Trump letter of intent. TRANSCRIPT: 12/19/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Ginger Gibson, Chris Wilson, Jamal Simmons, David Fahrenthold, Ted Lieu, Ryan Costello, Richard Blumenthal

Date: December 19, 2018
Guest: Ginger Gibson, Chris Wilson, Jamal Simmons, David Fahrenthold, Ted
Lieu, Ryan Costello, Richard Blumenthal


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We have breaking news tonight from the “Washington Post.” This suggests
special counsel Robert Mueller may have just taken a big step toward
indicting Trump`s longtime adviser, Roger Stone.

According to the report, special counsel Robert Mueller asked the House
intelligence committee this Friday for an official transcript of Roger
Stone`s testimony. As the Post points out, the special counsel`s office
has had access to an unofficial copy of Stone`s closed door September 2017

However, Mueller`s request of the official copy signals the special counsel
could now be closing in on an indictment several legal experts are saying.
Prosecutors are required to have a certified copy of the transcript to show
that a witness lied.

Stone has given varying explanations about he appeared to have prior
knowledge of the Russian hacked emails which were released by WikiLeaks to
inflect maximum damage on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.

Referring to Clinton`s campaign chair, whose emails had been hacked, Stone
most famously hinted at quote “Podesta`s time in the barrel,” later saying,
there was a pay load coming just two days before Podesta`s emails were

However, Stone has denied, of course, having any advance knowledge about
the release of the hacked emails.

Joining me now is Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut,
Yamiche Alcindo, White House correspondent for PBS News Hour, Charlie Sykes
is an MSNBC contributor, and Malcolm Nance is a former naval intelligence
officer and author of “the Plot to Destroy Democracy.” There it is.

Senator, there`s no doubt that the master of dark arts in the Trump world
is Roger Stone, and he is also been his closest political advisor going
back to when he first teased about running for President 20 years ago.
Roger was always sitting next to him. At pen, he was sitting next to
Melania when we have the Hampton (ph) meeting there back in the last
century. He has been with them and he is a dark arts guy. And he loved
the idea that he could predict the WikiLeaks thing was coming out from the
Russians ahead of time and now it looks like it might be criminal.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: And this indictment of Roger
Stone would be a bombshell because he has been such a close advisor on
dirty tricks, dark arts.

MATTHEWS: That`s what he does.

BLUMENTHAL: And that`s his expertise. But it also implicates others
potentially in the Trump organization like Donald Trump Jr. because his
contacts with WikiLeaks, messaging with WikiLeaks by Donald Trump Jr. also
could be involved in this indictment. So the Roger Stone connection here,
like spokes on a wheel, could be very, very far reaching.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm, talking about this in sort of the back alleys. It
sounds like Dick Cheney talking here, back alley stuff, but it is the world
in which Roger lives. I have known the guy 30-40 years. I mean, that is
what he is. He was Nixon`s guy. He is a smart as hell guy who goes – he
does the tricks of politics which are sometimes not so nice.

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, you are absolutely right.
But I think he may have bit off more than he can chew here. You know, Bob
Mueller is a pretty smart guy himself. And I think what he is going to do
here is he is going to build a cage for Roger Stone to jump into and then
try to lie his way out of it. And he is going to start it off with an

And, well, you know, I think this tier of people who are going to be
indicted next are going to be some very surprising characters. I believe
Julian Assange himself and perhaps the WikiLeaks organization will be
indicted at the exact same time. They are the bridge from the Russians to
the Trump campaign through this political dirty tricks team that seem to
have been led by Roger Stone.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, what do you think Mueller is after? He is always after
something from these guys.

think if you think about the way that he`s done these in the past, it seems
as though he is building this group of people that he is indicting to get
at bigger fish. We have kind of all realized that or always felt like
Robert Mueller was going to go after someone big.

I think there`s a growing evidence that that person`s last name is going to
be Trump. It is not - we are not sure if the President himself will be
indicted, but I think more and more when we see the President being
paranoid and being angry and being frustrated, he is thinking about his
children. He is thinking specifically about Donald Trump Jr.

MATTHEWS: That`s my religion. That`s what`s coming next. One key
question is whether Mueller can show that Stone knew about the hacked
emails before the release. We already know that Stone he was in touch with
right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi who suggested to Stone in an
email that he knew what WikiLeaks planned to do.

In one email to Stone, Corsi said word is friend in embassy plans two more
dumps one shortly after I`m back. Second in October. Impact planned to be
very damaging. Well, that`s spy talk.

Anyway, the next question is whether Stone ever passed that information
long to Trump. According to Stone`s own public statements, he was talking
to Trump frequently during the campaign. Here it goes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How often do you talk to him?

not – not on a daily basis but from time to time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you talked to him?

STONE: Saturday.

We talk from time to time. I decline to characterize the content of those

I spoke to Donald Trump yesterday. He`s in good spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you divulge to us, Roger, and I respectfully ask
this question, some of those middle of the night phone conversations you
had with Mr. Trump?

