Trump Watch. TRANSCRIPT: 11/15/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Val Demings, Marc Caputo, Kevin Baron, Michael Steel, Jaime Harrison; Joyce Vance; Jonathan Lemire; Peter Baker
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 15, 2018
Guest: Val Demings, Marc Caputo, Kevin Baron, Michael Steel, Jaime
Harrison; Joyce Vance; Jonathan Lemire; Peter Baker

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The reckoning approaches. Let`s play
HARDBALL.

I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Fearing the imminent arrival of new criminal charges or a damaging report
from Mueller President Trump appears petrified by what federal
investigators could soon reveal. With his fate and that of his family
hanging in the balance, Trump today struck out at the special counsel in a
lengthy twitter rant when in addition to his accustomed smears and
innuendo, Trump made strangely specific yet unsubstantiated claims about
Mueller`s investigation.

Trump tweeted quote “the inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a
total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.
They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to
come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our nation and
don`t care how many lives they ruin. These are angry people, including the
highly conflicted bob Mueller who worked for Obama for eight years.

Well the truth, which the President seemed to intentionally distort, is
that Mueller was appointed FBI director by President George W. Bush in
2001, serving nearly eight years under Bush before staying on for another
four and a half under Obama as a holdover. Trump then lobbed another bomb
calling the special counsel`s prosecutors a gang of democrat thugs.

As the “New York Times” reports, Trump`s rant comes after three days of
private meetings with his personal lawyers at the White House where he
worked to draft answers to questions post by the special counsel. And even
with his die-hard Matthew Whitaker now leading the department of justice,
Trump appears strike within fear about Mueller`s next move perhaps for good
reason.

As “Politico” reports late today, a deep anxiety has started to set in that
Mueller is about to pounce and that any number of Trump allies and family
numbers may soon be staring down the barrel of indictment. In addition to
the criminal charge that Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone say they are
expecting, “Politico” reports that the President`s owned son Donald Trump
Jr. has told friends in recent weeks that he believes he could be indicted.

And according to the “Washington Post,” just today, the President is often
worried a lot about the possibility that Mueller will seek to indict Trump
Jr. as he moves towards the conclusion of his probe.

Joining me now is Joyce Vance, a federal prosecutor, Peter Baker is chief
White House correspondent for the “New York Times” and Jonathan Lemire is
White House reporter for the “Associated Press.”

Jonathan, what have you got on why is Trump in such an uproar? Why
shooting in every directions and he seems to be scared?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It is confluence
of events here, Chris. As you know, Robert Mueller publicly remain very
quiet in the weeks before the midterms. And the President did, too, only
tweeting about the special counsel wants since Labor Day. That ended today
as his frustrations burst out of the scene in that twitter diatribe that
you just quoted from, it if from a few different things.

First, he is dealing with a number of setbacks since the midterm elections.
Seemingly by the day the Democrats pick up another seat in the House. His
choice for acting attorney general Matt Whitaker who he believes will be an
ally and pushing back against the Mueller probe. His that choice come
drawn a lot of heat. We saw movement in the Senate to try to introduce
legislation to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller and certainly he
is suddenly – even though Mueller himself has been quiet, the word around
Mueller has picked up. Whispers here in Washington as you just said, that
further indictments could be coming. True Trump allies, Roger Stone and
Jerome Corsi, openly talking about the possibility that they can be
indicted. The President is internalizing that coverage. And that comes on
the heels of these three days, he spent in the White House behind me
preparing for the answers to the written questions from Mueller on
collusion.

The White House`s lawyer Giuliani has said they are not touching the
obstruction piece of this but collusion is very much in the President`s
mind and despite council from his advisers to keep quiet to not attack
Robert Mueller, that dam broke this morning in significant way as he
unleashed some very personal and inaccurate attacks about Mueller. And
that is reflected of the growing sense in Trump world that there could be
indictments coming down. And yes, as you said perhaps not just allies,
like Stone and Corsi, but members of the President`s inner circle and maybe
even family.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

Let me go to Joyce. It seems when he goes personally against the
prosecutor he expects prosecution so he wants to undermine it saying he is
a Democrat when the history shows it was George W. Bush who made him FBI
director and he was held over by President Obama but he is no Democrat. He
is no operative. And yet he wants to say he is also in chaos. That he is
screaming and shouting.

Is Trump projecting what we think is probably going on in the White House,
the screaming and shouting?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It looks like a healthy dose of
projection, a healthy dose of wishful thinking and maybe there`s some
strategy here. It`s really easy to discredit this President as someone who
shoots from the hip. You know we often believe that his twitter feed is
the window into his soul and what his worries of the moment are. But there
also seems to be a certain deliberate strategy here of trying to undercut
the Mueller investigation. And I suppose if his base is still willing to
accept any of the garbage that he spews in these tweets maybe Mueller will
be undercut in their minds but most is made up. Some of it is outright
lies, mischaracterizing Mueller as someone who served in the Obama
administration. He was, as you pointed out, a hold over.

