House Democrat calls for emergency hearing. TRANSCRIPT: 12/6/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

Guests:
Eric Swalwell, Zerlina Maxwell, John Brabender, Denny Heck, Anita Kumar, Peter Emerson
Transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  No defense.  Let`s play HARDBALL. 

 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

 

With a special counsel`s probe looming over his presidency, Donald Trump

today resumed his attacks on the investigation after a brief two-day

hiatus.  Resorting to his usual talking points, Trump made the unfounded

claim on twitter that without the phony Russia witch hunt, my approval

rating would be at 75 percent.  It`s call Presidential harassment, he said. 

 

Now we are learning that Trump`s impulsive twitter habit may be his own

line of defense against the reckoning that may soon come.  That`s because

“the Atlantic” is today reporting that there is no strategy for how to deal

with the upcoming revelations from special counsel`s office.  In fact, the

Trump White House is all but winging it. 

 

Quote “according to a half dozen current and former White House officials,

the administration has no plans in place for responding to the special

counsel`s findings say for expecting a twitter spree.” 

 

Remember Giuliani`s claim last August that he was drafting a counter report

to discredit the results of the investigation?  Giuliani now says he hasn`t

drafted anything.  Well, according to “the Atlantic,” Giuliani said it`s

been difficult in the past few months to even consider drafting response

plans or devote time to the counter report. 

 

White House sources also say they recognize the quote “if you tilt of

drafting a strategy that Trump will likely ignore anyway,” closed quote. 

 

Well, part of the problem according to one former Trump official is that

any attempt to plan ahead quote “would mean you would have to have an

honest conversation about what might be coming.” 

 

Well, some potential revolutions could come from Mueller`s office as early

as tomorrow.  That`s because we are expecting sentencing memos to be file

on the case of this is a big one, Michael Cohen who is actively cooperating

with the special counsel and Paul Manafort who is has broken his plea

agreement by lying to investigators.  It means that we could learn about

the information each witness has given to or withheld from Mueller`s

prosecutions.  That`s tomorrow. 

 

Joining me right now is Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on

the House intelligence committee.  Heidi Przybyla, national political

reporter for NBC News and Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney and

former senior FBI official.  Thank you all. 

 

I will go to congressman Swalwell about this thing now.  What do you make

of the Trump team, according to reporting by “the Atlantic,” they don`t

have a defense?  Rudy Giuliani was BSing weeks ago when he said we are

putting together a big counter reporter.  We are going to come out with a

report to match Mueller`s report.  Now they are saying we don`t have

nothing.  We are going to play shortstop on this.  Just see which way the

ball hops. 

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Good evening, Chris. 

How do you prepare somebody who is a stranger to the truth for what`s about

to come?  Of course there is no way to defend him.  He will take his own

course.  He will continue to obstruct, tamper and try to influence the

investigation. 

 

But here`s where his staff should be prepared because the President calls

it presidential harassment, by it`s really just the end of the presidential

immunity that he has enjoyed.  So there are going to be subpoenas coming

his way to the White House, to the Trump organization.  There is going to

be a call for witnesses who came in and gave us a bunch of BS stories to

actually be straight with us or be held in contempt of Congress.  And

there`s going to be an effort to want to know if the White House is willing

to finally come clean about what happened. 

 

So this isn`t going away.  They can`t just wish this away.  The American

people gave us 40 new members of Congress to put a balance of power on all

of these abuses of power. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make – just to make that point of your last one,

give you a chance to make it?  We have had Mueller going at this guy for a

long time now.  Mueller`s, I call him the iceberg because you don`t know

what he has got but he is going to hit hard when he hits and the “titanic”

could well sink as it did in history. 

 

But here is the question.  How does Congress make this stronger assault on

Trump`s definition of the truth or his lack of dealing with the truth?  Why

is Congress jumping on here matter?  Help me. 

 

SWALWELL:  Because we have a Presidential election in 2020 and we were

attacked in the last one.  And if we can`t weather another attack like we

had in 2016, a democracy can`t survive.  So if we are going to harden the

ballot box and make sure the American people have the awareness they need,

we have to know just who the President`s team worked with in the past, how

the Russians pulled this off and then put reforms in place so that it

doesn`t happen again. 

 

We are now much better able to do that.  But that means taking an MRI to

everything the Trump team did with the Russians and perhaps also the

Saudis.  It looks like they were open for business with anyone that wanted

to help them. 

 

But it`s our democracy that`s at stake.  This isn`t about one person, it`s

about whether the rule of law and free and fair elections will still

persist in our country. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Heidi, two related questions.  Does Trump know what`s coming

from Mueller?  And secondly, has he prepared his team of lawyers to defend

him? 

 

HEIDI PRYZBYLA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He may have some

sense of it because according to that –

 

MATTHEWS:  He knows with Don. 

 

PRYZBYLA:  According to Giuliani himself, it took three weeks for the

President to answer a series of questions that should have taken two days. 

Part of the problem that he is facing also is simply a staffing issue. 

First of all, his chief counsel on this has been held up by some kind of a

security clearance problem after Don McGahn left. 

