Recount underway in Florida. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.
Date: November 12, 2018
Guest: Mike Espy, Philip Rucker, Helene Cooper, Omarosa Manigault Newman,
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The fog clears. The Democrats won. Let`s
Good evening. I`m Chris Mathews in Washington.
The first full week after the election, the fog is starting to clear over
the Democratic victory in the midterms. Nationally, the Democrats beat the
Republicans 52 to 45 percent in the popular vote nationally. The Democrats
could pick up to 40 seats now in the House of Representatives, something I
have been predicting since last April.
They had two big other victories worth talking about on Tuesday. One was
in the suburbs where women repudiated Trump`s behavior going back to the
area that Access Hollywood tape. And the other victory very important,
Democrats won big in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Midwestern
states Trump won in 2016, and would need to win in 2020 if he runs again.
No wonder President Trump continues to stew with loose and wild talk of
rigged elections and corruption in those races yet to be called.
Before I say anything about Florida, the main focus of Trump`s hostility,
let me say this. There are two simple understandable reasons why the vote
count wasn`t complete on election night. One, very understandable,
absentee ballots needed to be counted. Two, provisional ballots needed to
be counted. Those were held to be counted if they proved decisive, which
of course, they are now decisive.
Well, it`s one thing to be frustrated about a count taking time taking
these days. It`s another thing to throw around charge about vote rigging.
That`s demagoguery. It is what Trump was firing off in 2016 when he
expected to lose in 2016. And I don`t know why Rick Scott down in Florida
is going down the same thing going down the writ (ph), same Trump path now.
Officials in Florida, 67 counties, began a machine recount of all the votes
in that state on Saturday. Those counties have until this Thursday, three
days from now, at 3:00 p.m., to finish the job.
But irresponsibly, Trump called for an end to a process that is legally
required for an election this close. He tweeted, the Florida election
should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron Desantis in that large
numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are
missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible. This is
the President of the United States talking. Ballots massively infected.
Must go with election night.
Well, Trump and his allies in Florida have presented zero evidence to back
up their claims of fraud. And now Florida judge overseeing a request by
Scott`s team admonished everyone to tone down the rhetoric, saying, if
anyone has evidence of fraud, report it. Everything the lawyers are saying
out there at the elections office is being beamed out across the country.
We should be careful what we say.
Well, Scott`s campaign told NBC News that he will travel to D.C. this week
to participate in some new member orientation activities as if he has won
For more, I`m joined by Howard Fineman, MSNBC News analyst, of course, and
Elise Jordan, cohost of the “Words Matter Podcast” and also an MSNBC
Howard, I want to talk to you. You know, it is frustrating in Florida, I
agree on part of it. I want election night that night. I want it over. I
don`t want to hear about absentee ballots and provisional ballots. But
fact is when you have a close election you have to count every ballot.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: You have to count every ballot and you
got to let the process work as imperfect as it can sometimes be. As you
pointed out, Florida legal officials who have looked into it have not found
any – they have not heard any evidence of fraud, reported to them, let
alone found any upon investigation. There is none. The system is working.
MATTHEWS: What crap pile of information has the President had his notion
(ph). Where is he getting this stuff from?
FINEMAN: He gets it from pure – with the President, an accusation by a
friend of his or an ally of his is as good as fact. And that is a very
dangerous situation to be in. Time and time again he has gone after every
institution of American society, to go after an election where the counting
hasn`t finished and call it infected with fraud when there is no evidence.
I keep saying it`s the height of irresponsibility by the President of the
United States. One of whose jobs is to be the symbol of everybody, take it
easy and listen to the law. That`s what he should be saying.
MATTHEWS: Fake news. Fake elections. Elise, he goes all across the
board. Nobody is to be trusted by him. He does act like a tin pot
dictator sometimes. Only trust me. You know the third world countries
especially Arab countries where the picture of the President or king, if
they call them kings, all over the country. That`s the only person you are
supposed to listen to. That`s Trump now. Don`t trust the press, don`t
trust election results.
ELISE JORDAN, COHOST, WORDS MATTERS PODCAST: Well, Chris, the favorite
country that Donald Trump went to, his first foreign visit, he loved that
the Saudis put his picture all over their own buildings and gave him that
kind of welcome, because he, as we have seen in his consistent behavior, he
admires autocrats. He does not criticize them. He has – finds more of an
affinity with Vladimir Putin or Mohammed bin Salman than he does a leader
of NATO or anyone in eastern Europe.
And so, this is just, you know, par for the course that Donald Trump wants
everyone to discredit and distrust the election results. He wants everyone
to believe only his absolute truth, which is not truth and it`s not
factual. And we can`t trust anything that comes out of his mouth quite
MATTHEWS: Well, he didn`t get the Sally Field treatment on last Tuesday.