My experience, Chris, is that the only people who attack prosecutors and
the police are the guilty. If you are innocent, you go in and you tell the
truth. You tell your side of the story. But when you are out of
strategies to pursue, then you attack the police.

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, he is still around, told the
“Washington Post” today that Mueller has posed at least two dozen questions
to the President about potential collusion saying quote “there are some
that create more issues for us legally than others,” whatever that means.

According to the “Washington Post,” Giuliani said some were unnecessary,
some were possible traps and we might consider some as irrelevant.

Peter, obviously, you don`t get to choose what questions you answer. This
is a take home exam. They are apparently taking a lot of time with it.
Three days in a row now. What is Trump afraid of in those questions? Can
we tell?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes,
it`s a great question. I mean, I hope someday if I ever get in trouble
with a prosecutor I get to pick and choose which questions I think are
relevant.

You know, this is a President who managed to avoid an actual interview in
which you have to respond in the moment without the ability to have a
lawyer help you write the answers. This is the best way a President could
have to respond to questions from prosecutors because you do, as you say, a
take home test, you have the books in front of you. You consult with your
staff and lawyers about what you have said previously in order to make sure
you don`t trip over your own past words and have any contradictions.

The traps are obvious, though. You know, anything that gets at intent, get
anything that gets at the idea that he wanted to impede the investigation,
that would go to obstruction. Even he gets at acknowledging knowledge of,
for instance, that meeting in Trump tower that his son and son-in-law, the
campaign chairman, took with Russian visitors offering information on
behalf of the Russian government would contradict something he said in the
past. If they ask him about the statement he helped draft, that he
basically dictated in response to reports about that meeting that could
open up a whole new can of worms.

What he doesn`t know necessarily is what special prosecutor Robert Mueller
knows. And so when you answer these questions, you don`t want to say
anything that will contradict the evidence that already is in the hands of
the prosecutors because then can get yourself in severe trouble.

MATTHEWS: Joyce, not everybody, as you know, from their experience has an
escape route. I mean, Saddam Hussein ended up hiding in the ground. He
didn`t have an escape route. Not all bad guys have this plan to get out of
town. And I`m thinking about Trump. He has got the pardon power which we
don`t know how limited that is or unlimited. He has got Whitaker in there
as attorney general. He could possibly stifle any reports or indictments I
guess.

What else? He has got a bunch of good lawyers, I think. How does Trump
away with what looks to be coming at him perhaps the next several days or
weeks which is indictments of his family member, indictments of people who
will rat him out like Roger Stone. He can rant about - he has got all
kinds of stuff that I`m going back for decades. And, of course, you know,
impeachment.

VANCE: You know, Trump`s strategy in the most difficult moments of his
life has always been to bluster, to hit hard and to keep on hitting. And
maybe that works in a business context. But this is the first time I think
in Trump`s life that he has come up against a criminal investigation. He
has had some luck in civil courts.

This is Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, this is not a group
of angry Democrats, but rather a group of very well experienced very
straight up the middle prosecutors who know how to get about their jobs. I
don`t believe that this group breaks and bends because the President
blusters. I`m sure he has the pardon power and he can pardon people who
aren`t himself, at least to a certain extent. And maybe that gets some of
his friends out of trouble. But he can`t use the pardon power to keep
people, for instance, Roger Stone, from providing prosecutors with evidence
against him, from cooperating with prosecutors because if he uses the
pardon power in that way, it`s just an additional layer of obstruction. I
don`t think Mueller will go after him with kid gloves as regard to the
President obstructing justice or doing anything that undermines the rule of
law.

MATTHEWS: Well, we are getting new insight into the text messages that
former Trump advisor Roger Stone received from radio personality Randy
Credico. The text messages where Stone provided to NBC News showed that
Credico appears to have given Stone regular updates about when WikiLeaks
would release new Russian hack emails to embarrass Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In August of 2016, Credico notified Stone that the founder of WikiLeaks,
Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary. And then six days before the
Democratic emails were he released in October of 2016, Credico said big
news Wednesday and that Hillary`s campaign will die this week.

But Credico also asked Stone for an apparent favor from Trump. Quote “why
can`t you get Trump to come out and say that he will give Julian Assange
asylum?”

Peter, boy, that looks like a narrative to me. One guy is getting the dirt
for Hillary and at the same time that guy who got the dirt or knows it is
coming is trying to get a break for Assange from the President coming in,
the guy they are helping in the campaign.

BAKER: Right.

MATTHEWS: It seems to be all there. Quid pro quo.

BAKER: Right, exactly. Well, on the question then becomes to, what did
Roger Stone know about WikiLeaks` connection to the Russian at that point?
So it is not just WikiLeaks, is that WikiLeaks is a conduit according
American intelligence agency for the Russians who have stolen these emails
to begin with. And that`s where you begin to get even more dicey.

So you know, there is a lot –.

MATTHEWS: Didn`t he know at that time - but didn`t he know at that time
that the Russians had hacked into the Democrats?

BAKER: Well, we knew the – they had been hacked. I`m not 100 percent
sure how - I have to figure back and we have to look at this, the timetable
to remember exactly who has (INAUDIBLE) at that tower and be careful about
overstating that.

