tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC May 31, 2012 4:00pm-5:00pm PDT
thing to show the american people that despite disagreements and politics, they can stand together and respect each other. it's a healthy done to set. in fact, one of my political adversaries was touched today, he called me and said he has my picture he wants to hang in his office and he wants me to sign it. he will send it over as soon as he takes "hardball" starts now. >> johnny comes marching home again. let's play "hardball." >> good evening, i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start with the edwards trial and this waste of time,
money, and i believe public attention. he has not been found guilt on one charge, the jury deadlocked on all the rest. i have questioned this case since day one. this is what we see in developing countries. i don't like the fact that a republican prosecutor, a hold over, brought this case against edwards and then went to run for congress and won the primary. i'm happy to see a case as we have here brought for taking campaign gifts that may not have been seen as campaign gifts when the supreme court declared now that corporations and individuals can now gi unlimited campaign cash. with me now are people who may or may not agreement. pete williams, and savanna guthrie. thank you for joining me. you're the ones i look to for legal understanding i have my own gut beliefs obviously. here he is after the juror let
out. here is some of the first things he said. >> thank you for the jurors and their incredibly hard work and their diligence. they took their job very, very seriously. as we saw both during the trial, the attention they paid to the evidence during the trial, the presentation to the lawyers, and the fact they have now spent nine almost nine full days deliberating trying to reach a fair and just result under the evidence of the law. all i can say is thank goodness this country has the system it has. i think those jurors were an example of what juries are supposed to do. >> there you have a well thought out call of the jurors that just sprung him. >> i must say i seldom heard
anybody found not guilty to say thank you for the jury. >> have you heard of hung jury on five of the six counts giving a salute for greatness? they could not reach an agreement that he is applauding. >> when you're a defendant anything but a conviction you're thank you for. >> savanna, i thought it was an example why he was such a great trial lawyer. >> i thought it had the right tone, you did not see him doing a victory dance, he did not call out the prosecutors, he made it clear he did not think he committed any crimes, but he made it clear that he had many sips and much to atone for. so i think there is no way to look at this day as anything other than a victory. there is the possibility that as to those five counts that the judge had to declare a mistrial
to, the prosecutors have the option to bring the changes again, retry him, and pete may know more about this than i, it seems rather unlikely that the department of justice will continue with the prosecution given how controversial this was to begin with. they will take a hard look at it, but it seems less than likely they will decide to go forward. >> singing the praises of the jurors is one way of saying listen, these guys took this seriously, this was as good of a break as you will get. don't come back at it and find a stupider jury or something else. >> i have no doubt that's his hope, and there may be truth to that that this was the best the prosecution could work for. they did a good job, the judges rulings were faifble to the
government. back to if they will retry this case. they will have to decide this, i know they haven't made a decision yet, and there's many factors at play there. this case, as you mentioned, was controversial from the beginning, two former chairman said look, we have never seen anything like this where you try to say this kind of money comes under the coverage of the federal election laws, remember at the heart what violation was here. the contributions were above the legal limit what you could give to a candidate. so the jury had to decide were these intended to be campaign contributions, is that's what donors intended, and did edwards intend to receive them as contributions and did he know that was illegal. that's what the jury had to ask and now they have to squ why would we think if we tried this again it would come out different, and second it's fair
to say the landscape has changed. >> let me ask a tongue twister here. suppose the same thing happened. he had a girlfriend, a child out of wedlock, keep out of publicity and his wife, and he had a buddy of his form a super pac and totally legal on paper, and pay for the living cost of this run away situation he was trying to get away from, wouldn't that be legal under the law. >> i feel like i'm in a supreme court oral argument or a law school example, but your hypothetical under the finance terrain we have now, i think that would be perfectly acceptable and that's really what case turned on. was this a personal expense or political expense. this was the outer limits of the campaign finance laws.
