Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/1/17 Mueller gets Comey letter
Date: September 1, 2017
Guest: Catherine Rampell, Evan Siegfried, Ashley Parker, Matt Welch,
Robert Traynham, John Nichols
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Trump`s letter to Comey.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews on what has
turned out to be a very busy Friday night.
The White House announced that President Trump is going to reveal his
decision on Tuesday about whether he`ll end the Obama-era policy that
allows young people brought here illegally as children to remain in the
And there`s also new reporting on the Russia investigation, special counsel
Robert Mueller obtaining a letter that was drafted by the president and by
his senior aide, Stephen Miller, back in May explaining the president`s
rationale for firing James Comey, the FBI director. The letter was never
sent, though, because the White House counsel, Don McGahn, believed that
some of its content was, quote, “problematic.”
According to “The New York Times,” which broke the story originally today,
quote, “A different letter, written by the deputy attorney general, Rod
Rosenstein, and focused on Mr. Comey`s handling of the investigation into
Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail server was ultimately sent to the FBI
director on the day before he was fired.”
“The Washington Post” reports, quote, “The multi-page letter enumerated
Trump`s long-simmering complaints with Comey, according to people familiar
with it, including Trump`s frustration that Comey was unwilling to say
publicly that Trump was not personally under investigation in the FBI`s
inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” The letter, quote,
“did not dwell on Russia.”
Also today, President Trump responded to that “Washington Post” report last
night that he may be on a collision course with his new chief of staff.
According to “The Post,” quote, “Trump chafes at some of John Kelly`s moves
to restrict access to him. They run counter to Trump`s love of spontaneity
and brashness, prompting some Trump loyalists to derisively dub Kelly `the
church lady` because they consider him strict and morally superior.”
The president tweeting today in response, quote, “General John Kelly is
doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be happier or more
We`ve got a lot to get to. Joining me here at the top of the show, NBC
News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson at the Washington, the
“Washington Post`s” Ashley Parker and Matt Welch, editor-at-large for
Ashley, let me start with you. You have this story in “The Washington
Post” – again, “The Post” and “The Times” both reporting today on this
letter, the letter that was not sent, detailing the president`s rationale
for firing James Comey as FBI director.
Look, obviously, the question everybody wants to know about the contents of
this letter is, how much did – how much was this original letter aimed at
Comey and his investigation of Trump and Trump`s world? Was it a passing
reference, do we know? Was it more detailed than that? How much does this
letter suggest that was on the president`s mind?
ASHLEY PARKER, “WASHINGTON POST”: Sure. So again, we haven`t seen the
letter. We`ve just spoken to people familiar with it. But our
understanding is that this letter sort of laid out the president`s
frustrations and grievances with Director Comey.
As we said in the story, it was very little explicitly focused on Russia,
other than the language that we actually saw in the final statement that
the president put out, where he expressed frustration that Comey had told
him privately several times that he was not the focus of the investigation,
but he would not say the publicly.
So our understanding is that little portion was in the original draft, made
it into the final version, the draft itself was really just an outline of
the president`s sort of wide-ranging grievances with his FBI director at
KORNACKI: And so when we have the White House lawyer, the White House
counsel, Don McGahn, basically vetoing, apparently, that original letter
that you`re describing, saying it was problematic, do we know, do you know,
was it specifically the references to not publicly stating Trump himself
wasn`t under investigation, specifically the references to Russia? Were
those the things that McGahn, the lawyer, looked at and said, That`s a
PARKER: I think – without knowing everything, I think that McGahn was
worried partially about the tone of the letter, which was described to us
sort of as a rant. And McGahn was also the person who in this meeting in
the Oval Office said – you know, tried to slow down the process, and he
said, You know what? Attorney General Sessions and his deputy, Rod
Rosenstein, are coming by the White House today for lunch. Let`s talk to
them. Let`s hear what they have to say. Let`s solicit their opinion.
So there was sort of an effort to get broader buy-in on this than just the
president being frustrated with his FBI director and having sort of soured
on him long ago.
KORNACKI: All right, let me bring Hallie Jackson into this with the other
big piece of news tonight. Hallie, you`re standing in front of the White
House. Let me ask you about what`s going on behind you right now inside
that building because you had that report last night, that “Washington
Post” report suggesting the president – a lot of people not surprised to
read this – the president apparently chafing under the new White House
leadership of John Kelly, his new chief of staff, the president on Twitter
trying to send a different message today.
What is going on inside the building behind you?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So listen, I think that when you look
at sort of the palace intrigue part of it, there`s a lot of moving pieces.
I think some of it relates to John Kelly and how the president is
interacting with him.
But let me highlight somebody else who`s going to be critical to this
equation over the next month, and that us a guy named Gary Cohn, right, top
economic adviser at the White House focused on tax reform, has been out
trying to push the administration`s line on this and talk up the White
House`s position and how he wants to get it done, but continues to be
dogged by these questions of whether he will stay, whether the White House
has confidence in Gary Cohn, whether the president has confidence in him.
