Trump wraps up bizarre week in governance. TRANSCRIPT: 9/6/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
Date: September 6, 2019
Guest: Annie Karni; Eugene Robinson; Noah Rothman, Bill Weld, Steve
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: President Sharpie. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
Today marks the end of a confounding week in the Trump presidency. It
began after the president abruptly canceled his trip to Poland so that he
said he could monitor the looming threat of Hurricane Dorian at Camp David.
And yet he spent the better part of that three-day weekend at his resort
outside of Washington playing golf.
Then there was the firestorm over Vice President Mike Pence`s trip to
Ireland. Pence stayed at a Trump resort in the town of Doonbeg. That is
about 175 miles from Dublin, where the vice president`s official meetings
were actually being held. And pence`s aide said he stayed there at, quote,
the suggestion of the president. That has now prompted congressional
Democrats to investigate the administration`s expenditure of taxpayer money
at Trump-owned properties.
Then it was the president`s seeming fixation, a fixation that is in full
force at this hour on a claim he made Sunday about Hurricane Dorian. That
was when Trump on Twitter stated that Alabama would, quote, most likely be
hit much, in parenthesis, harder than anticipated. That prompted a
clarification from the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
But the story was far from over with the president seemingly riled up by
the news coverage of the matter. In the Oval Office on Tuesday, he
unveiled a map of potential storm affected areas that appeared to be
doctored with a sharpie to include Alabama. At the time, Trump said he
didn`t know about the edits to the map.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: That map that you showed us today looked like it almost had a
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t know. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: However, The Washington Post now reports that according to a
White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, quote, it was
Trump who used a black sharpie to mark up an official map, though NBC News
has not matched that reporting.
Throughout this week, Trump has posted 11 tweets and multiple maps in an
attempt to justify his original claim, even enlisting a government official
to defend him.
The Washington Post notes that, quote, in effect, Trump was attempting to
bend time, claiming at a projection that was several days out of date was
accurate at the time he warned Alabama of a dire threat that didn`t exist.
And now this saga appears to be continuing as we speak. Late tonight, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an unattributed
statement saying that the information provided to the president through
Monday demonstrated that at least, quote, tropical storm-force winds from
Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.
I`m joined now by Annie Karni, White House Correspondent for The New York
Times, Eugene Robinson is a Columnist at The Washington Post, and Noah
Rothman is Associate Editor at Commentary Magazine. Thank you all for
being with us.
Annie, let me start with you. We just ended that introduction on the NOAA
statement that came out within the last hour or two. No name on it,
unattributed. It seems an unusual statement in this matter itself is
unusual. Any sense where that statement came from, what prompted it?
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, we
don`t know yet whether NOAA decided to put this out on its own accord or
that whether there was some direction from the White House that they would
like them to do this. But it matches what we saw yesterday, which is that
the president had a rear admiral come out and put out a statement saying he
had briefed the president and told him that Alabama was in the path of the
So it matches a path of Trump looking for official agencies or people of
rank to back him up on this story going into day six, and now this is
Friday night. This is going to get covered. I assume this will only
prolong this news cycle into the weekend, which is an odd move for the
president who has prolonged a non-story into six now, potentially seven,
KORNACKI: That`s my other question for you. And I know, obviously, look,
you cover the White House, you have a sense of what`s going on there. It
seems that when news of Dorian started emerging, Dorian making its way
towards the Atlantic Coast last week, late last week, there was a move in
the White House to get Trump to cancel that trip overseas to project this
image of presidential leadership in a time of potential crisis.
Now, as you say, at the end of this week, as the storm has continued all
week, we`re talking about a sharpie. What is the sense of folks around
Trump in the White House? Do they think he is achieving something here or
are they saying this is not something he should be doing, in their view?
KARNI: Well, this is – he is turning this story into really a roundabout
way to attack the media, which is kind of the overarching narrative of this
White House. Now, it`s that the reports about his mistake are inaccurate.
He`s trying to get all these ways to show, no, I was right, and it`s the
media reporting on me that once again is wrong.
We saw at the same time that another big story line of the week was the
White House attacking The Washington Post for a story that the paper wrote
about Trump`s lost summer, a huge opportunity to make inroads with policy
achievements and on his campaign that was sort of lost to trivial fights.
We saw them pushing back aggressively on that.
So this is turning into a classic Trump doubling down, tripling down, not
able to admit a mistake into really another way to call it all fake news.
So in that sense, it fits the overarching narrative that is always part of
this White House.