But you are right. I mean, the important mart isn`t even just WikiLeaks.
Because the WikiLeaks was acting as an agent for the Russian government,
right.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BAKER: And if that was known at the time, Roger Stone knew that at the
time, he was dealing with the WikiLeaks and he was acting therefore as an
agent of the Trump campaign, that`s the linkage prosecutors presumably have
been looking for.

Now, it may or may not be a legal link or illegal. You know, Joyce would
know better than I do. There`s a whole big debate as to what constitutes
conspiracy, that`s the legal term, not collusion but we are beginning to
see some dots being linked together. And we will see when these
indictments, if there are indictments, come out to see how far they go.

MATTHEWS: The narrative, Joyce, that I think would work even with some
Republicans who are continuing to face voters, I don`t mean that Ryan
Costello or Charlie Dent or Flake or in those characters because they don`t
count as Republicans as far as I say because they don`t face Republican
voters, but what seems to work perhaps if we still lived in the age of
Watergate where there good Republicans who faced reality, faced evidence,
if you can show that Trump has been in bed with the Russians in terms of
financial support for years in his business, if you can show that he had a
happy idea about getting help from them in the campaign, that he had
interlocutrices like Roger Stone and getting that information to him and
encouraging its use by WikiLeaks to destroy Hillary Clinton, it seems to me
you have a narrative there of collusion. Right there. And throw in the
tower meeting in June with his son there.

VANCE: Yes. I think that that`s right. And we don`t know exactly what
Mueller has. You know, he could be about to reach a conclusion that
there`s simply insufficient evidence that there is any sort of conspiracy
between Trump or folks in the campaign and the Russians, but he could also
be sitting on something that would be enough to convince even the most
stalwart Republican.

There are a lot of puzzle pieces that just don`t fit there, Trump`s
business dealings with Russian, there is the, you know, Trump tower Moscow
deal that was going on during the campaigns. There`s the change to the
Republican Party platform during the campaign that significantly weakens
the Republican Party`s stance for its Russian activity in Ukraine. So
there are a lot of pieces and we don`t know what sort of evidence Mueller
has developed in an effort to make them all fit together so that we can
understand them but it could be that the time at which this is all brought
down whether it`s an indictment or a report that goes on the hill, there
will be a lot of movement on the Republican side as regards to where this
President sits with them.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, tonight in your report, and we don`t have the report
yet for the “Associated Press” here putting out tonight, but what is it
that really explains? I want to get back to where we started tonight. Why
is Trump so angry, so jittery? He is shooting of in every direction making
ridiculous charges with Stone hold out even among the crazies about the
fact that somehow Robert Mueller, some you know, local hack Democrat. He
is not that at all. He is a public servant put in office by Republican
Presidents.

Let me ask you about what`s driving Trump crazy. Why is he running around
like the mad hatter in the White House these last three days?

LEMIRE: It is two things, really. First of all, there is a sense that the
investigation could be closing in. Perhaps not on the President personally
but those close to him as we said. Perhaps even members of his own family.
Also the Mueller probe is suddenly in his face again.

Let`s remember that for months now, the President was able to focus on
these midterms, night after night attending rallies across the country,
appearing before adoring crowds, delivering, you know, harsh rhetoric of
the Democrats, pumping up the caravan as a threat to national security.
That`s what he is (INAUDIBLE). That`s what he loves to do is to be in that
element. That`s over now. It`s almost like coming down from a sugar high
and now he is back to the day-to-day governing and in particular trying to
deal with this Mueller probe. Trying to come up with the written answers
to these questions that have been submitted. And while also coming under
siege for his performance in Paris when he didn`t go to the American
cemetery to pay tribute to the World War I dead, fighting you know,
fighting officers from the hill and also bracing for the Democrat takeover
of the House of Representatives which will open up a whole another slew of
investigations into the west wing.

MATTHEWS: Home alone.

Thank you so much, Joyce Vance.

Thank you Peter Baker and Jonathan Lemire.

Coming up, a resolution in Florida`s hotly contested Senate race, it is
going to have to wait until Sunday, at least. That`s the new deadline after
a hand recount was ordered today. What`s the end game here for Democrats?
Because, you know, if the senator is still behind the vote of about 12,000
votes. Could this valid all the way to the Supreme Court? Not exactly
friendly territory for Democrats.

Plus, President Trump today hosted several events focusing on the military
claiming he was - he has done a lot for them, he says. But for a man who
campaigned to a no more stupid wars, he sent thousands of troops to the
southern border of our country to fight a faux or phony war.

And the Democrats have won the House but do they have a leader? Despite
strong opposition, Nancy Pelosi insists she has the votes to become the
speaker of the House once again.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It was deadline day in Florida`s election recount today, but in – a
resolution in the United States Senate race between Rick Scott and
incumbent Bill Nelson is now – the resolution is going to have to wait
until at least, I figure Sunday, when the hand recount is supposed to be
finished.

Well, anyway, after a machine recount found Scott holding less than a
13,000-vote lead, still within a quarter of a percent margin, a hand
recount was ordered. That`s supposed to be done by Sunday.

