Awaiting key Manafort sentencing memo. TRANSCRIPT: 02/22/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Gabby Orr, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Nan Hayworth, Sue Mi Terry, Nicholas Kristof; Kim Wehle

Date: February 22, 2019
Guest: Gabby Orr, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Nan Hayworth, Sue Mi Terry,
Nicholas Kristof; Kim Wehle


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

At any moment now Robert Mueller`s prosecutors will file a key memo in the
sentencing of the President`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. And
that could answer questions at the heart of the Russia probe including
whether the special counsel considers Manafort crucial to showing possible
coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A judge last week ruled that Manafort lied about his communications with
Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate with ties with Russian
intelligence. In her ruling, the judge questioned Manafort`s loyalty to
the United states saying quote “this is a problematic attempt to shield his
Russian conspirator from liability and it gives rise to legitimate
questions about where his loyalties lie, specifically Manafort lied about
sharing internal campaign polling data with Kilimnik and discussing a so-
called peace plan for Ukraine that would benefit Russia.”

As Mueller`s prosecutor told the court quote “this goes to the heart of
what the special counsel`s office is investigating.”

All of this, however, begs the question why would Manafort risk spending
the rest of his life in jail to keep those discussions secret? Prosecutors
have floated the theory that Manafort may hope to be pardoned by the
President. There has been reporting to show that a pardon has been
considered since 2017. But Trump was most direct about the possibility
late last year telling the “New York Post” quote “I wouldn`t take it off
the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Yet, the President can
only pardon federal crimes, not state offenses.

And now “Bloomberg” is reporting that to ensure Manafort isn`t let off the
hook quote “New York State prosecutors have put together a criminal case
against Paul Manafort that they could file quickly if the former chairman
of Donald Trump`s 2016 campaign receives a presidential pardon.

I`m joined now by former federal prosecutor, Kim Wehle, Tom Winter is an
investigative report with NBC News, Nicholas Kirstof is a columnist with
the “New York Times” and Noah Rothman is an associate editor at “Commentary

Tom, let me just start with you. As I say we are waiting on this filing
here. Take us through what you are going to be looking for what we might
possibly be learning here in the next couple of minutes.

becoming a Friday tradition here waiting for sentencing memos and filings.
What we anticipate tonight, and I think it`s – I don`t know if it`s going
to differ much from what we saw last Friday which is when you have a
recommendation from the department of probation saying this is what the
expected guidelines or the expected range of how long Paul Manafort should
be in jail? Then what will be interesting and what we want to see is
whether or not the special counsel`s office says we either agree with that,
we endorse that, we want more time, we want less time. Typically they
don`t died above that but it is possible that they could and whether or not
they have anything to say about it at all.

The other thing that would be interesting to see is if any parts this have
redacted materials or if any parts of this list additional behavior that
Paul Manafort wasn`t charged with things that he did that he was charged
with, but things that end up becoming a part of a sentencing memorandum.
They can bring in what is called other bad acts. So basically, they can
say, hey, here is little things that we didn`t charged him with but here`s
all the things that he did that were wrong.

So we could get that in the report tonight. We didn`t see a lot of that in
last week`s filing. So you would be curious to see whether or not we get
it. But that is something that`s on the table.

KORNACKI: And we put it in the intro there. And the key question, I think
hearing just in this entire investigation, we have been asking –
everybody`s been asking all along. You have the whole situation with
Manafort, you know, the campaign chairman. You got all these different
connections to Russia where constantly talking about the question of
whether that adds up to evidence of some other kind of coordination, of
some kind of collusion. Is there going to be – it possible in this filing
there will be some kind of indication of what Mueller is or is not thinking

WINTER: Well, I think you are thinking on the right path. So I think the
thing that we would be interesting to see is whether or not if there`s more
about this meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, somebody that the FBI has
identified as being associated with Russian intelligence services. So it
would be interesting it see if we hear more about that. Was there anything
improper or illegal that occurred in those series of meetings and
communications? Or was this just all about more business that Paul
Manafort wanted to do in the Ukraine?

I mean, I think once Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign, there were all
these questions about him specifically as far as his contacts with Russia,
his past business dealings. So I think he was a little radioactive, as the
Washington D.C. saying goes. You know, this is not a guy that I think a
lot of people were excited to do business with. He is somebody that didn`t
last until the end of the Trump campaign. Somebody that reporters
including myself and colleagues here wrote a lot about.

So I thing he probably foresaw the need to do business elsewhere. Ukraine
is a place that he had a lot of success. So was it all tied to that or was
it tied to this internal polling data? Was there more to as far as the
information that he showed with Konstantin Kilimnik? And then where did
that information go? I don`t think we are going to get it all tonight. I
done think we are going to get the full cake. But I think we will get
maybe some crumbs or maybe some additional information about it. I think
that`s possible.


