Awaiting House vote. TRANSCRIPT: 1/3/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.
Date: January 3, 2019
Guest: Denny Heck, Basil Smikle
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Madam Speaker, let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi in the newly elected Democratic leadership are
currently speaking to reporters holding a press conference. We begin
keeping an eye on that. We begin with the latest developments in what has
already been a momentous day on Capitol Hill.
Tonight that newly Democratic-led House of Representatives is going to
begin voting on a pair of short-term bills to end the partial government
shutdown. A clear signal if he needed one to President Trump that divided
government has arrived in Washington. It is the first major order of
business for Nancy Pelosi who today reclaimed the speaker`s gavel 12 years
after she became the first woman ever to wield it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The honorable Nancy Pelosi of the state of California
having received a majority of the votes cast is duly elected speaker of the
House of Representatives for the 116th Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Pelosi also becomes the first former speaker to return as
speaker in 64 years. Sam Rayburn`s comeback back in 1955 was the last time
we saw this. Pelosi welcomed the new 36 seat Democratic majority saying
the American people had spoken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOSE SPEAKER: We have no illusions that our work
will be easy and that all of us in this chamber will always agree, but let
each of us pledge that when we disagree, we respect each other and we
respect it. We will debate in advance good ideas no matter where they come
from and in that spirit Democrats will be offering the Senate Republican
appropriations legislation to reopen government later today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: In a clear move to regain the spotlight hours after that
President Trump made an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing
room. His first time at the podium there flanked by a variety of border
patrol and immigration authorities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to start off by
congratulating Nancy Pelosi on being elected speaker of the House. It`s a
very, very great achievement. And hopefully we are going to work together
and we`re going to get lots of things done like infrastructure and so much
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Trump left just ten minutes later without taking any questions
from the reporters who were there.
As the partial government shutdown grinds into its 13th day President Trump
is holding firm on his demand that Congress fund a wall on the southern
border with Mexico. But in an interview with NBC News, new speaker Pelosi
made it clear the House will not provide any funding to build a wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to come up and give him some of this
money for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because apparently that`s the sticking point.
PELOSI: No. No. Nothing. We are talking about border security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: In fact, as we mentioned, the House will take up a bipartisan
package of Senate bills, six measures funding government agencies through
September and one funding the department of homeland security until
As Democrats move to try to reopen the government again tonight a
Republican senator, Colorado`s Cory Gardner, has said just in the last few
hours that Congress should reopen the government even without a border
deal. First crack on the Republican ranks on the Senate side.
Meanwhile, NBC News reports that President Trump told congressional leaders
yesterday he quote “would look foolish if he supported the six measures not
related to homeland security or the wall.”
And today, he again accused Democrats of playing politics over the standoff
writing on twitter quote “the shutdown is only because of the 2020
Presidential election. The Democrats know they can`t win based on all of
the achievements of Trump.”
But the ongoing standoff is only one issue facing Trump in a newly divided
government. Democrats have promised to use their new majority and the
committee subpoena power that comes with it to investigate the President.
For more I`m joined by Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News.
Ohio Democratic representative Tim Ryan, Eugene Robinson columnist for the
“Washington Post” and Michael Steel, former spokesperson for House speaker
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Congressman Ryan, let me start with you because we said one of the first
orders of business, I think they are voting on the rules right now as we
speak or they may have finished that up. But then you, the new Democratic
majority, are going to pass this a bill to reopen the government.
Exactly what would that bill provide when it comes to what the President
has been talking about here for border security? And with the President
saying it is dead on arrival, what happens if he doesn`t budge after you
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Well, it`s going to, as you said, I open up six
departments of the government and yet no wall funding and that funding for
those six parts will be until September and then give us a month to have a
discussion about border security until about February 8th. And I think
that`s the important part. Like let`s figure something out. If we have
four weeks or so, let`s think a little bit bigger.
You know, we are talking about security. Some of us don`t want a wall, but
there`s plenty of technology out there. We know that most of the problem
from people that are undocumented in our country come from visa overstays.
We know that 90 percent of the drugs that come into the country come in
through ports of entry.
Those are the two key areas we need to focus on if we`re going to secure
the border from drugs and know who is in our country. So let`s have that
conversation and then let`s talk about DACA or let`s talk about
comprehensive immigration reform. And maybe over a few weeks we can come
to some agreement.
KORNACKI: I ask this question too, we have Democrats on, because the line,
and we heard the new speaker, Nancy Pelosi in the clip we just played, say
again to NBC News here, the wall is a non-starter. No money for the wall.
