Trump blasts Retired Navy Seal. TRANSCRIPT: 11/19/18, Hard Ball w/ Chris Matthews.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: The fight over Trump`s attorney general
could be heading to the courts. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Mathews.
There is breaking news tonight from the “Washington Post” on Ivanka Trump
and the use of personal emails for government business. Some of President
Trump`s advisors were reportedly alarmed because it bore striking
similarities to Hillary Clinton`s use of personal emails as secretary of
state. We will have much more on that coming up.
We begin, though, with President Trump continuing to grapple with questions
about his new acting attorney general as three Democrats challenge the
constitutionality of that appointment. The lawsuit filed today in
Washington, Senators Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Mazie
Horono, ask a federal judge to remove Matt Whitaker from the position of
acting attorney general arguing that anyone serving in that role needs
This comes as the President responds to criticism that Whitaker may be
biased against the investigation he now over sees as acting attorney
general. President Trump said he did not previously known Whitaker before
appointing him. Now he is saying he didn`t know Whitaker was such an
outspoken critic of the Mueller probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you know before you appointed him that
he had that record and was so critical of Robert Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not know that. I did
not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such.
WALLACE: And when you found that out?
TRUMP: I don`t think it had any effect. If you look at those statements,
those statements really can be viewed either way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: According to “The New York Times,” though quote “Whitaker first
came to the attention of Mr. Trump because he liked watching Mr. Whitaker
express skepticism about aspects of Mr. Mueller`s investigation.
In numerous media appearances throughout 2017, Whitaker was an outspoken –
was outspoken on the subject, I should say, of the investigation. Here are
some of Whitaker`s views, again, which the President says he was unaware
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is a red line here, and
Bob Mueller doesn`t have the authority currently to look into unrelated
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.
There`s no evidence of anything illegal happening in the 2016 election
related to the Trump campaign.
The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And Trump also said he agrees with Whitaker`s stated view which
you just heard, that there was no collusion in 2016. And he added that he
shouldn`t have to take somebody for the job who has stated otherwise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t think it would have –
WALLACE: He says no collusion –
TRUMP: Chris, I tell you what.
WALLACE: You can starve the investigation.
TRUMP: What do you do when a person is right? There is no collusion. He
happened to be right. I mean, he said it. So if he said there was no
collusion, I`m supposed to be taking somebody that says there is because
then I wouldn`t take him for two reasons. But the number one reason is the
fact he would have been wrong. If he said that there`s no collusion, he is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now the President is also suggesting he might not stand in
the way if Whitaker seeks to stifle the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: If Whitaker decides in any way to limit or curtail the Mueller
investigation, are you OK with that?
TRUMP: Look, it`s going to be up to him. I think he is very well aware
politically. I think he is astute politically. He is a very smart person,
a very respected person. He is going to do what`s right. I really believe
he`s going to do what`s right.
WALLACE: But you won`t overrule him if he decides to curtail –
TRUMP: I would not get involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And joining me now is Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for
“USA Today.” Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor. David French is
a senior writer at the “National Review” and Jonathan Lemire is a White
House reporter for the “Associated Press.”
So John Lemire, let`s just start with you. Look, the President says he
wasn`t aware of what Whitaker was out there saying about the Mueller
investigation. Obviously, in the terms of the role he just walked into
that Trump has just put Whitaker in, the Mueller investigation is front and
center right now. What do you actually know from your reporting in the
White House when it comes to Whitaker, what he had said previously about
this investigation, and what bearing that had on Trump`s decision to
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes. The
President`s claim that he wasn`t aware of Whitaker`s stands defies
credibility (ph). He was very much aware as you read from that report. He
was a fan of Whitaker`s appearance on cable television. That`s where he
first came across the President`s radar. And he was very much aware that
he was very critical of the Mueller probe.
And that was part of his thinking here as to why he is being installed as
acting attorney general. Not just on Mueller but he felt like this was
someone who would be loyal to him. That was always his complaint about
Jeff Sessions. That he recused himself from the Russia probe which he felt
like was not something he shouldn`t have done, but more than that reflected
that he wasn`t loyal to him personally. Like he deemed Bobby Kennedy was
for his brother or Eric Holder was to President Obama. His Roy Cohn if you
will. Of course, that`s not the attorney general`s job but that`s how
President Trump viewed it, that he wanted him to be his own sort of
attorney, if you will.
He has been very frustrated with the push back that he has seen from both
sides of the aisle on the choice of Whitaker. He believed that Republicans
would have his back on this, that he thought Whitaker was someone he could
leave in this post. He wouldn`t be a permanent choice but he could stay in
there as the acting attorney general for a while. But now there`s been
such criticism and such – you saw like this lawsuit today filed, that he
feels like there is pressure now that he might need to move to appoint a
permanent attorney general sooner than he might have wished.
