VP Pence’s turn to lavish praise on Trump Transcript 12/20/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Donna Edwards, David Jolly, Ginger Gibson, Annie Linskey, Seung Min Kim
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: December 20, 2017
Guest: Donna Edwards, David Jolly, Ginger Gibson, Annie Linskey, Seung Min Kim


[19:00:00] ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Tomorrow we have a special
breakdown on new leverage Bob Mueller might have on “the Beat.”

But right now “Hardball” is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Warner`s warning. Let`s play “Hardball.”

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

President Donald Trump has maintained that he is not considering firing
special counsel Robert Mueller whose investigation into potential collusion
between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin could progress well into next
year.

However, Democrats are still bracing for the worst. In light of the recent
wave of right wing attacks on the special counsel`s probe, Virginia`s
senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence
committee, delivered an urgent message on the floor of the Senate late
today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WERNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Firing
Mr. Mueller or any other of the top brass involved in this investigation
would not only call into question this administration`s commitment to the
truth but also to our most basic concept rule of law. It also has the
potential to provoke a constitutional crisis.

In the United States of America no one, no one is above the law, not even
the President. I hope my concerns are unfounded. In many ways, I hoped I
would never have to make this kind of speech, but there are troubling
signs. It is critical that all of us and as citizens speak up against
these threats now before it`s too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I ended this show Monday night by saying would moderates like
Warner of Virginia and could Republicans like Richard Burr, the ranking
Republican chairman of the intelligence committee who will save this
republic.

Senator Warner further warn that such a move by the President would
represent an abuse of power and urged his colleagues to hold the President
accountable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARNER: Congress must make clear to the President that firing the special
counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of
essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and
significant consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: To fire Mueller President Trump would not only need to remove
the man overseeing the Russia probe, that`s deputy attorney general Rod
Rosenstein, but he would have to have someone in the chain of command at
the justice department to carry out his firing order.

I`m joined right now by NBC White House correspondent Hallie Jackson.

Hallie, how is this going to sit with the White House, this direct warning
from the top Democrat on intelligence, don`t do this thing. Don`t fire
Mueller?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, especially
given how vocal Senator Warner was about it and how public he was about it
alluding to a really after the moment of that speech.

Here`s the deal. Right? There are folks I know who are close to the
President, folks who are talking a lot with his White House who know what a
bad idea it would be for the President to actually do this, to go through
and set a directive or figure out a way to get Bob Mueller off the job.

There is a real understanding of the political fallout that that would –
that that would have, right? There`s an understanding of what would happen
over on the hill just down Pennsylvania Avenue with members of the
President`s own party.

So there are those forces that are acting almost as a brake in this
instance. You point out rightly that the President has said repeatedly now
that he does – has no plans to fire Bob Mueller, isn`t considering firing
the special counsel. But as you know, this is also an unpredictable
President who at times has done things that even his closest aides haven`t
wanted to see. So how will this warning from the senator sit with the
White House? Not going to love it presumably, but I also think that
because obviously he is a Democrat there will be them pointing to the
partisanship that they might see at play here.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Hallie Jackson at the White House.

I`m joined right now by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democratic Connecticut
Ken Dilanian and investigative reporter with NBC News and Paul Butler, he
is a former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal scholar I must say. Thank
you. I love having you on.

Let me go to senator Blumenthal. You are watching this from the senate.
And what`s Trump up to? I`m hearing from Jackie Spieres in the House of
Representatives rumors, the joy if you will, that Trump is still has an
itchy trigger finger and he has to protect Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: There is a fear that the
President could either fire the special counsel or indeed issue pardons is
very eloquent and powerful warning from Senator Warner. I hope will lead
to Republican colleagues saying the same kind of warning because clearly
that kind of rash, impulsive action from the President of the United States
would trigger a firestorm.

MATTHEWS: Is it – would that begin – what began with the Saturday night
massacre back in 1973, would this lead to an impeachment move?

[19:05:06] BLUMENTHAL: It would lead to a constitutional conflagration, a
crisis that is looming right now. Let`s be very clear, Chris. There`s no
question in the intelligence community that Vladimir Putin attacked our
democracy so as to elect Donald Trump. The question for the special
counsel has been will there be sufficient evidence to take action against
the President based on collusion?

MATTHEWS: Without naming names, do you think the moderate – I shouldn`t
say moderate. That makes it sound like moderate is better than radical,
but good Republican senators. DO you think like people like Richard Burr,
will they take action if he goes this right? If Trump tries to fire
everybody prosecuting him?

BLUMENTHAL: My colleagues on the Republican side tell me that they would
simply not tolerate. It would be unacceptable for the President to fire
this special counsel. But the President`s proceeding on two tracks. One
is to say, well I have no intention of firing Robert Mueller, but the other
is to encourage his subservient chorus of defenders, particularly in the
house, to attack the special counsel and the FBI.

