A.G. Sessions under new scrutiny Transcript 11/3/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: November 3, 2017
Guest: Sol Wisenberg, Levar Stoney, Jennifer Rubin, Matt Apuzzo, Joyce Vance
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad memories. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good
evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Philadelphia. Denial is not just a
river in Egypt. It`s the strategy of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who
advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I told you, General
Flynn obviously was dealing, so that`s one person. But he was dealing as
he should have been –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the election?
TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of. I have nothing to do with Russia. To
the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t believe that surrogates from the Trump
campaign had communications with the Russians. Is that what you`re saying?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not, and I`m
not aware of anyone else that did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: New information this week is showing serious differences with
President Trump`s and Jeff Sessions` accounts. First came court documents
in the case of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. They
described a March 31st meeting last year with Trump and his foreign policy
team, “When defendant Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group, he
stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help
arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”
Here`s a photograph, by the way, from that meeting showing Papadopoulos
sitting prominently at that table with Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.
Also at that same meeting, J.D. Gordon, another campaign adviser. He`s the
one sitting right next to Papadopoulos. He told “The New York Times”
Papadopoulos went into the pitch right away. He said he had a friend in
London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.
According to the times, Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions
vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled, “And he said that no one
should talk about it”, because Mr. Sessions thought it was a bad idea that
he did not want associated with the campaign, he said.
Well, Gordon confirmed the account to NBC News. Meanwhile yesterday, a
person described as being familiar with Sessions` views told NBC News, “As
far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of
Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it, and he moved the
meeting along to other issues.”
While leaving the White House this morning for a 12-day trip to Asia, the
president was asked about that meeting in March of last year. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you remember George Papadopoulos
during that March meeting –
TRUMP: I don`t remember much about that meeting. It was a very
unimportant meeting. It took place a long time – don`t remember much
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you stand by your claim that you never – in the
campaign never talked to anybody from Russia? Do you stand by that claim?
TRUMP: All I can tell you is this. There was no collusion. There was no
nothing. It`s a disgrace, frankly, that they continue. You ought to look
at Hillary Clinton, and you ought to look at the new book that was just put
out by Donna Brazile, where she basically bought the DNC and she stole the
election from Bernie. So, that`s what you ought to take a look at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by “The New York Times” Matt Apuzzo, NBC
national political reporter Carol Lee, and former U.S. attorney Joyce
Let`s start with Matt. It seems to me now we have an accumulation of at
least three people now. We`ve got Papadopoulos. We`ve got somebody close
to Sessions himself. And we`ve got this guy Gordon, J.D. Gordon. Three
people all said they discussed Russia at that meeting and Trump now says he
doesn`t remember much about it, it`s like I don`t know much about history
like in the song. Can he get away with this legally and politically, I
MATT APUZZO, THE NEW YORK TIMES: legally this issue is much more
significant for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions because, of course, when
he talked about this, he was under oath. He was talking to Senator Al
Franken of the Judiciary Committee. I mean, Donald Trump can say, well,
look, I said it in February. I didn`t – I don`t remember. I don`t have
any recollection of this. I think we`ve seen again and again from people
around Trump and from people in the campaign that they say no Russian
contacts and then reporters go out and find Russian contacts. I mean,
whether he can get away with it, I mean, that`s a political question. But
legally, this is much more serious for Jeff Sessions.
MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats are, of course, demanding Jeff Sessions come
back and testify under oath. Here was Senator Al Franken on HARDBALL just
last night. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: He has contradicted himself so many times
in the last – since January that it really is hard to believe that he`s
been telling the truth at any one point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Carol, thank you – let`s – thanks for coming on. Did you see
it? Tell me how the attorney general, who knows the law, he made (ph) that
slow way of talking and all, and he always seems hesitant to say anything.
How is he wrangling his way through this because he`s apparently, through
some intermediary, put out the word, yes, he was at the meeting and, yes, I
shut down the idea of further conversations with Russia. But in so doing,
was saying, yes, I knew there was contact with Russia. Who`s sort of –
how`s he doing this thing?
CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, what their
argument is that he shut it down and that was the end of it, and it was
insignificant. And – but Attorney General Sessions has a problem here
because of all those clips that show him testifying on the Hill and saying
one thing and then other – whether it`s documentation or other people`s
versions of things that happened during the campaign coming out and
contradicting that. And I think the real problem for him right now is that
you don`t know what`s out there that hasn`t come out yet. And, he`s really
boxed himself in on this. And this is just the beginning of what Robert
Mueller is going to reveal in this investigation.