KORNACKI: We mentioned that statement that came out in the last couple of
hours from NOAA. In that statement, NOAA also reprimanded the National
Weather Service in Birmingham, which first corrected the president last
Sunday, saying their tweet, quote, spoke in absolute terms that were
inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available
at the time.
Now, a prominent meteorologist in Birmingham is speaking out, saying,
quote, the tweet from the weather service in Birmingham was spot-on and
accurate. If they are coming after them, they might as well come after me.
How in the world has it come to this?
Gene Robinson, as I say, this is a – the word I was going to use, I think
I use is unusual. There is probably bunch of other –
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Oh, come on.
KORNACKI: Well, as unusual as it though, is it positive or negative? Does
this change the way anybody views Trump?
ROBINSON: You know, I think it`s quite negative. And the reason is that,
look, this is not the first time we have seen President Trump obsessed over
about his coverage, coverage that he felt was or wanted to maintain was
excessively negative. It`s not the first time we`ve seen him attack the
media. It`s not the first time we`ve seen him not able to let something
But this is – this is – everyone was paying attention to this hurricane,
and everyone was paying attention to the path of this hurricane. This is a
kind of simple thing that it`s very easy to sort of get your arms around.
And so I think that people have paid attention.
I wrote a column about this the other day. I got a much bigger than usual
response from commenters and I tweeted about it once. I think I got a
million impressions on the tweet. So people are paying attention. And I
don`t see how that`s good for President Trump.
And the statement tonight, throwing the Birmingham National Weather Service
Office under the presidential bus is just extraordinary. It`s absolutely
extraordinary. And there`s just going to be an uproar, I think, inside
that agency over, you know, that office doing what it was supposed to do.
The president said people in Alabama were in danger and they said, hold it,
wait a minute, you know, people of Alabama, you`re not. That`s what the
National Weather Service is supposed to do. If not that, then what? Their
job certainly isn`t to bolster whatever crazy thing the president says.
KORNACKI: Yes. And I think a lot of people are going to be curious to see
if there is subsequent reporting on this statement on what may have gone
into that. We will see.
While the president said he doesn`t know about the sharpie and its made to
the map in the Oval Office, his campaign has embraced a black marker as a
symbol in its push to re-elect him. The Trump campaign is now marketing a
set of black markers that are for sale on his website.
Noah, he was talking about this. It is Trump versus the media. He does
seem to see that as what this ultimately is, and to see some kind of
advantage in that.
NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATED EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: Yes. But anybody
who`s on board with that message is already on board. You`re not getting
new people from this blisteringly, mind-numbingly stupid week of
controversy around this. And the original tweet wasn`t really all that
wrong, right? Other states, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, could be
impacted more. Just ignoring the criticism around that would have made it
go away, but he had to turn it into a week`s worth of controversy.
His defenders say, well, why don`t you – you have to hit back. I mean,
they`re calling him a liar. What are you supposed to do, not hit back?
And the answer to that is, yes, you don`t hit back, because it lowers your
stature and your failure to admit a mistake, and it was a mistake, a small
one, but a mistake nonetheless. The failure to acknowledge that and then
double down for an entire week makes you look incredibly small.
The fact that they don`t see that, his supporters and the president don`t
see that, is going to come as a very rude awakening, I think, because this
is one of those stories that translates easily. Everybody gets the
You don`t get why the Fed Chairman is refusing to lower rates on its face
is terrible. There is a lot of education. This is one that everybody buys
into easy, and, as Gene said, translates instantly across the political
spectrum, and it could hurt.
KORNACKI: Yes. So, Annie, let me ask you about this, because Noah
mentions, if this resonates with folks who are already on board with Trump,
say, the Trump base, the reality we`ve talked about this a lot, he got
elected in 2016. Yes, the base was there, but there was also that critical
mass of voters who didn`t like Trump but also didn`t like Clinton, the
reluctant Trump voters. Is there a concern around the president that the
reluctant Trump voters are turned off by behavior like this?
KARNI: There is concern among the president`s advisers in general about
the path to 2020. I think they see a path. It involves winning all the
states they won in 2016 or maybe they`re very interested in Minnesota right
now as a place they can play offense. They see some ways around this.
But there`s real concern that this is not in the bag, that, yes, some of
these reluctant Trump voters who – and you see this in the primary
challengers he has. People like Joe Walsh, who is a long-shot candidate,
who is not going to be the Republican nominee, but he was a Trump supporter
in 2016 because he hated Clinton. And he says, now, I have seen him in
office and I`ve had a change of heart. This can`t go on.
