Pres. Trump’s Legal exposure grows. TRANSCRIPT: 12/13/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

John Barrett, David Jolly, Mieke Eoyang, Eric Swalwell, Jim Rutenberg, Zerlina Maxwell, Ayesha Rascoe, Ken Vogel, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  More trouble for Trump.  Let`s play HARDBALL. 


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 


There is breaking news from the “Wall Street Journal” of a new criminal

investigation involving the President.  According to people familiar with

the matters, federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether

President Trump`s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of their record

$107 million it raised from donations. 


Prosecutors are also examining whether donors gave money in exchange for

access to the incoming Trump administration.  According to the report, this

latest investigation of Rosen Park from the materials seized in connection

with the Michael Cohen probe. 


In response, the presidential inaugural committee said, it staged a

celebration of pour democrat processes and did so in full compliance with

all applicable laws.  They added that we simply have no evidence the

investigation exists. 


Well meanwhile, amid this mounting legal problem, President Trump is

running around like henry VIII trying to find a way out of the problems

with each new revelation of the south district of New York where President

becomes more deeply implicated in a scheme to break campaign finance laws. 

That is not just according to prosecutors.  It is according to Trump`s

former lawyer Michael Cohen who coordinated hush money payments to two

women on Trump`s behalf. 


Cohen has confessed to committing that crime at Trump`s direction. 

However, the President is now claiming without any evidence that

prosecutors only brought those charges against Cohen to embarrass him,

Donald Trump.  Here is Trump on FOX today. 





unrelated to me except for the two campaign finance charges that are not

criminal and shouldn`t have been on there.  They put that on to embarrass

me.  They put those two charges on to embarrass me.  They are not criminal



What happened is either Cohen or the prosecutors, in order to embarrass me,

said, listen, I`m making this deal for reduced time and everything else, do

me a favor and put these two charges on. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump also said he is not responsible for the illegal

payoffs because it was his lawyer, not him, who carried out the crimes on

his behalf. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And Michael Cohen says that he lied in order to

protect you. 


TRUMP:  Yes. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is your response to that? 


TRUMP:  Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong. 

Whatever he did, he did on his own.  He is a lawyer.  A lawyer who

represents a client is supposed to do the right thing.  That is why you pay

them a lot of money, et cetera, et cetera.  He is a lawyer.  He represents

a client.  I never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong. 




MATTHEWS:  As Trump continues to deflect blame and shirk responsibility,

there are new signs that the weight of his predicament has begun to sink in

on him, despite telling Reuters that he is not concern about impeachment

because he thinks quote “the people would revolt.” 


NBC News is today reporting is today reporting that he is more worried than

he lives on. 


Quote “Trump has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed

by the prospect of being impeached.” 


According to NBC sources quote “Trump has ranted about why no one around

him is doing anything to stop any of it.  And pended about the lack of

support he believes he has in Congress and within his own White House. 


I`m joined now by Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell who sits on the

House intelligence committee, Mieke Eoyang is vice president of the

national security program, Third Way, David Jolly, a former Republican

congressman who has cut ties with his party and John Barrett is a former

justice department official and professor at Saint John`s school of law. 

Thank you all for joining us. 


I want to start with Congressman Swalwell.  This is a breaking story late

this news.  It came in tonight.  Questions about what they did with the

money.  Did they misspend over $100 million where people were paying to

play?  Is this one of those pay to play schemes, where they pay the

administration and the inaugural money to get something and they got




that Donald Trump presided over a criminal campaign, a criminal transition

and continues to preside over a criminal presidency and this is someone who

ran on promising to drain the swamp and the very hours that he was about to

become President during all of these inaugural celebrations it looks like

there was a pay to play scheme. 


Now someone has already pled guilty connected to the Republican Party, a

consultant pled guilty in August of this year for giving tickets to a

Ukrainian pro-Russian oligarch.  So it has already smelled. 


MATTHEWS:  For the Inaugural. 


SWALWELL:  For inaugural.  For the 2016 inauguration. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you the obvious question because you are in the

intelligence, why was some pro-Russian Ukrainian so hot to try to get into

a dance at an inaugural party. 


SWALWELL:  It is because – that never happened at any prior inauguration. 

But when Donald Trump came on the scene, he injected into the American

bloodstream Russian influence.  We never saw so many Russians around

Presidential candidates. 


MATTHEWS:  Mieke, this is what I thought about from the beginning.  Two

things, Russian, Russia, Russians everywhere.  And number two, this

treatment by Russians of us as some country you could buy.  The President

could be bought.  You can buy him.  You can get to his nephew.  You can get

to somebody in the family.  They treated us like we are an old Romanov

cricketed family running our country.  It smells. 



you see is that the Trump administration hung a for sale sign out on the

campaign from the beginning when he is doing deals on the Moscow tower

which Cohen was lying about and pled guilty to lying about, saying, hey, I

want you to help me out with this deal in Moscow and, by the way. I`m still

running for President when you say the way that he treats the Trump

foundation as his own personal checkbook for all those things.  You know

that he wants to enrich his own pockets.  This is about Trump himself and

that he is open for business.  And he still is. 


