Trump says $5 Billion for wall “insignificant”. TRANSCRIPT: 1/2/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: No deal. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
As the partial government shutdown dragged into its 12th day today,
President Trump made it clear he is not backing down on his demand that
Congress fund wall on the border with Mexico. The President made his case
at his first cabinet meeting of the New Year. He opened the one-and-a-half
hour meeting claiming he would work with Democrats before digging in on the
issue of wall funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a number below $5 billion that you might be
willing to accept in order to reopen the government and get this thing
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would rather not say
it. Could we do it for a little bit less? It is so insignificant compared
to what we are talking about. The $5 billion – $5.6 billion approved by
the House is such a small amount compared to the level of the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long will the government stay shut down?
TRUMP: It could be a long time or it could be quickly. It could be a long
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long are you willing to keep the government shut
down in order –?
TRUMP: As long as it takes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump reiterated his demand that Congress provide funding
despite reading on twitter this morning, Mexico is paying for the wall
through the USMCA Trade deal. And while the President gave few details on
how he plans to end the impasse, he accused Democrats of playing politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are in the shutdown because of the fact that the Democrats are
looking to 2020. They think they are not going to win the election. I
guess a lot of signs point to the fact that they are not going to win the
election. I hope they are not going to win the election. But they view
this as an election point for them. I`m not thinking about the politics.
I`m thinking about what`s right and what`s wrong. And we noted a physical
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump spent much of New Year`s Day slamming Democrats on twitter
because they allocated quote “no money for a new wall.” He also said they
do not care about open borders. He later seemed to shift tactics writing
quote “border security and the wall thing and shutdown is not where Nancy
Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as speaker. Let`s make a deal?”
This afternoon, Trump hosted Democratic leader Pelosi along with top
congressional leaders from both parties in the White House situation room
for what the administration called a briefing on the border wall and border
security with homeland security officials. This comes as Democrats prepare
to take control of the House tomorrow with Pelosi as the presumptive house
Late today, Pelosi said the House plans to bring up legislation to open up
the government tomorrow. Joint Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in
blaming the President for the stand-off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: We are asking the President to open up
government. We are giving him a Republican path to do that. Why would he
not do it?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Bottom line, it is very simple.
On our last meeting, the President said, I am going to shut the government
down. They are now feeling the heat. It is not helping the President to
be the owners of the shutdown. Today we gave them an opportunity to get
out of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But moments later, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told
reporters at the Capitol the Senate would not take up the bill that House
Democrats plan to pass.
For more, I`m joined now by New York Democratic congressman Adrian
Espaillat, Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for “USA Today” and
Charlie Sykes is an MSNBC contributor.
Congressman, I will start with you. Yes, we are in the final hours of
eight years of Republican rule of the House. Tomorrow, your party takes
over, supposedly going to put a plan on the floor, vote for it. You are
the leader. You are the incoming speaker as you have to votes to pass it
that would reopen the government. She says this would be a Republican
path, her words we just played there, a Republican path to reopening the
government. What does that mean? What do you plan to pass tomorrow?
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: Well, that means this particular
deal, this particular piece of legislation, both pieces were already
approved by the Senate almost unanimously. And so now we are going back.
We feel that the government should open.
There should be no greater responsibility for us than to bring ease to
800,000, close to a million Americans that are feeling – hurting by this
Trump shutdown. So we are doing what they asked us to do which is to lead,
KORNACKI: OK. So to reopen the government, specifically, when it comes to
the issue of the border, when it comes to money, what kind of money are we
talking about here? What kind of money – would this money go to? Is it a
wall? Is it fencing? What do you have in this point?
ESPAILLAT: Well, the second piece of legislation provides for a CR, a
continuing resolution that up through February 8th, and that will give us
plenty of time to talk about border security. Now in the past, both the
Senate and the House have passed bipartisan legislation that provides
relief for dreamers, for TPS recipients and border security every single
time the President has shut it down.
KORNACKI: That`s the question to me there because there has been in the
background here, and sometimes this spills over a little bit, but some
semantic questions here. Because the President says a wall, other times he
says fence, steel, slat, fence, the terminology is mix here. What kind –
where is the line? You call a wall immoral. What short of a wall though
in terms of border security are you willing to accept here?
ESPAILLAT: It seem to me that the President is his way or the highway.
And it is his interpretation of what the wall is would seems to shift every
single day. So this is very difficult to negotiate with someone who shifts
his position on a daily basis now.
We can work with ports of entry. No one disagrees that we should stop
human trafficking, drugs and illegal arms from coming through ports of
entry. I think that should be a high priority for government. But the
best priority, the most important thing that we could do right now is to
end the Trump shutdown and bring back relief to 800,000 Americans. They
are asking for it.