And we saw some of that frustration bubble up in his interview over the
weekend. His tweets last week saying, pushing back against the idea that
Whitaker shouldn`t have that post because he wasn`t confirmed. In fact,
even saying, well, Bob Mueller, the special counsel, he wasn`t confirmed
leaving out the idea. He doesn`t need to be confirmed for that position
and of course had been previously FBI director.
KORNACKI: That is an interesting point to pick up on, Susan. So this idea
that Trump is invoking a 20-year-old law here in on appointments on
vacancies saying that basically 210 days, about seven months, Whitaker
under this original plan could stay in this job without confirmation. The
interpretation there from the White House, this obviously the subject of a
lawsuit right now. We can talk about that in a minute.
But that idea that initially, at least, that seven-month window might take
you through the conclusion of the Mueller investigation because we have
gotten these indications that might be drawing near an end. How do you
feel right now about the likelihood or the potential of Trump being able to
keep Whitaker in this job through the conclusion of the Mueller
investigation? Does that seem less likely now than it did, say, a week
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, I think it does.
We don`t know whether this lawsuit that was just filed will succeed or not,
but it is one more thing that Democrats and critics are trying to do to
just put the White House on warning about Matt Whitaker and about the
concerns about him serving as acting attorney general.
I think the President has been taken aback by the response, heavy response
he has gotten, not just from Democrats, but from some congressional
Republicans against Matt Whitaker in this very crucial job. And I think
they do feel like they need to move forward more rapidly than they expected
to find some kind of nominee. It`s going to be hard to find somebody
President Trump trusts who thinks will have his back who is also going to
be acceptable to folks on the hill.
KORNACKI: And Paul Butler, the fear from critics here is that obviously
they say there is always the potential of Whitaker in this position to try
to kill the investigation completely. But short of that, I`m curious from
the standpoint of critics of this, people who worry about the independence
of the Mueller investigation potentially being threatened here. What are
the steps that Whitaker in this position as acting attorney general, short
of just doing away with the investigation wholesale, what are the steps he
could take in that position?
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, Steve, those concerns may have
already been realized. Under the law, if Whitaker were to fire Mueller, he
would have to notify Congress immediately. But Whitaker has the power to
curtail all of these significant actions, and there`s no requirement that
Congress be told right away. And so Whitaker can say, don`t subpoena Trump
to the grand jury or don`t indict Roger Stone or Donald Trump.
And here`s a crazy thing. Again, if that`s already happened, we wouldn`t
know because under the law, those kinds of actions, those kind of limits by
the attorney general don`t have to be reported until the end of the
But here`s the saving grace. There are right now 36 sealed indictments in
the federal district court in D.C. that`s way more than normal. They are
secret. But we don`t know if they are brought by Robert Mueller or
somebody else. But what was known is that immediately after the midterms,
that the President was going to replace the attorney general with somebody
like Whitaker who might try to impede the investigation, so this could have
been very strategic action on the part of Robert Mueller to try to insulate
the investigation. Again, 36 sealed indictments, 14 filed just since
KORNACKI: Well, David French, hearing the Republicans may be losing a
little bit of patience with this idea. What is your sense of this?
Because the administration, again, is saying here they got 200 days. They
can leave him in the position. You have got Democrats filing suit today
saying, no, it`s unconstitutional on its phase. How long do you think this
is sustainable politically and perhaps even legally for the administration?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: I don`t think it`s
sustainable as Trump wanted it to be. I think that much is very clear.
There is widespread discontent with this move. This is a consequence of a
hasty, ill-considered effective termination of his attorney general without
a replacement lined up. And so, this is something that`s causing a lot of
And I think ironically enough it is working exactly the opposite way that
Trump intended. I think that when you have an acting attorney general who
is already hamstrung an important sense by lacking the unanimous support of
the President`s party, when he is already hamstrung in an important sense,
he now has as a practical and political matter, I think, far less of a firm
hand on the Mueller investigation than you would want to see and an
attorney general who is confirmed by majority of the Senate, comes in under
a constitutionally proper process. Lacking that, he is hamstrung. If he
takes strong action in the Mueller investigation, it`s going to
dramatically magnify the extent – magnify that scandal.
KORNACKI: Susan, if this goes to – happens to take the direction now that
there is an appointment placed before the Senate for confirmation with the
Mueller investigation outstanding, I have got to imagine the Senate
confirmation hearings are going to be almost exclusively about that
PAGE: Yes, no kidding. They will be fierce and, of course, Democrats will
be fierce about it. But some Republicans also are concerned about what`s
happening here and want to preserve standards of the rule of law. And
remember, Republicans hold the Senate, but not by that much. So you could
have a defection of two or three Republican senators. You could have a
nomination in peril.
