Trump & Pelosi trade jabs in Oval Office. TRANSCRIPT: 12/12/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Blind loyalty. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Today former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said it was his blind loyalty to
the President that motivated him to break campaign finance laws on behalf
of his boss. That`s one of the big developments out of the southern
district of New York that delivered a blow to President Trump today. Cohen
was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to nine
criminal counts including violation of campaign finance laws by silencing
two women during the election.
Fighting back tears, Cohen today said he quote “chose to participate in the
elicit act of the President rather than to listen to my own inner voice.”
Referring to the President`s frequent attacks on him, Cohen said that
recently the President tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was
correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was
because time and time again I thought it was my duty to cover up his dirty
deeds. I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse
In the case of the adult film star Stormy Daniels Cohen used a shell
company and false invoices to conceal the payment and also the subsequent
reimbursements. In the case of playboy model Karen McDougal, however,
Cohen coordinated with David Pecker of the “National Enquirer” to purchase
her story in order to conceal it in a process known as catch and kill. The
problem is that corporations are barred from contributing or coordinating
with political campaigns under the law.
And now in a major development the parent company of the “National
Enquirer” American Media Incorporated, AMI, has admitted that the principle
purpose of that payment was indeed to suppress McDougal`s story to prevent
it from influencing the election. That means all the chief participants in
the scheme, except for the President have admitted to breaking the finance
I`m joined right now by Natasha Bertrand, staff writer at “the Atlantic,”
Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, a former
senior justice department official and Peter Baker is White House chief for
“The New York Times.”
Peter, I want to start with you to wrap your hands around this story.
Everybody here admits they were breaking the campaign laws. Everybody was
a conspiracy to hide these payments because they would have hurt his
chances, not to avoid embarrassment with his wife or his reputation, but to
protect him as a candidate. Your thoughts.
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That`s
exactly right. This is why the document that came out last week seemed to
leave President Trump in the position of being basically an unindicted
coconspirator. They didn`t use that phrase but that`s the import of what
the prosecutors said last week and basically what you hear today in court
with this new revelation about American media.
You know, the President said, look, campaign violations happened. I didn`t
have anything to do with this. Even if I did, it was a civil situation,
not a criminal one. President Obama pay a civil fine with his campaign –
violated campaign laws.
But the difference here is Michael Cohen has just been – has just pleaded
guilty and been sentenced in a court of law to a criminal violation. A
judge decided and prosecutors charged him with a crime as a result of this
orchestration. It`s not a bookkeeping error. It is not under reporting
some contributions. It not something that can be corrected later. They
are saying a crime was committed and the President of the United States was
involved with it.
MATTHEWS: Well, the prosecutors, Natasha, said he directed it. So, is
this an explanation why for months now we have heard from those who know
that the President has more reasons to fear Cohen than Mueller?
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. I think the big part of
that also is the fact that Michael Cohen has been taking prosecutors inside
the Trump organization. Let`s not forget the whole Russia angle here also
which said that, you know, he was involved in negotiations to build Trump
tower Moscow during the height of his election. But I do think these
campaign finance violations in the attempt to conceal the affairs are
certainly something that should worry the President. Because legal experts
that I have spoken to say over and over again, if he weren`t the President
he would be prosecuted right alongside Michael Cohen. And he could be.
Democrats are now saying that, you know, once he leaves office, if leaves
in 2020, than the statute of limitations might not be up and he could still
be prosecuted for this. They are also calling for, you know, the Supreme
Court to potentially take up the question of whether or not a sitting
President can be indicted. Because the question has never been brought to
the court before.
So this is all adding to the concrete criminal conduct that the President
has conducted here. And (INAUDIBLE), he says the Russian investigation is
a witch hunt but that had yet to be concluded. That is primarily
counterintelligence investigation. This is very real violation of the
laws. It is very real felony.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Glenn, there`s two points Natasha raised and one is can a President be
indicted. Donald Trump has said on notorious occasions that he could shoot
someone on Fifth Avenue. If he did, he is not going to do it, I don`t
think, shoots someone, he would be indicted. He would – the idea that he
can, it seems to be a ridiculous overstatement of truth. Of course a
President if he got criminal in his obvious violent behavior would be
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. He would be arrested,
indicted and tried if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue.
MATTHEWS: So if he violates a campaign law, in this case directed an
operation to violate a law, is that a crime? Is this a matter measure that
somebody has to say, well, it is not bad enough to put him in jail right
KIRSCHNER: Well, but you know, it is bad enough and - for him to be
prosecuted and here is why. You know, prosecutors look at evidence in the
totality. We don`t just look at one piece of evidence to see what it
proves. Now what do we have? We have got Cohen`s testimony, the
undercover tape in which the President is virtually admitting he is
complicit. We know have AMI and David Pecker saying, yes, by the way,
catch and kill, that was for political advantage. And weave Allan
Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump organization who is
giving up where all the financial bodies are buried.
When you look at all that in aggregate, you can walk in to court and
prosecute the President successfully without breaking a sweat.
