Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/30/2015

Laura Coates, Robert Costa, Anne Gearan, Sabrina Siddiqui, Michael Tomasky, Ginger Gibson

Date: December 30, 2015
Guest: Laura Coates, Robert Costa, Anne Gearan, Sabrina Siddiqui, Michael
Tomasky, Ginger Gibson

JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Bill Cosby charged.


Good evening. I`m Joy Reid, in for Chris Matthews.

An incredible scene unfolded today in Elkins, Park, Pennsylvania, where
television legend Bill Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault
against a woman. The charges stem from an incident that allegedly happened
12 years ago.

Unsteady at times, using a cane and flanked by his attorneys, Cosby walked
into a courtroom where he was arraigned. He was released on $1 million
bail after being fingerprinted and photographed. Authorities released his
mug shot this afternoon.

Now, earlier today, prosecutor Kevin Steele laid out the charge.


established a relationship with the victim after meeting her through her
work associated with Temple University`s women`s basketball program.
Through the course of their association, the victim came to consider Mr.
Cosby her mentor and her friend.

On the evening in question, Mr. Cosby urged her to take pills that he
provided to her and to drink wine, the effect of which rendered her unable
to move (INAUDIBLE) respond to his advances, and he committed aggravated
indecent assault upon her.


REID: In the past year, dozens of women have come forward to publicly
accuse the 78-year-old of sexual misconduct. Cosby has repeatedly denied
the allegations, and prior to today, he`s never been charged with a crime.
Indeed, the statute of limitations on the current case nearly ran out
before today`s surprise announcement.

This afternoon, lawyers for Cosby said in a statement, “The charge by the
Montgomery County district attorney`s office came as no surprise, filed 12
years after the alleged incident and coming on the heels of a hotly
contested election for this county`s DA, during which this case was made
the focal point. Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense
against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be
exonerated by a court of law.”

NBC`s Stephanie Gosk is with us live from Elkins Park. OK, Stephanie, how
did this charge come about? How did it unfold today?

STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joy, it`s interesting. You know,
we`re standing outside of Bill Cosby`s home right now. And after he posted
his $1 million bond, he came right back here.

And this is also the scene of the alleged crime. Now, as you mentioned,
this is a crime that took place over a decade ago, in 2004. It was Andrea
Constand, an employee at Temple University, who says she came here to Bill
Cosby`s house at night, and the prosecutor says that she was coming just
for some career advice when she was assaulted, allegedly, by Bill Cosby.

Now, at the time, according to the affidavit, she went home to her home in
Canada, reflected on what had happened and then decided that she was going
to file a criminal complaint. The prosecutor at the time here in the
country investigated that complaint and decided not to press charges. She
went forward with a civil suit, and in the course of that civil suit, she
revealed another 13 alleged victims.

Now, if you fast-forward a bit to the last year-and-a-half or so, where
we`ve seen a flurry of activity of alleged victims coming forth and
accusing Bill Cosby of really very similar types of assault, the prosecutor
here said that it was in the process of that and a decision by a federal
judge to reveal parts of Cosby`s deposition from that 2006 civil suit that
propelled them to go forward and press these charges today, a bit of a
surprise coming during a holiday week.

It was an unbelievable scene at that courthouse, Cosby coming out in a tiny
place, such an unlikely moment. He was walking gingerly. His demeanor was
sort of listless, actually. He didn`t say anything, and then he just came
right back here home – Joy.

REID: All right. Thank you very much, Stephanie Gosk.

Now, in the past year, more than 50 women have made accusations of sexual
misconduct against Bill Cosby. This summer, “New York” magazine put a
number of these accusers on the cover, and earlier this year, NBC`s Kate
Snow interviewed 27 of them in a special “DATELINE.”

The women made a variety of allegations, from harassment to rape, and they
differed from what`s in today`s criminal complaint.


KATE SNOW, HOST, “MSNBC LIVE”: How many of you believe you were drugged by
Bill Cosby? How many you believe Bill Cosby raped you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever I was given, it was laced in my drink. It
was like being – like having a lobotomy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was, like, Stop. What are you doing? Stop it,
you know? And he`s, like, I`m not going to hurt you. You know, just calm

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took really no more than two or three sips of it,
and I really lost consciousness. I was in a bed. He was next to me. He
didn`t have anything on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, Drink it, Bernard, drink it. And very
quickly, the room started spinning. The next memory, I`m on the floor, on
the carpet, and I remember the sensation of the carpet against the flesh of
my back like velcro, like this. And it hurt and I couldn`t move because of
the drugs. And I remember him on top of me.