There is not going to be a wall. You are saying have a discussion. Is
there a discussion where you are OK with fencing? Is fencing OK but a wall
not OK to Democrats? Is that correct here?
RYAN: I think what we should do is let the experts tell us. There are
Republican senators on border states who don`t want a wall. I mean, that`s
like us sitting here saying we want a model T car or glider plane or rotary
phones back. We are talking about let the experts tell us. We have had so
many advancements over the past few years, what is that technology? And I
think if we make the argument over the next two, three, four weeks, and
that`s the sole argument we are having, let`s talk about this issue to the
American people. And I think the American people are going to continue to
side with us and you see Cory Gardner broke today. I think there will be
other senators that break. But let`s have that conversation over the next
three or four weeks.
KORNACKI: Yes, Kasie, let me pick up on that point because we mentioned
Corry Gardner. Cory Gardner, Republican senator from Colorado, swing
state, Cory Gardner is going to have to run for reelection next year in
2020. Now the first Republican in the Senate to come out and say basically
let`s just pass a continuing resolution. Let`s get this reopened here. No
bigger deal on the border. Is that going to spread now beyond Cory Gardner
quickly or is he going to be on an island on the republican side?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Susan Collins, the
senator from Maine has made some noises to that effect as well. And I
don`t necessarily think it`s going to be a sweeping movement though because
the reality is the Senate map isn`t necessarily all that terrible for
Republicans in 2020.
Cory Gardner arguably one of the most vulnerable Republicans who is up for
reelection. And don`t forget, the growing Latino population in his state
in the suburbs of Denver. So I think the dynamics that he is facing here
is somewhat unique to Cory Gardner.
But that said, I do think the more this piles up – the question in my mind
is are the impacts that people are feeling from this shutdown, are they
going to drive the political realities? And that`s why I can`t quite get
my head around how we solve this impasse. I mean, the fact that previous
shutdowns were going to end at some point felt inevitable here on Capitol
Hill, I have now covered a number of them. But they felt inevitable
because you could feel the political pressure on one side or the other,
usually on the antagonist of the shutdown.
And you know, in 2013 it was Ted Cruz. And the winner it was Chuck Schumer
and, you know, Democrats who are not pushing for the shutdown over very
same issue. Now it`s the President who seemed to do it on I don`t want to
necessarily want to call it a whim but it was a day of negative coverage
from conservative media.
And I`m not necessarily sure how you put that genie back in the bottle.
And I neither side seems incentivized at all to fix it. And nobody up here
can explain to me - I mean, it is just simply somebody has to give in and
this President doesn`t seem like he`s one to just throw up his hands and
take the embarrassment. I mean, if we ever seen him do anything like that?
So it really just leaves the people that are directly affected by this
shutdown really stuck.
KORNACKI: Well, right. And the puzzle pieces here, of course, they change
a little bit today. As we say, Democrats now can`t pass provided they can
keep all of their votes together. They can pass what they want out of the
House but Republicans still control of the Senate. And as we said, even if
Democrats do pass those funding measures tonight, Senate majority leader
Mitch McConnell is saying he will not bring them to the Senate floor for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I made it clear to the speaker
we are not interested in having show votes here in the Senate. We are
interested in bringing up something the house has passed, 60 senators will
support and the President will sign. In other words, I want to make a law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Two weeks ago McConnell was on board when the Senate pass a
similar funding measure by unanimous consent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Republicans will continue to fulfill our duty to govern.
That`s why we will send takeoff simple measure continue government funding
into February so we can continue this vital debate after the new Congress
has convened because make no mistake, Mr. President, there will be
important unfinished business left in front of us and we will owe it to the
American people to finally tackle it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Michael Steele, just on the Republican side, what is your sense
of that question Kasie Hunt just raised about the political pressure. Cory
Gardner, it sounds like he is stealing he political pressure to get Mitch
McConnell to change his view on that, multiple Republican senators are
going to say that. Is that kind political pressure developing do you think
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER SPOKESPERSON FOR HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The way
I would look at this right now is the House is playing checkers, the Senate
is playing chess and the President is playing tidy-winks (ph). I think
that the House is advancing simple, easy to understand formerly by partisan
legislations. The Senate is operating on a very strategic level.
Vulnerable senators are coming out as Cory Gardner did. Susan Collins is
Kind in a same place. Mitch McConnell is holding on to his cards very
close to his vest saying that we are in the going to have show votes. We
are not going to have test votes. The Senate will not act until we have
something that`s can passed the House to be signed by the President.