STONE: You know, I really can`t, and it`s been my policy not to discuss
personal conversations with him otherwise they will end in all honesty.


MATTHEWS: Charlie, he has been doing this striptease for years. You know,
I`m really close to the guy. I knows all about it. We are very intimate.
We talk at all hours of the night. But I`m not telling to you about what
we are talking about. He always wants to be seen as tight with the guy.

misfit toys when you think about it. That, you know, for Donald Trump, if
you boil down to the essence of Trumpism, you have Roger Stone, who is the
notorious dirty trickster, chronic liar at the center of American politics.
Now Donald Trump who is surrounded himself with all of these bad actors,
people like Roger Stone, is going to become enmeshed in all of their lives.
What`s really striking is just the momentum of this investigation. All the
elements, all of the threads seem to be coming together whether it is –
whether it is –.

MATTHEWS: I like that fact because I thought the “Access Hollywood” quote
was Trump.

SYKES: Right.


MATTHEWS: And he has proven the last two years that`s who he is, senator.
That`s who he is. And that`s led into this whole thing with the payoffs of
the two women, for the alleged affairs. The whole thing ties together.
But the idea that his dream was to have Roy Cohn, notorious Joe McCarthy
fire brand and fixer, whatever, and then they have Nixon`s guy, he wanted
Joe McCarthy`s worst guy and he wanted Nixon`s worst guy and he went out
there and recruited them. That`s the team he put together as you pointed
out, Charlie.

BLUMENTHAL: As a prosecutor, I see this case as one of perjury to the
congressional committee. And as a member of Congress, of course, I know
how deeply offended my colleagues would be by this kind of perjury. But
it`s likely to be accompanied by other potential charges because, remember,
WikiLeaks has been called by none other than secretary of state Pompeo a
hostile foreign intelligence service. So for Roger Stone to be working
with them –.

MATTHEWS: Our friend in the embassy. Who`s that? It`s Assange. But who
he is in kidding with that spy talk, Yamiche?

ALCINDOR: I think what, as a reporter, what I have always been struck by
is when you think about just the level – the non-level of complexity here.
You read these emails and it`s very easy to figure out who they are talking
to. But as someone who covered the Trump campaign, we also have to
remember that President Trump wasn`t someone who could get an A-team. He
couldn`t get a B-team. He was on C and D and E. And because people saw
his candidacy as something of a joke and saw and knew his reputation as
someone who wasn`t trustworthy. So you also have to think that he got
these, as you say, misfit toys by also remembering that the best toys
didn`t want to play.


SYKES: This is a great point because it is actually simpler than you would
think, you know. It is. You bring in Roger Stone, you get this sort of
thing. You know, what is Russia about? Was it about the Moscow project?
Was it about, you know, the guy who is doing deals because he thinks it`s
more likely that he is going to do a deal with Vladimir Putin for the
Moscow project than he is to be elected President of the United States? I
mean, ultimately, this is Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: And all people around Trump, (INAUDIBLE), one point is all
people around him, including the kid, were all dying to bring something to
dad that would show he can win. This is the Hail Mary, you know.

We don`t have – we heard something at the tower from this sort of Russian
lawyer woman or I can get you this or I can get you Roger Stone. I can get
you. We can screw the DNC and John Podesta, all the Hillary people. I can
do this. All this Hail Mary stuff. They come to him with these chalices.
I got this for you, daddy.

Anyway, there is a bigger other development, another aspect to the Russian
probe breaking today. Trump`s attempt to cut a real estate deal in Russia
while he was going after the presidency.

CNN has obtained a signed version, that`s the key, there it is, a signed
version of the letter of intent that Trump endorsed to pursue that deal for
the Trump tower in Moscow. Trump`s signature on that document which is
dated October 28th, 2015, appears to contradict – it does, why are we
saying appears, Rudy Giuliani reportedly told CNN of Sunday when he said on
that interview quote “there was a letter of intent to go forward but no one
signed it.” Well, guess who signed it? Donald Trump.

Confronted today with that document bearing Trump`s signature, Giuliani
told the “New York Daily News” that of course Trump signed it. But he
added that the letter of intent was bull blank because it didn`t go

All the time the President is running for office we find out now for a
whole year he is working on this project to have the big Trump tower over
there. All the time he is working to change the Republican platform. You
know, all the time he wants to change the sanctions against the bank that`s
going to finance this tower over there. It is altogether. But the only
thing, senator, he told the American voter, the Trumper out there, was I
want to be President. All this other stuff was under – in the – under
the table.

BLUMENTHAL: He lied to the American people. He defrauded American voters
and the one who knew best about this fraud was Vladimir Putin because he
knew about that signed letter of intent. He knew about those negotiations
by Michael Cohen right through the end of 2016 up until the election. And
that`s why Donald Trump essentially was so compromised. And that`s why
follow the money because for Donald Trump, it really is all about the

MATTHEWS: Yes. Charlie, how do you figure the chicken and the egg
question? Was he gunning for President to build up the business or was he
making some money on the way to the presidency or was it all – was it he
never thought he would be elected and he was thinking about the money?

