainly respected for what he has done in his career.   SCHLAPP: He has had a great story. MATTHEWS: But these statements, these statements like, you come out of prison, you`re gay, where is this coming from? What kind of commentary is that about your party and what it believes? SCHLAPP: Look, this is Ben Carson`s responses to these questions. And, clearly, he has had to dial some of these answers back. It`s what happens when you have novice candidates. You have been involved with them. They make a lot of mistakes. And when you run for president, guess what? It`s helpful to have done it before, because you`re a little cleaner, you`re a little more careful and you know the ropes. And one of the problems we have -- you called this chaos. But one of the problems we have with all of these candidates and all these first-time candidates is there`s going to be a lot of blunders. MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, I think we got the flavor of the fight to come. Matt Schlapp, including Dr. Carson, there`s going to be some interesting comments made in the next several months. There already have been. David Corn, thank you for pushing this fight. Up next: Was there a connection between the Saudi government and 9/11? That is a hot one. Can`t be hotter than that one. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he knows that evidence exists showing support from the Saudi government for the terrorists who killed our people. And he is coming here next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.   Former Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham of Florida has testified twice under oath that the evidence exists that the government of Saudi Arabia was involved in the attack of 9/11. In fact, back in 2001, I asked Saudi ambassador at that time to the U.S. Prince Bandar about this charge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001) MATTHEWS: The sense in this country is that -- that your government has been very smart to sort of buy off the younger generation. PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no. MATTHEWS: Give them all the money they need to go proselytize around the world s and do their dirty will and leave them alone, that they`re paying protection money in a sense, your government. BIN SULTAN: You know what? This is -- this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to be honest with you. MATTHEWS: OK. BIN SULTAN: Don`t -- you should not -- America is too great and American media is too important to be ignorant. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Too important to be ignorant. Anyway, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida joins me now.   Senator Graham, do you believe, I mean, could you swear under oath right now that there is evidence out there right now that exists that proves that the Saudi government was involved with the attack of 9/11? BOB GRAHAM (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes, Chris. And let me say I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this, and even more appreciate the long period of time in which you have been interested, as that spot you just ran indicates. Most of the evidence that we have comes from San Diego, because that was the one place where we were able to get information before the FBI started to shut it down. What we learned was that there was a man who was an agent of the Saudi government who invited the first two hijackers to enter the United States to come to San Diego, with the promise that he would give them assistance while they were here. And he certainly did. At the ghost job that he had with a Saudi firm, he had a substantial increase in his income, raising the question of whether he was a conduit to finance those two hijackers. His wife came in to money from the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, again raising the question as to whether she was a source of financing. He provided anonymity, flight lessons, got them an apartment, all of the things that you would need in order to prepare for their ultimate mission, which was to be on the plane that flew into the Pentagon on September the 11th. MATTHEWS: So you`re saying that an agent of the Saudi government helped the hijackers of 9/11 to learn how to fly planes like those that they used to kill people? GRAHAM: No, he arranged for flight lessons for the two... MATTHEWS: Yes, what kind of flight lessons? The kind of flight lessons you would use for a heavy jetliner, the kind that would teach you how to fly a plane to get it off the ground? (CROSSTALK) GRAHAM: No, they were the preliminary lessons that any pilot would have to go through before you were qualified to fly a large plane.   As it turned out, the flight instructor described these two hijackers as being dumb and dumber. MATTHEWS: OK. GRAHAM: And so they did not complete their aviation training, and therefore ended up being what were called muscle men. They were the people in the back of the plane responsible for keeping the passengers under control. MATTHEWS: OK. Help me out, Governor, because -- and Senator, because I`m trying to find a distinction here. My charge against Prince Bandar when he was on the show was that the Saudi government has played footsie with its younger generation of al Qaeda people to keep them off their back, saying, OK, you guys cause trouble wherever you want, but leave our royal family and our government alone here in Saudi Arabia, in other words, that they help them live, they help them around their lives, they pay them off, they pay for their tuitions, they pay for everything. They make sure they`re well received in other countries, like our country. Do you have any evidence that they purposely helped with the attack of 9/11, the Saudi government or its agents? GRAHAM: I think that the Saudi government at the highest levels capitulated to bin Laden, who threatened the kingdom with civil unrest if they would not agree to provide him with a network of persons inside the United States who could assist the hijackers. Remember, the hijackers, most of them didn`t speak English. Most of them had never been to the United States before. Highly implausible that they could have carried out that attack without some external support. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: OK. I come back to, was there intent to mollify them and keep them within bounds, or was it to help them be terrorists? Which was it?   