And Finally, Chris, you know, didn`t - the President didn`t rob a bank.
What did he do? He robbed the American people of their right to vote, of
the full value of their vote. For that he needs to be held accountable.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just want to - I`m watching Cohen do all this purp (ph)
walks in and out of court as I begin to think a little bit like a mob gut.
As Natasha said, I want you to expand on what you said, Natasha, you took
about he gave the inside of what was going on there because there was
almost like (INAUDIBLE) in the old days. Here`s the chart of the mob op
where the (INAUDIBLE) and everything. This is how it works.
BERTRAND: Right. And he did tell prosecutors that were more than just him
and trump that were involves in this. There were members of, you know, the
Trump organization executives that were also implicated in this. And that,
of course, could also be what we are going to see next this executive two,
perhaps, is going to be at the center of the next prosecution.
MATTHEWS: Who is that?
BERTRAND: Who will that be? We don`t know. It could be Donald Trump
Junior. It could be a member of Trump`s family.
MATTHEWS: All right. And they can be indicted. And they can be put in
Anyway, although he has been implicated of violation campaign finance laws,
who is the one directing. And according to the prosecutor, Trump is
denying that he did anything illegal.
In an interview with Reuters last night, Trump said, Michael Cohen`s a
lawyer, I assume he would know what he is doing. Number one, it wasn`t a
campaign contribution. If it were, it is only civil. And even if it was
only civil there was no violation based on what we did. Well, that`s a
Elliot, what do you think of the President here? It looks like he is
surrounded by former guys he was in back rooms with, people that he was
conniving with like Pecker, like Cohen. They used to be deal making in the
back room to keep things away from the public. Now these guys are all
coming at him saying he is the criminal.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This civil versus criminal
thing is preposterous. Look. If you murder somebody and then write bad
checks afterwards to cover it up and say sorry it was a civil offense, no.
I mean, you committed a criminal act. You directed a criminal act. And he
did it, you know, to further himself and make himself sort of endeared with
the President of the United States.
I know you are all talking about the mob stuff earlier. And this is
exactly how criminal enterprises work where a little guy takes the fall for
the big guy who is directing criminal activity, and he may never get a
prosecutor to go to jail but all these underlings are going – this is
Gambino family playing out in front of us on a national scale.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to some of the evidence.
Last summer, Michael Cohen released a tape recording of a conversation he
had with the president in 2016 in which they reportedly discussed paying
David Pecker of the American Media, that`s the “National Enquirer” for
McDougal`s story and other potentially dangerous - damaging story. In
other words, pay for the story, pay the woman and kill the story.
At the end of the tape which cuts off abruptly you can hear Michael Cohen
and Donald Trump discussing whether that payment should be in cash or by
check. And the tape is real (ph). We did not know if it was been audited.
Well, let`s listen to it. You judge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I need to open up a company
for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know,
so that – I`m going to do that right away.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Give it to me.
COHEN: And I have spoken to Allan Weisselberg about how to set the whole
thing up with funding – yes, and it`s all the stuff. All the stuff.
Because here you never know whether that company – correct. So I`m all
over that and I`ve spoken to Allan about it. When it comes time to the
TRUMP: What financing?
COHEN: Well, I have to pay –. No, no, no, I got –.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. How are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Glenn, he has got a wire.
MATTHEWS: And the President check. Then candidate didn`t check for a
wire. But they were also talking, almost, like underworld figures. It is
all this innuendo and David and this. But it seems to me that the case
involving Stormy Daniels where they are creating a shell company and they
are talking about it here, it all was an attempt to conspire to avoid the
KIRSCHNER: Yes. And they are like play mobster in that tape.
MATTHEWS: Talk like it.
KIRSCHNER: And you, I tell you, I think there may very well be more tapes
to drop. We are going to hear about that in the future. And the reason I
say that, Chris, is because it can`t be that the only people with tapes or
the only sort of surreptitious recordings or monitorings that went on here
were the ones that caught Michael Flynn talking dirty on the phone to the
Russians and Omarosa, and Michael Cohen making this isolated tape. I have
a feeling when Bob Mueller finally lays his cards on the table we may be
hearing some more covert recordings.
MATTHEWS: Peter, let me get back to you about the sort of - you are good
at – I love the way you do this violins as `Newsweek” calls it on the
front page. This is what it all means. This is where we are going. Where
is all this taking us now? Because we are going into the New York, the
southern district of New York. We are talking about a prosecution of three
years now today, 36 months for Michael Cohen, the President`s lawyer and
fixer. That should be a blockbuster.
Back in the `50s I think, this would be a blockbuster. The President of
the United States, lawyer and fixer goes to federal prison for three years
for work he was doing for the President. It`s not robbing gas stations on
a weekend. It is not extracurricular. It`s doing the job we all know that
he does for the President. He broke the law doing what the President
wanted, what he called blind trust or whatever. What do you make of this
story? How does it fit into the whole question of the Trump presidency?
