MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews - Transcript -
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MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, of the New York area, is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And he said today that the Department of Homeland Security has declared war on New York City.
Congressman, how did this happen? Your city, New York, was the hardest hit in history by terrorism, and yet it's been cut for anti- terrorism funds. How'd that happen?
KING: Chris, this is absolutely indefensible. The Department of Homeland Security changes the story by the hour. There has never been one allegation of even one penny being misspent on any of the counterterrorism money in New York.
As David Shuster said, in their analysis they said there were no national icons in New York. I've looked further into the backup materials, the conclusions they came to. The NYPD's Counterterrorism Unit, Ray Kelly is almost 1,000 cops working on counterterrorism and intelligence. It's the premier unit in the country. Police departments come from all over to observe it.
This so-called peer review panel based their application in the bottom 15 percent. They said there were 467 applications and the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau's application ranked in the bottom 15 percent. That shows either incredible bias, incredible ignorance or, in any event, it shows that that peer review panel or whoever was involved in this in the Department of Homeland Security should lose their jobs. There's no explanation for this whatsoever.
I'm not begrudging other cities. I mean, Los Angeles certainly has a threat; Chicago, others I'm not getting into that. But to cut New York City 40 percent when every intelligence threat estimate shows that New York is at the very top, to me is absolutely indefensible and Mike Chertoff and the others at the department are changing their story by the hour.
Today, he apparently said this was an averaging out of the first year and the second year and now the third is an average of the first two, which makes no sense at all especially when they were coming up with all of these complicated formulas yesterday, which also added up to nothing.
MATTHEWS: Are they screwing Hillary and Chuck Schumer on this one? Is this politics? Is this red state, blue state stuff?
KING: I don't think so, because they've given a lot of money to Los Angeles and Chicago, both of which are Democratic mayors; the city of Newark, which obviously is Democratic, which also needs it, by the way.
No I think, if anything here, it's a bias against New York. I saw it last time...
MATTHEWS: By whom? By whom?
KING: I say subway threats to New York by people in the Department of Homeland Security, people who can't get out of their own way. People who...
MATTHEWS: But Chertoff isn't Chertoff a New Jerseyite or a New Yorker himself? He's from up around there.
KING: Yes, he worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office under Giuliani, and he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey. But having said that, there's a bureaucracy at the Department of Homeland Security which undercuts New York any number of times.
And I don't know how familiar Mike Chertoff was with these final numbers. I heard people in the department say they were running around yesterday once the storm hit trying to find ways to justify it. So I'd like to know...
MATTHEWS: You're well placed, you're the chairman of the committee, Congressman who in the White House have you talked to today? Name the guys?
KING: No, I haven't spoken to anybody in the White House. I have sources within the Department of Homeland Security who told me that...
MATTHEWS: Well did a person in the White House make these kind of calls? I mean, is this politically hot stuff, Karl Rove stuff?
KING: That's why I don't think it was. This is like Dubai Ports. Nobody in the White House knew about Dubai Ports either. Mike Chertoff didn't know about Dubai Ports.
This stuff is handled, I'm afraid, at some middle level, because I don't think Mike Chertoff knew all the ramifications of this.
By the way, he's responsible. He's the guy who's on the hook for it. But I have a feeling this was done by mid-level bureaucrats at the department. They come up with some formula that makes no sense, by a peer review panel who's shrouded in secrecy. And they come up with this way I mean, how can you possibly cut New York City by 40 percent when they have 1,000 police working on counterterrorism? The city of Chicago has four.
I mean, I can go through all these different comparisons.
MATTHEWS: Do you smell any corruption over at Homeland Security?
KING: I smell incompetency and I smell a bias and I think there's a real bias against the NYPD. They resent all the coverage they get, all the publicity they get. It's a real bias, it's a real narrow-mindedness, and a lot of people over there should lose their jobs.
MATTHEWS: Well, what's this Duke Cunningham, prostitutes, poker thing all about with Homeland Security? What's that all about?
KING: What that's about is that you had the orgies going on at the Watergate Hotel, with prostitutes, pimps, booze, card games, Duke Cunningham, lobbyists, CIA.
The people were driven and the prostitutes were driven to the Watergate Hotel in limousines owned by a company which was run by a crook, which lost two of its previous contracts but was given a $21 million contract by the Department of Homeland Security to drive the top executives of the department around Washington.
Now how they got this $21 million contract is a subject of a real investigation by my committee, and there's going to be a lot coming out on that. But at the same time, they're cutting $80 million in New York...
MATTHEWS: What could they give a government agency? You're talking about kickbacks. They're giving them prostitutes. What are you talking about on the other end of this deal? If they gave them what you think is a sweet deal or preferred let from the government, what do you think is coming from the other end?
