Show: HARDBALL Date: November 18, 2016 Guest: Cornell William Brooks, John Koza, Hendrik Hertzberg, Victoria McGrane, Tim Alberta, Sabrina Siddiqui, Joel Edgerton, Jeff Nichols
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Walk the line.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Well, it begins like this. The new leader lays down the gauntlet. He dares anyone to stand in his way. Ignoring the laws, he does what he wants. If he smells weakness or an eagerness not to displease him, he shoves further, demanding more of what he wants.
Well, today, Donald Trump is testing the limits of his new power, probing to see what he can get away with. There`s a federal law passed by the Congress, signed by a president, that outlaws hiring a member of your family. The ban covers the hiring of a son-in-law. It says no federal official can do it. Donald Trump is right now deciding whether to test it, to go ahead, to do it, see if the courts stop him, daring the media to take a stand.
So let me get this straight, right up front. I believe that letting a big man ignore the law, in fact, the spirit of the law, you send him the worst possible signal. You tell him he`s above the law. If you say this isn`t a big deal, hiring your son-in-law to sit with you in the Oval Office, then tell me when you plan to say no to Donald Trump. Tell me now because, believe me, this is just the first sip, the first taste of what is going to be like -- what it`s going to be like.
And remember the mentality that gave us the worst constitutional crisis of modern times? It`s explained in the immortal words of Richard Nixon, "When the president does it, that means it`s not illegal."
We stand now at the bridge connecting what Donald Trump wants to do and what the Constitution, the law, the media and the American people will let him get away with. What we do on this bridge will matter heavily in the next four years. In fact, it will decide what this moment in our history will look like in American history.
As evidence (INAUDIBLE) so far, this is just part of a larger issue. Not only did Donald Trump let his family sit in on his first meeting with a foreign leader yesterday, but he`s now pushing the envelope with his star choice of top officials.
He`s announced General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo, well, for his director of CIA.
Flynn`s made no secret, of course, of his disdain for Muslims. Sessions has reportedly used racist remarks toward African-Americans, and Pompeo has revealed himself to be a partisan ideologue.
Well, meanwhile, Trump today settled the civil fraud suit over Trump University for 25 million bucks.
Anyway, I`m joined right now by MSNBC chief legal analyst Ari Melber. Let`s talk -- I have this -- I sense that big shots, big men will push as far as they can. They`ll treat the United States government, in this case, as an acquisition, and therefore begin to think that they can shape it to their will.
Now, Donald Trump knows there`s a law, an anti-nepotism law, that says you can`t hire family members. It specifically says or (INAUDIBLE) says you can`t hire a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law, or a mother, or a father. You can`t bring the family into the government business because the first loyalty of every public official should be to the United States government and the people of this country, not to some relative who put them on the payroll.
Anyway, let`s talk about this. Trump, what`s he up to...
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well...
MATTHEWS: ... in regard to -- in regard to Jared Kushner, his highly trusted confidential adviser Jared Kushner?
MELBER: Well, Chris, as you say, the Congress felt that this was dangerous, that the bias that most people might naturally hold for their family is a dangerous thing if it can lead them to try to give out perks or power to people who otherwise wouldn`t get it, aren`t qualified for it, and on top of that, bad governance because as you well know from covering Washington for so long, hiring and firing go hand in hand.
You have to be able to fire. You have to be able to remove people if they are on the job and not doing it right. That`s very hard to do if that person is your son or son-in-law. Talk about a difficult family conversation. That`s why it was banned, as you say, by Congress in the anti-nepotism law from 1967.
Second, Chris, you mentioned the Constitution and the spirit here. This is something our founders were well aware of. They were worried about it. They set age minimums for the Senate and the presidency under the Constitution, never to be changed, precisely because they were so worried about the hereditary habit from kings trying to just roll their own family members in. Their view was you had to get old enough, build your own record, and then win it fair and square with the voters, if you wanted to.
So all of this, I think, flies in the face, as you say, of the spirit of the federal laws that are on the books, of the constitutional system. The Trump administration and the transition format, as we`re seeing it, seems to think that the family business can just roll right over into government.
MATTHEWS: Let me see what`s -- let me ask you how he does that. So Trump just decides he`s going to do this. Now, Pete Williams here said he thinks that this might be able to pass muster, but I`ve read a lot of coverage today thinks it`s -- that says it`s very controversial. "The New York Times" says everything you just said, that you start going down this road of picking family members, bringing them into the office with you -- by the way, here`s a case of the son-in-law who`s married to the person you`re going to turn over your entire empire to.
So Ivanka runs the entire Trump empire. Her husband is sitting in the room with it. You think he might talk to his wife once in a while and suggest what`s up? It`s an absurd relationship!
But I want to get back to the law. If Trump pushes ahead with this and says, I`m going to make my son-in-law my consigliere in the office in the White House, and I don`t care what the law says, let the courts stop me, what step -- what stops, what goes on eventually stops him from doing it?
