Prosecutors accuse Epstein TRANSCRIPT: 7/12/19, Hardball with Chris Matthews.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Witness tampering? Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews. We have breaking
news tonight in the Jeffrey Epstein case involving possible efforts of
And another major shake-up in the Trump White House, Alex Acosta is out as
Trump`s Labor Secretary amid unrelenting criticism that the former federal
prosecutor helped to cut a lenient plea deal in that sex crime case against
Tonight in a new court filing though, this is the breaking news, federal
prosecutors are now accusing Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested for
allegedly trafficking underage girls, they are accusing him now of witness
Prosecutors say that Epstein wired $350,000 to two of his possible co-
conspirators just days after the Miami Herald began publishing a series of
articles about Epstein`s conduct and the circumstances surrounding that
lenient non-prosecution agreement he cut with federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors write this, quote, Epstein`s efforts to influence witnesses
continue to this day. As in the past, within recent months, he paid
significant amounts of money to influence individuals who were close to him
during the time period charged in this case and who might be witnesses
against him at a trial.
Government lawyers obtained bank documents showing that Epstein wired one
$1,000 to one individual two days after that Miami Herald story. And three
days later, Epstein wired another $250,000 to another alleged co-
Prosecutors wrote, quote, this course of action and in particular its
timing suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-
conspirators who might provide information against him.
Revelation comes a day after Epstein`s lawyers argue that Epstein was
entitled to bail and request that he be released into home detention.
For more I am joined by NBC Correspondent Tom Winter. Tom, I know you have
been working the phones and trying to figure out exactly what`s going on
here. Take us through these two possible co-conspirators within days of
the Miami Herald writing this story that kicked all of this back into the
news in the last year or so. They`re saying prosecutors that Epstein swung
into action and cut some big checks.
TOM WINTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, what`s important about
this, how do we know that they`re possible co-conspirators. Well, they`re
identified in the filing tonight, and they`ve been identified previously as
being in the non-prosecution agreement that Jeffrey Epstein was able to get
as a result of Alex Acosta. He authorized that non-prosecution agreement.
The two possible co-conspirators were identified in there.
And then, apparently, between the two of them, within five days of that
Miami Herald – the series of Miami Herald articles coming out, they
received $350,000. One received a $100,000 payment. The other got a
And what`s interesting to me is that, within the filing tonight,
prosecutors specifically talk about how that these were kind of one-off
payments that did not occur at another time. So they say neither of these
payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five
years of bank records presently available to the government, that being the
federal prosecutors. It tells me that they likely have suspicious activity
reports from Treasury identifying these payments, or at the very least the
bank flagged these payments.
And it`s just indicative of an overall trend they say that goes back to
when this case was first prosecuted or first investigated by the Palm Beach
Police Department that noticed several attempts to perhaps intimidate or
coerce victims. They talk about payments back then. And then you have
more recent activity. And here`s why it`s most important. This is in
response to Epstein`s efforts or his attorney`s efforts to get him a bail
Now, prosecutors are saying, whoa, the bad activity that we`ve highlighted,
the things that we`ve charged, the things we are investigating back in `05,
`06, `07 and `08, that activity has not stopped. We`ve got suspicious
activity that`s occurring with his possible co-conspirators within the last
six, seven months. So this is going to be very damning when it`s presented
and was filed with the judge when it`s talked about at the bail hearing on
KORNACKI: So we`re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here coming
from Jeffrey Epstein. And we are also getting a better picture, a clearer
picture of what he has financially. What do you know now? Hundreds of
millions of dollars we`re talking about in terms of net worth, hundreds of
millions potentially at his disposal.
WINTER: Exactly right. So prosecutors tonight also say that, according to
records from an institution, a banking institution, that they`ve obtained,
he has at least $500 million of assets and cash available to him on hand.
In addition, they say that he has made $10 million just in that specific
institution on an annual basis, and that`s the money he has coming in,
that`s income that he has coming in.
So his income that`s supplanting the money that he is spending on the
private jets, on the money that he is spending to keep up his mansion here
in New York, the $77 million mansion, his property in Florida, his island
in the U.S. Virgin Islands and to fly those planes. So prosecutors are
saying, look, it`s not just that he has money, he also has money coming in.
And this is the first time we`ve seen a real detailed accounting of exactly
how much money Jeffrey Epstein might have. And it`s worth noting, it`s
only from one institution. It`s likely he has other institutions that he
has done banking with.
We don`t know about offshore accounts. Obviously, he`s got the – in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, whether or not he has other accounts. And this raises
questions about exactly how much –
KORNACKI: That money is a floor maybe, not necessarily the ceiling.
WINTER: Perfectly put.
