Controversial prime-time address. TRANSCRIPT: 1/8/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.
Date: January 8, 2019
Guest: Hakeem Jeffries, Leon Panetta, Jerrold Nadler, John Kasich, Ayesha
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: False alarm? Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Two hours from now President Trump will address the country in prime time
from the oval office for the first time in his presidency. It is the power
of the bully pulpit on steroids, the ability to communicate directly with
the American people without the filter of critics or fact checkers.
And tonight, President Trump wants split (ph) the full gravity of his
office to sway the American people on what he says is a national security
crisis at our border with Mexico and make political case for building a
The Presidential primetime address has come to be used to brief the country
in moments of major national crisis, epitomized, of course, by President
Kennedy`s somber address to a frighten nation during the Cuban missile
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This government,
as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the soviet military
buildup on the island of Cuba. The purpose of these bases can be none
other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And while the use of the oval office itself has declined, recent
presidents have continued the primetime tradition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just two hours
ago allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and
Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening.
Earlier today I ordered America`s armed forces to strike military and
security targets in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today our nation
saw evil, the very worst of human nature and we responded with the best of
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I can report
to the American people and the world that the United States has conducted
an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But this president, Donald Trump, now finds himself in a crisis
of his own making. As the partial government shutdown is now on in its
18th day amid Trump`s standoff between congressional Democrats on one side
and hard-right agitators like Rush Limbaugh on the other, tonight`s speech
is the latest gambit for a President looking for a way out.
“The Washington Post” reports the address could lay the groundwork for
declaring a national emergency writing, Trump hopes to use his bully pulpit
to convince voters that the situation at the border is dangerous enough to
necessitate construction of the wall.
I`m joined right now by Leon Panetta who served as chief of staff to
President Clinton and a CIA director and defense secretary under President
Does this seem justified to you, this discussion if not invocation,
discussion of a national emergency over a political fight over whether to
build a wall, Mr. Secretary?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, as your program began, we
saw past Presidents use that very powerful forum in the oval office to
address the American people either on major policy decisions or major
crisis. In this instance, I think the President is using this moment to
try to bail himself out of a political crisis and I don`t think it`s going
to work. I think it`s a misuse of the power of the presidency, to try to
basically get himself out of a political boxes that he created. And it`s
not going to work.
MATTHEWS: You know my brother was at Holy Cross back at the time of the
Cuban missile crisis and the President`s address was so powerful and the
moment of a possible nuclear war so terrified that the confession lines
were long up there. People fearing the end of the earth.
I don`t know. You are at Santa Clara. I mean, I imagine that your memory
of the Kennedy incident was searing.
PANETTA: I will never forget that moment because I was in ROTC, had just
gotten my commission and expected to be called up any moment. And when you
listen on the Presidents of the United States at that time, there was a
real sense that we were on the brink of war.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the politics. The speaker of the House, Nancy
Pelosi, is tough as nails. She is not going to negotiate Trump over a
dollar. She said building of a wall would be an immorality.
On the other side, the president faces a second war front, Rush Limbaugh is
out there saying he will bring down the Trump constituency, bring it down
to nothing, if the President doesn`t build this wall.
Is this simply the alternative to either of those word? He can`t beat
Nancy Pelosi. He can`t beat Rush Limbaugh. So he is going to exploit this
unusual power of a President to expand his or her power simply by making a
statement. We are in big trouble right now. That`s what it looks like he
is going to do.
PANETTA: Well, look, you and I both know there is no justification for
closing the federal government. There just isn`t. Whether it is war or
crisis, there`s no reason we ought to be closing parts of the federal
government the way we are.
This President, obviously is taking the blame for that. He asked to take
the blame for it. Said he was proud to shut the government down. And now
he is trying to argue that somehow the crisis on the border justifies that
he keeps the government shut. And the reality is most people understand
that if you have got a crisis, then you ought to put the government back to
work, especially homeland security, which is closed right now. This is the
agency that`s responsible for border security. Why in God`s name would you
keep the government shut down if in fact there`s a crisis?
So, you know, his arguments are oxy morons. They are contradictions and
they are not working and tonight it`s not going to work either.
MATTHEWS: I`m so glad we got to hear your voice tonight.
Former secretary of defense, Leon Panetta. Thank you, sir.
President Trump`s surrogates have been arguing there`s an emergency out
there at the border. And here`s vice president Pence early today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to
terrorists, we have seen more than 4,000 known or suspected terrorists
attempt to come into our country through various means, but on the southern
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But let me stop you on that. Because that is a
misleading claim that`s been fact checked as I believe you are aware
because that number is for ports of entry including airports.