SYKES: No, I do think he never thought he was going to be elected
President. This was all a marketing thing for him. It got totally out of
hand. For him, for all the rest of us as well.

And so, you know, we have all been focused on did they have compromising
material, maybe they did, you know. But maybe it was (INAUDIBLE). Maybe
it was something as simple as this hotel project because he thinks this is
a way to open the door to those deals.

MATTHEWS: Are you sure it wasn`t that dossier?

SYKES: I`m not sure about anything. I`m just saying, this one is so

MATTHEWS: And at the same time, Trump was trying to cut a secret real
estate deal to get that tower up in Moscow, he was publicly promising a
better relationship with Russia with the voters, including with Vladimir
Putin who had control over whether Trump`s project went forward. So at the
same time as you said, senator, Vladimir who wants to be a czar, apparently
now, who knew all about the letter of intent that Trump had signed, all of
the time he is watching him throw these bouquets at him across the world.
Anyway, let`s take a look.


Russia and I will get along with Putin. He will respect us. That`s all we
want. We are not looking for trouble.

I believe we will have a very good relationship with Russia. I believe
that I will have a very good relationship with Putin.

I don`t like the way Obama treats Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Person who kills journalists, political opponents and -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invades countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And invades countries. Obviously that would be a
concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He is running this country and at least he is a leader, you know,
unlike what we have in this country.

I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia. He has been a lot
stronger than our leader, that I can tell you.

Wouldn`t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?


MATTHEWS: That all sounded pretty good except that we didn`t know he
already has a signed contract to build a tower that only Putin could be the
counter signer for.

Malcolm, we should have known that.

NANCE: Yes. You know, we should have known it. It`s ridiculous that we
are even discussing it. That document is going to be explosive. That is
going to be the piece of paper that is going to be like the, you know, the
signed contract in Major Andre`s boot when Benedict Arnold tried to sell
West Point.

That tells us that the – that a presumptive candidate who wanted to be
President of the United States had been cutting secret deals with an
American – with an American adversary for money and then hid that away
from the nation and he was going to profit from it and it explains all of
his behaviors towards Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is a spy master who was going to
manipulate this man to the nth degree. His ego, his personality with his
money and then manipulate him when he became President of the United
States. That right there, you know, if I was a judge, I would be start
using the T word.

MATTHEWS: And you know what happened to Colonel Andre.

NANCE: Major Andre, yes. He didn`t worked so well.

MATTHEWS: He was hanged by Washington. They wouldn`t even let him get
shot. So the serious – what`s going to happen to these guys? Putin is
going to walk. He is going to be a czar as long as we live. I mean, he is
going to be around forever. Trump, is he going to pay for this one?
What`s more dangerous to him, Roger Stone going to apparently prison
perhaps or the fact that it`s now clear that Trump all the time he was
running for President had a deal signed?

BLUMENTHAL: I think in some ways the most dangerous threat to Donald Trump
is the Trump foundation because here there were clear tax frauds known to
Donald Trump. There was a violation of –.

MATTHEWS: That`s New York State, too. That`s New York State.

BLUMENTHAL: And it could be New York State.

MATTHEWS: No pardon.

BLUMENTHAL: And I don`t think the governor of the state of New York is
going to pardon Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I just love that quarter million dollar water fountain
out in front of the plaza he paid for.

ALCINDOR: $7, it was the best.


ALCINDOR: $7 for the boy scouts for Donald Trump Jr.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. Unbelievable.

BLUMENTHAL: Or the $30,000 –

MATTHEWS: Wait until we get to the next block. It`s all about how he used
this foundation to pay for everything he wanted.

Anyway, Richard Blumenthal, senator, thank you so much.

Yamiche Alcindor, Charlie Sykes and Malcolm Nance, thank you so much.

Coming up, Donald Trump railed today on twitter against the decision the
senator mentioned to close his namesake charitable foundation after the New
York attorney general`s office laid out what it called a shocking pattern
of illegality. What does this mean for Trump`s children? They had their
names used, their signatures used in a very – well, a disgusting operation
to steal people`s money.

The destruction of the Republican Party also coming up tonight. What
happened to the party of free trade, fiscal responsibility and
international order?

And it`s been a week of surrender for this President? Trump hired a person
he called a horrible person to be his chief of staff? He dissolved the
Trump foundation and now seems to be giving up on his wall. Is final
surrender coming?

And finally, let me finish tonight with the President`s decision to remove
a couple thousand American troops from Syria.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Earlier this, morning President Trump blasted the decision to close his
charitable foundation as a politically motivated attack. The Donald J.
Trump charitable foundation agreed to shut down yesterday as part of an
ongoing lawsuit alleging what the New York state attorney general calls a
shocking pattern of illegality.