KORNACKI: Could be more here. Okay, Tom Winter, thank you, great
reporting there. I appreciate that.
And meanwhile, the other big news in Washington today, Alex Acosta, Donald
Trump`s embattled Labor Secretary, has now resigned. Acosta joined the
President who teed up the announcement while on his way to Marine One
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I just want to let you know, this was him,
not me because I`m with him. He was a – he is a tremendous talent. He is
a Hispanic man. He went to Harvard, a great student. And in so many ways
I just hate what he`s saying now because we`re going to miss him.
ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S.SECRETARY OF LABOR: I do not think it is right and
fair for this administration`s Labor Department to have Epstein as the
focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.
And so I called the President this morning. I told him that I thought the
right thing was to step aside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And just two days ago, Acosta had tried to shore up his standing
with the President by holding an hour-long news conference, but apparently
it did little to quell the public criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why is there no need for him to resign?
TRUMP: There is no need at all, as far as I`m concerned. I would have –
I watched Alex yesterday. I thought Alex did a great job. And, you know,
you can always second guess people and you could say it should have been
tougher. They do it with me all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And NBC News is reporting that the President sought input from
friends and allies on whether or not Acosta should be fired or if he could
weather the storm.
For more, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent at PBS
NewsHour, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Sirius XM host, and John Podhoretz, Editor
at Commentary Magazine.
Yamiche, let me start with you. The President said of his soon to be
former Labor Secretary, it was him, not me. You heard him in the clip
there saying, in my mind, he did not have to resign. Of course, the
President could have refused the resignation, I suppose. Behind the
scenes, take us there behind the scenes. Was a message delivered to Acosta
from somebody close to the President, somebody inside the administration
that it was time to offer a resignation?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, this was
really an incredibly moment and an incredibly awkward moment at the end of
an incredibly awkward week for Secretary Acosta.
The President pushed Acosta, and sources tell me he encouraged him to go
before the cameras, to make a public case to try to defend himself to keep
his job. It was essentially a tryout to say, if you can go before the
cameras and I like what I`ll see, I`ll keep you, sort of like The
Instead, the President looked at that, he didn`t watch it live. But then
after a few days, he was watching it, talking to people and decided,
essentially, Acosta didn`t do a great job. As a result, the President
essentially walked him out there and really was this was in some ways a
walk of shame for the Secretary of Labor.
And what we saw was the President, while he was praising him, essentially
saying, this guy is going to be leaving. He has to go. And they`re trying
to say, and White House sources have been telling me, this was all about
Acosta. It was completely his idea. But, essentially, the President said,
yes, I agree with you, you should resign.
And this is really the President trying to put space between him and
Jeffrey Epstein. But, of course, as Tom said, there are these new charges
about Epstein witness tampering. There are probably going to be more
charges coming. And President Trump was a very close friend of Epstein.
So even with Acosta out, this is going to be something that President Trump
is going to continue to be asked about.
KORNACKI: John, that seems to be the key here. The President, if you
accept their version of events here, and Acosta got the idea himself,
called up the President and said, I want to resign, the President could
have said, no, you don`t need to, I refuse the resignation. I want you to
stay on. So at the very least, he didn`t put up much of a fight here,
apparently. Is that an indication that from Trump`s standpoint,
politically, there was no tenable way to go forward with Acosta in that
JOHN PODHORETZ, EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: I mean, it would have been
stupid for him to argue that Acosta should stay, like the obviously clean
break is a way to distance himself from the story and to make sure the
administration isn`t asked daily about why isn`t Acosta resigning yet.
KORNACKI: But is there anything Acosta realistically could have said or
done in that press conference just given the realities of this situation
that might have changed what you`re describing?
PODHORETZ: Once the Miami Herald published the story about the deal that
Acosta struck with Epstein in 2008, any resurfacing of the story in which
the story became active, which is what happened this week when the Southern
District of New York indicted him, was going to mean that Acosta had to go.
I mean, there is no – he gave a credible summary of his case the other day
at his press conference that, you know, he was trying to make sure that
Epstein didn`t get off scot-free. It didn`t strike a lot of people as all
that credible, but it was the best possible argument he could make, and I
didn`t resolve anything.
KORNACKI: So, Danielle, just in terms of the politics of this, if the
move, politically, from the President`s vantage point was to try to create
some distance here as this Acosta – excuse me, as this Epstein story plays
out, did he achieve that? Does getting rid of – does having Acosta exit
the administration create any new space?
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, SIRIUS XM HOST: No, there is no space to be
created. And then the President tried to do that when he said, I haven`t
spoken to Jeffrey Epstein in 15 years. We had a falling out.
