Lawmakers visit migrant detention facilities. TRANSCRIPT: 7/2/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
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CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Tanks to Trump, seriously. Let`s play
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. We`re going to have
tanks. With those words, President Trump has previewed his plans for this
year`s 4th of July. The President was inspired by what he saw in France`s
Bastille Day two years ago. But the President`s vision bears a closer
resemblance to the chest-thumping displays put on by authoritarian regimes
For his part, Vladimir Putin of Russia has kept up the Soviet tradition of
holding parades in Moscow`s Red Square to show off his country`s military.
They`re the same kind of theatrics that his Soviet predecessors used as
propaganda during the Cold War, all choreographed to project military
might, even as they fought a losing battle with the world of ideas.
And as those dictators would observe the proceedings while flanked by their
top military brass, President Trump now intends to do the same. According
to The New York Times, Mr. Trump has requested that the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, all of them, from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines stand next
to him as aircraft from each of their services fly overhead.
And, by the way, as we speak, the Pentagon is delivering on Trump`s plan to
showcase the country`s military hardware, tanks and other combat vehicles
arrived in Washington, D.C. by train last night but was unclear how they`ll
be transported to the National Mall. That`s because each of these vehicles
weighs more than 60 tons, according to Times, and Washington`s roads and
bridges may not be sturdy enough to support their weight.
Here is the President, however, described his plans yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s a salute to America, and I`m going to
be here, and I`m going to say a few words, and we`re going have planes
going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world, and other planes too.
And we`re going to have some tanks stationed outside. We`ve got to be
pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like
to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas.
And we have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display, brand
new, and we`re very proud of it. You know, we`re making a lot of new tanks
right now. We`re building a lot of new tanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, construction is already under way at the site where the
President plans to deliver his remarks in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
And while the event has been dubbed a salute to America, the festivities
appear to center around Trump himself.
The Washington Post reports that, traditionally, major gatherings on the
mall have featured a designated event producer. But in this case, the
producer is the President himself.
NBC News also reports that the Republican National Committee is giving out
VIP tickets, some of which went to top donors that included perks such as
better standing area and even seating.
I`m joined right now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent at the
PBS NewsHour. Jeremy Bash is former Chief of Staff at the Department of
Defense. And Charlie Sykes is Editor-in-Chief at The Bulwark.
Charlie, I see you grimacing appropriately, this is not what we normally
think as a democratic display of our values, but rather the values of
power, of might making right, of dictatorships in so many cases
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE BULWARK: Well, that`s true, but I`m
also struck by just the tacky narcissism of it and how thoroughly annoying
it is that the President of the United States needs to take over what was -
- it was really one of my favorite holidays where we celebrated being
American. It was not a partisan event. It was not a political event. It
with us not about one-man. And yet Donald Trump cannot resist making
everything about himself.
Yes, the symbolism is disturbing, but I think it`s just the obnoxiousness
of politicizing and militarizing this really – one of our nicer, more
unified national holidays.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they`ll play hail to the chief when he arrives?
SYKES: Probably, sure. I mean, they will stage, manage this. Sure. I
mean, look, this is like a – this is like a Trump re-election kickoff.
Here is a man who wants to make his campaign, his image all about
patriotism. He is the guy that hugs the flag. He is the guy that wants
all of the trappings of American might. Remember, make America great
But the way in which he was clearly influenced by his foreign dictator
buddies is, I think, more of a sign of his just neediness and his
insecurity. And there is a certain silliness about this as well as
MATTHEWS: Let`s try to figure that out. Yamiche, dictators, like the Head
of the Soviet Union, the Head of the Soviet Union Political Party, the
communists, would do it, I assume, to keep the republics in line, all the
parts of the Soviet Union empire in line, by showing how much power Moscow
had, any time they needed to send them to the East Bloc, to keep Hungary
under control, to keep Poland under control. They wanted to show them the
tanks they had. They had use for those tanks. Who is Trump talking to
with this display of military power? Who is he talking to?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Even though the
White House says this isn`t a political event, it sounds like that he is
talking to are his base and the people who he wants to support him again.
This is an idea that – this is, of course, inherently political. The
President constantly is making political conversations, making political
statements. He obviously kicked off his campaign during the inaugural
address. So it`s this person that I think he`s really trying to show,
look, at all the mighty things I have.
I think when you`re talking about yesterday, when he was talking about his
comments and the tanks, he said, well, remember, before I got elected,
people wanted to close down the tank factories in Ohio. I am the one who
kept them open. So those are inherently political decision, saying, if I
wasn`t President, we might not have all these tanks.
