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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/25/15

Guests: Michael Tomasky, Liz Mair, Ira Acree, Areva Martin, Rick Pearson

JOY REID, GUEST HOST: Holiday fear factor. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Joy Reid, in for Chris Matthews tonight from New York. Nearly 47 million people are expected to travel this week for Thanksgiving, but it comes at a time of heightened alerts and fears of terrorism. On Monday, the state Department Issued a worldwide travel alert calling on U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation overseas. The FBI issued a bulletin warning that terrorists could try to replicate the recent Paris attacks on a smaller scale. Since that attack, ISIS has pumped out a steady stream of propaganda videos including threats against Washington, D.C., and New York, where at least 3.5 million people are expected to line the streets for tomorrow`s Macy`s Thanksgiving Day parade. Today, the president and top security advisers reiterated that there is no known specific threat to the country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, right now, we know of no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland. As Americans travel this weekend to be with their loved ones, I want them to know that our counterterrorism, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals at every level are working overtime. They are continually monitoring threats at home and abroad.    In the event of a specific credible threat, the public will be informed. We do think it`s useful for people as they`re going about their business to be vigilant. If you see something suspicious, say something. That`s always helpful. But otherwise, Americans should go about their usual Thanksgiving weekend activities. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Now, as President Obama urges Americans to go about their usual business and enjoy the holiday, America is a country on edge. In a recent "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, more than four in five people said that they thought a terrorist attack on the country was likely in the near future. And for more on the president`s remarks, I`m joined by NBC News national correspondent Peter Alexander at the White House. All right, Peter, get across sort of what were the basic remarks that the president had for the country today. PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: well, I think what was as important as the remarks was really the optics of this moment here. Over the course of the last several days, we`ve heard President Obama make it very clear to Americans that there is no specific and credible threat and try to reassure Americans, as well. But this was an image of him standing alongside the top counterterrorism, homeland security, national security advisers in this country. And the message, I think, in simple terms was basically, Let us do the worrying. You do the celebrating. You do the enjoying. And if you do see something, please let us know about that, as well. We will keep you posted, as well. The White House recognizes this president has faced a lot of criticism. A majority of Americans have not been satisfied with his handling of terrorism, don`t believe that he has a clear strategy against ISIS, and they wanted to try, as best they could, calm some fears going into this holiday weekend to give people the best sense they could of where things stand at this moment. REID: And Peter, one of the groups that`s doing the vigilance is the FBI. Can you tell us what was behind the bulletin from the FBI this week? ALEXANDER: Yes, so they put out this bulletin that they share with local law enforcement officials, as well. And it said a variety of things. Among them, it said that overseas, while the biggest fear is associated with a Paris-style attack, that here at home, the real threat that they worry about comes from lone wolf type attackers, more specifically homegrown extremists. There was actually another bulletin that went out today. These bulletins are generally fairly routine. This one had only limited details in it, but it made a point to police that they are likely aware of right now. It said that attackers, in its words, could try to capitalize on the Thanksgiving holiday to promote their agenda.    That`s the backdrop for law enforcement across the country, their primary concern, as we said, those homegrown extremists, the primary locales they have to protect, those soft targets. Even if they can`t stop every site from being a potential target, their hope is that by being present, they can not just reassure but potentially prevent and also serve as a deterrent, as well. REID: All right, Peter Alexander, thank you. Jonathan Dienst is chief investigative reporter for NBC 4 in New York and an NBC News contributing correspondent. All right, Jonathan, so let`s talk about just pegging off of what Peter Alexander talked about in this FBI report on lone wolf attacks. How does the FBI decide what to protect, what to prioritize? You`ve got football games going on tomorrow. Of course, you`ve got the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day parade. How does the agency even begin to prioritize? JONATHAN DIENST, NBC CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT: Well, the priority for New York FBI right now is this parade. They have a command center up and running around the clock as the parade preparations are underway. The police commissioner and the mayor just a short time ago held a news conference of their own, saying there are no specific threats, the police commissioner himself going to be on scene, attending the parade along with thousands and thousands of police officers for this crowd that`s expected to come close to about three