GRAHAM: I think -- I think it was a case of willing ignorance. Bin Laden approached them and said, I need support for the -- for people that I`m going to put in the United States. I am not saying and I do not have evidence that the Saudi government knew what these people were going to do once they got into the United States, but they were willing to assist bin Laden, without getting any assurance that the reasons that they were being asked to provide this support were consistent with their allied status with the United States. MATTHEWS: Well, we already know Senator and Governor -- you have had both titles, and I respect that -- we have already known for -- ever since 9/11, that 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. They were the thugs on the plane, Saudi citizens. We also know that, in the aftermath, the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, "The New York Times" confirmed that -- in actually 2005, at least 160 Saudis who were living in or visiting the United States at that time were allowed to leave the country by private aircraft. What was that about? What was that surprising helpfulness? GRAHAM: What that was about was... (CROSSTALK) GRAHAM: The man that you interviewed back in 2001, Prince Bandar, within literally hours of 9/11, went to the White House, said that he was very concerned that Saudis were going to be a target because the American people would be so outraged that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. And he got permission from the president at a time, when much of aviation in the United States was grounded, to send a charter plane to Lexington, Kentucky, fill it up with elites from Saudi Arabia, and take them out of the United States. Later, the FBI said that there were people on that plane, including relatives of bin Laden, who the FBI would have liked to have interrogated, but lost the opportunity when they were allowed to leave the country. MATTHEWS: What do you want James Comey, who is head of the FBI right now, what do you want him to do with regard to these classified documents? What would help us get a better light on happened after 9/11, before and after 9/11?   GRAHAM: I would like -- I would like the FBI, one, to ask the president to release the 28 pages. That, in my opinion, will give the American people the opportunity to evaluate the relationship that we have had with Saudi Arabia. Second, there is another case that started in Sarasota, Florida, where the FBI has been actively resisting disclosing information. They had originally said they couldn`t disclose because they didn`t have any documents. Tonight, the federal judge sitting on this Freedom of Information case has 80,000 pages of documents that the FBI has given him on this one investigation. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. We will get some more information, thanks to you, coming on this program. I think it will help. I think it will help get the truth out. Senator Bob Graham, thanks for joining us. GRAHAM: Good. Thanks, Chris. MATTHEWS: Former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Up next: Governor Chris Christie sounds more and more like a presidential candidate, you might say. Will he make good on his promise to expand the map? He says he can win blue states, that means Eastern liberal states, if you will, if he is the nominee of the Republican Party. I`m waiting for -- to tell us which states he`s going to take from Hillary. Maybe Pennsylvania, he thinks. I don`t think so. Stick with us, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. A Florida postal worker has been arrested after landing a gyrocopter on the west lawn of the United States Capitol. The postal worker identified as Doug Hughes flew from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and says he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress to protest campaign finance corruption.   After 9/11, the military installed anti-aircraft missiles throughout Washington. But while U.S. military officials tell NBC News it`s possible those systems could have detected that aircraft as it flew through restricted airspace, on radar, it would have looked like a flock of geese - - now back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You know, I saw -- read somewhere today that Secretary Clinton said she wants to -- she intends to raise $2.5 billion for her campaign, but she wants to then get the corrupting money out of politics. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) CHRISTIE: You know, it`s classic, right? It`s classic politician-speak. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, today hosting a town meeting up in New Hampshire. Christie is on the second day of a three-day prestige offensive in that early primary state, testing the waters for a 2016 presidential run. In an exclusive interview with "Today" show`s Matt Lauer, Governor Christie positioned himself as the Republican who can keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: She is a forgone conclusion, it seems, on the Democratic side. You agree to that? CHRISTIE: She was a forgone conclusion in 2007, too, Matt. And so was Rudy Giuliani, a forgone conclusion in 2007. You know, we`ve had lots of forgone conclusions in American politics. LAUER: So who do you see on the horizon the Republican side that could jump up and derail Mrs. Clinton`s run? CHRISTIE: I don`t know. Barack Obama was down by 30 points at this time in 2007 to Hillary Clinton. So, I don`t know. Again, it`s about performance, Matt. The president of the United States, agree with him or disagree with him, has twice performed pretty well as a candidate. And he performed very well against Secretary Clinton before she was Secretary Clinton, right? So I don`t know what is going to happen on the Democratic side. Mrs. Clinton is going to have to perform. She is going to have to earn the nomination. Nobody is handed these things. This is the nomination for president of the United States. You got to earn it. You got to earn it and you got to perform. The people are tough on us, as well they should be, if you`re going to be president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the roundtable: Clarence Page is opinion writer for "Chicago Tribune", A.B. Stoddard is associated with "The Hill" newspaper, and Michael Tomasky is with "The Daily Beast". A couple of things there, Michael, you start. Fascinating stuff here. We had Claire McCaskill. She said it`s about resumes. It`s about her, what she`s done in life. And it seems to me what the Clinton people are trying to do right now, it`s not about performance as a candidate. And the people on the right are saying, making it all about how well she is performing as a candidate as she dips back into the political waters this week. They want it to be how is she doing? How is she is not doing? Is she got together? Hasn`t she got it?   