MELBER: Right. Well...
MATTHEWS: The Congress or the new attorney general he picks, in this case, Jeff Sessions? What stops him?
MELBER: Well, these are -- look, you`re laying out the questions that should be presented to this transition team, and certainly to Jeff Sessions, who has to put aside any role he had as friend or endorser of Donald Trump, to be the leader of the top law enforcement agency and DOJ in our country. And this should come up in the confirmation hearings, who`s going to call the line here?
The legality of it, I`ll tell you -- look, the law is very clear that you cannot put him in the cabinet. You cannot put them in an agency. That law explicitly applies to the president, as well as agency heads. Congress was worried about, you know, the secretary of defense saying, Oh, I`ll make my son my deputy, like they do in kleptocracies. No, that`s illegal.
The narrower question that Pete Williams and I have both reported on is whether you could get around that, which has never happened before, Chris - - but could you get around that by setting up some sort of...
MELBER: ... adviser who`s not in an agency. How would it be tested? Well, you could sue over it. There was a suit that went into federal court over whether Hillary Clinton, as a spouse, could run a transition -- excuse me, a health care task force, which folks remember, and she was ultimately allowed to do that. The difference there being, it was an outside task force on one thing...
MELBER: ... temporary, not being a permanent adviser.
MATTHEWS: Ari, you`re great. Thanks so much for the information about the legal aspects...
MELBER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... and some of the politics.
Now to Trump`s pick for attorney general, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions. He made that pick this morning. But after "The New York Times" reported on the allegations of racism that derailed Sessions`s confirmation as a federal judge back in 1986, Democrats today expressed their concern about his serving as AG.
Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a statement, "Thirty years ago, a different Republican Senate rejected Senator Sessions`s nomination to be a federal judge. In doing so, that Senate affirmed that there can be no compromise with racism, no negotiation with hate."
Well, today, a new Republican Senate must decide whether self-interest and political cowardice will prevent them once again from doing what is right, or to do what is right. Congressman Luis Gutierrez went further, saying, "If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible, and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man." Well, that was tough.
Joining me right now is Cornell Williams Brooks, president of the NAACP...
CORNELL WILLIAMS BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT: Good evening.
MATTHEWS: ... Joan Walsh is national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" and Howard Fineman is global editorial of the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst.
Before I get to you, Mr. Brooks, I want to get to Howard on this question. This son-in-law thing to me is a clear-cut law, and for Trump to say, I`m going to go around and skirt it, I`m going to ignore it, is a real -- it is what dictators, what power-hungry people do. It`s a good test of whether he`s going to obey the law in the spirit of the law or just plow right through it.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, his question is, Who`s going to stop me?
FINEMAN: And he`s going to dare them to do something about it because it is difficult procedurally, probably, to charge him or sue him. He`s going to say, Go ahead. You know, We don`t need no badges. You know, that`s Trump.
MATTHEWS: But isn`t it also -- well said, from "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." But the fact is, he is also saying, I`ve read the law, and simply put, I`m going to ignore it because the spirit of the law is clear.
FINEMAN: Well, Donald Trump has built his entire career of ignoring barriers, ignoring spirit of the law, ignoring everything that is not nailed to the floor on.
MATTHEWS: Like paying debts.
FINEMAN: Like paying debts. And you know, he will sue, and the will -- like he`s doing with Trump University, OK? They backed him in the corner, he settled, they paid.
MATTHEWS: Who`s that pollster that he owes three quarters of million...
FINEMAN: Yes. That guy will never see -- never see the money.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right to Cornell Brooks. Thank you, sir, for coming on. It`s the first time you`ve been on, and I appreciate you taking the time.
What do you make of Jeff Sessions? What`s the position of the NAACP, your organization, which is very honored in this country? What is your view of Jeff Sessions as an attorney general?
BROOKS: We`re very, very troubled. When we think about the fact that 30 years ago, as a prosecutor, he described the ACLU and the NAACP as un- American organizations, he described a group of Civil Rights organizations, including the NAACP as, quote, "forcing Civil Rights down the throats of Americans." He described an African-American subordinate, as, "boy," and told him to watch what he said around white folks, as it were.
And if we move from his prosecutorial conduct to his legislative record as a senator, he`s received a consistent and bad failing grade from the NAACP. And so what we see here is an administration in its early days signalling that it is hostile toward or indifferent to the Civil Rights agenda of the country.
And so the question is, if he was not good enough to be a federal judge, interpreting the law, how then is he good enough to be attorney general, actually enforcing the law?
And so if he has an indifferent or hostile attitudes toward Civil Rights, how then can he lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the nation`s leading law enforcement agency, particularly at this moment where we are in the midst of a millennial Civil Rights movement? Quite literally.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s an unreconstructed old-time Southerner? Is that the way you see him? Are you seeing (INAUDIBLE) from the old days? You see more of the old days than the new days with this guy?
