Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/12/2016
Date: December 12, 2016
Guest: Sen. Chris Coons, Greg Miller, Steven Clemons, Jon Ralston, Anne
Gearan, Ruth Marcus, Ken Vogel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump versus the CIA.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
I am not an adviser to president-elect Donald Trump. If I were, I would
look him in the eye right now and tell him how wrong he is on this question
of who to trust.
Trump is denying that Russia intervened in the presidential campaign. He`s
attacking the CIA for discovering the intervention. He`s thinking of
naming John Bolton to the State Department.
How can he do such things? He ran against the Iraq war. He said it was
stupid, horrible, disastrous. But it wasn`t the CIA`s fault we started
that war. The chief briefer for the agency told me on air that no one from
the CIA ever told an administration official that Iraq had nuclear weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe he has, in
fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
MATTHEWS: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”
Was that true or not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we were saying…
MATTHEWS: Was that true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were saying…
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not true.
MATTHEWS: They`re selling the war, using your stuff, saying that you made
that case when you didn`t. So they`re using your credibility to make the
case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I`m just telling you…
MATTHEWS: Well, you just admitted it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just telling what we said…
MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On some aspects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, it wasn`t the intelligence people who took us into Iraq.
It was the nest of neocons at the Pentagon and the vice president`s office
who pushed that horrible war from day one, and it was John Bolton at the
State Department pushing the case all the way.
And when went learned there were no nuclear weapons or chemical or
biological weapons in Iraq there, the neocons around Dick Cheney wanted us
to blame it on the CIA. I watched “Washington Post” reporters Dana Priest
and Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus cover that blame game for weeks, and
yes, I watched the neocons expose CIA agent Valerie Plame`s undercover
identity in order to throw off the blame for their ruthless push for war.
So now the incoming commander-in-chief is going to war with the CIA, which
dared conclude that Russia intervened with the campaign with the intention
of helping Trump win.
Well, “The Washington Post” first reported that stunning conclusion this
past Friday night. Trump`s response to the news has been to impugn the
intelligence agency. In a statement, he said, “These are the same people
that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
No, they weren`t! Wrong! It wasn`t the intelligence professionals, it was
the ideologues around Dick Cheney. You saw it in that back and forth right
there. Mike Morell said they never told Cheney. Cheney ran out with that
story he made up himself.
On Fox, yesterday, Trump dismissed the idea that Russia was involved in the
hacking, something the entire intelligence community concludes.
In fact, here`s Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think it`s ridiculous. I think it`s
just another excuse. I don`t believe it. I don`t know why. And I think
it`s just – you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week,
it`s another excuse. If you look at the story and you take a look at what
they said, there`s great confusion. Nobody really knows.
And hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don`t catch them
in the act, you`re not gong to catch them. They have no idea if it`s
Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed
someplace. I mean, they have no idea who it was.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So why would the CIA put out the story that the
Russians wanted you to win?
TRUMP: Well, I`m not sure they put it out. I think the Democrats are
putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the
history of politics in this country.
Personally, it could be Russia. It – it – I don`t really think it is.
But who knows? I don`t know, either. They don`t know and I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There are now bipartisan calls, including from the top
Republican in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, for a congressional
investigation into Russia`s hacking. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Obviously, any foreign
breach of our sovereign security measures is disturbing, and I strongly
condemn any such efforts. I agree with Senator Schumer, Chairman McCain,
Burr and others. This simply cannot be a partisan issue.
I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community and especially
the Central Intelligence Agencies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is Senator Chris Coons of Delaware,
“The Washington Post`s” Greg Miller, who broke the story Friday, and
Malcolm Nance, an MSNBC terrorism analyst and a former intelligence officer
himself. He`s the author of “The Plot to Hack America.”
I`ve got little time here for all this. We got to get to – Senator Coons,
what do you make of Trump`s claim that the CIA is not to be trusted? He`s
just going to go on his own wits in terms of everything, no more briefings,
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: It`s very disturbing, Chris. Someone who
as president-elect has a strikingly limited amount of experience in
intelligence matters or in international affairs, is saying we should just
disregard that Russia is not our friend and that all of the intelligence
community, not just the CIA, more than a dozen different intelligence
agencies across the entire U.S. government has delivered a message to
Congress that, with high confidence, they believe at the most senior levels
of the Russian government, there was an intentional effort to interfere
with our democracy.
I`m very pleased that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has joined
with Senators McCain and Graham and Rubio and others in a bipartisan call
to make sure we get to the bottom of this and that we respond
appropriately. I think this is a very big deal, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, as an American, of the fact that the evidence
now that the Russian, the former Soviet Union over there, if you will, from
my memory – we can all remember the cold war – that that country over
there deliberately got involved in our political campaigning so the one
side, the one they wanted to win, in this case, Trump, won. What do you
make of that, as an American, not as a politician?
