Democratic divide TRANSCRIPT: 7/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Guest: Jonathan Lemire, Mimi Rocah, Nadeam Elshami, Eugene Scott, Susan Page, Glenn Kirschner, Barbara Lee
Transcript:

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  The President caves.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

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

earliest days of his presidency, Donald Trump and his administration have

sought to put the question of citizenship on the U.S. census.  And today,

after a hard fought battle that eventually reached the Supreme Court,

President Trump announced he was standing down.

 

But as a face-saving alternative, the President rolled out a new executive

order.  He says the citizenship question will not appear on the census form

that is sent out to every American household but that he`ll still gather

the citizenship data that he wants.  Here is how he put it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I am hereby ordering every department and

agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with

all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in

our country.  They must furnish all legally accessible records in their

possession immediately.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Now, the problem is, according to experts, Trump`s executive

order mirrors what the federal government already does and is able to do

when it comes to that kind of data.  Trump also blamed those who opposed

him in his census fight launching some pointed attacks on democrats.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Are you a citizen of the United States of America?  Oh, gee, I`m

sorry, I just can`t answer that question, and that`s after spending

billions and billions of dollars.

 

There used to be a time when you could answer questions like that very

easily.  There used to be a time when you could proudly declare I am a

citizen of the United States.  Now, they`re trying to erase the very

existence of a very important word and a very important thing, citizenship.

 

Far left democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of

illegal aliens in our midst.  They probably know the number is far greater,

much higher than anyone would have ever believed before.  Maybe that`s why

they fight so hard.

 

This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the

American citizen, and it`s very unfair to our country.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Now, this comes just two weeks after the Supreme Court rebuffed

the President, rejecting the argument that a citizenship question is

necessary to protect voting rights.  In fact, the ruling stated that the

administration`s rationale seems to have been contrived, in other words,

saying they basically made it up.

 

Trump`s announcement from the Rose Garden will likely come as a relief to

those who oppose the inclusion of a citizenship question on the census. 

Trump`s concession averts some of the consequences that many had feared,

namely that undocumented immigrants would be discouraged from participating

in the count.  An inaccurate census could have a big impact on

congressional representation, on appropriations of federal funds, even on

the Electoral College itself.

 

But while the President is backing down on one front, he is also gearing up

on another.  Today, NBC News reported the President`s long anticipated

deportation raids are now set to begin this Sunday.  Those raids will

target about 2,000 families in roughly ten major cities across the United

States.

 

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California,

Susan Page is Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today and Glenn Kirschner is

a former federal prosecutor.  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

 

Susan, let me start with you.  The President and his Attorney General for

that matter at this press conference today very clearly did not want this

to look like he was backing down, but this was a president who was saying

he was going to fight through the courts to get this question on the census

next year.  He now says that`s not going to happen.

 

And what he says is going to happen instead, basically all these agencies,

all these departments coordinating is something that the Census Bureau had

already recommended as an alternative to putting this on the census next

year.

 

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY:  Yes.  So just saying it`s

not a cave does not make it not a cave, just the Attorney General saying,

congratulations, Mr. President, does not make it a congratulatory moment. 

And the executive order, it is not at all clear that it`s necessary to have

a new executive order to give publicly available data from federal agencies

to the Commerce Department.  That would seem to be something that would be

easy to do.  And, in fact, as you noted, the government already calculates

the number of illegal immigrants and the number of non-citizens who live in

this country, and they`ve done that for some time.

 

KORNACKI:  So, Glenn, on that point, so what – again, what the President

was saying today is going to happen.  And what he said, the official

purpose of this press conference and what Barr was saying congratulations

for was this plan he is saying to get all the departments, to get all the

agencies coordinating, as Susan says, and as Pete Williams has reported

here on NBC, that`s something the government is already capable of doing,

the government already does.  Is there an executive order – he was saying

something about streamlining.  Is there an executive order here with a

purpose?

 

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  It doesn`t seem so.  As Susan

said, this is not a congratulatory event.  This was Bill Barr and Donald

Trump spiking the football, even though the other team scored the

touchdown.

 

So I do think that, you know, maybe the best news of the day is we`ve

avoided a constitutional crisis.  Maybe the worst news of the day is that

we`ve avoided a constitutional crisis.

 

The reason I say that is because it does seem like President Trump, since

the day he was inaugurated, has been marching towards, perhaps goose-

stepping toward a constitutional crisis.  And because it seems like the

republicans in Congress seem unwilling to stand up to him for any other

transgression, I only wonder would they stand up to that.

 

KORNACKI:  And so where would this have gone to a constitutional crisis? 