MATTHEWS:  Well corruption is worldwide.  We always thought it wasn`t here. 


Anyway, throughout his FOX News interview today, the President took every

opportunity to deny anything wrong, when the questions were totally

unrelated to campaign finance violations.  Let`s listen. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Trump didn`t violate finance – Michael Cohen pled

guilty to something that is never a crime. 


TRUMP:  It is not under campaign finance.  Number two, if it was, it is not

even a violation.  Trump did nothing wrong.  I did nothing wrong.  The two

campaign finance charges that are not criminal.  They are not criminal

charges.  I never directed him to do anything.  I never directed him to do

anything incorrect or wrong. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is your reaction to getting the number?  It

still below 50 but 46 percent approval. 


TRUMP:  I think it is amazing because I only get bad stories.  I only get

bad stories.  You look at the papers, it is all nonsense.  It is campaign

contributions that if it were even a campaign contributions, totally legal. 

If you look at stories one after another.  They are all legal.  The great

lawyers that do that stuff are saying, there is nothing illegal. 




MATTHEWS:  David, let me ask you about this. 




MATTHEWS:  I know you are from Florida but he seems like an upset New York

cab driver in bad traffic say in July.  It is hot out there.  It is

miserable.  The traffic is not going anywhere.  And he is exacerbate

throwing his arms in the air blaming everybody but himself.  He looks like

that wants to get out of his situation but in a way is he fighting to stay

in it.  What is he up to? 


JOLLY:  Chris - yes.  Chris, look.  There is a statement that fish always

flop around before they expire.  And we are seeing right now is this

President is flailing.   He is reaching for oxygen because he knows this

investigation is right on his doorstep.  And what I think the takeaway from

that FOX News interview is, the President clearly has been in close counsel

with his attorneys.  That was a relatively tight message saying I did not

direct it even if it happened it was civil and not criminal.  It is not a

campaign finance violation. 


But the big picture here, Chris, I think after this week, it is hard to

foresee a scenario in which this President does not face impeachment

proceedings.  At least an impeachment investigation in 2019.  We now have

corroborating witnesses putting him in the room while a felony was being

committed, a felony that has been entered into judgment by a federal court. 

It is hard to see how a Democratic Congress could avoid having to approach

an impeachment investigation on that matter, the Cohen matter. 


MATTHEWS:  On that moment, on that very point, professor, can the client

blame his lawyer and say, you know, he did all of this.  He set up all this

cover-up.  He masqueraded these payments as something they are not, some

payment to McDougal for future articles she was going to write.  Hundreds

of articles she is going to write.  Three overs is going to appear on when

it really was a just cover-up for catch and kill.  All of this stuff was

done meticulously to cover up payments to help his campaign to shut up this

story.  Did he blame that on his lawyer/ 



is exactly the point, Chris.  If a client asks a lawyer, look, I have a

project and I want to abide by the law, and what are the lines and how do I

navigate this.  That is one type of client-lawyer conversation. 


What I will remind you of, from New York, is another client of lawyer-

client relation.  You remember Tom Hagan, the fictional lawyer ion the

Corleone family. 


MATTHEWS:  The peace time (INAUDIBLE). 


BARRETT:  Exactly.  Tome`s conversations with Don Veto were lawyer-client

conversations but within a criminal conspiracy looking to break the law and

looking to do what they needed to do.  And that is what an investigation is

digging into. 


MATTHEWS:  So he can`t blame his lawyer? 


BARRETT:  It is not an automatic get out of trouble free card to be talking

to a lawyer.  A lawyer can be a crook and of course Michael Cohen is a

crook.  He pled guilty and he was sentenced yesterday.  He is a serious



MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And this is a President, a human being who said my idea of

a perfect attorney general be Roy Cohn.  More notorious crook. 


Anyway, Trump`s new explanation for the illegal payments is just the latest

in a series of evolving and often contradictory denials that he and his

spokespeople have issued over the last two years.  In fact the first came

four days before the 2016 election. 


Speaking at the “National Enquirer,” that is the “National Enquirer”

agreement with Karen McDougal, Trump`s spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the

“Wall Street Journal,” we have no knowledge of any of this. 


In April of this year, the President said that he didn`t know about the

payment to Stormy Daniels nor why it was made. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy



TRUMP:  No. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Then why did Michael Cohen make that payment if it

was –


TRUMP:  You`ll have to ask Michael Cohen. 




MATTHEWS:  Three weeks later, Trump acknowledged that he did have a deal

with Daniels and that Cohen was representing him in the deal. 




TRUMP:  Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.  He

represents me like with this crazy stormy Daniels deal.  He represented me. 




MATTHEWS:  Well then Rudy Giuliani let it slip that they reimbursed Cohen

for Stormy Daniels. 




RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER:  That was not campaign money. 

Sorry I`m giving you a fact that you don`t know.  It is not campaign money. 

No campaign finance violation. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So they funneled it through the law firm. 


GIULIANI:  Funneled through the law firm and the President repaid it. 




