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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript


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MSNBC Hardball-Transcript

MATTHEWS: Senator Pryor, make you case, why should this man, the president‘s close friend, resign from office?

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: Well, I have a couple of strong reasons. One is I had some telephone conversations with me and there‘s no real polite way to say it other than he lied to me about Tim Griffin, the person he appointed in Little Rock. But in a broader sense, I think it‘s time for him to go because it‘s the best thing for the Justice Department, and I think really it‘s the best thing for the administration.

So he is very damaged here on Capitol Hill. People have lost confidence in him. Their trust level on him is just very low. And he just needs to go. It is the best thing for Justice.

MATTHEWS: Is he carrying water for Karl Rove in the case of Tim Griffin, the guy he wants to put in there as U.S. attorney, in your area?

PRYOR: Well, you know, it‘s a little mysterious about all that happened because lot of the e-mails do shed some light, but the whole story has not been told there. What has happened in Arkansas is they fired a popular and very competent U.S. attorney, a fellow named Bud Cummins, and they replaced him with a fellow named Tim Griffin.

And Tim Griffin had really only spent about one year out of maybe 15 of his professional life in Arkansas. He is from the state, went to college there. But basically went off and did political things after that.

By its nature, in and of itself, there‘s not a problem with someone doing political things, but when you have someone like that who really hasn‘t lived in the state hardly at all during his professional live and someone who has been so overly politically. I think it‘s important that they go through a confirmation process to make sure that they can check their political views at the door and do justice.

However, one of the things we learned in the e-mails is the administration wasn‘t interested in them doing justice. They were interested in people who could do their political bidding for them down at the state level.

MATTHEWS: OK. That brings the point, Senator, are they sending in Griffin to do some dirty work on Hillary Clinton? More digging up dirt on her in Little Rock?

PRYOR: Well, you know, there‘s a conspiracy theory about that. I have no idea if that‘s what they want to do or there‘s another equally possible scenario that they were just rewarding him. He had been a loyal soldier for a long time. Wanted to move back to Arkansas and make a name for himself as U.S. attorney. I really don‘t know what the thought process was.

MATTHEWS: So what we do know is they put in Karl Rove‘s buddy, his assistant into a job that you say he is totally unfit for, has no courtroom experience, and they did it to pursue a political agenda, that‘s your point?

PRYOR: Well, that‘s kind of my point. But let me be clear. He has been in the JAG corps. And so he does have some courtroom experience. I‘m not saying he is totally unqualified. But the point I‘m making is he has no standing in the Arkansas legal community. In fact, I had never met him, never talked to him until this process started. I had no idea who he was. And that is very common for lawyers in the State of Arkansas.

I‘m former attorney general, not that I know every lawyer in the state, but I know most of them. But every lawyer I talk to has really no idea who this guy is. So it was little bit like putting a square peg in a round hole. And you know, I just wanted him to go through a confirmation process. That is the main thing.

There are certainly some things that the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask him about, political activities. But nonetheless, sitting through a confirmation, they had no intention of ever doing that.

MATTHEWS: As a former attorney general of Arkansas, as a U.S. senator, you have just said that the attorney general of the United States lied to you over the telephone. That‘s serious business. Can you give us the particulars?

PRYOR: Sure. You know—and by the way, speaking of that, I mean, you know, there are different ways to put it, but I don‘t know a better way to say it than he just lied to me. You can say deliberately deceived me, he purposely misled me.

I mean, I‘ll use whatever phrase you want. But basically, what I asked him to do is to please send him through a confirmation process. He told me he would. He told me that was the intent. But when you look at the e-mails. There is no question about it, as the e-mail says, they want to gum this thing to death. They want to run out the clock.

They had no intention of ever nominating Tim Griffin. I think they knew that from the very beginning. I think they were trying to play a delay, a four corners offense with me. And that‘s what they were trying to do. And it was just very, very misleading. And I asked very directly if they were going to nominate him. He said yes.

He basically followed the script in one of these e-mails. I mean, it was almost like he had a memo in front of him and he reading down the memo on the points he needed to make with me. And he was just following a script.

MATTHEWS: So he was going to exploit the provision in the Patriot Act which allows the attorney general to place someone in a vacancy and never really get around to getting confirmation for a new appointment?

PRYOR: That‘s exactly right. They used the Patriot Act to do an interim appointment on Tim Griffin, and by the way, when I called Alberto Gonzales the first time—I also called Harriet Miers, talked to both of them twice about this. But when I talked to them, I said, please do not recess appoint this guy. I had no idea at that time that the Patriot Act provision had been slipped in there. I don‘t think anybody in the Senate realized.

MATTHEWS: Well, now that has been fixed.

PRYOR: . that that was going to be misused.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, when you say that the attorney general of the United States seemed to be reading to you from talking points, it sounds to me like you are—well, let me ask you. Who wrote those points, if it‘s not the attorney general? He reports to the president technically. Do you think he really reports to Karl Rove?

PRYOR: Well, that‘s a great question. And I think that‘s one reason why they would like to see Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and others go before the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask them about the inner workings of this.

How is that chain of command really working? And it does appear that Alberto Gonzales was more of a friend of the president than an attorney general that wants to pursue justice. And I‘ll tell you this, the U.S.—the attorney general of the United States is in the Constitution. It‘s a unique office in the sense that even though it is political by nature, they get appointed, just like these U.S. attorney do, they need to be above politics, they need to be better than politics.

MATTHEWS: Are you satisfied with the White House offer of Karl Rove without taking an oath in the back room without a transcript? Do you accept that offer?

PRYOR: I‘m not on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so it‘s not for me to accept it. But if I were, I would say no. Because we need him under oath. Their story has changed many, many times. All they have sent over is redacted e-mails. There are a lot of gaps in these e-mails. We don‘t know if we have all of the e-mails.

We need to get him under oath. We need to have it in open forum, allow Democrats and Republicans to ask questions. Let‘s let it be very bipartisan, put him under oath, ask questions.

MATTHEWS: Where did you hear this theory that Hillary Clinton might be the target of Tim Griffin?

PRYOR: Well, there‘s just kind of a conspiracy theory about that. I mean, some people have pointed to that and said, isn‘t that strange that here is putting in maybe a highly political U.S. attorney in Hillary Clinton‘s backyard, isn‘t that odd, right before the presidential race. Frankly, I‘m not sure I buy into that. I probably subscribe to the theory more that he wanted to come back to Arkansas. Maybe he wants to run for office.

I don‘t know. Heck, you know, he may run against me at some point, I

don‘t know. Because he is not very happy with me right now. But I think -

I buy the theory that he really wanted to come back home, get himself established probably in politics but maybe just in practicing law and do that. So I don‘t know what the motivation was.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Mark Pryor.

PRYOR: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: . Democrat of Arkansas.

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