people that bring these cases all the time say it's was kind of a stretch, not clear at all. whose intent matters? all account there is were probably conflicting motives about if they were meant to be political campaign contributions to preserve his viability or trying to help a friend. or did it mat whater what john edwards thought he was doing. at the end of the day you calm away with a feeling that it was very ambiguous and hard to understand. i'm not surprised at all they took nine days to chew this over. >> it's a complicated civil case. you want to say don't give this to a jury. >> this matters because if they decide to retry the case on the
counts that the jury deadlocked on, what's in the interest of government. they said we have to be careful to send a message to candidates that the election system is not to be trifled with and that campaign money and corruption are important things to police. as we talk about here with the rise of super pacs, does justice demand resending this message here? >> one thing i liked is the jury was unable to separate, the scandal, about hum and his infidelity and his relationship with rielle hunter. everybody thought it would ruin the chance of a jury giving an honest call on the law. here is edwards after the call today speaking about his person moral responsibility, let's watch what he says. just a shorm time ago. >> the second thing i want to say just a word about, is
responsibility. and this is about me. i want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while do i not think i did anything illegal or thought i was doing anything illegal, i did an awful lot that was wrong. and there is no one else responsible for my sins. >> wow, hampton dellinger joins us now. what did you think hampton? we want to talk a bit about the personal confession that he managed here, it's hard to argue as if anybody wanted to argue. i adopt think anybody disagreed there. >> right, and his audience i think was the justice department. he still faces exposure. they can seem a retrial.
he's not out of the woods yet and this was a gooden opportunity for federal prosecutors to get a conviction. they have all of the evidence against edwards and they didn't get a conviction. he had more success today as a defendant than as a politician in 2008. >> how would you judge his defense? i have a sense he did as good of a job as you could in a difficult situation giveen how strong the judge was with these instructions. >> it was bril ynt. i think you can look back now and say that fairly. fist of all what a risk to take this case to trial. edwards had every reason to pursue this case. then abby keeping edwards off the stand, you know he wanted to get up there, but abby knew he had just enough to get a not
guilty verdict, enough about the federal election commission, not seeing this as a civil violation, abby lowell destroyed andrew young's credibility, and i think ultimately this case goes away. >> in all the old tv shows we watch like the good wife, there is always a sense that you don't put your defendant in the courtroom on the stand then they are hiding something. i think the jurors are more sophisticated and they don't make that judgment. >> they get an instruction saying you're not allowed to hold it against the defendant that they chose not to deaf. most jurors want to hear from the defendant, but they made a decision that putting him on would have been far worse than whatever jurors might have thought or held against him for not testifying and the reason is
simple. the way the case went to the jury, the real credibility issues surrounded andrew young. this would have been a one witness case. the jurors would have looked at him, decided if he was believable, and that was it. they made a game time decision that said it's better to focus on the weakness as opposed to putting our guy on the chopping block so they can spend three days excoriating him on the witness stand. >> yes, and if you're going to basically say that the emperor has no clothes here, the government has a lousy case, then you make that statement by saying look, we'll do the minimum we need to. this is a lousy case, we're not putting our guy on. what john edwards said about
taking responsibility for his bhaf is what he said just before the trial started. he tried to send that message then saying don't judge me by my personal life. make your decision based on the evidence of the law. >> i thought the prosecution, it wasn't great in the o.j. simpson case, their mistake was letting it go on for months and months months. if they had confidence and evidence they could have done it in rock solid fashion. they didn't do it and it took too long. here is john edwards tonight right after coming out of court and beating the rach by getting one acquittal and five counts of his trial. this is open to a lot of interpretation. here is john edwards talking about his future. >> i don't think god is through
with me. i think there are good things ki still do, and whatever happens with this legal stuff, what i'm hopeble about is all of those kids i have sewn in the poorest parts of this country and some of the poorest places in the world, that i can help them. and whatever way i'm still capable of helping them. and i want to dedicate my life to being the best dad i can be, and to helping those kids who i think deserve help. >> i think there is a plan for the guy here if he gets through this and not get another trial. able to walk free. looks like he will do what he was talking about was begin an institute, what he calls the two americas. >> that could be. chris, i'm sure we're not going to see down here in north carolina john edwards on the
ballot again, but is this most of all he wants to practice law. that was thought to be a key reason why he refused to plea because it would have cost his law license. he's not just a famous politician, but a famous lawyer to stand trial . he made his career as a lawyer. i think he will be volunteering and offering legal services in north carolina. >> let me ask you about that. do you think -- i mean he made his name as a great lawyer, i heard that one of the things he would not accept at part of a plea bargain, they wanted him to give up his law license. >> which would be common for a lawyer in a criminal case. i guess the question is if he would ever want to be in a position of litigating in front of a jury.