MATTHEWS: Is it that some fest? I will get to it at the White House
today. Would they all like it was like a (INAUDIBLE) ceremony for the
winter solstice? It was the weirdest thing in the world. They are
celebrating how they are stealing all the money from most regular people
and giving it to their pals. And having, really, everybody had a white
shirt on today. They were so up for this thing.

Paul, I don`t know about you, but I look at the political behavior, those
Republicans senators, and I didn`t see a lot of independents smile. I do
believe the best of them will, just like the senator said, the best of the
Republicans morally and patriotically will stand against the firing of
Mueller.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So it is only a constitutional
crisis if the good senator can`t convince his Republican colleagues to rise
to the occasion. The remedy is in the constitution. That the President
obstructs justice by firing Robert Mueller, he should be impeached. That
much is clear. We should also note that there`s no direct route that Trump
has for firing Mueller.

MATTHEWS: Give me the route.

BUTLER: So he had have to go through the attorney general, who is recused,
so that steps it down to the – to Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein is
pretty much telegraphed if Trump asked him to fire Mueller, he is going to
quit.

MATTHEWS: But does he have to fire sessions, his buddy?

BUTLER: No, he wouldn`t because Sessions is already recused. So if he
fires Rosenstein, then he goes down to the deputy attorney general. We
have a classic “Saturday Night Live” –.

MATTHEWS: He has to find somebody willing to be able to form and fire this
special counsel.

Anyway, let`s go ahead. “The Washington Post” yesterday report that
President approves of the recent attacks for these allies have leveled
against Mueller. A White House advisor said the President has enjoyed
these attacks.

In recent weeks he has spoken to a number of FOX News hosts, Republican
lawmakers and others who have castigated Mueller`s team. Trump`s defenders
have alleged there`s a democratic bias among members of the special
council`s team as well as inside the FBI and the justice department. Let`s
take a look at some of these attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, HOST, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: I think it`s safe to say we never
know that we have the most corrupt FBI, the most corrupt justice department
in our country`s history.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: This bias is like an infection. It`s like
an incurable cancer that`s inoperable. And we have got to end this Mueller
probe.

JANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The only thing that remains is whether we
have the fortitude to not justifier these people immediately but to take
them out in cuffs.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We are looking at this seeing more
and more that, you know, this is an attack on the presidency at levels we
have never seen before.

JESSE WATERS, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: We may now have proof the
investigation was weaponized to destroy his presidency for partisan
political purposes. And to disenfranchise millions of American voters.
Now if that`s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fix is in against Donald Trump from the
beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: They are talking about the candidate Trump back in the campaign
about the hecklers in the audience. Take them out. Beat them up,
whatever. Now the President`s son Donald Trump Jr. is also suggesting to
investigate this part of, catch this, rigged system. More third world
talk.

According to “Newsweek” Donald Trump Jr., told an audience of young
conservative quote “there is and there are people at the highest levels of
government that don`t want to let America be America. My father talked
about a rigged system throughout the campaign and you are seeing it.”

Ken, give us a sense of this and how - you see that land of the land right
now. You are giving a stern warning today on the Senate floor, a very
serious guy, I give Mark Warner. He is no lefty that makes radical charges
because he represents a radical or a liberal district. He represents
Virginia and it`s a moderate state. And then he gets out there. It
sounded to me like history today that this is laying down the cards for the
President. Don`t you dare?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I agree with you, Chris.
But going back to what you just played. This is really a struggle for the
soul of the Republican Party because you had Rod Rosenstein, a good
Republican from Maryland up there in the Hill last week explaining that he
saw nothing improper in the Robert Mueller investigation. That Robert
Mueller, a Republican himself, a decorated Vietnam War veteran was
operating within the balance of the rules and his mandate.

And then you saw Chris Christie on our air yesterday, the former governor
of New Jersey, another Republican and Trump supporter echoing that saying
look, you know, Mueller may have made some mistakes, he may have hired
people who contributed to Hillary Clinton which Christie doesn`t like. But
he is an honorable man doing honorable work. That`s one view thing. You
have this other view that you just played there. All these Republicans in
Fox News talking about a coupe and accusing Mueller with no evidence, by
the way, no basis in fact, of doing something improper.

And Trump seems to be encouraging it even he is saying, you know, he is not
going to fire Mueller. And to be clear, he can`t fire Mueller. As Paul
was saying, only right now Rod Rosenstein can do that. And Rosenstein have
said (INAUDIBLE) he wouldn`t. And you know, there are justice department
rules that you can fire a special counsel for specific reasons, conflict of
interest, (INAUDIBLE) of duty, misconduct. Not just on the whim. He is
not an at-will employee here.

So for him to do that, if Rosenstein doesn`t do it, the person who would
take Rosenstein`s place will be Rachel Brand, the number three at the
justice department who is a partisan Republican. So - but it remains to be
seen whether we are going to have a Saturday night massacre kind of
situation. But that`s what it would take, Chris.

[19:11:17] MATTHEWS: But the thing is Senator – the President seems to
think that the prosecutor who is prosecuting him serves at his pleasure.
That`s an imperial notion.

