Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/20/2016
Date: December 20, 2016
Guest: David Cay Johnston, Gregory Meeks, Chris Sgro, Yashar Ali
JOY REID, GUEST HOST: First family feud.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Joy Reid in New York, in tonight for Chris Matthews.
Once upon a time, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were friends, or at least
friendly. They golfed together, Trump donated money to the Clinton
Foundation, he defended Bill Clinton in the press. Bill and Hillary were
even guests at Trump`s third wedding to Melania.
Then came an election where Donald Trump attacked Hillary Clinton as
crooked, dishonest, unstable, unhinged, a criminal, a nasty woman, and, oh,
yes, the devil. He also paraded out a series of women who had accused Bill
Clinton of abuse in an attempt to humiliate him and his wife.
Yesterday, it was reported that Donald Trump and Bill Clinton spoke by
phone the day after the election. Clinton was reportedly surprised that
Trump acted cordial on the call, like it was 15 years ago. For Clinton,
raw feelings remain. In reference to Trump, he recently told a local
newspaper in Westchester County, “He doesn`t know much. One thing he does
know is how to get angry white men to vote for him.”
This morning, Trump did what Trump does, he hit back, tweeting, “Bill
Clinton stated that I called him after the election. Wrong! He called me
with a very nice congratulations. He doesn`t know much, especially how to
get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing
states and more. They focused on the wrong states.” Later today, Clinton
conceded he was the one who called Trump after the election, not the other
The question remains, why is Donald Trump spending his first full day after
officially becoming president-elect fighting with Bill Clinton on Twitter?
David Cay Johnston is the author of “The Making of Donald Trump,” Robert
Costa is a national political reporter for “The Washington Post” and an
MSNBC political analyst, and Michael Steele is the former chairman of the
Republican National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst.
All right, David Cay Johnston, I go to you first on this because you`ve
been writing about Trump for long time? Why does Trump Trump? I feel like
the question sorts of answers itself, but why does he – why can`t he stop
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, “THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP”: Well, because to
Donald, other people are simply items and objects. They`re not human
beings. Donald is entirely transactional, and whatever gets Donald what he
wants, he will do. There`s no moral core to Donald Trump. So you know,
not paying bills, attacking somebody as terrible whom you said just
recently was wonderful – it doesn`t have any meaning to who Donald Trump
And he`s done this throughout his whole life. You can be his friend today
and you can be the worst person in the world tomorrow and you can be his
friend again next week. It depends on what`s in his interest at the
REID: And Robert, you know, it also seems to depend on who`s the last
person to talk to him and who`s being nice to him in the moment, right? So
he thought nothing well of Barack Obama until Barack Obama was actually
nice to him. and then, all of a sudden, he thought Barack Obama was great.
Inside of Trump world, you know, there`s the rumors that there are two kind
of camps. There`s Bannon world, which still shocks me that someone like
Bannon could be near the White House, but he is, and Pence world. Do
either of those camps feel concerned about Donald Trump`s inability to
ROBERT COSTA, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: For now, the
relationship between the Bannon camp and the Priebus camp, the populists
and the mainstream, seems to be pretty functional, based on my reporting
that they`re both contributing to discussions behind the scenes about the
But that dynamic will certainly be challenged early next year once Trump
assumes office and he has to deal with governing and not just picking
REID: But are they worried that he can`t stop tweeting at people and
getting into Twitter beefs?
COSTA: One of the reasons another key player, Vice President-elect Mike
Pence, is well regarded within Trump`s circle is because he`s not someone
who pushes Trump when it comes to the president-elect`s behavior. And one
understanding, sometimes implicit of those around Trump, is you do not push
the president-elect to change how he uses social media. Trump believes
that`s how he communicates with his base, and even if it`s erratic or
against the norms, he`s unwilling to stop doing so.
REID: Yes, clearly. Michael Steele, so in terms of the Republican, which
now has complete control of the government, I think Paul Ryan assumes that
means that it`s going to be a field day for Paul Ryan.
Who do you think ends up with more control over the agenda, Paul Ryan or
Donald Trump, or have they now fused their agendas and both want to
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think
Robert`s got his finger on it through his reporting, that it is a battle to
come. Everybody is sort of kumbaya around this or that appointment, which
in the long and short run really doesn`t mean that much. What it really
boils down to is the policy initiatives.
So if you`re going to throw a trillion dollars on the table for
infrastructure, is Paul Ryan going to sign off on that? If Paul Ryan says,
Look, we do want to address Medicare and Medicaid, and the president
doesn`t, does the West Wing balk at that? That`s where the bottle lines
are going to be drawn.
And this – whether it`s the Priebus camp or the Bannon camp, however you
want to identify them, the reality of it is, the president`s going to have
to make some really tough early decisions.