MATTHEWS:  The next day Giuliani also suggested the payment had everything

to do with suppressing a negative story – catch this – during the





UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you were - you are saying that Stephanie Clifford

made these allegations, told Donald Trump`s lawyer, look I`m –


GIULIANI:  And denied them and said it wasn`t true.  However, imagine if

that came out on October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with

Hillary Clinton. 




MATTHEWS:  That was Mr. Rogers trying to talk on Sesame Street there.  A

ridiculous conversation. 


But here you have Giuliani stepping in it again saying, you know, it was

his money.  He was involved in the payments.  He was right in the middle –

and the President said I don`t know nothing. 


SWALWELL:  He lies because the truth just absolutely kills him.  But one

other thing that the President said today, he said that Michael Cohen was

just a low-level attorney who handled low-level matters which makes you

wonder, were there bigger payoffs that other attorneys handled.  Is that

what he is suggesting?  Were there bigger projects he was trying to do with

the Russians? 


I mean, the truth is, is that these were shady operators.  I don`t think

the American people frankly really care about the payoff.  What they care

though is if he acted in a shadowy way with this payoff?  Was he acted in

shadowy ways with the Saudis, with the Russians, and that affects foreign



MATTHEWS:  You know, Mieke, I think this is involving - I`m going to get

into more in this in the next segment.  I think it is a big New York

finance and media story.  It is all about the “National Enquirer,” it is

all about money payoffs, it is about the inaugural.  It seems to be moving

into the media center of the world which is New York.  This story is

growing bigger. 


EOYANG:  That is right. 


MATTHEWS:  And the “Wall Street Journal” is proving that by being all over

the story now. 


EOYANG:  That is right.  And the danger for Trump in it moving into New

York is that even though when we talk about potential pardons and his

protection from prosecution, that only applies to federal crimes.  But some

of these things are going to be violations of New York state law and what

we have seen is the New York attorney general has already said she`s going

to be all over him –


MATTHEWS:  Does that ambition come from the job, by the way.  I mean, I`m

not saying anything against anybody, but it does seem New York is

developing a taste for this scandal big time. 


EOYANG:  Well, it is where all of the stuff happened.  So, of course. 


SWALWELL:  Let me go to professor on this.  What do you make of that? 

Because I just think the volume of this story is growing.  The fact that it

has become a finance story now with the inaugural question.  It has become

a media story with “the National Enquirer” owned politically by Trump.  The

story gets bigger and bigger.  It is not about Russia only, it about this

power, almost a Rico kind of situation, as somebody said a few minutes ago,

the congressman running a criminal enterprise.  Your thoughts. 


BARRETT:  Well, I think it is a big money story.  It involves construction

and the financing of buildings.  It involves campaigns in their financing. 

It involves these hush payments.  All of that is cited here in New York. 

And the southern district of New York, part of the justice department, not

Robert Mueller, has its teeth in this and isn`t letting go.  There is a lot

of serious stuff here.  So this is a big media story.  It is a big law

enforcement story.  And I think soon it will be a big congressional over

sight story. 


MATTHEWS:  Is this a Rico case?  We have a leader – a king pen of a whole

operation and all of this stuff going on involving payments to the

inaugural committee, apparently favors sought perhaps pay-to-play operation

going on.  The question here paying off to these women involved in these

affairs if you call it that. 


All of this stuff - all this Russian connection, all this run by somebody,

not a hidden hand but some hand is calling the shots.  Why is it all

happening under Donald Trump?  Could this be a Rico charge?  Would somebody

like Mueller be bold enough to do that? 


BARRETT:  Well, I don`t know about Mueller.  I think it is the U.S.

attorney`s office and the acting U.S. attorney in the southern direct who

is the point man on this.  It could be a Rico case.  It could be various

types of conspiracy charges with different objects, criminal objects of the

conspiracy.  It could be many different types of substantive crimes, money

laundering, bribery, campaign finance, the things that we`re glimpsing



MATTHEWS:  Professor, please come back.  Professor John Barrett. 


So congressman Eric Swalwell, Mieke Eoyang, David Jolly, thank you all. 


Coming up, “the National Enquirer`s” parent company has admitted to paying

$150,000 to various story about the alleged Trump affair in coordination

with his campaign.  What does this revelation do to the President`s



Plus, candidates are trying to announce their interest to run in 2020. 

What can we expect from Beto O`Rourke, Sherrod Brown, (INAUDIBLE), Julian

Castro to name just a few.  And as usual, Trump spent a lot of air time on

FOX applauding himself on a wide range of topics such as his relationship

with China, the GM plant closers and his search for a new chief of staff. 


Finally, let me finish with the anonymous Senate vote late today to condemn

the Saudi crown prince for his murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  A

unanimous vote.  He did it.  We have to do something about it. 


This is HARDBALL where the action is. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


Yesterday the President suffered a one-two punch from two old allies. 

Michael Cohen, of course, his one-time fixer and lawyer claim the President

directed him to commit a felony.  Then came the more explosive allegation. 

AMI, the company that publishes “The National Enquirer” and is run by David

Pecker, a close friend of Trump`s, signed a non-prosecution agreement with

federal prosecutors, and admitted to helping Donald Trump and Michael Cohen

hide an alleged affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the

presidential campaign. 


