NYT: Trump’s daily routine revealed Transcript 12/11/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Annie Linskey, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: December 11, 2017
Guest: Annie Linskey, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Eighteen days. Let’s play “Hardball.”

Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington.

In an exclusive report today, NBC News has revealed new details about the
direction of special counsel Mueller’s Russia probe. An investigation that
could reach the President himself. According to people familiar with the
matter, special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what
happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began
when senior officials were told that national security adviser Michael
Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia. That warning was issued by
acting attorney general Sally Yates, who told White House counsel Dan
McGahn that Flynn was vulnerable because he misled the vice President and
others about the nature of his conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey
Kislyak.

Despite her warning, President Trump chose to keep Flynn on the job as top
national security post for 18 more days, according to the report.
Mueller’s goal in part is to determine whether there was a deliberate
effort to cover up the information that Yates had provided the White House.

As NBC reports, multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller’s
investigators have asked witnesses, including White House counsel don
McGahn himself and others who have worked in the west wing to go through
each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in
detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to
Flynn.

We have known since June that President Trump is under investigation,
possibly for attempts to obstruct justice. This is the latest sign that
Mueller is pursuing every lead in that area.

I’m joined right now by the author of that report, Julia Ainsley of NBC
News. Matt Apuzzo is a reporter with “the New York Times” and an MSNBC
political analyst. And Anne Milgram is the former attorney general of New
Jersey. Thank you all.

Let me go with Julia. Just lay it out. The possibilities here are
fraught. It seems to me the question at large here in our faces, did the
President attempt to cover up the fact that he knew that his guy, his
national security guy Michael Flynn had lied about his conversations with
the Russians about sanctions?

JULIA AINSLEY, REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yes, Chris, that is the question, of
course, that Robert Mueller is zeroing in on. It may be that Mueller
already has a lot of information from Flynn. We know he is a cooperating
witness on what went on during these 18 days.

Most lawyers who we’ve spoken to say a lawyer in McGahn’s position would
have immediately gone to Flynn after a meeting with Sally Yates and said so
did you lie to the FBI? That information could have been given to him,
could have been given to President. And maybe Mueller knows that now.

But what he is doing as he goes methodically through these people who a lot
are still in the White House is he comparing Flynn’s testimony to theirs.
So this is a large legal exposure for a lot of people who are still in this
administration, including for President himself, especially if it turns out
that Donald Trump knew that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, and that he knew
that when he was pressuring Jim Comey to drop the case.

MATTHEWS: How do we know that he was told what Flynn said to the FBI?

AINSLEY: So we –

MATTHEWS: How do we know there was such a conversation between anybody and
I assume McGahn, his White House lawyer, who knew the situation, but how do
we know anyone told the President that his guy lied?

AINSLEY: So at this point what we are going on is the fact that former
federal prosecutors that we have spoken to have said look, it would make a
lot of sense after this January 26th meeting between Sally Yates and Dan
McGahn that these conversations started.

Sally Yates described a change in McGahn’s demeanor between the 26th and
when she was called back at 27th. It was clear he had spoken to lot of
people at the White House. So these conversation mace have spread. Flynn
may have very well told McGahn and that information could have gotten to
Donald Trump.

We don’t know exactly what Flynn told McGahn. We don’t know what went to
Donald Trump. But that sat the heart of this investigation. And we are
sure that Mueller wants to get to the bottom of that question.

MATTHEWS: Well, among his many conversations with ambassador Kislyak was
Flynn’s phone call on December 29th last year in which Flynn discussed
reversing U.S. sanctions on Russia. About two weeks later on January 15th,
vice President Pence publicly denied that sanctions were discussed in that
conversation. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Mike Flynn ever discuss lifting sanctions in any of
those conversations? Do you know?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to General Flynn
yesterday. And the conversations that took place at that time were not in
any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of
diplomats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:12] MATTHEWS: Well, then during an interview with the FBI on the
24th, Flynn lied about the nature of that call, saying sanctions were not
discussed.

On January 26th, acting attorney general Sally Yates then warned White
House council Dan McGahn, as I said, that Flynn was susceptible to Russian
blackmail because it was clear he had led the vice President and others.
Here is how she described it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt like it was
critical that we get this information to the White House because – in part
because the vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the
public, and because we believed that general Flynn was compromised with
respect to the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for 18 days after she delivered that warning to McGahn,
the White House lawyer, Flynn remained in his job as national security
adviser. For 18 days he stayed on the job after they knew he lied.

On February 13th, the President fired Flynn, but only after it was reported
that he had lied to the vice President. The next day, according to FBI,
former FBI director James Comey, the President urged Comey, him to drop the
FBI’s investigation of Flynn.

Matt, give us a sense of this intrigue here, what you see happening, what
all this has told us so far.

MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, all this has told us is
Bob Mueller’s got a hell of a puzzle to put together. And part of this he
wants to know because maybe there is a crime. But part of this is he is
trying to figure out exactly what happened. His mandate is understand
Russian influence, understand what happened in these crazy moments early on
in the Trump administration. And after a campaign where Russia was
repeatedly reaching out and trying to make contact with people in the Trump
campaign. So he wants to know what happened, whether it’s a crime or
whether just to be able to say I figured it out. I know what happened.

MATTHEWS: Anne, explain obstruction here in this context. What would
obstruction be? Is this what it looks like, the attempt by the President
to keep on a guy he knew had lied, perhaps lied to the FBI as well as the
vice President?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY: So I think they have
always been asking this question on whether or not there was obstruction
here. And the court questions are really what did the President know, when
did he know them and what if any actions did he take to prevent that
investigation from going forward or to prevent relevant information going
to the investigators like the FBI or the United States department of
justice.

And I think that goes back to when Flynn was first interviewed by the FBI.
He was a member of the administration at that time. And so I think Mueller
will want to know what did Flynn say when he was interviewed at that time.
Did the President have any conversations with him before that interview
took place with the FBI?

Of course, after Sally Yates spoke to the White House, the question would
be what, if anything did Trump know or say to Flynn and others. And then
finally in this conversation with Comey. So there are a lot of
conversations that could have involved both the President and general
Flynn.

And remember here that the key thing that has switched in the last couple
of weeks is about a week and a half ago, we know that Michael Flynn plead
guilty and is cooperating with the government. And so while Mueller’s team
would have been trying to understand all of these conversations and what
happen during that 18-day period from day one, at this point he now has
someone who was in a lot of those rooms who is giving him information about
hey, this is what I said. This is what the President said, this is what
the White House council said. And so they’re trying to put together those
pieces of the puzzle.

MATTHEWS: Let me look at this. The President appeared to suggest that he
knew Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time he fired him, saying in a tweet
this month, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice
president and the FBI. Well, Trump lawyer John Dowd has since taken
responsibility for that tweet, which he said was a mistake. The White
House wouldn’t say exactly when the President first learned when Flynn lied
to the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did the president know that Mike Flynn lied to
the FBI?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As I said earlier, I
refer you would back to John Dowd’s clarification.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I’m asking future a day. When did he find out? Was
it made Friday or the day prior to that?

SANDERS: Again, I’m not aware of those specifics. But I would refer you
to John Dowd for that specific question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a statement of fact. What day the President
discovered this lie issue.

SANDERS: And I’m telling you as a statement of fact that you should
contact John Dowd. It doesn’t seem that hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It doesn’t seem that hard. That’s snarky.

Anyway, reached for comment last week, John Dowd told ABC News I’m not
going to engage on this subject.

Back to you, Julia. I want to take a chance to try to make this, you know,
I keep thinking of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia. Explain it to my
grandmother, OK. I real have to let people catch up on this story. If the
question here is about whether the Trump administration in its early days,
in its infancy was involved already, back and forth and in cahoots with the
Russian, fine.

The question is did they obstruct justice by trying to protect that
information. If the President knew that his national security guy had in
fact discussed sanctions, relieving sanction under the new administration,
if he knew that happened and helped him keep it secret from the
investigators, would that be, even if it was only for 18 days, would that
be obstruction?

[19:10:08] AINSLEY: So what we can say here in a way that I can explain it
to your grandmother is that when the President is pressuring his national
security adviser, whether it’s to make this phone call in the first place,
whether it’s to then go lie to the FBI about it or possibly lie to the vice
President about it, he is inserting himself in a way that could be part of
the collusion investigation. Where we come into the obstruction
investigation is then if he tried to obstruct the FBI’s, again, at this
point it’s just the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn. This is before
Robert Mueller came on.

Obstruction would be if he interceded with the knowledge that his national
security director had lied or perhaps directed him to lie, that would also
be part of obstruction, and told James Comey to drop the case. That would
be the obstruction prong of this. Of course, this is still building.
Mueller is a looking into whether the President obstructed justice. We
don’t want the make complete, definite claims here because this
investigation is ongoing.

But it’s clear here that Michael Flynn is a soldier. It would be kind of
rare for him to go out on his own and make these calls and go rogue and lie
to the FBI and not be talking to anyone about it. So there is a reason why
Mueller is really focused on this. And this could end up giving him a lot
of the answers he needs, both about the way the Trump transition worked
possibly with Russia and the way that this administration tried to cover up
those contacts.

MATTHEWS: Again, back to Anne for the expertise on obstruction. If the
President knew that his guy had lied to the vice President, if he had known
or gotten word that he had lied to the FBI, if he had let him sit there and
let him look legitimate all those weeks, for 18 days, two and a half week,
if highway he had done all that, is that obstruction?