COONS: Well, Chris, first, I led a bipartisan delegation to Eastern Europe
back in August, when we first got news this was likely happening. And it`s
striking to me how many countries across Central, Eastern and Western
Europe have already been victims of overt and covert Russian interference
in their elections. This is something that the Russians are doing across
all of Europe. And as an American…
MATTHEWS: What do they want?
COONS: … I think this goes right to the heart of our country. We are
defined as a democracy. And if we allow this to go unchallenged, if we
allow this to go uninvestigated, and if we allow this to go without a
robust response, I think we`re letting down America.
MATTHEWS: Why are they picking Trump? Why do they want him?
COONS: Well, I think that`s something that we should be investigating more
thoroughly. But his nominee, his potential nominee for secretary of state,
just to give one example, Rex Tillerson, is somebody who is such a close
friend of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin that he`s received a medal of
friendship from Vladimir Putin.
I`m concerned that anyone who is a close friend of Vladimir Putin may not
really have the best interests of the United States at heart.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Greg. Congratulations, Greg, on this incredible
reporting. I mean, incredible reporting, I should say. How do you – what
do you know that drove them? Do we know what drove the Russians to
intervene in our election on behalf of Trump?
GREG MILLER, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I mean, I think that the sense we
have is that they were sort of trying lots of different things, and then
exploring lots of vulnerabilities from various parties and various
candidates, who (ph) were sort of equal opportunity hacking in multiple
But as it became clearer and clearer that Trump would be the Republican
nominee, and then, in fact, have a real shot at winning, a lot more energy
went into supporting that prospect and that possibility.
And I would add to what the senator was just saying. I think that, you
know, initially, looked like they were just out to undermine confidence in
democratic institutions or just a simple presidential vote in the United
States. And then over time, it became more of a concerted effort to try to
get Trump into office.
MATTHEWS: When did they decide not to release the hacked information from
the Republican National Committee, as they had done with the Democratic
MILLER: We`ve spent a fair amount of time reporting on that exact
question, Chris. And we have a story, I think it will run tomorrow, that
will, hopefully, clear that up a bit. It`s a little murky, but it`s – one
of the big questions is whether they actually obtained a trove of
They certainly tried. They certainly made attempts to get material. And
if they didn`t, there`s a question about why they didn`t try. I mean,
there are a lot of security officials I talked to said the Russians are
certainly capable of getting into an unclassified network like the RNC
computer systems. They don`t appear necessarily to have gathered a
comparable trove in this case. So it`s not obvious that they had one and
were sitting on it.
It looks more likely that they went after the Democrats harder, got more
material, and put all of it or a lot of it out.
MATTHEWS: How sophisticated are the Russians at figuring out and basically
plucking the stuff they knew would cause trouble?
MILLER: Well, I think that – the Russians are regarded as highly
sophisticated, one of the most sophisticated cyber adversaries for the
And I think, though, that you see here, they have a pretty decent
understanding of the vulnerabilities of the American system and – in some
ways, how little is required to sow confusion, if not dissent.
MILLER: So I mean, just the story lines that we`ve seen, even over the
past several days, if this is – these are true conclusions from the CIA,
if they`re accurate, I mean, this must be deeply satisfying to Putin and
MATTHEWS: I know because they pulled this stuff about Donna Brazile, the
stuff from Palmieri about the – her fellow Catholics. They really knew
their stuff, unfortunately.
In his interview for Fox this weekend, Donald Trump also dismissed the idea
of even having a daily intelligence briefing as president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: I just want to ask you about your skepticism about the
intelligence community. You are getting the Presidential Daily Brief…
WALLACE: … only once a week.
TRUMP: Well, I get it when I need it.
WALLACE: But is it – is there some skepticism…
TRUMP: First of all, these are very good people that are giving me the
briefings. And I say, If something should change from this point,
immediately call me. I`m available on one minute`s notice. I don`t have
to be told – you know, I`m, like, a smart person. I don`t have to be told
the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.
Could be eight years, but eight years. I don`t need that. But I do say if
something should change, let us know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Malcolm Nance, free fall – free opportunity for you to critique
what you just heard. I don`t know what to make of it because thank God we
had the CIA telling us in August of 2001 that they were coming to attack us
in this country, al Qaeda. Unfortunately, we had a president who didn`t
move on it, but the CIA damned well gave it to him in his PBD that day in
August. So here`s a president-elect that doesn`t seem to want the PDB
every day. Your thoughts.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC SECURITY ANALYST: He doesn`t seem to understand that
the world changes on a very small scale every day. When he goes to sleep
at night, if he hasn`t read his pre – you know, PM dossier or his 29 –
2359 Zulu report at night and – the next morning, the world will wake up
different. And he needs to know that.
