Senate Leadership sounds off on Kennedy replacement. TRANSCRIPT: 6/27/2018, Hardball.
Date: June 27, 2018
Guest: Maria Cantwell, Jonathan Turley, Alexis McGill Johnson, Alexis
McGill Johnson, Ken Vogel, Sabrina Siddiqui, Dana Milbank
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It is big night. And HARDBALL with Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It`s time for Democrats to play HARDBALL. I`m
Chris Matthews urging them to do just that.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
There are times to fight and this is one of them. If the Democrats in the
U.S. Senate allow Trump to pack the Supreme Court with a 5-4 majority for
the next 30 years, it`s not something the progressive Democratic voter will
Two years ago, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell mocked the
Democrats by refusing to even meet with President Obama`s court nominee.
In 2018 with just a handful of months before Election Day, one that will
decide which party controls the Senate, Democrats owe it to their party,
principals and their own survival to do to Mitch what Mitch did to them.
If this strikes anyone as a manifesto from me so be it, but it isn`t true,
a statement of political reality. The Democratic base will not accept
failure and will not listen to arguments how the 49 Senate Democrats could
not stop the 50 voting Republicans from picking a Supreme Court for much of
Justice Kennedy was the defining force that is saved abortion rights, gave
us marriage equality who led a court majority for tolerance and respect for
individual decision making. Believes Donald Trump has made clear he
doesn`t share. He believes as he told me personally that there needs to be
some form of punishment for a woman choosing an abortion. He has supported
capital punishment even for minors. And he, Donald Trump, is the guy out
to pack the court with his idea of individual rights and criminal justice.
If the Democrats fail to stop him, there will be I predict a full scale
rebellion against the leaders. The first sign of which we saw in Joe
Crowley`s stunning defeat yesterday in New York. That would be seen as the
beginning of the fall if the Senate gives Trump his pick to fill this
critical decisive historic vacancy on this country`s highest court. For
those who say the Supreme Court is above politics, let me recite to you
Bush v. Gore, that put W. in the White House. And the country headed
toward war in Iraq. Citizens United that put money in the power seat of
American elections, both decisions were 5-4. If Trump gets his way in
filling that number five seat, expect a lot more in the decades to come.
If the Democrats fail to stop him, put a good share of the blame there.
Justice Kennedy delivered the news he`ll retire on July 31st to President
Trump in person earlier today. His decision effectively puts control of
the nation`s top court in the hands of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and
the Republican majority. And sets up what will most likely be one of the
most epic battles over his replacement. The President promised to begin a
search immediately despite of being this close to an election. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, it`s an election year. Would you give
consideration to holding that of spot open till the Congress is determined?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t really thought
about that. I think you want to go as quickly as possible to process. But
I haven`t really thought of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And that`s acting. Majority leader Mitch McConnell who
orchestrated the strategy of blocking former president Barack Obama`s
Supreme Court pick called on senators to make sure that the President`s
nominee is considered fairly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate stands ready to
fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President
Trump`s nominee to fill this vacancy. We will vote to confirm Justice
Kennedy`s successor this fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called
McConnell out. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Our Republican colleagues in the
Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016. Not to consider a Supreme
Court justice in an election year. Senator McConnell would tell anyone who
listened that the Senate had the right to advice and consent and that was
every bit as important as the President`s right to nominate. Millions of
people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote
to confirm or reject the President`s nominee and their voices deserve to be
heard now as leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then.
Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But with so much at stake, Senator McConnell doesn`t care about
right or wrong, he just cares about winning much like President Trump.
For more I`m joined by Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat from California,
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This came as a surprise it came today. But we knew it was coming.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: The on the heels of the Janice
MATTHEWS: On federal public employees.
Let me ask you, what`s it going to look like if he gets his pick? If Trump
gets what he wants here? What`s the court going to look like for the next
HARRIS: We are looking at a destruction of the constitution of the United
States as far as I can tell based on all the folks that he has been
appointing thus far for lifetime appointments. He has been appointing
that`s far for lifetime appointments. He has been appointing ideologues.
He has been pointing people who have refused to agree that Brown v. Board
of education is settled law. He has been appointing people who haven`t
even been found to be well-qualified or even qualified by bar associations.
So this has got to be one – we all need to understand this to be one of
the most serious fights that we have yet to have had with this President.
And we cannot relent. We are going to have to fight to the end to make
sure that we can do anything and everything that is possible to require
this President to choose a consensus pick.