And the idea for people like Walsh is that this creates a permission
structure for other people who voted for Trump in 2016 to say, you know,
it`s not embarrassing to say he didn`t – I got it wrong. I`m out too.
So the campaign is taking these challengers both seriously and unseriously.
They see them as kind of a joke, but they`re making a lot of efforts to
prevent any real primary challengers from bubbling up and having a clean
convention next year where there is no challenges on the floor.
KORNACKI: Well, and, Gene, it seems to be there is a pattern here in these
moments of national tragedy, potential natural disaster. These are moments
where past presidents, Democrat or Republican, would normally rise to the
occasion. They would be seen as rising to the occasion by wide swaths of
the country, not just their own supporters.
And I noticed this when you had the Dayton and El Paso tragedies a couple
of weeks ago, the polling after majority disapproval of Trump`s conduct
during that, Charlottesville, majority disapproval, Puerto Rico. We
haven`t seen polling on this week yet, but we`re talking about a hurricane,
and we end the week talking about a sharpie. It just seems for that type
of voter we`re talking about, these are opportunities for Trump to reassure
ROBINSON: Yes, and he doesn`t do it. Trump is objectively awful at this.
Whatever your politics, he is just terrible at projecting the kind of
empathy and leadership that a leader should protect, should project at a
time of crisis.
I remember, you know, I`m – you know me. I`m not a conservative
Republican, right? But after 9/11, I was so proud of George W. Bush when
he stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center. I mean, he made me proud
to be an American. He made me proud of him in that moment. There were
other moments when I wasn`t so proud of him. But Donald Trump is not
capable or has not demonstrated any capacity to evoke that sort of embrace
from Americans, in general. He just doesn`t have that empathy gene.
KORNACKI: And, Noah, it`s interesting. I mean, look, everybody told Trump
in the 2016 campaign he was going to lose. He couldn`t win. His strategy
wouldn`t work. And he ends up president. And I get the sense that that
has internally given him license to ignore all advice after, because after
all, he is president.
ROTHMAN: Yes, I mean, not only gets you so far. You can defy history only
so often, and eventually your luck runs out. It happens to everybody. And
it`s going happen to the president eventually. We don`t know when.
This president has been really lucky. He hasn`t encountered any sort of
national disaster, sustained military operation abroad. The disasters that
he has dealt with have been not unprecedented in scope, horrible but not
unprecedented in scope.
You mentioned Puerto Rico. His response to that has been duly criticized.
You can`t talk about disaster in Puerto Rico without him indulging his own
ego, his wounded ego. And the exogenous crisis that he faced so far is at
the border. And what did he do? He circumvented the Constitutional
process in order to create the campaign vision that he advertised in 2016,
to build the wall.
So God help us if we face a real sustained crisis because the president`s
ego is always entwined in his response to these things. They are
KORNACKI: We had emergency declaration and the after affects that we`re
going to talk about in just a minute. But, Annie Karni, Eugene Robinson,
Noah Rothman, thank you all for joining us right now. I appreciate that.
And coming up, the human cost of diverting billions of dollars from
Pentagon projects to pay for that border wall. Schools and day-care
centers for military families are among the projects on the chopping block.
As we say, it is a consequence of the president`s controversial emergency
Plus, two presidential candidates are here to play HARDBALL. Republican
Bill Weld on the move, under way in several states to prevent primary
challenges to President Trump, And Democrat Steve Bullock with the
Democrats` message for rural America and how he can break through into that
top tier of candidates.
We`ve got much more. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We are learning more about the human cost of the Pentagon redirecting
funding from its budget for military construction projects in order to
build President Trump`s promised border wall.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it would redirect $3.5 billion freed up
by President Trump`s emergency declaration in February from 127 projects
that were planned in 23 states and around the world. Among them are a
number of projects that impact day-to-day life for military families, like
schools and day-care centers.
Today, The New York Times reports on one of those projects, quote, for
almost two decades, families at Fort Campbell, a sprawling army base along
the Kentucky/Tennessee border, have borne the brunt of the country`s war
efforts as a steady clip of troops with 101st Airborne Division and from
Special Operations units deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
The report adds, quote, the Pentagon`s decision to divert more than $16
million from the construction of Fort Campbell`s middle school means that
552 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades will continue to cram
themselves into 30 to a classroom in some cases at the base`s aging middle
In February, Senator Lindsey Graham was asked about the prospect of
redirecting the middle school funding for a border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I would say it`s better for the middle school
kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We will get them the school they
need. But, right now, we have got a national emergency on our hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin
of Michigan, who serves on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security
committees, and former Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo.
Thank you both for being with us.
