Show: HARDBALL Date: January 8, 2016 Guest: Jennifer Rubin, Jeremy Peters, Molly Ball, Hillary Clinton, Jay Newton-Small, Moira Demos, Laura Ricciardi, Dean Strang
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The president and Secretary Clinton both call out Bernie Sanders on guns. This could be the Democratic issue.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Secretary Clinton is on the line right now from California to respond to what President Obama has said about denying his presidential endorsement to anyone, any candidate who refuses to support what he calls "common sense gun reforms." His spokesman, Josh Earnest, suggested this afternoon that this condition could apply to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Here`s what the president wrote in his op-ed in today`s "New York Times." "Even as I take continue to every action possible as president, I will also take every action as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common sense gun reform. And if the 90 percent of Americans who do support common sense gun reform join me, we will elect the leadership we deserve," close quote.
Well, that seemed to be a clear swipe at Bernie Sanders. And here`s what presidential press spokesperson Josh Earnest said today when asked about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I certainly noticed that Senator Sanders told one of your colleagues-slash-competitors here -- when asked this very question, he was eager to point out that Senator Sanders had made clear that he was willing to revisit that position.
That`s exactly the goal here, right? We want people to change their minds. We want members of Congress to start taking different positions.
So again, I`m not familiar with Senator Sanders`s record, so maybe this is something that he said on many previous occasions. But if not, I`m ready to start taking some credit for changing some minds on Capitol Hill.
Well, again, I -- as I just acknowledged, I`m not familiar with the ins and outs of his record. But if he -- if Democratic voters across the country confirm that he is the Democratic nominee, then I`m confident that we`re going to spend some time here learning about his record and learning about what is on his agenda to make that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now on the telephone by Secretary Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.
What is the issue here between yourself and Senator Sanders?
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I think it`s pretty much what the president has said, Chris. He has made a powerful statement about the urgent need to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country. And his new executive action includes steps that I have advocated for throughout this campaign.
And as he said, voters should not support any candidate who does not support common sense gun reform. We`ve got to get a handle and deal with the fact we`re losing 90 people a day to gun violence.
So Democrats have a real choice here. And I think it`s important for Democrats to know that 10 years ago, gun safety advocates wanted to make gun makers and sellers have to go to court to answer for their reckless disregard of human life because, after all, if an auto company sells an unsafe car, you can sue them, unsafe food, unsafe tools, unsafe toys. The makers can all be sued.
So the NRA wrote this bill that said no one can sue a gun maker or a gun seller and called this the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in 20 years. And when it really mattered, Senator Sanders voted with the gun lobby and I voted against the gun lobby.
So this is a significant difference, and it`s important that -- you know, maybe it`s time for Senator Sanders to stand up and say, I got this one wrong. But he hasn`t. He`s defended his vote time and again. He said he would have considered changes to the law. But you know, that was three (ph) months ago.
And there`s been no effort to introduce anything in the Congress or to stand with, you know, those Democrats who want to repeal this, you know, really irresponsible blanket immunity that was voted in for the gun makers and sellers.
MATTHEWS: Given all that`s happened, Madam Secretary, in the last several months, the horror we`ve seen with these mass shootings, do you believe that gun safety reform is a central issue of 2016?
CLINTON: Absolutely, Chris. You know, I totally agree with what President Obama has said. Guns should be a central voting issue. I have been speaking out about it throughout this campaign. Certainly, I`ve used my debate appearances to make that case.
And I think Senator Sanders has been wrong on gun safety. And he`s wrong on the fact that this is a leading cause of death for young people in our country, particularly young African-American men. So it represents a very clear choice in a Democratic primary.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- you mentioned the first debate, when you did go through a list of items in which you disagreed with his position on gun safety questions. Do you want to go through that list again? There is a pattern here, I believe you`re arguing.
CLINTON: Well, there is because Senator Sanders voted five times against the Brady bill. Five times. And it has been the principal instrument for us keeping more than two million guns out of the hands of fugitive felons, stalkers, the people who should not have them in the first place.
He voted against closing loopholes. In fact, he voted for what we call the Charleston loophole, which is what enabled the killer in Charleston to get a gun after three days, even though the background check had not been completed. And as the NRA itself has said, he voted for their most important priority in 20 years, namely giving immunity from liability to makers and sellers.
So this is a pattern, and it`s a pattern that I have been calling out, voting for guns on Amtrak and all the rest of it, because we`ve got to, as a nation, really stand up for common sense gun safety measures.
