Day two of testimony in North Carolina. TRANSCRIPT: 02/19/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.
Date: February 19, 2019
Guest: Joseph Moreno, David Cicilline, Benjamin Jealous, Susan Page, Joe
Crowley, Hector Balderas
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for THE BEAT. We will be back at
6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Trump`s war. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
We have a lot to get to tonight, including a big 2020 announcement. Bernie
Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination again.
But first, the “New York Times” is out with a major report tonight on a
steps that President Trump has taken to discredit, impede or otherwise
control the investigations of him and of his campaign. Not the President
has long waged a very public war on those inquiries, “Times” says it has
revealed the quote “the extent of the more sustained, more secretive
assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement.” An
effort that the President quote “has turned into obsession.”
Among the revelations the “Times” reports on misinformation that the White
House provided about the firing of Michael Flynn. They report on
conversations between the President and Republican lawmakers about a
campaign to attack Robert Mueller, the special counsel. And most
significant, the news that the President attempted to install a loyalist to
lead the investigation of Michael Cohen in New York.
That last episode occur late last year as prosecutors were closing in on
the President who they implicated as individual one in that case.
Quote “Mr. Trump called Matthew Whitaker, his newly installed attorney
general with a question. He asked whether Jeffrey Berman, the United
States attorney for the southern district of New York and a Trump ally,
could be put in charge of the widening investigation.” Whitaker, however,
could not fulfill the President`s request to put Berman in charge because
Berman was recused.
Following that rebuff, according to the report, the President soon soured
on Mr. Whitaker and complained about his inability to pull levers at the
justice department that could make the President`s many legal problems go
away. And the President is contesting that story, flatly denying that he
ever asked his acting attorney general to change his prosecutor in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Did you ask acting attorney general Matthew
Whitaker to change the leadership - the investigation into your former
personal attorney Michael Cohen?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, not at all. I don`t
know who gave you that. That`s more fake news. There`s a lot of fake news
out there. No, I didn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: However, Trump`s reported outreached to Whitaker may contradict
Whitaker`s sworn testimony last month which House Democrats are
scrutinizing for possible forgery. Among other things, Whitaker told the
House Judiciary Committee that no one from the White House reached out to
express dissatisfaction about the Cohen investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they reach out in some way to express
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Democratic congressman David Cicilline who
asked Matt Whitaker that very question. We just played for you there.
Joseph Moreno is a former federal prosecutor, Elise Jordan is an MSNBC
political analyst. And Michael Schmidt who co-wrote that story in the “New
York Times.” He joins me now by phone.
Michael, let me start with you. This is your reporting that you and your
colleague`s reporting that we are talking about here.
So, well, first of all, just on that exchange right there that we played
from the hearings last a couple weeks ago with Whitaker, Whitaker asked if
anybody at the White House reached out to express dissatisfaction with the
way the Cohen case was being handled. Is your reporting that
dissatisfaction was expressed to him?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (on the phone): Correct. It
shows that there was discussion that went on between Whitaker and the
President. The President obviously concerned about the direction of the
investigation and looking at the possibilities and what could be done in
terms of that and turning to someone in the U.S. attorney Berman, in the
hopes that they will – whatever relationship they had or whatever loyalty
he thought Berman may have may be important.
In the entire story in which we have looked at obstruction going all the
way back to 2017, there`s different teams, and one of them is loyalty. The
President wants loyalty for those who are overseeing the investigations
into him. Whether it was Jeff Sessions, whether it was Jim Comey. Whether
it was Andy McCabe, who was going to be the interim FBI director and
whether that his acting attorney general or this investigation in New York.
This is something that`s incredibly important to the President. He
believes and has said that it is his view that the investigators should be
more loyal to him than to following the facts in the rule of law.
KORNACKI: So Michael, just to get the sequence of events straight here,
the Cohen case as what you are reporting on here is playing a. The Cohen
case is going on. The President goes to his acting attorney general
Whitaker and he says he make as request to put in a new prosecutor, to put
Berman who is Trump`s ally in charge of the prosecution of Cohen. What is
the response that which back to Trump and what`s the exchange there?
SCHMIDT: Well, Berman - you know, nothing changed. Nothing came of it.
This is sort of a theme that happens a lot of times with Trump and
obstruction where he tries to do something. He tries to get Comey to end
the investigation. He tries in this case to talk to Whitaker about having
Berman un-recuse himself. And he ultimately failed. He sort of soured on
Whitaker falls out of favor with the President. The President sees
Whitaker as someone who can`t do the things that he hoped he would be able
to at the justice department. Sort of the limitation of even being an
acting attorney general which he think would be a powerful condition.