So I think that explains why he is so unhappy. The country doesn`t love
If you compare Tuesday`s election to similar wave elections in recent
history, Democrats national House vote margin is in this year`s election
was on par if not better than Republicans did in 1994. The Democrats did
in 2006 and Republicans did in 2010.
Howard, I get the feeling that no matter what an act Trump puts on, he is a
good actor sometimes, he`s hurt. He didn`t do well. He lost the one part
of the country, he absolutely positively knows he needs to win next time
and he lost it all. He lost Michigan, Wisconsin, in our state, you are in
my state, Pennsylvania. It is rather soundly. Soundly.
FINEMAN: Yes, I think that`s right. And I think – I think what he
doesn`t understand is that this kind of reaction, strong as it was from the
Democrats and strong as it was from suburban women voters and in the
Midwest and so forth, it`s part of the ball game. Don`t forget that Barack
Obama in 2010 lost 63 seats, and he said, it was a shellacking.
MATTHEWS: What did this guy say? I hate you.
FINEMAN: This guy said, that election`s a fraud. Don`t listen to the
election results. And I have got to say, Chris, this was a concern in 2016
and it`s going to be a concern heading into 2020. If Donald Trump doesn`t
like the way things are going, he is going to try to discredit the entire
electoral system. And then we are in for something that we haven`t seen
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to possible replay, Elise. Let`s talk about Florida.
This Thursday they have one of these deadlines. Now they also have a
requirement to recount the vote electronically and then if it`s within half
a point, within a hand. At the same time they have these requirements to
recount and get it straight, they had these deadlines. I don`t know who
cooked up this system. We went through the same thing 18 years ago with
the Florida recount. So, what happens if come Thursday, which is not a
millennium from now, it`s three days from now, what happens when they are
still counting in Broward County, a Democratic strong hold, and Trump says
it`s over, are we going to have judge Kavanaugh come in and decide this
thing like they did last time, the Supreme Court? Who is going to rule on
JORDAN: Well, it just sounds like high drama. I am baffled that, you
know, 18 years later, nothing has been done to make this system more
transparent, and just more productive in terms of the time line that`s
followed in the aftermath of a voluminous recount. It really is shocking
that we are still literally basically in the same position we were in 2000.
MATTHEWS: You know, Howard knows this and you know this. It`s not just
that our systems aren`t that great in counting close elections, but we are
having really, really close elections now. And it seems like purple state
– is there a more purple state than Florida?
MATTHEWS: Where it`s almost down to 50/50 for the Senate, for the
governorship. It`s chillingly close because we are a divided country. In
that state where there are southern accents, their New York accents, there
is people from all over the world, it is a real collection of humanity down
FINEMAN: Well, that`s one thing to point out as Elise was just doing, that
there`s incompetence, lack of funding, lack of modern equipment and so on.
All of that is a serious concern. It`s fine if the President wants to say
that. But for him to say, you know what? They should just go with what
the count was on Tuesday night, forget everything else – it`s ridiculous.
It would be comical if it weren`t so dangerous.
MATTHEWS: Elise, I want you to respond to this given your Republican
background. You know, Republicans always say leave it up to local
MATTHEWS: They are much more reliable than Washington. Let the local -
and then you got these ballots, the butterfly ballot that all the Jewish
people voted for Pat Buchanan which was a joke. He even said it was a
joke. And this time around when you had to look way down in the corner for
this secret thing called the United States Senate election on the ballot,
and everybody says oh, leave it up to local jurisdictions, they are more
reliable. I don`t think so.
JORDAN: Well, it`s - I mean, it is insanity to claim that these elections
have been well administered. And you look back at – well, who are the
officials who are actually overseeing these procedures? Well, Governor
Rick Scott, while not directly involved, but he is the leader of the state.
And then you look in Georgia, Republican secretary of state Brian Kemp.
And you can`t say that the elections, the images we saw of super long
lines, hours long waits of machines that weren`t working, power cords not
brought for these machines, you can`t say that that is basic competence
that you want to see on the behalf of your administrator.
MATTHEWS: Elise, thank you.
And Howard, it`s so interesting because it`s like baseball where the batter
says, that was a ball. That was another ball.
FINEMAN: I`m taking first base.
MATTHEWS: I`m taking first shot at this.
Hey, let`s turn now – thank you both. You are great.
Let`s turn now to the Mississippi runoff race where Republican senator
Cindy Hyde-Smith, a double brow name, is facing criticism for joking about
attending a public hanging. Well, Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy who
is African-American in a run up to determine who will serve the remaining
two years of Tad Cochran`s Senate term.
