Dems call for Franken’s resignation Transcript 12/6/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: December 6, 2017
Guest: John Archibald; Ruth Marcus; Ryan Williams; Cheri Bustos, Dennis Heck, Michael Crowley, Eugene Scott
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Learn to write. Let`s play “Hardball.”
Good evening. I`m Chris imagine use back in Washington.
The GOP civil war between the nationalists and the establishment is getting
nasty. Steve Bannon defended Roy Moore last night and trashed Mitt Romney
in very personal terms. Mitch McConnell defended Romney today.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators are calling on their colleague Al Franken to
step down after another woman has come forward to accuse Franken of trying
to forcibly kiss her. Franken denied it. But in the wake of a new calls
for him to step aside, Franken`s office said he will make an announcement
tomorrow. It is been a rough day.
And a rally for Roy Moore last night in Alabama. Steve Bannon responded to
a tweet permit Romney that said Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate will be a
stain on the GOP and on the nation. Romney said no vote is worth losing
how our honor – our honor and integrity. Bannon questions Romney`s own
honor. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You hid behind your
religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in
rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity. You
ran for commander-in-chief, you had five sons. Not one day of service in
Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties and where
were the Romneys during those wars?
You want to talk about honor and integrity, brother, bring it down here to
Alabama. Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in the pinky finger
than your entire family has in his whole DNA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there is the nasty voice of super nationalist my guess you
can say if you like the guy.
Anyway, Stephen Bannon has been loyal to Donald Trump who avoided Vietnam
with (INAUDIBLE) and another firm determine for medical reasons so-called
and he ride bone spurs in his feet.
Anyway, Trump once joked with Howard Stern that avoiding sexually
transmitted diseases while dating was his personal Vietnam. None of his
children served in the military either.
Anyway, Bannon`s attack on Romney and his religion was rebuked by
Republicans today including Mitch McConnell. McConnell also mocked
Bannon`s record of success, political success. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: What he is a special in is
nominating people who lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night Steve Bannon launched into an attack on Mitt
Romney. That was just, you know –.
MCCONNELL: I could tell you what –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
MCCONNELL: I can tell you what I think of Mitt Romney. I think he is a
great American and has an outstanding career and is a truly remarkable
Republican. I`m glad he`s a member of our party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement, Steve Bannon`s
attacks on governor Romney and his service are disappointing and
unjustified. I also resent anyone attacking any person`s religious` views,
but our own Christian LDS faith and the selfless service of missionary
And Senator Mike Lee also of Utah said Mitt Romney is a good man whether
you agree or disagree with him on any man of public policy. You can`t
credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character, especially
on the basis of his religious believes or his outstanding service, again,
as a missionary.
For more I`m joined now by Ryan Williams, former deputy national press
secretary for Mitt Romney`s Presidential campaign. Ruth Marcus is a
columnist with “the Washington Post” and John Archibald from the Birmingham
I want to get to John. Birmingham, pretty much the start with this. How
does that race look down there right now, Roy Moore, how does that look
with Doug Jones?
JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: It is really, really
tight. Too close to call. Both sides are really angry and really
energized. And you have a taste of that with the Steve Bannon rhetoric
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the national echo down there? What
influence does the fact that Steve Bannon is the nationalist self-described
nationalist going to war with the establishment? Mitt Romney, you know, is
a member of the LDS church, of course, and sort of throwing that in his
face. How does that ricochet down there politically in terms of next
ARCHIBALD: Based on last night, I would say that he is speaking directly
to the Roy Moore voter. I mean, that is the same sort of belief system,
the same sort of rhetoric that you hear from them. And I think – I think
he was really rallying that base and it seemed to be pretty successful last
MATTHEWS: Ruth, tell us about this. What is your sense from up here?
Because I have been hearing indirectly like a lot of us pick up news that a
lot of the people down in Alabama, whatever their educational level or
whatever, they think this northern influence is not what they like. They
are blaming people up here like us, saying that`s why I`m going to vote for
Roy Moore because you guys are trying to interfere with our election.
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right. And I thought it was
interesting that Senator McConnell said that Steve Bannon is an expert in
picking people who lose well, TBD. Let`s see what happens on Tuesday
because I`m not in any way when you say sticking up for Steve Bannon. I
thought pretty much everything he said last night was both wrong,
reprehensible and hypocritical.
[19:05:15] MATTHEWS: Yes.
MARCUS: But you know, the trifecta of offensiveness. But nonetheless, he
is – he is in the ascendency in that race –
MATTHEWS: Moore is.
MARCUS: Moore is and Bannon is. He picked the right - he pick the winning
candidate in the primary there and he may be riding that horse all the way
to the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, I`m sorry to be cynical here but it looks like they are
all track touts or at the race track and they all think, well, it looks
like Moore is going to win some and I`m going to endorse him now.
And that includes McConnell, that includes the President and that includes
Bannon. All of them. They are jumping on a winning horse.
RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER ROMNEY STRATEGIST: And look. It looks like he`s
going to win. Obviously, it puts senator McConnell in difficult position.
He has called for him to get out. If he gets to the Senate there will be
an ethics investigation right away.
But look, the team isn`t on the same page here. Republicans wanted to get
Roy Moore out and Trump came around and said I`m going to endorse him. It
is strong everything in the chaos. The RNC said to come back, you know,
this race after polling out. I talked to my friends at the RNC. They are
not thrilled about this but it is the reality of things. And he probably
will win and if he gets to the Senate he is going to cause not just
problems because of this issue but, you know, who know what he will do. He
is a loose cannon. Once he get to the Senate, he is going to cause problem
after problem the entirety of his tenure.
MATTHEWS: Steve Bannon also went after Mitch McConnell last night. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: The Republican establishment campaigned for a Democrat for four
solid weeks. And we are going to hold you accountable. You are not going
to be able to walk away now Mitch. They think you are a bunch of rubs,
right. They hold you in total contempt. Could anything show more contempt
than what they did to Judge Moore?
By the way, Mitch, the tax cut won`t save you, right. Tax cuts, OK, but it
is not going to save you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you at this big fight. Let`s start with the personal
fight. The guy you work for, Romney, he respect. You are talking about
that before the show. How much you respect Mitt Romney. One, is he really
despise have contempt for Moore, Roy Moore, and basically let`s be honest,
WILLIAMS: Well, I think with Roy Moore it goes beyond politics, you know.
This is a moral issue.
MATTHEWS: What is beyond politics?
WILLIAMS: The fact that of accused child molesters are nominee for Senate
in Alabama. That goes beyond just politics. It is not, you know, about
his policies. He lacks for moral character.
WILLIAMS: And the governor sees politics kind of moving toward this kind
of dark area that Bannon puts forward. I think he is concern about it as a
leader in the party, he feels a need to speak out.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he will be in the Republican caucus by this time
WILLIAMS: Steve Bannon?
MATTHEWS: Your guy.
WILLIAMS: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Come on. You are here to give me some information. Isn`t
Romney clearly running for the Senate?
WILLIAMS: I think he has a desire to contribute. And I think that that
desire and that opportunity –
MARCUS: Wait – it is up to the voters of Utah. Isn`t that what we say?
WILLIAMS: No. I think at this time, it is up to Senator Hatch to see if
he is running or not.
MATTHEWS: Of course it is up to him. But you are getting the pressure any
way. Trump has to stick around. Clearly Bannon would rather have – well
the whole thing is – so let me get down there to Alabama. Let me ask you
about this thing, John, down there. This fight nationally, again back to
the question, how does this national fight, I mean, I`m trying to pick the
sides, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Flake of Arizona, all joining sides with Mitt
Romney and Mitch McConnell all against the President and Roy Moore and
again Steve Bannon. Who is the side of people of Alabama on? I think I
ARCHIBALD: Well, they are clearly on Bannon`s side. Yes, there is no
question about it. I mean, Flake and all of guys you talked about, they
were punch lines in the Bannon routine last night. And they all got be got
bigger cheers frankly than Roy Moore did. So I think that tells you where
they are lining up.
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday Republican senator Jeff Flake, I mentioned him,
of Arizona said he was writing a check to Roy Moore`s Democratic opponent
Doug Jones for $100. Bannon mocked him last night. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: Let`s talk about Jeff Flake. Did he sign a check today, $100 to
Jones? Come on, brother, if you are going to write a check, write a check,
right. Don`t give the man a $100.
Hey Flake, this is why your approval rating in your home state like 11
percent. Jeff Flake has done nothing but run the President of the United
States down since the President won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile as I said another Republican senator Ben Sasse of
Nebraska knocked the Republican National Committee for its decision to
begin spending money again for Moore. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: They explicitly admitted in the past they
believed these women in Alabama. And somehow now the RNC is giving money.
It doesn`t make any sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ruth, you know I think I said this the other night but I`ll say
it again, a lot of Catholic priests, good ones, felt ashamed because they
are part of an organization, the priesthood that had a lot of bad apples in
it. A lot of bad apples. Too many. And I wonder if the Republican Senate
caucus are going to feel very happy having a guy like Roy Moore among them
in all their meetings with the pages and interns and watching him. And the
kids will be watching that guy, too. And you could be there will be
scuttlebutt among the interns. What is up with that guy? Are you keeping
away from him?
[19:10:19] MARCUS: Well, you could tell from even senator McConnell who
yet opposed Roy Moore, tried to get him to pull out, is now kind of
reluctantly acknowledging the, you know, semi – reluctant support has said
we will have to seat him and there will be an ethics investigation. We
will see what happens there. But they do not want him to be a part of
them. And let me say –.
MATTHEWS: They do not want him to be their caucus but he will if he wins
be in their caucus.