PENCE: Well, and that is what I was saying. It is from all ports of
entry. But on the southern border last year alone 3,000 special interest
aliens were apprehended trying to come into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC actually, here`s a fact check. Nearly
every immigrant from a country outside the western hemisphere is classified
as a special interest alien, does not mean they are include on terrorist
data bases. In other words, if somebody from India or Pakistan or someone
in the eastern part of the world had come here from Asia or somewhere or
Europe or Europe, they would be considered special situation there, but not
a terrorist watch list person. This is an abuse of the Presidential power
Anyway, joining us right now is Robert Costa, national political reporter
for the “Washington Post.” Julia Ainsley, national security and justice
reporter for NBC.
And Julia, I want to talk to you. Explain the point of the President`s
using these numbers, these fear numbers.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: OK. So it
will be really interesting to see whether or not he even uses numbers
tonight. He may just want to stay away from them because that has been
undercutting his argument so much.
But first, we heard 4,000 known or suspected terrorists at the border. We
can now just say that is not true. Even the White House is has said Sarah
Sanders shouldn`t have said that on Friday. And in fact, we, in our NBC
fact check, found that there are only six migrants who came through the
southern border in the first half of 2018 who were on one of those watch
When you talk about special interest aliens, yes, it is immigrants from
outside the western hemisphere who happen to be on the southern border.
But it is also - they are also on flagged as a special interest alien
because of their travel patterns. But it`s a much lower bar the known (ph)
suspected terrorists and being a known or suspected terrorists who are on
those watch list is much lower than being arrested.
I spoke to someone today who said we are actually missing the forests or
the trees when we get caught up on his definitions and numbers because
really most important number is zero. Zero immigrants at the southern
border have been arrested in recent history on terrorism related charges.
So if he tries to conflate any of that tonight, just remember that one
MATTHEWS: Robert, you know the President pretty well. You deal with him
all the time on a civilized basis, but here`s the question. Hasn`t he got
rid, fired all the people in the oval office, everyone in his circle who
questioned him on these crazy numbers? In other words, I think of people
like the secretary of defense the recent, secretary Jim Mattis, people like
that who gave him the actual figures and information about what`s happening
in reality, they are all gone.
The way I`m hearing it, nobody in the oval office now says Mr. President,
you got to start straightening out those numbers. So in other words, have
we any confidence that he has a fact checker of his own?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Sometimes the
truth is standing right in front of you if you are a reporter. And if you
look at that picture of vice president Pence briefing reporters on Monday
at the White House sitting next to him is a hardline conservative and rust
vote, the acting director of the office of management and budget, you have
secretary Nielsen echoing the vice president, all reiterating this idea of
a crisis at the border, echoing the President.
COSTA: That`s the message coming out. And if there`s anyone inside
raising their hand in descent, they are certainly not making it public and
it`s been hard to figure out who actually, if anyone is really quarrelling
with the President at this time.
MATTHEWS: You know, Robert, I just got back from trip to Cuba. I agreed
to go there because the Castro brothers released out of officially power.
But I have to tell you that is exactly what they did down there. There
must be some document about the number of teachers leaving the country.
And unless you quote from that document and the federal - the government
document down there, you get in big trouble. You have to quote the number.
This is what it sounds like when you tell me they are all quoting the same
COSTA: At this time, part of the reason they are quoting the same numbers
is they have to set a predicate for possible executive action. If they
take executive action and call a national emergency on the border and try
to start building a wall with the army core of engineer, what`s going to
happen? Immediately challenged in court. So the White House counsel`s
office has been talking to officials inside saying there needs to be steps
taken to explain the emergency situation if you are going to call an
MATTHEWS: Well, last week, President Trump says that past presidents told
him they agree with him on the need for a border wall. All of those four
Presidents now living denied it. And here`s vice president Pence
responding to that denial today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Well, you – I know the President has said that was his impression
from previous administrations, previous presidents. I know I have seen
clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border
security, the importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) from telling the President, though,
PENCE: Look. You know, honestly, the American people want us to address
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not really answering the question, Julia, because
you and I were to brief off the record. But I have to tell you from the
point of view of the people being briefed, the reporters, there was a lot
of skepticism about these numbers. That`s not breaking ground rules.
People just didn`t – they said you have a credibility problem here.
