McCabe: 25th Amendment was discussed. TRANSCRIPT: 02/18/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Eddie Glaude; David French; Barry Grissom, Sam Stein, Hagar Chemali, Christine Todd Whitman
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: February 18, 2019
Guest: Eddie Glaude; David French; Barry Grissom, Sam Stein, Hagar
Chemali, Christine Todd Whitman

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We are out of time. You can blame it on the rain
if you want to. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.

But don`t go anywhere. HARDBALL starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump tweets about treason and an
illegal coup attempt against him. Let`s play HARDBALL.”

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in Matthews.

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe is speaking out about the
investigation of the President. And in enraged Trump is now claiming quote
“treason.”

In his interview on “60 Minutes” which aired yesterday, McCabe described
the chaotic aftermath of James Comey`s sudden firing by the President in
May of 2017. Most importantly McCabe explained why Trump`s actions
prompted him to open an obstruction investigation and a counterintelligence
probe of the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: There were a number of things
that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate
reason, facts to open the investigation. The President had gone to Jim
Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike
Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The President then fired the
director.

These circumstances were particular (ph) facts that indicated that a crime
may have been committed. The President may have been engaged in
obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.

All those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder, is there an inappropriate
relationship, a connection between this President and our most fearsome
enemy, the government of Russia?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The story that`s received the most attention, however, is
McCabe`s account of a discussion about invoking the 25th amendment to
remove the President from office. That prospect which would have required
the support of the vice President and a majority of the cabinet was never
carried out.

However, McCabe said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein floated the
idea in the wake of Comey`s oust for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCABE: It was really something he kind of flew out in a very frenzied
chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next.
The deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the
President, about his capacity, and about his intent at that point in time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether
there was majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the President.

MCCABE: That`s correct. Counting votes or possible votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Today President Trump targeted both McCabe and Rosenstein
calling the revelations quote “illegal and treasonous” in saying quote
“wow, so many lies by the now disgraced acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.”

He quoted a commentator on FOX claiming quote “this was an illegal coup
attempt on the President of the United States.” And he also went after the
special counsel quoting Rush Limbaugh on a tweet saying quote “these guys,
the investigators, ought to be in jail. This is one of the greatest
political hoaxes ever perpetrate perpetrated on the people of this country
and Mueller is a cover-up.”

I`m joined now by Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for “the Daily Beast,”
Eddie Glaude is a professor of Princeton University, David French is a
senior writer at “The national Review” and Barry Grissom is a former
federal prosecutor.

Thank you all for being with us.

Betsy, let me just start with you. On that issue of the 25th amendment
that you have got President Trump tweeting about right there, might be it`s
a moment here just to take a step back, folks to remind them exactly what
the 25th amendment is when it comes to this issue of removing a President.
What it would involve? What was actually being discussed there? Take us
through that. Because the President is saying this is treason but this is
something that`s there in the constitution.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s right. The
constitution in the 25th amendment explicitly says that if the majority of
the members of the President`s cabinet as well as his or her vice president
all agree that the President is unable of carrying out the duties that that
office requires, then they can remove the President and replace him with, I
believe, the vice president.

This is part of the constitution. It was put in place when there were
concerns that a President might have health problems that would prevent him
from holding his place in that office. Of course, it`s never been used.
And the question of what the word unable means in that amendment is
something that`s up for debate. Of course, it hasn`t happened before. So
we don`t know when cabinet members would define the word unable. But it`s
very much something that`s legal. The constitution is the law. And it
specifically says that this tool is available to the executive branch if
the President can no longer do his job.

For President Trump to say that talking about using this legal mechanism is
illegal just on a definitional level doesn`t make any sense. Military
coups are illegal, but following a method the constitution lays out is
squarely and well within the law.

KORNACKI: That said, the fact Eddie Glaude, it reaches to the point here
where you got, you know, the former acting director of the FBI there on “60
Minutes” talking about this discussion taking place in 2017 about the 25th
amendment, I`m thinking about what are the other cases where we have even
had this kind of conversation reaching the surface? There was a brief blip
in 1987 when Reagan was President. There were some concerns about his
mental faculties back then.

The President claiming this would be treasonous. OK, we have addressed
that from the definitional standpoint. But I do think what can a
President, what can Donald Trump, what should the President do when this
kind of conversation is out there taking place in public about him?