And although he says, You can just come back to me when it changes – it`s
constantly changing. There are thousands of intelligence watch officers
right now all around the world watching this program, smacking their
foreheads, wondering whether the president-elect of the United States is
absolutely oblivious to the intelligence processes or he just doesn`t care.
MATTHEWS: You know, the Medal of Freedom, Dan Patrick Moynihan, the
senator from New York, discovered there was a medal given to intelligence
officers who were killed overseas. It had to be done quietly, but they had
to be honored. And it was appropriate. We`ve lost a lot of spies over the
years who have gone into horrible situations, been brilliant at risking
their lives and sometimes lost their lives for this country.
What do you make of his broad brush attack on the intelligence community,
Mr. Trump`s, Malcolm?
NANCE: Well, I think it`s absolutely disgraceful. I mean, if the election
hadn`t occurred, it would be disqualifying. But we`ve been using that word
I have three friends on the wall at the CIA. I have six who I`ve worked
with at NSA`s wall, on the wall of those who have lost their lives in the
defense of this nation. There are tens of thousands of good people, men
and women, working 24/7, 365 to defend this nation, and he discards them
because he thinks he knows better!
Right now, what we need to know is why does this man`s policy track with
the Kremlin? Why does this man`s policy seem dismissive of 70 years of
American defense policy and strategies? Why does this man seem to have
foreknowledge of intelligence operations which have occurred with the
acquiescence or the direction of the Kremlin? This requires investigation.
And believe me, I certainly hope that we get to the bottom of it.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Senator Coons. Senator Coons, an old
Washington hand, years ago, maybe 30, 40 years ago, told me when you`re
dealing with bureaucrats, people work for the country who are nonpartisan -
- they just do their job for the country. They don`t make a ton of money.
That`s what they do, they serve the country.
And he said, you know, they don`t do their best work when they`re being
dumped on. He used worse words, but you get it. To dump on a bunch of
people that work for the government and risk their lives in many cases and
use the supreme ability of their intellect to try to save us from trouble -
- where`s this headed?
What is Trump – if you could be his Dutch uncle, what would you tell him?
What would you tell Trump right now?
COONS: I`d tell him to stop tweeting. I`d tell him to start taking your
presidential daily briefing. And I`d tell him that he – frankly, it would
be in his best interests and the country`s interests for him to stop
attacking the professionals in the intelligence community and start relying
on their advice.
I frankly think he`s headed for some very rough water with both Republicans
and Democrats in Congress. The idea that somehow, he as a great deal
maker, might nominate someone for secretary of state and for deputy
secretary of state…
COONS: … who also view themselves as great deal makers and they might
cut some grand deal with Putin that would sell down the river Ukraine or
the Baltic allies we have through NATO, I think will profoundly upset the
American people. And his disrespect to the career professionals in the
intelligence community is a very alarming opening move before he`s even
MATTHEWS: Senator Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sir,
and of the state of Delaware, thank you so much for coming on on this very
COONS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Greg Miller, I think it`s a very important bit of work you`re
doing right now and I hope you keep going with this. What a story and how
scary it is that we have a foreign government that`s been so successful in
Malcolm Nance, as always, sir, your passion and your brains are much
Coming up – if Russia did intervene – interfere in our election to help
Donald Trump win, what do they want from him? And what do they expect to
get? We`re going to ask the former United States ambassador to Russia
next. He`s coming here.
Plus, outgoing Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says FBI director James
Comey cost Hillary Clinton the election. He also says Democrats would have
won control of the Senate had Comey not sent that letter just days before
the election. Reid`s now calling for an investigation into Coomey. Anyway
– Comey, rather
And the HARDBALL roundtable is here to remind Trump that the issue of
Russian hacking was brought up during the election campaign – a lot of
times! And if he`s still wondering about that, we`ve got lots of tape,
videotape to refresh his memory. We`ve talked about this a lot.
Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch” and the stark divide
between what Trump is saying and what`s actually true.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Breaking news tonight. Donald Trump is postponing a previously
announced press conference that he planned to hold on Thursday. The
purpose of the presser was to announce how he will handle his private
business during his term as president.
According to Bloomberg, senior transition officials say that will be
postponed until next month. Bloomberg was first to report that news, and
NBC has confirmed it. The president-elect has said he would hand off the
business operations to his grown children, but hasn`t provided details of
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In his case, he`s much more than a business executive. I mean,
he`s a world-class player. He`s in charge of, I guess, the largest company
in the world. It`s been a company that`s been unbelievably managed. And
to me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them
well. He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals – for the
company – not for himself, but for the company.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President-elect Trump, of
course, speaking about Exxonmobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who NBC News reported
over the weekend is expected to be named as Trump`s and the country`s
secretary of state perhaps in a day or two.
Anyway, the choice of Tillerson could ignite the first showdown between
Trump and members of his own Republican Party up on Capitol Hill.