BLUMENTHAL: It is an imperial and totally fictitious notion. But in the
meantime, Chris, the tableau of deception that you just played is
accompanied by Republican colleagues in the House doing the same thing,
attacking the Mueller investigation, and it is designed to discredit, to
poison the well, to sabotage the investigation. By discouraging witnesses
from cooperating, from impugning the integrity of the FBI.

Think of it for a minute. Our premiere law enforcement institution with
dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line risk those lives
every day and they are being challenged by the like of what we have seen
here.

MATTHEWS: I wonder if this isn`t poisoning a jury pool because if what you
say happens and there`s a constitutional crisis, it`s like Trump every day
and his minions are putting out the word don`t trust the justice system no
matter what they have discovered. So sometimes next summer he come through
with an effect an indictment of the President, perhaps, the people around
them. We knew this was coming.

BUTLER: Trump`s own justice department that he selected all the high level
officials so two things. The FBI remains the world`s best law enforcement
agency. And they are not above criticism. I have concerns about what
Comey said about Hillary Clinton, the email scandal.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

BUTLER: I don`t like the issues about them investigating black lives
matters is just that this particular critique is misguided. The FBI and
the agents have done nothing wrong including having political opinions and
exchanging those messages that`s allowed under the rules.

MATTHEWS: And the FBI brought down Richard Nixon eventually.

BLUMENTHAL: And there`s no evidence whatsoever that any of the views of
FBI agents or any of these vague allegations will have any impact on the
special counsel investigation.

MATTHEWS: Well, if you know the facts and not you don`t have the law, you
pound the table. I heard that the other day. I like that.

Anyway, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ken Dilanian, always
sir, it`s great to have you in our team. In fact front lines, first team,
in fact. Paul Butler, it is great having you here in the table.

Coming up, President Trump and the Republicans are celebrating, what a
celebration, like a Druitt celebrates at the winter solstice. It was
weirdly, weirdly ritualistic. All of the guys showed up, by the way, with
white shirts on like they are (INAUDIBLE). This is a dressed occasion.
But what a cause? This tax plan is ugly on the inside. It is deeply
unpopular with the people and they know what they are talking about. This
is going to ship billions to the top. So will this hurt the Republicans in
2018? It ought to. And also in 2020. That`s ahead.

Plus, two former members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican
debate the tax bill here and what it means for Americans. And the
Republicans are more than happy to help the wealthy donors, but what about
the nine million kids who are going to lose their health insurance. This
is the tiny Tims in this world, if you will. Kids, poor kids, or near poor
kids losing their health coverage to pay for these tax cuts. Democrats are
fighting mad about this tonight and that`s why they are Democrats.

And finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. You won`t like it,
but this is “Hardball” where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:31] MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s first full cabinet meeting
earlier this year members of his administration took turns lavishing praise
on their boss. Listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, it`s an honor to serve the country.
It`s a great privilege you`ve given me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t thank you enough for the privilege you have
given me and the leadership that you have shown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you for getting this country moving
again and also working again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that
you have given us to serve your agenda and the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Earlier today, Trump held his final cabinet meeting of 2017.
And this time around vice President Pence dished out the tributes all by
himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for seeing
through the course of this year an agenda that truly is restoring this
country. You have restored American credibility on the world stage. You
have unleashed American energy. You have spurred an optimism in this
country that is setting records.

I`m deeply humbled as your vice President to be able to be here. I want to
thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of
and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s loyalty of a sort. It turns out that cabinet
meeting, that one was just a warm up for what we saw on the White House
south lawn earlier this afternoon. That`s next and we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:19:05] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball.”

It was a celebration at the White House today with Republican senators and
house members busting into cheer the biggest legislative victory so far of
the Trump administration. The tax bill that passed Congress today. The
President, of course, praised the legislation. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a whole list of
accomplishments that the group behind me have done in terms of this
administration and this Congress, but you have heard it before. Records
all over the place. And that will continue and then some because of what
we did. But $3.2 trillion, just think of it, in tax cuts for American
families. And Paul Ryan and Mitch, it was a little team. We just got
together and we would work very hard, didn`t we?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we did.

TRUMP: It seems like – it was a lot of fun. It`s always a lot of fun
when you win because when you think of it, we haven`t even been a year and
we did the largest tax cut in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president has a long way to go selling the plan, of
course. Polls show it`s deeply unpopular with the American public.

Only 24 percent, less than a quarter, in the latest NBC/”Wall Street
Journal” poll – that`s this week – say they thought it was a good idea,
the bill. Well, one reason, the largest tax breaks do go to the
corporations, the big corporations, and to rich Americans like Donald
Trump.

Anyway, today, the president trying to sound a populist message about the
bill, saying the larger exemptions for the estate tax aren`t for rich
people to give money to their kids, but to safe family farms. That`s what
he says. The corporate tax cuts are all about jobs, jobs, jobs, he says,
not money in the corporate coffers, which, in fact they are.

But let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: One thing very important for the farmers, the great farmers and the
great small business owners that were forced to sell their businesses at
bargain basement numbers, we have provided for the most part estate taxes
wiped out, so they can keep their farms in the family, and that to me is a
very big factor.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: This is – this is going to mean companies are going to be coming
back.