But the reality is that, look, Epstein is doing exactly what the President
did before he became President of the United States, tampering with
witness, paying them off. Does that sound familiar? It`s out of the Trump
playbook. And so the more that we dig into this sex trafficking, this
child abuse scandal, the more that we`re going to recognize how many more
recognizable names are involved in this.
He did not start this ring just for himself, right? There are many other
men that participated in this. And the idea that the President of the
United States in the 1990s was at a party, just him and Jeffrey Epstein and
about a dozen women, some of whom, I`m sure, were underage is really
So I don`t think there is any room that is going to be made between him,
between Epstein and the President of the United States just because the
Secretary of Labor resigns.
And more than that, this comes a couple of weeks after E. Jean Carroll`s
bombshell report on the President. So it`s one sex scandal after another.
I don`t think this goes anywhere any time soon.
PODHORETZ: I have to disagree with you, not because I want to defend
Trump`s behavior in any way, shape or form, but we know in 2016, the entire
country heard the Access Hollywood tape, and he got elected president a
month after or four weeks after.
So the idea that more sex scandals are going to level him unless there is
some credible case to be made that we don`t know of that he participated in
something really horrendous with an underage person, this is now all been
filed. This is – I wish it weren`t the case, but it is.
MOODIE-MILLS: Right. And I think that the reality is that this isn`t just
another sex scandal. This is actually involving children between the ages
of 13 and 16, and I think that we do – I think that we do it a disservice
to say. These are the people – remember growing up and your parents used
to say, be careful who you hang around. When you lay down with dogs, you
get up with fleas. The President right now is in need of serious ointment.
Everybody that is around him has been involved in some way, in some hideous
scenarios, whether it is domestic violence and now it`s child abuse and sex
PODHORETZ: Everyone? You can`t say everyone around him. I mean, not
MOODIE-MILLS: Enough people for it to be a consistent story.
PODHORETZ: Sex scandals and pedophilic or ephebophilic sex scandals are
two different things. They are not a continuum. People who are interested
in that kind of horrendous behavior have a separate etiology and a
methodology. And until we have any reason to believe that that is a taste
of Trump`s, you are stretching the boundaries of what is acceptable.
KORNACKI: I think if we can reset it though to where we started here, just
on the basic question here, from the administration`s standpoint, trying to
change the subject, trying to create some distance here, I think there is
that open question, politically, that the 2016 campaign has put out there
on this issue and on so many other issues. How much was out there in the
2016 campaign that would have killed off politically any other candidate?
And Donald Trump – it raises the question where the divisions that were
sort of set in place in that 2016 campaign locked in place. Did they live
with us throughout this presidency? That`s one of the questions the next
election is going to tell us.
But also, there is Epstein`s arrest. It has renewed focus on his
relationship with President Trump.
As we`re talking about here, some context to The New York Times, the two
had a years` long friendship with Trump famously telling the New York
Magazine that Epstein was a terrific guy at one point. The President says
that years later, they did have that falling out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why did you have a falling out with Jeffrey Epstein and did you
ban him from Mar-a-Lago?
TRUMP: Yes, and I did have a falling out a long time ago. The reason
doesn`t make any difference, frankly. But I haven`t spoken to him in
probably 15 years or more. I didn`t want anything to do with him. That
was many, many years ago. It shows you one thing, that I have good taste.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Yamiche, let me bring you back in there. Just in terms of your
reporting, what you`re hearing at the White House, what do they tell you
about that Trump-Epstein relationship? What do they tell you about their
expectations as the legal drama with Epstein now plays out?
ALCINDOR: I should say, White House aides really have been very reluctant
to talk about this story and talk about the President`s relationship with
Epstein. What we do know is that there is obviously this public
information which is that, at one point, President Trump was saying that
Jeffrey Epstein was a good guy. He did like women on the younger ages, but
that he – but that they were close friends.
Now, you see the President is saying that there was some sort of falling
out, but he wouldn`t go into detail, and I think those details might be
critical. It`s really critical to find out what did President Trump
actually know. If, in fact, he is in some way – we come to find out that
he knew a little bit more about what Jeffrey Epstein was up to, he maybe
knew the ages of these women and didn`t alert authorities, that might be
politically and criminally damaging to the President.
But I will say also that I`ve talked to a lot of Trump supporters, and a
lot of women Trump supporters. The one thing that they seem to always have
a soft spot for is children and this idea that even immigrant children who
are being separated from their families, when you have people that have
hard line immigration stances, when they think about children being
mistreated, they start to question the President. So I think when we start
seeing here whether or not the President knew about whether or not 14-year-
old children were being abused by Jeffrey Epstein, that might open up into
a different kind of problem that President Trump hasn`t quite had to deal
with in the past.
