All living presidents attend memorial service. TRANSCRIPT: 12/5/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A get out of jail card. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Trump`s former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn
has told all to investigators. It`s now clear that Flynn who once served
Trump on the campaign, the transition and early in the administration is a
valuable witness for the prosecution. It`s also clear that for Flynn his
cooperation is paying off. It already has, in fact, the special counsel
last night fought a highly-anticipated sentencing memorandum that shows
Flynn has been extremely useful to Mueller`s investigation, crediting Flynn
with quote “substantially assisting the government. Prosecutors
recommended little to no jail time saying that a sentence does that does
not impose a term of incarceration is appropriate and warranted.” Wow.
Well, the special counsel praised the timeliness saying it likely affected
the decisions of related first-hand witnesses to be forthcoming with the
special counsel`s office. He add then detailing the nature of Flynn`s
assistance was partially sealed due to the sensitivity of the
investigations which are described as ongoing.
That means that the most crucial pages, the pages that could provide key
answers to the central questions of the Russia probe are largely redacted,
you can see it there in the page, from the public report that was released
last night. However, we have learned that Flynn participated 19 interviews
with the special counsel and other government lawyers and that he provided
firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between
the Trump transition team and Russian government officials.
Most surprisingly, it reveals Flynn was assisted with several ongoing
investigations, including two outside the special counsel`s probe. That
includes a previously unknown criminal investigation in another inquiry,
both of which are almost entirely redacted in this report.
I`m joined by Ben Wittes, editor-in-chief of “Law Fair.” Eli Stokols is a
White House reporter for the “L.A. Times,” Susan del Percio, Republican
strategist and Mike Quigley, a Democratic congressman from Illinois who
sits on the House intelligence committee.
I want to go to on this Ben. What do you make on this? Last night we
expected a bombshell, instead we got a big teasing document with a lot of
reacted material that tells this guy is a canary. He is saying everything.
He is telling Mueller everything he needs to know about the relationship
between Trump and the Russian ambassador and all that stuff that went on
yet we have to figure out what`s going on between the lines here.
BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF LAW FAIR: Everything – so clearly what
Mueller decided to do here was he needed to communicate to the court what
recommendation he was going to make with respect to Flynn. He needed to
communicate that Flynn had given him everything that he could reasonably
want from him. And he didn`t want, yet, to tell the public what he knows,
what he has found, what he has planning to do. So the document is a very
careful, as you say, tease in which it outlines sort of the mechanics of
what Flynn has done, 19 interviews, substantially assisting in multiple
investigations and encouraged other witnesses by his example to come
forward. But doesn`t actually say anything that he said. And so it leaves
all of that to another day.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Quigley, thanks for joining us. Could you use this
report last night as kind of a flashlight, the point forward as to what
Mueller`s got here? Where he is headed?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think what`s striking
is, what, 17 months into the investigation we are still learning the width
and depth of what the special counsel is looking into. And why does Flynn
matter? For those who forget, let`s just remember what director Comey told
us. That the President himself asked him to go easy on Flynn or the –
what would it take to let it go.
Obviously, there`s a lot of stake here. And we have to remember when what
general Flynn was accused of. It was lying to the justice department or
the FBI about his meeting with the Russians on lifting sanctions. News
stories all day long, all week long, about what those sanctions mattered to
the President about. So I`ll say this, there`s no coincidences in the
Russian investigation and apparently everything is tied together.
MATTHEWS: Well, the President has been characteristically silent on the
memo since its release yesterday. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said of Flynn,
if he had information to share with Mueller that hurt the President, you
would know it by now. He added, there is a Yiddish toward that fits, they
don`t have bupkis. Anyway, we will see what that`s worth.
Let me go to Susan on this. You worked with Rudy. I don`t take this for
anything. He is using Yiddish, firs of all. He doesn`t have anything to
say so he is using Yiddish. I think he gave us bupkis. I don`t think he
had anything to say except he is trying to flack here.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Chris, I think he is
MATTHEWS: OK, good.
DEL PERCIO: That`s my Yiddish on being a little crazy. The President`s
only legal strategy right now is deflection. So of course Rudy Giuliani
goes out there and just says that will make the President happy. That is
they have nothing because that`s what they have been doing all along. And
that`s what the fundamental problem with this White House is in handling
this investigation is that they simply go out and just speak when they
don`t know what they are talking about. And I think this is going to lead
them to, you know, digging themselves a bigger grave than what they already
have because they don`t know what they are responding to.