The President doesn`t seem to be concern with this at all. He is worried
about his base shoring up his support, appearing tough on border security
and appearing tough on the wall which is a completely different universe
from the reality on Capitol Hill.
KORNACKI: Yes. And Eugene Robinson, again, just three different very,
very different puzzles here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
KORNACKI: That possibility that Kasie raised. I mean, I have sort of have
been playing with the same thing in my hear for couple of weeks here. What
is the solution where you can get all three those lined up and in for a
shutdown that I think in the beginning instinctively felt was going to be a
brief one, a limited one, I still can`t quite see what that solution looks
like on paper? What is your sense of the timing for how long this will go
ROBINSON: Well, I think it might last a while because I don`t think we are
near to having a solution that bridges those great, lively separated points
where the house is, where the Senate is, and where the President seems to
be. It`s hard to tell from minute to minute.
But you know Mitch McConnell was careful to say we are not interested in
show boats. You know sometimes you are not interested in doing. If it`s
required – and you know the effects of these shutdowns do melt so, you
know, most of the national parks are still open, they are going to have to
be closed because, you know, there`s a ton of garbage waste filed up in
(INAUDIBLE) by now. They are going to have to shut down national parks.
People are not going to get their checks. Not just government workers but
some of the, I believe some of the farm subsidies that are meant to make up
for the effects of the trade war. Some of those checks are not going to go
out. There are salaries of really, really important government workers
that are not going to be paid. And as this mile, there is going to be
increasing pressure to do something. And I think the senators are going to
start feeling it.
KORNACKI: And Congressman, I have to ask you, too, because Nancy Pelosi
coming back as House speaker, somebody you said for months should not be
the next the next speaker. You have signed a letter at one point saying
there would be a challenge or two or you wouldn`t vote for it. You did end
up voting for her today? What do you make of her leadership in the
showdown fight here.
RYAN: I think she is doing a good job of representing our views in the
caucus. And she is a great negotiator.
Look, we are on her turf at this point. She is very good with the internal
game. The congressional leverage that you need, counting votes, the
legislative process, negotiating with the President. This is her sweet
spot. And so we are in good hands as we move through these negotiations
with her. Hopefully we can come to some resolutions resolution.
But just to kind of build on what Eugene was saying, every day we are
talking about this issue. Every day the President is talking about the
wall. He is not talking about the economy. He is not talking about jobs,
wages, pensions, health care, prescription drug prices. He is going to get
punished by the elector rate for that because we are saying we want border
security, too, we just want the kind of border security that`s not in the
14th century or 11th or 12th century. We want technology to be used and
everything else. So we want border security. He is the one who is stuck
in this particular wall that doesn`t make any sense even the Republican
senators. He will start to carry that political baggage as the economy
softens, as interest rates go up and as we see what is continuing to happen
in the stock market.
KORNACKI: Eugene Robinson, let me jus go back with you. Do you share that
assessment, too? I`m just looking at the sorts of factors that congressman
Ryan is outlining there. And I`m having flashbacks to the 2016 campaign,
first two years of the Trump presidency. How many times you would hear he
will respond to this, he will response to his traditional few, that
ROBINSON: I have no idea what he will respond to, you know. I think I
have some idea what Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will eventually
respond to and how they will eventually feel squeezed by their position in
all of this.
President Trump, you know, he painted himself into this corner and he
doesn`t have an easy way out. So I can imagine him coming up with some
formulation in which he says whatever money there is in an eventual bill is
a win. And, anyhow, the wall is already built and then he sort of moves
But once he has demonstrated to his base that he is willing to fight and go
to the mat and shut down the government, now what? And I don`t think he
saw that through. I don`t think he knows now what. And that`s why I have
no idea when this will end.
RYAN: Steve, my point was I don`t know if it`s going to change his
behavior at all, but it will accumulate politically in the negative column
for him over time.
KORNACKI: All right, understood.
Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio, Eugene Robinson, Kasie Hunt, Michael Steel.
We appreciate you all being with us.
And we have much more to get to on the still unfolding drama in Washington.
Up next, is President Trump in for a rude awakening? I`m going to speak to
two congressmen about what the see change on Capitol Hill could mean for
the President now the House is under Democratic control.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You have said it would be sad and divisive for the country to
pursue impeachment. Are you willing to rule it out?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, we have to wait and
see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn`t be impeaching for a
political reason, and we shouldn`t avoid impeachment for a political
reason. So we will just have to see how it comes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, keeping the door open
to impeaching President Trump. It is among the many perils the president
potentially faces with the House now under Democratic control.