You also have a President – say he puts forward a nominee for attorney
general who just squeaks through without any Democratic votes. That does
not serve to bolster kind of the public trust that they can believe in
whatever it is that attorney general is going to do and is to be fair and
accurate and in the interest of the rule of law.
KORNACKI: Well, shifting topics a little bit here. We said this at the
top of the broadcast, there is also some breaking news being reported by
the “Washington Post” at this hour. The Post reporting that Ivanka Trump
used a personal email account to conduct government business, sending
hundreds of emails last year, many of them apparently in violation of
federal records rules.
According to The Post quote “some aides were startled by the volume of
Ivanka Trump`s personal emails and taken aback by her response when
questioned about the practice. Trump said she was not familiar with some
details of the rules according to people with knowledge of her reaction.”
Spokesperson for Ivanka Trump`s lawyer acknowledged her use of a private
email, but tried to delineate her conduct from that of Hillary Clinton.
Quote “to address misinformation being peddled about Ms. Trump`s personal
email, she did not create a private server in her house or office. There
was never classified information transmitted. The account was never
transferred or housed at Trump organization. No emails were ever deleted.
And the emails have been retained in the official account in conformity
with records preservation laws and rules.” That again the statement from
Ivanka Trump`s spokesperson.
Jonathan Lemire, what more can you tell us just in terms of context here
with this news just breaking?
LEMIRE: Has the use of a private email server ever been a political hot
button issue lately? Yes, this is coming to light tonight. Certainly this
is less than ideal. Some White House advisors are sort of – were taken
aback as a post reports. Just the sheer number of these. So it began
during the transition and has continued. It is in violation of federal
records rules. But it`s also just, again, it`s a moment of optics.
I mean, of course, every night I covered the Trump campaign. I was there
every night of the rallies, you know. He railed against the use of her
private emails every day. It was a huge talking point. It became the
center piece of everything the FBI did and the James Comey letter at the
end that many people think was the deciding factor in the selection. You
can imagine Democrats across the country tonight are just pounding their
heads against the desk saying like this is happening again, the hypocrisy.
I mean, there are some differences here I just laid out in the lawyer`s
statement. But it is something that just shows – it points again to sort
of the sloppiness of this administration in so many ways. That you know,
it was known previously that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and a few other
key aides had been using private email servers when they first took office.
The sheer volume of it, the fact that it continued, that`s the center piece
of this terrific “Washington Post” story tonight.
But it goes to show that, again, this White House has had such a haphazard
system of having – starting to actually govern, and now almost two years
in they are still grappling with something that should have been addressed
KORNACKI: Yes. And David, I think my reaction is a little bit of what
John was just saying there in terms of if – one of the sort of fundamental
bases of the Trump campaign in 2016 was this email question. They are
pointing to all these distinctions in the statement here, but how would you
not be on top of that from the very beginning after running that kind of
FRENCH: I mean, it`s sloppy. It`s definitely a problem. But let`s be
really clear about one thing. It`s not a minor detail to say that there`s
no classified information on those emails, at least so far as we know. The
inclusion of top secret information in these private emails with Hillary is
something that put it on a whole different plane that implicated
potentially the espionage act. So we are dealing with different orders of
magnitude, but it`s still sloppy. It`s still a problem. It`s still not
what you want to see. This is something that should have been dealt with
immediately at the start of this administration.
KORNACKI: All right. David French, Susan Page, Paul Butler, Jonathan
Lemire, thank you all for being with us.
And coming up, President Trump as the commander in chief of the armed
forces, after missing several military events around veteran`s day, he is
now attacked the retired admiral who led the raid that killed Osama bin
Laden am 2011.
Plus, election night has turned into election week, maybe even election
month. Now finally almost all the races are called so I`m going to head
over to the big board. We are going to take a fresh look at what kind of a
mark this midterm left on our political landscape.
And President Trump seems to want it both ways. He told FOX News that he
won when it came to Senate races this year, but at the same time, he said
he can`t be blamed for any losses because he wasn`t on the ballot.
And finally let me finish tonight with Nancy Pelosi`s fight to regain the
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has touted his support of the military as one of the core
elements of his presidency. But in his interview with FOX News, Trump
attacked a respected retired admiral, William McRaven, the man who oversaw
the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL 37 years, former head of
U.S. operations –
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: Special operation –.
TRUMP: Excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: Who led the operations, command of the operations that took down
Saddam Hussein and killed Osama bin Laden, says that your sentiment is the
greatest threat to democracy.
TRUMP: He is a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer and frankly -
WALLACE: He is a Navy SEAL 37 years.
TRUMP: It would have been nice if we had gotten Osama bin Laden a lot
sooner than that. Wouldn`t that have been nice?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump lashed out again today on twitter writing in part quote
“of course, we should have captured Osama bin Laden long before we did.”
