Roy Moore defiant amid new allegations Transcript 11/16/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: November 16, 2017
Guest: Josh Moon; John Archibald; Catherine Rampell, Kimberly Atkins, David Jolly, Geoff Bennett, Annie Linskey, Dana Milbank, Seung Min Kim
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: All right. That does it for
our show tonight. I will see you back here tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. eastern.
“Hardball” starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Nine women. Let`s play “Hardball.”
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Seattle.
Well, we are following major developments on two fronts tonight. In
Washington, multiple senators have called for an ethics probe against
senator Al Franken after a radio news anchor accused him of forcibly
kissing her and of having her picture taken while she slept with his hands
over her chest. It happened during a USO tour in 2006. The two were
rehearsing at the time a skit that included a kiss.
Leeann Tweeden spoke to reporters today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEEANN TWEEDEN, SEN. FRANKEN ACCUSER: I was just like, OK, fine, just so
he would shut up, you know. And he just sort of came at me and we did the
line and he came at me and before you even know it – I mean, you kind of
get close and he just put his hand on the back of my head and he mashed his
face against – I mean, it happened so fast. And he just mashed his lips
against my face and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in his statement, Franken said he doesn`t remember the
rehearsal the same way, but he also apologized and called for an ethics
investigation. We will have more of that story, coming up.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, there are two new accusers against Republican Senate
candidate Roy Moore. That brings the total number to nine, most of whom
were in their teens when the incidents occurred. Though they vary by age
and circumstances, some say Moore just pursued them for dates. Others say
he assaulted them.
According to the “Washington Post,” quote “Gena Richardson says she was a
high school senior working in the men`s department of a sears at the
Gadsden mall when a man approached her and introduced himself as Roy Moore.
Moore was 30 at the time. He asked her where she went to school. A few
days later, she said she was in trigonometry class at Gadsden high school
when she was summoned to the principal`s office over the intercom in her
classroom. Richardson said Moore called the school to ask her on a date.
He continued to pursue her. Eventually, she agreed to go out with him.
She said the date ended with Moore driving her to her car in the parking
lot and then giving her what she called an unwanted forceful kiss that left
Well, “the Washington Post” reports that another woman as well quote “Becky
Gray, who was then 22 and working in the men`s department of Pizitz says
Moore kept asking her out and she kept saying no.”
Gray spoke to NBC today. Let`s watch.
BECKY GRAY, RAY MOORE ACCUSER: I just always thought that it was very
creepy and I had complained to my manager about him coming in there. I was
never sexually molested by Roy Moore. I was harassed, you know. But as
far as any of the other things that the women had to go through, I didn`t
go through. But I know these women are telling the truth. I mean, it`s –
you can`t make this stuff up. And also, the community knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the Moore campaign responded to “the Post” saying in part,
if you are a liberal and hate judge Moore, apparently he groped you.
Well, NBC news also spoke to Tina Johnson today. Her allegation against
Moore was first reported last night my al.com. She said Moore groped her
in his law office back in 1991 when she was 28. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA JOHNSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: My mother went (INAUDIBLE) when I got up
and I went out. He grabbed my behind, just hard. I was in shock. And I
was so humiliated and sickening. You – I didn`t do anything. And that`s
what I regret. I just got out of there. Speed up a little bit and got out
the door as quick as I could. And he grabbed it so hard that it was almost
like (INAUDIBLE). And he was – it was such a hard like I could feel the
dents of his fingers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, senator – Judge Moore has denied all the allegations
against him, as he did again today. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: As you know, “the Washington
Post” has brought some scurrilous, false charges, not charges, allegations,
which I have emphatically denied time and time again.
Many of you have recognized that this is an effort by Mitch McConnell and
his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will
not stand for it. They got a call that said – asked me to step down from
the campaign. Well, I want to tell you who needs to step down. That`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:05] MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by John Archibald, columnist for the
Alabama media group, Josh Moon, columnist for the Alabama political
reporter and Catherine Rampell, columnist for “the Washington Post.”
Let me start with John. What do you make of this charge? He seems to be
focusing his fire now on his defense against Mitch McConnell, the
Republican senate leader, rather than the “Washington Post” or the media or
anybody else or the liberals for that matter. What do you make of this?
JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Well, they are in that
shotgun blast, but the Republican establishment is number one. That really
hasn`t changed that much from the beginning. As soon as really when the
first allegations were made last week, a lot of Moore supporters were
bubbling up, saying, pointing at Mitch, more than Democrats.
MATTHEWS: What is the image of McConnell down there?
