Democratic divide TRANSCRIPT: 7/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
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
(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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
There is, as I said, much more ahead, so please stay with us.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(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
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
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
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
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
KORNACKI: All right. Eugene Scott, Nadeam Elshami, thank you both for
And up next, the new dynamics that are coming to define the Democratic
You`re watching HARDBALL.
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
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.
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