Michael Wolff interview Transcript 1/9/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: January 9, 2018
Guest: Barbara McQuade, Shannon Pettypiece, John Brabender, Michael Wolff
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The book that bounced Bannon. Let`s play
HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
He is out. Breitbart announced today that Steve Bannon, President Trump`s
number one – or number – actually, one-time adviser and top champion is
stepping down from his post at the right-wing Web site. Bannon quickly
fell out of favor, of course, last week after the publication of the new
book, “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff.
In the book, Bannon is quoted bad mouthing members of Trump`s own family.
He called Donald Jr. and his meeting with the Russians treasonous and
unpatriotic. But he later tried to backtrack, Bannon did, saying he wasn`t
talking about the President`s son, but the damage was done. His main
financial backers publicly distanced themselves. And by this past weekend,
the President bestowed the Trumpian version of the kiss of death, a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you know, I never
interviewed with him in the White House at all. He was never in the oval
office. I don`t know this man. I guess sloppy Steve brought him into the
White House quite a bit and it was one of those things. That`s why sloppy
Steve is now looking for a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he is certainly, now. White House aides also took to the
air to bash their one-time colleague, now known as sloppy Steve. Here was
Stephen Miller trashing the man once seen as his ally in the
administration. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR: It`s tragic and
unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments so out of touch
with reality and obviously so vindictive. And the whole White House staff
is deeply disappointed in his comments. It reads like an angry, vindictive
person spouting off to a highly discreditable author.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Again, the news today, Steve Bannon has become the first
casualty of the book, “Fire and Fury.” And what`s clear Trump is stewing
over, is his depiction of himself in the book, as isolated and ill-
informed, surrounded by White House staffers concerned about by his mental
I`m joined by right now by the author of “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff.
Michael, what do you think when you watch this today with the announcement
that Bannon is gone from Breitbart? His post, the thing he created?
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: I`m thinking that the real villain
of the book who is Donald Trump is still ensconced in the White House. So
it`s a little bit of a tragedy here.
MATTHEWS: For whom? For the country?
WOLFF: For the American people, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, do you see a cause and effect between the
words he spoke about the President`s family, including the President`s son
and namesake and the fact that he can`t even hold a job at Breitbart as of
WOLFF: Well, I mean, I`m not sure that – I think he can`t hold a job at
Breitbart because the President at this moment in time was much stronger
than Steve Bannon thought he would be.
My theory on this is that Bannon thought Roy Moore would win. And that
would be – that would put Steve in a very strong position and the
President in a very weak position. And at that moment, I think Steve
anticipated my book would appear and that would begin to precipitate his
break with Donald Trump, who frankly, he thinks is an idiot.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the President`s performance today. Out of
nowhere, a press spray that usually lasts in the seconds, where they let
the cameras in, he makes some burping sounds to the press, and they are
gone. This time, I thought, to make up for the portrayal you have given of
him in the book, and maybe a very accurate one, he tried to show a very
different picture of an (INAUDIBLE), of a calm, collected, reasonable, open
to negotiations, perfect being out there, just for the cameras. Do you
think he is trying to create a pre-emptive (ph) village to offset the
portrait you wrote in the book?
WOLFF: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there could – what else could there be
here? I mean, remember just the other day, he was assuring us that he was
sane and stable. So this is, this is the weirdest thing I have ever seen.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, you know, you know, I really mean this.
When I was reading your book, and I was getting this portrait. And I
worked in a White House and I know what it was like to lose. I know that
feeling. I was with President Carter on Marine One and I said, I`m inside
a dead bird or a bird that`s dying. I can feel it.
The mood of yours is a different sense. It is a scary sense. It reminds
me of that “Twilight” episode way back in the 1960s, where this kid with
all of kinetic powers, ferocious kid with no mental or emotional
development who could kill anybody he wanted to, destroy their lives
terrifically and everybody just pandered to him, pacified him. It`s like
there is an 8-year-old in that west wing and everyone around him is scared
to death that he will do something really destructive if they don`t please
him that moment. Did you see that “Twilight” episode back then?
WOLFF: I certainly did. We are of a similar generation.
But I think it`s a little different than that. I mean, I think – I
absolutely think that the people around him have no illusions. They know
who this guy is. They know what trouble he can wreak. And one of the
reasons that they are there and that they continue to stay there is the
hope that they can mitigate this, they can stand between him and the havoc
and chaos that he is. He is inevitably prone to.
So, in a sense, I mean, in a sense, you want to say to these people, how
can you do this, how can you enable them. But in another sense, you can
see many of these people, and many of them are now gone, dangerously, you
can see them as patriots.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about – what do you think the reaction is
– I have to project here a little bit on the trajectory. These people in
the White House know what happened today. Bannon has now not only been
kicked out of the White House. He has been kicked out of Breitbart. The
President has tracked him down or his minions have. Do you think they are
now more trepidations about crossing it or trepidations about crossing a
guy who know shows a willingness to get to hunt down his enemy and destroy
him to the end?