MATTHEWS: You know, the 4th of July is about – well, Gary Wills deserves
the credit for it, because he wrote the author about how Lincoln, the
Gettysburg address, brought us back through his words at Gettysburg to the
declaration and the 4th of July, not to the constitution but to the
conversation we had as a country about democracy, and all men are created
equal, and the very values of our country. That was the 4th – it`s not
about defeating the Brits. It was about declaring our values on the 4th of
July. That`s what we did in Philadelphia. What`s this got to do with it?
What would have big tanks got to do with it?
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT CIA AND DOD: Nothing. And this is
nauseating, Chris, because this is not just obnoxious tackiness, this is
actually dangerous. Because it`s fundamentally un-American, it politicizes
a non-partisan celebration of we, the people, of our declaration of
And it also misunderstands the fundamental nature of our military might.
Our military is not strong because of the weight of our armor or because of
the speed of our fighter jets. It`s because of the professionalism and
skill of our service members who sacrifice everything for our freedom.
That`s what we should be honoring on July 4th, not displace of military
MATTHEWS: Okay. Let`s talk about the message. You see all this on –
you`re in Greece. You`re in Poland. You`re in Angola. You`re in anywhere
in the world. You`re in Thailand. When you see this, because it will
probably make the rounds, this big show of force, what do they say to each
other when they watch it?
BASH: I think they say, America has never done this before. Something
must be significantly wrong. Why are they trying to overcompensate for,
what, some inherent weakness, their inability to affect world events by
showing this military might? Clearly, Donald Trump wants to transmit a
message of his strength because he perceives himself as being seen as weak
around the world, which he is.
ALCINDOR: And he also – but he did run on this idea that he didn`t want
to send working class men and women into war, this idea that he wasn`t
going to be hawkish. He painted Hillary Clinton as the person who was
going to send your children off to some country that you wouldn`t even know
So what you have, I think, is the President both wanting to show military
might while also still capturing this idea that he is not going to send
anyone to war. And that`s kind of why, I think, in some ways, it`s a
political decision, because he is saying, I`m the law and order president.
I`m the person who is going to celebrate our military. But remember,
listen carefully, I`m going to be very careful about how I use this
MATTHEWS: Well, Kim Jong-un has been doing this stuff for years. His
grandparents, his father did it too. It didn`t impress the rest of the
world. We knew it was lousy country that had done nothing right. Their
people were starving and their leaders were living well.
Anyway, the President Tweeted, the Pentagon, our great military leaders are
thrilled to be doing this and showing to the American people among other
things the strongest and most advanced military anywhere in the world.
However, The New York Times reports the top military officials have
expressed deep concern about letting the armed forces be used by the
President to advance a political agenda. They have long been reluctant to
parade tanks, missiles and other weapons through the nation`s capital like
the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China.
Charlie, let me ask about military morale in this. I don`t know what it`s
like. They must all be talking in the bunk houses and whatever in the
barracks, what is this about? And a lot of them will have to show up on
the 4th of July to be part of this exhibition.
SYKES: Yes. My understanding is that most people in the military hate
being used as props. They don`t like parades. I mean, it`s one thing to
honor the military. It`s another thing to sort of use them as – for
staging for the President. But, I mean, there is no question about it.
This is a president who has strong man envy and has this mixed feeling
about the military. And Yamiche is absolutely right. You know, he keeps
promising not to actually use them but he loves this flexing of the muscle.
And you asked how does the rest of the world look at this? Look, they
already knew that America was strong. We didn`t have to show them our
fighter planes or our tanks. They know who we are. What I think that they
want to know is America is already great, but it is good? Is it stable?
Is it reliable? And Donald Trump with his out of control me, me, me
narcissism is not reassuring in that respect.
MATTHEWS: Well, here is what Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters
when asked why the Republican National Committee is giving out tickets to a
supposedly non-partisan event that`s otherwise open to the general public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why is the Republican National Committee giving out tickets to
supporters of the President? Why aren`t those going to members of
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This is a public event.
It`s open to the public. The public is welcome to come and celebrate our
great country, the greatest democracy, the constitution, all the
amendments, not just the First Amendment that seems to interest you only,
the Second Amendment, all the others, but, really, just the birth of this
country, the greatest democracy that ever lived. I`m not going to allow
you to politicize it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she didn`t answer the question.
ALCINDOR: No, she did not.
MATTHEWS: Why are they selling VIP tickets to the donor class of the
Republican Party if this is a national celebration?
