IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/1/17 Mueller gets Comey letter

Guests: Catherine Rampell, Evan Siegfried, Ashley Parker, Matt Welch, Robert Traynham, John Nichols

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 1, 2017

Guest: Catherine Rampell, Evan Siegfried, Ashley Parker, Matt Welch, Robert Traynham, John Nichols

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Trump`s letter to Comey.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews on what has turned out to be a very busy Friday night.

The White House announced that President Trump is going to reveal his decision on Tuesday about whether he`ll end the Obama-era policy that allows young people brought here illegally as children to remain in the United States.

And there`s also new reporting on the Russia investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller obtaining a letter that was drafted by the president and by his senior aide, Stephen Miller, back in May explaining the president`s rationale for firing James Comey, the FBI director. The letter was never sent, though, because the White House counsel, Don McGahn, believed that some of its content was, quote, "problematic."

According to "The New York Times," which broke the story originally today, quote, "A different letter, written by the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and focused on Mr. Comey`s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail server was ultimately sent to the FBI director on the day before he was fired."

"The Washington Post" reports, quote, "The multi-page letter enumerated Trump`s long-simmering complaints with Comey, according to people familiar with it, including Trump`s frustration that Comey was unwilling to say publicly that Trump was not personally under investigation in the FBI`s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election." The letter, quote, "did not dwell on Russia."

Also today, President Trump responded to that "Washington Post" report last night that he may be on a collision course with his new chief of staff. According to "The Post," quote, "Trump chafes at some of John Kelly`s moves to restrict access to him. They run counter to Trump`s love of spontaneity and brashness, prompting some Trump loyalists to derisively dub Kelly `the church lady` because they consider him strict and morally superior."

The president tweeting today in response, quote, "General John Kelly is doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be happier or more impressed."

We`ve got a lot to get to. Joining me here at the top of the show, NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson at the Washington, the "Washington Post`s" Ashley Parker and Matt Welch, editor-at-large for "Reason" magazine.

Ashley, let me start with you. You have this story in "The Washington Post" -- again, "The Post" and "The Times" both reporting today on this letter, the letter that was not sent, detailing the president`s rationale for firing James Comey as FBI director.

Look, obviously, the question everybody wants to know about the contents of this letter is, how much did -- how much was this original letter aimed at Comey and his investigation of Trump and Trump`s world? Was it a passing reference, do we know? Was it more detailed than that? How much does this letter suggest that was on the president`s mind?

ASHLEY PARKER, "WASHINGTON POST": Sure. So again, we haven`t seen the letter. We`ve just spoken to people familiar with it. But our understanding is that this letter sort of laid out the president`s frustrations and grievances with Director Comey.

As we said in the story, it was very little explicitly focused on Russia, other than the language that we actually saw in the final statement that the president put out, where he expressed frustration that Comey had told him privately several times that he was not the focus of the investigation, but he would not say the publicly.

So our understanding is that little portion was in the original draft, made it into the final version, the draft itself was really just an outline of the president`s sort of wide-ranging grievances with his FBI director at the time.

KORNACKI: And so when we have the White House lawyer, the White House counsel, Don McGahn, basically vetoing, apparently, that original letter that you`re describing, saying it was problematic, do we know, do you know, was it specifically the references to not publicly stating Trump himself wasn`t under investigation, specifically the references to Russia? Were those the things that McGahn, the lawyer, looked at and said, That`s a problem?

PARKER: I think -- without knowing everything, I think that McGahn was worried partially about the tone of the letter, which was described to us sort of as a rant. And McGahn was also the person who in this meeting in the Oval Office said -- you know, tried to slow down the process, and he said, You know what? Attorney General Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, are coming by the White House today for lunch. Let`s talk to them. Let`s hear what they have to say. Let`s solicit their opinion.

So there was sort of an effort to get broader buy-in on this than just the president being frustrated with his FBI director and having sort of soured on him long ago.