I campaigned on the fact that we`re not going to lose our companies
anymore. They`re going to stay in our country. And that means jobs. I
guess it`s very simple. When you think – you haven`t heard this
expression, but we are making America great again. You haven`t heard that,
have you?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, will that message play to the American people?

I`m joined by Jason Johnson, who is politics editor for The Root, and “The
Washington Post”`s Robert Costa.

Let me – I tell you, Robert, this guy, you want him to sell your house
someday or your old car, because he`s one hell of a salesman. But, today,
I saw a lot of Republican guys, mostly guys, in the Congress and the Senate
with white shirts on, all dressed up for the occasion.

Do you think celebration is the right message for a tax cut that goes
mostly to the top?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They`re going to have to rely on
the president to be their salesman next year ahead of the midterm
elections, because that populism you spoke of, that mantle of populism, is
really at stake in the 2018 elections.

And the Democrats believe, when you talk to them on Capitol Hill, by
bringing that corporate rate down from 35 to 21, they can sell this plan on
the left as something that`s against the working class, that`s for the
corporations.

But they`re going to rely on Trump because he has the connection with some
working-class voters on the right to make those stark shirt Republicans on
the Hill seem a little more popular.

MATTHEWS: OK, it`s a late night.

My favorite notion of politics, it`s late night, guys have had a couple of
beers. They`re sitting along at a bar on Route 40 or somewhere out in the
country or somewhere and they`re thinking – they`re talking about Trump,
right?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

MATTHEWS: And one guy says, I don`t know about this tax thing. It seems
like it`s going to rich. What`s the other guy say? Of course it is.

JOHNSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Who`s going to say, no, it`s for us? Or will a guy say, hey, I
got my piece, I don`t care?

JOHNSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Is that what they`re going to say, I have got my piece?

JOHNSON: It doesn`t really work.

I mean, look, the most basic question, people who are not involved in
politics who I have talked to are like, they just went to the tax
calculator and they`re like, am I going to get anything? And most people
I`m speaking to, they`re not.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JOHNSON: That`s the big difference.

This sells if, next April, everyone looks around and says, oh, my gosh, I`m
actually saving money. Right now, they`re not.

MATTHEWS: Well, Robert, one thing they`re not getting is a postcard short
form.

I have always wanted – I have got an accountant. I used to remember being
single trying to do my taxes. And I do it on my own right the night
before, April 14. And I would sit there doing all the math and everything,
but I never thought it was simple.

And he said he was going to make it a really simple tax form, you just fill
it out, it`s a postcard. What happened to that? That was an idea
everybody would have liked.

It`s gone. It`s more complicated than ever.

COSTA: It`s certainly not a postcard at all.

And the Republicans have this challenge now. Will the jobs come back?
They`re lowering the corporate rate. We know that helps corporations here
at home. But does it actually bring jobs back to the Sun Belt and the
Southwest, where it`s a swing area in the country?

Does it bring jobs back to the Rust Belt? That`s going to be the challenge
for Republicans. They know the market is booming. They know the suburban
Republicans are with them because their 401(k)s are doing well.

But will the jobs come back?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch. You know what drives salaries up? Labor
shortages.

JOHNSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: You got to buy people. You got to outbid people to get them to
go work for you.

Anyway, at the White House today, Republicans took the mic one at a time to
praise the president. This was really a strange ritual. They were all
doing what they always do. It seems like he has to get these hosannas from
these people all the time.

Let`s watch them do their hosannas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, you made the
case for the tax bill, but this has been a year of extraordinary
accomplishment for the Trump administration.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something this big, something
this generational, something this profound could not have been done without
exquisite presidential leadership.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I truly do believe, Mr.
President, that this will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the life of
our nation, but, honestly, I would say to the American people, President
Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Come February, check
your check, because that will be the pay raise of the vote for Donald
Trump.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Mr. President, I have to say that you`re
living up to every – everything I thought you would. You`re one heck of a
leader.

And we love all of you, and we`re going to keep fighting and we`re going to
make this the greatest presidency that we have seen, not only in
generations, but maybe ever.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Paul Ryan just said, how good was that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Trump, even in that magic moment when Orrin Hatch, who is a
fairly straight conservative, whatever, he is what he is from Utah. He`s
saying something that is apparently from his heart, for whatever reason.

And Trump says, good sales pitch. Did you hear that?

JOHNSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, even Trump can`t even accept a legitimate praise. He
sees it all as P.R.

JOHNSON: All as P.R.

And we saw it with the Cabinet meeting earlier, where he`s scowling as Mike
Pence basically is supplicating himself in front of him. I don`t think the
president is capable of appreciating how much other people who work for
him, amidst his insults, actually appreciate the work he`s done.

MATTHEWS: Why does he like this?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Robert, you are my Trump expert. Why does he have to – well,
he`s not God. You don`t pray to him, but these people seem to pray to him.
The stuff they say to him in his face is prayer-like.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTA: The Republican Party presented a united front today, but it has not
been a united year for the GOP.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, why did they do it today?