ALCINDOR: She didn`t answer the question. And we know from my reporting
and other reporting, the RNC has meshed with the Trump campaign. They are
now functioning as one big brain, trying to get President Trump re-elected.
There is really no way to say why is the RNC giving out these VIP tickets,
which are going to be donors to the party?
MATTHEWS: That`s why they`re giving them. Why are they giving them to
their fat cats?
ALCINDOR: Obviously, it`s because – in some ways, it`s because they want
people to be rewarded for supporting President Trump, which is inherently
political, which is why I think you don`t see a defense from the White
House on this.
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re fluffing their big contributors, obviously. It
will be an extra perk, give me another $100,000.
BASH: The reason is because they have no shame. They have no shame in
actually undermining something sacred in our country, which is our
celebration of our independence. But what also galls me and I think
probably galls other people in the Pentagon is that this is faux
militarism. Because, actually, when it counts, when it comes to conducting
joint exercise on the Korean Peninsula, Donald Trump unilaterally, without
consulting the Secretary of Defense or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
actually yanked away those military exercises. With respect to the
greatest military alliance we have in the world, the NATO alliance, Donald
Trump has undermined it at every turn. So this is complete false support
for the military.
MATTHEWS: Well, while it`s unclear how much the event could cost, it could
cost a hell of a lot, The Washington Post reports that the cost of a
military parade Trump had planned for last year was about $92 million.
However, that parade was scuttled after the potential costs became public.
There are going to be problems, Charlie. There is going to be problems
with the Washington infrastructure. There are tunnels all through this
city we`re on right now. There are trains running beneath us. We have a
sort of vacuum under the Lincoln Memorial of land down there. There is an
opening down there. The land can shift. There`re all kinds of questions
when they built the African-American here about the water table underneath.
You run 60-ton tanks across that, we don`t know what`s going to happen.
SYKES: And none of it matters to Donald Trump. He just wants his party.
He wants it to be focused on himself, because, what, July 4th was not good
enough before Donald Trump made it about himself. So all the questions
you`re asking, I`m sure, have been raised throughout the government, and at
some point all of the bureaucracy from the top down or to this right below
Donald Trump down, he`s like, this is not the mountain to die in (ph). He
wants his parade. We`re going have to give him his parade. Whatever the
damage is, it doesn`t matter. He doesn`t care.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just want to have everybody`s thoughts because it seems
to me that the declaration of independence is really about those amazing
words, all men are created equal, which, of course, translates today to all
people are created equal. And that was the great gold standard that set us
off in the right direction in terms of the country with our flaws. It was
at least we started off with a goal. We started off with an ideal. And
this day the declaration of independence, the 4th of July is about that
ideal and trying to live up to it.
And I – does anybody have a final thought? I just think this is – the
trouble is like saluting. Reagan started that. Civilian leaders shouldn`t
have to salute take military leaders. They take orders from the civilians.
That`s how our government works. Reagan started doing that in Hollywood-
style, saluting, a very nice salute he earned in Hollywood. And now, all
the Presidents ever since then have been saluting in the military. Why are
they saluting? They`re civilian leaders, but not in the ranks. They`re
not in the chain of command. They`re the boss because they were elected,
not because they worked their way up the military. Your thoughts. You
BASH: Actually, as I`ve seen it, senior military officials salutes the
President, salute the Commander-in-Chief.
MATTHEWS: He returns salute.
BASH: He returns the salute.
BASH: Because he`s the civilian Commander-in-Chief. I think that`s okay.
That doesn`t bother me. And the blue angels don`t bother me. What bothers
me are tanks in the streets of Washington, selling tickets to the
Republican National Committee and making the entire party about faux
militarism. That`s the Donald Trump –
MATTHEWS: Well, my point is that Donald Trump is going to start a standard
here, a precedent. Help me here, Charlie. I think it`s a precedent. The
next democratic elected president probably will be a democrat in 2020 or
2024. He`ll come in there and he or she will have to do this where
everybody will say, oh, you moved the Winston Churchill bust. What`s the
matter with you? You don`t want to be celebrating our republic`s
foundings? You don`t want to be a good patriot? You know how it`s going
to sell. This is the start of something awful. Your thoughts, Charlie.
SYKES: So I actually don`t think it`s going to be a precedent because I
think we will look back on it as one of those embarrassments of the Trump
years. But I think Jeremy put his finger on what this really shows is
that, you know, at bottom, Donald Trump does not understand the idea of
America. He does not understand the values and principles that we`re
supposed to be celebrating on July 4th. It should be about that spirit of
the declaration of independence, a document that I am absolutely certain
that Donald Trump has never read once.
