Trump installs loyalist. TRANSCRIPT: 11/8/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.
Date: November 8, 2018
Guest: Bret Stephens; Elizabeth Holtzman, Peggy Noonan, Philip Bump, Basil
Smikle, John Podhoretz, Zerlina Maxwell, Jackie Speier
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hijacked. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
And we have a big show for you tonight. It`s becoming clearer that Donald
Trump was handed a crushing defeat on Tuesday night. When all the votes
are counted, Democrats are on track, catch this, to gain an astounding 35
to 40 seats. A huge victory for the Democrats.
In the wake of that defeat, the President`s focused on one thing, a naked
power grab. That`s the big news tonight. Trump has handed the reins of
the special counsel`s investigation to an unabashed Trump loyalist, a
personal loyalist to insure that the President will be protected, not
investigated. Trump`s choice of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general
is raising alarm among those who consider the equal administration of
justice a bedrock principle of American government. Well, that`s because
by elevating Whitaker, the President of the United States is effectively
hijacking the independence of the department of justice itself.
NBC News today reports that in the justice department, Whitaker was viewed
as an agent of the White House. As one administration official said, it`s
no secret where his loyalties lie. They are with the White House more than
with the department.
As an out spoken Trump advocate, Whitaker has expressed disdain for the
special counsel`s investigation itself. In 2017, he tweeted an article
calling Mueller`s prosecutors a lynch mob. He argued in an op-ed that
Mueller would be going too far by investigating Trump`s finances. And he
questioned the FBI raid of Paul Manafort`s house saying, do we want our
government to intimidate us?
Well, tonight, we are also now learning that Whitaker has prejudged the
results of the Mueller investigation itself. Betsy Woodruff of “the Daily
Beast” is reporting in a radio interview in June of last year, Whitaker who
now oversees the Russian probe, comes to the conclusion that the President
did not collude with Russia. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The truth is there was no
collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign. There was interference
by the Russians into the election. But that is not the collusion with the
campaign. That`s where the left seems to be just combining those two
issues. And the last thing they want right now is the truth to come out in
the fact that there`s not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that
the Trump campaign had any illegal or even improper relationships with
Russians. It`s that simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it is part of an emerging body of evidence revealing
Whitaker`s true feelings about the Mueller probe itself. Not only that,
Whitaker has worked for and maintains a friendship with a key witness in
the Russian investigation. Former Trump adviser Sam Clovis who has
testified before the Mueller grand jury. And now, Democrats as well as
several legal experts say that questions about Whitaker`s impartiality
should bar him from overseeing the investigation of the President.
However, according to “the Washington Post,” Whitaker has no intention of
recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel probe, according to
people close to him who added they do not believe he would approve any
subpoena, catch this, of President Trump as part of that investigation. He
would be against any subpoena of the President.
The question tonight is will the President get away with all this. I`m
joined by former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the
judiciary committee during Watergate and author of a new book “the Case for
Impeaching Trump.” Bret Stephens is of course a columnist with “The New
York Times.” Robert Costa is a national political reporter with “the
Washington Post,” and Betsy Woodruff broke that story tonight for the
Betsy, thank you for leading us off tonight. What do you have on this guy,
Whitaker? It seems like he has been working – auditioning is a pretty
good work for it, auditioning for the role of Trump protector in the role
of acting attorney general.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s certainly the
view within the justice department. One important piece of context to bear
in mind, as Whitaker has now risen to and taken power within DOJ, is that
he and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who was heading,
supervising the Mueller probe until Whitaker took Sessions` old job, don`t
really get along according to a host of officials in the DOJ that my
colleague Aaron Bingo and I spoke with yesterday in the hours after
Whitaker took that position.
Rosenstein and Whitaker are not on the same page on a variety of issues, in
terms of their personalities. Our understanding is that they just don`t
mesh. And having those two people running this department at this time has
led to a lot of friction. Additionally, of course, Rosenstein is a
lifelong DOJ employee. He has been scrupulous about trying to appear to be
by the book, trying to bend over backwards to comply with rules.
Whitaker in the meantime, as we reported just about an hour ago, has said
just last year that he had already forejudged the conclusions of the
Mueller probe. He already claimed that this probe, which he is now
supervising, was essentially without merit. And that is something that
without a doubt will rankle not only career officials in the department but
also people fairly high up who have to work with Whitaker day to day.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Robert.
Robert, you are the Trump watcher for me. And I think that he has got
steel ones to pull this off. I mean, it`s unbelievable. He didn`t go to
Rosenstein. Everybody in the planet said he has got to go to Rosenstein as
the fallback if he gets rid of Sessions. Out of nowhere, he picks this guy
who auditioned for the job of Trump protector for months. He got the job.
How come we all thought he couldn`t do this and now he has just done it in
our face and nobody is trying to really stop him from doing this? He is
taking control of his own investigation, an investigation of him. It`s all
in his control now. It`s breathtaking, and nobody in the Republican Party
or in the Democratic Party has stood up and said we are going to stop this.
This will not stand. No one is saying this about his picking of Whitaker.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well,
Democrats are certainly calling for his recusal.