And this is another thing. The President tries different times to get
different folks to go along with whether, you know, was instilling
loyalists here or there and has not always been successful and has
struggled to damage the investigation.
KORNACKI: Do you have reporting – is your reporting that when Trump was
told no about getting Berman in charge of this investigation, that when
that didn`t happen, you say he soured on Whitaker, did he express that
explicitly to him that there`s a connection there? Gee, you let me down on
this. You didn`t come through on this. I expect you to have Berman in
SCHMIDT: I don`t know that. We don`t know that in our reporting. We
don`t know that the President made that point directly to Whitaker. And I
guess this may receive what will happen with Whitaker. He is actually
still at the justice department in an advisory role under in the new
attorney general and Whitaker is someone who really has spent a lot of time
appealing to the President. He started on television many, many months
ago, advocating against the Mueller investigation. Then after Sessions
being fired, put in as the acting attorney general. The President had high
hopes on that and by the time he left at the end of the investigation, from
at least what we know publicly, everything remain intact.
KORNACKI: All right. Joe, so you have got the situation here where the
President has this. There is this investigation going on of Cohen. We see
what that ultimately led to. So it is ominous for the President, clearly
as it is going on. He wants to get somebody he thinks is an ally, somebody
he thinks is a loyalist. He installed there. That guy has been recused
from the case. So the suggestion there is, OK, this is potential reflex,
potential obstruction on the President by the fact that he didn`t get his
way though. Does that take obstruction off the table in that situation?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Short answer is no, OK. And
this is the parallel to the James Comey situation, right. The President
may have thought that by firing James Comey, he would have stopped the
Russian investigations, it didn`t. It doesn`t change the fact that he
thought he was putting something into motion that may have a corrupt intent
So it is really a parallel. And there is a pattern here as you can see.
So no, obstruction is not off at the table because you can have attempted
obstruction. You don`t have to actually –.
KORNACKI: I guess, how could you – what would it take to prove or to
establish something like that if what could come back at you is hey, he is
the President. He has not be in government before. He didn`t like the
investigation. He thought it was unfair. He asked about get this guy out
and they told no, we can`t do that and it didn`t happen.
MORENO: I think you had a career as a defense lawyer. You just made great
KORNACKI: Well, so what would it take then to overcome an argument like
MORENO: So you have to show the actions. You infer someone`s intent by
their actions, right. So obviously, you can`t get into their mind. But
you can say why else would they have done these things but for a corrupt
purpose? Why would you keep working the internal DOJ leavers of power but
not for the fact that you are trying to stymie a DOJ investigation? That`s
how you do it. You look for a pattern and then you say why else would
someone take these actions if they weren`t trying to do something that was
KORNACKI: Let me bring the congressman in here, David Cicilline from Rhode
We played that exchange you ad with Matthew Whitaker when he was the acting
attorney general there a couple weeks ago. What is your reaction to that
now? How do you look at that response you got right now?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think it`s
pretty clear that Matthew Whitaker`s testimony and the reporting that
explosive reporting cannot both be true.
Mr. Whitaker evaded important answers. He clearly tried to create the
impression that he was not influenced by the President. We asked him
repeatedly did the President or anyone on the President`s behalf express
any dissatisfaction, her said no. Clearly, the change of counsel at the
southern district of New York was not to reward the U.S. attorney there but
because the President was dissatisfied. So it`s hard to believe that was
done for any other reasoning than because the President was frustrated
about the direction.
But this is a pattern. This is a President who thinks the attorney
general, U.S. attorneys, other members of the justice department have a
loyalty or a responsibility to protect him. They take a loyalty and an
oath to the constitution of the United States. He fundamentally
misunderstands this from the very beginning with Jeff Sessions` recusal to
his effort to fire Mr. Mueller to this recent reporting about trying to
change out the U.S. attorney.
This is a President who continues to think that these individuals owe
individuals owe a loyalty to him and have a duty to protect him. They have
a duty to protect the constitution and they are doing their job. And the
President should understand that it is inappropriate and may constitute
obstruction of justice to attempt to interfere with their work.
KORNACKI: Do you have plans? Do you now have plans in your committee to
follow up at all with Whitaker?
CICILLINE: Yes, I mean we attempted to get information about exactly what
he heard from the President, what direction he was given. He refused to
disclose conversations to the President but he certainly created the
impression that no one expressed any dissatisfaction on what was happening
with Mr. Cohen`s plea and the identification of individual one.
