Mueller report expected as soon as next week. TRANSCRIPT: 02/20/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Michael McFaul, Shane Harris, Jon Ralston
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: February 20, 2019
Guest: Michael McFaul, Shane Harris, Jon Ralston


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We are going to talk Russia. We are going to talk
the Mueller probe as well as all kinds of issues about him, Comey and 2016.
I promise you it will be a real interview. Nothing off limits on THE BEAT
tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

That does it for us. “HARDBALL” starts right now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Striking a nerve. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

The steady drum beat of headlines about the Russia probe is striking a
nerve with the President. Today, he is lashing out at former FBI director
Andrew McCabe and “The New York Times” after their report raised serious
questions about whether Trump obstructed justice.

The President tweeted quote “The New York Times” reporting is false. They
are a true enemy of the people.”

Yesterday, “The Times” revealed that the President has asked about
appointing an ally as the prosecutor overseeing the case of Michael Cohen.
The report also suggested did Trump`s attacks on the probe could put him in
jeopardy.

According to a tally by the “Times,” Trump has publicly attacked the Russia
probe nearly 1200 times. Among those attacked, Trump has targeted Robert
Mueller, James Comey in various law enforcement agencies. While the
President has also defended figures involved in the probe, person Trump
defends the most is Vladimir Putin and his government in Russia. Something
he has done according to the “Times” on 61 occasions since taking office.

At the same time the President continues to belittle the former acting
director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, saying quote “remember this. Andrew
McCabe didn`t go to the bathroom without the approval of weaken James
Comey.” And this comes after McCabe voiced concern about Trump in his most
blunt terms to date.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you still believe the President could be a
Russian asset?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: I think it`s possible. I think
that`s why we started our investigation and I`m really anxious to see where
director Mueller concludes that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The “Daily Beast” further described the President has quote
“beyond obsessed with McCabe reporting on a White House meeting about
immigration early last year.

Quote “during the start of the meeting all Trump wanted to talk about was
how much he hated Andrew McCabe,” according to a source in the room.

Here is what Trump had to say about McCabe in the oval office today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Andrew McCabe has
made a fool out of himself over the last couple of day. And he really
looks to me like sort of a poor man`s J. Edgar Hoover. He is a – I think
he is a disaster. And what he was trying to do was terrible and he was
caught. I`m very proud to say we caught him. So we will see what happens
but he is a disgraced man. He was terminated, not by me. He was
terminated by others. The IG report was a disaster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: As the President said, McCabe was fired from the FBI after the
department`s Inspector General concluded he violated justice department
policy, repeatedly mislead investigators and quote “lacked candor.”

McCabe has suggested without evidence that inspector general`s report was
influenced by the President and should be noted that the inspector general
who investigated McCabe, Michael Horrowitz was appointed by Barack Obama.

Here is McCabe`s reaction to the President`s criticism

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCABE: This one is really interesting to me. The President and, you
know, he goes to his tried and true you are a disgrace. You are disaster.
These things that he likes to say. But in this one, he actually starts
talking about the IG investigation. He seems to make some effort to
distance himself in a way from my firing, in a way that I find to be just
patently ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: I`m joined now by the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael
McFaul, Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor, Michelle Goldberg, a
columnist at the “New York Times” and John Podhoretz is the editor of
“Commentary magazine.”

Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Michelle, I will start with you, trying to make sense of Trump verses
McCabe in the court of public opinion. What exactly is going on? We know
that Trump – anybody that comes after him in any way, we know he comes
after him in the most blunt and raw of terms. Is that what we are watching
here or are we watching something that goes a little deeper than that?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look. I think on the
one hand, it is never clear whether you are just watching an old man have a
tantrum. But it`s also true that Trump needs to discredit basically the
entire leadership of all of our intelligence services because they are
almost unanimous in their abhorrence of his conduct, right, I mean.

So, we have this situation where the fact that the former FBI director, the
acting director of the FBI, you know, all the former leadership of the NSA,
the CIA, they are all unanimous in talking about how Trump is likely a
threat to national security, you know, may be compromised in any sort of
normal political environment, that unanimity would seem a sign that we
should be alarmed about the President.

What Trump and his allies have done is make that unanimity itself kind of
something that we should hold against the intelligence services, right. So
the unanimity is a sign of a deep state conspiracy. Instead of a sign that
the more people understand about Russia, about counterintelligence, about
organized crime, frankly, the more alarm they are about Donald Trump`s
conduct.