MATTHEWS: Of course, they are calling – that is so wifty (ph). I don`t
know what the word is. Of course, he is not going to recuse himself. He
took the job not to recuse himself. Why would they call for him to do it?
He is now the acting attorney general. He doesn`t have to listen to
COSTA: Well, they are going to have to make a choice, are they going to
call for the President`s impeachment for this kind of move.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they will? Do you really think they will for
picking the guy he wants as attorney general? That`s impeachable?
COSTA: We haven`t seen that kind of message yet from the Democrats. In
fact, the Democratic leadership talked about a possible deal with the
MATTHEWS: Ok. Keep listening. OK, I`m going to go to Liz Holtzman.
I mean, I`m not saying anybody in the past is better than today, but I have
never seen such wet liberalism. It is all wet, gooey, gee whiz, please
recuse yourself. How about using the power given to you by your office and
stopping this? And nobody - he is picked his guy to take - he is not going
to answer questions. Giuliani is working in the backroom. And Chris
Christie wants to be the full-time attorney general. They are all in this
together. They are not going to give it away. They got it.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN (D-NY), FORMER JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER: Right.
MATTHEWS: And he lost 35 to 40 seats in the House. He is still grabbing
HOLTZMAN: It`s not an issue of weak liberalism. It`s just weakness.
MATTHEWS: It`s weakness.
HOLTZMAN: Just weakness because this is something that affects
Republicans, Democrats, Independents. Are we a banana republic? Do we
have a President of the United States who can stop investigations into
himself, his family, his friends?
MATTHEWS: But when you have bananas for the opposition, you have a banana
republic. Because I don`t hear anybody saying we are going to fight this
in the courts.
HOLTZMAN: It needs to be fought in the courts. And it`s not clear who has
got the power to do it. There are a few other questions here. Is the
appointment even legal? Forget about a recusal.
MATTHEWS: OK. Wait a minute. You say legal. That means the Supreme
Court that he has just stacked with his guy, with his deciding vote, is
going to pull away his new acting attorney general? You really think this
Supreme Court led now by the decisive vote of Brett Kavanaugh, who also was
picked because he is a Trump guy, who believes in – right? This guy, Bret
Stephens, and this guy, Matt Whitaker, all believe in strengthening the
power of the President.
BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, look. We are
going to find out if Whitaker actually tries to quash the investigation.
Look, the good news is that the Mueller probe is far –
MATTHEWS: How about starving it? Forget squashing it. How about getting
rid of their computers and staff?
STEPHENS: There are all kinds of ways. You are absolutely right, there
are kinds of guerilla style tactics that Whitaker can employ to basically
destroy the Mueller investigation. I don`t think it`s going to be so easy
for him to do that. Why? First of all, because the investigation is very
far along. We are now 18, 19 months into it. Secondly, Congress is soon
going to have subpoena power to find out what Mueller knows, and thirdly –
MATTHEWS: Who enforces those subpoenas? What court?
STEPHENS: Well –
STEPHENS: Well, maybe.
MATTHEWS: You think Kavanaugh, his first major act in history, is going to
be the fifth vote?
STEPHENS: I don`t know.
HOLTZMAN: Well, you should know this. Congress can actually haul someone
who is in contempt of Congress into their office.
MATTHEWS: Sergeant in arms?
HOLTZMAN: You bet.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK, Liz, that`s absurd. They are going to send the
sergeant in arms of political appointee to go to the White House and demand
the President show up.
STEPHENS: Well, Congress has subpoena powers. And if Trump wants to make
himself look guilty, the quickest way he can do that is trying to quash the
report. I think Robert Mueller has sufficient political credibility,
precisely because Democrats did make such gains in the House that it`s
dangerous for Trump simply to try to kill the Mueller probe. Simply makes
him look guilty.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to how clever this President is. You don`t
have to like him or respect him. That`s easy. But look what he is pulling
off here. He actually is pulling off an (INAUDIBLE) landing like McArthur
in the Korea. I`m going in behind. I`m going in behind Rosenstein. I`m
going to make this whole probe by Mueller ineffective because I have the
attorney general on my team now.
In the 2017 interview, just months after Mueller began his probe, this new
guy, Matt Whitaker, said it was ridiculous that deputy attorney general Rod
Rosenstein appointed a special counsel. He said it was ridiculous that
there even was a probe by Mueller. Here`s the new attorney general of the
United States, ladies and gentlemen. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: For whatever reason, Rod Rosenstein determined that the
department of justice couldn`t handle this in their ordinary course of
work, which I think was ridiculous. I think it smells a little fishy, but
I just hope it doesn`t turn into a fishing expedition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And another radio interview, wonder how Sean Hannity got this
get, Whitaker said that Trump`s request to former FBI director James Comey
to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn was not, catch this word, not
obstruction of justice. And here comes Matt Whitaker, the new attorney
general of the United States. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: Let`s assume that the President asked him to stop investigating
Flynn. That doesn`t rise to the level of obstruction of justice and it
doesn`t sound to me based on what`s been reported that Jim Comey, as he sat
there, believed that the President was telling him to stop the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Liz Holtzman, I don`t know the law like you do. Obstruction of
justice, the President may have done it again. But they are not going to
stop him, it seems, because it is within his legal power to pick an acting
attorney general after he got Jeff Sessions to, at your request, Mr.