Here is the interesting question to me, too, on that polling data. Is that
what you put in the realm sort of clients service of trying to impress a
client? Or is that somebody gets to something more sinister?

Kim, let me bring you in on this, too. Have the judge saying basically
that Manafort is putting himself in this position facing of what apparently
he is going to be facing here in terms of prison time because he is trying
to shield a Russian associate and raises the question everybody is asking.
Why would he put himself in position he would be facing what he is facing
to shield a Russian associate?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. And the judge went On the
Record well beyond the notion of while maybe he forgot and maybe it was
just difficult for him to misremember or, you know, time has passed. She
listen, said this is a creation of affirmative narrative that defied the
facts. She said that several times. So there wasn`t any ambiguity here as
to whether he was lying and not just lying because he just made a mistake,
but affirmatively lying.

And we know that the Russians have what is called compromat, right. The
notion that we have dirt on you and we can hold that over you and control
you. And the question is do they have that on Manafort? And of course,
the bigger question is if they have it on Manafort, do they have it on
Manafort`s boss, who is now the President of the United States? I don`t
think we will find that out from this filing.

One other little wrinkle, though, the judge found, with respect to the
allegations of the special counsel that Mr. Manafort had lied about his
communications or attempts to communicate with the White House. That was
one piece that she said she didn`t believe that the special counsel had
sufficient information to show an intentional lie. So it is possible, he
let the door open for them to come back on that particular issue which of
course bears on a broader question of speculation, but witness tampering or
obstruction of justice.

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, Nick, just trying to look at this sort of the
court of public opinion here is a question of how to think about Manafort
in all of this. Is this a sort of washed up political operative who found
his way in a presidential campaign after kind of being shut out of American
politics and saw this incredible business opportunity here and was trying
to impress this Russian guy. Look what a big shot I am. I have this
polling data. Or was he the key in a conduit in some sort of relationship

suspicious. And you know, it is hard to know exactly how we connect those
dots, but those dots are all over. I mean, you look in particular at an
August 2nd, 2016 meeting that Manafort had a dinner meeting with Kilimnik.
Kilimnik flew all the way to New York for this meeting. They left by
separate entrances. This is where they discussed the Ukraine deal that
Russia very much wanted to get out of the Ukraine mess. It was where
Manafort apparently may have handed over this polling data which goes to
the heart of the concerns about Russian manipulation and the election.

And then of course, what happened after and whether there was some
discussion of a pardon, which is maybe why Manafort is – has been, you
know, double dealing with the prosecutor, that goes to the questions of the
obstruction of justice. So this is really at middle, at center and I don`t
know whether the sentencing memo is going to connect those dots for us.
But this is kind of what we have been waiting for.

KORNACKI: You say that waiting on this memo, this filing tonight, there is
also this. We have had numerous reports in the last couple days about the
potential conclusion of Mueller`s investigation. NBC News is now reporting
that the department of justice is not expecting to receive the report from
Mueller by the end of next week. Nevertheless, President Trump was asked
today whether he has discussed upcoming report with his new attorney


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Have you spoken to Bill Barr about the
release of the Mueller report? Have you spoken to him about that?



TRUMP: I have not.


TRUMP: At some point I guess I will be talking about it. But you know the
nice part, there was no collusion, there was no obstruction, there was no
anything. So I look forward to seeing the report. If it`s an honest
report, it will say that. If it`s not an honest report, it won`t.


KORNACKI: Noah, I`m curious - I mean, we have all been watching this for a
couple years now, kind of building towards this moment. What is Mueller
going to find? What kind of report? There is a question here of exactly
what we will get to see from him. But where are your expectations having
in all of this?

this isn`t going to end with Mueller`s are port, whatever he finds. As we
learned tonight, Mr. Cohen is now speaking to the southern district,
talking about the Trump organization`s potentially shady dealings before
the 2016 campaign.

I suspect that we are probably not going to get the definitive conclusion
that everybody wants to have that you will say there was a conspiracy to
defraud the government and work with Russian officials.

In the Manafort`s conclusion of his trial here or his sentencing memo is
going to be particularly illuminating I think because the President will
probably just be one dot in one of those many dots. Mr. Manafort`s
relationship with Kilimnik predate 16. They had a relationship that has
reported on involving an effort to discredit an opposition figure over
there, (INAUDIBLE) which involve European politicians, journalists and
especially Russian government officials. And there`s a whole lot of
figures here that are going to be tied into the President. He is just
going to be ancillary figure there. The political narrative could be very
damaging for him, but he might just be a bit player.

KORNACKI: Well then – and that`s the interesting possibility here.

And Nick, one of the parallels I`m starting to think about in my mind a
little bit is in the 2016 campaign when Comey had the press conference with
Hillary Clinton and the emails. OK, there`s not going to be charges, there
is not going to be a case made here but then he proceeded to make a pretty
damaging political case against her. Is it possible that we are going to
sort - that`s going to be the upshot of what happens here with Mueller?

