“Fire and Fury” sells out rapidly Transcript 1/5/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: January 5, 2018
Guest: Lizz Winstead, Richard Blumenthal, Tara Dowdell, Nan Hayworth, Caitlan Huey-Burns, Rosie Gray, Michelle Goldberg, Charlie Sykes
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Book of revelations. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews. Chris will be
back on Monday night.
It is the book Donald Trump can`t seem to stop talking about. Michael
Wolff`s chronicle of the Trump presidency hit book stores today with the
best publicity possible. The President himself trying to keep people from
reading it. Trump`s lawyer even threatened lawsuits to keep it off the
shelves. That did not work.
This morning the President slammed the book and its author tweeting, I
authorized zero access to the White House, actually turned him down many
times for author of the phony book. I never spoke to him for book. Full
of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don`t exist. Look at this
guy`s past and watch what happens to him and sloppy Steve.
That last part a reference to Steve Bannon who was interviewed by Wolff and
offered strong critiques of the President and his family.
Trump also tweeting, the fake news media and this phony new book are
hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an
And he doubled down on his new nickname for Bannon, the Mercer family
recently dumped the leak or known as sloppy Steve Bannon. Smart.
And interview on the “Today Show,” Michael Wolff responded to the
President`s threat of legal action. Also to his criticism of his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: Where do I send the box of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he is helping you sell books.
WOLFF: Absolutely, I mean. And not only is he helping me sell books, but
he is helping me prove the point of the book. I mean, this is
extraordinary that a President of the United States would try to stop the
publication of a book. This doesn`t happen – has not happened from other
Presidents, would not even from a CEO of a mid-sized company.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you talk to the President? Did you interview him
for this book?
WOLFF: I absolutely – I absolutely spoke to the President. Whether he
realized it was an interview or not, I don`t know. But it certainly was
not off the record. My credibility is being questioned by a man who has
less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on earth at this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: In “Axios” today Michael Allen reported President Trump is so
furious about the book that some aides are just trying to avoid him. Allen
also reported more than half of dozen of the more skilled White House staff
are contemplating imminent departures. Many leaving are quite fearful
about the next chapter of the Trump presidency.
I`m joined now by “New York Times” columnist Michelle Goldberg, author and
commentator Charlie Sykes and White House correspondent for the “Atlantic,”
Rosie, let me start with you. Just in terms of the reaction from Donald
Trump here, look, it certainly seems from an outside advantage point to be
impulsive. It seems in many ways to be consistent with Trump as we have
known him for a long time now. Strategically inside that White House, is
there something they are trying to accomplish here in terms of the threats
of the lawsuit, the tweeting or is this just Trump lashing out?
ROSIE GRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it looks to be
mostly Donald Trump lashing out. I mean, I think that if you were really
thinking rationally and thinking strategically about how to respond to this
book, you wouldn`t be reacting the way that he is. I mean, the President
of the United States trying to stop publication of a book is basically
guarantee that it will get, you know, massive nationwide attention. So it
is really self-defeating actually what they are doing.
KORNACKI: Yes. And I mean, Charlie, that is one of the things that
strikes me too is when this news of this book first leaked, which a couple
of days ago now, President Trump put out that sort of extraordinary
statement attacking Steve Bannon and really kind of I think adding to the
anticipation of this book. Now it seems like the message he is trying to
put out there is don`t believe it. Guy had no access. Nothing to see
here. Sort of contradictory messaging.
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR, RIGHT WISCONSIN: No. And not only contradictory,
but I mean, yes. You know, as mentioned, self-defeating because he is
guarantee it is going to be a blockbuster, you know, if not an HBO
miniseries at some point.
But you know, you can keep two thoughts in your head at the same time which
is number one, that there are flaws in this book. They are might be some
questionable journalism but Michael Wolff, you know. But it is also a
devastating portrayal of what is going on in the White House. And, you
know, confirming a lot of the other reporting that has been going on here.
But again, I do think that – if this White House had had a more strategic
approach, they could have actually done a more effective job in
discrediting the book because there are some flaws. But the other problem,
of course, is that most people in Washington are going looking at this and
going, yes, we pretty much knew that the President of the United States is
the way he has portrayed here.
KORNACKI: Yes. And that is one of the big questions that is emerging from
this too. It is not about the individual anecdotes but about the overall
culture inside the White House and the President himself misconduct.
Michael Wolff telling Savannah Guthrie today that senior people in the
President`s stuff have questioned the President`s fitness for office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the overarching themes is that according to
your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family
members, questions his intelligence and fitness for office.
WOLFF: Let me put a marker in the sand here. One hundred percent of the
people around him. I will tell you the one description that everyone gave.
Everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. And what they
mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It is all about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And several allies of the President strongly pushed back on that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ROONEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Frankly, any discussion on the
President`s mental fitness I think is nothing but gossip because I have
worked with the President. I have worked with his officials and his
administration and that is sincerely not the case at all.
DAVID BOSSE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN DEPUTY MANAGER: There is just factual
inaccuracies in this book. There is nobody worked harder than Donald
Trump. It is outrageous that they say he didn`t expect to win, he didn`t
want to win. He worked his fingers to the bone.
CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I`m around the President. I have been around
him quite a bit through the past year. I met him 20 years ago. He is not
psychologically unfit. He is not lost it, as he claimed. This is just an
absurd allegation by someone who has talked to a lot of disgruntled people
at the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Michelle, you have a column about this. So you have got –
Wolff is saying the universal characterization that he gets from everybody
he talks to is that the President is like a child. That he is impulsive
and petty. All of this sorts of things. You have a column about what those
folks in the White House – if that is what they are thinking, what you
think they ought to be doing.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this has been the story since
the beginning, right. There is nobody close to Donald Trump who respects
him. There is nobody close to Donald Trump who would trust him with the
stewardship of their own small business or corner store or deli, right.
And so all of these people who say that he is insane, he is erratic, he is
irrational, he needs to be managed and yet – and they say this kind of off
the record as if they can salvage their own reputation by standing somewhat
outside of it and then they either go on television, like Kellyanne Conway
or some of, you know, the other people and insist that the emperor is fully
It is not – there`s the partisan game but then the existential survival of
this country which I think is not an exaggeration to say that is what is at
stake when you have someone like Donald Trump who believes in his marrow,
in his own expertise, who taunts North Korea on twitter and who is willing
to make decisions with no input and even sneaks around his aides as this
book reveals when he feels like they are getting in the way of something he
wants to do.
KORNACKI: And let me take it from this angle, sort of the devil`s advocate
angle. From the perspective theoretically of a staffer who feels all of
these things that Wolff is describing. The option would be, you are saying
one option there is you go public. You say I have been on the inside. I
have seen this. I want to sound the alarm publicly.
What about if that person is thinking, look, I`m on the inside now. I have
some measure of access. I may have some ability to shape how this
President acts, maybe it is better if I keep my mouth shut publicly and
stay in here and just to make sure he doesn`t do anything extremely out
GOLDBERG: You know, and I think that`s probably true of the national
security people, right. I mean, I think that, you know, a lot of the
generals, Mattis and some of these other figures, are doing something kind
of quietly heroic by sacrificing their reputation and the reputation will
be irrevocably tarnished to try to restrain this person who has no business
in the oval office.
But, you know what, somebody in the communications department, some of
these other figures, there is no plausible way in which they are actually
making things better. Even if that is what they are telling themselves to
be able to sleep at night. And honestly, how they are able to live with
themselves is a continuing enduring mystery to me. That I would love for
someone to explain to me.
KORNACKI: You know, Charlie, it is – all of these characterizations of
President Trump from this book, it is not just from this book. We have
seen other reporting for the last year that sort of in line with this. But
it also strikes me that a lot of those characterizations and a lot of that
reporting were things we were talking about and were being reported during
I mean, how much of a case of this is that the American people did get a
look at these tendencies, these impulse, these style and make some kind of
judgment about that on the campaign.
SYKES: Well, yes. I mean, a lot of things that have happened should not
have been a surprise. On the other hand, you know, what we are seeing is a
portrait being painted by - remember, these are his supporters, the people
who are closest to his, of a man who is manifestly unfit for office.
You know, we are talking about the staff and why they continue to defend
him and enable him. You know, what does it say about congressional
Republicans? Look. If you are in Washington, D.C. you have heard stories.
You know the speculation. You have seen things that then you walk out of
the White House and what you don`t talk about, you continue to cast this in
a completely different way.
I think that one of the real tells here, whatever happens with the Michael
Wolff book, is that if there are this many staffers, or this many people
seeing the President of the United States behaving this way, you know, this
will not be the last book that will be written. This will not be the last
tell-all. And you kind wonder, you know, what is it going to be like when
the dam breaks and people say, OK, now I could tell you what was actually
happening? Now I could tell you what I didn`t say when I was on, you know,
that cable show.
And so, that`s going post a real problem I think, you know, long term for
this Trump White House and its defenders and its enablers and
KORNACKI: It is also the case there of the ma whose words to Michael Wolff
sparked so much. The Steve Bannon now apparently so announce with the
President. That Trump has even bestowed on him nicknames, sloppy Steve.