KORNACKI: And just to be clear, and I think I heard you say it, but just
to make sure I heard you correctly, you`re saying in terms of talking to
folks at the White House, they`re just not giving you any indication of
what this falling was about?
ALCINDOR: Exactly. They`re not – they`re not at all saying anything
about what this falling out was about. The President obviously was
troubled enough that he banned him from Mar-a-Lago and told him that he
didn`t want to be around him after years of hanging out with him. So we
just have to figure out what those details are and why they actually fell
But it obviously had to be something very serious for him to go from
hanging out with him and having private parties with him to banning him
from his private golf course.
KORNACKI: All right. Yamiche Alcindor, Danielle Moodie-Mills, John
Podhoretz, thank you all for being with us.
And coming up, Robert Mueller`s congressional testimony is scheduled for
next Wednesday. Well, now, suddenly, it might not happen, at least not
next week. We will tell you what the holdup may be all about.
And brand new poll numbers from the key early primary State of South
Carolina. We showed you the national numbers yesterday. Now, we`re
showing you the first big state with a large African-American voting bloc,
new numbers to tell you about there.
Plus, presidential retreat, Trump backing down on the census, part of a
growing pattern of bold talk followed by little or no action. Here is
something you don`t see every day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I`ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi, that you know
better than I do, she is not a racist, okay? She is not a racist. For
them to call her a racist is a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: There is the President defending the Democratic Speaker of the
House while also trashing her republican predecessor. Much more ahead.
Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Despite Robert Mueller`s agreement over three weeks ago to testify before
the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the date of his testimony
is now up in the air.
NBC News is reporting that the Mueller hearings that were slated for next
Wednesday may now be delayed until July 24, though the negotiations remain
According to Politico, lawmakers have been seeking – quote – “more time
to question the former special counsel.” Yet the possible new date is just
one day before lawmakers are scheduled to depart for a month-long summer
recess, leaving little time for impeachment advocates to seize on my
“The Washington Post” is also reporting late tonight that it was Mueller
who proposed the new date to give lawmakers more time.
The latest ABC News/”Washington Post” poll shows that 59 percent of
Americans now say that Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings.
Only 37 percent say they should.
All of this comes after the House Judiciary Committee authorized 12 new
subpoenas yesterday for big-name witnesses, including Jared Kushner,
Michael Flynn, and Jeff Sessions. However, the administration has already
proven they will block or limit witness testimony at many turns.
I`m joined now by a member of one of the committees that was scheduled, may
still be scheduled to interview the former special counsel, Congress Steve
Cohen of Tennessee, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
And Caroline Fredrickson is president of the American Constitution Society
for Law and Policy and the author of “The Democracy Fix.” Caroline
testified today before the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing about
addressing presidential misconduct.
Thank you both for joining us.
Congressman, let me start with you.
And let me just see if we can get some news out of you. When is Robert
Mueller going to testify before your committee?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, that`s still being negotiated by the
committee and committee counsel. So we don`t really know.
But I suspect he will testify on I would guess the 24th, but that`s all up
in the air.
KORNACKI: Is this reporting from “The Washington Post” correct that it was
Mueller who came to the committee and said, perhaps a delay would be in
order here? He was the one who suggested this?
COHEN: I don`t know that for a fact. I just know that they had
negotiations, and part of it was to have more time for the Judiciary
Committee, so that we could operate as we normally do, with every member
having an opportunity to participate in questions, which the Republicans,
as well as the Democrats, sought.
And I think that was fair. Originally, it was based on the Intelligence
Committee wanting two hours, which covered five minutes for all of their
members, but didn`t take into consideration the Judiciary, and it might
have just fallen through the cracks.
KORNACKI: Right. So, originally, this looked like it would be two hours
for each committee. That would be for next week, if it goes as schedule.
If it goes, say, a week later, so how much time would you have?
COHEN: I don`t know. That`s being negotiated. I would hope it would be
enough, at least three hours, maybe four. But it`s up to Mr. Mueller and
his folks and the committee.
Caroline Fredrickson, let me ask you about just the expectations for this.
And I`m curious, because we have seen and we have heard from Robert Mueller
in public for the past two-and-a-half years basically at that press
conference, now a couple of months ago.
I say press conference. He didn`t take questions. He talked for about 10
minutes. I think the impression he left on everybody, measured, very
precise in what he was willing to say and what he was not willing to say.
Whether it`s two hours in front of these committees, or whether it`s a more
expansive questioning, is there any reason to believe he is going to be any
more expansive in what he is willing to say publicly?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: Well, I doubt that
But there are – simply reading from his own report in his own voice, I
think, would be incredibly forceful for the American public.