REID: Now, it`s important to note these are just allegations. Bill Cosby
has denied them all, and he`s also brought defamation claims against
several of his accusers. And for the record, Andrea Constand was not one
of the women interviewed by NBC.

Kate Snow joins me now. And Kate, just seeing the sheer number of those
women all sitting together is really jarring, and then to think that that`s
a little more than half of the total number of women that actually have
made accusations.

I know that you`ve been hearing from some of these women you interviewed
today. What are they saying?

SNOW: Yes, it`s been interesting, Joy. I think it`s a day of emotion for
them, as you might imagine, and different responses from different women,
but tears of joy, some people, you know, finding that their emotions are
coming back up again today, I think that they had stuffed down, are coming

Linda Cooper Kirkpatrick actually just sent me a message recently, and she
said, I thought this day would never come. I feel vindication, which is a
word that I`ve heard from several women today, Joy. And she said, We`ve
made history. We`ve torn down the veil of secrecy and fear.

I think that`s a recurring message that I`ve heard from these women, even
when we talked to them in August. And why they were coming forward and
speaking out in a group like that was because they felt like that was
tearing down a wall of sorts.

REID: And Kate, with so many women having come forward already, I guess
the natural question would be, you know, per your reporting, do you expect
there to be more women who come forward?

SNOW: You know, I don`t know how many more, Joy. But I will tell you when
we were all gathered together – and again, this was months ago, in August
– there was talk of other women that they knew. So you know, of those 27
that I was with in that room, they all seemed to know another person, so –
or of – they`d heard of another person.

And I don`t mean that they knew them back then, but they`re connecting now.
They have Facebook groups. And I think social media is a big part of why
we`ve seen such a flood of accusations, Joy, in the last year because they
found each other. They`ve connected on line, and that`s spurring people to
come forward. So I would not be surprised if we see more women come
forward after today.

REID: And Kate, has anybody remarked to you that – the sense that but for
that comedic sketch by Hannibal Buress – because women attempted to come
forward before and they weren`t really – the stories weren`t picked up.
Has anyone made that remark to you?

SNOW: Yes. Some of the women have said that. Yes. Yes, because – yes,
in fact, Stephanie Gosk and I were talking about this earlier today, Joy,
that it seems so strange that this Constand case sort of went away for
about 10 years, and why – why did we all in the media not pay more
attention? Why was it not out there? Why did women not come forward at
that time?

And I think it`s a combination of things, but for some reason, Hannibal
Buress, the comedian, coming out and using it as a joke in his routine, and
then that went viral – that`s what prompted other women to come forward.
Barbara Bowman then wrote a “Washington Post” op-ed, and that got people
talking and it was sort of a domino effect after that.

REID: Yes, and Kate, I`m wondering, too, whether or not women believe it
because that lawsuit, the Constand lawsuit, really was the fruit of this.
Are women commenting on the fact that, in fact, she had to go civil because
there weren`t charges before? Are the women telling you that they have any
sort of feeling about non-prosecution back in 2004?

SNOW: Not so much, although the women who were Jane Does back then –
there were 13 of them, and I spoke to a few of them you just saw in the
clip that you just showed – they felt very saddened when the case went
away and was settled out of court. I mean, they weren`t as upset about the
lack of criminal charges. I think they understood that the prosecutor at
the time felt he didn`t have enough direct evidence. And he has said that.
He certainly didn`t have a lot of physical evidence in the case.

But when the civil case was settled out of court and then there was a gag
order, meaning nobody could talk about it, they were pretty upset by that
because that`s sort of what took it off the front pages and took it out of
the media.

REID: Yes. Kate Snow, you`ve done just some phenomenal, phenomenal
reporting on this.

SNOW: Thank you.

REID: Thank you so much, and happy new year to you.

SNOW: You, too, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

All right, here`s more from prosecutor Kevin Steele today about the charge
against Cosby.


STEELE: When you look at the case, there is a number of aspects that are
undisputed. There`s not a question in terms of, you know, pills being
provided to here. There`s not a question as to the occurrence of what went
on, of the digital penetration. And we`ve gotten that from statements,
from depositions.


REID: Laura Coates is a former assistant U.S. attorney. So Laura, let`s
start there, where I sort of left off with Kate Snow. The fact that there
was no prosecution, that a district attorney looked at this body of
evidence, at these same facts in 2004, and didn`t bring charges – if you
were the DA now, would that give you pause as to whether or not the charges
are provable now, or what has changed from now to then – I mean, from then
to now?