AINSLEY: Well, sure. So, there`s a credibility problem on the three
prongs that they are trying to use as a basis for the (INAUDIBLE). And
Robert is absolutely right. They are trying to use tonight to defend
whatever they push forward, whether that`s a prolonged government shutdown
or whether that is a national emergency and they have tracked three
different approaches. And so far all of them have hit a wall. I try not
to use that word.
AINSLEY: So basically –.
MATTHEWS: They don`t have anybody back - and by the way, isn`t that –
Robert, isn`t that bothering the President, a lot of things bothering him
right now, that he can`t find anybody on television, like right here,
saying what he is saying? He is having a hard time finding backers these
COSTA: Because in part, the data doesn`t support the argument at this
time. Border apprehensions over the last decade have actually gone down if
you look at the “Washington Post” fact checker. And the Republicans have
held power, Chris, for two years. And it`s only now at the dawn of divided
government that they are choosing to describe a crisis atmosphere. Of
course they describe crisis-like moments at the border over the last two
years. But this is a political standoff as much as it is about anything
else about national security.
MATTHEWS: Whose idea was this talk of national emergency where they go all
the way with that tonight and they just talk around it, Robert? Is it Bill
Shine? Is it some in communications? Is it Jared Kushner? Who said it`s
time to basically shoot the moon? We can`t beat Nancy Pelosi in the
Congress, we can`t beat Rush Limbaugh and those people over there on the
far right on television. So what are we going to do? We got to go
somewhere else. Let`s go to the national emergency route. Who came up
with that gambit?
COSTA: So often in this White House, Chris, we are looking for the person
whispering in the President`s ear but then you realize that the person who
comes up with a lot of these ideas is actually President Trump himself.
Cornered politically, doesn`t have an out in a prolonged government
shutdown, trying to still signal to his base he can get something. This is
the option on the table. If he doesn`t want to cave, this is what he
started to pursue, at least, in terms of an idea over the past week.
MATTHEWS: Well, as I have said, I want to ask you again, Joy. Is anybody
in the White House able to stand up to the President and said these numbers
AINSLEY: They will use the numbers they want to use. The only numbers
that were really false was saying that 4,000 came across the southwest
border. They are suspected. Now, they are kind of just piecing together
the numbers they want.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Because the essential argument of why we have a national
crisis. If that`s not true, if we don`t have terrorists raising a border
right now, then we are not in a national crisis.
AINSLEY: You and I can know that. They are trying to make the case that
we ire in an unprecedented territory. People I have spoken to say that is
MATTHEWS: I will say the problem of the President. And he can`t win the
political fight because he has a tough opponent now named Nancy Pelosi and
he has people on the right of him he is afraid of.
Robert Costa and Julia Ainsley, thank you both.
Up next is Republican support for the Trump operation shutting down? Are
they shutting down his shutdown?
And the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. congressman Jerry
Nadler is coming here. He called the President`s threat to declare a
national emergency dangerous and he called the President`s behavior on this
point like that of a tyrant. We are going to hear a lot from him, from
He joins me to discuss that and the latest developments in the Russia probe
including the big mistake made by Paul Manafort`s lawyers today and the
court found that shed all kinds of light on the case. They didn`t redact
what they thought they did.
This is HARDBALL” where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yesterday, House Democratic caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries tweeted that
there is a national emergency in America, it is called individual one,
(INAUDIBLE), of course, is the term used to refer to President Trump and
his former lawyer Michael Cohen`s court papers.
Anyway, U.S. congressman Hakeem Jeffries joins us right now.
The President has said and in fact we are facing a national crisis, maybe a
national emergency, he might announce that. He may demand expansive powers
outside the normal constitutional role of a President. What to you make of
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There is no national
emergency at the border. It is all made up. It is presidential fiction.
And it`s part of Donald Trump`s efforts to find a lifeline to get out of
this reckless shutdown that he has caused and now is holding the American
The number of apprehensions at the borders right now is at one of its
lowest levels in about two decades. The United States Congress in a
bipartisan way over the last 10 or so years has significantly increased
funding for border security, significantly increased the number of
personnel who are at our border and we are willing to do more, we are just
not willing to acquiesce to a government shutdown and pay a $5 billion
ransom though for Veneval (ph) border wall that will not be effective.
MATTHEWS: The American people are going to watch him tonight, less than
two hours from now, without a filter, no fact checkers, the President
tonight is just pushing his line. What do you want to warn them about as
they watch him?
JEFFRIES: Well, we are concerned that he is going to try to fool the
American people into doing something that would really be extra-
constitutional in terms of making a declaration in order to fulfill a
political promise. This is what it`s all about, Chris, at the end of the
day. He promised that he was going to build a border wall and that Mexico
was going to pay for it. It`s clear that the great deal-maker has failed
to convince Mexico to pay for it.