 

And secondly, think about it from the staff`s perspective, Chris.  Either

you are a staff member who yourself may have legal exposure or you are a

staff member who doesn`t want to have that legal exposure.  And so he is

not - he is surrounded by people who aren`t talking straight to him as well

and people who believe even if they do, he`s not going to listen to them

anyway.  He is going to ignore them, do his own thing on twitter. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, as Heidi mentioned, Rudy Giuliani also suggested the

President had some difficulty answering those written questions posed by

Mueller`s team.  As Giuliani told “the Atlantic,” answering those questions

was a nightmare.  It took him about three weeks to do what normally would

have taken two days.  Wow.  This comes a month after the President made a

point of saying he personally answered the questions very easily.  Let`s

listen. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My lawyers aren`t working on

that, I`m work on that.  I write the answers.  My lawyers don`t write

answers, I write answers.  I was asked a series of questions.  I have

answered them very easily.  Very easily. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, when does self-delusion hit the floor? 

 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, fair question.  You know,

Heidi made this point and congressman made this point, the President seems

to have some trouble with the truth.  What any good lawyer needs to be –

an effective good lawyer, is a complete unvarnished truth from their

client.  Without that it`s going to be very hard to push back on anything

that prosecutors do or on any report that is written. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Somebody who is

really guilty of a murder, for example, they don`t run in and tell their

lawyer, I did it.  So I`m told. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Well –

 

MATTHEWS:  So does Trump – he doesn`t tell everybody I was working with

the Russians or I obstructed justice.  He is not going to tell that to a

lawyer, is he?  Is that illegal what I did?  I mean, is he actually going

to have that conversation? 

 

ROSENBERG:  Well, should he have that conversation?  Absolutely.  Will he,

in my experience, Chris, as a prosecutor, defense attorneys, as very good

defense attorneys often learn more about what their client did from me, the

prosecutor, than their own client and that`s unfortunate. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

ROSENBERG:  Because no matter what it is you did, if you want someone to

mitigate it for you, right, if you want someone to make a bad situation as

good as you possibly can, you have to tell them the truth. 

 

MATTHEWS:  But the criminals tell their lawyers they did it? 

 

ROSENBERG:  Some do.  Most don`t. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

Anyway, “the Atlantic” also reports that according to congressional sources

there`s been little communication between the White House and the

President`s Republican allies in Congress.  According to a senior

Republican aide, we haven`t heard from the White House at all on this.  You

think there would be more of an effort to have a coordinated response. 

Members want to help but can`t if they are not getting information. 

 

Congressman, I know you are on the other side of the aisle.  But do you get

the sense that Republicans are out there working hand in glove with the

President (INAUDIBLE)?  I ask that because 89 percent of Republican voters

are still with this Republican President.  So I wonder whether the

Republican members are with them or not. 

 

SWALWELL:  I`m afraid to see what Republican colleagues of mine would do if

they did have a line of communication because what I see underground in the

House intelligence committee and above ground in the House Judiciary

Committee is an effort at almost every stop to protect the President. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

SWALWELL:  At many points it`s actually obstructing.  So I have a hard time

believing that`s true.  We have had witnesses come in before the House

intelligence committee who were feeding back – their lawyers told us they

were feeding back their questions to the White House.  It seems like they

are well-aligned.  So I don`t necessarily buy that. 

 

MATTHEWS:  So Mr. Nunes, the chairman of your committee, I`m told January

3rd it`s typical. 

 

SWALWELL:  Yes.  And he had a line of communication to the President before

the campaign.  And we saw that it – all throughout the investigation they

sought to protect him. 

 

And here`s a classic example.  I think the public should know this more. 

Every single one of the interviews we did, the dozens of people we

interviewed with respect to Russia, all of their transcripts are protected

from going to Mueller.  We think there are a lot of lies that were told and

Devin Nunes has stop this every time we have tried to send those

transcripts to Mueller.  That I think is doing the President`s bidding and

protecting those people from criminal exposure. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What a protection act. 

 

Anyway, as I mentioned, sentencing memos will be filed tomorrow, Friday,

detailing the cooperation that Michael Cohen has provided to investigators

as well Paul Manafort`s crimes and lies that cost him his plea deal and

probably his liberty. 

 

However, legal experts tell NBC News that it`s likely that both documents

will contain sections that are blacked out, as was the case with the

sentencing memo Mueller filed Tuesday in the case of Michael Flynn. 

 

Chuck, tell me, a lot of us were depressed by a lot of that black covering

up of a lot of this interesting stuff.  What we did know is it looks like

General Flynn`s going to get off.  Cohen, will he get a couple of years and

Manafort will get the rest of his life?  What kind of a message do you

think we are going to get tomorrow in the filing? 

 

ROSENBERG:  Manafort is going to be at the higher end of bad and Cohen is

going to be at the lower end of bad.  There`s no question.  But there is a

really simple formulation for what you should expect tomorrow.  If it`s

public, it`s not going to be sensitive.  If it`s sensitive, it`s not going

to be public.  People should not be surprised that prosecutors and agents

keep out of the public record details about ongoing investigations.  It`s

precisely what we saw with Flynn. 

 

PRYZBYLA:  So if there are a lot of redactions, you think that`s bad for

the President. 

 

ROSENBERG:  If there are a lot of redactions, it`s bad for somebody, it

might be the President, but it`s absolutely bad for somebody.  I mean,

where the speculation comes in is trying to read redactions. 