Well, the lawsuit accuses the President and members of his family of using
the foundation as a person tax exempt/fund used to pay off personal debts
and promote his political campaigns.

According to the court, President Trump helped direct multiple Trump
foundation donations to the various charities during the lead up to the
Iowa caucuses in an attempt to influence Iowa voters.

Trump also used foundation money to pay off personal legal settlements and
private purchases. It`s against New York state law, obviously, for a
foundation to use its money to benefit any member of the foundation or any
particular political campaign. That`s obvious law.

That suit also alleges that the foundation`s board, including Donald Trump
Jr. Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump, failed to provide its legally mandated
oversight. They are just using the names.

Specifically, the board ceded control of grants to the campaign, making
improper in-kind campaign contributions. The foundation`s grants made Mr.
Trump and the campaign look charitable and increased the candidate`s
profile to Republican primary voters and among important constituent

Well, with yesterday`s dissolution of the Trump Foundation, two Trump
entities, including Trump University, have now been shuttered down to the
illegal activity.

So, so much for the Trump University. So much now for Trump Foundation.

Six Trump entities are currently under investigation.

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California and a
member of the House Judiciary Committee, and David Fahrenthold, Pulitzer
Prize-winning political reporter with “The Washington Post” who exposed the
presidents` foundation.

Congressman Lieu, I want to ask you about this, because there`s so much
fishy about this, using the candidate, the president`s family names,
putting the kids` names up there, are they just used? Is there any
evidence you have got that this was a legitimate foundation?


And I`m a former prosecutor. And I can tell you that the misconduct that
Donald Trump and his children engaged in with regards to the Trump
Foundation aren`t just civil violations. They look like actual crimes.

You have got tax evasion, tax fraud. You have criminal campaign finance
violations. One reason Michael Cohen is going to prison is because of a
felony violation of the campaign finance laws. Any amount over $25,000
counts as a felony.

So I think there`s some serious legal liability for the president and his
children in this case.

MATTHEWS: David, according to the state lawsuit by the A.G. of New York,
the foundation engaged in a number of prohibited self-serving transactions
which directly benefit Trump and his family.

According to the filing, in 2007, Donald Trump used the foundation to pay a
$100,000 citation issued to Mar-a-Lago because their flag poll was too
high. He used it for that.

In 2014, Trump also had the foundation spend $10,000 on a portrait of him
that now hangs in Trump`s Doral golf resort. That`s good for everybody.

And, finally, according to “The Washington Post”,” Donald Trump had the
foundation make a roughly $270,000 gift to help restore a fountain that
happened to be next store to his Plaza Hotel back in `89.

Was anybody watching this piggy bank?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, a lot people were supposed
to be watching.

The Trump kids, who were on the foundation`s board, were supposed to be
looking out for the money. But, in effect, no one was watching. The IRS
system – the IRS oversees charities – it`s mostly an honor system. They
rely on you to self-report if you have done something wrong.

And for all these years, Trump reportedly he had done everything right.

MATTHEWS: But why would he think it was fair or legitimate to say, this
fountain next door – everybody knows you got something next to your hotel,
you improve the value of the hotel. A nice big fountain you have restored,
that`s a lot of money.


It`s the biggest gift in the history of the Trump Foundation, $264,000,
basically improved the view outside the window of his hotel.


I have had this theory that Trump will buckle when his kids are in danger,
that he`s not going to let them go to the pen, or the can, or wherever you
want to call it. They`re not going to go in jail, in inside.

What about his use of the kids here? He put their names on it, Eric,
Donald Jr., and Ivanka. Why did he put their names on this foundation?

FAHRENTHOLD: I can`t tell you why. But he…

MATTHEWS: Did they do anything?

FAHRENTHOLD: No, they did nothing. The board they were on hadn`t actually
met since 1999, which is before any of them were on the board.

MATTHEWS: Was this set up as a slush fund to pay his bills?

FAHRENTHOLD: I don`t think he set it up with that intention. He used it
in that way sometimes. He`s – basically, he saw this as another

If he had to pay money to a charity for some other reason, use the charity.

MATTHEWS: When he got hit and he had his flagpole too high down in Mar-a-
Lago, there`s no way he thought of that as a charitable contribution,

And you go into court and say, I thought that was a charitable – no, I had
to pay the expense because my flagpole is too high.

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, it was Mar-a-Lago. The point, it was Mar-a-Lago`s
settlement. It was Mar-a-Lago`s expense, a for-profit club.

And instead of the for-profit club paying for the thing it had done, here
comes the charity to come in and save Donald Trump`s business some money.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to the congressman again.

Mr. Lieu, what about – what can Congress do here, besides expose this?
Once you expose that he misused all this money, what do you do next? I
keep asking that. Where`s this all going to end? Can you kick him out of
the presidency over this?

LIEU: Well, Democrats do get subpoena power in January.

And, by the way, let me also thank David for exposing this in the first
place in “The Washington Post.” That`s why we have all these
investigations and the prosecution going on.