EDDIE GLAUDE, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, I think what he has
done – let`s answer it in this way, Steve. What he has done is kind of
appeal to an already expanse suspicion that certain actors who are part of
the deep state are in some ways trying to undermine his presidency and
undermine the will of the American people after they duly elected him as
president. So in some ways, what he is doing is he is appealing to a set
of suspicions and skepticism out there that could delegitimize, right,
legitimate questions about his presidency.

What we know is very clear and what McCabe has done in the “60 Minutes”
interview is to simply confirm some things that we already knew. And that
is most folk were, I think, surprised and stunned at what Donald Trump was
up to and what they had come to learn.

And so we see in interesting sorts of ways folks in a panic trying to
figure out what`s within the realm of their power. What`s legal and what`s
not legal in order to address something they had never seen before.

So on the one hand, we haven`t - this is – I don`t think we learned
anything that was terribly new in the interview on “60 Minutes.” But on
the other hand, what we hear when Donald Trump, you know, spout treason and
all these other stuff, is that he is appealing to those extent symptom that
is about the deep state and those actors who are trying to undermine his
presidency.

KORNACKI: All right.

David French, well, in the interview, sort of big picture here. You had
McCabe basically laying out his case, his justification, his explanation
for launching these investigations, point to a couple of events there, the
firing, the abrupt firing he is saying by the President of James Comey.
The fact that the President publicly an interview here on NBC, our sister
network here that he linked it to the Russia investigation, that he bragged
about it to Russians visiting him in the White House.

Listening to McCabe in this interview, do you think he made a strong case
for the reaction there in terms of launching these investigations to begin
with?

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER, NATIONAL REVIEW INSTITUTE: There`s an
elephant in the room about McCabe that we haven`t brought up yet. And
that`s - that he was fired for not being truthful. And so when I hear
McCabe speak, I don`t – he doesn`t persuade me of much of anything. What
I hear from him is an accusation that`s very, very serious or an accounting
of facts that part of it was publicly known, part of it wasn`t previously
publicly known. Of the things that were not publicly known, what I think
is let`s have open hearings about this.

So if there was a conversation about the 25th amendment, that`s a very
serious thing. Who said it, why exactly did they say it, who else
participated in the conversation? Because this is something I think the
American people have a right to know about. If serious people in the
administration believe the 25th amendment could potentially come into play,
we need to know.

But you know what we also need to know? We also need to know if this story
is frivolous or if this story is exaggerated because otherwise what he says
alarms an awful lot of people. That`s why I think this is the first step
or should be the first step of a diligent investigation where people are
called in under oath to figure out what happened here.

KORNACKI: And Barry Grissom, it`s interesting, too. It occurred to me
here watching the interview here, McCabe is describing, you know, sort of a
frantic, high-stakes set of events. A lot of which played out two years
ago. 2017 relatively early in 2017, the firing of Comey. The alarm bells
that he says it set off by, is the President trying to shut down something
getting that might be getting close to questions about him and Russia he
doesn`t want getting addressed.

Does it look different, I wonder, two years later? The fact that Mueller
has been on the job two years now since then. We have all the question, is
the President going to try to shut this down? Is he going to fire Mueller?
But he hasn`t. Does that change the fact that we had that two years sort
of post-script to this, if you will? Does that change the way the events
of 2017 look at all?

BARRY GRISSOM, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think right now the President
has been advised and advised correctly to have continued firing folks will
only make the case stronger against him.

The thing that struck me last night with Andy McCabe, if you have ever been
in the United States attorney`s office or assistant United States attorney
and you have had an agent come in and do a pitch for their case, why should
it be investigated and looked into, that was Andy McCabe.

If you look at his cadence, you look at how he methodically went through
each step that led to the next step of why he was going to make a
recommendation of this nature, that part from my perspective just watching
his body language and cadence was believable.

Now, as to whether we should have an investigation, we are having an
investigation. We have an ongoing investigation with someone who has seen
all of the evidence, Mr. Mueller. We haven`t seen it yet because the
investigation is not completed. But when Andy McCabe did what any good
investigator does which is, he made contemporaneous notes after his
discussions with the President. And those notes have been turned over to
Mr. Mueller. I think those notes will probably speak volumes as to what
happened, when it happened, and who was involved in those conversations.