We have many more questions. The chairman of the committee sent a letter
to him already seeking clarification based on what we have learned
subsequent to his testimony and indicating to him to he is either going to
provide that clarifications or he should expect to come back before the
committee in a sworn deposition to answer our question so we can get the
KORNACKI: OK. Another episode in this reporting we are talking about
tonight from the “New York Times.” It occurred when former White House
press secretary Sean Spicer briefed the press about the resignation of
Trump`s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.
According the “Times” White House lawyers had told Spicer what to say.
However quote “when Mr. Spicer`s briefing began, the lawyers started
hearing numerous misstatements, some bigger than others, and ended up
compiling them all in a menu. The lawyers` main concern was that Mr.
Spicer over stated how exhaustibly the White House had investigated Mr.
Flynn and what he said wrongly that the administration lawyers had
concluded there were no legal issues surrounding Mr. Flynn`s conduct.
Elise, you know a little bit about the inner workings of government - of
the White House. The scene there described with Spicer. The press
deciding it seems that this is my story, Spicer going on. What did you
make of that?
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, any careful press operative
wouldn`t want to be On the Record saying something that could put
themselves in personal legal jeopardy. And you look at Sean Spicer had a
flagrant disregard for the truth during his tenure as press secretary. But
it really seems like in this particular instance, he was taking pains to go
further than even the White House counsel`s office was comfortable with,
which is clearly a huge problem for the White House and possibly for Mr.
Spicer. But that would be something that you would know more about.
KORNACKI: Let me just – I think we still have Michael Schmidt on the
phone with us.
Michael, just in terms of this piece of it. The fact that Spicer went so
much further, apparently per your reporting as Elise is saying there, what
is it that prompted that?
SCHMIDT: With well, you have to sort of look at it through the frame of
what was going on. This was February 14th. Mike Flynn had just been
fired, former national security advisor. This is the first time the
administration was confronting the Russia investigation publicly. The
White House counsel office was concerned that Spicer would go out and not
give an accurate portrait. And what happened was there were questions
about why did it take the White House so long to deal with the Flynn issue
after they were told by the justice department he had these contacts with
the Russian ambassador and could be subject to blackmail.
So it is in Spice telling to the public from the podium of how the White
House handled it that the White House counsel`s office says, hey, that`s a
too far too favorable account of how this was dealt with. We were not as
on top of it as we made it out to be. We haven`t made these determinations
about Flynn`s legal standing. And because of that, they documented it and
told him afterwards. Now, the White House never corrected the record on
this. But what the feeling was, was it is one thing to go out and say
stuff about crowd size that it is inaccurate, it is one thing to say on the
campaign trail. The White House can`t be out on such an important national
security investigation not telling the whole truth.
KORNACKI: Joe, the totality of this story, and I encourage everybody who
hasn`t who is watching now and hasn`t already gone and read it to read the
entire thing. But the totality of it suggest a possible set of avenues
that could be used to make a case of obstruction of justice against the
President. Another defense that a suggestion of the story from the White
House`s standpoint is basically that the President has been very public
about his dissatisfaction with all of this, with all of the investigation
that have been swirling with the sense that he feels he is a victim of a
witch hunt. He is the victim of out of control prosecutors.
The fact that he has been articulating all of this in public while doing
all of this in private, it is being revealed here, does that have any
bearing again on this issue of obstruction?
MORENO: Well, it is an interesting point because you can see some of these
public statements. Had they not been made in public, but instead we are in
a text message or an email or memo or a private conversation, they would
sound horrible, right. I mean, what you would do with information like
that? And yet, the fact that it`s tweeted to tens of millions of people,
it somewhat seems to negate it.
But at the end of the day, it shouldn`t make a difference, right. I mean,
if you are making those statements and those statements have an intended
effect, whether it is too stymie (ph.) or impede or intimidate an
investigation or shuts something down or tamp down political enemies, it
has the desired effect.
So it definitely adds a different kind of spin because you don`t think of
obstruction as something that is done in plain sight. But at the end of
the day, if it as the intended intent, if it has possibly the intended
effect, that could be the basis of your case.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, thank you Congressman David Cicilinne from
Rhode Island, Joseph Moreno, Elise Jordan, Michael Schmidt joining us on
the phone again with that reporting. Michael, thank you for taking a few
And later tonight, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe is going to
join Lawrence O`Donnell live on “THE LAST WORD.” That is 10:00 p.m.
eastern time right here on MSNBC.