Talk to Democrats. The position is going to be filled. But with the track
record that he has demonstrated so far, it does not look good. And so we
are going to have to put all the pressure that we possibly can to make sure
that the person who fills Kennedy`s seat is someone who is a consensus pick
and who is going to respect the constitution of the United States and
respect the fact that our system is supposed to be about equality for all
and justice and fairness. And not about the politics and the political
games that so far I see that a lot of his nominees are prepared to play.
MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader said no to Barack Obama`s
pick Merrick Garland for the whole year. So I`m going to go and talk for
the guy. I`m not going to have hearings. I`m going to let me and my
people talk to him and he won because now you have got Neil Gorsuch. Are
you guys going to play HARDBALL this time and say we are not going to let
you pass this? You are not going to rush this through as in a few months
before Election Day?
HARRIS: Based on every conversation I have had with my colleagues so far
this afternoon, everybody is prepared to play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Can you push this off until after the elections so that we can
take this matter to the people?
HARRIS: We are going to have to fight to push it off because listen,
unlike Merrick Garland where there were eight months left in that term,
there is four months. We are four months away from an election. One-third
of the United States Senate practically is up for election. The decision
that we make is going to have generational impact. And the American people
should be able to weigh in on who will be this in this position on the
United States Supreme Court.
And let`s remember, Chris, this is not like Gorsuch where Gorsuch was about
one conservative replacing another conservative. And we fought on that
one. I voted against him but he`s there. He replaced Scalia. This is
about a swing vote. This is a different seat, a different seat and
everything lays in the balance in terms of how this court could swing on
everything from choice, Roe v Wade to what we did in terms of same-sex
marriage to so many issues that are about fundamental rights and about
respecting the constitution of the United States. So this is not like
HARRIS: This will have generational impact. And let`s all be clear about
this. The decisions made by the United States Supreme Court make decisions
about who we are as a country and who we can be and who will be where in
this country. Had the United States Supreme Court under the leadership of
Earl Warren, a Californian, not decided Brown v. Board of education, I
would not be sitting here talking with you right now.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the heart we are going to lose here, because
Justice Kennedy, although he was a conservative, he was a northern
California conservative. So I sort of get that.
MATTHEWS: In other words, he was a bit of live and let live guy. He found
in the constitution the way that the landmark decisions always find in the
constitution something really wonderful. He found not just liking in
Warren found the injustice of separate but equal, the essential injustice
of it. He found in it the liberty clause. He found in it the essential
constitutional protection for people to have same-sex marriage to have –
not to be stopped by an undue burden to make a choice about reproduction.
He found that essential American liberty that we treasure. Do you count on
anybody Trump picking doing that?
HARRIS: There is a way that that can happen. And that`s bring a consensus
pick. That`s what happened with Merrick Garland.
MATTHEWS: A pro-choice conservative.
HARRIS: President Obama consulted with Republicans. This President should
consult with Democrats and choose a consensus pick. And anything less than
that would be unacceptable entirely unacceptable and something we should
fight tooth and nail against.
MATTHEWS: The new trick, it used to be you picked a Supreme (INAUDIBLE).
He is unfortunately raw white males for years, occasionally a Jewish seat
so-called. But they were older men, right. Now, it`s like pick somebody
as young as you can, fresh out of law school, give them 10, 15 years to
show which way they are going politically and then jam them on the court
like Clarence Thomas for 40, 550 years. So when you pick this next person,
man or woman, whatever, they will be there much of this century.
HARRIS: You are exactly right. This will have generational impact. This
will have impact on issues that we decide in terms of discrimination, who
will have equal opportunity, who will have equal rights under the
constitution and under the law.
This is – this is one of the most important powers that a President has.
This is why the federalist society for decades have been creating this road
map for decades to make sure that precedent is built up toward the United
States Supreme Court making decisions that are going to be about choice as
we go forward. About issues that relate to immigration, issues that relate
to fundamental rights.
And to your point about Kennedy, he understood that on same-sex marriage,
he understood it`s a fundamental right marriage. There`s so many issues
that this court decides that goes to the heart of what we value as
Americans. And what we decide should be the personal rights and liberties
of individuals. This is – this has potential disastrous consequences.
MATTHEWS: How do you think a right wing, if you will, a rightist judge
coming in as number five on the court on the conservative side outweighing
or outvoting the four liberals, what would they do to Roe v. Wade? How do
you see them dismembering it? What would it look?
HARRIS: So what it would look like is this. It would look like the
various states that have already been passing legislation at a state level
to restrict a woman`s access to health care to, reproductive health to
abortions affirming those rules, those laws that are passed by the states.
MATTHEWS: Like it has to be a hospital.