All 67 counties in Florida had a deadline of 3:00 p.m. today to finish the
machine recounts. Democrats requested a deadline extension, but U.S.
District Court Judge Mark Walker rejected that request just this afternoon.

Well, this morning, Judge Walker slammed state officials and lawmakers in a
hearing, saying Florida is – quote – “the laughingstock of the world
election after election. And we chose not to fix this.”

He also ruled that roughly 4,000 rejected mail-in and provisional ballots
can be counted. The deadline for that recount – or that count is Saturday
at 5:00 p.m.

Well, President Trump said in an interview that the Florida race should
have been called on election night. He also tried to excuse Republican
losses last Tuesday by claiming – without evidence – that people are
illegally voting, saying: “The Republicans don`t win, and that`s because of
potentially illegal votes. When people get in line that have absolutely no
right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes, they go to their
car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote
again. It`s really a disgrace, what`s going on.”

All that, of course, is made up completely.

I`m joined right now by Florida Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings
and Marc Caputo of Florida, a senior writer for Politico.

Marc, a very general question. I know states. I grew up in the Northeast,
big cities, ethnic and all that. I know there are certain cities where
there are questionable votes. Theodore White used to say there`s certain
states where you could actually count on the vote being exactly as it comes
in, like Minnesota, Wisconsin.

They don`t have all this big city thing going on with machines and all that
stuff, politicians who live to be elected, so they can make a living.

My question to you, is Florida a generally honest state?

MARC CAPUTO, POLITICO: Well, that`s probably a trick question. Does
Florida always get elections right?

MATTHEWS: It`s not. I`m asking for hope here. Go ahead.

CAPUTO: Well, you`re probably in the wrong state or talking to the wrong
reporter if you`re looking for hope.

But what I can say is, is that we have a history of election controversies
and snafus, to put it mildly. Certainly, starting in 2000 was our biggest
election meltdown. Compare that to basically a Category 5 hurricane, very
powerful. This looks like kind of a Category 1 storm, where we had a
little damage to the roof and to the windows, and it`s really a wakeup call
the fix the elections machinery, as well as to fix some of the elections
laws and perhaps pump some more money into the system.

MATTHEWS: Nice try, Marc, but it`s not an act of God, what`s going on.
It`s an act of man.

I want to get the congresswoman in here.

You were police chief. You know what law and order means.

What is it about this – let`s just be fair. There`s been no evidence of
cheating. Nobody – Trump`s just made this up. It`s trumped up again.
There is some screw-ups about deadlines.

But I always wonder, why do your state – why do you set these deadlines,
but you also set these requirements that everything has to be counted?
Every vote has to be counted, and the recount by machine, and then a
recount if it`s still closer by hand.

But it all has to be done, but it also has to be done by dates. It`s one
or the other to me. Complete, done, get the job done, or meet these
deadlines. And you can`t do both.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA: Well, Chris, I tell you, Florida is
certainly the state that keeps you up every election night.

And when you listen to what the judge said, look, it`s embarrassing. I
wish he hadn`t said it, but I clearly understand it.

What we should be concerned about in Florida, from the governor, certainly
the president, if he`s going to interject himself into Florida politics,
and every voter is that every vote is counted. Every person deserves that.

And you`re right, multiple deadlines. We should be concerned about every
vote, those who went to the polls, those who mailed their ballots, the
provisional ballots.

MATTHEWS: Let`s start with the tricky stuff.

I will go back to Marc and then come back to you.

You know, when I write a check or I pay for something at a Starbucks or
something, I write Chris Matthews. I don`t write Christopher J. Matthews.
And they take it. And it all gets paid in the credit card.

You do that in Florida, your vote doesn`t count.

CAPUTO: Well, possibly. It depends on how you`re voting.

MATTHEWS: Possibly?

I`m told, if isn`t the same as you have filed out your registration, if it
isn`t all the same, if it isn`t Christopher J. Matthews with two T`s, if
it`s anything that doesn`t look like that, it doesn`t count. Isn`t that
the case?

CAPUTO: That can be the case if you are casting an absentee ballot and
your signature on your envelope that you mail the absentee ballot back in
doesn`t match the signature on file.

And one of the arguments that Senator Bill Nelson is making – and with
some measure of success – is that there are not very clear standards and
there aren`t consistent standards from county to county. And that`s
probably where your biggest problem comes in for people who are casting
absentee ballots.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, let me ask you about the Democrats.

Senator Nelson is back by – he`s down by 12,000 votes. They have just
done a recount. I guess it`s about the same. It`s about 12,000.

Why do a handwritten – hand count and expect it to be much different?
What`s he`s trying to do? He`s got all these hot shot lawyers down there.
They`re just keep litigating and litigating. To what effect?

DEMINGS: Well, Senator Nelson has been a great senator for our state.

I think, when you look at his record of service, he deserves for every vote
to be counted. And I think the hand count really gives us an opportunity.
If your grandmother went to the polls, didn`t take her glasses, she circled
in the bubble next to a certain name, Senator Nelson`s name, but not the
exact bubble, a hand count can show what her intention was.