And the fact is, Chris, that a very big majority of Americans and even a majority of gun owners support the platform that I have been advocating for and support the executive actions that the president has outlined.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Senator Sanders, Madam Secretary, telling my colleague, Andrea Mitchell, today that he does support President Obama`s executive action on gun safety. Here`s Senator Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, there are a lot of candidates running in the House and the Senate who may be opposed to sensible gun control legislation. I happen not to be one of them. I strongly support the executive order that the president is working on right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there he is. What do you make of that defense? He says he`s in line with the president and he`s not one that the president is talking about. He`s not one of those who opposes common sense gun reforms.
CLINTON: Well, that`s at variance with his record. You know, Senator Sanders and I have some differences on policy. He cited (ph) out some of those from his perspective this week. And today, I`m taking this opportunity to comment, in light of the president`s remarks, about our differences on guns.
And my record is very clear on prevention. I`ve been calling for strong efforts to fight gun violence throughout this campaign, big (ph) fighting on this issue because I have met too many of the family members of victims of gun violence now, you know, going back to my time as first lady, as senator on this campaign trail. And we`ve just seen too many gun deaths, and we can`t afford to wait.
And I`ve raised this issue before, standing next to Senator Sanders. He`s refused to give a straight answer. He could today introduce legislation to repeal the immunity that was given to gun makers and sellers. I hope he will join me and the president in supporting real change. And that`s what I`m looking for.
MATTHEWS: Madam Secretary, I believe he said he will not change his mind on that point. But thank you so much for calling in to the program tonight. Secretary Clinton, thank you for joining us.
Sam Stein is with the HuffingtonPost and he`s an MSNBC contributor, of course, and "Time" magazine`s Jay Newton-Small is the author of a great new book, "Broad Influence." It`s about women -- little play on words there.
But let`s talk about that, the fact that the secretary wants -- is joining this debate right now at a heated moment after the president writes a piece in "The New York Times," after Josh Earnest basically points to the bit (ph) in the direction of Bernie Sanders, to put it lightly.
And there she is. I think it`s good timing for her to come on the program and make a point. But go ahead.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I guess I was struck at how motivating an issue this has become for the Democratic Party. We associate gun politics as an incredibly motivating issue for the...
MATTHEWS: ... progressive cause.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is gradually...
MATTHEWS: I mean...
STEIN: It`s gradually quickly became a progressive cause in light of this -- repeated instances of mass shootings or high-profile shootings, if you want to use that phraseology. And for her to be so aggressive and pointing out what are actual differences -- they are -- they`re substantive differences -- but the manner in which she went after him, which has been more aggressive than on any other topic, suggests that her campaign realizes, too, that this is an incredibly motivating issue for the progressive base.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, one of the rules of politics I`ve learned along the way -- and I like to keep the list up -- up to date -- is, Go where your opponent can`t go. And go where you believe, of course, in the policy, but go to the policies he or she can`t abide by.
Is Vermont -- is the issue of gun rights, 2nd Amendment rights, such a hot issue among the traditional -- not the Ben and Jerry`s Democrats up there, but the people who`ve been living up there for years, you can`t mess with the gun owners? Is that why she`s going after this, he can`t change his mind? He says he won`t change his mind. He`s going to keep the immunity for the manufacturers of guns.
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME": And that`s interesting because, you know, it`s not so much a Democratic liberal progressive issue as it used to be rural versus urban issues, right? And there are a lot of rural Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, who do support the NRA, who do support gun rights. And it`s interesting that she`s pushing this so hard because New Hampshire is a state -- is one of the states that does really support gun rights.
NEWTON-SMALL: So she`s clearly making the bet that by pushing it this hard, she`s going to get Democratic votes for it.
MATTHEWS: And she`s trying to -- we`ll see how it works in Iowa and New Hampshire. You`re right, they`re not the easiest states to go today...
STEIN: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: ... for the gun issue. But nationally, I think it`s a winner among Democrats.
Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein.
STEIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jay Newton-Small. And thank you, Secretary Clinton.
Coming up -- police in Philadelphia release dramatic video of a shooting attack on a police officer there in West Philly. The gunman said he was inspired by ISIS. We`re going to talk to former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell and terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance coming up next.
Plus, the documentary series that`s captivating viewers across the country. Tonight, the filmmakers behind "Making a Murderer" are with us here, along with the defense attorney for the man convicted of murder.