KORNACKI: The question, John, and again, we have been pointing to this
Mueller report that at some point, we are getting some glimpse, and we
would talk about that later. But the question here, for a lot of this has
been looking at Trump`s actions. The lashing out in public. The decision
to fire Comey. Is this Trump being Trump, acting in haste, not thinking
things through, creating worse problems, creating perception problems or,
again, is he trying to hide something?

JOHN PODHORETZ, EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: I think it`s totally Trump.
If he is trying to hide anything, this is the worst possible way to hide
anything is to go and attack the people who are saying or hiding something.

If somebody had written a really nasty book about me that he was on a book
tour about, I wouldn`t be tweeting and yelling about him five time as day
and putting the book at the bestseller list. That is Trump`s lesson from
Roy Cohn 40 years ago. You never let anything lie. You are always on the
attack. You are always attacking. And Trump does get positive feedback
from his most ardent supporters. They love this stuff. But again, it goes
to the question of everybody who is not his ardent supporter listens to it
and goes what`s going on here? Like is he doing this? He`s the President.
Why is he – if he is so disgusted by McCabe and so contemptuous of McCabe,
why is he lowering himself to attacking him this visually four time as day,
just like when you are like on the Amazon site thinking about buying the
book. Click.

KORNACKI: Michael McFaul, met me bring you into this one, too.

Look. We know in this Trump-McCabe public dispute, we know the President`s
issues with credibility. That`s got to factor your judgment, if anything
that he says. The question with McCabe though is his own credibility.

I saw there was an interview with him. I think it was on “The View” the
other day. Megan McCain look at him and said, look, I just don`t think
based on what the inspector general found that you are a necessary a
reliable narrator here.

When you look at McCabe, when you look at some of the claims that he is
putting out there, how reliable do you think he is?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I`m not an expert on
Andrew McCabe. I`m an expert on Russia. What he says about Russia and
what he says about Vladimir Putin and what he says about our President not
listening to the intelligence community comports with a lot of other
information we have out there. And I think that is what we need to focus
us on.

It is extraordinary that we have a President of the United States that
consistently attacks his own intelligence community and his own government
officials, including the FBI. There`s no period in history that I can
remember when the President was doing that. And when I look at it from a
national security perspective, I say who does that serve? Whose interests
is that serving? It is serving Vladimir Putin`s interest to see the
disarray. And then the question becomes that has been raised over the last
couple of days, why is the President doing this for Vladimir Putin?

I`m not prepared to answer that question. I don`t know the answer yet. I
think we need to wait for Mueller`s report to be released. It is very –
the circumstantial evidence is very strike that he is always supporting
Putin and people are beginning to wonder, what is the motivation for him to
do that?

KORNACKI: Speaking of that report, you may remember that NBC News reported
back in December that Mueller could submit that report as early as this
month. Now new reporting today from CNN seems to affirm that timetable
quote “attorney general Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next
week the completion of Robert Mueller`s Russian investigation.”

Here is what the President said today when he was asked about that pending
potential release.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Should the Mueller report be released while
you are abroad next week?
TRUMP: That will be totally up to the new attorney general. He is a
tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and
respects the justice department. So that will be totally up to him. The
new attorney general, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And the “Washington Post” reported late tonight that quote “an
advisor to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the
President`s inner circle that the report might contain information about
Trump and his team that is politically damaging but not criminal conduct.

You know, Paul Butler, let me bring in you because I have been trying to
figure out what we can actually expect in terms of what kind of a report
will be viewable by the public. I know this issue came up in Barr`s
confirmation hearing a few weeks ago. This is going to work a little bit
differently than the last much anticipated special counsel`s report, you
know. That was Ken Starr with Bill Clinton years ago. That went straight
to Congress. Congress could vote to release the whole thing.

This goes into the justice department. So there`s a question here about
what any of us in the media, in the public are going to get to see. What
is your sense to that?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So the President actually said
something today in a press conference that was true. When asked should the
report be released, he said it`s up to William Barr. So this is a man who
has a huge amount of power.

This is the most consequential investigation, criminal investigation,
national security investigation in American history. How much do the
American people get to know about what Mueller has been doing this two
years? So during his confirmation hearings, what Barr said wasn`t
confident inspiring, you know. There`s a theory that that confirmation
hearing was an audition for Barr to be in this position and he is going to
do the right thing, which I think would be consistent with grand jury
secrecy, allowing as much of the evidence to be transparent, at least, you
know, given the light of day as possible.