And while publicly, the line is yes, that is also something that we have
heard in the past about people who ultimately are no longer inside the
building behind me, Steve.
You mentioned one other thing there at the top of your show about what is
happening inside the White House. And that is this decision over DANA.
And while we know that this is not going to be announced formally, at
least, until Tuesday – although, of course, that does not preclude some
kind of perhaps tweet from the president, between now and then – there –
it has been the subject of some internal consternation here when you talk
about what is happening behind the scenes.
Multiple sources have told NBC News for days now that the president is
leaning toward ending DACA. But Hurricane Harvey changed some of that
calculation. Now there are those White House insiders who say some in the
West Wing worry about rolling back, rescinding DACA right now, at this
moment, given what is happening in Texas and Louisiana, states that, by the
way, have 126,000 dreamers or DACA recipients in them.
KORNACKI: OK. Keeping an eye on that one, too, the White House suggesting
(INAUDIBLE) decision imminent on that one.
I also want to tell you about Senator John McCain, who`s been a bit of a
thorn in the side of this administration, now out with some very sharp
criticism of the president, in a “Washington Post” op-ed McCain telling his
fellow senators, quote, “We have to respect each other or at least respect
the fact that we need each other. That has never been truer than today,
when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public
office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and
conduct. We must, where we can, cooperate with him, but we are not his
subordinates. We don`t answer to him. We answer to the American people.
We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check
on his power.”
Matt, let me ask you about what McCain is saying there in light of the
reporting we`re getting that Hallie was just talking about the relationship
between Trump and his new chief of staff, because one of the things that
Kelly was supposed to do as the chief of staff was to create an environment
where maybe Donald Trump wasn`t going to be quite as impulsive, or he was
going to be surrounded with a little bit more sound counsel before he went
and he made decisions. McCain seems to be saying in that letter, I`m not
seeing it yet.
MATT WELCH, “REASON” MAGAZINE: Yes, also since Kelly`s been on board, the
president picked fights even moreso with Jeff Flake, McCain`s junior
senator in Arizona. That really has gotten under the skin of a lot of the
Republican caucus in Senate. So Trump`s been burning some of his political
capital even from where it was three months ago.
But there`s a thing – it`s easy and fun to go and watch John McCain versus
Donald Trump. They`ve been going at each other for a long time now,
nastily sometimes here.
But there`s a couple lines in that McCain op-ed that are worth dwelling on.
One is the Senate and the Congress needs to do its basic minimal work, and
it has not been doing that. They`re not passing budgets. They`re not
going through the appropriations process.
And so as Trump (INAUDIBLE) some kind of new phase where he`s, like, this
outsider president, you know, waging war against his own White House, in a
way, Congress is playing into his hands by not doing anything. He can run
against Congress, he can talk against Congress, because Congress isn`t
doing its minimal work, in addition to the president not really doing a
whole lot to figure out how to work with them to pass significant pieces of
KORNACKI: Yes, and Ashley, we mentioned the president vouching for his
chief of staff on Twitter today, also using Twitter to take a shot at James
Comey. And there`s been some reporting here and you`ve written about this
– I`ll as you to explain this to our audience, but what the president was
basically trying to say on Twitter today, he was going after Comey`s
credibility. In fact, you can put it up on the screen. He says, “Wow.
Looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the
investigation was over, and so much more, a rigged system.”
OK, this tweet is a reference to something you`ve reported on. Take us
through what you know, about James Comey, the Hillary Clinton e-mail
investigation last year and the president trying to say, Hey, look, he made
the decision long before he announced it.
PARKER: Sure. So this tweet seems to be in response to news that broke
yesterday which basically came from two senators on the Judiciary Committee
who found and then wrote a letter to the director of the FBI saying that
Comey had begun drafting a letter to basically clear Hillary Clinton before
the FBI had even, you know, finished the investigation and interviewed her,
And so he was basically saying what he`s maintained for a long time, which
is what he put in his tweet, that this is a – this is a rigged system.
And of course, now it certainly behooves him to do anything he can to
undermine Comey`s credibility because Comey is going to be one of the key,
but one of the many key people in this expanding Russia probe.
KORNACKI: Yes, and Hallie, this is something we saw and we were talking
about yesterday. Yesterday, the news was that Trump`s legal team had met
with Mueller, the special prosecutor, had submitted some paperwork to him,
basically trying to impeach the credibility of James Comey. So you`re sort
of seeing a legal strategy we talked about yesterday…
KORNACKI: … an now a public strategy.