KORNACKI: Well, in his remarks today, President Trump compared his
proposed border wall to former president Barack Obama`s home and to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There is a reason why politicians and wealthy people build walls
around their Houses and their compounds. President Obama recently built a
wall around his compound. There`s a reason for it and I don`t blame him.
When they say the wall is immoral, well then you have to do something about
the Vatican because the Vatican has the biggest wall of them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well Susan Page, again, this question here of what the
President`s bottom line is, he said today, $5.6 billion. That`s what he
wants right here. We have reporting that his vice President Mike Pence was
offering behind the scenes about $2.5 billion. He seemed to wave that off
today. You have got Democrats. As we are just talking about with the
congressman here, poise to pass money for border security tomorrow. It
looks like it is going nowhere further than the House. But the President
at other times has said that that turmoil has suggested it might be a
little flexible. Do we know exactly where the bottom line here as in terms
of negotiating from the White House`s standpoint?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: We do not. And in fact,
the President has telling moved away from compromise. You know, there was
originally, as the congressman was saying a short term, continuing
resolution to keep the government open until February 8th. That the
President had indicated he was willing to sign and he backed away from it
which is the reason the House, the Republican controlled House refused to
bring that up and we ended up in the shutdown.
Today he sounded like he had never met Mike Pence. Who is this Mike Pence
who is suggesting $2.5 billion would be an acceptable number?
So the President has moved toward a harder line, not a softer one as this
shutdown is extended now into its 12th day. And it is not clear at what
point, it is not clear when he might be able to move from that. Saying he
would not yield from any deal that does not have wall funding while Nancy
Pelosi said she would not agree to any deal that includes wall funding. So
there is no grounds there at the moment for compromise.
KORNACKI: Yes. And Charlie Sykes, just in terms of the President`s
posture on this, we hear so often, he is thinking of that Trump base that
elected him, that Rump base.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
KORNACKI: What is their bottom line on this? Is it definitely $5.6
billion? Is it a concrete wall along the border that has to be there in
some form by 2020? Is it more? You have Lindsey Graham the other day
saying now the wall is metaphorical? Is it just the idea that he is
showing toughness? Is there a bottom line you can discern from the Trump
base that he is apparently listening to here?
SYKES: Well, I mean, the first thing to note is, you know, number one, the
President said Mexico is going to pay for this wall. Number two, remember
when – I`m old enough to remember when Republicans, if they were going to
shut down the government, at least claimed whose they were fiscally
conservative. This is a very costly (INAUDIBLE).
But in terms of the bottom line, look, Donald Trump is enjoying this right
now. He is talking about something that he is comfortable with. He has a
foil not with the democrats to blame for all of it. And he hasn`t given
himself an on-ramp. I mean, really, as long as Ann Coulter and Rush
Limbaugh are pushing for the wall, I don`t see a way out of it. But others
have tried to suggest that it was a metaphor, you know, a soft landing and
the President comes back and says no, no, I`m talking about the wall. Why
the wall? Well, because this was the line that he uses in the rallies. It
is simple. Of course, it is ineffective. It is crude. But it is a great
talking point for the President. So I don`t know what his exit strategy is
The Democrats are not going to be giving him any money for the wall. He
insists the wall is not a metaphor. So I think the government is going to
be shut down for a very long time.
KORNACKI: On New Year`s Eve, meanwhile, President Trump made a point of
noting that he was still in Washington amid the stalemate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: While I`m at the White House working you are out there partying
tonight, but I don`t blame you. Enjoy yourselves. We are going to have a
great year. Have a really, really happy new year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And in today`s cabinet meeting, Trump repeatedly referenced his
time many Washington in an attempt on cast doubt on his democratic counter
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was here on Christmas evening. I was all by myself in the White
House. It is a big, big house. Except for all the guys out on the lawn
with machine guns. I was hoping that maybe somebody would come back and
negotiate, but they didn`t do that. And that is OK.
I was lonely over the weekend and over the last hours in Washington hoping
that we would see a little action. I would get a call and say let`s get
together and let`s work hard. But they chose Hawaii over Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Congressman, you had the President today, too, also seeming to
suggesting in some of this expensive comments here. This could go on for a
while. You just heard Charlie Sykes say a second ago. He is starting to
feel the same. Mitch McConnell has already said you pass this out of the
House tomorrow, it is going nowhere in the Senate. How long do you think
this is going to last?
ESPAILLAT: Well, I hoped that it doesn`t go too long. The American people
want a resolution to this. I think the world is looking at us as being
dysfunctional. There has to be a middle ground. I think we are providing
that. We are providing a two pieces legislation that we are already
approved by the other branch of government. We are an independent branch
of government, duly elected and we plan to exercise our duties.