MATTHEWS: And you know who knows what our values are? Putin. And he is
the one trying to kill them, because he said liberal democracy is dying.
And I think that Trump didn`t have any idea what he was talking about,
which gives you a sense of who is the intellectual leader in that duet.
Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, Jeremy Bash and Charlie Sykes.
Coming up, democratic lawmakers came over with a tour at border camps with
horror stories about the conditions down there facing the migrants. It`s a
situation the Homeland Security Inspector General is calling, listen to
this, we`re going to know this later, a ticking time bomb, he called it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We came today to say we will shut this down if we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And it`s a whole new 2020 ball game for the democrats out there.
Two major polls now show Joe Biden`s huge lead is melting like an ice cream
cone in summer. And Senator Kamala Harris is getting the biggest debate
bounce by far.
Plus, with the television ratings for last week`s television debates tell
me about republican voters. Were they window-shopping for an alternative
to Trump? A lot of them were watching. Much ahead. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There were more expressions of outrage today as a congressional delegation
toured the nation`s largest unaccompanied minor detention facility down in
Homestead, Florida. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): When you see something that is not right, not
fair, not just, you have to say something.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Taxpayers are paying $775 per day per child
for people to be held in these situations.
REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): What is it going to take to comply with the
law, have these children reunited with their sponsors, their family members
within the 20 days?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, a separate delegation toured two facilities in Texas,
and say they heard horrifying stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): When we went into the cell, it was – it was
clear that the water was not running. There was a toilet, but there was no
running water for people to drink.
In fact, one of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink water
out of the toilet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: NBC News was not present and could not verify that particular
But, today, the Homeland Security Office of the inspector general issued a
new management alert, flagging dangerous overcrowding and prolonged
detention of children and adults at Border Patrol facilities in the Rio
The inspector general`s office released these images showing the
overcrowded conditions and noted that – quote – “Senior managers at
several facilities raised security concerns about their agents and
detainees. One called the situation a ticking time bomb.”
The alert also mentioned that 31 percent of children held in custody in the
region have been held longer than the 72 hours permitted by law and had no
access to showers.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland,
has invited the acting secretaries of DHS and Customs and Border Patrol to
testify about the separation and treatment of migrant children and
allegations of overcrowding. They were first invited last week, but
neither has confirmed plans to attend the hearings.
For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey, who joined the
delegation in Texas, and Clara Long, Human Rights Watch deputy Washington
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
And, you know, what everybody watching would benefit from is just a really
good description of what you saw as an eyewitness down there.
REP. MARC VEASEY (D-TX): Well, what we saw was horrible, particularly when
we talked with some of the detainees that were in the holding cells at the
first facility that we visited, where we were told that they were – if
they asked for a drink of water, that the guards told them to drink out of
the toilet, that they had gone days without taking showers.
And, of course, when you take those tours, you have to give 48 hours`
notice, as a member of Congress, before you can take the tour. And, of
course, they try to do everything they can to clean the facility up.
So much – much of the space at the facilities that we visited were empty,
particularly like the outdoor sleeping areas and the outdoor holding areas
in the heat. They were completely empty.
But I believe everything that those – the migrants told us while we were
there, just based on the experience that we had with some of the personnel
there with Customs. We told – we told them that it was not a good idea for
us, for instance, to go out and have a press conference with all of those
And they were just like, no, it wouldn`t be fair if we – if we move them
away. And, of course, they were out there screaming and yelling and what
have you. And they did absolutely nothing to help the situation
And you would think that, after finding out that there was a Facebook page
where people were making racist, misogynistic comments, that they would do
everything possible to make it look like that they had the safety of the
American public at the – at the front.
And they absolutely, in my opinion, did not. And based on what I saw and
read on those Facebook pages I was in the ProPublica article, I 100 percent
think that those migrants were telling us the complete truth about their
treatment in these facilities, because it goes hand in hand.
MATTHEWS: Clara, let me ask you about the cases.
I think it may be one incident of this Border Patrol person saying go drink
the water from the toilet. Now, is that literal? I heard it was the same
sort of tank of water that had both a faucet at the top to drink from, a
fountain, if you will, and then the water used for the toilet.
But I don`t even understand this. Explain that – that appliance, if you
will, where people were asked to go drink from.
CLARA LONG, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, right.
I mean, I think the appliance is very much what you`re saying. It`s a pony
wall with – it doesn`t go up all the way to the ceiling, so there`s no
privacy, no real privacy, to use the toilet in these cells, where you have
dozens of people in them.
And then, based on what I have seen and heard described countless times,
it`s a toilet with a tap on top of it. So the water actually comes up to
the back of the toilet.