MARCUS: Yes. But can I say something? I was really struck listening to
Steve Bannon. I thought he was going to say deplorables. He was trying to
convince the people in Alabama, those Roy Moore supporters in Alabama, that
Mitch McConnell and his ilk, the Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake and everybody
else who he was attacking there, think of them in the exact same way that
Hillary Clinton thought of them. They are just part of the basket of
deplorables and they have disdain for you. I think that –.
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you? I think you are right.
MARCUS: It tells you that it is a powerful message. It also tells you
that he has no shame. And you know, this is a White House that its
original position was no Senate seat is worth having a child molester
there. That is what Marc Short said. That is what Kellyanne Conway said.
The original version was if true then he would have to pull out. The new
version which is now the official Trump version, the RNC version and the
Bannon version is, of course, any seat is making sure there is not a
Democrat in there. And we don`t care what he did.
MATTHEWS: Remember Megan`s law?
MATTHEWS: You have to notify the neighborhood when you are moving in if
you are a child molester. This is not seen as something you could solve.
Let me get back to John Archibald. You know, send them a message, by the
way, that has residence in Alabama, I`m sorry guy. That`s what we remember
back from the 60s in George Corely Wallace (ph) which was send them a
message. Elect me. Nominate me for president. Is there a send them a
message sentiment down there about Alabama to the rest of the country?
ARCHIBALD: Absolutely. Roy Moore`s primary surrogates have made that a
real talking point as the world is watching us. The world is watching us.
Of course Doug Jones` people are saying the same thing. They just mean it
quite differently. The world is watching us there too.
But you know, in the 60s, of course, we had all of the talk about outside
agitators coming down and stirring things up and Steve Bannon – but the
problem is, you know, he is a bit of an outside agitator himself. So you
know, everything that had said seems to echo in more than one way.
MATTHEWS: Well said. This a where you kind a worms down there. And by
the way, the whole world is watching. I have been hearing a lot about the
world news organization. This is – they are looking at America. They are
looking in Alabama. They do remember I think vaguely the idea of George
Wallace down there.
Anyway, thank you Ryan Williams. Thank you Ruth Marcus. And thank you
Coming up, Senator Al Franken is denying the latest allegations of sexual
misconduct but Franken will make an announcement tomorrow after many of his
Democratic Senate colleagues including now as of today Chuck Schumer today
calling on him to resign. And that is ahead.
Plus, some big developments in the Russia investigation. We will bring you
tonight. A whistleblower says Mike Flynn told a former business partner
that U.S. sanctions on Russia would be ripped up. And he did it just 11
minutes into the presidency of Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump Jr.
testifies before the House intelligence committee.
And Trump announces a move that has enraged the Muslim world including our
allies. He`s officially today recognized Jerusalem as the capital of
Israel. This is as if he`s daring Muslims to lash out. Is that going to
help him cut a peace deal in the Middle East?
Finally let me finish with Trump watch. He won`t like it.
And this is “Hardball” where the action is.
[19:15:03] MATTHEWS: “Time” Magazine is named the silence breakers. The
women have spoken out about sexual assault and harassment as their person
of the year. Those recognized included Tirana Berg (ph) who start the me-
too movement as well as actress Ashley Judd, one of the women who accused
movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The President Trump was
Last month Trump tweeted that the magazine told him he would finally be
named person of the year but he decided to pass on the offer. “Time”
magazine has widely denied Trump`s claim. And we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:17:41] SEN. KRISTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: You need to draw a line
in the sand and say none of it is OK. None of it is acceptable. And we as
elected leaders should be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard.
And we should fundamentally be valuing women. I do not feel that he should
continue to serve. Everyone will make their own judgment. I hope they do
make their own judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball.”
That was, of course, New York senator Democratic Kristen Gillibrand urging
her colleague Senator Al Franken of Minnesota to resign following
allegations of sexual misconduct.
Well, much of the Republican Party is falling in line behind Roy Moore
Senate candidacy in Alabama. A flood of Democratic senators, many of them
women, are calling for Franken to step down and leave the United States
Senate after being elected twice. Senator Gillibrand led the charge. Here
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILLIBRAND: Well obviously there were new allegations today. And enough
is enough. I mean, this is a conversation we have been having for a very
long time. And it is a conversation that this country needs to have. And
I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual
assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, over half of all Senate Democrats called on Franken to
leave the Senate by now. And late today, the Democratic leader Chuck
Schumer joined his colleagues in a statement writing Senator Franken should
resign. I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his
accomplishments. But he has a higher obligation to his constituents and to
the Senate and he should step down immediately. Well, the calls comes as
“Politico,” the magazine, broke news of a new allegation against Franken
reporting quote “a former democratic congressional aide said Franken tried
to forcibly kissed her after a taping of his radio show back in 2006.”
Well, that incident happened reported three years before Franken became a
senator. According to the report, the former staffer ducked to avoid
Franken`s lips. As she hastily left the room. She said Franken told her,
it is my right as an entertainer.