that's where he did such a great jb as a younger trial lawyer. would he be more of a strategy and that kind of -- >> you think he would have credibility problems? >> i don't know, he spoke about his daughter now, we know the back story here, backgrounding this whole case that john edwards had an affair with a fu filmographer. i am told that he has never really formally publicly made a statement like this of being the father of quinn, and here he is doing in dramatically. >> my precious quinn. who i love more than any of you could ever imagine. and i am so close to and so, so
grateful for. so grateful for quinn. i'm grateful for all my children. >> what do you make of that hampton? >> national television. >> john edwards, sure. i think that's a normal response. john edwards now may be best known as a father. he took an incredible risk to go to trial when he is the sole living parent for two young children and two pre teens sharing custody with quinn. i think his decision not to put his daughter kate edwards was made by the father. so i think for him to define hi himself as a father is perfectly understandable. >> do you think this is something he had to do personally because he had not done it before? >> it's like something out an old novel where the father where he has a child through wedlock
makes a formal statement of parenthood in an unusual way. it struck me as very literary. you don't see this. i can't think of another case in my life where someone went on national television and said i am the parent. >> at bottom, this case came out of her birth, and out of the affair that proceeded it. you know, it was an incredibly tawdry case. a lot of that came out on the stand in favor of the government's prosecution theory. it's understandable to me that he would address it. he embraced kate edwards, his parents were here every day, i think it will be the defining role of the rest of his life. he can still be a good staur and -- father and start that process today.
>> thank you for getting the factual information from the legal and political end. you have been a great reporter hampton, for the good of john edwards, i hope i don't see you for awhile. we could be back on this case in a matter of days. savanna guthrie has to go work to work for nbc. more on the edward's trial coming up, we have the politics on this trial. what it means for the man that came so close to 30 years in prison or a couple years ago to being president of the united states and a few years before that being the president of the united states. he could have been a contender, this is "hardball," place for "politicsnation" opinion people measure commitment by what's getting done. i'm mike utsler, and it's my job to make sure we keep making progress in the gulf. the twenty billion dollars bp committed has helped fund economic and environmental recovery. another fourteen billion dollars
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let's go to two of our big heavy weights. we have chuck todd and john heilmann. he wrote the cover story on the obama campaign strategy, that's what we were going to talk about but we have to talk about this. bring us back for this. those covering him in 2004 in those small rooms in iowa and in new hampshire, he was a force to be reckoned with. it was emotional, populism like never heard before, and now here he is facing 30 years he was facing today and he is still free. >> let's not forget if bob had gotten his way in 2000, it would have been gore verses edwards. he was one of the short listers in 2000. >> that ticket might have won. >> it might have.