KORNACKI: Also, Michelle, speaking of that reporting from the “Washington
Post” tonight. The White House, may be, you know, wondering what political
damage potentially from this report. Their reporting saying political
damage but nothing criminal. Is that something everybody should be
prepared for the possibility here? Because it seems that the story of the
last two years and we had our own reporting about the Senate intel
committee looking at this and apparently not finding any direct evidence of
collusion.

Just the idea there`s going to be a whole bunch of stuff that looks really
bad but nothing actually tangibly criminal definitive.

GOLDBERG: Right. Well, there`s two, collusion and criminal are two
different things, right. So collusion – there is no kind of law against
collusion. So it could be that they have plenty of evidence – we have
plenty of evidence in public domain of collusion. I guess the question is
whether they prove a criminal conspiracy or else they just show kind of
noncriminal acts to, you know, subvert the election and collude against,
you know - work against the American people with the help of foreign
powers, right.

I mean, I can`t imagine any outcome that`s not ugly. And I hope the bar
shouldn`t be criminal conspiracy, right. I mean, there are kind of high
crimes and misdemeanors that are not necessarily breaking the law. And so
if the report shows that they both worked, you know, kind of actively
welcomed the help of Russia in helping Donald Trump to get elected, then
provided Russia with all sorts of things they wanted including the
relaxation of sanctions and that they then kind of tried to cover it up.
And I can`t imagine how, you know, there`s evidence of public domain of all
those things. That should be enough.

KORNACKI: Well, that is the question. A good example of this that is in
the public domain is the Trump tower meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KORNACKI: The email comes in. This is part of the Russian government`s
effort to help the campaign. Do you want ta meeting? OK. Let`s have the
meeting. Then apparently nothing actually comes out of the meeting. So
how do you bounce this?

PODHORETZ: Well, we don`t know what`s going on inside the Mueller office.
But we know that previous special investigations have been concluded with a
written report that provide as narrative of the events and the indictments
and tries to wrap everything into a kind of story of what the investigation
was about. And we have, I don`t know, it was 34 indictments, 14
convictions. I can`t remember all the numbers. And we have got Manafort.
We have got Roger Stone now. We have got Papadopoulos. We got Flynn. We
got so and so.

And so he could be writing an account that says there was all this smoke
and there was all this stuff and all these people around Trump did all
these things that were weird and bad and in some cases criminal.

We don`t have anything that ties Trump to any of this directly. But he was
the person that top. And it is now up to the political system to decide
whether or not he bears responsibility for the behavior of the people under
him. I think that`s the likeliest of scenarios and it could be politically
extraordinarily damaging. But the White House can always say they came up
with nothing. They even got paid.

BUTLER: Steve, I want to respectfully dissent. I think there`s plenty of
information in the public domain that the president of the United States
has committed serious felonies. So the “New York Times” report today that
he asked the acting attorney general to switch prosecutors in the New York
investigation to one that would go easy on him. That means that Matt
Whitaker is an eyewitness to a felony by the President of the United
States. His dangled pardon for –.

KORNACKI: Can we stay up for a second because I`m curious about that.
Take me through that. You are saying that`s a felony. What if the defense
from Trump, I imagine would be, I asked a question. I thought can I get
this guy in there and I was told no and I didn`t do it. It still a felony?

BUTLER: Yes, it is. So, if you try to corruptly with a corrupt motive
impede an official investigation you are guilty of the five or ten year
felony of obstruction. You don`t actually have to accomplish it, you just
have to try. And the issue with Trump is always, well, how can you prove
corrupt intent? How do you prove that motive?

But we know, again, he has dangled pardons in front of Roger Stone and Paul
Manafort. He said mean things, intimidating things about Michael Cohen and
his family. So there come as time when the evidence is so cumulative that
it becomes obvious.

PODHORETZ: Well, it can be but it can also be not. In other words, if you
don`t have anything but a series of presumptions that he wanted to do this
for corrupt intent. He was literally dangling pardons, as opposed to
saying things, as I say Mueller can say everything leads to some of these
ideas, but we don`t have binding glue that will lead to, you know,
indictable offences and that actually is really the bailiwick (ph) of the
House and its investigations into impeachment.

If Mueller provides enough information that can be used by the, you know,
by the House judiciary committee to look into obstruction charges. But I
don`t think from what we know about what Mueller is doing if he is stopping
next week, but we should be expecting him to say Donald Trump committed
five felonies.