How do you define that here and where was that point?

 

KIRSCHNER:  I think a true constitutional crisis, we use that term a lot,

is when the Supreme Court announces the law of the land, i.e.,

administration, President Trump, that is unlawful.  And president Trump

does it anyway.  That`s a constitutional crisis because there is no one

above the Supreme Court to address that lawlessness that contravenes the

Supreme Court`s ruling.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, the Attorney General, Bill Barr, we`ve been talking about

him, he actually went further than the President.  He said the Justice

Department will look into whether only citizens should be considered when

apportioning the number of representatives and electoral votes each state

should receive.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  There is a current dispute over

whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes. 

Depending on the resolution of that dispute, this data may be relevant to

those considerations.  We will be studying this issue.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  However, as NBC News noted earlier today, the constitution bases

that apportionment on the census, which counts persons, not citizens.

 

Congresswoman Lee, let me go to you on that, because I think that moment at

the event, say, in the Rose Garden caught a lot of people by surprise and

they`re trying to interpret it.  How do you interpret what the Attorney

General was saying there?  Is he teeing up broader legal fight about how to

count people who actually should be counted in the census when it comes to

apportionment?

 

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA):  You really laid out exactly what their motivation

has been all along, and that has been to make sure that the count in the

census is reduced, targeting, of course, people of color, intimidating and

trying to scare people of color from filling out the proper census forms.

 

I think they`re doing this for political reasons.  We have redistricting

coming up.  And, of course, they want fewer people who would more than

likely vote as democrats.

 

And so I think from day one, that`s been their motivation.  And I think

it`s really an attack on our democracy.  It`s an attack on our

constitution.  And this president is showing us once again who he really

is.

 

And so I`m certain that when we begin to look at the lawsuits, if, in fact,

they move ahead on that, people will really realize who they are, what they

are up to.

 

Remember now, the census determines the funding for schools, for hospitals,

for roads.  And so we have to make sure we have an accurate count so that

the most vulnerable people receive the type of services and benefits that

the constitution requires.

 

KORNACKI:  So the argument though against the citizenship question that

you`re making there and folks on your side have been making, one of the

arguments has been it will not end up leading to an accurate count for the

reasons you`re saying.  There is not going to be a citizenship question

now.  We know that.  It`s unclear if this executive order the President is

announcing today is going to change much in terms of what the government is

already doing.

 

But do you think by having such a public fight over this, and the President

and his Attorney General talking the way they did today, is that going to

have any effect, do you think, on who does and doesn`t ultimately answer

the census next year?

 

LEE:  Well, I think the public fight, he is really – but if he throws down

like he`s trying to do, then we have to have that public fight, because

this president cannot violate the constitution.  And when you look at what

he`s trying to do and when you look at how he is trying to – now that he

lost in the courts because this is – he is a lawless president, quite

frankly, and their administration is acting in a lawless way, this public

fight will put the debate out front so that everyone will know what they`re

up to.

 

And, in fact, it really is an attack on our democracy and the census is

extremely important for many, many reasons, including what I just said, in

terms of building hospitals, for schools, for roads and for every other

public service that the most vulnerable communities need.  And so if he

wants to fight, our lawyers are ready for the fight.

 

PAGE:  So, you know, this public fight may have this unintended – or maybe

it`s an unintended consequence which is to make illegal immigrants and also

even immigrants who are here legally skittish about participating in the

census.  I think if you`re nervous about your status or if there is

somebody in your household who is here in an undocumented way, even if

you`re here legally, it could make you suspicious about doing anything with

the government that you don`t trust.  And so it could contribute to an

undercount even without having the census question on the document.

 

LEE:  Sure.  Even people now are already skittish.  I know for a fact in my

district, people are worried, quite frankly.  Once this proposal to put

this question on the census forms came forward, people got worried. 

They`re afraid right now.  And so, yes, the chilling effect is happening as

we speak.

 

And so it`s going to be up to us to try to make sure we communicate the

realities of what the protections are of the constitution and why members

of Congress, quite frankly, especially democrats, are going to fight to

make sure that they have the opportunity to fill out these forms without

the intimidation and without the bullying of this White House.

 

PAGE:  Susan, just one other thing quickly on this that caught me, and I

want to run by you.  We did not hear from Wilbur Ross, the Commerce

Secretary.  He was there.  He didn`t speak.  Both the President and the

Attorney General went out of their way to say, hey, the Supreme Court told

us we could do this.  We could ask the citizenship question.  They just

didn`t like the argument from the Commerce Department.  It sounded like

they were serving up Wilbur Ross.  He didn`t speak.  Is his standing in the

administration – we talked so much about Acosta this week.  Is there any

question about Ross just after this whole –

 

PAGE:  I think so.  I mean, there have been various problems with various

questions about Ross in the past.  But you heard both the President and the

Attorney General basically blame the Commerce Department for making the

wrong argument, for not laying the groundwork so that you could have

resolved this in a legal way because of the argument that they made that

they then had to back off.  That was what Attorney General Barr said was

the reason the question didn`t make it on the census.