HARRIS: It has to be a zone of safety or in terms of what term, what stage
in the pregnancy a woman can having abortion or not. What parental
consent, whether a woman has to, if she is 17, a young woman, does she have
to have parental consent before she can have an abortion?
All these are laws that have been created at the states right now. And it
would go then to the United States Supreme Court that would affirm those
restrictions on an ability that a woman has to have an abortion or to have
access to reproductive health care. And that could be again disastrous
because it would essentially undo the protections that women currently have
under Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at these two contestants at the top. Your party
leader, Chuck Schumer, smart guy.
MATTHEWS: He had been around in a-while in both houses. You got Mitch
McConnell who is wildly character, you don`t have to like him to know what
he`s up to. He manages to get reelected all the time.
MATTHEWS: Who is better at parliamentary procedure? Can your party get –
HARRIS: I put my money on Chuck Schumer.
MATTHEWS: Do you have enough strength to hold this vote off at least until
the voters have voted in November?
HARRIS: Listen. I think that Chuck is an incredible leader. And he cares
deeply about this issue. I have actually talked with him today about it.
He is reaching out to all of us because he knows how critical this is and
he is going to need all the soldiers on the field. And I believe that he
is committed to this and he is going to fight to the end to make sure that
the right thing happens.
MATTHEWS: What`s going on in the Democratic Party? Just, I know you are a
progressive and you are young and you are new. In many ways you are new
even though you have had a political history of real substance as attorney
I saw that – I know all elections are local. I know Tip always said all
things local. But I don`t think everything is local. A young Hispanic
woman, Hispanic woman, was able to knock off a name brand product of this
country, Joe Crowley. What is going on? She is 28 years old. What`s
HARRIS: What`s going on is that I`m seeing it around the country. There
are people who have never run for political office, a lot of them are
women. Who are deciding that their voices are not being heard, their
voices are not present and they are getting out there. They are showing
courage and determination and they are putting themselves out there. They
are running for office and they`re winning.
HARRIS: I think it is great thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, we are all going to know her name within a week because it
is a power house election. I do. If I were in the leadership, I would be
thinking what you just said. People want change. They want things to move
HARRIS: So they want is they want leaders who are going to be courageous
enough to speak truth no matter how unpopular it may feel at the moment.
They are going to want people who are elected, the voters want people to
run for office and they are going to elect people who have the courage to
speak truth nothing matter how uncomfortable it makes other people feel
because that`s what we need right now.
We have got a lot of people in our country who are very distrustful of
their government, its institutions and its leaders. And one of the best
ways that we develop relationships of trust is we speak truth. And that I
what I think we are seeing around the country.
People are outing themselves out there because they are courageous enough
to speak truth and they are winning.
MATTHEWS: I hope you can stop this nomination before the election. I
think the voters should be heard from. I think it should be taken to the
HARRIS: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: A 30-year decision. They ought to have some say in it.
Senator Kamala Harris, a member of the senate Judiciary Committee which
will decide this matter ultimately.
Let`s bring in Eugene Robinson, columnist of the “Washington Post” and
Susan Page, “USA Today” Washington bureau chief.
Both of you, Gene and Susan. First all, Gene, I want you to talk about so
anybody that doesn`t get it yet, the importance of number five seat on the
United States Supreme Court.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Justice Kennedy was
the swing vote. And everybody understands that. He was a conservative
identified as a conservative but he voted with the progressive side of the
court on a number of issues. He was the leading voice on the court
actually for LGBT rights in a very real sense. And he played that crucial
role in a court otherwise evenly divided.
So the Gorsuch seat replaces Scalia that`s a conservative for a
conservative, as Senator Harris said. This is an entirely new, an entirely
different ball game. And it has different stakes including for some
Republican senators such as Susan Collins and such as Lisa Murkowski and
even Jeff Flake and bob corker, people who have been critical of Donald
Trump. So there has to be a nominee who is palatable on these contentious
MATTHEWS: Susan what, about the timing? I mean, for whatever reason
justice Kennedy decided to drop this bomb today a few days before July, the
big election on whether the Senate will be Republican or Democrat
controlled is coming up in November. There will be what do you call
vacations or working at home periods, whatever they call it, between now
and then. They are going to race this baby through. Do you think they are
going to try to do it? I think they will. Will the Democrats be able to
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, it`s hard to see
what tactics Democrats have available to them to stop this with the
Republican Party in control of the Senate. You would have to swing a
Republican vote your way and hold all the Democrats. Remember, there are
about a half dozen Democrats running for reelection in states where Trump
is popular. This could be a tougher for them.