It is a pattern with Trump.
Here are some of the other people who have achieved that marker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I noticed that Chuck Schumer
yesterday with fair tears. I`m going to ask him who was his acting coach.
We have low energy Jeb Bush, lying Ted and little Marco.
As I say, crooked Hillary. Crazy Bernie. He is a crazy man. I was being
hit by Pocahontas. Pocahontas, that is Elizabeth Warren.
Little rocket man. He is a sick puppy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So Rosie Gray, what I`m curious is what this could mean for the
future of Bannon and Trump? Because there has been a lot speculations
that, a, with Trump you are out but you never really permanently out.
Maybe somehow Bannon could come back sort into alignment with him in the
coming months, coming years. But does Trump – bestowing that nickname,
does that sort - does that mark Bannon`s permanent banishment from Trump
GRAY: Well, it is true that, you know, Donald Trump does have a pattern of
welcoming people that he has ex-communicated, you know, back into the fold.
But not just the nickname. I mean, it is also the fact that he put out a
lengthy statement slamming Bannon as having lost his mind, being a leaker,
which is a very, you know, loaded thing in that world. And, you know, the
bohemians with which Donald Trump reacted to Bannon`s statements in this
book. I mean, I think that actually can be really hard for Bannon to come
back from politically.
In terms of his future work wise, as of right now he is still in charge of
Breitbart. The Mercer family has cut him off. But, you know, my sources
told me that was in the works for a while actually even before this. So
you know, Bannon, his 2018 project, his sort of inter-party insurgency
looks like it is, you know, in jeopardy in terms of his future in the
media, I think that sort of unresolved.
KORNACKI: Yes. We came into 2018 thinking that would be a major political
story, Bannon, the establishments, those primaries may not be what we are
talking about this spring.
Michelle Goldberg, Charlie Sykes, Rosie Gray, thanks to all of you for
And a programming note as well. Michael Wolff, he is will join Chris
Matthews on “Hardball” this coming Tuesday. 7:00 eastern. Don`t miss
And coming up, that bombshell report from “the New York Times” that Trump
had the White House counsel push attorney general Jeff Sessions not to
recuse himself in the Russia investigation. It is part of what may be an
obstruction of justice case against the President and it comes as two
Republican senators also call for a criminal investigation against the
author of the dossier, Christopher Steele. That is ahead.
Plus Trump`s quote “dishonest media awards,” he promised to announce them
on Monday. The late night comedy host all want a piece of the action.
And as Trump huddles with Republicans to plan for the midterms, it looks
like Steve Bannon, not surprisingly here, has been left out in the cold.
And finally, the “Hardball” round table will tell us three things we will
be talking about this weekend.
This is “Hardball” where the action is.
KORNACKI: The President`s secretary of state Rex Tillerson was also forced
today to respond to questions about the President`s mental fitness. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody in this book, you know, questions his
mental fitness. Have you ever questioned his mental fitness?
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have never questioned his mental
fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: According to reporting from NBC News, Tillerson did call Trump a
moron at a July meeting at the Pentagon, as charge he never explicitly
denied. President Trump responded to those reports at the time by saying I
think it is fake news but if he did that, I guess we will have to compare
IQ tests and I could tell you who is going to win.
Be right back.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to “Hardball.”
President Trump`s failed attempt to prevent attorney general Jeff Sessions
from recusing himself adds a new dimension investigation in to possible
obstruction of justice. According to “the New York Times,” the President
instructed his White House council Don McGahn to stop Sessions. However,
McGahn was unsuccessful. And the President erupted in anger in front of
numerous White House officials saying he needed his attorney general to
The news comes after the President told the Times in July that he disagreed
with the attorney general`s decision enough to regret appointing him in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Sessions gets the job, right after he gets the job, he recuses
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was
going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and
I would have picked somebody else.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He gave you no heads up at all?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And meanwhile in a move sure to inflame partisan divisions,
Republican senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham of the judiciary
committee that made a criminal referral in their investigation of Russia
According to “the New York Times” they told the justice department they had
reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele lied to
federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information
in the dossier and they urged the department to investigate.
The move follows Republican efforts to portray the dossier as a partisan
hit job because it was compiled as part of an opposition research effort
for the Clinton campaign.
And joining me is Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal who sits on the
Senator, thank you for joining us. So these are your colleagues, your
Republican colleagues on the committee saying to the just department there
ought to be a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele, the author of
Let me ask you first, the evidence that they say they have encountered that
justifies this investigation, have you seen that evidence? Are you aware
of what their referring to here?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I have seen no evidence. None
whatsoever that would justify this criminal referral. And I know of no
such evidence stunningly and sadly this first major action by the
Republican leadership in the Judiciary Committee is aimed at someone who
reported wrongdoing, rather than committed it.