ARCHIBALD: They despise Mitch McConnell down here. I think they think he
is worse than a Democrat because he is a Republican. They would consider a
rhino. And he is the reason that Roy Moore is about to face election.
MATTHEWS: Josh, I have this sense of sort of Russian boxes where the box
that matters down there is the core, the support on the right, of course,
that supports judge Moore. Outside that box is the Republican
establishment of Alabama which is dependent on that core and therefore has
to keep endorsing this guy no matter what they think at the top.
And then outside that is a larger box, which is the Republican
establishment up here, actually in Washington, D.C., I`m in Washington
State, in Washington, D.C. that basically has to go along with whatever
happens at the state level. Is that the way it is?
JOSH MOON, ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I would say that that`s pretty
true. And especially at the state level where the Roy Moore supporters
here can swing a statewide election. And so they have to be very, very
careful when they are coming out against him and that`s the reason why I
think you saw the steering committee here in the state kind of back Roy
Moore and reconfirm their commitment to him as the candidate in this race.
MATTHEWS: Catherine, thank you so much for coming on. What do you make of
the fact that the target here is McConnell? And McConnell does seem to
have an institutional respect for the Senate. I think in this case, he may
be driven by more than just sheer partisan politics. He doesn`t want Judge
Moore, to be a colleague of his in the U.S. Senate.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Probably in an ideal world, if you
are Mitch McConnell, you don`t want him to be your colleague, although I
think we should get him On the Record now, McConnell, as saying, if the
voters speak and decide that they are going to elect Roy Moore to the
Senate, we will expel him. Because I don`t trust Mitch McConnell to stick
to his guns if Moore gets elected and that McConnell will say, you know
what, the voters have spoken, let`s move on.
You know, McConnell likes to portray himself as some sort of feminist hero
because of the fact that, for example, he led the Senate ethics committee
when Packwood also faced charges of misconduct during the mid-90s. And
McConnell voted to expel him then. But, remember, McConnell dragged his
feet for a really long time before actually finally giving in, because he
had no other options, but to vote to expel Packwood.
So my fear is that with tax cuts on the line, that that marginal Republican
vote will be too valuable for McConnell to give it up and basically say,
you know what, we should kick this guy out. I just don`t trust him on that
MATTHEWS: You think he will fear the hard right?
RAMPELL: Yes, I think he will fear the hard right. I think he will fear
the donors who worry that he is jeopardizing tax cuts by potentially
throwing into turmoil that seat going forward. And that McConnell I think
just doesn`t have the guts to decide, you know, what we don`t want this guy
walking among us. We don`t know what he is capable of. We don`t know how
he will treat his staffers. We don`t know if he is still going after
I think what he cares about is tax cuts. What he cares about is a win.
And if the voters decide to send Roy Moore to Washington, McConnell might
say, you know what, with let`s move on.
MATTHEWS: I think everything you say is true. But I also think he has a
reserve respect for the organization of the United States Senate. He has
been with it in all of these years.
Anyway – but everything you said is right. Again, at his press conference
today, a number of religious leaders defended Moore, including Alan Keyes.
Remember him? You might remember him parachuting into that 2004 Illinois
Senate race against Barack Obama. Let`s watch Mr. Keyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET PORTER, PRESIDENT, FAITH2ACTION: They are insinuating that what just
simply can`t be true. You simply cannot fake being a godly, a true, a
trustworthy a valiant leader on the principles of the bible. You cannot
STEVEN HOTZE, PRESIDENT, CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS OF TEXAS: He can help
drain the slimy swamp, which is inhabited by cowardly rhinos, communist
Democrats, greedy lobbyists. And the alt-left lackeys in the press.
[19:10:04] ALAN KEYES, RENEW AMERICA: He stands on the premise that when
you come to take our rights, you spit in the face of God. And that is why
they hate him and that is why they mean to destroy him.
RUSTY THOMAS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, OPERATION SAVE AMERICA: You need to send
the strongest message possible to the powers that be. Alabama will not
bow. Alabama will not kiss the ring of political hacks who have sold their
souls to the devil to maintain their political power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: John Archibald, give us the libretto to all of that. What is
all that music and lyrics about? I mean, that`s incredibly fire and
brimstone about why anybody who opposes Judge Moore is the devil?
ARCHIBALD: Yes. And it was, what, 20 people speaking for two hours, all
of whom had the same tone and tenor. None of whom really said anything
about child molestation or child abuse. And all of them, except for one, I
believe, were not from Alabama. So I don`t know what to call them, perhaps
carpet teabaggers. But I don`t know how they affect the Alabama Senate
MATTHEWS: I think you coined a term for better or for worse.