One other thing to remember even if Democrats succeed in delaying this vote
until after the midterm elections President Trump will still be able to
make a nomination. It`s just that it is possible that Democrats will be in
a stronger position to temper his choice. President Trump will make this
nomination and he will make a conservative choice for this seat.
MATTHEWS: But the voters, it seems to me a position on the court which
will have a profound effect being number five, the decisive middle of nine,
we can all figure out the arithmetic here for 30 years. And yet the voter
will get to decide after it`s done. They are going to be a fait accompli.
Gene, I want to get back to the argument – it`s my argument. I think it
is a good one. That the voter ought to – this ought to be taken to the
people. And I don`t see how the Democrats can come back and lose this
before the election and say there`s still a decent opposition, a decent
resistance when they only have a one-vote deficit against the Republicans
and weren`t able to slow this down so the votes had to vote first.
ROBINSON: Well look, I think the Democrats have to fight it tooth and
nail. They have to be seen to fight it tooth and nail if they want have
any credibility of the leadership. And maybe they can slow it down.
As Susan Said, President Trump ultimately will make the nomination. And
look, anyone with an understanding and appreciation of the recent history
of this country, the past 50-year history of this country and of the court
would understand that this crucial middle vote, the swing vote, the nominee
has to be somebody who is not way, way over to the right.
ROBINSON: I think anyone with that sort of appreciation would understand
it. Donald Trump doesn`t have that kind of appreciation of history that
anyone can discern. And so who knows what sort of nomination it would be.
If he is smart and he wants it to go through quickly, he will nominate a
more moderate justice. But it`s not clear to me that that`s even in the
realm of possibility.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have learned a Republican actually just as justices are
picked by Presidents, Presidents are picked by justices and we saw in 2000
Bush v. Gore. And we better remember teach the voters as journalists. The
voters understand that this Supreme Court is damn political. Look what it
did in citizens United. Look at what it did in Bush v Gore. It makes
really partisan decisions on a partisan basis. Five Republicans over four
Democrats. That`s the way they act.
This should be part of our electoral process and not allowed to occur
before we get the vote.
Eugene Robinson and Susan Page, thank you so much.
Coming up, Justice Kennedy had been the deciding vote on some of the
biggest cultural values issues of our time. President Trump is already
gloating about his quote “excellent list of replacements.” One thing is
for sure, every one of them would lurch the court even further to the
right. Don`t you think?
Plus, during the 2016 election, Trump told me that some form of punishment
should be in store for women who have chosen abortions. Well, with Trump`s
ready to pick Kennedy`s successor, what does that mean for women`s right?
Suppose he gets somebody who thinks like he does.
And the HARDBALL roundtable tackles today`s upheaval at the Supreme Court
and last night`s stunning upset in New York City, the fourth ranking
Democrat in the House of Representatives was unseated by Alexandria Ocasio-
Cortez a 28-year-old self-identified Democratic socialist. What does this
say about the energy on the left heading into November? I would say it is
a warning to the leadership.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, against the backdrop of this seismic shift in the U.S.
Supreme Court, we have got another major ruling on immigration from the
Last night, a federal judge ruled that U.S. immigration agents can no
longer separate families caught crossing the border illegally, and families
that have been already separated must be reunited – here`s the order –
within 30 days.
In addition to that, the House today rejected a sweeping immigration reform
bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for dreamers, as well
as funding for President Trump`s border wall. There`s a combo. That bill
failed by a wide margin, despite the last-minute backing by Trump.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has arguably been the most influential justice of
recent years, and actually decades. Sometimes, he sided with the
conservatives, like in Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and the Heller case
on guns, overturning Washington, D.C.`s handgun ban back then.
But he also advanced progressive causes. Perhaps his greatest legacy on
that side will be his deciding vote in the 2015 ruling that struck down
bans nationwide on same-sex marriage.
In that Case, Kennedy wrote: “It would misunderstand these men and women to
say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do
respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for
themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness,
excluded from one of civilization`s oldest institutions. They ask for
equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that
Well, for more, I`m joined by Pete Williams, NBC News justice
correspondent, Charlie Sykes, contributing editor at “The Weekly Standard,”
and Jonathan Turley, George Washington professor – University law
Thank you. What a group.
Pete, we have been talking about this for about three hours. I want to
skip the politics for about five minutes. And that`s all, because I want
to go back to it, because I really think the Democratic Party is loaded for
bear on this baby.
But talk about Justice Kennedy. You`re from California. You went to
Stanford. I think understand the nuance of what a California Republican
is, a Northern California Republican is all about. I think Kennedy`s the
essence of that.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he`s from
Remember that it was President Reagan who put him on the Supreme Court.