For the last two years, Republicans had control of the House, the Senate,
and the presidency yet no border wall. So now, because of Trump`s
inability to successfully deliver on that political promise, he`s going to
stand before the American people and make up the notion that there`s a
MATTHEWS: Suppose he demands expanded powers tonight, you`re in leadership
now, what can you do about it? What will you do about it?
JEFFRIES: We`ll, I think we`ll be in conversation to make sure that every
available legal avenue, to make sure that this is decided in the courts.
As per Article III of the United States Constitution, when there`s a
dispute between the executive and the legislative branch, and I would
expect that this winds up in the courts. The judges will decide he does
not have this ability to unilaterally declare a national emergency and then
spend billions of dollars on something he cannot get done through the
normal legislative process.
MATTHEWS: Can you enjoin him, can you stop the president of the United
States from shifting those billions of dollars from defense to a wall? Can
you stop him in the act?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think the likelihood is you will see movement for
injunctive relief but ultimately, a federal district court and perhaps D.C.
Circuit and ultimately, perhaps the Supreme Court will have to make that
MATTHEWS: Are you behind Nancy Pelosi`s position that is – that building
a wall is an immorality?
JEFFRIES: I strongly stand behind Nancy Pelosi`s position as it relates to
how she`s characterized the situation that we find ourselves in. It`s
immoral, it`s impractical, and it`s not feasible.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about American tradition and the prime-time
I`m older than you. I remember – I don`t remember Truman and the coal
strike but I can sure remember, as Leon Panetta did – or does – Kennedy
coming before the country and saying, we may be at nuclear war in a couple
hours. That grabbed our attention, and it should have.
What`s the president got in terms of gravitas, in terms of the situation?
Is there any smidgen of justification for him to use the prime-time address
on what is basically a partisan issue?
JEFFRIES: None at all.
The office has gravitas, as it should. But this particular occupant of
that office has abandoned that, with all of the chaos, crisis and confusion
that he has subjected the American people to unnecessarily during the last
It`s unfortunate that he is going to try to utilize the opportunity to
deliver an address from this hallowed office in order to appeal once again
to his narrow base amongst the American people.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the chairman of the
Democratic Caucus, a man on the rise, I must say, a person of great
interest to me politically.
I think you`re one of the future leaders of our Congress. Thank you, sir.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Flanked now by fellow Democratic lawmakers at the U.S.-Mexico
border yesterday, U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York warned the
president not to usurp the authority of Congress, usurp it, by declaring a
national emergency to fund his wall.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I expect the president to lie to the
American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the
American people, and his spokespeople continue lying to the American
And we would certainly oppose any attempt by the president to make himself
a king and a tyrant by saying that he can appropriate money without
Congress. That is perhaps the most dangerous thing he is talking about
since he became president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not known whether the president will make that
declaration official tonight at 9:00, but he is reportedly laying the
groundwork for doing just that, demanding expansive powers.
As the House Judiciary Committee – Jerry Nadler just then, he oversees the
committee responsible, of course, for drafting articles of impeachment,
should they be drafted, which serves as the ultimate safeguard, of course,
under our Constitution against abuses of presidential power.
And last night on this show, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California said,
if the president declares an emergency to build his wall, it could be an
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For a president to arbitrarily take billions of dollars which
has been earmarked for national defense and shift it over to a wall, is
that an impeachable offense, impeachable offense? Would that be an
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, it could be, if his advisers told him
this is illegal, and he went ahead and did it, and then put our military
personnel at risk of following an illegal order and committing federal
That`s a pretty significant obligation of the president, to protect our
military folks as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler of New
York, who has just returned from the southern border.
Mr. Chairman, what do you make of what Mr. Lieu said? What`s your view
about a president who uses a national emergency declaration to grab power?
NADLER: Well, I think it`s very wrong. It is an abuse of power to try to
grab power, for the president to try to circumvent Congress` power of the
But, equally, it is in the service of a lie. The president is lying to the
American people about a national emergency. There is no emergency at the
border. The illegal crossings are way down, by all accounts.
I was at the border yesterday, and along with a number of colleagues. We
went to the Alamogordo border station. There was nobody. There was nobody
there. They are not being inundated. The only people coming to the border
at the South – in the South are people who want political asylum.
And that has nothing to do with a wall. These people are coming up and
saying, here I am. Give me – give me asylum.