And coming up the guy who crashed the party last time is back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Bottom line is I think it`s imperative
that Donald Trump be defeated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Bernie Sanders is in. He is talking aim at President Trump. He
has got a lot of Democrats to worry about too, this time around. The new
challenges facing Sanders in his second White House bid.
Plus the growing resistance to President Trump`s national emergency
declaration. How states are using the President`s own words against him in
And new polling on just how much support the President has for that
There is much more ahead. You are watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, is back, and he is
launching a sequel to his 2016 presidential campaign. The senator
announced his 2020 news early this morning in an e-mail to supporters,
along with this video message:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi. I`m Bernie
Sanders. I`m running for president.
We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a
racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and someone who is undermining American
democracy, as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.
I am running for president because now, more than ever, we need leadership
that brings us together, not divides us up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Shortly after the news broke, the 77-year-old senator appeared
on CBS News and was asked why this time would be different than the last
This is what he said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What`s going to be different this time?
SANDERS: We`re going to win. We are going to also launch what I think is
unprecedented in modern American history. And that is a grassroots
movement, John, to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and
political life of this country. That`s what`s different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Sanders now joins an already crowded and diverse field of 10
Democratic candidates. That number will probably grow some more. That`s
something he clearly didn`t face in 2016.
A majority of Democrats already seeking the nomination have fanned out
across the country, touting popular progressive messages, like universal
health care, raising the minimum wage, and combating climate change.
Sanders, running second in the polls right now behind Joe Biden, remains a
force to be reckoned with, though. Within hours of his announcement, he
raised more than $3 million from donors.
For more, I`m joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for “USA
Today,” former New York Congressman Joe Crowley, and Ben Jealous, former
national president and CEO of the NAACP. He was a supporter of Bernie
Sanders back in 2016. Curious if he`s on board for the second one.
Well, why don`t we start with that?
Ben Jealous, I remember talking to you in 2016.
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Sure.
KORNACKI: You were one of his surrogates. That`s the word we use.
Are you – are you going to be a Sanders supporter in 2020?
JEALOUS: You know, I signed up in New Hampshire in 2016.
This year, I ran for governor of our state. And as the standard-bearer for
our party in our state, now, out of respect, I have got to look and see to
endorse when we get close to the Maryland primary. And we want to make
sure that Maryland matters.
With that said, as you know, I`m a good friend, I`m a big fan of Bernie.
And he`s going to be a real force. He`s exactly where the voters are on
health, on education, on jobs. And he can – he`s showing that he can
raise real money and, frankly, do it from the people of the country, and
probably in the smallest denominations of anybody.
So everybody should take it very, very seriously this time.
KORNACKI: All right, well, it sounds like you got a lot of help from some
of his rivals in your own campaign. That might – and you want to be
gracious about that at least, so no endorsement right now.
JEALOUS: Well, look, Cory and I go back. We`re both black Rhodes
scholars. We go back a long way.
Kamala, I have known for 15 years. Liz Warren and I fought to pass the
CFPB together. Great friends, great friends. But the – we have to –
right now, when you look at Bernie rolling out, he is absolutely
formidable. And it starts with his message.
What makes Bernie unique is that he`s been courageous on these issues for a
very long time. And, quite frankly, you have seen, I think, candidates
across – across the party move towards him. He clearly is where the
KORNACKI: All right.
Well, Susan, let me ask you. One of the questions I have got with Sanders
and is being debated right now is, like, in 2016, he was the only
alternative in most of those primaries to Hillary Clinton. Anybody who
didn`t want Hillary Clinton got to vote for Bernie Sanders.
So, you probably got a lot of folks who maybe didn`t like him particularly.
They just didn`t like Hillary Clinton. So the conventional wisdom is, hey,
crowded field, a lot of other choices in 2020, that works against him.
The other way I look at that, though, is, crowded field 2016, look at the
Republican race, Donald Trump could win primaries with 30 percent of the
vote, 35 percent of the vote.
Can Sanders turn around and do that in the Democratic race?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: Well, it`s possible
And he starts out with a base of support. He starts out with phenomenal
fund-raising ability. But one thing that strikes me, Republicans often
choose the person who came in second in the previous election. You got a
lot of examples that.
I was trying to think today of examples of Democrats who came in second for
the nomination who got it then the next time around. And the only one I
could think of is Hillary Clinton, because I think Democrats like to fall
in love with somebody new.