LAURA COATES, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, what changed, Joy, is
the fact that there was a release of deposition testimony, where Mr. Cosby
actually admits that there was, in fact, some penetration, and there was a
history of providing a substance to kind of put women at ease. You have
the development of the case theory that was not necessarily present when
the case was first looked at by the first DA. You have a woman here who
now has the admission, essentially, of the defendant in this case. That
wasn`t present before.

But before everyone counts their chickens before they hatch, there`s a lot
of legal hurdles that still need to be met. It`s one thing to actually
charge him with this crime now. It`s also still going to be a hard time to
actually prove it. Now we`re not just a few months or weeks out, we are
over 10 years away, in fact, almost 12 full years away. It`s very
difficult when you don`t have physical evidence, and all you have is the
hope that the transcript itself will be admitted into testimony.

REID: And I`m wondering what it says to you that this charge comes so
close to the expiration of that – you know, the time to bring these
charges, the statute of limitations.

COATES: Yes, well, you know, this was a case that`s been a focal point of
a very heated election. There was a political ad that was being run by the
current DA against the former DA about the failure to bring this particular
case. And so he`s really at the tail end of being able to bring it.

And I suspect there`ll be several pretrial motions about delays in
indicting this particular case. And they will be justified in bringing the
motion. It won`t be successful because you do still have the opportunity
bring a case within that period of time.

The far more contested motions, Joy, are going to be whether or not the
other alleged accusers are going to be able to testify and betrust (ph)
this particular victim`s own testimony at trial. That`s going to be the

We already have a court of public opinion that`s condemned Bill Cosby, but
in a court of law, we can`t actually know about all those other cases
unless the court allows them to come in.

REID: And as you mentioned, Laura, Bill Cosby testified under oath about
the rape accusations in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by his accuser,
Andrea Constand. And that testimony was unsealed this summer by a judge.
Cosby admitted giving quaaludes to women back in the 1970s for the purpose
of having sexual relations, though he denied that it was without their
knowledge. Cosby admitted having sex with Constand, but said it was

Here`s how he described what happened. Quote, “I don`t hear her say
anything and I don`t feel her say anything, and so I continue and I go into
the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not

When you hear that form of an admission, which again, from the Cosby team`s
point of view, he`s saying he`s not admitting rape – but does that
admission, as a prosecutor, help you?

COATES: It certainly does. I mean, consent is not a matter of semantics.
You can`t kind of wade in the area of, She didn`t say no and she didn`t say
yes, so I`m going to go ahead and proceed. Somebody has to actually
consent to that sort of action.

And it supports the argument that if she was rendered unable to defend
herself, unable to consent and unable to actually say yes or no, it does
not bode well for him.

But you still have the issue of that transcript, which says that he was
talking about the quaaludes in the `70s. There was not a direct connection
between the quaaludes of the past and a particular incident. There has
been testimony that he gave her Benadryl. I think that was the herbal
medication that`s talking about having been given. And there`s some
inconsistency there.

But they`ve got to bridge that gap. It`s not an insurmountable hurdle, and
but it`s not necessarily a slam dunk just because he`s made that particular
statement. There still has to be consideration of other testimony, and the
prosecutor still has the burden of proving that Mr. Cosby, with this
particular victim committed, a particular sexual penetration against her

REID: All right, thank you so much, Laura Coates. Really appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

And we`ve got much more on Bill Cosby coming up next.

Plus, still ahead on HARDBALL, Trump versus Clinton. For the better part
of 2016 (sic), Donald Trump`s dominated the headlines, the polls and the
pack of Republicans running for president. Now he`s trying to take down
the Democratic front-runner. Who`s got more to lose in the fight for 2016?

And speaking of Trump, he was one of just many headliners who sat down with
Chris Matthews in this wild year of politics. We`ll bring you the key
moments of HARDBALL in 2015.

Also, Larry David as Bernie Sanders, the Donald as – the Donald and
Hillary as themselves – a look back at some of the best late night moments
so far in this presidential campaign.

And finally, let me finish with this new year`s prospect of hope and change
or fear and loathing all to be decided at the ballot box.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: As we wind down to the end of 2015, let`s take a look back at some
of the lighter moments of the presidential campaign this year. Here are
just a few of our favorites on the Democratic side, thanks to the good
folks at “Saturday Night Live.”


LARRY DAVID, “SNL”: We`re doomed! We need a revolution, millions of
people on the streets! And we got to do something and we got to do it now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. Hi. Mrs. Clinton, I`m sorry to interrupt. I just
wanted to say my sister is gay, so thank you for all you`ve done for gay

KATE MCKINNON, “SNL”: Well, you`re welcome.

really is great how long you`ve supported gay marriage.

MCKINNON: Yes. I – I could have supported it sooner.

CLINTON: Well, you did it pretty soon.