Tillerson`s close business ties to Russia and Trump`s own reluctance to
criticize Putin but instead take shots at U.S. intelligence officials is
concerning, to put it lightly, to the Republican Party.
A Tillerson pick comes amid the uproar over a report that the CIA believes
Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win.
Well, because of ExxonMobil`s working relationship with the Russian
government, Tillerson was given the country`s, Russia`s Order of Friendship
decoration. Look at it. There he is getting the award in 2012.
Republican Senators fired the first shots across Trump`s bow over the
weekend. Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “Being a friend of Vladimir
is not an attribute I`m hoping for from a secretary of state.”
South Carolina`s Lindsey Graham said, “If you received an award from the
Kremlin, Order of Friendship, then we`re going to have some talking.”
And here`s what Arizona Senator John McCain had to say:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is a matter of concern to me that he has
such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.
And, obviously, they have done enormous deals together, that that would
color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat. But that is a
matter of concern. We will give him his chance. That`s what the
confirmation process, that is what advise and consent is all about.
But when he gets the friendship award from a butcher, frankly, it`s an
issue that I think needs to be examined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, campaign manager and transition adviser Kellyanne Conway
defended the possibility of Tillerson at State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: It`s not like Vladimir Putin and
Rex Tillerson are pounding down vodka at the local bar. They`re not
But they deal with each other through business interests. And I think,
most importantly, anybody who is in President Trump`s Cabinet, particularly
the secretary of state, the fourth highest ranking person in our
government, that person will be advancing the interests of the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Michael McFaul is an MSNBC contributor and the former
United States ambassador to Russia. Steven Clemons is Washington editor at
large at “The Atlantic.”
And, Mr. Ambassador, thank you.
Give us your – take some time. What do you think of Tillerson as
secretary of state?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I have the same concerns of the
various senators you just had clips of.
Obviously, he`s a very experienced CEO of a major company. He`s been there
for his entire career. And with respect to Russia, I know his operation
and his people in Moscow well. They did some fantastic deals, a $300
billion deal with Rosneft, the largest oil company in Russia.
And they did that deal because he developed a close personal relationship
with Vladimir Putin. That`s the way that system works. You don`t do that
kind of deal without that relationship. And until this moment, they were
very proud of the fact that they had that kind of access with Putin that
almost no other Americans have.
That said, our relationship is not just about energy. It`s is not just
about drilling in the Arctic. It`s about Syria, it`s about Ukraine, it`s
about annexation, the illegal annexation of Crimea. It`s about North
And I`m just not convinced yet that he understands the full portfolio just
in dealing with Russia, let alone the rest of the world.
Well, let`s talk about the old East-West problem. I grew up with it. You
grew up with it, the ambassador did, where we worried most about Russia and
China. And we worry about some of the satellite countries like North
Korea. OK, we worry about them, because they have nuclear weapons, and
they can go to nuclear war, potentially.
So what does Tillerson do if the North Koreans drop a bomb on Seoul? These
are horrible thoughts, but somebody has to have them in their head. What
do you do then?
STEVEN CLEMONS, EDITOR AT LARGE, “THE ATLANTIC”: And I agree with
everything Mike McFaul just said.
But, that said, our own secretary of state, John Kerry, has been trying to
work out a relationship with Putin and Sergei Lavrov, try and find areas to
collaborate within Syria. When you`re a Permanent Five member – they
collaborated with us, Iran – there are going to be areas where our
interests diverge dramatically and where they converge.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the Baltics.
CLEMONS: So, if you drop a bomb on Seoul, you are going to need Russia and
China and others aligned in an action.
There`s this notion that America moving unilaterally through the world is
something to celebrate and boast about it. It`s just not the way the world
I gave that extreme case. And I hope in our lifetimes we don`t see
anything like it, Ambassador. But you have to wonder about what a guy who
deals with gut instinct would do. He would just drop another on there.
Well, what would that accomplish?
But you have to have a sense ahead of time where you`re going to – let`s
take something less drastic, a middle case. He grabs one of the Baltics.
He just grabs one. He marches in and takes it, because he got the wrong
message. Like, remember April Glaspie gave the wrong message to Saddam and
Acheson gave the wrong message to the North Koreans back in `50?
You give wrong messages, wars start. We have seen that, Ambassador. How
do we avoid a war with Tillerson? Because stupidity and ignorance do bring
wars. And failure to lay down the line ahead of time, what you will do if
they do it, is usually what gets us into trouble. Your thoughts?
MCFAUL: Well, of course, we will have to engage. We will have to avoid
that through diplomacy.
And I do want to underscore that, if you have run ExxonMobil, you have a
lot of experience with diplomacy with people around the world. That`s
important to say, first and foremost.
