Show: HARDBALL Date: January 9, 2017 Time: 17:00 Guest: Cornell William Brooks, Michelle Bernard, Molly Ball, Eli Stokols, Debbie Stabenow, Matt Schlapp, Cornell William Brooks
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Street targets Trump.
This is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, where the action is. I come to you tonight in the aftermath of a stunning political event. It was last night`s devastating critique on the public contact -- conduct of President-elect Donald Trump. Actor Meryl Street said, and said with great precision, what many have felt, what I believe needed to be said.
It is that the ends do not justify the means. No matter your political intent, no matter if it`s left or right or somewhere up in the solar system, you have no right to diminish another human being on the basis of their handicap, their height or whatever else they had no hand in creating. To do so is, to use a Trump word, disgusting, or it should be. It`s bullying of the worst kind, the strong mocking of the weak for a factor that God has left them with.
Here`s Streep last night saying that such conduct should not be forgotten nor forgiven.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERYL STREEP, ACTOR: There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart not because it was good, it was -- there was noting good about it, but it was effective and it did its job.
It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. This instinct to humiliate when it`s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it fillers down into everybody`s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.
Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here`s Donald Trump`s usual rage-filled response. Quote, "Meryl Streep, one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood, doesn`t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the hundredth time, I`ve never mocked a disabled reporter, but simply showed him groveling when he totally changed a 16- year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media."
Well, the man Trump denies mocking is "New York Times" reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a physical impairment that affects his hands. He covered Trump in the 1980s, met with him repeatedly and even said the two were, quote, "on a first name basis for years."
And here`s what Trump said about him and showed. You be the judge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right after a couple of good paragraphs -- and it`s talking about northern New Jersey draws the prober`s (ph) eye, written by a nice reporter -- now the poor guy, you got to see this -- Oh! I don`t know what I said! Oh! I don`t remember! He`s going, like, I don`t remember! (INAUDIBLE) maybe that`s what I said. This was 14 years ago! He still -- they didn`t do a retraction!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: With us now on the phone is a very special guest, someone who`s been very active in politics, of course, and every concerned about the direction politics are heading in this country right now, Barbra Streisand.
Barbra, thank you for joining us. What did you think and feel when you watched Meryl Streep last night talk about a man who`s going to be our president mocking someone`s disability?
BARBRA STREISAND, SINGER/ACTRESS (via telephone): I thought that she said what she said beautifully. And it`s easy enough to see the video on line of Trump mocking -- you just showed it, actually. And I completely agree with Meryl. It was a heart-breaking moment and so beneath the dignity of the presidency, let alone any respectful person.
I mean, what we need more in this world, I think, is kindness and common decency. And what he did and how he reacts and how he needs -- he has the need to talk back and insult anybody who doesn`t agree with him. And that`s pretty disgraceful.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the critique that Meryl Streep made last night that you can push this thing and it becomes norm, that it`s like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the senator, once said, you define deviancy downward? This kind of behavior becomes the normal political conversation.
STREISAND: Well, that`s what it does. I mean, what`s the signal to little children, you know, who watch television and see this behavior of the soon to be president of the United States, you know?
Little girls were heartbroken when Hillary Clinton didn`t get to be president. So I think it`s what they see. Children will listen -- I sang that in a song once -- you know, and they will see and they will learn.
And -- and -- you know, I`m in the middle of having my teeth cleaned, Chris. You caught me at an disadvantage!
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m glad you`re on the phone with us. By the way, I did think it`s very important to mention that Donald Trump has in the very recent past said that Meryl Streep was one of his favorite actors in the country, and so certainly, his reaction was the usual rage.
STREISAND: But that`s why you can`t trust anything he says because if you get on his wrong side, you know, he will blast you negatively.
MATTHEWS: Well, be prepared...
STREISAND: By the way, could you understand why...
MATTHEWS: Be prepared, Barbra. He`s coming.
STREISAND: ... he would have -- he had a New Year`s Eve party, but he wasn`t generous enough to give that to his followers, you know, a present. He had to charge for it...
STREISAND: ... and then put that money into his club? I mean, don`t you think that`s a little strange?
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s a mixed bag, certainly. Barbra Streisand, you`re so great. You`re a friend of mine, and I`m so glad you came on the show tonight. This is big news. I take this as not just cultural news or pop culture news, but heavy political news tonight because I thought, as you did, that Meryl Streep said something a lot of people felt needed to be said...
STREISAND: Of course.
MATTHEWS: ... and as precisely as she said it.
STREISAND: I`m very proud of her. And she`s a wonderful actress, and that he had to denigrate her talent because she spoke out is -- as a matter of fact, why isn`t he sitting, you know, through briefings rather than tweeting this nonsense, and you know, rating war with Arnold Schwarzenegger? I mean, I don`t know how we`re going to take, you know, four years of this.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to have to! Barbra Streisand, thank you for your...