Now, the water doesn`t necessarily have contact, to be fair, with the
toilet water, but a lot of people find that…
MATTHEWS: See, what I`m confused about, because life is complicated…
MATTHEWS: … we heard the other day – last night on the program, we
reported that there were some Border Patrol people who are really so
concerned about the welfare of the – of the people they were detaining,
that they have spent their own money to feed them.
And now I hear these bad apples that say, go drink out of the toilet. It
just seems – what`s going on here?
LONG: Drinking out the toilet – asking people to drink out of that tap
that comes out of the toilet is common practice across the entire border.
I was part of this team of attorneys and…
MATTHEWS: But it didn`t mean go drinking out of the toilet bowl?
LONG: It`s not drinking out of the toilet bowl.
LONG: I haven`t – I haven`t heard an accountant out of the toilet bowl.
Drinking out of the back of the toilet.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I understand.
Well, Jerry Nadler, of course, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
criticized the Trump administration today for allowing migrants to be held
in these conditions.
Here he is earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): All the people who are in those detention
facilities are migrants. They all claim asylum. Some of them are entitled
under our law to asylum. Some are not. All are entitled to humanity, to
decent treatment, to decent judicial adjudication, and not to be tortured
or regarded as refuse.
All the people in the administration who have done this, who have permitted
it are guilty of child abuse, which is a crime. We ought to prosecute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the congressman on that.
That`s strong language about prosecution of public officials. What do you
make of it?
VEASEY: You know, exactly what Jerry is saying on prosecution.
I mean, I do think that, if people`s rights have been violated, and there
have been criminal acts that have been committed, of course they should be
But I think, immediately, that there should be an investigation. And I
don`t know if you heard, Chris, Elijah Cummings, who`s the chair of the
Oversight Committee. He has announced that there will be hearings to look
into these allegations on how migrants retreated on this Facebook page.
VEASEY: And, again, if people have crossed the line, then they absolutely
do need to be prosecuted. There`s no question about that.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Clara on a couple of points.
First of all, give us the – when you have gone through these camps, what
do you see? Describe it to a person who`s never been there.
LONG: All right, so there are concrete cells, benches around the sort of
outside of them, and then, as I said, these pony walls with the toilets
MATTHEWS: What is a pony wall?
LONG: A pony wall is like a short wall that doesn`t go up all the way to
the ceiling, so just, say, goes up to your waist or something.
And, in a lot of cases – and you have seen those – we have seen those
pictures that the OIG released today. You will have so many people in
there, that not everybody can sit or lie down at the same time.
MATTHEWS: Is what you see when you`re down there with these pictures?
These pictures we`re looking at right now, that`s what you see?
LONG: Mm-hmm. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about these groups of hecklers. Who`s heckling
LONG: You know, you get a lot of people who I think want to make a
political statement here.
MATTHEWS: Are they on the right?
LONG: On the right.
MATTHEWS: And they don`t like immigrants?
I mean, the congressman just mentioned this Facebook group. You have this
– you have 9,500 Border Patrol agents on a secret Facebook group. That`s
about half of the agents the U.S. has.
MATTHEWS: And what are they saying on that?
LONG: And what they`re saying on that Facebook group are anti-immigrant
statements, racist memes, joking about the deaths of children in Border
I think congressional oversight, investigations are needed and overdue. On
top of that, Congress needs to work to reinforce transparency and
accountability in the agency itself, which has too long been allowed to
MATTHEWS: Congressman Veasey, go back to something that you know about.
VEASEY: And – and…
MATTHEWS: What did it feel like when you saw people heckling? They were
heckling the migrants. They were also heckling you, who are showing an
interest in their welfare.
Well, of course, the first thing that you think of is your own safety.
We`re in Texas, and everybody has guns, particularly people like in the
crowd that were part of the hecklers that were there wearing the MAGA hats.
And you worry about your safety, particularly when the people that are
entrusted to guard you are probably members of that page. Like it was just
mentioned, about half of the members of Customs and Border Patrol are
members of this Facebook page.
And these are the same people that we were counting on to protect us from
these people that were screaming terrible things, that were distorting
people`s names, making them into slur words.
As we walked down, the local congresswoman, Veronica Escobar, they kept
distorting her first name to make it derogatory. And they were just saying
terrible things about everybody there, about migrants, screaming things
about Planned Parenthood.
And it was – it was a complete circus. And I just don`t think that the
Border Patrol people did anything. And we asked them. We said, hey, we
know that these people are going to be heckling us. We`re not going to be
able to hear. We`re not trying to do anything to stomp on their First
Amendment rights, but why don`t we just move them back just a little bit?