Let me go to Josh on that one. Carpet teabaggers. What do you think of
that, what we just heard? Because that was one hell of a serenade. It
seemed to me like deep belief, deep fear, deep anger, all the emotions
there over what is really just a Senate race. It is not the most important
thing in history. And it is only going to be for three year, half a term,
and yet they are fighting like it is God and heaven against the devil and
MOON: Well, that was – that press conference was essentially a microcosm
of Roy Moore`s entire political life. You know, this anti-everything, I`m
the Christian warrior God. We are fighting for the rights. Follow me into
this battle for Christianity. And that`s what Roy Moore has been his
He has been a man on an island. That`s the reason why the Republican
establishment kind of hates him at this point, because he will not agree to
their terms on things. And that`s the reason most Democrats hate him,
because he has been out here pushing this stuff for so long, calling
everybody that disagrees with him, a communist or anti-Christian. And
that`s basically been his life. That`s what you saw today. That kind of
hatred and angry that comes out of him in these sort of settings.
MATTHEWS: Catherine, you were pretty good a moment ago on sheer political
calculation here. What do you think? If you are Mitch McConnell or a hero
John Cornyn or anybody up there in the Republican leadership who wants to
keep the Republicans in-charge and a serious political party, I think they
are better off in judge Moore loses. And I think they may have come to
that conclusion at this point. What do you think is their calculation?
RAMPELL: Yes. I`m sure that their first choice actually is not
necessarily that Roy Moore loses to the Democrat, right. But that somehow,
they are able to pull off an amazingly successful write-in campaign or they
are able to delay the election, who would be inherently un-Democratic, of
course. But somehow, they are able to get another Republican in that seat
Remember, Republicans are doing quite badly with the voters of the future,
i.e., millennials, my generation. And by the way, my generation is often
accused of having a victimhood complex. I think you saw that on display
right there in Alabama. But in any case, they are worried about how their
party appears before young voters. And young voters are already inclined
to see Republicans as the party of homophobia and bigotry and sexual
deviancy of sexual predation, in any case. And this is not doing them any
favors in terms of the national brand.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Catherine. Anyway, thank you Catherine
Rampell, our John Archibald and Josh Moon.
OK. Coming up, a radio news anchor accused Senator Al Franken of Minnesota
of forcibly kissing her and have having his picture taken with her as she
slept with his hands over her chest while on a USO tour before he was in
the Senate. Franken has called for an ethics investigation of himself for
the actions and apologized to his accuser. And she says she accepts his
apology. Tonight, top Democrats wants answers.
Plus, Trump`s dilemma on Roy Moore. As I said, if he comes down on the
side of Moore, he would be at odds with virtually every Republican in
Washington D.C. But if he comes out against Moore and in support of
Moore`s accusers and Moore wins, he, Trump, will look like a loser which he
never wants to look like. Maybe that`s why the President isn`t even
talking right now which is really strange.
And the Trump tower tax cut. Let`s call it that. The Trump tower tax cut.
The Republicans are moving forward with what really is a windfall for the
President and his family, about $1 billion for them personally and the
country`s other richest people. Tonight, we learn just how much Trump and
his family would benefit personally if this plan gets passed. In the years
ahead, it`s more than $1 billion.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch and Trump`s reversal of
President Obama`s ban on importing elephant trophies into this country.
The pigs are being pigged.
This is “Hardball” where action is.
[19:16:16] MATTHEWS: Joining – today`s White House press briefing, Sarah
Huckabee Sanders was asked why the public should find the Moore allegations
very troubling. But shouldn`t believe the allegations of sexual misconduct
made against President Trump. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I wonder what you would assert to be
the difference between the two situations, such that on the face of things,
we should find one set of allegations very troubling and on the other, we
shouldn`t pay attention to them at all or we should totally disbelieve
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the
President has certainly a lot more insight into what he personally did or
didn`t do. And he spoke out about that directly during the campaign. And
I don`t have anything further to add beyond that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will have more on the President`s handling of the Moore
controversy later in the show.
We will be right back.
[19:19:08] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball.”
For weeks now, revelations of inappropriate sexual behavior by powerful men
have reverberated through Hollywood. The media, now Capitol Hill, of
course, and new allegations have emerged against Democratic senator Al
Franken of Minnesota.