PODHORETZ: I mean, it doesn`t feel that way. It seems like if he had
that, he could have announced it a month ago.

KORNACKI: And I guess that is the other thing. There is - we have been
saying this all along with this investigation. There`s this stuff that
emerges in the press and gets us all talking about one thing we have seen a
bunch of times out. Then there`s some kind of action from Mueller that
gets us talking about something else. If the report does come out, in the
next week or two, maybe we will go through that even potentially on a
bigger scale.

Thank you, though, to John Podhoretz, Michelle Goldberg, Paul Butler and
Ambassador Michael McFaul, appreciate you all being with us.

And coming up, Trump`s top intel official could be on his way out. The
President reportedly questioning the loyalty of Dan Coates, the director of
national intelligence. Not to his loyalty to the country but to Trump.

Also, for years Republicans have tried to make liberal a dirty word and may
have had to the big board and show you some interesting polling on
Democrats. I don`t seem scared of that label anymore. And interesting
divide among Democrats on that as well.

And Bernie Sanders comes fast out of the gate. His eye popping fundraising
numbers on day one of his president – I remember when candidates took
months to raise what he just raised in a day.

So much more after the break. You are watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We have some
breaking news.

The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to
the White House in the fall.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin coming to the…

COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you?

MITCHELL: Yes.

COATS: Yes. OK.

MITCHELL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COATS: That`s going to be special.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the Director of National
Intelligence Dan Coats last July reacting the news that Russian President
Vladimir Putin had been invited to Washington.

It`s one of several times Coats has found himself at apparent odds with
President Trump.

In a hearing last month on security threats to the United States, he
contradicted President Trump on a host of issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have won against
ISIS. We have beaten them, and we have beaten them badly.

COATS: ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of
fighters in Iraq and Syria.

TRUMP: It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb
under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.

COATS: We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge
necessary to produce a nuclear device.

TRUMP: We have made a lot of progress as far as denuclearization is
concerned. Things are going very well with North Korea.

COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD
capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and
production capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The president later claimed that Coats and CIA Director Gina
Haspel told him they had been misquoted.

But new reporting suggests that tension remains.

“The Washington Post” reports – quote – “Privately, the president has
continued to fume. And this weekend, he told an adviser that Coats is not
loyal and he`s not on the team.”

When asked about Coats and his fate today, President Trump said he – quote
– “hadn`t even thought about firing him.”

I`m joined now by Shane Harris, national security correspondent and co-
author of that report in “The Washington Post,” and Jeremy Bash, former
chief of staff at the CIA.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Shane, let me start with you.

The idea that the president doesn`t think Coats is loyal, is it because of
what we just showed there, Trump making claim X in public, Coats saying
this in his testimony before Congress, or is there something more to it?

SHANE HARRIS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think that`s largely part of it.
The president doesn`t like to be contradicted or embarrassed in public, or
in private, for that matter.

But we also understand that, in briefings where the DNI, Director Coats,
has been present, he`s also been sort of forceful and candid in his views
as well. And I think – gather that, in some of those instances, it`s
turned somewhat argumentative, where the president has gone off on
tangents, and the DNI can`t kind of bring him back in.

I think he sees him, frankly, as somebody who is there to try and maybe
school him or one-up him. He`s felt threatened by him, embarrassed by him
in those public remarks. And they just never really clicked internally.

There are other people in the administration at national security levels
and positions that the president has, for whatever reason, gotten along
better with. And now I think Dan Coats is the latest one to be sort of in
the crosshairs with this president. He frequently tends to turn on senior
officials, one after the other.

And it looks like it`s Dan Coats` turn right now.

KORNACKI: Well, and that word, too, loyalty, it always does seem to come
back to Trump`s perception of whoever it is, his loyalty to him.

Jeremy Bash, just in terms of the testimony we`re hearing, Trump makes a
claim in public, whether it`s about North Korea, whatever the subject is,
when it involves national security, and then Coats goes in there before
Congress.

Tell us about what it is Coats doing in those sessions. These are national
intelligence estimates – assessments, I should say, that he is – that
he`s preparing and providing to Congress?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: Yes, I think there are
two settings, Steve, where the director of national intelligence, Dan
Coats, is causing some problems for the president.