WOLFF: Yes, but the other interesting thing is that there is not really
anybody or in a some sense hardly anybody left in the White House. You
know, at the end, with the loss of most of the staff that he went in there
on January 20th, almost a year ago, he is left with – from what I can
tell, the two senior most advisers to the President of the United States
are Hope Hicks, a 28 or 29-year-old young woman whose background is as a
fashion, as a sort of junior fashion PR person and Stephen Miller, who
everybody saw this weekend. And I don`t think anybody wants to quite see
again. These are the two people who are the – they are the brains of
Trump`s White House.
MATTHEWS: But most Presidents, including our best Presidents, and I don`t
think Trump`s one of them, certainly not yet, by any measure. People like
Lincoln, people like Washington, I assume, Roosevelt, certainly. Roosevelt
made a point of making sure everyone in the White House was smarter than he
was. I think Kennedy did the same. They were humble enough in their IQs,
if you will. They had great temperaments that they knew they needed
smarter people around them. Aren`t they?
Is there anybody who is in the White House as a general adviser, someone in
the loop, in the room, when there`s something critical going, that he
trusts as a brain, as a conciliar, if you will?
WOLFF: No, absolutely not. And this is - I mean, there are actually two
interesting things here and you cannot – the one thing you cannot say to
Donald Trump, is you cannot praise somebody else`s intelligence. You just
can`t. That`s - he will go away in a snit with his lip curling. You
cannot do it.
And the other thing is that he is been repeatedly asked this question. Who
do you turn to? Who do you get your advice from? Who is your - who is
your mainstay? And he always says, it`s me. I`m the person I turn to for
MATTHEWS: OK. And now we come to the cold, scary part of your book, the
fitness question. It seems to me, and I thought about this just a couple
of moments, I think it`s what most people would come to mind if they are
thinking about, what does a President have to be? Regardless of age,
ethnicity, gender, whatever. Presidents have to have three things. They
have to have the ability to resort to reasonable judgment, to make a
reasonable judgment. They have to be cool under pressure. They can`t be
going stark when something goes crazy. And they have to recognize this,
maybe the most important thing, that they have to look at the consequence
of their acts. They can`t be impulsive.
If I do this, this is in a checkers game, this is a chess game, this will
this, this will this, and that will that, and I better damned well make the
right option because those things will happen. Does Trump have the ability
to show reasonable judgment, coolness under pressure, and recognition of
consequences by the people around him?
WOLFF: He – I think that`s a – that`s a fine and perfect list and on
each point, he does not have that attribute.
MATTHEWS: And those in the White House that you`ve interviewed extensively
agree with that? They all agree he has those lackings? Those deficits?
WOLFF: Each of them, the recurring description in the White House is of
Trump as a child. And what is meant by that is that he needs immediate
gratification. Always. Nothing can be delayed. It has to be what he
wants, when he wants it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about gratification. I don`t want to go back
and talk about it, but I probably will, the small hands thing and all of
that seems to suggest to Trump, which is nonsensical and high schoolish.
Then you get to, all right, I have bigger hands, I get bigger crowds on
inaugural day, bigger, bigger, bigger, and I even have a bigger nuclear
The idea that he has to prove to himself – he also said to me in an
interview before the election, why do we have nuclear weapons if we are not
going to use them? And that is really scary. They are somehow building
blocks. They are steel girders. They are windows. They are the things
you put buildings up with. Would you use nuclear weapons? They are not a
deterrent. He doesn`t seem to understand the reason you have a nuclear
weapon is not to use it. Does he get that?
WOLFF: He doesn`t. Every assumption, every conventional assumption, every
assumption that has been – that has become part of modern history, he
doesn`t – first, he doesn`t know that those assumptions exist and he
doesn`t – and even if he did know those assumptions exist, he thinks he is
larger than any assumption.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the thing that - I love the facts in your book.
Because it is a non-fiction book with a lot of facts. We can argue around
the edges, but the facts are like giant blocks of reality.
One of them is this work day. Now, Reagan, Ronald Reagan, everybody
laughed about the fact he didn`t get to work until 8:30 in the morning.
Well, this guy comes to work around 11:00, according to you reporting. He
comes in around 11:00. Leaves about, well, before dinner or at least talk
during campaigns. Certainly, Secretary Clinton talked about, what happens
at 3:00 in the morning.
What about if there`s a 9:00 in the morning call, is he reachable? He
locks his door. Tell me about the locking of the door and the staying up
in his rooms in the morning and getting there not too late, in the late
WOLFF: Well, the locking of the door was something that happened early on,
not too long after the inaugural. And it was – he wanted to install his
own lock on the door. And the secret service flipped out and there was a
confrontation. And, in fact, they seem, I understand, to have won that.
But he wanted – he wanted to block himself off. He needed that kind of,
that kind of privacy.
