Moore: abuse allegations a “political maneuver” Transcript 11/14/17Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Sabrina Siddiqui, Paul Singer, Hakeem Jeffries, Betsy Woodruff, Michael Schmidt, Barbara McQuade, Kyle Whitmire; Heidi Przybyla; John Brabender
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 14, 2017
Guest: Sabrina Siddiqui, Paul Singer, Hakeem Jeffries, Betsy Woodruff, Michael Schmidt, Barbara McQuade, Kyle Whitmire; Heidi Przybyla; John Brabender

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews.

In San Francisco, as Roy Moore continues to hammer his support from
potential fellow Republican colleagues, a new more powerful voice that has
weighed in. United states attorney general and former senior senator from
Alabama, Jeff Sessions joined a number of his former colleagues in saying
he has no reason to doubt the women who have accused U.S. Senate candidate
Roy Moore of sexual misconduct allegations Moore denies. Here`s the
attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took the liberty of reviewing federal crimes
against children, particularly those dealing with sexual or physical abuse.
As you well know, Leigh Corfman, Wendy Miller, Debby Watson Gibson and
Beverly Young Nelson, these young women have accused this individual, Judge
Moore, who is running for a federal office, the United States Senate, of
child sexual activity. Do you believe these young women?

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am – have no reason to doubt these
young women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Powerful statement there. Yesterday another woman Beverly Young
Nelson came forward to accuse Moore of sexual assaulting her when she was
16. Roy Moore has adamantly denied the allegation, has said he does not
even know nelson. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: The people of Alabama know me.
They know my character. They know what I have stood for in the political
world for over 40 years. And I can tell you without hesitation, this is
absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don`t even know the
woman. I don`t know anything about her. I don`t even know where the
restaurant is or was. If you look at this situation, you will see that
because I`m 11 points or 10 or 11 points ahead, this race being 28 days
off, this is a political maneuver.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe they should confront each other. That would be
good.

Anyway, as of now 15 senators are called on Moore to withdraw from the
race. Five have withheld comment. And a majority have qualified their
remarks by saying if the allegations are true, Moore should step aside.
Because it`s too late to remove Moore from the ballot, Senate majority
leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he had spoken to the President
and he was exploring, catch this, all options. That was his phrase. Let`s
watch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: There`s no question that
there`s a deep concern here. Roy Moore should step aside. The women who
have come forward are entirely credible. He is obviously not fit to be in
the United States Senate. And we have looked at all the options to try to
prevent that from happening. Obviously this close to the election. It`s a
very complicated matter. And I think once the President and his team get
back we will have further discussions about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was for boding.

Anyway, this comes in the wake of two explosive reports from the New Yorker
magazine and a.l.com which allege that quote “Gadsden locals say Moore`s
predatory behavior at a mall, restaurants not a secret.” But both the
magazine and newspapers spoke to more than a dozen people who had quote
“heard over the years that Moore had been banned from the mall,” this is
shopping mall, because he repeatedly badge the teenager girls and quote
“locals were troubled by Roy Moore`s interactions with teen girls at the
Gadsden mall.”

Well, the individuals were not speaking from direct knowledge. The “New
Yorker” requested a comment from the Moore campaign but the request went
unanswered.

Anyway, MSNBC was able to speak with the former employee of that mall.
Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was another employee there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another employee.

GREG LEGATE, WORKED AT MALL: Said don`t forget Roy Moore. And I said what
about Roy Moore? And he said he is banned. And the police officer,
security guard said he is banned from the mall. If you see him – he
didn`t say he was banned. He said if you see him, let me know. I will
take care of it. And I questioned why, and the police officer would not
tell me. After he left, I asked my manager and he said he had been
bothering the girls in the mall. And at the mall at that time was the
place in town CNBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, Moore`s Democratic challenger Doug Jones spoke
to reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: We are going to stay with Jeff
in our lane and we are going to talk about the issues that we continue to
talk about. They are going to have to make their own judgments about Roy
Moore. They are going to have to make their own judgments about Doug
Jones. I`m applying for a job. He is applying for a job. And that`s the
way people of Alabama need to look at this. Who would I hire to represent
me in the United States Senate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:02] MATTHEWS: Well, that was pretty smart.

Anyway, this evening NBC News reports that according to FEC filings, the
RNC has pulled out of a joint fund raising agreement with Roy Moore.

For more, I`m joined by Kyle Whitmire, state political columnist with the
Alabama Media Group, Heidi Przybyla, White House reporter for “USA Today”
and MSNBC political analyst John Brabender, Republican strategist.