KORNACKI: Well, according to McCabe, another red flag was the President`s
willingness to believe Vladimir Putin over the word of his own intelligence
officials. Here`s how McCabe recounted a story of an official who recently
briefed the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCABE: Essentially the President said he did not believe that the North
Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the
United States and he did not believe that because President Putin had told
him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans
don`t actually have those missiles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And U.S. intelligence was telling the President what?

MCCABE: Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not
consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses. To which
the President replied, I don`t care. I believe Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Betsy, I guess what`s interesting about this is with any other
President, I suppose the revelation, that sort of statement from somebody
like McCabe, you would be absolutely stunned and absolutely shocked. On
the other hand, this is something the whole world watched the President
essentially do at that joint appearance with Vladimir Putin last summer.

WOODRUFF: I think this particular moment was the most significant part of
the “60 Minutes” interview and then the comments that McCabe made. It`s
really extraordinary to hear the characterization of a conversation where
the President points to a specific knowable fact and specifically says that
he disbelieves the assessment of the American intelligence community
directly because Putin told him it was wrong.

At the Helsinki summit, of course Trump very widely intimated that. He
sort of hemmed and hawed. He made it clear that he put a significant
amount of weight in Putin`s claim to him that the Russians didn`t meddle in
the 2016 elections. Something we all know is a lie.

What makes the characterization that McCabe represents here really
extraordinary is that it`s so simple and it`s Trump just simply saying, I
believe that Putin is right and the intelligence community is lying to me.
And these are the kind of characterizations, these are the kind of
conversations that just cause extraordinary concern within the upper levels
of the American intelligence community.

People in IC take extraordinary risks to gather intelligence that the
President is the ultimate consumer of. It`s expensive. It is time
consuming. In many case, it is dangerous. And for the President of the
United States to say that he believes that the head of state of one of our
most significant adversaries, rather than he believes our own intelligence
professionals collect is something that - for people in the IC really
couldn`t be more chilling.

KORNACKI: Right.

And I guess Eddie, too, that is, you know, and Barry makes the point we are
going to find out ultimately, probably, assuming we see a public report of
some sort, public accounting of all of this from Mueller exactly what he
has learned, exactly what he has been able to put together. So we may get
a lot of answers to these questions we`ve been talking about for a couple
years now.

But one of them that`s sort of been at the heart of this is the sorts of
things, the idea of believing Putin over U.S. intelligence, the idea of
Trump sort of putting on that show in Helsinki last year with Putin up
there next to him. What a motivating that? Is it at its core just
something that we saw in the campaign from Donald Trump where he has some
kind of affinity for Vladimir Putin? Some kind of affinity for
dictatorial, autocratic leader, you know, that sort of thing or is there
something deep or something that goes beyond that?

GLAUDE: It could be or some combination of the two, right. So there`s a
sense of which – what I – my response to McCabe last night with regards
to the Putin statement is this was consistent with everything we have seen
over the last two years. And so part of what we have seen over the last
two years has in some ways raised the question what is the relationship
between Donald Trump and Russia? Why is he so consistent in his in some
ways defense of Russia? And many of us have tried – many people have
tried to make the argument that he`s just naturally inclined to identify
with (INAUDIBLE), not really inclined identified with dictators. And then
we learned about Trump-Moscow. And then we know there is Manafort. And
then we know all the other people who tried to deny their relationships and
contact with Russia. And so part of what we are seeing here and this is
what McCabe - what made the interview so interesting as a whole is that
it`s simply confirming what we already have come to know two years later.
And so part of what it does in some way is it just deepens our desire to go
ahead and get a sense of what Mueller knows and get a sense of what
actually happened.

KORNACKI: Right. And ultimately, that`s, you know, we have been waiting
on that report and waiting and waiting. There have been all sorts of
stories saying, hey, it is coming. It`s going to be any week here now.
Eventually there will be some more clarity hopefully on all of this.

Thank you, Betsy Woodruff, Eddie Glaude, David French and Barry Grissom.

And coming up, nationwide protest against the President Trump`s emergency
declaration with at least a dozen states joining a lawsuit to block it.
Who is likely to win this legal test of the President`s powers?

Also stunning testimony in North Carolina of alleged absentee ballot fraud.
A seat in Congress hanging in the balance.