Unlike their Republican predecessors, the new Democratic chairmen who now
lead the key House committees are eager to exert their oversight powers
over the executive branch. These are powers that include the ability to
hold hearings and, crucially, to issue subpoenas.
For President Trump, who has never experienced the checks and balances of a
divided government, that could be a rude awakening.
To give you an idea of what to expect, potentially, consider that, in the
House Oversight Committee alone, Republicans used the powers of the
majority to block Democratic subpoena requests a total of 64 times during
Trump`s first two years as president.
These new congressional investigations will take place against the backdrop
of the Mueller probe, the results of which could certainly loom large over
the next two years.
And to that point, Pelosi suggested today that the president could be
indicted even while he`s an office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Everything indicates that a president can be indicted after he is
no longer president of the United States.
QUESTION: What about a sitting president?
PELOSI: Well, a sitting president, when he`s no longer president of the
QUESTION: A president who is in office. Could Robert Mueller come back
and say, I am seeking an indictment?
PELOSI: I think that that is an open discussion. I think that is an open
discussion in terms of the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of
Washington. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you for taking a few minutes.
Let me try to get a taste of this week. We put the powers in perspective
out there that Democrats now have running these committees, the oversight
potential there. You have been sitting on that committee for a while.
Give me one area that you have been waiting and eager to dive into that you
can now dive into you couldn`t before.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: The phone call before the Trump Tower
meeting in the summer of 2016, we`d like to know to whom that call was made
– or from whom it was received by Donald Trump Jr.
That`s something that we had sought to actually subpoena when we undertook
our investigation over the last couple years, but were denied the
opportunity to do. But it`s just one example, Steve. There are literally
dozens of them that any proven investigator would have followed up on.
KORNACKI: How is your investigation going to – I mean, I guess the
question is, is your investigation or any investigation that you launch, is
that going to work in tandem at all with the Mueller investigation? Are
these going to be just existing in completely separate worlds?
Do you have to rely on Mueller in some way, at least what`s publicly known
about his investigation, to pursue your work?
HECK: We don`t have eyes on the Mueller investigation. He is very, very
secretive about his deliberations, as is the professional thing to do.
So I couldn`t tell you exactly what the status of his deliberations are.
What we know is that there have been 36 criminal indictments and four
prison terms meted out to various characters within the Trump orbit.
But we really don`t know what the status is. Just like you, we hear from a
lot of different people that he`s nearing its completion. So, we will be
undertaking, where we think is appropriate, a separate, and may or may not
be parallel, follow-up to some of the things we think merit it, as a
consequence of failure to follow through in the last couple years.
KORNACKI: I`m curious, how do you anticipate working with – and do you
anticipate working at all productively with the Republicans on your
Obviously, there was a lot of tension there the last two years between the
majority Republicans, the minority in your party. How`s that relationship
going to work in reverse the next two years?
HECK: Well, the dirty little secret in Washington, D.C., is that, when we
weren`t working on the Russian investigation, there were actually a lot of
areas where we worked together on very well.
Yes, the relationship was strained. Clearly, it was strained. But it was
not all-defining in terms of our work, either with respect to
reauthorization of the Intelligence Authorization Act or a variety of other
measures that we undertook.
We completely modernized CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the
U.S. And the Intelligence Committee had a strong hand in that. And we did
that in a bipartisan way. So it was really pretty much along the lines of
the Russian investigation where the relationship got, at a minimum, pretty
KORNACKI: We mentioned too – we showed that clip, Nancy Pelosi leaving
the door open to the possibility of impeachment there.
One of your colleagues, Brad Sherman, he already did this a couple years
ago, introduced a resolution, an impeachment resolution already.
Let me ask you the question. I know, when he was able to force a vote on
this a while back, you were a no at that point. But let me ask you this
question. If this conversation moves toward impeachment over the next few
months, is there, roughly speaking, a cutoff date where Democrats would
need to initiate that by, just given the fact that the 2020 campaign is
going to begin, where the country will be in full presidential campaign
Does this have to be launched, if it is going to happen, by this summer,
HECK: Well, I think whether or not we ever take up impeachment is going to
be largely dependent, as Speaker Pelosi suggests, on the final work product
of the Mueller investigation.
And I think that we ought to be, frankly, guided by the substance of what
it is that he finds. And we are not in a position to be able to indicate
what that is at this time, because we simply don`t know what it is, Steve.