What do we make, Kyle, of this new tape recording that have been emerged.
Somebody has called it in, reported to the press and say robocalls or
recorded voice. It looks to me like they are trying to start some real
trouble in terms of the media there. What do you make of this?

KYLE WHITMIRE, STATE POLITICAL COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Yes, this
seems to be dirty tricks to discredit “the Washington Post” here in
Alabama. It`s a robo-dialer that news station here in Alabama, WKRG, is
reporting about right now. It claims to be from someone named Bernie
Bernstein, swallow that one if you can.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

WHITMIRE: Who is calling from the “Washington Post” to pay $5,000 to
$7,000 to women who have claims that they are not really going to
investigate, but they are going to report. And then they give an email
address where you can send those claims into. Of course it`s a bogus email
address. It bounces back. Marty Barren from the “Washington Post” has
already put out a statement saying that this is fraudulent. And this is
not how they do business. And media throughout Alabama are explaining to
people, no, this is not how national media work. They do not pay for
stories the way you might see tabloids do.

MATTHEWS: I want everybody to listen now as we have got the robocall.
Listen to this now. And everybody watching will know what game is being
played here. (INAUDIBLE), regional prejudice, anti-media prejudice, this
is playing pulling out all the stops to misinform the listener to this
robocall. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I`m a reporter for the
“Washington Post.” I`m calling to find our if anyone at this address is a
female 54 to 57 years old, willing to make damaging remarks about candidate
Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 to $7,000. We will not be fully
investigating these claims, however, we will report –

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Heidi, you and I are friends long enough to watch these things.
I mean, this looks like the dirtiest, sleaziest, stupidest trick that got
somebody with I guess somebody try to do a New York accent, a tone with
Jewish name, the whole works, and somebody willing to buy dirty stuff
without any investigation. It is so over the top or under the top. I
don`t know. I guess they are aiming at the lowest common denominator, a
person who would buy this crap. Your thoughts?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: It`s so completely obvious. They are hitting
all of the trigger points both of the base in terms of ethic prejudice, in
terms of prejudice against the media, that the media is – this is all just
a hit job. And, actually, making every single point that Roy Moore is
trying to make about this, setting up the idea that this is all a paid hit
job by also including in there the fact that these women might be even paid
to make up these stories.

So it`s almost as if it comes – or could come directly from his supporters
trying to set this up as, yes, a really dirty trick. And who knows who is
going to fall for it?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at it this way. John, I want to talk to you
about hard politics. Does Mr. Moore have any alternative but to fight this
out and hold his ground, stone wall against the charges and get elected and
do what he can from there? Is this the only thing he can do? If he quits
now, he admits guilt in all the charges. Is he doing basically what he has
to do just in his own personal interest?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I`m going to say negative things
about Roy Moore and I`m not even getting $5,000. I mean, the truth of the
matter is, when there is one accuser, I thought everybody had to be
cautious. We got five credible accusers. And I think the tipping point
for me was when Roy Moore said to my understanding yes, I dated some of
those teenagers when I was in my 30s, but I made sure I got the approval of
their mother.

To me if you`re 30 and need approval from somebody`s mother to date them,
there`s probably something wrong with that to begin with. Sure, he can do
that. But if he believes in the values, all he is doing the letting the
Democrats win this seat. Another obstruction is going to Washington to
hurt the agenda of Republican trying to do. He can fight this probably
better as a non-candidate than as a candidate. And this is the going to
live with him the entire time if he does indeed get elected. And it`s only
going to get worse. So if he truly wants to prove that he is innocent of
these charges, I would strongly recommend he get off the ticket and the
ballot and to go defend himself.

MATTHEWS: I`m wondering if that`s really the case.

Anyway, Kyle, let me ask you this about this. What role does Jeff
Sessions, the attorney general, and former senior senator about that? What
does the fact that he will not defend this guy mean to the people of
Alabama?

WHITMIRE: Yes, absolutely. Two things. Jeff Sessions is probably the
most popular public official in the state of Alabama or from the state of
Alabama. Can`t quite explain that myself, but it`s true. And much of his
following overlaps with much of Roy Moore`s following. This maybe not a
complete one to one comparison, but it`s a significant overlap. And if
anyone is on the fence about believing this, they now have someone that
they see, that they know, they trust, saying that, yes, they should take
these allegations seriously.

And you put that next to the sort of flailing about that we are seeing from
the Moore campaign with whether these auto dialers are from them or from
someone allied with them, who knows? But, you know, today Kayla Moore is
sharing – I know fake news has become a loaded term now. But she`s
sharing stuff on her Facebook page saying that the old hickory restaurant
didn`t even exist. And there`s clearly, like, advertisements in the
Gadsden newspaper showing that stuff exists. So it just shows the
desperation they are seeing.