he really made his stamp, put his stamp on his early career for democrats. that sort of is where he became a dc rising star winning that senate seat. so this was a guy on the fast track in the minute he essentially that gore didn't win and he didn't get picked, i think it was two months into president bush's first term that john edwards made his first visit to iowa. he was on the fast tract, and maybe just a week away from momentum in 2004, he could have one the 2004 iowa caucuses. >> go ahead, john heilmann he was always one of those guys good in a room of 200 people. that speech he gave about ten or
twenty minutes ago. the resilience, it may not be electoral life, but it sounded like it to me. >> if he thinks he has an electoral future he is more diluted than he has been in the past. he he was great in iowa, and that came from his roots. he was a tremendous attorney, a great plaintiff's attorney, he made himself a rich man by tugging on the heart strings of jurors in north carolina. he used those skills to great effect politically as chuck said in the senate and then in his race in 2004. that volted himself into that second place finish in 2004 in iowa, that made him attractive. but as we wrote in game change, it was that moment that things really started to change for
john edwards in a bad way. he went from a guy that was one of the nicest most genuine humble people in politics to being a ego maniac. he started to believe he could get away with anything and that lead to 2007 and 2008. >> i remember covering him in sioux city, can there was not a piece of paper -- >> he was not a reader. >> he didn't read anything. >> you talk to people, it was surprising, he was a skimmer, get top line information. the more you got to know him as a political candidate, the less impressed you got for those of us that covered him. you would stlit and you could tell the coverage of edwards was great at first, and then as reporters watched him, you could tell there is not a lot there, he may be only a inch deep on specific policy issues.
it wasn't clear what motivated him or what his passion was other than to get elected. i always thought this saga, there is an element that none of us can understand unless you've lost a child. the reason i will still have sympathy a little for him is no one knows what it's like to lose a child. when they lost a child, john and elizabeth edwards changed. whatever happened between the two of them, nothing was ever the same. >> pause on that. that happens to people who lose children, it does something tragic to the rupp that's common and it's horrible. >> look at everything that happened in their lives and then they decided to have two more children. everything changed in their lives. and so as much as -- and i think a little of what edwards did today was a little creepy, going as pub lib as he did. i was uncomfortable watching
him. i thogt we don't want to hear from you, just say thank you to the jury, thank your daughter kate who has been unbelievable back there and go home. we don't want to hear a speech. >> and especially chuck was hearing him talk about quinn. nobody be grudges the father love for a daughter, but to talk about the child that was the result of the affair that got him into this place, i thought that was the weirdest moment to me. i don't be grudge him loving that daughter, but it was weird to see him on the steps of that courthouse where he -- it was weird the way he emphasized his love for quinn and then backed up and say i love all of my children. >> let's listen to that for the people tuning in now. it was one of those moments,
lobby kennedy used to say land a lantern on your problem. he did what you're supposed to do in politics, when you're caught admit it because they already know you're guilty. here he is going through that procedure. here he is. >> my precious quinn. who i love more than any of you could ever imagine. and i am so close to and so, so grateful for. so grateful for quinn. i'm grateful for all of my children. >> well, that's quite a scene, your thoughts, no more political career for him? even if he beats this in another trial? >> no, and i think the reminder is just how hard criminalizing campaign finance and these laws.
that's the real world listen here. john edwards does not have a political career. the fact that he's desperate to get into public life still and from what i understand what he is saying, that's what he wants. he ought to go. >> he reminds me of a trial you read about around the world these kinds of trials they hold when you lose, the guys who win president you up for trial, it's just really tawdry, the whole thing. i never like the smell of this case. thank you chuck todd and john heilmann. more on the trial as we continue to program. and why do voters, here the jurors, push back when there is a sex scandal involved. they don't want to hear about it or think about it. we saw all during the clinton era, the voters don't want to deal with these matters and they vote on the facts. wake up!