STREISAND: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: ... for your...
STREISAND: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: ... for your long time...
STREISAND: I can go back to getting my teeth cleaned?
MATTHEWS: Yes, go back to your work!
STREISAND: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... can`t help you with that! Thank you.
STREISAND: OK. Bye-bye.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Heidi Przybyla -- we didn`t expect all that information, but she`s great -- anyway, senior political reporter for "USA Today." Howard Fineman`s global editorial director for the Huffington Post, and of course, an MSNBC analyst. And Janice Min, out there in Hollywood, is the president of the Hollywood -- well, "Hollywood Reporter," Billboard Media Group. Thank you very much for joining me. Janice has been on before, but not at such a moment.
I got to tell you, I was watching the thing last night, and I -- I was like a big wind-up. (INAUDIBLE) and she`s talking about Trump and she`s talking about that awful thing he said about that reporter. And he did physically make fun of the guy, and everybody knows it!
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": Yes, and that was why that stood out and should have really stood out more during the campaign because, Chris, one of the first I did, front page stories I did for "USA Today" was about whether Trump actually is a clinical bully because so many people had these feelings about him. And what I found was that while in most cases, he`s not because he`s picking a fight with coequals, people who have some kind of social status, in the case of this...
MATTHEWS: "Little Marco`...
PRZYBYLA: ... this disabled reporter...
MATTHEWS: ... "Lyin` Ted"...
PRZYBYLA: It -- the clinical definition...
MATTHEWS: ... "Crooked Hillary"...
PRZYBYLA: ... is repeated abuse of someone with less power. This disabled reporter is someone who had less power. And so that is why people instinctively felt that this is bullying The bigger societal question is why so many people in our culture were drawn to this type of behavior...
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK, well...
PRZYBYLA: ... feeling like it`s a strength.
MATTHEWS: Howard, a little historical perspective. Why do people go to bullies to vote for them? And by the way, why did Trump feel that he had to do his usual narcissistic rage number here and go back at her after it was over last night? It was a television show! Who won?
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are two things. Let`s take second one first. Donald Trump cares about his own image more than any politician I`ve ever seen...
MATTHEWS: Than even his own good?
FINEMAN: ... which -- which -- which means a lot. I mean, having spent time in his office, for example, he`s got so many awards to himself, but not enough wall space to put them on, that they`re all stacked up on his couch. There`s no place to sit because he`s got so many awards.
Now, in terms of speaking as a bully, having gone to his rallies -- he said at his rallies, I am your voice. Let me be your voice.
FINEMAN: I am the voice of the voiceless. I am the voice of the silent majority. But those people, I give them enough credit to have not voted for him to pick on a guy like Serge Kovaleski.
FINEMAN: They wanted him to be the bully against the Chinese and against the Mexican criminals, and so forth and so on. They didn`t want him to bully a defenseless person like that.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Donald Trump called Meryl Streep "overrated," but Janice, when you interviewed the future president back in August of `15, not a million years ago, you asked him who his favorite actresses are, and he told you, quote, "Julia Roberts is terrific and many other -- Meryl Streep is excellent. She`s a fine person, too," close quote.
JANICE MIN, "HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Yes.
MATTHEWS: Boy, he changes. He gets rough.
MIN: He did. And you know, I think one of the things I thought about today -- and I was in the room last nigh at the Golden Globes -- how much this must have insulted him (INAUDIBLE) this someone who was the toast of the Golden Globes in 2007, when he attended with Melania.
And I was looking at photos this afternoon. He was with Alec Baldwin. He was with Jeff Zucker. He was at the NBC Universal part. He was on top as host and executive producer of "The Apprentice."
And he loved Hollywood. You know, way back when I interviews -- not way back, in August of 2015, we were his first magazine cover, thinks about that, "The Hollywood Reporter." This is a community that he loves and has for many, many years loved him back.
And I think that rejection by the finest actress in Hollywood, the finest actor in Hollywood -- there is no disputing that -- had to have really stunned. And you know, Meryl Streep has so much gravitas. She is the -- beyond the real deal. You don`t even need to justify any -- any superlative that goes with her -- you know, this is not Johnny Depp or any other fine A-lister up there. This is Meryl Streep. And I think to have that go on in his room, the psychic pain was probably overwhelming.
MATTHEWS: You know, you can say anything you want about Meryl Streep, whether you like her or not or whatever, you cannot say she`s not great.
MATTHEWS: I`m going through my head the movies, like they showed the collage last night. She plays different people. She`s not even John Wayne (INAUDIBLE) plays John Wayne all the time. She plays -- she -- you know -- you know, Anna Wintour (ph) -- was unbelievable in "Devil Wears Prada."
MATTHEWS: She had all this level of stuff going on...
MATTHEWS: ... liking, disliking, rooting for the young girl, rooting against her. It was all going on. Just nobody can do that but her.