And when you see someone like – for Alabamans to see someone like Jeff
Sessions giving credibility or lending credibility to these accuser and
saying he believes his accusers or at least doesn`t have reason to doubt
them, yes, that`s going to impact Alabamans, especially tomorrow when there
is a steering committee of the Alabama state Republican Party that is
meeting to try to figure out how to make heads or tails of this situation.

[19:11:34] MATTHEWS: Heidi, what strikes me here in all these accusations
is that they are all delivered by people who have nothing to gain except
that they believe something like this should be stopped, that he should be
stopped. And but the one that grabbed me was this one today about the
mall. And the fact that employees of a shopping mall which had a couple
high end stores in it, had a movie theater, sounds like a nice place for
teenagers to hang out, as they do in most malls, that this guy would be
banned, that he would be so notorious in his menacing of these young girls
that he would be banned.

I mean, this is – the fact that everybody would know, we don`t let Roy
Moore around here anymore. I mean, he wouldn`t be banned from the U.S.
Senate, but would be banned from this shopping mall. It just - it really
cuts to a new level I think than just horrible, even felonious behavior,
that it would be notoriously felonious behavior.

PRZYBYLA: They almost had – it`s like they almost had a neighborhood
watch out on Roy Moore. And yet he ascended to all these high positions
and no one spoke out.

But Chris, I think this is also a moment in which we as a nation are also
getting an education just on the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and also the
temerity of many of the victims to ever speak out. Because if you talk to
some of these women now who were being interviewed, they are saying that it
wasn`t until the other stories came out, that initial story on Leigh
Corfman and also just the climate that we are in right now with Harvey
Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and all of these women who essentially went before
them to tell their stories that they found the strength to come out and
share their stories as well. Because the truth is that in the past, just
like Roy Moore signed in that yearbook, many of these women did have the
community to fear, that people wouldn`t believe them, and that there would
be a backlash, and counterattacks, dirty campaign to tarnish their
reputations. So to your point, nothing at all to gain.

MATTHEWS: Well. Anyway, earlier today, House speaker Paul Ryan finally
emerged. He urged Moore to end his campaign and retiring Senator Jeff
Flake out in Arizona said he would vote to expel Moore from the Senate if
he got in there. Should he win this special election. Let`s watch the
vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He should step aside. Number one, the
allegations are credible. Number two, he should – if he cares about the
values and the people he claims to care about then he should step aside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Roy Moore wins would you be open to voting to
expel him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John Brabender, you are the political guy here. What do you
make of this election? I do want to be honest and really put all the
factors in play here. On one reason, I think that the Moore people think
they can still pull this out besides their lead so far in the polls is the
abortion rights issue, which is very strong and culturally conservative
evangelical state. They go after and apparently, Moore is reminding
everybody that Doug Jones is pro-choice, he is for abortion rights. Can
that turn this election?

BRABENDER: Yes, I mean, it`s –

MATTHEWS: That values question.

BRABENDER: It`s a good question, does being pro-choice Trump somebody who
has a completely different problem that a lot of people would find the
seriousness in that as well. But I think we may find that out on Election
Day.

But I do think you have to acknowledge that Republicans from leadership on
down have been, you know, united behind condemning the behavior and
standing up for the credibility of the women that have come forward. And I
think that that`s helpful for the Republican brand to show they are not
going to worry more about this election than they are about what`s right
and wrong. And I think it was the right thing to do.

[19:15:10] MATTHEWS: Well said, John. I also think it`s interesting that
Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate down there for Senate is pushing the
issue of a job application. He is saying it`s not a judgment over values
or even party identity, it is about who do you want to employ as your U.S.
senator? It`s obviously the best chance he has to make that the issue, the
who, not the what.

Kyle Whitmire, as always, thank you, sir. Heidi Przybyla and John
Brabender.

Coming up, attorney general Jeff Sessions says he wasn`t lying when he
testified he didn`t know anyone in the Trump campaign who had contact with
the Russians. He just didn`t remember. So why did he remember shooting
down George Popodupolous idea of having Trump meet Putin as he claims.
That`s ahead.

Plus, the department of justice is considering wanted to recommend special
counsel of at least they say they are AG saying that to investigate the
uranium deal, the one the right wing wants you to think is the biggest
scandal since the Rosenberg`s. Is Trump using that use the justice
department to punish his political robust. What do you think? Where he
said before he went to Asia, he was frustrated, that was his word, he
couldn`t sick the department of justice on Hillary Clinton. The round
table has come here tonight with much more on Roy Moore.