And is 2016 turning out to be the year where anything goes? Donald Trump has hijacked the Republican Party, and you could say the 2016 race, with nasty talk, and street fighters like Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are certainly in the mood.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with our trip last week to Israel.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, amid this week`s turbulence on the stock market came a strong jobs report, but (INAUDIBLE) look at this! The economy added nearly 292,000, almost 300,000 jobs this month, showing great solid growth in this country. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at just 5 percent.
But stocks closed down again this afternoon, capping off one of the worst market weeks ever. There`s something perverse about the stock market in this country.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. ISIS and terrorism have been thrown back into the headlines tonight in violent fashion. A dramatic scene played out last night in Philadelphia. Police call it an assassination attempt.
They released a harrowing video today of a man who attempted a police ambush last night by firing at a police officer 11 times, striking three of those times. After the officer is hit, the wounded officer pursues the gunman on foot. It`s all on the tape. And it`s miraculously he survived. Authorities say the gunman told police while in custody that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ROSS, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMANDER: The suspect in question is a 30-year-old male from Yaden (ph). He has a Philadelphia address, as well, I believe. He`s confessed to committing this cowardly act in the name of Islam. According to him, he believes that the police defend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran.
You can see the male in question going towards the police officer, Hartnett, already firing. Second shot, he is literally inside that car. He`s got his arm extended, firing at Officer Hartnett. I`m absolutely amazed that Officer Hartnett is here with us today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s the police commissioner in Philadelphia. Police have identified the shooter, there he is, as Edward Archer, who lived just outside Philadelphia. He had a criminal regard. According to court documents, he was scheduled to be sentenced next week after being found guilty for fraud.
But -- oh, actually, in 2013, he had previously been arrested and charged in Philadelphia for aggravated assault, firearms offenses, conspiracy and making terroristic threats. And last year, he was paroled after pleading guilty to carrying a firearm without a license and simple assault.
Well, the incident the other night is already reverberating on the campaign trail. Here`s Ted Cruz today in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today in Philadelphia, a police officer was shot multiple times by a man who was trying to assassinate him, who has pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
Thankfully, the officer is alive. Our prayers are with him that he heals and heals quickly, and we thank him for his bravery and courage defending us.
But we need a president who`s clear and steely-eyed and understands the danger we face. And I`ll tell you this. We will have a commander-in-chief under who we will not weaken and we will not degrade. We will utterly and completely destroy ISIS!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Malcolm Nance is MSNBC terrorism analyst, and Ed Rendell`s the former governor of Pennsylvania and the former mayor of Philadelphia.
Malcolm, thank you for joining us. This guy -- I just came across some evidence he was over in Egypt for what, 10 months, recently. We don`t know how -- what his stages of radicalization, such as they are. What can you take of this case already?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, this clearly appears to be a case of self-inspired radicalization. The question is, at what point along this spectrum did he actually start making contact with people who led him to believe that he needed to come home and carry out an act which involved taking -- you know, taking on a police officer and perhaps dying violently to further what he believed is his version of Islam.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Governor, thank you. I didn`t know whether to call you Mr. Mayor again, which was one of the great jobs you had in your career, but you were a great one. And I -- and you used (INAUDIBLE) you know, "A Prayer for the City" is a wonderful book Buzz Bissinger wrote about you going to hospitals when policemen have been shot.
This guy was shot and hit three times, shot at 11 times at close range, and there you see him with the guts and the courage to go after the assailant, with three bullets in him. I was -- forget the terrorism aspect of this. Talk about toughness!
Look at this! Wait`ll you see this (INAUDIBLE) get out of the (INAUDIBLE) here he comes. I mean, been shot three times, and look, he`s still making -- look at him! He`s hobbling over there, chasing the guy!
Pretty impressive. Mr. Mayor?
ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PA GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he actually shot the guy, and helped bring him down by shooting him and injuring him.
Look, first and foremost, it reminds us -- in this era of controversy between citizens and police, it reminds us what a very difficult job police have. In Philadelphia, which has better race relations, better relationship between the police and the community, thanks to Mayor Nutter and former police chief Ramsey -- even in Philadelphia, there are 200 times a year when police get targeted by someone who comes upon them and wants to do violence with them -- 200 times. It`s amazing. So that`s lesson one.
Lesson two is, we need to know more about this. His mother indicated to police that he is mentally ill. He had head injuries inflicted by playing football and a moped injury. He was recently talking to himself, hearing voices. And they tried to get him to go in and seek medical help, but he would not do it.