So, one thing I think that the public should take away from this is, it may
be hard for some people to think that Donald Trump engaged in criminal
behavior in 2016 in his presidential campaign.

But what this shows is that, for years, Donald Trump was willing to violate
the law to enrich himself and to personally benefit himself. So that kind
of thinking, it`s not a great leap to then carry over, in 2016, that Trump
may have violated all sorts of other laws to help himself and enrich
itself. And…

MATTHEWS: Could this be an article of impeachment?

LIEU: It could, although my view of impeachment is, like the power to
declare war, it`s one of our gravest responsibilities in Congress. It
should never be our first option.

And we need to wait for special counsel Mueller`s investigation to conclude
before we make any decisions.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. It`s great having you here. Thank you,
Congressman Ted Lieu of California, and David Fahrenthold, a great
reporter, proving it again.

LIEU: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: crashing the party.

Remember when Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility, of free
trade, of international order, and standing by our allies? Remember that
Republican Party? I think you have to go back to Eisenhower, maybe Reagan.

In the age of Trump, those principles seem to be a thing of the past, don`t
you think?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I leave here as convinced I
was at the start that we face no challenge that can (sic) be overcome by
putting pen to paper on good, sound policy, by addressing head on the
problems of the day.

The state of politics, though, is another question. And, frankly, that`s
one I don`t have an answer for.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was outgoing Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in his farewell
address today.

Once viewed as a future star of the Republican Party, a candidate for vice
president on the ticket with Mitt Romney in 2012, Ryan`s retirement,
announced back in April, foreshadowed a bruising midterm election for his
party and became emblematic of President Trump`s takeover of the GOP.

And, today, he painted a rosy picture of his party`s accomplishments as


RYAN: Three years ago, when we last gathered in this hall, we began a
great journey to set our nation on a better path, to move our economy from
stagnation to growth, to restore our military might, and we have kept our

This House is the most productive we have had in at least a generation.


MATTHEWS: But Ryan, who has been much for the last two years contending
with and often shrugging off President Trump`s controversies, also lamented
what he called broken politics.


RYAN: Why do we insist on fighting one another so bitterly? This kind of
politics starts from a place of outrage and then seeks to tear us down from

So, the key question, how do we get back to aspiration and inclusion, where
we start with humility, and then we seek to build on that? I don`t know
the answer to that.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by retiring Republican Congressman Ryan
Costello from Pennsylvania.

Congressman, I get nothing from that guy. I don`t understand why he`s
playing – he`s the leader of the party in the House of Representatives,
and he`s blaming politics. He`s the leader. He`s the leading politician
in your party in the House. How can he blame politics?

REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think he`s outlining the
political culture and how difficult it is to penetrate ideas in an age
where the president`s tweet and the back and forth between Trump and the
left makes it very difficult for center-right politicians to advocate in a
manner that we get focused on issues.

So I – look, I have supported Paul. I think he`s done a very good job is
speaker in probably the trickiest political environment for a Republican
speaker with a Republican president in quite some time.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the Republican Party you joined, free trade,
fiscal responsibility, international order.

Let`s start with free trade. As recently as 2012, your party supported
TPP. George Sr., George Bush Sr., brought about NAFTA. And now you got a
president who is not a free trader at all. And nobody seems to challenge
that in your party.

Your thoughts?

COSTELLO: Oh, see, I would – I would push back.

We do challenge it. You see a lot of people challenge it. You have heard
a lot of criticism for this essential – essentially a bailout of
industries who are being damaged by the president`s trade policy.

So there`s been a lot of that out there. Of all the issues where you seen
push back against the president, I think you have seen more pushback on the
tariffs issue than anything else.

The second issue, Chris, that you raise, national security, I and some
others were very critical of his conduct at NATO and equivalent –
equivalizing President Putin`s denials with the intelligence – our
intelligence agencies` assessment on Russia`s interference with the

Those are the two issues where I think the president has really upended
what I would call your father`s Republican Party or my father`s Republican


COSTELLO: And we are struggling, to be clear, how to wrestle with that,
how to get beyond it, how to be clear, the kind of party that we are, or
we`re going to lose those kind of voters, or you`re going to see an
independent movement rise up because of it.

MATTHEWS: Well, Speaker Ryan also acknowledged policy areas where he
believed Congress fell short, immigration reform, addressing the debt, and
overhauling federal benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Here he goes:


RYAN: I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reforms have
outpaced the political reality. And I consider this our greatest
unfinished business.


MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, he went out there and said how great it was
to pass this trillion-and-a-half-dollar tax cut, but then he said, it`s too
bad we haven`t been able to deal with the debt.

Well, they`re related.


COSTELLO: The tax cut projections, if you accept static scoring, would be
the one-and-a-half trillion. I actually do not think that we will have a
deficit or debt created out of the tax bill over a 10-year period of time.