And very, very strangely, it`s apparently based on evidence that the
Department of Justice already has, and may well have been provided to them
by the Department of Justice.
So, it seems more like an effort to distract from the real priorities, what
should be the priorities of the committee, namely, looking into obstruction
of justice, collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian
meddling, and even to discredit law enforcement agencies like the FBI.
KORNACKI: Because I`m just trying to get a sense of what life is like on
that committee right now. Is this something you found out reading about in
the press today? Is this something the committee has been discussing?
Have Republicans been raising this?
You haven`t seen the evidence. Are you at least vaguely aware of what they
are referring to, or is this – are you just totally being hit out of the
blue with this?
BLUMENTHAL: That is really a very, very important point.
The fact is, really unfortunately, that there was no consultation and no
collaboration, which really runs against the grain of what traditionally
should be a proper bipartisan investigation. There has been no real
collaboration in this referral.
And, in fact, the efforts here should be focused on the committee`s
priorities, the Russia meddling, obstruction of justice, the possible
oversight of the Department of Justice, which is our mandate and our
KORNACKI: Because Lindsey Graham has said – his argument is basically,
look, he says he wants Mueller to proceed unimpeded. He thinks there ought
to be looking here into this issue of Russia meddling.
And he thinks there also needs to be some kind of look, some kind of
investigation into this dossier, into whether the FBI was relying on what
he sees as opposition research work.
In terms of the Russian meddling piece of it, do you think he, do you think
the Republicans on that committee are taking that seriously?
BLUMENTHAL: There is a really indisputable fact here, which is that the
FBI investigation of that Russian meddling and the Trump campaign`s
collaboration with it was triggered by information completely independent
and separate from Fusion GPS or Christopher Steele.
We know, from excellent reporting, that it resulted from information from
within the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos talking to the Russian – or
the Australian ambassador and other intelligence sources. So this really
seems like a distraction and a deflection of attention.
KORNACKI: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from
Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, in the news tonight.
Senator, thank you for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
KORNACKI: As “The New York Times” reports, when the president was unable
to stop his attorney general from recusing himself in the Russia
investigation, he said he had expected his top law enforcement official to
Mr. Trump then asked, “Where is my Roy Cohn?”
He was referring to his personal lawyer from years ago and fixer. Cohn has
been Senator Joe R. McCarthy`s top aide. His reference to Roy Cohn raises
new questions about how Trump views the independence of the Justice
Cohn, who gained national notoriety for hunting suspected communists in the
McCarthy era, later worked for Trump, until he was disbarred in 1986 for
dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation, per “The Washington Post.”
I`m joined now Matt Apuzzo, a reporter for “The New York Times” and an
MSNBC political analyst, and Maya Harris is an MSNBC political and legal
Now, Maya, let me start with you.
Just in terms of this new reporting on Trump, so we have got a couple of
pieces of it here. Number one, leaning on the White House counsel there,
Don McGahn, to tell Sessions you don`t need to recuse yourself, you
shouldn`t recuse yourself, I don`t want you to recuse yourself.
Now, we know Sessions did recuse himself. Did Sessions have to recuse
MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that it was
politically untenable certainly for him to stay in the role after what the
revelations have been.
But, normally, in terms of a recusal, you want to look at whether or not
somebody has conflicts of interest. They`re usually something like if you
have a family conflict of interests, a family member involved in the
investigation, a financial conflict of interests.
So there can be an actual conflict of interests, but it is also important
whether there is an appearance of a conflict of interests. And then in
this situation, Attorney General Sessions was involved in the campaign, and
he also had his own Russia issues, in that he had failed to disclose
meetings with Russians during the campaign, and then testified under oath
that he no meetings with Russians.
And so in terms of the integrity of the investigation, public confidence in
the investigation, he really had to recuse himself from this investigation.
KORNACKI: And, Matt, you have been reporting on this. Take us through a
little bit, because we have got that anecdote in there, again, a window
here maybe into how Trump views the Department of Justice, the attorney
general, how he thinks the role they should be playing.
He sees a role here of personal protection. I know there was a quote a
couple weeks ago, maybe a week or two ago, where he basically said he
thought that Eric Holder had acted to protect Barack Obama, hint, hint
there, Jeff Sessions you should be doing the same to me.
MATT APUZZO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it is actually remarkable,
given the Republican criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder during the
Obama administration was pretty roundly that he was just too chummy with
And so it is interesting to see that that is what was most attractive to
President Trump about the Holder era. There has been certainly no shortage
of criticism from President Trump about the Obama era, but he likes the
fact that the attorney general was very – was seen as a close ally and
friend of the president.