First, as referenced, in the public setting, in front of all of the
cameras, in front of the public and the Senate Intelligence Committee, the
director of national intelligence, flanked by all of the leaders of the
intelligence agencies, they are providing unclassified, coordinated
assessments on the big issues.

ISIS remains a threat. Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. North
Korea is not denuclearizing. Russia continues to attack our democracy and
other democracies.

And that obviously is contrary to what the president says. And herein Dan
Coats is saying something that you don`t say as a Trump official. He said
the truth.

Second, in the closed, classified settings, in the National Security
Council, in the Oval Office, or in the White House Situation Room, I think
they`re preparing the president for this summit with Kim Jong-un. And
before every summit, the intelligence community come forward with a number
of assessments.

Are they complying? Are they doing what they said they would do? And I
bet – I don`t know this for certain – I bet the assessments are saying,
Mr. President, they have not been complying, they have not been
denuclearizing.

And that undercuts the president`s core thesis about what is at stake at
this summit here coming up.

KORNACKI: Right.

Well, on that subject, Trump was asked today about that pending meeting
with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next week in Vietnam, and how hard it
would be to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t think this will be the last meeting, by any chance. But I
do think that the relationship is very strong.

I don`t think they`re reluctant. I think they want to do something. I
haven`t taken sanctions off. I would love to be able to. But in order to
do that, we have to do something that`s meaningful on the other side.

But Chairman Kim and I have a very good relationship. I wouldn`t be
surprised to see something work out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And, meanwhile, the AP reports that President Trump may be
considering a peace declaration and an end to the Korean War in the meeting
to persuade Kim to commit to denuclearization.

Well, Jeremy, if you`re – if you`re right there, if he`s getting
pessimistic assessments there about North Korea, and he is saying what we
just heard today, is that – could there be a strategy of some sort behind
that, in terms of a negotiating strategy, or is that just a president who`s
looking to put a – sort of a good face on this?

BASH: Yes, normal presidents, Steve, are prepared, they receive these
briefings in advance.

I think what is probably happening here is, the president doesn`t like the
preparation. He doesn`t like what he`s hearing. And so he`s dismissing
the briefers, and he`s saying, I don`t have to listen to them. I can go my
own way.

But Dan Coats is a highly honorable public servant, obviously a former
Republican senator, a former Republican ambassador to Germany. He`s got
longstanding credibility with the intelligence community and our
government. And I think he`s just telling the truth.

KORNACKI: Well, Shane, in terms of Coats` standing, I say the president
now has sort of set his sights on him, calling him – saying behind the
scenes that he`s not loyal.

What is your sense of the job security for Dan Coats? Is this something
where the president`s attention might shift after the meeting next week,
might go on to something else, maybe this Mueller report we were talking
about comes out, and Coats just sticks around? Does Coats want to stick
around?

HARRIS: Well, the president has gone after certain officials publicly, and
then they hang around for a lot longer than we thought their shelf life
would be. Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, comes to mind
there as well.

So, it`s possible the president could just move on to something else. The
director has clearly understood that the relationship with the president is
not great and not as strong as maybe he would like it to be for some time.

But now the president is voicing this publicly. This follows a pattern
that we have seen before where he sort of puts them on notice, and now
begins this sort of process of public humiliation, where the official has
to hang on and do his or her job, despite all of it, or try to sort of
quietly move towards the exits.

I don`t think the president would try to stop him if he left. None of this
is news to the director, I have to say. But I think now we`re entering
that phase where it`s kind of kicking it into Dan Coats` court, and it`s up
to him, ultimately, how he wants to go out.

I`m sure, as Jeremy said, those briefings are going on prior to the North
Korea summit, and that the director is taking that very seriously. I can`t
expect that he`s just going to quit while that`s happening.

But I would not expect that he is much longer for that job. But, in Trump
land, I mean, anything`s possible.

KORNACKI: It`s interesting too. There is sort of a ritual-like quality to
some of these things. You can recognize patterns kind of across the last
couple years.

Shane Harris, Jeremy Bash, thank you both for joining us.

And up next: The number of Democrats who call themselves liberals is on
the rise. I`m heading over to the Big Board. I`m going to break down who
among Democrats in particular is saying that and what it could mean for
2020.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.

Let`s talk about the L-word. Democrats used to run in terror from it.
Republicans used to try to tag it on every Democrat running for every
office in the country. It used to be a politically lethal word.

The question is, does liberal still have the same bite it used to? A lot
of evidence things have changed. One of the big pieces of evidence that
things have changed, the number of Democrats who now call themselves
liberals.