Well NBC News is not independently confirmed that allegation. In a
statement Franken wrote, this allegation is categorically not true. And
the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is
preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics
Well, Franken`s office says he will make an announcement in Washington
tomorrow. I`m joined by Democratic representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois
and Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent.
Let me go to congressman Bustos first. Well, what we are hearing is he
hasn`t made up his mind yet. He is going to still think about it tonight.
Your thoughts about that development.
REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I think that, if you are in
Washington, D.C., serving as a senator, a House member, if you are a
Democrat, a Republican, if you have been out here for 40 years or one year,
if you have a problem with sexual harassment, it is time to go.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the timing? Do you think it is important that
he do it right now, just get out of the door?
BUSTOS: Well, he will have his announcement tomorrow. It looks like the
pressure to resign is mounting, when you have got the leadership now of the
Senate calling for his resignation, when you have Kirsten Gillibrand,
Senator Gillibrand, who started this and many others joining that today.
I think the pressure is mounting. And, Chris, I think part of what we need
to look at too is, as members of Congress, I know we don`t have the utmost
respect from the American public, this institution. But we need to start
chipping away at that distrust and what the American public thinks of those
I think public service is a great honor, and I hope we can start winning
back the public trust. And this is a move in that direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, how would you like to serve in the U.S. Congress that has
no Al Franken, but has a Roy Moore? Because Roy Moore looks like he is
going to next week. And he will be a member of the Senate, of the upper
body, so-called. You don`t think that spoils the system a bit?
BUSTOS: Well, yes, it does.
I guess at least as we`re bipartisan in the sense that there is sexual
harassment that is happening on both sides of the aisle, unfortunately. It
is a terrible place to have a bipartisan approach.
But here is the thing. The leadership among the Democrats, we have called
for the resignation of those who have been accused by very credible sources
of committing this kind of…
MATTHEWS: I know that. Nancy Pelosi as well, the leader, has done that
BUSTOS: Yes, but look at what is happening.
And I hope Alabama, I hope the voters in Alabama say, we are better as a
state than to elect somebody who has molested 14-year-olds. No, I don`t
want Roy Moore to enter that building behind us. That country is better
than that. And I hope the Alabama voters realize that when they go to the
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Well said. It`s good to have you. Hold on for a
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Kasie Hunt about this.
What was the – I try to keep the timeline. Everything changes around here
in politics every 15 minutes, it seems. You are covering it every 15
minutes. And I`m thinking there was a time after the initial accusation
against Senator Franken where people said, OK, he`s going to the Ethics
Committee and let`s see what they decide there. He seems to be handling
this difficult situation the best way you can, given the accusation.
And then these accusations continued, and then they continued again, like a
water torture. When do you think the breaking point came, when the
Democrats began – just sort of rushed to the door, rushing him to the
KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think there`s been some private
conversations, especially among women members of the Senate, that have been
going on kind of behind the scenes since this first happened.
But I do actually think that this morning was a real breaking point. I
have one source who told me that Chuck Schumer had called Al Franken as
soon as that Politico story came out and said, listen, you really have to
MATTHEWS: Oh, really?
HUNT: And as the hours unfolded this morning, you saw women really taking
the lead and all of those women senators putting out a joint statement,
basically – or excuse me – not a joint statement, but clearly
coordinated, all at the same time, saying that Franken needed to step down.
And I do really think it is what you point to. It is this sort of
collective sense that this was a pattern of behavior. And that is – and
you and I have talked about this on your show quite a few times.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
HUNT: That that really distinguishes things here. And, yes, there are
other political considerations.
Certainly, Democrats don`t want to look like hypocrites when they say that
the president shouldn`t be where he is because of those allegations and
when they say that that Roy Moore should be considered untenable.
And, yes, they are relying on women voters in 2018 and going forward.
Women have been very energized in opposition to President Trump. So, yes,
all of those factors are true. But, also, Senator Al Franken is pretty
well liked by his colleagues.
MATTHEWS: That is what I`m curious about.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this.
Maybe, since you tell the story for you, but you are one of the best up
there anyway, maybe the best. Is there something more that people all know
about, but don`t say? In other words, is there a pattern that extends
beyond the reported complaints that people know about and that adds to
their fervor to get him to quit?
HUNT: Not that anybody has talked to me about at this point, Chris.
But at the same time, I think that what is now out there in the record
really is enough.
HUNT: And I think that this is the thing. And Senator Gillibrand, I
think, articulated it this morning, in saying, hey, I`m tired of being
asked what is the nuance, what is the difference between sexual harassment,
sexual assault and all of these – what are the differences between these
men who have acted badly? The reality is, if you are a public servant, you
should be held to a higher standard, and none of this is OK.
And so I think – I really do think that the pressure on Senator Franken at
this point is really insurmountable. I think they were willing to give him
the benefit of the doubt, but not anymore.