It just really does speak to what the Trump administration, what the
president sees the role of the attorney general is. We have heard Donald
Trump say, I have the right to do to do what I want in the Justice
Department, to make decisions in the Justice Department.
The reference to Roy Cohn is obviously a reference to his own lawyer.
Where is the guy who is going to protect me? And as you just mentioned,
Jeff Sessions kind of was bound to recuse himself.
In addition to the regular recusal standards, the Justice Department
internal regulations are pretty clear on questions of, if you are part of a
campaign, you don`t get to investigate any part of that campaign. So he
was pretty far down the track of recusal when the pressure from the White
House began, saying, no, no, don`t recuse yourself.
KORNACKI: And “The Times” also reporting that the president`s talk of
firing former FBI Director James Comey unnerved some inside of the White
House Counsel`s Office.
And it even led one of Mr. McGahn`s deputies to mislead the president about
his authority to fire the FBI director. In effect, the lawyer led the
president to believe he needed cause to fire Comey, despite conducting
research that showed he did not.
Maya, maybe you could offer a little bit of a tutorial here for folks like
me about the role of White House counsel, because we`re seeing McGahn here,
the president leaning on McGahn, go to Sessions, take care of this for me,
to sort of play that more personal role, that more personal protector role.
But the White House counsel is not supposed to enjoy that kind of
relationship with the president. Is that correct?
HARRIS: Well, it is not inappropriate for the White House counsel to
actually speak to the attorney general. In fact, that is the appropriate
line of communication from the White House to the Justice Department.
But what is inappropriate is, for example, you gave the example of the
deputy White House counsel. There is sort of the fact of the propriety of
what he did, as well as the sort of fact of what it illustrates.
And what I mean by that is that his role is not the private attorney for
the president. His role is to be the attorney for the presidency. And, in
this instance, it looks like he was attempting to help perhaps the
president save himself from himself.
He understood that it would be problematic potentially under these
circumstances for him to fire the attorney general. And so, in that
situation, his role is actually to provide candid, accurate, truthful
advice to the office of the presidency.
But what I also thought was interesting about that snippet from “The New
York Times” article was what it illustrates in terms of everything else
we`re hearing about Donald Trump and this presidency and the White House,
and the way that people who work directly with this president do not seem
to have confidence in his ability to take information in, to process that
information, and to exercise reasonable judgment and discharge his duties
And in the situation, in some ways, this deputy White House counsel was
probably the smartest person in the White House`s Counsel Office, because
he probably anticipated what it was that Trump would do with that
information and understood that it was headed nowhere good.
KORNACKI: It sounds like there was a strategic component to the thinking
there and then a projection of what the response would be.
Maya Harris, Matt Apuzzo, thanks to both of you for joining us.
And up next, for your consideration, Stephen Colbert and the rest of the
late-night hosts launch bids to take home President Trump`s coveted fake
news awards. Those are supposedly coming Monday.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump tweeted earlier this week: I will be announcing the most
dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year on Monday at 5:00. Subjects
will cover dishonesty and bad reporting in various categories from the fake
news media. Stay tuned.”
In response, late-night hosts have submitted their own for your
consideration ads, like you would normally seen for the Oscars.
Stephen Colbert took out a billboard in Times Square and gushed over the
awards on his show, calling them the Fakies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT”: I`m excited
for the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year, or, as we call
in the biz, the Fakies, because nothing gives you more credibility than
Donald Trump calling you a liar.
COLBERT: I`m hoping to be nominated in all categories, including
outstanding achievement in parenting George Soros` talking points.
COLBERT: Best sound mixing, best Chex mixing, least Breitbart-y, the Eric
Trump Memorial Award for Disappointment.
COLBERT: Fakest dishonesty, corruptest fakeness, dishonestest corruption,
and smallest button.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trevor Noah took out an ad in “The New York Times,” tweeting:
“Donald Trump, prove you`re not semi-literate by reading our full-page ad
in the failing `N.Y. Times.`”
And Samantha Bee tweeted: “Nice try, `The Late Show` and `The Daily Show,`
but we are sweeping the Dishonesties this year. P.S., Donald Trump, how
about a female host next time?”
I`m joined now by Lizz Winstead. She was the co-creator of “The Daily
Lizz, thank you for joining us.
LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Sure.
KORNACKI: Well, this feels to me almost like an extension of what we were
talking about at the top of the show, where Donald Trump sends his lawyers
after Michael Wolff and this new book, and it`s the best publicity this
book could possibly have.