MCKINNON: Could have been sooner.

CLINTON: Fair point.

DAVID: Eh. Not a fan of the banks. They trample on the middle class.
They control Washington. And why do they chain all their pens to the
desks? Who`s trying to steal a pen from a bank? Makes no sense!


REID: And later, we`ll will show you some Republicans, including late
night`s favorite candidate, Donald Trump.

We`ll be right back.


REID: We`re back with more on the news that Bill Cosby was charged today
with aggravated indecent assault. Cosby has denied the charge in the past.

Today`s news caps a year of reversed fortunes for a man who was considered
a national icon. Cosby was even awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2002. His
downfall began when a stand-up routine by comedian Hannibal Buress went

Buress called Cosby a hypocrite for scolding young African-Americans, in
light of the rape allegations. Soon, a number of women came forward
accusing Cosby of sexual assault. Those stories kept coming, though Cosby
has denied all the allegations.

I`m joined now by “Washington Post” Eugene Robinson and former Pennsylvania
Governor Ed Rendell. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

And I have got to start with you, Governor Rendell, because this is your
state. You are a former prosecutor. And I`m wondering if – what are your
thoughts on, first of all, the fact that it is coming so close to the end
of the statute of limitations and the fact that this really was litigated
as part of the campaign for that office?

ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that doesn`t negate the fact
that the charges are being brought within the statute. It`s right near the
end, but being brought timely, and that a jury has the right to decide Mr.
Cosby`s guilt or innocence.

It is really debilitating for Pennsylvania and for Philadelphia and for
Temple University, where Bill went, because he was not only a national
icon, Joy, but he did so many wonderful things to help people in this area.

I remember when the legislature and I were locked in a battle over
education. He called me and said, can I help? And he came up to
Harrisburg and did a press conference out of his own time, not with one
dime in remuneration, urging the legislature to fund education properly,
because education was the only way out for our kids.

And we got coverage in every TV station in the state. And he did that on
his own. And he did countless acts of kindness. And it was a real body
blow when this came out over a year ago to the people who here love Bill
Cosby and think of him as one of our own.

REID: Yes.

And, Eugene, that issue of education really was so central to the Cosby
brand. All of us who used to watch “The Cosby Show” remember it being Bill
Cosby Ed.D. at the end and him emphasizing education.

Just talk about what – what kind of a blow is it to that iconography that
so many Americans came to depend on in the 1980s?


And it means that, at best, he ends with a certainly mixed legacy. And, of
course, we have to see how this court case ends and whether the charges are
proven beyond a reasonable or not.

But this is a man who certainly was an icon in the African-American
community. He was not uncontroversial, especially in recent years, with
the stridency of his call for sort of personal responsibility and self-
reliance. Sometimes, he made that call in a way that rubbed some people
the wrong way. But I don`t think anyone could doubt, in terms of his
public acts, his sincerity – his sincerity and his commitment to education
and to the betterment of minority communities.

It was there. At the same time, you have, apparently, this other side of
the man that is nothing like the public Bill Cosby. And we are just going
to have to get our heads around that.

REID: Yes, indeed. And this summer, even President Obama weighed in when
he was asked if Cosby should return his Medal of Freedom.


give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a
drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that`s rape. And
this country, any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape.


REID: I will come back to you quickly on that, Eugene.

Is there any greater rebuke than to have the president of the United States
essentially evoke you as a symbol for rape?

ROBINSON: Yes, there is no greater rebuke, I think.

It just has to be a devastating thing. At the same time, one`s sympathy
for Mr. Cosby – it is actually hard for me to call him anything other than
Mr. Cosby. I have met him a couple of times. That`s the way one addresses
him. He`s such a icon.

But one`s sympathy has to be tempered with the fact that there are now
upwards of 50 women who have come out, who have made very, very similar,
consistent allegations about his behavior. And now we have criminal
charges. And that just has to be factored into the mix.

REID: Yes. And very quickly, lastly, Ed Rendell, this trial, is there any
way that the defense will be able to try to move it? Because there is
nowhere in Pennsylvania you could go, nowhere in the world, I would think,
to get a change of venue.

RENDELL: No, they won`t be able to get a change of venue, not at all.

And it will depend on whether the judge lets in the entire transcript of
the deposition and whether he lets prior testimony from other victims into
court. Without that, it is just a naked allegation with no corroborating
evidence. So, who knows?