And I think, just like Marc was saying with the signature, if you leave out
your middle initial, your ballot still should count.

And I just think that we – if we`re serious about making sure that one of
the most basic rights given to us is honored, then we should do the hand
count.

MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds really – look, that`s – how can I dispute
that?

Let me ask you, Marc. In this case, the Democrats are going to the court.
The last time around, in 2000, it was Republicans who effectively went to
the Supreme Court and got the whole Florida thing thrown out. And,
basically, they gave it to W.

This time around, why would the Democrats, Senator Nelson and his lawyers,
think that they`re going to get any satisfaction from this Kavanaugh`ed
Supreme Court?

CAPUTO: Well, two things here. Number one, they have to have a manual
recount under Florida statute. The margin in the race is less than a
quarter of a percentage point.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CAPUTO: So, under law, there has to be a recount.

Now, the problem for Bill Nelson is margin. He was down by 12,562 votes
before the recount began. And now he`s probably down by about the same
margin after the recount. And what he needs to do is, he needs to find
more votes.

And because Florida has various laws which disqualify ballots that, if they
were cast in other states, would probably be considered valid, he wants to
expand the pool of ballots, expand the pool of potential votes, to be able
to essentially expand the electorate and have a shot at winning. That`s
why.

Now, he has had a measure of success. Today, Judge Walker did rule at
least partly in his favor to allow a number of absentee ballots, as you
mentioned earlier, to be considered.

The problem, though, that Bill Nelson has is time and math. He has a bunch
of these different lawsuits that are pending. Not all of them will get
accepted 100 percent. And then there`s also just a math problem.

He has such a big margin he has to overcome, that it`s really difficult to
see how, considering the state`s voting rates and voting patterns, he can
make up that difference.

For instance, if there are only 4,000 ballots – we don`t really know the
exact number – that are going to be kind of counted after people prove
that their signatures are their signatures and their vote should count,
well, he`s down by more than 12,000 votes. So he`s going to need more than
100 percent of the 4,000. You need 110 percent, kind of coach`s math.

And, well, you can`t really do that, even in Florida.

MATTHEWS: So I guess it`s like the base – batter in baseball who runs out
the fly ball knowing it`s going to be caught, but he still runs to first.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, meanwhile, the Democrats` blue wave grew again today
with another flip in a contested House race.

Today, NBC News declared Democrat Jared Golden the apparent winner in
Maine`s 2nd District, defeating incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin. That
brings Democrats` total to 230 seats, giving the party a gain of 35 seats
so far, with a half-a-dozen races still outstanding.

But in an interview with NBC News, Vice President Mike Pence downplayed the
Democrats` victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We made history by
expanding our majority in the Senate. We won some great elections in
governor`s offices around the country.

And we didn`t really see that blue wave in the House of Representatives
come our way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, he`s got the same “Da Vinci Code,” avuncular nature
that Cheney had that we saw, you know, with his bonding.

The Democrats picked up – I thought they wouldn`t have got – up to 40
victories. What is he talking about?

DEMINGS: Well, let me tell you, the vice president can deny all he wants.
We had a blue wave last Tuesday night. And they`re still coming in. The
votes are still being counted. And we`re still picking up seats.

It was a blue wave.

MATTHEWS: Yes, what`s his problem?

Well, you know, he says it in that avuncular way. Well, we know now.

That is so Dick Cheney. It`s pronounced Cheney, by the way.

Anyway, U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings, Marc Caputo, thank you, sir, for
coming on.

CAPUTO: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Despite ditching outings to honor veterans over the
weekend, telling Florida voters to ignore military ballots – that`s
another thing Trump`s doing, to ignore the military ballots, he said –
trying to privatize veterans` care, and sending troops to the border to
defend against an imaginary invasion, President Trump today said he`s done
a lot for veterans.

The truth about Trump and our military veterans – straight ahead.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump pledged to stop fighting stupid wars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unlike my opponent, my
foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy, not destruction.

Our failed establishment has brought us nothing but poverty at home and
disaster overseas. That`s what we have, disaster, the wars we never war.

You`re tired of the reckless foreign policy, the crazy wars that are never
won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But, in recent weeks, his administration is struggling to defend
the continued presence of roughly 5,000 troops at our southern border,
deployed to fight the ultimate phony war against asylum seekers.

President Trump has been under increased criticism for skipping two
veterans events over this weekend, one in France and one in Arlington
National Cemetery.

Then, on Tuesday, a day after Veterans Day, he called for the Florida
recount to end, even though military votes aren`t due in until tomorrow.

Well, according to “The Washington Post,” the president has been angered by
some of the media coverage that implied that he did not respect veterans.
So, today, four days after Veterans Day, the White House organized two
military events to honor veterans.

And Trump also tweeted this message of support: “It is our sacred duty to
support America`s service members every single day they wear the uniform
and every day after when they return home as veterans. Together, we will
honor those who defend us. We will cherish those who protect us, and we
will celebrate the amazing heroes.”

For more, I`m joined by Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One.