Donald Trump goes after the media with an award like this. Late-night
comedy, they are salivating over this.
WINSTEAD: I know.
Well, what is so funny is, the brick doesn`t fall far from the wall I guess
is how that goes. But it is so amazing that Donald Trump would actually
have an awards show the day after Seth Meyers will excoriate him at the
It`s – he just doesn`t think things through. And why there even needs to
be categories, because basically all of this is about one category, least
supporting actor in a media role, because that is all he cares about, is
loyalty towards him.
And he just wants to try to point fingers at people who didn`t support him,
when, if you are going to talk about – if any of these late-night hosts
thought they were going to win, they clearly are going to lose. It is
going to be a sweep by Michael Wolff.
KORNACKI: Well, it is interesting, though, talking about late night, just
because they seem so ginned up for this.
It has been interesting to me over the last year. The Trump presidency –
and I think of Colbert. It was probably about a year-and-a-half ago I was
reading stories that he was struggling to find a direction taking over
after Letterman, maybe the ratings weren`t there.
KORNACKI: This has been grist for these late-night hosts, just the fact of
Trump being president.
WINSTEAD: Well, and it is almost overwhelming, because, usually, in these
kind of – in these situations, there would be three times a week where you
would hit a story that would – you could milk it for two or three days.
And now when things happen every 20 minutes or there is a tweetstorm, I
mean, what is the date today? The 5th of January? And we have already had
this explosive book, his tweetstorm earlier in the week.
And it is really hard to keep up and also – and just follow things
through, because it is like, you write it, it goes away, it is dead. And
so, conceptually, it is really fun to have something to hang your hat on
that goes to the awards on Monday, which I can`t wait for the red carpet.
KORNACKI: Yes, we`re very curious to see if this is going to be an actual
ceremony, if he`s going to say something on Twitter or not.
I`m curious, though, just talking about late-night television here. It has
gotten so political, so Trump. There is a huge audience clearly that is
out there for it.
I do – do you worry, though, ever that it may in some ways further the
divide, because it is so built around Trump, and if you are on that anti-
Trump side of the divide, you got late-night television? But basically
half the country was there voting for him. Half the electorate almost was
there voting for him.
Does this further the divide between that side of the country and the rest?
WINSTEAD: I mean, I think that if the divide – if you are still doubling
down on defending Trump, after the massive amounts of falsehoods that he
and his administration have brought forward, and the terrifying brink he`s
bringing us to nuclear war, I think that that divide, you`re not going to
bridge it by talking to people.
I think you need to marginalize Trump and do everything you can to prove
that he`s ridiculous. And so I think also it is pretty hard to not have it
be politicized, because Trump weighs in to everything.
There is not a story in the news that happens that does not have Trump`s
imprimatur on it. He either has created the mess or he`s stepped in and
dragged it around the world. And so that is what we`re faced with as
comedians. You are default – by default, a political satirist.
KORNACKI: All right, well, 5:00 Monday, we will see what that brings.
Lizz Winstead, thanks for joining us to preview it a little bit.
WINSTEAD: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: And all right, up next: Fresh off his feud with Steve Bannon,
Trump holds a meeting at Camp David to plot the Republican path in 2018.
And it comes amid word that the president spoke with Mitt Romney.
Are the two ready to bury the hatchet?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump departed for Camp David this afternoon following a week in
which his ugly feud with Steve Bannon may have left his former strategist
out in the cold for good. The president will huddle with Republican
congressional leaders this weekend. They`re going to try to chart a course
for the 2018 midterms.
Meanwhile, a possible 2018 candidate Mitt Romney out in Utah spoke by phone
with the president on Thursday night. This is amid speculation Romney is
going to run for that seat that Orrin Hatch is retiring from out in Utah.
“Politico” first reporting the news nothing the president wished Romney,
the 2012 GOP nominee, best of luck in his future endeavors.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Caitlin Huey-Burns, political
reporter for “RealClearPolitics”, former New York Republican congressman
Nan Hayworth, she sits on the board of directors at the Independent Women`s
Forum, and Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell.
Thanks to all of you for being here.
Caitlan, let me start on this news of the phone call between Romney and
Trump. Romney trashed Trump during the campaign. Romney may have almost
been secretary of state after the campaign. Now, it looks like he`s doing
to be a U.S. senator. He`s a rock star in Utah. Utah Republicans are not
too crazy about Trump.
What is the White House`s thinking about the prospect of Romney coming to
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think they anticipate if
Mitt Romney were to come to Washington that he could be this kind of thorn
in the president`s side. He`s been a very outspoken critic of this
president. That`s no secret.