And initially he voted with the conservatives. But one of his first
breakaway votes was on the core question of the Roe v. Wade decision.
And he`s been a pretty consistent vote on abortion rights ever since. Now,
he did vote to uphold a ban on what are called partial-birth abortions.
But on the core holding of Roe v. Wade, he`s been very solid.
Affirmative action, his vote has been critical. You mentioned his vote on
the 2015 decision on gay marriage. He actually wrote that decision. And
it`s interesting you picked that quote because it has the word dignity in
it, and that is the word that appeared in that decision I think 10 or 12
times. It was all about dignity.
He has been the deciding vote, the swing vote ever since Sandra Day
O`Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006. She was also a moderate
conservative. And let`s not forget Justice Kennedy is a conservative.
And I think that`s one of the reasons why he`s stepping down now. He`s
comfortable with this president. He`s comfortable with this president`s
choice of Neil Gorsuch, someone that was a former Kennedy clerk, who
Kennedy swore in when Gorsuch was a judge on the 10th Circuit, and again
when he became a Supreme Court justice.
He had Ivanka Trump and her daughter up here shortly after the
inauguration. So, as he said today, he has a deep desire to spend more
time with his family. And I think he just decided, after nearly 31 years,
it was time to step down.
MATTHEWS: Let me – Jonathan, let me ask you how his politics worked,
because it`s implicit in what Pete was saying, his report there.
Somehow, he managed to be a libertarian within the conservative caucus on
the court. He`s not – he`s not – he has fought for the right to avoid
any undue burden for a woman choosing abortion. He has been for the
essential liberty of this country when it came to sexual orientation and
gender and sex, the whole thing.
He seemed to understand that, that it was wronging to have sodomy laws, et
cetera. And yet he never seemed to be antipathetic. Nobody had any
hostility towards him. You never hear anybody, like Scalia, dumping on
him. I think sometimes Scalia did question him.
How did his manage to – because he knows. He would say he was just,
what`s the right word, capricious. But what do you make of how he was able
to behave as a conservative without being the kind of conservative that,
say, Mike Pence likes?
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:
Frankly I think that the loss of Justice Kennedy on this court is a certain
loss of grace.
He was a bridge justice that really had a unique voice. In fact, his voice
was most clear, most profound, most passionate when he was talking about
individual rights. For those of us with libertarian tendencies, he was the
truest voice in that sense.
But what he really show is that you can have a conservative perspective of
the Constitution and still defend individual rights. He took that from
John Stuart Mill and other philosophers from the 18th and 19th century.
He believed in the concept of liberty. He believed that within the
Constitution embodied a protection of individual dignity and self-
And when he spoke to those interests, I think you really heard the true
voice of Anthony Kennedy. And it was really transcendent in a way that his
other opinions perhaps were not.
He also wrote other opinions that were incredibly historical and important.
But I think it`s in those opinions that you hear this voice of Anthony
Let me go to our friend Charlie Sykes.
I mean, I – you hear from people all the time in a way I`m glad I don`t.
People really are able to talk to you on radio all the time. He seems to
be not a quite – maybe Atticus Finch is too much. But he seems like he
was – he seems to fit so comfortably into the American culture, this guy.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes.
And it`s a good reminder, as Professor Turley pointed out. Not all
conservative judges come from the same mold. And Anthony Kennedy did have
that specific lane, that real respect for human dignity and liberty.
And, quite frankly, look, he has been for the last several decades the most
important member of the U.S. Supreme Court. And right now, Leonard Leo,
the head of the Federalist Society, is the most important man in America in
choosing his successor, because I think there`s been a lot of – look,
there is a lot of admiration for Justice Kennedy.
But also for movement conservatives, there`s been frustration that he has
in fact been unpredictable. And that unpredictability of course made him
so significant. I don`t think that the choice of his successor will be of
someone like Anthony Kennedy. And I think, you know, you look at that
MATTHEWS: That`s what we worry about on my side. That`s what I`m worried
SYKES: It is a very impressive list.
SYKES: But I do think, as we go through it, understand that not everybody
who is described as a conservative judge comes from the same school or
emphasizes the same sort of thing.
And also Anthony Kennedy is a reminder how justices can change and grow
once they get on the bench.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe we will bring back the sodomy laws and Trump will
get his way and we will have some form of punishment for women who choose
abortion. What a world we`re headed towards.
Pete Williams, thank you so much, NBC`s Pete Williams. Thank you, Charlie
Sykes, and Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law
Up next: With Justice Kennedy`s retirement, it`s virtually certain a that
woman`s right to choose is in jeopardy. Don`t you think?