So it depends on what he recommends as to whether or not we should take it
up. If it`s serious enough, I don`t know that there would be a cutoff for
it. But, again, there`s no point in having this largely academic
conversation until and unless we have additional information from Director
KORNACKI: All right, Congressman Denny Heck, thank you for taking a few
HECK: You`re welcome, sir.
KORNACKI: Meanwhile, there also remains the outstanding question of
whether Donald Trump`s tax returns, which could be key to numerous
investigations, will actually be made public.
Politico reports the new Democratic chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee – that`s congressman Richard Neal from Massachusetts – plans to
take a cautious approach before he demands those returns.
Trump is the first president in 40 years to refuse to release his tax
returns. He claims he is withholding them because they`re under a routine
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will absolutely give my
returns, but I`m being audited now for two or three years. So I can`t do
it until the audit is finished, obviously.
Because it`s under audit. I will release them when the audit is completed.
My tax returns are very simple. They`re under a minor audit, routine-
ordered, as they have been for many years. Every year, I get audited.
At the appropriate time, I will release them, but right now, I`m under
routine audit. And nobody cares.
You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters,
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You don`t think the American
public is concerned about that?
TRUMP: No, I don`t think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I
don`t think they care at all.
QUESTION: If the audit is still on, you will not turn over the tax
returns, or you will fight to block it?
TRUMP: When it`s under audit, no. Nobody would. Nobody turns over a
return when it`s under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Tom Reed from New
York. He sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
Let me just ask you. We showed the president there, candidate Trump, now
two, three years ago, 2016 – it`s 2019 now – saying, hey, I`m under
audit, I`m under audit.
Critics say that he was just stalling there to avoid providing an answer.
There`s a law, apparently, a 1924 law that gives your committee, the tax-
writing Ways and Means Committee, the power from the IRS to get tax returns
and then, if decided by a majority vote, to release those tax returns to
Do you think there`s a public interest in the Ways and Means Committee
doing that now?
REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: You know, I don`t agree with the committee
going down that approach to go after an individual, even the president of
the United States, and disclose – enforce the disclosure of that personal
private information that the president has made clear he didn`t want to
release it, didn`t release it.
And that was part of the public debate in the election. Now`s the time to
unite America, not divide it. And this issue of tax reforms (sic) is just
one of those divisive issues that`s not going to solve people`s problems
back home in regards to issues that we`re facing here on a day-to-day
KORNACKI: Is the matter of Trump`s tax returns, then, to you, ultimately,
a voluntary one? He can be criticized for not doing it, he can suffer
whatever public consequences come with that, but he should not – you
believe there`s no mechanism to force him to do it?
REED: Yes, I believe that decision has been made by him. It was part of
the public election process.
And when you go after tax returns, you use that power that the Ways and
Means Committee has, that`s a very slippery slope. If you go after one,
this president, who are you going to stop it? Can you go after your
neighbor? Can you go after another private American citizen?
And that is the slope that we`re on if we go down this path.
KORNACKI: We mentioned the House just before you came over was voting on
its official rules for the next two years under Democratic control. You
voted yes on these rules.
And that`s a significant vote. For folks at home who don`t necessarily
follow this all the time, usually, these are strict party-line votes. The
Democrats drew these up. You, a Republican, voted yes
I think there may actually have been two other Republicans who did as well.
I can`t remember the last time you had crossover votes on the rules.
I want you to explain why you did that. But, also, you said there were
some threats – I saw an interview with you where you suggested that you
were threatened with – quote – “consequences” from your own party.
Is your seat on Ways and Means in jeopardy in any way because of this vote?
REED: Well, I will tell you, kudos to my colleagues John Katko and Brian
Fitzpatrick for joining me.
And when we negotiated these rule reforms, that not all of them in our
package of the Problem Solvers Caucus got into the final rules package, but
some significant reforms got in there. And we wanted to show good faith.
So I applaud my fellow Republicans for putting partisanship aside and start
governing for the American people and break this gridlock.
As to consequences, I`m not going to comment upon that. I go into this
eyes wide open, and it`s about doing the right thing at the right time to
get America its solutions out of D.C. it deserves.
KORNACKI: I just – was your seat on the committee or your status at all
Just to say publicly you were threatened with consequences raises a number
of questions, you can imagine.
REED: Well, I appreciate that.
And, obviously, there is concern by folks who want to make sure the herd
mentality, us-vs.-them politics, is the status quo of D.C. And so there
were concerns raised and issues and potential consequences raised, but we
will see how that goes.
But, at the end of the day, we`re very comfortable in where – what we did,
and we will stand and take whatever responsibility comes with that
KORNACKI: Congressman Tom Reed, Republican from New York, thank you for
taking a few minutes.