Congresswoman, let me start with you.
We have all of the numbers there, 23 different states in around the
country. In real terms, what is the impact of a move like this going to
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, I think there`s sort of two impacts.
There is the average human toll for kids and families and for our bases and
our ranges, and then there is sort of the strategic point, which is, the
Pentagon`s budget has long been a very bipartisan thing. And I think
taking this issue, taking the money away from the Pentagon and putting it
on a wall brings the Pentagon into this political conversation in a way
that is not good for the Pentagon.
It`s not good for the country. So it has a human face, but it also has a
strategic kind of position it`s playing.
KORNACKI: Well, Carlos Curbelo, we had that clip there from Lindsey Graham
saying, look, we will get you a school later. We want to deal with the
border right now.
When you had that motion in the Senate to try to do away with the
president`s emergency declaration, I think it was only 12 Republicans in
the Senate voted to do away with it. The rest of them voted with the
Is Lindsey Graham`s view there the consensus view in the Republican Party
CARLOS CURBELO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, a lot of Republicans,
at least privately, are very critical of this decision. Of course, few of
them are actually willing to stand up and say so.
And the sad part about this is the military construction appropriations
bill is, as the congresswoman said, usually a bill that is built through
consensus. It`s many times the first one heard on the House floor of all
appropriations bill, because there is a lot of bipartisan support for
investing in military infrastructure, for improving quality of life for our
men and women in uniform and their families.
This is actually a White House, Steve, that boasts about its commitment to
military funding. And, in many ways, they do get credit for securing major
increases in defense spending, in line with what many generals have been
However, now they`re taking a giant step back by taking away money from our
men and women in uniform and their families and using it to a fund border
infrastructure project that the president could not get Congress to agree
KORNACKI: Well, Pentagon officials say that the military projects are
simply being deferred.
“The Washington Post” reports the deputy undersecretary of defense told
reporters – quote – “If Congress were to backfill the projects in our
request, none of the projects would be delayed. But we do realize that
this could cause some delay.”
Well, so, Congresswoman, essentially what they`re say here is, look, we had
to take the money…
SLOTKIN: Sorry. My – my audio cut.
KORNACKI: Let`s see.
Congresswoman – can you hear me now, Congresswoman?
I don`t think she`s with us. So let me see if we can work on that issue.
And I will go to you, Carlos Curbelo, because you understand how Congress
works, obviously, as well as anyone. This idea of backfilling, of the
administration saying, OK, we`re going to take the money from the
Pentagon`s pot here, but Congress, if it wants, can reappropriate new money
and can fund those projects all over again, is there any chance of that
CURBELO: That`s just kind of a bizarre concept, Steve.
Congress appropriated these funds for military construction. Now the
administration is taking them without Congress` authority to use for
another purpose that hasn`t been authorized by Congress. And they`re
telling Congress OK, well, if you really want to fund those projects, you
can backfill those funds, because we have taken what you approved and used
it for something else.
This is not really a reasonable request to make to the Congress, although I
think there are many members of Congress who would like to see the military
made whole, again, because there is that need for improved military
A lot of the housing and some of these bases, it`s really a shame when you
visit and can`t believe our men and women in uniform live under these
conditions. These are important projects.
I just don`t see how this gets resolved smoothly, because the White House
was so impressive in the way they went in and took these funds by declaring
KORNACKI: So, Congresswoman Slotkin, I understand we have worked out the
issue. We have you back with us.
KORNACKI: The question I`m asking here is about this idea of backfilling,
the administration saying, look, we took the money, but you can just
reappropriate new money.
Is there – is that something you`re at all open to?
SLOTKIN: I mean, listen, no one wants our military families to be caught
in the middle of this whole scenario.
But just think about the implications, right? The Pentagon came to us.
They said, here are our needs. This is what we need for the war fighter,
for our families. We went around and talked to everybody, both sides of
the aisle. We got them the budget that they came and testified about.
And then they turn around and take $3.6 billion and let the president move
it. We don`t just have money growing on trees. And I feel strange doing
it and saying it, as a Democratic congresswoman, but I think we are the
ones being fiscally prudent here.
You don`t just take $3.6 billion and say, oh, we will find an extra. And I
think that this idea that we`re going to automatically backfill, it sets
this precedent for any president, Democratic or Republican, in the future
to just look at the Pentagon, look at the military, see it as their piggy
bank for any pet project that they want.
And I`m all for border security. I`m actually – I`m a former CIA officer.