JACKSON: And it`s not a totally surprising one, nor is it a totally new
one, Steve. I mean, listen, look at what the White House is saying
publicly about this special counsel probe that was repeated today from the
podium, which is that, Hey, we want to cooperate. We want to do what we
can to work with the special counsel, to work with Bob Mueller. Other than
that, we won`t say much and we`ll refer you to our comments from several
months ago on this.
That said, privately, you have seen sort of clearly – and as you point out
publicly now – a direction that this legal team appears to be moving in.
And again, I would point out that this is something that since before Ty
Cobb came on board, when you saw, for example, John Dowd and some of these
other lawyers take over, you saw sort of hints that that is the direction
that this administration, that this sort of team would be moving in when it
came to the president here.
KORNACKI: Yes, Matt, we`re talking about a situation where you have a
Special Counsel Mueller in place, so I`m not sure how much public opinion
really matters on the question of…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
KORNACKI: … who`s more credible. But I am curious about this one
because, obviously, Trump`s critics are out there saying, Look, there`s all
sorts of reason to believe he went after the FBI director just because of
what the FBI director was doing about Russia. This could be obstruction of
justice. We know Mueller seems to be looking at that question.
On the other hand, you look at the issue of James Comey`s public
credibility. It wasn`t that long ago every Democrat hated him. Then every
Republican hated him. So this is somebody – I`m curious from a PR
standpoint how this Trump strategy (INAUDIBLE)
WELCH: Well, I mean, it`s clear that a lot of the part of case that the
Trump team is most worried about is the potential obstruction of justice
charge related to his dealing with Comey and whether he pressured Comey to
drop the investigation at various points here. And so what do you in those
situations, you try to impeach the credibility of both witnesses.
The fact that we are talking at the beginning of a cable news program about
two different set of draft memos shows me that somehow, we`ve gotten to a
stage in this investigation in this thing where it`s going to – it`s
getting somewhere kind of fast. These are legal strategies that are being
aired in the court of public opinion now in advance of something, and it
feels to me just by the tone of discussion that something is faster the we
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, we keep getting these glimpses that sort of erupt
into public view, and it does make you wonder how much more is going on
maybe behind the scenes we don`t know about, maybe not. But again, these
things will be revealed with time, certainly.
Hallie Jackson, Ashley Parker, Matt Welch – thanks to all of you for
And coming up – again, we say it`s a busy day. It has been a busy and
rough summer politically for President Trump. He`s now beginning what
promises to be a very challenging September. Congress – they`re coming
back on Tuesday. They`ve got some big issues to deal with. They`ve been
loyal, at least the Republicans, we should say – the Republicans have been
loyal to Trump so far. The question, though – is that about to change?
Plus, here`s a big problem – as the clean-up from Hurricane Harvey begins,
are there enough construction workers to rebuild that part of Texas?
Analysts say many workers fear being deported and might not show up.
And Obama versus Trump, more evidence tonight that the current president`s
number one mission, in public at least, may be to try to undo a lot of the
actions of his predecessor.
And finally, stick around for three things you might not know tonight,
courtesy of the HARDBALL roundtable.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: Well, right now in Texas, we have been watching a massive fire
at a chemical plant. This is just outside of Houston. You`re looking at
the Arkema chemical plant. Crosby, Texas, is where that`s located.
This is the second fire at that facility in two days. And within the past
hour, huge plumes of black smoke shot into the sky. The plant lost power
after Hurricane Harvey. An executive with that chemical company says there
are up to eight containers of those chemicals at the site that could burn
We`re going to keep an eye on that situation down there, of course.
Be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m still going to sort of hold off judgment. It is
short into his term, and I`m hoping things can turn around. But it`s
unique right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of what he truly wants to get done, whatever
that may be, he has got to be his own worst enemy. He – he – he couldn`t
be any worse at achieving goals in politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Those were actually Trump voters, and
they were describing their disappointment with President Trump in his first
few months in office. That was a focus group for NBC a few days ago.
As the summer ends, the political winds in Washington may bring a stormy
fall for the president. There is, of course, the ever present Russia
investigation. The are reports today that special counsel Bob Mueller is
looking at that early draft, that draft that not sent, of a letter in which
Trump outlined his rationale for firing James Comey as the FBI director.
The DailyBeast also reporting that Mueller, quote, “has teamed up with the
IRS. His probe has enlisted the help of agents from the IRS`s Criminal
Investigations Unit, whose 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial
crime, including tax evasion and money laundering.”
And as Congress returns from its summer break Tuesday, those congressional
investigations into Russian election meddling will continue. The Senate
Judiciary Committee – they are expected to interview Donald Trump, Jr. A
date for that, though, has not yet been disclosed.
For more on what the fall is going to bring in Washington for the
president, I`m joined by John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for
“The Nation” and author of “Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to
the Most Dangerous People in America,” and Robert Traynham, former Bush-
Cheney senior adviser and an MSNBC political analyst.