And they refused to do it.
One of the law enforcement officials even suggested, well, why don`t you
just cancel the press conference? Like, that was their suggestion on
dealing with this rowdy group. It was definitely the worst I have seen of
any press conference I have ever been to.
MATTHEWS: Just give me a – where exactly did all this hell break loose
today? Where was it, Texas or Florida? Where was it?
VEASEY: Yesterday in Florida on the border is the – is the heckling that
we were subject to, when we were there visiting the Clint facility there.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey of Texas and Clara Long.
Thank you so much.
Up next: Democrats in the House filed a lawsuit against the Treasury
Department today, demanding it turn over Trump`s tax returns. But the
president says he will fight this one all the way to the Supreme Court.
We have got a congressman from that committee that filed that lawsuit to
tell us more straight ahead.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight, the White House is responding to what it`s called a sham lawsuit
by House Democrats in their ongoing efforts to try to get ahold of Donald
Trump`s tax returns.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal filed a lawsuit today
accusing the IRS and the Treasury Department of mounting an extraordinary
attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct
oversight of Treasury, the IRS and the tax laws on behalf of the American
Well, this follows repeated attempts by Democrats starting back in April to
obtain six years of the president`s personal and business tax returns.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin blocked those efforts, even defying a
subpoena last month, saying that the Democrats had no legislative purpose
to request the president`s returns.
However, the purpose is irrelevant under the law. The U.S. tax code makes
clear that – quote – “Upon written request, the secretary of the treasury
shall furnish such committee with any return or return information
specified in such request.”
For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan, a
member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Congressman Kildee, why does your chairman have to give reasons for getting
these tax returns, when the law says the secretary of treasury shall
produce them for the committee? Why do you have to have a reason?
REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, he really doesn`t have to have a reason.
Congress has its authority. We can exercise that authority based on our
own discretion. In this case, we do have a legislative purpose. We have
two. One is oversight to make sure that the IRS is properly enforcing the
law, the tax code on the president of the United States.
And then we have a legislative purpose. And that is the question as to
whether or not we need to codify what has been a practice of auditing
presidents when they come into office . That`s been a practice of the IRS,
but it`s not – it`s not the law.
But the real point that you make is the most important one. It is not up
to the executive branch of the U.S. government to decide when there`s a
legitimate legislative branch initiative. The separation of powers makes
it clear. We share authority.
And that includes us having access to information to inform our decision-
making process. And for have – to have the White House call it a sham
lawsuit, I guess, if there`s one thing that the White House has some
expertise on, it`s shams.
MATTHEWS: So where`s this end up?
KILDEE: And the founder of Trump University ought to know something about
MATTHEWS: Well, where this end? Where`s this all end up? Because I have
been hearing about subpoenas and requests for documents and for testimony.
And all that seems to be going on and on.
We`re halfway through the first year of congressional control of the House,
and we`re getting towards through the summer. And I`m wondering if you`re
going to be able to get the president`s tax returns before the next
election. Do you wonder about that?
KILDEE: That`s a really good question. I am worried about it.
And it`s going to be up to the courts to determine how quickly they will
move on this. We hope they move very quickly.
But I hope that this is not missed on the American people that what we have
is a president that is refusing to adhere to the law – the law is very
clear – and is fighting Congress every step of the way to protect his
unilateral authority and to diminish ours.
If people should be concerned about this, it`s partly because we should
have access to the information. But more important than that is that this
president seems completely unwilling to accept the fact that he was not
elected emperor, he was elected chief executive in a government that has
the authority divided between three branches.
He has never accepted that. He tries to diminish the authority and the
integrity of the courts. And now he`s trying to diminish the authority of
Congress. That`s just not how our system of government works.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, in just over two weeks from now, Congressman,
former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify publicly in front of
And, today, President Trump is warning Mueller to limit that testimony to
what`s in his actual report. The president tweeted: “Robert Mueller is
being asked to testify yet again. He said he could only stick to the
report. And that is what he would and should and must do.”
The president seems to be really trying to intimidate him to stick to his
brief. Meanwhile, your Republican colleagues on the other side of the
aisle are clearly getting together a mob attack on this guy, where they`re
going to go after him for the origin of the investigation, they`re going to
go after him about Strzok, that bad apple in the FBI, and his romantic
relationship with somebody else there, Lisa Page, or whatever it was.
They`re going to go after all the misbehavior they can find. I`m more
confident the president`s going to dig up dirt on Mueller than I am on
Mueller`s ability to produce anything new. What do you think?