MATTHEWS: Eli, let me ask you about this. From the beginning, we know the
story of the possible obstruction of justice began when the President went
to see Comey, the head of the FBI and said lay off Flynn. Let him go.
Well, now Flynn has been let go ironically. He got what Trump was asking
for. He`s walking scot-free right now. What do you think he had to give
him to get that get out of jail card?
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, from what we were told 70
hours or so of interviews with the special counsel about his time and his
conversations you would have to think with the President during the
transition, during the campaign. So that can detail – we don`t know what
the nature of those conversations are yet. A lot of that staff is probably
what has been –.
MATTHEWS: But we know the questions they have asked because they asked
about what about your relations with a Russian enjoy, with Kislyak? What
would you talking him about - talking about - sanctions about, what were
the deals you were making?
STOKOLS: Right. Exactly. So the obviously is something that they talk
about, the fact that it is redacted tells you that so much in this report
has redacted. Tells you there is a lot of interesting things, a lot of
shoes left to fall here in this investigation. I mean, the President and
people around him have been telling themselves and telling the public that
this is about to wrap up for some time, almost a sort to make themselves
feel like they can engineer it by saying it. That`s not the case. And
this sentencing memo seems to be an indication that this is not anywhere
close to being over just yet. There are possibly more indictments. There
are possibly more big developments.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Ben, tell me what else do you think is going on here?
Because according to the document we got last night, it`s not just the
Russia investigation, there`s other criminal investigations, there is other
perhaps civil actions, something going. They are really working this guy
Flynn for information to get people.
WITTES: Yes. So Flynn, you know, was involved in a lot of stuff. He was
involved in stuff during the transition that is of interest to the special
counsel. He was involved with Russia stuff from before that, right? He
was involved –
MATTHEWS: You saw him in the dinner over there.
WITTES: Exactly. He was also involved in some very weird activities as a
private lobbyist for Turkey.
MATTHEWS: For Turkey, yes.
WITTES: Yes. And you know, so I think there`s a variety of matters that
both the special counsel and the justice department would be interesting in
talking to him about. Now, what those are, you can see where they are in
the document, a criminal matter and then a big blank spot. You can see
where it is but what those consist of, nobody knows. Bob Mueller doesn`t
want us to know yet and, you know, he runs a really tight ship and we just
don`t know yet.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I`m wondering about how much information that has
fled already to the President through Whitaker, his acting AG. If Whitaker
got ahold of this documents before they were redacted, he would know a lot
of stuff that we would like to know right now and he could walk it over the
President and say guess what, Donald, here is what we got. Here were they
are working. Did they know, does Whitaker know what`s on this redaction?
QUIGLEY: Obviously the appointment of Mr. Whitaker was meant to, at the
very least, slow or hinder the investigation if not obstruct or end the
investigation. So the fact that he`s there and potentially, we just don`t
know, has access to the redacted words in this document is particularly of
concern. If he turned it over to the President, at the very least they
would be wildly unethical if not violation of the department of justice
regulations. And we have to ask ourselves and Congress needs to find out
did he do this and has the President asked for this information? What
communication is taking place? And obviously if the President asks for it,
it would be another one of his abuse of powers.
MATTHEWS: Right, but he`s not been - he has not recused himself, Whitaker,
at all. Why wouldn`t he just ask Mueller`s team? Let me look at that un-
redacted. I want to know what`s in there.
STOKOLS: Right. That`s been his sort of - reflects his behavior.
QUIGLEY: Again, because it is unethical.
STOKOLS: Yes. I mean, that`s what Trump has done at the various points.
He has tried to just paper over things and he has made the situation a
whole lot worse at different points. We are talking about the situation in
terms of what conversations Flynn had with Kislyak during the transition.
And the central question being whether he was directed by Trump? Did Trump
know about these things, the conversation? Trump was down in Mar-a-Lago
when Flynn was having these conversations.
But Trump, after Russia decided not to respond to Obama expelling some of
the Russian diplomats, Trump tweeted “I knew Putin was very smart.” So he
has already put information out there into the public realm already that is
at the very least suspicious.