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right hire at the climax of the john edwards trial, he was found not guilty on one count, and a mistrial on five other charg charges. we'll be back with me about what this means for the democratic party. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 let's talk about how some companies like to get between ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 you and your money. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 at charles schwab, we believe your money should be available ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 to you whenever and wherever you want. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 which is why we rebate every atm fee worldwide. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 and why our mobile app lets you transfer funds, ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 execute trades, even deposit checks just by ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 taking a picture, right from your phone. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550 so talk to chuck and put those barriers behind you. ttd#: 1-800-345-2550
and a wild fire is spreading. and a supply ship that made a voyage to the international space station has now touched down. back to "hardball." >> all i can say is thank goodness we live in a country that has the kind of system that we have. and i think those jurors were an exemplar for what juries are supposed to do. >> they found him innocent and the rest of the counts they could not reach an agreement. more now on the dramatic day in north carolina we have seen, john edwards was found not flt on one count and the jury was delocked on five others. hour fineman is a director if r
the washington post, and ken gross is a former general council of the election commission. let me start with ken. the fec said this was not a campaign contribution. why are we trying a case that would require making new law as a process of a verdict. >> you got me, i don't understand why this case was brought in the first place. there was no clear standard here. >> now we have the irony pointed out by pete williams an hour ago. unlimited campaign contributions through the super pac door, it's like when they changed the drinking age from jersey for 21 to 18. i think it's impossible to know, at least, until we talk to the jurors. i think the fact that there is such a huge flood of money, secret and open now going into
applicants as part of citizens united and politics, it made the whole thing seem even more houseling to the jurors. not just the lack of legal theory, but the act will of any perspective on the part of the prosecutors. why are you doing this when there is so much more big and important going on if you're worried about politics. >> how many murders need to be tried, can't that put this to some use and prosecutorial ability. here is something we have to cover. here is john edwards saying today about his future and he says he has one, and it sowns like he thinks he has a political future a all this. look at this. >> i don't think god is through with me. i really believe he thinks there is still some good things i can do. and whatever happens with this legal stuff going forward, what
i'm hopeful about is all of the kids i have seen in the poorest parts of this country and in some of the poorest places in the world, they can help them. in whatever way i'm still capable of helping them. and i want to dedicate my life to being the best dad i can be and to helping those kids who i think deserve help. >> howard, you know, i'm not a cruel person, but i am an observant person. i think he used this opportunity that he knew he would get on cable and network television to make a pitch. so he smartly said, okay, the jury is genius because they let me off, and of course i committed all of these sins because everybody knows i did, and here is my chance to make a pitch for a political future. i'm the guy that talked about the two americas, the rich and the poor americas. that's a bigger issue now and
here he is joining the fight again. >> i knew him when he first came into town, i was one of the first people to break bread with him, and i said he is a charming guy, but he is so veered off into the land of creepy self dilution. i'm watching a car crash of crazy politics here. the fact that he took the time to wave the story of his children, including the one with the mistress, the one he had while his wife was dieing of cancer, that he will weave that into the story of the poor people of the world, and i will be the pied piper leading the
mer americas and the children of the world together, that was so beyond any level of self awareness as to be almost path logical. did i make myself clear? >> i think you did. >> it just, sometimes the shameless -- the shamelessness of public figures, especially politicians, is astounding to me. you have to have a certain evil of shamelessness to be in public life and to run for office. to do that in this o was just mind boggling. i'm sorry, it's mind boggling. >> you have never been better at exmaining political thinking. it's all ego. >> how do i use this opportunity to reestablish my career. >> he could have gone away for 30 years and just beat the rap and he declared himself innocent and ready for political work
again. >> late me weave that story in there -- >> we're running along watching the parade of these big egos coming down main street, and it's amazing. >> this is a long road to redemption, i have no doubt about that, but it did start on the right track. he made a statement close to an allocution, and he has to worry about what the department of justice will do next. it seems crazy to me they would waste more resources. i think the case has been a waste from the get go, but -- >> i think i know why he was good in a courtroom of regular people. we see a huge ego unleashed and he can direct that to an imon your side thing. >> he was a fantastic courtroom lawyer. i don't know what court he thought he was speaking to there. i think he thinks it's the court of voters in a future place and time, that he will use his pay. >> i know who he is talking to.
>> you know who? bunny mellon. his contributors that have given him a lot of money in the past. i'm going to help the poor, and that is the thing he has to go to. there is reason to exist politically, he had to go to that tonight and he did it. out there, it only takes one out of ten, but they have a lot of money and he is back in business. thank you howard feinman. he is not talking to you or me. more on the edwards' trial. it could be the end of the game for all of the prosecution against this guy. johnny's come marching home again. so you brushed with colgate total and you didn't.