 

MATTHEWS:  The beauty from looking at it, I am not a lawyer, which I often

like to remind everybody.  I look at it common sense wise.  It seems like

you have got one guy, his lawyer fixer, who every time he got in trouble

with a woman or a scandal, he calls up Michael Cohen.  He is the guy he

calls in the middle of the night.  OK.  Then he got the general who is

going to be his chief foreign affairs guy.  He is going to be the head of

national security for him.  It seems to between the two of them, between

the two of them, the guy who handles the hotel and the Miss America or Miss

Universe, all that stuff and the other guy who handles the big picture, the

macro stuff.  You are going to find out if there was collusion because one

of these two guys will know about it.  And that`s going to be in these

findings, I think, especially coming from Cohen, who did - who is

apparently coming clean. 

 

PRYZBYLA:  Not only collusion but whether Mueller`s investigation extends

well beyond Russia and collusion and into the tentacles of the Trump

organization because that was – remember, when Trump really started his

freak out was when there was a raid of Cohen`s offices because that is the

treasure trove in where all the secrets are for how the Trump organization

operates.  And as we are seeing, and the congressman mentioned earlier, you

know, whether it`s the Saudis or the Russians, there is a lot of inter-

connective tissue there when it comes to his financial dealings.  Michael

Cohen has the lock and key to a lot of that. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about that with the congressman.  Congressman

Swalwell.  Go ahead.  My big question is if you`re sitting down with some

sodium pentathlon, some truth serum and you have Michael Cohen trying to

save his keister (ph) from prison.  What would you go after? 

 

SWALWELL:  Well, one, what was the President`s knowledge of the Trump tower

deal that was being set up at the end of 2015 and now it looks like all the

way to the middle of 2016, even after he was the nominee.  Two, did the

President know about the Trump tower meeting where the Russians offered

dirt on Hillary Clinton?  Three, did the President know about the WikiLeaks

dumps that were coming? 

 

Michael Cohen, the reason he is so relevant, he`s one of the only

individuals who lived in all three of Trump`s worlds, his personal world,

his private – his personal and private world, his campaign world and his

financial world at the Trump organization.  So I hope the American people

get that moment as we saw in Watergate where Michael Cohen sits down,

raises his right hand and gives a full allocution and comes about what

happened. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  That was a great rant, too, congressman. 

 

Thank you so much, congressman Eric Swalwell of California, Heidi Pryzbyla

and Chuck Rosenberg. 

 

Coming up, we have got the latest of the North Carolina vote theft

investigation.  Could a new election be called in that House race?  That`s

a rarity but I don`t see how they can say this was a fair one. 

 

Plus, risky business.  “The Washington Post” has reported a Saudi-funded

lobbyist paid for 500 rooms in Trump`s hotel after the 2016 election. 

That`s a lot of rooms at 700 bucks a bite. 

 

And the HARDBALL roundtable weighs in on Trump`s boasted, without the

Mueller probe his approval rating would be, well, 75 percent.  And Trump

reportedly said he is not worried about the skyrocketing debt because he

thinks – well, he thinks when that comes it will be trouble but he won`t

be around to shoulder the blame.  Isn`t that what he says with climate,

too, I won`t be here for the pain? 

 

Finally, let me finish with this week`s pictures of a country capable of

not just of civility as we saw this week but an actually true nobility. 

 

This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

On the night of November 6th this year, voters across the country send a

resounding message of disapproval to the Republicans.  Let`s face it,

according to NBC, the latest numbers have Democrats gaining 40 seats in the

House of Representatives, 40. 

 

Having suffered losses nationwide, some Republicans, however, are out to

subvert the message.  Watch them.  Republican legislatures in Wisconsin and

Michigan in a move that seems to usurp the will of the voters are motiving

ahead with legislation to knee cap incoming Democrats elected to statewide

offices like attorneys general and governors. 

               

Well, this comes as new details of what looks like vote stealing continued

to emerge down in South Carolina.  The state`s board of elections has

launched an investigation in the Tar Heel state into irregularities with

absentee ballot in the ninth congressional district with a particular focus

on Robeson County.  Investigators have followed up with witnesses who link

one individual, Mcrae Dowless, to a seemingly larger effort to collect

absentee ballots.  He was hired as a contractor to work on absentee ballot

outreach for Republican candidate, Congressman Mark Harris. 

 

Earlier today we learned that the Democratic challenger there Dan McCready

has rescinded his concession speech.  Documents posted on the election

board website show that Dowless turned in nearly 600 applications for

absentee ballots.  You are only supposed to ally for your own. 

 

According to news reports, the election board has also issued subpoenas

issued for Harris` campaign, the firm that hired Dowless as well as a

candidate for sheriff in the same election who also hired Dowless.  Well,

if the board determines that it has found evidence of irregularities that

may have tainted the results, they can call a new election down there. 

Didn`t know you can do that. 

 

For more on, I`m joined by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News political reporter

is down there in North Carolina.  Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive

programming in Sirius XM and John Braveman (ph), Republican strategist. 

 

Leigh Ann, tell us about how it looks down there overall for this vote

stealing thing. 

 

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes.  Sure, Chris.  So

I`m in Robeson County, and Robeson and Blatant County which is adjacent,

really ground zero for this alleged voter fraud or election fraud that`s

been taking place.  And it has to do with absentee ballots. 