million people expected to be in Manhattan tomorrow to take part in this parade, and the NYPD deploying all of its anti-terror units, helicopters in the air, extra cameras, bomb-sniffing dogs. So both at the federal level, at the local level, a massive show of force both out on the streets, and also what we won`t see, which is behind the scenes, the intelligence gathering, the constant monitoring of any possible threats. But again, as of now, police and FBI officials telling us there`s no specific threats. Now, there have been a couple of leads that have been run down in New York and Washington, but we`re told federal and local investigators tracked those down and determined them to be washed out, that they`re not credible. But that`s the type of work that`s being done around the clock to try to ensure tomorrow`s parade, the upcoming Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting among the celebrations that they`re keeping a close eye on here in New York. REID: And Jonathan, just really quickly because we know that every year, there are massive security preparations for the parade, for the tree lighting, et cetera, as there are probably around the country for Thanksgiving celebrations. Are you seeing, just as a reporter, a demonstrable increase in that kind of security this year versus any other year? DIENST: What`s happening here in the New York area is our police departments are increasing their counterterrorism deployments and training. So we were just given an inside look this past week of counterterror units in training, in action, doing everything from active shooters to terrorists taking over an office building and how police are training their counterterror units to respond, 500 new counterterror unit officers being deployed by the NYPD. That`s all they`re going to do. So add that to 3,000 regular police officers who`ve gotten counterterror and active shooter training, you are talking about a considerable investment in the ability of the police departments in this New York area to respond to the active shooter, to the terror incident.    But again, the key, all law enforcement tells us, is the intelligence and advance. You don`t want the frontline troops to be the ones stopping it. You want the intelligence in advance to sweep up any lone wolf or ISIS cell that may be out there, and that is the hard work that is done behind the scenes that we often don`t see. REID: All right, Jonathan Dienst, thanks very much. DIENST: Thank you. REID: This afternoon, Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said that counterterrorism officials are focussed on threats from potential Paris copycats and lone wolves. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEH JOHNSON, DHS SECRETARY: We in the U.S. government know of no specific credible threat of a terrorist plot to the homeland. What we are focused on and continue to be focused on, as we have before Paris, are potential copycat acts similar to things that occur overseas. We`re focussed on the lone actor, as well. And we`ve seen some of that overseas and here in recent months. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Laith Alkhouri is an MSNBC terrorism analyst and director of Middle East and North Africa research at Flashpoint. OK, Laith, so we just heard Jonathan Dienst talk about the importance of having intelligence in advance, rather than just relying on law enforcement to respond. How do intelligence agencies even begin to piece together the threats from potentially just individuals who are inspired by organizations like ISIS but not even connected to them? LAITH ALKHOURI, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Look, we know that law enforcement, whether on the local or federal level, are conducting active surveillance. That`s on the one hand. But on the other hand, we heard from the U.S. government before that there are active terrorism investigations taking place in, essentially, every single state. so the threat from homegrown terrorism and violent extremism is actually very real. It`s just I believe that there is no credible specific threat stemming after the Paris attacks that is posing a threat to the homeland, especially here in New York. But since groups since 9/11, groups like al Qaeda, ISIS and others, have voiced, have expressed their opinion about attacking, have vowed to attack New York, have vowed to attack Washington. So we need to be very, very vigilant despite the lack of actual specific threat to the homeland.    REID: And Laith, I`m wondering, is there still considerable chatter that even takes place, places like on line, on Twitter, one social media, since these groups must know that they`re being monitored, right? The common sense belief would be that those sites are being monitored. So is there some other way that these organizations or individuals are communicating? ALKHOURI: Absolutely. There are, you know, areas of the Internet that are under-scrutinized, like in the dark Web, for example, where we know that, you know, ISIS and other groups are operating and propaganda distribution and fund-raising, but also in communications. There are a number of tools that are encrypted so they don`t allow, you know, law enforcement to be able to eavesdrop on suspicious communications. We see that a lot of ISIS supporters are shifting to these encrypted platforms gradually but definitely steadily. And so, you know, these platforms are there and they exist, and those guys are using them. REID: And really quickly, Laith, I have to ask you how much law enforcement is focusing on homegrown terrorists that have nothing to do with the Middle East or Islamic terrorism. Vox News recently has a report out saying since that 9/11, domestic terrorists killed 74 people, 48 have been killed by right-wing extremists versus 28 from