REID: Yes. Thank you so much, Eugene Robinson and Ed Rendell. Thank you

All right, and up next, we turn to presidential politics, as the Donald
sharpens his focus on Hillary Clinton and Bill.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump is now throwing the kitchen sink at Hillary Clinton. At a
rally in South Carolina today, Trump lit into Clinton with a series of
crowd-pleasing one-liners, which he followed up with a nasty personal

Trump began the rally with a declaration of war and a rapid-fire attack on
Secretary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We view this as war. Don`t we
view this as war? It`s war. It`s war.


TRUMP: Hillary is a disaster. I mean, Hillary…


TRUMP: Hillary is controlled by her money. She has done a terrible job as
secretary of state.

I did have to mention her husband`s situation. OK?


TRUMP: I love, love, love having a woman president. Can`t be her. She is
horrible. She is horrible.

Hillary doesn`t have a clue. By the way, you talk about low-energy. She
has lower energy than Jeb Bush.


REID: And then things got downright nasty.


TRUMP: For the last week, she has been hitting me really hard with the
women card, OK, really hard.

And I had to say, OK, that`s enough. I will tell you who doesn`t like
Hillary are women. Women don`t like Hillary.


TRUMP: I see it all the time.


TRUMP: And always so theatrical. Mr. Trump said this and that and this.

Oh, and you just – I actually – I shouldn`t do it. I just have to turn
off the television so many times. She just gives me a headache.


TRUMP: But, you know – although I think, last night, I gave her a big


TRUMP: I can imagine. I can imagine those discussions. I talked about
her husband and the abuse of women and the tremendous abuse.

No, it`s tremendous abuse. You look at it. It is tremendous abuse. And
now, today, the television is going crazy. And she gets up, makes a
speech, and doesn`t even mention anything about me with sexism or anything
else. I wonder why. I wonder why.



REID: Robert Costa and Anne Gearan are both political reporters with “The
Washington Post.”

All right, Robert, I`m going to come to you first.

The utility of attacking Hillary Clinton, when Donald Trump has yet to win
a primary or a caucus, so attacking her, instead of attacking his
Republican opponents, your thoughts?

ROBERT COSTA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I stopped by Trump Tower this week,
met with some of the Trump advisers. And they are really looking toward
the general election.

And they know that targeting Secretary Clinton at this stage in the primary
may be smart politics, because, as you see from the crowd`s reaction, it
seems to rouse up the audience and get them animated about Trump, and it
also makes him not have to pay attention so much to his own rivals.

REID: And, Anne, I want to play you some vintage Hillary Clinton, because
this is the Clinton a lot of people expected and the way that she responds
to attacks.

This is what she told supporters during the heat of the battle when she ran
for president back in 2007.


you have to deck your opponent. And that is what I believe we are doing.



REID: And, Anne, you are out on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton.
Is she decking Donald Trump or not responding to him at all?

ANNE GEARAN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think they really are a bit
hamstrung when it comes to knowing what the right tone and what – and
right level of response is to Donald Trump.

She has tried to deck him a couple of times by pointing out that his
policies on everything from immigration to Syrian refugees are, as she has
said, dangerous. She has accused him of being an – essentially an ISIS
recruiting tool. That is one way of trying to deck him. It hasn`t really

They have also tried to take the high road, which is what you have seen her
do over the last couple of days. And I think it has yet to be seen whether
that has long-term utility.

But Trump`s response today shows that it certainly didn`t do him any short-
term damage. For Hillary, she really has to decide whether she considers
him and the – sort of the double-edged sexism and women problem
allegations that he has been raising over the last few days are enough of a
threat that she really needs to address it head on.

Doing so would mean giving the Bill Clinton allegations of sexual
exploitation more altitude than they currently have, and it would be coming
from her side, instead of from outside the campaign. And that could be a

REID: Yes. And, by the way, one of the things that Trump said was that
Hillary is not popular with women.

Let`s look at a little statistical information that might refute that.
Hillary Clinton actually trounces Donald Trump with women, as you can see
that Donald Trump is only ahead about – he`s ahead by about five points
with men. But Hillary Clinton is up 57-33 percent with women.

And, Robert Costa, I`m wondering if there is any concern within the Trump
camp that he might actually be turning off Republican women primary voters.

COSTA: You see with the Trump campaign they are trying to get Republican
women who may have reservations about Secretary Clinton excited about Trump

I have been to Trump focus groups. And when you see women react to some of
Trump`s statements, they generally seem to stand by him, even when he says
some things that are incendiary or controversial. But they are more wary
than most men. Men seem to be more willing to accept some of Trump`s

And so by going after Secretary Clinton, it may be turning off general
election women perhaps who are more independent or Democratic-leaning, but
it may be also bringing in those Republican women who have their concerns
about Secretary Clinton and also have their concerns about Trump that –
that maybe loops them in.