Well, during the campaign stop in November 2nd, Hyde-Smith can be heard
praising a local rancher who was standing beside her. Let`s listen to what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public
hanging I would be on the front row.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was a hoot.
Well, after the video was posted, Senator Hyde-Smith issued the following
Quote “I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn
this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”
Well, according to the NAACP in Mississippi alone, more than 500 blacks
were lynched from the 1800s to 1955.
For more, I`m joined by Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy, of course,
the former secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
MIKE ESPY, (D), SENATE CANDIDATE: Hi. Hi, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Don`t monkey up this race. And people come up with – I know
now there are talkers like me and there are listeners, and a sensitive
talker knows that there are listeners. But your thoughts historically?
ESPY: Well, first, Chris, happy veteran`s day. And thank you so much for
having me on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
ESPY: Well, I mean, I heard what she said. I have to confess to you I
have never heard that time of colloquialism, you know? That comment that
she made was very disappointing and harmful. Disappointing to millions of
Mississippians of good will, but very harmful because it again reinforces
stereo types that we have been trying to get away from for decades.
Stereotypes that just continue to harm our economy and costs us jobs. And
I don`t know, I can`t reach into her heart and determine why that came out
of her mouth. But it was wrong.
MATTHEWS: We have got that whole history in our country of lynching and,
you know, Billy Holiday, strange fruit, right?
MATTHEWS: I mean, you know that history. You are not as old as I am, but
I have heard about it. And there is even a popular song about the horror
of lynching. It was called strange fruit, right, something like that, you
ESPY: Yes, strange fruit. You know, I know that history very well because
I`m on the board of directors of the Mississippi civil rights museum. It`s
one of the best museums in the United States. It`s brand-new. And it`s
got – it`s got a lynching or public hanging exhibit and it`s visceral and
it`s sobering. And you just – when you go through that, it`s got a list
of every Mississippian from reconstruction through the mid `60s that were
lynched and it`s got their name and the allegations, you know, for that
punishment, if you will. And you just have to come through there. When
you get through there, you have to take a deep breath, Chris.
So, this is – these comments from a sitting U.S. senator have harmed our
state and it`s just – you know, we have to get beyond this now. It`s
2018. We are now going into the third decade of our 21st century. It`s
just time-out for these type of comments, these throw back comments, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump, President of the United States,
single out African-American journalists, some of the top ones, you know,
April Ryan who I have known forever, fabulous journalist, and people going
like Maxine Waters out in California who has been a veteran U.S. Congress
person. And always going to the stupid thing. Always low I.Q. this or you
are stupid. He does seem to – I don`t know what his soul is all about,
but he does seem to have this instinct that go for what he thinks is the
jugular which is I.Q., that`s what he does, and that`s the President.
ESPY: Well, I have heard those comments as well, but I really have to tell
you, we are just keeping our head down, you know, running for 27th of
November, going out to all around Mississippi, talking about health care
and making sure that these rural hospitals stay open, just try to make sure
that we can protect, you know, citizens who may be under the threat of
uncompensated care. And expanding our public schools and making sure our
students can graduate. So we have got our head down, not worrying so much
about Trump, but just, just looking at a victory on November 27th, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, sir, I have always thought of you as a good public
servant, a very good public servant. And I appreciate your running. It
takes guts to run for office after all the good thing you have done as a
servant of the public, a public servant and as agriculture secretary and
everything else. And I wish you well down there.
Mike Espy, it`s great to have you on tonight.
ESPY: Thank you, Chris. Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, while President Trump get away with appointing a
partisan loyalist as head of the justice department without a Senate
confirmation even? Democratic leaders already raising concerns about this
Plus, what exactly are thousands of U.S. troops doing at the southern
border? What are they doing down there? Pentagon officials are calling it
a massive waste of time and money not to mention the morale of the troops
sitting down there missing the holidays. And a cold, wet welcome for
President Trump in far-off France, rebuked by voters here on home last
Tuesday, and international leaders this weekend in France.
Finally, I`m going to close tonight with a story about Gulliver`s Travels.
It is a satire on the dangers of our country or a political party dominated
by its elite.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER. ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I just, I think the
premise as to why he was appointed in the first place was wrong. And I
don`t think it was necessary. But you know, here we are today and I think
it`s going to be very hard to undo, you know, his investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Trump`s attack – there was a Freudian slip, attacking attorney
general - acting attorney general Matt Whitaker calling the appointment of
special counsel Robert Mueller wrong, when it was done in 2017. The
President`s decision to promote an unabashed loyalist like Whitaker to
effectively high jack the Russia probe has a growing fuel of backlash. The
question is will he, the President, get away with it? Well, he get away
with using Whitaker to stifle the whole Mueller probe altogether?