So it`s in the service of a lie. And the president shouldn`t – must not
be permitted to declare a false emergency and try to circumvent the power
MATTHEWS: Would this be a high crime if he does so?
NADLER: It might.
But the real issue is that we cannot be permitted to happen – we cannot
permit it to happen. I think the courts will likely throw it out quickly.
But, again, it`s entirely a lie, only to get his diminishing band of
followers and true believers to be frightened and to stay aboard.
MATTHEWS: I will go back to the question I put to Mr. Jeffries, your
colleague from New York.
Can the Congress, through the courts, enjoin the president, stop him from
taking $4 billion from national defense and building a wall with it? Can
you stop him in the act?
NADLER: I think the odds are very high that it can be stopped in court.
I think a lot of people have standing to sue, the governors, the local
mayors, landowners whose land would be seized.
MATTHEWS: Does Congress have standing?
NADLER: I think the House would have standing. I`m not sure. But I think
we would have standing.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. An honor to have you on, Jerry Nadler of New
York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Anyway, meanwhile, on the Mueller front – I have one more question.
Lawyers for Paul Manafort have responded to the special counsel`s
allegations that he broke his plea agreement by lying to investigators.
However, in that filing, the lawyers for Manafort failed to adequately
redact this sensitive portions of that document.
Those sections show that prosecutors have alleged that Manafort lied about
his contacts with a Russian business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who has
been linked to Russian intelligence.
Specifically, prosecutors say that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling
data with Mr. Kilimnik that related to the 2016 presidential campaign. It
also says that Manafort conceded that he discussed or may have discussed a
Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion, discussions
that appear to have taken place during the presidential campaign.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. What do you make of that? This is right in the
midst. It`s right in the middle of our politics. Manafort is doing
business and talking about things like polling in the presidential
election. It just seems like it`s so intermingled, the whole thing.
NADLER: Well, I agree.
This is more evidence of the – of the intermingling of the Trump campaign
and the Russian government efforts to help the Trump campaign. This is
more evidence of that. And it seems quite clear. The president keeps
saying, no collusion, but there obviously was collusion.
And the question is how high that collusion went and whether the president
was part of a criminal conspiracy. There was clearly a criminal conspiracy
to defraud the American people of an honest election. The question is, was
the president part of that conspiracy, as obviously his associates and his
campaign people were?
And that`s why – to get the answer that question is why we have to protect
the integrity of the Mueller investigation, who knows a lot more than we do
at this point.
NADLER: We have to protect that against White House interference, so that
we can get to the bottom of this and find out exactly to what extent the
president was or was not involved in what was clearly a criminal conspiracy
to defraud the American people.
MATTHEWS: We were getting a lot of intimation and good reporting – we
thought it was good reporting – that that report from Mueller, the big
one, was going to come as – perhaps as soon as February.
Do you have any intimation in that direction or otherwise?
NADLER: I do not.
I watch MSNBC to try to figure out when the report is going to come.
MATTHEWS: So do I.
NADLER: But I don`t really know.
I mean, there are indications always. But, again, our course is clear. We
have to protect the Mueller investigation from the attempts by the
administration to interfere with it. And we have to see where the – where
the facts lead, and then act on that.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, thank you, sir.
Up next: Is Republican support for Trump`s shutdown eroding? It seems to
be cracking a bit around the edges, don`t you think? Anyway, the White
House is reportedly scrambling to stem party defections, as the upside to
this fight deteriorates daily for the president.
This is not a war of attrition he is winning.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national
emergency, dependent on what`s going to happen over the next few days.
QUESTION: So, you don`t need congressional approval to build the wall?
TRUMP: No, we can use a – absolutely, we can call a national emergency,
because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, we can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Before Donald Trump, the Republican Party stood for small government and
less federal intervention in our lives. A declaration of national
emergency by the Republican president, this one, would seem to upend that
notion, don`t you think?
Some Republicans now see that declaration as a better alternative, however,
to the ongoing shutdown.
Politico`s reporting that support among congressional Republicans for the
shutdown, however, is now eroding, with 15 to 25 moderate House members
expressing a desire to vote with Democrats to open up the U.S. government
Politico`s also reporting that the president`s P.R. strategy is so
problematic that Republicans are going to break with decades-old Republican
orthodoxy to support a potential emergency declaration over the wall in
order to save face.