jihadi-related extremists. How much focuses on domestic -- strictly domestic terrorism this holiday? ALKHOURI: I mean, it`s very hard to discern how much focus is split between here and there. But I think, you know, this goes into a larger picture, which is, you know, if white supremacist groups start putting out beheading videos and start vowing to conduct suicide bombings in the heart of the United States, then much more attention will be given to those groups. But the mere fact that we are so struck by, you know, the footage that comes out of the Middle East, North Africa and other places showing beheadings, showing bombings, and of course, that all cemented in our memory with the Paris attacks, showing such an aggressive raid by ISIS operatives, too close to home here in the West, I think that raises the level of paranoia and insecurity. REID: All right. Laith Alkhouri, thanks, as always, my friend. Have a great holiday. ALKHOURI: Thank you, Joy. REID: Thank you.    All right, coming up -- dangerous talk. Donald Trump`s divisive and some would say dangerous rhetoric may be revving up his base, but it`s also drawing increasing alarm from members of his own party. And now some Republicans are belatedly organizing to try and take down the GOP front- runner with just 10 weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses. The question, though, at this point, can Trump be stopped before he locks up the Republican nomination? This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Some good news for the millions of Americans hitting the road this holiday weekend. The average price of regular gasoline is $2.20 a gallon. That`s the best Thanksgiving weekend price since 2008. Just three years ago, in 2012, it cost drivers $3.50 a gallon to gas up. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As the editorial board of "The New York Times" put it yesterday, America has just lived through another presidential campaign week dominated by Donald Trump`s racist lies. Agree or disagree, it has been quite a week for Trump. After calling for the surveillance of mosques, Trump supported an unprecedented national database to track Muslims in the United States. He`s called for a return to Bush-era practice of waterboarding, and he`s repeatedly claimed that thousands of American Muslims actually cheered the attacks on 9/11, a claim that`s demonstrably false. A day after a Black Lives Matter activist was roughed up at a Trump campaign rally, the GOP front-runner suggested the African-American protester deserved what he got. And he later retweeted a chart of inaccurate crime statistics that falsely stated that blacks were responsible for most homicides against whites. Most recently, in a move that "The New York Times" has called outrageous, Trump last night mocked a "New York Times" reporter who suffers from a physical handicap limiting the movement of his arms. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)    DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got to see this guy. Oh, I don`t know what I said! Oh, I don`t remember! He`s, going, like, I don`t remember! (INAUDIBLE) Oh, maybe that`s what I said! (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: And that report is according to Politico. And now Ohio governor John Kasich, who`s far back in the Republican pack, is out with a provocative new Web ad intended to show why a Trump presidency is not just bad for America, it would actually be dangerous. In the ad, Colonel Tom Moe, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, paraphrases the famous text written by anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemoeller after World War II to make a stirring plea to those supporting and indeed tolerating Trump within the GOP. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government because you`re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he`s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants because you`re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it`s OK to rough up black protesters because you`re not one. Think about this. If he keeps going and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope that there`s someone left to help you. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: I`m joined now by Republican strategist Liz Mair, who`s launched a new super-PAC to try and stop Donald Trump, as well as Michael Tomasky of the DailyBeast and MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of the HuffingtonPost. And Howard, I`m going to come to you first on this Kasich ad because it strikes me that the ad is intended to try to prick the conscience of Trump supporters, but I`m wondering if you think that the ad might just actually insult them by essentially implying that they are affiliated with Nazism or fascism?    HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it runs that risk. Having attended some Trump rallies and been with his supporters there, most of them are decent people who don`t think in those terms. Now, that`s the voters. Donald Trump himself is guilty as charged. He`s guilty of using every tactic of incitement and race and resentment and ridicule and tumult that he can. That`s Donald Trump. That`s not necessarily his supporters. And separating those supporters from Donald Trump is what all of the next couple of months are going to be about in the Republican race. REID: And Michael, you`ve written specifically about the "F" word, the word "fascism," which has been used by some Republicans. You had Bush adviser John Noonan (ph) who said that forced legal registration of all U.S. citizens based on religious identity is fascism, period. Nothing else to call it. There`s the Iowa radio host named Steve Deace who said that, If Obama proposed the same religion registry as Trump, every conservative