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responsibility. and this is about me. i want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that i never thought i was doing anything illegal. i did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. and there is no one else responsible for my sins. >> welcome back to "hardball." it's been asked many times what sex got to do with it? the jury today answered, not much. mark halpern and author of "the page" and melinda hennenberger writes she the people blog and in the courtroom covering the edwards trial. she is a big "washington post" columnist. let me ask you both. i've been trying to think about the angles of this trial as it seems to be concluding at least in first round with the acquittal and one count and the hung jury on rest, mark. the jury did something again that probably should make us
feel good. they were able to separate out the questions of the law. they did have a hard time deciding the decision. but basically, it looked like they weren't being driven by the sexual aspects of this whole matter. >> chris, the jurors probably don't follow the issue of prosecutoral discretion the way you and i do. i don't think there's any doubt that when we hear from them they're going to say what you and i believe which is this case should never have been brought. whatever you think of john edwards in terms of how he conducted himself, it is a ridiculous case under law and common sense to prosecute. i think the jurors felt that way. if the prosecutors don't decide to retry, my guess is they'll treat that jury as a focus group. when they hear about separating out the personal from the legal, i bet you they don't try to bring the case again. >> melinda, your thoughts? i haven't heard from you lately. we talked in the past. what's your sense of what the jury's action today in the acquittal on the one matter where it looked like they said couldn't have been a campaign
contribution. it was given after the campaign was over. and then the rest and there may have been holdouts. they couldn't reach a conviction on any of the other matters. >> well, i think that to me if they had all believed this was a ridiculous case that should never have been brought, they wouldn't have spent nine days, nine, long days in that room thinking about it. and obviously taking it very seriously. so i don't know that it was certainly his gamble paid off to put on a pretty bare bones defense. it was the case they had. they seemed to have done their best to treat it seriously. i think there was a very much a way to believe that he was guilty in the case without it being about, you know, punishing for being a cab, as you said before. >> let me challenge you on. this it seems to met judge in this case and the prosecutors were trying to do a couple
things. they wanted the jury to make law. there rarely hadn't been a case something like this before. they wanted them to judge the guy guilty even though the fec had a case involving nevada and they said it was wnt campaign laws. and also they raised the bar or lowered it by saying all you have to do is prove part of the intention of making the contribution was political. even with that, the jury couldn't reach the agreement to convict. >> and they built their case around a liar. >> maybe they did. maybe the case should never have been brought. but that's the case this jury had. they took it seriously. and they obviously, since they did lock on five of the charges, found that it wasn't clear one way or the other. but if i could go back just for a minute to what you were saying earlier, i had such a different take listening to john edwards when he was coming out of the courthouse. i don't think he at all was making the case for i want to get back in the political game.
he wants redemption which anyone in his case would -- in his situation would want. and i actually listened to him even though i do think he was guilty under the judge's instructions. i actually had kind of a sympathetic response to him where, of course, he wanted to say something to and about his children, especially about quinn who he had denied. this is a child he denied his own flesh and blood. to me the most natural thing in the world to want to say to the world, i actually really love this child. and i'm going to try to use the rest of my time on this planet to do something worth while. i did not hear, you know, an announcement for political life. >> okay. we'll see. thank you. i disagree. thank you, melinda. i think this guy is a shrewed trial lawyer. mark, do you agree? >> i they he's a shrewed trial lawyer but i think that was
humanity. if he cares about what the people in washington and new york think about him, he would have been better off not making a statement at all or not making a statement like. that i don't think it will be particularly well received. >> gri. >> thank you so much. when we return, let me fin wisht birth of my granddaughter julian. it happened in the last few days. you're watching "hardball," they tl she, is.
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let me finish with someone who julife, julia matthews came into this world this tuesday in the hour just before dawn. she is healthy and beautiful and has a glow about her. i have no way of knowing what lies ahead for julia only that she will spend her life in this 21st century perhaps right through until the end of it. she will have great parents, sarah and michael, a loving aunt in caroline and a doting uncle in thomas. ll