So, there is a lot at play here. And I don`t think we know exactly. Was he radicalized? Was he doing it just as an attempt to get ISIS` attention? Was he doing it based on orders, as you said, Chris? I don`t think we know enough to really come up with firm conclusions.
MATTHEWS: Well, as we said, it`s remarkable. The mayor said -- the governor said that the officer, he has survived so far. He has been wounded three times, but he is up there.
Listen to police radio, by the way, after Archer opened fire. Listen to these dramatic moments.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JESSE HARTNETT, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Got some shots fired. I`m shot. I`m bleeding heavily.
911 OPERATOR: All cars stand by. We have an officer shot, 6-0 and Spruce.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And again, after he was breathing -- breathing -- or bleeding heavily, the officer in question went out there and chased the guy and shot him and brought him to justice.
Let me go back to the expert, Malcolm.
This question of whether a guy or -- it usually is a guy -- is truly radicalized, or would use it as some sort of emotional of a public cover for just anger, how do you -- does it matter at this point? If you`re out shooting cops, does it matter whether you`re just doing as some sort of subterfuge for another motive, or it truly is your motive if you say you`re working for ISIS?
rMD-BO_MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I don`t think it matters at all once you have reached that point where you feel that you`re going to go out and carry out an act, whether it`s in the name of ISIS or whether it`s in the name of some other factor that has pushed you beyond your ability to control yourself.
The governor is right in some respect, that at this point, you know, this individual set up an ambush at 60th and Spruce. It`s a very narrow street. He could have gone two blocks further in or three blocks further in into Market Street, where he would have had his choice of police cars that would have been going by.
He had an operation in his mind that he had set himself to and he waited in the middle of the night for a police car to come in and do this opportune attempt to assassinate.
So whatever his purpose was, he had it that he was going to take on this force and he was going to kill at least one police officer for whatever his ideological motivation was. And we need to get to the bottom of that. We need to find out, did he get radicalized overseas, or was this some part of a mental defect that has been identified here?
MATTHEWS: Yes. It is interesting, not Market Street, not Chester Street, but on Spruce Street. Thank you so much. I love my geography.
Thank you, Malcolm Nance, for being an expert.
And, Governor, you`re always right, not just occasionally right. You`re always right. I think there is a mis-appreciation there, there for a split-second.
Anyway, much more about the hot national politics ahead in the show tonight, but, up next, it`s a documentary series that`s actually captured this country`s interests. I`m going to speak with the producers of the Netflix hit series "Making a Murderer," as well as the attorney for the man convicted of murder in the case.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
"The New York Times" says the popular 10-part docu-series on Netflix called "Making a Murderer" has given rise to an army of armchair detectives since its release the week before Christmas.
The documentary follows the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was falsely convicted of sexual assault back in 1985. And after serving 18 years in prison, Avery was exonerated, only to be arrested and charged with the local murder of a local photographer.
It has became a true life phenomenon, gripping views and triggering debate over whether Avery is guilty as charged or was railroaded by the local sheriff`s department he was suing at the time. Well, here is the scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We told him he could expect people would say that this was just a get rich effort, that family private matters would now be public, and now don`t be too surprised if people say some things about you that you have never even heard before. They`re just plain false.
The one thing we didn`t tell him is that you have to be careful when you bring a lawsuit against a sheriff`s department in a community where you still live, because you could end up getting charged with murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we have a body or anything yet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t believe so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have Steven Avery in custody, though?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the documentary series presents allegations by defense attorneys of police misconduct and casts doubt on much of the evidence used to convict Avery.
Well, as a result, nearly 300,000 people have signed petitions for President Obama to pardon Avery. But the White House announced that the president cannot pardon him because it`s a state matter.
But criticism of the show is also making headlines, and the prosecutor who that convicted Avery says the filmmakers withheld facts from the views and portrayed a lopsided view of the case.
Yesterday, I spoke with the filmmakers themselves, Laura Ricciardi, and Moira Demos, who spent 10 years producing this documentary.
MATTHEWS: Laura, is there enough information, if you watch the whole docu- series, if you watch it all the way through, is there enough information for the people out there to decide on the innocence or guilt of Mr. Avery?
LAURA RICCIARDI, FILMMAKER, "MAKING A MURDERER": No.
That was not our endeavor, actually. What we set out to do was document a 30-year story essentially of one of Wisconsin`s first DNA exonerees, who two years after his release from prison was charged in a new crime.