BROOKS: Listen, I am from South Carolina. It`s not about being a Southerner. It`s about being an American in 2016. These attitudes, this perspective, that legislative record does not comport with the duties and responsibilities of the attorney general.
And this is a moment where we literally see in the streets a generation of students and young people putting their bodies and conscience on the line in terms of standing against police misconduct. You had Eric Holder going to Ferguson. You have Loretta Lynch vigorously pursuing prosecutions in terms of racial terrorism in Charleston.
We need an attorney general who is going to enforce the law on behalf of all people, no matter where they come from, their religion, their race, their hue or their heritage. And so to nominate someone with this kind of a record at this moment in history, following the appointment of a chief strategist who represents the chief architect of a digital platform for the alt-right, misogynist, Islamophobist, is disturbing.
MATTHEWS: OK. We need your voice. Thank you very much. I see why you`re head of the organization. That was great because we needed to hear that tonight. I`ve been hearing that around here. I`m glad we got it on the tube.
Anyway, multiple senior intelligence officials tell NBC News today that they have deep reservations about Trump tapping General Mike Flynn as national security adviser, another pick he made today, one describing him as a hothead, and another saying, he doesn`t understand the magnitude of the job.
Well, some of the incendiary comments that Flynn has made in the past are also resurfacing, like his tweet last February saying that, quote, "Fear of Muslims is rational. Please forward this to others. The truth fears no answer, no questions."
Anyway, several personal e-mails from former secretary of state Colin Powell, which the intelligence community says were hacked by Russia, are also revealing about Flynn. While they have not been independently verified by NBC News, Powell wrote of Flynn`s retirement as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, "Flynn got fired as the head of DIA. I asked why Flynn got fired -- abusive with staff, didn`t listen, worked against policy, bad judgment, et cetera. He was been and was right-wing nutty ever since."
Joan, the perfect person to get a response from on this, "right-wing nutty," and this was from Colin Powell, a political moderate and at least a nominal Republican.
Look at this whole thing. I want your take on the whole thing. Kushner as his consigliere, breaking the whole spirit of the anti-nepotism law, which Congress even applies to itself, which is, like, unbelievable. As you know, it`s unbelievable when Congress says, We can`t even do it anymore. We can`t hire our relatives. Go ahead.
JOAN WALSH, "THE NATION," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Look, the whole thing is terrifying. Going back to Jared Kushner, Chris -- I mean, Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp. He promised to fight crony capitalism. He promised to fight corruption. And there are his kids, you know, meeting with the prime minister of Japan. He is the very definition of crony capitalism at this point.
We don`t know what`s in his taxes. We don`t know anything about -- or much about his domestic or international business holdings. So you start there.
But to talk about Flynn and Sessions and Pompeo -- let`s bring Pompeo in -- what you`re seeing right now is going to be the expansion of a national security state. Mike Pompeo wants to -- he wants to expand the domestic spying that Barack Obama, unfortunately, did, everything that Edward Snowden revealed. He wants to roll back the very limited, limited reforms that took place after Snowden.
Jeff Sessions is an implacable foe of the wonderful movement, bipartisan movement for sentencing reform, criminal justice reform, for trying to do something about mass incarceration. He opposes that. He wants to strengthen the war on drugs. I believe he believes in putting more people in jail, and not fewer.
As Cornell Brooks said, he`s not going to be in Ferguson trying to feel people`s pain and figure out what the right thing to do is, and it worries me, as well, at a time where we`re going to see rising dissent, and it`s our right.
I mean, this man lost the popular vote, I`m not saying he`s not the president, but he lost the popular vote. He`s going hard right. We`re going to see more dissent, and I`m afraid we`re going to see the criminalization of dissent under Jeff Sessions.
So it`s a bad day. It`s the worst day we`ve had since...
MATTHEWS: I know. I agree with you, Joan. Look at this. Pompeo was also an outspoken critic of Hillary Clinton while serving in the select committee on Benghazi. When the committee failed to find any new evidence of wrongdoing on her part, U.S. Congressman Pompeo and a colleague released a more harsh statement, a report of their own, saying, among other things, that Hillary Clinton failed to lead.
You know, I want to go back to Howard on the general thing, then I want to go to Mr. Brooks again. It seems to me that after naming Stephen Bannon, who is maybe the most notorious or the most reprehensible and the most controversial, however you put it, appointment as inside, inside the White House -- it`s one thing to call him up and ask him for advice. Putting him inside on the federal payroll, with a key to the White House -- he`s in there! He`s in the Oval Office with him when he makes decisions, Steve Bannon of Breitbart!
And then he goes with Jeff Sessions with his sort of old background. And then he goes with this guy, Flynn, with his kid -- Flynn`s kid sounds a little out there, to put it lightly. And then he puts in this guy who wants -- are they going to go after Hillary Clinton now? Is it going to be really third world, they`re prosecute her, thanks to Pompeo? Is that what they`re up to here?