And the problem for Jeff Sessions is, was he involved in any of these other
discussions about contacts with Russian officials? You know, George
Papadopoulos also had contacts where he was promised dirt on Hillary
Clinton. Did Jeff Sessions know about that? Robert Mueller knows a lot,
and so the senator – or Attorney General Jeff sessions has more to answer
to than just these calls on the Hill for him to come back and testify. He
could potentially be in his own legal jeopardy.
MATTHEWS: Joyce, back at Watergate days, they had a phrase limited
modified hangout where they would go from stonewalling to admitting
something. Now, here you have the attorney general somehow leaking,
getting word out that, yes, okay, I was at the meeting, but I was there
shooting down the idea. So he`s admitting now, he wasn`t honest or fully
honest in his past statements on their oath that he – when saying there
was no contact with Russia, but he`s also trying to deny he went along with
it by saying, yes, I was at the meeting where Russia was discussed but I
shoot the idea – I shut the idea down.
Legally, how does this protect him? And he must know the law. Why would
he shift from I don`t know nothing to, yes, I was there but I shot down the
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He`s had to progressively walk back his
statements here, which is very interesting. But, Chris, the standard for
proving a perjury charge, which is what we would be talking about here, is
a very stringent one, and the burden is very heavily on the questioner. So
what prosecutors will focus on here will be the precise question and the
precise answer in light of what they can prove Attorney General Sessions
knew at the time.
One would think that this dance of excuses or this dance of language would
have something to do with that calculus of what the exact question was and
what his answer was. It`s interesting to note, though, that in addition to
legal jeopardy to potential criminal prosecution, there`s also a strict
standard inside of the Justice Department for candor to the court or candor
to the tribunal. If this were a prosecutor in open court who made a
conversation, who made a comment like this, they would likely face some
sort of internal investigation. No word yet on whether that`s in the winds
MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told “The New York
Times”, “The media`s willingness to inflate Papadopoulos, a young unpaid
volunteer and supposed energy expert, into an important thought leader in
the campaign or Russian operative is ludicrous. The evidence so far
suggests he attended one meeting, said something about Russia and was
immediately shut down by everyone in the room.”
Well, it`s not the media that elevated George Papadopoulos. It`s Donald
Trump himself. In March of 2016, that month that we had that meeting,
Trump read off a list of people on his foreign policy team. His team
identified by him. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD adviser to the House of
Representatives caucus, and is a counter-terrorism expert. Carter page,
PhD, George Papadopoulos, he`s an oil and energy consultant. Excellent
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Matt, rolling disclosures at work here. In fact, some of it
seems to be retrenching. They go from admitting the guy exists, who was a
top adviser, admitted by the presidential candidate. And then all of a
sudden, he`s a nobody.
APUZZO: Right. And what you see here is the Papadopoulos case, in
general, can be dismissed by the White House and say, look, this guy is a
nothing. This guy is a nobody. And, you know, they can even make the
political truth and the admission, that this task force, this consulting
committee, this advisory committee was all just for show at a time when we
were getting criticized for not knowing anything about foreign policy.
The problem is they keep saying things that then get undercut. That`s the
problem they have. Nobody met with Russians. And then we find out, oh,
no, no, we did. I didn`t know anything about it. Well, actually I was in
a meeting about it. That`s ultimately the problem here. It`s – for
Donald Trump, it`s not what Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to, it`s just that
it makes us question even again how honest the president is being.
MATTHEWS: Do we know, Carol, or do you know as a reporter any hint at
least that they can go further? That the – it`s been said just a few
minutes ago that Robert Mueller knows more.
Now, does he know more that you know of? Does he know more about the
entanglement, the collusion, between this team that we`re walking through
here and watching them in action overtime and the Russians?
LEE: Well, he only knows more than any of us do and any of what has been
reported. And he definitely has a much stronger indication than any of us
about whether or not there was this collusion. That`s what he`s
And I – and the thing that`s going to happen is in the next coming days
and weeks, all of that stuff is going to be rolled out. And what we saw in
this past week is just the tip of the iceberg.
MATTHEWS: So you see the vector here? And you see the direction he`s
going as the beginning of something bigger, not just cleaning up the little
bit of information they have, but beginning to chew away at the larger
block of information coming?
LEE: Sure, definitely. If you look at the way that what we know about
this investigation, you can see a very methodical and calculated
investigation. He`s moving pretty quickly, but also very methodically and
carefully. And this, you know, is just – I think all of us who`ve covered
this believe that this is just the beginning.