MILGRAM: I think that’s the exact question that Mueller is going to
answer.

MATTHEWS: As an expert, is that one of the elements of obstruction?

MILGRAM: I think that just knowing there was an ongoing investigation, I
would want to know if I were Bob Mueller, I would want to know when the
President knew what he was told, what he said exactly to James Comey. We
have Comey’s testimony. And I think that there is a good case to be made
that there was obstruction of justice here. But I do think that the devil
is going to be in the details on what was known when and what was said.

And so remember, with obstruction, there has to be an investigation going.
There are different legal components to it. It could be obstructing
Congress. It could be obstructing the department of justice.

And so, you know, the questions that Mueller is going to be asking are not
just those questions about Comey, but also what, if anything, did the
President say to Flynn? Did he encourage Flynn to say that they hadn’t
talked about sanctions? That’s a potential question of obstruction. And
so there are a lot of pieces here that I think a lot of the piece of the
puzzle are coming together, but I would want more before I walked into a
grand jury.

MATTHEWS: My question, Matt is when do we know? How do we know the
President was told if Flynn lied to the FBI?

APUZZO: We don’t know that. And we have all been covering this now for
almost a year. And in my reporting and I haven’t seen in any other
reporting that suggests the President is telling Flynn to lie to the FBI or
when he was told that Flynn lied to the FBI or that his firing was to try
to cover up something with the FBI.

MATTHEWS: You’re going to a whole new supposition here.

APUZZO: What we know is Mueller is asking questions of people about
Flynn’s tenure and his dismissal. But I mean, making the jump – frankly,
the President is allowed to keep his national security adviser on even
after he has been told by his attorney general hey, the guy is a security
risk. Hey, I’m the President.

MATTHEWS: Even if he told him the jump he told him to lie?

APUZZO: Yes. I think the question out there, you know, well, did he keep
him to the order on when did he know? Did he keep in on? I mean, we don’t
have those facts. I mean, a lot of it is sort of supposition.

MATTHEWS: At some point we might hear from McGahn.

Anyway, thank you, Julia Ainsley, great reporting. And Matt Apuzzo, thank
you as always. And Anne Milgram, thank you for your expertise on
prosecution.

Coming up, it’s the night before the special election in Alabama.
Obviously, we all notice is all over the papers, the Democrats are hoping
Doug Jones can pull up what was once considered unthinkable, a victory in
Trump country over Roy Moore. We will see about that. Trump is so in for
Moore. Obama is not quite in for Jones. Anyway, Alabama’s top Republican
senior Senate Richard Shelby says the state deserves better, better than
Roy Moore. And he is really being emphatic. And that’s ahead.

Plus, that “New York Times” report about Donald Trump’s battle for self-
preservation. Trump fights hour to hour looking to vanquish rivals and
legitimacy. It is all feel by a ton of cable news and diet coke. About
four hours a day of us and 12 diet cokes makes a man like Donald Trump be
Donald Trump.

And as the me-too movement takes down high profile men in politics and
public life, three of Donald Trump’s accusers are speaking out again today
and clearly they want Congress to investigate Trump’s behavior as the White
House denies their claims.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. You will not like it. I
don’t like this stupid war he is starting over there, this third intifada
over in Jerusalem, which is a stupid thing he did. And we are all going to
pay for it.

This is “Hardball,” where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:29] MATTHEWS: A suspect in custody tonight following an attempted
terror attack on the New York subway system. Surveillance cameras captured
this video of 27-year-old Akhed Oa walking through a crowded passage way
near the Times Square subway station. Moments later the low tech explosive
device that he was wearing detonated, injuring himself and three others.
Oa was taken into an area hospital where he is being treated for burns to
his hands and abdomen.

Authorities say the suspect lives in Brooklyn and came to the U.S. from
Bangladesh about seven years ago. A senior law enforcement official says
he told investigators that he carried out the botched attack in the name of
is. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:19:16] SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: There’s a time. We call it a
tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many
drip, drip, drip. When it got to the 14-year-old story, story, that was
enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore. The state of Alabama
deserves better. I think we have got a lot of great Republicans that could
have won and carried the state beautifully and served in the Senate
honorably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball”

That was senior senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby saying he couldn’t
vote for the candidate from his own party, Roy Moore.

Well, today the former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, an Alabama
native made a similar appeal. She said I encourage you to take a stand for
our core principles and for what is right. These critical times requires
to come together to reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance. I know that
Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington, but we must also insist
that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the
values we hold dear.”

That’s Condoleezza Rice.

Anyway, Alabama goes to the polls tomorrow.

In the final hours, Republicans got a boost from the president of the
United States. Donald Trump not only endorsed Roy Moore. He also recorded
this robo-call for him. Here he goes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi. This is President
Donald Trump, and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. It is so
important.