McRaven has been critical of the President`s attacks on the press and his
leadership style. In August he pend an open letter calling for Trump to
revoke his security clearance after former CIA director John Brennan had
In a statement, he responded to the president`s comments, saying: “I did
not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and
President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all
presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of
the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in
Joining me now, Yamiche Alcindor, who is the White House correspondent for
“PBS NewsHour,” and retired Four Star-General Barry McCaffrey, who is an
NBC News military analyst.
General, let me start with you first. And just your reaction to the
president choosing to mix it up like this with a decorated admiral like
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, there
is actually a comical aspect to this.
Admiral Bill McRaven is probably the epitome of a heroic warrior defending
America. He commanded JSOC, career Navy SEAL, Special Operations guy,
modest, sort of a quiet professional type, just widely respected by
everybody in the community that`s run into him, and apolitical.
The senior military leaders are not partisan and will support whoever is
the president of the United States. So his attacks on Mr. Trump must have
hurt badly, and now he`s taking – acting like an eighth grader with this
KORNACKI: Yamiche, when I looked at what the president said here, my mind
went right back to the summer of 2015, when he was at that event on the
campaign trail early in the cycle.
John McCain had criticized him publicly. He was asked about it, Trump was.
And he immediately said, basically, I don`t think heroes get captured –
paraphrasing there what the president said.
And it seemed like the instinct there was just, anybody who says anything
that he perceives as negative, he`s got to find some way to throw it right
back in their face, and it doesn`t matter what kind of status that person
enjoys, in McCain`s case, as a decorated veteran, in McRaven`s case, as
sort of the mastermind of the bin Laden raid.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, “PBS NEWSHOUR”: Well, the president`s motto and what he
lives by is, if someone punches you, you punch them back harder, and then
you punch them again and get someone to laugh at that person.
That`s the way that he got to be president. That`s the way that he`s acted
his entire life. I have talked to so many Trump supporters who are
veterans who back the president`s mocking of John McCain even after John
McCain passed away.
I had a conversation with a farmer and a veteran in West Virginia who said:
Well, John McCain shouldn`t have been captured. He wasn`t really a hero.
Who cares? He shouldn`t have talked about President Trump.
So it`s not only that President Trump can make these arguments and really
pick any fight he wants. And it`s the fact that there are people who will
stick by him throughout all of this ordeal.
And when I heard all that he was saying about this general, I went back to
the idea of President Trump also getting into a fight – into a fight with
a Gold Star family. There was that family whose son died serving the
military, and the president was relentless with that family.
So this is a president who is – as soon as he perceives any sort of
threat, his strategy that he thinks is working and his strategy that he
thinks will carry him to 2020 is to be strong in his mind. And that is –
and that means to never let down his rhetoric.
KORNACKI: It also seems too, Yamiche, it`s – I said right back in their
face, but it also seems part of the instinct here is to take the thing
that`s perceived as a strength, or even the thing that`s perceived as
untouchable – John McCain`s war hero status, McRaven and the bin Laden
raid – and basically say, oh, no, no, that`s not off-limits. I will go
after that, too.
ALCINDOR: I think that that`s very much true.
I think there`s this idea that the president sees any – any part of your
biography as up for game to ridicule you. You think about the fact that,
when he was out on the campaign trail, he ridiculed what Carly Fiorina
I think about that because he`s thinking about, oh, you know what, I need
to get and really – and really get at anybody under people`s skins any way
I can. And, as a result, he will talk about your family. Think of Ted
Cruz, the fact that he was talking about his wife, talking about his
His strategy, though, has worked, which is I think why the president
continue to go back to that place where he can go as low and in the gutter
as he needs to go in order to look strong for his people.
KORNACKI: Barry McCaffrey, the president talks about being supportive of
the military, surrounding himself and his administration with generals. He
talks about the generals all the time.
At the same time, there are instances like we`re talking about right now.
How is he perceived within the military community? How is he perceived?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I wouldn`t want to speak for the active-duty military.
There`s various viewpoints.
I think the “Army Times” polling numbers show his support has been steadily
dropping. That`s neither here nor there. I think the armed forces are and
should be totally responsive, legally and practically, to the commander in
Having said that, it`s not lost on anybody the nature, the sort of inane,
childish attacks on senior leadership. And, by the way, what we should
underscore is our reliance on Secretary Jim Mattis as a law-abiding,
intellectual defense expert to keep the Department of Defense straight in
terms of service to the American people.
We better not end up with an acting SecDef, an acting homeland security,
and an acting attorney general. That would be a concern to the security of
the American people.
KORNACKI: It also seems, when I look at that statement from McRaven
singling out former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, in talking about a
sense of honor in serving in their administrations, serving under their
command, I should say, there is a – almost a ceremonial aspect to the
president traditionally, the president as the head of state, the president
as the commander in chief of the armed forces.