There are also – we know that he is looking into a number of other
individuals including the president`s former National Security Adviser
Michael Flynn, his son – you know„ Michael Flynn`s son. He`s looking at
meetings that the president`s son and son-in-law have had. So this is –
it`s just going to keep going, and more is going to come out. And that`s
where these – for the president, his attorney general, and others are
going to be faced with these questions again about and holding up their
past comments on what they said happened during the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know three people, all men, who may well agree with what
you said. Those are the three Republican Congress people who are out there
with a resolution right now to take Mueller`s job away from. We`ll see
more about that by next week.
Anyway, those three have introduced a measure calling on Robert Mueller to
resign, “Be it resolved, that the House of Representatives expresses its
sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special
counsel position immediately.”
Joyce, last word to you. Does that indicate to you that they think he`s
got some pay dirt? They want him out of the job?
VANCE: People who have nothing to fear from a criminal investigation open
their books, go in and talk with prosecutors, and are honest and
forthcoming. People who call for a prosecutor to be forbidden from doing
his job, those are folks who are worried about the outcome.
MATTHEWS: Sounds right to me. Thank you, Matt Apuzzo. Thank you, Carol
Lee. And thank you, Joyce Vance.
Coming up, Donald Trump says he`s frustrated that he can`t make the United
States Department of Justice go after Hillary Clinton. He actually called
it the saddest thing, that he can`t be involved in Justice Department
And he also said we shouldn`t worry about all the vacancies at the State
Department because he`s “the only one that matters”. He`s talking about
himself. If you were worried Trump was becoming an autocrat, this won`t
Plus, that crucial race for governor of Virginia is down to the wire. This
last weekend in the campaign, the Democrats are hanging on for dear life,
this is going to be a close one. And speaking of the Democrats, the
party`s differences are on full display after the great Donna Brazile. And
I mean that shed light on the fundraising deal Hillary Clinton cut with the
Democratic National Committee long before she won the nomination. And that
is not cricket. And that`s causing supporters of Bernie sanders to cry
Finally, let me finish tonight with the answer to the number one question
I`ve been asked this week. And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Despite a deepening investigation into Russian meddling in the
2016 election, talks are underway to set up another meeting between
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin today
confirmed that details are being coordinated to have the two world leaders
meet on the sidelines of an economic summit in Vietnam next week. In an
interview last night on Fox News, President Trump seemed very open to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You`re going to talk to him on this trip?
TRUMP: We may have a meeting with Putin. We may – and again, Putin is
very important because they can help us with North Korea.
TRUMP: They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Trump`s remarks over the
last 24 hours reveal that he doesn`t believe the powers of the presidency
are as vast as he would like. He now says he wishes he could direct the
Department of Justice to go after his political enemies.
In a radio interview just yesterday, Trump said that the saddest thing
about being President is not being able to direct the actions of the FBI
and the Justice Department, which they act independently of the White
House. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, the saddest thing is that, because I`m the president of
the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice
Department. I`m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I`m not
supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And
I`m very frustrated by it.
I look at what`s happening with the Justice Department. Why aren`t they
going after Hillary Clinton with her e-mails and with her – the dossier?
It`s very discouraging to me. I`ll be honest, I`m very unhappy with it,
that the Justice Department isn`t going. Now, maybe they are. But
hopefully they are doing something. And at some point, maybe we`re going
to all have it out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump also took a jab at the military over the
decision today in the Bowe Bergdahl case which allowed the Sergeant
Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion, to avoid jail time. The
decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our
country and to our military.” This comes after the military judge in that
case had already said that the president`s ongoing comments will weigh in
favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant.
I`m joined right now by Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer at “The
Washington Post” and an MSNBC political analyst. And Sol Wisenberg, who`s
a former federal prosecutor and was deputy independent counsel under Ken
First of all, Jonathan, just the overall look as a fellow generalist like
I, the idea of a president of the United States wishing that he had the FBI
as his personal weapon.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s pretty incredible. Look,
this is a country that`s based on the rule of law and even the customs and
traditions of the president not involving himself with the internal
mechanisms, particularly an investigation at the Justice Department. To
whittle away at that is to really whittle away at the foundation of our
And just think about a year ago, Chris, when everyone`s hair was on fire
because President Clinton – former President Clinton boarded the plane of
then Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the implications that had for then
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign going
forward. And how Donald Trump used that as a way of whittling away at
Hillary Clinton`s credibility and, you know, her using power to benefit
And so now we have the president, the current president of the United
States, saying – saying that he wishes he could wield power, and doing so
in a way that, you know, makes him a victim.
And listening to the clip that you just played, I just kept saying, oh,
boo-hoo, power is hard. When you`re president of the United States, you`re
very powerful, but there are limits on that power, for good reason.
MATTHEWS: You know, one great thing about being a columnist like you is
you see references and parallels, and you see inconsistencies and
connections, because your mind is working that way, always to relate one
thing to another.