Some interesting new polling information from Gallup. They track all of
these trends over time. You can see how the – really, the whole world,
the whole political world changes thanks to these numbers.

So let me take you through here. The use of the word liberal, Democrats
who would say that, when you say, hey, what are you politically, who would
call themselves liberal, well, look, you go back. This is from 2006. This
is about a dozen years old, 13 years old.

About a third of Democrats, 32 percent, said they were liberal. Two-thirds
said either moderate or conservative. That`s how it was. George W. Bush
was president back then. Remember, he had just been reelected in `04.

Here`s what it is now. Look at that number. It`s gone in the last dozen
years from 32 to 46 percent of Democrats who call themselves liberal. You
see moderate falling down there, conservative falling off a little bit.
Almost half of Democrats now call themselves liberal.

Here`s the other interesting thing, though. This is not necessarily evenly
spread out across the Democratic Party, where this movement is happening.
Check it out this way.

Used to be, if you looked at sort of the racial breakdown in the Democratic
Party, about a third of white – it was pretty even here, between a quarter
and a third black – black, white, Hispanic call themselves liberal.

Here`s the shift in the last 12 years. Look at this. Among white
Democrats, it`s now a majority, a leap of 20 points. A majority of white
Democrats now call themselves liberals. Among African-Americans, among
Hispanics, there has been an increase. It has not been as dramatic. It`s
not nearly at majority state yet. Among whites, it is, though.

You see this, 54 percent of whites who call themselves liberal. Other
characteristics, it looks like you find in there, according to the polling,
folks with college degrees. With graduate degrees, then you really start
to see it. Folks maybe who aren`t as religious as we have seen in the
past, secular, that also seems to tie into it.

How about this? Break it down this way. The people who identify as
liberal Democrats, two-thirds of them are white, 17 percent are black, 13
percent are Hispanic. Two-thirds of self-identified liberal Democrats now
are white.

Flip it around. Look at the other end of the party. There are still a
fairly significant number of conservative Democrats out there, and,
actually, whites are barely a plurality; 40 percent of them are white; 35
percent of them are black; 22 percent are Hispanic.

So it`s interesting to see that. Liberal Democrats tend to be
overwhelmingly pretty heavily white. Moderate, conservative, a little bit
more diverse. Think about that.

We talk about all these different groups, how they`re going to react to all
the different candidates out there for the Democratic side in 2020. We do
a lot of demographic breakdowns. That`s something to keep in mind there,
how you ask people, ideologically, where they stand, how that has changed
and how that breaks down now, something to keep in mind there.

And speaking of 2020, up next, Bernie Sanders, his fund-raising haul pretty
impressive, you got to say. Mind-blowing, maybe, even is the word for the
first 24 hours of his candidacy. We will tell you exactly how much he
raised.

I think they might still be counting the cash – what it could mean for his
candidacy, what it could mean for his many other opponents in this race.
Even the Trump campaign seemed to take notice today.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Twenty-four hours after announcing his 2020 presidential campaign, Senator
Bernie Sanders of Vermont has raised a record setting $6 million, most of
it from small dollar donors, according to the Sanders` campaign. Sanders
entered a crowded field of Democrats. Several of them are already
campaigning on similar progressive ideas. Republicans have seized on his
entrance into the race to paint the entire party as out of touch with
American values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: Bernie Sanders is going to force Democrats
to lurch further to the left, further to the progressive socialist side of
the Democrat Party. You`re already seeing candidates trying to out-Bernie
Bernie.

I think they`re all terrible. I like them more in (ph), I want a long
drawn out primary. I want this to go well into the summer of 2020 so that
it takes them a long time to pick their candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And the “Washington Post” writes that Democratic candidates will
be pressed by opposing forces, quote, voters hungry for leftist policies
and the need to court centrist voters who could be alienated by the party`s
turn to the left. Recent polls show the majority of Democrats and Democrat
leaning independents want someone new and someone who can beat Trump. The
question now is who is the most in touch with the party they`re running to
represent.

For more, I`m joined by Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news
correspondent at WBUR, and Jon Ralston, editor of “The Nevada Independent.”

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Kimberly, let me start with you. I mean, we talk about, center lane, left,
progressive. But the question to me is when you`re looking at the polls
and we just mentioned it there, Democrats say electability, somebody who
beat Trump. That quality polls off the chart right now.