REID: All right, very quickly, want to get your boldest prediction for

Robert Costa?

COSTA: I think one bold prediction, if this becomes a potentially
contested convention, you could see some kind of new candidate emerge at
the Cleveland convention. It is unlikely, but it`s certainly possible.

A Mitt Romney, a Paul Ryan, those – the donors for those men would like to
see it, if it ever came to that situation.

REID: And Anne Gearan?

GEARAN: I think that Donald Trump will lose both Iowa and New Hampshire,
maybe not by much, setting up a midterm for the Republican field, where a
Chris Christie or a Ted Cruz has a real clear shot at winning in March.

REID: And if he does that, who will dare call him a loser? Hmm.

All right, thank you very much. We appreciate those predictions.

Robert Costa and Anne Gearan, thank you.

And coming up, from President Obama to Donald Trump, HARDBALL is a must-
stop destination for the big political newsmakers. The roundtable will
take a look back at some of HARDBALL`s best interviews of 2015 next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


breaking news.

The man charged with buying the two assault weapons used in the San
Bernardino attacks is facing new charges, including conspiring with Syed
Farook to provide material support to terrorists in 2011 and 2012. He is
also accused of making a false statement related to the purchase of the
guns and marriage fraud. He is currently being held without bond on
charges brought earlier this month. He is due on court on January 6 –
back to HARDBALL.

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

2015 was an epic year in American politics, a year when big personalities
dominated the discussion. We did our best here at HARDBALL, the place for
politics, to give you a front-row seat to all of the madness and the

Here is just a sampling of the headliners who played HARDBALL in 2015.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: We have got Senator Bernie Sanders joining us now
from the debate. We`re in the so-called spin room.

Right now, we are joined by Republican presidential candidate Mike

He`s author of the new book, “A Time For Truth: Reigniting the Promise of
America.” There he is. And we have him with us tonight.

Thank you so much.

Don`t bad things happen? Why does the Republican Party keep banging on the
door of Benghazi politically?

They were trying to get us into a war under false pretenses, yes or no?
Were they trying to get us into war under false pretenses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?


MATTHEWS: What is the big difference between a Democrat and a socialist?

You`re chairman of the Democratic Party. Tell me the difference between
you and a socialist.

Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama isn`t a legitimate

I want to tell you my theory, Governor.


MATTHEWS: Well, I like you politically, so let`s go through it.

They are throwing the kitchen sink at this trade agreement, which will
involve 11 nations and ourselves on the Pacific Rim. Why are they saying
these things?


REID: Go Chris.

Time now for some of the biggest and wildest HARDBALL interviews of the
year. If you think 2015 was something, just wait until next year.

I`m joined by the HARDBALL round table, “Reuters`” Erin McPike,
“Politico`s” Ken Vogel, and “Time Magazine`s” Jay Newton-Small.

All right. Let`s start with the ugly side of Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama isn`t a
legitimate president?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I knew you would ask me that


MATTHEWS: It`s a good question.

TRUMP: I didn`t say you couldn`t.

MATTHEWS: You can`t stop me.

TRUMP: You know, I should really – no, I can`t. I should not tell you
this but I do watch you a lot. So, I knew you were going to ask that
question and you know what I`ll say?

MATTHEWS: Well, because he`s the president of the United States.

TRUMP: I don`t talk about that anymore. Here`s the story, I don`t answer
because you know what? If I do answer, that`s all people want to talk

MATTHEWS: It`s over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to have to answer it in a general

MATTHEWS: We Catholics believe in confession. You say you were wrong and
you move on.

TRUMP: OK, well –

MATTHEWS: Do you really believe –

TRUMP: I don`t want to answer the question.


REID: Ken Vogel, if Donald Trump is a nominee, does birtherism help or
hurt him?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Oh, it absolutely hurts and there`s no question. You
know, Chris finishes up by saying he thinks it is Donald Trump`s original
sin. But in the eyes of a lot of Republican primary voters, it is really
his original appeal is when he first got out there as a flame thrower on
the right, appeal to the FOX News crowd, and kind of made his name, set the
groundwork for this candidacy and it`s definitely helped him. He`s
continued – he said many more outrageous things since then, since he
launched his campaign.

But once – if he wins the nomination and pivots to the general election,
he`s going to have a lot of explaining to do starting with that.

REID: Yes. All right. Let`s go to the guy who definitely has not
forgotten that. President Obama plays HARDBALL by taking aim at Elizabeth
Warren and the Democrats` left plank. It was the president`s biggest fight
with his own party over a massive trade deal that progressives and unions
absolutely despised.


allies on a host of issues, but she is wrong on this.