I`m joined right now by the outgoing Republican Governor of Ohio John
Governor, whether I have been on your side or not, I have known what your
side was. I have known it all these years. I know it`s less government,
more individual freedom. That has been the Reagan doctrine going back to
And yet the only thing people have against Lincoln was using emergency
powers to get rid of habeas corpus and start arresting people without
And here`s a president talking about expanding his power to take $4 billion
away from the Defense Department and building a wall with it. What do you
make of that use of presidential power in the context of Republican
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Yes, I don`t think that`s what is going to
happen here. I could be wrong. I don`t – they don`t send me missives
from the White House to tell me what they`re going to do.
But I think, tonight, if the president is smart, he will figure out a way
not to lock himself in. Chris, look, you and I have seen many shutdowns.
I was involved in one in `95 and `96. And what it gets down to is both
sides have to say there`s a willingness to reach some kind of an agreement.
And right now everybody`s trying to calculate what the politics is. And
think about this. I have heard your previous guests talk about no
emergency at the border. OK. Well, there may not be, unless you`re a kid
sleeping in one of those shelters, living on the – sleeping on the floor
with a sheet of plastic over you, the reports these kids are getting sick.
I mean, moms are upset. They`re down there. They see their kids getting
sick. The fact of the matter is, let`s get this – let`s get this
resolved, and let`s do comprehensive border security – the comprehensive
immigration reform. Let`s have a guest-worker program.
And, Chris, we have got to invest security and economic programs for our
neighbors. We got – we don`t – we have got to get those countries
stabilized and we have to work with them. I mean, that`s we have got to
MATTHEWS: Well, but I don`t hear that from this administration.
KASICH: No, I know. I know. I know.
MATTHEWS: I don`t hear stopping illegal hiring and having a guest-worker
program. I don`t hear anything about people who have been here 30 years
and are really Americans now and letting them become official Americans.
There`s no openness to that kind of a compromise from these guys.
Well, you know what? They`re going to lose some Republicans, right?
They`re going to lose Republicans, because the vote is going to be, do you
want to open up part of the government? I mean, of course you`re going to
vote to do that. They can`t sustain that.
So I think, if the president was smart, he would stop putting himself in a
corner. It makes no sense, because, at the end, there`s going to be a
deal. I don`t know what it will look like. I don`t know that they will
ever call it a wall. Maybe they will say, we will spend some more money,
we will let the experts decide how we can have border security, because I
have got to tell you this.
People want the border to be protected.
MATTHEWS: I know.
KASICH: But that`s not good enough. We can`t solve all these problems
right at the border.
A lot of those problems emanate in places farther away from the border.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk turkey.
This president has got Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, as tough as
KASICH: She is.
MATTHEWS: She`s one of the toughest people I have ever seen in politics.
She says it`s an immorality, it`s an immorality to build this wall.
Where`s the negotiating from – Rush Limbaugh and his pals in the world of
FOX say, if this president doesn`t build that wall, he`s finished
politically. That`s the situation the right and the left have put this
president in. And now he`s trying to shoot the moon with this so-called
national declaration thing.
KASICH: I don`t think that`s going to happen. And that`s no way to fix
And I can remember when Bill Clinton was up at the White House saying we`re
going to – the Republicans are taking away money for the environment and
education. We were up there saying, you have got a phony budget. You`re
going to bankrupt the country.
But we figured out a way. And some of them came to me in my office. And
we said, OK, here`s the parameters for how we can get something done.
Guess what happened? We got a balanced budget, we paid down debt, the
economy was growing.
So all these people locking themselves in – and the president has got to
get off this – the wall thing and it`s got to be this. You can`t – it
doesn`t – life doesn`t work that way, not just politics, life.
MATTHEWS: Governor, when will the Republicans be given an alternative that
takes them back to the idea of small government, individual responsibility
and individual freedom, and not big government takeovers of land and
eminent domain and all that stuff?
KASICH: Yes, I agree. Yes.
MATTHEWS: When are we going back to that? Well, you?
KASICH: I don`t know.
I could tell you this, though. If the Republican Party doesn`t wake up, OK
– now, the Democrats are way out to the left right now, but if the
Republicans don`t wake up – they haven`t had a new idea since Jack Kemp
and John Kasich.
And you know what? The fact is, if you don`t have ideas in politics, you
can`t make it, Chris. You know that.
MATTHEWS: I know.
KASICH: And so they have been burying their heads in the sand.
MATTHEWS: I love New Hampshire. And you`re going there. I swear you`re
going to be in New Hampshire next year. Anyway, just a bet. I think I`m
going to see the name Kasich and New Hampshire tied up together. Just a
KASICH: Good. I mean, you – that`s a prediction on your part. You
thought Alabama was going to beat Clemson last night.
MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t. I was probably rooting for Clemson.