President, I`m resigning, creating an opening for his guy.
HOLTZMAN: Well, but if the objective here by Trump was to stop the Mueller
investigation, prevent his son from being indicted, prevent Roger Stone
from being indicted, prevent himself from being named in some kind of
indictment, then it`s definitely an impeachment offense. I don`t know if
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, here we go again. What liberalism. It`s awful but
we can`t do anything about it.
“Politico” has reported today that the President hasn`t decided whether to
actually submit his written questions or answers rather (INAUDIBLE)
questions still to Mueller`s questions.
Anyway, according to Rudy Giuliani, the President`s lawyers have prepped
the answers for Trump to review. In other words, have writing the answers
for him, but they have made no final commitment to sending those answers to
Mueller. This comes after “The New York Times” reported in September after
lengthy negotiations, Mueller told Trump`s lawyers he would accept some
Now, Robert, here is (INAUDIBLE) on the left and the opposition side, I`m
talking about, but the stones of this President to decide that he is not
going to answer questions, that he won`t even now apparently answer written
questions which his lawyers will answer for him, I mean, it`s almost like
he is above the law. Am I understating that? Like he is above the law –
COSTA: Giuliani tells me that once the President gets back from Paris this
weekend, they are going to make a decision. But as we all know, tracking
this story, Giuliani has pushed the timeline again and again on the
interview and the written responses to Robert Mueller`s team. The
President has shown really no inclination at this point to really sit down
and answer verbal questions. And the question is, what is the extent
really of these written questions? Is it just a few lines about the Comey
firing? And what else?
MATTHEWS: Well, what about – let me go back to Betsy who broke the story
tonight about Whitaker and his M.O. and his job application, which took
months to undercut. He was telling people on the train. He was talking to
passers-by, I`m doing all this TV so I can get this job as attorney
general. It`s broad daylight, Betsy. You are laughing because it`s broad
daylight. This guy applied for the job of Trump protector and he got it.
OK, now, apparently, is he going to quash this subpoena? Is he going to –
if they try to subpoena, he is the attorney general, say nice try, Robert
Mueller, but you are not going to subpoena the President?
WOODRUFF: I can only surmise. But I think we can safely surmise that it
is not particularly likely that Matt Whitaker is going to let Mueller
direct a subpoena at the President who put Matt Whitaker in the position
which he holds right now. And that`s really important because the threat
of a subpoena is the single most powerful bargaining chip that Mueller and
his team have had over the White House.
Part of the reason that the President`s lawyers going all the way back to
the day of Ty Cobb and John Dowd were openly thinking and debating and
seriously considering even letting the President have an in-person verbal
interview with Mueller is that they dreaded the idea of a long, drawn-out,
ugly legal fight that potentially could end in the Supreme Court to try to
determine whether or not the DOJ had the authority to subpoena the
President of the United States.
But now, if Whitaker refuses to sign off on letting a subpoena happen, then
that question is moot, and Mueller has lost the biggest tool that he had to
try to get more information out of this White House.
MATTHEWS: Bret, I have to ask you the final question tonight, knowing all
you know about this case, knowing who Matt Whitaker is, why he applied for
the job, why he got the job as acting attorney general. What on a score of
one to 100 are the chances that he will recuse himself from the Russian
MATTHEWS: You think he might do it?
STEPHENS: I mean, zero being the least chance. I would say there`s a five
MATTHEWS: You think he is going to betray the President of the United
STEPHENS: Well, because he might be interested in bidding for the job.
And I think if he quashes the probe when there are serious investigation or
serious evidence of malfeasance kills his chances of ever being attorney
general beyond the 210 days he has.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
COSTA: Chris, the DOJ may have to make a decision on that. He may not
make the decision himself. DOJ ethics lawyers could say to Mr. Whitaker,
sir, you can`t oversee it.
MATTHEWS: Is that binding, Robert?
COSTA: It`s binding for him to even practice law. If you get ethical
guidance from the department of justice that you can`t oversee an
investigation and you refuse to comply, that would raise questions about
your status as a lawyer.
MATTHEWS: Well, I got to tell you say Trump will be surprised by this, in
fact, some commanding authority below the new acting attorney general below
even the cabinet that is going to tell Trump what he can do.
Thank you very much, Elizabeth Holtzman. I have watched this thing going
on. I`m watching Trump with strength. I`m watching the opposition without
Anyway, thank you Bret Stephens.
Thank you, Robert Costa.
Betsy Woodruff and one of the great Congress people of our history, Liz
Coming up, an update on that still undecided senate race out in Arizona.
Still counting, the Democrat Kristen Sinema just took the lead. Pretty
good for her. This is a late comeback. We are going to have the latest
coming up from Arizona.