Does Trump just not see this continual contradiction in his whole
narrative, that he will say one thing one day, as if that day was a – on
some other planet from this country and this world, and then another one in
a totally other universe? And then there`s another universe the next day.
And nothing relates to anything.
He can say anything he wants, and his 40 percent will say, yes.
CAPEHART: Oh, yes, absolutely, Chris.
And here`s a perfect example of what you were just talking about. Today,
before he got on Marine One, he said, oh, I don`t remember having these
conversations related to Russia, when, just last week, he said, in relation
to the widow Johnson, the Gold Star widow of La David Johnson, the Green
Beret who was killed in Niger, he said, I have the greatest memory of all
time, and I remember what happened in that phone conversation.
So, that`s just one example, Chris, of many examples of the president
saying one thing at 9:00 a.m., and then contradicting himself maybe in a
tweet or an offhand comment two hours later or even a day later.
MATTHEWS: Sol Wisenberg, I just saw that film about Mark Felt, the guy who
was the Deep Throat giving away the Watergate story.
And one thing that came through in that movie I thought was pretty
authentic was the institutional pride of the FBI, how they – and even
under Hover, especially under Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover. They said, no White
House has any right to tell us what to do.
In fact, they had John Dean before he went – you know, he went with the
prosecution, John Dean was over there telling them what to do, and the
acting FBI director, Mark Felt, was going nuts. What is he doing here?
Tell us about that institutional independence, especially of the FBI, and
no president should have any right to tell them what to do.
SOL WISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the irony here, Chris, is
that, technically speaking, the president does have the ability to tell him
what to do. He`s the chief officer of the executive branch.
The president doesn`t even realize his own power. The question is, is it
proper? Is it consistent with our institutional norms? And, of course, it
isn`t. It`s totally proper if he`s president of Russia. It`s totally
proper if he`s the president of Freedonia or some other mythical entity,
but it`s not proper here.
But it`s not always easy to explain to people who don`t understand why it
isn`t proper. But, as a matter of pure, raw power, he does control the
Justice Department and the FBI. And, certainly as you know, presidents
have policies all the time. They get elected, and they say, I want to have
this immigration policy, I want to have this drug policy, and that`s one
But they typically don`t call up the attorney general and say, investigate
my political opponent. That happens in banana republics.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about what happened with Nixon, not that the
parallel is ever perfect. But here`s a guy that wanted to get rid of
Archibald Cox, who was investigating him and demanding tapes that would
knock him out of the presidency eventually.
So, he had to fire a whole line of people at the Justice Department,
starting with the attorney general, and then down the line to Bork, to get
somebody to do it. The solicitor general, he finally got to do it.
You`re right. Is that what you mean by technical or constitutional power,
as opposed to appropriateness?
WISENBERG: Well, that`s exactly what I meant.
In the case of Archie Cox, Ruckelshaus and Richardson had made promises to
Congress when they were confirmed that they would protect Archibald Cox`s
I can tell you this. Absolutely, if the president asked Rod Rosenstein to
do anything that Rosenstein believes is improper, including firing Mueller
without good reason, he will resign before doing so. And that was the
subtext of Rod`s speech a couple of nights ago to the D.C. White Collar
MATTHEWS: Just like Richardson and Ruckelshaus. Thank you.
Well, President Trump also attacked the State Department in another
revealing interview last night. He argued that the vacancies – and there
are so many of them inside the department – are not significant because,
as he said last night – quote – “The only one that matters is me.”
He actually said that. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m a businessperson. And I
tell my people, where you don`t need to fill slots, don`t fill them. But
we have some people that I`m not happy with there.
QUESTION: But assistant secretary of state, you`re not getting rid of that
TRUMP: But let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I`m the only one
that matters, because, when it comes to it, that`s what the policy is going
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, it gets back to something, Jon. And I don`t think the
guy studied liberal arts in school. He just did business.
MATTHEWS: I mean, he doesn`t understand he has a trust as president, but
it`s not his acquisition. It`s government of the people, by the people,
for the people. It always will be.
That`s the ideal. That`s the reality of our Constitution. He acts as if
it`s his possession, and he can move it around the way he wants, up to his
– according to his personal id. Whatever he feels like doing at 6:30 in
the morning should happen.
CAPEHART: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: It`s true.
CAPEHART: Look, Chris, the sound bite that we heard there should not come
as a surprise to anybody who has been watching Donald Trump since he was a
candidate, and certainly since his convention acceptance speech, where he
said, “I am your voice” to his supporters.