And the President goes for the gold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Abe of Japan
gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who
give out a thing called a Nobel Prize. He said I have nominated you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: A Japanese newspaper reports the prime minister did nominate
Trump. And at whose request? Take a guess.

We have got a lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Days after announcing a national emergency, President Trump jetted off to
Mar-a-Lago and spent part of his holiday weekend golfing in Palm Beach.

While active on Twitter, he left it up to his closest aides and allies to
defend his declaration on television. During a testy interview on FOX
News, Stephen Miller, the president`s senior policy adviser, insisted there
was in fact an emergency, while dismissing the administration`s own
evidence to the contrary. He was also asked if there was any precedent for
this kind of move.

Let`s watch what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: Answer my question. Can you name
one case where a president has asked Congress for money, Congress has
refused and the president has then evoked national policy to get the money
anyway?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, this current
situation…

WALLACE: Just yes or no, sir.

MILLER: The current situation pertains specifically to the Military
Construction Authority.

WALLACE: I`m just asking…

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: When Congress asked for money for military construction, Congress
said no and he`s then…

MILLER: The meaning of the statute, Chris, is clear on its own terms. If
you don`t like the statute or members of Congress don`t like the statute…

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: But you agree the answer is no that…

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: But the premise of your question is also false, because Congress
has appropriated money for construction of border barriers consistently.

This is part of the national security…

WALLACE: But they`ve never done this under a national emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Another Trump confidant, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham,
also defended the president`s decision. He was asked if there was any
concern that the money being reappropriated from the Department of Defense
to build the wall would take funds away from those in need.

Here`s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, the president will have to
make a decision where to get the money. I would say it`s better for the
middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We`ll get them the
school they need. But, right now, we`ve got a national emergency on our
hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: According to “The Washington Post,” President Trump and his
reelection team want to make finishing the wall a central part of his
reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, a number of rallies against the declaration were held across the
country and made a growing number of legal challenges.

For more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, “Washington Post” national political
reporter, and Sam Stein, politics editor for The Daily Beast.

Thanks to both of you for being with us today on a holiday.

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: Robert, let me start with you.

This idea of a campaign strategy built on finishing the wall in 2020, is
there a larger strategy here, other than just getting out of the shutdown
mess of the last couple months? Is there a larger strategy about basically
continuing this conversation all through the 2020 campaign on the part of
the White House?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The president debuted this message
at his El Paso rally last week.

And talking to his political confidants, it`s the start of the 2020
campaign, of making finishing the wall the central tenet of that campaign,
trying to make sure that the conservative voter who rallied behind the wall
in 2016 remains with President Trump in 2019 and 2020 through the churning
political waters of Robert Mueller`s investigation and everything else that
could come.

By underscoring the commitment to the wall, they hope to keep that base
with them.

KORNACKI: So, Sam, I guess that`s the question.

If from now until Election Day 2020 – in 2016, the message you heard from
Trump was build the wall, build the wall. If, in 2020, the message is, OK,
I tried, the Democrats in Congress blocked me, I fought them, there was
this shutdown, I tried to do the emergency thing, a court blocked me, if
that is what ends up happening here – we will see – and now you, the
voters, need to deliver a message in 2020 that you want this wall, and
you`re really serious this time, how do you think that goes over?

STEIN: Well, it depends, right?

I mean, in 2018, they had a variation of this. It wasn`t build the wall.
It was, look at this caravan that`s brewing on our southern border. Now we
need to construct some sort of barrier to stop it.

I mean, that – and we know the results. The results were a 40-seat swing
to Democrats in the House. So I don`t know the potency of this issue as
much anymore, I think.

But I do think that this is what Trump has. I mean, Trump has built his
political appeal on a nativist fear-mongering of immigrants. And part of
the reason I believe he wants the issue of the wall more than he wants the
actual wall is because it`s so foundational to his political appeal.

I don`t know if you can translate that, though, into the courts are
prohibiting me from doing this. Who are you going after that point? Some
faceless judge. I think what he would rather have almost in a way is for
Democrats to be the one that are stepping in front of him, so that he could
say, vote these people out, so that I can get my money.

But , again, this is the one note that Trump hits all the time. And I
fully expect this will be the main note that he hits in the months leading
up to the 2020 election.

KORNACKI: Yes, and, Robert, when you talk about that idea of trying to
keep that base together, it`s a 2020 sort of orientation there.