And throughout the campaign, AMI acted as the de facto P.R. wing of the

Trump campaign, promoting Trump and savaging Hillary Clinton.  In fact,

yesterday`s agreement confirmed media reports that Cohen, Trump and Pecker

met as far back as August of `15 to discuss the prospect of Trump running

for president and how AMI would help protect him from negative stories. 


NBC News has confirmed the reports that Trump was present for those

discussions, placing him at the scene of the crime.  As “The Wall Street

Journal” reports: “Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every

step of the agreements.  He directed deals and phone calls and meetings

with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others.”


For more, I`m joined by Jim Rutenberg, “New York Times” media columnist,

and Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of

New York and an MSNBC contributor. 


Let me ask you this, Jim, about the relationship between Trump and AMI. 

Explain.  What is that deal that they have had working all these years?  



the deal was, actually in August of 2015, David Pecker, Michael Cohen and

Mr. Trump – we had always heard this happened in Trump Tower – cooked up

a deal that basically went like this.


Pecker says to Trump, you`re running for president.  We`re here to help. 

If anything erupts in terms of women and your past relationships, we, A,

have our ears open, so we will look out for you, and then we will buy those

stories and kill them.


And now this is stated as fact in prosecutorial documents.  So prosecutors

in New York are certain that that`s exactly how this went down.  And then

the next year unfolds, and we see “The Enquirer” do exactly that.


MATTHEWS:  In addition everything else, they were bilking these women,

these young women, because McDougal was promised, as I understood it, Jim,

100 stories she was going to write as a freelancer which would run in “The

National Enquirer.”


I didn`t know they had that much space for editorial, but they did.  And

then they – three times – she`s an attractive woman, of course.  She will

be on the cover three times.  And all that was – it was like “Quiz Show,”

where they promised that guy all that stuff, he would be the commentator on

“The Today Show.”


None of that was intended to deliver – be delivered, right?  It was all –

they bilked her out of her – her rights to a settlement.


RUTENBERG:  Yes, she saw that way.  She brought her own lawsuit in April

saying that, that they told her, we`re going to let you run – they were

fitness columns.  She`s now a fitness specialist. 


And they said, we will run these columns under your – under your byline. 

It will be across not just “The Enquirer,” but they also have some health

and fitness magazines.  And once the deal was done, in her view, they

disappear on her, and it`s clear to her exactly what this is. 


This was just about buttoning her up, and not giving her the other things

she was seeking. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, today, President Trump denied paying AMI.  Here he is.





any money to that tabloid, OK?  I don`t think we made a payment to that

tabloid.  I was asking the question, let`s – I don`t think we made a





MATTHEWS:  Well, however, just a month ago, “The Wall Street Journal”

reported that Michael Cohen assured Mr. Pecker – that`s AMI`s boss – that

Trump would reimburse him for the payment to McDougal.


The newspaper goes on to report that Pecker called off the reimbursement

because his lawyer had warned him that it would undermine any argument the

McDougal payment was made for editorial and business reasons, rather than

as an in-kind contribution.


AMI has admitted that Pecker ordered Cohen to get rid of the agreement, but

Cohen did not.


Anyway, “The Journal,” “The Wall Street Journal,” reports that federal

agents found a copy when they raided Cohen`s offices and residence.


I can`t believe it.


Mimi Rocah, thank you for this.


This is so intertwined, how one thing leads to another, like all these

things meander, as they do when there`s a special prosecutor.  They raid

Michael Cohen`s office.  They find this material that leads them to this. 

Here we are at AMI door front.


But it`s so interesting.  The president denying he ever made the payment

shows that he was in on the fact that they told him not to make the

payment, because making the payment would incriminate himself. 


I mean, I`m – just interesting how you get caught in your own stories. 


MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, that`s right, Chris. 


And, I mean, this is typical of people who, frankly, have committed crimes,

is, they can`t keep all the lies straight.  And Trump, I mean, it really

depends which news appearances he`s on, which day it is.  One day, it`s, I

relied on – or one hour – it`s, I relied on the advice of Michael Cohen,

and then the next hour, it`s well, Michael Cohen wasn`t really a lawyer. 

He was more of a spokesperson. 


I mean, he`s – he`s just blowing up every possible defense. 


But I think what`s important here is to keep an eye on what the government,

what the prosecutors have.  And they already have built a really good case

that implicates Trump and likely whoever Executive 2 was – is for the

Trump Organization who was named in the Cohen information.


And they are sort of already just chipping away at possible defenses, if

not knocking them out altogether.  For example, by having AMI and Michael

Cohen both saying, this was for the purpose of influencing the campaign,

which I think we could have inferred anyway, they can prove that now in



And so it takes away that defense.


MATTHEWS:  Jim, it`s great to have you on.  We haven`t you had on for a

while, so I`m going to exploit you right now, because it seems to me, the

big picture here, it – I have always watched the media and the power of

New York, the power of New York.


It helped Hillary.  It helps the Mets.  It helps “The New York Times,” the

Yankees.  Everybody from New York gets more coverage than they deserve,

even the Knicks.  The fact is, it happens.