But he also said, in relation to the problems of the country, “I alone can
And so for him to say that it doesn`t matter that the State Department is
decimated and that the halls are empty, and that he`s knee-capping his
secretary of state with every comment because, you know, whatever the
policy is of the United States, it`s going to come from him anyway, so why
do we need all of these people?
And it just betrays a total lack of understanding or appreciation for the
enterprise that is the United States government.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s my bet. When he meets with Putin next week, he`s
not going to let Tillerson in the room. That`s my bet.
Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart and Sol Wisenberg.
And thank you, Mr. Sol Wisenberg, for coming on.
WISENBERG: No problem.
MATTHEWS: Up next: With just days to go in the Virginia governor`s race,
can the Democrats get out the vote and eke out a win? This one is getting
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s
President Trump has just landed in Hawaii at the start of a 12-day, five-
country trip to Asia.
The New York City Police Department says it has a credible rape allegation
against Harvey Weinstein and is gathering evidence ahead of a possible
The Trump administration has released an ominous report on climate change.
It contradicts top Trump officials and places the blame for rising global
temperatures squarely on human activity – and now let`s take you back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The critical election for Virginia governor is down to the wire now, with
just one weekend left before voters head to the polls.
Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are making their final
pitch to voters with new ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: In Washington, we
have a president who is dividing America in a way we have never seen
before. Here in Virginia, we can do better. As governor, I will move
Virginia forward by bringing people together.
ED GILLESPIE (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ralph Northam doesn`t
just disagree with million of Virginians who don`t share his liberal policy
agenda. He disdains us. It`s an attack on all Virginians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, two polls out this week show the race is neck to neck. A
“Washington Post” poll has Northam with a five-point advantage over
Gillespie, while Suffolk University, with a more recent poll, gives Northam
only a four-point edge.
Well, the election will come down to which side gets its turnout. “The
Washington Post” also notes that, for the Democrat, Ralph Northam, victory
may hinge on black voters.
For more, I`m joined now by the mayor of Richmond, the largest city, Levar
Mayor, thank you so much for joining – I think it`s may – Virginia Beach
may have edged you out there.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the excitement level in the city of Richmond
tonight. Is there one?
LEVAR STONEY (D), MAYOR OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: Hey, what`s up?
Four days left until Election Day, Democrats, Chris, are ready to turn out.
I mean, when you have a president in the White House right now who is
dissing President Obama on a daily basis and unwinding and undoing all of
President Obama`s work, I think folks know that the stakes are way too
Every single day, you see an image on TV that we wish we had November 2016
back, but we get an opportunity to voice – let our voices be heard on –
in this upcoming Tuesday.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for
governor, getting caught on a tape saying something about Northern Virginia
being enemy territory?
STONEY: Well, you know, this is – that should not be surprising to
anyone, because this is the sort of divisive campaign that Mr. Gillespie
has run the entire time he`s been running for governor.
He`s run a slash-and-burn campaign. But we should not be surprised by
this. We have on one hand a governor, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam,
who has been a public servant most of his life, from the time he worked in
the Army as an Army doctor to his time as a pediatrician.
And we have him up to Ed Gillespie, who has, you can say, been self-serving
for most of his career.
MATTHEWS: Well, Doug Wilder, of course, he`s a favorite if mine. He was
Virginia`s former Democratic governor for years. He was the first African-
American ever elected to that office. He has not endorsed the Democratic
candidate. Why do you think?
Anyway, meanwhile, a book by former DNC chair Donna Brazile has opened up a
rift again within the Democratic Party. It alleges that Hillary Clinton`s
campaign effectively controlled the Democratic National Committee during
the 2016 primary, before she locked up the nomination.
My colleague Katy Tur asked Northam, who is the Democratic nominee for
governor, about that today. Let`s watch her with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned that you could be the
first potential victim of that rift after this book?
NORTHAM: No, Katy. Like I said, we`re unified in Virginia. We`re focused
on this election on November the…
TUR: You say you`re unified, but, at the same time, Doug Wilder isn`t
endorsing you. There`s some division within Virginia. Are you really that
NORTHAM: I am confident. And, you know, Doug Wilder is a good friend of
mine. He was a great governor.
TUR: So why is he not endorsing you?
NORTHAM: Well, that`s up to Governor Wilder, and he will make that
decision at the appropriate time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Your Honor, why do you think the former governor is not
endorsing the gubernatorial candidate of his party?
STONEY: Hey, Governor Wilder has been a lieutenant governor, and he also
has been a governor as well.
He understands the value of these down-ballot races with Justin Fairfax,
who I think will win the lieutenant governorship here in a few days.
I have worked in campaigns. I have ran campaigns. I used to run the
Democratic Party of Virginia. And now I`m the mayor. I have been a
candidate before as well.