FINEMAN: Well, I wouldn`t totally rule it out, although the -- he`s been nominated for...
MATTHEWS: CIA. I know.
FINEMAN: ... CIA, but...
MATTHEWS: But it`s the spirit of this thing says, I don`t care about the law, this is going to be a vengeful, pushing administration.
FINEMAN: But I will just say that none of this is really a surprise. At this point, especially after Paul Manafort was kicked out, who turns out to have been a moderate influence and therefore...
MATTHEWS: He was just a Russian guy.
FINEMAN: He was a Russian guy. But he`s out. And Bannon came in. And Bannon and Trump together, along with the rest of the inside crew, really said, We`re going to win this -- if we`re going to win this, we`re going to win it the way we want to win it, and we`re going to get a mandate, such as it is, for whatever hard-right policies we want to pursue.
So whether it`s on immigration, on torture, on spying, on Civil Rights, you name it, they`re going right down the line. And this should not really be a surprise. This is what Donald Trump campaigned on. He campaigned on extreme vetting. He campaigned on more than waterboarding. He campaigned by appealing to all of the people who these policies appeal to!
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ve got another national choice coming up, and it`s happening right now. This -- I`m going to say this at the end. This is the bridge on which we all stand, between what Donald Trump wants and what the American people and our Constitution and the Congress are going to accept and our laws are going to accept. We have to be alert on this bridge right now.
Anyway, Cornell Brooks, sir, we`ll have you back as many times as you can come, Joan Walsh and Howard Fineman.
Coming up -- as Hillary Clinton`s popular vote lead grows, and it is growing, so does the movement to uproot the Electoral College and have the states vote for the popular vote winner of the country. That idea is gaining steam, and one of the movement`s leaders is coming here next. They`ve got a way to get this done without changing the Constitution.
Plus, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight will be here to talk about the message Trump is sending 10 days into his transition. He`s already acting like the laws don`t apply to him. And by claiming he helped save a Ford plant, by the way, from moving to Mexico, he may well have -- thinks the truth is now something he can come up with.
And the real-life story of the Virginia couple tonight who were arrested in 1958 because of the interracial marriage -- interracial marriage back then was illegal in Virginia. Richard and Mildred Loving fought all the way to the Supreme Court and won, Loving versus Virginia, their story now in a new movie that`s coming out, and the film`s director and the star, Edgerton -- Joel Edgerton, are coming here tonight.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Trump watch for this Friday night. There are new reasons tonight to be very concerned.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Texas senator Ted Cruz spoke today at the conservative Federalist Society. Listen to how Cruz described Donald Trump`s election last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The election was an incredible vindication for the American people across this country, and especially those, as you note, in rural America in what elites on both coasts consider to be flyover country. This election could be well understood as the revenge of flyover country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So Ted Cruz was ahead on everything. He knew it all!
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For years, the Electoral College has been a curiosity of our electoral system, but there`s growing concern that it may not be the most democratic of systems.
In the year 2000, the Electoral College became an issue. Still, most thought winning the Electoral College, but losing the popular vote, was a fluke.
But, as Hillary Clinton`s popular vote lead over Donald Trump now continues to expand, it is clear that there is no longer a fluke. Millions of progressive voters on both coasts are left out of the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton, for example, rolled up a total plurality of 4.5 million votes in California and New York together, a surplus of votes that gave those 4.5 million voters not a single vote in the Electoral College.
Legislation called the National Popular Vote Bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., together. It would kick in when enough states out of the 270 electoral votes sign in and join the compact.
It was passed, so far, in 10 states and the District of Columbia. That totals 165 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win. States with a total of 105 electoral votes of course are still needed before it can go into effect.
Instead of actually abolishing the Electoral College, advocates are trying to use it to train it to honor a majority popular vote in this country.
John Koza is chairman of the nonprofit National Popular Vote. Rick Hertzberg is with "The New Yorker."
Thank you, gentlemen, for coming.
All I want to do is have people understand that there is a route to correcting this failure of the popular vote to pick a president, if that`s what you want.
John, lay it out as clearly as you can, so that people can walk away this weekend, talk about it among themselves, and perhaps build a foundation or more of a foundation for your effort, John.
JOHN KOZA, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE: Well, thank you, Chris.
The Constitution gives the state legislature the exclusive power to decide how the state awards its electoral votes. Currently, most states award their electoral votes using a state winner-take-all law, which awards all of the electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state.
Thus, if you carry Michigan by 12,000 votes and Wisconsin by 22,000 and Pennsylvania by 67,000, you get all of the electoral votes of those states, and, thereby, in the cases of last week`s election, have enough electoral votes to become president, despite the fact that another candidate is leading by 1.4 million votes nationwide.
MATTHEWS: So that`s the case for what`s wrong with this system.