Look, Chris, think about it – I spent the last 6 1/2 years yanking this
economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Everything
I have done from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum
wage to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get
good job training, to what we`re pushing now in terms of sick pay leave,
everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is
getting a fair deal.

Now, I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good
for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions
about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are


REID: Erin McPike, folks means Elizabeth Warren and her wing of the party
which is giving the party its energy right now. Does this trade deal wind
up being a factor in the Democratic primary or in the general?

ERIN MCPIKE, REUTERS: Well, it certainly has been a factor in the
Democratic primary. And, of course, you hear Bernie Sanders talking about
it all the time and then Hillary Clinton came out against the trade deal.

What I would say about this, though, is that President Obama won. He won
big here. 2015 was a big year for him. We are not talking about Elizabeth
Warren at the end of 2015. Bernie Sanders has become the leader of the
progressive movement in the Democratic Party.

By and large, this is something Democrats are talking about. And, of
course, Donald Trump has been talking about it. It`s been an issue in the
Republican primary as well. But this has been a movement that Barack Obama
has taken from the Democrats really.

REID: All right. Well, this was the year that Ted Cruz road the Trump
wave to become a serious contender for the Republican nomination.

Cruz launched his bear hug strategy on HARDBALL this summer. He refused to
attack Trump even when presented with Trump`s birther style comments about
Cruz`s Canadian birthplace.


MATTHEWS: The day you announced your candidacy, Senator, that Trump also
said your birth place, you were born in Calgary, as your father was working
up there, father and mother at that time up in Canada, could be a hurdle
for your campaign. What do you think of the fact he still says it`s a
hurdle for you. By the way, you are quite open about how you grew up and
where you were born.

look, I like Donald Trump. You know, there are a lot of folks seem to be
crawling all over themselves just to smack Donald Trump. I`m not one of
them. I think he`s bold. I think he`s brash. I think he`s got backbone.

MATTHEWS: Why does he say stuff about you?

CRUZ: As you noted, my mom is Irish and Italian, born in Wellington,
Delaware. And when I was born in Calgary, I was a citizen by birth. I
never breathe a breath of air on earth –

MATTHEWS: Yes. So, you are black Irish. This is great.


REID: Jay Newton-Small, is Ted Cruz the real big winner of 2015? We talk
a lot about Trump. But is he the big winner?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: Certainly. Iowa is looking more and more
like it`s his to lose. And so, the strategy of embracing Trump with this
bear hug as he told Chris seems to have been incredibly successful. He is
one of the guys to beat going into 2016 if he wins, he`d have a lot of
momentum, he could become the front runner.

REID: Really, I know he is popular, Jay. But why hasn`t the Canada thing
stuck to him, do you think?

NEWTON-SMALL: The Canada thing –

REID: Being born in Canada?

NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, look, there`s plenty – like John McCain was born in
Panama. He was born on a military base. These are – I mean, like, it`s
only really a question when people have mingling doubts of their minds of
somehow that they are un-American or somehow that they are not – they
question their patriotism. And nobody really is questioning Ted Cruz`s
patriotism here and that`s why it`s not really an issue.

REID: Yes, well, John McCain was not a dual citizen.

All right. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, all eyes are
on Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel as the city grapples with ongoing tensions
between the African-American community and the police.

HARDBALL is back after this.


REID: Earlier, we showed you some of the best late night moments for the
Democrats running for president. Now for the Republicans, late night hosts
couldn`t have dreamed that Donald Trump would be a front runner six months
into his candidacy and not once do they let him off the hook.
Occasionally, the Donald got in on the fun. Take a look.


TRUMP: Part of the reason I`m here is that I know how to take a joke.

Me interviewing me, that`s what I call a great idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it`s a great idea. We thought of it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST: He is in self-destructible. He declared he was
running for president and followed it up with Mexicans are rapists and John
McCain is a coward. Nothing he says or does can turn off voters. His
campaign slogan might as well be – Trump 2016, you`re stupid and ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to say doing a great job. In fact, I think the
show got better by about 2 billion percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you think it is going to go?

TRUMP: It`s going to be really class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s going to be really fantastic. It`s going to be

TRUMP: Huge!


REID: We`ll be right back.



MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: We will improve communication between
officers and individuals to make these encounters less confrontational and
more conversational. And we will double the number of tasers to 1,400
while also providing officers the training to use them properly.


REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announcing a mayor overhaul of
police procedures. It comes in the wake of last weekend`s fatal police
shootings of two people. Critics continue to call for the mayor`s
resignation, and the Department of Justice has launched a special
investigation into how the Chicago Police Department uses deadly force.