Los Angeles radio host, Leeann Tweeden says Franken forcibly kissed her
without her consent and groped her during a rehearsal for a USO tour in
2006. Well, earlier today, Tweeden spoke about the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWEEDEN: He stuck his tongue down my mouth and I remember, I pushed him
off with my hands. And I just remember, I almost punched him, because
every time I see him now like my hands clench into fists and I`m sure
that`s probably why. And I said, if you ever do that again to me, I`m not
going to be so nice about it the second time. And I just walked out away
from him. And I walked out. And I just wanted to find a bathroom and I
just wanted to rinse my mouth out, because I was just disgusted, you know?
It was just one of those – I don`t know. I was violated. I just felt
like, you know, he betrayed my trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Ms. Tweeden also posted a photo of Franken posing with his
hands over her chest while she was sleeping on that flight.
Franken initially responded with a short statement, but later issued a much
lengthier apology, writing: “While I don`t remember the rehearsal for the
skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe
women`s experiences. I respect women. I don`t respect men who don`t. And
the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that
makes me feel ashamed.
“I don`t know what was in my head when I took that picture. And it doesn`t
matter. There`s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with
myself. It isn`t funny. It`s completely inappropriate.”
Well, Tweeden`s allegations were met by bipartisan calls for an ethics
investigation, including by one by Franken himself, who said he would
gladly cooperate with an investigation.
For more, I`m joined by NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt, and
Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter for “The Boston Herald.”
Thank you, both, for joining us.
I guess, what do we – where does this stand, just in terms of the
institution, Kasie, and the political, looking at it? There would be – do
you think there will be an Ethics Committee investigation of this incident
from his tour for the USO?
KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It seems like it`s on track, Chris, for
there to be an investigation.
Leaders in both parties are saying that that`s what needs to happen.
Obviously, Franken himself said that. This is a pretty rare thing, though,
and we almost never really get a glimpse at even what they`re looking at or
And, you know, examples where there have been, you know, significant
consequences out of some of this are relatively few and far between. There
was a senator expelled back in the 1860s. Most of the senators that have
ever been expelled were expelled for joining the Confederacy, essentially.
And so then there`s not very many modern-day examples. Now, Bob Packwood
is obviously the one who comes most clearly to mind. And that was actually
Mitch McConnell who recommend, when he was chairman of the Ethics
Committee, that Packwood be thrown out of the Senate over it. Packwood
resigned before he allowed that to happen.
So I think this is clearly something where you can tell that members of
Congress are trying to figure out, in some ways, what is the right thing to
say in this new reality? I mean, Democrats, quite frankly, were running
away from our cameras today. Chuck Schumer canceled a press conference.
Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, who I have talked to
actually multiple times in recent days about sexual harassment issues on
Capitol Hill, and who was pushing a resolution through the Senate to try to
change training over there, kind of went to some lengths to avoid cameras
as she was leaving today.
So, you know, we haven`t really had a chance to hear from a lot of these
members. And, you know, Republicans have been dealing with their own issue
around this, Roy Moore, obviously, a different case than Al Franken,
primarily because it involved a child. And, clearly, that is not the case
at this point with Al Franken. So there is that distinction.
But, at the same time, you know, this is a completely new world that,
frankly, the country is living in when it comes to these allegations. And
you heard it from Leeann herself today, when she said, look, this happened
11 years ago. I thought I would get annihilated if I came forward and said
And now, you know, she feels empowered to speak. And that – that is a
very, very powerful thing. And you can tell that there, you know, are
definitely people who are nervous, and I think reevaluating some of the
things that have happened in their past.
So, you know, I personally am waiting to see what Al Franken says when he
does speak publicly about this. I mean, it`s going to be unavoidable to a
certain extent. He`s going to have to do it at some point – how he
approaches it. What is his tone?
Because I think, you know, quite frankly, there are a lot of powerful men
who are grappling in new ways. And he put out two statements today. The
first one was very short, came out this morning not long after the
allegations were first posted online. It essentially said, hey, that
photo, I – it was probably meant to be funny.
And, clearly, that – the statement didn`t go over well. And 90 minutes
later, they put out a much longer statement, clearly much more thought-
through. I think that even shows you a little bit of this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It`s well done.
Anyway, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck
Schumer were among the first to request an ethics investigation into
Franken. And colleagues on both sides of the aisle expressed support for
that idea. Let`s listen to them all here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Sexual harassment is inappropriate in
every circumstance, in every way, whomever is involved.
So let`s start with that. And I do support that there should be an ethics
investigation, and we will see where that ends up.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D), NEVADA: I`m very disappointed. I support
an ethics investigation. This kind of conduct should not be tolerated by
anyone and any public official.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think Senator McConnell`s got it right.
This is a matter that should be referred to the Senate Ethics Committee.