Plus, another deadly gun massacre. But it`s the new norm, isn`t it? This
time in a California bar catering to college kids. Is this the new normal?
Thirteen dead, including the shooter. We are going to talk to someone who
has lived through gun violence, U.S. congresswoman Jackie Speier of
California. Remember Jonestown? She was there, shot five times, survived.
And Trump is, by the way, Trump is going after his critics by revoking
security clearances, banning journalists from the White House, and firing
his own attorney general. What will the big loser of Tuesday this week who
lost 35 to 40 seats do next in his new power rage?
Finally, another big consequence of Tuesday`s vote was to do with Medicare.
Obamacare, it is huge news. The Republicans have given up the ghost on
fighting Obamacare. Affordable care act is severely going to be the law
for the rest of our lives. We will explain that later.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There`s big news tonight coming out of Arizona. Remember that Senate race
out there? Well, the race is still too close to call to NBC News.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat, has now taken the lead with over –
only 2,000 votes separating her from Republican Martha McSally, who we
thought was winning. Now it looks like Sinema is winning. That`s a big
deal for the U.S. Senate. It`s going to cut Trump`s big victory to maybe
one or two.
Tuesday`s election was a national referendum, of course, on Donald Trump`s
presidency, and with a majority of voters making clear they want to keep
him in check. Democrats continue to rack up victories in the House,
picking up three more seats today, including a seat once held by Newt
Gingrich down in Georgia in the donut down there.
Republican Karen Handel, who won the seat in a special election in 2017,
against a guy who didn`t live in the district, can they now concede it to
somebody who does? There`s a trick. All politics is local. Live in the
district you run in. Lucy McBath does. She won.
Democrats are on track to gain an astounding 35 to 40 seats, according to
NBC, now. This is the most significant pickup for the Democratic Party
since the post-Watergate election, electing all those Watergate babies back
David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report, tweeted that a
clearer picture is emerging of a true post-election beat-down – I don`t
know where he got that phrase – of House Republicans.
Anyway, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama suffered similar defeats during
their midterm elections, but had decidedly different responses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the Democrats in
control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable
yesterday. And I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, this was a close
election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative
effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is something that I
think every president needs to go through, because, you know, the
responsibilities of this office are so enormous, and so many people are
depending on what we do.
Now, I`m not recommending for every future president that they take a
shellacking like they – like I did last night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, all three of these presidents got a shellacking, as
President Obama put it, and they learned from their lesson. They made
course corrections, some more drastic than others, and they got reelected.
In contrast, here was President Trump yesterday:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think my message was very
well received. I mean, just look at the results. Midterm elections are
disasters for sitting presidents and administrations.
This has been a very successful – and, look, you can write it any way you
want. And if you disagree with me – this has been incredibly successful.
I was very well received by this great country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive
programming for SiriusXM, which I listen to all the time, and John
Podhoretz, “Commentary” magazine editor itself.
I got to go with Zerlina, because you were laughing. This reminds me of
his crowd size estimates after the inauguration…
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Saying, mine was bigger than his, the whole ridiculous thing.
MAXWELL: Yes. He`s doing a great job in his own mind.
But America on Tuesday told us that they do not like the direction of the
country. That matches the exit polling data and right direction/wrong
But, also, I think what it showed is, women, who came out the day after
Trump was sworn in, a million of us took to the streets and said, we reject
this and what this means, particularly after the “Access Hollywood” tape.
MATTHEWS: Now we have 100.
MATTHEWS: Now we have 100 women in the House.
MAXWELL: And now we have 100 women in the House.
I want to cut you off for a second, because I got to go to Podhoretz and
then back you about this question.
This battle of who won, who lost – well, it`s clearly the president lost
in the House, 35 to 40 seats. But in the Senate, he`s been doing, big me,
look at me, I got all these new Senate – well, one he didn`t get he
thought he got, apparently, is McSally didn`t win, clearly hasn`t won yet
out in Arizona.
Sinema got ahead now.
JOHN PODHORETZ, EDITOR, “COMMENTARY”: She didn`t win. She didn`t
He targeted Jon Tester heavily in Montana. Tester…
MATTHEWS: That scalp he wanted.
PODHORETZ: He desperately wanted that scalp because he was mad at Tester
for attacking his doctor, whom he tried to put in as the head of Veterans
And he didn`t get the Tester scalp. What he got was pretty significant
majorities for people in the Trump states that we all expected were going
to fall, right? So Donnelly…
MATTHEWS: Ruby red stayed ruby red.
PODHORETZ: Ruby red. And he got very big numbers there. Josh Hawley won
by 12 in Missouri and so on.
MATTHEWS: But Arizona is red.
PODHORETZ: Right, Arizona is…
MATTHEWS: Arizona is red. And it looks like it`s going to be blue before
the week is out.
PODHORETZ: Well, we – so we don`t know that.
But my – I`m struck by the fact that the dramaturgy of this on Wednesday,
had Florida not been an early state to report, and we saw that big flip,
right, where the Democrats seemed to have lost, right, although now we`re
doing all this recounting, had Florida come in at 10:00 or 10:30, instead
of 7:00, it would have looked like the Democrats were just rolling across
the country very happily and very easily.
