Michael Cohen to testify publicly. TRANSCRIPT: 1/10/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.
Date: January 10, 2019
Guest: Glenn Kirschner; Michael Quigley, Jennifer Wexton, Cheri Bustos,
Ginger Gibson, Joe Neguse, Michael Steel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Cohen to testify. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
We begin tonight with the bombshell news that President Trump`s long-time
lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen has agreed to testify in public next month
before the congressional oversight committee. And he appears ready to
really set the record straight. Talk about great television to come.
As Cohen said in a statement today, I look forward to having a privilege of
being afforded a platform with which ti give a full and credible account of
the events which have transpired. Well, it comes just one month before
Cohen himself begin serving a three-year term in prison.
With nothing left to lose, he is also being compared to former White house
counsel John Dean who broke ranks with President Nixon in 1973 to reveal
the full extent of the Watergate cover-up. Nixon, of course, was forced
out of office the next year.
And now Cohen is in the position to deliver a similar brow (ph) that
President Trump under oath and on live TV. In fact, Cohen has already
implicated the President in at least one felony.
Well last month, Cohen admitted to breaking campaign finance laws to
suppress the stories of two women alleging affairs with Donald Trump and
said he did so at the direction of this President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He directed me to make the payments.
He directed me to become involved in these matters. I gave loyalty to
someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: He was trying to hide what you
were doing, correct?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he knew it was wrong?
COHEN: Of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, despite the political and legal damage that Cohen could
well inflict on his former boss, Trump today tried to down play the threat
Cohen poses to him and to his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, back in Washington, there`s some big
news about Michael Cohen. He`s agreed to testify before the house
Democrats next month. What do you think of that? Are you worried about –
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not worried about it at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: However, Cohen appears are ready and willing to tell all. And
when it comes to Trump`s potential involvement with Russia, we already know
he has got a lot to say. According to a memo from the special counsel last
month, Cohen quote “has provided information about attempts by Russian
nationals to reach the campaign” as well as quote “useful information
concerning certain discrete Russia related matter.” And even more damming
when it comes to Russia is that Cohen said Trump is not telling the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say you were doing your best to
tell truth about everything related to their investigation, everything
related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Democratic congressman Mike
Quigley of Illinois who sits on the House intelligence committee, Natasha
Bertrand is a staff writer for the Atlantic. The Reverend Al Sharpton is
host of POLITICS NATION here on MSNBC and Glenn Kirschner is a former
Reverend, you have a unique relationship to talk about how much do you
think Cohen want to tell all?
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: I think he wants to tell all because Cohen
when I met with him the couple of breakfast meetings we had, Cohen, aside
from the fact he has nothing to lose, knows this is history and he doesn`t
want his kids to see him in history in the way he has been projected by
this President. I think he is going to do the right thing for his family.
He is going to tell all and unlike John Dean he has tapes and other things
that I think that is going to be the beginning of the end for this
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk human terms. What`s his human attitude towards this
SHARPTON: I think he is very hurt, very bitter. And because of that he is
hurt and bitter he is the most dangerous witness to have against you. I
think he trusted this president. He felt he was coned into feeling like he
was a son when now he has been discounted.
The President is calling him names. And this is a guy that was doing very
questionable, unethical things for the President.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, a lot of this comes down to personal witness and
interpretation. According to what we have heard before, the President told
him, I want to pay off these women that he had affairs with. And I want it
do it. I want it done to help me get win this campaign. It was an
explicit campaign contribution according to Cohen. That`s damming
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And if you can remember, Chris,
when the President was seen getting on to Air Force One, what did he tell
reporters? I don`t know. You got to ask my lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Guess what? Now, everybody gets to ask his lawyer, Michael Cohen. And
this drives him a couple of things. First all of Cohen has obviously stuck
with his decision not to become a former cooperator, either with the
southern district of New York prosecutors or with the Mueller team. But
he has sort of chosen to become America`s cooperator because now he is
going to talk directly to the American people. And, you know, you are go
having to viewership that could rival the super bowl.
MATTHEWS: He know a lot that he may not have to offer to the congressional
committee. If he knows mob stuff, for example, right. He may not want to
talk about that because of fear for his life. He may know Russian stuff
for fear for his life. So he is not as you say a fully cooperating
KIRSCHNER: And here is the trick bag that he is in. He still has a
privilege against self-incrimination because somewhat famously, you know,
the southern district of New York prosecutors were a little miff because he
wouldn`t tell them everything that he did. So, you know, I think there is
a concern here that if begins testifying and then he starts to back up,
refuses to answer questions, invoke as fifth amendment against self-
incrimination, people might get frustrated, but you know, like rev. was
saying, it seems like he is now in a place where he wants to tell it all,
perhaps privilege be dammed.
MATTHEWS: If he spills his guts, Natasha, is a crude term, if he spills
his guts, what`s he got?