Thanks to both of you for joining us. John, let me start with you. It`s
been about a month (INAUDIBLE) little bit more than a month, about a month
since Republicans, and some Democrats for that matter, have been together
in Washington. They`re coming back after Charlottesville. They`re coming
back after this storm. They`re coming back after further revelations about
Russia that we were just talking about in the last few minutes.
I guess my question to you is specifically the Republicans because we know
where the Democrats are on Trump. But the question has been the
Republicans. Does the past month, does being away from Washington, do the
events we`ve seen – does it change anything in terms of their posture
towards their party`s president?
JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”: I think it does some of them. And I`m going
to cheat on you and give one sentence on the Democrats. The Democrats are
going to come back super-charged because…
KORNACKI: And they weren`t before, are you saying?
NICHOLS: No, many of them were still – you know, they were against Trump.
They were resisting. Now they`ve been back with constituents in some of
those districts. I`ve been to some of those town meetings. It`s just –
NICHOLS: … the second and third topic is impeachment.
KORNACKI: Democratic electorate does not want to hear about common ground.
NICHOLS: So, that`s one element of it. So, then you bring back the
Republicans back. And you – there will be some Republicans who will come
back still sympathetic toward Trump.
But here`s what I have seen. A tremendous number of them have had town
meetings where they have actually had – or just anecdotal gatherings with
folks on Main Street where they have had an awful lot of people saying,
what the hell is going on?
And I can promise you, they have heard that. And they will come back. And
I think they will be much more – much tougher on the administration.
KORNACKI: What does that mean? What does that look like, if that is the
I think that if we go back to the meeting that McConnell had with Trump,
which ended up with some yelling, right? At the end of the day, I think
there is going to be more yelling. It may not be public. And I don`t
think they`re going to want to be on your show saying it.
But I think there`s going to be an awful lot of people saying, this just
can`t keep going this way. And, also, do understand that the speaker of
the House, Paul Ryan, who I have always said has been too much of a
facilitator of Donald Trump – he grumbles, but still backs him up on a lot
He now faces probably his most serious election challenge of his career.
And many other Republicans feel that as well. When they get together,
suddenly, I think this August break shifts them toward a lot more 2018
discussions. Those discussions make them say to President Trump, you have
to have a coherent agenda. And it can`t be shifting from day to day.
KORNACKI: All right.
Well, let me get a Republican in here and ask him, Robert Traynham, what
you make of that. So, you got John Nichols here saying Republicans are
going to come back with a very different posture toward President Trump.
Do you agree with that?
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.
But I agree for different reasons. Look, the reality is, is that we
control this town. We control all the branches of government. And the
reality is, you have got the debt ceiling, you have got the appropriations,
you have got the looming of a government shutdown, you have got Harvey back
So I think what President Trump is going to hear from a lot of
congressional Republicans is, please stop talking about building a wall.
Let`s talk about the reality that is in front of us. We have to fund
government or we will go into the red. We have to raise the debt ceiling,
or if not, we will default on our full faith and credit.
These are real things that have to happen between now and September. Or
actually we are in September. Between now and the end of the month, or the
government will shut down.
So, I think what you are going to have is two postures here. One, some
real policy perhaps coming out of Congress. And you`re going to have the
other side of Pennsylvania Avenue talking about tax reform, perhaps talking
about immigration, perhaps talking about DACA.
And that stuff is important, but that`s not what the reality is on the
ground. And I also think you are going to have a lot of Republicans
saying, Mr. President, what is our strategy on North Korea specifically?
What are we going to do here?
Because the reality is, is that they have a weapon. They clearly are
testing this over Japan. What is our foreign policy here? Let`s be
crystal clear here, because I think, to my colleague`s point, yes, 2018 is
looming, but the reality is again the government will shut down. We could
go to war with North Korea. We do not have a plan B.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you, though, about the psychology, because, look,
they`re politicians. Elections are always on their mind. The next
primary, possible primary challenge, the next election is always on their
So, from that standpoint, Robert, let me ask you about the psychology of a
Republican member of Congress, who, on some level, is always thinking of
the next election. I keep thinking back to last year in the election when
Paul Ryan, a few weeks before Election Day, had all of the Republican
members on the phone after the “Access Hollywood” tape and he said you can
give this guy up. You can give Donald Trump up and you can save yourself.
And those Republican members of Congress watched a few weeks later, not
only did he win the election, he won 90 percent of the votes of
Republicans. They didn`t think he was going to get anywhere near that
within their own party.
Does that haunt them at all? Does that give them pause that, hey, maybe
this guy knows my party`s base better than I do?
TRAYNHAM: What I`m hearing from a lot of my friends on Capitol Hill, it
depends what type of Republican district you represent.
If you represent a strong Trump county, you are scared to death that the
president is going to primary you. You are scared to death that the
president may tweet out in response to a Republican opponent. And that`s
real, because obviously he won those Trump counties by a significant
margin, Steve. You know that.