I worked my entire life trying to prevent homeland attacks. But we have to
do something that is sensible. I`m also on the Homeland Security
Committee. Let`s have that conversation where it belongs, in the Homeland
Security Committee, not rob the Pentagon and our military families to pay
KORNACKI: just – you clearly don`t like the president.
Just so I`m clear, though, does that mean, from your view – you got to
vote here – from your view, backfilling is a no?
SLOTKIN: I mean, it`s going to be tough to get me there, because I think
we have to make clear to the Pentagon leadership, if you`re going to come
to us, say you really need this money for our soldiers, for our Marines,
for our bases, we got to believe that that needs assessment is true, and
that you need it urgently.
And if you`re willing to risk that money on something that the president –
his pet project, you`re going to feel some pain from that.
So those conversations are happening now in Washington. We get back on
Monday. So we will see this state of play. But the Pentagon has relied on
bipartisan support. We have largely trusted them in many ways for many,
many years, and it just breaks faith with Congress in a way that is very,
very untraditional for them, and it`s not good.
KORNACKI: Well, Fort Campbell, which we were mentioning, of course, it is
notably in the home state of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
And back in January in an op-ed in “The Louisville Courier-Journal,”
McConnell touted that he – quote – “secured much-needed assistance for
Fort Campbell, Fort Knox and the Blue Grass Army Depot, helping the men and
women serving there keep America safe.”
Senator McConnell opposed a Senate resolution we were just talking about
there to terminate the national emergency declaration. He voted in favor
of President Trump on that one.
Asked about the diversion of funding from the Fort Campbell middle school
project, a spokesperson for McConnell said: “We would not be in this
situation if Democrats were serious about protecting our homeland and
worked with us to provide the funding needed to secure our borders during
our appropriations process.”
Carlos Curbelo, in the old days, it was a no-brainer in politics the
congressman, the congresswoman, the senator who brought home the bacon, who
brought federal dollars back into the district was good for life, would
constantly be reelected by a grateful electorate.
That conventional wisdom has gone by the wayside in the last number of
years. Do you think it still applies at all? Would people potentially –
would members of Congress potentially pay a political price for these
projects being shut down?
CURBELO: There is still a price to pay.
Steve, look, our politics have become a lot more tribal. So people are
less pragmatic about supporting their members of Congress. And certainly
there are overarching concerns out there like military funding, like
deficit spending, that do require the attention of Congress.
But, look, Republicans got to call this honest. The truth is the president
probably could have gotten a lot more than $3.6 billion for border
infrastructure if he had negotiated a bipartisan deal on immigration.
And there are great opportunities out there. A lot of Democrats and even a
good number of Republicans want to solve the DACA issue. Other Republicans
and Democratic coalitions understand that funding border security is
important. So there is a deal out there.
The president just hasn`t been able to close it. And, after all, he said
he was the great dealmaker.
KORNACKI: All right, former Congressman Carlos Curbelo and Congresswoman
Elissa Slotkin, thank you both for being with us.
CURBELO: Thanks, Steve.
SLOTKIN: Thanks so much.
KORNACKI: All right, and up next, fending up primary challengers may get a
little easier for President Trump this weekend.
I`m heading over to the Big Board to show you why this could end up being a
very big deal.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: All right, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Remember, we always talk about, there`s general elections and there`s
primary elections, and there is all sorts of important differences between
them, obviously, but one of them is who runs them. The primary elections,
of course, are run by political parties.
Political parties get to set their own rules, and that means that some
state Republican parties loyal to the Republican President Donald Trump are
changing the rules when it comes to their presidential primaries and
caucuses next year, changing the rules, as in doing away with them,
It looks like Arizona, Nevada, Kansas, and South Carolina, the state
Republican parties there are looking to do away with their primaries and
caucuses. It would prevent any kind of potential embarrassment for
President Trump in a Republican primary.
Remember, South Carolina usually one of the early states, Nevada one of the
early states. It would prevent any potential trouble for him in a
And, of course, he does have some primary opponents. Bill Weld, the former
Massachusetts governor, he`s already running. Joe Walsh, the former one-
term congressman from Illinois, he is already running. And now Mark
Sanford, former governor of South Carolina, former congressman, defeated in
a primary at Trump`s urging last year, he is now considering a run.
So, the president could have three opponents in the Republican primaries
next year. But these primaries, one by one, it seems, are being taken off
the board by state Republican parties.
Now, that`s not all of them. Of course, New Hampshire, the critical first-
in-the-nation state, that one is still going to have a primary.
Opportunity here for the Republicans. But how much opportunity? Because,
remember, when you talk about Trump and a primary challenge, Trump, as a
general election proposition, he is clearly vulnerable.