And the question then becomes, yes, you have this team of rivals sort of
milieu that you`ve created around you. That may work in business. In
government, I`m really curious to see if that works because it`s so
personal, it`s so much about turf, and it`s so much about a lot of things
that businessmen don`t waste their time on that politicians do, that you
wonder if this administration starts hemorrhaging early, or do they find
that smooth, slick space that they can then move through some big pieces of
legislation right out of the box?
So that, I think, Joy, is going to be one of the early tests for Donald
Trump and his leadership style.
REID: Well, I think since the trillion-dollar supposed infrastructure bill
is mostly – is tax cuts, so I think that`ll probably be – something Paul
Ryan will like.
Well, meanwhile today, there`s a report from the Center for Public
Integrity that a Texas charity is offering access to the president-elect in
return for a sizable donation. According to the report, Trump`s two sons,
Donald, Jr., and Eric, are listed among the charity`s directors.
A brochure for the event on inauguration weekend in Washington lists some
of the benefits that donors get in exchange for $1 million. They include a
“private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President
Donald J. Trump and a multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for four
guests with Donald Trump, Jr., and/or Eric Trump and team,” unquote.
In a statement this afternoon, a spokesman for – a spokesperson for the
Trump transition said, quote, “The opening day event and details that have
been reported are merely initial concerns that have not been approved or
pursued by the Trump family,” and Trump`s sons, quote, “are not involved in
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the event says the initial brochure was a,
quote, “work in progress.” A new brochure given to NBC today omits any
mention of meeting Trump or his sons.
Well, Robert Costa, “The Wall Street Journal” got ahold of, and NBC News
did, as well, the actual filing for the supposed foundation, the charity
that was filed on December 14th, and Donald and Eric Trump are listed on it
Is there any conceivable way that their two friends or colleagues could
have listed them as directors of this foundation without them having any
COSTA: There`s no doubt, based on our reporting here at “The Washington
Post,” that the Trump family, specifically the sons, are involved with the
charity, supporters of the charity, associated with the charity. The
question that`s in contention right now from the Trump transition is
whether they had any role in setting up this kind of charitable donation
for access arrangement. There`s been that denial that`s been issued.
But it`s one of these murky territories the Trump organization and
especially the family is encountering during this transition period, moving
from the private to the public sector. They`re going to probably need a
lawyer with them each and every step of the way.
REID: But David Cay Johnston, you know, them just saying it isn`t true is
not evidence that it isn`t true. The only facts that we have on the table
is the filing for the foundation with those two Trump sons name on it. So
I don`t understand how them just saying, Well, we didn`t do it, gets them
out of hot water here.
JOHNSTON: This is a tactic you`re going to see throughout the Trump
presidency. When I saw this initially, I thought, oh, this is from “The
Onion.” It can`t be true. Even the Trumps are not that crass. And then I
ran down the documents about it.
What you`re seeing here now is, Well, we were just discussing this. Well,
why were you even discussing something like that? Particularly when Donald
Trump complained about what he called pay-for-play. This is blatantly pay-
for-play, and it is part of Donald Trump`s utter contempt that he expressed
throughout the campaign for constitutional government.
You know, if you could get Donald Trump on your show and ask him, Well,
what does the second Article of The constitution say, he wouldn`t be able
to tell you.
REID: Yes. Well, throughout the campaign, to your very point, David Cay
Johnston, Donald Trump did attack the Clinton Foundation, without evidence
of such, for supposedly selling access to Hillary Clinton at the State
REID: Let`s watch him do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The veil was pulled back on a
vast criminal enterprise run out of the State Department by Hillary
Clinton! More than half of the meetings Hillary Clinton took as secretary
of state with people outside government were Clinton Foundation donors.
Favors and access were granted to those who wrote checks. She put the
secretary of state up for sale.
Hillary is the one who engaged in a corrupt pay-for-play scheme at the
We`re going to end government corruption.
Hillary Clinton ran the State Department like a failed leader in a third
world country. She sold favors and access in exchange for cash!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Michael Steele, you know, if irony still has a meaning, that was it.
REID: I can`t – it`s hard to believe that Donald Trump could say that a
couple months ago, and then literally have these things happening. Are
there any consequences for anything anymore? Does reality exist anymore?
STEELE: No. I think this is going to be, to the points that were already
made, the new reality for Washington and for a lot of people who track this
stuff, particularly in the press. The press corps is going to have a field
day writing about this stuff, but the – how it resonates with voters is
really going to be the test of time.
Does it accumulate in such a way that people go, You know, we really do
have a problem with this? You said at one point this was what Hillary
Clinton did, but you`re now doing the exact same thing or something very
similar. And it doesn`t right now seem to matter to a lot of people.
But there are some big red flags here. I think Robert Costa had it right
that, you know, they`re going to need a lot of lawyers to deal with this.