You think back to the model for Trump in 2016, what got him elected, lost
the popular vote, about 46 percent nationally, got just the right
combination in those three states there in the Midwest.

Past presidents, the strategy has been, you try to build from that. You
try to expand your support. Is this also essentially the White House
saying, hey, we`re going to try to win in 2020 exactly the same way we did
in 2016; it`s got to be some narrow combination like that?

COSTA: They are saying that, once again, they want to use an emotional
message and an anti-establishment message.

We saw that in 2016. As Sam said, we saw it in 2018. But they`re looking
at the conservative voter, the Republican voter. And they know, in 2018,
overhauling the federal judiciary, not enough, the tax cut bill, not
enough.

So it`s coming back to the wall, not talking about deregulation, coming
back to the wall, talking about the caravan, and, as we saw in the State of
the Union, bringing up the idea of socialism. These are emotional targets
for the Republicans as they look ahead.

KORNACKI: All right.

Well, over the weekend, “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at President
Trump`s national emergency. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Folks, we need wall, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country
from the southern border, or the brown line, as many people have asked me
not to call it.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: That`s why we need wall, because wall works, wall makes safe.

You don`t have to be smart to understand that. And, in fact, it`s even
easier to understand if you`re not that smart.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: So, you can all see why I got to fake this national emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The president must have seen the show, because he then tweeted -
- quote – “Nothing funny about tired `Saturday Night Live` on fake news
NBC. Question is, how do the networks get away with these total Republican
hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows. Very unfair
and should be looked into. This is the real collusion.”

Sam, the use of the word retribution, I mean, there`s a story of Trump and
the ongoing war between Trump and the media, Trump and popular culture,
Trump and Alec Baldwin, whoever, name your celebrity. There`s any number
of them who are always sort of – he`s going after on Twitter.

I guess what jumped out there, though, was the use of that word retribution
and what he might be referring to there.

STEIN: Right.

It`s vague enough that he could say, oh, I`m talking about libel laws,
right? But let`s be honest, he`s been ginning up anger, animus, even
violence towards the press since he started running.

And there have been instances where the press has been targeted in
physically and violent ways. And this is, for lack of a better term,
messed up, and he shouldn`t do it.

Now, putting that aside, there are some things that we should note about
this. One is that he initially promised that Mexico would pay for the
wall. The emergency declaration is an admission in many respects that that
central campaign promise will not happen.

And the other thing that I think “SNL” got at, which is a risk that I
believe Trump does run, if you remember, back in 2008, when Rudy Giuliani
was running for president, the theme of his – the central theme of his
campaign at that point in time was: I was on the ground on 9/11.

And he hit it over and over and over again, and it had resonance early on,
but, because he hit it so often, it almost became a laughing line. And
then it certainly did when Joe Biden said famously, it`s just an adverb and
9/11 with this guy.

I do wonder if Trump sort of has – runs the same risk by going to the wall
so many times in the course of an initial campaign, in the course of a
midterm election, and now in the course of a reelection campaign.

KORNACKI: All right, Sam Stein, Robert Costa, thanks to both of you for
being with us.

STEIN: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right, up next: Investigators in North Carolina started
laying out their evidence today of what they say was – quote – “a
coordinated and remarkably well-funded attempt to commit election fraud” in
the only unresolved congressional race still left from 2018.

We`re going to bring you the latest after this.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.

Guess what, folks? We`re in the middle of February 2019, and we still
don`t know who won every election from 2018.

Look at this. We were here all last year, every U.S. House race in the
country, whether Democrats are going to take control. We had election
night. We had absentee ballots afterwards. And guess what? You can see
it. There remains one unresolved congressional election from 2018. It is
right there in the state of North Carolina.

Let`s zoom in, remind you, if you have forgotten here, the 9th District of
North Carolina. This is where things have stood since last year, Mark
Harris, the Republican, leading right now by 905 votes. But this race was
never certified.

The original state board of elections that was supposed to do it actually
got dissolved. There is a new state board of elections right now that`s
hearing this. Basically, the dispute has to do – let`s see if I can get
it in there. I can`t seem to get that county map up.

But it`s in this pocket of the district here. There are two counties.
There`s Robeson County and Bladen County. And there`s all sorts of
questions there about absentee ballots in those counties.