KORNACKI: Again, I`m trying to see, if there does end up being some kind
of, almost semantic base common ground that gets both sides out of this.
And I guess I keep coming back to this term, fencing.
You, as Democrat, are comfortable with some kind of money going to fencing,
is that correct?
ESPAILLAT: This is not about semantics? I think most experts seem agree
that the wall would not work. In fact, it is a symbol of the past. It
shouldn`t be a symbol of the future for this great nation of ours. And I
think that we should find ways to bring back the American people to work,
to open government again, 800,000 Americans.
KORNACKI: But again, we have the stand-off here. The reason I`m pressing
this is because the President has, it has been a few days now but he put
this idea out there of steel slat fence. And I hear the position from
Democrats, is a wall is an absolute nonstarter. No money. Not a penny for
the wall. Zero dollar. I got that.
But I also see you are putting money out there for border security and the
word fencing does enter into it. Is there room for some common ground
there with him and then a compromise that would have involve fencing?
ESPAILLAT: I would not support a wall or a fence here. A rose is a rose
by any other name. I will support some level of border security that makes
sense, that is humane, that would it stop his humanitarian crisis from
emerging at the border.
And Susan Page, just what is your sense overall? You have covered some of
these before the government shutdowns. This one, I think there might have
been some expectation at the beginning this would be resolved by now. Here
we are. The Democrats taking over in a few hours. And you see the
possibility this could linger. How long do you think this will go on for?
PAGE: So this is my sixth government shutdown. The first one we thought
was like the apocalypse. We thought it was such a big deal, much less
urgency when you come around to this shutdown. In the previous ones, it is
the reason they finally got settled because one side or the other, felt
they were taking the brunt of the blame and they made a compromise. And
until one side or the other feels like it is costing them politically, I
don`t see any end of this.
KORNACKI: And I guess that`s the question, Charlie Sykes. The President
doesn`t feel this is costing him politically. Is there going to be any
daylight between his assessment of the political situation and Republicans
in Congress at all?
SYKES: Right. Well, there ought to be particularly after that performance
today where he endorsed the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And how far
they are going to actually go down this rabbit hole? What circle of hell
are they willing to accompany the President to?
But you are right about - they are asking about the terminology. I would
hope that everybody would crack open up some thesaurus to determine here.
What can we call this that everybody can claim a win?
Look. The President isn`t necessarily bound by reality or by telling the
truth. I think that we have learned this by now. So what can you give him
that he can pretend is what he promised? What he can sell his base that he
can pretended? Because here is a guy who can basically sell you a pile of
you know what and say that he is selling you a pony.
So, you know, the Democrats are going to have to figure out something that
is going to enable him to save face. That he can call or wall or call
something or rather. But I don`t know because every time people throw him
a life line, he has rejected it. He is enjoying this. He is not bothered
by the dysfunction. He is not bothered by the chaos. His base does not
care about the cost of the government shutdown or what it means to federal
employees and he knows that.
KORNACKI: And congressman, another thing that the President sort of
throwing at you as saying, hey, Democrats taking over Congress tomorrow.
This is not how they want to start things up.
What is your sense on this? It has been eight years. You have been
waiting to get back. Your party has been. You are getting it tomorrow.
Are you comfortable with this being sort of the defining issue of January?
ESPAILLAT: This is not going to be a defining issue. This is a Trump
shutdown. The Republicans, up until tomorrow, run the House of
Representatives. They run the Senate. They control the White House? And
so they run government. And they haven`t been able to reach an agreement.
So this is a Trump shutdown.
We are going to start tomorrow. We are going to do what the American
people want us to do which is to a forward two pieces, two proposals, two
pieces of legislation. One that will reopen the government and will bring
people back to work. The other that will give us a continuing resolution
through February 8th with regard to homeland security issues. That`s the
responsible thing to do. And that`s what the American people want.
KORNACKI: OK. Democrats again, it`s - I`m look putting at the clock here,
I think about 15 hours from now - 17 hours from now that official transfer
of power will take place. My math maybe a little bit off there. You can
check me on that.
Thank you to Congressman Andriano Espaillat from New York. He is heading
down to Washington I think after this.
Susan Page, Charlie Sykes, thank you as well for being with us.
Coming up, Mitt Romney said Donald Trump has not risen to the mantle of his
office. Trump`s response? I won big and he didn`t.
Plus, Elizabeth Warren takes a major step toward a run for president. I
will head to the big board to look at her chances.
And in a brand new interview, former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is
lashing out at President Trump calling him weird, amoral and the worst
president we have ever had.