Not only did Whitaker`s elevation to the job circumvent the Justice
Department`s line of succession, but because he was not confirmed by the
Senate, he was never properly vetted. That makes his appointment virtually
unprecedented in modern American history.
As NBC News reports, Whitaker appears to be the first person named acting
attorney general who was not already serving in a Senate-confirmed
position, hadn`t been approved by the Senate.
Now, with a majority in the House – the Democrats got one – the Democrats
are grappling with a question of how they can protect the Mueller
investigation from Whitaker, from Trump himself. So far, they have
demanded that Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the probe. And they
have promised to subpoena him, if necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”: Do you think, under Whitaker,
that the integrity of this investigation is in peril?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Yes, I do.
First of all, I think that he should recuse himself.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We will make sure that Matt Whitaker
immediately – one of the first orders of business will be to invite him,
if necessary to subpoena him, to appear before the committee.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If he has any involvement whatsoever in
this Russia probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to
the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to
the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he`s doing anything
to interfere with the probe.
Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer, and any
role that he plays will be exposed to the public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I wonder.
They`re also threatening to add protections for Mueller to an upcoming
spending bill, a move that could prompt a government shutdown if no
compromise is reached.
Well, tonight, a Department of Justice spokesperson announced that Matt
Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and
procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior
ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may
Joining me right now is Paul Butler, a federal – former federal
prosecutor, Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for “The Washington
I am skeptical. I have watched them before. I don`t think the Democrats
have the stuff to stop this – this appointment. I don`t know how they
yank him out of there. I think it`s a fait accompli. What do you think?
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, even the…
MATTHEWS: He`s here. He`s attorney general. He`s the boss now of the
FBI, the probe, everything.
BUTLER: Even the Department of Justice statement says that he will consult
with the ethics experts, who will definitely tell him that he`s
The Government Ethics Act directs the Department of Justice to come up with
rules for recusal. Those rules say that if you have a political or
personal interest in a matter, you must recuse yourself.
The problem, Chris, is that Matt Whitaker is the head of the federal legal
system. He`s the nation`s chief law enforcement officer. So he gets to
decide whether that rule applies to him. So even if they tell him, you
need to recuse yourself, you`re hopelessly conflicted, you have said that
it`s witch-hunt, you have said that it should be starved to death, he gets
MATTHEWS: While you`re on this question of power, because I am, as a
student of politics, interested in power, not always what`s right or wrong,
because you can`t make that. But you can`t decide on power.
Suppose someone like Adam Schiff or Jerry Nadler subpoenas the acting
attorney general to come to the Hill and answer questions about his
personal conversations with Trump before he was named. Does he have to
And if he doesn`t want to respond, how does the House of Representatives
make him show up there? Do they send the sergeant of arms down to the
Department of Justice? How do they physically bring him up there if he
doesn`t want to do it? He`s attorney general.
BUTLER: Yes, so he does have to respond.
We saw this with the Republican Congress and Eric Holder. So he would have
to come. He would have to testify. He could claim privilege about certain
conversations and documents. But, at the end of the day, if the Democrats
aren`t happy with his responses, they can hold him in contempt.
They can even move to impeach him. And I think the attorney general can be
impeached, just like a president or a Supreme Court justice.
MATTHEWS: And they could do this to an acting person?
MATTHEWS: And what would stop Trump from naming somebody else, then?
BUTLER: Well, again, there`s a whole parade of horribles who would no
doubt apply in the same way that Matt Whitaker applied, which is expressing
their views on the Russia investigation.
They take the loyalty pledge. And, again, that`s Trump`s number one
criteria for who should be the attorney general.
MATTHEWS: I know. I`m waiting for Chris Christie to come along and get
confirmed, because they got what, 54, Senate seats now.
PHILIP RUCKER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: And Chris Christie, Chris, is a
legitimate candidate for attorney general.
I was talking to some White House sources today who said he`s very much in
the mix. The president is thinking about appointing him, nominating him,
rather, for Senate confirmation. And there`s a feeling that he would
probably do well before the Senate, because he would be seen as neutral
enough to safeguard the Department of Justice.
MATTHEWS: And a former U.S. prosecutor.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s how White House adviser, good old Kellyanne
Conway responded when she was pressed about Trump`s knowledge of Whitaker`s
This is actually almost sickly comical.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: Did he know that he was such a
sharp critic of the Mueller investigation?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I`m not aware of that, because
it`s not even clear to me that Mr. Whitaker has been briefed on the Mueller
We are so far past the period in which those comments were made by Matt
Whitaker as a private citizen.
WALLACE: Given his predisposition against it, can be fairly oversee it?
And if he decides to some way limit or block the Mueller investigation now,
because he can as the acting attorney general, will the president back him?
CONWAY: The president is not looking – the president has said he has not
discussed the Mueller investigation with Whitaker. He`s made that very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, Phil.