BAKER: Yes, that was a great question. I think it would have been a
blockbuster in 2016. I think this is still obviously a big deal.
Now, what President Trump`s lawyers would say is, look, the justice
department tried this against John Edwards when he had a mistress he was -
who was affair he was trying to hide and they went to trial, and there were
five counts on acquitted one on mistrial. So they would say, look, you
know, why should the President be subjected to prosecution when this didn`t
work under John Edwards?
But here`s the thing, you know, the whole question about whether a
President can be indicted or not is an open question. No judge has ever
ruled on it. But the prevailing opinion of the justice department, this is
prior, you know, prior Trump`s administration, I think it goes back to the
Clinton days, is that a President cannot be indicted. So there is no
option at this point for a prosecutor – federal prosecutor to indict him.
At least we presume unless that policy changes.
But that brings you to the question of what Congress would do? What does
the House do if – once Democrats take charge next month? And we heard
Jerry Nadler say this last few days is these are impeachable offenses.
These could be defined as high crimes and misdemeanors. But the question
is whether it justifies removal. Whether they are big enough. Whether
they are offensive enough to the health of the republic, to justify the
Congress taking the extraordinary action of impeaching and removing for
office. That he wasn`t willing to say.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the parallels, Elliot. Without putting any
judgment and saying it`s the same as Bill Clinton, but this whole thing
about lying about a relationship, that`s what we are looking at here. You
know, breaking a law to cover up a relationship. And the Republicans
thought that was enough to impeach Bill Clinton. In fact they were
giggling over it.
WILLIAMS: And remember this isn`t lying about sex, this is cheating on our
campaign finance system. And the southern district of New York and the
judge go through this in a great deal and with the details saying this is,
you know, transparency is a core value of our core value of our campaign
justice system. If we can`t have faith in how our people are elected, how
are presidents are elected, then we can`t have faith in anything in this
And so, it is a serious crime that strikes of the heart of who we are as a
nation and sort of all these attempts to minimize the severity of the
conduct. You saw it from Cohen saying it wasn`t actually that serious or,
you know, I`m so sorry that I did it. It, you know, and lying to banks as
well, so let`s not forget how important the crime was.
MATTHEWS: Natasha, you are all over this story. So I want to give you the
big question to start with. Ready here? Bill Clinton – forget Bill
Clinton. Erase that from the blackboard. Donald Trump says that if he is
impeached over something like this, there will be a revolt. Now I don`t
know what metaphor level we take this. Does he mean pitchforks coming into
Washington? Does he mean the tanks have to ready to meet the people?
When he says revolt, now you can say that is stirring up real trouble in
this country, what do you make of it?
BERTRAND: It sounds like a dog whistle. I mean, it sounds like he is
appealing to his supporters saying, look, if I get impeached it`s not
legitimate, it is a move by the deep state to remove me, your now
democratically elected leader, even though now we are learning that that
may not be the case because he would severely limited voters knowledge
during the election and may or may not have worked to the Russians. But I
think that it was definitely a signal to his base saying this is what you
guys should do. You should be up in arms figuratively, not necessary
literally, if the Democrats in the House move to impeach me.
Of course, I don`t think at this point the Democrats will do that because
they have signaled that they would not do it if they did not think that the
Senate would remove him. But I don`t think there is any other way that you
can slice it. I think that Donald Trump was clearly sending a dog whistle
MATTHEWS: It`s interesting because if Stormy Daniels was all over the
paper the day or two before the election and Karen McDougal, all that would
have I think changed a few of the votes in Pennsylvania. Don`t you think?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, think you - I know that state.
Anyway. Thank you, Natasha Bertrand, Glenn Kirschner, Elliot Williams and
Coming up, top administration officials brief Congress today on U.S.
relations with Saudi Arabia and the investigation into the murder of Jamal
Khashoggi. President Trump says he is OK with putting profits over
principles. He will cover up for this crime. Are congressional
Republicans ready to go on board with covering up for a murder?
Plus, President Trump could be in for a rude awakening when Democrats take
control of the House January 3rd. That`s a few weeks from now. Will
congressional Republicans stand behind their man if a slew of
investigations are on the agenda?
And there is breaking news tonight on Capitol Hill. Nancy Pelosi has
reached a deal with a group of moderate Democrats that all but guarantees
she will re-claim her speakership. Did her performance in the oval office
yesterday ice the deal? I think so.
And finally let me finish tonight with the royal family now inhabiting the
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Trump administration has made a concerted and committed effort to
defend, believe it or not, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia after
ruthlessly ordered, he did, the murder of “Washington Post” columnist Jamal
In the past 48 hours, the President and his son-in-law, and the secretary
of state have all dismissed the CIA assessment that there was a high
probability that MBS, that`s the crown prince, ordered the killing. In an
interview with Reuters, Trump defended his position, saying: “He`s the
leader of Saudi Arabia. They have been a very good ally.”