KASICH: I don`t know what`s going to happen in the future.
MATTHEWS: All I care about is the Eagles anyway.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Ohio Governor John Kasich, thank you.
KASICH: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Eagles up against New Orleans.
Up next, more on tonight`s high-stakes gamble for President Trump. Will
America buy – that`s the word – his message that there`s an emergency on
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When President Trump speaks tonight at 9:00 Eastern from the Oval Office,
he`ll use the bully pulpit, I`d say on steroids, to make his case for this
emergency on the border. His critics say he`s using the gravitas of his
office to lend urgency to an ongoing, regular CHRIS, long-time partisan
Well, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Ayesha Rascoe, White
House reporter for National Public Radio, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer
for “The Washington Post”, and Howard Fineman of NBC News.
Howard, I want you to start on this. This is an historic question. I`m a
bit older than you, not lot and I do remember the Cuban missile crisis and
to me that`s the gold standard for when the American president has to talk
to the American people, has to scared them somewhat, and say this is really
frightening business and you`ve got to know about it.
Does this mean anywhere near that level?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: No. You know the old phrase, history
repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce. This is a farce of a
national emergency. And it`s being done for political purposes. The
political purposes are to shore up the president`s base, to take attention
away from whatever Bob Mueller`s doing today.
FINEMAN: To try to gain the initiative with Democrats after he`s painted
himself into a negotiating corner and so forth. And that`s what it – if
anything, he`s laying a predicate, I guess for the idea he will declare a
national emergency and his proof for why there`s a national emergency is
going to be that he had a speech about how there was a national emergency.
MATTHEWS: Ayesha, let`s get back to the initial thought before the
national big explosion into this national emergency declaration. Is this
all about getting his number from around 40 to around 48? Is this to move
up the thing we`ve been dealing with now for two years, always up to 40, up
to 40 something and back again to 40 and up to something high 40 and down
to 40? Is that what this is about?
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I don`t think
this is about expanding. I think it`s making sure what he has doesn`t go
away. For whatever reason, he seems to be really concerned if he`s thought
of not keeping this promise, even though the promise was that the wall –
MATTHEWS: Political capital preservation.
RASCOE: He is concerned that his base will turn on him and say you
promised us a wall. We don`t have a wall.
MATTHEWS: So, he`s a dittohead. The president of the United States is a
dittohead. He`s doing literally what Rush Limbaugh calls his people those
who ditto everything he says.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I`m glad you brought up Rush
Limbaugh, because I don`t think it`s about shoring up his base. I think
it`s about keeping Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the others from
We`ve been down this road before. Remember when the Senate passed the bill
and Democrats went along with the bill that gave him $25 million in
exchange for Dreamers and he was going to go for it and it was scuttled?
And so, now, here we are with the president literally painting himself in
to a corner over a wall, which we learn was a rhetorical device to get him
to talk about immigration.
He`s going to use the imminence of the Oval Office to –
MATTHEWS: This is what`s off in our country. Right now, in other words,
because Rush Limbaugh can get 10 million people maybe on a good day to
listen to him on fire. He`s a fireball in terms of what he is. But that`s
1/3 of 1 percent of this country.
MATTHEWS: What are we talking about?
CAPEHART: Well, he, again –
MATTHEWS: It`s not the majority of the American people.
CAPEHART: He`s not, and he`s never been about reaching out to the majority
of the American people.
MATTHEWS: He makes zillions on 10 percent.
FINEMAN: That`s how being a media creation himself –
MATTHEWS: Ten million on –
FINEMAN: No, I`m talking about the president as a media creation himself,
this is how he understands politics. He understands politics as tribal
chieftains like Rush Limbaugh on the media.
FINEMAN: So, he hears that and he thinks it`s what politics is all about.
And I`ll tell you something else –
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: John Wayne, who was the ultimate iconic figure in my generation,
John Wayne was in every movie, the superstar, Mr. Tough Guy. He said
giving away the Panama Canal to the Panamanians was a good thing and he had
the guts to say it`s the smart move and the American thing to do, right?