Finally, let me finish tonight from California where I`m met with the
dangerous last campaign waged here in 1968.

And this is “Hardball” where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:31] MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump is en route to Washington
following this 12-day five country-trip through Asia. Despite a war when a
bilateral meeting, Mr. Trump is returning to the White House pretty much
empty handed. He failed to secure any new trade agreements with the
country he visited. And either China or Russia grid of pose any new
sanctions on North Korea. Of course, if you asked President Trump, the
trip was a dramatic success. Let`s hear him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was red carpet like nobody I think has probably ever received.

I have made a lot of friends at the highest level. Whether it`s China and
the incredible – the incredible opening they gave us, people really have
never seen anything like it. And Japan likewise. It was a tremendous
rollout. And South Korea, as you know, we made a speech. I believe seldom
has there been the opportunity to speak for somebody from the outside world
in that hall. And coming to the Philippines was terrific and coming to
Vietnam was terrific. Vietnam treated us incredibly, as did the
Philippines. We just could not have been treated nicer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s like he is talking about the opening of a new golf course.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back to HARDBALL.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary
Committee today, for the first time since the revelations from two former
Trump campaign aides raised serious questions about the truthfulness of
Sessions` past statements.

At the center of the attorney general`s testimony today was his assertion
last month that he was not aware of any campaign surrogates communicating
with Russians.

Now, here`s what Sessions said in October.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You don`t believe that surrogates from the
Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you`re
saying?

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not, and I`m not aware of
anyone else that did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, since making that statement, the unsealed plea deal of
George Papadopoulos and the testimony of Carter Page show that Sessions was
indeed told of campaign communications with Russians.

Specifically, Sessions presided over that now famous March campaign meeting
where Papadopoulos revealed that he had connections that could help arrange
a meeting between then candidate Trump and President Putin himself.

Well, Sessions said today that he now recalls that meeting, but only after
hearing about it in news reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I do now recall that – the March 2016 meeting at the Trump
hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of
the details of what he said at that meeting.

After reading his account and to the best of my recollection, I believe
that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent
the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government,
for that matter.

But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my
testimony of a few weeks ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Sessions also said he did not recall being informed that
Carter Page planned to go to Moscow, despite the fact that Page testified
that he told Sessions in advance of the trip.

Sessions got heated on that point when pressed by Democratic Congressman
Hakeem Jeffries. Let`s watch that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: At that meeting, Carter Page told you
that the that he was going to Moscow in a few days. Is that right?

SESSIONS: Yes.

JEFFRIES: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFRIES: Thank you. Thank you.

SESSIONS: And he said it was a brief meeting as he was walking out the
door. I don`t recall that conversation. But I`m not able to dispute it.

JEFFRIES: Understood.

Reclaiming my time – I have got limited time available.

SESSIONS: That does not – does that establish a – some sort of improper
contact with Russians?

JEFFRIES: I think you understand – I think you understand…

SESSIONS: He`s not Russian either, you know.

JEFFRIES: You understand, sir, I get to ask the questions. You provide
the answers. In this capacity, you`re no longer in the United States
Senate.

SESSIONS: I made no response to him, didn`t acknowledge it, and you`re
accusing me of lying about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, throughout the hearing, Sessions maintained that his story
had not changed, and that he did not lie to Congress in his past
testimonies.

Joining me now is the Democratic congressman, Hakeem Jeffries of New York,
who was in that hearing, and you just heard him there in that dialogue.
And, by the way, Betsy Woodruff joins us. She is with The Daily Beast.

Congressman Jeffries, I haven`t met you before, but I want to – you –
you`re an attorney. And I wanted to ask you. And you have worked as a
clerk to a federal judge.

I – about the law. This is a question of law. If you keep saying you
forgot, you forgot, you forgot, does that save you from a perjury
indictment?

JEFFRIES: Well, it absolutely does not.

And I pointed out in the first part of any questioning of Jeff Sessions
that he, himself, made the point in October of 2016 that, when Hillary
Clinton said “I don`t remember” over 35 times, that, if that was
intentional, that itself could constitute the crime of perjury.

Now, it turns out that Jeff Sessions earlier this year testified before the
Senate Intelligence Committee, said “I don`t recall” approximately 30
times, same thing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, repeatedly
said “I don`t recall” at least 25 times.