Kevin, it looked to me like a makeup, bad weekend, bad optics, bad P.R.,
bad image. He made it up today, he thinks. Somebody at the White House
has encouraged him to make it up to the troops.

KEVIN BARON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, DEFENSE ONE: Yes, I don`t know what the
what the purpose of this was, but it wasn`t a great week for optics, at
least, on how the whole visit to France looked, the border deployment of
the troops, Mattis` trip down.

There – I don`t think it`s done the white us any favors to go through
these events this week.

MATTHEWS: Well, Mattis was – he has sort of an Eisenhower way of meeting
with the troops, Mattis. He`s got a great touch.

And he goes out. And one of the troops got to ask him a question. He
said, what are we here for?

BARON: Yes. And he couldn`t really answer it very well.

It was kind of like Ted Kennedy. You got to know why you want to be
president. You better know why you`re down there.

Mattis has really been on the hot seat from the beginning of this from lot
of people in the national security community, who think that they have seen
right through, that this was obviously a stunt, they will say, that this
has nothing to do with actual security, and Secretary Mattis should act
like a civilian secretary more than a general.

And if he really doesn`t believe that that`s what troops should be used
for, he should resign. A lot of people said that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BARON: I think a lot of people, though, they continually misunderstand how
Secretary Mattis just – he`s very similar to General Kelly, in how they
feel like, look, this is what the president orders. Then we`re going to
carry out the order.

And unless there`s something illegal about it, this is not what – we`re
not going to do it – we`re going to make sure the government runs, and
we`re going to try to tamp things down.

And he stayed out of the press. He barely commented on it until, out of
the blue, after Election Day, he went down there to make this troop call.

MATTHEWS: What is the morale like amongst soldiers? Soldiers read the
papers. They know what`s going on.

And they have scuttlebutt, the old term for chatting up about things. And
don`t they know that they were being used to go down there for a P.R. stunt
to make Trump look tough on immigration?

BARON: Yes.

I mean, across social media, you see plenty of soldiers saying that. But,
privately, no, soldiers, like always, they – they`re told that the
secretary is coming, and they sit and they wait for these troop visits,
whether it`s hot sun in the desert or anywhere else.

But I caution any time anybody asks, what do the soldiers think, because
the military is a bloc on paper, but it`s not a separate voting bloc from
the rest of the country.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

BARON: People in the military still vote their pocketbook. They still
vote for health care. They still vote for family issues.

They also have more concern over national security issues. But for
something like this, I guarantee there`s not an Army soldier down there
thinking, I`m so thrilled I signed up, and this is what I`m being asked to
do.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, look, here`s…

BARON: You could find that about a lot of people…

(CROSSTALK)

BARON: … all over the world.

MATTHEWS: OK, there`s a lot of duty they don`t like.

BARON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s Mattis, the secretary of defense, speaking with
troops yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There`s all sorts of stuff in the
news and that sort of thing.

You just concentrate on what your company commander, your battalion
commander tells you, because, if you read all that stuff, you will go nuts.
You know what I mean?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You will go nuts if you read about – you`re down here – now,
he asked them what their duty was, or they asked what their duty was.

And they said, well, to lay out the concertina wire.

BARON: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: And then after that, he wasn`t sure what the mission was.

BARON: He didn`t say clearly, like he should have, that the mission is
really just to support the civilian Border Patrol troops, not to be
trigger-pullers, et cetera.

But that line – he`s not the first defense secretary that loves to go
outside of Washington and dump on Washington. I just hope all those troops
actually read Defense One at least, because we have been covering a lot of
this.

And they should read a lot, they should know about this, because, like I
said, you people see right through this. There`s nobody, there`s nobody
out there saying, oh, this is a wise use of our troops, 100 percent, we
really believe it.

I mean, even on the right, it`s a whole lot of, well, hemming and hawing.

MATTHEWS: How much is there – I`m hopeful. I`m looking for hope here.

(LAUGHTER)

BARON: Yes, I have heard.

MATTHEWS: That people like Mad Dog Mattis, who is moderating force, even
with that nickname, and that General Kelly, the chief of staff, are really
hanging in there for patriotic reasons, not just the prestige of the jobs?

Can you measure that? Because they`re trying to look out for the country.

BARON: They don`t need prestige.

Yes, those two gentlemen already had plenty of prestige before this role.
General Kelly said to me specifically, before he was leaving his uniform
job, that he was done with Washington, but the president called him back.

But, yes, I think they still see themselves – and I know Secretary Mattis
still sees himself as that buffer, both to carry out the president`s
policies, as – as he`s right to do this – this is the elected president -
- but also to keep the military out of politics as much as possible in this
incredibly hyperpartisan era that we have found ourselves in, in the Trump
years.

And he`s going to keep doing that, whether you like it or not. And this
Border Patrol incident, I think, is one example of that, where you may not
like troops at the border, but that`s what the president ordered. And his
job is to do it, and it`s not a dishonorable order. And so he`s going
to…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you cover this, Kevin. And the sad thing is, as I said
the other night, people who sign up now in this voluntary Army, volunteer
Army, they do it to risk their lives.