Anyway, last week, Donald Trump mocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling him "a clown." Well, that`s pretty strong. Last month, he attacked a local union boss who took issue with some of Trump`s statements on jobs as doing a, quote, "terrible job" (INAUDIBLE) lifelong labor guy. For months, Trumped bullied his political opponents and private citizens alike.
Let`s watch a bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: His wife -- if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably maybe she wasn`t allowed to have anything to say.
She was the winner, and you know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.
Take a look! You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don`t think so!
She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
This guy, Bush, he`s, like, low energy, right?
Lyin` Ted and Little Marco, as I say, crooked Hillary, Crooked Hillary...
Crazy Bernie. He`s a crazy man.
I was being hit by Pocahontas. Pocahontas! That`s Elizabeth Warren.
I said Mitt cannot run. He choked like a dog, and he walks like a penguin onto the stage. You ever see -- like a penguin!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s divide this. You know, a person`s character I guess in politics today certainly is fair game. You can talk about, if you want, "Lying Ted," "Crooked Hillary," but to get into these things about the guy being short, like Little Marco, of the having a physical defect, or you know, even the penguin! I got to tell you, it`s hilariously awful, but it`s awful. He`s making -- he`s gaining political strength by bullying people with their sort of birth defects, if you will.
PRZYBYLA: That`s why, like I said before, it`s so perplexing that nobody...
MATTHEWS: Why do people...
MATTHEWS: Why do people vote for a guy that`s a bully?
PRZYBYLA: ... would be drawn to that. Exactly. And you know, in the story that I did...
MATTHEWS: I`m going like this...
MATTHEWS: Tell me why.
PRZYBYLA: OK, part of it is our primitive -- going back to our primitive instincts of hierarchical power, which is built on domination and not cohesion. It`s a very kind of primal instinct, and that`s why it`s so upsetting to so many people that we as a society would be moving in this direction because Barbra Streisand`s absolutely right that...
MATTHEWS: ... elected presidents at our best who are not macho men, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, the -- even Reagan (INAUDIBLE) They`re not macho men. They don`t walk around and strut and -- and say, Oh, I want to Indian wrestle you or you`re a little guy and I`m a big guy. They didn`t do that!
FINEMAN: Chris, as I say, I can only testify based on having been at his rallies, been in the crowds, those people wanted him to be a bully, their bully, against other forces that they thought were oppressing him, the politically correct, the elites, the bankers, the Washington people, the Chinese, the Mexican immigrants.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But why does that (INAUDIBLE) people he`s been making fun of?
FINEMAN: It doesn`t fit in! That`s what I`m saying.
FINEMAN: Those people would not countenance this kind of thing -- and I`ll tell you what. Having watched that tape that you guys just put together, my prediction is that this kind of thing won`t last. It can`t last. It can`t...
MATTHEWS: That kind of behavior.
FINEMAN: It cannot be sustained. The moment he gets into trouble politically, all the people that he called clowns and cripples...
MATTHEWS: OK, there are people...
FINEMAN: ... are going to come back on him.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back -- I want to go back to Janice, though. But first, in an interview with "The New York Times" this morning, Trump dismissed Streep`s criticism. He predicted strong turnout both by crowds and celebrities at his inauguration. I don`t know what that has to do with anything. Quote, "We are going to have an unbelievable perhaps record- setting turnout for inauguration, and there`ll be plenty of movie and entertainment stars. All the dress shops are sold out in Washington, and it`s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration."
Well, the claim about dresses, which is cock-eyed, was fact-checked by "People" magazine and "The Washington Post" and found to be just BS.
What is it about this guy, Janice, that makes statements that all the dress shops -- I mean, because Sax Jandel (ph), which was closing up on Wisconsin Avenue, and everybody knew it was closing and had a sell-out (ph) sale, and he`s saying that`s an example of something that was sold out because of his inauguration!
MATTHEWS: It just makes -- this is just not true.
MIN: You know, let`s remember this is also part of Donald Trump`s brand at this point, that even though you and I and people in Hollywood, the people in the room at the Golden Globes last night, find this so outrageous, so offensive, it does mobilize in some ways the people who support him, the die-hards.
And if you go on Twitter or any social media and look at the conversations around last night, I mean, there is no consensus. There is still no middle ground. People are still as angry. And you can sit there and marginalize the people who criticize this behavior as much as the people in the room last night criticized Donald Trump.
MIN: I mean, I think the frustrating thing about all of this is that lack of sort of rational discussion somewhere around these topics. And you know, the more -- the more Trump double
downs on these things, the more people get outraged and the more divisive the conversation gets. And it`s this ongoing sport, and let`s remember that the inauguration still hasn`t even happened.