SEN. DEB FISCHER (R), NEBRASKA: There`s never an excuse for it. There`s
never any way that you can defend it. And it`s very serious. It needs to
be looked into.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I think the Ethics Committee is
appropriate. It deals with the conduct of a member. And it deals with the
reputation of the institution. Look, this type of conduct, for what was
alleged, is unacceptable. And we have to make that clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kimberly, I guess this is the – the question here is,
apparently, Ms. Tweeden has accepted the apology given so far by the
senator, by Senator Franken.
And I guess the question is, what`s the sanction here? By the way, this is
something we have been dealing, this question of the proper sanction, since
the Clinton investigation with Monica Lewinsky, which is, most people
thought it was way over the top to remove him from office.
In the end, they didn`t do that. It wasn`t really a big issue that people
said, OK – they couldn`t find a proper way to censure him, because it
wasn`t in the rule book. There wasn`t such a thing. But maybe – I think
they needed something like that.
This is something that occurred, one incident so far, before he was a
senator, when he was on a pretty good, important mission for the country,
which was this USO Tour.
What`s the sanction here?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, “THE BOSTON HERALD”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: I mean, what are we talking about, a time-out? In football, you
get fined. You get suspended – or in major sports. I`m trying to think,
is there any other sort of field of play, if you will, where you pay a
price, and everybody knows it, and you take the shame for having paid that
price, but that`s the end of it?
Or you`re just whacked. Your career`s over. What`s the story here? We`re
in strange territory here, I think. Your thoughts?
ATKINS: We are. We definitely are. And I think it remains to be seen.
I mean, we have seen the Congress censure people for certain actions or
another, which really doesn`t mean much more than a vote taken to censure
them. And we have seen other cases such as…
MATTHEWS: Well, Gary Studds, remember him?
MATTHEWS: Remember Gary Studds from Massachusetts. And he refused to look
at the House when they censured him. I mean, he wouldn`t even accept it,
the shame that came with his conduct.
I mean, I think it depends on what comes out of this investigation. You
mentioned Senator Packwood, who the Ethics Committee, led by Mitch
McConnell, actually had recommended that he be expelled before he actually
But, look, we had Leeann Tweeden today. I think one interesting thing that
she said during her press conference is that at least one other person had
come forward. She hadn`t followed up with it, but if we see more people
coming forward with similar stories, I think this quickly escalates, and
this quickly becomes a bigger political problem for Senator Franken.
This happened 11 years ago, so the idea that he might face any sort of
criminal conduct out of this seems very unlikely, but – because of the
statutes of limitation. But I think if we see a growing number, as we have
seen, with Roy Moore and with other people who have faced these kind of
allegations in recent weeks, it could be a different – a whole different
MATTHEWS: And I think they`re all looking to their own conduct.
Anyway, earlier this week, a House committee held a hearing focused on
harassment on Capitol Hill. Congresswomen from both parties shared stories
about unnamed male colleagues – I mean, fellow members. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: In fact, there are two members of
Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve. These harasser
propositions, such as, are you going to be a good girl, to perpetrators
exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on
the House floor.
REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), VIRGINIA: This member asked a staffer to bring
them over some materials to their residence. And the young staffer – it`s
a young woman – went there, and was greeted with a member in a towel, who
was a male, who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose
That kind of situation, what do – what are we doing here for women right
now who are dealing with somebody like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Kasie, you and I have known each other for a while. And I have to tell
you, some of this is so gross, you just go, well, that`s an easy one. Get
rid of that person. Just get him out of there.
Other stuff, it looks like it requires some kind of censuring, something to
make sure it never happens again.
But these are widely varying, it seems to me, in the awfulness of the
conduct. That last one was horrible for a staff member. I have been a
staff member. You do what the boss tells you. And in situations like
that, what do you do? You`re talking to your boss.
Anyway, your thoughts?
And I think there are a lot more women that we haven`t heard from who have
had things like this happen to them. And, you know, it`s a very difficult
line, Chris, for women who are trying to get ahead in a very, you know,
very – it`s a small town. Washington is a small town. Your reputation is
everything. Your network is everything.
And if you`re a young woman, and your boss – even if it`s conduct that,
you know, perhaps we would consider to be appropriate, like asking somebody
out for a drink or suggesting, you know, that perhaps you do something late
at night, what do you say if you`re the woman in that position?
HUNT: Because, if you say no, then you are potentially recriminated
against, or the boss doesn`t give you the plum assignment or retaliates
against you in some sort of very subtle way.
I mean, this is – you know, this is – this is something that has been
talked about so much, and it`s still so buried. And, frankly, people –
this woman who named Al Franken today, she doesn`t work in politics, right?