And that is not going to be Bernie Sanders this time. It`s going to be one
of the 10 other people who have not run for office before who are a
generation younger than Bernie Sanders and who espouse pretty similar
KORNACKI: Joe Crowley…
JEALOUS: I think that`s kind of creative to make Bernie the Clinton in
JEALOUS: I mean, I just – I would just point that out. That`s – that`s
KORNACKI: Well, let me – let me get – take Joe Crowley`s temperature on
this, because it seems, certainly, in 2016, we saw this. There was a lot
of reluctance, at the very least, on what you – on the part of what you
would call the Democratic establishment to support the Sanders campaign.
How much reluctance, or even if the word is, how much resistance is there
going to be from those same quarters towards him in 2020?
JOE CROWLEY (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Steve, I have news for you
tonight. Bernie Sanders is running for president of the United States.
Bernie`s been running ever since he lost. There`s no doubt. There`s no
doubt about that.
I do think there was a great deal of resistance. Obviously, I think the
relationship that Clinton had built certainly in New York, as the senator
from New York, those relationships were there, but as the first lady, as –
and, again, as the former secretary of state, there had been a lot of touch
to the Clintons certainly that benefited her.
But Bernie is formidable. There`s no question about it. Bernie has really
– you saw it with the numbers that he`s raised just in a few hours, of the
millions of dollars, and grassroots that he has out there.
I still think – and I think maybe even more so with all these Democrats
running – it kind of is going to stand out that day that Bernie is still
an independent engaged in a Democratic primary.
And I do think there are some new faces here that, when they get more
exposure, I think that may drown out a bit of the Bernie effect.
KORNACKI: Is he somebody you could support?
CROWLEY: Look, I could support.
I disagree with Bernie on a number of issues. But, overall, the core
values that Bernie has are similar to my core values. So, yes, I could.
I do think, though – and I think it`s interesting that Ben has mentioned
that he`s not quite yet there, although he was very close to Bernie, and
that there are – there are nuances to this race.
JEALOUS: Well, Bernie hasn`t asked. I mean, to be clear, Steve asked me,
but Bernie hasn`t asked me, just to be clear.
CROWLEY: No, I appreciate that.
I guess what I`m saying, though, is that there are – there are a lot of
folks that Ben has relationships with, that we all have relationships with.
I`m not prepared to say tonight who I would support either.
But I do think that this field is, this very crowded, very competent field,
is something that is going to be very interesting to watch.
KORNACKI: One of the other – when you look at Sanders and any potential
path to the nomination, obviously, nearly won Iowa in 2016, won New
Hampshire in 2016.
Overall, though, if you look at all those primaries, Hillary Clinton
defeated Sanders. She got 16 million votes across all the primary, Sanders
about three million fewer than that. It was June 14 when Clinton became
the presumptive nominee.
She won California, Florida, New York, a lot of the big states. Here`s the
interesting stat, though. Both Clinton and Sanders received almost the
same share of the vote when it came to white voters. It was African-
American voters where Clinton absolutely clobbered Sanders.
Look at that, a 3-1 margin with black voters. You saw that`s how she
pounded him in South Carolina, across the South, states with heavy black
populations. That`s where she was really able to run up the score.
Ben Jealous, we talked so much about this in 2016.
KORNACKI: Bernie Sanders…
JEALOUS: Well, don`t forget that Bernie won Michigan, which has a big
black population. He also won Missouri.
KORNACKI: Right. OK. He narrowly won Michigan, but, overall, you can`t
deny the pattern there.
JEALOUS: He won Michigan and Missouri.
KORNACKI: Seventy-five percent, 23 percent across all primaries among
black voters. Why will that be different this time around? Or will it not
But then if you look at black voters under 30 – you look at black voters
under 30, Bernie won them. You look at black men under 50 most places,
There`s – the black community was getting to know Bernie Sanders. He`s
from Vermont. It`s just like Howard Dean. Really don`t know this guy.
He`s not where we are.
That was four years ago. And now folks have gotten to know him. And what
they see is that he`s absolutely consistent on education, on health care,
on the environment, on jobs.
We got teachers going out on strike in West Virginia. We have got teachers
about to go out on strike in Oakland, California. There`s not a teacher
out there who doesn`t know that, when it comes to the kitchen table issues,
Bernie Sanders stands with them.
And so that`s what makes him so powerful, is that he`s terribly consistent.
His brand has become much more familiar across this country. And people
know that, when it comes to their kitchen table issues, he`s in their
corner every time.
KORNACKI: Susan, very quickly, I saw comments from the president today,
Donald Trump. He clearly was trying to reopen those wounds in the
Democratic Party from 2016, talking about Bernie Sanders, he says, getting
a raw deal.