These statewide campaigns, there`s a drop-off in the – from the governor`s
race to the lieutenant governor`s race to the A.G.`s race. Every vote
counts. All hands on deck. And I`m glad to see that Governor Wilder is on
MATTHEWS: The name of this show, Mayor, is called HARDBALL. Remember
OK, now, here`s the HARDBALL question for Friday night.
MATTHEWS: Where are you – no, you`re not getting away, because I`m going
to respect you for this one.
Where are you? Because I`m kind of troubled by this whole debate. Where
are you on the statues of Confederate generals in Virginia? What do you
think should happen to them?
STONEY: Hey, I have already publicly said that, personally, I believe that
they are shameful reminders of our past, and they should be removed and
maybe put up in museums.
But, you know, what I focus on as the mayor every single day is on the
living, the blood and flesh of our city, and not on granite and bronze.
And all day, I see people who seek to divide us, who want to focus on
Let me see your plan on expanding voting rights and civil rights in the
Commonwealth of Virginia. Let me see your plan on expanding Medicaid
expansion and Medicaid in Virginia. Let me see your plan on tearing down
public housing in Virginia.
I have not seen anything like that from the Republican Party, who uses
these inanimate objects, Confederate statues, as a way to divide our
commonwealth. And you know what? If you want someone who is going to
support and bring people together, who is going to provide opportunity for
all, you vote for Ralph Northam on November 6.
MATTHEWS: I like your politics, and I like your political ability.
That`s called the pivot, by the way, Mr. Mayor, what you just did. Thank
you for that.
MATTHEWS: You pivoted to an area you want to talk about, not the one you
don`t want to talk about.
Thank you, Mayor Levar Stoney, of the great city of Richmond, Virginia.
And as we come to join – Tuesday night, we get close for all the news out
of Virginia. I will be here on HARDBALL that night, of course, when the
polls close, when they close. But we`re not going to get the answer, so
we`re going to come back at midnight on election night.
So, I will be back with special coverage starting at midnight for an hour,
Eastern time, for the biggest election in the country next Tuesday night.
Up next, as I mentioned, the new book is exposing old wounds in the
Democratic Party. It says that Hillary Clinton, as I said, took control of
the DNC long before winning the Democratic nomination.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In an explosive excerpt from her new book, Donna Brazile yesterday revealed
the existence of a previously secret agreement that seemed to confirm some
of Bernie Sanders` supporters` fears, that the DNC was playing favorites.
Brazile writes: The agreement specified that in exchange for raising money
and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party`s finances, its
strategy, and all the money raised.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight: Jennifer Rubin,
opinion writer with “The Washington Post”, Sam Stein, politics editor with
“The Daily Beast”, and Yamiche Alcindor, reporter with “The New York
I want to talk about the Democratic politics first of all. Sam, is this
going to give people within the ranks, and there are a lot of them in the
ranks, the Bernie crowd, the chance to say, we were right, we were robbed?
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: It already has. It`s not
just the Bernie crowd. Elizabeth Warren, who did endorse Hillary, had a
prime-time speaking spot at the convention, was on the campaign trail, said
yesterday that the process was rigged against Bernie.
You know, the Bernie people have rightful grievances. Though these fund-
raising agreements were available to the Sanders campaign, that`s an
important distinction, he had the ability to do this joint fundraising
agreement, he did it, he didn`t take advantage of it, the fact of the
matter is they forfeited essentially operational control to the Clinton
campaign, and the date of that memo is what is most important. It was
And so, they do have a rightful grievance that there was a tilt – a weight
on the scale in Clinton`s favor, and this perpetual civil war that the
Democrats seem to be engaged in looks like it won`t be ending anytime soon.
MATTHEWS: It looks to me, Yamiche, like it`s going to open up for 2018 and
then big time for 2020. I think the left on the ascendancy in the
Democratic Party, this is going to give them a bloody shirt to wave as they
said after the civil war.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think Donna
Brazile is making a calculation here that the future is with Bernie
Sanders. Remember that Donna Brazile was someone who had her own issues
because people thought she was being partial to Hillary Clinton and was
sending her questions before the debates. So, now, you have Donna Brazile
kind of coming out and throwing dirt essentially on Hillary Clinton`s
coffin here by basically saying she was allowed to take over the DNC.
Of course, the problem with that in some cases is that like was said
before, Bernie had the opportunity to do this. So, he could have been in
his own joint agreement, but he just didn`t want to use it. But also that
he wasn`t a member of the party and as of today still does not want to be a
Democrat. So, there`s this idea that Democrats are fighting over someone
who wants to remain an independent.