KILDEE: Well, he`s certainly going to do everything he can to try to ruin
Mr. Mueller`s reputation, in order to diminish the conclusions that Mr.
Mueller came up with.
But if the president wants Mr. Mueller simply to stick to the report, we
will be happy to do that, because the president says that the report
exonerates him. Mr. Mueller makes it clear that it does not exonerate him.
The president says the report says no collusion. The report does not say
that at all.
So, if he wants to stick to the facts of the report and have a full and
fair hearing on that, game on. But the truth of the matter is, as you
said, what he`s going to attempt to do, and cynically, what the Republicans
in Congress are going to do is to try to kill the messenger. They don`t
like the facts in the report, so they`re going to try to besmirch the
reputation of a good and decent public servant. And that`s just shameful.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I see coming, sir.
Thank you so much, Dan Kildee, member of Congress from Michigan.
Up next, some seismic shift coming into focus now in the post-debate
polling due to what happened last week. It looks like we weren`t the only
ones by the way that see that Kamala Harris was the breakout star of last
More HARDBALL after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The race for the Democratic nomination is now wide open after last week`s
debates caused a seismic shift leading to what is for now a statistical tie
for the lead. Brand-new polls today show that Senator Kamala Harris has
officially catapulted into a serious second, and former Vice President Joe
Biden has serious reason for concern.
A new Quinnipiac poll shows Biden clinging to a lead at 22 percent with
Senator Harris leaping up to second place with 20 percent. Look at that.
Two points apart now.
Rounding out the rest of the top tier, the other standout for the
performance, Massachusetts Senator Warren still in third at 14 percent,
with Bernie Sanders now fourth with 13 percent. He is fading.
That national poll comes alongside a new poll in Iowa about the caucuses
there that shows trouble for the former V.P. in a critical first in the
nation caucus state. The Suffolk University poll of likely Iowa
caucusgoers found Biden leading with just 24 percent with Harris in second
at 16 in Iowa, and Warren again in third with 13 percent. Bernie Sanders
in fourth place again, down to single digits, 9 percent.
The polls made something else clear, and I really like this, the reporters,
columnists and the American public all saw the same thing at last week`s
debate, and that`s coming up next. Totally consistency.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, guys, you know
what? America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know
how we`re going to put food on their table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Biden clapping for her before the onslaught, before the
food starts hitting him in his face.
Anyway, welcome back the HARDBALL. That was just one of Senator Kamala
Harris` breakout moments at last week`s Democratic debate. Harris, along
with Senator Elizabeth Warren, have seen their stocks soaring in several
major polls since then, dominating their respective nights in last week`s
debates. A new Quinnipiac poll out today made that clear.
When asked which candidate did the best job in the debate, 47 percent said
Harris, followed by Warren, a distant, well, 17 percent. Only 6 percent
said Joe Biden had the best performance. You had to wonder who they were.
For more, I`m joined by Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to Hillary
Clinton campaign of 2016, and Ginger Gibson, political correspondent for
Let me go to – Ginger first.
A couple of things, what I really liked about the results is what the main
bar reporters for the major papers like Dan Balz wrote that Kamala cleaned
his clock. What we all saw there in the booth and the spin room and
everywhere else, and what the public saw through the polling was the exact
same thing. No fake news, no disconnect from inside the Beltway, outside
the Beltway, inside the bubble, outside the bubble. Everybody saw the same
TV show. She won.
GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: That`s right. They were
on the same page. There was the same perception.
I think because it was such a clear moment. It`s harder to suss out some
of the losers. I think Bernie is a great example of a place where everyone
wasn`t sure what to make of his performance. I sort of thought he faded
into the background. He didn`t have a big standout moment.
And his polls have sort of faltered a little, but not monumentally.
MATTHEWS: Didn`t you think it was replica of Bernie being Bernie? Like if
there were a hall of the stage for losers that lose the elections. No, he
is not a loser, but he lose elections, he would be behaving like that.
That was Bernie being Bernie, the way that Larry David portrayed him.
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL: I was just going to say
Larry David, Chris. With one other candidate in the race, Bernie being
Bernie was fine in 2016. Rather it served him well. But on a stage with
nine other candidates, and now with 25 people in the race –
MATTHEWS: You`re so smart. That`s exactly. Whenever somebody says what
I`ve been thinking better than I do.
I thought it`s very hard to talk revolution when there`s nine people around
you. They`re not in a revolution. How do you claim there`s a revolution
going on when you got all these Andrew Yang and everybody else –
ELROD: Well, I also say the same thing he said in 2016 this time around.