Remember, on top of everything else, Trump is incredibly phobic. You know,
there was a – he threw a fit, you know, the White House has a fairly
elaborate cleaning staff and maid service, and they did his room and he
flipped out. If my shirt is on the floor, it`s because I want it on the
floor. If I want my sheets changed, I will strip the bed. This is unusual
MATTHEWS: Well, does that go back to he didn`t like hand shaking before he
ran for politics? That sort of –
WOLFF: I would –
MATTHEWS: – keep away physically from me in every way of my being. That
WOLFF: Yes. I would assume that is all part of that.
MATTHEWS: Final question, and this has been fascinating. Let me ask you -
- congratulations on the book. I have tried to sell books. I got to tell
you. I don`t know how you did it, but the book leaked out and everything
worked out wonderfully for you. But congratulations.
In fact, tonight I believe is your pub date. Lots happened before this pub
Let me ask you about this sense of the people you`ve talked to. By the
way, you remind me of the great reporter, Joe McGinnis. You really started
this behind the lines kind of reporting with Jeffrey McDonald (ph). Before
that with the Nixon people and selling of the press, where he went in there
and had an indefinite role. Nobody know who he was. But somehow he got
clearance, and somehow thanks to Roger Ailes and other people, he told the
whole story of how Nixon put together that phony baloney campaign in 1968.
Now, do the people talk to each other? Could you tell the date when they
close the door and you have your conversations can them Soto Voce (ph), do
you have a sense they talk to each other the way they talk to you about the
world that they share inside the west wing?
WOLFF: A super good question, Chris. And I think - I could tell that they
were each feeling the other out on how to do this. On how do you say, oh,
my God. And in many cases, they don`t, because they are polarized.
I mean, Steve Bannon did not speak to Jared Kushner. You know, you had
this – these factions in the White House that were absolutely cleaved.
But gradually, it was actually Priebus and – Reince Priebus and Steve
Bannon had an enormous amount of – they were polarized, let`s say, in the
early months of the administration. And they actually came together. I
think that they became quite good friends because they understood. They
understood this was a – this was an entirely anomalous situation that they
had found themselves in and it was coming apart.
MATTHEWS: I guess when you`re dealing with ude (ph) and cuse (ph) every
day, you do find common purposes.
Anyway, thank you. Congratulations, Michael Wolff. “Fire and Fury.” I
don`t have to help this book but go out and buy it or you are missing out
on the big story of this year so far.
Thank you Michael Wolff for coming to “Hardball.”
WOLFF: Chris, thanks.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Senator Dianne Feinstein, my favorite senator,
released the entire transcript in the testimony from Fusion GPS, the
opposition research firm that commissioned the famous Steele dossier.
Democrats want to prove that Republicans aren`t being straight with the
American people about how the Russia investigation actually began and it
began before the dossier.
And it comes as Robert Mueller is figuring out how he will question,
interrogate, if you will, President Trump about his contacts, which he had,
with Russians. And that`s ahead.
Plus, Oprah`s closest friend, Gayle King, now says she is intrigued, Oprah
is, by the idea of actually running for President of the United States.
Today, Trump said he could beat her. Big surprise.
And inside Trump`s extraordinary bipartisan meeting today on immigration as
I talk about it. It was a rare look behind the scenes of the back and
forth negotiations between – I thought it was a Potemkin village. It
looked nice. I`m not sure it is nice. And it was a way for Trump to push
back, as I said, against claims that he was not mentally fit to have such
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. I think you will like it.
This is “Hardball,” where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The news that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the
president himself, perhaps within weeks now, has set off a debate among
Trump`s lawyers about how they could try to limit any damage to the
president they expect.
Anyway, as “The New York Times” reports, “Allowing prosecutors to interview
a sitting president who has a history of hyperbolic or baseless assertions
carries legal risk for him.”
Well, it could be a crime, in fact, for the president to knowingly lie to a
federal official. As we have already seen, it`s a big risk. All four of
the president`s former aides, Trump`s former aides, who have been charged
in this probe so far, this Russian probe, have faced at least one count of
making false statements to federal officials.
Arguing today that the president should only respond to written questions,
like a take-home test, Trump ally Newt Gingrich warned that the president
could find himself outmatched against Mueller`s prosecutors if it were a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think that they should
proffer that Mueller can submit written questions, and they will answer his
QUESTION: Yes, make it that easy.
GINGRICH: But I would not get involved in a free-for-all. I think the
idea of putting Trump in a room with five or six hardened, very, very
clever lawyers, all of whom who are trying to trap him, would be a very,
very bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you just heard Newt Gingrich`s ineffable, or
actually unmatchable, statement that the president`s not up to it mentally.
Anyway, negotiations over the format of a questioning of the president is
ongoing right now. But if Trump`s lawyer team does not cooperate, Mueller
could subpoena the president to simply say, you`re going to appear before a
grand jury, something the president`s lawyers are trying like hell to
I`m joined by Ken Dilanian right now, investigative reporter for NBC News,
Jeremy Bash, former CIA chief of staff and an MSNBC analyst – we`re lucky
for that – and Barbara McQuade, former federal prosecutor.
Ms. McQuade, I have got to get to you about this tough question.