And we all have to be honest. Few people have read the report. Not very
many people even have read the summaries that were released.
But there is incredible content in there, very disturbing findings about
misconduct by the president and by his campaign and his associates that
having Mr. Mueller, with the reputation that he has, with his measured
delivery, with his history of public service, his military service, just
telling people what happened, I think will have an enormous impact on how
people – how much people understand about what has really occurred.
KORNACKI: Congressman, let me ask you about that, because we put the poll
number up there. This was from a couple of days ago, the ABC/”Washington
Post poll; 37 percent say impeachment, go ahead; 59 percent of Americans
say, no, don`t do impeachment.
If you have Mueller, if you hear from Robert Mueller, and those numbers
don`t change, is that the end of it in terms of the push for impeachment?
COHEN: No, not at all.
You know, when they started looking at Nixon, it was about 19 percent were
for impeachment. Mueller will be very important in his words and to affirm
and to remind the American people that what was in that report is that
there were over 100 contacts with the Russians, and the Trump campaign did
not refuse them. They sought them.
They called for them, and that there were many instances of obstruction of
justice, and that Mueller could not say the president didn`t violate the
law. And he said the only reason he didn`t indict him – or one of the
reasons, if it`s the only reason, was because of the Office of Legal
Counsel`s determination that they couldn`t legally indict a president.
Otherwise, he would have been indicted, and he would have been like
Individual 1 in New York and been with Michael Cohen up the river in New
We need the direct evidence, the people we have subpoenaed, the folks that
paid off Stormy Daniels and helped do that and bought the story of Ms.
August, the people who were asked to get Mueller to resign, to ask Sessions
to unrecuse himself, to ask McGahn to put out a false paper trail and to
lie about the president, asking him to fire Mueller.
Those are obstruction of justice charges.
KORNACKI: Congressman, I think what I`m getting at is this, though.
Between the polling we put up at 37-59 – and I hear the case you`re making
right there. I have heard you and I have heard other Democrats make that
Here we sit, now well into July, and those are the numbers on impeachment.
You have got Mueller potentially appearing. Let`s say maybe it`s the 24th.
As soon as he finishes, then Congress is supposed to go on a recess
basically until the end of the summer.
So you`re laying out all these other things you need. Between the poll
numbers that show the public is not there right now, that looming recess
that is going take you to Labor Day, going to take you into September, is
the clock just running out here for folks like you who want…
FREDRICKSON: Steve, it possible for me to jump in here?
Because I think we`re sort of missing the bigger picture. Impeachment is
obviously something that Congress could be considering, but there is so
much more at stake.
And I was thinking about during your last section, where Mr. Podhoretz
mentioned the “Access Hollywood” tapes, and how that didn`t affect the
Well, I also, if I recall, remember that that was the very day that
WikiLeaks dumped all of the e-mails that had been hacked by the Russians
from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
And so, you know, we have to be concerned about our elections and the
integrity of our elections. And Congress needs to get to the bottom of
that. Whether it leads to impeachment or not, we still need to understand
how to protect our elections.
KORNACKI: All right, but quickly there, Congressman, I just want to ask
COHEN: Our committee has talked about…
KORNACKI: … if you guys are going on recess for the rest of the summer,
you just went through a whole list of people you want to hear from. Does
that run the clock out?
COHEN: Well, first of all, there are subpoenas, and that`s going start a
court process. I don`t expect that the Trump team will not try to stop
each and every one of these people, even Corey Lewandowski, who was not a
part of the administration, and find every way to stop us. And so I don`t
think it will happen soon.
But the committee has talked about meeting in August, having hearings in
August, and continuing our work in August. We`re not going to stop because
of the recess. We`re going to continue to try to pursue the truth on
behalf of the American people.
That`s our duty, as the Judiciary Committee of the United States Congress,
under Article 1.
KORNACKI: All right, Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee, Caroline
Fredrickson, thank you both for being with us.
FREDRICKSON: Thank you.
KORNACKI: And be sure to tune in Sunday night, a special report with Ari
Melber on the biggest revelations from the Mueller report. That`s right
here, 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.
And up next, going to head over to the Big Board. We`re going to dig into
some new poll numbers.
And, remember, they go Iowa, New Hampshire, there`s Nevada, and then South
Carolina, first in the South, first state to go, with a giant black
population; 60 percent of the voters in the South Carolina primary will be
Is Joe Biden still number one there after his recent controversies?
Find out next on HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, yesterday at this time, we were showing you our new numbers, national
numbers, in the Democratic presidential race from our NBC News poll, our
first poll after the Democratic debate.