COSTA: Because they need to present to their base the image of success.
But this is not a true portrait of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Are they tying their wagons to him? Are they tying their wagons
to this president?

COSTA: Are they? One hundred percent.

You don`t stand in the White House next the president. And this is the
play they`re making. They don`t have a control of their base. They`re
relying on him to give them the boost with the base to go into 2018 with a
tax cut and the Trump imprimatur.

MATTHEWS: That`s like Trump talking about people wanting his money in the
campaign, these guys will do anything.

JOHNSON: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: They are unbelievable.

JOHNSON: They`re going to praise him. They`re going to cheer for him.

But, at the end of the day, like you said, they`re all going to tie
themselves to Trump.

When I talk to my friends in Ohio, they`re asking – look, you can praise
him all you want. You can say he`s a great guy. He`s cleaning out the
swamp. But when my tow truck company, when it comes tax time, am I better
off?

Most people don`t have multiple employees. And they really want to see
this change. Praising him doesn`t make that any easier.

COSTA: And even Senator Corker and others who have had differences with
President Trump, when it came to the signature policy item, they`re
standing right there with him.

MATTHEWS: Well, Republicans don`t fall in love; they fall in line.

But, today, they looked like they were in love this guy. And that is
frightening, frightening. Grown people in love with this character.

Anyway, Jason, thank you – Jason Johnson and Robert Costa, my Trump
expert.

Up next: President Trump once said that the Republican tax bill would cost
him a fortune and it wouldn`t help the wealthy at all. That`s clearly not
true. That`s certainly not the case. So, will the tax plan end up hurting
the Republican Party at the polls. That`s our big question for tonight,
this Wednesday night.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Pentagon confirms multiple ground operations are under way in Yemen.
The Defense Department says the Islamic State has doubled in size in the
war-torn country.

Three members of the same family, including an 11-year-old boy, are among
12 people killed when a bus filled with tourists crashed in Eastern Mexico.
Eight Americans died. A Mexico state prosecutor says the crash was caused
by the driver`s negligence and excessive speed.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken will resign from the Senate January 2 amid
sexual misconduct allegations. His replacement, senator-designate Tina
Smith, will be sworn in January 3 – back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Back to the biggest story of the day.

Welcome back.

As President Trump and Republican lawmakers continue to celebrate the most
sweeping tax overhaul since the `80s, many Americans are wondering what
exactly this bill does for them. The legislation delivers deep and
permanent cuts for corporations, while delivering only temporary tax cuts
for individual Americans. That`s the big deal. It`s separate.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, taxpayers earning less than
$25,000 a year would receive an average tax cut of 60 bucks. Those earning
between $49,000 and $86,000 a year would get an average cut of $900. And
those earning $300,000 and $700,000 would receive an average cut of
$13,000.

President Trump repeatedly promised that this would not hurt the middle
class, but would hurt him. Donald Trump, he actually said that. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households,
not the wealthy and well-connected.

The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We`re not – we`re
looking for the middle class and we`re looking for jobs.

I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are. Pretty much where
they are.

In all fairness, this is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe
me. Believe me. This is not good for me. Me, it`s not so – I have some
very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that`s OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the bill does opposite of what he said, slashing corporate
rates from 35 percent down to 21 percent. That`s a big help to the rich.

By one estimate, more than half of all-Americans, 53 percent, would
actually end up paying more in taxes by 2027. And, finally, the bill would
get rid of Obamacare`s individual mandate, which, according to the
Congressional Budget Office, will increase premiums that leave 13 million
people out in the cold, 13 million people out in the cold because of this
tax cut without any health care.

And despite all that, can Republicans persuade the general public that this
bill is a good deal?

For more, I`m joined by Dave Jolly. He`s a former Republican congressman
from Florida. And Donna Edwards, former Democratic congresswoman from
Maryland.

You two have been matched up before, so let`s see what you think.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Donna, you`re here. Congresswoman, you`re here now.

I don`t see that the winning thrill here for regular people. And I mean by
regular anybody up to $100,000 and some in joint incomes. I don`t see what
they`re cheering about. Eighty bucks? After all this hoopla and Mar-a-
Lago delight, who`s benefiting here?

DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, And if you look at
your chart, middle-income earners, you`re talking about $80 a month.

When I was raising my son, I could buy one pair of shoes, actually, two
pair of shoes a month for 80 bucks, because he changed shoes all the time.
And so this is really not going to do anything.

MATTHEWS: If you`re going to the outlets, sure, you can do that.

EDWARDS: That`s right.

And so I think – I look – you look at health care, 13 million people are
going to be left without, but you didn`t include the number of people whose
premiums are going to skyrocket because of what they have done.

MATTHEWS: Because the young, healthy people won`t be in the system.

EDWARDS: Exactly. And so this is a disaster.

MATTHEWS: Let me – David, you have been a Republican. You probably still
are.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: What is it that makes Republicans Republicans? Most
Republicans who vote Republican, some of them are regular people, working
people, in fact, they like Trump.