But that`s the open question. In the age of Trump, when all of the rules
and assumptions we`ve had about politics seem to be up for debate, what
qualifies as electable anymore? That`s sort of the question that the
candidacy like Sanders raises, because 10 years ago, we would have said no
question he can`t win.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR WASHINGTON NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean,
that is a standard loom over the entire primary process, right? That`s
what the person who comes out of this primary on the Democratic side has to
worry about, the ability to beat the incumbent president, the ability to
beat specifically, Donald Trump. And we saw four years ago the way that
Donald Trump campaigns during a general election, you have to have somebody
who can stand up to that.

But right now, it appears that Democrats are focusing not just on that.
They really don`t seem to be talking about Donald Trump as much as they are
talking about policy. They seem to be having this general hashing out as
to where they`re staking their campaigns and it won`t be a lot of time for
them to do this, unfortunately, to focus on this policy, because pretty
soon, Donald Trump is going to come in and start inserting himself more and
more into the Democratic side. We saw seen him call Bernie Sanders a name
after the news of his big fund raising haul.

So, Donald Trump is going to make himself known on this side. But in the
meanwhile we see Democrats staking out their claim as to what they see the
party, where they see the party as moving and where they stand. I think
you`re absolutely right. You`re seeing them not being afraid to back the
more left-leaning policies like the Green New Deal, like Medicare-for-All,
and a less of a fear about getting labels and being labeled as a
progressive.

KORNACKI: And, Jon Ralston, what Kimberly has mentioned there caught my
attention yesterday. Trump made a couple comments about Bernie Sanders.
One thing he talked about is this idea of, you know, hey, Sanders was
treated poorly by the Democratic Party in 2016. I think there`s some
Sanders supporters that echoes with.

I guess the cynical side of me senses that`s a president who see as chance
to drive a women through the other party`s primary.

JON RALSTON, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT EDITOR: It`s not the cynical side.
It`s the experienced side of you. We both know what he`s doing there. And
as Kimberly said, he`s going to insert himself into this primary every
chance he gets.

Let`s be clear about something, Steve. We`re not normal talking about this
so long from the election, right? There are so many wild cards out there
on the Democratic side and to some extent on the Trump side of the
equation. We don`t know whether Joe Biden or Beto O`Rourke are auditioning
for the role of Hamlet when they`re going to decide what to do that could
throw a wrench into all of this.

We don`t know how some of this fist-time candidates, Bernie is not a first-
time candidate here, are actually going to perform under the crucible and
the heat of all of this that`s about to come down, not just from Trump but
from others and as you mentioned, all the rules have changed, not just
because of Trump but because of what goes on in social media and how things
that we never considered being pushed out to the forefront are going to
have. So, there`s just so many wild cards out there, but as you mentioned,
Bernie being able to raise that much money that quickly is a hopeful sign
for him.

But there is still – and you know this better than I do, Steve, a lot of
bitterness that is residually there from 2016 within the Democratic Party
about what happened.

KORNACKI: Yes, right, and this thing plays out, obviously, if Sanders does
start getting traction and actually looks like he`s got shot at the
nomination, be interesting to see what kind of forces emerge there,
remember that on the other side and maybe try to stop him too and see how
that plays out. But that`s getting way ahead of ourselves.

John Ralston, Kimberly Atkins, thank you both for joining us.

And up next, the son of a Republican congressional candidate says he warned
his father the absentee ballot operation in ninth congressional district in
North Carolina could be illegal. It was an explosive third day of hearings
down there in Raleigh on potential election fraud. A seat in Congress
hangs in the balance.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republican Mark Harris thought he`d be serving in Congress by now.
Instead, he is expected to testify tomorrow about questions of potential
election tampering by a political operative that he hired to win North
Carolina`s ninth congressional district race. Over the past three days,
election officials have been trying to determine to what extent that
operative, McCrae Dowless is his name, may have collected and tampered with
absentee ballots and exactly what the Harris campaign knew about his
efforts.

Harris has maintained that no one raised any red flags about the past
accusations against Dowless.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never heard one red flag?

MARK HARRIS (R-NC), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: No, not in that meeting. In
that meeting, it was very clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not all, ever?