MATTHEWS: You know, I was looking at -- I was listening to Viola Davis last night, the great actress who won another award last night for "Fences." And I was looking at the face of Denzel Washington, some of my heroes out there, and people of color especially were so taken by what he (ph) said. I think a lot of people, experience minorities, feel that they`re also targeted when you start making fun of people who are weak. And I think they sense, yes. Yes, that`s what I don`t like about the guy anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...
MATTHEWS: Heidi -- I`ve got to say good night. We got to get a move on, but -- Janice, thank you so much. Heidi, thank you so much. Howard, as always.
Coming up -- Donald Trump announced today his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is getting top job at the White House and that`s got people crying, well, illegal perhaps Isn`t that a violation of the federal nepotism law? That`s coming up. You know, you got to stop for people when they start breaking glasses and windows and stuff. You got to be careful when the law starts to get broken in little ways. Can Trump get away with this one?
Plus, as President Obama`s eight years in office come to end, we`re going to look back at the Republicans` continued strategy of screwing the guy. It worked for them, and now Democrats may be using it as a playbook for the next four years. We`ll see if that`s right.
And the HARDBALL roundtable is here with more on the fight between Donald Trump and Meryl Streep and what it tells us about the man who is now just 11 days from taking power.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s official now. Donald Trump`s first news conference as president-elect will take place Wednesday, two days from now, at 11:00 AM, of course, at Trump Tower up in New York. That`s where he`ll greet the press. That`s the same day the U.S. Senate will be holding hearings on some of his most contentious cabinet picks, including attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions and Trump`s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, Donald Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner is going to be maybe joining the White House as senior adviser, the Trump transition said today. Kushner will have a broad role that could give him sway over both domestic and foreign policy. Kushner is married to Trump`s daughter Ivanka.
He will be taking the job despite an anti-nepotism law, if he gets the job, that bars officials from reporting relatives to government positions. Some aides to Trump have argued the law does not apply to the White House. That`s their argument.
Kushner`s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said: "Mr. Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take."
Well, the federal anti-nepotism law states as follows. Read this. It reads in English. It`s not hard to follow: "A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official."
If you`re heading up an agency, you cannot name somebody within the agency who is a relative of yours. And according to the federal budget, by the way, it considers the executive office of the president to be a -- quote -- "agency." There`s a picture from the page from the budget.
An attorney advising the transition, of course, told NBC News that Kushner will not take a salary, which the attorney said will help combat any challenges on anti-nepotism laws. The official also told NBC News that "We don`t think that they" -- well, of course they don`t. They are the lawyers for the guy.
Joining me right now is one of Chuck Schumer`s top lieutenants in the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Hi, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Senator, if this guy, this son-in-law, gets to be the Uday and Qusay in the White House, nobody is going to mess with the guy. He is the son-in-law of the president. He will be like a viceroy.
And if he gets a secretary and he gets a desk and he gets a phone and a title and he`s working in the West Wing, then who cares whether he`s getting a salary or not.
This seems to be a violation of the spirit of the anti-nepotism law, which came into effect after Bobby Kennedy was named by his brother to be attorney general.
MATTHEWS: It`s clearly against the principle of the anti -- and, by the way, according to the Budget Office, I went through the papers today, we just showed it -- the executive office of the president is an agency.
So, I don`t know why this doesn`t break, shatter the law. Your thoughts.
STABENOW: Well, Chris, you`re making the case exactly right, certainly the spirit, if not the letter of the law.
And I think, based on what you have been saying and the language in the law, it`s absolutely true. And it just adds to what we`re already seeing of a Cabinet of billionaires rigging a Cabinet that is certainly not work on behalf the people that I represent, when you look at all their financial interests that they even don`t want to disclose.
And then you add his son-in-law, who we know, according to reports this weekend, was already meeting with Chinese officials and Chinese bankers after the election promoting his own business deals in China.
So, what I want to know is, I care about currency manipulation with China. And the president-elect has said he wants to get tough with China. Well, how does that happen when his son-in-law is sitting right next to him and has potential financial dealings with the Chinese? How does that all work?
MATTHEWS: I don`t know.
But what do you think you can do about it? Who would have standing to sue him and say you can`t name your son-in-law to work in the White House? Who would stop that legally? How would that work?
STABENOW: Well, Chris, this one of the many things. We just found out this today. And this is one of the many questions that we have and many obviously legal precedents here that are being set all over the place, including the fact that they are rushing through nominations without the basic conflict of interests FBI background ethics disclosure that Mitch McConnell asked for back in 2009.
We have eight things he asked for in 2009 before nominees would move forward, and those things have not happened. And they are trying to jam through all of these nominees with no accountability.
MATTHEWS: Well, here you have Jared Kushner. I don`t know the guy. He is probably a bright, young good guy. Maybe he`s a good guy.
But here he is. He gets Trump into the operation through his wife, who is the daughter of Trump. And next thing you know, anybody who had any problem with his family is dead meat. Look what happened to Governor Christie because he had prosecuted the kid`s father.