 

Now, we don`t know that for a fact.  We don`t know that a different

argument would have prevailed, but we know that the argument that they made

didn`t.

 

KORNACKI:  Didn`t, right.  And meanwhile, The New York Times reporting that

those deportation raids that will take place this weekend will include

collateral deportations where, quote, the authorities might detain

immigrants who happen to be on the scene even though they were not targets

of the raids.

 

Today, democrats on the Hill blasted this plan.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA):  Well, lateral means kids being left.  It

means moms, dads, families being torn apart.  It is absolutely disgusting.

 

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI):  The President is proceeding with what I would

call his terrorizing of the immigrant communities.

 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):  This is fundamentally unfair.  It has nothing to

do with the security and safety of the United States.

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I`m going to appeal to the people of faith, the

faith-based organizations, to appeal to the President.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Glenn, the President walked up to the line with this before a

couple of weeks before then backed off.  And they said they were talking

about apparently 2,000 families, ten cities, something along those lines. 

What is the purpose of telegraphing it this way in public days ahead of

time?  Is there a purpose to that?

 

KIRSCHNER:  The purpose has got to be to whip up his base.  You know, hate

is a powerful motivator and unifier, and it`s red meat for some people.  So

you wonder what is really being accomplished beyond what I would say is a

misguided sort of P.R. benefit.

 

KORNACKI:  So does it serve in terms of executing these raids?  Does it

serve a legal purpose?  Does it serve an administrative, a procedural

purpose putting it out there ahead of time that this is going to happen?

 

KIRSCHNER:  Zero.  In fact, it can have the effect of endangering the

public servants who are apparently going to be mobilized, the law

enforcement officials to go out and carry out this nonsensical plan.  I

mean, that`s one reason before we, at law enforcement, execute search

warrants.  We don`t announce it.  You want to minimize the risk to people. 

I`m not saying this is a good idea, but what I am saying is it`s a bad idea

for all reasons.

 

KORNACKI:  All right.  Congresswoman, you mentioned again, we saw the

President kind of walk up to the line with this a few weeks ago, then call

it off.  I think it was on Twitter on a Saturday night.  What are your

expectations?  Do you think he is actually going forward with it this time

or do you think he`ll be talked down from it?

 

LEE:  You never know what this President will do from hour to hour.  But I

have to tell you one thing.  Using law enforcement, using ICE agents to

round up children and babies and mothers and fathers is un-American.  And

so in my community, like in many communities around the country, we`re

making sure that we protect our immigrant community and we`re going to push

back on any of these raids to take place.  It`s outrageous.

 

And this president, from moment to moment, you know, shows that he is

totally – this effort to demonize immigrants is awful.  It`s un-American.  

And I hope the public understands that this is catering to his base.  This

is trying to get more votes for his re-election.  But I think what`s going

to happen is he`s going to lose more votes because people are seeing how he

has come after and allowed family separation at the borders, has allowed

the abuse of children and women.  I mean, this policy of this Trump

administration on immigration is downright inhumane and un-American.

 

KORNACKI:  Susan, quickly, is there a – politically, a relationship here

that today Trump backs down on a citizenship question on the census and

then sort of tees this up in a way?

 

PAGE:  Well, it is his fundamental issue, right?  It`s the issue that has

animated him since he announced he was going to run for president.

 

It did have one extraordinary effect today which was the Speaker of the

house, second in line of succession to the Presidency, reading to America

the rules that ICE agents have to follow, telling immigrants that if they

don`t have a judicial warrant signed by a judge, you don`t have to let them

into your house.  Basically trying to urge immigrants who may be part of

this roundup what legal tools they can use to avoid being taken, which I

thought was pretty remarkable.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, we had not seen that certainly in a while.  Susan Page,

Glennn Kirschner, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California, thank you all

for joining us.

 

And coming up, lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein say the accused sex trafficker

is entitled to bail.  Meanwhile, Trump`s Labor Secretary is getting slammed

by legal experts for his explanation of the sweetheart deal he approved for

Epstein.  How long will Trump continue to back Alex Acosta?

 

Plus, breaking news, brand new NBC News polling numbers just released.  The

state of the 2020 democratic race, somebody is down, somebody is up, a lot

to talk about.