But the problem is just looking through the lens of diplomacy through
energy or even business, that`s what troubles me. We have other things we
have to think about. His closest business partner in Russia today is Igor
Sechin. Sechin is on the sanctions list. And I think he`s on the
sanctions list for good reason, because Russia annexed Crimea and
intervened in Ukraine.
So, we have to – that is part of the policy, too, in my view, and that`s
why you have to – in my view, have a larger portfolio and think about
these things, not just from the narrow perspective of energy.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the world. There`s a whole globe out there.
And I do agree with Trump`s – the things I do agree with the guy, when he
does – opposition to the Iraq War, to the extent he was opposed to it.
I don`t like the idea of secretaries of states being constantly in
airplanes. I think at some point you have got to use modern technology and
sit in Washington in Foggy Bottom or at the White House and advise the
president, quality time with the president, lots of it.
So, you have one like Jim Baker and George senior Bush – George Bush Sr.,
get your heads together. Shultz and Reagan. Get your heads together,
understand the world. That`s a learning process. And bopping around with
these long trips…
CLEMONS: There has to be strategy. There has to be strategic depth.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I don`t think you have…
CLEMONS: And, right now, we don`t have a sense from Donald Trump and his
team whether they`re doing things by accident or they`re doing things on
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
CLEMONS: We don`t know whether the flirtation with Russia is a strategic
pivot for the United States that many of us don`t support, but,
nonetheless, you can make a case for it. And you`re simultaneously taking
And, by the way, you`re basically planting an element of doubt in every
ally of the United States about America`s willingness to be with them in
their dark days. So, you have a problem, where now we have total global
fragility. All of our allies` behaviors are going to change. And you have
two of the big stakeholders, Russia and China, getting very different
signals than they have been getting from the United States.
And all of this is happening on a dime. So, in that world, you do need
someone. I don`t know if Rex Tillerson is the guy, but he has run a
complex role. Brent Scowcroft was on his board. And they`re close friends
But I agree with Mike that you want to make sure that it`s not through an
oil and energy lens only that you`re looking at the way in which America
pursues its diplomacy.
MATTHEWS: You have two men of great narcissistic intent here, Ambassador.
What is – what do you think, in his fantastic world, Putin is looking for
from Trump? What`s he really want? A bigger – bring back the near
empire, enlarge it, annex Ukraine? What does he want?
MCFAUL: Well, I think the point about strategy that Steve just pointed out
is really important.
So far – and I have listened to a lot of what president-elect Trump has
said about Russia for a long time. And, by the way, you`re right, Chris.
We have been talking about hacking and the threat to our democracy for a
long time on this program, well before this weekend.
So, let`s be clear about what he said. He said: I want a good
relationship with Russia.
That`s his objective. And Putin says, OK, I will give you that. If you
want to meet the objective, here`s the price. Support me in Syria.
Support my ally in Syria. Support me in Ukraine. Recognize Crimea.
That`s a bad deal. The problem, I think, in terms of the strategy so far
is, we don`t know what the actual objectives for American security should
be. So, the objectives should be define those first, and then use your
engagement, your personal relations to achieve those. In other words, he`s
got the means and the ends mixed up, in my view.
MATTHEWS: My only hope – and I`m always looking for the pony in the crap
pile, as I say all the time, like Reagan did. I`m always looking for hope.
MATTHEWS: Could it be we could eventually cut some deal with Putin over
Syria where you partition the country, the Alawites get their little piece
of Syria, and maybe the Assad family can hang out there for another couple
of years, maybe three or four years, some kind of compromise where they`re
allowed the to have a soft landing, but we get them out of there
eventually, and we bring back some kind of – some sort of Sunni-controlled
Syria that`s somewhat moderate?
That`s my hope.
Steve, you`re laughing, but it`s my hope.
CLEMONS: It`s nice to have hopes.
MATTHEWS: OK. We need the hopes.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I`m not with Netanyahu, where it`s just the world is
going to hell.
Anyway, thank you, Michael McFaul.
And thank you, Steven Clemons.
Up next: Harry Reid said FBI Director James Comey cost Hillary Clinton the
election. Fair enough argument there. He`s calling for an investigation.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
The Wisconsin Election Commission says Donald Trump picked up 162 votes in
a presidential election recount requested by Green Party candidate Jill
Meanwhile, the state of Pennsylvania is just now submitting its certified
presidential election results. President-elect Trump defeated Hillary
Clinton there by about 44,000 votes.
And check out these scary scenes in California where a gaping sinkhole
opened up under a trail leading down to a beach in Pacifica. Fortunately,
no one was hurt – back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: And Comey helped Trump
significantly. A week before the election, he came out with this. Oh, we
found some more e-mails. And, as a result of that, we lost Senate seats
and I think we lost the presidency.