The roundtable is back with us.

And, Ken Vogel, I`m wondering at what point do Rahm Emanuel`s local
problems in Chicago become a national story and/or a national problem for
the Democrats?

VOGEL: Yes, I think they could. This is already an issue, police/civilian
interaction, police brutality questions in the Democratic primary. To the
extent that Rahm Emanuel is already a national figure, very close to the
Clintons, has been relied upon as a bit of a surrogate, I think we could
see a diminishment of that, potentially, because of this.

But I don`t necessarily see his problems in Chicago or rather he as a
figurehead for this debate, as inflaming the issue anymore than it already
is an issue in the Democratic primary.

REID: And, Erin McPike, not to take Rahm Emanuel`s side, but he tried to
blow this up as a national problem and say, it`s not just about Chicago,
but this is a bipartisan and national problem. If you look at the
statistics in the year that is just about to end, police officers have
killed nearly a thousand citizens, African-Americans make up just 6 percent
of the U.S. population. They account for 40 percent of the unarmed men
shot to death by police this year.

Erin, I think it`s fair to say, particularly the Democrats, but also
Republicans, did not expect to have to be litigating issues of policing and
race in 2016. How – they can`t avoid it, right?

MCPIKE: Well, that`s right. But this has been a bigger problem over the
last few years, and we`re talking about a number of episodes that have
piled up, especially over the last couple of years.

So, yes, both sides do have to take a look. This is a bigger problem for
Rahm Emanuel than it is for most other mayors because of what`s going on in
Chicago. And Rahm Emanuel has not handled himself all that well.

Not only are people calling for his resignation now, but Rahm Emanuel`s
whole tenure in office has been troubled. So, this is a bigger problem for
Rahm Emanuel, especially as he tries to resuscitate this political career
that`s, you know, he`s having some problems in Chicago right now. It`s not
just this. It`s the education issues, budget issues in Chicago.

Several years ago, joy, in early 2013, people were talking about Rahm
Emanuel starting to reach out to potential donors about a presidential bid
in 2016 if Hillary Clinton didn`t run. How far has he fallen since then?
This is a bad story for Rahm Emanuel.

REID: Very quickly, Jay Newton-Small, down ticket races now suddenly have
a big import for Democrats. Are you hearing out there among Democratic
politicians or political operatives that they are now concerned that you
could start to see some down ticket instability because of these issues
with DAs, et cetera?

NEWTON-SMALL: Certainly, it`s a problem for, you know, if you`re going to
worry about these things, but honestly, the down-ballot races, I`ve heard
much more concern about are the Republican races. You`ve got Donald Trump.
That makes Republicans, senatorial candidates much, much, much more
concerned than anything than Rahm Emanuel is doing right now.

So, yes, there is concern, but not as much. And I think with the steps
Rahm`s taking, hopefully, that will quiet the concern.

REID: All right. Thank you very much to the roundtable tonight. Erin
McPike, Ken Vogel, and Jay Newton-Small, happy New York.

And when we return, let me finish with the choice at hand in 2016.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


REID: Let me finish tonight with a word on hope and change versus fear and

Tomorrow is New Year`s Eve. It`s a night when people around the world
renew their faith in themselves and in the future by vowing to do better,
be better, and to achieve big, if sometimes unrealistic goals in the coming

This New Year will bring us a presidential election, one in which we have
no incumbent asking for another term. And so each of the parties will make
their case for how they will renew the country`s civic spirit.

In America`s history, some of our most successful politicians have run on a
promise of positive change, igniting the country`s sense of optimism and
hope. It`s true that going after people`s deepest fears has also been the
ticket to the White House for some, but the legacy of running or governing
based on fear is to leave the country more cynical, more on edge, and much
harder to unite.

When Barack Obama was elected, Republicans had a choice. Would they let
the president have his due and govern on the hopeful platform he ran on,
even if they disagreed with it, the way Democrats did with Reagan and
George W. Bush, or would they fight him until the last dog died and play to
the fear and loathing of his most bitter and angry detractors, essentially
promising total victory over the supposed interloper in the White House?
The way the Gingrich brigades played the Clinton era.

Would they launch total war on Obama, even at the risk of ripping the
country apart, right down the seams of race and demographic change, blue
color erosion, income inequality, and economic anxiety that were always
there just below the surface?

We all know what choice was made, and when they inevitably failed, time and
again to deliver the defeat of this president, that anger and rage
inevitably turned on them. And now, the coming election promises to be a
brutal contest, of who can best exploit the fear and loathing and anxiety
of the American people. Not a very happy prospect for the New Year.

And that does it for me and HARDBALL.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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