And I`m asking you, the fact that this story has metamorphosized into a big

story about finance, “The Wall Street Journal”`s covering it, about the –

about the inaugural, about the media up there, especially “The National

Enquirer” which people actually do buy and read at the Safeway, where they

go the store.


It`s right there.  People all read it.  They had a big role in the O.J.

case.  They had a big role in the election last time.  This story is

growing, not dying.  That`s what I`m asking about.  The legs of this story

seem to be longer and stronger than ever, the Trump story.




And the funny thing is, where did Donald Trump, the persona of Donald

Trump, start?  It started in the New York City tabloids.  So, basically,

“The National Enquirer” is those tabloids writ large. 


However, it`s strayed from some of its roots.  It is in every single

supermarket just about across this country.  Donald Trump couldn`t have had

a better ally, and not just ally now, basically an adjunct of his campaign. 

They admit this.


So, a tabloid personality becomes a tabloid president, with the help of

America`s leading tabloid.


MATTHEWS:  And following up another string here, Mimi, “Access Hollywood,”

when he said, “I can get away with any misbehavior with women” anything,

the grossest thing, it seems like that leads directly into these payments

to two women. 


People say, “The Front Runner,” the movie about Gary, Gary Hart, let`s not

talk about people`s sex lies.  But, in this case, it directly comes out of

his behavior with women that has gotten him into these lies, these cover-

ups, these payments.  It`s all connected. 


You can`t separate his behavior with women from his financial – from his

political and from his constitutional position right now.  He`s in trouble

for impeachment right now because of all that behavior.  It`s all – it`s

all connected.  Your thoughts? 


ROCAH:  Yes, that`s a great – it`s a great point, Chris. 


I mean, maybe he could get away with whatever he`s been doing and whatever

he wants with women, and people sort of don`t care.  But if you commit

crimes to cover that up – and this is not – I am so angry when I hear the

sort of shoulder-struggling and minimizing of this criminal behavior. 


This is not a small campaign finance violation, which is the word that

people keep using.  This is a felony.  And it was a scheme.  And we now

know that it started in 2015.  And so it was well-calculated.  It was

planned.  It was designed to keep this information from the American voting



He didn`t care about – I mean, he said publicly, as you point out, “I can

get away with anything.”  So, what does he care if anybody finds out about

him having affairs?  He`s not embarrassed about that, and it`s not a crime

to have an affair.


But it is a crime when you develop a scheme with a company, with your

fixer, and with – use your own corporation, the Trump corporation, and you

open shell accounts, and you design – devise what sounds to me more like a

fraud scheme than a campaign, the way we traditionally think of campaign

finance violations. 


That`s really what this is.  And that`s why it`s not even close to the line

that they`re pursuing it.  And the more that you have investigators,

trained, good investigators, from the Southern District of New York, career

prosecutors, New York FBI office looking into Trump, the more they`re going

to find.  I`m confident of that.


MATTHEWS:  It`s a New York story, bigger than ever. 


Thank you, Jim Rutenberg of “The New York Times” and Mimi Rocah.


Up next:  If past performance is an indicator of future electability, our

next guest says there`s already a clear front-runner in the bid to unseat

Trump in 2020. 


This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 






SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  You don`t make it personal.  I don`t use –

I don`t use the president`s name very often. 


So, you challenge this president.  You make that contrast, his phony

populism that calls names and degrades people and pushes people down, for

so the real populism of supporting workers.  It`s a – it`s a pretty simple



MATTHEWS:  I hope you`re running, for the simple reason…


BROWN:  You don`t do it by name-calls.






Welcome back to HARDBALL.


That was Ohio Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown on how to take on and

beat President Trump in 2020.


In today`s “Washington Post,” conservative columnist George F. Will writes

that Brown could be the optimum challenger to Trump, writing: “If Democrats

are looking for a lefty who can win in 2020, they should look at Brown as

seriously as he`s now looking at running.”


Well, Brown is, of course, one of the – in the crowded field of Democrats

said to be considering running.  In fact, several have acknowledged as much

right here on HARDBALL in just the last few weeks.  They`re all saying it



Let`s watch some.




SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  I`m considering it.  There`s a number

of people considering it.


MATTHEWS:  What would stop you?


KLOBUCHAR:  Look, it is a daunting task to make that decision. 


MATTHEWS:  You`re probably going to run.  You don`t have to tell me.  I

think you`re going to run.  I think Beto is going to run.



am, yes.


If I decide to do it, then I`m going to go on my own timeline.


MATTHEWS:  Yourself, are you running? 


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII:  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.




MATTHEWS:  Nobody`s ready for that question.


Anyway, this week, one of those voices, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro,

formerly announced he is exploring – that`s the first step – a 2020 bid. 

He will make a final decision, he says, in mid-January.


I`m joined right now by George F. Will himself, columnist for “The

Washington Post,” and Zerlina Maxwell, who is director of progressive

programming for SiriusXM.


You`re both smart looking at this.  So, I`m just going to suggest

something.  I think the battle, in my mind, is between the progressives,

people on the left, who say, this is our time, just like 1932 was the time

for Franklin Roosevelt, 1980 was the time for Ronald Reagan on the right.