And finally, let me finish tonight with a question for Republicans heading
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I wish he could be a bit more of a team player, you know. I`m
surprised he did it this quickly. I was expecting something but I was
surprised he did this quickly. If he fought really hard against President
Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election. Does that
make sense to you? If he fought the way he fights me, I`m telling you, he
would have won the election. I think people are very upset with what he
did. He hasn`t even got into office yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump today responding to a scathing op-ed in “The
Washington Post” by incoming U.S. Senator from Utah Mitt Romney, Romney, of
course, the Republican Party standard-bearer back in 2012.
He writes of Trump that – quote – “On balance, his conduct over the past
two years is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the
Romney promised he will – quote – “speak out against significant
statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant,
dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”
The op-ed sparked pushback from the president`s allies, but even Romney`s
own niece – that`s Republican national chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel –
piled on Romney, signaling that the party is firmly under Trump`s control.
Speaking of her uncle, McDaniel said – quote – “For an incoming
Republican freshman senator to attack Donald Trump as their first act feeds
into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and
According to “The New York Times” – quote – “Her attacks stunned other
members of Mr. Romney`s family, with one suggesting she would regret
putting her political loyalties over her family.”
Romney stuck to his criticism of the president in an interview later today,
leaving the door open to endorsing a challenger to Trump in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH SENATOR-ELECT: I haven`t decided who I`m going to
endorse in 2020. I think it`s early to make that decision. And I want to
see what the alternatives are.
But I have pointed out there are places where we agree on a whole series of
policy fronts, but there are places that I think the president can, if you
will, elevate his game and do a better job to help bring us together as a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Lanhee Chen, a former policy director for
the Romney campaign. And Jeremy Peters is a reporter with “The New York
Thanks to both of you for being with us.
Well, Lanhee, let me just start with you, because, look, this is in some
ways a continuation of a drama that started, we can say, in the 2016
campaign. Mitt Romney was one of those Republican voices who offered a
scathing take on Trump during that campaign.
And, of course, after the election, there was that brief moment when maybe
he was going to be the secretary of state or something. Now, here he comes
into the Senate.
I guess my first question is, when Mitt Romney speaks critically of
President Trump, as he does in this op-ed today, and potentially as he
might going forward, does he convince anybody within the Republican
universe who wasn`t already anti-Trump?
LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Oh, Steve, I`m
not sure that that`s what the purpose of this was.
I think the purpose of the op-ed was for senator-elect Romney to put down a
marker, to say, look, this is what kind of senator I`m going to be. This
is what I`m going to focus on. This is the way I`m going to approach my
relationship with President Trump, less than about convincing other
Republicans or having other Republicans come along.
I know there`s been some dialogue about that. But the reality is, this was
about Mitt Romney saying where he stands. And, by the way, it`s where he
stood on Donald Trump all along.
KORNACKI: So, what do you make of it, Jeremy, too?
Because there`s this other fascinating element we just get into there.
Romney`s niece, the chair of the national – of the Republican National
Committee right now, comes out against him on this.
JEREMY PETERS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Yes, that`s right.
And I think, Steve, it comes down to a question of, whose Republican Party
is this right now? Is it Mitt Romney`s Republican Party, the party that
was in 2012, or is it Donald Trump`s Republican Party?
And I think the answer to that question lies in the fact that, when Ronna
Romney McDaniel took over as chair of the RNC, Trump asked her to stop
using Romney, her maiden name. So it pretty – that pretty much says all
you need to know about whose Republican Party this is. It`s Donald
Now, does that mean that I think that Mitt Romney is being politically
unsophisticated by doing what he did today? No, I just think it shows that
you have two leaders who have two very different sets of values and two
very different approaches to leading.
And right now, in the Republican Party, there are many voters who see in
Trump somebody who has the same common enemies that they have. And they
see somebody who is willing to take on those enemies.
And in today`s Republican Party politics, those are the identity politics
that I think, frankly, are more important than the values that Mitt Romney
described in his op-ed, as unfortunate as many people may see that to be.
KORNACKI: Yes, Lanhee, look, on a policy front, if you look at this op-ed,
and Mitt Romney there talks about Syria, talks about national security
These were areas too, if you think back to the 2016 primary, where Trump
was sort of separated from where traditionally the Republican Party had
been. A lot of voices were critical of him back then. Of course, he was
able to get the Republican nomination.
Romney speaking critically of Trump on those issues and on his character –
I guess the other question is, whatever Romney`s motive is in doing this,
just in terms of looking at the universe of Republican voters today,
where`s the market for – how big is the market for that style of
conservatism, trade, national security, that Romney`s talking about, and
the primacy of character?
CHEN: Well, I think it`s a market that probably is a lot smaller than it
was in 2012 or maybe even in 2016.