Rush Limbaugh, if he had any guts, if he stood for anything besides
audience, he would say let`s get this – let`s move on here. This isn`t
CAPEHART: Rush Limbaugh – I`m sorry, John Wayne stood for something. He
had conviction. He had things he believed in and as we`ve seen time and
time again, this president –
MATTHEWS: Yes, three Latino wives, too. He may have been prejudice. Just
He really was very positive about what America stands for. A number of
Republicans accuse President Obama of acting outside his legal authority
for orders he issued from the Oval Office. Let`s watch the old guy going
at it. Here they go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: It`s an unbelievable overreach. A matter
of tremendous import and it`s an affront to the legislative process.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: His actions violated the rule of law in the
United States Constitution. You don`t have to take my word for it. We`ve
got all kinds of law professors to say what he did was unlawful.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This administration has been the most lawless
administration we`ve ever seen, and this president routinely disregards the
law, disregards the Constitution, disregards the Congress.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We did not elect a dictator, we
elected a president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think that was the previous president`s decision to prioritize
prosecution of people in the country without documents. That wasn`t
RASCOE: Well, and now, you have someone saying he`ll declare a national
emergency and he doesn`t need Congress to use these funds. And so, the
question is, will Republicans balk at that and it seems like, to a certain
extent, they have started saying that that is a bridge too far, maybe a
wall too far. They cannot – he cannot do the national emergency powers.
They want security at the border but they don`t want that.
But if President Trump basically says I`m calling your bluff, Republicans.
Are you really going to come out against me, I don`t know what happens
FINEMAN: I think that you raised a very good point. I`m interested not so
much in what the president says, although that`s interesting as matter of
theater if nothing else, as to what people like Mitch McConnell have to say
about this. Well, no, seriously, will Republican senators who have some
concern for their own ability to appropriate funds –
FINEMAN: – say, wait a minute, we`re not down with you doing it this
authoritarian matter, we`re not down with that? I think the silence is
going to be thundering from them later on tonight. I bet you.
MATTHEWS: Last thing (ph), I thought it was interesting that somebody in
the White House without identifying themselves said we have no idea how
this is going to end. What an honest statement. The roundtable is
sticking with us.
Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Ayesha, tell me something I don`t know.
RASCOE: So, in news that maybe big for 2020, today is the day that more
than a million Florida residents who had felony convictions get their right
MATTHEWS: Who did that? Besides the beneficiaries, the –
RASCOE: Well, I think people have been – activists have been working on
this for years to get done and now it`s done.
MATTHEWS: Is this national momentum to get people who have paid their debt
to society to be allowed to vote again?
RASCOE: I think so. You see a lot of these movements in other states.
MATTHEWS: Right. Thank you.
CAPEHART: So in Arizona, Mark Kelly is seriously looking at running –
MATTHEWS: Husband of –
CAPEHART: Husband of Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
He`s seriously considering running for Senate and that will make – if he
gets in the race, that will make three Democrats who are vying to run in
MATTHEWS: It looks more and more a bluish state, isn`t it?
CAPEHART: Right. And it`s a state that Donald Trump will need in 2020 if
he wants reelection.
FINEMAN: Well, as long as we`re talking about politics and elections, I
wanted to talk about recent studies that have shown if we thought the
Russian interference was something bad in 2016, if we thought that the
Democrats getting involved with Doug Jones down in Alabama was something,
that`s nothing compared to what`s going to happen in 2020, according to the
people who are starting this, because what`s getting involved now is not
just people but machines.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are going to take over the
battlefield of fake social media sites and the combat to attack each other.
That`s where we`re headed.
FINEMAN: But the problem is it`s difficult for journalism to keep up with
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ayesha Rascoe, Jonathan Capehart, and Howard Fineman.
I always say you got it to make your own stew when it comes to news. You
got to figure it out yourself.
When we return, let me finish tonight with that missing link in that long
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the missing link in the Trump wall.
The link is the number one reason why the people cross the U.S./Mexican
border without legal authority. It`s the reason people all over the world
cross borders between poor countries and wealthy countries. The reason is
a better life. That`s the main reason you see people and whole families
racing across from Mexico, to enter a country where they expect to get a
job and build a life.
President Trump never talks about this reality. He talks about the
criminal gang MS-13, about drug smuggling, about terrorism, all legitimate
and vital concerns, but he doesn`t talk about the overwhelming reason
people violate our immigration laws to enter our country. Yet, if voters
want to stop the flow of immigrants coming here illegally through whatever
means, the primary target should be illegal hiring, the exploitation of
recently arrived undocumented workers.
I said it conditionally. If you truly want to stop illegal immigration,
kill the magnet that`s driving it. Will the president address any of this
tonight, or even speak a word about the reality of what drives illegal
immigration? Will he suggest a punishment for those American employers who
drive it? Will he?
Well, if he doesn`t, you have to ask yourself why? Is it to protect those
Americans who subsist on cheap labor you can get from people whose main job
is avoiding detection from the government, or is it more personal on
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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