The president there, and I imagine Republicans more broadly speaking, maybe
have some hope that you will see some of that repeat of what you had there
in 2016, where Bernie and his supporters vs. the rest of the party.
PAGE: Well, you may, although you have got to say he lost the nomination
last time. He won the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party has moved to the left since 2016. And the only
question is, how far left did they move? And that`s where you see the
KORNACKI: All right, Susan Page, Joe Crowley, Ben Jealous.
Day one of the Bernie 2020 campaign. A lot to talk about tonight. There
will be a lot to talk about going forward. I appreciate all of you being
with us tonight.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: And up next: President Trump`s emergency declaration now on its
way to court. How is it faring in the court of public opinion?
I`m going to head over to the Big Board. We have some fascinating numbers
to show you and a breakdown.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will have a national
emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth
Circuit, even though it shouldn`t be there.
And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we`ll get another bad
ruling, and then we`ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we`ll get
a fair shake, and we`ll win in the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was President Trump just a couple days ago declaring a
state of emergency, and then saying, hey, this thing is headed to a court
of law, or – you heard him there – several courts of law.
And it looks like that is proving to be the case. It is also, though,
being judged in the court of public opinion. And, on that front, we have
some brand-new polling information we can share with you tonight on the
emergency declaration, this an NPR/”PBS NewsHour”/Marist poll.
Look, overall here, you see that? Decision to declare a national emergency
to get that wall built, 36 percent approve, 61 percent, a very solid
majority, disapprove, a very stark partisan breakdown – Democrats almost
universally against the move, Republicans heavily, overwhelmingly for,
independents breaking against it.
You can see, on other questions related to this, similar numbers here.
Here`s the question. Just the idea, is he misusing his power as president?
Is Trump misusing it? Again, 57-39, with a very dramatic, very clear and,
frankly, very predictable these days, party divide.
And the question of, hey, what`s this going to mean for you in 2020?
You`re watching all this. You`re seeing the president declare an
emergency. Is it going to make you more likely or less likely to vote for
him? Fifty-four percent say less likely. Of course, that`s about the
number who say in any poll they`re just not going to vote for him at all.
So maybe it just kind of continues that trend.
Here`s the one thing to keep in mind, though. I got to say this. You
think back to the 2016 campaign. Just keep this in mind a little bit.
That question of the wall, Trump`s signature issue as he`s running for
president, 36-61, 36 favor, 61 oppose, that number pretty much exactly the
same as the number on this decision with the emergency declaration.
Ultimately, even in the face of numbers like that, narrowly, narrowly,
narrowly, Trump was able to get himself elected in 2016. Again, I have
been saying, if he`s going to get reelected in 2020 with numbers like this
that we keep showing, it`s going to have to be just as narrow, just as
Doesn`t mean it can`t happen. It happened once. Doesn`t mean it`ll happen
again. But keep in mind, he did win in 2016 with numbers like that, as bad
as they look right now.
Up next: New Mexico shares 180 miles of border with Mexico, putting it
front and center in the upcoming legal challenge to that national emergency
New Mexico`s attorney general joins us to explain why he is one of 16
attorneys general getting ready to challenge the president in court.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to do it faster. I
could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn`t need to do this,
but I`d rather do it much faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump saying he knew he didn`t have to declare a
national emergency. And now those comments are part of lawsuit filed by 16
states against the national emergency, which the suit calls a flagrant
disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles. The lawsuit
directly cites the president`s comments, noting that, quote, the president
candidly admitted that the emergency declaration reflected his personal
preference to construct the wall more quickly, rather than an actual urgent
need for it to be built immediately.
Here`s how the president reacted to the lawsuit today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have absolute right to do that. I have an absolute right to
call national security. We need strong borders. In the end, we`re going
to be very successful with the lawsuit.
So, it was filed. It was filed in the Ninth Circuit and I actually think
we might do very well, even thin ninth circuit, because it`s an open and
closed case. I was put here for security, whether it`s space force which
we`re doing today or whether it`s borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I am joined now by the Democratic attorney general from the
state of New Mexico, Hector Balderas, one of the plaintiffs in this
General, thank you for joining us.
Let me – with the president saying – he`s saying open and closed case and
I think it`s because if you look at the National Emergency Act, which is
this law from 1976 where he`s claiming this power, it doesn`t define an
emergency. It gives the power to declare one. It says Congress can revoke
it if it wants. Congress could take vote and override him if he vetoes it,
but it doesn`t define it.