MATTHEWS: I mean, this is the president of the United States, who says, I
don`t know the guy, I don`t know the guy, I don`t know the guy five times,
and yet he`s all these periods before that saying, I know the guy well, I
know him well, we have talked.
RUCKER: Well, he knows him.
He was actually briefed by Matt Whitaker in the Oval Office several times
because the president didn`t want to be briefed on Department of Justice
business by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, because he hated Sessions
so much. So he would have Whitaker do the briefings instead.
But whether they actually discussed the contours of the Mueller
investigation before this appointment to acting attorney general, we`re not
sure. The president says they haven`t. But it doesn`t matter, because the
president knows his views on the Mueller probe, given everything that
Whitaker said on TV and in columns.
MATTHEWS: Two questions I got. Who wired this whole thing for Trump? He
didn`t figure it out himself, did he?
Who figured out the idea he could drop Rosenstein, ignore him, ignore the
succession, the normal succession, the institutional integrity of the
Justice Department, and just jam in this guy, first of all, as chief of
staff to Sessions, who seemed to be unknowing of what`s going on, that he`s
picking his successor, have him in there for a while to sort of justify
him, and then spring them as the new A.G.?
Who wired this whole thing? Is it Giuliani? Who is teaching Trump all
RUCKER: It`s a good question.
Trump did not want to fire Rosenstein, as well as Sessions. He wanted to
get rid of Sessions. He`s become a little more comfortable with
MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s neutralized him.
RUCKER: But he doesn`t trust him enough to have made him the acting
BUTLER: Well, that`s the diabolical beauty of this move. Now he doesn`t
MATTHEWS: Well, who figured it out?
BUTLER: He doesn`t have to fire Rosenstein. He doesn`t have to fire
MATTHEWS: He`s got somebody like you around him. Who is telling Trump how
to do this?
BUTLER: Everybody knew that Sessions was going to be removed from office.
So I think there was some vetting.
But, again, the main criteria was the loyalty pledge on the Russia
MATTHEWS: Well, this guy did an audition. He went point by point, saying
all – hitting all of Trump`s erogenous zones, all the things he wanted to
MATTHEWS: And he said, well, thank you. You`re exactly the guy I want.
And the guy says, guess what? I knew what you wanted. And that`s why I
said that stuff.
BUTLER: And this is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I mean, this is the man who has a walking conflict of interest, not only
all of his statements about the – his ignorant, uninformed statements
about the Russia investigation, but his own exposure, this company that he
was on the board of that the FBI called a – or the FTC called a scam
company, fined them $25 million.
So the Miami FBI is investigating that. He`s a subject of that
investigation. Walking conflict of interest.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know I`m older than you guys. And I tell you something.
There`s a big difference between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Richard
Nixon had some shame. This guy has none.
Thank you, Paul Butler and Phil Rucker.
The midterms are over, but thousands of troops now are deployed on the
border, on the south border. They`re still there. Look at them. There
they are, those borders trapped – those soldiers trapped in a mission many
of them are calling – these are soldiers talking – a political stunt.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we looked at those
soldiers. And you saw that barbed wire going up, that barbed wire.
Yes, sir. We have barbed wire going up, because you know what? We`re not
letting these people invade our country. So, if you want more caravans and
you want more crime, vote Democrat. It`s very simple.
TRUMP: If you want strong voters and safe communities, vote Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, President Trump appealing to his base shortly before
the midterm election by amping up the threat of a migrant caravan, his
favorite word, and championing the troops he sent to protect the border
from that caravan.
Well, the election is over. The caravan isn`t even close to the border.
But, as “The New York Times” reports: “The 5,600 American troops who rushed
to the brown, dry scrub along the southwest border are still going through
the motions of an elaborate mission that appeared to be set into action by
the commander in chief determined to get his supporters to the polls and a
Pentagon leadership unable to convince him of its perils.”
Well, according to “New York Times,” again: “Pentagon officials privately
derided the deployment as an expensive waste of time and resources and a
morale killer, to boot.”
“New York Times” Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, one of the writers
that article, joins me now.
Helene, thank you so much.
Your part – your article was very graphic. And tell us, for those who
didn`t read it this Sunday, about the situation of an average G.I., if you
will, sitting down there in the dust of the border, probably going to miss
Thanksgiving at home, probably, whatever – what is their mission to them?
What do they think they`re doing?
HELENE COOPER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Right now, they`re going through the
motions of setting up for war.
But it`s a very weird sort of dance that you see. It`s very similar to –
you know, I have been on deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when
American troops first arrive, the first thing they do is, they set up base,
and they set up their tents, and they – just like Iraq and Afghanistan, at
the beginning of the wars, there`s very little electricity.