MATTHEWS: Let me go – let me go to Jennifer on this because it seems like
the outside people, the people on the conservative side of things,
including the Republican president – he`s our president too, but he`s the
Republican leader of the party – sees this as a great wedge opportunity.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I suppose it is.
Listen, he is the master of misdirection, and when subpoenas are coming and
indictments are coming and plea bargains are coming, what does he do? He
goes to attack Hillary Clinton.
Of course, it`s all irrelevant from his standpoint. The Democratic could
have nominated anyone they wanted by any rules. But, listen, for those
people who are disenchanted for the Republicans, when they look over the
Democrats and see this fighting, they say, are these people ever going to
get their act together?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me just suggest there`s some brains behind Trump, even
though he usually operates from id and instinct. Could it be – I`d start
with you, Jeff, on this — could it well be that he wants a Bernie type to
run against him 2020 thinking that the middle might shift back to him out
of opposition to out now socialistic perhaps in the case of Bernie, but
somebody like him politically, doesn`t call himself a socialist? If he can
make the Democratic Party the British Labour Party, for example, in effect,
the Corbin party, he`s got at least a chance of getting reelected?
STEIN: I think – I think that`s right although if you talk to some Trump
associates and people who worked on his campaign, they genuinely and
sincerely do believe that Bernie would have presented a much more
complicated and difficult opponent than Hillary did. It`s precisely in
those Rust Belt states where his message would have resonated. I believe
Trump`s pollster, maybe he was just trolling people when he said this, but
Tony Freezio recently said that he believed Bernie would have won if he had
been the candidate. Now, that could have be just to mess with Democrats`
MATTHEWS: Do you buy that? Do you buy that?
STEIN: I don`t know –
ALCINDOR: Here`s what I think.
MATTHEWS: Yamiche, what do you think? We might as well ask everybody what
they think. Go ahead, Yamiche.
ALCINDOR: I think for me as someone who covered both Bernie Sanders and
Donald Trump, I remember literally being on the phone with Bernie Sanders
and telling him that he had won Michigan. And he was as surprised as I
ALCINDOR: So, there`s this idea that Bernie – I remember him coming,
getting together and holding this press conference. He literally had no
idea he had won Michigan, and he was surprised as ever. I think that tells
me there were people who saw in Bernie Sanders somewhat of a rock star,
covering to them, speaking to the people, speaking to the working class
people and saying I care about you in a way they didn`t see in Hillary
MATTHEWS: It`s so wacky. Michigan once voted in a primary for George
Wallace. Let me – it`s true.
Jennifer, what do you make of this Pocahontas line? Is it working? I know
it works with people like Howie Carr of “The Boston Herald” and all. But
does it work for a president to make fun of a U.S. senator, a woman who is
obviously distinguished, certainly in her expertise, which is Wall Street,
to make fun of her personally like that in almost a disdainful way?
RUBIN: Well, listen, I don`t think anybody is undecided on Donald Trump at
this point. You either like him, and you think is all hysterical and part
of the game, or you think he`s a racist pig and really, you know, a
MATTHEWS: Yes. A lot of territory there.
RUBIN: So, listen –
RUBIN: – is he changing any minds? No.
But I think he does go back to the well on these things when things are not
going well. He has to have an enemy, and preferably, either a minority or
a woman. And this is what he does. This is what gets him up in the
morning. This gets his troops lined up.
They`re not cheering for him as so much as they`re cheering along against
STEIN: He also likes to make the people he opposes toxic to their own
people. And so, one of the ways he won was not by bringing himself up
obviously, but by bringing Hillary Clinton down and she certainly helped in
ALCINDOR: I think it`s memorable –
ALCINDOR: Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Yamiche.
ALCINDOR: I was going to say, I think it`s memorable when he gives people
nicknames, right? Even if it seems childish, you can remember who low
energy was. You can remember who Lyin` Ted was. You can remember Little
Those are things from a marketing perspective are in his favor.
MATTHEWS: OK. We`ve got to go. You know what I`ve learned lately,
politics is not a seesaw. Just because one person goes down, the other
doesn`t go up. The Democratic Party is not doing great in the polls right
The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these three will tell us
something – well, some scoops we`ll be talking about all weekend.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Jennifer, tell me something I don`t know.
RUBIN: A little nugget in the tax bill, taking away the deduction for
medical expenses over 10 percent. This is for people in nursing homes at
the end of life. Trump is taking that away. About six times as much is
being given back to people to get rid of the AMT, rich people, and about
three times as much to get rid of the estate tax.
So, he`s taking money from old grandma, who is at the end of her life, and
giving it to Ivanka Trump essentially.
MATTHEWS: What a bedside manner that man has.