Going into 2019, more companies are going to be hiring employees. We have
the tightest labor market in a couple of decades. And you`re seeing wages

He did, in Paul`s defense, in 2017 go to the Senate majority leader and the
president and say, I want to do entitlement reforms. And there was
significant pushback, not just from Senate leadership and the president,
but also from House Republicans.

So I think Paul has stayed true to his word. But, as speaker, he can only
do so much. And if he doesn`t have the votes, you`re not going to see us
move forward on entitlement reform.

On immigration – last point – we had a real chance to not have to deal
with this border wall debacle on the C.R. We had full border wall funding,
with permanent DACA relief and fixes to the visa program, that the far
right and Democrats were unwilling to come to the table and vote for.

To me, in my four years in Congress, that was the biggest failure. That
was the biggest disappointment for me, not getting an immigration bill
done, because I think 75 percent of the country agrees with 90 percent of
the stuff in that immigration package. And we need to get that done.

MATTHEWS: Well, finally, we – finally, we agree. I think we need
comprehensive immigration reform.

Thank you, U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Up next: not a lot of winning this week for President Trump. What a bad
week he`s had. His new chief of staff once called him a horrible person.
His so-called charitable foundation is dissolving, a court order. And his
much-ballyhooed border wall is crumbling before it even got built.

And the week is only half-finished. What a bad week for Trump. Three big
surrenders so far.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



anymore, but we`re going to win a lot. We`re going to win so much. You`re
going to get so sick and tired of winning.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There hasn`t been a lot of winning, however, lately. In fact, over the
past week, President Trump caved on a number of fronts. He gave up on
finding a permanent replacement for his next chief of staff, after his two
top choices, Nick Ayers and Chris Christie, turned him down flat.

Trump announced Mick Mulvaney to be his acting chief of staff. Mulvaney
once called Trump a terrible human being. Not exactly your first choice
for a date.

Yesterday, the Trump Foundation, which Trump tweeted “has done great work
and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities,”
agreed to shut down its operations after prosecutors alleged it exhibited a
shocking pattern of illegality.

And the biggest defeat this week comes as the Senate posed – poised,
rather, to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open, but
without giving Trump that $5 billion for the border wall.

Just last week, Trump declared it was funding for the border wall or bust.


want one way or the other, whether it`s through you, through military,
through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government.



MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable. Ginger
Gibson, political correspondent for “Reuters”, Chris Wilson, Republican
pollster, and Jamal Simmons Democratic strategist.

I get the sense that for whatever reason, Trump doesn`t want to fight this
week. He can`t win the court fight. He can complain about it but he can`t
win it. The wall, he`s not going to get the money.

What else? The foundation is dead.

for the holidays. I think that there`s a –

MATTHEWS: What happened to that fight we saw with Chuck Schumer sitting in
the White House?

GIBSON: Donald Trump cares a whole lot about the public relations campaign
that comes with being president and what his supporters think he`s doing
and he was showing his supporters that he was willing to fight. He doesn`t
have to end the fight. He just had to say that he`s willing to do so.

MATTHEWS: Is this some sort of pick and roll play like in basketball and
something? Then you roll around the back? I don`t know what the right
play – this was a play then in other words? He pretended he was going to
fight for the cameras, brought the cameras in, show his fighting spirit and
then rolled.

see what happens. I don`t think it`s over with.

MATTHEWS: You think he`s going to get his $5 billion for the wall?

WILSON: Do I think he`s getting $5 billion for the wall? I think –


WILSON: No, I don`t. I was repeating the question and trying to be
thoughtful, if I just jump and said no. No, I don`t. But I do think to
characterize the entire week as a loss is a little bit of a misnomer –

MATTHEWS: The family foundation found to be a criminal operation.

WILSON: I was going to the chief of staff of the foundation, just to be
clear in terms of talk about it.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t get the guy he wanted.

WILSON: You know, that is – that`s what`s been reported. But I can tell
you, there are reports of people who received offers that aren`t just true.
And Mick Mulvaney was –

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, he was looking for heavyweights like Wayne
Berman. He ends up Mulvaney. I mean, he was going to get Washington

WILSON: I don`t think it`s fair to –


MATTHEWS: He didn`t get a cowboy or heavy weight.

WILSON: He`s got somebody that has a good relationship with Congress –


MATTHEWS: He`s moonlighting in the job.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He won`t take the job for longer
than some temporary period of time.

MATTHEWS: The president of the United States says I`m giving you the best
job I have to give, please. I`ll give you a couple of months.

SIMMONS: I`ve just never heard of a situation where people don`t want the
White House chief of staff, right? I mean, it`s the number one job in
Washington other than the elected officials to be the White House chief of

MATTHEWS: It`s better than VP.

SIMMONS: People fight for that job. It is. I remember times in the
Clinton administration, people fight to be White House chief of staff.

I think the president`s a paper tiger and I think he got caught in the
shredder when the wheels of justice and the wheels of Congress began to
grind against him. He just doesn`t know how to deal in that environment.

MATTHEWS: Ginger, how long can he tease on the wall? At some point,
people ask for pictures of it. Can we see the wall?