REED: Great to be with you.
KORNACKI: And up next, I`m heading over to the big board. We`re going to
drill down on what today`s events tell us about partisanship in the Trump
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: All right, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the new Congress, it convened today, Democrats back in control for
the first time in eight years.
We thought we would zoom out. And, remember, we were at this board all
last year trying to figure out, who`s going to win this district in this
date, this district in that state? This is all those folks you saw there
in the chamber voting today. This is sort of the breakdown.
When you look at the map, the blue districts and the red districts. This
is what was elected in November and what took its seat collectively in
You notice, by the way, there is still that one outstanding race, the 9th
District in North Carolina, the election fraud allegations there. That is
a total mess. That could be weeks. That could realistically be months
before that`s potentially settled.
Everything else is settled, though, numerically, 235 Democrats right now in
this new House of Representatives. That number there, you remember a 40-
seat net gain that they have posted, Republicans down 41, sitting at 199
Now, here`s the interesting thing, though. If you start to dig deeper into
these districts, we talked so much about how the Democrats had such luck in
November, in particular in suburban districts. A lot of these were
districts where either Hillary Clinton had already won in 2016, or maybe
Donald Trump had won. but only narrowly.
Check this out. Just take a look at sort of the breakdown here. In this
new Congress, what you see here, every one of these, these are Democrats in
the new Congress who now represent districts that voted for Trump in 2016.
So there are 31 Democrats now – that`s a big jump from before – who come
from what you might call Trump country.
But keep in mind, when we say Trump country, we`re generally not talking
about places Trump won by 10, 20, 30 points. That`s not the kind of Trump
country. A lot of these are places Trump won very narrowly.
Look at it this way. Break it down a little further. Places where Trump
won by even five points or more, there`s only 13 Democrats in the entire
U.S. House, 434 seats there right now – remember, one vacant. Thirteen –
excuse me – of the 434 come from districts that Trump won by more than
How about the flip side of it? After that suburban wave in November, how
many Republicans in this new – within this new Congress, how many
Republicans now represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton back in
Check this one out, three. There are three Republicans now – 434 people
are seated in Congress. Three of them are Republicans who come from
districts that voted for Hillary Clinton.
Remember, that number was 25 going into Election Day. We watched those all
fall off the map for the Republicans a couple months ago standing here.
Anyway, the new Congress back in session today. We thought we`d take a
look at that. Not a lot of Democrats in deep Trump country. Not a lot of
Republicans in deep Clinton country. That is the story of red and blue
Up next: Is Trump on the outs with the Republican establishment? Should
we view Mitt Romney`s critique of Trump`s presidency as an outlier or a
sign of things to come?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Just hours into a newly divided government and President Trump is still
fighting to suppress criticism from members of his own party. “The
Washington Post`s” Robert Costa is reporting a day after Senator Mitt
Romney`s public rebuke, that the notion of Trump`s presidency being in deep
descent has become a near-daily discussion throughout the broader
According to “Politico”, Romney`s piece reignited fears among party
officials of a primary challenge in 2020, which set off a search for ways
to cut off any potential challengers.
Robert Costa joins me now, along with Susan Del Percio, our Republican
strategist, and Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist.
Robert Costa, that term deep descent, a presidency in deep descent, what in
January 2019 is leading Republicans to say this in a presidency that began
in January 2017.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Divided
government changed everything. Spent the day at the Capitol talking to
Republican senators and House members, they know the dynamic has changed.
The president comes out for a statement on immigration, the government
continues to be shut down.
Privately and somewhat publicly with Senator Romney and others, people are
starting to talk more in the GOP about are there going to have to be
options for 2020? Is someone going to have to step forward beyond Ohio
Governor John Kasich?
KORNACKI: Are there other names? Romney said he`s not running in the
present tense. Take that for what it`s worth. Are there other names,
though, besides a Romney, besides a Kasich?
COSTA: At this moment, talking to senators today, they say they`re keeping
a close eye on the senators who just retired. Senator Corker of Tennessee
and Senator Flake of Arizona. Now, they don`t have the political capital,
the stature of Senator Romney inside the Republican Party, but if they
start heading to Iowa and New Hampshire, maybe some senators maybe not
publicly yet are going to at least listen.