But there are certain values that are emphasized there, for example, the
notion of a robust American national security policy, one that would be
very much counter to what the president is trying to do in Syria, for
I think there are certain elements of this that will remain, even if the
entire package, the sort of pro-hawkish national security, pro-free trade,
that particular coalition as a whole may be shrinking. I think there are
elements of these policies that remain very popular.
Now, bear in mind, the op-ed also illustrated that there are areas where a
senator like Romney very much agrees with the president, whether it`s
corporate tax cuts or other areas. So it`s not as to say that Mitt
Romney`s going to come in and suddenly vote like a Democrat.
Mitt Romney is still going to vote as a Republican, as a conservative
Republican. And I think it`s important to recognize what that means in
this era where things have gotten a little more confused because you have
the president embracing things like a protectionist trade policy, which
traditionally had been associated with Democrats.
KORNACKI: Yes, Jeremy in that interview too this afternoon over on CNN,
Romney says, “I am not running in 2020,” does leave open the possibility
there, it seemed like, of maybe endorsing a Republican primary challenger,
if Donald Trump gets one.
Look, there`s – everybody can always be cynical on the president – on the
two-time presidential candidate who says, I am not running. So, he`s using
the present tense right now.
Where do you think Romney`s going? Is this a guy who just wants to be in
the Senate, that`s it, he`s found a place to sort of finish up his public
career? Or do you see – do you read this a little bit more cynically,
that this is a guy who might have an eye on 2020 and still a role for
PETERS: Well, look, I know, Steve, that there are an awful lot of
Republicans right now, especially in the Senate, who are looking at what
the Republican Party is beyond Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is not
going to be president forever.
Now, whether that means he`s not going to be on the ticket in 2020, if he
decides to not to run again, which I know a lot of people have speculated
about, including several who are very close to the president, we just don`t
But I think that Romney is looking at the Republican Party and seeing a
disconnect, disconnect with his values, the values he ran on in 2012, and
the values that he believes Republicans have always fought and stood for.
And he wants to lay down a marker there and show people that, look, being a
Republican today isn`t all about being pro-Trump. And that`s part of the
problem, I think, is, there are an awful lot of Republicans who conflate
those two things. You are either pro-Trump or you are anti-Republican.
KORNACKI: The president today also took a parting shot at his now former
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, claiming to have fired him, even though
Mattis resigned in protest last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But what has he done for me?
How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good. I`m not
happy with what he`s done in Afghanistan. And I shouldn`t be happy.
But he was very happy. He was very thankful when I got him $700 billion
and then the following year $716 billion. So, I mean, I wish him well. I
hope he does well. But, as you know, President Obama fired him, and,
essentially, so did I. I want results.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Lanhee, that`s interesting to listen to, only because Romney
says that that – Mattis` exit and Mattis` comments on his way out in his
resignation letter were the precipitating event for him writing this op-ed,
one of the precipitating event for it.
Has Mattis` departure, has the way it went down, comments like this today
from the president, are those going to change the way that others,
Republican Party leaders in Washington, approach this presidency at all?
CHEN: I think Jim Mattis` departure was different from a lot of the other
previous departures we have seen, because he is so highly regarded.
And the way in which he approaches national security policy is so similar
to so many Republicans. So his departure certainly is disquieting. The
way in which it went down, the way in which he was critical of the
president`s policy just highlights how much distance there is between some
Republicans in their views on foreign policy and where the president is.
So I absolutely think that this is one of those things to keep an eye on.
Now, Mattis` departure alone might not do it. But combined with the
departure of John Kelly, his chief of staff, if there are others who leave
the administration as well in a similar fashion, expressing policy
disagreements with positions that are traditionally Republican positions,
then I think maybe you might start to see more of an uproar.
But, clearly, this was a factor that influenced senator-elect Romney in his
thinking in the writing of his op-ed.
KORNACKI: All right, Lanhee Chen, Jeremy Peters, thank you both for
And coming up next: Elizabeth Warren enters the presidential race. How
electable is she? I`m heading over to the big board to drill down on her
particular strengths and weaknesses.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We want a government that works
not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works
for everyone. And we can make that happen. We have to do it together. I
think that`s how we win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, that is Elizabeth Warren.
2019 is here, and that means, 2020, it has officially begun. You have got
a Democrat in the race for president now, Senator Elizabeth Warren from
So we thought we would head over to the big board and give you just an
early look at what numbers do we have about Elizabeth Warren as a potential
One thing to keep in mind, a couple polls – a bunch of polls, I should
say, have been taken since the 2016 election. There are three names on the
Democratic side that have consistently sort of popped. A lot of it just
has to do with their name recognition, how well-known they are.