I would think – I have seen like Jerry Ford had to testify. Bill Clinton
had to testify about the Paula Jones matter, which led into the Monica
thing. How do you – how does a president simply say, no, thank you, I
refuse to be questioned or interrogated by a Justice Department official?
Can he do that?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: No, I don`t think he can.
I think that he can try to negotiate terms that are favorable to him. But
at the end of the day, Robert Mueller really holds all of the cards,
because he can use a subpoena to compel him to testify if it comes to that.
I think, as a matter, a political matter, President Trump doesn`t want it
to come to that. So I think that they will reach some sort of agreement
with some terms of engagement of how this interview will go forward.
MATTHEWS: When you say negotiate, as if they have got a negotiating
position, how can they deny – if the guy says, I`m going to subpoena you,
buddy, I don`t care if you`re president of the United States, what can he
do about it?
And, by the way, I would not give this president a take-home quiz. I would
not let him take it back to smarter people than him and have them answer
the questions overnight or over 48 hours or whatever, because you lose the
whole advantage of surprise, don`t you?
MCQUADE: Absolutely. I don`t think there`s any realistic possibility that
Robert Mueller would accept written responses. It`s really important to a
prosecutor, as I`m sure it is to a reporter, to able to not only get the
answer to the questions, but to get them unfiltered in the person`s own
words, and to be able to watch them, to watch body language, to listen for
tone, to make credibility assessments.
So, I don`t think there`s any way that Robert Mueller would accept those
terms. I think, just as a matter of professional courtesy, respect for the
position of the presidency of the United States, that they might allow an
interview in his office, for example, as opposed to calling him before the
grand jury, those kinds of things.
But at the end of the day, I don`t think there`s any question that Robert
Mueller is not going to get one shot at the president.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about this, Jeremy, politically.
The president has his minions. He has got 30-some percent of the country
behind him, and they basically say screw you to anybody who is going after
him. No matter what he says is right. They don`t care about Russia.
Right? He`s talking to them all the time.
So he says, I`m going to negotiate. I`m not going to get – I want a
written set of questions. I mean, it seems to me that`s an admission of a
low I.Q. or whatever. I have to have them written down, so I can go back
and look at the facts with somebody or make up a story.
JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Cops don`t let you do that, by the way. When they pick you up,
they start interrogating you.
BASH: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: They don`t wait for you to go, let`s take a couple of weeks off
while you get a lawyer and think about it.
BASH: And Trump could direct his counsel to file a motion with the
district court to quash the subpoena.
BASH: And that could result in litigation that could go up and down to the
Supreme Court, and basically Trump could try to run out the clock and make
it much harder for Bob Mueller.
So I agree with Barbara Mueller ultimately holds a lot of the cards. But
the president has a legal strategy that he can employ to try to delay this,
to try to elongate this, and to try to avoid scrutiny, because I think if
the president sits down with Mueller, he`s going to be caught between
perjury and stating incriminating facts about his own conduct.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, what about the question?
Ms. McQuade, here we go. Barbara, let me ask you this question. How broad
can – I went over this last night, but it`s still my favorite thought of
line. Can a guy like Bob Mueller walk into a room with the president of
the United States or anybody and say, I want you to tell me the instances
in which you talked about Russian sanctions with anybody in the last year?
Give me those instances. Did you talk about that with Flynn? Did you talk
about that with your son-in-law? Did you talk about it with your son? Who
did you talk about Russian sanctions, with ever this past year?
I would want to know those answers, all of them.
MCQUADE: I think all of that is fair game. And, you know, some suggestion
that Robert Mueller`s team might be trying to trick President Trump into
wordplay, I don`t think that`s their goal whatsoever.
But I do think that they are interested in a quest for the truth. And I
think all of those questions are fair game.
MATTHEWS: Give me the idea of a – if you had to do a baseball card on Bob
Mueller, what do you think he`d be like in an interrogation? What do you
think? How would he go about getting the president back on his heels,
where he would actually start saying something that`s either perjurious or
truthful or something useful to the prosecution?
MCQUADE: Well, the first strategy, when you`re interviewing somebody, is
to just get them talking about something they`re comfortable about, so that
they get into a rhythm of talking and being forthcoming and not being
defensive, so that when you do get to the more critical questions, they are
feeling comfortable and willing to speak and not tight and defensive.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That sounds like Mike Wallace doing “60 Minutes”
interviews, those four-hour interviews leading to the critical three or
four-minute Q&A that kills the guy.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, in a rebuke of the Republican chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein today – and she`s my favorite –
released the full transcript of the testimony delivered in August by Glenn
Simpson. He`s the founder of the firm that hired former British
intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile that dossier on Donald
The dossier alleges, among other things, that the Trump campaign engaged in
a – quote – “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation with Russian
intelligence during the 2016 election.”
Well, the Republicans have sought to discredit it because it was funded by
the Clinton campaign. And they claim that the FBI wrongly used the dossier
as its justification to even open the investigation into the Trump
But what Republicans seemed to have been hiding is that Simpson`s testimony
on the record suggested the FBI had their own concerns about potential
collusion by Trump people with the Russians which was unrelated to the
dossier. In other words, the dossier did not trigger this investigation.