in the country would call it what it is, creeping fascism. You had the adviser to Marco Rubio, named Max Boot, say, Trump is a fascist, and that`s not a term I use loosely or often, but he`s earned it. And then, of course, your piece in the DailyBeast where you ask, "We`re at the point where we`re debating whether the responsibility front- runner is or is not objectively a fascist. Who in the Republican Party`s going to step up here?" I`m wondering if that kind of talk, because it`s not just directed at Trump -- like the Kasich ad, it also is directed at his supporters, that Republican base voters, winds up backfiring on people like Kasich. MICHAEL TOMASKY, DAILYBEAST: I think it probably does, to some extent, Joy, sad to say. You know, Trump`s supporters -- they`re with him. You know, we -- they`re -- it`s not a majority of the country by any stretch of the imagination. It`s not a majority of the Republican Party electorate. But they are with him. They are with -- they have already made up their minds. And if you start tossing around the word fascism or creeping fascism or whatever you want to say, that`s not going to make those people say, oh, gee, I didn`t realize I was supporting a fascist. I had better back off. That is going to get their back up and that`s going to make them all the more ardently in support of him. It has to be done a different way and it has to be done by Republicans themselves. I am a kind of dissenter on this Kasich ad. I think if John Kasich has something to say about Donald Trump, just stand up and say it yourself. And I would say that to a lot of other Republicans, too, including Republicans in the United States Senate and United States House. REID: Yes.    And, you know, Liz, this ad strikes me -- obviously not being a Trump supporter, it strikes me as a really powerful ad that would, in a general election, actually be really quite powerful. And I think I might be more with Michael Tomasky in the primary. But you actually have a super PAC called Trump Card LLC, which is trying to go at it I`m presuming a different way to try to stop Donald Trump. LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. REID: So, tell us what your super PAC is trying to do and how does it differ from the Kasich approach? MAIR: Right. I think, as you have seen from Kasich, obviously, they are using a Web video to get media. But we are thankfully not hindered with the difficulty of having to advance a particular candidate. We are just basically focusing on Donald Trump. So, while what they did, I think, may work very well in terms of getting John Kasich more mentions and more bookings and put him more in the spotlight, we don`t really need to worry about any of that. We just need to worry about going after Trump. And from our perspective, he does have a couple of liabilities. One of the big ones, we know from focus-grouping that has been done is his supporters are not aware of the fact that he is supportive of socialized medicine, and he likes the Canadian health care and he likes the British health care system. And when they find that out, they don`t like it. We also know that his supporters firmly believe that he is an A-plus business success and are completely unaware of the fact that he has actually had numerous, very major business failings. And so I think the more that his business record is examined, the more that is going to help in terms of the profile that he cuts with those supporters. In addition to that, we also know that they see him as being quite apart from the normal political class, somebody who is not capable of being impacted by special interests. I think the more that he comes to be seen as a walking, talking special interest himself, which he very clearly is -- and if you look at his habits of abusing eminent domain, that is a really, really nice case in point. I think that is also potentially going to erode support. And then the tricky one, which I think is what this ad is kind of getting at and what the Kasich super PAC ad is also getting at, is the issue of his gaffes, because obviously a lot of Trump-supportive individuals really like this, like, he is not politically correct, he just tells it like it is, he`s a real keeper. They like that sort of aspect of him, but also we do know that they are very concerned that he will at some point go too far and say something that basically throws the entire election to whoever they don`t want, whether that is Marco Rubio, whether that is Hillary Clinton.    And so one of the issues for us is identifying what that is, what`s the too far thing, and making sure that people are actually aware of that and are hearing that. And I think we have seen Trump have to walk back some of his remarks in past. And so that is a guide to the fact that he is cognizant that he can go too far. REID: Yes. (CROSSTALK) REID: And yet, Liz, and yet, and yet "The Washington Post" is reporting today that, according to a top Republican strategist, Trump supporters are not easily swayed by traditional political messaging. And what they said is: "They are incredibly angry. He is the first guy in their mind who speaks to that anger in a visceral way. They have a deep longing for that." In addition to that, data from the Public Religion Research Institute out last week sheds light on the kind of anger that they feel. Namely, 80 percent of Trump supporters say they believe immigrants are a burden on this country. Furthermore, 74 percent of Trump supporters say discrimination against whites is a problem. Howard, I fail to see how talking to angry, disaffected, working-class -- basically working-class white voters who are just angry in their deep id are going to care about Trump`s business record or that he once supported universal health care. FINEMAN: No, they`re not going to care about