Number one is Joe Biden, the former vice president, number two, Bernie
Sanders, because he ran in 2016, and Elizabeth Warren, probably the three
most well-known Democrats, just when you look at the polling in the last
And so, with that in mind, the most recent national poll of Democratic
primary voters, potential Democratic primary voters, was taken just under a
month ago. Our friends over at CNN did it. We can put it up on the
screen, hopefully show you how Warren did in that poll.
Can we get it up on the screen? Guess what, folks? They don`t have that.
Why don`t you put – do we have a graphic? Let`s see what we got. It`s
just – going to sort of choose your own adventure here. We got nothing.
We got nothing, folks.
I can`t believe it. I thought we – I had all sorts of polling information
Let me just do this. Let me just tell you what we had.
Here`s the thing that happened late November, early December. Elizabeth
Warren, you remember the whole controversy about the Native American
ancestry, the DNA test?
Basically, what happened? One of the three most well-known Democrats, one
of the three Democrats who`s done the best in the polling we have seen in
the last couple years, she was only at 3 percent nationally among Democrats
in this poll.
And you ask that favorable/unfavorable question, her numbers were markedly
lower than Sanders and then Biden. That was with all of general election
voters. So it raised the question, that whole controversy over the DNA
test, is that something that`s going to be sort of forgotten in a few
months? Is she going to learn valuable political lessons from it? Is she
going to get her numbers back up?
Or did that mark a turning point, potentially, in her numbers? Did it
reveal something maybe about her political methodology that`s going to
haunt her in a national campaign?
Kind of posed that question. We were going to show you all the different
numbers we had.
I literally thought we had the numbers as I stood here, introduced the
segment. I didn`t mean to set it up so elaborately, and then have
absolutely nothing to show you. Life with this board. Guess what? It`s
2019. And it`s never been less cooperative. I`m sorry.
OK. Quick break.
Up next: President Trump is not wasting any time in targeting his
potential 2020 opponents. Here`s what he had to say about potentially
facing off against Elizabeth Warren.
We will show you that, play that for you, after the break, God willing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hope she maybe gets the nomination. That would be a wonderful
thing for me.
I wish her well. I hope she does well. I would love to run against her.
QUESTION: She says she`s in the fight all the way, Mr. President. Do you
– do you really think she believes she can win?
TRUMP: Well, that, I don`t know. You would have to ask her psychiatrist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was the president reacting to the news that Senator Elizabeth Warren
of Massachusetts is moving toward a presidential run by setting up an
It was roughly a month ago that her hometown newspaper, “The Boston Globe,”
urged her not to run because she was too much of a divisive figure, the
On Monday, she responded to that criticism. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem we`ve
got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who`ve got
money, to buy influence. And I`m fighting against that, and you bet, it`s
going to make a lot of people unhappy. But at the end of the day, I don`t
go to Washington to work for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable. Laura Bassett,
senior political reporter for “Huffington Post”, Astead Herndon, national
politics reporter for “The New York Times”, and Noah Rothman, associate
editor at “Commentary Magazine”.
Astead, you`re covering this race. Let me just start with you. If that
board had cooperated, we would have shown some interesting numbers.
It looks like the end of the year, Elizabeth Warren took a hit. It seemed
related to the DNA test. It seemed that her – the willingness of
Democrats to say they`re going to vote for her, ready to vote for her in
2020 had fallen. And also, if you look at the sort of the wider electorate
there, that question of divisiveness, the unfavorability number was up and
the favorability number was down.
In terms of that DNA test, is that a blip? Do you think it will be
forgotten? Or is there some more lasting political damage that was
revealed at the end of the year?
ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it
will certainly be an issue that she`s going to have to address in early
2019. There are two things that happen there. The conservative energy
that tries to slur her as Pocahontas, using those racial terms that Native
Americans have called racist.
And there`s also the – there`s also when she took the test and angered
some progressives and some Native Americans who think that in taking the
test, it acted like Native American citizenship is related to blood when
it`s really related cultural kinship, and that angered some folks. And
she`s aware of that.
Our reporting is that Senator Warren met privately with Native American
leaders, has heard out their concerns, and has mulled things like an
apology or a response that some of her advisers want. Whether that comes,
we`ll still yet to see. I don`t think we should overcorrect it too much.
This is an issue. This is something that`s going to have to come up.
There will be something for each candidate that they will have to address.
The reason Democrats love Elizabeth Warren six years ago is still true,
still fights the big bang, she still fights corporate greed. And when we
see in Iowa this week, I`d imagine there will be some excited crowds for
KORNACKI: Yes, and, Laura, I`m curious too. Look, there`s a very large
field that`s taking shape here. We`ll see what Biden says, Sanders is
sitting out there. Dramatically, there`s a lot of obvious overlap between
where Sanders has been, where Warren, but there are names out there as
How successful you think she`s going to be in just standing out and
distinguishing herself in this field?