Well, in an uncharacteristically tough grilling from FOX News, however,
Mike Pompeo knocked down the notion that more should be done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The direct evidence isn`t yet
available. It may show up tomorrow. It may have shown up overnight, and I
haven`t seen it.
But President Trump – President Trump…
QUESTION: Someone has to pay the price, though. It`s so brutal.
QUESTION: Apparently, those audiotapes are awful.
POMPEO: Well, we – the Saudis have already paid the price. There are –
the folks who actually committed the murder, we have held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to “The Washington Post,” the administration`s
inability to listen to the CIA has frustrated officials.
Intelligence officials tell “The Post” that there is a disconnect between
the spy agencies and the president that is without precedent, leaving an
arrangement they call dysfunctional, much like Trump refusing to release
his taxes because of the audits he says are going.
It`s unclear if Trump will ever accept the intelligence about MBS.
I`m joined right now by Democratic Congressman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
It is like the – every time you ask Trump about his tax returns, he says
they`re under audit.
MATTHEWS: And – or he says – like he used to do it with Obama and his
birth records from Hawaii. Oh, I`m checking on those.
It`s nonsense. It`s B.S. Nobody believes they`re doing anything, but just
delay. Why are they doing this?
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: The biggest B.S. that I see in this whole
thing is the statement that you hear from President Trump. You hear it
from Mike Pompeo.
You hear it from different people within this administration, that Saudi
Arabia is a good ally, or is our best ally or our best friend within the
GABBARD: The issue here with the murdering of this journalist in Turkey
shines a light on the larger question that I think needs to be asked and
answered here in Washington, which is, show the evidence of how Saudi
Arabia is our ally, because I can tell you, there is a long list of reasons
pointing to all of the reasons why they are not our allies, why they are
acting directly in ways that are counterproductive to the interests of the
American people and to our own national security interests.
MATTHEWS: So, why is the president`s son-in-law in charge of all this?
Because he thinks he`s got a buddy in MBS, the killer over there. They
have sweet-talked to him. He`s been seduced by them. He thinks he`s going
to get an Israel – a pro-Israeli deal, not just a deal in the Middle East,
but a deal that Netanyahu is going to like, the hard – the hardest of the
Likudniks, that he`s going to like it.
How can there be such a deal?
GABBARD: Well, when you look at the things that this administration is
doing, they are things that are moving us farther and farther away from the
possibility of striking a peace deal between the Israelis and the
Again, we have got to look at what`s driving – what`s driving this. And
if you look at Trump – and he`s made it very clear – it`s money and it`s
his so-called deal with the Saudis for this $110 billion of weapons that
he`s selling to them, without regard for how they`re using those weapons
and slaughtering people in Yemen.
GABBARD: There are so many issues here that really…
MATTHEWS: You don`t think we should have to deal with the fact that the
Saudi royal family is there to stay, there`s nothing we can do about it?
GABBARD: They – that`s not the point. I`m not saying that we have got to
get rid of the Saudi state or the government or whatever. That`s – that
is not my point at all. I don`t believe that we should be in the regime
change business, whether it be in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, or North Korea.
MATTHEWS: Or Syria.
GABBARD: Or Syria or anywhere else.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look this.
Meanwhile, according to – outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley talked to
my colleague Craig Melvin about how she would use President Trump`s
unpredictable behavior to her advantage at the U.N. Let`s watch this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Is it true that you use the president`s
unpredictable rhetoric to our advantage diplomatically?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: If I needed to pick up
the phone and say, this is what I`m going to do, are you good with this, or
this – we – we kind of partnered in that.
And so he would, like, ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I would go back to
the ambassadors and say, he`s pretty upset. I can`t promise you what he`s
going to do or not. But I can tell you, if we do these sanctions, it will
keep him from going too far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is sort of like the Nixon mad bomber thing. Make him think
– and she`s saying that`s what she would do to our people negotiating with
us. Oh, be careful. This guy`s a little – a little rocky here.
GABBARD: And yet what she`s doing is – is further ratcheting up tensions
with other nuclear powers in the world, further beating those hawkish
neocon war drums.
So, whatever she – she`s trying to make it sound like she`s the good cop.
MATTHEWS: You sound like me talking here. I like this.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about your cause, because, right now,
Trump ran by saying he was going to get rid of stupid wars and help the
MATTHEWS: Where would you put him on that? Where is he doing on that?
GABBARD: Moving us in the wrong direction.
Not only have we not ended any of these stupid wars. We are continuing to
have our troops deployed in places like Afghanistan and Syria and other
places, all while this administration is laying the groundwork for a regime
change war against Iran.
What – to speak of the veterans here at home, I spoke with a veteran
recently. He used to work in the VA and who now works just helping
veterans in his community, who said – and he was a Republican – and he
said, never before has he seen veterans worse off with this VA than he has
with this VA.
And that`s because veterans are being treated like a number.
GABBARD: And so, in order to report out good statistics, their cases are
being closed prematurely. We`re seeing cases and appointments being
deleted completely because they were waiting too long.