It was that weird psychodrama of Florida in 2016, 8:00 at night starting
MATTHEWS: How about sometimes people taking the long view and staying up
until 11:00 at night?
I`m sorry. I predicted in April the Democrats would win 30 to 40. As it
got closer to the election, I said it looks like 40. I think I`m going to
But Carville comes on and says – James Carville is a smart guy. And he
comes on and says – he comes on like Jacob Marley coming, like it`s all
PODHORETZ: He did it. Van Jones did it.
MAXWELL: Yes. Everybody did it.
PODHORETZ: It was just this – so, imagine a night without..
MATTHEWS: Weak-of-heart Democrats. Why are Democrats so nervous?
They were all going in this election, oh, we`re going to do it again like
`16. We`re going to blow it? We`re going to blow it? What is that
nervousness? PTSD? What is it?
MATTHEWS: It is PTSD.
MAXWELL: For me, it was PTSD. I definitely was in the fetal position at
MATTHEWS: You`re pretty young, but you have been through other elections
where you thought you would win, and you did win.
MAXWELL: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: It wasn`t like `16 is the only election in history.
MAXWELL: Well, it`s just the most recent one in history, and so that`s
very, very fresh.
MATTHEWS: There a were a lot of complications with Hillary. There were
just too many…
MATTHEWS: And then Comey and…
So, early in the night on Tuesday just felt a little bit like 2016, but the
difference is, is that women saw what happened in 2016, and they stepped up
I think the big message from this election is not just that women won, but
that women chose to step up and run for office. And we`re seeing that in
other contexts in American culture. We have lived through a year of MeToo.
We have lived through a year of women standing together and telling their
truth and being brave.
MATTHEWS: In the burbs. In the burbs.
MATTHEWS: In the burbs.
MATTHEWS: You can`t generalize, because that`s not the case out in the
Western more red parts of the country.
MAXWELL: The gender gap was 19 points, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I think the Northeast is lost for the Republicans because of
women. I agree, the Northeast, all the way out to Ohio almost.
PODHORETZ: But that Handel-McBath race in Georgia is very illustrative,
because the ring counties around…
Do you have the umlaut on that Handel? Or is it – no, it`s pronounced
MAXWELL: Handel. Handel.
PODHORETZ: Right. I don`t know.
But those ring counties around Atlanta, there was this massive shift from
2012 to 2018. We`re talking about counties that were 12 percent Republican
going 8 percent Democratic.
Now, if Georgia becomes a swing state in 2020…
MATTHEWS: That`s more of a – let`s be careful about our geography.
MATTHEWS: The suburbs around Georgia – around Atlanta are a lot of
MATTHEWS: It`s kill Northern Virginia.
It`s not a bunch of, you know, people from the country. These are people
who moved in for high-tech jobs, good income jobs, ethnically diverse.
It`s more – it`s not a bunch of Southerners.
MAXWELL: Good real estate.
PODHORETZ: No, it`s not.
But, still, you still have – they`re there and they`re voting now. So,
however you slice it, the demographic changes in a state like Georgia, if
Georgia is in play in 2020 for the Democrats, which has always been like
PODHORETZ: … that could be…
MATTHEWS: Well, that could be the big story, the fusion.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I think you`re right about women, clearly.
MATTHEWS: When you have a 25 percent gender gap, Republicans are lost.
The other thing about Georgia, though, is I think that we need to be
talking about voter suppression that we`re seeing in this race in Georgia
before the 2020 election.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you.
MAXWELL: So I think that certainly the demographic shift is happening, but
I think Democrats need to start talking about voter suppression and perhaps
policies to prevent it. Otherwise, we`re going to in the same…
MAXWELL: … in 2020.
MATTHEWS: I have two issues. One is, I don`t like stupid wars. And the
second thing – that`s where we disagree.
The other thing…
PODHORETZ: Oh, yes, I love stupid wars, Chris. Nothing better than stupid
MATTHEWS: Bret Stephens, all you guys, anyway. Everybody.
And the other thing I care about, every American should have the right to
vote. Is that simple and is that true?
MAXWELL: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And it`s cheating to deny people that. It`s cheating like
in sports. How about – I will talk Republican. It`s like cheating in
golf. Do you understand me?
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Anyway, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz, a great guy.
Up next: 12 more victims of gun violence in America. This is not fun.
This time at a college bar in California, 12 dead, 13, if you count the
Is this the new normal? It feels like it. Just a week-and-a-half ago,
Pittsburgh. And it just happens again, with some regularity. Does it have
to be this way?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, late last night, a single gunman walked into a crowded music bar in
Thousand Oaks, California, and murdered just in a room 12 people, including
Sergeant Ron Helus.
Authorities still have not named all the victims.