We’re already making America great again. I’m going to make America safer
and stronger and better than ever before, but we need that seat. We need
Roy voting for us.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, former President Barack Obama also recorded a robo-call
for Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, though it’s unclear whether the
campaign is using it. That’s interesting.

According to CNN, Obama says in the call: “This one’s serious. You can’t
sit it out. Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress. Doug will
be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama.”

I’m joined right now by “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson and
“The Boston Globe“ ‘s Annie Linskey.

Gene, and thank you, Annie.

This is – I never thought of Richard Shelby in this way. But he has come
off his – you know, he was a survivor all these years. He switched
parties to survive down there because Democrats couldn’t get elected
anymore.

You know, he did what he had to do to stay in office. And now he seems to
have a role. He reminds me of John Warner in the olds days against what’s
his name, that interesting character they beat in Virginia that time.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It surprised me.

MATTHEWS: Ollie North.

ROBINSON: Ollie North, right, of course.

But it surprised me that, you know, at this late and crucial juncture,
Shelby came out, and came out strong, said: I can’t vote for the guy.

MATTHEWS: Is that because – can I dare to be skeptical and say, Shelby is
83, 84? He is not running again.

ANNIE LINSKEY, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”: He is not running again.

MATTHEWS: He’s got five more years of this.

LINSKEY: That’s right.

MATTHEWS: So, he can tell the people about what he thinks, finally.

LINSKEY: Yes, and I think it’s going to make a difference.

Chris, I have spent – I have been down to Alabama twice in the last three
weeks. So I spent quite a loft time down there. And one thing people keep
on saying over and over again is, they don’t want to hear from outsiders.
They don’t – they weren’t too thrilled to hear from Steve Bannon.

To be honest, when I was talking to people who went to his rally, they
said, we don’t care what Steve Bannon says. We want to hear from
Alabamans. And so I think it does matter.

MATTHEWS: How do they like you down there?

(LAUGHTER)

LINSKEY: Well, they were very polite. They were very polite.

MATTHEWS: This outsider thing…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because this Alabama thing about – they don’t like outside
agitators.

LINSKEY: Yes, they don’t.

MATTHEWS: That whole thing.

LINSKEY: Yes, they did look at me as a Yankee. I mean, look, I’m from
“The Boston Globe.”

MATTHEWS: When you said “Boston Globe,” what…

(CROSSTALK)

LINSKEY: Yes. They were just like, what are you doing here?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: … you’re a Yankee.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: But, you know, the women who accused Roy Moore are also
Alabamans, OK? They’re Alabamans. They’re locals.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When I heard about this focus group down there, they don’t
believe them.

LINSKEY: Yes.

ROBINSON: Well…

LINSKEY: I talked to a lot of those – I did. I talked to a lot of people
who are saying similar things, that – or they are saying they believe
them, but, hey, this isn’t that different from what my grandparents did.

I talked to one woman who said, yes, my grandma, she was 16 years old when
she got married to my grandfather.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but her grandfather was 17.

LINSKEY: Yes. No, no. In this case, he was older. He was in his 30s.

MATTHEWS: No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are they dreaming this up just to win the case down there? That
seems very convenient.

(CROSSTALK)

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, many Republicans in Washington here continue to express
concern about the prospects of Roy Moore actually winning tomorrow. Let’s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Roy Moore will be the gift that
keeps on giving for Democrats. It will define the 2018 election, at least
2018. And to think you can elect Roy Moore without getting the baggage of
Roy Moore is pretty naive.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have always said that, so far, as
far as I can tell, the allegations are significantly stronger than the
denial.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I didn’t have to withdraw my endorsement
of Moore because I didn’t endorse him in the first place.

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I think Roy Moore is an abomination to the
Republican Party. And that’s one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Gene, what does this mean? It’s not going to be a welcome wagon
if he gets elected.

ROBINSON: No. If he gets elected, it’s going to be really weird, because
now we have a whole bunch of Republican senators on the record. It says
that this guy is scum, right? This guy is an awful guy, and we don’t want
him.

So what if he shows up? If he shows up, presumably, they start an ethics
investigation. But that’s what first day like in the Republican Caucus
meeting right when they sit down? It’s like, Roy, you got anything to say?

MATTHEWS: I’m just getting the word, by the way, from my producer that
they might – executive producer – that the robo-call from Obama is going
out, trying to get the vote out.

LINSKEY: Oh, it is. OK.

MATTHEWS: Annie, this is interesting, because, besides being a reporter,
you’re a woman.

And this is one of the issues, probably one the really – since arguing
over women’s being able to right – suffrage.

LINSKEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: It really is a gender issue.

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It’s become – because the targets of this behavior, misconduct,
crime, has been women.