And this G.I. Bill issue, where veterans are trying to go to school, they
have been promised these benefits, and the VA is saying, well, actually,
you know what? We will pay you in a year-and-a-half. Meanwhile, they have
got to pay their rent, they have got to pay their tuition and take care of
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
My dad – our dad went to school on the G.I. Bill.
GABBARD: Yes, so did I.
MATTHEWS: That`s why we were middle class.
Anyway, 2020, the Baskin-Robbins campaign.
MATTHEWS: There`s every kind of flavor running.
Somebody from Hawaii was recently elected president, Barack Obama.
Yourself, are you running?
GABBARD: I`m seriously considering it.
MATTHEWS: What would stop you?
GABBARD: I`m – I`m concerned about the direction of our country.
MATTHEWS: No, what would stop you from running?
GABBARD: I don`t know. I`m thinking through very carefully.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like you`re heading toward it.
GABBARD: I`m thinking through it very carefully.
MATTHEWS: That`s an old Tim Russert question, by the way. What can stop
MATTHEWS: And you have to come up with that answer.
It`s good to have you. A lot of people are seeing you for the first time.
U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard may run for president in a very wide,
Up next: President Trump is facing investigations by federal prosecutors
right now working with Robert Mueller and New York prosecutors. He`s also
facing a newly emboldened Democratic Party. Don`t you notice?
Look at her yesterday, the speaker, the future speaker.
And his staunchest supporters are mocking his claims he`s already built a
wall. Laura Ingraham says, there`s no wall, Mr. President. Look.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s longtime lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen is headed to prison
for three years, in part due to campaign felonies he says Trump himself
told him to commit.
And that`s just one of the host of challenges now facing this president
legally and, of course, politically.
Yesterday, the president got a rude awakening, don`t you think, to what
Republican – or actually Democratic control of the House is going to look
like come January 3 – that`s a few weeks now – publicly sparring with top
Democrats Schumer and Pelosi over his border wall. They don`t want the
wall. He says he`s got to have it or he`s shutting down the government.
“The Washington Post” reports on Trump`s introduction to a divided
government, writing: “The conflict comes at a fragile moment for Trump`s
presidency. The Russian investigation is intensifying and becoming more
perilous, both politically and perhaps legally.”
It goes on to add: “House Democrats are preparing a series of potentially
damaging investigations into Trump`s finances and allegations of corruption
in the administration.”
Well, for all that, I`m joined by California U.S. Congresswoman Jackie
Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Robert Costa, a
national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Robert, a couple things in your reporting. Despite the fact that the
president faces a many-headed monster coming at him, including the New York
prosecutors who just put Cohen away, his lawyer away, for three years, he`s
got the House of Representatives, he`s got Mueller`s investigation, and
he`s got a busy new – ambitious new attorney general in New York state.
Let`s just start with the first one, Cohen.
How much of a pounding did the president get today knowing that his fixer,
intimate, intimate, backroom, deal-make – deal-maker guy testified against
him, and “The National Enquirer” bosses testified against him, and they all
said they were in on a corrupt conspiracy to break the law, criminally, in
terms of campaign financing by covering up those relationships that he had
with those women?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, I touched base with the
president`s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about this.
And it`s really a blame game from the president`s team, blaming Michael
Cohen for his conduct, saying the president wasn`t in any way really
directly involved, and it was a personal, not campaign matter.
But this belies a real challenge for the president. He doesn`t have a
chief of staff and he doesn`t have an operation right now that`s really
working on all these issues, Congress, Mueller, Michael Cohen. What does
it all mean politically and legally for him?
And, today, he`s trying to keep some of his allies on Capitol Hill like
Mark Meadows. That North Carolina congressman is now out of the mix for
chief of staff. So we have seen the president really navigating and unsure
about exactly who his team`s going to be.
MATTHEWS: We have a tape. He says he`s not involved. We just played a
tape a few minutes ago of him playing a – obviously, Cohen was wired. He
shows the president and him talking about whether to pay in cash or check,
the whole deal. They`re totally intimate on this.
How can he say he wasn`t involved?
COSTA: You`re exactly right, Chris.
Not only do we have a tape, but we have federal prosecutors saying in a
sentence in document that Individual 1, President Trump, directed Cohen to
commit a felony. That`s something House Democrats are already talking
about is enough to impeach the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, ask you, how does it look to you folks up on the
You`re going in with power. It looks like Pelosi is going to be speaker.
It looks like you`re going to be in charge of all the committees, including
Intelligence, Judiciary. You`re going to be able to impeach this president
you want to.
Can you do it?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think we`re going to wait until the
Mueller investigation is complete before we take any action in that regard.
Meanwhile, we have investigations that need to be done, particularly in the
Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. And I think those will
take place. And most of them, I think, are going to be public, so that the
public is not going to have the shroud over them, not knowing what was
really said, who lied, what subpoenas need to be issued and the like.
MATTHEWS: Does this stuff all add up, though? Southern District of New
York, the president identified as directing a criminal operation up there,
all these investigations by you, the Mueller operation, how – the thing,
it seems to me Trump benefits – I don`t like it – but there`s so many
things going on, they don`t add up into one puncture into him that says,
you`re out of here.