MATTHEWS: Speaking of suspicious, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, who
may be Mueller`s next target, is declining to cooperate with a Senate
investigation by asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate
himself. Here`s what Stone said about the scrutiny he`s been from the
special counsel and the Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think few Americans could
withstand the kind of legal proctological examination Mister Mueller has
had me under for two years. I`m not going to stop defending myself. I
think in American, when people accuse you publicly of wrongdoing and you
are silent, there`s an immediate assumption that you are guilty of
something. I think it`s incumbent on you to get out there and defend
yourself with the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to plea the fifth if you get called by
STONE: I`m going to assert my Fifth Amendment rights as a better way to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it is a different way of putting it but it is putting the
same point out there. Stone`s decision to plea the fifth is especially
notable because of what Trump said after the FBI`s investigation of Hillary
Clinton`s emails. Here`s Trump on the Fifth Amendment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Her staffers taking the
Fifth Amendment. How about that? So there are five people taking the
Fifth Amendment, like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the
fifth. If you are innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is he asking that to Roger Stone?
Anyway, Stone`s decision to stay silent and take the fifth also comes after
the President on Monday praised Stone on twitter for promising not to
testify against him.
Susan, let`s talk about this here because why would Roger Stone take the
fifth if he says I have got nothing to use in prosecuting Trump, anything I
say will be honest, it is not going to hurt him. Who is he protecting?
Himself, I guess.
DEL PERCIO: Well, that and the President to some extent in that every time
that the President is under major scrutiny as in we saw with the document
yesterday with Flynn, Roger Stone pops up and makes more noise as to
detract from some of the real scrutiny that the President is under. So I
think this is actually one of these political tactic by Roger Stone who
likes to get his name out there and cause a diversion.
One of the things that I am actually concern about is looking back at Flynn
and also Michael Cohen because also they have one new person that they both
have in common which is Don McGahn. And he sat there for 30 hours giving
Michael Cohen`s statement said that he kept White House counsel apprised of
what he was doing. And we also know that Sally Yates went to Don McGahn on
Michael Flynn. I would be focused on those 30 hours because it seems to me
that Don McGahn is the one who can verify and not be a tainted witness for
Mueller. So I think that`s where we should keep our focus on, not Roger
Stone who seems to just like to show up and make noise.
MATTHEWS: Well, he is fascinating.
Thank you Ben Wittes.
Thank you, Eli Stokols, Susan del Percio and U.S. congressman Mike Quigley
Coming up, Democrats in Wisconsin, like in Illinois, are calling it a power
grab. Overnight the Republican-led legislature out there passed several
bills meant to take power away from the newly elected Democratic governor
and state attorney general, both Democrats. We are going to talk to a
Wisconsin state senator about this power grab by the lame duck Republicans.
Plus, it was an emotional day of celebration and remembrance for the 41st
President, George Herbert Walker Bush. We are going to have the highlights
And much of special counsel Robert Mueller`s probe remains a mystery and
the Michael Flynn filing last night didn`t really clear things up. It just
teased a lot. What does it mean for Trump and those close to him?
Plus, let me finish with a strong suggestion for Beto O`Rourke. You will
know what it is.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In the dark of night the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature
approved the sweeping package of bills weakening the powers of the incoming
Democratic governor and the incoming Democratic attorney general of the
state. Republicans spent much of last night working behind closed doors
until roughly 4:00 in the morning when they unveiled their final bill.
The lame duck legislation, among other things, will limit early voting,
thereby suppressing the vote. It also gives lawmakers new power to block
the governors who voted to make rules to enact laws and puts lawmakers, not
the attorney general, in charge of litigation allowing them to keep alive a
lawsuit to overturn, guess what, the affordable care act. The bill passed
both chambers amid cries of “shame” from outraged onlookers and state
residents. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. FRED RISER (D), WISCONSIN: Let`s face it, the Republicans this
year are very poor losers.
STATE SEN. JANET BEWLEY (D), WISCONSIN: The people spoke, Walker lost, and
now we are here to change the law so that you can claim some sort of
victory. Claiming a victory that you do not have by changing law to
accomplish the things that are completely contrary to what the winners
campaigned on is disgraceful.
STATE SEN. CALEB FROSTMAN (D), WISCONSIN: I have been sick to my stomach
this entire time and weak in the knees. And I find it pretty telling that
not a single member of the majority has spoken on any of these bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, ahead of the vote, the Republican assembly speaker Robin
Voss defended the lead for legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEAKER ROBIN VOS (R), WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY: We don`t believe any one
individual should have the opportunity to come in and with a stroke of the
pen eliminate laws that have been passed by our legislature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Any individual. He is talking about the new governor. Any, the
bill now heads to outgoing Governor Scott Walker`s desk who signal head
would, of course, support the bill.
Senate Republicans in Michigan are advancing similar legislation during the
lame-duck session this fall.