that, I don`t think. And I just came back from a meeting of Huffington Post editors from around the world in Madrid, of all places, where they were taking note of the 40th anniversary of the death of Francisco Franco, who was the ultimate modern fascist leader. And what fascism was about there and what the Europeans who are looking back at the U.S. are seeing in Donald Trump is a guy who conflates his own personality and his own quirks with a powerful state. In other words, he is not a libertarian. This is about as far from libertarianism as you`re going to get. This guy is for big government as long as he is running big government. And what he is telling those people at those rallies that I have attended, and the reason they are embracing him is that he is saying: I will simplify all of this. I will get rid of all of the complexities. Everything that you need, all your fears will be answered because of me and me alone at the big giant lever of government.    That is what fascism was in Spain. That is what the Spanish people have spent a generation trying to live down. That`s what Europeans who ask me about Donald Trump ask me about. They don`t think he`s a joke. When they look at Donald Trump, they see an American version of things they have had to deal with in modern European history. And they don`t want to see it on their shores, although, ironically, because of arguments about refugees and race and religion in Europe, they have got the same problems over there emerging in Europe right now. REID: Yes. And we have got to go. But, really quickly, Michael Tomasky, is there any one of those 14 Republicans that you can see actually making the case against Donald Trump successfully to that base? TOMASKY: Maybe Lindsey Graham makes it. (CROSSTALK) REID: Well, that`s no hope at all. (LAUGHTER) TOMASKY: But he`s got 1 percent. (CROSSTALK) REID: We got to go. Thank you so much. Liz Mair, Howard Fineman, and Michael Tomasky, who has killed all hope.    (LAUGHTER) REID: Up next, we go live to Chicago one day after charges are filed and a video released of a white police officer fatally shooting a young black man. HARDBALL is back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Do we have to make change? Absolutely. It`s always working towards a culture that understands that you`re accountable. It`s an honor to serve the public. And because you serve the public, you`re not above the law, but you actually are there and you will be held accountable like everybody else, and accountable not just like everybody else, but to a higher standard. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last night talking about police accountability after the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago police officer named Jason Van Dyke in October of last year. Dash-cam video released yesterday by authorities, a portion of which you see here, shows McDonald being shot 16 times, including while he was on the ground. Now, we stopped the video after the first shots were fired. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and Chicago`s top cop is promising justice.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: The officer in this case took a young man`s life and he`s going to have to account for his actions. And that is what today is all about. Today is about accountability. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Many in Chicago are upset that it took 13 months for the video to be released. But, tonight, a spokesperson for Mayor Rahm Emanuel disputes any notion that he withheld the tape from the public. The mayor`s spokesperson e-mailed the statement to HARDBALL -- quote -- "This case, including the video, was turned over to prosecutors within days of the incident. As the state`s attorney said yesterday, the course the city took was in the best interest of law enforcement officials in allowing them to conduct the investigation which led to the first-degree murder charge that was filed against Jason Van Dyke yesterday." And I should note that the president has also made a statement about the Laquan McDonald shooting, saying that all Americans should remember the tragedy and saying he was disturbed by it. Joining me now from Chicago are Rick Pearson of "The Chicago Tribune," Pastor Ira Acree of the Saint John Bible Church, and attorney and legal expert Areva Martin. And I want to go to you first, Reverend Acree. What do you want to see happen now in the McDonald case? IRA ACREE, PASTOR, GREATER SAINT JOHN BIBLE CHURCH: Well, in my community, many people feel betrayed and violated, and they are insulted by the fact that the mayor and the superintendent is making this about one cop.    We see a system that has betrayed us. We see even the potential of three entities of government working together in collusion. We want a special prosecutor to look at this, because many of us have questions. Why did it take 13 months for this case to come to light? And then a video had to be forced to be released by a judge. Five months -- I mean -- pardon me -- $5 million was paid to the family member, and this family member didn`t even raise the child. This child was a ward of the state. Many people feel Anita Alvarez has lost all of her moral authority. So, certainly, we need an independent prosecutor to look at this right now. REID: And, Rick Pearson, you cover politics in Chicago. What we just heard from Ira Acree, from Reverend Acree, were allegations essentially of collusion, of a cover-up by the city. In reporting on this case, do you get the sense that the city came together and colluded, including that settlement, which did come about a month after the discovery by a reporter of the autopsy report showing that McDonald, that the young man was shot 16 times and not one time? Do you see evidence that the city conspired to cover up