They go over to terrible places like there. I always try to think, what`s
it like to be on lookout somewhere in Afghanistan right now all alone?

BARON: We should be talking about Afghanistan or Syria or Africa.

MATTHEWS: All alone, all alone out there in the middle of nowhere, with
nobody around you, and you don`t know who`s coming at – the Taliban is
coming that night. You don`t know that.

And you want to know your country is behind you and you`re not being
misused.

Thank you, Kevin Baron. Thank you, sir.

BARON: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Nancy Pelosi says she`s got overwhelming support in her
bid to regain the speaker`s gavel but 14 Democrats campaigned on not giving
her their support. Will lawmakers go for a new face or get in line behind
one of the most powerful political figures in Washington today?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I intend the win the
speakership with Democratic votes. I have overwhelming support in my
caucus to be speaker of the House and certainly we have many, many people
in our caucus who could serve in this capacity. I happen to think that at
this point, I`m the best person for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier today expressing
confidence that she will be the next speaker of the House even as she faces
her toughest battle yet within her own party to regain control of that
gavel. With Democrats presently holding 230 seats – they may get more –
six more to be counted out there, Pelosi will need 218 votes on the House
floor come January 3rd.

According to “The Huffington Post”, a total of 17 incumbent and incoming
Democrats are prepared to publicly release a letter pledging not to support
Pelosi.

There`s no official challenger for Pelosi at this point. However, U.S.
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, the former head of the Congressional Black
Caucus has told “The Cleveland Plain Dealer” that she`s considering it but
hasn`t made a final decision yet.

I`m joined now by the HARDBALL roundtable. This is a tough roundtable.
Leigh Ann Caldwell is Capitol Hill reporter for NBC News. Michael Steel,
former spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. And Jaime Harrison is
associate chair of the Democratic National Committee.

All of you, lady and gentlemen, who`s going to win?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I think Pelosi is
going to seal the deal. I mean, she has a long road, a lot can happen.
She has her first election among the Democratic caucus, close door, after
Thanksgiving, just in two weeks from now, and then she has the harder
challenge, which is on the House floor, where the threshold is much higher.
She has to get 218.

MATTHEWS: That`s on camera.

CALDWELL: That`s on camera and that will be the big test for all these
people who campaigned not supporting her.

MATTHEWS: So, what do you have? What happens, Michael, if a guy or woman
says I`m not going to vote for her, I`m going to vote against her? Well,
can you get away with not voting for her? Can you vote present?

MICHAEL STEEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No.

MATTHEWS: Won`t that work at home?

STEEL: This is the first live televised vote these folks are going to take
after promising their constituents something very specific – I will vote
against Nancy Pelosi. Sitting on their hands is not going to be an
opposition. They`re going to have to make –

MATTHEWS: So the preposition matters.

STEEL: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

JAIME HARRISON, ASSOCIATE CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Listen,
Chris, I used to run the whip operation for Democrats. And so, the one
thing I`m telling you, the big vote, if you want to take Nancy Pelosi down,
you`re going to have to do in the caucus.

MATTHEWS: No one is going to do that.

HARRISON: And if nobody does that, then Nancy Pelosi is going to be the
next speaker of the House and why did I say that? Because there`s two
different groups here, you have Democrats and you have new Democrats who
just were elected. There`s enough margin in the difference right now where
those new members who said they`re not going to vote, there`s enough margin
not to vote.

But it`s the incumbent Democrats, those people have a decision to make. Do
I give the speakership to Kevin McCarthy, or do I give the speakership to
Nancy Pelosi? And when I run back home, will Democrats in m district be
happy about me giving it to Trump`s BFF, which is Kevin McCarthy?

CALDWELL: The problem with the challenger`s strategy, though, is they –
well, they don`t have a challenger, right? And so, they are waiting for
everything to fall apart and someone will emerge. That`s not really a
plan. And if they don`t have a plan, and they are unable as of now to
organize groundswell against Pelosi and for someone else, that`s a problem
for them.

MATTHEWS: How about these politicians who every time they run for
reelection – I`m not going to give the names, Bill Clinton used to do
this. I`m not running for president. I`m going to serve the full term,
then they run for president. They just do it.

STEEL: That`s a joke, but at the same time, I think the maximum leverage
for the minority for the Democrats is the hard vote is the vote on the
floor. It`s not the vote in the caucus. She has the votes in the caucus
but on the floor, a small group of members, as few as 12 Democrats voting
no and this is a whole new ball game. And the House Freedom Caucus has
created a predicate, the precedent to use that kind of leverage to force a
change at the top.

MATTHEWS: Look at the national numbers on Pelosi, though. I know it`s not
a plebiscite but the national numbers would like that see a different
Democrat as speaker, 46 percent, would like to keep Pelosi, 44 percent.

HARRISON: It`s the same thing for Mitch McConnell. And what, Mitch
McConnell is a leader in the Senate. I mean, in the end of the day, those
things don`t matter, because in 2020, it`s going to be Donald Trump and
whoever is the Democratic nominee. Nobody goes in the voting booth and
says, well, you know, I don`t really like that speaker. They`re going to
talk about whether or not they`re going to vote for Donald Trump and the
Republicans or the Democratic nominee and the Democrats.