Let`s talk about his political self-interest. And I have to tell you, I
don`t know him as well as some of these women know him. I respected the
book he wrote recently. I respected the fact he went through that really
harrowing transition from public entertainer, wise guy, to being, it seems
to me, a conscientious senator from Minnesota.
He went through that difficult – going back to Minnesota, living there,
serving his time, if you will, with the people, studying the people, really
going out and listening to people. And now he has to give it, based on a
set of events which really came from the past.
Now, here is the question. What has he got to gain in quitting? Why isn`t
it in his interests to say, you know what, I`m going home this holiday
season, want to think about it with my family, I will let you know January
Why wouldn`t that be something – and the reason I say this is, won`t he
regret any impulsive decision now years from – Cronkite in a totally
different situation regretted quitting. What`s he got to lose by
stretching this out two or three more weeks, Kasie, politically?
HUNT: Well, I think that the reality is, what does he gain from stretching
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe the chance that they will stop, this will stop.
HUNT: I mean, maybe.
But I think the reality is, Democrats in the Senate have made it pretty
clear that, if he stays, he`s not really going to be welcome.
HUNT: And the Senate is a pretty small club. And, quite frankly, if
people if they decide to snub him, there is not a lot he can do. And I
think the same would hold true for Roy Moore.
MATTHEWS: OK. The judgment has been made.
Let me ask the congresswoman that, because it sounds like that your sense
is from your reporting the judgment has been made and it is final.
Do you agree with that, Congresswoman, that there is no gain for him in
simply giving himself, after all the work he put into getting where he got,
to give himself a couple of weeks to think this through? You don`t think
that is not in his interests, you`re saying? Or is it?
BUSTOS: Well, at some point, you have to say, what is good for the
If you are in the line of work of being a public servant, of being a United
States senator, or a congresswoman, it`s really, you hope, service over
self, and you hope you are doing things in the best interest of the
At this point, it is not in the best interest of this institution or for
our country for him to stay in the U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough.
I guess I`m too much in the world right now of people like Trump and Roy
Moore, who don`t give a damn about that question you just asked. They just
don`t. And so this is a guy we`re asking to think in terms of the country
over himself, in a political world that stinks right now, where people
don`t think like that.
They think about, how can they get more power, how can they survive longer?
They stick around too long, when they have lost any good ideas. You know
the people I`m talking about. They are still around. And there are people
that only think about themselves who are saying, OK, Al Franken, be better
than these other characters.
Well, it is tough. And maybe it`s the exact right thing to say to him.
But it is holding him to a standard a lot of clowns are not meeting
themselves any day of the week.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. I have a great respect
BUSTOS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kasie, as always, you`re the best.
Up next: The president`s son Donald Trump Jr. was questioned in the
Russian probe today – that should be interesting – oath today. Don`t
forget that baby, under oath.
And it comes amid shocking news about Michael Flynn. While on stage at
Trump`s very inauguration ceremony, up on the platform, he was texting
about a business deal involving Russia. Well, that is moving fast.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins with breaking news.
A new wildfire tore through several homes in Brentwood, Bel Air and other
exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, triggering mandatory evacuations.
rMD-BO_UCLA canceled classes. And residents in Santa Monica and Malibu and
parts of West L.A. were told to stay home.
Four more wind-driven fast-moving fires are burning in other parts of
Southern California. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County is the largest,
torching some 65,000 acres.
So far, none of the fires are contained. They have destroyed at least 184
homes and forced the evacuations of nearly 200,000 people – now we`re
going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the president`s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was privately
questioned under oath today, under oath, by the House Intelligence
Committee as part of their ongoing Russia investigation.
He was likely asked about the three known overtures that he received from
Russians or Russian cutouts with links to the Kremlin during the 2016
They include a conversation with a former Russian senator, Alexander
Torshin, at a private NRA dinner in May of last year, a June 9 meeting,
campaign meeting, with Russians at Trump Tower, and the messages he
exchanged with WikiLeaks in September.
That also comes after NBC News reported yesterday that, according to the
Russian lawyer, in that June meeting, Trump Jr. actively solicited dirt on
the Clinton Foundation. In other words, he wasn`t just hearing her out, as
he said in the past.
This is now the second time Trump Jr. has been grilled about Russia on
And after he spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past
September, Senator Chris Coons issued a rather cryptic statement, saying
that “Material false statements to Congress are criminal,” suggesting that
the senator believed junior wasn`t telling the whole truth.
I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state,
who sits on the House Intel Committee, and Betsy Woodruff, who covers
Russia for The Daily Beast and is an MSNBC political analyst.
Congressman, there seems to be a big shift in what Donald Trump Jr. has
said about that meeting in June. First of all, he`s sort of in there. We
hear the Russians might have something to give them. And then it`s, do you
got anything on Hillary and how much she`s getting from the Russians?
A totally different slant, if not change of subject, about what is going
on. And he was the one trying to get the dirt on Hillary.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Chris, you know better than most people
I`m duty-bound not to reveal the particulars of our interrogation today.