HARRIS: No, except – I mean, they – I would later learn that obviously
there had been things that in the past that had been looked into, but
everything that had been looked into, everything had come out just
perfectly fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: But today, Harris`s son, an assistant U.S. attorney in North
Carolina contradicted his father`s claim. He testified that he raised a
red flag with his father before Dowless was hired to work on the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARRIS, CANDIDATE MARK HARRIS` SON: I expressed my concerns based on
everything that I did know up to that point, mainly my belief that McCrae
had engaged in collecting ballots in 2016. Now, that belief was based on
my review of absentee voter data that I`ve already described. I told him
that collecting ballots was a felony.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: For more, I`m joined now in Raleigh by Leigh Ann Caldwell,
political reporter for NBC News. She has been covering all of this
hearing.

Leigh Ann, that surprised me. Was that expected? That testimony today?
And what has it done to this case?

LEIGH CALDWELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Oh, Steve, the hearing took
quite a turn this afternoon when Mark Harris`s son took the stand. Not
even Mark Harris knew his son was going to testify and he essentially
testified against him. He said that he had warned his father about Dowless
and he advised him not to hire him but Mark Harris did not listen to his
advice and here we are today. So, I think that dramatically changes the
direction of this hearing. Mark Harris is expected to take the stand
tomorrow under definitely new circumstances.

KORNACKI: Speaking there – you mentioned that scene today. At the end of
the testimony, Harris` son added this emotional appeal. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARRIS: I love my dad. I love my mom. OK. I certainly have
vendetta against them, no family scores to settle. OK. I think they made
mistakes and they certainly did things differently than I would have done
them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Quite a scene there.

And, Leigh Ann, just quickly, what are you hearing from lawyers for both
sides about where they think things are going now?

CALDWELL: Yes, this is quite a change and it was an unexpected change. I
mean, central to Mark Harris`s entire argument is that that he had no
knowledge of any illegal activity that Dowless participated in during his
campaign or in the lead up, and this totally obliterates that argument.
And so, I know the McCready camp is quite happy with these developments and
now, the Harris campaign is going to try to figure out what their defense
is going to be before he talks the stand in just about 13 hours.

KORNACKI: OK. Well, that is something we are not going to want to miss
tomorrow. Glad you are down there following it.

Mark Harris to testify tomorrow. All eyes will be on that.

Leigh Ann Caldwell in Raleigh, thank you for keeping us updated on this all
week.

Up next, Virginia`s three top officials are still in office despite facing
major, to put it mildly, controversies. New polling tells us why.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia tonight and when
you take a step back, that`s pretty surprising. It was three weeks ago
that an old yearbook photo appeared to show Northam either wearing
blackface or dressed as Klansman. He couldn`t recall which when he
initially admitted to being in the photo.

Then a day later, he changed his story, he denied being in the photo at
all. But at that point, just about every Democrat with any kind of a title
in Virginia and across the country – they were all demanding that he`d
step down, and yet he hasn`t. And it`s looking like he`s not going to.

And here`s the part that most experts did not see coming. A lot of his
constituents are OK with that. A new poll today from Virginia, it`s from
Quinnipiac. A plurality of Virginians, they found, there are 48 percent of
them in this poll say that their governor, that Northam should not resign.
Only 42 percent say that he should.

To understand why, well, it`s not a simple story. For instance, look at
this, this is the break down by race. Ask white Virginians if Northam
should go, and 46 percent of them say yes, that`s the same number who say
no. It`s an even split.

Ask black Virginians and a majority, 56 percent say no, the governor should
not resign. Thirty-one percent say that he should.

Understanding that disparity, why Northam is getting the benefit of the
doubt from more black voters than white voters, that would require a
discussion much more expansive than we can tackle in this segment. An
obvious complicating factor here is that Virginia`s lieutenant governor,
the man who would succeed Northam if he does quit, Justin Fairfax, is now
facing two sexual assault allegations, both of which he denies, but which
could obviously add to voters` reluctance to turn out Northam right now.

But this also makes me think back to the numbers I show at the board
earlier this hour, that among Democrats, it`s white voters who are quickly
and dramatically aligning themselves with liberalism, much more than black
voters. It`s black voters disproportionately who are more likely to call
themselves conservatives or moderates. It runs counter to a lot of
assumptions you see in political commentary.

We think of black voters as a bedrock Democratic Party constituency and
it`s true, black voters are a bedrock Democratic Party constituency. But
too often, that then gets automatically equated with a whole host of
liberal values, attitudes and policy positions.

The new poll from Virginia, though, is yet another reminder of something we
should all know by now, that reality is a lot more complicated and a lot of
interesting than conventional wisdom often suggests it is.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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