During the 2016 campaign, Trump did tell me there needs to be some form of
punishment. He never said which, but it is certainly was a wild, wildly,
dangerously stated thought. Is that where we`re headed now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if we put another two
or perhaps three justices on, that`s really what`s going to be – that will
And that will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting
pro-life justices on the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It will happen automatically?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
During the presidential debates, as you saw, Donald Trump said very clearly
that he intended to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would be willing to
overturn the court`s landmark decision of Roe v. Wade.
Well, most remarkably, Trump went so far as to say there should be some
kind of punishment – he never said what kind of punishment – for a woman
who chooses to have abortion.
Here`s my interview, just to remind you, with then candidate Trump in back
March of 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He said it.
And now with the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, President Trump is set to
appoint his second justice to the high court. And that could have, of
course, massive implications.
For years, opponents of abortion have been leading a campaign against the
right to choose in courtrooms across the country. It could just a matter
of time before one of those cases reaches the Supreme Court.
Joining me right now is Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington
State, and Alexis McGill Johnson, a Planned Parenthood board member and the
executive director the Perception Institute.
I want to talk to the senator first.
Just generally, you have been confronted with this staggering news that the
vacancy sits there, number five on a nine-person court, right in the
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Unbelievable.
I think the most important thing about this whole thing is that the
president`s views are out of the mainstream of the American public. So the
question is, is the president going to insert his views, or is he going to
consult with Congress on what are the mainstream views of America on this
MATTHEWS: What did you make of his talk about…
MATTHEWS: It`s a little weird to talk about even. What did he mean by
some form of punishment? That`s a little imaginative.
CANTWELL: The fact that he took this pledge during the campaign and said
that he is going to appoint nominees that believe this, so he`s not for
holding up the privacy rights that now have been well-established and
supported by many courts.
He`s basically saying, I`m going to roll that back. And so now he has an
opportunity to really put his thumb on the scale to make that difference,
we have to do everything possible to make sure that that doesn`t happen.
So, his views are not in the mainstream. And that`s the case that we need
to take to every member of the United States Senate. You`re willing to
change what has now been accepted as policy. In our state, it`s been
codified into state law.
Maybe we will have a campaign in every state in America to show people that
we are going to fight for these privacy rights.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ronald Reagan picked Justice Kennedy. And Justice Kennedy
basically believed in the Casey case. He said there could not be – and
the essential right of a woman to choose an abortion, the right to choose,
to make the decision, must be protected, and there will be no undo burden
put on her.
Like, you can`t – you got to do this one minute after midnight. No
tricks. No undue burden. He said none of that.
And so the point is that you have now this libertarian judge now being
replaced by a president who is showing authoritarian tendencies.
MATTHEWS: Mike Pence tendencies.
CANTWELL: Authoritarian. So, he`s like, it`s my way or – and this is the
MATTHEWS: Can you stop this? Can you slow it down to – here`s my hope.
You can slow it down until after the voters vote, so you can throw this to
the people this fall, so they can have a say in this thing.
CANTWELL: We`re going to throw it to them right now.
These privacy rights that are so important across the board are things that
have now been well-established and in the penumbra. What We`re going to
point out is that this president, if he`s getting his list from the
Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation, is supporting textualists.
That`s it. And a textualist means they`re not going to agree that these
privacy rights, whether it`s your right to privacy at home, whether it`s
your right to privacy on the Internet, whether it`s your right to privacy
as a woman, that they are going to support the penumbra that is in the
That`s the fight we are going to take to the people. And that`s where
we`re going to ask our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to make
sure that they`re supporting those privacy rights as well.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator, very much. Thank you very much for coming.
I want to go to Alexis on this, because I think that every great Supreme
Court decision, whether it was Roe vs. Wade, about sort of the basic
privacy rights of a woman to make a decision about her body, and the idea
that separate but equal is wrong inherently, these are all profound
decisions that – where you can`t find in the letter necessarily of the
You have to find it in the spirit inherent in it and what the Constitution
is all about in terms of the Bill of Rights. And so you`re not going to
get a textualist, as the senator just said, to help you on these landmark
They`re always going to be saying no. They are always going to say, leave
it the way it was.
ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PERCEPTION INSTITUTE: Yes,
MATTHEWS: Except for Roe vs. Wade. That`s what they want to change.
MCGILL JOHNSON: Right. Exactly.
And, look, I was born in 1972, five months before Roe v. Wade. And so the
idea that a right that has always existed in my lifetime and a majority of
women have grown up under is something that this administration wants to
undermine and overturn is completely insane.