this case. RICK PEARSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I can`t say that we see evidence, but there`s certainly some valid questions here. You touched on the fact of that settlement. That settlement came just a week after the mayor`s reelection campaign. And though the mayor says he did not see this video until shortly after it was released yesterday, there is a lot of people who are questioning whether there was some kind of political motivations here. The fact that a settlement was reached before a lawsuit, before any kind of action had taken place, there is a lot of complaints in all parts of this city over what took so long. REID: Yes. And, Areva Martin, very briefly, the other thing that you are hearing from a lot of people on the ground is the prosecutor overcharged this case in order to essentially lose the case. Do you see evidence of an overcharge in the case of this young man?    AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Well, clearly, there is going to be some question about she can prove premeditation, which is required for first- degree murder. And I think some people are concerned that she did overcharge the case, one, to appease what she thought would be the community that would protest, as we see they are doing, and perhaps to -- as you just said, perhaps not to be successful in the trial of the police officer. And the other thing that I think we have to look at in these cases that keeps coming up time and time again is the culpability of the other officers. If officers are covering up what they see as criminal activity by officers, they need to be prosecuted as well. It`s not enough to just prosecute the cop that pulled the trigger. If we are going to really address the systemic problem we have in police departments around this country, we have to look at everybody involved, including prosecutors, but definitely those other cops who have information and cover up for their fellow officers. REID: Yes, we certainly have only seen charges against one of those officers in this case. Very important point. Thank you to all three of you, Rick Pearson, Ira Acree, and Areva Martin. Wish we had more time. Thank you. All right, and up next: Cruz control. Ted Cruz is rising in the Iowa Republican polls. If it ultimately comes down to Cruz and Trump, what does that fight look like? You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening. President Obama and his family participated in a service project, serving food at a homeless shelter.    NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford had a brain condition often linked to head trauma, like concussions. His family disclosed the diagnosis. Gifford died this summer at the age of 84. And a U.S. official says the deadly bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan last month was a tragic mistake. The crew of the gunship that fired on the compound relied on a physical description provided by Afghan forces, which led them to attack the wrong target -- back to HARDBALL. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t believe Donald is going to be the nominee. And I think, in time, the lion`s share of his supporters end up with us. (END AUDIO CLIP) REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Senator Ted Cruz in a radio interview last month saying that Donald Trump will lose the Republican nomination and predicting that he, Ted Cruz, will inherit Trump`s supporters. New polling from Quinnipiac shows Cruz in a statistical tie with Trump in Iowa, but Cruz`s gain in support doesn`t come from former Trump supporters, as he predicted. It appears to be coming at the expense of Dr. Ben Carson, who has declined by 10 points since last month. Now, for months, Cruz and Trump have avoided attacking each other and have largely agreed on policy. And Cruz is seemingly content -- has been content to just draft behind Trump`s momentum and wait. But now it seems Ted Cruz is looking to differentiate himself from the GOP front-runner. First, Cruz declined to back a national registry of Muslims in this country with Trump`s support. Here is what he said on Friday.    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, listen, I`m a big fan of Donald Trump`s. But I`m not a fan of government registry of American citizens. The First Amendment protects religious liberty. And I spent the past several decades defending religious liberty of every American. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Then, on Monday, Cruz took another subtle and in many ways ironic swipe at Trump on immigration, telling "The Associated Press" that "Tone matters. Are there some in the Republican Party whose rhetoric is unhelpful with regard to immigration? Yes." As Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg Politics" observed today, Trump`s bravado gives Cruz a chance to paint himself as something nobody in Washington would accuse him of being, prudent and measured. I`m joined now by HARDBALL round table: David Ignatius is a columnist for "The Washington Post", Anne Gearan is a political correspondent with "The Washington Post", and Sahil Kapur is with "Bloomberg News". And, Sahil, I just read your quote about the measured Mr. Cruz. I`m going to come to you on this first. Give us some of the ways that Cruz is trying to distance and differentiate himself from Donald Trump. SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Joy, the big thing that is happening is that Cruz realized after four months of Trump being in the lead, something like four and a half months, Trump is not going to fade on his own and Cruz is going to have to make these distinctions. He is starting doing that with Senator Rubio a few weeks ago. Now, he`s doing that with Trump. He`s essentially presenting himself as the reliable conservative version of Donald Trump, the one who`s been saying these things for a long time, the one who`s not just an opportunist and someone who the base can trust. He is using the fact that he has been in the Senate. He`s had, you know, a long voting record, of voting almost perfectly with ideological conservative groups and he`s distinguishing himself as someone who will stand by conservative principles and constitutional principles. That`s what we are seeing right now. REID: And, Anne Gearan, you know, my theory has always been that the Republican Party is this three-legged stool of sort of Wall Street kind of elites. You`ve got your sort of blue collared white vote that Donald Trump is appealing to, and then you got the evangelical piece.    