 

And the gloves are off.  There`s more.  Look at this, what a show.  And the

House Democratic caucus, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling

Speaker Nancy Pelosi outright disrespectful, while Pelosi tells democrats

to stop Tweeting their complaints.  How big of a problem is this divide for

democrats?

 

There is, as I said, much more ahead, so please stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

It`s now been more than 24 hours since President Trump`s labor secretary,

Alex Acosta, made a public appeal to save his job.  His comments did little

to quiet the chorus of voices, though, calling for his resignation for his

role in cutting a lenient deal for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a

decade ago. 

 

A Trump insider tells Axios – quote – that “Acosta did little to help

himself” and remains in a tough and shaky position.

 

Acosta, who was pushed by the president to hold the news conference, blamed

a state attorney for the circumstances and told reporters it was the best

deal he could get. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR:  The grand jury convened by the

state attorney, the district attorney of Palm Beach County, reviewed the

evidence and recommended a single charge, and that charge would have

resulted in no jail time at all, no registration as a sexual offender, and

no restitution to the victim. 

 

Without the work of our prosecutors, Epstein would have gotten away with

just that state charge. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Yesterday, the former Palm Beach County state attorney called

Acosta`s account completely wrong. 

 

A number of former federal prosecutors didn`t agree with Acosta`s arguments

either.  Let`s watch. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  If he had really wanted to swoop

in and save the day, it sounds like there was a 53-page indictment that his

office had drafted.  Why not go forward with those charges? 

 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  If they didn`t feel they had the

quantum of proof they needed, they simply could have continued the

investigation until they did.  There was no sort of time stamp on this. 

There was no urgency to negotiate a non-pros agreement. 

 

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  You`re part of the Department of

Justice.  If you really feel like you`re being overcome, overpowered, then

you have the resources of the government, and your point, your role is to

stand up for the victims and resist that. 

 

And everything here about this just is what people are disgusted with about

the justice system. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And a lawyer for a 14-year-old girl who was the first to come

forward to Florida police about allegations involving Epstein told “The

Washington Post” – quote – “Mr. Acosta`s office did not take this matter

seriously back in 2008, and still refuses to accept responsibility for his

failed leadership, which led to a sweetheart deal for a pedophile.”

 

“The New York Times” is reporting that Acosta has – quote – “privately

reached out the political allies for help handling the public relations

debacle, and inquired about potential post-government work should he be

forced out.”

 

For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press White House

reporter, and Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern

District of New York.

 

Jon Lemire at the White House, let me start with you, because that`s where

all the questions are right now when it comes to the future of Alex Acosta. 

 

Does he have a future in this administration?  We show that reporting from

Axios.  Apparently, the president not yet convinced.  What will it take one

way or the other for the president to come to a collusion on this?  And

when do you expect to know? 

 

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Right. 

 

The secretary`s future is still very much in doubt at this moment.  He was

urged by the president to hold that news conference yesterday.  It has done

little to quiet his critics, certainly by Democrats, but also those in the

law enforcement community. 

 

It remains to be seen what the president himself thinks.  White House aides

conveyed to Secretary Acosta that he did well.  White House aides told

President Trump that the secretary did well.  The president himself has yet

to weigh in. 

 

Our reporting suggests that he wasn`t particularly impressed yesterday, but

also not – did not necessarily think that it was the end of the secretary

necessarily either. 

 

We did see that he took his cues from the president there, no apology. 

That`s a hallmark of the Trump administration.  Acosta did not say he was

sorry at all or to – including to the victims. 

 

But he also lacked the fire that now Justice Kavanaugh did when he was

faced with a similar round of questioning during his confirmation hearings. 

 

What will happen next remains to be seen.  In part, it`s going to depend on

how it plays out in the media.  As you know, this president is more attuned

to the media coverage than probably any of his predecessors.  He is going

to watch this play out on cable, in the newspapers the next couple of days. 

 

That may lead him to a decision one way or the other.  As much as he is

reluctant to seem that he is bowing to pressure, whether it`s from the

press or from Democrats, if this becomes untenable, if it becomes too much

of a distraction, and there is no sign the story is going away, you may see

the president move to oust him or ask for his resignation, particularly

because so much of his reelection pitch is about the economy. 

 

And if the secretary of labor, with jobs, of course, being a big part of

the economy, if he can`t be a part of this, that`s going to be a problem

for the president, who does not like persistent negative headlines. 

 

KORNACKI:  Mimi Rocah, we showed some reactions yesterday from former

prosecutors.  You`re one of them.  You were not impressed by his

performance yesterday. 