There`s nobody who works in politics right now who is willing to name an
And there is a reason for that. And the culture here, I`m interested to
see if it`s going to change. We may be on the cusp of that. But I think
it`s it`s different than what`s going on in the media and in Hollywood.
Kasie, thank you so much for that perspective, as a reporter and as a
person who works among these people. Thank you so much, Kasie Hunt.
And, thank you, Kimberly Atkins.
Up next: President Trump`s never been shy about giving his opinion on just
about everything, but he`s staying silent when it comes to Roy Moore.
Notice the silence. How long can the president and the leader of the
Republican Party, that being him, dodge the issue of Roy – well, Roy
Moore? How much more of Moore can he take?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank
you. Thank you all.
QUESTION: Should Roy Moore resign, Mr. President? Do you believe his
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Do you believe the accusers of Roy Moore, Mr. President? Should
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s reaction to the allegations against Alabama Senate
candidate Roy Moore has been one of conspicuous silence.
However, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn`t avoid questions as
easily. Today, she maintained the position that Moore should only step
aside if the allegations are true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does the president believe Roy Moore`s accusers, and does he
think Roy Moore should drop out of this race?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president
believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken
seriously. And he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the
decision on who their next senator should be.
QUESTION: Why won`t he weigh in on this? Why won`t he take the same type
of strong position that these other Republican senators have taken on Roy
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, the president supported the decision by the RNC to
withdraw resources from this race, but feels it`s up to the people of
Alabama to make the decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the allegations against Judge Moore, which Moore denies,
has put the president in a difficult position.
As “The Washington Post” points out – quote – “If he were to say that he
believes that women`s accusations, as McConnell and others have done, it
would raise comparisons with the sexual harassment accusations that he has
faced and denied.”
I`m joined right now by Geoff Bennett, White House correspondent for NBC
News. And David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Let me start with Geoff on this.
Geoff, I`m not sure what the motives of the president are, but what do you
think they are? Why is he so quiet?
GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in talking with
people close to the president today, they point to a pure political
They say there`s no reason – the president sees no reason to inject
himself into this race, given that Luther Strange was his chosen candidate
in the September primary, which is true. But it`s also true that after
Luther Strange was defeated, the president deleted his tweets in support of
Strange and then immediately threw his support behind Roy Moore.
So, essentially, what this all boils down to is that the president sees no
good options, and that essentially opposing Moore now could really diminish
his conservative brand among the same Alabama Republicans who support Roy
Moore. So that`s one of the reasons why you saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders
today take that middle road at the White House press briefing, saying that
it`s at this point up to the will of the Alabama voters, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Jolly, what do you make of the politics of this and
the personal vulnerability of this president? It does seem odd that Donald
Trump is in the role of judge and jury of Roy Moore. It just seems odd.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Listen, he`s making a decision
based on politics, not on principle. And that`s exactly what we should
expect from Donald Trump.
Donald Trump wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. Steve
Bannon wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. The alt-right
wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. And there is no
reason for Donald Trump to go any other way, but based on principle.
And so that`s what we are seeing in this administration right now. There
is no win for Republicans in this scenario, other than, in the long lens of
history, Doug Jones winning this seat.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of McConnell? Will he accept him if he wins?
JOLLY: So, Chris, look, you have lived through this. You get it as a
staffer. You get it as somebody who believes in the institution.
There is no way that, if the people of Alabama, knowing everything they
know, fully vetting their candidates in a fair election, elect Roy Moore,
that the U.S. Senate can deny him a seat.
And so, when Cory Gardner and when other senators have suggested that they
won`t seat him, that`s not the case. That is a perfect nightmare for Mitch
McConnell. If Roy Moore wins this race, they are going to have to seat
him. It is lose-lose.
The best-case scenario right now for Republicans is for Doug Jones to win
MATTHEWS: For Doug Jones. Boy, I agree with you completely.
Anyway, Geoff, do you want to weigh in on that? As a reporter, maybe you
can`t, but you can certainly analyze it, because if Trump gets this guy he
really doesn`t want – and he will get him because he has to, because he`s
part of the whole alt-right and part of the whole Bannon operation – but
if he gets this guy he never wanted, because he knew he was going to be an
embarrassment, and not just because of this, but all the stuff we knew
before, I really – I go along – I go along with the former congressman.
I think he`s better off with taking the loss.
BENNETT: Yes, potentially.
I mean, the other thing that`s true about this race is that, at this point,
the race is a referendum in many ways on Mitch McConnell and the Republican
establishment. You have Steve Bannon stirring up disaffection there for
McConnell. You have Roy Moore doing the very same thing.