KORNACKI: All right, let me bring Hallie Jackson into this with the other big piece of news tonight. Hallie, you`re standing in front of the White House. Let me ask you about what`s going on behind you right now inside that building because you had that report last night, that "Washington Post" report suggesting the president -- a lot of people not surprised to read this -- the president apparently chafing under the new White House leadership of John Kelly, his new chief of staff, the president on Twitter trying to send a different message today.

What is going on inside the building behind you?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So listen, I think that when you look at sort of the palace intrigue part of it, there`s a lot of moving pieces. I think some of it relates to John Kelly and how the president is interacting with him.

But let me highlight somebody else who`s going to be critical to this equation over the next month, and that us a guy named Gary Cohn, right, top economic adviser at the White House focused on tax reform, has been out trying to push the administration`s line on this and talk up the White House`s position and how he wants to get it done, but continues to be dogged by these questions of whether he will stay, whether the White House has confidence in Gary Cohn, whether the president has confidence in him.

And while publicly, the line is yes, that is also something that we have heard in the past about people who ultimately are no longer inside the building behind me, Steve.

You mentioned one other thing there at the top of your show about what is happening inside the White House. And that is this decision over DANA. And while we know that this is not going to be announced formally, at least, until Tuesday -- although, of course, that does not preclude some kind of perhaps tweet from the president, between now and then -- there -- it has been the subject of some internal consternation here when you talk about what is happening behind the scenes.

Multiple sources have told NBC News for days now that the president is leaning toward ending DACA. But Hurricane Harvey changed some of that calculation. Now there are those White House insiders who say some in the West Wing worry about rolling back, rescinding DACA right now, at this moment, given what is happening in Texas and Louisiana, states that, by the way, have 126,000 dreamers or DACA recipients in them.

KORNACKI: OK. Keeping an eye on that one, too, the White House suggesting (INAUDIBLE) decision imminent on that one.

I also want to tell you about Senator John McCain, who`s been a bit of a thorn in the side of this administration, now out with some very sharp criticism of the president, in a "Washington Post" op-ed McCain telling his fellow senators, quote, "We have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other. That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. We must, where we can, cooperate with him, but we are not his subordinates. We don`t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power."

Matt, let me ask you about what McCain is saying there in light of the reporting we`re getting that Hallie was just talking about the relationship between Trump and his new chief of staff, because one of the things that Kelly was supposed to do as the chief of staff was to create an environment where maybe Donald Trump wasn`t going to be quite as impulsive, or he was going to be surrounded with a little bit more sound counsel before he went and he made decisions. McCain seems to be saying in that letter, I`m not seeing it yet.

MATT WELCH, "REASON" MAGAZINE: Yes, also since Kelly`s been on board, the president picked fights even moreso with Jeff Flake, McCain`s junior senator in Arizona. That really has gotten under the skin of a lot of the Republican caucus in Senate. So Trump`s been burning some of his political capital even from where it was three months ago.

But there`s a thing -- it`s easy and fun to go and watch John McCain versus Donald Trump. They`ve been going at each other for a long time now, nastily sometimes here.

But there`s a couple lines in that McCain op-ed that are worth dwelling on. One is the Senate and the Congress needs to do its basic minimal work, and it has not been doing that. They`re not passing budgets. They`re not going through the appropriations process.

And so as Trump (INAUDIBLE) some kind of new phase where he`s, like, this outsider president, you know, waging war against his own White House, in a way, Congress is playing into his hands by not doing anything. He can run against Congress, he can talk against Congress, because Congress isn`t doing its minimal work, in addition to the president not really doing a whole lot to figure out how to work with them to pass significant pieces of legislation.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Ashley, we mentioned the president vouching for his chief of staff on Twitter today, also using Twitter to take a shot at James Comey. And there`s been some reporting here and you`ve written about this -- I`ll as you to explain this to our audience, but what the president was basically trying to say on Twitter today, he was going after Comey`s credibility. In fact, you can put it up on the screen. He says, "Wow. Looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over, and so much more, a rigged system."