This is Gallup, their most recent poll. They have got Trump`s national
approval rating at 39 percent. That screams vulnerable in a general
election. But Gallup also tracks Trump`s approval rating among
Republicans, among the folks who are going to decide who the Republican
That sits right now at 88 percent, and it has been at 88, 89, 90 percent
basically the entire Trump presidency. This number just has not budged.
And to put that number in perspective, obviously, it`s high. But here is a
question. Donald Trump sitting at 88 percent, he has been around. As I
say, he has been stable at 88 percent among Republicans.
What about past presidents, OK, past presidents who have received serious
primary challenges, right? Where were they with their own parties in terms
of approval rating? How does it compare to Trump at 88 percent right now?
That`s one way to gauge potential vulnerability to a primary challenge.
So, the last president who got a serious primary challenge, you got to go
back to `92. It was George H.W. Bush. And when his challenger, Pat
Buchanan, got in the race, Bush`s approval rating with Republicans was 75
percent, so not as popular as Trump.
The other thing with Bush was, that number had been extremely high because
of the Gulf War in early `91. It was already falling by this point in late
`91. And by the New Hampshire primary, it was down in the 50s. Again,
that`s movement you just haven`t seen with Trump support among Republicans.
How about Jimmy Carter, 1980? Ted Kennedy almost got the Democratic
nomination from Jimmy Carter. When Ted Kennedy got in the race, Carter`s
approval rating with Democrats was just 40 percent, 4-0, 40 percent.
Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan took him all the way to the convention in Kansas
City in `76. Ford was at 60 percent when Ronald Reagan decided to run
And then, of course, LBJ, the Vietnam War, Eugene McCarthy got in the race
in late 1967. LBJ`s approval with Democrats was just 57 percent.
So, again, you see here support that is just lower, in most cases,
significantly lower with their own party than Trump was.
There is one modern president who got a couple primary challengers who`s a
lot closer to where Trump is right now. That president, Richard Milhous
Nixon, got two congressmen, two Republican congressmen, one from the left,
McCloskey, one from the right, Ashbrook, ran against him in `72.
When McCloskey got in the race,Nixon was at 82 percent with Republicans,
when Ashbrook got in, 84 percent. Of course, neither of them got anywhere
challenging Nixon that year. Nixon, of course, as a general election
candidate, he was able to roll past George McGovern. He was much better
positioned than Trump right now.
But in terms of a primary, that is what any potential Republican primary
challenger is up against running against Donald Trump.
So up next, how do those Republican challengers feel about this, about
those canceled primary elections? I`m going ask one of them. I`m sure he
is going to have plenty to say about it – next on HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democratic Party rigged
the nomination to give it to Hillary Clinton. It was a rigged race. It
was totally rigged. And Debbie Wasserman Schultz rigged it for Hillary
The whole entire purpose of her campaign is to keep our system rigged and
to stop change from happening at any cost.
Remember, folks, it`s a rigged system. Just remember it. It`s a rigged
system. It`s a rigged system. Don`t ever forget it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was then candidate Donald Trump back in 2016. During that campaign,
he repeatedly accused the Democratic National Committee and Hillary
Clinton`s campaign of rigging their party`s nominating process for her.
And as I mentioned in our last segment, the news today, South Carolina,
Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas appear poised to cancel their Republican
presidential primaries and caucuses next year. And that is not sitting
well with President Trump`s Republican challengers.
Joining me now is one of those challengers. We just talked about him a
second ago, the former governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld.
Governor, thanks for taking a few minutes. Let me…
BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Steve, always a pleasure.
KORNACKI: Let me just ask you, do you have any recourse to stop these
states from deciding to cancel primaries and caucuses?
WELD: I don`t know about a lawsuit.
There are some precedents for this during presidential years, but I don`t
think there are precedents when there was a successful two-term Republican
governor running against the incumbent who was reelected with 71 percent of
the vote and left office with a 75 percent popularity rating in his state.
That would be me, of course. So I don`t think – I think these precedents
don`t really hold up. I think the money rationale is kind of a phony –
it`s too expensive to hold an election. Elections are the most important
thing we do in a democracy. And even if this has happened before, it is
And a vote is the ultimate expression of choice. There are a lot of
Republican women who disagree with the president on issues like, let`s say,
in cases of rape, does a woman really have to carry the rapist`s child to
That`s what the president and recent state statutes in the South expressed.
To me, that`s taking women back to the Stone Age, and people should have a
vote on that.