Simpson says that when the dossier was shared with the FBI – quote –
“They believed Christopher Steele`s information might be credible because
they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing.”
Senator Feinstein was asked late today why she chose to release this
transcript over Senator Grassley`s objections. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why did you decide to do that?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, because, I think the people are
entitled to know what was said. And the lawyers also wanted it released.
I see no problem with releasing it.
QUESTION: But, Senator Feinstein, Senator Grassley says you have
jeopardized their ability to get certain witnesses like Kushner. Your
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I don`t think so. That`s been difficult in any event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ken Dilanian, you`re the expert for us on this. Goal away.
Why is it significant that this testimony shows that the FBI, the Justice
Department, Comey and everybody began this investigation into a Russian
connection by the Trump people before they got hands on that dossier?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you nailed
it in your intro, Chris.
This has been a Republican talking point, that the dossier, which was
funded by the Democrats, caused the Russia investigation. It`s absolutely
not true. Simpson`s testimony, not under oath, but under penalty of
criminal, you know, sanction if he lied, lays out that Christopher Steele,
the former British intelligence operative, sat down with the FBI in Rome in
And he basically told them everything he was finding in Russia. And he was
deeply concerned, by the way, about what he was learning. He thought Trump
was subject to blackmail. And the FBI`s response was, that`s very
interesting. We have already heard some very troubling information from
this Australian diplomat who told us that campaign aide George Papadopoulos
appeared to know that the Russians had Democratic e-mails well before that
fact had been public.
So, the FBI was already on the case. Steele didn`t know it at the time,
but they had already opened a secret counterintelligence investigation in
July 2016. You know, it`s interesting. Steele actually grew
disillusioned. He thought the FBI wasn`t taking this very seriously.
He was wondering. He saw a “New York Times” story in October that said
there was no link between Trump and Russia. It turns out the FBI was
keeping what they were doing secret. And after the election, John McCain
handed the dossier to James Comey. And that sparked even renewed interest
within the FBI. And now we are where we are, with a full-scale
MATTHEWS: So, why are they saying this? It sounds, duh. Why are the
Republicans making up this nonsense, this crap, if you will, about somehow
the dossier being the trigger mechanism of this whole thing, when we all
remember, if we think about it – remember at the time Comey shared the
dossier with the top leaders on the Hill?
He said, this isn`t part of our investigation, but this is corollary
information you ought to get from us, rather than getting through a bootleg
copy or somewhere.
It clearly was not the triggering mechanism. It was an associative thing
that he thought he ought to get in the hands of the politicians on the
And yet now they`re saying, oh, no, this is sort of the original sin here.
Your thoughts? Why are they doing it? Is it just political?
DILANIAN: Well, look, they`re doing it, obviously, to do whatever they can
to poor cold water on this investigation.
In fairness, it is fair for them to question to what extent a Democratic-
funded opposition research project infected an FBI investigation. And this
is complicated, because Christopher Steele was a trusted figure by the FBI.
He had helped them with their soccer corruption investigation.
And he seems to have had some kind of cooperative relationship, where he
was learning things and they were learning things from him. But the bottom
line is, that didn`t start it. That`s not what it was about. And some
Republicans have even said that they got FISA warrants based on the
Christopher Steele dossier. There`s no evidence of that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, good for the guy we – the woman we call Di-Fi out in
California. Dianne Feinstein made this public, so we can all read it.
DILANIAN: She`s fed up.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ken Dilanian, thank you, Jeremy Bash, and thank you,
Barbara McQuade, all of you.
Up next: President Trump says he will beat Oprah if she decides to run
against him in 2020. Will she? Winfrey`s closest friend – that`s Gayle
King – says she`s intrigued by the idea and that people are already
offering to be her campaign manager. Maybe it`s going to get serious.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As 2020 buzz continues to swirl around Oprah Winfrey, the man who could
face off with her in two years has this to say about the potential
challenge. Actually, I think it`s three years from now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Can you beat Oprah, by the way?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I will beat Oprah.
Oprah would be a lot of fun. No, I like Oprah. I don`t think she`s going
QUESTION: But you can beat her?
TRUMP: I don`t think she`s going to run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Actually, it is two years.
Meanwhile, a number of Hollywood`s biggest is stars are lining up behind
One of Hollywood`s biggest, of course, Meryl Streep, gave Oprah her seal of
approval, telling “The Washington Post”: “I want her to run for president.
I don`t think she had any intention of declaring, but now she doesn`t have
Well, Oprah`s best friend, of course, CBS morning host Gayle King, was
asked if Winfrey would won. She did not completely discount the idea,
however. That was this morning. She left the door open for her friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: OK, is she considering it?