 

Let me ask you about one – one argument he seemed to be making, or at

least seemed to be suggesting at, was that the cultural shift we have seen

when it comes to allegations of this nature over the last few years, he

seemed to be suggesting, maybe, if I understood him, that the case would be

handled differently now than he handled it because of that.

 

What did you make of that – that line of argument he seemed to be

venturing down at some points there? 

 

ROCAH:  That was the most offensive of all of his arguments, I mean,

really, truly made me physically ill to hear him saying that.

 

As someone who was a prosecutor back at the time that he was negotiating

this plea, I can tell you that no prosecutors, no FBI agents, no one that I

worked with or knew of would ever have turned away a case regarding child

sex exploitation because of – quote – “cultural norms.”

 

Yes, our society has evolved on its view of rape and adult victims, but not

when it comes to minors.  No one ever thought it was OK to victim-shame a

minor in a sex trafficking case, first of all. 

 

And, lastly, you know, that isn`t a reason for a prosecutor not to do a

case anyway.  You base your case on the strength of your evidence, on all

sorts of factors, but not whether or not you think people are going to look

down upon your victim. 

 

So, I thought every one of his excuses – and that`s what they sounded like

– fell flat.  I thought that one was also offensive. 

 

KORNACKI:  Jon, we`re also wondering if we`re going to hear from some

Republicans here, some Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

 

A lot of eyes on Republicans in particular who are up for reelection next

year in difficult races on the Senate side, folks like Cory Gardner in

Colorado. 

 

Are they waiting just for a clear signal from Trump, or is there a

possibility we`d hear from them before them? 

 

LEMIRE:  It`s certainly rare that Senate Republicans speak out in contrary

to the White House.  Most of them still seem very intimidated by this

president and his Twitter account. 

 

I mean, Senate Majority Leader McConnell yesterday gave a pretty lukewarm

endorsement of Acosta, but didn`t outright call for him to go either. 

 

We have certainly heard a number of Senate Republicans be very critical of

Jeffrey Epstein, but they have yet to really be so about Secretary Acosta. 

 

So, it is – it does seem like they`re waiting for some sort of signal from

the building behind me as to what to do.  They seem very reluctant to defy

this president, if he indeed wants to dig in his heels and defend Acosta. 

 

And that is still a possibility here.  We know that he is prone to defend

powerful men accused of crimes – or accused of wrongdoing in this case, I

should say, or poor judgment, beyond most Republicans would be willing to

do so, beyond it would seem to be politically tenable. 

 

But at the same time, I think if this – the bottom line is how long this

story drags out.  It`s showing no signs of dissipating.  If this continues

to dominate the news in the coming days here, as the summer starts to move

forward, I think the president, people around him seem to think that he

will get tired of those headlines, he will get tired of the coverage, and

he will look for Acosta to go. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right. 

 

 Well, also today in a court filing, defense lawyers argued that Epstein is

entitled to bail.  His lawyers are asking that Epstein be released into

home detention, and that he be monitored by an electronic tracking device,

with his bail secured by a mortgage on his Manhattan home, which his

lawyers value at $77 million. 

 

In documents submitted to the court, his lawyers wrote that Epstein –

quote – “intends to fight the current charges on their merits and, more,

to contest their legality, given the inextricable intertwining of the

current investigation and his non-prosecution agreement, which promised him

immunity.”

 

Mimi Rocah, does he have any chance of getting bail here? 

 

ROCAH:  Yes, there is a chance, but I don`t think it`s a good one. 

 

Look, this is exactly what the Southern District of New York expected would

happen.  This is not going to come as a surprise to them.  First of all,

almost every defendant asks for bail.  And, certainly, ones with a lot of

resources and high-paid lawyers are going to ask to put up those assets

that they have. 

 

The key here, though, is, I think, and the reason he won`t get bail

ultimately, that he will be detained, is, first of all, you can put up your

house as collateral, but if you`re that wealthy, as he claims to be, you`re

going to be willing to let that house go if you have a chance to get out of

here, given the amount of time that he is facing. 

 

And I think, knowing the amount of resources he has, and also because he is

a threat to the witnesses, potentially – and that`s going to ring very

strongly with the judge. 

 

KORNACKI:  OK.  We will see. 

 

Mimi Rocah, Jonathan Lemire, thank you both for joining us. 

 

And up next, I`m going head over to the Big Board.  We are going to break

down some brand-new, hot-off-the-presses polling on the 2020 Democratic

presidential race. 