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, one of the most
interesting things that we have discovered from Lanny Davis is going out
and discussing all this in public, his lawyer, is that the turning point
for Michael as far as what he has been telling people is came when
President Trump was standing on the stage with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki
and sided Putin and Russian them over his own intelligence agencies when it
came to Russia`s election interference. That is the moment according to
Michael, according to Lanny Davis when he decided that he needed to starts
speaking out against this President. Now that makes me think that a lot of
what he knows about the President is about his interactions with the
Russians during 2016. Did He –?
MATTHEWS: Did he go to Prague?
BERTRAND: Did he go to Prague? He has denied that. I think it is
important to point out. It has denied it precipitously. But he also has,
of course, a lot of information about potential campaign finance violations
that the President committed and his, you know, (INAUDIBLE).
So I think that he has a lot to say about the general inner workings of the
Trump organization. He has a lot to say potentially about whether or not
Trump conspire with the Russians. But I do think that some of this is
going to a bit limited because he does not want to step on Mueller`s toes.
MATTHEWS: But he is going to talk all about the two women?
BERTRAND: I would imagine so. I imagine he is going to be grilled about
MATTHEWS: That is going to make this.
Anyway, list to what - here is what Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s lawyers
once said about representing Cohen as he prepares for his testimony. He
said this about Cohen. What he may say next month. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN, LEGAL ADVISOR TO MICHAEL COHEN: He will answer
the questions truthfully. What it was like working for Donald Trump. He
has told me many times that nothing went on inside Trump tower that Donald
Trump didn`t know. It was kind of a rotating door in and out of his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Quigley, get run through what you are thinking right
now about what this is going to offer to the American public. I mean, the
people, it is not just you and the committee and Congress. Everybody wants
to know what Trump did. Now.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Yes. Sure, absolutely. Besides great
theater, the American people get to find out more about the connections
between the Russians and the Trump associates. It`s hard to tell exactly
what he will be able to communicate in this first open hearing. And I
suspect what you will see is a number of appearances by Mr. Cohen including
before my own intelligence committee.
I suspect much of this could be classified. But we will be asking the same
questions your panel talked about. If he wasn`t in Prague, why was his
cell phone pinging off their towers? Is he being cute? Was he
communicating near there? If he wasn`t, who else was communicating with
the Russians and where? The American public have a right to know. Still
going to be wild to look at the complete answer.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what you think we are going to hear? For
example, do you think it`s possible, you or another member of the
committee, might ask him simply - I only have a few minutes here, Mr.
Cohen, is there anything you want to tell us you want to ask about. I
mean, he does have this plat row (ph) of information. He chatted away. I
work for people.
If you work for somebody in a professional relationship, they chat about
everything. He heard Trump like – talking like pop eye about the
Russians. He has heard everything that he has said. Can you get that out
QUIGLEY: I suspect Mr. Cummings will be an outstanding chairman on this
event. And I don`t believe that it will get past Mr. Cummings to answer
that question. What don`t we know? What else can you tell us?
Indeed he is the only person to my knowledge who has that connections of
the personal Trump world, financial and political world. And I think
that`s where the President`s in trouble because everything is connected and
for the first time we have an opportunity to start tying all those
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Glenn Kirschner. What`s the President worried
about right now? He has stay on trying to flip it off, it didn`t bother me
with his hat on. Kind of goofy down there but he is acting like didn`t –
of course, this bothered him. This number one fixer, he had as his
confidant, all these years doing all the dirty work from paying off the
women, the guy knows everything.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. And I don`t want to go righting to the salacious. But do
we believe all of that information he was buying from David Pecker at AMI
involved only Karen McDougal? Are we going to hear about more, pardon the
phrase, bim-bow eruptions, you know?
KIRSCHNER: Because there so much that Cohen has been privy to over the
decades that he has been involved with Trump personally, professionally,
the organization, perhaps even the foundation that I mean, I think Trump
has got to be worried about everything he knows that Cohen knows about him.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And every time – I mean, reverend, this is a guy he knows
to when he is in trouble.
SHARPTON: Every time we have had battles with Trump down through the years
in civil right community, Cohen was the guy that was sent to the meaning.
I never met with Trump that Cohen wasn`t in the room. So when you look at
the fact that he was the guy that was the fixer, when he had political or
civil right problem, when you look at that, he has proven, he was dealing
with these women, why would you think he doesn`t know everything Trump was
doing? You don`t bring in a side lawyer to do all of these kinds of things
that you have to trust him and Cohen feels betrayed now, has all this
information and nothing to lose.
MATTHEWS: Well, despite being implicated in a felony, the President
repeatedly insisted at a FOX News interview last month, he did nothing
wrong when he directed the pay offs that violated campaign finance laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Trump didn`t violate campaign finance laws. Michael Cohen pled
guilty to something that is even a crime. It`s not a campaign finance
violation. Number two – or it`s not even under campaign finance. Number
two, it`s not a violation.