Is there something you know of right now that says to you, Trump should be
SPEIER: It`s not anything that I know, but we`re all…
MATTHEWS: Or should be pursued?
SPEIER: Well, what should be pursued is the fact that he, I believe, has
violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The properties in Toronto, SoHo, and Panama all had Russian money in it,
all money that was laundered. And he has a responsibility to make sure
that is not the case. And yet it`s truly what has happened.
MATTHEWS: And you think that might be the mother lode here of the bad
stuff on him?
And it all comes down to money with him. It always has and it always will.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, during his Oval Office battle with Democrats
yesterday, President Trump said a lot of his border wall had already been
Talk about delusion.
MATTHEWS: But that claim drew a stunning rebuke even from one of his
supporters, FOX News host Laura Ingraham.
Let`s listen to her last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: I must have missed the wall being built. What
That`s not a wall. Stop saying it`s a wall. There`s no wall. If you want
a wall, say, we don`t have the wall. And I know it`s – he made the
promise, but they`re not building the wall. So you got to stop saying
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Robert Costa, you`re the Trump expert here.
Why does he keep saying there`s a wall? And we were – we showed examples
of Marcel Marceau last night, the mime, when he would just pretend there`s
a wall by putting his hands up.
Trump keeps talking about a wall that kept the caravan out. There is no
COSTA: The answer is right in front of us.
Talking to White House officials and top Republicans today, they say the
president`s political theater in that meeting with Senator Schumer and
Leader Pelosi and Vice President Pence was about sending a signal to the
Republican base that the president is fighting for the wall.
But the White House and top Republicans know, at the end of the day, the
president`s probably going to have to cut a deal that doesn`t get close to
the $5 billion he wants for border security and wall building.
He`s going to have to have a lesser deal. And if he has to get into that
later this month, he wants to at least have the show that he`s fighting for
that wall, so the Laura Ingrahams of the world, FOX Newses, take away he`s
at least fighting for it.
MATTHEWS: Well, the trouble is, he wasn`t fighting for the wall. He says
he has the wall. He says the wall kept the caravan, whatever number of
people, from coming into the United States, as if it`s there.
Doesn`t anybody just say to him, show us the wall? Where is this wall?
SPEIER: Well, the other part of it is, of the money, the $1.3 billion,
that has already been put in the budget, he`s only spent $290 million.
SPEIER: So he hasn`t been even spent what`s already been given to him.
MATTHEWS: It`s a world of delusion.
Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California and
Robert Costa of “The Washington Post.”
Up next: Did Nancy Pelosi`s performance in the Oval Office yesterday pave
the way for her to reclaim the speakership? I think she iced it yesterday.
There`s breaking news tonight indicating it may have been done already. It
happened today, the deal.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, breaking news tonight. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
House minority leader, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced tonight she
has reached a deal with some of her opposition that would help secure the
votes needed for her to re-claim her speakership. Pelosi has agreed to
support a proposal of term limits for the top Democratic leaders, that
would limit to her to no more than four years. It comes after her Oval
Office sparring yesterday with President Trump.
As “The Washington Post” wrote, it was proof positive this is no time to
elect a rookie with the toughest negotiations with American policies.
Here`s a bit of what happened yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also know that, you know,
Nancy`s in a situation where it`s not easy for her to talk right now and I
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, please
don`t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as a leader of
the House Democrats who just won a big victory –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
For more, I`m joined by tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable. Kimberly Atkins,
Washington bureau chief of “Boston Herald”, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos
is a Democrat from Illinois, and U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello, a
Republican from Pennsylvania. A great group to talk about politics and
that`s what it is.
Let me go to Cheri Bustos.
Congresswoman, I thought the way that Nancy Pelosi handled Trump yesterday
was like a lion tamer. She might as well have had a chair out. And she
was very polite, very civil and she pushed him back and said, I`ll describe
my leadership position. I`m not going to let you do it.
REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: I think that`s a perfect way to describe
it. I think she was masterful. I think if there were any of these
incoming freshman members of Congress or the so-called rebel group who
weren`t convinced last night, I don`t know what would convince them that
she should be the next speaker of the House.
MATTHEWS: And, Kimberly, she didn`t raise her voice. She didn`t use
sarcasm. She didn`t use dirty names, nicknames. She didn`t make fun of
She just very demurely, lady-like or whatever the word is, and just said,
back off, don`t mansplain me.
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BOSTON HERALD: Right, she said,
I`m not the one. I mean, she stood her ground, checked him immediately,
tried several times to say, look, let`s not do this in front of the
cameras. But when he pushed it, she made clear she could do it in front of
the cameras if she had to.
And I think after that moment, it was very difficult to make an argument as
to how anyone, certainly no one because there is no challenger, could serve
the role as speaker better than she can coming up being Washington`s top
Democrat facing off to Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, what do you make – this is tricky business but I`m going
to go in here, what do you make of Trump`s posture sitting in that room?