KING: It's either incompetency or there's issues we're looking into as to whether or not other companies were asked not to bid, not to this story is not over yet.
MATTHEWS: You think...
MATTHEWS: In other words, Congressman, you think there's a suspicion that's logical here why they would hire a company that is all involved in the sleaze at the CIA?
KING: Absolutely. And there's a lobbyist who was involved with the company who is also involved with Duke Cunningham and somehow mysteriously this company gets a $21 million contract to escort or to drive around the Department of Homeland Security's top officials.
MATTHEWS: OK, what are you going to do about this?
MATTHEWS: Let's talk politics about New York now. You pointed out today that the city is the prime target of the terrorists and we know it will continue, because it always is a prize target; it's got, as you pointed out, the Statue of Liberty, it's got the Brooklyn Bridge, it's got the Empire State Building, lots of iconic targets.
What are you going to do to bolster the funding that's been cut?
KING: Also, Chris, just two weeks ago, a guy was convicted in federal court of trying to blow up Herald Square. So, I mean, this is an ongoing threat we have against us.
I'm going to do all I can with the investigation to bring in all the people from the peer review panel, bring in Chertoff before the committee, bring in the police commissioner of New York, other police commissioners from around the country, to show how phony this whole process was and put as much pressure as I can on.
Listen, I mentioned yesterday this was a declaration of war against New York. I'm at war with the Department of Homeland Security. I think every well-intentioned member of Congress is, because they realized this was a total miscarriage of justice, totally inexcusable, indefensible. And they are changing the story by the hour.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let's turn this pillow over a second to the cold side.
Do you hear the buzz that I'm hearing that New York may get the Republican Convention in 2008?
KING: I'm hearing talk of that, and if they do, it's probably because of the great work that was done by the NYPD...
MATTHEWS: Yes, that's ironic.
KING: ... in securing New York the last time around.
MATTHEWS: Because the same time they're cutting funding for what matters, they may be, you know, shining you guys up with the convention site. I was thinking of that because you mentioned Herald Square and that's where we were last time.
KING: That's right, you did your show there.
Also, Chris, you know, again, any time in politics, you can debate whether a bridge should go in a certain place or a highway, whether or not you should cut funding for an agricultural subsidy or something, but here we're talking about life and death.
I mean, this is really serious stuff. I lost, again, over 150 friends, neighbors and constituents. And I have cops and firemen all over my neighborhood. I can't walk more than a few streets without seeing a street sign and a street dedicated to some guy who was killed on September 11th. So, I mean, this is a real issue for us, and for them to do it so casually, not to tell anyone in advance...
MATTHEWS: Have you talked to Chertoff today, the secretary of homeland security, have you talked to him yet?
KING: No, I spoke to Foresman yesterday, the undersecretary, and the excuse he gave me was he said New York City just wants the money, doesn't want to tell us how they're going to spend it. I lost it with that. was the most heated conversation I've ever had with an appointed official.
For him to suggest that New York just wants to grab on to money, when I can tell you every penny that New York has spent on homeland security over the last four years has been accounted for, it's been well spent, it's received the highest grades.
So this to me just shows a real bias these guys have. Somebody is being cute in that department. We're going to find out who and why.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Karl Rove was involved in this decision or was it something he missed and therefore is to blame for that reason?
I mean, isn't it the job of the top the president's top political kick (ph) to make sure that people like you aren't offended?
MATTHEWS: It's a noisy city, New York. When it gets pinched, it makes a lot of noise, as you're doing right now.
I just wonder why unless they're going to calculate a red state- blue state strategy of giving favors to the people out in the red areas of the country and screwing guys in New York to make their point, why would they want to offend Peter King?
KING: Chris, I think maybe we're giving them too much credit.
I think this was incompetency. I wonder how far up even the department this went. Because if they were going to cut New York and Chertoff knew about it, he had a political obligation to tell the president and the White House in advance. I don't think he did.
MATTHEWS: Let me turn the tables on you a little bit here.
Their defense over at homeland security is that you in Congress, because you have a budget squeeze that we're all facing in this country you could argue whose fault it is, but we got one with the deficits rolling up to about a half trillion dollars a year that you on the Hill cut $600 million from funding for these programs and that each that Homeland Security Department, they simply had to divvy it out; and you don't like the way they divvied out the cuts, but you were the guys that cut it overall.
Is that a fair shot at you?
KING: Chris, they're changing the story by the day.
The actual cuts were about 14 percent to 15 percent. Most of them were recommended by the president. So there's a 14 percent cut and they cut New York 40 percent. So it doesn't add up.
No, again, this is like their fifth explanation. None of them work. They're phonies.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to fix this problem?
KING: Put as much pressure as I possibly can, keep going on shows like yours and keep bringing these people up before the committee. They're going to regret the day they ever did this to New York.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Peter King of the state of New York.
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