For more, I`m joined by Wisconsin state senator and assistant minority
leader Janet Bewley and Charlie Sykes, contributing editor at the “Weekly
Senator, thank you so much. Give us a sense of is this something – I
always look to Wisconsin as one of the clean states, at least historically.
It was progressive, obviously. It believed in good government, clean
elections, honest votes, all the good stuff. About 20-some years ago, 30
maybe, it started to get corrupted by a hard-right faction coming in there.
Is there something wrong with Wisconsin now, that they are screwing around
JANET BEWLEY (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: No.
MATTHEWS: … this lame-duck session? What`s going on?
BEWLEY: Well, first of all, thank you very much, Chris, for having me on.
It`s great to be joined by Charlie as well.
Let me – let me state, first of all, that Wisconsin is a wonderful state,
and there are many, many people in our state who are working hard, like I
am, to make sure that the will of the people is heard.
What we have seen is the actions of the Republican majority at this time.
I wish I could say that the Republican majority is acting according to the
will and the demeanor of the people, but they`re, frankly, not.
They lost an election. They`re sore losers. And they want to change the
law so that they can continue to be involved.
And we are listening, the Democrats and I, very, very clearly to the will
of the people. And we`re going to do everything we can to make sure that
their will is heard and followed through.
MATTHEWS: Well, some of this is usual suspects, Charlie, stuff like
limiting the amount of early voting. I mean, Republicans like to close the
window on voting as much, as tightly as possible, so only lesser people
come to show up.
This other thing about making it harder to protect Obamacare, it looks like
they`re just going through everything that they care about and acting like
they won the election by pulling these legislative tricks.
CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, it`s likely the restriction
early voting will be thrown out by a federal judge.
Look, like, Napoleon once said that it was worse than a crime. It was a
blunder. And what the Republicans have done has really been a self-
inflicted wound, because this comes off as petty, vindictive, and I think
it will backfire.
And I`m hoping that Scott Walker will step back and take a moment of
reflection and veto this legislation. And the argument that I would make
to him, if he ever listened to me anymore, would be, look, look at the way
George H.W. Bush is being remembered and the way that he handled his
transition after his very, very bitter defeat by Bill Clinton, the grace
with which he handed over power.
And I do think that Governor Walker needs to reflect on the kind of legacy
he`s going to leave, because, look, this is a power grab. And, ultimately,
either it`s going to be thrown out by the courts, or it`s – believe it or
not, it`s relatively minor stuff.
The advantage they gain just is not worth what they look like to the rest
of the country. And I don`t think he fully probably grasps at this moment
how bad this looks, what it will mean for his image and for his legacy.
And if he wants to step back and say, you know, having watched the funeral
of President Bush, this would be a moment to celebrate democracy, which is
to celebrate the norms and the peaceful and reasonable transition of power,
and if he did that and he vetoed it, I think there would be a tremendous
amount of goodwill gained.
MATTHEWS: So, you`re hoping he will skip the Mickey Mouse stuff.
BEWLEY: Well, and…
MATTHEWS: Let me go look at this.
Last month, during the midterm election in November, Wisconsin Democrats
won all five of the statewide offices that were up for grabs, all five. In
fact, Democrats won 53 percent of the popular vote for the Wisconsin State
Assembly, but due to political gerrymandering, they only 36 percent of the
Senator, that`s a problem, and – but how are they misusing it? Give me an
– tell me what it`s like for them to basically distort the will of the
people, act like they won the election and be able to use tricks to get
what they want done, against what the Democrats ran on.
BEWLEY: Well, if you think – if you look at this extraordinary session
alone, it is a lame-duck session, but it was called before the November 6
And you have an issue, which was Kimberly-Clark, ostensibly the reason why
this session was called. Nothing was done about Kimberly-Clark. Instead,
they changed it, so that they were able to get through these issues that
they wanted to address at the very, very last minute.
And there are two things to keep in mind here. One, the people were not
included in any of this. They had no idea that this was going to happen
until the very last minute. We received bills that were fresh off the
And not only that. Once these bills are enacted into law, if the governor
chooses not to veto them, we have great expenses. The amount of money that
the lawyers who can be hired now by the legislature and the Senate any time
the attorney general does something they don`t want, they can intervene.
And the amount of money they can spend is endless. These are private law
firms that they will now be allowed to hire, when we have in place an
attorney general and a constitutional office to protect law and order in
our state. And yet the Republicans can go out and hire private attorneys
with a limitless checking – checking account.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, what do you think of 2020 in Wisconsin?