Your system, tell me how that works, again, so everybody hears how it would work. Each of the states, adding up to 270 electoral votes at some point, would commit themselves.
Rick, you do it -- would commit themselves to voting for the national popular winner. So, no matter what else happened in their states, they would vote for the guy or person or woman who wins the whole thing nationally, Rick.
HENDRIK HERTZBERG, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes, that`s right.
The Constitution -- all the Constitution says about selecting a president is that the states will appoint electorates in such manner as the legislature of those states determine.
So, the states are free, essentially, to govern with any method. It took a long time to come up with the winner-take-all method per state, and that -- what this does is, it doesn`t run an end-run around the Constitution. It honors the Constitution by using that provision of the Constitution, that the state legislatures have this power, and then the provision allowing for interstate compacts.
So, what you would have is a mechanism by which we would elect the president, the same way we elect governors, senators, city council people, the same way we do it in every other election. Namely, you take the people who are affected by that office, the constituency for that office, in which case, in the case of the president, that`s the United States of America, you count the votes, and the one with the most votes wins.
It`s really common sense. And this approach is thoroughly bipartisan. I mean, there`s no secret what my political views are. But one of the great pleasures I have had working on this project is working with Republicans, getting to know them as human beings, because this is something that`s good for the entire country.
MATTHEWS: Well, John, you`re a Republican, I understand. But let me ask you, what is the hard part about getting the rest of the 270 total electoral votes you need among the states you get to sign the compact? What`s been the holding up? And where are you making your fight now? What states?
KOZA: Well, most recently, this bill has passed the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate and the Republican-controlled Arizona House, where two- thirds of Republicans and two-thirds of Democrats sponsored and voted for the bill.
In 2016, we had 162 Democratic state legislators sponsoring the bill and 156 Republicans. So, we`re trying to proceed in a bipartisan way, as we have for the last few years, since this was -- this idea first got started. And we`re hoping to get more and more state legislatures to look at the system in terms of what makes sense for the country and what makes sense for their state, because most states, of course, are ignored by the current system, notwithstanding what Ted Cruz said in your quote a minute ago, because the entire presidential campaign was conducted in 12 states.
And, in fact, six states received two-thirds of the campaign events and money.
MATTHEWS: I think that where you`re going to see the most action, just looking at it from the outside, is California and New York. As I said, if you add up the pluralities together, the two states, the two biggest states, 4.5 million votes over a majority don`t add at all to the Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton.
Even though the states voted so overwhelmingly for her, it didn`t do any good.
Anyway, thank you, John Koza. Good luck with the work.
Rick, thank you for alerting me to this, as you do often with many important issues.
Up next: the HARDBALL roundtable on just how far Trump thinks he can push this envelope. You really is pushing the strengthening here. By the way, with his son-in-law, he`s already acting like he can ignore the federal anti-nepotism law, which is, in fact, a law.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
Donald Trump is settling fraud lawsuits over his now defunct Trump University for $25 million. The settlement covers two class-action suits in California and a civil suit in New York. The deal does not require Trump to admit any wrongdoing.
President Obama is headed to Lima, Peru, for his final international summit as president. He left Europe earlier after a final round of meetings with leaders from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain.
And the NYPD is tightening security for next week`s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but authorities insist there is no credible threat. ISIS recently published a photo of the parade in its online magazine and called it an excellent target -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump has become the ultimate political disrupter, who is now riding a wave of populism into the White House. His unconventional campaign, of course, broke many rules.
In "The Art of the Deal," Trump previewed his political philosophy, writing: "I`m the first to admit that I`m very competitive and that I will do nearly anything within legal bounds to win."
And now, as president-elect, he continues to ignore the rules by wanting his son-in-law to join him in the White House.
"The New York Times" writes: "Mr. Trump`s desire to add Mr. Kushner to his administration gives weight to speculation that he intends to run the White House the way he runs his businesses, relying heavily on his children and delegating duties to them."
His selection of Lieutenant Governor -- Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Senator Jeff Sessions, well, Congressman Mike Pompeo, and Steve Bannon of course proves Trump`s commitment to loyalty above anything else.
For now on Trump`s transition and Cabinet about them, I`m joined by our roundtable tonight, the great Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter for "The Guardian," Victoria McGrane, reporter for "The Boston Globe," and Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for "The National Review."
What a potpourri of power and genius we have here tonight. I`m just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Sabrina.
What do you think of the whole potpourri? This is what I like the roundtable to talk about it. He did a lot. He did it early this morning. OK, take it or leave it. You`re going to get Pompeo, who went after Hillary. You are going to get Flynn, who went after the Islamic people. You are going to get this guy Jeff Sessions, who seems very much like an old Southern political leader.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, look, I think that this just reinforces some of the core themes of Donald Trump`s campaign.
People kept looking for the pivot, that maybe when he`s a general election candidate, we will see him run a different kind of campaign with respect to his tone on immigrants and Muslims. He didn`t.