So, it was a classic case over and over and over again of selective amnesia
when convenient. It`s clear, Chris, that he has been less than truthful on
multiple occasions when testifying before Congress about contacts between
himself, the Trump campaign and Russia. And that`s a serious thing.

MATTHEWS: Did you notice anything sort of ethnic about his attitude in
answering your questions, something that rattled him; he seemed disturbed
that it was you asking the questions? Did you sense anything there?

JEFFRIES: Well, not necessarily. But I do think that he seemed a little
agitated that I referenced his own words in a speech that he gave when
justifying his vote to remove Bill Clinton from office on the charge of
perjury.

And Jeff Sessions referenced, during his Senate floor speech, the fact
that, when he was a U.S. attorney, he prosecuted a young police officer who
failed to provide accurate testimony during a deposition, even though that
young police officer subsequently corrected the record.

Now, Chris, I pointed out simply that he has repeatedly done the same exact
thing. And Sessions said that Bill Clinton should be held to a standard
that is the same as that young police officer. Seems to me reasonable that
the attorney general of the United States of America should be held to the
standard that Jeff Sessions held that young police officer to when he
ruined his life and prosecuted him for perjury.

MATTHEWS: Are you concerned about his hiring standards at Justice, his
lack of diversity?

JEFFRIES: Well, that`s reason to be concerned.

Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had a very
thorough question-and-answer session with the attorney general. And in
response to a question from Congressman Richmond about his senior staff,
the attorney general indicated that he had absolutely no diversity as it
relates to African-Americans in his senior ranks.

And given all of the important issues under the jurisdiction of the
Department of Justice, including the criminal justice system, voter
suppression, the upholding of civil rights laws in an era of increased hate
crimes, it would seem to me to be reasonable that the DOJ should reflect
the gorgeous mosaic of the United States of America, and it does not.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.

Anyway, the congressman – as you mentioned, when confronted with specific
questions about Russia and the campaigns, Sessions repeatedly said he could
not recall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news
reports.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Did anyone else at that meeting,
including then candidate Trump, react in any way to what Mr. Papadopoulos
had represented?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you discuss your meetings with Ambassador Kislyak
with Mr. Flynn?

SESSIONS: I do not recall and don`t believe I communicated any of that
information?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anybody ever forward to you a communication from
Mr. Papadopoulos?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall it. I don`t recall ever being made aware of that
before.

I don`t recall it.

I do not recall such a conversation.

I don`t recall.

JEFFRIES: In your testimony today, you have stated “I don`t recall” at
least 20 times. Is that fair to say?

SESSIONS: I have no idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Betsy, Betsy Woodruff, thanks for joining us.

Give us a sense of how that plays, do you think, with people who read news
stories in print where they read “I don`t recall” again and again. Do
people believe that?

I mean, it`s always possible that there`s so much going on in a campaign,
you don`t remember things. But it does seem selective that he only
remembers stuff when recalled to his attention, and only when he is forced
to. It`s called – as you know, in journalism, it`s called rolling
disclosure. You admit what`s been proven already, nothing more.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Right, exactly, something we`re used to
with the entire Trump administration.

I think the biggest issue for Sessions with the way the testimony went
today is that he had not just significant failure to recollect all sorts of
details about what happened on the campaign, but then he came forward with
a certain new piece of information that he now says came to mind, you know,
namely, the fact that he said he told Papadopoulos not to talk to the
Russian government or to any other foreign government.

That`s a new piece of information that Sessions says he now has been able
to remember, despite not being able to remember a host of other basic facts
that journalists and members of Congress have been pressing him on.

So, even if it`s possible, even if it`s the case that the attorney general
is being completely forthright and that his memory was jogged by all these
news reports, it goes without saying that this creates significant
credibility problems for him in Congress and, you know, with people reading
about, about the way that he talks about how this whole campaign and the
Russia connections have played out.

MATTHEWS: You know, I want to add to that a little bit. And you can jump
in.

I think that, if I were a guy from – a senator or – from Alabama and I
was a regular American lawmaker, and all the sudden, at a meeting in a
presidential campaign, somebody, I mean, Carter Page, who I don`t know,
starts talking, I`m about going to Moscow, you know, why are you telling me
that?

And somebody else is talking about meetings with Russians about maybe some
dirt on Hillary, you would remember that stuff. It just jumps out at you.
It`s so exotic. It`s not the stuff politicians talk about. They don`t
talk about Russians all the time.

It`s – I don`t want to sound like a nationalist completely here. But it`s
unusual to have political campaign conversations about a country on the
other side of the world, as if it`s normal and forgettable.