KORNACKI: Susan, what do you make of that? On the one hand you have the
reporting – the excellent reporting Robert just detailed there. On the
other hand, you look at the Gallup poll. They tracked him every week. He
is still sitting at 88 percent of approval rating among Republicans. It
looks like George W. Bush at the end of 2002, within his own party. Not
outside his own party.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Of course. I think what they`re
operating off of and what you hear a lot in Washington now is fear. They
are afraid of what they don`t know because Donald Trump we just have no
idea what can happen in the Mueller investigation or the southern district
of New York, their investigations.
They are not – I don`t think anyone sure that he`s actually going to run.
I personally don`t think he will be running in 2020, so I think they want
to start keeping that open. It`s not the worst thing to think you`re not
100 percent, maybe 99.5 percent, but just to get the feelers out, because
he can explode at any given time. This could be a problem – the party has
enough problems, this will be another one.
KORNACKI: How are Democrats looking at this? Are they confident – maybe
confident is not the right word – but the degree of likelihood Democrats
treat the prospect of running against Trump again in 2020?
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, you know, to Susan`s
point, this fear is a huge motivating factor because on one hand, we`d love
to run against Donald Trump in 2020. On the other hand, do we want to run
against Mitt Romney?
What I think is also unknown here is what happens if Trump capitulates on
the wall? What are his core supporters going to do? What do other
Republicans, how do they handle that when you have, you know, these really
die hard Trump supporters sort of now pissed off – excuse the French – at
So, I think there`s a tremendous amount of uncertainty. But the truth is,
regardless of what happens in 2020, if Democrats do not put forth real good
positive policy for the electorate, none of it is actually going to matter
because those folks are still going to be upset at us and they`re still
going to look outside of our party for support.
KORNACKI: And, Robert, that`s an interesting question, too, because we
look at – we`re trying to figure out the posture for Trump and the
showdown and the shutdown here. You got Cory Gardner and the Senate
Republican there now saying let`s do this continuing resolution, get the
government open again. Is the dynamic you`re describing, is Trump – is
that factoring into Trump`s calculation at all? Is he aware of it? Do you
think it`s shaping his posture with the shutdown in terms of trying to
shore up that base?
COSTA: What`s fascinating talking to senators today on the Republican side
is that they don`t have a lot of engagement with the White House. To them,
this shutdown is about the president sending a signal to his core voters,
political base, that he`s with them on the wall, that he`s going to go to
the brink to try to secure funding for that.
This is not about him bringing the party along. He believes – the
president and the White House believe he has enough of a grip on Congress
with the Republicans there to really just try to cultivate his own voters.
So, whatever comes over the horizon, whether developments in the Mueller
probe, economic downturn, that base will be there and be the foundation of
a rattled Republican Party.
KORNACKI: We`ve been saying the Democrats with the majority in the House
were planning tonight to take action on the government shutdown. Moments
ago, the House did begin debate on a bill that would end the shutdown.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi who just held a press briefing on the shutdown was
asked if there was any situation where she would allow the president`s
wall. Let`s watch.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is there any situation where you would accept even a dollar of
wall funding for this president in order to reopen the government?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: A dollar? A dollar, yes,
$1. You said a dollar. That`s not your question. You said a dollar.
I`ll answer your question.
The fact is a wall is an immorality. It`s not who we are as a nation.
We`re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we`re not doing a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Basil, OK. Maybe a dollar from Democrats for the wall, but we
had Tim Ryan, congressman from Ohio on earlier. I do wonder. So much of
this is what is ultimately the appetite for compromise I guess from the
principal players` side of this thing. But fencing, did Democrats have
that same attitude towards fencing?
Pelosi will say the wall is morally unacceptable? Is fencing morally
SMIKLE: It`s giving into the president whether it`s the wall, whether it`s
slats. I said this before, whether it`s camouflaged, a dome like they have
in Wakanda, whatever it is that`s being presented, it`s going to seem like
the leadership has given in. I think for there are 15 people, 15 Democrats
that didn`t vote for Pelosi today. I would see that number of folks would
grow if the leadership were to go that route.
But I have to say this, even if it`s at that $5 billion amount, it`s a lot
of money but it`s relatively small when you consider the entire federal
budget. If we have the opportunity to get DACA done, if we can support
these Dreamers and change their lives for a generation, that`s going to be
KORNACKI: That would be a deal –
SMIKLE: That`s a hard calculus.
DEL PERCIO: That`s the deal with $25 billion.
KORNACKI: Now we`re going back in time. It seems we`re moving away from
all of the proposed compromise that have been out there before, over the
So, anyway, Robert, Susan, Basil are staying with us.