Tell me. You`re the political expert. You talk to people all the time out
MATTHEWS: What is your sense of Wisconsin being in play? I mean, it was
one of the Trump states, but not so much – by so much, like Michigan and
Is Wisconsin winnable by a Democrat?
SYKES: Yes, it is.
And, in fact, the kicker, sort of the buried lede of what happened in the
dark of the night, very, very early morning, is that, having pushed through
all this legislation, the Republican legislature killed the bill they had
promised to pass protecting preexisting conditions.
That was a huge issue in this campaign.
SYKES: And Governor Walker and almost every elected official running in
Wisconsin, recognizing how important that was, said, we will absolutely
pass legislation protecting preexisting conditions.
So, on top of everything else that we`re talking about, that, I think, is
going to hang on their – hang on them.
Look, this energizes the Democratic base. There`s no question about it.
This poisons the atmosphere. And Wisconsin is – remains a purple state.
And nothing the Republicans have done in the last 48 hours has strengthened
their hand in 2020.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Wisconsin State Senator Janet Bewley, thank you. Please come back on the
Charlie, you`re always welcome. I love your analysis.
Up next – Wisconsin is clearly in play.
Up next: The current and former presidents gathered in Washington today to
celebrate the life of one of their own.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, today in Washington, and across the country, of course, was a day of
celebration and remembrance of the life of President George Herbert Walker
The casket carrying the body of the 41st president left the U.S. Capitol in
the morning, where tens of thousand had paid their final respects. The
motorcade made one final drive down Pennsylvania Avenue, passing the White
House – there it does – a place Bush once called home.
Well, the Washington National Cathedral was filled by family, friends and
dignitaries from home and abroad. There`s Prince Charles – you see them
there – talking with Colin Powell. And there`s German Chancellor Angela
Merkel with senator Bob Corker. There she is on the right.
Also in the cathedral were all the living former presidents, along with
President Trump and first lady Melania. They`re all together.
The tributes were paid to the man that once held the office in the land.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL BIOGRAPHER: George Herbert Walker Bush was
America`s last great soldier statesman, a 20th century founding father.
BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I believe it will be said
that no occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled,
and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush.
ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He often said, when the really
tough choices come, it`s the country, not me. It`s not about Democrats or
Republicans. It`s for our country that I have fought for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, former President George W. Bush offered a solemn and poignant send-
off, not just to a fallen president, but, of course, to his dad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last Friday, when I
was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the
phone said, “He – I think he can hear you, but he hasn`t said anything for
most of the day.”
I said, “Dad, I love you, and you`ve been a wonderful father.”
And the last words he would ever say on Earth were, “I love you, too.”
So, through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you,
a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could ask.
And in our grief, let us smile, knowing that dad is hugging Robin and
holding mom`s hand again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by former Senator John Warner of Virginia.
Senator Warner, I had to have you on. You`re a World War II guy, a Korea
guy. You know Bob Dole.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: And you saw him stood up yesterday for his old colleague.
WARNER: Oh, that was a moving…
WARNER: He`s a marvelous American.
I knew him very well. I`m always humbled to be in his presence.
MATTHEWS: Bob Dole?
WARNER: Oh, yes.
I was over and having lunch with him the other day, just the two of us and
one or two of his staff. We reminisced about the old times. And he finds
it, as much as I do, tough to understand what happened to all that
wonderful political structure we once had in this country, be it Republican
or Democrat, and how we got along and got things done.
But, you know, the key to it, Chris, is that in the period that Dole and I
were in the Senate together, which was about 30 years I was there, 70
percent of the senators were veterans. And they were taught, either in the
Army, Navy, or the Air Force or whatever, or the Marine Corps, duty, honor,
country, was tattooed on their heart.
And you never get over that. And you know that you have got to do things
and get things done to move forward. And you know you have got to learn
how to respect the man or the woman on your right or your left, because, if
they fail to do their job someday, it could be your life.
Those are the fundamentals.
MATTHEWS: I think you World War II guys knew how to work together.
WARNER: Well, we did.
But generations of young men and women now in service, I just respect them
as equally as I did the old grunts I mixed up with.
MATTHEWS: What was it like in the church, the National Cathedral today?
Was there a mood in there? Or how would you describe it?
WARNER: It was absolutely, quietly serene and dignified, just a little bit
of chatter, people waiting for the ceremony to start.
It was – you just got absorbed in it from the moment the organ struck its
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised at how bipartisan at least today was? It was
like a battle truce.
WARNER: No, that doesn`t surprise me.