We know that Ted Cruz is rising with the evangelical part. Out on the campaign trail, what is Cruz doing to try to appeal to those other two components of the Republican base? ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it`s interesting. You are seeing him start to, in some ways, pattern himself after some of the things that have been successful for Trump without doing the full showmanship and certainly without going as far on any of these issues as Trump has gone. I think he is starting to be more populist. He is starting to have more of an every man`s stance that certainly has done well for Trump and, certainly, as we were just discussing I think that he is now making what may turn out to be a smart play here where he`s calling Trump out, as Trump gets to the edge of the cliff he is saying, hey, look, I wouldn`t be the guy who jumps over that cliff. And to the extent that there is a sort of more measured and moderate Republican sentiment that kind of likes Trump but doesn`t like everything he says, he is positioning himself to be a good alternative. REID: Pretty extraordinary that the measured moderate alternative would be the guy that pushed the House to shut down the government. Interesting times that we live in. All right. David, speaking of the cliff, you wrote a scathing column today about Trump`s inflammatory rhetoric, following the Paris attacks. You said, "Trump appears to be enflaming the situation deliberately to advance his presidential campaign. These aren`t just a politician`s exaggeration, they`re dangerous fabrications meant to engender fear at a time when calm is needed." But I wonder, David, if what Donald Trump is actually doing is appealing to the true sentiments or of at least a substantial portion of the Republican base? DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: There are a lot of Republican voters who agree with Trump about immigration. Polls show that. There are a lot of Republican voters who want that get tough strongman/bring America back no matter what. Donald Trump was saying he thought waterboarding was great in a recent comment. What I try to say in my column this morning is that if you talk to counterterrorism professionals, law enforcement, intelligence officers, people who are working 24/7 to try to keep the country safe, they will tell you that we depend on the willingness of Muslim Americans to cooperate with law enforcement in their local communities if they see something going on, if they see young people who are becoming extremists to speak up and help address that. And it`s precisely the fabric of trust that those people have for the United States, feeling they`re part of the country. I think Trump is risking and undermining. I heard today after that column from a number of people who were from this world that deals with terrorism on a daily basis who basically said we share the concern. I think Trump is going to have to -- REID: Can I ask you quickly, David, because are they also concerned that other candidates are going in Trump`s direction to include people like Marco Rubio, who`s more of a neocon, but who are going -- they`re not going away from Trump`s rhetoric, they are also ratcheting up the bluster.    IGNATIUS: They certainly have hawkish conservative lines on foreign policy. In terms of really inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims, about Syrian refugees, Trump and Carson have been out on the wing. It`s interesting that Ted Cruz, hard to say that Ted Cruz moderate alternative in any sense to Donald Trump. He did call him out on the question of database for Muslims, as a constitutional scholar, he thinks that is impermissible. REID: Yes. IGNATIUS: So, you know, what I`d say about Cruz is he is the outsider who might be able to win if you think that Trump has gone so far that he begins to fall off the cliff. REID: Yes. Interesting. OK, the roundtable is going to stay with us. And coming up, we`re going to take a look at the Democratic side of the race for 2016. New numbers for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. That`s up next. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is hard to believe that this is my seventh year of pardoning a turkey. Time flies, even if turkeys don`t. (LAUGHTER)    MALIA OBAMA, FIRST DAUGHTER: That was good. That was good. BARACK OBAMA: I thought it was good. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: You can look at it, but it`s still not (ph) funny. Washington is a city of tradition and today with no exception. Today, President Obama flanked by fashionable first teenagers Sasha and Malia performed the annual pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey. This year`s lucky fowl is Honest, and Honest`s alternative Abe. That`s right, Honest and Abe. It was the 68th year the turkeys pardoned by America`s chief executive, and the two lucky birds will move to Leesburg, Virginia, where they will be happily ensconced in a nice safe turkey farm, far away from hungry humans. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: And we`re back with the roundtable, David, Sahil and Anne. And let`s turn to the Democrats now. There`s good news for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, where she appears to be holding her lead over Bernie Sanders. That`s according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. Hillary has the backing of just over half of likely caucus-goers. In Iowa, Sanders gets 42 percent. Now, what accounts for her strength there and how important is winning Iowa if Bernie Sanders has any shot of upending Clinton`s path to the nomination.    And I want to come to you first on that, Anne, because I have been out there with you on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton. "The New York Times" has a piece out today where they talk about the fact that Hillary has the heart -- doesn`t have the heart of Iowa, she has their heads. Does that matter if, in the end, she also has the win in Iowa? GEARAN: Well, I mean, they are banking on the fact that, no, in the end, it doesn`t matter. She certainly is out there trying to win hearts but this poll shows -- is essentially unchanged from a month earlier. And one of the most interesting things in it is that more people in Iowa say -- more Democrats say that they like Bernie Sanders` leadership on the economy over Clinton`s, and yet, a majority support Clinton. So, some of the same people who have a preference for Sanders` economic policies pick her. The only reason to do that is because they think she can win. REID: And, Sahil, isn`t that the bottom line here, is that Democrats are not so much concerned with having a 2008 sort of emotional connection? They are interested in winning the election. And isn`t that Bernie Sanders` biggest problem? KAPUR: Absolutely. Joy, this is a mind versus heart dilemma that candidate -- that Democrats are having, which is the way one strategist put it to me. Sanders is seen as the long-standing, consistent progressive, who has been saying these things, talking about income inequality and climate change for a long time. Clinton is seen as someone who`s motivated by a mix of pragmatic and political considerations. But at the end of the day, Democrats overwhelmingly see her as likeliest to win as the best person to carry their torch to a general election, which they real size probably not going to be easy to win -- REID: Right. KAPUR: Given the fact that Democrats have held the White House for two terms now. REID: And very quickly, David, on the issue of international security or national security and terrorism, what does it mean that Bernie Sanders has stayed on his economic message and has been the only candidate not to add national security to the his rhetoric on the stump or change his view? IGNATIUS: It means that he knows what his strength is. It also means to me that he continues in some ways to be a protest candidate, even in his own mind and not a convincing person who could win the nomination and become president.    It was very interesting that he just -- even in the aftermath of Paris, didn`t want to take on foreign policy. When he does, it`s his very liberal view. The United States should not lead in the world. We should stay out of these conflicts, and I think he doesn`t want to change that in the wake of Paris. REID: Yes. At all. OK. The roundtable is going to stick with me, because up next, these three are going to tell me something that I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: We are back with the HARDBALL roundtable. All right. David, tell me something I don`t know. IGNATIUS: Barack Obama`s new best friend in the Middle East is the leader of the UAE, Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed. President Obama has talked to him at length three times in the last month about Syria. REID: All right. Interesting. All right. Anne?    GEARAN: So, Monday, 13 women Democratic senators will endorse Hillary formally and have a fund-raising event for her in Washington. It`s the largest such event that`s been held so far, and it shows her lock on the elected Democratic legislators. The only problem is there are 14 women Democratic senators. Can you guess which one won`t be there? REID: Please, just tell us. GEARAN: It will be Senator Warren, will not be there. REID: Oh. Well, that`s interesting. All right. Sahil? KAPUR: Joy, since it`s Thanksgiving, I want to tell our viewers that a recent poll asked Americans which presidential candidate they believe is most likely to ruin Thanksgiving, and Donald Trump won by a 2:1 margin. Second was Hillary Clinton. Also the same poll found that by 3:1 margin, Republicans oppose President Obama`s executive order to pardon the turkey. So, happy Thanksgiving, everyone. REID: Well, happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And very follow-up to Anne, is there forgiveness between the Clinton camp and some of those women senators who weren`t with her last time? Because I know there were some tension before. GEARAN: Yes, there has been largely. Warren clearly is holding out for a little while. REID: He`s holding out. The question is, holding out for what? It`s going to be interesting to see whether she ultimately actually lands in a camp, because it`s true, she should naturally -- think be with Bernie but she ain`t with him either. Has Bernie gotten any endorsements, congressional?    GEARAN: Yes, a few and some in state houses as well. REID: Yes. GEARAN: But Clinton is so far ahead. REID: He`s so far ahead. All right. Well, thank you very much to my roundtable, David Ignatius, Anne Gearan and Sahil Kapur. That is HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. And a very, very happy Thanksgiving, from all of us here at HARDBALL." "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. 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 CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>