STABENOW: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: So, he`s out to lunch. Anybody connected with Christie, including Mike Rogers, the former -- who was going to be CIA director, he`s gone. This guy has got power.
All of sudden, the Mideast policy of this president is so right-wing, it`s unbelievable. They are moving the embassy. They are going to support the settlers. This guy has power. And he now he says he`s going to have power domestically and foreign.
Who is going to mess with him in the White House? Who is going to fire him? This is power here. This is Uday and Qusay. This is something else. And nobody is going to -- and people are going to step -- oh, well, we`re going to make an exception here or maybe the rule doesn`t quite apply to -- the principle of the anti-nepotism law is to stop nepotism.
MATTHEWS: I get it.
STABENOW: No, all of this. They don`t seem that think that any laws apply to them.
And the fact is, when you decide to go into the public`s business, you don`t take your private business with you and continue to try to make deals and benefit financially for yourself and your family on the side.
So, this is not personal. I don`t know the president-elect`s son-in-law either. There is not anything personal.
MATTHEWS: I don`t either.
STABENOW: This is about the reality that I want to make sure the people I represent have their interests being concerned about, not the business interests and the next deal that the family wants to make.
MATTHEWS: You`re a great senator.
STABENOW: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Yesterday on CBS` "Face the Nation," Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats need to grow up. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I was in Senator Schumer`s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you are coming into a new situation that the other guys won the election.
What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn`t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration in having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate.
I understand that, but we need to sort of grow up here and get past that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Although Senator McConnell dismissed Schumer`s concern as merely procedural, he failed to disclosure his own letter to then Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid back in 2009 demanding that President Obama nominees comply with Senate traditions and complete FBI background checks, an Office of Government Ethics review form and financial disclosure forms prior to receiving a confirmation hearing.
Well, today, Schumer took to the floor to read McConnell`s 2009 back to him verbatim and pointed out the differences between President Obama`s nominee in 2009 and Trump`s Cabinet nominees now. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Back in 2009, every Obama Cabinet nominee had an ethics agreement in before their hearing.
Every Obama Cabinet nominee underwent a full FBI background before the Senate considered their nomination. President-elect Trump`s nominees are way behind that mark.
Mr. President, I only ask respectfully that the Republican majority follow the same set of standards they had in 2009 when the shoe was on the other foot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Was there one standard for President Obama`s nominees and another for Trump`s nominees?
Matt Schlapp is president of the American Conservative Union and a former White House politics director for George W. Bush.
You know, a lot of this, you have got to figure out what`s going on now.
I read the anti-nepotism law. I have read it 100 times. It`s clear to me why Congress passed it, to stop people from hiring their kids or their in- laws or whatever else. You don`t want to have a government like you have in these Third World joke countries where everybody is working for somebody and it all depends whose cousin you are.
MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Right.
MATTHEWS: We don`t know like that in this country.
What do you think the purpose of the anti-nepotism law was?
SCHLAPP: I think that it was a response to what John F. Kennedy did with Bobby Kennedy. But if you actually looked at it...
MATTHEWS: By the way, it was passed in 1967.
SCHLAPP: There are some lawyers -- and Jamie Gorelick is a great lawyer...
MATTHEWS: I know.
SCHLAPP: ... who argue that the president is exempted.
MATTHEWS: She`s a lawyer. She`s representing Kushner.
SCHLAPP: That`s right.
But one of the reasons that is, is what happened when Rosalynn Carter walked around the White House and went into meetings? Did she not have a lot of power?
MATTHEWS: Let tell you a better case, since we will be nonpartisan here. I know you can be that.
SCHLAPP: I can do that.
MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton, when she was given control of the health matter.
SCHLAPP: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: That was a lot at stake for the judiciary watch and people kill that. They made a point of it.
SCHLAPP: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: This is something to argue about.
MATTHEWS: I think the American should decide whether they like the idea of a son-in-law working in the White House.
SCHLAPP: That`s right. It has to withstand public scrutiny.
But I love Congress, and I love Senator Stabenow, but guess what it`s legal to do in the House and the Senate? Hire your son-in-law. Hire your daughter-in-law.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think you`re allowed to hire them in your own office, not in your own office.
SCHLAPP: Yes, you are.
MATTHEWS: No. OK. We will check this...
SCHLAPP: Well, I know it happens.
MATTHEWS: We will know.
It`s a live show. We will know by the end.
SCHLAPP: And it certainly happens in their campaigns all the time.
MATTHEWS: We will find out. We will find out. We will find out by the end of the show.
SCHLAPP: But the point is, is this, which is Donald Trump, if he going to do something extraordinary like have his son-in-law, who I do know, and I think is going to give the nation great service if he does this, but it`s got to withstand public scrutiny and it`s got to be seen as fair.
MATTHEWS: Let me talk about this problem you have with a lot of these nominees for major positions.