WARNER: Because I think that bipartisanship, we saw it with all the
presidents and the first ladies there today. There were a few tense
moments, not that I saw all of it. But you did, perhaps.
MATTHEWS: I`m looking for it.
WARNER: Well, they were there, and they were very dignified about it…
WARNER: … knowing they have feelings.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s hard for someone like Mrs. Clinton.
WARNER: Oh, it`s terribly hard for her.
MATTHEWS: Because the way that he`s been trashing her.
WARNER: Well, not only that, but there`s a question of how it was done.
WARNER: It`s not a proud chapter in our history, this race.
And I think, fortunately, our democratic system is working. And we`re
going to get to the bottom of this thing, how and what did happen and did
not happen. I`m confident of that.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about George Herbert Walker Bush, because you
And what do you think he wants to be remembered by?
WARNER: Just to be a man that is owing everything to pay back to this
He was – I think he – in his final moments – and I knew him reasonably
well. I say that with humility, but I knew him well. He came down and
saved my butt two or three times when I was in political trouble. The hard
right was going to bury me the next morning. But he would come in and
straighten it up.
You know, he exemplified that generation of World War II, the Greatest
Generation. But prior to that – and he and I are two or three years apart
in age – we saw America as youngsters suffering from the Depression.
WARNER: People didn`t have enough to eat. They didn`t have any homes.
They didn`t have any jobs.
He`d seen this transition, and he took it through his own courage through
World War II, then into the public service. And I will bet he said to
himself as he rolled over, I have been a patriot, a soldier, a warrior,
everything, and maybe I had something to make things better today than they
were when I was a youngster.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have to tell you, watching you all the years, Senator, I
saw you stand up against some of the crazies in your party, like Oliver
I saw you stand up for women`s rights and health. You made tough decisions
in your party. You`re smiling because you know you stood up for them, and
you had the guts to do it, to take on the crazies.
And I think a lot of progressives watching now would probably look up to
you right now and say, there`s a man I can respect, even if he`s a
WARNER: Well, I always used to say, country first, state second, OK,
politics, I`m here third.
WARNER: And that infuriated…
MATTHEWS: … Churchill…
I went and gave a speech at the 50th anniversary of his college. And we
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
WARNER: Hey, glad to see you.
MATTHEWS: One of my heroes. Thank you.
Senator John Warner, a great man. And I`m so glad he came over tonight.
Up next: more on what the Flynn sentencing memo, the memo we got last
night, means for Trump and his family, his kids. Are they all in trouble
now? And what it tells us about Robert Mueller`s approach to the whole
investigation. He`s taking it slow, but he`s getting it all.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
While much of the Flynn sentencing memo is hidden for public view, one line
in the filing speaks volume. It`s about the gravity of Robert Mueller`s
investigation in requesting little or no prison time for Flynn.
Mueller`s team wrote: Flynn`s record of military and public service
distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part of the
special counsel investigation. However, senior government leaders should
be held to the highest standards.
Well, I`m joined by the HARDBALL round table today. Yamiche Alcindor is
White House correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour”, Jonathan Capehart is
opinion writer for the “Washington Post,” Ruth Marcus is deputy editorial
page editor of the “Washington Post.”
I want to go to Ruth on this. You know, I was kidding during the break
there. It`s like wheel of fortune, you see some of the words, but you
don`t see all the words. You got to fill them in. What does this tell you
where we`re headed?
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I`d like
to buy a redacted line now if I may. We`re reading tea leaves, but the tea
leaves are they`re blacked out. It tells us probably that Flynn has
provided significant, important and trustworthy information to the special
counsel because basically Flynn has gotten what President Trump asked for
all along which is for the special counsel to go easy on him. No prison
time. You can`t do better than that.
MATTHEWS: He got it through a different route, Yamiche. Trump was going
to get him sprung now, he sprung himself. But it seems to me that Trump
knows everything that Flynn knows, because he watched Flynn do it and told
him to do it, worked with him, on anything to do with Kislyak, the Russian
ambassador, anything on sanctions, Trump knows all about it, in other
words, he knows where he`s vulnerable now.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: I mean, if
you`re President Trump you should be in some ways worried because Mike
Flynn did get basically the Cadillac deal, the idea that you have Mike
Flynn who everyone thought he would be easy to prosecute, a lot of the
things that he did were very, very easy to point out. He was early on in
this presidency, he was pointed out as someone who was going to be in
danger really, really early. And now, you have this.