The way he sits the whole –
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: He only sits that way, though.
MATTHEWS: What would you call that? The man spread or whatever you call
that. He widens his legs as far as possible, man spreading, or whatever,
mansplaining. He`s also mansplaining. With the hands up, let me explain
tis to you, dear, or whatever he`s doing here. What do you make of that
because it didn`t work?
COSTELLO: Well, I`ve seen him do it with you, too. I saw a picture where
he does a lot of these sort of showman type stuff.
I`m going to say this – I think that Ms. Pelosi probably did herself very
well with any undecided Democrat and with base voters. I will say this,
though, for President Trump when he leaned in and told Senator Schumer,
I`ll own the shutdown, I don`t care, his base loves him for doing that.
So, in a weird sort of way, I think it was a draw as between who was Pelosi
speaking to. I think she was speaking to Democrats who want to see
somebody stand up to the president. I think the president was speaking to
his base because he – the base loves to see him say, I don`t care what you
say, this is what I`m for, we`re going to do it anyway.
MATTHEWS: Do you think his base wants to shutdown the government,
BUSTOS: He said he`d be proud to shutdown the government.
MATTHEWS: How about his base? They don`t care.
BUSTOS: You know, I don`t know. I probably don`t fit as part of his base,
but I don`t know why anybody would accept the president of the United
States saying he would be proud to shutdown the government.
MATTHEWS: He is in charge of being a chief executive.
ATKINS: And the problem will be Republicans under him living in districts
where their base will not be happy with the prospect of the government
shutting down a few days before Christmas, taking the paychecks away to
people who are guarding the border right now. We`re talking about
Department of Homeland Security folks. I don`t think that will go over –
that will put Republicans in a tough spot.
MATTHEWS: The president made clear if he doesn`t get the funding for the
border wall, he`ll shut the government down. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If we don`t get what we want one way or another, whether it`s
through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will
shutdown the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And this morning, Trump used the news about a terrorist incident
over in France to push for wall funding. He tweeted, another bad terror
attack in France, we`re going to string strengthen our borders even more.
Well, some Republican lawmakers are voicing concern over the president`s
call to shut down the government over border wall funding. West Virginia
Senator Shelly Moore Capito told “Bloomberg”, it`s a fool`s errand in my
opinion. And Arizona Senator Jeff Flake told NBC News that nobody wins
with government shutdowns.
I don`t know. What do you – I`m going to go back to you. You said people
get hurt, Ryan you say people don`t care on his side. They like – they
don`t care what he does as long as he`s fighting.
COSTELLO: I think his base loves the fact he`s willing to shut it down
over the wall, because he hasn`t gotten the wall yet, he`s going to win pin
this on the side –
MATTHEWS: Is he going to get the wall?
COSTELLO: I bet you he gets more than one-eight, but less that the $5
billion. The deal is with eight, nine Democrats in the Senate. I mean,
the House, it`s going to be probably all Republican votes once it comes
back from the Senate. That`s probably –
MATTHEWS: Talk about wasting federal money, I mean, you can argue whether
we need a wall or not, but there`s no reason to have one tenth of a wall?
What`s the purpose? It doesn`t stop anybody from coming into the country.
It`s a complete waste to do a partial wall. Isn`t it? Isn`t that stupid?
COSTELLO: Well, ultimately, it has to be part by part. By the way, I
didn`t campaign on a wall across the entire – so, I`m trying to make the
argument that it`s not necessarily my argument to make. But it would be
incremental. A wall along certain parts of the border makes sense but not
along the entire border. And interestingly the president is bringing up
the fact some of this is figuratively speaking and it`s border security –
MATTHEWS: So, how is this going to end here? A week from now, they go on
vacation, but they won`t go. Cheri Bustos, what`s going to – what are
Democratic leaders going to do? Are they going to say Nancy Pelosi was
really tough, or they`re going to say you don`t have the votes for your
BUSTOS: Well, we`re not going to give him any votes. And here`s the
thing, they are in charge. It is Ryan`s party in charge of the House, the
Senate and the White House. So, Nancy Pelosi`s message to the president is
you don`t have the votes, but you have the ability to get this done. If
you`ve got the votes, you don`t need us.
I mean, they`re in charge of the other branches of this government.
COSTELLO: And you have more leverage in January. So if it shuts down,
Democrats have more leverage in January. So any deal we get can only be as
conservative as eight Democrats in the Senate are willing to give.
MATTHEWS: Well, if you`re talking about a threat of potential impeachment,
the president told “Reuters” I`m not concerned, no, I think the people
would revolt if that happened. I`m going to start with you, nonpartisan
here. What does the president mean there will be a revolt? Is it a
metaphor or is it real?