Anyway, Hakeem Jeffries, thank you, sir, for please – for coming on, and,
Betsy Woodruff, as always.

Up next: The Justice Department says it`s considering whether or not to
appoint – well, they say they are. I just don`t believe they`re serious
about a special counsel to investigate nothing. Hillary Clinton had
nothing to do with the uranium deal, except in a very kind of institutional
way. And, by the way, it was legally done.

Anyway, what about Trump? We will see what he`s up to. I think he`s
pushing Sessions. He said he`s very frustrated, in fact, that the
Department of Justice isn`t going after Clinton, because he wants it to,
and that`s why they should be doing it, because he wants them to. He
doesn`t understand our Constitution.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, it
is – it`s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald
Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because you would be in
jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump campaigned in part on a promise to pursue a criminal probe
against his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

And late yesterday came the news that the Justice Department may be looking
into whether a special counsel should be set up. It came in response to a
question or a request from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to lawmakers – quote – “The
attorney general has directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate
certain issues raised in your letters.”

Well, that would include – quote – “whether any matters merit the
appointment of a special counsel.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once told reporters – or senators, we
do not punish political enemies in America seemed somewhat reluctant on
that matter today.

Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Frankly, I appreciate yesterday`s letter saying
you were considering appointing a special counsel that you sent to us.

But my concern is, we sent you a letter three-and-a-half months ago asking
for a second special counsel. And if you`re now just considering it, I –
what`s it going to take to get a special counsel?

SESSIONS: And we will use the proper standards. And that`s what I – only
thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Well, I appreciate…

(CROSSTALK)

SESSIONS: You can have your idea. But some time, we have to study what
the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard that requires a
special counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as the Republicans pushing hard for a special counsel, the
attorney general`s boss, President Trump, he`s also on the case. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO 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`m not really involved with the Justice Department. I would like to let
it run itself. But, honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats,
they should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should
be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the
Justice Department, including me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joining right now with Michael Schmidt of “The New York
Times” and former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade.

Michael, do you get a sense that the attorney general is just trying to
keep his job here by slow-walking this thing and turning it over to the
bureaucrats?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, he certainly appeased the
president, at least for now.

This is something the president really wants. If he had a special counsel
to point to on the other side and say, look, there`s a special counsel
investigating Democrats, then it would distract from the problem that is
engulfing his presidency, which is Robert Mueller.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SCHMIDT: The Russia investigation has intensified in recent weeks.
There`s been charges. And it clearly is a distraction to him. And this
would sort of offset that.

MATTHEWS: Barbara, what would you investigate, if you were a prosecutor in
the federal Justice Department, and you had to – you`re told, now
investigate this decision by this inter-Cabinet task force? They approved
the uranium deal. They agreed to it. They all signed it at the Cabinet
level.

What would be the crime you would be looking at? What would be the body of
the crime to investigate? It was all done transparently and correct – and
by the correct procedures.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I believe that the theory
that I have heard is that there`s some sort of bribery count, that some
thought that Hillary Clinton approved this deal in exchange for a large
donation of the Clinton Fund.

But bribery has a five-year statute of limitations. And this all occurred
seven years ago. So, I think it would be difficult even to begin to
investigate something, when so much time has passed. There`s a reason we
have a statute of limitations. It`s because evidence gets stale.

But I imagine one could attempt to interview all of the people involved.
But it seems to me that we are tasking senior federal prosecutors on a
fool`s errand.

MATTHEWS: Well, don`t you have to initially establish the fact that
Hillary Clinton put her hand to a document, that she had some briefing on
the subject, had some involvement in the decision to approve that sale?

MCQUADE: Yes. You know, if it is a bribery theory, then you would have to
show that, in exchange for anything of value, this donation, she committed
some sort of official act.

So, that official act would have to be some act to have been taken to
approve this deal. And I don`t know that there`s any evidence of that.

MATTHEWS: I don`t see anything here.

I`m sorry to be so short, but I think this is a closed case.

Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Barbara McQuade.

Up next: the controversy surrounding Roy Moore again. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions says he has no reason to doubt Moore`s accusers. Well, that
comes amid new reports that the Alabama Senate candidate used to troll –
that`s a great word for a grownup – troll the local mall looking to pick
up teenage girls.

That was his reputation. It`s why he was banned from the Gadsden mall.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Although the controversy surrounding Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has
roiled congressional Republicans, President Trump has largely avoided
weighing in on the topic. He`s been in Asia, of course, since the news of
the allegations against Moore broke last week.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president believes Moore
will do the right thing and step aside if the allegations are true. That`s
what Sarah Sanders said.