Trump did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. The two campaign finance
charges that are criminal – they are not criminal charges. Look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to move on –.
TRUMP: I never directed him to do anything wrong. I never directed him to
do anything correct or wrong. It`s totally legal. If you look at stories
one after another, they were illegal. The great lawyers who do that stuff
are saying there`s nothing illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, unlike the John Edwards` case, you know, in North Carolina
and where he was getting money to quiet a woman down of filmographer (ph),
the child born the was born, thanks to him. This time you have a guy,
Michael Cohen, the President`s lawyer or fixer saying no, he paid those
women off as a campaign expense.
BERTRAND: There is a recording of this. Michael Cohen released a
recording of him discussing the fact he was going to create shell companies
and figure it all out with Allen Wisselberg, the chief financial officer of
the Trump organization to suppress these women`s stories that paid them
MATTHEWS: For a political purpose.
BERTRAND: Right. So unless Trump is saying that we shouldn`t believe our
own ears, which he has said multiple times. He has encouraged us to do as
many times and he always kind of when he feels back in a corner, he repeats
things over and over again. Now he was repeating, you know, previously
that he had not - that this was not crime. Well, clearly, it was crime
because Michael Cohen was indicted for it.
So I think that this is just not going to be a reliable story that he
sticks to and he has every reason to be very concerned about the other
women that Michael Cohen might know about because there were people
surrounding Trump in his campaign during 2016 who said openly that there
were many women that were coming forward and that potentially had these
accusations against him. So I think –.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to the reverend because I think a lot of people
come to you when you are in trouble, you know that. And they come to you
hoping you will give them a break in terms of justice. What`s this guy
want at this point? He is going to prison for couple of years, maybe get
good time off but he is going for a while. He is not going to be happy
guy. What do you think spiritually this man we are looking at wants now?
SHARPTON: I think he wants to get all out and is like absolution.
SHARPTON: He has disappointed himself and his family. I think he wants
absolution that at least whatever I face, I`m going to face it, that I put
it all out there and this guy that used me and then dropped me and now is
calling me names, I`m going to let the record be set straight.
The last thing he said and we want a power breakfast places, very high
SHARPTON: The Regency in New York. He says reverend pray for me. It made
me feel this guy wants absolution. He knows he can`t erase the past.
Well, he is not going to let this guy get away with it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. congressman Michael Quigley. Thank you,
sir, as always.
Natasha Bertrand, Reverend Al Sharpton and Glenn Kirschner.
Coming up, President Trump visited the U.S./Mexico border for what he
called a photo op. He actually called it that and continue to spread the
blame for the shutdown and threatens to declare a national emergency.
Plus, an estimated 800,000 federal employees will miss their paychecks
tomorrow. We will discuss the real life consequences of the shutdown next.
And U.S. congressman Steve King is getting hit I think appropriately for
what he said about white supremacy.
Finally, let me finish tonight with a stunning possible that Donald Trump`s
command of television is fading.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
As the government shutdown stretch into its 19th day, President Trump
continue to refused responsibility for the standoff with congressional
Democrats over funding for border wall despite recently telling the country
he would be proud to shut down the government over the issue.
Well, when Harry Truman way back when was president, he said the buck stops
here. Today, President Trump a shrunken case for presidential
responsibility bucking a decade`s long trend from his predecessors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President, whoever he is has to decide, he can`t
pass the buck to anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The buck stops here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe that buck stops here.
RONAL REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It stops with me. I
am the one who`s ultimately accountable to the American people.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For ultimately the
buck stops with me.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does the buck stop
with me over this shutdown?
TRUMP: The buck stops with everybody.
MATTHEWS: Well, in fact Jack Kennedy after the failed - what do you call
it? The bay of pigs, said I was the serving officer at the time. It was
my fault. That`s what the president says.
Anyway, President Trump travelled to the southern border today to make his
case for the $5.7 billion he is demanding to build that wall.
“The New York Times” report in an off the record lunch at the White House
Tuesday, Trump said the trip was merely a photo op. And today he received
the tour of the border near the Rio Grande in south Texas, it was briefed
by border patrol officials. Throughout the day, the President repeatedly
signaled he is moving closer to declaring a national emergency in order to
secure funding for the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The
lawyers have so advised me. If this doesn`t work out, probably I will do
it. I would almost say definitely.
We can declare a national emergency. We shouldn`t have to because this
isn`t even - this is just common sense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you closer to declaring an emergency?
TRUMP: We are. I would like to look at broader. I think we can do this
quickly because this is commonsense and it`s not expensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, one of the president`s top allies in Congress, Senator
Lindsey Graham, urged the president to use his emergency powers, saying,
I`m joined right now by Democratic Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois
and Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee.