Joe Biden in first place, but Elizabeth Warren not that far behind him,
only seven points behind him. A question we have been asking coming out of
that first Democratic debate, how much damage was there to Biden, and, in
particular, how much damage to Biden was there among black voters?
Because, remember, the controversy there on the debate stage and in the
days after, it was that showdown he had with Kamala Harris. It was the
issue of busing. It was racial politics. What about black voters in
And so guess what? There is also a new poll, in addition to our national
poll. Our friends at FOX News have a new poll from South Carolina, first-
in-the-South state with a big black population, certainly on the Democratic
And here you go. Look at this. Overall, in South Carolina, there is Joe
Biden out in front, 35 percent. This looks better than numbers we have
seen for him in New Hampshire and Iowa lately, 35 percent for Biden in
South Carolina, Sanders in second place, Kamala Harris back in third place
Let`s take a look, though, at the racial split in South Carolina. So,
first of all, among white voters in the Democratic primary, there is Biden.
He`s in first place, Kamala Harris actually running in second.
But we say, more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate in South
Carolina is going to be African-American in the primary next year. And
among black voters in South Carolina, here it is. Look at that, Joe Biden
in first place still, 41 percent, Bernie Sanders actually running in
second, Kamala Harris down at third place here at 12 percent.
This is a big dynamic to keep an eye on in the weeks and months to come.
South Carolina right now is shaping up as Joe Biden`s strongest of the
early states. And the reason it`s the strongest for Biden of the early
states is because of the support he has from African-American voters in
South Carolina right now.
We also showed him running strong nationally with African-American voters.
Does that last for him? Or is Kamala Harris able to surge there? That`s
something to keep an eye on.
We mentioned this, though. Again, in Iowa, in 2016, 91 percent of the
caucus electorate for Democrats was white. In New Hampshire, 93 percent of
the primary electorate was white. In Nevada, only 59 percent, large
Hispanic population here.
You get to South Carolina, 61 percent African-American electorate, that`s
the first big test for Democratic candidates next year where African-
American voters are clearly going to be decisive. It`s 61 percent in South
And, remember, if you add up all the primaries across the country, one out
of four votes cast next year in the Democratic primaries are going to come
from African-American voters. So, South Carolina looms large as a state
individually, and as a barometer potentially of what`s to come.
Biden leading with African-American voters in South Carolina right now.
Does it last? Let`s see.
Up next: Trump`s latest retreat on the census is part of a familiar
pattern in the Trump White House, talking tough, then backing down.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I`m here to say, we
are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of
the United States population.
I stand before you to outline new steps my administration is taking to
ensure that citizenship is counted, so that we know how many citizens we
have in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump yesterday claiming he was not backing down on his
demand to add that citizenship question to the 2020 census, when, in fact,
he is giving up on that idea.
The president pulled the plug on the effort just nine days after he
declared in a pair of tweets that he had asked the Justice and Commerce
Departments to – quote – “do whatever is necessary to bring this most
vital of questions and this very important case to a successful
It`s the latest in several examples of the president seeming to back down
in recent weeks. At the end of May, he threatened to impose tariffs on
Mexico if that country couldn`t stop the flow of migrants into the U.S.
Two days before the deadline, though, he announced they were indefinitely
suspended because a deal had been struck with Mexico.
However, “The New York Times” reported that key points of the deal had been
agreed on months before.
And a few days later, the president announced nationwide immigration raids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Immigration officials say they don`t know anything about a
planned roundup of millions of people next week.
TRUMP: Well, they know. They know. And they`re going to start next week.
The people that came into the country illegally are going to be removed
from the country. Everybody knows that. It starts during the course of
this next week, maybe even a little bit earlier than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: A few hours after that statement, though, Trump tweeted he had
delayed the raids for two week – quote – “to see if the Democrats and
Republicans can get together and work out a solution.”
There was also his authorization of airstrikes to retaliate for Iran`s
downing of a U.S. drone, with Trump calling them off, he said, at the last
In a pair of tweets, he acknowledged that – quote – “We were cocked and
loaded to retaliate,” adding that, “Ten minutes before the strike, I
And then, today, the president offered a new explanation for this latest
retreat on the census.
That`s next. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump, as we said, backed down from his demand to add that
citizenship question to the census yesterday, two weeks after the Supreme
Court rejected his administration`s rationale.
But even after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross conceded defeat, the
president refused to take no for an answer, contradicting Ross and saying
the administration was – quote – “absolutely moving forward.”
Today, the president insisted again that he had not backed down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Not only didn`t I back down. I backed up, because anybody else
would have given this up a long time ago.