GIBSON: He keeps showing the prototypes that they built on the border. A
little piece. We have a little piece.

I think that he`s trying to make the case that there`s wall there and that
it`s building. How long does he – does he argue? In a few weeks,
Democrats control the House.

MATTHEWS: You know, in `50s, I know them all. But in `50s, you used to
get it in a hat. You would give them a plastic hat. They would go to the
store and get the real one. He keeps giving people – Jamal, he keeps
giving people the plastic hat and he keeps saying, there`s a big Stetson
hat here.

SIMMONS: But here`s the thing. His voters don`t care. You know why,
Chris? Because ultimately Donald Trump was elected for one reason, be the
guardian of 1950s white America frankly.

I think those people who want him to do that, they trust him on that. He`s
their warrior and they don`t care about anything else that happens because
they trust the guy.

WILSON: I disagree with that. I think it is going to be an issue if the
wall is not built. It was the number one promise in the Republican

MATTHEWS: How`s he going to do it with a Democratic house?

WILSON: It`s going to be a challenge. The Mulvaney pick if he comes in
and plays that role on a permanent basis is a solid one, because he does
have the relationship with both sides of the aisle in the House and gives
them the ability to negotiate in the sense that the last two had not given

SIMMONS: You think he`s going to get the wall?

WILSON: I think it gives him a better chance.

SIMMONS: From Nancy Pelosi?


MATTHEWS: Can we talk character?

WILSON: He got criminal justice reform.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t a church but let`s talk character. He puts together
a foundation, charitable foundation. He gets votes out in Iowa. He builds
a big fountain to his hotel. He pays the penalty for having too high a
flag pole at Mar-a-Lago. It has nothing to do with charitable purposes but
he puts his kids` names all through it.

What do you make of a guy who does that?

GIBSON: I make a guy who is – I think the way that we view the Trump
Foundation as some just slush fund probably doesn`t acknowledge the way
Trump views the Trump Foundation.

MATTHEWS: So he felt sorry for the lousy shape of the fountain next to the
plaza so he gives it a quarter million.

GIBSON: He thought he was doing good things, you know? He didn`t think he
was engaged in some type of activity that the New York attorney general
describes as criminal. I think he thought he was doing what rich people
with money to throw at fountains do and they put his name on it.

MATTHEWS: Three coins in a fountain.

Anyway, there is however one bit of good news for the president. In a rare
moment of bipartisanship last night, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive
criminal justice reform bill. Look at this number, 87-12. It`s a point to
say we`ll make the system fair, reduce prison overcrowding, and actually
save the taxpayers money.

The White House, including the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner is
getting praise from across the board.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Jared Kushner played a key role in this.
I called him last night and thanked him. He did more to line up
Republicans and the right on this issue than anyone else, and he deserves
credit for it.


MATTHEWS: Chris Wilson, what good is it doing and for whom?

WILSON: I think the key thing here, what this does, it gives a blueprint
for the next couple of years. That`s what I was trying to refer to when I
was talking about being able to work together and bring Mulvaney in, maybe
not the wall, but for this, it does show what can be done.

And I think it`s pretty remarkable that something that does lend itself to
campaign attacks on both sides, Republicans in primary against Democrats in
the general election, we`ve got that sort of a vote. And the fact that
Kushner played a role is important. Hopefully, it gives us the opportunity
to see how Congress can come together, work together on an issue that was
clearly a problem that both sides agreed on and accomplished something.

GIBSON: I think this is a great stark contrast to the wall which is this
is a policy position that years have been spent changing the minds of
Americans and of their elected officials to get such overwhelming support.

MATTHEWS: We`re talking about three strikes you`re out and stuff like

GIBSON: He doesn`t have – he`s not built that type of consensus on the
wall. It will always be divisive.

MATTHEWS: Jamal, usually Republicans complain they have too many good TV
sets in prison, could they have barbells they shouldn`t have. They
shouldn`t be able to workout. They`re not in there to make lighter
sentences is not a big Republican dream.

SIMMONS: Well, that was true when they were mostly black and brown people
from the cities that are going to jail. I think in the last few years,
there are a lot of suburbanites, a lot of rural kids who are getting caught
up on the opioid crisis who are getting picked up and put to prisons. Now
Republicans are starting to figure out maybe we need to find a way to do
something else other than house people in jail.

Frankly, it`s also costing a lot of money. If you have some budget
problems, you want to give away tax cuts, you cut back on something. Maybe
prison is something.

MATTHEWS: I also wonder, like Shawshank, once you paid your price and what
is served by 30 and 40 years? Jamal?

SIMMONS: I would say nothing. I would say especially for someone who`s a
non-violent offender. Paul Butler who comes on this network a lot talks
about restorative justice. There are other things to do with people who
have had a front in the criminal justice system other than house them for a
bunch of years and teach them how to be professional criminals.

MATTHEWS: Republicans have come a long way from Willy Horton.