Thank you both for joining us.
Who`s – it doesn`t seem like both sides are doing this. Nobody on the
Democratic side in Congress says, let`s close down the government. The
president said, we`re closing the government, because I want my wall.
REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: It`s ridiculous. And it`s unnecessary.
And this is totally solvable.
We could open government immediately. And, in the meantime, tomorrow is
payday. And you saw this pay stub that shows…
MATTHEWS: Whose fault is it they`re not getting paid?
BUSTOS: Well, I mean…
MATTHEWS: Whose fault is it?
BUSTOS: Look, I think there`s a lot of – there`s blame that can go
I mean, look, I…
MATTHEWS: Of shutting the government down?
BUSTOS: Well, President Trump can do it like that. He can do it like
But we have got to be willing to go into a room and talk about what we need
to do to reopen this. And I believe there needs to be a little give and
take on both sides.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I agree with that.
But here`s the truth of it. We were at that space where there was give and
take. And folks had given and taken and agreed that this would be the
deal. The president is the one who upset the apple cart here.
And now you have federal employees tomorrow who are going to have to figure
out what they`re going to do for the next two weeks and try to stave off
creditors and figure out how to buy food.
We don`t have to be here. That sound clip of the president passing the
buck to someone else, to everyone else, except himself, and that`s not the
leadership the country needs right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted that Congress
won`t provide any money to build that wall. Today, she get argued against
the wall she`s called an immorality and slammed the present for walking out
of yesterday`s negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What he is proposing is
not the best way for us to secure our borders. We don`t want to be a
backdrop for the president to stomp the table and get up and walk out.
The president just keeps upping the ante. In fact, I said to him, you are
moving the goalposts so many times, they`re out of the stadium.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So my feeling, sitting here, not there – not a member of
Congress or a former RNC chair – is that Pelosi is acting like Winston
Churchill. She`s absolutely strong. She`s pure. She says, we`re not
going to build the wall. It`s an immorality. We`re not going to do it.
Live with it, Mr. President.
It`s the first time this guy, President Trump, has had to face down
somebody who says, hey, you got your iconic message. I got one too. No.
BUSTOS: Well, she`s tough. And I think she`s a great negotiator.
Look what we did on day one, when we were sworn in. We`re sworn in on
Thursday afternoon. By that night, we pass a bill to reopen the
government. It`s the same, almost identical to the bill that the Senate
had passed earlier.
And yet they won`t take it up. And the president says he`s not going to
sign it anyway.
MATTHEWS: But where`s this end? President Trump says now he would settle
for a steel barrier, instead of a concrete wall.
But NBC News reports that the steel slats – there they are – that he`s
proposed were cut through in a saw – by a saw in a `17 – 2017 test of a
So, apparently – anyway, the photo obtained exclusively by NBC News showed
the results of a test after military personnel, patrol personnel were
instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools.
And, today, “The Washington Post” reported it could take 10 years to build
the wall, even with 10,000 workers, noting even a more modest $5.7 billion
in wall funding would take an army of 10,000 workers more than two years to
build and yield only 230 miles of barrier. That`s about 10 percent.
Apparently, with a hacksaw, assumingly in the night, you can go and cut
your way through. That makes me wonder about a lot of things.
MATTHEWS: But what do you make of this, Congresswoman, that it`s not that
hard to get a hacksaw out and start…
BUSTOS: No, it wouldn`t be hard at all.
But what we have been talking about from the start here is this wall,
however it`s defined, is not the end-all, be-all. We have got technology
we can use. We have learned today from the Border Patrol that these
tunnels are being used.
I mean, this has to be a multipronged approach. The wall is not the
answer. And let`s just get – let`s do the best – let`s look at the best
technology we can.
MATTHEWS: OK. There`s the hideous reality.
Meanwhile, “The Daily Show,” which is a real news organization, dug up a
commencement speech that Donald Trump himself gave in 2004. That`s 15
Here`s what Donald Trump then had to say about a wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Never, ever give up. Don`t give up. Don`t allow it to happen.
If there`s a concrete wall in front of you, go through it, go over it, go
around it. But get to the other side of that wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know you say that in Spanish, but I got to tell
you, he`s giving advice to a guy or family on the other side that is
looking for a job in this country and a place here.
MATTHEWS: If you got to go around the wall, you go around the wall.
That`s common sense.
MATTHEWS: If that wall is 200 miles, and there`s 2,000 miles of border,
you will go 200 miles to where it`s not, and you will get across.
STEELE: But the irony of that – of that moment is, that is the
quintessential essence of what America is about, that you`re talking about
people who are leaving difficult places to come here. They`re going
through trials and tribulations to come here, doing anything they can to
get over the walls and barriers that are keeping them imprisoned because of
crime and – and other things in their – in their home country.