And the preview – we have seen the trailer. Eighteen states actually have
existing laws. Unlike Senator Cantwell`s state, there are 18 states that
have existing laws that are intended to overturn, to eliminate abortion if
Roe v. Wade is overturned.
So there`s reason to be incredibly concerned about trying to find a
textualist, as opposed to really having this conversation with the people,
with the 70 percent of Americans who support Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: Is your group going to try to stop this vote from occurring
before this election?
JOHNSON: Well, we`re doing exactly what Senator Cantwell suggested. We
are out talking to every senator, having these conversations because it is
imperative that the Senate rejects any candidate that opposes Roe. So, you
know, part of the resistance has been engaging in the streets, in the
marches and the movement.
The other part is, is having these conversations with our senators. People
like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who have been incredibly thoughtful
on helping support women`s health care. These are the kinds of voices the
conversation that we need to be having, activating, engaging in people
across the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said Roe v. Wade
is settled law when asked about abortion rights this afternoon. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, first of all, I view Roe v. Wade as
being settled law. It`s clearly precedent and I always look for judges who
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Susan Collins is great and she said she respects judges
that accept it as it is. But what do you think, Senator Cantwell? Do you
believe that Roe v. Wade is safe?
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: I – no, because when a president
makes that pledge on national TV and says he`s going to stick to it and
then goes to the certain measure of saying he would punish women, then I
think you have to take what he said during the campaign, he is
implementing. And what we don`t want is a bench that basically is going to
follow that textualist list that`s being sent to him.
CANTWELL: It would be one thing if he was calling us up and saying, OK, I
hear you. Let`s hear who you think or justices that would follow privacy
MATTHEWS: Well, this 5-4 court has done stuff none of us could imagine,
intervene in a presidential election in 2000, took it out in the hands of
the states and decided that George W. Bush, the five Republicans on the
court, said should be president and they voted 5-0 to make George W. Bush
the president of the United States. On Citizens United, they said money
should talk more than a voter.
MATTHEWS: They made that partisan decision. They keep making partisan
decisions and then they say we`re above partisanship. What nonsense.
CANTWELL: It`s not about partisanship, where it is, but it`s about
corporations. The other side right now is hurrying to end the tax bill to
give corporations what they want. They have people who are in the cabinet,
who are not following regulations, and now they want a court that is also
going to side with them and basically say whether it`s clean air that
basically was so hard fought.
MATTHEWS: You mean the working people of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and
Indiana and Michigan, places like that, the working stiff out, the man and
woman, they thought they were getting a populist president. What they got
is a corporate shill.
CANTWELL: Well, right now, if they`re going to overturn this as the
textualits want, then, no, the little guy is not going to be represented on
MATTHEWS: Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state, I want to thank
Alexis McGill Johnson, I wish we had more time. This is a huge night.
Up next, Justice Kennedy`s retirement is shaking this city of Washington
and this country to its core. Is there anything Democrats can do right now
to keep Trump from putting another hard-core conservative on the nation`s
highest court by October? There`s the October surprise.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even before news broke of Justice Kennedy`s departure coming in in a couple
weeks, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell was gloating about the way he`d
helped transform the high court. In the wake of the Supreme Court`s
decision yesterday to uphold Trump`s travel ban, McConnell tweeted this
picture of himself with Justice Neil Gorsuch. Isn`t that something? A
little bromance there.
Today, McConnell took another victory lap, defending his decision to refuse
a hearing for President Obama`s nominee Merrick Garland. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it was the single
most consequential decision I`ve made. I felt very confident that had the
shoe been on the other foot, the Democratic Senate simply would not have
confirmed a Supreme Court nominee by a Republican president in the middle
of an election.
I was pretty confident that the complaints would be pretty rank hypocrisy
knowing full well that in the middle of a presidential election, you`re not
likely to be able to confirm. If the Senate is controlled by the other
party, not likely to be able to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Speaking of hypocrisy, I`m joined by the roundtable to talk
about what you just heard from Mitch McConnell. “The New York Times`” Ken
Vogel, “The Guardian`s” Sabrina Siddiqui, and “Washington Post`s” Dana
What do you make of the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell saying – having
refused President Obama`s choice of Merrick Garland for a whole year, he
now is going to try to jam through his – well, he doesn`t know who the
nominee is, he`s going to jam through before October or November.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, we just heard
him laugh off the charges of hypocrisy. He knows that he`s going to get
them and he knows the political benefit of this. You talk about the
decision yesterday on the travel ban. The one that really resonated with
him was the one today and this Janus case that really sort of neuters
public sector labor unions.