He sat down for substantial interviews. He`s gotten information. They
gotten information out of him that they feel like they can trust. And by
the way, if Michael Flynn is lying, we`ve already seen that, that Robert
Mueller has no problem kind of reeling back the agreement for you.
So, I think that Michael Flynn is probably feeling like he wants to tell
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, there was an incredible scene or a number of scenes
at this morning`s funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush.
All five current and former living presidents attended, a rare gathering of
what is commonly called the president`s club.
After taking a seat alongside his predecessor, there he is, President Trump
shook hands with former president Obama and then right there, very
dutifully with Michelle Obama but did not engage with the Clintons
whatever. They were 90 degrees from him. Hillary Clinton, his 2016
opponent and target of his taunts to this day stared straight ahead not
even glancing in his direction.
Trump hasn`t spoken to the Obamas or the Clintons since around this time at
his inauguration. Jonathan, I saved this for you.
So, what do you make of what we saw and how just was it?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s
interesting, how just was it. President Trump in that crowd was to my mind
sort of persona non-grata. All those people, particularly the Democrats
sitting there, had been targeted for assassination by pipe bomb and when
asked have you called the Obamas or the Clintons, he said, no, I`ll pass.
He`s out there at rallies in the lead-up to the midterm elections saying,
you know, I want to prosecute Hillary Clinton. I mean, the people sitting
MATTHEWS: And he was trying to prosecute her. It wasn`t rhetoric.
CAPEHART: Right. No, it wasn`t rhetoric. He was trying to do it.
So the idea – the fact that the Obamas reached their hands out to him to
shake – to shake his hand, they are living what they – their mantra, when
they go low, we go high. They kept it civil, good morning and moved on.
I do want to point something out. The clip that you showed showed Hillary
Clinton staring straight ahead, not engaging with Donald Trump. But before
that, as they were coming into the row when Melania, the first lady, came
into the row, Mrs. Clinton was looking at her and nodding, acknowledging
her, then she turned and then she ignored the president, and with good
MATTHEWS: I agree.
ALCINDOR: I think it`s awkward city. There`s no other way to put it,
CAPEHART: How else could it be? Yes.
ALCINDOR: It`s cringe-worthy not only because there`s political tension
but Barack Obama just in the midterms was clearly criticizing President
Trump in a way that he hadn`t before. Then you have Michelle Obama doing
this tour, where she`s opening up about the danger she feels Donald Trump
specifically put her family in.
So, it`s not just that it`s political history, there`s recent history of
these people not liking each other.
MATTHEWS: Wow, what a club, huh? I wouldn`t call it a club.
MARCUS: A club that might not want all the members in the club. There`s
been tension between presidents before, among ex-presidents and between
incumbents and their predecessors, but there has never been a scene like
this that I can recall, where there just also obviously –
MATTHEWS: Yes, there it is, we caught the picture of Hillary shaking her
head rather –
MARCUS: They`re so obviously uncomfortable with the sitting president of
the United States. That`s extraordinary and to say that shaking hands is
going high – I mean, I`m not criticizing the Obamas` behavior by any
means, but that shows you sort of how low a benchmark we have here.
MATTHEWS: There weren`t going to be embracing.
Finally, one member of the president`s club, President Obama, has been
making the rounds with several Democrats who are eyeing a 2020 run for
president. The “Washington Post” reports Beto O`Rourke met with Obama in
Washington last month. CNN is reporting that Andrew Gillum, of course, he
was the guy running for governor in Florida, met with Obama just yesterday
and the enthusiasm O`Rourke and Gillum generated has led to speculation
about their presidential prospects in a year when the Democratic field
could number – well, who put 20 in here? A lot more than 20.
And “The Washington Post” reports today the DNC is already finalizing a
debate plan to, quote, give lesser-known candidates a chance to share the
same stage as the party`s front-runners avoiding, the two-tier kiddy table
approach that divided the Republican field in the last presidential
I hope they don`t have debates during NFL big games either, that little
cutie. We can forget that one. Let`s have when people are watching like
Anyway, what do you make of the fact that they`re not going to have –
Yamiche, what do you make of the fact that they`re going to have – no more
kiddy tables, they`re going to mix up the big guys with the little people.
ALCINDOR: I think you might have started with me because I`m sometimes at
the kiddy table. I think in some days, they`re trying to learn the lesson
that Republicans learn.
MATTHEWS: You mean you moderated the kids table.
ALCINDOR: The fact that – right. I could be moderating the kiddie table.