 

It`s our first readout not just here at NBC since that debate.  It`s our

first readout of the entire campaign, and some big surprises in there. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  All right, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

Well, here we go.  This is our first NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll of

the Democratic race since the big debate.  Also, really, it`s our first NBC

News/”Wall Street Journal” Democratic poll of the entire campaign.  We

weren`t taking them earlier in the year.  We`re starting now. 

 

The race is heating up after the debate.  So, where do things stand as we

take our first poll? 

 

Here it is.  Joe Biden is the front-runner, but, hey, 26 percent.  He is

only seven point ahead of second place, notable there, Elizabeth Warren in

second place in our poll, 19 percent, seven points behind Joe Biden. 

 

This is one of the better – this may be the best poll Elizabeth Warren has

right now, Kamala Harris, of course, 13 percent, hitting double digits.  We

have seen her in other polls rise since that debate.  She is tied here for

third place in our poll with Bernie Sanders. 

 

Bernie Sanders, remember, of course, a couple of years ago, against Hillary

Clinton, he had a one-on-one race, now more competition, falling back a bit

perhaps in this poll, compared to where he was at the outset of this

campaign.  Pete Buttigieg, 7 percent, Andrew Yang, Beto O`Rourke.  What a

fall it has been for Beto O`Rourke since those lofty expectations. 

 

Now, we can show you where the support is coming for these candidates,

because some interesting divides, some demographic divides to take you

through. 

 

Number one, we have been looking at race.  Among white voters, it`s a tie

between Biden and Warren in first place, both with 22 percent right there. 

Check it out, though.  When you look at black voters, that`s the reason

still, that`s one of the reasons, black voters one of the reasons Biden is

still in first place.  He is getting 46 percent among black voters, Kamala

Harris now second place, but a distant second place in our poll among black

voters. 

 

I would keep a close eye on those numbers as this campaign evolves, as

Harris gets her moment in the spotlight here.  Does she make it more than a

moment?  Does she close that gap? 

 

Remember, next year, about one out of every four votes cast nationally in

the Democratic primaries are going to be from black voters. 

 

Another divide we can tell you about, it`s the ideological divide.  Among

those who call themselves liberals, look at that, it`s a runaway, Warren in

first place, 29 percent, Sanders in second, more than 10 points behind her,

Biden behind him.

 

Now flip it around, go to the other end, moderates and conservatives. 

Again, there is Biden`s strength, 35 percent, Harris a distant second place

there.  You see Sanders and Warren not so well. 

 

And then there is one of the most dramatic divides in our poll.  This is

one of the most Democratic divides we have been seeing in every poll of the

Democratic race.  It is the divide when it comes to age. 

 

And let me show you what I mean.  Among voters under 50 years old, 18 to 49

years old, Bernie Sanders is in first place, 25 percent, Elizabeth Warren

right behind him.  Joe Biden is barely in double digits among Democratic

voters under 50 years old. 

 

Flip this around and go to Democratic voters over 50, and look at Biden. 

He goes from 11 percent all the way to nearly 40 percent of the vote.  And

then look at this.  Sanders goes from 25 percent in first place.  He

crashes to just 3 percent. 

 

The oldest candidate, Bernie Sanders, the oldest candidate in the

Democratic field, do you want to know why he is struggling a bit in the

polls right now?  One of the big reason?  Older voters.  Voters over 50 do

not support, have not been supporting Bernie Sanders in these polls, only 3

percent there for him. 

 

So, some of the interesting divides, again, Biden the front-runner, but

only at 26 percent, and, in our poll, Elizabeth Warren moving into second

place at 19 percent. 

 

We will see how that evolves. 

 

Anyway, up next:  A freshman Democrat ups the ante in her ongoing feud with

Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Why are newly elected progressives angry with the

leader of their caucus? 

 

Find out next on HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

The extraordinary public battle between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some

of her party`s most high profile progressive freshmen escalated again

today.  Pelosi had taken issue with the four congresswomen known

colloquially as the squad.  They are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar,

Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, criticizing their votes against a border

compromise in what she called their public whatever in their Twitter world,

in an interview with “The New York Times”.

 

Speaking to “The Washington Post” about Pelosi`s effort to isolate the

group, Ocasio-Cortez said, quote, when those comments first started, I kind

of thought she was keeping the progressive flank at arm`s distance in order

to protect more moderate members, which I understood.  But the persistent

singling out, it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful,

the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color. 