It seems that aspect of the presidency is one that Donald Trump, for all I
can see, maybe isn`t that interested in pursuing, in terms of he`d rather
be engaged in the day-to-day, trying to win the day, political point-
MCCAFFREY: Yes, it`s almost as if he`s actually not working very hard at
this. He spends a good bit of the day watching TV, brooding, tweeting,
attacking his enemies.
And, by the way, to underscore something that bothered me when I see –
hear it in the media, the president has got five roles under the
Constitution, chief of party, chief of state, et cetera. Only one of them,
commander in chief, refers only to the U.S. armed forces. He`s not
commander in chief of anything other than the 2.0 million men and women of
the armed forces.
KORNACKI: All right, General Barry McCaffrey, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you
both for joining us.
And up next, I`m going to head over to the Big Board. We`re going to put
the recent midterms – finally, not all the results are in, but most of
them are in, enough that we can take a fresh look, try to put that in some
perspective, exactly what happened. How are the country`s increasingly
diverse demographics changing our political landscape?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: In this election, the House picked
up, so far, it`s 36 seats. it may be on the way to 40 seats. And your
reaction was that it was almost a complete victory.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I won the Senate. You don`t
WALLACE: But, well – I…
TRUMP: Excuse me. I won the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, the president wants to talk about the Senate. We will
talk about the Senate.
But we will talk about the whole picture here, because Election Day and how
a little bit more than a week in the past, it feels like maybe a lot longer
But the counting, the late vote being counted, being tallied, all sorts of
races that weren`t called election night, they took days to come in. We
now finally have a much more complete picture of what exactly happened and
what exactly didn`t happen in the 2018 midterm election.
So let`s try to take you through all of it. Let`s start on the House side,
because this is where so much of the drama was throughout the year.
Coming into this election all year, we talked about the Democrats being at
193, the Republicans 235. There were those vacancies. Basically, when you
account – put everything into account, the Democrats needed a net gain of
Some of these vacancies, it was clear who was going to win. And the
Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats. This is what it looks like. This
is what our flip chart looks like here. There were three Democratic seats
that Republicans actually picked up.
But, at this point here, you see there are 40 Republican seats that
Democrats have picked up. What that is at this moment, according to our
chart, is a 37-seat net gain for Democrats. That`s where things stand
right now. They needed 23 to get back the House. They have easily
surpassed that. It sits at 37.
And there actually still are a couple of uncalled races. For Democrats,
this one is their best bet right now. This is the 2nd District of New
Mexico. We have not actually called this, but the Democratic candidate is
– you would rather be the Democrat than the Republican. We will put it
Utah 4, a lot of suspense here around Mia Love, Ben McAdams, the Democratic
challenger running against her. Of course, Donald Trump wrote off Mia Love
the day after the election at that press conference.
Mia Love has taken the lead in some of the late tabulations. We still
haven`t called that race.
So, for Democrats, the margin here in the House, they could end up getting
to 38, maybe even 39 seats. There`s even a district in California that`s
been called for the Republicans, but that late tabulated vote has brought
the Democrats tonight within 900 votes. That`s the 21st District in
California. So we`re still keeping an eye on that one as well.
But, again, for the Democrats, one way to look at this – we talked so much
about these Clinton-won districts. These were districts that, in 2016,
they didn`t like Donald Trump. They voted for Hillary Clinton, but they
sent Republicans back to Congress.
A lot of these were suburban districts. This was sort of the first line of
attack for Democrats in 2018. And look how many of these they won. There
were 25 of them coming into the election. And 21 of them, we think, have
flipped; 21 of them have now said, hey, they didn`t like Trump in `16, and
now they`re taking it out on Trump`s party, everybody with that Republican
label, in 2018.
So that was kind of ground zero for the Democratic charge here. But,
again, it extended. They won a lot of those districts that have gone Obama
to Trump. They even won a couple of these districts that were Trump, Trump
– had voted – had Romney, Trump – excuse me – Republican in 2012 and
So that`s the picture on the House side there, again, approaching 40 seats
In terms of the U.S. Senate, what Donald Trump did want to talk about,
again, going into the this election, it was 51-49 Republican advantage
there. So, on paper, the Democrats were within two of taking the majority.
But, of course, we talked so much about how Democrats, what was the
challenge? They were defending so many seats in Trump states.
Trump had won them in `16, Democrats trying to defend them in `18. Well,
as things shake out – this is why Trump wants to talk about it –
Republicans right now 52 seats. They did knock off Bill Nelson in Florida.