GAYLE KING, “CBS THIS MORNING”: No, I absolutely don`t think that her
position has changed. I don`t. I was up talking to her very late last
I do think this, though, guys. I do think she`s intrigued by the idea. I
do Think that. I also know that, after years of watching the Oprah show,
you always have the right to change your mind. I don`t think, at this
point, she`s actually considering it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, will she run? And what does the buzz surrounding Winfrey
say about the Democratic field before this talk last Sunday.
Anyway, for more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight. It`s
going to be a wild one.
Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, Cornell
Belcher, Democratic pollster and strategist, John Brabender, Republican
I don`t know, but here`s the question I have got.
Does Hollywood actually have – in the past, when you had candidates like
Bernie or George McGovern way back then, Hollywood would get behind people,
certainly Obama. But they wouldn`t instigate it. They wouldn`t say,
here`s our candidate for president. You guys going to jump aboard or not?
I know she`s not a Hollywood person, but she`s a Hollywood sort of
endorsee. Can Hollywood push a candidate out onto the arena and give them
a good shot at being president, Hollywood, the people at the so-called
Golden Globes, which are basically there because a bunch of foreign writers
decided what the best picture is?
PETTYPIECE: I don`t think so, and especially in sort of this populist
movement going on in this country right now.
PETTYPIECE: Having Hollywood pushing a candidate, right, in their $100,000
earrings at a party doesn`t really resonate with people. But there is a
feeling of this, “you need to fight fire with fire” strategy out there, and
that the Democrats need a candidate who is not the traditional politician
who can take on Trump, the anti-politician.
MATTHEWS: What`s that – I interrupted you, because I`m excited.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That`s the first time that`s ever
BELCHER: He interrupts us all the time.
MATTHEWS: Why – why – OK, I interrupt. OK.
MATTHEWS: What does it say about these guys who have been – and women –
who have been spending their 20, 30 years of their life going to law
school, running for student council president, running for the local jobs?
You know them. Go ahead, Cornell. Joe Biden spent 60 years waiting for
somebody to say, we would like you to be president. What do they do? They
ignored him. New hot shots like Kirsten Gillibrand are doing everything
they can to position themselves to be the nominee, right? Ignored.
Everyone was ignored Sunday night.
BELCHER: Well, yes, because it was a Hollywood setting.
But, one, I wouldn`t think – you can`t – Gillibrand, Tim Ryan, Booker,
Kamala, they`re not being – I don`t think they`re being – say they`re
However, I will say this, and you know this better than most, Chris.
Politics is about likability. Right?
MATTHEWS: I`m with you. I`m with you.
BELCHER: You cannot – politics is about likability. George Bush had over
Al Gore people would have a drink with him. You do – you cannot…
MATTHEWS: George Sr. had it over Dukakis.
BELCHER: Right. You cannot underestimate the power that Oprah has.
And then I will say this, and I`m on record on “The Washington Post” on
this. If Oprah Winfrey enters the Democratic primary – it`s not about the
general. If she enters the Democratic – she throws her hat in the ring
for the Democratic primary, she`s the front-runner in the Democratic
She will place in Iowa and New Hampshire and she will flat-out win South
Carolina. And when she flat-out wins South Carolina, no one`s going to
MATTHEWS: She wins California then.
BELCHER: She wins California, but she also runs through the South, the
black belt of the South. And just like Obama in 2008, no one is going to
MATTHEWS: So, she beats Elizabeth Warren in Iowa, or she just places?
BELCHER: She places. She doesn`t have to beat her. She has to place.
MATTHEWS: In New Hampshire, she places behind Elizabeth Warren again.
BELCHER: She places. And she wins South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: And she wins South Carolina. And even though she`s lost the
first two, who wins Nevada?
BELCHER: I think Oprah.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. This is the first time I have heard this
laid out like this.
BRABENDER: But here`s the irony. The irony of all of this is, Donald
Trump paved the way for her by changing the model of what you can be to
You know, the second thing is, she really is not Hollywood, because…
MATTHEWS: I know she`s not.
BRABENDER: … people didn`t get know her as a character.
MATTHEWS: She`s daytime.
BRABENDER: They got to know her as herself, which, in my opinion, makes
her a lot more credible than a traditional Hollywood actor.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you why that`s important, what you just said. You
can jump in here.
I think, when you`re a woman, a traditional woman who stays at home, does
her work at home, who`s your company all day?
PETTYPIECE: Oprah. Right.
MATTHEWS: She`s the one that knocked Phil Donahue out of this business,
PETTYPIECE: And it`s like Trump. She`s in your home, in your living room.
MATTHEWS: She`s your friend. She`s empathetic in the way Trump is not
I think – and she`s never been in any way ethnic or racial. It`s always
been for everybody in trouble. I do get thrilled thinking about how –
what a nice person she is.
Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next: a rare look behind the curtain. Cameras are rolling as Trump
starts to negotiate the immigration bill. Was this a Potemkin village?
Was this a show because Michael Wolff knocked his block off in that book?
Is that what this is about?
It was fascinating meeting to watch today. We did like to watch it. We`ll
be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In an unusual moment at the Trump White House today, the press was allowed
to attend an almost 55-minute bipartisan discussion on immigration,
involving the president, members of the House, and the Senate from both
parties. The president laid out a list of priorities on the negotiating
table, including DACA, border security, changing the family-based migration
system and ending the visa lottery system.