OK, this tweet is a reference to something you`ve reported on. Take us through what you know, about James Comey, the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation last year and the president trying to say, Hey, look, he made the decision long before he announced it. PARKER: Sure. So this tweet seems to be in response to news that broke yesterday which basically came from two senators on the Judiciary Committee who found and then wrote a letter to the director of the FBI saying that Comey had begun drafting a letter to basically clear Hillary Clinton before the FBI had even, you know, finished the investigation and interviewed her, I believe.

And so he was basically saying what he`s maintained for a long time, which is what he put in his tweet, that this is a -- this is a rigged system. And of course, now it certainly behooves him to do anything he can to undermine Comey`s credibility because Comey is going to be one of the key, but one of the many key people in this expanding Russia probe.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Hallie, this is something we saw and we were talking about yesterday. Yesterday, the news was that Trump`s legal team had met with Mueller, the special prosecutor, had submitted some paperwork to him, basically trying to impeach the credibility of James Comey. So you`re sort of seeing a legal strategy we talked about yesterday...

JACKSON: Absolutely.

KORNACKI: ... an now a public strategy.

JACKSON: And it`s not a totally surprising one, nor is it a totally new one, Steve. I mean, listen, look at what the White House is saying publicly about this special counsel probe that was repeated today from the podium, which is that, Hey, we want to cooperate. We want to do what we can to work with the special counsel, to work with Bob Mueller. Other than that, we won`t say much and we`ll refer you to our comments from several months ago on this.

That said, privately, you have seen sort of clearly -- and as you point out publicly now -- a direction that this legal team appears to be moving in. And again, I would point out that this is something that since before Ty Cobb came on board, when you saw, for example, John Dowd and some of these other lawyers take over, you saw sort of hints that that is the direction that this administration, that this sort of team would be moving in when it came to the president here.

KORNACKI: Yes, Matt, we`re talking about a situation where you have a Special Counsel Mueller in place, so I`m not sure how much public opinion really matters on the question of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KORNACKI: ... who`s more credible. But I am curious about this one because, obviously, Trump`s critics are out there saying, Look, there`s all sorts of reason to believe he went after the FBI director just because of what the FBI director was doing about Russia. This could be obstruction of justice. We know Mueller seems to be looking at that question.

On the other hand, you look at the issue of James Comey`s public credibility. It wasn`t that long ago every Democrat hated him. Then every Republican hated him. So this is somebody -- I`m curious from a PR standpoint how this Trump strategy (INAUDIBLE)

WELCH: Well, I mean, it`s clear that a lot of the part of case that the Trump team is most worried about is the potential obstruction of justice charge related to his dealing with Comey and whether he pressured Comey to drop the investigation at various points here. And so what do you in those situations, you try to impeach the credibility of both witnesses.

The fact that we are talking at the beginning of a cable news program about two different set of draft memos shows me that somehow, we`ve gotten to a stage in this investigation in this thing where it`s going to -- it`s getting somewhere kind of fast. These are legal strategies that are being aired in the court of public opinion now in advance of something, and it feels to me just by the tone of discussion that something is faster the we previously thought.

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, we keep getting these glimpses that sort of erupt into public view, and it does make you wonder how much more is going on maybe behind the scenes we don`t know about, maybe not. But again, these things will be revealed with time, certainly.

Hallie Jackson, Ashley Parker, Matt Welch -- thanks to all of you for joining us.

And coming up -- again, we say it`s a busy day. It has been a busy and rough summer politically for President Trump. He`s now beginning what promises to be a very challenging September. Congress -- they`re coming back on Tuesday. They`ve got some big issues to deal with. They`ve been loyal, at least the Republicans, we should say -- the Republicans have been loyal to Trump so far. The question, though -- is that about to change?

Plus, here`s a big problem -- as the clean-up from Hurricane Harvey begins, are there enough construction workers to rebuild that part of Texas? Analysts say many workers fear being deported and might not show up.

And Obama versus Trump, more evidence tonight that the current president`s number one mission, in public at least, may be to try to undo a lot of the actions of his predecessor.