Jason Coffman sobbed as he told reporters that his oldest son, his
firstborn, Cody, was killed in the shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON COFFMAN, FATHER OF VICTIM: His name was Cody Coffman, my firstborn
son. Only him and I know how much I love, how much I miss. Oh, God. This
is so hard. Oh, son, I love you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, the gunman identified by authorities as Ian David Long was found dead
at the scene after killing himself. According to the Ventura County
Sheriff`s Department, Long was known to law enforcement, which carries a
lot of information, known to law enforcement. Doesn`t that tell you a lot?
According to Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that
provides information on gun-related violence, this is the – you`re not
going to believe this – 307th mass shooting in the United States this year
A mass shooting represents an incident where four or more people were shot
in the same incident.
Well, California`s incoming Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom hailed the
heroism of the sergeant who lost his life in this incident, but condemned
the country`s gun culture.
I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Jackie Speier, a friend of this
show, author of “Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and
Fighting Back.” She represents California`s 14th District, just south of
Jackie, thank you so much, Congresswoman, for joining us.
I – when I listen to that father, as a father myself, I just don`t – you
know, we talk about statistics and mass and use numbers like that, and we
often forget or we don`t know, this is a real person, a real son, a real
daughter, a human being who`s now gone forever to their parents.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: And what do we do? We do motions
MATTHEWS: And then do it because somebody is a nut, or this guy, a nut has
a gun, a gun with a nut, a nut with a gun, whatever it is, somebody with an
attitude, a bad life experience, whatever it is, the easiness with which
you get a semiautomatic Glock, which you go, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep,
It doesn`t take any intelligence or skill or talent to use one of these
guns to kill just people in their face. And they`re doing it now with some
rapidity in this country.
SPEIER: So, you`re right.
The moments of silence are about all that Congress has the guts to do. And
it`s not good enough.
MATTHEWS: You mean thoughts and prayers?
SPEIER: Yes, thoughts and prayers.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. That should be outlawed. I know it`s well intended
in some cases.
SPEIER: Well, no, it isn`t. It`s…
MATTHEWS: But usually it`s a throwaway line by a staffer who knocks off
some script, some product, some wordage for somebody political to make it
sound like they give a damn.
SPEIER: The 12 families that lost loved ones, that father we just saw,
don`t give a bloody you know what about our moments of silence and the
thoughts and prayers.
We have to do something real in this country around the gun violence. You
know, not only have we had all of these mass shootings. We have had six
this month, six, and we haven`t even gotten to the middle of November yet.
And we have had 12,000 people this year who have been victims of gun
violence and are now dead. And 3,000 of them have been children. So…
MATTHEWS: Well, the NRA is laying off, apparently. They`re so complacent
they have won this battle.
Well, you know this stuff, Congresswoman. They don`t even spend a lot of
money anymore fighting gun safety people.
SPEIER: No, they don`t because they whisper into the president`s ears.
And, you know, first, he says I am absolutely going to do something, and
then they show up at his doorstep. And they spent a lot of money on his
election to the presidency, and he, you know, salutes them.
SPEIER: We have to have more guts in Congress to do some really rational
And I think one of the issues we have got to look at is the mental
stability of individuals. Right now, the law requires you to be mentally
defective. It`s such a high standard.
SPEIER: And, meanwhile, we know that there are 75,000 Americans who are
severely mentally ill in this country who get SSI, and President Obama
tried to at least have them not be eligible to have guns. And we couldn`t
even do that.
MATTHEWS: For the president, it seems like just another cultural button to
push, you know, like moving the embassy in the Middle East, one of these
things like, it will get him some votes in the evangelical community.
He says these things like protecting your Second Amendment rights. The
culture war you`re up against is brutal. They just push these buttons.
And these people, oh, yes, yes, amen to that, amen to that, Mr. President.
You`re one of us. You`re one of us.
It`s horrible. It`s not even about actual safety. It`s not actually about
people shooting each other, plugging 12 people in a bar. It`s about this
almost – almost neo-religious notion of the Second Amendment, as if it`s
God-created. Your thoughts?
SPEIER: Well, the Second Amendment says you have the right to own a gun.
It doesn`t mean that you have the right to not close loopholes that exist
in the law. And there are plenty that we should be shutting down. The
fact that you`re a – you can still buy guns on the Internet or at gun
shows, even if you`re a felon, even if you have committed domestic
violence, even if you`re mentally ill is crazy.
We have to do some rational thinking here and deal with this in a manner
that makes sure everyone feels that their guns are not going to be taken
away from them if they`re law-abiding people, but those that shouldn`t have
guns, those who should have a pause and not have their guns for a period of
time, we need to address it, because there`s too many lives lost.
MATTHEWS: OK, you`re a young woman. Do you believe that anything will be
done by the Congress now that the Democrats are back in power?
SPEIER: Well, you will have…
MATTHEWS: You have got a comfortable edge of people there, 35 seats, maybe
40 picked up. Are you going to be able to use that to put gun safety laws
SPEIER: Well, we will be able to pass gun safety legislation in the House.
Now, the question is, what happens in the Senate?
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Please
come back any time you want from California.