LINSKEY: Yes. Absolutely.

And I went down to Alabama specifically to find women who were supporting
Roy Moore. And it was hard. I was in a county that was 76 percent –
voted 76 percent for Trump. So, three-quarters of voters in that county
voted for Trump.

When I was looking for women who would say on the record that they were
voting for Roy Moore, I mean, they laughed at me. They just laughed at me.
And many – and almost all of them said no.

I mean, I was in a Waffle House where people were just laughing at me, say,
oh, gosh, golly, I’m not voting for that guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have a secret ballot in this country. Do you think
that laughing was real?

LINSKEY: It was real.

MATTHEWS: Or it was just public?

LINSKEY: In this county, which was…

MATTHEWS: So you think the election might be more to Jones than we
thought?

LINSKEY: I think that they’re – it’s definitely – I know the
conventional wisdom is that Roy Moore is going to walk away with this
tomorrow by a few points.

But, you know, when I was in this county, I was really having a hard time
finding people – finding women, at least.

MATTHEWS: Look, I believe in the shoe-leather approach.

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You went out there and did it.

LINSKEY: And there were signs – there were no signs. That was the other
thing. There were no Roy Moore signs, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Somehow, I’m not surprised.

MATTHEWS: Well, in the final weekend of the election, Democrat Doug Jones
made numerous campaign stops, but where was Roy Moore? Great question.

According to Politico: “Moore hasn’t held a public event since Tuesday,”
since Tuesday. It’s now Monday. “Two Republicans briefed on Moore’s
schedule before the weekend said he intended to spend Saturday in Philly at
the Army-Navy game, the football game, a long-planned trip” – that was
this Saturday” – “that the West Point grad had insisted he would still
take in this year, despite the election. Moore’s campaign declined
repeated requests to discuss his whereabouts and refused to say whether he
had in fact gone” – this is spooky.

It either is he is sure he is going win or he has considered that he thinks
he seems better than he looks.

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: So he doesn’t want people to meet him.

LINSKEY: Right.

ROBINSON: Well…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Or he doesn’t want questions raised.

ROBINSON: He doesn’t want to answer the questions. He doesn’t want to be
in a situation where he can be pressed to answer the questions that he has
such trouble answering.

LINSKEY: Right. That’s right.

ROBINSON: He just – he denies. But first he didn’t actually deny. And
so what was that about?

He just doesn’t want that. So, he figures he has a better chance if he
actually stays away from the state, which is an amazing way to run for
office.

LINSKEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think I’m beginning to think maybe it’s a slight victory for
Jones. We will see.

Thank you, Gene Robinson.

I know I will be held to that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We will be covering the special election in Alabama tomorrow on
HARDBALL at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and then back again at midnight. We will
have a special hour tomorrow night at midnight.

I love these hours, believe it or not. I love staying up late, because we
know then the crackle of defeat or victory, it’s all clear. No more talk.
It’s decided. I love it.

Up next: a staggering new report about Trump’s life inside the White House.
The president is watching up to eight hours of TV a day – he is a couch
potato – using the cable news coverage to hone his talking points.

He is practicing on us. Isn’t it supposed to be other way around and we
learn from him? No, no. He learns truth from television.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I’m Milissa Rehberger. Here’s
what’s happening.

Wind gusts are spreading the huge wildfire from Ventura to Santa Barbara,
California, forcing more evacuations. The Thomas Fire is one of several
burning in Southern California. It is only 15 percent contained.
President Trump has declared a state of emergency and ordered federal
agencies to help with firefighting efforts.

A judge has ordered the Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist in
the military beginning January 1, this despite the president’s opposition.
Potential transgender recruits will still have to overcome the armed
services’ lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental health
requirements – back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Over the weekend, “The New York Times” published an in-depth piece
exploring a day in the life of President Donald Trump.

Speaking to roughly 60 sources – that’s 60 sources – “The New York Times”
paints a picture of a president preoccupied by his own self-preservation,
someone who views every day “as an episode in a television show in which he
vanquishes rivals.”

Much of what fuels his day is his seemingly insatiable appetite for cable
news and Diet Coke. According to “The New York Times,” the president
starts his day with a healthy dose of TV in the White House master bedroom.

Quote: “People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four
hours a day and sometimes as much as twice that in front of the television,
sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of
cable news and eager to fire back.”

Well, “The Times” also reports that the president has had a – quote –
“difficult adjustment to the presidency because he assumed it would be more
akin to the popular image of imperial command.”

Well, during the first months of his presidency, he even barked commands at
senators.

Well, earlier this morning, the president reacted to the article, tweeting:
“Another false story, this time in the failing ‘New York Times,’ that I
watch four to eight hours of television a day. Wrong.”

For more, I’m joined by author and MSNBC contributor for Reagan –
actually, not a contributor, actually Ron Reagan himself.