Interestingly, though, at the time Mr. Avery was charged in the new crime, he did have a federal lawsuit pending against the county in which he was charged yet again and against two of its former law enforcement officials.
So, the timing of the re-arrest was of interest to us, as well as everything that had come before.
MATTHEWS: Moira, let me ask you about this question.
Apparently, the people that watched the show, almost 300,000 of them, believed that there was conclusive enough information in your docu-series to exonerate or to acquit. That is how they`re viewing it, and 300,000 people signing petitions. They don`t want a new trial. They want a pardon.
So, clearly, the way that people are watching this show, they`re coming out saying this guy was railroaded.
MOIRA DEMOS, FILMMAKER, "MAKING A MURDERER": Well, I think that speaks to the fact that the American public does not have a firm understanding of the process of justice.
I mean, even if you read that petition that is online, you know, it says that they think that Steven`s due process was violated, and he should be pardoned. If his due process was violated, if that is their opinion, the solution to that is that he should get a fair trial.
So, the question of the series is not innocence or guilt. The question is, was this a fair process?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the implication. I guess there`s an implication. You tell me, either one of you -- that the police abused the evidence, that they cooked it up, that they somehow take a vial of blood from the previous case of the defendant, and planted it so that he would look guilty, that they moved the keys to his house, the woman -- the victim`s car to his house to make it look like he had something to do with it, and they somehow moved to put his perspiration on the latch hood of the car?
I mean, doesn`t it suggest that the police played the game here of convicting a guy they may have thought was guilty, but they were out there to misuse evidence to prove it, either one of you?
RICCIARDI: Well, the defense had multiple theories, actually, one of them, as you state, was a framing evidence, that Steven Avery, in their opinion, was framed by a law enforcement. And what they expressed to us in the documentary and in the court essentially was that this was what they thought, the evidence they had presented.
And that is one of the arguments they took to the jury. But they also argued cognitive bias, essentially, tunnel vision on the part of law enforcement. They also argued that the forensic science evidence presented by the state was unreliable. So there were multiple theories that were raised by the defense, but I think people are mostly talking about the frame theory.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that if you suggest in your doc that the police moved the keys over to the guy`s house, that they planted blood from the old charge out of the crime lab, and went in it with a hypodermic needle and took out the blood and then planted it somewhere, still leaves open the problem of the defendant or the convicted person now, Steven Avery`s perspiration on that latch hood.
How did the defense attorneys explain that fact?
DEMOS: You`re referring -- it`s funny that you mention that it`s perspiration. They don`t know what it is. It`s...
MATTHEWS: DNA. It wasn`t blood. It was not something from the crime -- it was not something from the crime lab that could have been used from a previous case, is all I`m saying.
DEMOS: That is true.
Had that scene been developed as a scene in the series, you would have the prosecution saying his DNA was found under the hood latch. And then you would have had the cross-examination of their witness. And what came out in court was that this witness, Nick Stahlke, from the crime lab had been examining Steven`s Grand Am, his personal vehicle, and after examining that, he went over and looked at the hood latch of the car, and he did not change his gloves.
And the defense made an argument that there was the potential for contamination. It was not a piece of evidence that really went very far in the courtroom. So, it was not one that made it into the series.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both. A lot of your viewers believe that the guy, Steven Avery, has been railroaded here, based upon the 10-part docu- series. Do you believe that, either one of you?
RICCIARDI: No, I would not say that I believe that.
The question I really think is, you know -- well, first of all, this was not an exploration for us of whether Steven and Brendan Dassey had done this or hadn`t done it.
I mean, we were really looking on a more macro level. We were talking at the system as a whole. This was much more of a procedural than that.
MATTHEWS: So you don`t have an opinion?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Moira, the question again. What do you think?
DEMOS: I don`t know if Steven is innocent.
What I can look at is, as Laura said, the process. Was this a fair process? Is this how I would want to be treated as an accused? And I can have an opinion about that.
I would want to be treated a lot better as an accused. I would not want so many irregularities in my investigation, in my prosecution. I would not want so much pretrial publicity. So the question is, can we rely on this verdict?
MATTHEWS: Well said.
RICCIARDI: Yes, and just to be clear...
MATTHEWS: In other words, you both think it might be better off having another trial?
RICCIARDI: Well, just to be clear, Chris, I have no idea whether or not Steven Avery or Brendan Dassey had had any responsibility with respect to the death of Teresa Halbach.
But if you`re asking whether I believe the state met its burden here in either case, my answer, my personal opinion -- although I think we sort of in our culture overvalue people`s individual opinions -- but mine would be no.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well said.
Thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos.
Thank you both for this great film.
MATTHEWS: Steven Avery`s attorney, Dean Strang, who is featured in the documentary, has been called America`s new favorite defense attorney and compared actually to Atticus Finch. He joins me now.
Dean, it`s a nice thing to be compared to.
Do you have an indication at all as to which is the actual guilt or innocence of this man, Steven Avery, in this murder case?
DEAN STRANG, ATTORNEY FOR STEVEN AVERY: I have got the same doubts, Chris, that I have had all along.
I don`t know for certain that he is innocent. I do know that I have never been convinced by anything close to the burden of proof here that he was guilty.
MATTHEWS: What was his sweat DNA doing on the latch hood of her car?
STRANG: It was not sweat. I mean, that was an argument. His DNA was on the trunk of the car. That could have been transferred to that surface by any other surface that had his DNA.
MATTHEWS: So you`re saying again the police railroaded him.
STRANG: By skin or by...
MATTHEWS: I mean, somebody would have had to do that.
STRANG: No, no, no, not intentionally. That is a great example of a transfer that could have occurred inadvertently, simply by contamination using a latex glove, touching his DNA, and later touching that surface.
MATTHEWS: OK. How did her keys get in his house?
STRANG: I don`t know.
Also, what I don`t know is why it would have taken seven searches of a tiny bedroom in a mobile home to find a key supposedly lying out in the open. I don`t know where the other keys that used to be on that key ring were.
MATTHEWS: Well, that all -- indication is that you think the police -- OK. Let me ask you about something that has nothing to do with the police and possible railroading.
Why did this guy go out three weeks before and buy handcuffs and leg irons? What good use would you put to them?
STRANG: I think those -- I think those, as I recall, were things that his girlfriend or he had bought at an adult, you know, sex shop.
MATTHEWS: Leg irons?
STRANG: They were described as leg irons. I didn`t ever see anything that I would describe as leg irons.
I recall, you know, essentially sex toys.
MATTHEWS: Any chance this guy gets a retrial, as you see it right now?
STRANG: I don`t know. His chance lies probably, realistically, in newly discovered evidence.
That could be scientific. That could be factual.
STRANG: You know, somebody who has been carrying a secret. I don`t know. That will remain to be seen.
MATTHEWS: Dean Strang, thanks so much for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
It`s a tricky situation.
STRANG: Up next, facing an onslaught of attacks, Chris Christie says Marco Rubio can`t -- catch this -- slime his way to the White House. That`s how dirty it`s getting; 32 days out from the New Hampshire primary, things are getting nasty, personal, slimy in the Republican race for HARDBALL.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, last night, Republican chairman Reince Priebus says if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz wins the nomination, he can be sure that they will unite, the party will unite behind them. In fact, the entire party will be behind them. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Right now, the two leaders in the polls by far are Trump/Cruz, some establishment people hate them. Do you believe in your heart you can pull the party together if they win?
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I -- 100 percent. And, you know, the unifying thing about what I have to do is that no matter who you`re for, everybody can agree we have to have a national party and infrastructure that has its act together.
I honestly -- Sean, I talked to all of our leaders in our party. Everybody is going to get behind whoever the winner is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump is on the cover of "Time Magazine" this week with the title, "How Trump Won". The magazine said that Trump has taken the party away from the old bosses, quote, "At a time when the crown princes of Republican Party can`t mount so much as a two-car parade, Trump is drawing the biggest crowds by far. He has the largest social media footprint and launches the sharpest attacks on Hillary Clinton, while attracting the greatest number of potential recruits to Republican ranks.
As a result, Washington insisters from both parties are now calling around to GOP heavies asking, do you know anybody in Trump`s campaign? Who was on his foreign policy team? I need to get to know them fast. That`s pretty desperate.
I`m joined right now for the roundtable tonight: Jennifer Rubin is a writer for "The Washington Post", Jeremy Peters is a reporter with "The New York Times", and Molly Ball with "The Atlantic". They`re all heavyweights.
Reince Priebus, sort of a Don Knotts move there --
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: He has sort of a twitch, yes.
MATTHEWS: Is this because he`s afraid if he doesn`t say what he just said, then Trump will say, I`m not being treated fairly?
MATTHEWS: I`m walking.