Maybe, when he`s president-elect, he`s going to shift his tone. But other than looking into the camera and for a moment saying, I want to be a president of all Americans, look, these kinds of picks, in Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn, they don`t really do anything to assuage the concerns of a lot of the minority communities who felt targeted by his campaign.
I think, if anything, he`s proving that a lot of what he campaigned on could very much become a reality if he`s president.
MATTHEWS: He has an in-your-face manner.
VICTORIA MCGRANE, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Yes. I mean, Trump is Trump is Trump.
I mean, the fact that there was ever this moment where people were like, well, now he`s going to strike a conciliatory tone, and maybe he will appoint Mitt Romney to his Cabinet...
MCGRANE: I just...
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. That`s my patented laugh, and I assign it very pointedly to that idea.
Mitt Romney is going to take orders, hour by order, from Donald Trump?
MATTHEWS: Let`s wait
MCGRANE: So, again, the pivot -- a Democratic senator said this to me on the Hill today -- is that, in some ways, if Trump keeps going as he looks like he is, in the same mode that he was in the campaign, he`s going to make it easier for Democrats to stiffen their spines and be a true opposition party.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Do you think they will stiffen their spine? Do you think they will?
MCGRANE: We will see. But there are certainly voices emerging already, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, some of the liberal members, who really are itching to be that, to take a book -- sorry -- a page from Mitch McConnell`s playbook and just be the opposition party.
MATTHEWS: Tim Alberta, I`m always amazed at the Republican -- the old notion Republicans fall in line.
It is amazing. The Republican Party is basically behind Trump now. It is amazing. But I want to ask you, will they ever raise the -- I don`t think he`s likely to ever be impeached by a Republican Congress, just no matter what goes on. But will they stand up to him on some of these -- do you think, for example, he might have some problems with naming a real hawk to secretary of state?
I mean, you have already heard from Rand Paul on that.
TIM ALBERTA, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think it`s interesting that we`re talking about the Democratic Party stiffening its spine, because I think, really, the $64,000 question for the next 18 months, next years is going to be whether the Republican Party, especially the conservative movement within the Republican Party, elements of which were so outwardly opposed to Donald Trump`s candidacy, whether they will stiffen their spine.
And I think that that is...
MATTHEWS: And they`re very constitutionalist.
ALBERTA: Yes. Well, they have been.
MATTHEWS: They will be very concerned about -- well, historically, conservative meant constitutionalist.
And what`s interesting is, you look back to the latter half of the George W. Bush administration, and the folks who were sort of planting the seeds at that point for what would become the Tea Party movement in 2010, Mike Pence was really sort of the intellectual godfather in many ways to this.
He is now a subordinate to Donald Trump. I have been talking with conservatives on Capitol Hill all week, guys, who have been saying, well, we`re OK, because Mike Pence is in the White House and he`s one of us.
But is he? I don`t doubt that, at his core, he is.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let`s talk power. Let`s talk.
MATTHEWS: I always to say -- we all know this -- who`s in the room? That`s what power is. It`s like lifeline on these TV shows, you know, "Survivor" or whatever, or "Apprentice," I guess.
I mean, look, you`re in the room, you have got to make a big decision, the 3:00 a.m. in the morning. And we have all been through this in life. Who do you want in the room?
He wants Jared Kushner in the room. He doesn`t want Mike Pence in the room. Maybe he does. But who is getting in that room first? He wants Steve Bannon in that room. See, he wants to run it like a principality. I now have a new...
MCGRANE: He wants Ivanka in the room.
SIDDIQUI: And he said that -- he wants Ivanka in the room.
He`s reportedly the only person that he will listen to, no matter what.
MATTHEWS: When he meets the Japanese prime minister, he wants his kid in there with her -- she`s smart, but what`s the kid doing in the room? Is this a family operation?
MCGRANE: The kid who`s running his businesses, supposedly, once he`s...
MATTHEWS: Give me some tips.
SIDDIQUI: He has a very close inner circle.
And, as you mentioned, he very much prizes loyalty above all else. He only trusts so many people. And that`s why there`s no way that he would appoint Mitt Romney, who, throughout the campaign, remained a never-Trump guy, called him a fraud, made an entire speech against him.
SIDDIQUI: We know Donald Trump also holds a grudge.
And he`s actually saying to establishment, try me. You guys said I couldn`t win this campaign, this election. Here I am. Here are my choices. Try me. Try and oppose the people I`m putting...
MATTHEWS: So, last night, Donald Trump tweeted: "Just got a call from hi friend Bill Ford, chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky, not Mexico."
He followed that up with: "I worked hard with" -- this is Trump -- "I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great state of Kentucky for their confidence in me."
By the way, here`s the only problem. Trump falsely claimed credit, because Ford never planned on moving the plant to Mexico.
ALBERTA: It`s problematic.