The problem is, we had three very unfriendly courts. They were judges that
weren`t exactly in love with this whole thing. And they were wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: For more, I`m joined by Christine Todd Whitman, former New
Jersey governor and former EPA administrator, and Tim O`Brien, executive
editor of Bloomberg Opinion.
Tim, let me just start with you, because you have – you have observed the
Trump method for years.
This is a situation, as we – talking about for the last 24 hours, where
the Census Bureau had given the president weeks ago, months ago, the option
of doing what he`s ultimately settled on doing here, instead of pursuing
this through the courts.
But you don`t see a president out there saying this is any kind of a – any
kind of a back-down from where he was last week.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: And, you know, we saw
this very early on when they tried to overturn the ACA, and they failed.
And then Trump had a Rose Garden ceremony in which they said it was a
victory that they were unable to overturn this core policy that they had
come into office to overturn.
He`s done this for years, which is – it`s obvious what he`s doing. He`s
trying to say, but it`s not a failure, it`s a victory.
I think the larger issue, beyond just the methodology that he`s deploying
here, and that he deploys all the time, is that he`s really divorced from
the policy itself. Whether it`s about overturning the ACA, or trying to
change citizenship questions on the census, he`s not really invested in the
outcome of the policy.
He`s more concerned about the theatrics of the event, and more concerned
about spinning it so he`s not seen as a loser. And, in the end of it, he
doesn`t – at the end of the day, he doesn`t care about its impact on the
people who the policy affects or, sometimes, when it comes to immigration
policy, his own Border Patrol.
He wants to make sure he`s on a camera or he`s saying “I won.” And if he
gets that far, he considers that a win for himself.
KORNACKI: Well, so, Governor, let me ask you.
We set up the example here of the planned immigration raids a couple of
weeks ago, that, the night before, the president said, never mind, they`re
Now they`re being teed up again potentially for this weekend.
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Right.
KORNACKI: Do you have an expectation whether it`s actually going to happen
WHITMAN: Who knows with this administration?
What fascinates me is that there`s no outrage that they always seem to do
this on a Sunday, on a Sunday, when people are going to go to church.
They`re not going to go to church if they know that`s where their – ICE is
going to go, which is where it has been going.
I mean, this is an administration that wraps itself in the Bible and talks
about how Christian they are. All these policies are anti that.
But I would go a little further on what you were saying, because I really
believe that part of this is calculated for the base. He doesn`t care, at
the end of the day, because he doesn`t care about the policy. You`re
right. And he doesn`t care about – the end of the day about winning.
In fact, he`s happy to lose in the courts, because then he can blame it on
the courts. Then he can gin up his base a little bit more to say, see how
the terrible things are?
KORNACKI: Is it – when you say the base, is being seen as the toughest
person in Washington on immigration? Is that…
KORNACKI: It`s the image, you`re saying, is….
WHITMAN: On everything on this.
I`m the toughest person, and there are all these obstacles that are thrown
my way, so we ought to do away with them.
I mean, he is dismissive of the courts, our legal system. He is
undermining the very basic institutions that make our country what it is
today. And that`s one of the scariest things that I think we see
KORNACKI: I was curious too.
I wanted to ask you about what we saw yesterday at the announcement, at the
press conference about the citizenship question. You had the president.
You had the attorney general. You had Bill Barr get up there twice.
We say this idea of the president selling this as a victory. The attorney
general was very much selling this as a victory for the administration as
well, twice, I think, congratulating Trump. “Congratulations, Mr.
President on this victory today.”
What did you make of that dynamic?
WHITMAN: Well, I`m very disappointed in William Barr, and have been from
the beginning, when he – I had high hopes for him.
And then, in the beginning with the Mueller report, when he tried to
preempt it and came out and spun it as, there was complete exoneration.
That`s what he implied through it. And he knew better than that.
He misappropriated the whole thing. And it was – it was a concerted
effort. It was something that Trump wanted him to do. And he fell right
in with it.
And he had a better reputation than that. I was expecting better from him.
KORNACKI: All right, we have some breaking news. I just want to get to
I`m finding out about it just as you are here.
But we can tell you, Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers
have just toured a border facility in McAllen, Texas, where migrants are
being detained, amid concerns over the conditions at these centers.
And according to the reporter who has been accompanying the vice president
inside the facility – that reporter is Josh Dawsey of “The Washington
Post” – the vice president just witnessed 384 men sleeping inside fences
in the facility on concrete, with no pillows, no mats, according to Dawsey,
again, the reporter accompanying Vice President Pence here.
The men said they hadn`t showered in weeks. And the stench was
overwhelming. When the men saw the press, they began shouting they had
been there for 40 days or longer.
Again, just getting a look here, Tim, at what the vice president is seeing.