MATTHEWS: Where is the heart of the labor union movement right now.
VOGEL: Yes, this has been a bugaboo of his for years as a sort of campaign
finance deregulator, this is what having a conservative Supreme Court means
to him and Republicans.
MATTHEWS: They seem to understand this is big casino, the Republicans.
They seem to get it. That`s why they fight so hard for this.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Republicans have
galvanized their base behind the Supreme Court and judiciary for years.
Democrats have to do the same. You know, your 2016 exit polls found that
20 percent of voters said that the Supreme Court was the number one
priority for them. And 56 percent of those broke for Trump, whereas only
41 percent broke for Clinton.
So, Democrats have not been able to successfully mobilize progressives
behind this –
MATTHEWS: Who wins if this issue becomes the national issue of going into
November, Trump`s pick for the Supreme Court?
VOGEL: I think Republicans win.
MATTHEWS: You do?
VOGEL: I mean, as Sabrina cited, they`ve done a really good job of this.
They have a whole network of groups funded by some of the biggest donors on
the right who get out the vote on this issue.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Mitch McConnell may be
utterly unprincipled but I do think he has the politics right and that`s
because Democrats suffer from Garlanditis. They – the Democrats thought
their base would get all riled up about why he`s not – why they`re not
confirming the nominee, they didn`t. With the possible exception of Bork
which is too many decades ago, we do not see the Democrats get riled up in
the same way the Republicans do.
Now, if and when it`s probably more likely when abortion rights are lost,
then you will see the left get much more fired up than the right. You have
to get to that first it seems.
MATTHEWS: Put together some things. I was overwhelmed because I know the
House. Joe Crowley was on his way to be speaker, at least many though.
He`s blown away by a new person, Ocasio-Cortez, 28-year-old activist.
I mean, this must be sending a message to the leadership, you better not
lose the big ones. I`m just wondering what people like Schumer of New York
is wondering, if I lose this fight over this Supreme Court nomination, the
base of this party, Latinos, all kinds of young people, are going to say
what a joke this crowd is.
VOGEL: Yes, the energy is on the left of the party right now.
MATTHEWS: And not the establishment.
VOGEL: And that tends to happen – right, that tends to happen when a
party is out of power. It could help Democrats I think in the general
election. And I don`t see the potential for sort of a Tea Party-like break
up of the House Democratic caucus because we`ve seen a number of incumbents
who are facing challenges from the left stave them off.
This one last night in Queens is the exception rather than the rule.
SIDDIQUI: I also think what happened to Crowley is similar to what
happened to Eric Cantor where he had his eye on his national profile.
MATTHEWS: He was number two Republican in the House.
SIDDIQUI: I spoke with someone who voted for Ocasio-Cortez who said that
her campaign knocked on her door three times. She heard from Joe Crowley`s
campaign not once. Also I think that Ocasio-Cortez is better
representative of the demographics of that district and ran unapologetic
MATTHEWS: OK, I got to ask, we`ll do it another show, why they split the
primary in half? Why there`s a primary for governor in, what, September
and they had the primaries for the House –
MILBANK: Well, it was an extremely low turnout election.
MATTHEWS: Twenty thousand votes for 600,000 people in the district.
MILBANK: People are reading way too much saying this is some sort of
establishment versus insurgency. It had nothing to do with ideology. He
is the only incumbent to fall, 27 of 29 House Democrats backed by the DCCC
in their primaries have won.
The establishment of the party has already lost the battle in the sense
that they`re now just as progressive as the insurgents are. So, I think
it`s a completely false narrative. He lost because he moved his kids to
MATTHEWS: When I walk through the forest, I hear every sound around me and
I make an effort to pay attention.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And Dana Milbank who fears
nothing and learns nothing from these strange elements of change will be
back with us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Sabrina, tell me something I don`t know.
SIDDIQUI: On Trump and his impact on the judiciary, three-quarters of his
confirmed judges are male. Almost 90 percent of them are white and a third
of them have proven anti-LGBT records. This is where he has the most
MATTHEWS: Trump guys.
Anyway, thank you, Ken Vogel, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Dana Milbank. A little
preview of what`s to come.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 27th, 2018.
I said at the top of the program it`s time for Democrats to play HARDBALL,
because there are times to fight and this is one of them. I`ll say it
again now. If the Democrats in the U.S. Senate allow President Trump to
pack the Supreme Court with a 5-4 majority for the next 30 years, they
don`t deserve to be there, and there will be I predict a full scale
rebellion from the base of the Democratic Party against its leader if they
blow this one.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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