However, if you are a Flake or if you`re perhaps maybe a Susan Collins or
perhaps maybe you`re a Pat Toomey, maybe not so. Maybe you don`t fear the
president as much, because based on the focus groups we just heard from in
Pittsburgh – that`s my neck of the woods. I`m from Pennsylvania. Those
are my people.
And perhaps maybe a Pat Toomey and some of the others are listening to
those type of Trump voters that are saying, look, he had us at hello here.
But the reality is, is that this is chaos out of Washington, D.C. And just
as quickly as they shifted – basically, they`re Reagan Democrats.
These are blue-collar, hardworking Americans who are fiscally conservative
– I`m sorry – socially conservative, but fiscally a little liberal. They
could very easily go back to the Democratic camp. And I think a lot of
members of Congress knew that.
KORNACKI: You mentioned Jeff Flake.
Let`s talk about his colleague in Arizona, his fellow Republican Senator
He writes – this is his op-ed today in “The Washington Post” – “Americans
recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in
Charlottesville. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can
match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty.”
Again, John Nichols, John McCain going very much after Donald Trump in this
op-ed. John McCain just won reelection last year in 2016. He doesn`t have
to worry about an election in 2018.
NICHOLS: He`s not in trouble.
KORNACKI: But I`m curious. Do you think Charlottesville, do you think
that changes anything?
NICHOLS: I think it changes an immense amount.
And I don`t – there`s been so much coverage of Charlottesville, and much
of it has been brilliant. But yet I don`t think that people have begun to
understand the full political impact. That political impact was twofold.
For people who were always a little embarrassed by Trump, but sort of liked
some other things, that embarrassment level just went through the roof.
That has clearly had a huge impact on moderates, on independents, and on
some Republicans. It has always, again, supercharged the Democrats.
They`re going to be much more comfortable now.
KORNACKI: I guess the question I have is the context of it. A guy who
began his presidential campaign by talking about Mexicans as rapists, a guy
who called for a ban on all Muslims coming into the United States as a
presidential candidate, the confidence that Charlottesville is going to
mark some kind of breaking point when that`s the track record, how do you
NICHOLS: I`m going to tell you, again, I had the luck of being on a little
bit of a book tour and doing other things, been around the country, more
sometimes outside of Washington.
And what I want to emphasize to you is, people really get the word Nazi.
They really get the word fascist. They really get Confederate, slavery,
things like that.
And, in my view, they should have been shocked and terrified back in 2015
when he was talking about banning Muslims and when he was saying the things
he has about Latinos.
But now you have gone into like the hard wiring of the American history. I
mean, you have got Nazis marching. You have got people marching under
Confederate Flags. And I just think this has shocked a lot of people into
a much more critical position.
KORNACKI: Robert, I hear you trying to get in. We`re up against a break.
But, quickly, what do you want to say?
TRAYNHAM: Well, just very quickly, I don`t think most Americans are
embarrassed by this.
I think most Americans are offended by this.
TRAYNHAM: This is ridiculous.
To stop and think about it for a moment, that a president of the United
States is saying that both sides are to blame here? This is not about
embarrassment. This is offensive, and most Americans know that.
Robert Traynham, John Nichols, thanks to both of you for joining us.
A quick break. But up next, as the cleanup from Hurricane Harvey gets
under way, there is a growing concern that the immigration policies of the
Trump administration could end up hindering that rebuilding effort in
That is ahead. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love you. You are
special. We`re here to take care and going well. And I want to thank you
for coming out. We`re going to get you back and operating immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump promising Texans they would be able to rebuild
immediately after Hurricane Harvey.
But as NBC News reports, the president`s immigration policies could hinder
the rebuilding efforts, since his pledge to start mass deportations and
build a wall along the Mexican border appear to have resulted in an
increase of immigrants staying close to home.
Texas` construction industry relies on undocumented immigrants. The Pew
Research Center estimated last year that undocumented workers make up 28
percent of the state`s construction work force and the need for workers
will only increase as Houston works to recover.
I`m joined now by MSNBC contributor and University of Texas professor
So, Victoria, take us through this. I guess, at a practical level, massive
rebuilding job in here. We don`t know the full scale of it, but it`s going
to be off the charts. That statistic jumped out at me.
I didn`t realize that. You`re almost at one-third of the construction work
force there is undocumented. Connect that to President Trump`s policies.
Is there a direct connection between Trump`s policies and the ability of
the construction industry to pull off a rebuilding job like this?
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Very much so.
So, let me give a little perspective here. Houston is consistently one of
the fastest growing cities. So there`s a lot of building going on. But
following the Trump administration coming into power, we saw that
undocumented persons were getting nervous about staying in Texas, staying
so close to the border, because of President Trump`s strong stance on
And then you lay on top of that the anti-sanctuary cities bill that Texas
passed. So folks are leaving Texas. Those construction workers you just
cited, they`re leaving Texas. So there`s already a shortage in Houston, in
the larger state of construction workers.