And I know they`re critical to have them done expeditiously. State Department, Tillerson, people like that, there are some people that are up for nomination or confirmation who have not even sent in -- haven`t had their FBI full fields yet. They have not turned in their government ethics reform form -- statements. Why don`t they just do this? Why is it so complicated for these people to deal with this on schedule?
SCHLAPP: Like you said to start this interview, you said there`s always a piece that is missing.
And I think the piece that is missing here is that the Obama Office of Government Ethics is being muscular with these Trump nominees.
MATTHEWS: No, they`re not sending in the forms.
SCHLAPP: No, that`s not true in every case. In some of these cases, they`re arguing over what forms are in and what additional information they need and what is complete.
MATTHEWS: Who are you blaming here for this holdup? Give me the name of the person. Put the heat on this person. Who is it?
SCHLAPP: I apologize. I don`t know his name, but the head of the office. MATTHEWS: Well, when how did you hear about this?
SCHLAPP: Because I read about it and I have talked to people who are in the know.
MATTHEWS: But they can`t -- they don`t know the guy`s name?
SCHLAPP: But let me push back here.
MATTHEWS: All right, go ahead.
SCHLAPP: President George W. Bush, when Barack Obama won, everybody admits -- we can be bipartisan on this too -- that he was very kind to President Obama and believed it needed to be a good transition.
MATTHEWS: I got to check this thing, I hope. I want to get some producers busy on this. I believe a congressperson, member of Congress or a senator, cannot hire their wife or their kids. SCHLAPP: How about their son-in-law or their daughter-in-law?
MATTHEWS: Let`s find out. Let`s find out.
SCHLAPP: OK. Twitter might tell us. I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: We will find out.
Thank you, Matt Schlapp. We`re on live. We have another half-hour to get the facts here.
Up next, the Obama -- thanks for coming on.
SCHLAPP: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the Obama legacy and the Republicans who for eight years thwarted him with everything they had.
Plus, the NAACP is putting up a fierce fight against Trump`s pick for attorney general, as you might expect, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. We have got the president of the NAACP joining us coming up next here on HARDBALL.
And this is it, HARDBALL, the place -- well, it`s where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
I just want to read this statement. This is from the House manual, the House ethics manual.
Federal law USC 3110. "Generally prohibits a federal official, including a member of Congress, from appointing, promoting, or recommending for appointment or promotion any relative of the official to any agency or department over which the official exercises authority or control. The statute defines a relative, for these purposes, as an individual who is related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in- law, mother-in-law, son-in-law" -- listen, Jared, Jared Kushner -- "son-in- law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, or half-sister."
Anyway, so that`s the law.
Anyway, with only 11 days left in President Obama`s term, some Americans will look back on his legacy as historic, inspirational, and transformational. A new poll out by AP and ORC poll shows that roughly -- or actually nearly 57 percent of Americans agree and view President Obama positively. That`s on par with Obama`s job approval rating with Gallup recently tracked at 56 percent. So, he`s going and he`s cruising into the high 50s.
But Republicans spent eight years, let`s not forget, during Obama`s presidency accusing him being a liar, a usurper, a despot, a king.
And, for many, the end did not come soon enough. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I`m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lie!
OBAMA: That`s not true.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second time.
BOBBY JINDAL (R), FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: We don`t have kings in this country. I know this presidency thinks he can just interpret the Constitution, apply the laws when and how he wants them. He thinks he go can around Congress. We don`t have kings.
JIM DEMINT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I ask President Obama not to divide us further by acting like an imperial president.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: But Trump comes along and said birth certificate. He gave a birth certificate. Whether or not that was a real certificate, because a lot of people question it -- I certainly question it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "I certainly question it."
Anyway, the GOP threw up roadblocks to the president early and aggressively.
According to author Robert Draper, on the first night of Obama`s first
inauguration, top Republicans, lawmakers and strategists got together and came up with a way to put the brakes on Obama`s legislative agenda.
He writes -- quote -- "The Republicans had agreed on a way forward, show a united and unyielding opposition to the president`s economic policies and win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011."
For more on President Obama`s legacy and the Republicans` legacy of ought obstruction, I`m joined by NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks.
Thank you very much, Cornell. It`s great to have you on.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Good to be here, Chris.
MATTHEWS: But this topic is kind of unpleasant, because it suggests that, from the beginning, they said, here, we`re going to basically undermine the guy. We`re going to accuse him of being an illegal immigrant, snuck in here from East Africa, some sort of Manchurian Candidate that, as Trump would say, nobody knew him at school, darkly. Nobody knew him at school, like he sort of -- and Trump kept that up until like a week before we got into the fall.
And then he sort of skipped away from it one Friday afternoon. Nobody else has been treated like that as president in our lifetime. Nobody has gotten that screwing. Your thoughts?
BROOKS: Well, the election and reelection of President Barack Obama suggest much about the possibilities of this country, but it does not ignore this country`s present and its past.