They`re not benefiting from being Republican. The old story was, if you
want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat. I`m sure you won`t
agree with that, but it is an argument.

Your thoughts. Why do regular-income people who are Republican like this
tax cut?

JOLLY: Well, so, listen, and Donald Trump lied in all of the entry into
this segment. Those are all lies. We know that.

At the end of the day, though, this is very intriguing, Chris, because this
tax bill actually does reduce taxes for virtually everybody. Some of them
expire.

But the important thing here is, why is it so unpopular? And I think it`s
so unpopular because a year into the Trump administration, there`s a
historic level of distrust the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

JOLLY: There is a historic level of distrust for the Republican Party
right now. We see that in the generic ballot tests.

MATTHEWS: But what about this $60? You say everybody gets something. But
60 bucks a year isn`t a whole lot.

JOLLY: No, of course it isn`t, which is why the tax plan is polling at
about 25 or 30 percent.

Here`s what Republicans are banking on. This is historic reform for the
corporate community. It is not historic reform for the individual
taxpayers. We know that.

But what we saw today is very dangerous for Democrats. And it`s this.
This was a unifying moment for Republicans. and, secondly, all elections
are about contrasts. And going into 2018, Republicans are now going to say
less – it`s less important that they cut your taxes. It`s more important
that Democrats want to raise your taxes.

They`re going to try to pin this week`s votes in the House and Senate on
everything Democrat, saying Democrats voted for higher taxes, we`re for
lower taxes. And in a 28-second commercial, that works.

MATTHEWS: How it`s going to do? Donna, you`re running for office again.
You`re going to have to face the voters. And if the Republicans say you in
effect voted to raise taxes because you voted against the tax cut?

EDWARDS: Well, I didn`t vote for anything. But I`m going to tell you
this. What Democrats know is…

MATTHEWS: Because you`re not in the House anymore.

EDWARDS: That`s right.

On state, local, income taxes and property taxes, I know that the people
where I live, probably half of them are going to see their taxes go up
because of that cap.

And you look at things like the giveaway, the – what I call the real
estate, the Corker kickback, right, the real estate windfall, $414 billion
that actually went to people who voted for that legislation.

People are going to find in that 1,100 pages…

MATTHEWS: You mean Republican senators?

EDWARDS: Republican senators.

And they`re going to find in that 1,100 pages that there are all sorts of
things like that that enrich individuals and enrich the highest-income
earners, the multimillionaires, the multibillionaires. And it`s not going
to help them.

And when they`re going to find that out is next year, because every one of
us knows our own paycheck, and we`re going to look to find it.

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

According to a new CNN poll, Republicans face an uphill battle coming into
the 2018 midterms. Among registered voters, 56 percent say they favor a
Democrat in their district, while just 38 percent say they prefer a
Republican. That`s an 18-point edge for Democrats.

David, what do you think about that? Let me go after another question I
have for both of you.

JOLLY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: The Democratic Party isn`t as left as the British Labor Party,
for example, or some parties in Europe who are very much selfish, they
don`t like the rich making anymore. They`re just always sensitive about
that.

Americans are sort of like, if I`m doing OK, I`m not mad at anybody. It`s
sort of a positive view we have in our country.

Do you think this time around, however, with a tycoon as president, who
seems to be feathering his nest, whose family seems to be sloshing around
in money, in luxury, back and forth to Mar-a-Lago – I call them the
Romanovs. It`s such an image of pigging out that, this time, the average
Joe or Jane is going to say, you know what, I don`t usually care how the
rich live, but now I don`t like the way they`re doing it at my expense.

Could this be the year next year? Your thoughts?

JOLLY: It should be, because the American people are right.

Listen, Donald Trump is a president who has lied to the American people
since he got into the office. Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare
without a plan to provide health care to underserved communities.

Just last week, we saw a Republican-nominated candidate, Roy Moore, who was
accused of sexual offenses against minors. Republicans nominated him.
And, today, we see a tax bill that favors the rich, not the working class.

The challenge for Democrats, though, is this, Chris. And Donna knows this.
Yes, it`s good enough to just be against all of this. And that might win
the House in `18. But where is the message from Democrats?

MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

JOLLY: Where is Tim Ryan`s plan? Where is Tim Ryan`s plan to say, this is
our tax plan?

Because, at some point, they need to see a contrast and say, I can go with
the Democrats because of what they`re proposing.

MATTHEWS: You just threw the football to Donna Edwards.

So, Congresswoman, when are we going to have a picture of the Democratic
program? We know the Trump one, lots of tax cuts for everything, mostly
for the rich. But that`s a program.

What is the Democratic program? Is there one for `18? I know it`s called
A Better Deal, but is that enough? Does that say enough?

EDWARDS: Well, I think what Democrats have to do is go out and talk to the
American people about protecting and saving their Social Security and
Medicare, because we know that that`s going to come under attack the next
go-round in 2018.

MATTHEWS: Is that the program?

EDWARDS: No.