I can also tell you, according to the reporting here we have got from Josh
Dawsey, the vice president just asked about what we were describing and
He said: “I was not surprised by what I saw. I knew we`d see a system that
was overwhelmed. This is tough stuff.”
O`BRIEN: Well, this choreography – and I think of it as choreography.
I`m very confused about why Mike Pence is at the southern border right now,
when they`re about to launch an immigration sweep on Sunday across the
country. I`m very confused by Mike Pence, who is a Christian – and I
think he`s a devout and authentic Christian – is tolerating policies that
are creating a humanitarian crisis. It`s not an immigration crisis at this
point. It`s a humanitarian crisis.
He`s done nothing, as far as anyone can tell, on the policy front to try to
stem this tide and turn back what is going to be a long-term blight on the
U.S.` reputation. And yet he`s there saying, I didn`t expect to see
anything more grotesque than what I`m seeing. And, in fact, it`s more
grotesque than I imagined.
What`s he going to do with this experience? Is he going back to Washington
to tell the president he shouldn`t launch raids on Sunday? He`s going to
go back to Washington and tell the government, there`s a better way to help
migrants either get from there to here or to go back home as they need to,
but we don`t have to leave them without beds, water, toilets and medical
KORNACKI: So, the argument that you hear from the administration,
Governor, is that they say they have gotten Mexico to get tougher with
arresting migrants in Mexico on their way to the U.S. border. They say
that`s led to a reduction.
They say they have got this humanitarian aid package through that, in their
view, will eventually, I suppose, help the conditions like we`re describing
right here. And then they put the onus, they say, on Democrats to change
what Trump refers to as a loophole.
It gets back to this 1997 consent decree. That`s what the administration -
- I think that`s what you`re hearing from Pence here, the idea of, these
are terrible conditions, but we have done our part, is what he seems to be
WHITMAN: Well, first of all, he can`t in good conscience look at that and
say, oh, this is what I expected, and kind of dismiss it that way.
It is a blight on this country.
But the other side of this is, this administration has been cutting back on
aid to organizations like Catholic Charities operating in Venezuela, in the
countries where we need to – where people – from which people are coming.
And that`s what we need to do.
We need to support them there, so they don`t feel they have to come to this
country. It`s fine for Mexico to do more on the border, but they don`t
have the resources either to handle the people that they`re getting.
And they`re trying. They`re making an effort. But it`s never going to be
enough, if we don`t understand that where we need to solve the problem is
back in the countries that are causing the problem.
KORNACKI: That`s a – that does seem like a – I have heard others put the
idea out there of a Marshall Plan, I have heard people talk about, for
That is a long-term proposition, though, isn`t it, in terms of changing
conditions there in a way that`s going to address the desire to come to the
WHITMAN: Yes, but, unfortunately, there are not short-term solutions that
we have got, save what you see, which is not helping – making us any more
secure, particularly when you do things like separate children from their
families and hold them in those kinds of conditions.
It affects them. They`re young. Their brains are forming. They`re not
going to be our friends when they get a little older, and especially the
They`re where ISIS and other – other groups of people who don`t want to do
us good are going to go to recruit. I mean, this is – this is not good
for the country. It just isn`t good for the country. And these conditions
KORNACKI: And that – Tim, it does strike me we always try to figure out
the politics of immigration. I think they`re very complicated.
People often have contradictory views within themselves. But the two
moments I have noticed in the last year, I would say, was the revelation of
the child separation policy, and then the description and now pictures of
the conditions at these facilities.
KORNACKI: Those two seem to be moments there when you start to get a broad
consensus out there among people, that it does seem to cut across some of
the familiar divides, and people seem to say, no, this overall is not a
O`BRIEN: Well, and, overwhelmingly, when there`s polls on immigration,
there is a broad national consensus that immigration is a good thing for
the United States.
That`s not where the divide emerges. The divide emerges on, how do you
handle immigration? What`s the right way to bring people into the country?
And this administration, however, is trying to score political points for
its base. It`s not actually trying to develop a sophisticated policy that
does two things, what Governor Whitman said, which is address the economic
distress and the drug wars in Honduras, Guatemala, in other parts of
Central America that are driving largely women and children to the border.
These aren`t Mexican laborers who came in the past. It`s a different
population of people. And then having a system at the border that actually
welcomes them and then makes decisions in a rational, constructive way
about what their future is going to be.
That`s not building a wall, and that`s not putting them inside jails.
KORNACKI: All right, Tim O`Brien, Christine Todd Whitman, thank you both
for joining us.
We will be right back.
KORNACKI: And that`s going to do it for HARDBALL for now. I`m Steve
Kornacki. Chris Matthews will be back here on Monday.
Thank you for joining us.
And “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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