There is a question, though, of, you know, whether he would really be,
right? You`ve had people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, all have had
scathing criticism of this president, and yet have voted for major pieces
of legislation that are in light with his, like tax reform, health care and
So, I`m taking this call for what it is today, because remember that famous
dinner that we saw the two of them at, only for Romney to come out. But I
think it serves Romney well to show when he distances himself from the
president and in a place like Utah and when he agrees with him.
KORNACKI: I`m trying to figure out what Romney has in mind here. Because
does he want to be sort of an elder statesman, take a Senate seat and hold
it for a while. Is there a part – because, you know, when they run they
get that, you know, Potomac fever. Does part of him think I go there to
the Senate, maybe I stand up to Trump on something, maybe I get some good
press and a year later, maybe it`s a Republican primary, maybe it is an
Is there another run for the White House?
NAN HAYWORTH, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, INDEPENDENT WOMEN`S FORUM: You know, I`m
not thinking that Romney is thinking about 2020. I really don`t. He is
the type of man who I think is compelling to public service.
He won Utah by 72 – 72 percent of the vote in 2016 – in 2012 rather. So,
his prospects are superb that he will be the next senator but I think he is
mission-driven and I think he sees this as an opportunity to serve. I
don`t think he`s going there seeking to usurp the president.
KORNACKI: Well, Romney`s prospects, Tara, look good in Utah. But
Republican prospects overall in 2018, I mean, look, they are out there at
Camp David this weekend, Republicans. They think tax reform at the end of
the last year they think might help them. Signs the economy is still sort
of – it`s moving along in a positive direction. They think maybe that
redound to their benefit at some point.
As a Democrat, how are you feeling looking ahead to this year?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously, Democrats are feeling very
positive about 2018. Certainly, it`s a measured positive reaction from
But look, Democrats are going to hammer Republicans on this tax bill, on
this tax scam. That is what that is going to be the talking point, that`s
going to be the continued hashtag, GOP tax scam, and what Democrats have on
their side around this issue is that the bill is unpopular, we`re at a time
when there is record amounts of wealth being held by 1 percent of our
country, 40 percent of the wealth in the country is held by the top 1
percent, 60 years – it hasn`t been like this in 60 years.
And so, Democrats are going to push that message and the message is
resonating already. We see it because the bill is unpopular.
KORNACKI: And the word, Nan, that is floating around, a lot of Democrats
want to – maybe some of them are scared to say it right now, this wave.
They are hoping this is a wave election in the midterm, dozens of seats,
they get back the House.
You ran in a wave election year, 2010, as a Republican, the anti-Obama
year. You got elected 63 Republican pickups in House.
HAYWORTH: It was amazing.
KORNACKI: Do you feel an opposite wave – a blue wave forming right now?
HAYWORTH: I think the response to the tax bill – the tax cuts is going to
be overwhelmingly positive. I mean, there are lots of commentators who
ordinarily wouldn`t be disposed to support the president or the Republicans
who have expressed even to their somewhat astonishment that actually, yes,
people are going to benefit.
They`re going to start seeing those benefits very quickly in their
paychecks. Two million Americans have been put back to work in just 2017
under President Trump. The economy is booking. And employment is at a
I think the Democrats are dreaming if they`re going to have a wave
election. I just don`t see it happening.
KORNACKI: Well, was it 24, the magic number for Dems is 24 pickups, they
get the House back.
The round table is staying with us. Up next, Joe Biden responds to Trump`s
taunt that he has a bigger nuclear button than North Korea.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: In a new interview with “The New York Times,” New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie reflects back on election night, saying that at
time, he expected to be heading to Washington with President Trump.
Christie says his wife looked at me and said, are we going to Washington
and I said, I really don`t know. But get ready.
The governor adds, I think both of our expectations at that moment was that
he would probably offer me something that I was willing to leave office to
do. But in the end, he never did.
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Vice President Joe Biden says he`s worried the United States and
North Korea are closer than ever to nuclear war. Biden criticized
President Trump`s tweet earlier this week in which he said that he has a
bigger and more powerful nuclear button that Kim Jong-un. The former vice
president argued that such talk damages our standing with other world
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: When we engage in activities like “let`s
compare the button,” they all for different reasons and different
motivations lose confidence in us. They wonder, do we know what the hell
we`re doing? I`m worried they then decide they`re going to find separate
ways to figure out how the do this.
This can`t be done in a way that doesn`t have all the players in the game
on the same page, and I just think that – and the other thing is, you
know, you draw these lines and you don`t respond, it diminishes your
credibility. And it`s just dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: A little interesting to hear him throw in the line at the end of
the Syria red line that Obama drew in 2013 at one point.