And now we get hit with Harvey. And we`re going to need massive
reconstruction efforts. And we are going to need those construction
workers who have been leaving.
And this isn`t just theory, Steve. We know from practice, we know from
Hurricane Katrina that literally New Orleans was built on the backs of
Latinos, more specifically Latino undocumented labor. That is what was
able to get the city up and running again.
The same thing would be needed for Houston. But given the climate right
now, the question mark is, are going to we have that manpower?
KORNACKI: Do you have a sense? Are you able to put any numbers on it, if
there is a potential for shortfall of workers, how significant that
shortfall would be? Is there a number that – a rough estimate you could
put on it?
DEFRANCESCO: What we have been seeing, as you said, in Houston, we know
that about 10 percent of the population is undocumented, which is close to
double of the national average.
And in Houston, of those undocumented persons, a quarter are construction
workers. So I haven`t seen exact numbers yet since President Trump took
office. But just hearing from folks on the ground, from folks working with
construction workers as advocates, we know they`re leaving and they`re
going to other friendlier states that don`t have this climate that Texas
KORNACKI: But let me ask you a question from the perspective, I imagine,
somebody who would be on sort of the hard-line side of the immigration
debate might put it.
And they would say, well, those jobs should be for American citizens. If
there are fewer undocumented immigrants who are taking those jobs, it means
more jobs for American citizens. And, ultimately, that`s a good thing.
DEFRANCESCO: And that`s a valid argument. That`s a valid line of
But then the question is, how much are we willing to spend on the
rebuilding effort? How much is Congress willing to give in terms of
dollars to rebuild? How much is going to FEMA give?
So, if you want to do this purely with American workers, you have got to be
prepared to pay the wages that American workers are going to need and then
pay into that. So, that`s the question that Congress is going to have to
KORNACKI: OK, Victoria DeFrancesco down there in Texas, thank you for
joining us. Appreciate it.
KORNACKI: All right, another quick break.
Up next, though: President Trump continues his all-out attack on the
legacy, the governing legacy of President Obama. That`s ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to go after Barack
Obama`s legacy, Obamacare, immigration, environmental regulation.
On Thursday, McClatchy reported that President Trump is expected to end the
Obama era program that shields young people from deportation. The move
would allow Trump to fulfill one of his many campaign promises.
He addressed it today. Let`s look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Should DREAMers be worried?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love the DREAMers. We
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Late Friday, the White House announced a decision that would be
announced on Tuesday. So, is this another campaign promise he has yet to
fulfill? Repealing and repealing Obamacare, but he`s actively killing it
by attrition. NBC News reports that President Trump is cutting funding for
ACA advertising by 90 percent.
For more, I`m joined by our roundtable, Eddie Glaude, a Princeton
University professor and MSNBC contributor; Catherine Rampell, she is an
opinion columnist for “The Washington Post”; and Evan Siegfried, a
Republican strategist and author of “GOP GPS”.
Eddie, it sounds like we`re getting mixed signals here. You had that
report. He was going to end it. You have that comment we just showed, he
says, we love the DREAMers, whatever that means. We had reporting from our
own Hallie Jackson at the start of the show saying maybe Harvey has
Do you have any sense where this is going to land?
EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, based upon his executive order to
undo the Central American minors decision by President Obama, which allowed
those folks from – those young kids who are coming from El Salvador,
Honduras, he`s ended that. If that`s any indication, DACA is done under –
KORNACKI: Do you think – because Hallie was saying it sounds like the
politics maybe, at least from a timing stand point of what`s going on with
Harvey might be affected.
GLAUDE: Well, it might be that. It might be the case. That might be the
case. And also might be the case that he is failing with regards to the
wall and he needs to throw some red meat to his base. So, I think Harvey
is gumming up some matters but I think in the end, he`s going to appeal to
the base by doing this.
KORNACKI: Catherine, immigration polling to me is a very hard one to
figure out, because I think a lot of times, the number on the surface could
be misleading or can tell part of the story. I think more than a lot of
issues are subject to how you ask the question, sort of how you phrase the
question. That being said, when you look specifically at this issue of
DACA, when you look at this issue of kids who came to the country, their
parents brought them here, they had nothing to do with decision and having
protections for them. That does poll well, and that polls well among
CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.
KORNACKI: Even among Trump`s base.
RAMPELL: Which is why during campaign, he was loathed to say that he was
going to repeal DACA. If you remember, I mean, he ran entirely on a
campaign of how tough he was going to be on those darn illegals, but he
would not commit to undoing DACA. He said he had a big heart, things along
KORNACKI: I mean, that`s what he`s saying – when he says, we love the
DREAMers, there is some recognition, it seems to me, of the politics of it.