MATTHEWS: OK. Put your hands up, right hand if Pelosi is reelected.

Ha! It`s amazing. You think so, too, and you think so too.

Leigh Ann, you think so?

CALDWELL: I think so, yes.

STEEL: Do you know who`s thrilled? Donald Trump.

CALDWELL: Yes.

STEEL: He wants her as a foil for these next two years.

MATTHEWS: Foil or deal maker?

STEEL: Foil. I think there`s a very narrow –

MATTHEWS: Somebody to blame?

STEEL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Republican we had on the other night,
Tom Reed. Tom Reed said that I`m one of these deal-making guys and if
Pelosi says she`ll make deals with Republicans on the other side of the
aisle, I`ll even vote for her for speaker. Do you believe anybody is going
to do that who is running for reelection?

CALDWELL: Well, that`s the rumor going around among the anti-Pelosi
caucus. They think that she`s going to convince Republicans to vote for
her. She said ask her press conference today that she`s going to win with
Democratic votes, but it`s out there.

MATTHEWS: Why would they spread that rumor?

CALDWELL: Probably to undermine her against the progressive especially and
the new freshman.

MATTHEWS: Anybody can do that, Michael?

STEEL: No, I have trouble seeing how any Republican in any district goes
home and wins a primary after voting for Nancy Pelosi.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Point of order, if you vote for the candidate of the other
party, don`t you identify yourself as a member of that other party. I
thought that`s how you see, I`m a Democrat, I`m for Pelosi. The first vote
for the year is not yay or nay. It`s you give the name of your candidate
for speaker.

And if you vote for the other guys` candidate, you`re saying one of them.

STEEL: Well, and we`ve had Republicans over the past couple of years who
have voted for someone other than Boehner or Ryan for speaker –

MATTHEWS: But not the Democratic candidate.

STEEL: But not the Democratic candidate. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: So, what would happen in the parliamentary order if you voted
for the other candidate?

HARRISON: Oh, you can do that, but you`re asking to be primaried when you
get back home. And this is a thing –

MATTHEWS: Do you still get the chairman on the other side?

(LAUGHTER)

STEEL: Open seating in the House.

HARRISON: This is the thing, Chris, like Seth Moulton –

MATTHEWS: He has been so tough.

HARRISON: – who`s been leading this opposition. Say Seth gives the
speakership, Democrats worked their behinds off to win the House and he
gives the speakership to Kevin McCarthy, what do you think the Democrats in
Massachusetts are going to do to him when – in his race? They are going
to crucify him. That will not happen.

So, when they get on that floor, they`re going to have to make decision,
because it`s the same thing that happened in 2016. Do you vote for what`s
her name in the –

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I love you`re a party man. You`re a party man.

The roundtable is sticking with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Leigh Ann, tell me something I don`t know.

CALDWELL: Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, we can add him to the people
to watch for 2020. He told NBC exclusively today, me, that we will see
when he was asked twice if he`s going to run for 2020.

MATTHEWS: Pro-life candidate.

CALDWELL: Yes, pro-life candidate, but he won his reelection in
Pennsylvania, a state Trump won, by 13 points. He says he has the key to
win rural voters. He said he did well there and it could be the path.

MATTHEWS: He`s very liked.

STEEL: He`s the 67th or 68th Democrat to get into this race?

MATTHEWS: Don`t be that way.

HARRISON: I wrote a book, I`m from an early state, I`m going to run for
president.

STEEL: There he goes, 68 right here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what he has going for him? Holy Cross.

Thank you, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Michael Steel and Jaime Harrison. What a
tough guy you are, Jaime.

We`ll be right back tonight with “Trump Watch”. My thoughts for the day.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Thursday, November 15th, 2018.

There`s an old saying that nothing concentrates the mind like that thought
of an imminent hanging, when you face a tragic reckoning, drastic
alternatives come quickly to mind. Well, Donald Trump knows the situation
he is in now. He knows that Robert Mueller could drop indictments of his
family members at any moment, and he could accompany those indictments with
an historic report accusing Trump himself of high crimes, justifying
impeachment and removal from office.

The president also knows that other horrors await down the road when
Democrats grab control the House of Representatives in January and with it
the power to subpoena testimony and documents, including his own tax
returns. He knows that nothing stands in the way of this happening now
that the midterm elections have been held and lost. Nothing but him,
Donald Trump. And what defenses he can stand up between Robert Mueller,
the Democrats and the White House.

Trump has his own weapons, of course. His newly appointed attorney general
could act to stifle Mueller`s actions. He has his own team of lawyers.
And lastly the power of the pardon, no one watching Trump the past two
years doubts his readiness to but all these weapons into battle.

And yet, he seems restless, and worried. Imagining that even with all the
weapons in his arsenal, events are moving against him and his family.

We need not ask what the president`s thinking tonight. It`s clear that
he`s thinking about escape.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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