And it`s so ironic to hear him say that, because he`s the guy now who`s
building that wall.
MATTHEWS: What would be your counteroffer, if you were speaker, to the
president? He says, I want a wall. What would you say to him, if you were
BUSTOS: Well, I would say, that can be the starting point. Let`s – we
can talk about that. But then let`s get in a room and let`s figure out,
how do we use technology? How do we block these tunnels?
In the end, Democrats and Republicans want the right thing – or the same
thing. We want to make sure that people at home feel safe, they`re not
scared. I don`t…
MATTHEWS: So, you think there`s a way to reduce illegal immigration
BUSTOS: Well, yes.
But we have to enhance our Border Patrol. And then – and I think one
other thing just worth noting. And I know it`s been stated over and over
again. But what happened to Mexico paying for this wall? Now it`s all of
a sudden $5.7 billion. And now…
MATTHEWS: What`s that in pesos?
BUSTOS: You know what? I don`t know the conversion rate.
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t matter, because nobody down there is going to pay for
MATTHEWS: Because any government down there that tried paying for it would
STEELE: Real quick on that, I think the important thing, when you ask the
question about the immigration problem, we all have to be honest about what
the problem is.
It`s not the folks who are coming across our southern border. It`s a lot
of other things. It`s the overstays of visas. It`s the work force issues.
So I think, to the congresswoman`s point, a more comprehensive conversation
cut into two parts, the first part is, let`s get the government open and
put good people back to work, so they can get their family settled. And
then let`s deal with what we want immigration to be in this country.
And that`s the frustration of a lot of Americans. Our leadership is not
being honest about what the problem is.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois
and Michael Steele.
Up next: President Trump says many federal workers are happy to make the
adjustment from getting a paycheck. Not getting a paycheck would be that
We`re going to hear from some federal workers who aren`t so happy about
being forced to make this adjustment, so Trump can build his wall.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be interesting. And welcome back to
The partial government shutdown is now the second longest government
shutdown ever in this country. And come Saturday, if negotiations remain
at an impasse, it will become the longest.
Tomorrow will be the first payday, however, that roughly 800,000 federal
employees will not get their paychecks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TANNA CALDER, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE EMPLOYEE: I just bought a brand-new
car. And it`s very frustrating. All the payments are stopped. And I
don`t know how I`m going to survive.
SHELBY, FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: I`m 45 years old, and I shouldn`t have to pawn
my belongings to pay for medication when I do have a job. I`m just not
able to do that job.
JEREMIAH MARTINEZ, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORKER: It`s not easy to go to bed
thinking where – where are you going to get one, you know? We`re having
to ration what cash we have, so that we can pay those bills at the end of
You know, we`re – we`re thinking, are we going to have to get in debt with
credit cards to get by? It`s – it`s really tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump says that those workers will just have to
make do. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I can relate. And I`m sure that the people that are on the
receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they will make
adjustment. People understand exactly what`s going on.
But many of those people that won`t be receiving a paycheck, many of those
people agree 100 percent with what I`m doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, earlier today, furloughed federal employees took to the
streets in Washington to voice their objection.
In fact, two federal employee unions are currently suing the Trump
administration over the shutdown.
For more, I`m joined by Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, whose
district just across the Potomac River from here includes tens of thousands
of federal employees.
Thank you so much.
I don`t know if President Trump knows any federal employees, but you know a
lot of them.
REP. JENNIFER WEXTON (D), VIRGINIA: I do. I have many constituents and
friends and family who are federal employees.
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re real people. They`re not nameless, faceless
bureaucrats. Tell me about them, their plight right now.
WEXTON: Well, I`m getting hundreds of e-mails from constituents who are
really worried about how they`re going to make ends meet, constituents who
don`t know if they`re going to be able to make their mortgage payment, who
are asking for forbearance for student loans.
And I had a visit from a constituent who`s an air traffic controller who
got her pay stub that she`s going to get tomorrow, showing that she worked
80 hours – I think there`s a graphic coming up.
MATTHEWS: There it is.
WEXTON: And zero pay.
MATTHEWS: What is this going to do to – I mean, it scares the heck out of
me to think that air traffic controllers are in any way hampered in their
jobs, psychologically or whatever, because they`re the ones that keep the
planes separate from each other up in the air.
WEXTON: Absolutely. Yes.
And they all are having to work. I have two very large air traffic control
facilities in my district that control the air traffic for most of the
Middle Atlantic. I have got Dulles International Airport, and all those
TSA screeners are still having to work. Many of them commute in from long
distances and are incurring commuting expenses, gas and everything, but not
MATTHEWS: What is this about the president? I mean, obviously, you`re a
Democrat. And you just got elected – congratulations – to that district.
It`s is a tough district. You got to – it`s not exactly an easy
But I find it hard to believe that Trump is right, the president, in
saying, they`re all my guys. Your district, your federal employees,
they`re all Trump people, they`re all walking around with “Make America
Great Again” hats on.