Because then they have a shot at beating her. If it`s about her resume, they`ve got a high hill to climb. Your thoughts about this game they`re playing. MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, that makes a certain amount of sense from their perspective. But, look, you know, she is so far in her roll-out, it`s been pretty good, you know? She -- I think people gave her credit for that video. It was smart way to do it, instead of doing something with all this hoopla. The van ride went all right. She even ducked into Chipotle without being recognized, and now these little private meetings. You know, she is not drawing allot of attention to herself. She is not saying it`s all about me. They`re saying all the right things about humility and all that kind of stuff. So, she is handling the process stuff and the kinds of things that they`re planning on that Christie is trying to hit her on, she`s handling that pretty well so far. It`s early, but so far, she is doing fine. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s stick on that question with you, A.B. She is there with her copy book, writing notes from people with their thoughts at the roundtable at the junior college, and all that stuff is obviously performance art. But that`s what politics is, is performance. Is it working? A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Well, it`s actually going to have to end soon. I know why they did it -- go humble, go small, go low-key, make it about the voters. But it`s never about the voters when it`s Hillary Clinton. And the media presence like quadruples the number of regular voters in the room. Those people have never seen so many members of the press. They`re intimidated. It`s not exactly relaxed. Even Hillary looks like she is counting the minutes until she leaves the room.   So, I think as soon as she actually has a platform with detail, she is going to be in better position. Right now, she is taking notes about, like, how is it going in college and what is your plan for afterwards? It`s not realistic. It`s all stage craft. It`s a little bit goofy. But I get why they`re doing it. I think the sooner she has her official launch, which is hilarious because she has been ramping up for this two years without the press. But now that she has announced, she wants to ramp up in May or June. But really specifics matter, policy debates are important. She needs to get out there, throw them some meat and get the Democratic Party behind her, get those crowds excited and get the energy up. Otherwise, it look likes this funny thing where she is jumping out of a van and people are running around, and the people in the room with her are like seven people look intimidated. It just looks really fake. MATTHEWS: OK. Your view, Clarence. Is her roll-out working this time? CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I think, yes. Remember, what phase we`re in now. This is the preprimary primary where she is going out and getting people acquainted with her one-on-one in a place like Iowa, where you`ve got caucuses and where everybody expects a candidate to come to their house before they`re going to vote for them. So, she gets that early start. But she also avoids really discussing serious issues in a serious way. In other words, she`s fact finding. She is asking people questions. She is finding out their solutions, as she puts it, et cetera, et cetera. But she is really kind of running out the clock, if you will, on having to deal directly with some really controversial issues. And wait until later on when folks aren`t as tired of seeing her every day. MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get back to the attack on her. It looks like Chris Christie has a very simple message. I`ve got all kinds of problems with my bridge problems. I may not get the nomination. But I`m one guy, if you don`t want to like the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency for eight years, I can beat her. It seems to be when he is throwing out states he can beat her in, that`s his argument. Not that I`m more right wing than the next candidate. I`m not. But I got the best shot of knocking her off in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico. He is throwing these states throughout like he is already going over the electoral map saying it`s October 30th, who do you want to vote for? TOMASKY: Yes, and he is at 5 percent or whatever he is at in the polls in the Republican party primary. He has a long way to go before he has to worry about Hillary Clinton. But, Chris, he can make these claims and poll numbers will come out and the claims will be tested. But let`s start in New Jersey. New Jersey is a state that hasn`t voted Republican at the presidential level since 1988 I believe. Yes, there is certainly no guarantee that he is going to beat Hillary Clinton in New Jersey.   The fact that New Jersey elected a Republican governor, New Jersey often elects Republican governors. But at the presidential level, where the stakes are very different and voter nose that the stakes are different, because the stakes involve the Supreme Court and all kinds of social issues that people don`t really care about when they vote for governor, he is going to have a tough time holding his own state. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: I agree. STODDARD: New Jersey is a great story for Chris Christie. His reelect numbers among Democrats, minorities, women were great. That was pre- bridgegate. It`s not comparable to now. It`s not comparable to a national campaign. His approval number in New Jersey is 30 percent. He`s got 69 disapproval in New Jersey. They have credit rating downgrades there. It is a failed story for him. He can`t run on the New Jersey success story like he could years ago. So, what is he going to offer the party? He is literally a hoping people stumble. He is hoping that Jeb Bush doesn`t get in, that Walker stumbles, that Rubio stumbles and there will be an opening for him. That`s what he`s doing. It`s all bluster. It`s hopes that Hillary will have problems and so will the rest of the Republican field. He doesn`t have a platform to run on success anymore. MATTHEWS: Well, bluster works. Look at George W. Bush. If we could all three of us tap these fights like Don King, I`d love to see a debate tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern Time, Hillary Clinton versus Chris Christie. That would be a great fight. What a great debate. You know, I hope we get one that good, because this guy is mouthy. He is Jersey. And Hillary is smart. It would be an interesting battle. Anyway, we`re going to come right back and talk about if the Republicans can still screw up this Iran deal. That`s the big question. Or will this compromise actually not be a dirty word in Washington right now? A compromise could actually make things work and get us to a final deal. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.   (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, today is Tax Day, as everyone knows. And the House Republicans are pushing a bill that would kill off the estate tax and give tax breaks to the wealthiest 2/10 of 1 percent of all Americans, the so- called Death Tax Repeal Act would benefit individuals with wealth of more than $5.4 million and couples worth more than $10.9 million. The tax cut would cost the Treasury Department $269 billion over the next ten years, all for the benefit of about 5,500 households in the country. The House is expected to vote on that bill later this week. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable: Clarence, A.B., and Michael. A.B., it seems to me the strategy of the White House right now is to get through this process next week. Let the Senate vote its way, concede their right to consult on this, concede their right to review it, but as long as they can deny in 34 votes to sustain a veto in the Senate, 34 out of 100 senators, they get to keep the deal they strike with the Iranians. That seems to be the plan. STODDARD: Well, Chris, you know, I was here with you the night that deal was struck, I said then it was a fragile situation. So, a long road ahead, once this bipartisan unanimous bill leaves the committee where it got all 19 members and goes to the floor, there`s opportunity there for people there like Marco Rubio to press restrictions on the deal that the Iranians recognize the state of Israel and other things like that, that are going to be controversial. We`re also looking at the supreme leader. He`s been on his worst behavior since this deal was hatched, telling people they`re going to get immediate sanction relief. That is not what they promised them. He`s telling other world powers now involved in the negotiations that the Congress doesn`t matter. The Congress does matter. The Obama administration was smart to relent and let them come in and engage on this. They engaged on trade promotion authority and trade deals. They have a right to engage in a deal with Iran. MATTHEWS: Clarence, it looks to me they can still win. They can still avoid getting --they can still sustain a veto, the president. He can stop the Senate, no matter what it`s up to, playing politics here, trying to put -- I mean, if Rubio or anyone else tries to put a revision of this process next week, that basically scratches the deal, well, that`s what they`ll do. I mean, it`s clearly -- that`s the game they`re playing, they`re going to be clearly doing it.   PAGE: Exactly, it makes it easier for Obama to hold on, because he doesn`t have to have as many votes on his side, and he sticks with his original decree, which was, if the Republicans won`t take action, I will. Now, we see Corker and his friends have helped taken action, and he is responding, and it comes out with a compromise, so he doesn`t look like he`s been intransigent. So, I think it`s a good deal for him all around. MATTHEWS: We can deliver nuclear bombs over to Iran, hand them over, teach them how to use them. Give them launchers and they still wouldn`t recognize Israel. Who`s kidding who here? Anyway, Clarence Page, thank you, A.B. Stoddard and Michael Tomasky. When we return, let me finish with a man who loved a woman and sang about it. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that man who loved a woman. I was there in October 1970 when Percy Sledge sang in the Swaziland soccer stadium. I remember the announcer saying, "The King of Soul meets the king of Swaziland". Of course, Percy Sledge is known for that great song, "When A Man Loves a Woman", but like you, I suppose I`ve never been good at picking up the lyrics of a song, I just hear the music, remember the melody, and the rhythm, and maybe a little line from the opening when the singer belts it out first. But if you read "USA Today", you may have caught Jerry Shriver`s great tribute to Percy Sledge and his soulful words in that song. "Think how your heart felt", he wrote, "when you first heard that misery come pouring out of your transistor radio. This gentle, eternally devoted soul had just been blindsided by his woman, who left him broke, bleeding inside and sleeping out in the rain. And still, he pleaded for her return."   And then the writer reminded us why such songs grab us so. "We had all been there, probably," he wrote, "At one time or another." For a half century, I`ve heard "When a man loves a woman", it never seems to go away. This one by Percy Sledge, I heard over there in an African soccer stadium so many years ago. Well, now, he`s gone, the singer of a song nobody`s ready to let go. This guy who sings such pain over a lost love, a crazy love that never does you right, but never leaves you alone, the kind that has that crazy hold on you. I love what that guy had to say about his own life, this singer of a lost love. Quote, "I`ve been living a wonderful life. God gave it to me. I was never a rich man, but I`ve got food on the table, a happy marriage, kids in school, no bodyguards or nothing. I always wanted to be a free guy. Get up and go fishing or hunting, breathing the air, playing pool. Just an every day guy, you know?" And somewhere way, back there, but still present, that strange pain and gift of lost love. That`s HARDBALL for now. Maybe it`s softball. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. END 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.>