Ron, he sounded like the old John McLaughlin. Wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Like, I – what do you make of the television binge and the fact
that he seems like a reaction, not rocket man, but reaction man? Why would
you watch all day just thinking of ways that you get mad that you can react
to?

That’s not leading. That’s reacting.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: There is a lot that is disturbing in this
story.

You know, let’s just take the two little headline items that you mentioned,
the television bingeing and the Diet Coke. This is behavior that would be
concerning to a parent if they found it in their high school student.
They’d want to intervene.

And you wonder. Eight hours of television a day? The presidency is a
pretty all-consuming job. When does he find time to actually be president?
The answer from this article seems to be that he’s not really ever being
president in the way we think of being president, in other words, engaging
with issues all the time, grappling with different things, you know, arm-
twisting members of Congress, all that sort of thing.

He is mostly interested in how he is being spoken about on television. But
the meta points about – that came out to me, at least, about this article
are, one, that so many people within the White House, people who work under
Donald Trump, are willing to anonymously at least talk about his lack of
fitness for the office.

And the other thing is that we are talking about that too, and have been
since the election. This whole – all of this stuff, this conversation
that we’re having now, is circling around the point of, is this president
mentally fit to be president of the United States?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: And I think a lot of us privately are thinking, no, he is not.
And that includes a lot of Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, let’s talk about the terrifying power he holds, even in
this television obsession of his.

I remember an old “Twilight” episode where this young kid turns out to have
supernatural powers. He can – he – what do you call it, he has kinetic
powers. He can make things happen. He can make people die. Remember that
kid?

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And they all pander to him, scared to death of him.

REAGAN: Yes, he wishes people into the cornfield.

MATTHEWS: Right. Exactly. You remember the…

REAGAN: And everybody has to tell him it’s a good day, Bobby. It’s a good
day. Yes, everything is fine.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think – I imagine the people fluttering around him at
the White House all pandering to his needs because he is the commander in
chief and he can hurt people .

He cannot just fire them. He can perhaps bring – he can bring doom on
this planet.

Anyway, the article in “The New York Times” also reports that some of
President Trump’s associates have raised questions about, as Ron just did
there, his capacity, willingness to separate bad information from factual
information.

“Even after a year of official briefings and access to the best minds in
the federal government, Mr. Trump is skeptical of anything that does not
come from inside his bubble.”

Well, here is something that didn’t come inside his bubble. If you move
the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and you make it look to the Arab world
like they’re never going to get a capital in East Jerusalem, that they’re
just screwed out of any deal, that we’re no longer the honest broker, we’re
just Israel’s ally, and it’s as simple as that, and they’re finished,
you’re going get an unending third intifada.

And let’s face it, it has begun. And there’s no sign it’s going to end.
Did anybody inside the bubble, like Jared Kushner, say, Mr. President,
that’s a dumb thing to do, with huge consequences?

REAGAN: Apparently not. Apparently they didn’t.

But this is something he could do. It’s something. He could sign a
document. And we know he loves to sign those documents.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: And it’s something he could do unilaterally without consulting
anybody. And so he did it, because it was a big dramatic gesture.

But it has no thought behind it. There is no strategy there. He didn’t
consult with allies about this, which you would do if you were going to
undermine the position of the – let’s say the entire European community
regarding Israel, you might want to consult with your allies about that.

But, no, no, he doesn’t. Surprise, we’re moving our embassy to Jerusalem,
you know?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Ron, you’re great. You have got a great satirical mind, which is perfect
for this situation.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: It’s the only thing that will save us all.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Maybe it will. There is some humor with it.

Thank you so much, Ron Reagan, from Seattle.

Up next: The women who accused President Trump of sexual misconduct are
speaking out once again, detailing their allegations against the president
and calling on Congress to investigate these events.

You’re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It became apparent that in some areas, the
accusations of sexual aggression were being taken seriously. And people
were being held accountable, except for our president. And he was not
being held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked that Congress put aside their party
affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Those are two of the women who have accused President Trump of sexual
misconduct, speaking out today, this morning, and calling on the U.S.
Congress to investigate those allegations against Trump. Well, the
accusations have gotten new attention as the me-too movement has taken down
high profile men in politics and public life. And as Trump has thrown his
support behind Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Well, three of the president’s accusers spoke today with NBC’s Megyn Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ACCUSER: All of the sudden, he was all over me,
kissing and groping and groping and kissing. When his hands starting going
up my skirt, I’m not a small person, I managed to wiggle out.

SAMANTHA HOLVEY, TRUMP ACCUSER: Looking me over like I was just a piece of
meat, like, you know, I was not a human being. I didn’t have a brain. I
didn’t have a personality. I was just simply there for his pleasure.

MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS HOST: So he kept kissing you?