RUBIN: Right. And no one in that group who will be on that stage thinks that the Republican Party will hold together for either one of these guys, most particularly for Trump. There will be a fisher in the party, and people talk about third water runs --
MATTHEWS: So with an establishment third party candidate, isn`t that an oxymoron?
JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If you think they`re having aneurism over Trump, the thought of Cruz is even more terrifying to the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: It is to me. Cruz isn`t even entertaining.
PETERS: That`s right. If either one of these guys get the nomination, Republicans are going to lose 40 seats.
RUBIN: The difference between Trump and Cruz is, the party ends if Trump gets the nomination, they`ll just lose the election if Cruz gets it.
MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: What you see with Reince Priebus here, there is no Republican establishment anymore. These people are powerless. They are quaking --
BALL: I know some Republican leaders, they`re so powerless and quaking in their boots.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s what`s going on. Also what`s going on is this sort of secondary fight. Chris Christie is up in the ante in this ongoing street fight with Marco Rubio up in New Hampshire.
Responding to Rubio`s attacks on his conservative credential this week, Christie told "The Washington Post" that, quote, "I just don`t think that Marco Rubio is going to be able to slime his way to the White House. He wants to put out a whole bunch of negative ads, go ahead. I hope he will acknowledge at some point that I couldn`t care less."
This is like trash talk at a football game.
BALL: Absolutely. I mean, Christie is in his element with this stuff. He loves it, right? He is never happier when he has somebody to go after.
MATTHEWS: Christie likes this stuff.
MATTHEWS: Remember, it all started with none of your business, Gail. Remember the call in person --
BALL: Well, and it`s so ironic that he is accusing Rubio of being the slimer and then he goes off.
MATTHEWS: Explain the fight. Why are these two guys who are junior welterweights of this campaign, why are they fighting with each other?
RUBIN: They are fighting with each other because one of them is going to be the last man standing on the, quote, "establishment side", which may not exist. That`s the mainstream, the somewhat conservative people. They`re going to duke it out, first of all, in Iowa. Look to the fight over third and fourth --
MATTHEWS: Anyway, but Christie interestingly delivered his most blistering attack on Rubio to date, in an interview Wednesday actually with Laura Ingraham.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy is spoon-fed with every victory he`s ever had in his life. That`s the kind of person we want to put on the stage against Hillary Clinton? I don`t think so. She`ll pat him on the head and then cut his heart out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She`ll pat him on the head and cut his heart out. Is this the way of working against the cute aspect of Marco Rubio? OK, a good looking guy, he`s very smooth, well-turned out. So, let`s turn that to disadvantage, make him spoon-fed, make him cute, Hillary Clinton will pat him on the head and then cut the little kid`s heart out.
PETERS: Exactly. It`s almost infantilizing, because what he is doing here is he`s going after one of Rubio`s biggest vulnerabilities, the fact he is young, he`s boyish, he`s inexperienced. But nobody can belittle an opponent like Chris Christie, maybe except for Donald Trump.
You have Christie`s strengths really coming out I think as he feels more and more pressure to stand out in Trump`s huge spotlight, he`s going to be doing --
MATTHEWS: By the way, I hate to be regional and tribalist, but he is the only Catholic from the northeast running in this race. Nobody understands, there is still a Catholic crowd out there, Irish, Italians, who hated Massachusetts, moved to New Hampshire to get away from the taxes and the liberals.
RUBIN: So, the interesting thing is --
MATTHEWS: You don`t like it, this guy?
RUBIN: -- Trump is trying to do to Rubio what Trump did to Bush, in other words, to be the big mano guy, watch the other guy kind of faint or crumble, Rubio is no Bush.
MATTHEWS: They all look politically correct compared to this guy. Here`s Maine Governor Paul LePage, who endorsed Christie in July. He delivered a speech Wednesday of this week in which he made a racially charged remark about drug dealers trafficking heroin into his state of Maine. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: Number one, I got a bill into the legislature right now to take the traffickers. Now the traffickers, these are people that take drugs. These are guys with the name D-money, Smoothy, Shifty, these types of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin and then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is sad because we have another issue we have another issue that we got to deal with down the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s a potential embarrassment for Chris Christie, who supported LePage in his reelection campaign two years ago. In turn, LePage has campaigned with Christie in New Hampshire, appearing with him just last month. And, today, the Maine governor apologized for those remarks.
What do you make of this, molly?
BALL: Well, look, I have a hard time getting exorcised about anything Paul LePage says. If you followed this guy`s career up to now, this is only the latest in a long string of outrageous remarks that he`s made. And so, if Christie wasn`t embarrassed to campaign with him before, I don`t see why he would be embarrassed now. This guy is kind of like Trump. He says things that aren`t politically correct.