Had he not written that letter a week or so before the election, she would
have won. We would have picked up at least two more Senate seats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, hard to argue with that.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was outgoing – I don`t think outgoing in the right personality trait
– Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid laying Hillary Clinton and the
Democrats` defeat in November squarely at the feet of FBI Director James
Senator Reid also says the FBI director knew about Russian interference in
the 2016 election, but withheld the information from the public and refused
to act for political – actually, partisan reasons.
He had tougher words for Comey in a phone interview on Saturday with my
colleague Joy Reid, when he referred to Comey as the new J. Edgar Hoover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H. REID: I did not believe that Comey was the new J. Edgar Hoover. I
thought that he would do the right thing for the country.
You know, this is clear. We have all read the press the last few days.
The FBI had this material for a long time. Comey, who`s, you know, of
course, a Republican, refused to divulge this information we got on Russia
and the presidential election. He violated the orders of the attorney
general, precedent, and good taste.
JOY REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: You believe that Jim Comey, the FBI director, had
this information and deliberately withheld it from the American people
before the election? Is that your contention?
H. REID: That`s right. That is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is MSNBC political analyst and Nevada
politics expert Jon Ralston, also Anne Gearan of “The Washington Post.”
Jon, I want to ask you about this guy Reid. I mean, he has – he`s firing
in both directions. He said the FBI talked because they wanted to help
Trump. The CIA didn`t talk because they wanted to help Trump. They`re all
Is this – this is a pretty strong claim of partisanship, not institutional
purpose, but partisan Republican behavior. He certainly has a case to make
in terms of the impact, the consequence. But the motive, that`s a pretty
stark charge. And I don`t know how you prove it even if you have an
JON RALSTON, “RALSTON REPORTS”: Well, of course, this isn`t the first
time, Chris, that Harry Reid has made a charge he can`t prove. We all
remember Mitt Romney and the taxes.
But this is Harry Reid doing what Harry Reid does. I think a lot of people
think, because you mentioned that he`s outgoing, that he`s willing to say
But Harry Reid has never had a self-editing mechanism. And he`s clearly
very upset, even though he`s leaving, that Hillary Clinton lost, that he
was unable to hold onto the U.S. – to take over the U.S. Senate for the
Democrats, even though he managed to hold his own seat.
So, he`s out there with his blunderbuss, as he usually is, firing in all
directions. And, believe me, he`s going to keep doing it up until January
3, and probably even in retirement.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it`s about? I mean, he talked about not being
– not getting anywhere on his good looks or anything. That was a funny
line. Self-deprecation always works.
ANNE GEARAN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: But he has also talked about how good works should get results.
Well, we all know, in life, the hardest-working people don`t all make it.
And he argues, because he worked so hard to deliver Nevada for his Senate
candidate, for Hillary Clinton, that somehow that good work should have
brought results, when, in fact, you know, that`s life. Some things really
do break the wrong way.
Do you think he can make a case in a hearing or a Senate commission that
the FBI and the CIA were both acting partisan, acting partisan on purpose?
GEARAN: Well, from our “Washington Post” reporting shows that there is a
fair amount of – to back him up, but certainly not – he`s gone farther
than – certainly than Hillary Clinton did, or than really other Democrats
have gone in saying it`s…
MATTHEWS: How do you show that Comey – I can imagine being a real
partisan and saying, yes, Comey did at the last minute, he timed it to
screw her, to screw Hillary Clinton, and that she – he knew she couldn`t
overcome it, and he did it twice, right, right near the end.
GEARAN: Well, even – even if Comey was acting purely, as he has – you
know, has indicated, and as his partisans have said on his behalf, for the
good of the FBI, and because he felt that there would be some sort of an
internal insurrection and the material would leak out, and that it would
look even more – it would look more partisan than he believed it was…
MATTHEWS: Well, Harry Reid…
GEARAN: Even if he believed that…
MATTHEWS: Harry Reid didn`t say that. He said: “I`m disappointed in
Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes.”
MATTHEWS: He did this to hurt Hillary and to get Trump elected, that`s the
GEARAN: And that goes a lot farther than Hillary has gone in her own
defense. So, it`s interesting that it`s coming from Harry Reid.
MATTHEWS: Jon, that charge is hard to prove and hard to disprove. You
don`t – you just never know about motive and what`s in a person`s head,
unless he had a conversation with somebody, and they`re sitting around
having a drinking, saying, I`m going to get that – I`m going to beat
Hillary Clinton. I`m going to do this right.
People don`t have those conversations, I don`t think, even if they have
MATTHEWS: And I don`t think Comey is a partisan. I think he`s an
You know, he`s – you never know these people, but I think he`s more of an
FBI guy than he is a Republican. But he is a Republican.
I don`t think you can prove that Comey did this for partisan reasons, but
they will have a long commission to try to do so.
Anyway, thank you.