KORNACKI: What does this do to your campaign strategy? Does this
basically mean this is about New Hampshire fundamentally for you, if these
other ones are kind of going off the board?
WELD: Well, you know, I think it`s interesting that the president
alternates between being arrogant and being paranoid.
He was in New Hampshire not long ago, and he told – he lectured the voters
of New Hampshire at his rally there, you don`t have to choice. You have to
vote for me.
On the other hand, this is the same president whose state party earlier in
the year tried to abolish the New Hampshire primary, the first-in-the-
nation primary that gives New Hampshire about 25 percent of its clout in
our country, because every four years people have to go to New Hampshire.
And New Hampshire understood that. And that motion basically failed for
want of a second. But what a stupid idea. And it comes from I think the
president`s paranoia, insecurity, if you will. He wants anything but a
contest, anything but a choice.
KORNACKI: You obviously are facing an uphill battle here.
You have got now some company, though. You have got former Congressman Joe
Walsh running, and you have got former Governor, former Congressman Mark
Sanford considering getting in the race.
KORNACKI: Realistically, given all of the built-in institutional support
that the president enjoys, every extra challenger that you have to deal
with, doesn`t that just dilute the send-a-message-to-Trump vote?
WELD: Oh, no.
I think it`s great that these guys are getting in. And I have told both of
them that. It will be a more robust conversation. Mr. Trump, with his
one-word platforms, hoax, wall, he doesn`t really want a conversation.
And I don`t think he`s deep enough on the issues to hold up his end in a
But I know Mark Sanford really well. He knows a lot. He is very
experienced. Joe Walsh is very articulate from the right. You know, if
there is three of us, I don`t even know. I think we have already had our
first invitation for a televised debate, and I think there would be more
than that too.
So, that will be very good for all three of us in terms of publicity. I
welcome these guys in. I tried to persuade Larry Hogan of Maryland and
John Kasich of Ohio to get in earlier. And who knows, they may yet.
But I think that will stir up lot more interest in the primary on the
Republican side. That can only be good for me.
KORNACKI: Well, we mentioned too just the president`s approval rating with
Republican voters right now, how steady that has been.
What that translates into – I`m sure you`re familiar with these numbers,
but just to give folks a sense of it, when you have been tested against it
in polling – and I think we can show the most recent poll up in New
Hampshire. This is the most recent national poll. This was Suffolk a
couple of weeks ago. You had Trump 90, Weld 5.
Up in New Hampshire over the summer, there was a CNN poll that had it at
One thing that I wanted to ask you about when I look at these numbers is
this. This is ultimately – these are obviously Republican voters. And
you have been a Republican governor of Massachusetts. You endorsed Barack
Obama in 2008. You were the Libertarian vice presidential candidate in
I remember you were on this network a couple of days before the election in
2016. You gave an endorsement to Hillary Clinton`s character, seemed to be
suggesting, if folks felt they were wasting a vote on the Libertarian
ticket, to vote for Hillary, instead of Trump.
Can you understand if Republican primary voters are hesitant to look at you
as somebody who they would consider loyal to the Republican Party?
WELD: Well, I can understand how a poll that`s focused on the Republican
state party apparatus and the party leaders is going to come out 100-0 in
favor of President Trump, because the Republican Party, state party in all
50 states is the Trump Organization. They have put those people in there.
So, of course they`re all for President Trump.
And my job is to make sure that the people voting in the Republican primary
go beyond the Republican Party leaders in the state.
And, as you know, Steve, there are 20 states that permit crossover voting,
where Democrats and independents can take a Republican ballot, including
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, in New England, Wisconsin, 20 of
And I`m going to be focusing on those states to persuade independents and
Democrats to come in and, if they don`t care for President Trump, vote
against him twice, once for me in the Republican primary and once vote for
whoever they want in the general.
I`m getting a lot of traction with that argument.
KORNACKI: All right, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, thanks
for taking a few minutes.
WELD: Thank you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right.
And up next: A narrowing field, a shrinking debate stage, they are
presenting new challenges to the Democratic candidates who are polling
Can a candidate polling in the single digits hope to turn things around?
We`re going ask one of them how he plans to do that.
That is next on HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Next week, 10 candidates will participate in the third Democratic
presidential primary debate. The remaining candidates did not qualify.
That list includes Montana Governor Steve Bullock.
This week, Bullock, in a pitch to centrist voters, unveiled a plan
targeting rural America focusing on agriculture, economic development, and
other issues like health care.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the Montana governor warned the
Democrats – quote – “have not incentivized actually talking to the voters
that we need to win this election.”