I mean, I – look, we want to create jobs and opportunity for folks.

MATTHEWS: How? How are you going to create the jobs?

EDWARDS: Investing in infrastructure, for example, investing in domestic
manufacturing.

These are things that we can do.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

EDWARDS: But we have got to have – we have to have the resources to do
it. And you can`t be stealing from the American people.

MATTHEWS: I`m completely with you. But I don`t have a picture of it

DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER MARYLAND CONGRESSWOMAN: Investing in
infrastructure, for example, investing in domestic manufacturing. These
are things that we can do, but we`ve got to have, we have to have the
resources to do it, and you can`t be stealing from the American people.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: I`m completely with you. I don`t have a
picture of it, like I do with this tax cut. I want a Democratic picture.
Please paint it for me sometime. What`s it going to look like –

EDWARDS: I`m going to take you over every road and pothole and crumbling
bridge and that will paint your picture because that`s where we need to
invest.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman. Thank you, David Jolly, for coming on.
Thank you, of course, my friend Donna Edwards, of nearby P.G. County.

Up next, Republicans were quick to pass a tax cut that benefits the
wealthy. Meanwhile, millions of children in need of health insurance can
be left out in the cold this Christmas. It`s called – a program, by the
way, CHIPS. It`s for kids just at the poverty level and a little above who
need health care and aren`t getting it otherwise.

They may lose all their health care. This is really, if you think about
it, Tiny Tim stuff. Democrats are demanding action tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats have pointed out that the Republican focus of the tax bill has
led them to put issues like the Children`s Health Insurance Program on the
back burner. The program is running out of money after Congress missed a
September 30th deadline to renew it. Democratic lawmakers held a press
conference today where they held lumps of coal demanding that Republicans
reauthorize the program before the holidays.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: This is the ultimate bad Christmas
carol story. This may be the most shame full day in the history of
Congress. We`re going to put 9 million kids in this country at risk.

So, what we`re doing here today is basically saying, wealthy Americans,
big, fat Christmas present for you. Tiny Tim, we`re taking your crutch
away from you and all the other kids in this country, and we`re putting a
lump of coal into your Christmas stocking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s tonight`s roundtable. Ginger Gibson sitting right
here, a political correspondent for “Reuters” news service, Annie Linskey
is national political reporter for “The Boston Globe”, and Seung Min Kim is
congressional reporter for “Politico”. Big operation here.

Let me talk about the Democrats having a problem. Did they really fight
the tax cut? Should they have fought it at the cost that you are not going
to get certain things you know the government has to deliver so that some
people can make an extra killing?

GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I think Democrats threw a
lot at it but what they really need to be doing is looking ahead to how
they message it in 2018. If they don`t start telling voters this is bad
for you. They`re going to lose the messaging battle. They`ve been given a
gift.

A bill that passed with 30 percent public approval, that is worse than the
ACA was, and then –

MATTHEWS: Affordable Care, yes.

GIBSON: Affordable Care was when it passed. Democrats have an opportunity
here to message it, to get people riled up. If they miss it, they`ll be
looking at 2018 as a missed opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Annie, traditionally, you lose by cutting taxes, because
everybody wants their piece, even if it`s a sliver. They`ll take the
sliver rather than nothing. But I wonder about this time with Trump –

ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: – slopping around in the White House, the Romanovs, the way
this is just a very, very, very tycoon rich, loving the fact that they can
give breaks to people like themselves.

LINSKEY: Potentially signing it in Mar-a-Lago surrounded by the wealthy
splendor. I mean, that`s certainly on the table as something that, I mean,
is possible. He very well may sign it in Mar-a-Lago surrounded by his
opulence.

MATTHEWS: These are people who pay –

LINSKEY: You know, and to your point about CHIP, I mean, what a contrast
that would be to be in this sort of room, not a taxpayer room but a gilded
room, you need to pay to be into while this program that helps children is
not reauthorized.

MATTHEWS: You know, it really is, Seung Min, it`s really Scrooge. I`m
reading it. Again, I try to read it every Christmas. It`s about a guy
coming home, little Tiny Tim on the frozen sidewalk of London. Basically,
get out of the way, kid. I want to go home and have my soup.

And basically he would love to squeeze a little more money out of – aren`t
there prisons and more houses. Let`s go put the people there, the poor
people. It`s horrible stuff, the Dickensian stuff.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And just – the failure
to reauthorize the CHIP program is just another example of why Congress
cannot just do the basic thing. So, you have a program that is widely
popular, affects 9 million children in low income families. Orrin Hatch
and Ted Kennedy created it. It should be, you know, 100-0 in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: But they didn`t vote.

KIM: And they didn`t vote. What happened was in the House, House
Republicans had a CHIP plan except it was paid for through partisan
measures which didn`t get the support of Democrats in the chamber. So,
while it passes, it`s dead on arrival in the Senate. The Senate has a
bipartisan plan from Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, but it`s gotten nowhere
outside of the committee. So, it`s really a failure Congress here.