Are they? He said they`re all for this shutdown.
WEXTON: That`s not what I`m hearing at all.
These are people who want to do their jobs. They love their country. They
love the agencies that they work for. They work for the government because
they believe in the mission of what they`re doing. And they`re getting
treated – treated terribly. We owe them so much more than this.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, as a longtime federal employee told me years
ago, what, 40 years ago, he said, people don`t do their best work when
they`re being peed on, to be blunt about it.
MATTHEWS: You have to treat people well. Don`t dump on federal employees,
because they`re serving the country. It doesn`t do any good.
And with the federal shutdown well into its third week, and no end in
sight, the effects are piling up. National parks, which are unmanned, are
filling up with trash and – catch this – human waste. TSA workers are
calling out sick. And the FDA has stopped most of its food safety
So, when you get your can of tuna fish, you got to wonder if it`s been
inspected or not.
And if the shutdown continues, NBC is reporting that the country could face
a doomsday scenario, with devastating snowball effects. Millions would
struggle to pay for food and rent. The federal court system would slow to
a crawl. Disaster relief doesn`t make it to a storm-ravaged area, and
continued instability could lead the stock market to plummet.
I was just reading in “The Washington Post” today – I`m sure you saw the
story – about these stores, these restaurants. There`s nobody in them.
MATTHEWS: They can`t pay the cashier. There`s no cash coming in.
And those – those businesses are never going to make up the difference.
People say, oh, well, federal workers will get back pay. Hopefully.
But I have a lot of contractors in my district who are affected, and all of
the businesses who depend on federal workers are never going to see that
MATTHEWS: Whose fault is this?
WEXTON: It`s Donald Trump`s fault.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexner – Wexton
Up next: A sitting member of Congress wonders aloud why calling yourself a
white supremacist is – oh, well, it`s not even offensive.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Congressman Steve King of Iowa – you remember him – has a history of
making racially offensive comments, including comparing immigrants to dirt
and saying we can`t restore our civilization through intermarriage.
Well, today, he`s facing new criticism for comments he made in “The New
King said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization, how
did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me
about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Well, the Iowa congressman defended his comments to NBC`s Kasie Hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: What I was really talking about was
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, the Iowa congressman defended his
comments to NBC`s Kasie Hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: What I was really talking about was the
continuation of applying labels on to people as freely as they are. I
reject white nationalism, I reject white supremacy. It`s part of any of my
ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s not what he said.
For more, I`m joined by HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Ginger Gibson,
political correspondent for “Reuters”. She`s been with us before and will
be again. U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse, who`s from Colorado. And Michael
Steel, the former spokesman for John Boehner who is now speaking for
marijuana as I understand.
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR JOHN BOEHNER: The speaker is not me.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. It`s a strange transition. I don`t know if that`s
your future or not, but let me ask you about Steven King. Is it odd to
bump into a guy like that in a hallway who says white supremacy is kind of
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D), COLORADO: I haven`t bumped to him yet. I suspect we
will be. I mean, his comments were outrageous, but also not surprising.
He`s been saying these kind of racist statements for man, many years just
as you articulated. So –
MATTHEWS: Well, cantaloupe like is the one that got to me. Like if you
had strong legs down there in the bottom part of your leg, that means
you`ve been carrying dope or something across the border, right, Michael?
That`s what he says.
STEELE: That`s not been my experience but yes, that`s what he says. What
I think is extraordinary is he didn`t even claim to be misquoted. Usually
in this sort of situation, the congressman if he`s attacking “The New York
Times”, that he`s saying out of context, he didn`t even bother to try and
claim he was misquoted. He tried to explain this wasn`t his ideology et
I`m encouraged to see party leaders like Liz Cheney, the conference chair,
coming out and saying this is unacceptable. NRCC chair in the past said
this is unacceptable. And I think there`s a rising tide of realization
this is not something we need in the House Republican conference.
MATTHEWS: He used phrase white supremacy. That`s not the term even in the
worse of our history, which has been pretty bad, with slavery for 300
years, and Jim Crow. Saying even the phrase – well, you have to come up
with a better phrase. White people should rule the world.
GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there`s
bipartisan agreement that we all agreed white people weren`t superior to
everyone else. I mean, that`s the answer to his question. And to
Michael`s point, I think we`re seeing more push back against Steve King.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he can lose an election in Western Iowa?
GIBSON: I think he can lose a primary. Someone who argues that, as his
primary opponent is, that he`s costing Iowa.
NEGUSE: While I`m heartened by the Republicans who have spoken out on
this, I hope they will stay true to that and the NRCC ultimately won`t come
to his aid when he`s running for reelection.
MATTHEWS: But they love that district.