RAMPELL: I think Republicans on the Hill realize this as well. Part of
reason I`m more optimistic maybe than you are, hopefully, I`m not going to
be eating my words in a few days, is that, you know, Paul Ryan came out and
said that he does not think that Trump should take this action. Orrin
Hatch and other relatively right wing Republicans have said the same thing.
And I think it would be very embarrassing to Trump to sort of be overruled
by Congress. And what matters to him most of all is showing that he is
powerful, not being politically humiliated. So, maybe he`ll hold his fire.
KORNACKI: You mentioned Paul Ryan, the speaker of the house, that
Republican reaction, President Trump as Catherine just saying. He is under
some pressure now for Republicans on the Hill not to end the DACA program.
This is what Ryan had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOST: There`s a lot in the news right now that the president might be
looking at pulling back DACA. The DREAMers Act.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, I mean, I actually don`t
think he should do that, and I believe that this is something that Congress
has to fix.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, he`s been a Trump critic of
late. He tweeted, Congress needs to take immediate action to protect DACA
kids. Orrin Hatch, chair of the powerful Finance Committee, he had the
statement out saying, I`ve urged the president not to rescind DACA, an
action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a
permanent legislative solution.
But, Evan, OK, what Paul Ryan is saying is he wants Congress to address
this. The Republican position has been – Barack Obama did this basically
by fiat a couple of years ago. No president should do that. You should
undo what Obama did, but should you immediately pass this legislation in
I`m wondering, we have seen this issue of immigration. This has been a
major fault line within the Republican Party. If something like this,
something as simple – seeming as DACA, comes before Congress and Democrats
are for it and Paul Ryan is for it. Maybe Orrin Hatch is for it.
Is there still a chance here of a major revolt from that Republican base
because we have seen immigration issues in the past have brought that out?
EVAN SEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look at the Republican base,
only 22 percent of Republicans support ending DACA. There`s going to be
massive political fallout for Republicans if they do end DACA. You`re
going to see Hispanics completely move away from the party. And 44 percent
of voting eligible Hispanics are millennials. And millennials already
don`t identify with Republican Party as well. And if you do that within 10
days of pardoning Joe Arpaio, what message does it send in terms of what
the Republican Party can offer?
KORNACKI: When I say I wonder if the polling on this doesn`t always
capture it, this is a good example of things, because I wonder, right now,
you poll the questions of kids, among Republicans, the idea of DACA
conceptually as popular. Do conservative radio hosts start calling this
amnesty and then suddenly, the Republican base see something very
GLAUDE: Well, yes, I mean, this is the thing – I really don`t – so if
all that we were saying is true, it seems that it would make no political
sense for President Trump to be pursuing this right now. But it seems to
be the case that what he`s doing is he is really speaking to that cultural
anxiety at the heart of his base. That his immigration policy isn`t really
about law and order. It isn`t about undocumented workers. It is about the
cultural anxiety that is at the heart of all those core Trump supporters
who believe America is changing, that America doesn`t look like it`s
supposed to look.
And so, DACA, right, is part of this. The wall won`t be built of he can at
least say, because he`s already told the Honduran kids, the El Salvadorian
kids, oh, they`re not coming . We`re going to send these other kids back.
So, it seems to me that this is really a part of this other agenda, this at
the heart of how we understand the political actions of the base at the
heart of Trump.
RAMPELL: But there is another reason why this timing is coming now, right?
It`s that there are these Republican attorneys general who are threatening
to sue the administration coming September 5th next week. So, basically,
they have forced this deadline upon him. I think he doesn`t want to make a
decision one way or the other.
KORNACKI: And also, this is one of those – it looks at least before
today, the last couple of days, there was an opportunity here, maybe
legislatively for him to pair this with the wall somehow, but it looks like
now, some indication to the administration, the wall, maybe we can put that
on hold until December. So, it becomes just a question of DACA.
Again, we`ll see if that decision comes out. The White House suggesting at
least right now Tuesday. We`ll find out.
Roundtable, they are staying with us. This is HARDBALL, where the action
KORNACKI: The Department of Labor has released its monthly report for
August, with both job creation and unemployment numbers falling short of
economists` expectations. The U.S. economy creating 156,000 jobs in
August. That missed the Wall Street expectation of 180,000 jobs. The
numbers also down from 189,000 jobs that were created in July.
The unemployment rate, it edged a little bit higher to 4.4 percent and was
expected to hold steady at 4.3.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CLARKE, MILWAUKEE SHERIFF: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to
make something very clear: Blue lives matter in America!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was controversial Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke at the Republican
Convention last summer. Well, late Thursday, Clarke was a vocal advocate
and ally of President Trump and announced his surprise retirement,
tweeting, quote: After nearly 40 years serving my community, I`m retiring.