SPEIER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Trump is going after his critics by revoking security
clearances, banning journalists, like Jim Acosta, and even firing his own
attorney general. What`s he going to do next? He lost all these seats,
but he`s acting like he has got some new mandate.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
After losing the House to Democrats, apparently 35 to 40 seats, President
Trump is doing everything he can to go after his perceived – well, his
critics, from firing Jeff Sessions to attacking the media in the form of
one reporter and even taking away a reporter`s White House pass, that one,
after a contentious exchange yesterday.
This, by the way, I have seen a lot of contentious stuff with Dan Rather
and Nixon over the years, I have never seen anything like this brawl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honestly, I think you should
let me run the country. You run CNN. If you did it well, your ratings
would be much better. That`s enough. That`s enough. That`s enough.
REPORTER: The other folks –
TRUMP: That`s enough.
REPORTER: Pardon me, ma`am.
TRUMP: Excuse me, that`s enough. Peter, let`s go.
I`ll tell you what? CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for
them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn`t be working for CNN.
Peter, go ahead.
REPORTER: In Jim`s defense, I traveled with him and watched him. He`s a
TRUMP: Well, I`m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest.
REPORTER: I understand. Let me ask you a question.
TRUMP: You aren`t the best.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you repeatedly over the course –
TRUMP: Just sit down, please.
When you report fake news, no – when you report fake news, which CNN does
a lot, you are the enemy of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s John McEnroe talking to the umpire.
It`s not the first time this president has targeted his political foes, or
people he sees as foes. In August, he revoked CIA Director John Brennan`s
security clearance because of Brennan`s involvement in investigating
Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. As he told the “Wall Street
Journal” at that time, I call it the rigged witch hunt. And these people
led it, so I think it`s something that had to be done.
Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Peggy Noonan, the great columnist for
the “Wall Street Journal.” I read every Saturday “Wall Street Journal”,
with avid interest. Philip Bump is a political reporter for “The
Washington Post,” and Basil Smikle is a former, nobody`s former around
here, executive director of “The New York State Democratic Party.
Let me start with Peggy, my friend, and we`ll go around the guys.
What is Trump up to because he did lose in the popular vote because the
House is the people`s vote, and basically the number of people across the
country as a country voted against him a bit. But yet, he acted like I
have new power in the executive branch. I`m going to utilize it now
against my enemies.
PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It`s – I feel like he`s
getting either reckless or hard ball in some way. And I can`t quite tell.
I thought, by the way, that the house vote, the congressional vote, might
be much more strongly a rebuke of 40, 50, 60 seats, than it turned into.
Maybe there was – I mean, I talked to somebody at the White House who said
we`re relieved that it was not so terrible.
MATTHEWS: That is also clever politics to say you`re relieved, as if to
diminish a 40-seat loss.
NOONAN: Yes, but I did some research on it. The average loss for a
president in a midterm is 30-something seats, and he`s about 30-something
MATTHEWS: It`s 29.
NOONAN: I think it`s 30. But I forgot my point.
MATTHEWS: What it`s called is low-balling, what people always do.
I understand what`s going on. I heard George Will, who I respect
enormously, saying they only got half they wanted. Well, we`re going to
get 80 seats? I don`t think so. Your thoughts.
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, during the Obama
administration, Democrats lost almost 1,000 seats in those eight years.
There`s a lot of infrastructure that we actually have to start building
back. But I do think that what happened on Tuesday gets us to that point,
and with respect to Trump –
MATTHEWS: How come you couldn`t beat the crook in upstate New York? Not
naming names. I got a problem with him.
SMIKLE: You can`t take his name off the ballot unless he dies or moves out
of the state, which is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: Why is Trump so powerful? Why is he going after the press,
after the guy at CNN, dumping his A.G. with a so-called letter of
resignation which says at your request –
SMIKLE: Well, it`s two things. One, he clearly feels significantly
threatened by Democratic victories, no question about that. And he reacts
like a wounded animal would.
MATTHEWS: A guy from Queens.
SMIKLE: Reacts like a wounded animal, from New York, from the streets.
Acts like a wounded animal because this is him punching back and pushing
back. I do think that the letter was planned to sort of take the midterms
out of the news a little bit and sort of give him a little more of a
pulpit, but the truth is, I expected him to react this way. He doesn`t
react any other way.
MATTHEWS: Phil, who`s behind him? Somebody is thinking through these
steps, putting Whitaker in there, somehow use him to get to Mueller`s
investigation, denying the chance to subpoena. It looks like there`s
thought behind all this. I don`t think it`s all impulse.
What do you think, maybe it`s impulse?
PHILIP BUMP, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don`t know. I
sort of disagree. I think that the way that Whitaker got into his position
seems as though a pretty good strategy move by Whitaker himself in order to
get to the position he was in at the DOJ and impressed Trump from there.
You know, it`s probably a mistake to lump Costa into what happened with
Sessions. Trump has been at sessions for well over a year. He`s obviously
frustrated with Sessions.