LAURA BASSETT, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Look, I think it is really hard, even
in 2019, for women to run for president. We keep learning this. We
learned at this time hard way in 2016 with all the sexist coverage of
Hillary and people saying, she doesn`t inspire me. I don`t know why, the
I have a feeling that in the next couple years, if Warren doesn`t win, if
Trump wins again or something like that happens, people will say, but her
DNA test, the way they said about her emails, about Hillary, because little
things like, is she likable, is she aloof, is she – these things get said
about women candidates. They don`t get said about male candidates.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you this way, though. I wish the board would
cooperate, because if you`re a Democrat, how do you think about this? The
numbers were these, national poll a month ago, these are all voters,
general election voters here, favorable/unfavorable. You ask that question
all the time about politicians. Biden was 54-29, favorable/unfavorable.
Sanders was 51-35, favorable/unfavorable. Warren was 30-32. Those were
the only three that had more than 50 percent recognizing names and having
So, there seemed to be a big different. Does that factor into Democrats
and their thinking about Warren as a potential general election, even if
you think it is up fair, does that factor in?
BASSETT: Yes. Well, I think she has two things running against her. One
is that the Democratic establishment is a little afraid of her. Just like
they were afraid of Bernie, they think that she is too liberal. That she
might not represent the views of centrists, who – they need centrists to
peel off voters from Trump.
And then, of course, you have the faction of people who are saying now,
that, I don`t know, is she likable? She`s not doing it for me. She`s not
inspiring me. And I think that`s the part that comes down to sexism a
little bit. So, I do think that she does have a tougher run in this
election than some of the men.
KORNACKI: How do you think, Noah, she would – given all the sort of
possible Democratic opponents out there for Trump, in terms of the ability
to beat Trump potentially, where would she stack up in your mind?
NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: Well, I mean, it`s
hard to gauge this early in the process. I think she is a very competitive
candidate but probably farther behind more fresher blood. I think – part
of the problem is, is that Elizabeth Warren came on as a very authentic
progressive in 2012, 2016, and she was positioning herself vis-a-vis
against the Republican Party that was more plutocratic, that was much more
interested in buttressing the top and pursuing a free trade agenda and
And what Donald Trump did with the Republican Party was sort of undercut
her issues a bit. She`s a market skeptic. Donald Trump is a market
He issues a bunch of mean tweets. She`s been talking about her tweets and
how proud she is so she goes to the mat with Donald Trump. It`s a brand
that I don`t think it`s her authentically, and I think it comes off as her
campaigning and undermining her own value as a really wonky progressive
KORNACKI: Astead, another feature of this sort of rollout from Elizabeth
Warren, too, it seemed to be some pretty direct specific outreach to the
African-American voters. That`s a huge story here for just any Democratic
candidate heading into 2020, the role of black voters just in terms of the
share of the vote we`re talking about here, some of the key states,
especially you look at the path Hillary Clinton took to the nomination over
Sanders in 2016. Black voters looming particularly important here.
HERNDON: Right. For any of these Democratic candidates, they`re going to
have to make that outreach because that constituency is so keen, not only
in states like South Carolina and as we move to the South, but even when
you look at the Midwest and some of those urban centers. That`s something
that Senator Warren knows. She`s been the most aggressive, even more so
than some of the African-American candidates. We`re going to see with
reaching out to black leaders and making that the forefront of the pitch.
I would point folks to her announcement video where she highlighted the
black/white wealth gap in this country and not only did that, but
specifically tied it to legacies of discrimination. That`s something she`s
been very intentional about. I was with her at Morgan State in Baltimore
at a historically black college where she made another pitch directly to
voters, saying that there are two Americas, one that works for white
families and one that works for everybody else.
She is very, very cognizant of these issues, and I think that`s where she
separates herself from someone like Senator Sanders or some of the other
progressives that she views that that`s a constituency that she make real
inroads in and she`s going to spend a lot of the next year trying to do so.
KORNACKI: And now, interesting too with the potential here for multiple
African-American candidates. You have Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, could
factor in as well. “The New York Times” meanwhile recently interviewed
retired Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid out in Nevada. Senator Reid
said he is fighting pancreatic cancer with not much longer to live. He was
unrepentant about his political decisions, most notably, to get rid of the
filibuster for judicial appointments, something President Trump has now
benefited from. Referring to Donald Trump, Reid told “The New York Times”,
quote, I think he`s, without question, the worst president we`ve ever had.
We`ve had some bad ones and there`s not even a close second to him. He`ll
lie, he`ll cheat, you can`t reason with him.
Just terrible news on the medical front for Harry Reid and obviously, we
wish all the best for him, for his family there. In terms of the politics
of this, too, it is Harry Reid in an era before Trump was sort of, he was
the sort of go to talking point enemy for a lot of Republicans.