Doesn`t that sort of mean that emergencies whatever the president says it
HECTOR BALDERAS (D), NEW MEXICO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, first, thanks for
having me. And no, actually he has to follow the rule of law. We don`t
have kings in this country and this is not about the king`s funding.
Article I in the Constitution clearly has the purse with Congress and he`s
not allows to cry over a funding fight and then transfer, appropriate
military dollars that are in New Mexico, going to missile bases and special
national security projects just because he doesn`t get his way.
KORNACKI: How do you get around that law, though? Again, just looking at
it, saying that the secretary of defense may undertake construction
projects basically at the president`s discretion, if the president deems
there to be an emergency? And again, you say in the court of public
opinion, he`s contradicting himself like crazy here, but if the law doesn`t
specify what an emergency is, how can he over step it?
BALDERAS: Well, he will have great deference in the court. However, an
article two, he`s also required to be a truthful commander in chief. And
so, he cannot have fake emergencies. This is not like 9/11 or national
disaster like Katrina.
These are already legally appropriated dollars governed by law that are
already going to strategic projects. Now, if he wants to use immigration
funding to build a wall, that`s a different question. But I do believe
that this case will turn on the source of funding and it`s required that he
has to comply and not violate the separation of powers.
KORNACKI: There are, as we said, a number of states, 16 that are going to
be part of this lawsuit. I think California`s taking the lead, that means
this is being filed, as you heard in that clip there from the president, in
the Ninth Circuit. He has been bashing the ninth circuit. He was saying
last week, excuse me, hey, they`ll just send it over to Ninth Circuit and
Ninth Circuit will invalidate it.
Was there any thought – there are 16 states here, having a different state
take a lead, not doing this in the Ninth Circuit, that that might sort of
bolster your position a little bit more maybe in the court of public
opinion, just given the president`s always bashing the Ninth Circuit?
BALDERAS: No, we don`t necessarily play games with his words. California
and New Mexico are lead plaintiffs because we understand that there needs
to be sound constitutional law followed and more importantly, we are on the
border. And so, we have New Mexicans, Americans being harmed by his fiscal
He simply doesn`t want to follow the Constitution. But there will be a
test in court making sure his fake emergency is at least reviewed. He is
abusively committing executive overreach, and I think he`s going to be held
KORNACKI: Do you think this will make its way to the Supreme Court?
BALDERAS: I believe so. I do believe the president is right. We will
experience victory I believe in the court but ultimately, Article II
requires him to be a truthful commander-in-chief. And I think as you can
see from pubic opinion, and the justices are going to be involved in the
case. If it doesn`t pass the smell test, he`s probably violating the
separation of powers.
KORNACKI: We saw that case with his travel bank. That took a few months
to sort of work his way throughout the courts. How long do you think this
is going to go to the Supreme Court eventually, how long until you get a
final decision that settles this?
BALDERAS: Well, I`m hoping the court will act in an expedited way. I
think what`s different in the travel ban is clearly we have him talking out
of both sides of his mouth and I do believe there is a big difference. He
has the right to declare an executive emergency. What we`re disputing is
that he`s stealing money that`s already been lawfully appropriated. He
should go back and get lawfully appropriated dollars for his immigration
wall. And he`s not allowed as a king to steal money. We have the
Constitution and the rule of law and we`re governed by those standards.
KORNACKI: All right. The attorney general of the state of New Mexico,
Hector Balderas – thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.
BALDERAS: Thank you.
KORNACKI: And up next, day two of hearings on alleged election fraud in
the ninth congressional district of North Carolina. The only election in
2018 we never got around to calling, because it`s not settled yet.
The big question now, how much did the Republican candidate, Mark Harris,
know about this and how will it effect the outcome? Is there going to be a
new election down there?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The second day of testimony is now over in the election tampering case
involving North Carolina`s ninth congressional district. That seat remains
Now, three months after the midterm elections, at the center of hearing, is
work done by a man named McCrae Dowless. He`s a political operative who
worked for Republican candidate, Mark Harris. This afternoon, the head of
the political consulting firm that paid Dowless said that, quote, he
sounded like someone who knew the law very well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY YATES, FOUNDER, RED DOME GROUP: He told me at no time were his folks
ever touch, handle, put their hands on, collect, mail an absentee ballot.
And he knew that was illegal, that he made sure all of his folks knew that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But yesterday, Dowless`s own step daughter testified that she
and other workers had illegally collected and filled out ballots at
Joining me now from Raleigh is Leigh Ann Caldwell, political reporter for
NBC News. She is in the room for all of the action down there.