RACHEL CROOKS, TRUMP ACCUSER: Yes, he went – I don’t know how many times
back and forth, multiple. And then he kissed me on the lips. And I was
shocked. Yes. I mean, devastated. I didn’t – it happened so fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, they spoke out one day after these comments from Nikki
Haley, Trump’s ambassador – well, our ambassador to the U.N.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Women who accuse anyone
should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And
I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman
who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right
to speak up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump has denied the allegations against him. In his
statement, the White House called the charges politically motivated.

And Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president. Let’s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has
addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.
And this took place long before he was elected to be president. And the
people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump,
and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Going back to the HARDBALL round table.

Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent for “The Daily Mail”, Ken
Vogel is political reporter for “New York Times” and Jeff Bennett is White
House correspondent for NBC News.

Gentlemen and lady, thank you.

Why don’t we talk here about this thing? What – what can be done? I’m
not complete hard-nosed political assessor, but besides sort of dressing
down the president for what he did and making it clear that these events
did happen, and you just have to accept them as – they’re not really being
challenged as truth.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: So –

MATTHEWS: What does that get done? Does it diminish this president? Does
it teach a lesson to other men or what? Where are we going here?

CHAMBERS: Right. On the other end of that question, asking that question
to today’s briefing about the congressional investigations. But that is
something I have also wondered there. The women are saying that Congress
investigated Al Franken. So Congress, the Ethics Committee should also
investigate president Trump.

MATTHEWS: They didn’t investigate Trump. I mean, they didn’t investigate

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: And then he supposedly and then he left. But the reason he came
under, Franken, under an ethics investigation is because he is a senator
and it’s their job to police that body.

And so, when it comes to President Trump, you’re asking at this point maybe
the oversight committee. You’re asking some committee in Congress to
decide to take it upon themselves to investigate the president. And with
Republican-run Congress, the likelihood of something like that happening is
just almost nothing.

MATTHEWS: What would they do with their investigation if they did conduct
one? I mean, with the permanent subcommittee –

KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We saw a lot of it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

VOGEL: They would bring forth these allegation in a way that you saw them
here and a way that you did see them.

MATTHEWS: It’s a separate branch of government. It is.

VOGEL: Right. There is almost nothing they can do short of bringing
articles of impeachment. I don’t know on what grounds they would do that.
And, obviously, Republicans don’t have the House anyway. So, it’s kind of
a moot point.

But there is this change where when these allegations were first aired
during the campaign, we were not in this moment that we are right now?
We’ve had sort of a cultural shift. I think a lot of it has to do with
allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Explain that, because I think the cosmos shifted
there. I think because the Ronan Farrow, and because “The New York Times”
went after him in a way that looked very credible.

He looked like the bad guy. There was no real defense there was a lot of
witnesses, all on the record by name, a lot of really strong reporting. It
was pretty much a done deal. And what did that do?

VOGEL: Well, what that has done is shifted the burden of proof. It made
it more likely culturally for accusers, particularly women accusing men of
sexual misconduct to be believed and emboldened more women to come forward.
If you remember in the week before the election, there was set to be a big
press conference where a woman who had made some explosive claims
anonymously in a lawsuit against then candidate Trump was going to come
forward.

She backed away at the last minute. She said she was scared. I think
there is much more support for these women now.

MATTHEWS: You’re thinking the political context has changed. We don’t
know what is going to happen tomorrow in Alabama. So, we’ll all be experts
tomorrow night around midnight.

GEOFF BENNETT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: And even as, you know,
Ken rightly points out, the culture has changed. The official line from
the White House regarding Trump’s accusers has not changed.

CHAMBERS: That’s right.

BENNETT: Sarah Huckabee Sanders reverted back to the official White House
line which is to deny, which is to discredit the accusers to a certain
degree and then to deflect.

MATTHEWS: She said the jury was the voters.

BENNETT: Well, that’s right. I mean, the point the White House makes is
the American people knew about these allegations when they elected Donald
Trump. And that puts all of this to rest.

MATTHEWS: The popular vote went against him, so you have to say they did
judge him guilty.

BENNETT: Well, yes, and the other thing she said was that these
allegations are from a long time ago. That’s not necessarily the case.
Some of these accusations are from fairly recent.

CHAMBERS: But also that there were eyewitnesses that would be able to say
that these things that they say didn’t happen, didn’t happen. And so then
she said she would potentially provide us a list of those. And so, I think
we’ll all be very curious to see if they can provide a list of eyewitnesses
who say that the incident didn’t happen, didn’t happen.

MATTHEWS: I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today. Everybody
promises somewhere they’re going to come out.