But I will say this. I will characterize it generally. It was a very
worthwhile use of our time. In fact, I would say this is progressing
nicely across the investigations, Senate, House, fourth estate, but ,most
importantly, Bob Mueller. In fact, if this were a football game, we`re in
the third quarter, may even be the beginning of the end.
MATTHEWS: Betsy, what do you think about all of this? This guys, this
kid, I don`t know how smart he is or what – he certainly isn`t informed
about how to deal with reality in Washington.
The fact is, he says one thing one month. The next thing we know, it isn`t
him going over to hear if they have anything to say. It is over there
probing them for dirt, because he needed something to help his father.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Don Jr. seems to have the same
habit that a number of folks in Trump`s inner circle have, which is this
propensity either to selectively forget things that should have been quite
memorable, like, for instance, asking a Russian Kremlin-linked operative to
share information with you that would have damaged your father`s political
But this isn`t just Don Jr. This is a number of very powerful people in
the Trump administration who we see engaging in this kind of selective
amnesia, not to mention the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is seeming
to have trouble remembering conversations he has with Russian officials.
Jared Kushner had to try nearly half-a-dozen times to list all his foreign
contacts for him to get a security clearance. Don Jr. is not alone when it
comes to this very complicated relationship with the truth.
MATTHEWS: Just using our powers of discernment, us three sitting here, you
being an elected member of Congress, using our powers of discernment, would
there be a different order of magnitude for a person in a political
campaign in the United States talking to a foreigner, who has other
interests, other foreign interests, to ask them anything you want to talk
about, as opposed to going into the room and say, do you have anything of
useful value for my candidate to win, such as dirt on his opponent?
Is there a difference in that, in those two operations.
HECK: Well, sure there is. Listen, I want to say…
MATTHEWS: There is? So, there clearly is a difference between having your
ears open and having your mouth open and saying, give me all of the dirt
HECK: And, Chris, I`m not describing that to what happened today or in any
MATTHEWS: I got you, in principle.
HECK: But I will say this as well, not, again, ascribing it to today, if
had a nickel for every time I have heard a witness say “I do not recall,” I
could retire on the interest earnings.
MATTHEWS: Is it credible that they have such weak memories? Jeff Sessions
does it all the time.
HECK: It is completely without credibility. If you look at the body of
evidence here, there is no question about it.
Chris, there is a reason why there are now two convicted felons in the
inner circle and two more who are under indictment. There is a reason why
it was revealed this week more indictments are coming. There is a reason
why the Mueller investigation is literally now in the White House,
interviewing people immediately surrounding the president.
They`re one step away from the president at this point.
MATTHEWS: Again, a speculation. Why would a presidential campaign that
was intent on trying to begin some rapprochement, some coming together with
the Russian government to avoid a second Cold War, why would they be hiding
that, if that was their grand ambition?
HECK: Well, isn`t that the question of the week?
Why did any of these people lie? Why do they keep lying?
MATTHEWS: The question of the year and the last two years.
Anyway, also today, members of the House Oversight Committee have asked –
have raised new concerns about Michael Flynn`s involvement in a private
U.S.-Russia business proposal to build nuclear power plants in the Mideast.
Remember that one, building power plants for nuclear work down in the
Mideast, Russian deal?
Well, according to ranking member Elijah Cummings, an unnamed whistle-
blower told his committee in June that Flynn, General Flynn, assured a
former business partner – quote – “that U.S. sanctions on Russia that
could block that nuclear project would be ripped up once Trump was inside
the White House.”
According to the whistle-blower, just 11 minutes into – you`re watching
it, the inauguration – 11 minutes into that inauguration, where Trump was
yelling about the size of the crowd as president, Flynn texted his former
partner during the inaugural ceremony itself, saying that the deal was –
quote – “good to go.”
As Congressman Cummings summarized in a letter to the committee chair: “Our
committee has credible allegations that President Trump`s national security
adviser sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for
the financial gain of his former business partners.”
Cummings delayed releasing this information until now at the request of the
Congressman, this is like – this is like, I don`t know, a smoking gun,
whatever. But here you have a guy up there, he can`t wait to text, hey, we
got money coming our way. This is a big deal for all of us. We got our
sworn in now, so now we`re going to make some money on it.
Do you understand – you mentioned Mueller, Robert Mueller. Is he looking
at the possibility of a criminal enterprise here by the Trump people?
HECK: Well, of course he is. Look…
MATTHEWS: A criminal enterprise aimed at making money.
HECK: Well, listen, we have no eyes in the Mueller investigation, and
appropriately so. There is a firewall separating their work from our work.
But, listen, anybody who wears an orange jumpsuit, the currency of the
realm is cigarettes. It will be interesting to check Mr. Flynn`s cell
fast-forward at the point at which he begins serving his term.
Remember, we`re now talking about a convicted felon, punishable by up to
five years in prison.
MATTHEWS: Right. Yes, but he will get less than that if he talks.