 

We have spoken with voters who said that random unknown people came to

their doors and said that they would collect their absentee ballots and

then mail them in for them, even saying you don`t have to fill it out, I`ll

fill it out for you or, here, I have some stamps, I`ll mail your ballot for

you. 

 

And so what the state election board is looking into is how rampant and how

widespread this is.  They have held two closed-door hearings that tell them

that there is enough there that they are not going to certify this race. 

They must hold an evidentiary hearing with all the evidence that they found

in their investigation by December 21st.  And they have a couple of options

there.  They can certify the race.  They can hold a new election or they

can continue to investigate.

 

And we`re going to have to wait for them to make that decision until that

hearing, Chris. 

 

MATTHEWS:  And, John, it seems to me two questions here, elections and

criminality. 

 

You can say that the guy Harris won by enough votes, you`re going to let it

go, because he won by more than they can have evidence of cheating.  But

you also have to put away the person who did it, I think. 

 

Somebody`s out there getting people, unsuspecting people, older-age people,

mailing them absentee bottoms they never even asked for and then showing up

when they knew they`re going arrive at their post – in their house, and

say, can I have your absentee ballot, which I know you have got?  Because

I`m going to fill it out. 

 

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, no, and that`s fair.  Let`s

not forget, too, the Republican in the primary also had concerns about

irregularities. 

 

MATTHEWS:  About this kind of stuff. 

 

BRABENDER:  Right. 

 

Now, look, we mentioned Michigan and Wisconsin, where Republicans are

gaming the system.  This is potentially fraud, which all of us should agree

is outrageous. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I hate people that cheat. 

 

BRABENDER:  And, frankly, in this profession that I`m in, it`s outrageous

to me that – you can play hardball.  That doesn`t mean you cheat. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m with you. 

 

BRABENDER:  And if you cheat, there should be consequences, both to the

person who is responsible, and, frankly, if there is cheating that went on

in this, they should redo the election. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Zerlina, you`re talking about people who are unsuspecting.  Not

everybody knows all the rules.  If somebody comes by and acts official,

they seem like an important person, they have that sort of manner about

them, it`s, I`m here from the election bureau.  I want to help you get your

ballot in, which, by the way, you didn`t even know you were going to get

until we phoned in, we mailed in for it. 

 

That`s the scary part, is completely taking the vote away from the person. 

 

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO:  Right. 

 

It`s going completely against the will of the American people, when you`re

not allowing them to fairly cast their ballots and to make their voices

heard.  And so you`re basically subverting democracy.  And the great irony

is, is that Republicans are the ones always talking about potential voter

fraud. 

 

But when we actually have a case of real potential voter fraud, it`s the

Republicans doing it.

 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

 

MAXWELL:  And I agree with John.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MAXWELL:  I agree with the Republican on the panel that we should make sure

that elections are fair and every vote is counted.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying Republicans are more likely to cheat in elections

than Democrats?  You`re smiling. 

 

Are you – you`re smiling.  OK, I thought I heard that.

 

MAXWELL:  No, what I`m saying is that, in this case, the Republicans are

talking about fraud, but they`re the ones actually doing it. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I grew up in a big city, OK?  OK?  I`m sorry.  It`s been done

before on the other side, too. 

 

Anyway…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MAXWELL:  Sure, of course, Chris.  But I`m talking about in recent years. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Of course.  OK.  Fair enough. 

 

Anyway, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP said he would

support a new election only if fraudulent activity could be proven and

shown to have changed the outcome of the November election.  Let`s listen

to him. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DALLAS WOODHOUSE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We

need to have a public airing of the facts very soon by the Board Of

elections. 

 

If they can determine that there was wrongdoing and that those people

should be criminally prosecuted under state and federal law, which we fully

support, but that numerically it could not have changed the outcome of the

race, then Mr. Harris needs to be certified. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, earlier today, “The Washington Post” reported that both

his party, that`s the Republicans, and a regional political director for

the national Republican Congressional Committee were warned of voting

irregularities in the county during the primaries, as John mentioned. 

 

The NRCC denies those claims.  However, former Republican Governor Pat

McCrory said that he too raised concerns about Bladen County during his

reelection campaign two years ago. 

 

Let me get back to Leigh Ann. 

 

It seems to me the question is, if there is taint here, if there was

cheating, criminality, should the election count, even if the numbers don`t

add up to the difference between the winner and the loser in the first

count? 

 

CALDWELL:  Yes, it`s interesting what Dallas Woodhouse said.  He said that

he would support a new election if there is enough evidence that would

change the outcome. 

 

All he`s stating is the law.  That`s what North Carolina law says and

that`s what the Board of Elections would have to do if it would change the

outcome of the election.  You know, I talked to him just before we went on

air about that “Washington Post” story and how they`re saying that

Pittenger, who is the Republican who ran against Harris in the primary,

made these concerns to him and the party after the primary and said, look,

there was something shady going on in Bladen County and Robeson county as

well. 

 

And Woodhouse said he didn`t remember.  He couldn`t confirm or deny.  It`s

not something he recalled, but he said it`s very likely that they did say

something, it just didn`t register at the time. 

 

And now they`re trying to really distance themselves from it and say what -

- say what`s happening here is sickening and horrifying.  But they`re also

protecting their candidate, Mark Harris.  Woodhouse told me as well that

Mark Harris had nothing to do with this and he is an innocent victim. 