There`s – it`s hard to charge their cell phone. But the only differences
is, there`s not – they all know that there`s nothing really coming at the
end, because, at the end of the day, this – you know, we don`t even know
that migrant caravan is going to be getting to the border.
So you have soldiers eating MREs. They`re putting up the sick tent and
doing all that sort of thing, but it`s very much, sort of almost a charade,
and they all seem to be aware of that.
MATTHEWS: Could you tell – did your reporting down there give you any
indication how many of them think this was just P.R.?
COOPER: A lot.
MATTHEWS: Did they know?
COOPER: Yes. Yes, they all knew. Yes, they do know that it`s not – I
mean, troops, American troops are very careful when they`re talking to
reporters, but there are many, many of them who will talk to us privately
as well about whether or not this is P.R.
So we do have people who`ve told us that they think that this is – just
roll their eyes. People at the Pentagon in particular privately say that
this is sort of – they were – the military was opposed to this to begin
with. The Defense Department didn`t want to do it.
But you have – we`re in a very weird situation right now between Mattis
and – Defense Secretary Mattis and President Trump.
MATTHEWS: We talk about this at home, my wife and I, a lot about the
And because these top people, like the president, can make all kinds of
decisions, and these soldiers will do almost anything – they will risk
their lives, they will live in horrible places out in the mountains of
Afghanistan, they will do anything they`re told under orders – that you
have to be so careful morally, morally, what you tell them to do.
MATTHEWS: And to put them on a mission that`s full of B.S., it`s like the
parade they were going to have on Constitution Avenue, remember that one,
with the tanks up and down, but they said, it would do too much damage to
And now they have this thing, which looks like a real caravan, just like we
have put the caravan. Look at this.
Ahead of the election, President Trump said he`d have a wall of people
lined up at the border, and that he`d consider rock-throwing by immigrants
to be tantamount to a firearm – in other words, to gun play. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s very important.
We have to have a wall of people, very highly trained people, terrific,
dedicated patriots. That`s what they are.
Anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to Mexico and the Mexican
military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of
Mexico, we will consider that a firearm, because there`s not much
Oh, this is totally legal. No, this is legal. We`re stopping people at
the border. This is an invasion. And nobody`s even questioning that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: According to “The New York Times,” the White House and the
Defense Department have clashed over what exactly the troops should do at
They write that: “The Defense Department rejected the White House`s request
that troops deployed to the border be armed and prepared for direct contact
with the migrants, that they viewed the request as inappropriate and
Apparently, they didn`t even like the title of the mission down there, the
Mattis – Defense Secretary Mattis changed the name of the mission on –
Operation Faithful Patriot. He changed the name on Election Day. And now
– and the Pentagon put out a note the day after the election saying, we`re
just going to call it border support.
But the one – the whole firing on the migrant caravan issue is a very
important one. And there`s something – legally, you – the American
troops can`t do that. There is a – there is a law called the Posse
Comitatus Act. And that was passed in 1878, when Ruther – President Hayes
And this was all about pulling the troops, the Union troops out of the
Southern states. And the whole point behind this law is to prevent the
American military from being used for domestic political purposes.
So, American troops cannot get involved, active-duty troops cannot get
involved in any kind of part of law enforcement…
MATTHEWS: This was part of ending Reconstruction, wasn`t it?
Yes, it was all for…
MATTHEWS: This was a big sellout by the Republican Party to get the
presidency in the disputed election of 1876, when Tilden should have won.
But in order for Hayes to win, the Republicans had to give…
COOPER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: … on the one great thing that they were doing, which was
Reconstruction in the South.
MATTHEWS: And they gave it away.
But this is all – so now we have got this law that says American troops
cannot get involved in any kind of law enforcement capability.
MATTHEWS: Helene, another – incredible reporting by you. Thank you so
COOPER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I`m a big, huge fan of you, Helene.
Up next: Trump`s wild weekend in France, rebuked for his nationalistic,
well, rhetoric, criticized for skipping a visit because it was rainy out.
The nuns used to say, “What, are you sugarplums?” when we wouldn`t go out
in the rain. Anyway, what`s going on?
And, by the way, was he better off just staying home and not even
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump spent the weekend in France – did you notice? – for
events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and
remembering those lost in war, of course. And yet the president drew
criticism for several instances of bad – let`s call them optics.
On Saturday, Trump canceled a planned visit to an American cemetery due to
rain. On Sunday, Trump was conspicuously absent as his fellow world
leaders marched in solidarity down the Champs-Elysees. There they are for
an Armistice Day ceremony. It`s very impressive. Before showing up
separately at the conclusion of the march at the Arc de Triomphe. That`s
at the end of the street.
In his own remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron issued a stern warning
about the dangers of nationalism, a label President Trump recently embraced
with open arms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriotism is the
exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, by
saying ours interest first, who cares about the others. We hold dear what
gives it life and what is essential. It`s moral values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Beautiful country.
I`m joined by the HARDBALL round table, Omarosa Manigault Newman, former
White House staffer, of course, Eli Stokols reporter for “The Los Angeles
Times”, and Kimberly Atkins, Washington bureau chief for “The Boston
What a weekend. It`s all about optics and it didn`t look good. Is this
just a bad streak of luck that started last Tuesday for this guy? Your
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: I just came back
from Europe. I was in London, and he truly just embarrassed our nation on
the world stage. He had an opportunity to really bring the allies
together. And in the true Trump fashion, he just squandered it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Eli, this wasn`t as bad as Bitburg, but it was like
it. It was like, why blow what is basically a visual?
ELI STOKOLS, REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes, this is not a really
high degree of difficulty for a presidential foreign trip. This summer, he
had a NATO meeting, he had a bilat with Theresa May.
This is photo ops. And you know what, photo, we saw the president, we saw
him giving the thumbs up to Vladimir Putin when he showed up. You`re
seeing it when the president actually showed up to that event. You didn`t
see him walking with all the other leaders as you showed down the Champs-
And the message that was sent by not finding a way – yes, the Marine One
couldn`t fly in the weather. The weather was the reason, but they didn`t
have a back up plan and there was certainly not a president who said to his
staff, you find me a way to get to this cemetery because that`s an
important statement for a U.S. president to make.
MATTHEWS: I think Reagan would have made it. I think Obama would have
made it. What do you think?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON HERALD: Yes, I think
so, but it is a continuation of what we`ve seen President Trump do on every
one of these trips abroad. He goes – he picks fights with U.S. allies.
The only time he seemed happy at all was when he got that glimpse of
Vladimir Putin. This is the same –
MATTHEWS: What is that? What is the tail wagging for?
ATKINS: It`s consistent from what he`s done since the beginning of the
campaign. And that`s why we increasingly see our allies, whether it`s
Macron or Theresa May or Angela Merkel saying, United States is not – we
can`t rely on them any more.
MATTHEWS: Look at that picture. That`s what most presidents, tall or
short, whatever they are, Republican, Democrat, have admitted we`re part of
the world. And they may think we`re an exceptional country, which I think
we are in many ways. Trump, I think Eli, didn`t want to be seen in a
STOKOLS: He didn`t like the group shot. You remember the last group shot
a couple of years ago when he showed up and pushed another leader out of
the way so he could get to the front of the line.
STOKOLS: The president likes being on the stage at rallies –
MATTHEWS: Poor Montenegro got shoved out of the way.
STOKOLS: He wants the spotlight on him.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, former – we can argue this is my favorite
conversation because I came up with this fight. Here we are. Former first
lady, of course, Michelle Obama`s new memoir, “Becoming”, hits book stores
tomorrow. The former first lady`s book store also kicks off tomorrow with
a sold-out first stop moderated by Oprah Winfrey at Chicago`s United
Center. That`s where the convention was held there.
Anyway, that`s unusually used for sporting events and Democratic
conventions. Well, the rock star roll out for Mrs. Obama is reminiscent of
another first lady, I think, Jacqueline Kennedy. In an interview with ABC
News, 2020, Mrs. Obama said she was excited and nervous about what lies
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: I`m excited and anxious to, you know,
see what people get from it. I`m hoping that it generates a conversation.
INTERVIEWER: What do you want your legacy to be?
OBAMA: Young people are the future. And if my story, my journey somehow
gives them hope, if I played a role in that for some young people coming
down the line, then I`ll feel good about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I get the feeling she`s going to be a world figure.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: I think she`s going to blossom like from the caterpillar, she`s
very careful in the White House as we know, to being the butterfly.
Bigger, more global, bigger. Not as fashion plate like Jackie O, though
she dresses beautifully. But I think she`s going to be a figure.
Mandela is gone. Bill Clinton sort of faded a bit. I`ll hear about that
later. He`s faded a bit. I think we need a world presence. I think her
husband will give her space the next couple months to show her stuff.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: She has the goods. She has a platform. She is very
connected to women`s issues around the globe. And people like her. Her
approval ratings have always been so much higher than others, but
particularly higher than the current president.
ATKINS: Yes, I think she`s been a butterfly for awhile. One of the most
electrifying moments at the DNC was when she gave her speech. That was the
moment she upstaged Hillary Clinton a little bit. She is somebody who has
– she`s different from Jackie Kennedy in that she is free to say things
about President Trump. She is free talking about her family. She has her
You know, like Omarosa said. She`s Harvard and Princeton educated, but
she`s also beloved by particularly in the black community, but she was also
derided. I mean, she`s had horrible things said about her as well. She
has her own story, that I think does connect with a lot of people. A lot
of people still don`t like her, but a lot of people love her.