Well, when pressed by reporters on Air Force One on Saturday, the president
said: I`m dealing with the president of China, the president of Russia. I
haven`t been able to devote very much time to this.

Well, Trump returns from Asia this evening. “The Associated Press” reports
today that while his trip allowed him to leave domestic affairs behind.
Now, quote: he must grapple with the uncertain fate of his tax cut plan,
face the threat of a government shutdown, and decide whether to cut ties
with Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama special Senate race.

Well, let`s bring in the HARDBALL round table: Sabrina Siddiqui, a
political reporter with “The Guardian”, Jonathan Capehart is opinion writer
with the “Washington Post,” and the Paul Singer is Washington correspondent
for “USA Today”.

Sabrina, this – I do get the sense the president is keeping the wide
option out there like the football quarterback, he`s got an option out
there of whether to drop this guy like a bad habit.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: I think that the
president wants to avoid any of the political fallout that might be
associated with turning against Roy Moore. You`ll recall that the
president already expressed regret for having backed Moore`s opponent in
the primary, Luther Strange. And he knows that prominent conservative
media figures have stuck behind Moore as well as his own base.

So, the question is, does he publicly call on Moore to step aside or does
he do so privately and try to avoid the publicity associated with it, and
does he encourage Jeff Sessions who he has been no fan of in the Justice
Department, to consider entering the race? And I think that`s the key
question is, which direction Trump will go in.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan Capehart, are your views of the options he still has on
the table?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think whatever
option the president utilizes is going to be a hot mess. He – his base,
as Sabrina said, loves Roy Moore. The president wanted to support Roy
Moore against Luther Strange and went against his gut.

And the other thing is, the president hates losing. So I don`t know what
the president`s going to do, how he`s going to say it. He is going to have
to address the Roy Moore issue. He needs to have a Republican in that
Alabama Senate seat if his tax plan and any of his other legislative items
are going to get passed.

And so, you know, between the allegations against Roy Moore, the sexual
assault allegations against Roy Moore, the president is in a bouillon base
of trouble. And the only – I have no idea what he`s going to do, when
he`s going to do it, and what he`s going to say. But again, Chris,
whatever he says, it`s going to be a hot mess.

MATTHEWS: Paul Singer, if he does succeed by toughing it out, we`ve had
experiences in both parties where people tough it out. Clarence Thomas
toughed it out. I mean, I think about – Clinton toughed it out with
Monica. There`s such a thing in politics, it`s just putting your – and
just doing it, and say, I don`t care how bad it gets, I`m going to stick to
this, stick to my story, rub it into the other side and hit them back hard.

But if he does that, if this guy win it is special election, if he is, in
fact, seated in the U.S. Senate, I said this on Bill Maher the other night,
they`re stuck with a Republican notion of an age of whatever, of 14, that
they`re defending this guy`s behavior.

PAUL SINGER, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Right. And there is
every suggestion from the Senate leadership, including Mitch McConnell that
they will immediately launch an ethics investigation against him if he ever
takes that seat.

Keep in mind that in the House of Representatives, there`s a limit on –
statute of limitations on ethics complaints. They can only go back about
six years. But in the Senate, there is no statute of limitations on ethics
complaint. They could launch an ethics complaint against Senator Roy Moore
the day he is sworn into the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SINGER: And the question, how long will that take and what does it do to
the legislative agenda if you have one guy sitting outside the bubble?

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute – what`s that do to a – I know, it`s hard to
tell you, it is Freddy Kruger president we have, it`s hard how many lives
he has, but what happens if he says, I want you to vote for this guy up to
election day four weeks from today and the people follow him, they say,
I`ll do what the president tells me to do and the next thing you know the
guy is examined and found to be a sleaze ball? I mean, how does Trump deal
with that?

SINGER: I doubt Trump is going to say anything to say you should vote for
the guy. He may not say don`t vote for him. He may not say anything. I
suspect he`s waiting for Steve Bannon to go out front and say, you know
what, this is the wrong guy.

MATTHEWS: I`ve heard that, according to “The Daily Beast”, Steve Bannon,
the aforementioned, who has backed Moore in the face of this allegations,
may be having second thoughts.

According to sources close to Bannon, the Breitbart CEO`s, quote,
uncomfortable with the charges of sexual harassment and child molestation
that have been leveled at Moore. But he wasn`t convinced that the initial
flood of on the record testimony was anything more than a hit job.

What do you make of this, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Well, this is sort of emblematic of the post-Trump era, where
you have these unvetted candidates who used to be part of the fringe and,
frankly, now are within the Republican mainstream. You mentioned people,
Chris, who have toughed it out in the past, like Clarence Thomas, and Bill
Clinton.