HECK: If he flips bigger fish. And isn`t that the reason why…
Let me get just back to – let me get back here to Betsy, because I have
been trying to learn this. I don`t have any real big presumptions about
where this case – except I do believe Mueller will get it. If there is
something there, he will get it. I do have confidence in that.
And if Trump has something to hide, he will find it. I believe that. I
don`t know what it is. But there is something he`s been hiding all along.
And my other question is, was there money involved? Were a lot of these
people, including the president`s sons, out there for the buck, not just to
win the presidency, but to turn it into a money-making enterprise?
Was Flynn up to that? Was Manafort up to that? Was Gates up to that? Was
Rick – all these people involved, were they all – did they have their
hand sort of out the whole time?
WOODRUFF: We can say with absolute confidence see that Mueller`s team is
interested in the financial dealings of folks in Trump world.
WOODRUFF: Part of the reason we can say that, I broke the news earlier
this year that Mueller actually worked with special agents from the IRS in
the criminal investigation division. That`s what they do. They
investigate financial crimes.
Additionally, Mueller`s team, if you look at it, it`s a host of attorneys
who specialize in going after criminal enterprises and in going –
MATTHEWS: And do they have the tax returns already in hand?
WOODRUFF: I can`t speak to that.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe they do?
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Many people believe tht tax returns already and that means they
are going for the roses.
HECK: Tick tock, tick tock then.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington
state and Betsy Woodruff. Thank you.
Up next, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel`s capital despite
widespread condemnation from world leaders. So, why is Trump doing it?
And why now?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Defying vocal opponents, President Trump today recognized Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we finally
acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel`s capital. This is
nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right
thing to do. It is something that has to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the recognition upends 70 years of American foreign policy
and jeopardizes the peace process spearheaded by his son-in-law, Jared
Kushner. He also said he would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to
Jerusalem but set no timetable for that.
Shortly after Trump`s announcement in a televised address, Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the move and said it was, quote,
tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator.
U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News that both Secretary Mattis and
Tillerson voiced concerns to the president about the threat that moving the
embassy would create for American personnel abroad. The move delivers on a
promise Trump made during the 2016 campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the
Jewish people, Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by the round table tonight: Andrea
Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, and host of “ANDREA
MITCHELL REPORTS” here on MSNBC, Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs
correspondent for “Politico”, and Eugene Scott, political reporter with
“The Washington Post”.
Thank you all.
This is a very hot issue, Andrea. Nobody knows it more than you. The
intricacies of Middle East negotiations and here the president is saying to
the Jewish people, actually the state of Israel, here it is. We`re giving
you the end result, just like that.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
And what does he get for it. It`s not as though Israel has made an attempt
to not expanding to Palestinian areas. This was the prize at the end of
the rainbow –
MITCHELL: – the pot of gold for people delivering on their willingness to
compromise and come up with a peace deal. And yet, he`s giving it to
Israel for nothing. And one has to assume it has a lot to do with domestic
politics, namely Alabama. This is enormously powerful incentive. It is
what the evangelicals and down in Alabama and other parts of the country,
the religious right wanted to hear this.
MATTHEWS: And in terms of voting power, even if you say right wing Jewish
people, a minority of the Jewish community, but if you look at evangelical
Christians in the South, that`s a huge voting block in this country. And
they`re very biblically pro-Israel. It is complicated, it`s a nuance,
we`re pro-Israel, on every issue. They don`t know what it looks like over
there when you go to the old city, they`re not familiar with it, I think a
lot of cases.
So is this a political move with an – maybe a thousand or couple more
votes for Roy Moore, a man who`s very religious –
EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it certainly
appears that way. I mean, based on people I`ve spoke to today who are
evangelical Christians, this is something that Trump promised to them
during the campaign that is really important for them to see him deliver
The details of why this is really important to them isn`t quite clear. I
asked some people why do you have issues with Palestine. They weren`t
really able to articulate that. But for them, it`s a win and I think
that`s really important to Trump who hasn`t experienced many wins recently.
MATTHEWS: I want to get this directly into the political sphere, rather
than the Middle East region, I know you`re good at both of them. I have a
sense that what Trump is up to right now is he knows he`s not going to be a
popular president in the sense of majority popular support. He doesn`t
need to be. He has proven he can win an election and the electoral
college. He is low 40 percent, he could squeak it.
I think he is going around like a politician fence-mending. So, he goes
out to Utah, the miners and the ranchers and say, I`m going to give a whole
huge amounts of land you can develop and rip open, rip the tops off of this
land and, you know, strip mine and make a ton of money. So, why else would
he do it?
And then did this to the evangelicals and to people like Sheldon Adelson,
like the real hawks. But it seems like he`s going around mending his
fences and saying, all right, 40 percent is good enough for me but I`m
going to hold that 40.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes, it`s
a base play. And –
MATTHEWS: A base play. I love that lingo.