And so some of that, some of the thinking of the president, according to
people close to him, is that, you know, for him to get involved, there`s a
huge risk of this entire thing backfiring, for a couple of reasons.
One, if he talks to Roy Moore and encourages him to get out of the race,
and he doesn`t, then Donald Trump is on the losing end of that. And then,
if he backs this third – this alternate approach, this write-in campaign,
well, Roy Moore is already on the ballot.
And if you have a Republican mounting a write-in campaign, that…
BENNETT: … bifurcates the race, potentially, and hands it to the
MATTHEWS: I think it`s better to lose sometimes. This ain`t your night,
Thank you, Geoff Bennett.
Thank you, former Congressman David Jolly, for your knowledge and wisdom.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump has insisted time and again that he
has nothing to gain – listen closely – nothing to gain from the
Republican tax plan. Well, it turns out that`s wrong. Trump and his
family could see a windfall if this bill passes, up to a billion dollars –
a billion. It`s the Donald Trump, Trump Tower tax bill. Don`t you forget
it, and it`s coming at you.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After years of rough drafts and blueprints, House Republicans have finally
passed an actual tax reform bill, if you want to call it that. It`s
actually the Trump Tower tax cut. A new analysis by NBC News shows that
under the House bill, President Trump and his family could save more than
$1 billion on this baby.
Trump took a rare trip up to Capitol Hill to pressure his fellow
Republicans to get the job done, of course, and the bill sailed through the
House with only 13 Republicans voting against it. However, a new poll
signals potential danger for the president and his party. A majority of
voters do not support this bill. Sixty-one percent, three in five, think
it mainly benefits the rich, which it does.
Meanwhile, over at Senate side, Republicans are full steam ahead with their
own version of the tax overhaul, which according to another report by the
Joint Committee on Taxation, would give large tax cuts to millionaires,
while raising taxes on American families who make between $10,000 and
$75,000 a year. That`s in the average range.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALLL roundtable. Annie Linskey is with
the “Boston Globe,” Dana Milbank is with “The Washington Post”, and Seung
Min Kim is a reporter with “Politico”.
Thank you all.
Let`s start with Annie on this. How do they sell it when people see, when
they see it`s really about the estate tax for people that have more than
$20 million to give their grandkids. When they see that it`s the corporate
windfall of 35 down to 20, of the richest losing – getting a big tax break
at the top. And also things like taking away the tax break you get for
paying interest on your student loans, while giving people tax deductions
for sending their kids to prep schools.
ANNIE LINSKEY, REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, I think that they sell it
by hoping that people are going to focus first on the fact that they`ve
done something. I mean, what the Republicans are trying to do and really
need to do is change the narrative that they are unable to govern. And so,
I think, first of all, there will be this sort of, we can accomplish
something. And then I think they`re going to hope that people just don`t
necessarily notice the changes to their bills.
I mean, there`s no other way to put it, and so many people are actually
going to see – they`re going to be paying more to the federal government,
rather than less.
And I guess they`re also selling it to a different group of people, Chris.
They`re trying to sell it to the very wealthy, who are going to be happy.
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, I think they`ll buy it. Annie, I think they`re
going to buy it.
Anyway, what about – let me go to Seung Min Kim. Seung, I just don`t
understand how the Democrats can be so incompetent to let this go by them
without playing the populist card for all it`s worth because it ought to be
played here. This is an anti-people tax bill.
SEUNG MIN KIM, REPORTER, POLITICO: They are pushing back as hard as they
can against these tax bills. And remember, on the House tax vote today, no
Democrats supported their legislation. And in the Senate, we don`t –
there were a few votes in play, but we don`t expect if any votes from
Democrats for that bill. I mean, they framed it as, especially on the
Senate side, a giveaway to corporations. We know that a revised plan from
the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week makes a lot of the
individual side tax cuts temporary. They actually expire –
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, I know, but the corporate stuff is permanent.
KIM: But that corporate stuff is permanent. Now, Republicans will say
that, you know, you create these consistencies for businesses and helps
generate economic growth, but surely, it`s given some political ammunition
for Democrats there.
MATTHEWS: Well, Dana, I have to ask you about this wealth that`s going to
go to the kids. I mean, Trump is almost like the John Houston character in
“Chinatown”. I want to, it`s for the future! For the future!
The billions of dollars that he`s saving his kids down the road and their
kids and then he`s saving their right to kill elephants and bring back the
tusks. I mean, everything is for these rich kid, heirs of his, and it`s so
– I say the Romanovs. They behave like a royal family that somehow
acquired the United States government.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and think about it. I
mean, very deserving, these Trump children, just think of all the elephant
parts they`re going to be able to re-import when they have this extra a
billion dollars or so. The elephants will be gone from Africa with all the
parts they can now import.