He said he wanted the end result to be – love this phrase – a bill of
love, and claimed that they were close to a comprehensive immigration
reform. Well, let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel having the Democrats
in with us is absolutely vital, because this should be a bipartisan bill.
There should be a bill of love, truly. It should be a bill of love. And
we can do that.
But it also has to be a bill where we`re able to secure our borders. We`ll
do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the
following afternoon, OK? We`ll take an hour off and then we`ll start.
I`ll take all the heat you want to give me. And I`ll take the heat off
both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, this show of deal making by the president has come at a convenient
time for him who has faced mounting questions about his mental fitness.
And his supporters didn`t hesitate to take advantage of the positive press.
Lindsey Graham tweeted after the meeting today that this was the most
fascinating meeting I`ve ever been involved with in 20-plus year of
politics. I very much appreciated President Trump`s attitude, demeanor,
and desire to get something done.
He sounds like Orrin Hatch.
We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Shannon, simple question. The American people like DACA. They want to
help these kids, their parents brought them here illegally, but feel to be
Americans. They want to be Americans. Let them stay. Leave them alone.
You`ve got to give Trump some sort of wiggle room to say he`s still for the
wall, right? And you`ve got to keep the government open, which means
Democratic participation. How do you get it all done in the next few days?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It`s a very, very tough
needle to threat. There`s going to have to be compromises. Maybe some
compromises on DACA. Maybe we`re looking at a wall-lite. Maybe Trump
says, I got amazing money for border security and we kept the government
running, so he kept funding our military and protected our country, you
know, maybe he makes an argument like that.
MATTHEWS: So, a couple more thousand men and women on the border is a
PETTYPIECE: Yes, I don`t think Democrats are giving anything on the wall.
Maybe a mini-wall.
MATTHEWS: Democrats like personnel.
MATTHEWS: They do. They want people to be hired. They want people to go
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a jobs program.
BELCHER: Look, I think it`s very tough, right?
MATTHEWS: Can we get all three?
BELCHER: No, I don`t think you can get all three. It`s very tough,
because immigration is such a tough issue for the hard right wing of the
Republican Party, the Freedom Caucus or Tea Party Caucus, immigration. You
can`t get comprehensive immigration reform –
MATTHEWS: You can`t get DACA.
BELCHER: You`re not going to get comprehensive immigration reform without
MATTHEWS: No, we`re not – stay out of. Three things in the next few
weeks. Can you get DACA, the wall, and keep the government open?
BELCHER: No, you`re not going to get all these of those things.
MATTHEWS: Then what happens?
BELCHER: Well –
MATTHEWS: The government doesn`t say open.
BELCHER: He`s going to have to find some compromise with Democrats and
work with them on DACA. The problem is, the moment that you try to just –
that`s why you`re talking about bipartisanship. The moment you try to
force that through with just – try to force that through, it becomes a
problem for Speaker Ryan, because the hard right wing of his party, they`re
not for what DACA and immigration reform.
MATTHEWS: Speak for him, John.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Let`s be honest. I think it`s cute
that the president really believes that there`s a bipartisan solution here,
but the Democrats are not going to give him any type of compromise, any
type of win on immigration. They are the obstructionists. Look, they talk
about wall –
BELCHER: The Democrats –
MATTHEWS: Can you call the wall –
BRABENDER: On everything –
MATTHEWS: He`s talking about a wall, but he says, now we`ve got mountains
and rivers and everything, we don`t need a wall all the way across the Rio
BRABENDER: Look, I don`t mind if there`s a negotiation on what we describe
as a wall and how big it is and all of that. But this president has got to
get a wall. He can`t walk away from that.
To me, though, the most interesting thing today was watching it live. I
mean, I think they should make all of this stuff live.
MATTHEWS: Did you think it was real?
BRABENDER: I do, to some degree. But they`re all on their best behavior.
Because they –
MATTHEWS: That`s what I said –
BRABENDER: I`m just telling you, why not do this with everything? Why
can`t it be live?
MATTHEWS: I think he caught the Democrats off base. They weren`t – Steny
gave a nice talk and Durbin and all that. But nobody has put their
bargaining position out there.
PETTYPIECE: They did not know the cameras were going to stay there. The
reporters in the room, the cameras and other cameras were going to stay
MATTHEWS: Can you get compromise with a camera on?
BRABENDER: You have a better chance to have getting it with it on than
with it off?
MATTHEWS: Really? You guys tend to agree with that? It has to be – how
does a Democrat give an inch on the wall, meaning, all right, hire 5,000
more people but I`m not pulling that wall up. How do you make those deals
PETTYPIECE: I mean, we do have cameras on C-span in Congress, but, yes. I
mean, maybe this is the –
BRABENBDER: But that`s not where the deals are made.