WILSON: It`s important to look at who led the charge on this for
Republicans. This wasn`t a moderate – this came from the right. This was
one of the big leaders, Ken Cuccinelli, the head of the Senate Conservative
Fund, former attorney general of Virginia, who`s leading this, the Koch
Foundation. I mean, this was people from the conservative side –

MATTHEWS: Why does the Koch Foundation care about prisoner reform?


GIBSON: Work force.

WILSON: It has to do with work force.

GIBSON: Philosophical.

MATTHEWS: Their main concern is money.

SIMMONS: Suburban kids are getting picked up.

GIBSON: This is not a – an overnight policy change. This isn`t a simple
one and one and we`re going to get some votes on it. A lot of minds got

WILSON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk more about it in the weeks ahead. We want to
understand what the Senate just did.

The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, the South Carolina
Republican Party is considering canceling outright its 2020 primary to help
Trump, so he won`t face an opponent.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As President Trump prepares for his 2020 re-election campaign, one state
could make it a little easier for the president to win his nomination.
Republican Party in South Carolina has reportedly considering whether to
cancel, cancel its presidential primary in a move that would protect the
president from any primary challenger. The state`s GOP chairman told “The
Washington Examiner” that they would do what`s in the president`s best

This isn`t the first time the South Carolina GOP has skipped their
presidential primary. They did it in 2004 when President George W. Bush
was running for re-election.

We`re back to the HARDBALL roundtable.

Ginger, what do you make about this? Is this fair play for anybody else
like Kasich? Let`s get rid of the challenger by getting rid of the

GIBSON: If there`s a primary challenge, especially from someone like
Governor Kasich, the president might be hoping for a South Carolina primary
so he could put up big numbers there.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) destroyed McCain there.

GIBSON: Yes, ill advised to cancel a primary when you enjoy a good deal of

MATTHEWS: It`s one of the most red hot, hard right Republican states.

WILSON: It`s from the standpoint of what Trump would do. I mean, he won
it last time. You had Rubio coming in second, Cruz came in third. Kasich

MATTHEWS: Is Rubio running again? I keep hearing a whisper that he`s
going to take on Trump. He`s a neocon, he`s a hawk. I keep thinking he
might make a run of it.

WILSON: I don`t think he`ll have –

MATTHEWS: It might give him an excuse to run again? He`s not hawkish?

WILSON: Well, South Carolina, in terms of the significant challenge, there
won`t be one in today`s environment. You may have John Kasich, you may
have Jeff Flake, it will be irrelevant to what happens ultimately.

MATTHEWS: Jamal, looking across the aisle, what do you see?

SIMMONS: Well, what I see is Donald Trump is the most conservative
candidate and South Carolina is one of the most conservative states. So,
I`m sure South Carolina will be fine for him. But, remember, this is the
Trump party.

He owns this party lock, stock and barrel. I just don`t see how somebody
else comes through a primary against him. What they could do though is
ding him up so that the Democrats can have a pool of voters to go after.
That might be helpful.

MATTHEWS: The Democrats have to do their own building of party between now
and two years. They have to win the hard progressive left and can pull in
the center and grab some Trumpies back.

SIMMONS: The Democrats need somebody who they can love. That`s the
question. Fall in love.

MATTHEWS: I`m a fall in love kind of guy.

GIBSON: If you`re a Donald Trump voter, you have to get them to stay home.

MATTHEWS: Not too many Obamas running (ph).

Anyway, thank you, Ginger Gibson, Chris Wilson, Jamal Simmons.

When we return, let me finish tonight with the president`s decision to
remove American troops from Syria. I think you`ll be surprised by my

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the president`s decision to remove
the 2,000 American troops from Syria. It has sounded all kinds of alarms
from the country`s brigade of armchair hawks, those who promote military
interventions in Iraq, Syria, wherever they can find a broadcatable case,
beginning with the lies from Dick Cheney about nuclear weapons and through
all of the neoconservative mischief that led President George W. Bush into
the debacle of the Iraq War.

The timing of the withdrawal from Syria should be subject to on the ground
factors. But one easily gets the idea that proponents for an extended U.S.
stay will not accept any deadline. They want us there permanently, part of
a continued garrison of American military power in the Mideast. That`s
what they wanted long before 9/11. It was, in fact, on the hawk`s to-do
list from the time the clique of Cheney and his allies came to power.

And now, the clingers from military action are back at it again, this time,
attacking any removal of U.S. troops in which they insist the United States
maintain a permanent military presence over there. It remains an historic
fact that it`s easier to bring military power it into an area than it is to
remove it. We`ve seen it in Afghanistan, in Iraq and now in Syria.

What is undeniable is the predictable outrage of those who were so wrong
about Iraq and are so ready to be wrong about Syria. Trump ran against
stupid wars. Those who oppose him on taking our troops out of Syria today
opposed them then for the basic reason that those stupid wars were the wars
they cheered into being.

It`s HARDBALL for now.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.



Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the