You know, it is extraordinary how this tax bill was sold in the first
place. And, you know, there are more broken promises in this thing than
we`ve seen at any point since the Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City. You know,
the – it is a huge tax break for the wealthiest.
They actually had to insert a provision in the House tax bill, waiving a
previous law that said – that required a two-thirds vote to increase
people`s taxes, because they are increasing the lowest tax rates from 10 to
12 percent. They`re increasing taxes for people making around $40,000.
The Senate gets rid of some of that problem, but then it takes away health
care. And then, it takes away all the tax cuts on the individual side.
So, nobody is getting a tax cut.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen the face on the people of the late-night
plane flying out of Las Vegas? I`ve got just enough money to get home on
and they can`t afford one hotel room night more. That`s what the American
voter for Trump should be looking like tonight.
Anyway, here`s what we`re talking about with the elephants, by the way. A
spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife told NBC News today that the
agency lifted a ban that prohibits hunters from importing trophies of
elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are
avid big game hunters. This picture, by the way, taken six years ago,
shows Donald Jr.
posing with the tail of an elephant he killed. He cut that tail off for
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, three scoops
we`ll be getting and talking about forever.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I`m out in Seattle tonight for Bobby Kennedy, a raging spirit
tonight. I`ll be speaking at the town hall Seattle, a Temple to Hurst
Then, on Saturday morning, I`ll back on the East Coast, speaking at the
Miami book fair.
On Monday, I`ll be in D.C. to host HARDBALL, of course. Then that evening,
he`ll be speaking at the new Politics and Prose at The Wharf, all for
“Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit”.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with a round table.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
LINSKEY: Well, I`m going to tell you about the guy running against Roy
Moore. His name is Doug Jones. He`s a Democrat. He supports transgender
rights. He is pro-choice. And he`s a Yankees fan. And he might just be
the next senator for Alabama.
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s a triple. That will get them on base.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Dana.
MILBANK: All right. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in trouble for his
excessive travel, mixing personal travel with professional travel. He has
come up with a response. And, of course, the real problem is, it`s the
Obama administration`s fault for the dysfunctional travel setup that they
MATTHEWS: And how does that explain the fact that he`s sort of enjoying
the advantage of business travel that benefits personal travel? How is
MILBANK: You don`t understand, Chris. Everything is the Obama
MATTHEWS: OK. Just a general guilt of Barack Obama.
Anyway, Seung Min, please?
KIM: Big news on the judiciary front today. The Senate Judiciary
Committee is going ahead with confirmation hearings for a Trump judicial
nominee that had been blocked for months, actually, by none other than Al
Franken. It`s kind of an escalation in the judicial wars over this obscure
blue slip tradition that`s been around in the Senate for about 100 years.
And we`ll see how Democrats react. The confirmation hearing is later this
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Annie Linskey, Dana Milbank and Seung Min
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch” Thursday, November 16th, 2017.
Let me finish with the news that along with its plundering cash and the
billion dollars won for the Trumps in the tax bill, the president killed
the Obama ban on ivory and other big game souvenirs entering the country
from Africa. You`ll see them here in these pictures. The lure such bloody
stuff holds for the Trumps.
They kill for the photo op. Kill large African animals for the bragging
rights for the pictures of themselves, as Ramars of the jungle, as 21st
century Tarzans of the jungle. Look what I just killed. Me Tarzan. You
I admit we`re prejudice here. I love the wildlife of Africa, love the
great herds of the African plains, the elephants and lions and Cape
buffalo. They are the one great natural wonder of the world over there,
and knowing they are gives me a sense of human history, knowing we`ve grown
up part of this million years of history.
Why would anyone want to kill it off? Why would anyone want to be
sufficient a selfish pig, such a slob of history, and our earthly habitat
to want to destroy it for a picture? A pair of tusks on the wall, a tail
to hold in the air?
Perhaps Trump has no idea how much we treasure the wild of Africa, the
romance held by a part of the wild still not turned into sidewalks and
condo developments and greedy developers and their children getting their
pictures taken with the beautiful, the wild and now dead.
I spent a couple years in Africa and I don`t want to see it`s great natural
wonders, much like in our Grand Canyon and Grand Tetons, and yes, Niagara
Falls falling to the shots of rich kids from America, whose father cares so
little about Africa`s future and about mankind`s love of this planet. The
only one, by the way, we have.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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