 

The public airing of grievances came on the same day that Speaker Pelosi

warned her members without naming names to not tweet complaints about other

Democrats.  But what did Speaker Pelosi have to say today about the

increasingly public war of words threatening to divide her party?  That is

coming up. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I said what I`m going to say on the subject.  We

respect the value of every member of our caucus.  The diversity of it all

is a wonderful thing.  Diversity is our strength.  Unity is our power. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning on her ongoing public

dispute with a group of outspoken progressive freshman Democrats.  Just one

day after admonishing Democrats to keep their infighting private and not to

tweet their disagreements, the speaker was responding to the very public

charge from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that Pelosi was, quote,

outright disrespectful in explicitly single out herself, and

Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley as freshman

women of color. 

 

Pelosi said her comment about tweeting in Wednesday`s private caucus

meeting was in response to a now new deleted tweet from Ocasio-Cortez`s

chief of staff last month comparing moderate Democrats to segregationists. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

PELOSI:  I`ve said what I`m going to say in the caucus.  That`s where this

is appropriate, and I said what I`m going to say in the caucus.  They took

offense because I addressed at the request of my members an offensive tweet

that came out of one of the members` offices that referenced our Blue Dogs

and our new Dems essentially as segregationists. 

 

Our members took offense at that.  I addressed that.  How they`re

interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I`m not

going to be discussing it any further. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And for more, I`m joined by Nadeam Elshami, former chief of

staff to Speaker Pelosi, and Eugene Scott, political reporter for “The

Washington Post.”

 

Nadeam, let me start with you.  There is what happened in the caucus

meeting, and there`s also what the speaker said in this “New York Times”

magazine interview.  She went public with some pretty negative comments

about this group of congresswomen as well. 

 

I covered her many years ago.  My impression of her was, oh, she is not

somebody who vents that much in public.  She is somebody who says things

with a strategic purpose. 

 

What`s the strategic purpose here? 

 

NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO NANCY PELOSI:  Yes, she knows that

would be a colossal disaster if Democrats are divided.  She knows what`s at

the end of the road here, and that is an election in 2020 against Donald

Trump.  And the more divided and the more infighting is between members of

the caucus, whether you`re a progressive or whether you`re a conservative,

it doesn`t matter.  She has lived through this. 

 

Back in 2006, against President Bush when he wanted to privatize Social

Security, she told both progressives and moderates, let`s not have a plan

on Social Security.  Let`s stick together. 

 

KORNACKI:  When she goes after them in “The New York Times Magazine”, as

opposed to making comments behind closed doors.  Does that serve the

purpose you`re talking about strategically? 

 

ELSHAMI:  Well, here is the thing.  She is hearing it from her own members. 

Her members are saying enough.  They are on Twitter, for example. 

 

Look, you know, you have to understand that when you get a pin, as a member

of Congress, that comes with responsibility – responsibility to your

district, but also responsibility to your colleagues as well.  Some of

these moderate members are feeling a lot of pressure from outside groups,

from their own colleagues for, quote/unquote, not doing the right thing. 

 

Look, purity should not be a test in the Democratic Caucus in 2019.  It

should not happen.  That`s unfortunately what some of the members are faced

with. 

 

KORNACKI:  So, Eugene, if her goal here is unity, and not having public

dissent, do you think she is going to achieve that here? 

 

EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I don`t know.  And,

I mean, one of the people who perhaps put unity at risk even more was

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with her original statement to “The Washington

Post.”  I don`t think she was trying to communicate anything about the

intentions and the heart from Nancy Pelosi, and she went on to clarify

that. 

 

But what she didn`t want to illustrate was that these lawmakers came to

Congress, these four with a mandate, to represent women, to represent

people of color, to represent the more progressive Democrats and liberals

in this country, and they want to be heard, and they want to be respected

and paid more attention to than they believe they are getting from

leadership from the Democratic Party.  And I think what they wanted to do

was make it known to their constituents that if we aren`t able to move

forward doing the things that you all sent us here to do, it`s not because

we aren`t trying.  It`s because we`re trying and we`re not being heard. 

 

KORNACKI:  Well, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan to

raise concerns with the speaker about her criticism of this freshmen

quartet.  Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal told “Politico”, quote, I don`t

think the speaker is used to having a group of members who has bigger

Twitter followings than her.  I don`t think most of us are. 

 

Asked if she agreed with comments from Ocasio-Cortez about being singled

out, she added: We women of color have faced this for such a long time. 

We`re in a body of mainly old white men.  You don`t get to be here without

having dealt with that most people. 

 

Nadeam, you mentioned this before.  Maybe you can elaborate on this. 

Pelosi seems to feel she is channeling a broader sentiment in the caucus,

within specifically the Congressional Progressive Caucus.   Does Pelosi

feel she is actually speaking for a majority of members of the

Congressional Progressive Caucus here? 