He added: “We need to make sure voters” – excuse me – “know we can
improve upon their lives. That`s less about a revolution than addressing
the problems of here and now.”
Governor Steve Bullock joins me now.
Governor, thanks for taking a few minutes. I appreciate it.
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you,
KORNACKI: What is the message to rural voters that Democrats aren`t
delivering that you can?
BULLOCK: Well, first, we`re not even showing up. And if a third of the
counties in Iowa went Obama, Obama, Trump, or you look over the last 10
years – or – last years, two-thirds of the counties in this countries
actually lost businesses.
Those are the exact same places that voted for Donald Trump. So, first
showing up and saying, you shouldn`t have to leave your school, your
community, your church, your synagogue just to make a decent living, and
actually then connecting on those issues that matter to them.
When 20 percent of rural hospitals in this country are at risk of closing,
and the Trump administration`s trying to rip away the ACA. When you turn
around and say that farmers are losing money – literally, farm
bankruptcies are increasing, that – and the Trump administration isn`t
doing anything for them along the way.
So, fighting for their issues, which are really the here and now. And
those are often those pocketbook issues, from education to economic
development to health care.
KORNACKI: What about – you know this from Montana, probably better than
any of the other Democratic candidates – the importance to rural voters of
And in the context of Democrats right now, obviously, there is a push here
for background checks, assault weapons ban, Beto O`Rourke saying to go even
farther than that.
KORNACKI: Does that issue lose the Democrats rural voters?
BULLOCK: Well, I think, from the perspective – and, like, look, I`m a gun
owner. I`m a hunter.
Forty percent of households in this country actually have a firearm in it.
But if we actually look at this as a public health issue, universal
background checks, the vast majority of Republicans, the vast majority of
NRA members, most folks in rural areas actually got their gun through a
So there ought to be some commonality that we can reach here. Like, when
you – I think about it, though. Like, when I was growing up, the NRA, it
was a hunting and a gun safety organization – 30 million reasons why we
haven`t made any progress, that`s 30 million bucks that they put in to the
So, at some point, even gun owners have to say, we can do more to keep our
communities safe. And I don`t think that loses rural voters.
KORNACKI: But you – when you ran for reelection in Montana a couple of
years ago, you were against universal background checks back then.
KORNACKI: So, that was telling you something about where your state was on
that issue. It was not an issue where there was a lot of support there,
BULLOCK: Well, but even all throughout – like, I have vetoed 14 gun-
And every time that I have run for office, they have said, oh, Bullock`s
going to try to take away people`s guns. And I don`t think that that`s
where I have ever been or we as a country are.
What we want to do is actually keep people safe along the way. And I think
of even since – I will never forget, it was after the Vegas shooting. I`m
sitting in my office saying, I don`t even know what to write in this
template to lower the flags.
When a staffer says, oh – or write in the proclamation, a staffer said, we
have a template for mass shootings. Now, since then, I have lowered the
flags nine times, since Parkland, seven times.
And I think people are tired of seeing that and saying, there are steps
that we could make that won`t threaten and won`t say we`re going to take
away everyone`s guns, but actually can do a better job at keeping
KORNACKI: We mentioned the debates, another one coming up next week.
You did not meet the qualifying threshold for that. So the next one after
that is mid-October. You have got a shot to qualify for that. They may
raise the criteria again.
BULLOCK: No, that`s – yes.
KORNACKI: That October one, is that make-or-break for your campaign, to be
in that debate?
BULLOCK: You know, not at all.
Look, I hope I`m there. If everybody goes to SteveBullock.com, provides
that $1 donors, yes, we will get there along the way.
But there`s still like 150 days before Iowans first express prefers
preferences. You go back to 2004, put it on the Big Board, right, that
John Kerry was at 4 percent 31 days out. Al Sharpton was beating him.
The way this has always gone, it hasn`t been debate rules that actually
narrow the fields and make it. It`s those early states that people take a
real close look at this and take big fields and make them much smaller.
KORNACKI: All right, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, on his way to New
Hampshire, thank you for joining us. Appreciate that.
BULLOCK: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: Well, next week is a big one in politics.
On Monday, the House and Senate will be back after their August recess.
Then, on Tuesday, North Carolina`s Ninth Congressional District is going to
hold that special election to fill the seat that has been vacant all year.
And, on Thursday, the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will face
off in their third debate of the season.
So, yes, a big week ahead. You`re not going want to miss it.
And Chris Matthews will be back on Monday to take you through all of it.
That is HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
And up next, a special edition of “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” in front of a
live studio audience.
And that starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the