MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews - Transcript
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
MATTHEWS: Were going right now to U.S. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. He is the ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Biden, you were scheduled to be on tonight. I want you to say what you think. However, in this case weve got to narrow it down. Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life without parole. Whats your reaction.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE) FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: My reaction is I wish he had gotten death but I watched your program, Chris. I the most incredible thing was the two widows who testified and thanked the jury, not testified, who were on your show and they were thanking the jury.
This is incredible, incredible deal. I agree with some of your previous speakers saying this is an incredible demonstration that we are totally completely free and we are a pretty fair outfit.
MATTHEWS: Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was there of course at 9/11, was something of a hero that day. He said tonight that he thought the wrong verdict. He thought the proper verdict was death because this man not only tried to learn how to fly a plane to ram is into a building but he kept secret his role in this conspiracy that led to 9/11 and he could have prevented 9/11 had he spoken honestly. Is that a thought you have or dont?
BIDEN: Its a thought I had. The other thought I had when I heard you talking is I thought of Timothy McVeigh and Nichols. What did the jury do there? They put McVeigh to death and they said not to death for Nichols. I think it is sort of the same kind of thing.
I used to defend cases, nothing like this, when I was a young lawyer in the criminal justice system as a public defender. It is hard for jurors, I think sometimes, to put someone to the maximum penalty, in this case death, for conspiracy. And that is that the guy knew and didnt say anything. I think that warrants a death penalty, but I can see how they can conclude that, in response to your question.
I could see how they conclude that he is responsible for the damage but not nor the murders. He is responsible for the murders because the murders came from the damage. But you can see the disconnect where people say wait a minute. He didnt pull the trigger, he didnt fly the plane. He knew and he didnt tell us.
And I think as I heard everybody talking it reminded me of the Oklahoma City case, where, again they gave McVeigh death, who actually pulled the trigger, and the guy who could have stopped him, who could have told people what he was about to do, they didnt give him death.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of Zarqawis comment as he left the courtroom, he yelled out, Moussaoui yelled out, "America you lost," and clapped his hands.
BIDEN: Let me tell you something. I dont want to be that sucker in prison. I dont want to be that guy in an American prison. If you want to say how to punish somebody, put al-Zarqawi in a prison with a bunch of red- blooded American criminals, criminals. Put him in there for live and guarantee under no circumstances, no circumstances, could he get out of prison. I think that boy is about to have, as we Catholics say, an epiphany. I think hes about to find how that he may not have gotten the better end of the deal.
MATTHEWS: Do you think hell survive for long in prison, Senator?
BIDEN: I dont want to answer that because Ill get 6,000 letters saying Im encouraging something bad happening to him. I think its not going to be an easy road for him.
MATTHEWS: OK, hold on Senator, if you dont mind. I know youve agreed to stick around just for a minute.
I want to go back to one of the well-known victims of the peopleof the person killed, a person killed on 9/11 itself at the World Trade Center, thats Kristin Breitweiser. Do you have a comment on what youve been just listening to, Kristin?
BREITWEISER: Yes, I have to say two things really. No. 1, now that the Moussaoui penalty phase is over, I certainly hope that the information will be flowing freely to the American people. For four years, I and many other 9/11 family members have fought very hard to have information released go the public, information about governmental failures. We were always told that we couldnt have that information because it would harm Moussaouis right to a fair trial.
Having said that, I would appreciate someone asking either Senator Biden or former Mayor Giuliani, if their standard for death is withholding information from the FBI that could have prevented the 9/11 attackshow then are we excusing FBI agents Maltbie and Frasca, who were accused, or allegedly accused in the Moussaoui penalty phase itself, of being criminally negligent with regard to giving a FISA warrant.
How would you explain George Tenet, who withheld information about two of the 9/11 hijackers for 18 months from the FBIinformation that certainly would have gone a long way into preventing those attacks. And Id like to know, where are we drawing the line here, what is the threshold, and why are we not holding those types of people in our own government accountable?
And I think theyre going to have a long of explaining to do in Congress and at the White House when that information flows to the American people and the American people start asking similar questions.
MATTHEWS: Senator, is there a criminal intent there or did you see a distinction between the behavior of public officials and Zacarias Moussaoui, whos just been sentenced to life?
