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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript - IRS Targeting Controversy


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MATTHEWS: In other words, guilty until proven innocent. Elijah Cummings is the ranking Democrat on Issa`s House Oversight Committee. And Dana Milbank is a political columnist with "The Washington Post."

Congressman, in all the times you have sat next to Mr. Issa at hearings, have you ever gotten the impression that he thinks that there was political hanky-panky here from the White House?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I -- yes, I -- I honestly don`t know what he thinks.

I mean, quite often, he makes a lot of statements, and then -- and these statements are -- make headlines, and then there`s a search for the facts, and, in many instances, the facts are never found. And so I don`t know what he thinks, but I can tell you one thing, that the interviews that have been conducted -- and the chairman knows this -- have shown no political involvement in this episode, no White House involvement whatsoever.

And we know that it started in the Cincinnati office. And it was started by a self-proclaimed Republican, a conservative Republican. And I -- I think the thing that bothers me most, Chris, is, when these types of allegations are made, and you have exculpatory evidence that shows clearly that it`s not accurate, you ought to say something because we are in search of the truth.


CUMMINGS: So that we can do reform so that we can then restore the trust in the IRS. You cannot get there unless you stay focused on the truth. And so when you throw out these statements that are not supported by any evidence whatsoever, I don`t think it does harm to the integrity not only of the committee, but to the Congress.

MATTHEWS: So now we know that the chairman of the investigating committee, Darrell Issa, is now publicly saying he`s never accused the White House or the political arms of the president, any of the campaign people, none of them has he claimed they`re guilty. Therefore, you have to figure out all the investigative interviews he`s done show no evidence of that. Then you go back to the question, how did this become part of the hit list of the GOP propaganda machine? How come people like the former Vice President Dick Cheney and the others have kept putting out the word this is part of the scandal? They talk about the IRS scandal.

Well, Issa says he never said the IRS was targeting or coming out of the president`s office but he has repeatedly made the connection in blatant terms. Here are two such instances. One is an interview with CBS, another with CNN.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: How dare the administration imply they`re going to get to the bottom of it? This was the targeting of the president`s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year so that it wasn`t discovered until afterwards. As you know, as late as last week, the administration is still trying to say there`s a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact, the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington.


MATTHEWS: Dana, you`re one of the great satirists of our time. I don`t think you can satirize the sleaze patrol that he`s been on. I mean, this guy keeps throwing out the slime. He never stops. He doesn`t feel any shame about having no evidence.

It`s one thing to go after your political opponent. That`s what you do in politics.


MATTHEWS: But when you realize you`ve got nothing, can you keep sleazing them and smearing them like this guy is doing?

MILBANK: You know, Chris, this committee as you know has a long history of shenanigans going back to Chairman Dan Burton firing a bullet at a watermelon in the Vince Foster case.


MILBANK: But even by those standards, Issa has been extraordinary. You said he`s been firing blanks for weeks now. I would say for a couple years. I mean, the congressman can correct me but I think he`s at 10, 11, 12 major investigations into this administration. You know, Fast and Furious, WikiLeaks, Benghazi, Solyndra, Fannie Mae, it goes on. Of in each case, there`s a pattern. He sort of makes an outlandish suggestion this goes into the White House or the president`s going after his political enemies.

He couched it with some sort of weasel word and then nothing ever comes of it. The problem is, he`s -- and Congressman Cummings should be delighted because Chairman Issa sacrificed his credibility here and I think people in the press when they hear these allegations now have to discount that, even though we, of course, love a good scandal.

MATTHEWS: You`ve been pushing him, Congressman, to put all he`s got, show your stuff like show your cards in a poker game. Show us the transcripts. Is he going to do it?

CUMMINGS: I don`t know what he`s going to do.

But I can say one thing, Chris, you asked how did this get out of hand with all these other people repeating what the chairman has said? I think they thought, they just assumed when he said things like political enemies and whatever, that the president was involved, they assumed that he had evidence. People like Chairman Rogers and others and Camp and Senator Cruz, they assumed that had he some evidence.

And so then they then took it another step and made these -- made all kinds of statements and the next thing you know, and sometimes I wonder if things are thrown out there hoping that it will stick and then when there`s no evidence, people still are left with the same impression that what was said is true when in fact it`s not. That`s what concerns me.

MATTHEWS: This is what --

CUMMINGS: That`s about integrity of the committee.

MATTHEWS: This is what nasty little high school boys and girls do on the Internet. They send out nasty little stories about their friends, their enemies rather, and they get away with it because once the stink bomb has been thrown it`s very hard to come back and get rid of it. I think that`s what this guy does. He throws around stink bombs.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Elijah Cummings. Good luck with getting the truth.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.


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