Anyway, meanwhile, we return to the breaking news tonight, the biggest news
we`ve heard in a long time. President Trump`s former lawyer/fixer,
longtime lawyer fixer Michael Cohen has agreed to testify in public before
the Congress early next month. Cohen who once said he would take a bullet
for Trump said last month he is done being loyal to the guy.
Here`s Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I`m done with the lying. I`m done
being loyal to president Trump. And my first loyalty belongs to my wife,
my daughter, my son and this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is John Dean coming. This is Valachi. This is the guy
who`s going to explain the whole diagram of the operation.
This is amazing television. It`s going to be done live.
GIBSON: Have no doubt that he has an unprecedented amount of information
about the president and has gone out against him. House Democrats promised
an investigation into Donald Trump. They`re going to have a blockbuster
their second month in power. It didn`t require them to file a single
subpoena. He`s coming on his own.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, what are the big questions you`ve got?
NEGUSE: One, I`m going to say it`s a big deal and I think walls are
closing in on this president. Now, you and I both know Elijah Cummings
very well, the chairman of the House Oversight –
MATTHEWS: He`s a pro and he`s earned this position. It`s a big one.
NEGUSE: Precisely right, and he`s a serious man and he is going to I think
run a very thorough committee hearing, and I think we`re going to learn a
lot, the American people are going to learn a lot when Mr. Cohen testifies
in front of committee.
MATTHEWS: I think part of it, Michael, you worked on the Hill, is just
say, you got anything you wanted to tell us? Because this guy really wants
to tell. It`s not like he`s an uncooperative witness.
MATTHEWS: He wants to blab.
STEEL: This is a reminder that elections have consequences. House
Democrats are not, I`m sorry to say, going to have much luck making law
over the next two years, but they`re going to be able to shape news, to
make news, and to have these big investigations, these big hearings that
are going to drive the public debate. And this is going to be the first –
MATTHEWS: You know the PR business like I do. I did what you did for
years. You go – you can hear it, read it in the paper, hear it on the
radio, but when you see a person on television saying it become, as Golda
Meir would say, a new fact. This guy is going to fill the archives of the
media with word after word against Donald Trump which will be useful as
hell for those that want him out of office.
STEEL: And it`s going to get wall-to-wall coverage. It is going to get,
every network is going to have to cover those. Every nightly newscast is
going to cover those. He is going to be preparing for what we have to
assume is a pretty damming indictment of the president of the United
States, his behavior before, during and after the election, presumably on
NEGUSE: I think so. I think so. I think your point about getting to the
facts fundamentally is the most important piece of all. This is the
president`s lawyer, his fixer who will testify in open session.
MATTHEWS: What happened to client privacy, you`re not supposed to talk?
This guy is blowing it all out there. Ginger?
GIBSON: And I think it`s important to remember it could matter very little
what Cohen says as it matters how these members on the panel handle their
questions at the moments that they create. Many of them were there through
the summer of `13 and these hearings. They`ve seen how the media will jump
on a question or a back and forth, even if Cohen won`t answer that.
MATTHEWS: Please follow up with each other, members of Congress. Nothing
is more dispiriting when somebody is getting to something and why something
different to talk about.
Anyway, finally this morning, President Trump continuing to point the blame
on the Democrats, and their incoming freshmen members, especially claiming
they don`t care about crime. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats don`t care
about crime. They`ve been taken over by a group of young people who,
frankly, in some cases I`ve been watching, I actually think they`re crazy.
But they`ve been taken over by a group that`s so far left I really don`t
think they care about crime.
They have been taken over by a group of people that don`t care about gangs.
They don`t care about human trafficking and drugs. They don`t care about
anything. I`ll tell you what. They have gone crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a Republican campaign speech aimed at the Trump
voter. I know who he`s talking to.
What do you make of that? He`s accusing you guys, the younger you are, the
worse you are.
NEGUSE: Yes, it`s ridiculous. It`s outrageous. Well, number one, I mean,
you just had a very articulate member of our freshman class, Congressman
Wexton (ph), talking about border security. We have in our class any
number of people who have been law enforcement professionals, veterans who
served our country. While he`s playing this political games, a lot of
people in our country –
MATTHEWS: He had bone spurs.
NEGUSE: Gets any better than you, Chris. Look, 800,000 people right now
are furloughed or working without pay. He has taken our government hostage
and this notion he can continue to sort of call people crazy and so forth
and not get back to the business of the American people, I`ve had enough.
MATTHEWS: I think he`s running out of runway.
Do you think he can keep this up another couple of weeks, Michael?
STEEL: I think it`s entirely possible the shutdown continues for a very
STEEL: Just because there`s no easy off-ramp for him.
MATTHEWS: Well, there is, the emergency national declaration –
STEEL: If he then opens the government, which is not a guarantee. He can
do a national declaration, emergency declaration.