 

That`s still a very open question, especially since a consulting firm that

Mark Harris hired is the one that hired Dowless, who was running this

absentee ballot operation, Chris. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Is it your sense working in politics that a candidate wouldn`t

know that he had a real dangerous crook out there, somebody out who was

basically manipulating the numbers? 

 

BRABENDER:  No, absolutely that is possible.  And absolutely it`s possible

that the firm that hired them did not know this individual was going to do

that.  There`s a lot of bad people. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

BRABENDER:  You don`t need a license, pass a test or anything in this

business.

 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What is your moral judgment about it?

 

Are you still responsible for something done on your behalf by your money,

with your money? 

 

BRABENDER:  Well, it depends what you mean by responsible.  Sure, you

should scrutinize this. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  This guy was getting $40,000 to win on absentee ballots.  He was

told, win.  He was told to win.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

BRABENDER:  I understand that. 

 

But there is the presumption in a campaign that you are hiring

professionals who are going to do this following the law.  So, that is not

impossible.  In fairness, there are a lot of rogue consultants out there

that think this is the right way to win a race. 

 

And if the people hired them knew they were doing it…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Zerlina, here is your turn.

 

Do you think the Republicans should join in the condemnation of what

happened? 

 

MAXWELL:  Absolutely, certainly, because it potentially impacted the

Republican primary. 

 

So, Republican voters have even not been able to have their votes fairly

cast and their voices heard.  So I think this is an issue that goes to the

heart of our democracy.  It`s not just about this one election, but it`s

also about the voters having faith that their votes are going to be

accurately counted by those election officials.

 

And so we don`t need this political gamesmanship.  If we want to make

access available to everyone, we should make voting easier, we should

expand early voting, and we should make voter registration as easy as

possible, so that more people can vote, because, you know, it`s really a

competition of ideas.

 

And if Republicans were confident in those, they wouldn`t be doing the

cheating and the election rigging. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 

 

You know, I do think that we have to not only make sure nobody cheats, we

have to make sure nobody thinks people are cheating.  And we have got to

get that out of our system.  There shouldn`t be that nonsensical charges

that are not fair.

 

You`re right about that, Zerlina.  All this stuff about vote cheating, it`s

totally out of hand.  It depresses the people`s confidence in the system. 

And we need confidence in our electoral system.

 

Thank you, Leigh Ann Caldwell, for the great reporting, Zerlina Maxwell, as

always, John Brabender, of course.

 

Up next:  Why was the Saudi government paying big bucks to put up groups of

U.S. veterans at Trump`s hotel right here in Washington?  There you see a

picture of it.  Were these vets being used to advance the interests of a

foreign government, the Saudi government, or deliver business to Trump, or

both?  What do you think? 

 

This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA:  I believe Prince Mohammed did know what

was going on.  Somebody gave the order, and either he gave it or watched it

being given to gut Mr. Khashoggi like a fish. 

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  If you want to buy our weapons

and integrate your economy into ours, there is a certain price to be paid. 

Don`t chop somebody up in a consulate.  That`s not too much to ask. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Those are outspoken Republicans. 

 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana and, of course, Lindsey Graham,

both Republicans, making the case against Saudi Arabia in the murder of

journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

 

Graham is one of the co-authors of a bipartisan Senate resolution

introduced yesterday calling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin S. – or bin

Salman, MBS, complicit – actually, that`s being nice – I think he ordered

it – Khashoggi`s murder. 

 

President Trump has apparently dismissed charges of MBS` role in

Khashoggi`s death, but a new report has once again raised questions about

Trump`s vocal defense of the Saudi government and his own financial

entanglements with that regime. 

 

According to “The Washington Post,” Saudi-backed lobbyists paid for 500

rooms at the president`s hotel here in Washington just three months after

the 2016 election.  And the report notes that lobbyists spent more than

$270,000 to house six groups of visiting U.S. veterans at the Trump Hotel,

which Trump still owns. 

 

The lobbyists who ran the trip say they chose Trump`s hotel strictly

because it offered a discount from that rate and had rooms available, not

to curry favor with the president. 

 

I`m joined right now by Washington state Democratic Congressman Denny Heck,

who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. 

 

What`s the smell of this sound like – seem like to you? 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS:  That`s a lot of money.  It`s about $300,000. 

 

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON:  Well, the smell of that is the kind half

wants you to grab your nostrils by your thumb and your index finger and

squeeze tightly. 

 

Look, this is potentially the violation of who knows how many conflict of

interest statutes.  It certainly raises the issue again of the Emoluments

Clause of the Constitution. 

 

Just to remind your viewers, Chris, there are three mentions of the

Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, one in Article I, two in article II,

which require the president to report to Congress, submit to Congress any

gift or receipt of gift from a foreign government, which he`s absolutely

refused to do. 

 

And, of course, that`s no surprise.  He refuses to release his tax returns. 

He`s the most – the least transparent, the most opaque president in

history. 

 

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, presidents, even when they get a gift, like

they get a horse or a pony or they get a vase or anything or a ring from a

foreign government, they immediately have to look at it, appreciate it, and

then give it to the National Archives.  They can`t take anything,

historically.