I think that`s not working.
GIBSON: That`s the point I want to make, is that America has evolved in
the last four years. People`s perspectives have changed. Bernie Sanders
sounds like 2015 Bernie Sanders. And if you`ve expected some evolution and
you haven`t gotten it from him, people are scratching their heads.
MATTHEWS: Has he been stalling his launch on the left because you got
Kamala much younger, talking pretty hard stuff, pretty strong progressive
You have Elizabeth that`s been out there for four years selling it, and she
says it in a somewhat more subtle way. I`m not a socialist. I`m a
Democrat. I believe in markets, but I want to refine them, I want
Very carefully calibrating how far left the country is willing to go.
Still, Bernie is out there with the old left.
ELROD: Yes, I think so, Chris. And I also think that voters know that
Bernie Sanders has been talking about the same policies essentially since
he has been in public service, for the past 25, 30 years. But he actually
hasn`t done anything to pass them, right?
He has talked a lot about them. But we have not seen any of these policies
signed into law.
So, you`ve got Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, new senators on the scene
who I think voters are looking at them saying, you know what, we may –
these ladies may actually have a chance to get these policies passed.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Biden, the clear loser. Maureen Dowd with a
great column this week. She talked Sunday about how she tried to interview
him and talk to him about Anita Hill and the crime bill and everything else
he has had to deal with and get it over with before you have to go into the
debate. In other words, soften it up a bit with a soft landing with a
somewhat not predatory conversation.
Instead, he walked in, it was a predatory conversation. She went right
after him with everything she had, and he had to explain himself in the
toughest possible moment.
GIBSON: It was like a buzz saw that he should have seen coming. We`re
talking about Biden anticipating these things that had been – this wasn`t
an attack out of left field. This was things that had been talked about
the week before. I think we saw from Biden a moment of realizing that
things have changed, and really not –
MATTHEWS: He was in strange territory for him.
GIBSON: Not anticipating this. And let`s be clear. Biden has a long
stellar record on civil rights, but he`s got to remember he is talking to a
party that doesn`t remember him, that many voters didn`t see him especially
in the Democratic base didn`t see him in the United States Senate, that
don`t remember working on voting rights.
MATTHEWS: He`s got a tough one, though, and it`s busing, and he is going
to have to explain a position on that because we`re now talking about 30,
40 years ago, 40 years ago and a debate that he was on the conservative
ELROD: Yes. I also want to make this point, Chris. I mean, going back to
Biden`s record, he has been serving in either the Congress or the Senate
since he was 29 years old. So now because of his poor performance in the
first debate, other campaigns are saying we`re going to pore through his
record, and we`re going to decide which vote and which set of issues we
actually want to attack him on.
So, he is going to be playing more defense unless he figures out how to
rise above, make it about Trump as opposed to defending his record, because
I think he can do that. I think a lot of us were expecting him to do that.
MATTHEWS: Last thought.
GIBSON: One thing I say as I talk to Democratic voters even this week,
they don`t want to see a fight. They don`t want to see attacks. And there
is a real risk that any of them, if you start boring in harder and harder -
MATTHEWS: Tell them to watch “Dancing with the Stars,” because they`re
going to be at fights in every one of the debates now. You know that`s
where it`s headed. This is not going to be a fight – it`s not going to be
a food fight. It`s going to be a real fight.
Adrienne Elrod, thank you. Ginger Gibson, great to have you both on.
Up next, the most watched Democratic debate in history last week attracted
a surprising audience. I`ll talk about that audience when I come back.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Democrats should take note of something interesting for the
first Democratic presidential debate last week. Last Thursday`s encounter
was the most watched Democratic presidential debate ever.
I looked at the ratings and noticed three out of four people who came over
to MSNBC to watch the debates were viewers of a cable network most
associated with Republicans, three quarters.
Now, there are several reasons to explain why a partisan conservative would
spend two hours on a Thursday night watching Democrats duke it out. One,
they`re looking for someone they can vote for besides Donald Trump. Two,
they wanted to stoke their commitment to keep the Democrats out of the
White House. And three, they could simply be curious about what the other
side is up to.
Whatever the motive, what struck me is that these voters from Trump-land on
Thursday night were intrigued enough to stick around watching Democrats for
the whole two hours. And for that reason, I think it makes sense for those
who see themselves as Democratic leaders to think about getting those
watchers of Democratic candidates to become Democratic voters.
I`m simply noting that there are people out there searching for a political
home. It makes sense for the Democrats to put out the welcome mat.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
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