The idea that a man named McCrae Dowless, a local political consultant
there working for the Republican, Mark Harris, in this race, was he running
essentially an absentee ballot harvesting operation that illegally either
produced votes for Harris or took votes away from Dan McCready, the
Democrat, some combination of those things?

There were all sorts of irregularities that were discovered. And then
today, finally, in the middle of February, after this election that took
place last November, a hearing. The newly constituted state board of
elections held a hearing today.

And you can see, the executive director of this new board of elections laid
out a case that there were serious irregularities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM STRACH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS:
We believe the evidence that we will provide today will show that a
coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme
operated during the 2018 general election in Bladen and Robeson counties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And joining me now from Raleigh, North Carolina, where that
hearing took place today, Leigh Ann Caldwell, political reporter with NBC
News. She was present for the hearing.

So, Leigh Ann, we have known about the idea that there were these
irregularities for a long time.

The question that we were all asking coming into this hearing is, is there
any chance the board of elections is going to look at this and say, well,
OK, we`re still going to certify Harris as the winner? Is there any chance
they`re going to call for a new election here?

What emerged from this hearing today?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Steve, it was
pretty explosive testimony today.

And what we found is, there was illegal election fraud that happened in the
North Carolina 9th Congressional District. The state investigators came
out with a strong statement of unlawful activity.

And then we heard from a key witness, Lisa Britt. She is the step-daughter
of McCrae Dowless, who is at the center of this absentee ballot get-out-
the-vote operation.

And she admitted to ballot tampering. Here is what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STRACH: So, if it was unsealed and ballot not completely voted, you would
fill in the other offices?

LISA BRITT, STEP-DAUGHTER OF LESLIE MCCRAE DOWLESS: Yes, ma`am.

STRACH: And who would have directed you to do that?

BRITT: We were directed about Mr. Dowless. Basically, what we would do –
well, what I would do would be just to vote whoever was the Republican.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALDWELL: And so, Steve, while today is just the first day of the hearing,
it could go definitely until tomorrow and possibly until Wednesday.

There`s a lot more witnesses that are to be called. But, at the end of
this hearing, we will know if the board is going to certify this election
for the Republican, Mark Harris, or if they are going to call for a new
election.

And so while we think that we`re moving on to the 2020 election, we still
have 2018 to figure out, Steve.

KORNACKI: Yes.

And, Leigh Ann, too, my understanding of this – and tell me if I got this
wrong – you got three Democrats on this board there, two Republicans,
Democratic governor making these appointments.

But to make any kind of a decision here, they`re going to – you need to
have – one of the Democrats has to vote with the Republicans, one of the
Republicans has to vote with the Democrats. It has to break through, or
there`s a possibility maybe of a stalemate here?

CALDWELL: Yes, sure.

So if they want to call for a new election, it`s going to be – it`s going
to call for four of the five board members. That means one Republican has
to vote with the Democrats to call for a new election. If they`re going to
certify the election, it just needs three of the five board members.

And so, yes, since there`s two Republicans, a Democrat would have to side
with the Republicans. What they`re looking for is if the election was
tainted enough to make – to get the – get the public to not trust the
results of the election. And that is a standard that they`re likely going
to be looking at on if they`re going to call for a new election, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right, Leigh Ann Caldwell down there in Raleigh.

Of course, we remind you, the House ultimately does have the power to seat
or refuse to seat any member. File that one away if it ever comes to it.

Up next: The ever-growing rift between Trump and European leaders not
named Putin was on full display this weekend in Munich, or, in the words of
a former German ambassador to the United States – quote – “We have a real
problem.”