But, Tara, it is – Joe Biden tried to run in 2008 with his calling card
being national security experience, you know, authority, command on that.
All the concerns that are being raised about President Trump, interesting
to see Joe Biden inserting himself into this debate.
DOWDELL: Well, you look, remember Joe Biden`s history, which I know you
know very well, is he was also an expert on Georgia and Russia, right? So
before there was Ukraine and Russia, before some of these other issues,
there was Georgia and Russia, and that was something that Joe Biden was
very much intimately involved in. So, his history and knowledge of Russia
and that region is very deep.
I think the problem for Trump is that Trump is Trump, and Trump is his own
worst enemy. Speaking of buttons, every world leader knows exactly what
button to push if you want to manipulate Donald Trump. The Saudis know
that you just give him everything and make him feel good and put regalia on
him and celebrate him. They know how to take advantage of him.
The Chinese know how to take advantage of him. Russia knows how to take
advantage which, by the way, Russia was giving oil to North Korea recently,
despite all of the efforts to try to tamp them down. And they can do that
because there`s no strategy.
And people know that Donald Trump is not serious. All of his business is
on display on Twitter for the world to see and these guys are very smart.
All of our world leaders, men and women, are very smart, and Trump is
easily manipulated and they see that.
KORNACKI: Also in this interview, Biden would not rule out a run for
president in 2020. Well, Biden acknowledged his age is a legitimate
factor. He did take a swipe at a Democrat who is calling out another of
the party`s older contenders, Vermont`s Bernie Sanders.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: Howard Dean said this morning, former
Democratic Party chair, he said, the old people in the party need to,
quote, get the hell out of the way and –
BIDEN: Well, tell Howard I can take him physically, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Tell Howard Dean I can take – this is an interesting dynamic
here, but Biden –
HUEY-BURNS: The infighting is already starting. Well, Howard Dean,
remember, was talking about this during the DNC chair race. He backed one
of the younger candidates for that.
You know, I think Democrats are anxious already for 2020 and reasonably so.
They do have to get through the midterms and I think, you know, an anti-
Trump strategy certainly works in the midterms because it will be a
referendum on the president. But in 2020, it`s a different kind of bag,
It`s more of a vision and there are a lot – I think Democrats are going to
have this problem of a lot of people interested in this race and a lot of
people in this field. And, Biden, I think, there is – he`s inserting
himself into these debates and he`s making himself a presence and others
are kind of angling as well.
KORNACKI: Let me – Biden against Trump, if that`s what it was, is that a
strong or weak candidate for the Democrats?
HAYWORTH: I think it`s a very strong candidate for President Trump because
what does Vice President Biden represent? He was the vice president for
President Obama whose – who President Trump is reversing in so many ways
and proving, in fact, to our adversaries and to our friends that he is
building our United States economy, he`s building our military, he is
showing great strength in leadership at the U.N. through Nikki Haley and
through our relationships with other nations.
So, I think he`s going to continue to build strength through to 2020. So,
if Vice President Biden wants to take him on as a symbol of the failed
past, I think that would bode very well for President Trump.
KORNACKI: That`s the White House Trump Republican perspective right there
on a Biden/Trump race. If it ever came that. There`s about 28 other
options for Democrats as well.
The round table is staying with us.
Up next, three things you`ll be talking about this weekend and a program
note. Author Michael Wolff will be Chuck Todd`s guest this Sunday on “MEET
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Nan, tell me something I don`t know.
HAYWORTH: Steve, stem cell therapy to combat ageing is going to be a
growing field. Dr. Joshua Hale at the University of Miami has performed
successful infusions on 30 elderly people and helped make them stronger.
So, look to that, look to stem cell therapy for combating ageing in the
months and years to come.
KORNACKI: OK. Caitlin?
HUEY-BURNS: Big news in the Senate map. Republican Josh Mandel backed out
of the Ohio Senate race today. Republicans don`t really have a top-tier
challenger for Sherrod Brown, which is important because Trump won Ohio by
eight points. And also, Sherrod Brown is, of course, talked about as a
potential 2020 –
KORNACKI: Yes, one of those 28 names out there.
DOWDELL: Well, we all need some good news about the chaos and scandals.
So, fewer people are getting cancer and fewer people are dying from cancer.
So, I mean, fewer people are getting cancer and also fewer people who get
it are surviving.
KORNACKI: Both pieces of very good news. Great news to end the week on,
as a matter of fact.
Tara Dowdell, Nan Hayworth, Caitlan Huey-Burns, thanks to all of you for
And that is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being us.
And “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.