Every once in a while, every 50 years or so, there`s an opportunity for

someone with real ideology to win an election they normally couldn`t win. 

So, go for it. 


The other point of view is, Trump`s a pretty smart pol.  He knows how to

win places like Pennsylvania, Ohio.  He certainly knows how to – Wisconsin

and Michigan, so you better run the strongest, best person, who could bring

back those working-class white voters back to the Democratic Party.  So, be



So, I`m going to ask George, which are – you side on?  Should they be

careful and run somebody who can win back those white working, or go for

it, say, this is the chance, we`re going to get a real progressive in

there, and knock their daylights out?


GEORGE WILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Careful.  I vote for careful.


Democrats have to decide two things.  How penitent are they about the

indispensable role they played in 2016 in electing Donald Trump by

nominating the only biped on the planet he could beat?


And then they have to decide how serious they are about winning?  Are they

serious enough to compromise their identity politics to even consider a

candidate with a wrong chromosome, so white male?




Zerlina, your thoughts on that.  I`m not even sure who you`re pushing.  But

if you want to push somebody, go for it. 


ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO:  I`m not pushing anybody in particular.  I

think that…


MATTHEWS:  I hear you like Mitch.


MAXWELL:  I absolutely like Mitch.


MATTHEWS:  I like him too.


MAXWELL:  He`s my sleeper. 


MATTHEWS:  Mitch Landrieu.


MAXWELL:  But to the point that George just made about identity politics, I

do just have to push back slightly.


When we`re talking about identity politics, oftentimes, the people

critiquing leaning into identity politics happen to be straight white men. 

If you just think about the people who criticize identity politics,

generally, they don`t look like me. 


And I think that, if you insert the phrase civil rights in where you are

talking about identity politics, it makes a lot more sense.  You`re talking

about making sure that you`re implementing policies and pushing for

policies that protect and help the most marginalized.  And those people

make up the Democratic coalition. 


So, in 2020, I think what we need is both someone who is inspiring, but

also who is authentic, who can speak to those constituencies, even if they

don`t happen to be one of the members of those constituent groups, like

African-American women, for example.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me make – let me help. 


Another way of saying that, in 19 – 2012 and 2008, the Democratic Party

had a candidate, Barack Obama, who aroused the base, African-Americans,

minorities.  Everybody – everybody who felt shut out by history says,

here`s our chance. 


But they also got a lot of middle-of-the-road people, a lot of – a bunch

of Republicans, in fact, joined in that.


In 2016, the minorities didn`t vote.  They felt Hillary, for whatever

reason, didn`t inspire them.  The Democratic ticket didn`t seem to be

talking to them.  They didn`t vote.


WILL:  Donald Trump will arouse the Democratic base.


And, remember, we`re talking about Ohio.


MATTHEWS:  He didn`t – well, he didn`t in 2016.


WILL:  He wasn`t on… 


MATTHEWS:  He didn`t – no, Donald Trump won.  When he won, he didn`t

arouse minorities to vote against him.


WILL:  No, but, this time around, surely he will. 


MATTHEWS:  Why now?


WILL:  Remember, we`re talking about Ohio.




WILL:  In 50 – 45 of 54 presidential elections, Ohio`s voted with the

winner.  No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.


This is a man who can campaign, got the look, the manner…


MATTHEWS:  I agree.


WILL:  … the record.  He can campaign in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin,





MATTHEWS:  Zerlina, is that a fair target zone for the Democrats, if you

speak as a partisan, which you are?


Is it fair to say, we better win back Pennsylvania, Ohio?  We can`t win

Ohio maybe, but we can certainly win back Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and

Michigan.  Those states just were won by Debbie Stabenow, by Sherrod Brown,

by Bobby Casey.  Democrats know how to talk to those voters.


Do they need to win those states back to get back in the presidency, do you



MAXWELL:  Absolutely, to get to 270. 


But I think 2018 has taught us an important lesson.  And that is, you have

to challenge people everywhere.  You have to compete everywhere.  You don`t

just go after certain places, like those battleground states that we like

to talk about so much.  You really have to go after every vote. 


And I think that a campaign…


MATTHEWS:  What good did it do Secretary Clinton to go after Arizona and

North Carolina, if she`s going to lose Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and

Michigan?  Because that`s what she chose to do. 


That was a bad strategy on the part of her campaign, maybe not her, but her

numbers people said, oh, we can win a sweep.  We don`t need to focus on

Erie, Pennsylvania.  We got to get out to Arizona.  We got to get to North

Carolina.  Let`s put Tim Kaine on the ticket, not Sherrod Brown on the



Do you think that was a smart move?  I`m just asking.


MAXWELL:  Well, that was based on an analytics-driven campaign, not a

passion-driven campaign, and one that actually speaks to constituencies in

language that they feel they are connected to, right?


And that`s why Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, is my

sleeper, because he`s somebody who is both – he has the Southern drawl. 

He can speak to white working-class voters, but he also feels just as

comfortable in a black church. 


And so you need somebody who can speak across constituencies and really be

authentic.  That`s why Beto is rising to the top, because he is speaking to

people in a way that doesn`t sound like a politician. 