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

“The New York Times” is reporting that the rift between Europe and the
Trump administration became open, angry, and concrete during this weekend`s
security conference in Munich. President`s daughter Ivanka was in the
audience when German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a standing ovation
for her speech rebuking America`s recent foreign policy decisions. It was
a sharp contrast from the reaction Vice President Mike Pence got when he
passed on greetings from the president.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I bring greetings from a
great champion of freedom and a strong national defense who has worked with
these members of Congress to strengthen America`s military might and
strengthen the leadership of the free world. I bring greetings from the
45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And Pence was met with similar silence in Poland a few days
earlier when he called for Europe to exit the Iran nuclear deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the
Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic
pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, the world peace,
security, and freedom they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: However, members of the Trump administration weren`t the only
Americans representing America in Munich. “The Times” points out that,
quote, to show solidarity with Europe, a record number of Republican and
Democratic lawmakers attended the conference. Meanwhile, Trump told
reporters on Friday that the Japanese prime minister had nominated him for
a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Abe of Japan
gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who
give out a thing called the Nobel prize. He said I have nominated you or
respectfully on behalf of Japan. I am asking them to give you the Nobel
Peace Prize. I said thank you. Many other people feel that way too. I`ll
probably never get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, there was some new reporting that emerged this weekend on
who may have asked Abe to nominate Trump. That`s up next on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After President Trump said on Friday that the Japanese prime minister had
nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize, a Japanese newspaper reported that
Shinzo Abe did so at the request of the White House. When asked about that
reporting this morning, Abe said, quote, I am not saying it`s not true.

I`m joined now by Hagar Chemali, the former spokesperson for the U.S.
mission to the United Nations and former Republican governor of New Jersey,
Christine Todd-Whitman. She also served as the administrator of the EPA.

Hagar, I`m trying to parse. I am not saying it`s not true. Does it ring
true to you, this reporting?

HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESPERSON U.S. MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS: You
know? When I read this sentence, if you take out double negatives,
usually, it`s right, if you take out not and not, you should say, I am
saying it`s true. But – let`s pretend. Let`s say it may be true. When I
was in the White House, I was not aware of President Obama`s team asking
somebody to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is entirely
possible. It wouldn`t surprise me.

It certainly doesn`t surprise me for President Trump, though, to do that
because in his world, I think he does think he deserves it. And I think
that he wants an award that was also bestowed on President Obama.

KORNACKI: Yes, Governor Whitman, you have first-hand experience dealing
with Donald Trump from your days in New Jersey when you had those casinos
down there in Atlantic City. The idea because he has brought this up
himself, the idea of, you know, Barack Obama getting that Nobel Prize in
2009 a couple months into his presidency. What`s your read on him when it
comes to that being a potential motivating factor?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Oh, I think it`s a
very real motivating factor. He has got to do everything bigger and better
than everybody before and particularly Barack Obama. I mean, what we see
in the way of this administration is approaching policies, anything that
Obama touched, had anything to do with, we`re going to do away with it.

And – I mean, he should have the common sense to be embarrassed this has
gotten out. He should feel humiliated. As a nation, it`s sort of
embarrassing to have the president of the United States ask another leader,
world leader to nominate them. Or he didn`t do it. OK, somebody else in
the White House, and that could have happened, I doubt without his
knowledge, but it could have happened.

But it puts Abe, too – for him to have mentioned it, because the nominee -
- the people nominated shouldn`t be revealed for 50 years after the
nomination – after that decision is made. It`s got to make domestic
politics a little awkward for him because he doesn`t want to be seen as a
tool of the United States. It`s something that China could exploit. It`s
something North Korea could exploit against him.

This is everything this administration seems to be doing is not necessarily
in our best interests as a nation and our security.

KORNACKI: Well, on this broader question, then, of the rift between the
U.S. and traditional allies in Europe, we were talking about that in the
last segment. You saw the reaction to Mike Pence there. Also, the fact
that there were Democratic and Republican members of Congress who went to
Munich for the security conference to basically deliver by their presence
almost a rebuttal to sorts to what has been coming out of the White House
the last couple of years.

Governor Whitman, I wonder within the Republican Party, one of the stories
of Donald Trump`s rise it seemed to me was that there was more sympathy
among Republican voters for his view of those alliances than maybe there
were of the rest of the Republican leaders. What is your sense? What is
the audience in the Republican Party for dissent with Trump when it comes
to his attitude towards these alliances?

WHITMAN: Well, audience, Trump`s audience, Steve, is his base. And that`s
30 some odd percent of identified Republicans, which is an ever shrinking
base, oh, by the way, because Republicans are – the Republican Party is
losing member as is the Democrat Party. I mean, it is independents and
nonaffiliated who were – that`s the section that`s growing because people
are throwing hands up and saying a pox on both your houses.

And I believe the Republicans in the House and Senate are desperately
trying to hold things together. I mean, this is a nation that rebuilt
Europe. We saved Europe. We rebuilt it. We have been strong on the
alliance.