 

HECK:  So, let us remind viewers this is not only in the Constitution, but

it`s also what all modern presidents have done. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

HECK:  President Kennedy refused in part to accept honorary citizenship in

his ancestral homeland in Ireland because of this. 

 

President Carter actually was required to sell his family peanut farm that

had been in the family I don`t know how many generations because of this. 

All other presidents respect this, except this one. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you get a sense the Saudis are buying our president? 

 

HECK:  Buying, as in now or… 

 

MATTHEWS:  Buying, like putting a hotel…

 

HECK:  Buying or bought?

 

MATTHEWS:  Your tense is up to you. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

HECK:  Well, listen…

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they`re – they`re putting – they`re buying hotel

rooms at his hotel to curry favor with our president? 

 

HECK:  If they weren`t, why isn`t he revealing it?  Why isn`t he submitting

it to Congress?  Why isn`t he being more transparent? 

 

What has he got to hide?

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would like to know the whole thing about the guy,

because I can`t figure this president out in this regard. 

 

Originally, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I thought what he was

trying to do was develop some big grand scheme, a grand deal with the

Saudis, who knows what, something to do with the terrorists, something to

do with Iran, something to do with Israel, that was going to be good for

everybody.

 

And, lately, I get the feeling of a lot more petty reason.

 

HECK:  Yes, it`s long past time for us to reevaluate our relationship with

Saudi Arabia.  That`s for sure. 

 

Listen, if they want to be a member of the community of civilized nations,

they have to begin acting like it.  And ordering the murder of a journalist

certainly doesn`t qualify.

 

MATTHEWS:  How sound is that?  OK, you`re on the committee.  How sound is

the CIA case that MBS, the prince, ordered this killing? 

 

HECK:  Obviously, Chris, I can`t reveal what it is that we have been

briefed on that is of a classified nature.

 

But I sit here before you tonight and tell you that I agree with Senator

Corker, who said, if this was in front of a court of law, this guy would be

convicted within 30 minutes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Mike Pompeo is backing up the president.  Why? 

 

HECK:  Who knows?  Who knows? 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Why – Mattis, the secretary of defense, is backing – they`re

all together on this. 

 

HECK:  No, they`re not.  Chris, they`re not. 

 

Why is it that our classified briefing for all members of the House next

week includes Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis,

but not the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel?  Why is that? 

 

MATTHEWS:  Because she knows the truth. 

 

HECK:  All right.  There you go. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of

Washington state. 

 

Up next:  The passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush puts the

current occupant of the White House in sharp contrast.  Don`t you think? 

As the former president was being laid to rest today, President Trump was

tweeting about his own popularity. 

 

How do we make sense of this massive shift in the makeup and priorities of

the Republican Party?  Don`t you think? 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

Well, today, former president – the late President George Herbert Walker

Bush was laid to rest in his presidential library down in Texas, alongside

his wife Barbara and daughter Robin, who died at, I think, age 3. 

 

The past six days have been filled with tributes to the life and character

of the 41st president.

 

Longtime friend and Bush`s Secretary of State James A. Baker spoke at the

service in Houston today. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JAMES BAKER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  He used to say that one of

the things he liked best about me was that I would always tell him what I

thought, even when I knew he didn`t want to hear it.  Then we will have a

spirited discussion about that issue. 

 

But he had a very effective way of letting me know when the discussion was

over. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

He would look at me and say, Baker, if you`re so smart, why am I president

and you`re not? 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Well, as family and friends were gathered in

Texas for his service, the 45th president was busy tweeting here in

Washington about his approval rating and how it would be higher if not for

the special counsel`s investigation writing: My approval rating would be at

75 percent rather than 50 percent just reported by Rasmussen.

 

Well, to note, by the way, NBC News has concerns with Rasmussen`s polling

technology.  In the midterms, it showed Republicans, by the way, just for

keeping things honest, ahead in the generic congressional vote.  Actually,

they did not win in this election in November. 

 

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable.  Anita Kumar, White House

correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, Ashley Pratte, who`s a conservative

commentator at NBC Think, love that, contributor, and Peter Emerson who

worked in three Democratic administration.

 

Let me start with this.  Anita, this question of how could there be a party

that looked up to George Herbert Walker Bush and today looks up almost 90

percent to Donald Trump?  Same party? 

 

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPER:  Well, he`s

president of the United States.  So where do we have to go?  He`s

president.  He`s going to be running for re-election.  He`s what they have

right now. 

 

And so I do think a lot of people support him as he goes around the

country.  You do see people support him.  You do see people that don`t like

his personality, his tweeting, all that, but many of his policies are

traditional Republican policies. 

 

ASHLEY PRATTE, NBC THINK CONTRIBUTOR/CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR:  I was a

Republican and I could not bring myself to vote for him in 2016 because of

what he says, how he acts –

 

MATTHEWS:  Who did you vote for? 

 

PRATTE:  I ended up voting for Paul Ryan who has ended up being a complete

letdown as well. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I agree on that one, too. 

 

PRATTE:  So, I thought he would have been the future of the Republican

Party.  But I think the point is over these last few days, we`ve seen

George H.W. Bush be eulogized, right?  And two words come to mind,

selflessness and service, which I do not see from this president at all. 