KRISTOF: It certainly is going to be complicated, of course, with Trump
off in Vietnam trying to deal with North Korea at the one hand as things
unfolding next week. I also, I wonder indeed if the focus isn`t going to
shift more than the southern district of New York and investigations of the
Trump organization finances, of the family and that`s going to be another
whole complicating layer on top of everything that we have been talking
about. The fact that Michael Cohen was talking about evidence that he had
to offer the southern district. I would be deeply concerned with that I
think if I were in the White House with that aspect as well.

KORNACKI: On the subject too of Michael Cohen, the President`s former
lawyer, the fixer, the term we always use there, expected to testify next
week in front of three different congressional committees. One of which on
Wednesday with be in an open public hearing.

This comes as the “New York Times” reports that Cohen spoke last month with
federal prosecutors in New York quote “offering information about possible
irregularities within the President`s family business. And about a donor
to the inaugural committee.

According to the Times, that included a discussion about insurance claims
the company filed over the years, though there was no indication Cohen
implicated the President in any of those irregularities.

Tom, my question about all of this is you had the opportunity for Mueller,
the sort of the lead guy here, to talk to Cohen presumably about anything
he wanted. If Mueller didn`t take something from Cohen, is there much

WINTER: Well, I think this is the point where we need to really remember
what special counsel Robert Mueller`s mandate was, which was very specific
and we have seen from the cases that he has brought and for the cases that
he hasn`t brought that he has turn over to other districts that he kept
very much close to that mandate that we know of so far.

And what as that mandate? It was strictly to look in the Russia`s efforts
to interfere in the 2016 election and whether or not the Trump campaign
coordinated any of that or whether or not they had any sort of knowledge of
it essentially.

And so, I think if it`s this type of material that Michael Cohen is
speaking about to prosecutors here in New York, that`s outside of Mueller`s
mandate. So it makes perfect sense that this is a discussion that he would
have with prosecutors here.

Frankly, it`s the thing that he needs do if he has a shot of knocking down
three years of jail sentence. Because what he is going to serve as far as
his sentence tied to the special counsel which is specifically lying to
Congress and having to do with the Trump tower project, usually not facing
any significant time for that. The significant time is for his - for the
crimes he committed in New York that have been prosecuted by prosecutors

So from that standpoint, he really needs to try to help them out more
because they said he wasn`t very cooperative with them, leading up to his
sentencing back in December. So I think for him, it is really important
that his priority, if I was his attorney would say hey, give the southern
district everything that you can in hopes that you could get a post-
conviction some sort of cooperation or some sort of statement from the
government saying hey, you know, we would like the knock down the sentence
a little bit further because that`s really what he needs right now.

KORNACKI: And Kim, on the subject that the southern district there to that
idea that is sort of there is – it`s almost a backup venue potentially if
there`s a pardon of Paul Manafort from the President. At some point, the
prospects of a presidential pardon for Manafort. How do you read this?

WEHLE: Well, we have heard that there might be some state charges pending
that or coming down the pipe, that would be immunized from the pardon. The
President could not pardon him.

But I do think the southern district of New York is really crucial here
because if we can`t indict a sitting president, if that OLC guidance is
adhere to, if – I just should note I don`t think it is entirely clear
there will be a public report period under the regulations even it is
produced. It`s not required that it be made public. So if that`s not made
public, then the question has to be a political resolution. And that for a
political resolution, I think Mr. Cohen`s testimony is really crucial. A
crucial first step and the American public seeing the story here, hearing
the narrative from one person`s perspective of what it was like to be
involved in the Trump world and in the Trump campaign and of course we have
a five-year statute limitations under the federal law. So if Mr. Trump
gets a second term, he would escape that statute of limitation.

So to the political implication is not just for impeachment, but for also
for a second term of office are absolutely crucial. So I think all eyes
should be on the Congress going forward.

KORNACKI: Yes. I said southern district. Anyway, there`s Mueller, there
is the southern district, there`s state charges too. That`s what I was
trying to get at there in my own clumsy, stupid, way.

Noah, here is the interesting thing too, also, in terms of the political
fallout here, you have got Adam Schiff, who is sort of one of the lead
investigator in the Democratic side in the House. He is basically he is
out with an op-ed now calling on Republicans to stand up publicly against
Trump. In terms of what we can expect from a Mueller report potentially,
from these filings, whatever is going to be coming in the next couple of
weeks, what is it going to take? What would it take do you think to see a
shift in how Republicans are publicly approaching this President?

ROTHMAN: Well, it have to be something the bombshell. With respect to Mr.
Schiff, he says, that you know, you speak to me in private and say how, you
know, disturb you are but you don`t talk about that in public. And
frankly, that doesn`t correspond with my reading of events. This President
has been subject to quite a bit of criticism from the members of his party,
more so than is normal for any particular president who is the leader of
his party, which is demonstrative of how abnormal this presidency is.

Up to an including specifically things that Mr. Schiff says Republicans
don`t criticize, like how he goes after judges. The Republicans did
criticize him when he attacked chief justice - the Supreme Court. They did
criticize him when he went after his own justice department for indicting
two members of this party ahead of the election. They have them pretty
critical at this president. So it is not like there has been no president
set. If something really damaging comes out of this report, I don`t
suspect Republicans with be inclined to keep quiet about it. They do have
a conscience and they had acted on it.

WINTER: I might say, I mean, do we think there is more of a gulf now
between what Republicans say publicly about this President, where there is
a private way more and so than that gulf and other presidencies?

ROTHMAN: No. There`s certainly political imperatives on Republicans to
refrain from excessively damaging the leader of their own party because it
we would written down negatively to them and their political prospects.
And that`s essentially what happens with every party and every political
environment. But the fact that this President is such a departure has been
demonstrated in how Republicans reacted to Charlottesville and Helsinki and
half of other dozens incidents where Republicans cascaded. And the attack
that (INAUDIBLE) in Twitter, half a dozen other incidents where Republicans
were very freely critical of this President which I can`t think –.

KORNACKI: Well, we are going to talk about this a little later on. One of
the factors here in all of this interparty stuff with Republicans is
Republican voters, what do they think of Trump and then how do Republican
party respond? Because those numbers, will show of that later, have not
budged really for the last couple of years.

Noah Rothman, Kim Wehle, Tom Winter, Nicholas Kristof, thank you all for
joining us.

And coming up. House Democrats are set to vote on a resolution to block
that national emergency declaration that President Trump gave to get his
border wall built. At least one Republican is set to vote no on the
emergency. Are there going to be others?

Also –.


TRUMP: They will be doing things. And I think he want to do things. I
think he wants to - you would be very surprise, very smart, very goof


KORNACKI: President Trump`s praise for North Korea`s Kim Jong-un has been
effusive with the next summit just days away now. Some Trump aides are
reportedly worried he is about to make big concessions in exchange for
empty promises.

Much more after the break. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Two-hundred and twenty-six House Democrats and one Republican have signed
on to a resolution to block President Trump`s national emergency
declaration on the southern border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the
House will vote on Tuesday on a resolution introduced by Texas Congressman
Joaquin Castro to terminate the emergency.

The resolution already has enough support to pass the House. Then the
Senate has 18 days to take up that legislation.

Four Republicans would have to vote with Democrats for the resolution to
pass the Senate. Today, President Trump was asked what would happen, what
he would do if that happens.


QUESTION: Will you definitively veto that resolution that was introduced
today that would block your national emergency, if it passes?



TRUMP: Will I veto it? One hundred percent. One hundred percent. And I
don`t think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want
border security.


KORNACKI: That means you would end up needing a two-thirds supermajority
in both houses to get that in over Trump`s veto, if it came to that.

Visiting the border in Laredo today, Speaker Pelosi responded to that veto


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me be very clear. The
president`s attitude is not going to color whether I honor my oath of
office to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I wish he would have the same dedication to that oath of office himself.
But we will be fighting him on this usurping the power, of violating the
Constitution of the United States, in the Congress, in the courts, and with
the American people.

So this is a path I wouldn`t recommend he go down.


KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Danielle Moodie-Mills, radio host for
SiriusXM, and Nan Hayworth. She`s a former Republican member of Congress
from New York.

Danielle, let me start with you.

So there`s – there`s sort of two tracks here in terms of Democrats trying
to get this declaration revoked. We got the court filing there in the
Ninth District, a bunch of state attorneys general trying to get the
question to cut this thing off. Looks like that may end up heading to the
Supreme Court at some point.

Now you have got this resolution going through Congress. We just talked
about the hurdles it`s got there. Realistically, for Democrats who want to
stop this thing, are the courts the better bet here?

DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, SIRIUSXM: Yes, I mean, the courts are going to be
the better bet, because I think what`s important that the Democrats are
doing right now is putting this resolution out there, is forcing people to
go on the record and say that they don`t want this wall.

I know that the purpose of the entire resolution is to get the Senate to
vote on it, is to get Republicans on the record. And I think that it`s

But to end this battle, this wall, this fake emergency that Trump has
created, it`s going to have to end in the courts. And 16 states have filed
lawsuits. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit. So it`s headed there.

KORNACKI: Well, Nan, from the – the objection you hear from some
conservative voices, at least that I have heard is, the precedent.


KORNACKI: OK, if Trump gets to declare an emergency and move money around,
we Republicans may live like that now, but wait until a Democratic
president comes in and decides the Green New Deal is a national emergency,
something like that.

With that in mind, do you anticipate there actually will be some
Republicans voting with the Democrats on this?

HAYWORTH: It`s a great question, Steve.

I think very few. I think Senator Collins has expressed that she might
vote for that kind of a resolution. But, essentially, it`s Congress` job,
Steve. The National Emergencies Act can be modified. As it stands now,
the National Emergencies Act allows the president wide latitude on defining
what`s an emergency.

In fact, it`s basically the president`s call. If the president were not to
declare this an emergency – and I think there`s plenty of facts in his
favor. We had over a quarter-million incarcerations in 2017 and 2018 of
illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes, including murder.

We do have drugs pouring over the border. We do have upwards of 50,000
people attempting to cross the southern border every month. It is a very
important situation. But even if the president didn`t do this, that would
not prevent a Democratic president in the future from declaring any of the
national emergencies you just mentioned.

KORNACKI: So it sounds like you`re saying they`re going to – they will
probably stick with him. So then that creates this situation here.

Look, if this can`t – if this resolution ultimately can`t get through
Congress over Trump`s veto, if you don`t get a two-thirds supermajority –
that would require a bunch of Republicans defecting.

MOODIE-MILLS: Right. Right.

KORNACKI: And then, on the legal front, works its way through the courts,
and it gets up to that, the Supreme Court level, and you have got a
conservative majority there, if it doesn`t work on either one of those
tracks, where`s that going to leave us?

MOODIE-MILLS: I mean, it leaves it with the people, right?

The people – 60 percent of Americans have said that this is not an
emergency. People that live at the border have said this is not an
emergency. I have had people call in from El Paso, from different areas
onto my show, that are like, where`s the emergency?

We know that areas are safer that have had – that have an influx of
undocumented people. We know that, statistically, first of all, Pew
Research has shown us that in 2016 is the lowest number of immigrants that
have been in country, and it has been declining over time.

The president himself said at the press conference, I don`t need to do

So we have – there are so many areas in which, when it goes to the courts,
if you`re actually looking at the facts, the facts do not align with
Trump`s desire. And this wall is really about his ego and cashing in on a
campaign promise. It`s not about an actual emergency.

HAYWORTH: That`s not true.

MOODIE-MILLS: Because, if we were going to talk about a national
emergency, we would talk about gun violence. We would talk about the rise
in hate crimes.

KORNACKI: See, but now you`re getting – now you`re getting into – that`s
the warning you hear there from conservative voices. A Democratic
president declares one of those…


HAYWORTH: Steve, it`s up to Congress to modify the National Emergencies

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, of course, yes.

HAYWORTH: … Danielle, with all due respect, which, of course, they
should do. That is Congress` job.

But in terms of the severity of the situation, listen to the Customs and
Border Patrol, including President Obama`s former chief of CBP, who said,
yes, we definitely have a serious situation here. We have had a rise in
attempted entries in 2017 and 2018. A lot of that may relate to the
economy, in fact, because, of course, the economy is booming. People want
to come here and work.

KORNACKI: But let me ask you, from this standpoint, then.

From the standpoint of a Trump voter who feels what you`re expressing right
now, heard him in the campaign say the wall, wanted the wall, OK, for two
years, Republican president, Republican Senate, Republican House, and no


KORNACKI: Democrats get control of Congress. Then you get a government
shutdown. And he comes out.

It`s like that – what was that “Seinfeld” episode, remember, when they
held out for less? Costanza held out for less. Trump seemed to hold out
for less on this.

If you believe – if you`re a Republican voters who feels what you just –
feel, are you disappointed by what he`s done here?

HAYWORTH: Well, the disappointment lies primarily with the way in which
the Senate in particular held onto the filibuster on passing legislation.

And that meant, because they needed 60 votes to pass legislation on
immigration, and, as has been the case for decades now, Congress could not
come – even with nominal Republican majorities, we didn`t have a governing
majority in the Senate, so, no, they did not get it done. And that is to
be regretted, although that isn`t the president`s fault.

The president is now trying to act and protect the country. The situation
has become acute. They – we have a lot of drugs flowing into the country.
They do flow across the southern border. There are drugs that are getting
past ports of entry.

We know that the apprehensions occur at the ports of entry, but this is a
serious situation. A quarter-million, more than a quarter-million
incarcerations 2017, 2018 and for serious crimes.

MOODIE-MILLS: It`s – a serious, serious situation that Trump has created
is the separation of families at the border.

A serious situation that has happened…


HAYWORTH: That`s not something that the president created, Danielle.
That`s something that was going on.


MOODIE-MILLS: He did. He did create it.

HAYWORTH: That`s something that went on under the Obama administration.


MOODIE-MILLS: And he`s exacerbated the situation.

So the crisis really right now is about giving the U.S. Border Patrol,
giving more aid, so that when people are actually crossing, and they`re
going into these detention centers, these jails, that they`re actually
getting – that people are actually getting the care that they need, and
not dying in their custody.


KORNACKI: It seems to me the most likely outcome of this, of course, is,
if you, legislatively, ultimately, this is going to sort of be gridlocked.

If the courts – if it`s going to land in a conservative corporate that
upholds it, it`s going to be a political question again for the 2020

HAYWORTH: Democrats voted for $8 billion in border wall funding these ago.

KORNACKI: And these are the arguments. These are the arguments we will be
having through the 2020 campaign.

Danielle Moodie-Mills, former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, thank you both
for joining us.

Up next: For the first time in American history, a new federal election is
now going to be held because of allegations of election fraud. What is
going to happen next in the only undecided congressional race from to be
decided, I don`t know, fall of 2019?

Stay with us.



It looks like we`re getting a new election.


MCCREADY: That`s why I`m so honored that you all would come here today for
this announcement and to let me share with you that I am running in the
special election to represent the people of the Ninth District.


MCCREADY: And I want to say right now that we are in this fight, and we
are going to win this fight.


KORNACKI: Well, there you go.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s not a candidate announcing the 2020 campaign. That`s a candidate
announcing a campaign to settle the final remaining undetermined, uncalled
election of 2018.

How the heck did we ever get in this situation? Well, take a look at this.
We have been talking for months about that big number, 40, 4-0. Remember,
Democrats got a net gain, we said, of 40 seats in the midterm elections, 40
House seats, took back control of the chamber last November.

And it was a big deal for them to get 40, but now, technically, actually,
it could end up at 41. And why? It`s because of what you just saw there.
It`s this district, the Ninth District of North Carolina. We have been
talking about it all week.

Dan McCready, the gentleman you just heard from there, the Democrat, on
election night, he fell 905 votes short, appeared to fall 905 votes short,
against Mark Harris, the Republican candidate. But there were was no
certification. All sorts of reports of irregularities involving absentee
ballots emerged.

This week, they had a hearing there in front of the state election board.
It was like a scene of an old “Perry Mason” episode. Harris ended up – he
called for a surprise break after a surprise witness came in, and said, I
have reconsidered. There should be a new election.

And the board unanimously voted there will now be a new election.

And so this is – this is a Republican – going into 2018, Republican-held
seat. So if McCready, the Democrat, is able to win this new election that
is going to be held a couple months from now, maybe – maybe into October,
in fact – going to get into that in a little bit.

But, if McCready wins, it means Democrats then have posted a 41-seat net
gain for the midterm elections in 2018. Now, the question is going to be,
we know McCready is running again. Who will be the Republican candidate?
Is Harris going to run again?

At that hearing this week, when he kind of – his case kind of fell apart
there, one of the things he cited at that hearing, he was saying, geez, I`m
having some issues here, some health issues, he said.

So that what he cited at that hearing, is that now going to keep him out of
a second campaign here? Very possible.

Here`s a name to keep in mind here. How was Harris the nominee in the
first place? Last spring, he pulled off a big upset in the Republican
primary in this district. He knocked out a congressman, Bob Pittenger, an
incumbent congressman. Mark Harris beat him, you see there, by less than
1,000 votes in the Republican primary.

That`s how Harris became the nominee. If Harris doesn`t run again, guess
what? Pittenger spoke up today. He said, you know what? I might have an
interest in this race.

So, you might see former Congressman Bob Pittenger get in this race as the
Republican. See if he could get the nomination. Couldn`t get it last
year. See if he can get the nomination now and run against Dan McCready.

Again, the timing on all this, each party is going to have to get a
primary. We certainly expect McCready to be the Democratic candidate. We
will see who emerges as the Republican candidate here. It may not be,
though, until October, believe it or not, October, that you get an actual
special election here to determine who wins this seat.

And then, and only then, would we be able to say that every election from
2018, all 435 seats, have been settled. And then, and only then, will we
be able to tell you what the number for all time will be of what Democrats
actually picked up in the 2018 election.

North Carolina`s Ninth District, the gift that keeps on giving to political

Anyway, up next: Donald Trump has said he is a master dealmaker. There`s
new reporting of some of the president`s own advisers being worried they
might get outfoxed next week by North Korea`s Kim Jong-un – that straight


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Next week, President Trump is set to meet with North Korean dictator Kim
Jong-un in Hanoi. It`s been roughly nine months since they last met in
Singapore, where both leaders made a vague pledge toward complete
denuclearization, they said.

Since then, North Korea has continued to improve its nuclear and ballistic
missile programs. President Trump, who told reporters last week that he
was in no particular rush to denuclearize, has touted the evolution of his
friendship with Kim. Take a look.


TRUMP: We got along really well. We had a great chemistry.

I have a fantastic relationship with Chairman Kim, as you probably know.

Kim Jong-un said some terrific things about me. He said, I have faith in
President Trump.

We`re talking. It is very calm. He`s calm. I`m calm.

Kim Jong-un sent me a beautiful letter.

We`re going to go to war. Now he`s a friend of mine.

I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage.

We have a very good relationship. He likes me. I like him. We get along.


KORNACKI: But President Trump`s budding friendship with the dictator has
some of his own top aides worried he will get outfoxed next week.

That`s coming up. Stay with us.



MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: So, the good news is, is they
haven`t conducted missile tests or nuclear tests in now well over a year.
So, that`s better than the place that we found it when the Trump
administration came into office.

But, as the president said yesterday and as the administration has said
repeatedly, this is a long and difficult task.


KORNACKI: That was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday tamping down
expectations for next week`s summit between President Trump and North
Korea`s Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.

Despite his public assurances, a source tells Politico that Pompeo – quote
– “has expressed frustration to allies about the lack of diplomatic
progress and voiced his concerned that his boss will get outmaneuvered.”

For more, I`m joined by Sue Mi Terry, former North Korea analyst for the
CIA, and Gabby Orr, White House reporter for Politico.

Gabby, we start with that reporting. What exactly is Pompeo afraid of here
when it comes to Trump and this meeting?

GABBY ORR, POLITICO: Well, primarily, the big concern for Pompeo and other
senior administration officials as well is that President Trump is going to
go into this meeting and feel the need to make some broad concession that
he`s not prepared to make and that many people inside his administration
and U.S. allies don`t want him to make.

That could be sanctions relief. It could be a drawdown of U.S. troops in
South Korea. He told reporters earlier today at the White House that
basically everything is on the table. And Pompeo, along with John Bolton,
the national security adviser and several others, are extremely concerned
that, heading into the summit, President Trump wants more than just a
photo-op this time around, and that could lead him to essentially be
outmaneuvered by Kim Jong-un.

KORNACKI: And what is – what is driving – I assume they are trying to
deliver this message to him of, careful what you agree to here.

But what is your sense? What is your sense, through the reporting, of what
they think is driving Trump and therefore driving their concern about this?
Why does he – why does he so badly want a deal, in their view?

ORR: Well, take a look back at the coverage that has resulted since the
last time that he met with Kim Jong-un, since that first summit.

They came away with basically a verbal agreement that North Korea would
work toward denuclearization. And in the months since that summit has
happened, we have had both Pompeo and John Bolton acknowledge that
denuclearization hasn`t actually happened. They have not taken any serious
steps towards that.

And so now they`re going into this summit with far lower expectations.
Essentially, they told Politico, in our reporting today, that they want to
define what denuclearization means. That is a far lower bar than was set
the first time around.

And I think that`s why President Trump is at risk of making a concession,
is because he wants to have some type of victory that`s not just a photo-

KORNACKI: Sue, for folks watching all this play out next week,
realistically speaking, what would – what would a win for the United
States look like coming out of this a week from now?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Well, we`re not going to have a win,
because what we need is North Korea showing that they`re really interested
in denuclearization by giving us an inventory, a declaration of their
nuclear missile program, agree on a road – a road map and a timeline,
which they`re not going to do.

What they`re going to do is say, OK, we will continue halt in testing the
nuclear – nukes and missiles, and that they will maybe put a cap on their
nuclear program, and maybe they will dismantle a nuclear facility or a
missile facility they already agreed to.

So the problem is, from the Singapore summit, there was no agreement.
There was this aspirational statement that came out of the Singapore
summit. They don`t even have an agreed-upon definition of

North Korea, when they say denuclearization, they`re talking about South
Korea too. They`re talking about U.S. extend the nuclear umbrella that we
have over South Korea and our troops in South Korea.

When we are talking about nukes, obviously, we`re talking about
denuclearization of North Korea`s program.

So, this is insane. After Singapore, we don`t even have an agreed
definition of denuclearization?

KORNACKI: Gabby was raising the possibility there of, is an agreed
definition on what that means, is it possible that could come out of this?

TERRY: Well, I don`t even think that`s really possible, because North
Korea made it very explicit in their New Year`s editorial, and they made it
very explicit what they mean by denuclearization.

They mean U.S. presence in South Korea. They mean U.S. extend the nuclear
umbrella that we have over South Korea.

So are we willing to withdraw our troops? Are we willing to scrap the –
stop the alliance commitment that we have with South Korea? No, we don`t.
So I don`t even think that`s really possible.

So, some sort of a freeze deal that, still President Trump is going to come
out and say, this is a success, because we have a freeze deal, they`re not
testing. Maybe there will be a peace declaration, which is sort of a
political statement that the war is over, and that`s enough, or a joint
statement, for President Trump to say he`s been successful.

KORNACKI: Gabby, what do you hear when it comes to the relationship
between Trump and Kim Jong-un?

We show you in public all of those sort of positive, effusive things the
president has to say about him. What`s the sense from your reporting? Is
that a strategic element on Trump`s part, just in terms of, in his mind,
trying to butter up Kim Jong-un, or is there a sense in the administration,
is there a sense in the folks you talk to you that there`s a genuine
affinity there?

ORR: It`s probably a mix of both.

The president has always – always emphasized the personal aspect of his
relationships with foreign leaders. He`s gushed over Kim Jong-un. He`s
gushed over President Xi in China. There`s so many different foreign
leaders who he has said, I get along with so well, and that is going to
lead to fantastic dealmaking.

And, obviously, we haven`t seen that transpire. I do think that part of
the reason we`re even having a second summit is because President Trump is
the one who has been pushing for it. It hasn`t been the North Koreans.
It`s been President Trump, for the most part, wanting to sit down with Kim
Jong-un again, wanting to have that photo opportunity, wanting to come back
with some – some type of victory, whether it`s a peace agreement,
something that he can play up, just like he did with the return of U.S.
troop remains.

He pushed that for months after the Singapore summit, saying that this was
a huge victory for the Trump administration, when there were constant
reports indicating that North Korea wasn`t fulfilling any of the other
broader parts of that verbal agreement, or whatever you want to call it,
from the Singapore summit.

And so I do think that this is, in his mind, an opportunity for him to
reconvene with Kim Jong-un, sort of reestablish that firm relationship and,
no matter what comes out of it, whether it`s concrete or not, to at least
say that he`s improved ties with North Korea.

KORNACKI: And, of course, for the domestic audience here, all of this will
be playing out next week, Trump over there, Michael Cohen in front of that
congressional committee giving public testimony.

ORR: It`s going to be a wild week.

KORNACKI: Two things are going to be simultaneous.

Sue Mi Terry, Gabby Orr, thank you both for being with us.

And you won`t want to miss this, Joy Reid heading out to Iowa this weekend.
She`s got an interview with Kamala Harris, Democratic candidate for
president. You can catch that on “AM JOY” this Sunday 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

And up next: The governor of Maryland, Republican Larry Hogan, he`s
considering a 2020 challenge to the president in the Republican primaries.
But, before he does something, he says it has – something has to change.

We will tell you what that is next.


KORNACKI: You can add another name to the list of potential challengers to
Donald Trump from within his own party, Larry Hogan.

The governor of Maryland has been making moves for the past year that have
gotten people talking. And now he`s speaking out, making it clear that he
at least wants his name in the 2020 mix, for now.

Hogan is in his second term as the governor in Maryland, Maryland, of
course, a very blue state, but Hogan is very popular there. He was
reelected by double digits last fall. He calls himself a moderate
conservative. He doesn`t want to outlaw abortion. He refused to support
Trump in 2016.

And now he tells “The Washington Examiner” that – quote – “There are a
lot of people approaching” him to run against Trump. “I am listening to
them,” Hogan says. “There are some pretty good arguments.”

It`s not a declaration of candidacy, at least not yet. Hogan says Trump is
too strong with Republican voters to go up against now, but – quote – “I
don`t think things are going to stay the way they are.”

And when it comes to Hogan or when it comes to former Massachusetts
Governor Bill Weld, who`s exploring a primary challenge to Trump now as
well, or when it comes to anyone else thinking of taking on the president
in the Republican primaries, that is the question. Is anything really
going to change Trump`s standing with Republican voters?

His approval rating right now with Republicans in Gallup sits at 89
percent, 89 percent. Those are the voters who will decide the Republican
nomination in 2020. And when you look back at presidents who have had
serious trouble with primary challenges in the past, they were a lot lower
than 89 percent with their own parties.

Plus, Trump`s numbers are steady with Republicans. Think of all the
dramatic turns, the various crises, the blaring controversies that have
defined his presidency so far. And yet, with Republican voters, Trump`s
approval rating has barely budged. Larry Hogan says that will have to
change for him to get in the race. Bill Weld will need that to change if
he`s going to have any chance of making any noise.

And you can point to all sorts of possible reasons it might change. The
big one, obviously, what if the Mueller report reveals something new or
something shocking?

But take a step back, because we have been asking this about Republican
voters for three years now. Remember when the “Access Hollywood” tape was
going to turn off a huge chunk of Republican voters just weeks before the
election? They were going to stay home and not vote. Maybe they were
going to vote third party. It was even possible some of them were going to
hold their noses – noses and vote for Hillary Clinton.

Paul Ryan even told Republicans in Congress when that “Access Hollywood”
tape broke, he said, abandon Trump, he`s a sure loser, save yourselves.

But, on Election Day 2016, 88 percent of Republicans, after all of that,
they still sided with Trump. Nothing changed then after that tape. Not
much has changed since then.

And when it comes to the bond between Donald Trump and Republican voters,
skepticism is probably a good idea when it comes to any prediction that
that bond is about to break, something maybe for Larry Hogan, for Bill
Weld, for John Kasich, for anyone thinking of running against Trump in
those primaries is going to have to consider.

That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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