But I think it`s the fact that you had 17 Republicans and then you ended up
with Donald Trump. I think they`re trying to figure out, OK, if we have to
20-people, we don`t want to end up of what their version of Donald Trump
And that might be thinking of the DNC. They also realized like they`re
dealing with well-known senators and well-known political people who have
political careers, but also they could be dealing with Silicon Valley
techs. They could be dealing with a really popular mayor or somebody –
MATTHEWS: They used to have a percentage of, you have to have 5 percent.
How do you keep somebody with a lot of money and no name I.D. out of there.
MARCUS: And how do you do percentages when you have this number of
potential people in the field? So, I think getting rid of the kiddy table,
mix it up, have some random selection and different panels of people doing
it, it`s not just the Democrats are not wanting to repeat the mistakes of
the Republicans last time around, but also not wanting to repeat their
mistakes where they were accused of doing things – scheduling things in a
way that favored Hillary Clinton.
So this seems like a better way. We`ll watch.
CAPEHART: Look, I think, however you do the debates, fine. However many
people are on the stage, that`s fine, too. I remember Democrats in 2008
going oh, my god, there are 10 people on the stage. It was one of the best
moments in the Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: There might be 30 this time.
CAPEHART: Well, you know, the party has to figure it out. The bigger
issue for the Democratic Party is not how they arrange the people on the
stage, Chris. It`s what do the party faithful do when their favorite
candidate isn`t the one who has the nomination? They`ve got to start
acting like Republicans circle the wagons around the nominee and make sure
that person wins.
MATTHEWS: I want you to write a column about that 20 times between now and
CAPEHART: I`ve already written.
MATTHEWS: Because if that party doesn`t think like that, they will not
The roundtable is sticking with us, and up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know. They`re very impressive so far.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the round table.
Yamiche, tell me something I don`t know.
ALCINDOR: Interest in becoming a police officer has plummeted in this
country, in Seattle, where the starting salary is $79,000, applications
have dropped by 59 percent. It has to do possibly with the fact that we`ve
had this national conversation about –
MATTHEWS: Who`s signing up ethnically? African-Americans less, whites
ALCINDOR: Depends which city. If you`re the NYPD, there are a lot of
officers of color who are signing up. If you`re in Seattle, there might be
more of a whiter police force. So, it really depends on what city.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it is?
ALCINDOR: Hard to tell, it might be the conversation we`ve been having
about criminalization of African-Americans and the role that police
officers have been playing when it comes to killing people in unjustified
MATTHEWS: Those headlines every time kill me, every time.
CAPEHART: So, I interviewed Senator Doug Jones for my podcast at the post
and it`s the one-year anniversary of his election. He`s a former federal
prosecutor and I asked him with the Mueller investigation and also the talk
about the possibility of the president pardoning Manafort or Flynn or Cohen
or anyone, what does that mean?
And he issued a very good reminder – a pardon only gets you so far. Once
you have the pardon, Mueller could still compel Manafort or anyone, compel
them to testify. They no longer have the right to waive their Fifth
Amendment – invoke the Fifth Amendment. You can`t use them.
And if you don`t testify you could go to jail. If you lie, you are still -
- you could be held for perjury. So part of me is like, go ahead, pardon
Manafort. Go ahead and do it. Manafort is still –
MATTHEWS: What stops him from pardoning him again?
CAPEHART: I mean, OK, we are in that other world.
MARCUS: Also, state prosecutions. We`ve been remembering George H.W. Bush
today, I want to remember Ann Devroy, White House correspondent for the
“Washington Post” who covered George H.W. Bush, passed away from but she
received a beautiful letter talking about the inevitable tension that
clouded things between us, but then wrote, strangely, wonderfully, I feel
close to you now. I want you to win this battle, I want that same
toughness that angered me and frustrated me to a fare-thee-well at times to
see through your fight.
That was George Bush at his finest.
MATTHEWS: So well, thank you. Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, Jonathan
Capehart and Ruth Marcus.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a strong recommendation from me
for a potential 2020 contender. I`m talking about the presidency, I`m
taking on Trump.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a strong suggestion. It`s that Beto
O`Rourke should run for president.
I got a good look at Beto`s race for Senate when we hosted the HARDBALL
college tour at the University of Houston. There was magic in that room
like when we hosted a HARDBALL college tour at Westchester University up in
Pennsylvania in 2008 for Senator Obama.
Democrats respond to magic. I have a reason for urging a Beto run. I
believe elections should be about the future.
To those who say Beto can`t win a Senate race in Texas, let me remind you
of George Herbert Walker Bush who lost two races for the Senate in Texas.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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