MATTHEWS: He wants this office back, doesn`t he? He wants this office
STEEL: Any rational person would have let the House pass, the Senate
passed bill and avoided the shutdown altogether before Christmas. I don`t
know what he`s thinking or why at this point.
MATTHEWS: I`d rather have a fight with the court about my determination of
building the wall than shut the entire government down over it. I think
it`s a better fight in the courts than the people.
GIBSON: Nancy Pelosi said she thought the president was dragging this out
to distract from the problems in his White House. He likes to fight. He
likes to have an immigration fight, we know that. He`s said so.
You talk about a court battle and he gets a twofer. He gets a month of a
shutdown and the court –
MATTHEWS: What`s his destination at the end of the runway?
GIBSON: The destination is trying to build the wall.
MATTHEWS: He`s not going to get a wall.
NEGUSE: There is no destination. That`s the point. We are applying
rationality to a administration that is devoid of it.
MATTHEWS: As a great Washingtonian once declared, wherever you go, that`s
where you`re going to be. And I think there`s not clarity.
Anyway, the roundtable 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 roundtable.
Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.
GIBSON: Democrats are very aware and very concerned about appearing to be
overreaching. They were planning to take their investigations really slow.
This Cohen interview is coming I think a little bit faster than many of
them anticipated and I would expect to see Democrats making efforts to try
to combat that message.
But you know what, there`s a debate –
MATTHEWS: What message?
GIBSON: The message that they`re overreaching.
MATTHEWS: Cohen`s doing the dirty work for `em.
GIBSON: The debate is going to spill out in the Democratic Party, which is
they`re going to get criticized anyway so might as well do it, or to be
measured and try to –
MATTHEWS: Enjoy them, buddy.
NEGUSE: Well, I think we`re united to get to the facts.
But in terms of what something you don`t know, the impact of the shutdown.
So, in my district, we have more breweries, in Boulder, Fort Collins, than
anywhere else in the United States.
MATTHEWS: Of course.
NEGUSE: As you know.
But it is an unexpected casualty right now of the government shutdown. The
federal agency in charge of licensing beers has been impacted by the
shutdown and so, there are a lot of small businesses in my community that
are unfortunately unable to do as much business as they ordinarily would.
MATTHEWS: Never thought of that one, Congressman. I will.
STEEL: You asked earlier, Steve King could be defeated in a primary or
general election. He has a primary opponent and his primary opponent is
making almost exactly the same argument as we saw used against Tim
Huelskamp, the only Republican House member who was defeated for being too
far too right.
MATTHEWS: What is your sense of your party, the Republican Party on Trump?
Will they stick with him to the next election?
MATTHEWS: All the way?
STEEL: Barring some strange new events, I think, yes, he still commands
the majority or the bulk of the support of the base of our party.
MATTHEWS: What`s he got that his party likes?
STEEL: The support of the base of our party.
MATTHEWS: What is it?
STEEL: Why does he have the support of the base of his party? Because he
fights – he claims to be fighting for them and they like watching it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
Ginger Gibson, U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse from Colorado, way out there in
the mountains, Michael Steel, thank you for that.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a stunning possibility that
Donald Trump`s command of television – break your heart, Donald – is
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a stunning responsibility. Could it
be Donald Trump, the reigning champ of reality TV, is losing his stuff?
Are we watching the PT Barnum of primetime fading to black?
Two nights ago, Trump went on TV on what was not long ago his uncontested
sweet spot, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We`re talking about the very time slot of
“The Apprentice”, that long-running show where he famously shove in the
knife, when he drove home his cruel catchphrase “you`re fired”. Remember
that, Donald Trump?
Well, this Tuesday night, Trump went on national television grabbing prime
time from all the major networks and cable channels, what we call in the
television world a road block. There was no way to avoid the guy.
But guess what? The Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic
Leader Chuck Schumer who came on after Trump managed to grab higher ratings
than him. He must have seen it coming, the bad ratings, because according
to the “New York Times,” Trump told some TV anchors earlier on Tuesday that
whole idea of his going on prime time TV was his staff`s idea, as was the
decision to head to the Mexican border this afternoon.
It was all his people`s fault. His lousy ratings are his communication
staff`s fault. Well, guess what? Trump is getting clobbered again tonight
not by his staff but by his old fixer who just let out word he`s going on
live television early in February, assuming with all the dirt he`s got
under his fingernails working for Donald Trump. Michael Cohen will spill
his guts to the payments to the women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal,
the Russian meeting at Trump tower, the scrambling for dirt on Hillary
Clinton, the works.
And guess who has to the sit in the White House and watch it all? That`s
right. Watch. The one-time champ of reality television watching someone
else grab the network and cable time talk dirty about Donald J. Trump. It
will be another star is born, with Trump`s former fixer in the Lady Gaga
role, he Donald Trump, as the falling star, who isn`t going to be watching
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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