And I think that Democrats need to look at some of the things that he`s

saying and perhaps adopt some of that methodology.  I think that it`s

really going to be a campaign about who – who resonates with the base and

who excites the base, but also who can speak to – across constituencies to

a broad coalition of people that make up the Democratic Party.




MAXWELL:  And we just saw this in 2018, Chris. 




MAXWELL:  The Democratic coalition is diverse.  And we elected a diverse

array of candidates.  And I would like to see that in 2020. 


MATTHEWS:  George, do you think it`s going to be a close one in 2020?

Looking at it now – tough for the Democrats. 


WILL:  Not tough if they nominate someone who doesn`t drive people away. 

And if they nominate someone who can talk across these constituency. 


MATTHEWS:  Any chance you`ll vote for the Democrat? 


WILL:  Yes.  Absolutely. 


MATTHEWS:  News, George Will could vote Democrat in 2020. 


WILL:  It has never happened before. 


MATTHEWS:  Zerlina, you are making an impact here.  Talk to this guy and

have a lunch. 


MAXWELL:  Absolutely. 


MATTHEWS:  George F. Will, a possible recruit for Democrats in 2020 and

Zerlina Maxwell, well spoken by both.


Up next, there was a consistent theme for that Trump interview on Fox

today.  This president is proud of his own accomplishments, whether real or

imagined.  I just love the wall that he thinks is there. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


During his Fox interview, President Trump seemed to be boasting about

everything he touches. 


Here is Trump on his meeting with Chinese President Xi. 





meeting, it lasted for four hours.  It was in Argentina during the G-20.  I

met with President Xi at the end and we had a fantastic meeting.  It was

just a great meeting. 


INTERVIEWER:  What makes it fantastic? 


TRUMP:  The relationship that I have –


INTERVIEWER:  What was the conversation like?




MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is on the layoffs announced by General Motors. 




INTERVIEWER:  And the nation got to see you as GM said, you know what,

we`re going to wipe away 15 percent of the work force right before

Christmas.  And you said, I want to talk to –


TRUMP:  Yes, I called her, I don`t like what she did. 




TRUMP:  It was nasty.  It doesn`t really matter because Ohio is under my

leadership from a national standpoint.  Ohio is going to replace jobs like

in two minutes. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, the president also boasted about his support among women. 




TRUMP:  I have tremendous women support but if you remember the last

election, I was – I was worried I wouldn`t get one woman in the whole

United States to run – and I got tremendous – Hillary wish she had my

numbers, OK?  Hillary got trounced with women. 




MATTHEWS:  Actually women voted for Hillary. 


And finally, here is Trump on the search for the next chief of staff. 




TRUMP:  Well, I want somebody that is strong but somebody that thinks like

I do.  It is my vision.  It is my vision after all.  At the same time, I`m

open to ideas. 


We`ve had an incredible run.  Nobody has done what I`ve done and what this

administration has done in the first two years. 




MATTHEWS:  For more, let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL round table.  Ayesha

Rascoe, White House correspondent for NPR, Ken Vogel, political reporter

for “The New York Times,” Dana Milbank, columnist for “The Washington



All three of you, start report.  First of all, white women, to be blunt,

voted for women.  Women as a gender voted for Hillary Clinton. 




MATTHEWS:  I hate to steal your fire.  But that is so obviously true. 


And everybody knows it.  Trump thinks the other way. 


Let`s talk about this chief of staff thing.  He said ten people are looking

for the job.  Everybody wants it. 


RASCOE:  He says everyone wants it, but yet he hasn`t filled it and we keep

hearing from people who don`t want to have the job.  I mean, look –


MATTHEWS:  Meadows said no. 


RASCOE:  Meadows said no.  I`m sure that he will come up with someone –

the reports now it might be Jared Kushner. 


MATTHEWS:  You`re toying with me. 


RASCOE:  Those are reports.  And now, Jared Kushner –


MATTHEWS:  You got MBS as candidate?  The crown prince. 


RASCOE:  They are about to have a win on criminal justice reform.  That was

a big project for him, that he may get through.  So, maybe he`s going to

use that say he wants to be chief of staff.  At least, then he doesn`t have

to worry about being fired, you know?  He has Ivanka to back him up. 


MATTHEWS:  Right.  Wild list.  I look at these guys like David Bossie, a

tough guy, street guy, as anybody as Trump ever would be, and then you have

an inside like Wayne Berman, total Washington insider, which he doesn`t

know what he wants. 



Anyone going into it will have to immediately deal with the Mueller

investigation, House Democrats controlling the House and subpoenaing all

manner of things related to the administration.  It doesn`t bode well for

your future trajectory. 


MATTHEWS:  Is it going to be a male?  Why do we assuming it`s going to be a

male?  I do.  I don`t think you have your manhood in trust, as somebody

once said. 



is anybody.  Piers Morgan has thrown his hat into the ring. 


MATTHEWS:  Your eyes widen and you get sarcastic. 


MILBANK:  It`s true.  And a lot of Trump`s supporters have been saying that

Michael Flynn should be the guy but he would have to be pardoned first. 


You know, the truth is, the reason this is a difficult job to fill is

because the president has a chief of staff and his name is Donald Trump. 