STEIN: I did not know that, Jen.
A little bit of a nugget on our own reporting. George Papadopoulos, how
did he get on the Trump campaign? Not many people know including his
college professor, who when I talked to him said he was a terrible student
and was shocked to find out that he was a Trump aide.
MATTHEWS: Probably good in Russian.
ALCINDOR: So, there are several female lawmakers who are out saying that
they were actually sexually harassed by their colleagues. This is not just
staff members saying that members of the Congress are taking advantage of
them, but these are actually people who are peers of other men saying that
there are people saying that they were thinking about them in the shower
and basically inappropriately touching them.
So, this I think is an interesting chapter.
MATTHEWS: Interesting is a good word.
Jennifer Rubin, thank you. Sam Stein, and Yamiche Alcindor.
Up next, this week marked the arrival of my new book, “Bobby Kennedy: A
Raging Spirit”. A look back the highlights from the week that was this
week, right after this.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Through all these months of nasty political tweets, cynicism and
social division, I believe America can benefit from a revival of our
spirit. I believe we need a tonic of the heart. Compelling evidence that
our country yearns still for leaders who can inspire, unite, offer moral
leadership. Men and women who believe a great country needs to be a good
I spent a week doing just that, debuting “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: I had asked Mr. Matthews to come in
tonight to talk about his new book on Bobby Kennedy, which is called “A
Raging Spirit.” It comes out tomorrow. It`s great. It is beautifully
written and I learned lots of stuff, including stuff I felt guilty I didn`t
know before reading it.
Now I have the world`s greatest excuse to pin Chris down on this huge day
in the news as well as his new book.
MATTHEWS: Aren`t you nice? Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you for being here.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST, MORNING JOE: There has not been another
politician since June of 1968 that could bring together those two people
back to the tracks to salute the same person.
MATTHEWS: That`s why I wrote the book. I think this will remind a lot of
people during these dreary times that America is better than that, than
what we have, and it can be again.
He spent his whole life chasing bad guys but he said he decided one thing.
The villains in this world create their own hells on earth. So, focus on
the victims, that became the later part of his life, looking after the
people in trouble.
If anything, this book is going to revive the belief that it`s doable.
That working white and black people can have the same political goals.
The reverence these people had as a person.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD: He won the California
O`DONNELL: Would he have won the nomination?
MATTHEWS: You`re killing me.
O`DONNELL: Would he have won on election night if he won the nomination?
MATTHEWS: We thought he was going to do it, because it`s a dynamic. I
think he would have shaken it up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the contrast of you explaining this. I want
you to explain all of JFK on a podcast, so I can listen to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve run out of time in this segment.
So, but look up – just look into it. Read this book. But look into JFK,
the whole era was so fascinating and what happened in those days. That was
So, our thanks to Chris Matthews, members of the audience are getting a
copy of the book, “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.”
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: I want these pictures to be America again. A guy that was
looking – reaching out to young kids, minority kids who were exuberant to
see him and staying true to working class people, white people.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: It`s an incredible book and the timing is
perfect and you`re perfect –
MATTHEWS: Why is it perfect? You know why? Because Trump –
WALLACE: Because we need it.
MATTHEWS: Trump doesn`t understand unity.
WALLACE: We need to think there`s another Bobby Kennedy out there that`s
going to save us. I need to think it.
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: Thank you for this book about Bobby
Kennedy. Hereto me is the heart-breaking Kennedy. This picture, one of
the earliest memories of my life was watching that train. And I remember
my sister putting her arms around me and point me to the TV and explaining
what was happening, who this man was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy has my heart and I`m so happy that it`s reaching
so many others.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a question I get asked all the
time this week. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the most frequent question asked of
me this week. Who did Bobby Kennedy say killed his brother?
Here he is in March of 1968 just a few months before his own assassination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR & ATTORNEY GENERAL: Could I just say –
and I haven`t answered this question before – but there would be nobody
that would be more interested in all of these matters as to who was
responsible for the death of President Kennedy than I would. I have seen
all of the matters in the archives. If I became president of the United
States, I would not – I would not reopen the Warren Commission report. I
think I stand by the Warren Commission report. I`ve seen everything in the
archives. The archives will be available at the appropriate time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, some have written or say he couldn`t quash his doubts
there were others involved. This is what he said, well, you just heard it.
It`s also what his surviving brother, Ted, confirmed that Bobby believed.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
Tonight, I`ll be speaking at the Free Library of Philadelphia to a sold-out
crowd. And tomorrow morning, I`ll be on “A.M. Joy” with Joy Reid, and then
with Alex Witt, my other friend, right here on MSNBC.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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