What a ride. I will announce my future plans next week after the Labor Day
Well, “Politico” is reporting that Sheriff Clarke is expected to take a job
in President Trump`s administration. But according to the “Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel”, Clarke is looking for opportunities outside of
government that support the Trump agenda and keep him in the public eye.
Recently, Sheriff Clarke has been under increased scrutiny after four
people and a newborn baby died while in custody at the Milwaukee County
Back now with the roundtable.
Evan, this is one of those political characters. Sheriff Arpaio kind of
falls into this category I think too. He had prominence before, but who
really have gained a new level of national prominence through Donald Trump,
and probably wouldn`t, if any other Republican had won the nomination last
year. This is a guy, Sheriff Clarke, who speaks to and for I think a part
of Donald Trump`s base.
You`re a Republican. I`m curious. What is the message that Sheriff Clarke
is delivering? And how many people is he speaking for?
SIEGFRIED: I don`t know what the message is other than he is playing to
the worst and base instincts of a certain portion of the Republican Party
that shouldn`t be there. And if he goes in administration with his 32
pieces of flair, you know what? That`s absolutely an embarrassment.
He`s been an embarrassment as a sheriff. He`s disgraced anybody who wears
a uniform. And look what he says about Donald Trump in the past week of
how or what he views law enforcement as. He celebrates Arpaio and Clarke
as somehow heroes of law enforcement.
They are the exact opposite of what we want law enforcement officers to be.
They don`t follow the rules. They have no problem ignoring federal court
orders. They have no problem mistreating people in inhumane circumstances
that end up getting them killed, but, hey, Donald Trump says they`re great
for keeping us safe.
KORNACKI: Eddie, I think, politically, what Evan is just describing
roughly, it reads to a certain part of electorate as a guy who is willing
to do tough things you need to do to maintain. Is the old law and order
message in some ways, we had prevalent in our politics a generation or two
ago, it feels like Trump has brought that back in some way.
GLAUDE: Right and so deeply racialized. In some way, I`ve said in other
places that this is a presidency of hate. Having to do with not only DACA,
having to do with the transgender ban, having to do with the comments of
Charlottesville. It also has kind of embodied in his call for law and
I mean, Donald Trump imagines himself as a strong man who stands above the
law, who executes it cruelly and Sheriff Clarke is a great, emblematic
example of that particular position. Here`s a guy who he thinks he stands
above the law as he supposedly represents it.
And what do we see? We see people dying in jails. We see him, you know,
just flouting the law at every turn when it tries to hold him accountable,
and this seems to me to reflect generally Donald Trump`s orientation to the
KORNACKI: And I grapple with it. I`m trying to figure out after tonight.
I don`t have the answer in terms of how many people somebody like Sheriff
Clarke speaks for and Arpaio. But I am struck, Arpaio last week, when the
pardon went out, the media coverage of it was almost universally negative,
highlighting all of these problems, these issues, these controversies, the
legal problems. And yet, I know he was defeated for reelection last year,
but he also managed to have – for a generation of politics in Arizona, in
this county that`s more than half the states, won five elections.
That style does reach I think maybe a bigger part of electorate than we
often acknowledge. For better or worse, I think maybe it does.
RAMPELL: Yes, for worse. I think absolutely for worse. Not for better.
These are – these are people who represent our basest instincts. Who make
people feel good about the fact they can wish the worst upon people that
don`t look like them and don`t speak like them because, hey, that`s law and
order, right? I mean, it`s basically finding a way of justifying this vile
hatred and acting upon it in violent ways that in the end put people`s
lives at risk.
I mean, remember that both of the sheriffs that you`re talking about had a
large number of people died under their watch in their prisons or jails.
So, this is a way of excusing that behavior and justifying it, as saying
it`s in the best interests of the country.
KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these
three people will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where
the action is.
KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Eddie, tell me something I don`t know.
GLAUDE: Well, there was a tweet out there about the incoming class at
Harvard University. That 41.2 percent of the incoming class are legacies -
- 41.2 percent are legacies. Nine out of ten of those legacies are white.
And the DOJ is worrying about affirmative action.
RAMPELL: Donald Trump Jr. is going to be giving a speech at the University
of North Texas to the tune of 100 grand. And the questions will be
provided in advance.
KORNACKI: OK. Evan?
SIEGFRIEND: Foreign policy circles are getting very worried about China`s
aggressive expansion because it threatens us economically and
geopolitically. They`ve been going using the one belt policy to go into
Africa, Greece, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Panama.
KORNACKI: OK, that is going to do it for tonight. Eddie Glaude, Catherine
Rampell, Evan Siegfried, thank you all for being with us.
That`s HARDBALL for now. And thank you for being with us. Chris Matthews,
he returns next week. Join him Tuesday, special guest, Al Franken.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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