And it would not surprise me if you see someone bring some type of action
to force some of this to a head for the Congress or somebody to respond
because I don`t see how you can set up these types of operations long-term,
Joy, and not have a consequence come from them, whether it`s a global one,
as we`ve seen potentially with Russia, for example, or something closer to
home, like with the foundation.
REID: Yes, you know, just the perception is out there among foreign
leaders that they can buy access to the White House by giving to the
Trump`s sons` foundation. It is really troubling.
One of the other things I find incredibly troubling, Donald Trump`s
incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn – he`s been a lightning
rod already for his past comments about Islam and his affinity for Vladimir
Putin and conspiracy theories.
Today “The New York Times” reports he met with a right-wing group from – a
far-right group from Austria. According to “The Times,” the leader of the
Austrian far-right Freedom Party visited General Flynn a few weeks ago
inside Trump Tower in New York. The Freedom Party was founded in the 1950s
by former Nazis.
Robert Costa, you know, we`ve talked about this before. The Bannon wing of
– what is now the Bannon wing of the Republican Party and its affinity for
this sort of ethno-nationalism, for these far-right European parties that
are essentially white Christian nationalist parties. Now you have that
being brought right into Trump Tower.
At some point, is there a reckoning for people like Bannon and Flynn,
particularly for Flynn?
COSTA: Throughout the campaign, we saw Trump and Bannon to an extent
associate the Trump campaign with this global populism, the visits from
Nigel Farage during and after the campaign to Trump Tower, now with Flynn
meeting with another far-right populist party in Europe and Austria.
You see the Trump campaign and the Trump orbit really try to engage with
that world. But there are consequences, especially if you`re moving into
elected office, into the presidency, to associate not just with foreign
leaders and heads of state, but heads of foreign parties that aren`t really
in power, and it could have very complicated, even controversial
It`s a territory many incoming presidents do not wade into, but Trump, just
because of who he is and who Flynn is, they seem to be willing to do it.
REID: Yes, parties founded by Nazis are a little bit more than
controversial. We`ll see if that ever – there`s any consequences for
Thank you very much, David Cay Johnston, Robert Costa and Michael Steele.
And coming up – the day after three attacks in Europe, we ask, What does
it mean for the U.S.? And how will Donald Trump as president deal with the
new global threat?
Then later, the North Carolina General Assembly has been called into
session tomorrow to possibly repeal the so-called bathroom bill. How are
the Republicans there prepared – I mean, how far are the Republicans there
prepared to go to cling to power?
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
REID: President Barack Obama today took a preemptive step to protect the
environment and potentially thwart the pro-drilling incoming
administration, issuing a ban on all new oil and gas drilling in U.S.
federal waters anywhere between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.
The president has designated those areas indefinitely off-limits to future
Now, this is a joint action between the U.S. and Canada as Canadian prime
minister Justin Trudeau is also placing a ban on new leases in Canada`s
To get around the potential of Donald Trump simply reversing his executive
order, President Obama invoked a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf
Lands Act, that could give his order much more staying power. Still, the
issue is likely to wind up in federal court. Stay tuned.
We`ll be right back.
REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Late today, the media arm of ISIS claimed
responsibility for yesterday`s terrorist attack in Berlin, which left 12
people dead. While no proof was provided, the city remains on high alert
as German authorities continue to search for a suspect.
Meanwhile in Turkey, Russian and Turkish officials have accused U.S.-based
Turkish cleric Fethulla Gulen of masterminding the assassination of the
Russian ambassador in Turkey.
Last night, Donald Trump, on his first full day as president-elect, swiftly
condemned those incidents, plus a third in Zurich, as, quote, “terrorist
He also issued a longer statement accusing ISIS of orchestrating Berlin`s
attack, saying, quote, “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually
slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of
their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide
networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will
carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”
Sean Spicer, Trump`s transition spokesman, echoed Trump`s rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the new administration, how will the response to
terror strikes like this change?
SEAN SPICER, TRUMP TRANSITION SPOKESMAN: Well, I think it`s going to be
swift and fierce. Mr. Trump has made it very, very clear he understands
the threat that radical Islamic terrorism poses to our nation, and frankly,
to our friends and neighbors around the globe, and that we`ve got to be
able to call it what it is and then root it out by its very – by – by –
by the bottom. We cannot be (INAUDIBLE) being politically correct. We`ve
got to understand the threat that we face and attack it straight on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: For the latest on the investigation into yesterday`s attack in
Berlin, I`m joined by Matt Bradley, foreign correspondent for MSNBC. (sic)
Matt, good to talk to you. Can you give us the latest on the investigation
and the search for the attacker there in Berlin?
MATT BRADLEY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joy, it looks like the
investigation is more or less back to square one. I`m not an expert on
these sorts of police matters, but it seems to me that the police are going
to have to start from the beginning.
Now, as you mentioned, there was a suspect that was initially detained in
the moments following the attack last night, shortly after 8:00 PM, right
behind me. Right where this Christmas market is normally held, normally,
you`d be able to hear Christmas carols and there would be tons of tourists
around, but tonight it`s all very quiet.
But that investigation seems to have stalled, but there`s still plenty more
material that could come out of this. Now, remember, Joy, we`re actually -
- it might help to think about it in terms of two crime scenes. There`s
the crime scene where the truck crashed into the crowd of people and killed
12 and injured dozens of others. And then there`s the crime scene inside
the cab of the truck itself.
That`s where the police were able to find a dead body. The Polish national
who was thought to have actually been the driver of the truck originally,
he`s the cousin of the man who owns the company that the truck was rented
from originally and driven from Poland.
Now, this man was stabbed and shot. The revolver or the shotgun that shot
him hasn`t been found. And so this smaller crime scene within the cab of
that truck, this actually could yield quite a little bit more information
that could help investigators to determine exactly what went on and who was
But, so far, all we have is the evidence that`s around this area right here
and the ISIS claim of responsibility. Now, as you mentioned before, it`s
not quite clear whether that claim of responsibility necessarily holds any
Now, ISIS could just simply be piggybacking onto a crime that just took
place randomly or involved some other grievance. But, right now, the
investigators are still moving forward and they`re combing through as much
as possible to try to figure out the perpetrator – Joy.
REID: Thanks very much, Matt Bradley, in Berlin. Appreciate it.
Let`s now bring in Congressman Gregory Meeks, Democrat from New York, and
Malcolm Nance, MSNBC terrorism analyst and author of “Defeating ISIS: Who
They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe.”
Thank you both.
And I will – I`m going to defer first to the congressman here.
One of the things that`s striking about the way that Donald Trump reacted
to this, in sharp contrast to the way that President Obama did and that
presidents typically do, is President Obama – and this isn`t – I won`t
take credit for this original thought. I think it was in Ian Bremmer`s
piece in “TIME” – you know, President Obama came – President Obama came
out and said, the German people are our allies. We will stand behind the
German people. He referenced the German people over and over again.
Trump`s statement was all about Christians vs. Islam. And he used the
magic words they wanted to use, radical Islamic terrorism, because they
think that that somehow will fight terrorism.
How does it strike you, as somebody who sits on the relevant committees,
that approach to responding to an attack that we don`t even know who did
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: The approach is exactly the wrong
Words do matter. And the fact that he goes out there without, apparently,
having his intelligence briefings or anything of that nature, but he just
spurts words, you cannot go out and insult, as he has already, 40 percent
of the world`s population.
If you think about the Muslims, the Chinese, and the Mexicans, that
represents 40 percent of the world`s population. And he has already
insulted all of them in a globalized world, where interconnectedness is
more than it has ever been and the world is smaller than we have ever been.
So, I would hope that – but it doesn`t seem like, as we get closer and
closer to January 20, that he would understand the responsibilities of
being the president of the United States of America and that words do
matter. You just don`t tweet out something of that nature.
REID: Yes, he isn`t going to change, clearly, Malcolm Nance.
But you have not Donald Trump using this new playbook that some on the far
right have wanted to do for a long time. They want to keep calling out –
they say that just saying radical Islamic terrorism, that, in and of
itself, will help us fight terrorism.
I want you to play John Bolton, because you had Sean Spicer saying sort of
the same playbook. Then this is John Bolton, and he`s talking about Angela
Merkel, and essentially accusing the German chancellor, making her
responsible, essentially, for what`s taking place and what happened in
Let`s listen to John Bolton, who Trump would like to have as his
undersecretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: But I
think the feeling that many Germans have had and are reluctant to say out
loud, given German`s own history, is that they feel that they have lost
control of their country.
It`s not a feeling that`s unknown elsewhere in Europe, but Merkel has been
the biggest symbol, I think, across the continent of somebody who is open
to this policy.
It`s by her unilateral action in allowing this wave of refugees to come
into Europe. She definitely exposed Germany and others to the risk of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, Malcolm, there is no evidence that this person who committed
this attack was a refugee from Syria.
You have got this rhetoric about Christians vs. Muslims, assuming all of
those people at that Christian market, assuming their background, and, you
know, sort of couching it as a clash of civilizations. And then you have
this anti-Muslim rhetoric.
How does that help us in a global world where terrorism can take place
MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: It doesn`t help us at all.
As a matter of fact, this is going to evaluate the risk of massive, I mean
massive, not individual, small quantities, but massive quantities of
terrorism over the next four years.
We`re essentially – what I`m hearing when I listen to their statements –
and certainly the statement from the president-elect – is, I`m hearing
them set up a – Samuel P. Huntington`s clash of civilizations, which
actually was the logic that Osama bin Laden used to carry out the 9/11
He believes that there should be a clash of civilizations between Islam and
the Christian West. What I`m seeing, and certainly from the rhetoric, it
appears that they believe that Russia and the United States are this
Christian axis, and that only Christians are attacked by terrorists, which
is quite surprising to all of our Muslim allies since 9/11 who have been
attacked and that we have been helping defend and bring about, you know,
the protections for the people in the Islamic world who have absolutely
nothing to do with terrorism.
This will only create a situation where ISIS will be saved. And ISIS is on
the ropes there. They are literally on the last legs in Iraq and Syria.
But this kind of rhetoric could literally – could save ISIS and rise the
ranks of al Qaeda at a level we haven`t seen since the invasion of Iraq.
REID: And speaking of things that might exacerbate the problems that we
have in terms of terrorism and in terms of just attention around the world,
Donald Trump has also signaled that a dramatic shift is coming to U.S.
Middle East policy.
Last week, he named David Friedman as his choice for ambassador to Israel.
Friedman has called the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict an illusion.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, a liberal Jewish
advocacy group, wrote a scathing opinion piece opposing Friedman`s
nomination, writing: “Even though Friedman`s views completely contradict
bipartisan U.S. policy for the past five decades, that`s not sufficient
reason for the Senate to reject his nomination – to accept his nomination.
His lack of foreign policy or diplomatic experience – he`s been Trump`s
bankruptcy lawyer – is also not alone a basis for rejection. But never
before has a diplomatic novice been placed in this sensitive post, where a
single wrong word or move could pour fuel on fires already burning in the
And, Congressman, talk a little bit about what we`re facing with this
combination of what looks to be a walk-back from the idea of the two-state
solution, the notion of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, an incredibly
provocative act, essentially dismisses Palestinian claims, and setting up
this clash of civilizations sort of idea in terms of the way we deal with
the Muslim world.
MEEKS: It is – makes me very nervous.
Number one, you`re talking about a crisis that will blow up completely in
the Middle East. You`re talking about migrants moving over. You`re
talking about that – where there is divisions completely in the area, but
all across the world.
As opposed to trying to figure out how we work together and bring people
together, this is the most divisive plan that one could come – come up
with that basically, you know, if you dig deep and look at what is being
talked about, is some kind of superiority complex, it looks like, that they
have, what you were talking about, Christians over Muslims, Muslims in
dealing with the Jewish population, as the public is trying to figure out
how we bring this thing together.
In a globalized world that we live in, we have got to figure out how to
work with our allies, how do we make sure that there`s a reason why, for
over five decades, we have had certain policies.
REID: Yes. Yes.
MEEKS: And we have got to make sure that just someone who talks off the
top of his head without knowing what he`s talking about, we have got
And I would hope that Congress, Democrats and Republicans, will then step
up and make sure that we hold this guy in check.
REID: All right, well, we shall see. And we will be watching.
Congressman Gregory Meeks and Malcolm Nance, thank you both.
And up next: North Carolina Governor McCrory calls a special session of
his state legislature tomorrow again in order to repeal the so-called
bathroom bill. What will happen tomorrow? We will ask our panel.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
GIGI STONE WOODS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. I`m Gigi Stone Woods.
Here`s what`s happening at this hour.
At least 27 people are dead and 80 others hurt after a blast tore through a
fireworks market on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Security has been increased at landmarks and holiday markets across New
York City following Monday`s truck attack in Berlin. However, authorities
say there is no imminent threat.
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is offering to treat Syrians
wounded in the fighting in Aleppo. He says Israel has already treated
thousands of Syrian civilians – now back to Joy Reid and HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: As I promised months ago, if the
Charlotte ordinance was repealed, I would call our General Assembly into
special session to reconsider existing state legislation passed earlier
this year. And I`m doing just that for this Wednesday.
But it should also be noted that the whole issue of gender identity is a
national issue that will be resolved by the courts and the United States
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was the outgoing Republican Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory
announcing Monday in a video message that he has called a special session
of his legislature to convene in order to repeal the anti-transgender
bathroom law that he signed last March.
North Carolina Republicans passed the law as a response to the city of
Charlotte, which passed its own ordinance to protect LGBTQ people from
discrimination. The state law overturned that ordinance and threw in a ban
on cities raising their minimum wage.
But since McCrory signed the legislation, which some says legalizes
discrimination against gay people, North Carolina saw a backlash from the
private sector, with some major companies pulling their business from the
state, including the NBA, the ACC, and the NCAA, which pulled tournaments
out of the state altogether.
And so yesterday, as a result of a compromise between state and local
leaders, the Charlotte City Council rescinded their ordinance in order for
the state to begin the process of repealing the so-called bathroom law.
And joining me now, Yashar Ali, a contributor to The Daily Beast, and North
Carolina Democratic State Representative Chris Sgro – I hope I`m
pronouncing that correct – who is executive director of Equality North
And, Representative, I`m going to go with you on this first.
Why did Charlotte give in, in your view, when it seemed that they were
winning? I mean, you had major corporations pulling out of North Carolina.
You had all of these tournaments pulling out. The damage was real,
lasting, huge economic damage. Why capitulate?
CHRIS SGRO (D), NORTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, we all know
that Charlotte and its ordinance had never been the problem.
The ordinance that existed in the city of Charlotte that protected LGBT
people is a best practice employed in hundreds of other cities across the
country, like Jackson, Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida.
The problem has always been HB-2. But what we also know is that every day
that HB-2 is on the books means that there are no anti-discrimination
protections in the state of North Carolina. And above and beyond that,
this law actually proactively discriminates. It doesn`t just allow
discrimination. It mandates discrimination.
So, every single day that HB-2 is on the books, LGBT North Carolinians and
Charlotteans are at risk for discrimination and violence. So, while the
problem has never been Charlotte, the matter before us now is the full
repeal of House Bill 2. And we must get that done tomorrow.
REID: Before I come to my other guest, Chris, Representative, is the
minimum wage part also being repealed?
SGRO: My understanding is that what we will consider tomorrow is the full
and unequivocal repeal of House Bill 2.
And same question to you, Yashar Ali, because it does seem that the
momentum was on the side of the – of Charlotte, right? And you just had
Governor McCrory bounced out of office in part because of his support for
that law. What do you make of this?
YASHAR ALI, THE DAILY BEAST: I`m going to put my analyst hat on. I would
say to Republicans and Democrats.
It sort of reminds me of what the Trump team has been doing the past couple
of weeks whenever they`re criticized: We won.
Democrats won. They won. They beat McCrory. I don`t know why they`re
backing down. And it`s the equivalent – I want to be careful when I say
this – but it`s like negotiating with a terrorist.
You don`t get into that battle, because now the Republicans – and they
have the supermajority in the legislature – are going to hold it against
ALI: And I`m also old enough to remember that the whole purpose of HB-2
was to protect children and to stop sexual predators from stop putting on
high heels and dresses and makeup and going into the bathroom and doing
terrible things to children.
Now, all of a sudden, that threat doesn`t exist? They`re willing to give
it up? Who`s going to protect the kids?
REID: Yes, good point, because that was the way it was sold,
I mean, have your colleagues on the other side of the aisle expressed any
further concern that now the bathrooms are going to be this sort of horror
show without the law, or are they admitting that they just passed it to
stick it to Charlotte?
SGRO: Oh, I don`t think that they are ever going to admit that, Joy.
But we do know that HB-2 never protected women and children. If we wanted
to protect women and children, we would have strengthened sexual predation
laws. It was always about discrimination. And that`s why we have to get
it off the books.
I agree with the other panelists that Charlotte shouldn`t have to repeal
its nondiscrimination ordinance. But what I do know is this. For LGBT
people to be protected in the state of North Carolina, we have to do three
We have to repeal HB-2, which we should be doing tomorrow. We needed a
pro-equality governor of the state of North Carolina. And we have that.
And then we`re going to need to win comprehensive nondiscrimination
And, unfortunately, we can`t do that until House Bill 2 is repealed. Not
just Charlotte, but Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and everywhere in
between can`t have the comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that the
state of North Carolina needs at the municipal or state level until HB-2 is
off the books. And that has to happen.
It`s an emergency that House Bill 2 be repealed for my community here in
the state. We have to get that done tomorrow.
REID: All right, well, we will be watching.
Yashar Ali and Representative Chris Sgro, thank you very much. Appreciate
And up next: First lady Michelle Obama reveals whether she will ever run
for public office. I`m not giving that away, am I? That and much more
HARDBALL roundtable when we return.
And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: The challenges, uh, yes, there are times
that, you know, frustrated me. You know, this past election was
challenging for me as a citizen to watch and experience. It was painful.
If we want maturity, we have to be mature. If we want a nation that feels
hopeful, then we have to speak in hopeful terms. We have to show love and
empathy. If we want smart leaders, then we have to be smart voters, you
know? We cannot vote from a place of fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was First Lady Michelle Obama in a rare and candid interview with
Oprah Winfrey, talking about the pain that she felt over November`s
election. The first lady also answered the one question on the minds of so
many Democrats since her lauded speech at the Democratic National
Convention in Philadelphia last summer, in a series of inspirational
campaign speeches afterward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Would you ever run for office? I have to
OBAMA: No, no.
WINFREY: No kind of office?
OBAMA: No. I – look, that`s one thing I don`t do – I don`t make stuff
up. I`m not coy. I haven`t proven that. I`m pretty direct. If I were
interested, I would say it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: For more reaction from Michelle Obama`s interview, let`s bring in
the HARDBALL roundtable.
Elise Jordan is a Republican strategist and an MSNBC political analyst,
Basil Smikle is a Democratic strategist, and Catherine Rampell is an
opinion writer with “The Washington Post.”
I get very wistful. What planet are the Obamas from that they can all be
so preternaturally calm and classy? But what did you think of her
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought it was really
disappointing that she said she wasn`t going to run for office, after
everyone on the political scene this year, her campaign speeches were
incredible and had some of the most memorable takeaway lines in a way you
may not remember a line from Donald Trump speeches, you may not remember a
line from Hillary Clinton, but you do from Michelle Obama.
REID: Wrong! You remember that line. Wrong.
REID: But, yes, anyone that`s covered Michelle Obama knows that she`s not
a huge fan of politics. The fact that she gave those amazing speeches was
surprising because she`s not like a naturally sort of – she doesn`t enjoy
campaigning. She`s not like Bill Clinton that`s into it.
CATHARINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: She`s very talented at it,
certainly. She`s very engaging, very thoughtful, very charismatic, but she
doesn`t seem to take pleasure in it. It`s something that she does because
she believes in the cause, and not necessarily because she wants to be in
RAMPELL: And I take her at her word when she says she has no interest.
REID: I would be shocked if she ever ran for office.
But, you know, Basil, she is good at getting in that low-key shade, right?
I mean, she says, we have to be mature. If we want maturity, we have to be
mature, you know? And we have to smart if we want smart politics.
But, you know, who do you think that was a message to?
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That was a message to Donald Trump,
absolutely. You know, Michelle Obama unfiltered is the business. I mean,
that is – I love this. And I don`t think she`s going to run for office.
I don`t even know if I wish she would. But what I do want her to do is be
that constant voice out there for Democrats going forward.
One of the things I was most concerned about in this election is whether or
not African-Americans broadly, but certainly African-American woman, would
actually come out and be supportive and be energized and engaged. And she
was a big part of that. And I`m glad to see that she`s doing it.
But, this was certainly a message to Donald Trump. And if she is the only
one out there needling him in the near future, I think we`re all better off
REID: You know, Elise, the fact when we go – “when they go low, we go
high,” which is one of the really memorable lines, one of the other
memorable things that Mrs. Obama said during the campaign was I think she
spoke for so many women when she talked about the visceral reaction to that
“Access Hollywood” video, to those words and those accusations of abuse.
What do we do with the politics when that does not stop you from being
president? What do women do with that?
JORDAN: Well, I think that what she did is still so necessary. She spoke
with passion and conviction about why it was wrong. And you could tell
that she was coming from a place of moral certitude. And it really showed
in the remarks. And I think that`s why it resonated on both sides of the
aisle, Democrats and Republican women, just because she was so forceful at
knowing what her truth was when she was speaking.
REID: And yet, Catharine Rampell, that didn`t affect the election at all.
You had – you know, Donald Trump actually won the majority of white women.
Women of color voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. But in the end,
you know, for all of the bipartisan support for the first lady`s empathy
and her sort of dignity, it doesn`t seem that that anymore translates into
RAMPELL: Well, yes and no. I think there are a lot of women who said all
men are boars and boys will be boys and I wish that were not the attitude,
but I think a lot of women dismiss those comments for that reason. You
know, the locker room talk explanation basically resonated.
On the other hand, if you look at exit polls, for example, or even views
today, surveys today, views of Donald Trump, they`re still quite negative,
RAMPELL: And if you look at how people characterize him, it`s not
flattering. If you look at surveys of, does he respect women? The answers
are not particularly good.
RAMPELL: So I think in some sense, it was written off as, you know, we
wish he were behaving better, but whatever, he`s a dude, so therefore, it`s
REID: I think Gary Hart is calling from the monkey business wondering
where did it all go wrong. All he did was laugh and he was finished!
All right. The roundtable is staying with us and when we come back, the
one thing that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump actually agree on.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
REID: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has an answer to those
questions the Trump family`s potential involvement in their business and
the government. Here`s what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think in the case of the
president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he
wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon. I mean, he – it
is a totally open power and he could simply say, look, I want them to be my
advisers. I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the
rules, period. And technically, on the Constitution, he has that level of
(END AUDIO CLIP)
We`ll be right back.
REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
And we are back with Elise, Basil and Catherine.
All right. Catherine, I`m going to start with you on your reaction to Newt
Gingrich saying you can just pardon the people that you want in your
administration and put them in.
RAMPELL: Well, we have to remember that Donald Trump gets the best people
REID: The best.
RAMPELL: – and it just happens to be that the best people require being
pardoned from the crimes that they`ve committed in order to do their jobs.
REID: And then it will be fine. But, I mean, Elise, we`re speculating
what he could have meant by that.
What do you think he could have meant?
JORDAN: I think he`s talking about absolute power.
JORDAN: And let`s disavow rule of law when it comes to Donald Trump`s
presidency. I find those comments really upsetting. The White House
should be held on a pedestal, the office of the presidency, the dignity and
the respect to which you accord the American people, and they`re saying,
no, it doesn`t matter. I think it`s incredibly disturbing.
REID: And it does feel, Basil, like they`re sort of putting together kind
of a rogue`s gallery. I mean, you look at Michael Flynn and the conspiracy
theories now, meaning with some far right party that was founded by the
Nazis. Bannon, who everyone sort of forgotten that he`s even there, but he
is still the same white nationalist he was yesterday and the day before.
He`s sort of surrounding himself with rogues. For Gingrich to then say,
we`ll add more rogues. They might juts be felons.
Democrats have not responded to this. It`s been amazingly silent the
Democratic Party has been. Where is the Democratic Party?
SMIKLE: I think you will hear more. I mean, we were talking is earlier.
You know, we have a new chair being elected in February.
REID: It`s too late.
SMIKLE: I absolutely agree. It is too late. We should be talking about
Be should be talking about how Steve Bannon enshrines all of the things
that we hated about Donald Trump`s campaign.
REID: And who is the leader of the Democratic Party right now?
SMIKLE: Well, right now, it`s Donna Brazile. I mean, she still the chair
and I think when have you people like a Chuck Schumer, who`s a minority
leader, Nancy Pelosi, you know, I think they`re going to be fighting back.
And the fact that I`m here saying that and you know, you`re looking at me
like maybe not is an issue. But we should be fighting back. No question
And going back to this issue of the pardon, this is why people hate
politics. This is why people distrust politicians. Look at Chris Christie
and abuse of governmental power there and what`s happened with his
lieutenant subsequent to that. This is something that we should be
REID: And, you know, the big irony, of course, is that former President
Bill Clinton who agrees on Donald Trump about exactly one thing, we teased
before they agree, that he`s the one who called Donald Trump after the
election. His pardon of Marc Rich is the first thing that got Jim Comey on
Jim Comey then turns around, and since he blows up is the election, you
know, right before it`s over. Essentially, we are in a world without
norms, right? Will any of them be restored over the next four years?
RAMPELL: Only if it`s convenient for Donald Trump to restore those norms.
I mean, like when we talk about conflicts of interests, we have laws, we
have regulations and we have norms that help protect us from these kinds of
conflicts of interest, particularly when we`re talking about the highest
office in the world. And Donald Trump has basically said, none of these
things apply to me.
Newt Gingrich, you know, you haven`t plays the sound bite. But one of the
other things that he said in that interview on the Diane Rehm show was
essentially that Congress should be helping Trump figure out how to skirt
all of the conflict of interesting issues. And that they should be finding
ways to help him figure out – you know, well, he has this is enormous
incredible empire around the world. There`s nothing he can do to address
divestment. So, therefore, he should it be excused from it.
No, that`s not what the Congress is there to do. Congress`s job enshrined
in the Constitution is to serve as checks and balances. But there are also
norms in terms of oversight that apparently we`re dismissing.
REID: We`ll have you guys come back. Apparently their job is also eight
REID: All right. The roundtable is staying with me.
And up next, these fine folks are going to tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
REID: And we are back.
Elise, tell me something I don`t know.
JORDAN: Check out a “Vanity Fair” story that talks about the missing
footage from “The Apprentice”, that contains the most incendiary things
that Donald Trump said that a bunch of editors out in L.A. put together as
a gag because they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and they refuse
to release it because they didn`t want to lose their jobs. And that is
still lurking in the atmosphere.
REID: Yes. And WikiLeaks has no interest in getting it. Surprise,
JORDAN: Or they might already have it.
REID: Yes. But, you know, it would hurt Trump.
SMIKLE: Lest we forgetting about some of the important issues discussed by
Hillary and Bernie Sanders on the campaign, student debt. An article in
the Chronicle of Higher Education today talks about the fact that folks
over 50 who are in student debt and may have defaulted on their student
loans if the government is taking money out of your Social Security check,
there are a lot of seniors in poverty because of that.
REID: Catherine, quickly.
RAMPELL: So, Trump and his new OMB pick may not see eye to eye on
deficits. One of them wants to close them and one wants to balloon them.
There is one thing they agree, which is that they are both cool on
defaulting on foreign debt.
REID: All right. There we go.
Thank you very much, Elise, Basil, Catherine.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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