ATKINS: Look, I know he has a core group of constituents within his base
that probably would get out and protest or, you know, make a lot of noise
if that were to happen and he would probably feed that by, you know,
decrying that this is some sort of coup. But, look, we`ve had two
impeachments in our country. Somehow this country`s survived. I don`t
think it will happen in the literal term.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, I don`t know if he does it, because I think we`re
underestimating this guy`s wildness. I think Trump may well will a revolt,
like something like the Whiskey Rebellion or something or something like
Macron over in Paris where they started shutting down the streets in
BUSTOS: I think it`s a shout out to his base this is what he`s calling
You know, we`ve talked about this before, what we need to do as Democrats
when we are in the majority come January 3rd. We have these guys who are
going to be chairman of the intelligence committee, oversight, judiciary.
They are good, reasonable people. They will be guided by the truth, and
that`s what needs to – whatever happens out of the Mueller investigation,
we just need to be guided by the truth and see where that leads us.
MATTHEWS: Sorry for interrupting.
The round table sticking with us. Up next, we`ve got a candid photo of two
high profile Democrats all part of the speculation for 2020 and the
Democratic ticket to be.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
You never know who you`re going to run into on the streets of D.C. Take a
look at this picture of two potential 2020 Democratic nominees. Former
Vice President Joe Biden, he`s the guy on the left, and Kamala Harris,
that`s the woman on the right. Senator Harris` team tweeted the photo this
afternoon saying the two randomly ran into each other.
We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable with Kimberly Atkins, who knows his
Boston politics, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, and U.S. Congressman Ryan
Talk about the political serendipity of this.
ATKINS: Yes, nothing is serendipitous when it comes to D.C. that wasn`t a
selfie because neither one of them was holding the phone. There was
something that went into that obviously.
MATTHEWS: Who was promoting it?
ATKINS: They`re both promoting it. They`re both promoting it. They`re
both getting buzz in different –
MATTHEWS: Is that a pairing?
ATKINS: It could be. Maybe it was a test out to see how they look on a
ticket. The question will be who will be at the top of it?
BUSTOS: What was the reaction to it?
MATTHEWS: A lot. We`re reacting to it because a lot of people thought
months ago that Biden could get in a term as president. He can`t say he`d
only serve one term, but if he puts a really strong running mate together
and he is on top, then people will say, she`ll get it the second term
without him saying so.
COSTELLO: Every time I turn a corner in the hallway, I see somebody else
running for president.
MATTHEWS: We had Tulsi Gabbard on tonight from Hawaii. I think she was
talking about running very seriously and –
COSTELLO: I saw Beto earlier. I saw Swalwell in the gym. He was talking
MATTHEWS: Who could beat Trump in Pennsylvania?
COSTELLO: Biden and Klobuchar. Bloomberg, interestingly, I think in the
suburbs would do very well. I don`t know what he does in the Northeast and
MATTHEWS: He`s very pro-choice.
COSTELLO: Well, I just think amongst working class Democrats and, again,
in the Southwest and the Northeast, I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Biden in the general would be somebody that Trump would be
COSTELLO: Biden is a Pennsylvanian to most people.
BUSTOS: I love Joe Biden. We`re going to have great candidates. It was
kind of funny when you were mentioning Tulsi Gabbard, class of 2012, this
is when I came in, Beto O`Rourke, Eric Swalwell. We`ve got this great
class of 2012 and they`re looking to do something better.
MATTHEWS: What`s better, hard progressive, moderate, what?
BUSTOS: Someone who is going to punch their way back into the hearts of
MATTHEWS: You`re laughing, Ryan.
COSTELLO: Look, if you`re going to go against Trump with Trump, Trump is
going to win, Trump is going to be a lefty Trumper.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Kimberly, thoughts? You don`t want to get in this
business of picking which profile is the best?
ATKINS: Look, I think for Democrats, the appeal is much broader. You`re
going to have to appeal to minorities, working people, people who don`t
think that capitalism is bad. You`re going to have to have a broad
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what? The Democrats need excitement. That`s
what I think. That`s why we were talking Beto for the last couple days.
We may not be talking about two days from now.
Kimberly Atkins, great to have you on. U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos,
one of the Democratic leaders, and Congressman Ryan Costello, taking a
breather from politics.
When we return, let me finish tonight with the royal family who now
inhabits the White House. You know who I`m talking about, the Romanovs.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the royal family now inhabiting the
White House and largely running this country`s government.
The singular strangeness in the Trump administration too infrequently noted
is the power of his daughter and his son-in-law. There is no precedent for
it. It is recognized that Jared and Ivanka, known as Javanka, have a wide
band of authority. They design America`s policy and strategy in the
greater Middle East, maintaining an intimate tie to Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman, the man who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Think of the absurdity of Jared`s idea for a Middle Eastern arrangement,
that the Saudi royal family with underwrite Israel`s control of Islam`s
third holy place, that the royal family entrusted with the guardianship of
Mecca would guarantee Israel`s possession of Jerusalem. Here at home, it
is being reported that noun will be named the president`s next chief of
staff without Jared and Ivanka`s personal approval.
I have warned since the beginning that such family ownership has not been
seen since the Romanovs ruled from St. Petersburg.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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