BIDEN: Id like to make three points. I think the juror makes an absolutelyexcuse me, the family makes an absolutely accurate point about being not being held accountable and that the denial of information just like a previous family member said, they now hope that in fact well start to do the things the 9/11 Commission said should be done to protect America.
I think they make a very valid point. On the legal standpoint, there is a difference between criminal negligence, which arguably is exactly what happened with regard to the members of the government, and a specific plan to in fact seek for a very bad thing to happenknow what was going to happen, and encouraging it happening.
One is criminal negligence, the word is negligence. And the other one is a pure criminal intent. And so in the law theres a distinction between the two. But Im not second guessing the jury here, Chris. I was trying to explain what I can understand how the jury can reach that verdict. I would have, my guess is, based on what I have seen on television, my guess isand maybe Im just reacting like an angry Americanthat I would have liked to have seen the death penalty.
And I think it appeared to be justified. But, look, the jurors made a decision. And my point is they could rationally arrive at such a decision. And the woman who just spoke, I admire the heck out, because shes making a point now.
There is no longer any excuseno longer any excuse for us to not do two things. One, come clean with the mistakes that were made and two, fix them especially the 9/11 Commission report. Here we are, it cost $42 billion to put in place those 9/11 Commission recommendations that were pointed out were not done as of December 5th of this year.
And were about to give people making over a million bucks a year a $43.2 billion tax break in one year. Were are our priorities?
MATTHEWS: Kristin, do you want to react to that?
BREITWEISER: Listen, all I would have to say with regard to the mens rea, throwing out a legal term, Im a lawyer, but I dont practice law, is that after 17 sailors died on the USS Cole and two of those hijackers that Tenet had under surveillance were inside this country, I would say that if youre the DCI, you should know to bring those gentlemen in. You should know to bring the FBI in the loop.
Having said that, with regard to the 9/11 Commission recommendations, without doubt. I mean, you are talking about the city of New York still not having radios for the firemen. Youre talking about the Hurricane Katrina, where our evacuation protocols were abysmal.
We are almost five years out from 9/11. We have not paid any attention, we have not learned any lessons and the truth of the matter is, we are not any safer. If anything we are less safe.
And it breaks my heart. Wethe 9/11 family members fought very, very hard to get those recommendations put in place. We fought hard for the commission. I dont know what more it is going to take and I would ask Senator Biden to keep fighting down in Washington.
And wed like to see some action and I would tell all the American people listening that the election is coming up, the midterm elections. Hold your elected officials accountable, because we are almost five years out from 9/11 and we are no safer.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask the senator a couple questions, just to clarify before you leave. Senator, one question, do you believe it was rational part of the jury in its verdict today on sentencing to say that Zacarias Moussaoui was responsible for the damage done on 9/11 that wounded people, the damage done to buildings, et cetera, but not responsible for the deaths of the people that day? How does that square?
BIDEN: In strictly legal terms, Im not sure it does. But in emotional terms, it does. I think people make distinctions between the people who pull the trigger and the people who in fact know the trigger was going to be pulled and didnt do anything about it.
Thats all Im saying, Chris. I just think its human nature that kind of distinction sometimes is made. Im not making a legal distinction.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the other jury finding. The jury foundwell have to go through this overnight tonight and tomorrow again at length. But the jury found in the initial announcements late this afternoon that this man did suffer from a bad childhood. He was in orphanages. He had a cruel father. Do you think thats relevant in cases of an adult committing such a heinous crime?
BIDEN: I dont, but look, I dont want to be the guy up here looking likethese jurors sweated over and bled over their decision. I wasnt in that jury room.
If the 9/11 families can be big enough and gracious enough and in a strange sense, generous enough to say "OK we respect what the jury did, the guys going to life with no possibility of parole or probation," then its not for me to be criticizing the jury.
I think you can flyspeck it. Its hard to be in their position. But I for one, I was disappointed that the decision wasnt different. I can understand how they emotionally at a minimum reached the distinction that they reached apparently.
And I think we should just say God bless him and the good news is Moussaoui aint going to hurt anybody, anymore, ever. He is behind bars for life, so help him God, done, finished.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Thank you very much sir for joining us tonight. I want to ask Kristin, while youre staying hereKristin, whats your emotional attitude towards Moussaoui yourself?
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT