Cohen says Sater had Trump Tower Office. TRANSCRIPT: 03/01/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.
Date: March 1, 2019
Guest: Julie Zebrak, Mieke Eoyang, Gerry Connolly, Natasha Bertrand,
Caroline Fredrickson, Greg Brower, Aisha Moodie-Mills, David French
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And also their rebuttal to Fox News` attacks on
their interview with Kamala Harris. You can hear all of it on our new
podcast which is going to go up this week on Apple or wherever you get your
podcast. The whole interview is also on You Tube. You can just type in
THE BEAT with Ari and the breakfast club and check out what we talked
We are out of time. HARDBALL starts right now.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Top secret clearance. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews. Chris will be
back from his vacation on Monday night.
Tonight though we continue to follow the explosive news that President
Trump reportedly lied about how Jared Kushner received his security
clearance. Four people briefed on the matter told the “New York times”
that quote “Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant security clearance
over ruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White
House`s top lawyer. The decision was so alarming to then chief of staff,
John Kelly that Kelly quote “wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about
how he had been ordered to give Kushner his clearance.”
According to the Times, White House council Don McGahn also wrote a memo
outlining concerns the CIA had about Kushner`s clearance as well as his own
recommendation that it be rejected.
In May of 2018 it as reported that Kushner was granted permanent clearance
by career officials after the completion of the FBI background check with
no involvement by the President. The decision effectively ended months of
drama over the matter.
Earlier that year John Kelly had limited Kushner`s access to the most
sensitive secrets because according to the “Washington Post” he was
uncomfortable with Kushner`s interim clearance status. President Trump
publicly backed that decision. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That will be up to General
Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that
call. I won`t make that call. I will let general, who`s right here, make
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: U.S. intelligence officials had flagged a number of concerns to
the White House like reports foreign intelligence officials from the United
Arab Emirates, from China, Israel and Mexico were privately discuss in ways
in which they could manipulate Kushner.
In our concerns related to his involvement in a Trump tower meeting and a
Russian lawyer and two unreported transition meetings with a Russian
ambassador and a head of a Russian state-owned bank. The Russian-related
contacts were of particular interest to the special counsel Robert Mueller
and his team. The disclosure of the memos contradicts previous denials of
Trump`s intervention, not just by Trump himself but by Kushner`s own lawyer
and by his wife, Ivanka Trump. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, JARED KUSHNER`S WIFE: There were anonymous leaks about there
being issues. But the President had no involvement pertaining to my
clearance or my husband`s clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Just two months ago, the House oversight committee launched an
investigation into the White House security clearance process. And today
the chairman of that committee, Elijah Cummings, threatened to subpoena the
White House for documents related to its clearance protocol.
For more, I`m joined by Gerry Connolly, Democrat from Virginia and a member
of that House committee, the House oversight committee. Julie Zebrak,
former deputy chief of staff to a deputy attorney general, Ken Dilanian,
NBC News intelligence and national security reporter and Mieke Eoyoang,
vice president of the National Security Program Third Way.
Thank you all for being with us.
Congressman, let me just start with you. First of all these memos that are
being reported from McGahn and from Kelly, have you confirmed – has your
committee been able to confirm at this moment they still exist somewhere?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: No, we have not which is
one of the reasons we`re seeking documents and cooperation from the White
House. You know, failing that, obviously we are going to have to reach out
both to McGahn and Kelly and to try to get their individual cooperation
with the committee and ask them to produce those memos.
KORNACKI: How would you? The conversations, the communication between
your committee and the White House. As said in this letter tonight that
your chairman, Elijah Cummings, is sending to the White House. He makes
reference there to making efforts to pursue this privately, to not go
public with this and so forth. Have they been cooperative at all?
KORNACKI: Has there been any explanation on their part for why they are
holding this or at least not confirming it?
CONNOLLY: No, Steve. They have completely stonewalled these requests.
And by the way our concern about security clearances predates this incident
by, you know, over a year. We have been concerned about, for example, the
issuance of the interim security clearances. And you remember the
(INAUDIBLE) incident where there was great puzzlement as to how Mr. Porter,
guilty of domestic violence get any kind of security clearance interim and
So this is not the first time or the first time we have tried to get
documentation about process and issues. We knew there were issues with
Jared Kushner, now we know just how bad they really were.
KORNACKI: How much time does the White House have here before your
committee moves on a subpoena?
CONNOLLY: I believe that Mr. Cummings, the chairman of our committee,
indicated in today`s letter this is your final warning and we will give you
until on or around March 5th as a recall the letter. After that we will
resort to other legal means.
KORNACKI: And the other question that you eluded to this a minute ago.
This involves memos from McGahn and Kelly. If there`s a subpoena issue at
the same time, would you be reaching out to them?
CONNOLLY: I think certainly with General Kelly there could be an
opportunity for voluntary compliance. Because obviously he was bothered
enough about the nature of the denial of the security clearance. And the
fact the President lied and told him to overturn that negative
recommendation and grant anyhow, that he felt the need to memorialize his
concerns in a memo.
And I would hope upon reflection, General Kelly might voluntarily cooperate
with the committee and produce that memo.
KORNACKI: All right. Congressman Gerry Connolly, again, a member of the
House oversight committee where this all may be coming to a head very soon.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
CONNOLLY: My great pleasure.
KORNACKI: Let me turn to our panel now.
And Ken Dilanian, just right now at this moment what can you tell us about
the status of Jared Kushner inside the White House? What kind of
clearance, what kind of access does he enjoy right now?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Steve,
our understanding is he hold as top secret clearance but not a top secret
clearance that gives him access to sensitive compartment and information.
That`s what some people called a high level of clearance that allows you
access to CIA source reporting and NSA intercepts.
The CIA which flags concern in his background never did grant that higher
level of clearance, we are told. But because of the President`s orders,
the White House security office did grant him a top secret clearance even
though members of the White House security staff had recommended against
doing that based on the FBI background check.
I know there seems are complicated. There`s two processes here. But the
bottom line is both FBI and CIA flagged significant concerns with Jared
Kushner`s background including issues of foreign influence.
Now, that is not unprecedented. That happens with applicants and it can be
mitigated. But there was no such mitigation in this case. And that is one
of the big issues. Does he still have these issues? Is he still subject
to foreign influence? And of course, the other issue here, Steve, is the
KORNACKI: And just when you say potential foreign influence, the things
that are flagged, we sort of go through the headlines there but take us
through specifically what are the kinds of things that are setting off
alarm bells there?
DILANIAN: Well, obviously he has got a sprawling in real estate empire
with foreign countries. Only recently his major investment on 650 Fifth
Avenue got huge infusion of cash from a company associated with Katari (ph)
wealth fund. And so, these are potential conflicts of interest. These are
potential avenues of foreign influence on him. It doesn`t mean that he is
an influence. It is just a concern that officials would have that anyone
would normally would have to mitigate.
And then, you know, look, let`s go back to the beginning. Remember, he
didn`t even fill out his initial security clearance form correctly. He
neglected to list any of his foreign contacts. For a normal applicant,
Steve, that would rule you out a clearance holder. That would essentially
– you would be done at that point. So he got lot of special treatment
And Julie Zebrak, take us through, for folks who are just hearing about the
security clearance process in the executive branch for the first time, it`s
one of these things with the Trump administration, all these different
areas of government that don`t get a lot of attention day to day. A lot of
procedural staff has gotten new attention to Trump era. This is one of
them. Take us through typically how this process would work for somebody
in Jared Kushner`s position?
JULIE ZEBRAK, FORMER JUSTICE CHIEF COUNCIL: Right. Well thanks, Steve.
Yes, suddenly clearance is hot in Washington and around the country.
One of the things that I can tell you and from have worked at DOJ for 18
years and served as an employment lawyer in terms of dealing with people
who are trying to come work that department and sometimes having hiccups in
their background is that what happens is, and this is very similar with
respect to the White House but investigators are on the ground looking into
your foreign contacts, into your neighborhood, into your former employers.
They are trying to run down any issues that could impact your ability to be
And so what happens is that the investigators sort of dig up anything there
is on you and then they present it to career officials whose job day in and
day out is to evaluate across the board the types of issues that every day
people have. And they then take those evaluations and recommend whether
they see no issue and you have a national security access and having top
secret clearance or they raise red flags. And when those red flags are
raised, it`s incumbent upon the employer, the agency to make the call.
Here we know there was some dispute. And usually when there`s dispute,
frankly, we are on the side of not granting the clearance.
KORNACKI: Now former acting general attorney Sally Yates, who Trump fired
10 days into the presidency, remember that one, he waived - excuse me, on
the “New York Times” report tweeting quote “hard to know which is more
dangerous, jeopardizing our national security information or cavalierly
lying about it. Have we lost our ability to be shocked?”
Mieke Eoyang, let me bring you in on that because we have the public
comments from Trump. And Ken mentioned this a minute ago, the public
comment to Trump and the veracity of those comments now being called into
question, obviously, by this reporting. But just in terms of the law here,
in terms of the procedure, he does have the power, the correct, if he
(INAUDIBLE), to order a security clearance to go through. Is that right?
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, THIRD WAY: That`s right. And we
have never had a president before who has been so cavalier about the
national security secrets. The President is the ultimate classification
authority. He can decide what is, isn`t classified. He can decide who
sees what information.
But the real challenge here is that presidents have always looked out for
the national interest and tried to prevent people who could be compromised
by foreign governments or others from having access to that information and
they are very concerned about leaks. They are very concern about people
who take it on to themselves to put that information out there and they are
also concerned about people whose decision making could be suede on behalf
of foreign or financial interests.
KORNACKI: Well, so Ken, I`m curious then. If Trump does have the right,
the power do this. If he turns out, that he lied about it in public but it
is not a legal thing where lee did it in a court of law or something like
that, what`s the end game?
DILANIAN: This is more of an issue of political norms, Steve. You know,
the President has the authority to shut down a justice department
investigation as well in theory. But no president since Watergate has ever
dare to that. Most Presidents don`t even comment on justice department
Similar thing here. We can find no precedent of a President ever
overruling a security establishment. In fact, our sources told us when we
reported on this that they had never seen their own work over ruled before
by supervisor in the White House office. Generally, bureaucrats, the
career specialists get to make these decisions so that the process has
And I will just add, Steve, that we have new statement tonight from Jared
Kushner`s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who said at the time that Kushner got his
clearance by the book. He is now saying that he, Mr. Lowell, was not aware
that the President had intervened. Very specifically, speaking for himself
and not his client, which I find very interesting.
KORNACKI: That is an interesting twist there.
And Julie, the possibility here - again, we just talked about this with
Gerry Connolly, the possibility with the House oversight committee will put
a subpoena in front of the White House there saying hand these documents
over, the prospects of the House committee ultimately being able to compel
the White House to do this. So what are the prospects?
ZEBRAK: Right. Well, certainly there`s always a give and take between the
White House and Congress in terms of what kinds of documents they are
willing to turn over. I would expect this to be a very hard fight because
it goes to the core of the Trump family. And I expect that the House
oversight is go having to go other routes to get what they need and that
may be very be looking at John Kelly and getting it directly from him.
KORNACKI: And Mieke, this also changes a little bit this reporting,
changes our understanding of what have been going on behind the scenes
there. Because the reporting a while (INAUDIBLE) when Kushner had been
OKed for a security clearance, in a lot of people`s minds put to rest out
of these questions about potentially being compromised and those sorts of
EOYONG: Yes. I think that was a little premature when you look at the
financial entanglements that the Kushner family had and his refusal to
divest from that. When you look at his deceptiveness about his foreign
contacts, I think that the idea be put to rest without real blind trust or
other financial mitigation I think was over stating the case. But what we
saw in the Cohen testimony earlier this week, is how exactly the President
gives these kinds of instructions to people where he repeats what he wants.
He give as meaningful look, he expects orders to be followed. So when he
says I didn`t do this, he expect everyone to fall line even though we know
now he did.
KORNACKI: All right. Mieke Eoyoang, Julie Zebrak and Ken Dilanian, thank
you all for joining us.
And coming up the growing witness list. Congress wants answers from the
man who knows the Trump organization`s finances inside and out.
Plus, President Trump said he did not hold Kim Jong-un responsible for the
dearth of Otto Warmbier. We knew a blistering statement from Warmbier`s
parents who say now we must speak out.
And after a week of setbacks from President Trump, one person does
certainly seemed to be on his mind is former fixer, Michael Cohen. Just
how damaging was that Cohen testimony this week? We will take a step back
and trace back.
We got a lot to get to. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there other people that we should be meeting
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: So Allen Weisselberg is the
true financial officer.
In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of
the Trump organization.
Allen Weisselberg made the decision.
The bottom signature I believe is Allen Weisselberg`s.
That`s signed by Weisselberg.
Mr. Weisselberg for sure.
But always Allen Weisselberg on the check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Michael Cohen repeatedly implicating Allen Weisselberg. He is the
chief financial officer of the Trump organization in the scheme to cover up
elicit hush money pay offs during the campaign among other things.
Throughout that public testimony this week, Cohen identified Weisselberg by
name more than 20 times. And as a result, he is now come under increased
scrutiny by Congress. After 45 years with the Trump family business,
Weisselberg value as potential witness can`t be understated. His former
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in his recent book quote
“Weisselberg knows of every dime that leaves the building.” In fact,
Weisselberg already received partial immunity last summer for his testimony
about hush money payments to silence two women before the election.
According to Cohen, it was Weisselberg who, on Trump`s orders, devised the
plan to disguise the payment to Stormy Daniels and then reimburse Cohen
through false invoices. Cohen said that scheme represented a criminal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the
president directed transactions, in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg and
his son, Donald Trump Jr., as part of a civil criminal – part of a
criminal conspiracy of financial fraud. Is that your testimony today?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: NBC News has learned that the House Intelligence Committee now
intends to call Weisselberg to testify.
And NBC News is also reporting tonight that Democrats on the House Ways and
Means Committee are crafting a request to the IRS for the president`s tax
I`m joined now by Greg Brower, a former senior FBI official and U.S.
attorney. Caroline Fredrickson is president of the American Constitution
Society. And Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at “The Atlantic.”
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Natasha, let me just start with you.
We mentioned it there, Allen Weisselberg, 45 years around the Trump family
business empire. The interesting thing to me about him is, when you look
at the circle of people around Trump, usually, in some way, you hear from
them in public, you see them. This is somebody who has managed to stay
close to Trump and entirely behind the scenes for more than four decades.
Talk a little bit about the role he plays in Trump`s world and what he
would potentially be in position to shine a light on.
NATASHA BERTRAND, “THE ATLANTIC”: Yes, it`s really amazing that we have
heard nothing from him, but he is apparently excessively private, and that
is how he has managed to escape all of the scrutiny that surrounds the
Trump family, right?
The Trump Organization is also a very small organization in terms of the
amount of people that work there. It`s kind of like a mom-and-pop shop in
many ways. So he was able to have this ability, as the CFO, into virtually
everything that the Trump Organization did in terms of its finances.
So, for example, when Donald Trump Jr. said that Russian assets and Russian
money makes up a disproportionate amount of their assets, of the Trump
Organization`s assets, Allen Weisselberg is in a position to tell Congress
whether or not that`s actually true.
When we talk about the sudden spending of millions and millions of dollars
in cash by the Trump Organization to buy certain properties, where did that
money come from? Allen Weisselberg is in the position to tell Congress,
again, where that money came from.
How did he insert $200 million into his Scottish golf courses that were
failing? Where did he get that money? All things that Allen Weisselberg
could potentially be able to answer. And that`s what makes him so valuable
here, is, he could say, look, this money potentially came from a foreign
entity, this money was used in an illicit manner.
Whether or not he`s actually going to testify, though, unless he gets
immunity, because, of course, as we have seen, he couldn`t be actually part
of these crimes, is another question.
KORNACKI: Well, and, Caroline, so, to that question, then, there`s all
sorts of possibilities here of things he might know, things he might be
able to connect the dots on, if there`s anything there.
But the question is, would he be willing, do you think, to answer any
questions on those fronts?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: Well, I think
Congress is certainly going to put the questions to him.
It`s hard to know how he`s going to get out of coming up before those
committees and talking about what he knows. I think the committees learned
very clearly from the Cohen hearing that it seems like the Trump
Organization is a criminal enterprise.
And to get to the bottom of it, they are going to need to follow the money.
And the one who knows where the money is, is Allen Weisselberg.
KORNACKI: But, Caroline, I guess my question is, Cohen was there
voluntarily. He`s going to prison in a few weeks. Seems like he was
thinking, yes, maybe in terms of his reputation – something was motivating
him there to voluntarily appear and say everything he said this week.
If you`re Allen Weisselberg, what would prevent him from showing up and
pleading the Fifth?
FREDRICKSON: Well, he`s already cooperating with Southern District of New
I think he knows that he`s got a lot of liability out there. And I – it`s
very, very possible that he could see that it`s in his longer-term interest
to speak with candor about what he`s been involved in and the role that he
played in these variety of fraudulent enterprises, and the inflating of
assets and the deflating of assets and tax fraud and so forth.
I mean, he`s got a lot at stake. And I think the prosecutors have a fair
amount over him. Cooperating with the committees as well may be really in
KORNACKI: Well, that`s a question, too, is sort of a division of labor
question, maybe, Greg.
If Congress is interested in these things, and Weisselberg is not
interested in talking about them, is there a concern there, if you`re
Congress, and there`s the idea of granting some kind of immunity to get him
to talk, does that potentially limit – if you give him immunity to talk to
Congress, does that limit the ability of prosecutors potentially to take
any steps, any actions?
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Potentially.
I will tell you, as a former federal prosecutor, any time you can turn the
CFO of an organization, whether it`s a small mom-and-pop, which this
organization has been described as, or a large publicly traded company, the
CFO is a gold mine of information.
If it`s a follow-the-money type of case, which most white-collar cases are,
it`s the CFO you want to get. So, here, he`s a potentially very valuable
witness for both Congress and for prosecutors. And so there has to be a
certain amount of deconfliction, coordination that takes place to – in
order to maximize his value as a witness for both investigations.
KORNACKI: Well, another witness set to testify before the House
Intelligence Committee now is Felix Sater, a Russian-born Trump business
associate who helped Cohen pursue that Trump Tower project in Moscow.
And according to multiple reports, Sater pleaded guilty in the late `90s to
stock fraud in connection with the Russian mafia. Yet Trump reportedly
worked with him on various projects since at least 2005.
In a 2013 deposition, Trump notably downplayed his association with Sater,
saying he barely knew him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he were sitting in the
room right now, I really wouldn`t know what he looked like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Despite Trump`s sworn deposition, Cohen testified that the
president did know Sater well enough to give him an office in Trump Tower.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that President Trump knew convicted
Russian mobster Felix Sater in 2013, when he made that statement?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that, because of Mr. Sater`s relationship
to the Trump Organization, that he had an office in the Trump Tower?
COHEN: And on the 26th floor. Mr. Trump…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the 26th floor is important why?
COHEN: Because it`s Mr. Trump`s floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on those facts, isn`t it true that President
Trump misled, at best, or, worst, lied under oath?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, Natasha, look, so this question of Sater and the Trump
Tower deal, Cohen, he pleaded guilty – he has pleaded guilty now to lying
to Congress over this project, this Trump-Moscow project.
What could Sater, what light could he shed on it?
BERTRAND: A lot.
I mean, where to – where to even begin with Felix Sater? It`s a
completely open secret. I mean, sources have told me that he had this
office on the 26th floor in Trump Tower, that he had a standing meeting
with Trump every week when he was an adviser to the Trump Organization.
And I think that he could probably speak to the extent that the
negotiations actually went on, right? And it`s just another corroborating
witness to what Michael Cohen has told the committee.
Michael Cohen obviously is not the most credible person in the world. But
when you haul Felix Sater before the panel, and you ask him to describe all
of the efforts he took to pursue this massive real estate deal in 2016 with
his Russian contacts, which he boasted about – I mean, he boasted about
knowing Putin. He boasted about knowing all sorts of high-level Kremlin
When you ask him to go into that in detail – and I think he would be
willing to do that, because he really is not in kind of the Trump camp at
this moment. His allegiance right now is to – with whoever can help them
avoid further trouble. Then you could potentially learn a lot.
And Cohen could then also gain some credibility by the corroboration that
Felix Sater could provide.
KORNACKI: All right.
And, meanwhile, Paul Manafort`s lawyers filed a pre-sentencing memo tonight
in the Eastern District of Virginia. It appears to be an attack on Robert
It says – quote – “The special counsel`s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort
as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale. The special
counsel`s conduct comes as no surprise and falls within the government`s
pattern of spreading misinformation about Mr. Manafort to impugn his
character in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades.”
Greg, what`s Manafort`s team up to here?
BROWER: Well, this is an unusual approach, I can tell you, having – filed
and read many such filings.
Look, the Mueller report – the Mueller filing – I shouldn`t say the
Mueller report. We haven`t seen that yet. The Mueller filing recently,
the sentencing memo, was pretty harsh. It was – it was no-holds-barred,
and I think for good reason, based upon what we know about the case, about
Manafort`s conduct, and about his lack of cooperation.
And so I guess his team thought that they had nothing to lose, and perhaps
something to gain, by taking a swing at the special counsel. But I can`t
believe it`s going to work. The judge will see through this, and I expect
a very, very tough sentencing for Mr. Manafort.
KORNACKI: All right, Greg Brower, Caroline Fredrickson, Natasha Bertrand,
thank you all for being with us.
And up next: The governor of Washington state, what can he do to stand out
in a very, very crowded presidential field? He`s running for president.
He said so today.
I`m going to go over to the Big Board. We`re going to take a look not just
at him, but we`re going to take a look at the big question, one of the big
questions for 2020. Will a dark horse candidate emerge?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Governor. What do you have to say about climate
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot.
We have got to stop global warming. Everyone in this country knows climate
I`m Jay Inslee, and I`m running for president, because I`m the only
candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation`s number one
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Another day, another new candidate for president. You heard it right
there. Jay Inslee, Democratic governor of Washington state, he said today
he is running for president.
He joins a very long, by this point, list of Democratic candidates. And
here`s the thing. Not only is he part of a long list of candidates, but
let me show you where he starts out.
Jay Inslee, if you take a look at a poll – this is Morning Consult. They
have been doing a bunch of Democratic polls. You`re used to seeing Biden
in first. You`re used to seeing Sanders in second. You`re used to seeing
all these names.
But look at this. Go through all the usual suspects, and you got – what
is this, a nine-way tie here of candidates with 1 percent, Gillibrand,
Hickenlooper, Holder, potential candidates, below them, Jay Inslee at zero
percent. I believe it puts him at 19th place in this poll.
That looks to be about where he is starting out, not well-known, ton of
competition. Now, he says climate change, he`s going to really focus on
climate change, really try to make that his calling card. We will see if
it gets traction.
But it raises a question. Whether it`s Jay Inslee, whether it`s anybody
sitting here at 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent, the folks who
start out at the back of the pack, the potential dark horses, the ones who
want to go from worst to first, what`s the track record there? How often
does that happen?
We`re used to seeing front-runners. We`re used to seeing folks who start
out with a real base of support, end up winning the nomination, like
Hillary Clinton a couple years ago. How often does it work the other way,
does somebody come from nowhere to win the nomination?
There are a couple of examples in modern times. We thought we would take
you through them.
First of all, this is a very famous one. Early on in the 1972 Democratic
race – again, not everybody ended up running. Primaries worked a little
bit differently back then. But this guy, George McGovern, from South
Dakota ended up being the Democratic nominee. That`s where he started out.
And he ended up being the Democratic nominee. Of course, didn`t do so well
in the general election. That`s another story.
Seventy-six, here`s a famous example, one of the first polls you saw from
Gallup as that race started, George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Scoop
Jackson, Washington state, like Jay Inslee. Go all the way down the list.
And, look, at the very bottom, there is, Jimmy Carter from Plains, Georgia,
the peanut farmer, the famous story.
He went from worst to first. Didn`t just win the Democratic nomination,
but won the presidency. That`s the most famous example, I think, of a dark
horse who emerged.
In `88, of course, Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee. He started
at 4 percent. What really helped Dukakis, this guy up here. Gary Hart,
the front-runner, imploded in scandal, through the race wide open. Dukakis
was able to eventually win the nomination; `92, all the big-name Democrats
stayed out of that race. They thought George Bush Sr. was invincible.
Turned out he wasn`t. But Bill Clinton started at 5 percent. But there
was not a clear front-runner.
On the Republican side, one famous example of this in modern times, the
most recent, last time around, our poll, on the eve of Donald Trump`s
campaign announcement in 2015, he was at 1 percent in our poll. And he
overcame this field, won the Republican nomination, won the presidency.
Might be one of the reasons so many Democrats like Jay Inslee are looking
at the Democratic field right now, and they`re saying, why not me? I might
start out back there, but if Trump could get to the top, maybe I could too.
Maybe that`s why there`s so many Democrats out there.
Anyway, up next: Between Michael Cohen`s public testimony, a fruitless
North Korea summit and bipartisan backlash over his remarks on Otto
Warmbier, it was a tough week for President Trump. But, when the dust
settles, can we expect anything will change politically?
That`s coming up next.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There have been many tumultuous weeks in the Trump presidency, but, by some
measures, this one has been particularly rough for the president.
That House voted to terminate his national emergency at the southern
border. That sets the stage for what could be a similar rebuke from the
Senate and maybe the first presidential veto.
Also, Michael Cohen accused Trump of multiple crimes, opening the
possibility of new congressional investigations. And Trump`s summit with
North Korea`s Kim Jong-un went nowhere. The self-described dealmaker-in-
chief conceded he had to walk away, said North Koreans asked for the
lifting of all sanctions.
But a senior State Department officials who requested not to be named says
that Trump exaggerated North Korea`s demands, noting that Kim wanted
economic sanctions removed, but did not ask for the removal of all
sanctions on armaments.
The president also drew criticism for defending the North Korean dictator
over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, telling reporters
that Kim felt badly for Warmbier`s death and takes Kim at his word that he
didn`t know about Warmbier`s treatment while in detention.
In a statement this morning, Warmbier`s parents responded in writing. They
said this – quote – “We have been respectful during the summit process.
Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the
death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for
unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can
But on his first morning back in the United States, President Trump gave a
clear indication of what part of his very bad week got under his skin the
We will tell you what that is straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as Cohen is concerned, he`s convicted. He`s a liar. He`s
defrauded at a high level. He`s got a lot of problems.
And it was very interesting, because he lied so much. I watched some of
it. I actually was able to watch some of it. He said no collusion. And I
said, it`s funny. He lied about so many things, and yet he could have said
– he might as well lie about that one too. But he said no collusion. And
everybody said no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump just before he left Vietnam reacting to Michael
Cohen`s scathing testimony to Congress. The president came back empty-
handed from that summit with Kim Jong-un, and spent much of his first
morning back in Washington raging about his former lawyer`s testimony.
He fired off a series of tweets, accusing Cohen of writing a secret
manuscript for a book Trump described as a love letter. In one tweet, he
wrote this: “Michael Cohen`s book manuscript shows that he committed
perjury on a scale not seen before.”
I`m joined now by Aisha Moodie-Mills, a Democratic strategist and a fellow
at Harvard`s Institute of Politics, and David French, a senior writer at
Thanks to both of you for joining me.
Well, look, we have reached sort of the end of the week here. We`re trying
to make sense of everything we saw. I want to just go over the politics,
with the political reality that emerges from this week, with both of you.
And, Aisha, let me start with you on the question of Democrats in Congress.
And I`m curious here this question of, politically, do they emerge from
this week with enough to go forward with impeachment, if that`s what they
were looking to do?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, yes.
I mean, the Cohen – what Cohen did, is Cohen actually showed up with
receipts. For all of the anecdotes – anecdotes that we have already
known, he showed up with evidence and a trail that kind of leads us to
being able to ask more questions, that, surely, if the Democrats wanted to
say, we`re going to formally start impeachment proceedings, then they
Now, let`s remember that the point of impeachment proceedings is ultimately
to open up a formal investigation, to be able to ask questions and to be
able to get to the heart of the heart of the things that Donald Trump is
And what this – what I believe that this hearing did with Cohen is not
only did he produce some initial evidence, but if you listened to the
Democrats line of questioning, they also were able to pull out names, like
Allen Weisselberg and others, and to also start to ask questions about
Trump`s tax returns that really, really teed up the opportunity for them to
follow up on some of the conversation that was started at this hearing.
So, whether they politically feel like they`re in a place to formally call
it impeachment proceedings and to start that process, I think what we`re
going to see is surely an investigation that mirrors the question-asking
and the interrogation that impeachment would provide.
KORNACKI: David French, I`m curious, what do you think from a Republican
standpoint? Clearly, the folks on that committee, I won`t say they were
interested in defending Trump, but they were interested in attacking the
guy who was going after Trump.
What do Republicans take away from this week in terms of how they view this
president and the sense of peril around him?
DAVID FRENCH, “NATIONAL REVIEW”: Look, I think Republicans very clearly
are more afraid of the Southern District of New York than they are of
I think that, if congressional Democrats moved on impeachment with the
current level of evidence – and, again, we have not had the Mueller report
yet, we have not had the full completion of the Southern District of New
York investigations – but if Democrats moved on impeachment right now, at
this point, it would be an overreach.
It would be a political overreach, at a time when the president is on his
heels, quite frankly. But if you talk to Republicans right now, they are
far more concerned about what`s coming out of Manhattan in that Southern
District, perhaps even than they are concerned about the Mueller report
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s an interesting question too, Aisha, just in
terms of, look, Cohen gave Democrats, you would say, plenty of ammunition
here on the question of Trump`s character, on the question of Trump`s sort
of moral fitness for the office, if you want to call it that.
I do wonder, though, in terms of fueling an impeachment drive, the fact
that he ultimately says, look, I have no evidence of collusion, he did not
order me to lie, I have no proof that he ordered me to lie, and he also
gave this answer where he said, I have never been in Prague in my life.
And the significance there is all of this talk about the – this dossier.
That`s a blow to the dossier, it seems, if that aspect of it is true.
Did that deprive Democrats of some of the fuel they would need for any
MOODIE-MILLS: So, here`s the thing, is that we have been focused on this
very singular idea that Russian collusion is the only thing that Donald
Trump is doing wrong.
And the truth is, is that what impeachment proceedings would allow to
happen – and, again, I`m saying that the Democrats could actually start to
investigate this without a formal impeachment – but we need to understand
We need to know if he`s enriching himself and using this office for the
benefit of him and his family, as opposed to the benefit of the people of
the United States. We also need to understand if he is putting us in
harm`s way, if he is even fit to do this job.
There are a lot of questions that come up that we need to understand about
this Trump administration and how it is or isn`t in the best benefit of the
United States that go beyond, for sure, just Russia.
And so I think that that`s what we`re starting to get to with this
character, this character conversation, and the financial – the financial
transactions and the shadiness. I mean, he`s literally being shown to act
like a mobster in the way that he conducts himself with the people that he
– that he works with.
And so we want to be able to get into that. And Michael Cohen brought some
receipts to start to take us there a little bit. And so now I think it`s
really important for the American people to be able to understand who this
is in the White House. Is he fit to do this job? And is he actually
working in our best interest?
And that`s not just simply that collusion, that singular collusion.
KORNACKI: Well, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry
Nadler, told “The New York Times” – quote – “Yes, we have unambiguous
evidence that the president has committed a crime at this point, I think.
Do we have unambiguous evidence he has done impeachable offenses? We have
got a ways to go yet.”
Another Judiciary Committee Democrat, Rhode Island`s David Cicilline, said
Democrats are proceeding cautiously, for good reason, but also said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: If you`re asking me today if it
seems more likely that the president could be removed from office based on
what we know, is it more likely today than it was on Tuesday, I think the
answer to that is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: David French, let me ask you about – I think what Nadler might
be alluding to there – to there is this issue of the campaign finance
KORNACKI: This idea that, hey, a felony was committed to conceal a
politically damaging extramarital affair.
Now, Nadler was there in `98 when Clinton got impeached by Republicans for
committing a felony to conceal a politically embarrassing extramarital
affair. Nadler was a no one on that. There`s a question for him, would
that be a reversal if you took a different position now?
But how about Republicans? How about Republicans 20 years ago, who said,
that is grounds for impeachment? Should they be there, will they be there
today saying the same thing?
FRENCH: You will see a complete flip-flop on both sides if there is an
impeachment proceeding that moves forward on these campaign finance
And I think that the very fact of that dramatic flip-flop, the very fact
that Republicans would say, wait a minute, wasn`t this litigated in `98,
and these kinds of sexual indiscretions, even if accompanied by federal
crimes, are not sufficient for impeachment, I mean, you`re going to see the
waters being muddied with people who were a no on Clinton being a yes on
Trump, people who were a yes on Clinton being a no on Trump.
The only thing we`d be sure of would be that hypocrisy would abound. And I
think that`s why you have seen some of the Democratic leadership exercise a
note of caution. They have put their feet on – their foot on the brakes.
And I think that`s smart, because there`s a presidential election just next
KORNACKI: All right, that`s right, a year-and-a-half away. We just talked
about the Democratic field growing even more today.
David French, Aisha Moodie-Mills, thank you both for joining us.
And up next: How much will memories of 2016 impact Bernie Sanders in 2020?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)
QUESTION: Could I just interject really quickly, though?
We`re hearing about a lot of Democratic candidates who are meeting with
Hillary Clinton for advice, though, some people like Amy Klobuchar.
Do you think you will do the same?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suspect not.
Hillary has not – you know, she has not called me.
SANDERS: Look, we have differences. She – Hillary has played a very
important role in modern American politics.
QUESTION: But you`re not interested in any advice from her?
SANDERS: I think not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, that caught some attention earlier today, Bernie Sanders
not interested in sitting down with a woman who bested him in the 2016
And, as he said there, it`s not like he`s heard from her either. So the
frostiness may be mutual.
Make no mistake, there is unresolved tension from 2016 between Sanders,
Clinton and their most loyal supporters. Sanders` comments today come in
the wake of this story a few days ago that featured some Clinton campaign
staffers claiming he had acted like a prima donna in the general election
three years ago, that he had demanded private flights to go campaign for
Clinton against Donald Trump.
Said one Clinton staffer: “I`m not shocked that, while thousands of
volunteers braved the heat and cold to knock on doors until their fingers
bled, in a desperate effort to stop Donald Trump, his royal majesty, King
Bernie Sanders, would only deign to leave his plush D.C. office or his
brand-new second home on the lake if he was flown around on a cushy private
jet, like a billionaire master of the universe.”
Sanders, who is known for flying coach frequently, disputed the claims,
said he only flew private in 2016 when there was no other option.
His former campaign spokesman accused Clinton and her loyalists of holding
a grudge – quote – “You can see why she`s one of the most disliked
politicians in America. She`s not nice. Her people are not nice.”
At the root of this, there are those from the Clinton camp who blame
Sanders, at least in part, for her defeat to Donald Trump. They say he
stayed in the Democratic race too long, that it got too nasty, that he did
too little to heal the wounds that had opened up.
Sanders and his allies, obviously, they feel differently about it. They
point to the 17 events that he did for Hillary in the final week of that
campaign, for instance.
And the question is whether this will cost Sanders in the Democratic race
this time around. How deep do the sentiments of Clinton loyalists go with
Polling now suggests it may not be that deep. Sanders` favorable rating
with Democrats, 75 percent, to 15 percent unfavorable. Those numbers
aren`t very different from Joe Biden`s.
The real question may be influence, though. The Clinton vets, the
activists, the folks who do hold a grudge from `16, will they raise their
voices loudly to try to stop him? And, if they do, will Democratic voters
listen to them?
That`s HARDBALL for now.
Chris will be back here Monday night, 7:00 Eastern.
And “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the