MATTHEWS: Does Sessions know that his chief of staff was going to cut him
BUMP: It`s pretty clear that Whitaker had a stronger line to Trump than
Sessions did by the end there. I think Costa, if you want –
MATTHEWS: One question to Peggy, my friend. Do you think Trump`s in
better shape now to get re-elected than he was three or four days ago or
NOONAN: I don`t know. I think he`s about to go through two bad years, and
the whole country is about to get torn up in this, probes, investigations,
side stuff in Washington, when I would argue what`s important is serious
policy. There are breakthroughs now that could happen with legal
Everything is moving around in Washington. Therefore, there are openings.
It`s not a frozen landscape.
MATTHEWS: I knew, it`s a great time.
NOONAN: However, who thinks that will happen.
MATTHEWS: They can fix health care, immigration, do decent infrastructure.
And the president has to take the lead. He`s saying Nancy has to come to
I disagree. The president proposes, Congress disposes.
NOONAN: That`s totally true. The great sentence he said, I beg your
pardon, to me, the key thing –
MATTHEWS: You stopped me in my tracks. I have to come back with you in a
I`m coming back with Peggy Noonan. We`re staying with the roundtable.
Up next, the Democrats take over the House in January. What would it mean
for Republican efforts to kill Obamacare? They`re over. Mitch McConnell
gave us the big hint they`ve given up on fighting Obamacare.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republicans have threatened forever to repeal and replace Obamacare ever
since the law was passed. But now, the Democrats taking over the House.
Big story is being made.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, no fan of Obamacare, has admitted
it`s not ever going to happen. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: If you look at the exit polls, one of the most important issues
to voters was healthcare. Did you take away from that the message that any
effort to repeal ACA at this point is dead?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it`s pretty obvious
the Democratic house is not interested in that. There are serious problems
with Obamacare that need to get fixed. They raised the phony issue of
whether or not we were for or against pre-existing conditions. So, the
rhetoric doesn`t solve problems and there are serious problems with
Obamacare, and I think we`re going have to obviously now try to address it
on a bipartisan basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, cutting through some of the B.S. there, he was making a
really historic statement, the fight`s over.
NOONAN: I think that was more-or-less what he was saying. I think the
interesting part was when the reporter said, if you look at the exit polls.
That just tells you everything about this election and 2020, if this sort
of thing isn`t kind of resolved, I also thought it was interesting that
Trump yesterday, for all his bombastic theatrics, did sound like he wanted
a deal on healthcare and he signaled, I`ve got plenty of give here.
MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan, in 1982, knew the fight over whether Social
Security should be Social Security said we will fix this thing, we won`t
stop this fight. This fight is over.
SMIKLE: It is. And I`m going to use your word, because all of the bombast
that Republicans had in talking about the Affordable Care Act since its
inception, nothing has actually worked for them. It`s proven to be a
pretty resilient bill. And the truth is, when you put policy in people`s
lives, embedded in their routine, it`s hard to beat.
MATTHEWS: Philip Bump?
BUMP: Yes. I mean, they have been fighting in the beginning and they love
to fight against it.
Mitch McConnell couldn`t be happier that he gets to fight against
Obamacare. He gets to say in two years time, we spent two years trying to
get the Democrats do something on healthcare, they didn`t do anything,
those Democrats are obstructionists. Republicans are extremely excited to
not have to try to fix Obamacare after –
MATTHEWS: If Democrats don`t take this deal from Republicans, they don`t
want a deal. And I think they –
NOONAN: Do they want a deal?
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know. Maybe they just like the issue. Healthcare
is a good Democratic issue.
NOONAN: It sure is.
MATTHEWS: But, you know, it would be nice if after all the fighting, we
actually could get something done. They do make 170 a year to get
SMIKLE: Just think about it, this is why Faso lost in New York 19th,
Anthony Delgado pounded him away on his Affordable Care Act vote. This has
become a good solid Democratic issue.
MATTHEWS: Elections matter.
SMIKLE: They do.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Peggy Noonan, my favorite columnist. I
still like Will a little bit, but you`re the best.
Anyway, thank you, Philip Bump, and thank you, Basil Smikle.
When we return, let me – let`s talk about elections mattering again
because we`ll end the show tonight with something`s got done this Tuesday
for a long time to come. It`s going to matter what happen on Tuesday,
whatever Trump is doing.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Elections matter, don`t they? They decide who governs, of course. They`re
also capable of sending powerful messages.
The 2018 election said the country wants the government to assume
responsibility for healthcare. The Honorable Mitch McConnell made that
official yesterday, saying the Republican Party will no longer try to kill
Obamacare. And this is a case of history just happening.
It`s not that either party has decided how the government should fulfill
its mandate to provide affordable access to healthcare, simply that the
mandate now exists. No future Congress is likely to ever try to deny this
mandate. And this as former Vice President Joe Biden once said is a BFD.
Name any serious national politician who calls for eliminating Social
Security today or Medicare or even Medicaid, they`re accepted foundations
in the country`s social safety net right now. Well, the same is now true
of healthcare for all Americans. Whether the country ends up with a public
option or single payer system, we have reached the point of no return.
Henceforth, there will be a national healthcare policy of some kind.
And as of yesterday, politics of both sides are accepting the same
principle on the need of Americans for healthcare protection. And that is
quite an election result, don`t you think?
That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the