And I feel like with the passing of people like Senator John McCain and

George H.W. Bush, I think what we now see is that there is a problem among

leadership in the Republican Party that no longer exists and this is going

to be a problem moving forward because there is enough young people like

myself who do not believe in the future of the Republican Party anymore and

are leaving. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Peter, you and I have been friends for a long time.  There was a

scene at the church yesterday, at the cathedral, which I`ll never forget. 

You had to be two hours ahead for most people because of protocol and

safety.  In walks the president.  He walks all the way up the aisle and

takes off his overcoat like he`s Reggie Van Gleason or something and hands

it to some attendant. 

 

You know, there`s something about the way he did it was so big shot. 

Everyone else took their overcoats off when they were in the church or hang

it up somewhere.  But he had to do it in front of everybody and he had like

throw it to this attendant.  It was something, Haile Selassie –

 

PETER EMERSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  What else could he do?  He was

entering a house that was totally opposed to him on every level, whether it

be on character, whether it be on selfless service, whether it be on

patriotism.  This is a guy that had bone spurs that prevented him from

serving the country. 

 

I think the point ultimately is people don`t have a place to go.  Democrats

have not offered an alternative, number one.  Number two, if you talk to

dairy farmers, pig farmers soybean farmers, they are being screwed by this

president. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Aren`t they still for this president? 

 

EMERSON:  Right now, because they have nowhere else to do, you`d have to

ask them to give up the promises that they believe in with this president. 

And we the Democratic Party have not given them an alternative. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about presidential politics because I`m already

thinking about 2020.  I know you all are, too.  CNBC`s reporting that

Democratic Congressman Beto O`Rourke of Texas team has been fielding calls

from senior operatives who worked on President Barack Obama`s campaign in

the pivotal states of Iowa and New Hampshire. 

 

As speculation continues about a potential presidential run by Beto in

2020, one columnist at “The Washington Post” is already getting whether the

Democratic rising star, Beto O`Rourke, is far enough left for the party. 

Elizabeth Bruenig writes: W still have time to pick a politician with a

bold, clear, distinctively progressive agenda, and an articulated vision

beyond something-better-than this, the literal translation of hope-change

campaigning. 

 

Beto is a lot like Obama.  True.  It`s perhaps time for left-leaning

Democrats to realize that might not be a good thing. 

 

Peter, I`m amazed by this.  Here`s a guy that has electoral power.  People

like him.  He`s got charisma like the president.  And he has somebody I

guess on the left saying he`s not left enough? 

 

Explain that. 

 

EMERSON:  There is an amazing wonderful blue collar philosopher who once

said naivete in children is often charming, in adults, it`s stupid.  That`s

political stupidity. 

 

For that person to write about antipathy towards Wall Street, oil and gas,

welfare reform, those are all major issues that we need a president to deal

with, not to simply scorn them and discard them.  And second, I think

Beto`s in an incredible position, not necessarily about the presidency, but

he`s captured energy.  And one of the failings of the Obama campaign in `08

was that after we won, we never had a call to service.

 

And I think Beto and his team are figuring out where do you take all that

energy? 

 

MATTHEWS:  Get people in the act. 

 

Let me go to Ashley on this.  It seems to me if the Democratic Party sets

as a standard, you must be Bernie, otherwise an avowed socialist.  I`m not

knocking it. 

 

PRATTE:  Right. 

 

MATTHEWS:  If that`s the political goal line you`re setting up, this person

isn`t for so-called Medicare for everybody all life, if they`re not for

free tuition payback, if they`re not for all this social progress, if

they`re not for a big role for the government in the economy, then they`re

not Democrats. 

 

If that`s the standard, you`re going to knock out a lot of candidates. 

 

PRATTE:  Well, let`s look at this, though.  The DNC itself was against

Bernie Sanders and they set parameters to make sure he would not get enough

support and not have the support he needed.  Let`s go back to

superdelegates and all that. 

 

So, I do think the establishment in the Democratic Party will not allow

someone too progressive to get back in. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I don`t know about that.  What about the voters? 

 

PRATTE:  So, now, here`s the interesting piece –

 

MATTHEWS:  Talk about winning a game, can you beat Trump? 

 

PRATTE:  You`ve got to get to the suburban, blue collar middle class

voters.  And they need to start thinking about that Obama/Trump flip that

happened in 2016 that again flipped in 2018.  If you do not focus on that,

which they`re moderate swing voters, I`m not going to vote for a

progressive.  I would vote for a Joe Biden, not a Beto O`Rourke. 

 

MATTHEWS:  How do you get people in the industrial states who flipped for

Trump to senator and governor in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, the

whole? 

 

KUMAR:  I know, I totally agree.  It`s like he`s only talking about the

primary, which is one thing.  Let`s move on to the general election. 

 

MATTHEWS:  You know what they used to say back in the `60s?

 

PRATTE:  What`s that?

 

MATTHEWS:  NDC.  November doesn`t count.  The hard-left would say as long

as we win the primaries, it doesn`t matter, George McGovern. 

 

But that mentality is out there, Peter.  It`s out there now.  I just saw in

the paper today, that Beto O`Rourke is too much like Obama.  That`s a

problem?  He won. 