You know who else toughed it out? The accusations of sexual assault?
President Trump himself. And I think that`s another elephant in the room
that`s bound to be raised if and when he weighs in on Roy Moore and his
fate.

And the fact of the matter is it didn`t matter at the ballot box that Trump
himself had been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault, and
it remains to be seen if it will matter when it comes to Roy Moore. But I
think you`re going to see more and more of what used to be unacceptable in
politics no longer have bearing on the outcome of a race.

And that`s the trend that`s been unleashed, also by Republicans having
supported the president despite the many statements that he had made that
they had claimed were disqualifying.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, this is the first time I`ve seen a schism between
President Trump and the senators, it`s clear they`re not comfortable. This
is the first time they`ve openly opposed him, even though 80 percent of
their people back home like the guy.

What do you make of – why is this the issue that`s broken McConnell away
from him, that`s broken Ted Cruz away from him, Paul Ryan away from him?
Why now?

CAPEHART: Because – well now, because we have charges – allegations of
child molestation, excuse me, one, and two, the power of the story is that
the four women in the “Washington Post” story that set all of this off,
they went on the record. This was not a story about unnamed victims.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: They put their names out there. And so it made it difficult for
people on Capitol Hill to turn away. But Chris, I have to tell you, I am
not entirely confident that if Roy Moore does indeed become the next
senator from Alabama, that the Senate is actually or Congress is actually
going to do anything about it, because these folks are living in fear of
the people who will have sent Roy Moore to the Senate.

MATTHEWS: OK, I agree with you. I think two-thirds expulsion vote is a
wild card. Anyway, I`m not sure it`s going to be. Anyway, the round table
is sticking with us. And up next, these three will give me three scoops.
We`ll be talking about it forever, maybe.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be some historic drama here tomorrow. One of our
HARDBALL guests will be Vince DiPierro, the man who caught Robert F.
Kennedy when he was shot and mortally wounded. Vince was a 19-year-old
waiter when he found himself in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel,
catching one bullet through his own shirt sleeve before grabbing Kennedy
and keeping him from falling.

I met Mr. DiPierro at an event last night in Santa Monica for my book
“Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit”. He`ll be our guest here tomorrow on
HARDBALL.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with a HARDBALL round table.

Sabrina, tell me something I don`t know.

SIDDIQUI: When Roy Moore was on Alabama`s Supreme Court, he challenged a
law that was designed to protect rape victims on more than one occasion,
argued that alleged sex offenders should be allowed to use the personal
lives of their accusers against them in an attempt to discredit them.

MATTHEWS: Wonderful.

Jonathan?

CAPHEHART: Chris, our departed late friend, Gwen Ifill, who died a year
ago today, her alma mater in Boston, Simmons College, is going to name one
of its schools after her. It`s going to be the Gwen Ifill College of
Media, Arts and Humanities.

MATTHEWS: I love Simmons and I loved her. Thank you.

Paul?

SINGER: The series of sexual harassment complaints at the EEOC have been
trending down parts over the past ten years or so. They`re likely to trend
back up with the Harvey Weinstein in the news. We have been seeing more
and more traffic on their Website for people who may be filing complaints
in the near future.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Sabrina Siddiqui, with all that news and it
was big news tonight. Jonathan Capehart and Paul Singer.

When we return, let me finish tonight from California, with the dangerous
last campaign waged here in 1968.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the dangerous last campaign waged
here in California in 1968.

When Robert Kennedy announced for president that March, the day before St.
Patrick`s Day, Richard Nixon was watching on television, having lost to
Kennedy`s brother in 1960 and having lived through his assassination three
Novembers later, Nixon had a dark foreboding. Quote: We have just seen
some terrible forces unleashed, he said, looking at the blank TV screen.
Quote: Something bad is going to come of this. God knows where this is
going to end. Bobby himself knew the dangers. His brother had been shot
to death in what he could only bring himself to call the events of November
1963.

He knew the enemies that he himself had created in the years he had had
battling organized crime figures and in fighting segregationists. And yet
there he wrote in open cars, on flatbed trucks, giving himself to the
people, standing for the overlooked, challenging the Vietnam War. In the
end, he left the earth a revered champion for the overlooked, the opponent
of the unjust war.

I`ve tried harder than ever in my life to capture him, the man so many of
us treasure in “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit”.

Tomorrow night here on HARDBALL, the man who caught him when he fell that
horrible night in Los Angeles.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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