CROWLEY: Well, Chris, and that might be something you would do in addition
if you were worried about holding the line among congressional Republicans
if you were potentially bound for an impeachment proceeding. You`ve got to
hold the line with congressional Republicans and you got to make sure those
congressional Republicans are shored up on the right, and are going to
stand with you, if the Mueller investigation leads to an impeachment.
So, that would be another rational for it. But I don`t see a strategic
rational. So, I agree with you.
I don`t see a strategic rational. It only creates more headaches. No one
can articulate a bank shot game plan –
MATTHEWS: That is what I was thinking. I think billiards you want to play
the ball after the shot. Where are we going to be now for the next couple
of months with the Arab Islamic world which is a billion people, 350
million Arabs in places where we`re vulnerable? We are much more
vulnerable than Israel, we don`t have a wall. We`ve got guys and women in
posts as we now in Tanzania, as we now in Kenya, places where they could
bomb the hell out of us. We`ve got people getting in their cars tomorrow
morning, all, we have business people, missionaries, tourists, all over the
world. There are American targets, and we`ve said to those people – look,
that`s we`ve done, we`ve said that to the world.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, they have sent out – the State Department has now
sent out alerts, more alerts to embassies and consulates around the world.
MATTHEWS: So, we know what we`ve done. So, why did we do it?
MITCHELL: The story of the Iraq war in 2003. They are that nervous about
the security of it. Tillerson and Mattis both very –
MATTHEWS: By the way, are we spending more money on – on embassy security
despite all of this Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi? Are we spending more?
Are we doing any more to protect our troops out there?
MITCHELL: Well, they did not propose more, but the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and other Appropriation subcommittees are putting in
more because they were appalled that the initial proposal for the State
Department did not include more.
CROWLEY: And, by the way, you mentioned Benghazi, to help people visualize
what the stakes are here. Benghazi was part a wave of protests around
American embassies and compounds around the world, I mean, like a dozen
plus. In some cases, people went over the fence. And so, you`re really
playing with fire here. That`s what we`re talking about as a potential
Last quick point, Mike Pence, don`t forget him, key player here. Kind of
the spokesman for evangelicals in this White House. He`s headed to the
region soon. That`s going to be very interesting.
MITCHELL: And he was a big advocate for it, so was Nikki Haley. The other
MATTHEWS: So is Jared too. It`s a mixed bag here, a dangerous coalition.
MITCHELL: But Jared has not produced (INAUDIBLE). They were supposedly
producing a peace plan. If they had a peace plan and this was part of it.
But there`s no rational yet in terms of how the –
MATTHEWS: This destroys any chance. We`ll be right back with Eugene.
Round table is sticking with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the HARDBALL round table gives us three scoops we`ll be
talking about tomorrow. High bar there. Back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Andrea, you start, tell me something I don`t know. A high standard I must
MITCHELL: I don`t know, you know everything.
The Saudis are actually in agreement with this decision.
MATTHEWS: What, losing the capital?
MITCHELL: Yes, in agreement with this, but I am told that that is not
true. The king and MBS more importantly are really annoyed and that Jared
Kushner brought back that message that the Saudis were OK with it, without
really understanding the king.
MATTHEWS: One of the three holiest places in Islam is Jerusalem, as well
as the Christian and Jewish centers.
CROWLEY: Trump has another big Middle East deadline coming up. Two
actually next month in mid-January, whether to waive sanctions on Iran and
recertify that Iran nuclear deal. He said that if Congress doesn`t take
strong action, he`ll blow the thing up. It`s not clear whether it`s going
to happen. It might be another case where we`re going along in the Middle
East and allies are flipping out.
MATTHEWS: Give me some good news, Gene.
SCOTT: I don`t really have any good news. But what I do have as a
conversation that`s continuing about how we talk about sexual harassment,
there`s been an increased emphasis on revisiting how America responds to
the Clarence Thomas hearings, and there is a piece in “The Washington Post”
today asking for his resignation.
MATTHEWS: Oh, but it is a permanent appointment as we know that too.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Andrea Mitchell, Michael Crowley, and Eugene Scott.
When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”. You`re watching
MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Wednesday, December 6th, 2017.
The Republican Party has broken into a civil war. It started, but may well
not end in Alabama. Right wing activist Steve Bannon is out there raising
his pitch fork for Roy Moore. Mitt Romney`s urging the forces of the
Republican establishment to let Moore get beaten by the Democrat next
What we`re watching is a battle between the new, loud, nationalist wing of
the GOP that`s rallied around Trump and Roy Moore against the quiet,
dignified forces of the old Republican establishment. Look who`s rallying
around Bannon, it includes Donald Trump and those who accept his
leadership. Those rallying around Mitt Romney begin with his fellow
Utahans and fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day
Saints who resent Steve Bannon`s assault last night on Romney`s patriotism.
Perhaps not intending or perhaps intending just that, President Donald
Trump`s endorsement of Alabama`s Roy Moore has started a civil war between
the well-established Grand Old Party and the newly named grand old
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.