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, they have time to jam in Ted Cruz`s home schooling
program. I don`t think that`s survived, but who thinks – that`s college
in Kentucky that this happens to be Mitch McConnell`s college or whatever.

LINSKEY: There should be no – versus Hillary Clinton`s baby as well.
That plan is – that`s her – the answer to the health care plan that
failed. So, you do kind of wonder when you mention these legacy programs,
that`s her legacy, is being –

MATTHEWS: Another chance to screw the Clinton –

LINSKEY: Exactly. That`s kind of how it looks.

MATTHEWS: By the way, taking it 13 million people out of Obamacare, the
people that are young and healthy, just get out while they`re young and
healthy. Get on the motor bikes and enjoy life, you know, don`t wear a
helmet. Enjoy. Nobody has to bother me when I`m 40 or 50.

Those people are the ones you want in the insurance program because
somebody is going to pay for older and less healthy people. They`re all
going to get scot-free now. The Republicans love it because it`s under
financing Obamacare and then they could screw it.

GIBSON: And the problem Republicans were talking about years ago, which is
that these uninsured people can show up in the emergency room and the care
that everyone pays for is going to return to existing as a problem. So,
I`m sure we`ll be hearing or maybe not hearing that.

MATTHEWS: It is Scrooge stuff. It`s Scrooge.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with me. And up next, they`re going to
have some scoops for us to enjoy through the holidays.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: A court has now declared a tie in that key Virginia House race.
The Democrats thought they`d just won by a vote yesterday. Anyway, the
Republican incumbent challenged yesterday`s recount in saying that one of
the ballots was not properly counted. Remember that from Florida a number
of years ago?

Well, since the race is now tied, state law says the winner will be chosen
– this sounds like the middle ages – by lot, essentially a coin toss or
another game of chance. And that process is expected to take place within
the next week. That should be interesting.

And the outcome of that coin toss will decide control of the Virginia House
of Delegates. This is democracy.

Either Republicans will maintain their hold in the House or it will be
split 50/50 between both Houses and I think that the governor will have
something to say about that, the Democratic governor.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.

GIBSON: Senator Cardin sent a letter today calling for more action in the
situation in Myanmar. Two of my coworkers “Reuters”: reporters are being
detained. We don`t know where they are. They have not been allowed to
communicate with anyone. This is a serious condition, situation and
something everyone should be paying attention to. This was journalists
doing journalism, arrested for doing that, on top of the free press.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Annie?

LINSKEY: So, I`ve been very interested in the tax debate about the – it`s
a bit wonky, but the carried interest loophole.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, the one for the –

LINSKEY: For the hedge funds, yes.

And this is something that Donald Trump campaigned on closing. Lo and
behold, the tax plan, you know, arrives and that loophole continues to
exist. But I was at a breakfast with Gary Cohn this morning and we asked
him about that.

And he said up until Monday, the president was still trying to debt it
closed. And Gary Cohn, who`s the president`s chief economic adviser
pointed the finger to Republicans in the House from New York as the –

MATTHEWS: I know, because although they got hit with the state and local
tax loss, it`ll keep the donors happy. It`s about the donors.

LINSKEY: That`s right.

KIM: Chris, you and I have talked about the issue of President Trump
personally interviewing U.S. attorney candidates, particularly in New York
and District of Columbia. A group of us reporters sat down with Senator
Rubio earlier today and I asked him, do you know if he had interviewed
candidates for the southern district of Florida, which is where Mar-a-Lago
is located, and Senator Rubio says he does not know any of – he does not
know that the president has done that, but he said if he were Trump`s
lawyer, he would strongly advise against doing that.

MATTHEWS: He would do that because he`d cut some deals down there? He
wanted to have that covered.

KIM: He has interviewed candidates where he has some business interests.

MATTHEWS: Of course, he also worries about prosecution.

Anyway, thank you, Ginger Gibson, thank you, Annie Linskey, and Seung Min
Kim.

When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”. He`s not going
to like this, baby.

And you`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Wednesday, December 20th, 2017.

Like the druids celebrating the winter solstice, the Trumpkins held their
ritual today on the back steps of the White House. There we were, the men
in white shirts, lined up on both sides of the Truman balcony to sing the
praises of their sun king, Donald J. Trump. It was the strangest of
sights, men and women decked out in their Sunday best saying things about
the president they could either – could not possibly mean or that they
have been forced by the Trumpkins back home to believe and like it.

Look at this tax bill they`re lauding and applauding. Look at it. It`s
the largest transplant of money in the history of the republic, trillions
of dollars being shoved up to the top to join where most of the money
already sits. The cuts and corporate taxes join the cuts already sloshing
around in corporate drawers. The big dollar cuts in the top tax rate. The
elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax that makes companies
pay at least something. That`s gone.

The huge cut in estate taxes, which mean millions more owned by the rich
will be kept in their families, ensuring rich kids comforted by grand pop`s
millions for generations to come. How about that one?

And there they were today, gleaming in the sunlight, worshiping their sun
king, glorying in the shortest day of the year. The day they chose to
celebrate the greatest shorting of the American people in history.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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