And, by the way, they should try, and to try to find the evidence, because,
if there is any, it would be damning.
Thank you so much, Jon Ralston.
And thank you, Anne Gearan, as always.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Donald Trump asks why the issue of Russian hacking
wasn`t brought up before the election. Guess what? It was brought up
again and again and again right here. We have got video to show.
Donald, you can`t deny what`s on television. Remember, reality TV? That`s
what we`re in. That`s next with the roundtable.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Despite the word of the U.S. intelligence community, Donald Trump continues
to deny that Russia was behind the cyberattacks directed against this
country during the election. And this morning, Trump went a step further,
tweeting, “Unless you catch hackers in the act, and it`s very hard to
determine who is doing the hacking. Why wasn`t this brought up before the
Well, of course, Russia`s interference was brought up. It was hotly
debated on multiple occasions during the campaign. Asked about it in his
last official press conference back in July, Trump famously called on
Russia to find Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. Then, he denied Russia`s
involvement in each of the three presidential debates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope
you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be
lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that
weighs 400 pounds, OK?
I notice anytime anything wrong happens, they look to say the Russians –
she doesn`t know if it`s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no
From everything, I see has no respect for this person.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that`s because
he`d rather have a puppet as president than –
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
CLINTON: – and it`s pretty clear –
TRUMP: You`re the puppet!
She has no idea whether it`s Russia, China, or anybody else –
CLINTON: I am not quoting myself, I am quoting –
TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.
CLINTON: Do you doubt 17 military and civilian –
TRUMP: Our country has no idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.
Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with “The Washington Post” and MSNBC
political analyst. Ruth Marcus is a columnist from “Washington Post”, and
Ken Vogel is chief investigative reporter at “Politico”.
Go at it here first, Jonathan. I think we`re all thinking about this
really horrible situation, where the president-elect is about to take the
side of the Russians against people who give their lives, often give their
lives to try to get intel for this country.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it`s astounding. I think
it probably would live a lot of us, who cover presidents speechless. These
are the people that put their lives on the line, as you said, they are the
president`s eyes and ears around the world. The idea that he is pooh-
poohing the work that they`ve done, but also not even availing himself of
all of the intelligence briefings, it`s just, if that doesn`t put the fear
of God into every American, I don`t know what else could.
RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is a very dangerous and disturbing
situation. You want – look, a president should be appropriately skeptical
of intelligence. Should say that his intelligence agent who brief him,
what is the basis for this? Are you sure we know this? How confident are
you? What are the underlying sources and methods?
But Donald Trump – that`s not Donald Trump`s point. He has been
relentlessly incurious and taking the side of not the intelligence agency.
Now, he`s going to be president. He needs to have a relationship with
these briefers, and to have – there needs to be some trust of them,
because he is what – they are wrong sometimes, but they are right more
than they are wrong. And he needs, as our president, to be able to rely on
them. When he just dismisses their work, it is just – it`s poisonous to
that relationship, which is essential to the country.
MATTHEWS: You know, H.L. Mencken once said, never argue with somebody`s
whose job it is not to be convinced. Is there any way Trump will ever be
convinced that the Russians helped him get elected?
KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: No, I know, he`ll throw mud all over that and that`s
clearly what`s going on here in an effort to distract. There is mounting
momentum to look into this in a serious way. And I think we should look
into it in a serious way. He should just step back and let it play its
I mean, there is evidence that Russia intervened and try to help them.
There is no evidence that it was actually determinative in the results.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
VOGEL: We let that happen. And then he can –
MATTHEWS: You would have to interview anybody –
VOGEL: Even the people who are arguing that this was somehow tipped by
James Comey, for instance. They`re not arguing that it was tipped because
of WikiLeaks` hacked – release of hacked e-mails from John Podesta`s e-
mail account. So, it`s really puzzling why he`s doing it.
MATTHEWS: But that`s a – it will be in the history books. We all know
that 10 to 20 years from now, there`s be something in the history books,
maybe a perfect little nugget, you know, that says, a little nut in the
article that says, there were questions about the role played by Russia in
that campaign, the intelligence agency said they were involved in trying to
help Trump. It`s going to be part of the history. And he hates it!
CAPEHART: He hates it, but in terms of like instilling confidence in the
American people that the election, even with the interference of the
Russians and the Russian government, that even with that, the election was
true, bona fide, you know, above board, everything was fine, as Ken said,
would not have changed the outcome of the election, why wouldn`t Trump want
to have that seal of approval.
That`s what I don`t understand.
MATTHEWS: If he really believed it.
CAPEHART: But those of us in the reality-based community would look and
see that something that says –
MATTHEWS: That`s a minority community.
Anyway, the Trump transition further assailed the credibility of the U.S.
intelligence community on Friday night, releasing a statement saying,
quote, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of
mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest
Electoral College victories in history. It`s time to move on.”