MATTHEWS: But you know, Cornell, that these guys have to cut these deals
BELCHER: You do. Here`s the problem with the cameras. You are playing to
the camera. At some point, you have to be like –
BRABENDER: No, you`re not playing to the camera, you`re playing to the
MATTHEWS: We`re on camera, by the way.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us and up next these, three will be
giving us some scoops we can all be talking about with our friends tomorrow
and actually tonight.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, catch this. Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, remember him,
Arpaio, the immigration hardliner, of course, and Trump hero, announced
today that he`s running for the United States Senate in Arizona. It comes
less than five months after President Trump pardoned him for criminal
contempt after defying a court order related to racial profiling. The
sheriff seeking to replace Senator Jeff Flake, who announced he`s retiring
due to concerns over President Trump and the rest of the Republican Party,
also the fear he`d lose the primary.
In an interview with NBC News, the 85-year-old Arpaio said that it`s time
for some fresh blood in Washington.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable.
Shannon, tell me something I don`t know.
PETTYPIECE: Trump has a physical on Friday. His first one –
MATTHEWS: It`s not a mental thing, right?
PETTYPIECE: Well, whatever we find out, it`s going to be up to Trump.
Because like every American, he has the right to release or keep private
his medical information. So, we could get some results from it but it`s
only going to be the ones Trump wants.
MATTHEWS: Are they going to ask him how many fingers am I holding up?
PETTYPIECE: Typically, typically there`s a neurological exam in a
MATTHEWS: OK. Cornell?
BELCHER: The DOG is requesting for the first time.
MATTHEWS: What`s the DOG?
BELCHER: DOJ. My southern accent, which many people believe it`s a way to
push down the number of minorities who take the census, which is really
important, being that we need accurate counts for redistricting.
John Brabender, who doesn`t like accurate counts and redistricting –
BRABENDER: Yes, yes.
Mine is Kirsten Gillibrand is about to have her life turned upside down in
New York. The centrists are mad at her because of her Blue Dog, you know,
background is gone, she`s moved left.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BRADENDER: The left is mad at her because they thought she was
grandstanding when it came to Al Franken. There`s going to be an entry in
the Republican side, a woman who`s – one of the most credible Republican
women I`ve seen run for office in a long time. And it`s going to be on in
New York starting about a week.
MATTHEWS: Can I place my bet on Kirsten right now?
BRABENDER: She`s against Chele Farley.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that could be a race in New York?
BRABENDER: You know, normally, I would say no, but when they see this
Republican candidate, people are going to be amazed. The Republican Party
is uniting behind her quickly, very credible, the type of candidate
Republicans need more quite frankly.
MATTHEWS: Explain to me something about Kirsten Gillibrand, somebody here,
because she`s to me would be a very attractive candidate. She`s very
smart. She`s on the left. That`s where she is, that`s where she
positioned herself, especially on women`s concerns.
Why doesn`t she do more television? Most people wouldn`t recognize her.
Yet she`s got this tremendous name ID developing. What`s that about?
Everybody uses television.
PETTYPIECE: I don`t know. I have no idea. But I do know, to your point -
MATTHEWS: It`s a question to me. I mean, most people are looking at her,
oh, that`s what she looks like, I didn`t know her. I mean, it`s true.
BRABENDER: Well, it hasn`t worked out recently.
PETTYPIECE: Put her on your show.
MATTHEWS: Well, we try all the time. She`s a get.
Anyway, Shannon Pettypiece, thank you very much. You`re a get. Thank you.
And so is Cornell, so is John Brabender.
When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.” As I said, you
like it, he may not. In fact, he won`t.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Tuesday, January 9th, 2018.
It reminds me of “Twilight Zone.” I`m talking about Michael Wolff`s
description of life in the Trump White House. Grownups scared to death of
this little boy they see possessed with enormous powers. Remember that
episode of “Twilight Zone”, it was when the kid is so frightening and
emotionally undeveloped, that all those around this kid are afraid what was
he`ll do next.
Well, now, of course, we`re talking not about science fiction, but about
the nonfiction of the West Wing and the Oval Office, the world in which a
child-like Donald Trump holds sway, this according to the hottest book in
And it is this that must disturb you. That 100 percent of the people
around Donald Trump don`t see him as fit to hold the office –100 percent
who say danger, who see danger in this man they come to work each morning
to protect us from.
Speaking of which, what do you make of an American president who spends
such a large chunk of his day hiding alone in his room? Who comes to work
an hour before noon, only to head back upstairs well before most of the
people who work for him are even known their dinner time?
Well, this is a little odd for a president, don`t you think? We can all
see is engaged in a spat right now with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un, who
mocks him as rocket man and brags about having a bigger nuclear button than
him. But, of course, of graver concern than his lack of restraint and of
graver concern of lack of the people around him who might restrain him is
the feeling by those working directly with Trump that he, the president,
lacks the basics of presidential competence. The ability to make
reasonable judgments, to perform with coolness under pressure, a
recognition of the need to reckon the consequences what was he does or
decides he wants done.
This is a very unsettling account of life within the confines of today`s
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thank for being with us. Thanks for being
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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