And what that means is, we are yet wrestling with our racial demons. And so when you have politicians who call into question not his birth certificate, but his citizenship, and as a consequence his legitimacy, and in so doing, they`re not calling into question merely his legitimacy, in terms of being president, but our legitimacy, the legitimacy of African- Americans as citizens of this republic.
And that is not a new story in this country.
BROOKS: It is a longstanding story in this country.
And so the way that he has been treated has been a matter of not only personal disrespect, but racial, categorical disrespect, and not only with respect to African-Americans, let me note this, but disrespect to our country, because when President Trump puts his hand on the Bible, takes the oath, he then becomes our president.
President Barack Obama was our president for eight years, everyone`s.
MATTHEWS: How do you put the thing to hold together? I accept the ethic piece a lot, because it`s there. Nobody has ever accused a white guy of being from Kenya or anything like that, although that may be ridiculous.
But the fact that Michelle Obama is revered now. She`s about 80 percent or 75 percent. That is wonderful. And yet, and most Americans voted, popular vote went for Obama. How do you put that together with this smearing of him?
BROOKS: Well, they don`t like his color. Think about this --
MATTHEWS: Who`s winning the fight?
BROOKS: The first lady is always more popular than the president.
BROOKS: But the issue is the --
MATTHEWS: But she`s African-American.
BROOKS: But an African-American exercising power.
BROOKS: And African-American being the commander-in-chief, an African- American being the leader of the free world. There are people in this country and people in Congress who not yet wrapped their minds and hearts around the fact that equality really means equality of opportunity and all equality of responsibility, and also, equality with the respect to the exercise of power.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe you have a point. I still think status matters and to accept the status of Michelle Obama as first lady wholeheartedly. It`s a nice thing, it`s a good thing.
BROOKS: She`s also an exceptional first lady.
MATTHEWS: Of course, she is. But I think -- I think the good guys are still winning. But thank you.
BROOKS: Thank you. Good to be here.
MATTHEWS: You have to make a case against the ones that are still squirming with misery about how times are changing.
Anyway, Cornell William Brooks, head of the -- and actually CEO of the NAACP, a great organization.
Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable and the big fight between Donald Trump, yes, Meryl Streep -- that fight.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. Actually, where the action is. I like that better. Here I am.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and capacity to fight back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The capacity to fight back.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump`s response to Meryl Streep`s speech last night is the latest in series of attacks that Trump has leveled at celebrities, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alec Baldwin, and the cast of "Hamilton", believe it or not. But as Trump`s early morning tweets indicate, Streep`s pointed criticism that Trump thrives on bullying to weaken the vulnerable appear to have struck a deeper nerve.
A Bloomberg poll last summer also found that Trump`s mocking of a disabled reporter in 2015 was incident that newsrooms all report. Anyway, I get back at garble (ph).
Anyway, Molly Ball is a politics writer with "The Atlantic", and Eli Stokols is a White House correspondent for "Politico", and did I miss you?
MICHELLE BERNARD, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: You did, Michelle Bernard, columnist, "U.S. News and World Report".
MATTHEWS: Thank you. That really got scrambled. But now, that you`re introducing yourself --
BERNARD: And still president of the Bernard Center.
MATTHEWS: You got reelected again. There was no nepotism problem with your organization.
Let me ask you about this Meryl Streep. I really think it was an incident, an event, a moment of inflection because a nonpolitician, a non-journalist, came out said something inhuman about human behavior that really wasn`t left, right or something else.
MATTHEWS: It was just what we shouldn`t be doing.
BERNARD: I thought it was the best part of the Golden Globes. I wept. I was pleased. I thought it was incredibly impactful, particularly when she used the language about the journalist that Donald Trump, you know, imitated and mocked as not having the same privilege and the same power.
It was -- and when she talked about all of the different members of the Hollywood press that are from Hollywood, come from different countries and talk about what the world would look like without them, she spoke to people of color, she spoke to women. And she spoke -- I thought particularly poignant looking at Violet Davis in the background.
MATTHEWS: Me too.
BERNARD: And that scene where she spoke in fences. She spoke to us about --
MATTHEWS: I agree with Michelle, I was looking at the -- you couldn`t but notice Denzel, the big star, the camera went to him, he`s become like Spencer Tracy, the guy is going to judge the case now, and he was with her.
MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, look, I mean, what Donald Trump is so good doing is igniting culture wars, and he -- as you mentioned, he`s got this pattern of always hitting back at people who criticize him. This is a year and a half old incident and people are still talking about it.
I think it`s I certainly met a lot of Trump voters during this election who were tired of being talked down by people in Hollywood and who are -- who see this as part of that same pattern. So, I think the same pattern that`s unfolded during the campaign are still playing out now that Donald Trump is president, and people should stop waiting for him to become somebody else.
ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO: I think Molly is right. But I think, you can see that Donald Trump really -- he wants to be accepted by Hollywood. He is a performer, right? If not for the value of performance and entertainment, he wouldn`t have broken through and been the nominee, let alone the president-elect.
And so, I think he understand this. I think this is the reason why you saw him, you know, come back at Arnold Schwarzenegger last week and mocked the poor ratings --
MATTHEWS: What`s that about?
STOKOLS: -- because he can`t let anything go. And certainly now that Trump is someone with a platform.
MATTHEWS: What did Schwarzenegger to start that fight? I`m not sure everybody has to start a fight.
STOKOLS: Well, it came out, you know, last year and said, "I can`t vote Republican for the first time, so, you know, I`m sorry." So, you know, Trump, out of nowhere, seemingly, comes back at him. But again, it`s because -- it`s retribution for that.
And if Meryl Streep is going to come at him, or anybody is, Molly is right, he`s going to take it. He`s going to hit right back and he`s going to harden that culture --
MATTHEWS: Is this going to go on, Molly?
BALL: I don`t see why it wouldn`t. I mean, as we saw during the campaign, it never stopped. And people kept saying, "He`s going to become presidential. I`m sure of it. He`s going to become presidential." Even he would say it.
But this is the way he communicates and he thinks it`s working. Everything that has happened has been a vindication of his methods and this is one of his methods.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think, sometimes you go up against people that are popular than you. And he did want Meryl Streep to like him.
BERNARD: He did and she made a very important point. And as long as it continues, people like Meryl Streep who have a voice that others listen to, they have an obligation to speak.
MATTHEWS: And she is probably the greatest actor of our time, male or female.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, tomorrow night, stay with MSNBC for President Obama`s farewell address. We`ll have full coverage as the outgoing president addresses the country from his hometown of Chicago. Join us at 7:00 on HARDBALL, and then at 8:00, "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes, and then the president`s speech begins at 9:00.
And then, catch with Rachel Maddow. I`m joining her after the speech. And that`s coming up tomorrow night, right here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the round table.
Eli, tell me something I don`t know.
STOKOLS: I was talking to someone who`s involved in a prep for Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson`s hearing this week. They say the guy is smooth, he`s got swagger, he`s ready for the Russia question. They say all the murder boards, that`s what they call these mock preparation sessions, in all of them, the one time that he got tripped up is when someone asked him a hypothetical question, what would you do if you were around the world negotiating and Donald Trump tweets something that undermines your position and he sat there and tongue tied and he said, "I don`t know." It`s surreal.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) did, when he didn`t know what to say, he would say something un-understandable like that.
BALL: Well, remember the kerfuffle that has unfolded over the past couple of years in North Carolina, over HB-2, the LGBT bill.
MATTHEWS: The bathroom thing.
BALL: The bathroom bill divided Republicans in that state and it led to the defeat of the Republican governor. Nonetheless, there are lawmakers in multiple states now bringing forward those types of bills in Texas, in Kentucky, in Virginia, potentially picking that fight in a bunch of other places. There`s a conservative legal scholars who are helping craft this legislation. We`ll see if it gets --
MATTHEWS: Can`t we just get along, as somebody once said?
BERNARD: Piggy-backing off of what Eli said. Today, January 9th was the official day of denial, started by a group called 350.org and they are asking American citizens today to protest all of President-elect Trump`s appointees who they believe are climate change deniers with Rex Tillerson being number one on the list.
MATTHEWS: Well, he is ExxonMobil.
Anyway, Michelle Bernard, Molly Ball, and Eli Stokols.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, January 9th, 2017.
Like millions of others, I watched Meryl Streep last night giving it to Donald Trump. She picked her target well -- Trump`s mocking of a reporter`s physical disability -- and let it rest there. Is it okay for a public figure to make fun of the way God made someone?
Well, every night here, when I`m thinking about what I should say, how I should approach this job of covering the next president, I think about that. Should I go after him as a bully like Ms. Streep did last night and let that guide everything I say about him? Should I impugn him as a person and hang everything else he does on that? Should I make a judgment about him as some of the nuns did back in the old days, build a view of him on the first day of school and never vary from that view?
Well, I didn`t like it when the nuns did it, I don`t want to do it myself. And I certainly don`t want to be accused rightfully of doing it to Donald Trump.
The guy is a mixed bag. I thought he was right in the campaign when he blasted the stupidity of the Iraq war. I like what he said about building the country up, about infrastructure, more of it. I agree with we don`t have effective control on immigration. I agree a lot of working families have been devastated by national economic policies, including trade.
All that said, I`m not going to let him get away with stuff like calling a president illegal immigrant from East Africa, or mocking people because of the way God made them. I believe Meryl Streep said something about human decency. I`d like to believe I`ve been saying it myself, all along. We must demand it -- especially from a man who will be sitting in Abraham Lincoln`s seat.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"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