MATTHEWS: Timing is everything. She`s coming out of eight years as first
lady. The people that feared her maybe aren`t afraid of her as much, but
because of her for mid ability.
STOKOLS: I think back to the Obama administration, the second term when
the president lost popularity, he was out there in 2014 less, she was the
draw on the campaign trail. She never lost popularity. She was someone
who was widely popular across the country. And now, you know, as you do
when you leave office, you step back a little bit. It`s been almost two
years and so, I think the public is probably ready to hear from Michelle
MATTHEWS: Well, she`s a strong person. Anyway, the round table is
sticking with us. Up next, these people tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the round table.
Omarosa, tell me something I don`t know because I always want to hear from
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: But you may not know that I was a military chaplain. I
got to serve with the California state military reserve, and currently in
this country, we have a shortage of military chaplains, particularly
Catholic priests. In fact, the Pentagon is putting out incentives, paying
for education and bonuses to recruit more military chaplains.
MATTHEWS: So, what was your affiliation?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I was with the California state military reserve.
MATTHEWS: What was your religion?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Oh, I`m Baptist.
MATTHEWS: I just want to know.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Missionary Baptist.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Eli?
STOKOLS: Well, we know there was a large turnout on Tuesday, but 115
million cast ballots. That`s 32 percent more than the turnout in the last
midterm in 2014. But what`s amazing, the number that really jumped out at
me. It`s 49 percent of all eligible voters for the entire country who
MATTHEWS: Everybody over 18?
STOKOLS: Yes, eligible voters, people registered eligible to vote. And
that is the largest percentage we`ve seen since 1914, before this country
even allowed women the right to vote.
MATTHEWS: That is so great. We always say percentage of registered voters
instead of people that could vote if they wanted to.
STOKOLS: That`s right. So, it`s a larger part of the population that`s
been galvanized that is participating in politics.
MATTHEWS: What do you think did it?
STOKOLS: I think the Trump administration, this presidency. This has been
popularized in a way where poll extinction is now sort of – politics is
now – it bleeds into every aspect of our lives. People are getting off
the sidelines and being more intentional about their participation.
ATKINS: Midterms are over. An effort to season some of that energy. Are
you ready for 2020 ads? They`re going up. Democratic PACs are already
launching television ads, a messaging ahead of the –
MATTHEWS: Who is out first?
ATKINS: We have – you`re getting me on the spot.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.
ATKINS: Priorities USA is getting their messaging out. We have ads up by
patriot majority. We are well into 2020.
MATTHEWS: Real-time news announcement. Excuse me, real-time news
announcement. McSally has conceded in the Senate race out in Arizona, and
so Sinema has won. So, we got another Democratic seat for those watching
the count. Big pickup in Arizona.
Thank you so much, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Eli Stokols and Kimberly
When we return, I`m going to close with the story from “Gulliver`s
Travels,” and the danger leaders of a country who are a political party run
by its academic elite.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Remember “Gulliver`s Travels”? Remember the land that Gulliver
discovered where the people were ruled by a group of well-educated elite
who lived on this flying island? The rest of the people looked up to and
saw hovering up in the sky above them looking down on them.
Well, Jonathan Swift called that flying island of intellectuals Laputa.
Its population consisted mainly of the sophisticated, the finally academic
sort who were fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology, but
absolutely useless at putting their knowledge to any practical use. They
were so lost in thought they couldn`t actually function in the everyday
Well, yet, the people on this flying island of intellectuals were able to
dominate the people down on the land below them which, of course, caused
enormous resentment by those people down on the land below them. I read
today that the Democratic party from which a majority of college grads now
vote now controls almost all the country`s most highly educated
congressional districts, the party that once represented the working people
of this country, the skilled workers, the electricians, plumbers, masons
and carpenters, now it`s the home room of the college crowd. The party of
the town is now the party of the gown.
In other words, it`s beginning to resemble Jonathan Swift`s flying island
of Laputa populated with the educated elite looking down literally on those
below them. I hear people, I agree with politically, blaming the
Democratic Party`s loss of the working party on race. Working people they
say are simply angry at the progress of minorities and the arrival of
darker-skinned immigrants into the country.
I think that`s way too convenient and far, in way, from a complete
explanation. One at least the Democratic leadership off the hook. And
two, of saying the majority of Americans working class are hopeless bigots.
Well, let me offer a more measured explanation for the Democrats` loss of
support among working people. It`s that the Democratic Party is focused in
recent years on addressing the topics and concerns of members of the party
who are its better educated and also its better off.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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