This is almost like a new reversal. If we could put a man on the moon, we
could, dot, dot, dot, the ellipses, you know? In other words, if they were
wrong once, and it wasn`t the intelligence community. It was the way it
was manipulated by people in the administration under George W. Bush. We
all know that.
And, by the way, why is he picking John Bolton, maybe? He picks the guy
who was in the Iraq War, still seems like the Vietnam War to me. The Iraq
War, he still seems to want this guy, as we speak, and at the same time, he
says he wants to get the FBI and the CIA out of there who actually were
MARCUS: But only one of the sentences in that statement, it`s time to move
on, is even arguably true. And, you know, I actually do think he is going
to be president. I`m moving on in that way.
But, yet, constantly, when you have conversations with Trump folks and
Trump supporters and the Trump transition about facts, they always point to
a fact that somebody else got wrong another time, rather than trying –
wanting to get to the essence of these facts and whether they`re right or
And it`s never going to be proven that Russia`s involvement impacted the
election. Nobody is accusing Trump of being in league with the Russians in
order to do that, of wittingly knowing that they were working on his
behalf. So, why not just do what you say and come forward and say, you
know what, I would like a full investigation.
MATTHEWS: I have to put a fact in here, because there are facts. One is
arithmetic. He just said in that statement there, it`s one of the biggest
Electoral College victories in history. Well, it was 46 out of 48. It
wasn`t – 46 out of 58. It wasn`t a big –
MATTHEWS: It wasn`t the upper quintile.
VOGEL: Yes, so that was wrong. And additionally, there`s really nothing
to gain for him politically. Unless there is actual evidence that someone
on his team had advanced knowledge or knew something about this, then it`s
just – it burns hot now and it goes – he is actually adding fuel to this
MATTHEWS: Another Lawrence Walsh investigation that goes on for nine
years. Anyway, it goes – it succeeds all the possible administrations we
could think about.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will
tell me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Republicans will have a 52-48 majority in the next U.S.
Senate. That`s because Republican John Kennedy won in this weekend`s
Senate runoff election down in Indiana. Kennedy, the state`s treasury,
defeated Democrat Foster Campbell, for the seat being vacated by the
retiring David Vitter.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Jonathan, tell me something I don`t know.
CAPEHART: Something you don`t know, Chris, is that I had an interview for
my podcast Cape Up with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and she talked to
me for the first time on the record about all of this stuff in the
intelligence community, and I don`t have all a lot of time, but I asked her
if she were concerned to know that President-elect Donald Trump has not
availed himself of all – of the intelligence briefings and she said, well,
you know, I think we have to give them time to spend with the intelligence
community and make their own assessments.
MATTHEWS: Of how valuable –
MARCUS: Well, actually, this is law-related, also. We`re all waiting to
see who President Trump is going to name to the Supreme Court, but there`s
another decision his administration is going to have to make pretty soon,
after the election, which is what position to take in a transgender rights
case that`s before the court.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
VOGEL: There`s a number of key positions that the Trump transition team is
on the cusp of naming, including a number of White House positions,
secretary of state, also RNC chair that were held up because of infighting
we understand between the old Trump loyalists, between the RNC, GOP
establishment, in between the anti-establishment Steve Bannon type.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, guys. Thank you all – Jonathan Capehart, Ruth
Marcus and Ken Vogel.
When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch for tonight.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Trump watch, Monday, December 12th, 2016.
You certainly could argue that I should have seen this coming, this stark
break between what Donald Trump is saying and the truth that is out there
and available for those who pay good attention. The stark break here is
between Trump`s denial that the Russians intervened in the presidential
race and the CIA assessment that they did. One is right, the other is
If Trump has evidence to dispute the CIA finding, he should produce it. If
not, his contempt for the intelligence agency is without merit. In fact,
it`s worse. Why would an about to be U.S. commander in chief ridicule the
intelligence services he`s about to command?
I repeat what I said at the top of the show. It wasn`t the CIA that got us
into that terrible, stupid, self-destructive war in Iraq. It was the clock
of idealogues, neocons festering in the Pentagon, the State Department, and
the vice president`s office. This group`s ruthless push for war led to the
uncovering of an agent`s identify and perjury conviction for one of its own
I would like to think Donald Trump read the newspapers during this fiasco.
But if he got it wrong, it`s not entirely all his fault. I have never seen
a period in which there was so much propagandizing in our major dailies.
The CIA did not tell us Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. Dick Cheney
did, along with a chorus of neocons, including John Bolton who can`t wait
to get back into positions where they can do more of this, more wars, more
regime changes, more American casualties, more killing of people for the
offense of daring to be in their way.
Mr. Trump, please don`t let John Bolton back into power. He will do more
of what he`s done before. He will bring more like him with him to do it.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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