They won in Indiana. They won in Missouri. They did get some pickups
We have one race left to go. This is that runoff in Mississippi,
Republicans certainly favored here. If Republicans do win that race, they
will end up with that net gain of two. If Democrats were somehow to win
that, you would be right back where you – you would have 52-48 right
But, again, Democrats, they would look at the Senate, and they would say,
this could have been a lot worse. Republicans would say, hey, the bottom
line is, we did get gains. And Republicans, frankly, would say, it could
have been worse for them at a certain point this year.
Anyway, up next – I think I went over my time here.
Up next: Trump gives himself another A-plus as president, says his White
House is running like a well-oiled machine. But when it comes to results
from the midterms, he was quick to point out his name wasn`t on the ballot.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would give myself an A-plus.
Nobody has done what I have been able to do. And I did it despite the fact
that I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn`t exist.
QUESTION: What grade to you give yourself so far?
TRUMP: So, I give myself an A-plus. I don`t think any president has ever
done what I have done in the short – we haven`t even been two years.
I would give myself – I would – look, I hate to do it, but I will do it.
I would give myself an A-plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has repeatedly given himself the highest grade possible for
his performance in office.
The verdict from the American public two weeks ago on election night was
far more mixed. Despite his party`s less-than-stellar performance,
President Trump is still claiming that the midterm election was a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
TRUMP: Are you ready? I won the Senate, and that`s historic too, because
if you look at presidents in the White House it`s almost never happened
where you won a seat.
We won – we now have 53, as opposed to 51. And we have 53 great Senators
in the U.S. Senate. We won. That`s a tremendous victory. Nobody talks
about that. That`s a far greater victory than it is for the other side.
Number two, I wasn`t on the ballot. I wasn`t…
WALLACE: Wait – wait a minute you said – you kept saying…
TRUMP: No, I said, look at me. I said, look at me.
WALLACE: You said, pretend I`m on the ballot.
TRUMP: But I have people – and you see the polls, how good they are – I
have people that won`t vote unless I`m on the ballot, OK? And I wasn`t on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And for more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable, Beth Fouhy,
NBC News senior editor for politics, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic
strategist, and Evan Siegfried, Republican strategist.
And a bit of news. I was just over at the board a minute ago going through
the – the Democratic gains in the House. And I said that New Mexico 2nd
District race had not yet been called.
Literally, 30 seconds after I finished that, the race was called. Xochitl
Torres, the Democrat, NBC News, has now declared is the apparent winner in
New Mexico`s second district. That is a pickup for the Democrats. That
gives them a net gain, I said 37? It is 38 – 38 for the Democrats in the
House now that that has transpired.
Beth, in terms of the meaning of the midterm election, so it seems – the
question with these is always, we`ve seen a few times the president now, we
saw Bill Clinton, we saw Barack Obama. They came in, they lost the House
in their first midterm. They managed to win reelection.
So, the question about these midterms is always, does it leave a mark that
will still be evident two years later in the presidential election? How do
you feel about this one?
BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: Well, who knows in two years?
In Trump time, every day is a week and every week is a month as we always
I think in this case yes, it`s going to be because unlike the last two
presidents you mentioned, Obama and Clinton, this midterm happened in the
midst of extraordinary economic growth, record low unemployment. The
recovery has been in process for nine years. And President Trump still
lost fairly substantially in the House.
So he can say that he wasn`t on the ballot, but certainly absent any other
major seismic event that could have caused this, what else was there? It
was the conduct of the president in office. People uncomfortable,
particularly those suburban voters, folks who are highly educated who often
voted for Republicans in the past, who are just – who expressed with their
feet in record numbers of voters going to the polls, showing their
discomfort with this president despite all the economic progress that had
been made over many years.
So, certainly, it is a bit of a scar on him.
KORNACKI: Evan, you saw his claim there was, of course, in the midterm, in
the homestretch of the campaign, Trump had been saying, I am on the ballot,
I embrace this. Treat me like it. Now he`s walking away from it.
But he did say to Chris Wallace there, he put the argument out that hey, it
will be different in a presidential election. When my name is on the
ballot, there will be certain voters that show up for that, that don`t for
this. What do you put in that?
EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, he said, I won
the Senate seconds before he said my name wasn`t on the ballot. Then he
said my name wasn`t on the ballot. So, that`s a little bit of a confusing
statement on the president`s part.
I think that the president is this all-consuming entity in American
politics right now. And while his name was not on the ballot, every voter
was there who showed up and was thinking about him. We saw record turnout
that we haven`t seen since before women were able to even vote. We saw
record turnout among younger voters, among African Americans, among
Hispanic voters. Everybody turned out.
Whether you like Donald Trump or not, he was actually good for civic
participation. And I think his name was not on the ballot officially, but
it was certainly on the minds of every voter.