He`s also the White House counsel and the White House spokesperson and

everything else.  So, whoever is going to be in that job is, first of all,

are going to be ineffectual.  Eventually would be publicly humiliated.  He

will have to hire a lawyer and could wind up in even worse trouble than



So, the question is, if you are actually qualified to do the job, why on

earth would you want to do it? 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, the old joke, I used this as an ice breaker by Henry

VIII, he would say to his wives, I won`t keep you long.  That is what he`ll

say to the new chief of staff, no more than two years.  The kid – what`s

his name, Nick Ayers, said I`ll take it for three – that`s an insult.  He

said the president of the United States, I`ll take your little job but I`m

only staying three months. 


RASCOE:  Well, he probably – well, I`m not sure, but Trump normally

started out saying that he loves the guy, he`s so smart, he`s so great, and

then he turns on them.  He was saying the same thing about Kelly.  Kelly

was the greatest ever until he wasn`t and then just kind of, you know,

unceremoniously sewn the door.  And that is the issue. 


MILBANK:  Rex Tillerson was one the great businessmen on the face of the



MATTHEWS:  Dumb as a rock. 


MILBANK:  Dumb as a rock.  That happened pretty fast. 


MATTHEWS:  And I think he called me dumb as a rock. 


VOGEL:  It sort of reflects the other stuff that he said during the

interview where he is – he is talking about how Ohio could replace the GM

jobs.  Everything that he touches and that he sees as part of his effort is



MATTHEWS:  You want him selling a used car to somebody else but don`t want

to buy the used car from him. 


Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is getting rave reviews over the deal she struck

with maverick Democrats supporting term limits for the top party leadership

jobs.  The deal was made, of course, in exchange for their support for her

to be speaker again.  “The New York Times” described it as the ultimate

power move of a master tactician. 


Following the announcement, seven of those insurgent Democrats have now

said they will back her bid, all be guaranteeing she will be the speaker

again.  One of those Democrats, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, was asked

today if his group was simply outmaneuvered. 




REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO:  I think her agreeing to making this retroactive

herself, I think signifies that we got some serious gains and I think

institutionalizing and getting her support for term limits for House

leadership in the Democratic Caucus is a really big deal and so it is not

certainly everything that we wanted, but it is a lot and I think we can –

we could look each other in the eye and say we brought the kind of change

that the American people voted for. 




MATTHEWS:  Does anybody think it was a compromise for shrewd move? 


RASCOE:  I think it was a shrewd move.  She`s 78, so giving herself –


MATTHEWS:  She`s not going to run. 


RASCOE:  Yes, you know, she`s not going to serve until she`s like 86.  So

it`s not really costing her anything. 


MATTHEWS:  So why did they accept it? 


RASCOE:  But it does affect other people coming up behind her. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Steny and Jim Clyburn will have to go with her as part of

the deal she struck, without those two guys.  They had nothing to do with

this deal. 


MILBANK:  I don`t think that she wanted to do this.  I wrote a column

suggesting this a little over a month ago and her staff reacted furiously

saying you`re dead to me, saying she`d make herself a lame duck.  She`d be

completely ineffective. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you mean you`re dead to me?  Who said that to you? 


MILBANK:  One of Pelosi staffers.  They really did not like this idea.  So

I think she did it because she had to.  But that said, it is a master

stroke, because she`s going to retain all the power she had.  She just had

probably the best week of her political career. 


MATTHEWS:  Didn`t most people think she`d probably serve two more years of

her own volition. 


MILBANK:  Well, she`s not going to be serving when she`s 103. 


VOGEL:  Things are going to look a whole lot different after 2020,

certainly if Democrats take pack the White House after having Nancy Pelosi

sort of running the House, they`re going to be in a tough spot. 


MATTHEWS:  It is my belief she will leave when she figures out who will

succeed her and has that person in the job.  She will fix the succession

before she leaves.  It`s not going to be an enemy.


Ayesha Rascoe, Ken Vogel – this is Machiavelli talking here – and Dana



HARDBALL back in a minute.




MATTHEWS:  Coming up, let me finish tonight with the Senate`s rebuke this

afternoon of Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with today`s unanimous Senate vote to

condemn the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal



This is simple.  This is about right and wrong.  It`s about our country

standing for something about being something we long thought of ourselves,

the good guys.  That`s right, the good guys. 


No, we are not perfect.  But there comes a time when you either say who you

are with pride or join the world`s worst in their immoral swill. 


Jamal Khashoggi wrote for “The Washington Post.”  He wrote in English so

that you and I would read him.  He wrote with hope that what he said and

wrote would be understood and that we would feel the same moral purpose. 


For this, he was killed with deliberate malice – killed so that everyone

like him, people like us, would know never to do the same thing.  Killed

with his fiancee waiting outside the door.  Killed with such barbarous

collusion that we wouldn`t know that the state of Saudi Arabia had made the



And for this, there needs to be a response, an enduring commanding message

from our society to Saudi Arabia.  With the killing and butchering of

American journalists, your crown prince made a statement to the world. 

This is ours.  This crime against truth will not stand. 


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


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.






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