 

ELSHAMI:  Well, I think she is speaking for the majority of her members, if

not a large majority of her members.  Nobody has a more progressive record

than Nancy Pelosi when it comes to actually enacting legislation. 

 

There is a difference between being an advocate and a legislator, you know. 

What Nancy Pelosi is, she is a legislator and an advocate both. 

 

I think what she is trying to communicate to these members, these

progressive members who have been elected from great districts with a lot

of support is this: use what you have.  You have an incredible voice, an

incredible following.  Let`s work together.  Let`s be united, and let`s go

out there and get something done in 2020, and by beating Donald Trump, by

maintaining the majority. 

 

See, that`s kind of what`s forgotten here, is that if Democrats are going

to be fighting against each other because you`re not pure enough, you could

end up losing some of these districts, and you`re not going to be in the

majority.  These members have never served really in the minority. 

 

KORNACKI:  Eugene, I`m having flashbacks listening to this thinking of the

Republicans and the struggle that John Boehner had with the Freedom Caucus

– strong-willed members, highly visible publicly with a vision that

Boehner said is going to cost the party unity and ultimately cost the party

at the polls.  Is there a parallel there? 

 

SCOTT:  There certainly has been some fear that the four would split off

and form some type of Freedom Caucus version in the Democratic Party, but

that hasn`t happened yet, even though there has been some discussion at

some point about maybe primarying some of the more moderate Democrats to

get more people in Congress who see things the way the four have. 

 

But that`s not what`s happened yet.  Perhaps it won`t happen.  Obviously

that`s what Pelosi is happening will not happen, because she`s going to bat

every day against conservatives, and she wants these Democratic lawmakers

to join her, not to focus on people in their party who might not be as left

as them. 

 

Ultimately, I think everyone is looking at 2020, and everyone is trying to

make sure that Democrats keep the House, but also get the White House and

the Senate. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right.  Eugene Scott, Nadeam Elshami, thank you both for

joining us. 

 

And up next, the new dynamics that are coming to define the Democratic

presidential primary. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

We showed you our brand-new NBC News poll a few minutes ago.  That`s where

the Democratic race stands right now.  But where is it going? 

 

Well, there is Joe Biden, the front-runner still, yes, but a more wobbly

one after that first debate.  The question for him was his shaky

performance that night in Miami a one-off?  Was he a guy who hadn`t debated

or even campaigned that much in years showing some understandable rust? 

 

If that was the case, then it`s still very easy to see Biden ending up the

Democratic nominee.  Democrats think he is electable now.  And if his

performances end up reassuring them, then he could solidify his hold on

this race. 

 

The other possibility, though, that it wasn`t a one-off, that it`s the new

normal for Biden, and that we`ll keep seeing the same Biden in big moments. 

If that`s the case, then Democrats may start asking themselves just how

electable he really is. 

 

What about Kamala Harris?  Biden`s loss in that first debate was her gain. 

Her attack on Biden was very well-choreographed.  It was brilliantly

executed.  She was a well-prepared prosecutor, and the more Democrats see

that Kamala Harris, the better she`s likely to do. 

 

But we`ve also seen her struggle in the spotlight on questions where she

didn`t seem to have a rehearsed answer.  Twice, she seemed to endorse

ending private insurance, then she`s tried to walk it back.  She also

seemed open to letting violent criminals like the Boston marathon bombers

vote, only to walk that back, too. 

 

Coming off the debate, Harris has the spotlight now in a way she hasn`t

before.  Let`s see how she handles it. 

 

How about Bernie Sanders?  He has been falling back in polls, ours and

others.  He is very well-known to Democrats, but he`s got a lot more

competition this time around.  Somehow, he needs to get a fresh look from

voters who probably already know his message by heart. 

 

Here is Pete Buttigieg too.  He is doing better than anybody thought he

would when all of this started, but he also hasn`t grown his support much

in the last few months.  Look at it this way, with black voters, Buttigieg

is at 3 percent in the new poll, and that`s actually better than he has

done in just about every other poll.  He is going to need to make some

major strides to contend for the nomination. 

 

And then, there is Elizabeth Warren.  Slow and steady.  She has been

climbing for months now, and her ascent hasn`t been one that`s built on a

breakout moment or a sudden burst of attention.  She really stepped in it

when she entered the race last year, making a show of that DNA test.  She

was trying to show Democrats that she`d figured out how to take on Trump,

but of course that blew up in her face. 

 

Since then, though, since then she has made just about all the right moves

for a Democratic primary, and it`s really starting to pay off for her.  We

will see if what was true in that old fable is true in this campaign, that

slow and steady wins the race. 

 

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

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts now. 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

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