And finally, stick around for three things you might not know tonight, courtesy of the HARDBALL roundtable.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Well, right now in Texas, we have been watching a massive fire at a chemical plant. This is just outside of Houston. You`re looking at the Arkema chemical plant. Crosby, Texas, is where that`s located.

This is the second fire at that facility in two days. And within the past hour, huge plumes of black smoke shot into the sky. The plant lost power after Hurricane Harvey. An executive with that chemical company says there are up to eight containers of those chemicals at the site that could burn and explode.

We`re going to keep an eye on that situation down there, of course.

Be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m still going to sort of hold off judgment. It is short into his term, and I`m hoping things can turn around. But it`s unique right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of what he truly wants to get done, whatever that may be, he has got to be his own worst enemy. He -- he -- he couldn`t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Those were actually Trump voters, and they were describing their disappointment with President Trump in his first few months in office. That was a focus group for NBC a few days ago.

As the summer ends, the political winds in Washington may bring a stormy fall for the president. There is, of course, the ever present Russia investigation. The are reports today that special counsel Bob Mueller is looking at that early draft, that draft that not sent, of a letter in which Trump outlined his rationale for firing James Comey as the FBI director.

The DailyBeast also reporting that Mueller, quote, "has teamed up with the IRS. His probe has enlisted the help of agents from the IRS`s Criminal Investigations Unit, whose 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering."

And as Congress returns from its summer break Tuesday, those congressional investigations into Russian election meddling will continue. The Senate Judiciary Committee -- they are expected to interview Donald Trump, Jr. A date for that, though, has not yet been disclosed.

For more on what the fall is going to bring in Washington for the president, I`m joined by John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation" and author of "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America," and Robert Traynham, former Bush- Cheney senior adviser and an MSNBC political analyst.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. John, let me start with you. It`s been about a month (INAUDIBLE) little bit more than a month, about a month since Republicans, and some Democrats for that matter, have been together in Washington. They`re coming back after Charlottesville. They`re coming back after this storm. They`re coming back after further revelations about Russia that we were just talking about in the last few minutes.

I guess my question to you is specifically the Republicans because we know where the Democrats are on Trump. But the question has been the Republicans. Does the past month, does being away from Washington, do the events we`ve seen -- does it change anything in terms of their posture towards their party`s president?

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": I think it does some of them. And I`m going to cheat on you and give one sentence on the Democrats. The Democrats are going to come back super-charged because...

KORNACKI: And they weren`t before, are you saying?

NICHOLS: No, many of them were still -- you know, they were against Trump. They were resisting. Now they`ve been back with constituents in some of those districts. I`ve been to some of those town meetings. It`s just -- the...

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS: ... the second and third topic is impeachment.

KORNACKI: Democratic electorate does not want to hear about common ground.

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS: So, that`s one element of it. So, then you bring back the Republicans back. And you -- there will be some Republicans who will come back still sympathetic toward Trump.

But here`s what I have seen. A tremendous number of them have had town meetings where they have actually had -- or just anecdotal gatherings with folks on Main Street where they have had an awful lot of people saying, what the hell is going on?

And I can promise you, they have heard that. And they will come back. And I think they will be much more -- much tougher on the administration.

KORNACKI: What does that mean? What does that look like, if that is the mind-set?

NICHOLS: Yes.

I think that if we go back to the meeting that McConnell had with Trump, which ended up with some yelling, right? At the end of the day, I think there is going to be more yelling. It may not be public. And I don`t think they`re going to want to be on your show saying it.

But I think there`s going to be an awful lot of people saying, this just can`t keep going this way. And, also, do understand that the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who I have always said has been too much of a facilitator of Donald Trump -- he grumbles, but still backs him up on a lot of things.

He now faces probably his most serious election challenge of his career. And many other Republicans feel that as well. When they get together, suddenly, I think this August break shifts them toward a lot more 2018 discussions. Those discussions make them say to President Trump, you have to have a coherent agenda. And it can`t be shifting from day to day.

KORNACKI: All right.