ROTHMAN: Sure. A pugilist in action and before his time in Congress, he
was very much a fighter. He does give some short shrift to those
antebellum precedents, those first terms, those one termers before the
Civil War. There was a string of really awful ones. I think they would
give this president a run for his money.
His colleagues have said pretty unequivocally, they could regret damage
they did to the filibuster. The Senator Chuck Schumer is already
considering restoring that. Not by any sort of altruism on his part, but
by giving centrist Democrats cover to maintain the 60-vote super majority.
So I think his legacy as a legislator is a little bit mixed. But as a man,
you can judge him by his deed and the people that he has around him and I
think he`s got a pretty legacy there.
KORNACKI: And, Laura, just in terms of the leadership, it was interesting
in this article, it sounds like the relationship between him and Schumer
just not maybe that good the past couple of years.
KORNACKI: How do Democrats look at the Senate that Harry Reid, he was
their leader, versus where Chuck Schumer is now? Do they view one as
superior to the other?
BASSETT: You know, I can`t speak for Democrats. I`m not sure which one
they view as better. I think it is fairly normal and human for Harry Reid
to suddenly retire at the most interesting time in American presidential
history. This crazy pivotal moment, the way he described Trump as this
very weird commander in chief.
And suddenly, he`s out of the fray. He`s not getting the same attention
anymore, he doesn`t have the same power and he`s watching Schumer be a
little lighter on Trump than he would be. And I think Schumer, you know,
as he said, they`re both New Yorkers. They kind of go in back rooms and
make deals. They have their grandfathers did business together, whatever.
And I think Reid would prefer to throw bombs the way Pelosi is more
inclined to do. So, I think they just have different styles of leadership,
and it`s just killing Reid that he is not in the ring.
KORNACKI: And it`s also interesting quote. Dick Durbin describing those
between Schumer and the president saying basically, you can`t decipher it
if you`re not from New York.
The roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Laura, tell me something I don`t know.
BASSETT: So, a Gallup poll in 2016 said 66 percent of Americans said that
immigration was good for this country. This year, that is up two 75
percent. A new poll today coming out from Gallup says. So that`s contrary
to anything Trump would have you believe about the country.
KORNACKI: All right. Noah?
ROTHMAN: Something the president doesn`t seem to know, when he
inexplicably said that the Soviets were justified in invading Afghanistan,
said the Russians got out and learned their lesson because of terrorism.
Well, it turns out the Russians are in Afghanistan, American brass has
testified for the last two years that the Russians have been providing
material support to the Taliban. So, not exactly fighting terrorists.
KORNACKI: All right. Astead?
HERNDON: Why did Senator Warren announce so early? For staffing and
fundraising. We saw four key hires today that she made at a really high
level to really tell the rest of the field that could be pretty big that
she`s serious and there to stay.
KORNACKI: OK. Wasting no time there.
Laura Bassett, Astead Herndon, and Noah Rothman, thank you for being with
When we return, let me finish tonight with a question for Republicans
heading into 2020. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with a question for Republicans heading
And it is this: How many of them are ready to stand with Donald Trump in a
re-election campaign? The question is raised once again by incoming
Senator Mitt Romney`s new op-ed in the “Washington Post.” Publicly, it`s
resonating with many conservatives who are already on the record not liking
Trump. Privately, we are told, there are many Republicans in high places
who also agree with it.
And outside the Republican universe, well, not surprisingly, it`s
resonating there, too, except with some who say that Romney and others like
him aren`t doing nearly enough to oppose Trump.
But there`s also something familiar about all of this. I think back to the
early days of the Trump campaign. He would poll at 10 percent among
Republicans. And his conservative critics would say, sure, he has 10
percent but that means 90 percent will never be with him. When he was at
15 percent, they said, OK, 85 percent won`t be with him. Then he was at 20
percent, and then 25 percent and 30 percent and on and on until he was the
Then those same voices said, well, look at all those Republicans who still
didn`t vote for Trump in the primaries. They won`t be there for him in
November. But, of course, they were there for him in November. Republican
And now, as the third year of Trump`s presidency begins, they are still
there, it would appear. In Gallup`s latest polling, 88 percent of
Republican voters approve of Trump`s job performance, that`s about as
strong as any recent president has been with his own party at this point.
I say this not to claim that Trump`s overall political health is strong.
It is not. It is very tenuous. He may very well lose to a Democrat in
2020. But when it comes to a potential Romney-led move on Trump within the
Republican Party, my starting point is skepticism. There may be plenty of
party leaders who privately agree with every word Romney wrote, but as long
as 88 percent of Republican voters are still with Trump, few of them are
likely to ever say it publicly.
That is HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
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