Well, Leigh Ann, just given that testimony from yesterday, talking about
this. What has been put on the record here right now in terms of
irregularities. Mark Harris leads officially by 905 votes. He`s trying to
somehow get this thing certified, the Republican.
What is the response in that hearing from his legal team? Are they
contesting still that there were any irregularities? Are they consulting
that at all? Or are they making a different argument here?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: They`re making a different
argument. They`re not contesting that there was sketchy, unlawful activity
happening regarding these absentee ballots and they`re acknowledging that
McCrae Dowless was the center of this. But what they`re arguing is that
their client, Mark Harris, knew nothing about it, eve though Mark Harris
hired Dowless through a consulting firm. They`re saying that Harris knew
nothing about it, that he didn`t know what steps that Dowless took on a
daily basis regarding these absentee ballots.
And so, what they`re trying to do is set that record straight and separate
Harris from McRae Dowless in this absentee ballot operation and what
they`re also trying to say is that yes, part of this election might have
been tainted, but it was just regarding absentee ballots, a small number in
two rural counties. They`re saying it was not enough to change the outcome
of the race and they`re saying that`s reason there should not be a new
election and that Mark Harris should be seated.
KORNACKI: That`s the key question here because the official margin, again,
905 votes for Harris over McCready. Has there been an attempt – is there
going to be an attempt to quantify exactly what all these irregularities
were, an exact number of votes? Is McCready side, the Democrat trying to
put that together?
CALDWELL: Yes, not necessarily, Steve, and the reason is because they are
arguing that the board doesn`t have to prove, or doesn`t need to be
evidence to prove for the board that the outcome of the vote would change,
that there is actually 905 votes that were tampered with or went missing or
whatever the case might be. They`re saying that the only thing they have
to prove is that the race was tainted enough that voters have lost
confidence in the election. And that is actually in the statute that North
Carolina state law says and that`s one of the things that board just has to
look at in their decision.
KORNACKI: All right. Leigh Ann Caldwell, keeping tabs on all of the drama
down there. Thank you for keeping us posted on all that. Appreciate you
KORNACKI: And up next, Bernie Sanders is hoping he can turn his deja vu
candidacy into a winning strategy.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
And as we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, Bernie Sanders is
back for more. And he`s trying to pull off something we`ve seen a few
times in the recent past. A candidate running for president and coming in
second place in the primaries and then turning around and running again the
next time around.
This was a winning formula for two of our recent presidents. Ronald Reagan
just lost out in the 1976 Republican nomination, and then he won it in
1980, and then he won the general election, of course, and became president
of the United States. And the guy who came in second to Reagan in the 1980
primaries, George H.W. Bush, he became Reagan`s V.P. Then he won the whole
thing in 1988 and others came close.
Bob Dole lost out to Bush in the `88 Republican primaries. Then the next
time the nomination came open in 1996, Dole won it, although he ended up
losing to Bill Clinton in the fall.
John McCain came in second in 2000 to George W. Bush, and then he won the
next open GOP nomination in 2008. And in the 2008 primaries, McCain beat
out Mitt Romney who then turned around and won the Republican nomination in
These examples, of course, are all Republicans. Susan Page was alluding to
this a few minutes ago. There used to be a saying in politics that when it
comes to taking a presidential nominee, Democrats fall in love, while
Republicans fall in line.
But then 2016, well, Democrats pretty much fell in line. Hillary Clinton
had come in second to Barack Obama in 2008, she become his secretary of
state, she repaired broken relationships in the party, and she took another
shot in 2016, and she won the nomination.
And, of course, it was Bernie Sanders who she beat out. So can Sanders get
Democrats to fall in line the way these other candidates all did?
Well, the good news for him, he does have a real base of support. He runs
second in Democratic polls right now, usually in the high teens, behind
only Joe Biden. That`s not as high as say Reagan was, or even Romney was
when they started out, but it`s not nearly as bad as Rick Santorum who came
in second in 2012, ran again in 2016 and didn`t even register in the polls.
Plus, Democrats say they like Sanders. Their voters do at least. Seventy-
five percent have a favorable view of him right now. It`s pretty close to
Joe Biden`s level.
There is a baggage, though. There are Hillary alums who blame Sanders for
Trump`s win, activists how recent that he`s still a political independent,
party leaders who have no interest in backing him. The only person who
over came that was McCain who was deeply distrusted by a lot of the GOP
establishment and activists.
Sanders` challenge may be steeper though. He`s got a solid floor of
support. The question now is whether his detractors in the Democratic
Party will succeed in building a low ceiling over that floor.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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