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MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews - Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews - Transcript


MATTHEWS: We‘re 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 we‘ve got to narrow it down. Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life without parole. What‘s 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 don‘t?

BIDEN: It‘s 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 didn‘t 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 didn‘t pull the trigger, he didn‘t fly the plane. He knew and he didn‘t 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 didn‘t give him death.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of Zarqawi‘s 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 don‘t want to be that sucker in prison. I don‘t 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 he‘s about to find how that he may not have gotten the better end of the deal.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll survive for long in prison, Senator?

BIDEN: I don‘t want to answer that because I‘ll get 6,000 letters saying I‘m encouraging something bad happening to him. I think it‘s not going to be an easy road for him.

MATTHEWS: OK, hold on Senator, if you don‘t mind. I know you‘ve agreed to stick around just for a minute.

I want to go back to one of the well-known victims of the people—of the person killed, a person killed on 9/11 itself at the World Trade Center, that‘s Kristin Breitweiser. Do you have a comment on what you‘ve 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 couldn‘t have that information because it would harm Moussaoui‘s 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 attacks—how 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 FBI—information that certainly would have gone a long way into preventing those attacks. And I‘d 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 they‘re 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, who‘s just been sentenced to life?

BIDEN: I‘d like to make three points. I think the juror makes an absolutely—excuse 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 we‘ll 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 happen—know 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 there‘s a distinction between the two. But I‘m 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 is—and maybe I‘m just reacting like an angry American—that 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 she‘s making a point now.

There is no longer any excuse—no 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 we‘re 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, I‘m a lawyer, but I don‘t 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 you‘re 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. You‘re 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. We—the 9/11 family members fought very, very hard to get those recommendations put in place. We fought hard for the commission. I don‘t know what more it is going to take and I would ask Senator Biden to keep fighting down in Washington.

And we‘d 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, I‘m 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 didn‘t do anything about it.

That‘s all I‘m saying, Chris. I just think it‘s human nature that kind of distinction sometimes is made. I‘m not making a legal distinction.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the other jury finding. The jury found—we‘ll 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 that‘s relevant in cases of an adult committing such a heinous crime?

BIDEN: I don‘t, but look, I don‘t want to be the guy up here looking like—these jurors sweated over and bled over their decision. I wasn‘t 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 guy‘s going to life with no possibility of parole or probation," then it‘s not for me to be criticizing the jury.

I think you can flyspeck it. It‘s hard to be in their position. But I for one, I was disappointed that the decision wasn‘t 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 ain‘t 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 you‘re staying here—Kristin, what‘s your emotional attitude towards Moussaoui yourself?


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