To what Beth was saying with the economy, the House won percentage by
Democrats is looking like it could be 8 to 9 points when all the votes are
finally tallied. That is extraordinary. And when we have great economic
times, the things Republicans missed was that – or the majority of the
country said they didn`t feel like they were benefiting from it. It`s like
you go on Facebook and you see these great pictures of the party and you
realize you`re not invited.
The Democrats won. People 2-1 who said their economic situation is not
improved under this president.
KORNACKI: Well, in terms of Democrats looking to sort of maintain this for
– we saw Republicans in 2010 have a big 63-seat gain in the House. If you
took the House popular vote, they won it big. 2012, Mitt Romney didn`t
lose, on election night it wasn`t that suspenseful as things turned in
So, for Democrats to avoid that kind of whiplash in 2020, what do you think
the biggest trap is for Democrats coming off a strong performance like
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it`s going to be two
things. One, the Democrats cannot get caught up in this infighting that`s
starting to surface around trying to dethrone Nancy Pelosi. It`s
completely raining on the big parade and a big win of picking up 38 seats
in the House, and taking back the majority. So, that`s one issue the
Democrats need to control.
The second thing is going to be about the candidate. The reason why we
also saw record turnout, especially on the Democratic side is because
people were fired up about the folks that were running. And a lot of those
folks didn`t exactly win, but because they were running, they brought more
And so is 2020 going to produce the same kind of enthusiasm and galvanize
the hopes and the dreams in the minds of all these young people, all these
people of color, all these progressives, all these women in the suburbs and
beyond who came out this time, that`s going to be the trick and the
question. And I think it`s going to matter who actually the nominee is in
KORNACKI: Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, you just set that one very nicely
because today, 16 Democrats signed the letter saying they will vote to
oppose Nancy Pelosi for House speaker. They write, quote, we promise to
change the status quo and we intend to deliver on that promise.
Now, currently counting the races that have been called, Democrats will
have 233 seats in the upcoming Congress. Remember, there are a couple
still not called yet. Pelosi will need 218 votes, the absolute majority on
the House floor in order to win the speaker`s gavel. She can lose only
about 15 votes right now by this map. While that letter has 16 names, one
of the signees on it, Ben McAdams of Utah, he`s in a race that is yet to be
called, he may lose this race. So, it`s a bit of a fluid situation.
But it`s interesting, Aisha, you just said, you don`t think Democrats
should depose Nancy Pelosi. A lot of these Democrats, a lot of the
messages in the campaign this fall was, I will not vote for Nancy Pelosi,
it`s time for the party to move forward. Why do you feel strongly about
MOODIE-MILLS: Here`s the thing, and this is really frustrating me. Nancy
Pelosi has been the most successful speaker of the House in 100 years.
What this woman accomplished during her career, I mean, the list is long in
terms of all the legislation that she passed. She is deft and a maneuver.
If someone can possibly whip and navigate the work that needs to be done in
Washington right now, then there may be an alternative. These folks are
saying, not Nancy, but we don`t have anybody else. It`s insulting and I
think that is also sexist.
And the last thing I`ll say is it really frustrates me that we have this
very, very, very right wing faction of the Democratic Party that is trying
to dethrone her. I don`t think that that`s the future. I think that`s
going backward –
KORNACKI: When you say right wing, what is the right wing faction look
MOODIE-MILLS: The folks again her are extremely conservative. They are
not moving forward with what the Democratic Party says it`s wanted. The
enthusiasm I talked about, of the voters who came out, came out because
they believed in something around progressive ideals.
And so, to then regress back into this blue dog mentality, I don`t think is
the way forward. And I don`t think that those are the people who are going
to excite folks for 2020. I do not think it is a winning strategy.
FOUHY: Yet the ironic thing is Nancy Pelosi is so good at managing those
different factions. I mean, that`s what she`s been good at throughout this
entire time as a Democratic leader, because the factions are going to
exist. They`ve existed before, they`re going to exist in the future.
She knows how to work with these groups, get them all united behind a
message, behind a strategy. That is something that these Democrats very
much need, going into this confrontational posture with President Trump.
He`s a very difficult guy to run against or to oppose. Pelosi has the
experience and has the know-how to do so.
And yet there is a need for some new leadership, and she has even indicated
that she would –
KORNACKI: But isn`t that – that is – that`s the knock you hear on her
from some Democrats. I covered the House ten years ago and I remember
hearing it then. It was that – Nancy Pelosi was a shrewd inside player.
But one of the things she understood was self-protection.
And that meant insulating yourself from anyone who might be a long-term
threat to your leadership. And we`re sitting here in 2018 saying,
Democrats, you got Hoyer who is 79, Pelosi who`s 78, Clyburn, 70. Is that
a consequence of Nancy Pelosi being a skilled inside player and protecting
SIEGFRIED: Absolutely. Listen, you don`t even have a bench. You have a
stool at this point for the Democratic Party.