ALBERTA: You know, and the interesting thing, we have spent so much time over the last week, I feel like, talking about fake news, and how, you know, it`s impossible to differentiate, for some readers at this point, through social media, through the blogosphere, what is real, what is pretend.
ALBERTA: But it`s interesting, because just -- I grew up in Michigan.
Just this morning, I saw a couple of friends on Facebook who were Trump supporters posting this, saying, he just -- he`s already saving American jobs. He prevented this factory from leaving to Mexico.
MATTHEWS: So, they believe it?
And so -- and I think that this is -- it`s interesting. I feel like Trump probably had a pretty good idea of -- he wasn`t telling an outright lie, but he wasn`t telling the truth either. And he can sort of work in that gray area in a way that isn`t going to necessarily put him in boiling water with a lot of people who voted for him.
MATTHEWS: It`s like taking credit for the sun coming up.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we will be right back with everybody. The roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next, these three will tell me more that I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Sabrina, tell me something I don`t know.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, we already know that Donald Trump has a unique posture towards Russia. He already spoke with Vladimir Putin and called for, you know, strengthened ties.
You know, I had a source to the Kremlin tell me that they`re essentially celebrating in Moscow. They were terrified, because they`d all but resigned themselves to believe that Hillary Clinton would win this election. And as much as the narrative here is that the Obama/Clinton administration had its failed reset, wasn`t tough enough, they were hoping against hope that Hillary Clinton would not win.
MATTHEWS: What do they have against Hillary?
SIDDIQUI: Because they believe that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is at its lowest point since the Cold War. They were expecting more sanctions. They were expecting them to be tough, and they`re quite frankly celebrating Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Victoria, you`re up.
VICTORIA MCGRANE, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, to underscore what we were just talking about. A source of mine, who has been talking with the Trump transition about who are, you know, all this parlor game in Washington, who`s going to be appointed to what, and the message my source got was that Trump only wants people he trusts, people he is close to, people he believes are loyal.
And so, the first thing you have to look at, does he know, does he have a long-standing relationship with certain people? So, this is in the context of talking about treasury secretary, it`s sort of really weights things to Steve Mnuchin, his former Goldman Sachs guy, who was Trump`s finance guy for the campaign, as opposed to some of the other candidates --
MATTHEWS: Not Jamie Dimon, go ahead.
TIM ALBERTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: Federalist Society, the home to the most powerful Republican jurists in the country, their convention was in Washington this week, hung around these guys for a couple of days, and I was very, very interested in how quickly the conventional wisdom has gelled in that community that this is basically a two-horse race for Donald Trump`s nominee to the Supreme Court next year.
It will either be, they say, Diane Sykes, who`s on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals from Wisconsin, or it will be Bill Pryor from Alabama. Very interesting that --
MATTHEWS: Fifty-one votes or 60 votes to make it?
ALBERTA: Probably 60 at this point.
MATTHEWS: OK, great. Thank you. I think you`re right. I think there`s going to be a nuclear option.
Anyway, thank you, Sabrina Siddiqui. Thank you, Victoria McGrane of "The Globe", and Tim Alberta of "The National Review".
When we come back, the story of the Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who fought the laws of Virginia all the way to the Supreme Court. Their story is now a movie. We`ve got the film`s director and the star, Joel Edgerton. He`s an Australian and he plays this Virginia guy.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, heading into the weekend and the Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to keep up with HARDBALL online. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook. You`ll get access to interviews, videos, and behind-the-scenes photos as we cover the Trump transition.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go to the Virginia state court, next, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You nervous?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I suppose. The lawyers told us not to expect much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you`ll lose?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, yes. But I think it`s all right. We may lose a small battles, but win the big war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was a scene from the new movie, "Loving," based on the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed race Virginia couple that challenged their state`s anti-miscegenation law.
In 1958, the Lovings were arrested for unlawful cohabitation, facing a year in prison. They agreed to plea guilty if they would leave Virginia. That was the deal, get out of the state if you don`t want to go to jail.
The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which struck down all remaining laws banning interracial marriage in 1967. In the movie, Richard Loving is played by the Australian actor, Joel Edgerton, and here`s another scene from the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Richard, it`s, of course, up to you not to attend, but you should know the Supreme Court only hears one out of every 400 cases. It`s historic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Cole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, is there anything you`d like me to say to them? And by them I mean the Supreme Court justices of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Tell the judge, tell the judge I love my wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now, Joel Edgerton, and the film`s writer and director, Jeff Nichols.
Thank you, gentlemen, for coming.
Joel, I have to say, first of all, you play a really great nasty Tom Buchanan in "The Great Gatsby." You were a SOB which I thought was great for the character. My son tells me all time. He`s a film guy, too.
Let me ask you guys about this. First of all, let me go to Jeff of the facts. This show`s about politics. The fact that politics in this country allowed in the mid-`60s after the civil rights passing and after voting rights, we still had -- how many states outlawed mixed race marriages?