MATTHEWS: Got it. I think the standards dropped dramatically.
Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.
And up next, these three are going to tell me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: President Obama has vetoed a bill that would repeal Obamacare and also defund Planned Parenthood. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the president wrote, quote, "Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the affordable Care Act over 50 times rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class. Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle class families and create new jobs."
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Jennifer, tell me something I don`t know.
RUBIN: The most interesting thing a happening in right is not Donald Trump, but an effort on behalf of Republicans with Democrats on poverty reform. A guy by the name of Robert Doar at AEI, son of John Doar, who was a famous lawyer at the Justice Department worked with Bobby --
MATTHEWS: Sure. Civil rights guy.
RUBIN: Exactly. He`s brought together Republicans, Democrats, Brookings guys and AEI guys. They put out a report on poverty, one on hunger. Paul Ryan who met up with Doar is going to be meeting with the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: I`m glad the AEI is now doing something on economics instead of that neocon rant they always do.
Go ahead, Jeremy.
PETERS: We all caught a bit of the wind of Marco Rubio boots controversy this weekend. Boot-gazi, Bootgate, which way you want to call it.
MATTHEWS: How tall is he?
PETERS: Five-eight, 5`9".
MATTHEWS: How tall is boots?
PETERS: They`re good like two-inch chunky heel anyway.
So, there might have been a little bit of a thinking that that could have feminized him a bit. So, today, what does the campaign released? An ad butching him up, showing him tossing a football around.
MATTHEWS: Butching him up, what a phrase.
Go ahead, Molly.
BALL: I got to plug my --
MATTHEWS: Butching him up. That`s never been used before.
BALL: Got to plug my big piece this week. You can find it on TheAtlantic.com. It`s about working families. They attempt to make an equivalent for the tea party on the left. Try to move the Democrats, try to move the national conversation.
MATTHEWS: Who`s the leader of that?
BALL: Dan Cantor is the national leader. They have been very effective in New York. Trying to take it national.
MATTHEWS: Is it Bernie stuff?
BALL: They`ve endorsed Bernie. The question is, in the era of Bernie, can they do that?
MATTHEWS: I want to read that. That`s great.
Thank you to our roundtable, Jennifer Rubin, Jeremy Peters and Molly Ball.
When we return let me finish with our trip last week to Israel.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
Last week when I was off the show, Kathleen and I were over in Israel. It was my seventh visit to the country. And I`m always anxious to get back especially to the religion sites of the holy man himself.
I should say that one reason is I spent a good bit of time in Jerusalem back in, believe it or not, 1971 when I was on my way home from two years in Africa with the Peace Corps. I lived much of that time in a cheap hotel Nablus Road right above Damascus Gate to the old city.
In fact, here`s a picture what it looked like early until the 20th century and how it looked like last week. Not much different, Damascus Gate.
This part of Jerusalem never changes. When I`m in the old city of the Jerusalem or the Church of Nativity, not far away in Bethlehem, there`s nothing -- actually, nowhere else I want to be. There`s something powerfully, spiritually home about the feeling.
I can only tell you the joy I get just wandering through the close passage ways. There they are of the ancient city, moving from the Christian quarters of the Muslim and Jewish quarters in space of a few minutes. Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, listening to the call to prayer even as ultra Jewish men rush past on the way to the western wall. A powerful sight for prayer and historic connection for those of the Jewish faith everywhere. And, of course, all the time hearing the bells of the old Christian churches.
We also did some political stops. Here is Kathleen and I with one of our heroes, former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who`s been a guest on HARDBALL over the years and retains the man`s optimism and vision for the future of the Middle East. He never gives up.
I also had an interesting meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It`s clear to me he wants to end the division fought often here on this show over the Iranian nuclear deal. He could not have been more generous, believe it or not, with his time.
And the great thing about Israel is its loud vigorous democracy. It`s a country where everyone sees himself or herself as a prime minister, fully within their rights to say what they think about the person holding that job at any given time. And unlike so many countries in that region of the world, the people of Israel are not afraid to speak their minds, including what they think on any given day about their elected prime minister.
A personal note, I will not deny what takes me back to the holy land is a wild mixture of my religious faith, my nostalgia from where I could roam the land, that land with all the time in the world and with my appetite which you all know for a good argument. In all three regards, I feel when I`m in Israel to be very much at home.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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