The other thing that`s happening here, the American people two weeks ago
went out and voted because they were sick and tired of the chaos in
Washington. They want Congress to function and actually get results for
the American people.
And when you start – right out of the gate – having a leadership fight
which is turning over to drama and infighting, that`s not healthy. It`s
not healthy when you have incoming members having sit-in protests and
acting like activists now in Pelosi`s office. They have now been elected.
They have been chosen to govern. They are now part of the government which
they are protesting, and they need to put on their adult pants and actually
say, we are here to govern.
If they don`t do that and continue on this righteous crusade, I see the
Democratic Party moving further left and where the Republican Party was in
2010. We got the Tea Party. They felt they were entirely righteous on
their own cause, and look at the dysfunction.
KORNACKI: Brinkmanship at 2012, you had Newt Gingrich in 1995 probably
helped Bill Clinton get reelected – all the variable, if Congress changes
hands, there is a new variable there obviously in D.C.
The round table staying with us. Up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know. Very easy job.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Beth, tell me something I don`t know.
FOUHY: Joe Biden, he`s coming up with a paperback version of his book
about his son and his son`s death. He`s going on a book tour out west,
next week. He`s going to California, Montana, a whole bunch of places.
Again, among speculation he will or will not run for president, we`ll see
if we get any more –
KORNACKI: That speculation will be coming to a head.
SIEGFRIED: Last week, the president actually did something good. He
endorsed the First Step Act which gives more judicial destruction to
federal judges and actually helps to end the racial disparity of African
Americans being sent to prison.
But you wouldn`t hear it from the Republican Party. There are several
Republicans who support it. The party didn`t back up the president when he
came out in favor of it. This is yet another missed opportunity including
Philando Castile`s murder at the hands of a police officer, as well as
Jemel Roberson`s (ph) for the party to make inroad.
KORNACKI: All right. Aisha, can we get in 10 seconds.
MOODIE-MILLS: Beto O`Rourke is going to be drafted by Democratic donors.
KORNACKI: All right. Aisha Moodie-Mills, Beth Fouhy, Evan Siegfried,
thank you for being with us.
And when we return, let me finish with the two different versions of Nancy
Pelosi. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with the two versions of Nancy Pelosi.
There`s the Nancy Pelosi that Republicans love to run against, and that
plenty of Democratic candidates, especially this year, tried to run away
from. This Nancy Pelosi is a liberal Democrat from a liberal city, San
Francisco. She is also a guarded public communicator. It makes her
especially vulnerable to caricaturing.
And all that coupled with the fact that individual congressional leaders
tend not to be that popular to start with – well, it helps to explain why
polls like this show that Americans tend to have a much more negative than
positive view of her, and all of this explains obviously why Republicans
tried to make the midterms a referendum on Pelosi this year, and why so
many Democrats distanced themselves from her, and why there`s even a
question of whether she`ll actually get to be the next House speaker even
after an election that for her caucus can only be called a smashing
But there is another Nancy Pelosi, too, a political leader who absolutely
excels when it comes to the inside game of politics. And when it comes to
Congress, it is still the inside game that defines power and legislative
success, and also personal survival. Nancy Pelosi has been at this for a
long time now.
Her big breakthrough came 17 years ago back in 2001 in a race for the
number two spot in the House Democratic leadership. Not surprisingly, the
most liberal Democrats in the house were with Pelosi in that race, but if
that`s all she had back then, she would have lost. And Pelosi knew that.
And she knew how to build a much bigger and a much broader coalition, a
She made an alliance that was totally ad totally at odds with her public
image. She teamed up with a gruff, old school Democrat from Pennsylvania,
John Murtha, antithesis of a San Francisco Democrat. Murtha had a lot of
friends, friends you would not expect to be Pelosi supporters, but that`s
what they became. And Nancy Pelosi won that election.
And now, maybe, she is about to become, excuse me, the House speaker again.
There is a new letter today from 16 Democrats pledging that they will not
support her on the House floor. But one thing is still missing, someone to
actually step forward and run against Pelosi.
There is still silence on that front, and that has everything to do with
how she has played the inside game all of these years. How behind the
scenes she has managed the competing power centers within the Democratic
caucus, how she has insulated herself strategically, even at times
ruthlessly, her critics like to say, from potential threats to her
Knock on Pelosi from Democrats is that she`s been so good at protecting
herself, that it`s inhibited the development of a robust bench of emerging
talent, a new generation of House Democrats who can take the torch from
Pelosi and the other Democratic leaders – Hoyer, who is now 79 and 78-
year-old Jim Clyburn and carry that torch into the future.
That is an issue for Democrats to grapple with if they want to. But in
this moment, when the question is whether Nancy Pelosi will get the
speaker`s gavel back this coming January, just about every move she`s made
on the inside points to the answer being probably yes.
That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.
And “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the