JEFF NICHOLS, WRITER & DIRECTOR, "LOVING": In 1967, there were 16. When they were married and arrested in 1958, I believe it`s 24.
MATTHEWS: Why were these states outside the South doing this? I can see the South doing it. But why were these -- who were these states?
NICHOLS: You know, that`s a good question. I actually don`t know the northern states that were part of that. I mean, these were all vestiges of slavery. These laws were all part of institutionalized racism that extended well into the Jim Crow South.
MATTHEWS: You know what, Joel, grabbed me was the judge that ruled in one of the early cases how you can`t marry between the races or the ethnic backgrounds that somehow God rule in this and that`s why difficult racial groups are on different continents. I mean, the argument was made because blacks were born mostly in Africa and Asian people in Asia and white people in Europe that therefore God did this to keep us apart so we wouldn`t have sex and we wouldn`t get married. It was the most ridiculous, I mean --
JOEL EDGERTON, ACTOR, "LOVING": Also didn`t take into account that then one group of people went to another continent and basically kidnapped them and brought them to another place and once they got their freedom didn`t really give them freedom.
MATTHEWS: Yes. What do you think about today? I always think -- I`ll start with Jeff and then go to Joel, but both answer the same question.
I`m a movie nut. I`ve always been convinced, I don`t care what the movie is about, if it`s "MASH", supposedly about the Korean War, it`s really about Vietnam. It`s always about what`s happening right now, every movie is always about right now.
What does this movie say, first of all, Jeff, about today and sexual tolerance, sexual recognition of people if their identity is gay or whatever or transgender. Is it about that? Is that what it`s about, the current fights?
NICHOLS: Well, I think every audience member brings their own belief system into a movie theater whenever they walk in. So, it`s going to mean a lot of things for a lot of people. But what this is really about are the human beings at the center of a very big political or sometimes religious debate. That`s the debates we`re having about equality right now for this generation right now.
And everyone has their positions. Everyone has their political platforms or their religious ideology. And that really doesn`t have anything to do with what`s at the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter are the people at the center of all these debates. And that`s what the movie talks about.
MATTHEWS: Well, Jeff, I love the feel of the movie, it had a nice -- I went to school in the South, in Chapel Hill, I loved the feel of the South, especially in the `60s when I was there. I have to tell you, that texture was really good.
I`ll leave the last question to Joel.
Did you think it was so strange to be a white guy you play in the movie being so comfortable in the social environment of African-Americans, of blacks? I mean, those scenes in the beginning, he`s just one of those people who happens to be white, nobody seems to notice it in that community. They`re having dinner together, hanging around, yakking it up together.
How did that strike you as believable? Amazing to me, it struck me how unusual that was at the time or even today.
EDGERTON: Yes. I mean, on one hand it could be unusual, but to many people around the world, I think that`s not an unusual thing. You know, I was saying at some point that I think that children, young people really don`t see color. And I actually think that they do but they don`t add a value judgment on it, a negative value judgment on it.
It`s other people that come in and teach you that you shouldn`t live in that environment, you shouldn`t intermingle with other people. But the first thought when you`re brought into the world, is you don`t really see those things as points of difference. And it`s such a shame. That was the community that Richard and Mildred grew up in.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
EDGERTON: It was the sheriff and other people coming in and telling them that what they were doing was wrong and that they weren`t allowed to do certain things that everyone else had a freedom story.
MATTHEWS: Tough story.
Joel Edgerton, thank you so much. Jeff Nichols, a really important film. And I think it`s about today.
MATTHEWS: Big surprise.
When we return, let me finish with tonight`s edition of Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, November 18th, 2016.
Well, this is a key time for Donald Trump and those keeping guard on him as well. He`s poking around in the dark trying to figure out where he is and where he can go. Well, this makes it a history can time to tell him what he can and cannot do.
The United States government even for a president-elect is an opportunity for leadership and national service. What it is not is an acquisition. It is not something Donald Trump is taking ownership of.
However much he depends on his son-in-law to help him make decisions or see a matter clearly, the law is clear. A federal official cannot hire his son-in-law. Trump can either respect this law or not respect it. There`s no middle ground.
The hardest thing about this transition is keeping a clearly eye on what Trump is up to. What gives reason to hope what could be negotiated, what we should stop him in his tracks from doing, if he hires his son-in-law for white positions, he`s basically thumbing his nose at a law clearly intended to prevent such an appointment, against it because it allows the hiring of someone whose loyalty is not to the government or people of the United States but to his father-in-law. In this case, the only one that would likely award him such a high entrusted post.
The fact is, I can see why Donald Trump wants his son-in-law working with him in close circumstances, because he trusts both his judgment and his loyalty. But the law is the law. We need our president to obey it. We need to let him know he has to.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Up next, "ALL IN" with Steve Kornacki hosting tonight for Chris Hayes.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END