 

EMERSON:  It`s a problem if you are opposed to energy, character, ethical

and moral values.  Standing up and almost beating an incumbent senator who

flipped, meaning took the worst of Trump`s insults –

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

EMERSON:  And then embraced it and went to bed with it.  So –

 

KUMAR:  Clearly, some people don`t agree with here.  A lot of people – 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Ruth, our friend over there, somebody, Marcus or Fred Hyatt over

there, said, let`s stir things up in the Democratic Party. 

 

Finally, it`s not just the volatility of the stock market that should have

Trump worried – have him worried now, there is also the growing national

debt.  The Treasury Department estimated that the federal government could

add nearly $1 trillion in new debt this year.  That would be 146 percent

jump from just last year in the highest amount of debt issued since 2010. 

 

However, the president is reportedly not concerned about $121 trillion debt

right now.  According to “The Daily Beast,” sources close to the president

say he has repeatedly shrugged it off implying he doesn`t have to worry

about the money owed to America`s creditors, currently about $21 trillion,

because he won`t be around to pay for it. 

 

So what do you make of that? 

 

PRATTE:  Well, the best part about here is the hypocrisy and everything,

but this takes the cake because I thought at least a genuine platform of

the Republican Party was fiscal responsibility. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

PRATTE:  Paul Ryan says today, well, that deficit, man, she`s the one that

got away.  What?  You had a chance to do something. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Reagan used to say I met all my promises but the deficit. 

 

PRATTE:  You had a majority. 

 

MATHEWS:  Cheney said deficits don`t matter politically.  What do you make

about the debt, Peter?  And, by the way, he doesn`t care about the future

he`s basically saying, the sun, the climate. 

 

EMERSON:  This is a guy who racked up almost $1 billion in debt and got to

forgiven through manipulation and deceitful actions.  So, consequently,

I`ve been on the Hill talking to Congress people and senators.  The one

issue that could be bipartisan and really help America is infrastructure

but they can`t pay for it, because no one`s going to agree to more taxes on

gas or user fees and it would take it over the $1 trillion debt. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s have a capital budget.  We can do it. 

 

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.  And up next, these three will

tell me something I don`t know.  We got to rebuild this country. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  We`re back with the HARDBALL round table. 

 

Anita, tell me something I don`t know.

 

KUMAR:  My colleagues are reporting that there is now a bipartisan group of

lawmakers that want the Department of Justice inspector general to look

into President Trump`s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.  Acosta, if you`ll

recall, he was federal prosecutor in Miami when he made this deal to let

this multimillionaire basically off the hook, almost. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Epstein. 

 

KUMAR:  Yes, Jeffrey Epstein. 

 

MATTHEWS:  That story keeps coming back. 

 

KUMAR:  So, it won`t be the end of it.

 

PRATTE:  Yesterday, big news coming out of my home state of New Hampshire,

secretary of state, Bill Gardner, who`s been the longest serving secretary

of state in the entire country, he`s now in his 22nd term, he just got

reelected yesterday by the lawmakers there in a 209 to 205 vote.  Very

close.  But he has been setting, as the secretary of state, and has the

authority for the New Hampshire primary and has made sure it`s remained

first in the nation. 

 

So go, New Hampshire, and –

 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Dershowitz is involved in that case.  A lot of

connection.

 

PRATTE:  Yes, that`s right.

 

EMERSON:  A revolt against Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in

the Senate, is looming because he`s going to allow Manchin, Mr. Coal, Mr.

Dirty Coal, to take the ranking Democratic member chair on the Energy and

Natural Resources Committee. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Is that number two? 

 

EMERSON:  That`s the number two. 

 

With a climate assessment report and millions of people demanding that

Congress do something, this is getting several senators to reconsider their

support of Schumer, particularly with the 2020 elections and young people

demanding that climate adaptation is the bigger issue. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that Schumer agreed to back Manchin on this

position? 

 

EMERSON:  He`s the only one who could change it, and he`s decided to let

him – 

 

MATTHEWS:  Schumer`s got a lot of people to keep happy.  Thank you, Peter. 

Inside stuff here tonight. 

 

Anita Kumar, Ashley Pratte, Peter Emerson.

 

When we return, let me finish tonight with pictures of a country capable

not just of civility but of through nobility.  We`ve seen it lately.

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with this week`s fine pictures of a

country capable not just of civility, but of true nobility. 

 

That train rolling from Houston to College Station today gave some Texans

the chance to pay their tributes to the first President Bush in a fine

American way.  And just by showing up along the tracks, they were able to

create a portrait of affection and admiration for the ages. 

 

We saw something like that yesterday when the recent presidents and their

spouses shared the front pew in the National Cathedral.  I missed it

yesterday, but it included genuinely affable moment between Secretary

Hillary Clinton and my former boss, President Jimmy Carter.  When I saw

that clip today, I was struck by that sparkling American moment of

Secretary Clinton totally enjoying his company. 

 

In other countries, less democracies, leaders fear to lose elections for

the most basic reason that their successor will throw them in jail or get

rid of them entirely.  It`s one reason so few of them accept the results of

an election, why they cheat in elections. 

 

Well, this is where America is different.  For example, one of the U.S.

presidents in that front pew was turned out of office after a single White

House term and didn`t look the worse for it.  And the other, lying up

closer to the altar, led a life that showed defeat at the polls can do

nothing to diminish one`s honor, especially when they were embraced the way

George Herbert Walker Bush or what Bush was by the man who defeated him. 

 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

 

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