We are making – Europe wants us to be strong. Europe wants the rest of
the world does. I was at dinner the other night when F. de Klerk, a former
president of South Africa who actually did away with apartheid was
speaking.

And he ended up by saying America doesn`t need to get strong. America is
strong, is great, doesn`t need to be great. It is great. And the world
needs a great and strong America.

And that`s not where this kind of single-minded, I`m going to do it all
myself, it`s one-on-one. There is nothing wrong with getting Europe to
take on more of the responsibility for their protection. But to say things
like imply that we might not be there for them and NATO if they are to
honor the alliance should there be an attack opens the door for Russia,
opens the door for China.

We`re making it difficult for those countries such as Ukraine and Georgia
that want to join NATO and the E.U. because Russia is in there with
propaganda trying to tell people that all sorts of terrible things will
happen to them if they join NATO or the E.U. And the leadership and the
majority of the country so far still want to join and they just had a vote
on that in Georgia – Ukraine, I`m sorry.

This is something that we`re making the world unstable. This policy is not
helping us and our security.

BLITZER: All right. Former Governor Christine Todd Whitman from New
Jersey, Hagar Chemali, thank you both for joining us.

And up next, Joe Biden is definitely a household name, but if he jumps into
the 2020 race, would that be enough to put him ahead of his many Democratic
rivals and, by the way, the president if it comes to that?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

There are nine Democrats already running for president and more are on the
way, but there is one name everyone is waiting on, Joe Biden. Is he
actually going to go through with it or not for the first time is he going
to walk up to the starting line and then just walk away?

Before they run, every candidate has to ask himself or ask herself this one
question, do I think I can win? But Biden`s case is different because he
has more to lose. He is a former vice president and elder statesman of his
own party. He has stature the other candidates don`t have, stature that
will be at risk if his campaign goes badly.

So, what are the chances that things go badly if he does run? Well, start
with the general election. If Biden gets there, into a race against Donald
Trump. On the one hand, it would be a no brainer, Trump is president
because he narrowly won three traditionally Democratic states Pennsylvania,
Michigan, Wisconsin. His total margin across those three states was just
77,000 votes. So, surely, Scranton Joe could flip that around, right?

Plus, Biden is popular now. The last time Gallup checked in, 61 percent of
Americans had a favorable view of him, just 30 percent unfavorable. But
then there is this.

One of the reasons Biden is so popular now is because he didn`t run in
2016. He didn`t have the media scrutinizing him, Republicans attacking
him, Trump throwing every piece of dirt he could find Biden`s way. Hillary
Clinton got all of that and you saw what it did to her. Biden was on the
sideline for all of that.

And as Hillary flailed, he got pretty good press coverage. Republicans and
Trump mostly laid off him. When Hillary lost, Biden became the what might
have been candidate for Democrats.

But remember, before all of that, before the 2016 campaign began, Joe Biden
wasn`t always this popular. Go back to the start of 2015, 39 percent in
Gallup said in favorable view, 39 percent unfavorable.

That`s why Democrats weren`t exactly lining up to beg Biden to run in 2016.
His numbers, didn`t look that great. Now, it is possible Biden and his
style would be a very good matchup with Donald Trump. It`s also possible
his long history in politics and penchant for what they call gaffes, I`m
sorry for using that word, would make him the perfect foil for Trump. We
just don`t know.

We also don`t what Democratic voters think of all of this. In polls, they
say now more than ever that they care about electability. But if Biden
gets in and gets all that scrutiny that he didn`t get in 2016 and if his
fellow Democrats start going after him, well, how electable will he look to
Democratic voters then? Take a poll now and Biden leads the Democratic
field.

And again, it`s possible he would stay there if he runs. That he`s got a
reservoir of good feelings with Democratic voters and he`ll be just fine.
But we just don`t know. There really aren`t many test cases like this.

A former VP, 78 years old in 20, two previous presidential campaigns, one
that he left in scandal, a couple more that he almost enter. He`d be
running in a media and political atmosphere that upended so many
assumptions and supposed rules about what actually works in politics.

Run and win in Biden`s stature vaults to a whole new level. Run and lose
badly, that stature plummets, or just stay away and be happy with what
you`ve already got. That is a tough decision for anybody. It`s no wonder
Joe Biden is taking his time here.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


END

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