Anyway, “The Associated Press” reports White House advisers were stunned by
Ambassador Haley’s comments, adding that according to two sources familiar
with the president’s views, quote, Haley’s comments infuriated the
president. Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the
accusations against him have resurfaced, telling his associates that the
charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing
Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

What’s the point of the president saying I remind me of Roy Moore? Why is
he saying that? Why would you say I sound like Roy Moore?

CHAMBERS: I mean, in this race, I think it’s very clear that the president
feels that he’s got to get Roy Moore elected. He’s got to get this guy
into the Senate. They cannot afford to lose the Senate seat. So, short of
appearing with him on stage, because he won’t do that, he’ll just go 15
miles to the border and not appear with him on stage. He’s got to get guy
in.

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk to Ken, and Geoff, and then back to you again. Why
are these voters interviewed on the focus groups down in Alabama, people
just saying, you know, I don’t really think that’s what happened? Just
saying it.

It’s like voter nullification. I don’t believe these stories from these
women down there.

VOGEL: Yes, it’s rationalization. They want an excuse to be able to vote
for the person they wanted to vote for independent of all of this stuff.
So even as we from the outside say this has become a referendum on these
allegations of whether we believe these women, the Alabama Republicans,
they want a Republican. And they’re willing to hold their nose –

MATTHEWS: You’re so smart.

VOGEL: I don’t know about that, but explain away.

MATTHEWS: I do think –

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: That’s what President Trump is doing as well there was a point
that I was saying. He is a Republican. Then we will test tomorrow night
how far it goes.

BENNETT: Especially for conservative evangelicals who have as a litmus
test abortion. I was talking to a Democratic strategist in Alabama who
said if Doug Jones was anti-abortion, then he would probably have this sewn
up by right now. But it’s that and it’s also party identification. There
are a lot of voters who have never voted for a Democrat in a federal
election.

And, you know, a lot of Doug Jones supporters are they won’t necessarily
view this race as a binary choice between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. The
other choice is for some of the Republicans to stay home and that will give
Jones a boost.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CHAMBERS: But the Senate is not a binary choice. There are Republicans
and there are Democrats. And there are either 51 seats or 52 seats
Republicans, and that’s what –

MATTHEWS: It’s the nature of the beast, binary, one or the other. The
round table is sticking with us.

You’re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL roundtable will be back with three scoops you’ll be
talking about tomorrow.

Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We’re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Francesca, tell me something I don’t know.

CHAMBERS: All right. While I was in India hearing Ivanka Trump speak, she
said that the administration was going to be working hard in the New Year
on paid family leave. And that’s something I’m hearing from allies of the
administration, it’s just not something there is a major appetite for in
the House. So, we’ll see if she can get that national paid family leave
pushed through next year.

MATTHEWS: I’m sure it’s a big corporate agenda item. Go ahead, Ken.

VOGEL: There has been a surge of reporting on sexual harassment, sexual
misconduct allegations in the United States Congress. My sources tell me
that it has prompted a deluge of complaints to the House Ethics Committee.

MATTHEWS: About members?

VOGEL: Members and high-ranking staff members.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Geoff?

BENNETT: To that end, Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore sent a letter to
the Senate operations team asking them to put a plan in place to protect
Senate pages in the event that Roy Moore –

MATTHEWS: I’m sorry. It’s ludicrous. You have to have a restraining
order on a U.S. senator just because – it’s crazy. Anyway, if you like
the guy that needs to be restrained?

Anyway, thank you, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel and Geoff Bennett.

When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”.

You’re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Monday, December 11th, 2017.

The president would have us believe there is honor in his declaration of
Jerusalem as capital of Israel. He promised some groups he would do it,
therefore he finds honor in delivering on that promise. Oh, yes?

Well, I can distinctly remember a far larger promise Trump made in the
campaign, far more important and far more wide ranging in its consequences.
He promised again and again and again that he would not enter this country
into what he called stupid wars, wars that do nothing to advance our
country’s security. He was referring to Iraq in particular, an argument I
completely agreed with.

And now look at what he has done. Trump has stirred up all kinds of
trouble throughout the Islamic world, on the West Bank, in Lebanon. And
who knows how many other places? People are getting killed because this
president wanted to pander to those who backed him last November.

Meanwhile, he has dishonored one of the few heroic commitments he took in
the campaign, to oppose American entry into stupid wars, wars that fail to
deliver security for the American people.

Why is Trump humiliating those Arab states who have stood with us over the
years, countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Why has he bollocks up his
own son-in-law’s efforts to build a Sunni/Arab/Israeli coalition against
Iran? Why is he giving Iran the greatest break in the world by blowing
that alliance apart?

But Trump’s greatest betrayal is to those who believed his promise to end
stupid wars. In declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, by forecluding
(ph) East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, Mr. Trump has
forfeited America’s indispensable role as peace broker. Instead, as he has
done at home, he has taken division, which was bad, and managed to make it
worse.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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