Up next, we`re going to take a look at the most diverse Congress in
history. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This afternoon, the most female and most racially diverse Congress in
history was sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first and only
woman to have held that role. It is a day of many firsts on Capitol Hill,
with the first Native American women and first Muslim women to serve in
Congress taking their seats. Many have also made note of the contrast,
visual and statistical, between the incoming classes from both parties.
We are back with our HARDBALL round table, Robert, Susan, Basil.
Susan, the statistics are all out there. I don`t have them right in front
of me, but the number of women on the Democratic side in the new Democratic
class compared to the Republican side, the number of non-white members.
There are big differences between these two party coalitions right now.
DEL PERCIO: Yes, there sure are. In the big picture level, it`s great
more people are being represented in Washington. That`s a great thing to
see that diversity. On the political side, it`s horrible for Republicans.
It is – shows that the Republican Party has nowhere to go.
KORNACKI: Is there a way for them to fix it in the short-term? Is there
anything to do?
DEL PERCIO: No. Not in the short-term. I wouldn`t just blame Donald
Trump. It`s easy just to say, look what happened, the wave election, it
was all about Donald Trump. It was.
But the candidate selection, the grooming for candidates, that is years in
the making. And Republicans have been looking to seek to go into
Republican primaries on the conservative side and they`re not willing to
expand and open up the party. And that is a disaster for it. And it can`t
Of course, we`re going to see things like swing districts disappear because
Republicans in the suburbs, those women are not voting in the – for the
Republican candidate. They just can`t. So, it is basically a slow death
for the Republican Party unless they do something with a bigger plan.
KORNACKI: Yes. It`s also – this is just – there`s a lot of new faces.
New faces powered by a lot of grassroots energy. Just – from that
standpoint, this is a Democratic caucus that may want to assert a little
bit more political aggression than you`re used to seeing from an incoming
SMIKLE: Absolutely. And among there`s also ideological diversity as well.
That`s not going to be difficult not for the conference, but also for
presidential candidate that`s going to have to find a way to aggregate all
of those interests, to the point where he or she gets to the primary.
But to the point about growing parties, I think there`s a way for both
parties to grow and going back to the older point, if we tackle
immigration. There`s a report that says that the natural growth population
growth of this country is the lowest it has been in 80 years. So
immigration is going to play a much bigger role in the future prosperity of
this nation. From a narrow perspective, it could be good for both parties.
DEL PERCIO: The Republican Party used to support that. Now –
KORNACKI: That was George W. Bush`s second term and we`re reliving the
Basil Smikle, Robert Costa, Susan Del Percio, thank you all for being with
When we return, let me finish tonight with the transfer of power. You`re
KORNACKI: Let me finish tonight with the transfer of power. With the
banging of that gavel, control of the House went from Republican hands back
to Democrats after eight years today. There were moments in those eight
years where Democrats wondered if they`d ever see this moment again.
Four years ago, in Barack Obama`s second midterm election, Republicans
reached their modern high water mark in the House, their biggest majority
since before the Great Depression. But that majority is gone now, thinned
a little in 2016 and ravaged by the suburban fueled Trump backlash of 2018.
It`s pretty much how our politics seem to go these days. A breathtaking
high for one party, predictions of an enduring majority, then soon enough,
a shattering defeat over and over again.
It wasn`t always this way, believe it or not. Go back a generation to the
early `90s. Back then, there was no suspense over which party was going to
control the House. It was always the Democrats. For 40 straight years and
the majorities were massive.
The speakership was handed down from one aging Democrat to the next like an
inheritance. There was a nickname back then. The permanent Democratic
Congress they called it.
Then came Bill Clinton. He was the first Democratic president in a dozen
years. He came to power with that giant House majority. But he faced
something new, a far more aggressive Republican opposition led by Newt
In 1994, Gingrich and the GOP stirred a backlash that shocked all of
Washington, a 54-seat Republican gain. But Gingrich overrode his mandate,
it helped Clinton get re-elected in 1996 and Newt himself was forced out
two years later.
Then, George W. Bush got his shot with the Republican Congress, complete
Republican rule of Washington. But after Iraq and Katrina and scandals,
there was another monster backlash. And by 2006, the Republican Congress
was history. And two years later, Bush was gone replaced by Barack Obama.
But that led to yet another backlash fueled by the Tea Party and Democrats
lost the House again in 2010. Then, of course, came Donald Trump, another
president coming to office with his party running Congress. And now
another president who has seen his party`s majority crumble.
It`s been this way for a generation now. We have seen each party build up
enough power to finally push its agenda through. But what we don`t see is
the public then reward either party for what it`s done. Backlashes in
waves have become the norm. So have transfers of power like we watched
That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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