Well, let me get a Republican in here and ask him, Robert Traynham, what you make of that. So, you got John Nichols here saying Republicans are going to come back with a very different posture toward President Trump. Do you agree with that?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.

But I agree for different reasons. Look, the reality is, is that we control this town. We control all the branches of government. And the reality is, you have got the debt ceiling, you have got the appropriations, you have got the looming of a government shutdown, you have got Harvey back there.

So I think what President Trump is going to hear from a lot of congressional Republicans is, please stop talking about building a wall. Let`s talk about the reality that is in front of us. We have to fund government or we will go into the red. We have to raise the debt ceiling, or if not, we will default on our full faith and credit.

These are real things that have to happen between now and September. Or actually we are in September. Between now and the end of the month, or the government will shut down.

So, I think what you are going to have is two postures here. One, some real policy perhaps coming out of Congress. And you`re going to have the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue talking about tax reform, perhaps talking about immigration, perhaps talking about DACA.

And that stuff is important, but that`s not what the reality is on the ground. And I also think you are going to have a lot of Republicans saying, Mr. President, what is our strategy on North Korea specifically? What are we going to do here?

Because the reality is, is that they have a weapon. They clearly are testing this over Japan. What is our foreign policy here? Let`s be crystal clear here, because I think, to my colleague`s point, yes, 2018 is looming, but the reality is again the government will shut down. We could go to war with North Korea. We do not have a plan B.

KORNACKI: Let me ask you, though, about the psychology, because, look, they`re politicians. Elections are always on their mind. The next primary, possible primary challenge, the next election is always on their mind.

So, from that standpoint, Robert, let me ask you about the psychology of a Republican member of Congress, who, on some level, is always thinking of the next election. I keep thinking back to last year in the election when Paul Ryan, a few weeks before Election Day, had all of the Republican members on the phone after the "Access Hollywood" tape and he said you can give this guy up. You can give Donald Trump up and you can save yourself.

And those Republican members of Congress watched a few weeks later, not only did he win the election, he won 90 percent of the votes of Republicans. They didn`t think he was going to get anywhere near that within their own party.

Does that haunt them at all? Does that give them pause that, hey, maybe this guy knows my party`s base better than I do?

TRAYNHAM: What I`m hearing from a lot of my friends on Capitol Hill, it depends what type of Republican district you represent.

If you represent a strong Trump county, you are scared to death that the president is going to primary you. You are scared to death that the president may tweet out in response to a Republican opponent. And that`s real, because obviously he won those Trump counties by a significant margin, Steve. You know that.

However, if you are a Flake or if you`re perhaps maybe a Susan Collins or perhaps maybe you`re a Pat Toomey, maybe not so. Maybe you don`t fear the president as much, because based on the focus groups we just heard from in Pittsburgh -- that`s my neck of the woods. I`m from Pennsylvania. Those are my people.

And perhaps maybe a Pat Toomey and some of the others are listening to those type of Trump voters that are saying, look, he had us at hello here. But the reality is, is that this is chaos out of Washington, D.C. And just as quickly as they shifted -- basically, they`re Reagan Democrats.

These are blue-collar, hardworking Americans who are fiscally conservative -- I`m sorry -- socially conservative, but fiscally a little liberal. They could very easily go back to the Democratic camp. And I think a lot of members of Congress knew that.

KORNACKI: You mentioned Jeff Flake.

Let`s talk about his colleague in Arizona, his fellow Republican Senator John McCain.

He writes -- this is his op-ed today in "The Washington Post" -- "Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty."

Again, John Nichols, John McCain going very much after Donald Trump in this op-ed. John McCain just won reelection last year in 2016. He doesn`t have to worry about an election in 2018.

NICHOLS: He`s not in trouble.

KORNACKI: But I`m curious. Do you think Charlottesville, do you think that changes anything?

NICHOLS: I think it changes an immense amount.

And I don`t -- there`s been so much coverage of Charlottesville, and much of it has been brilliant. But yet I don`t think that people have begun to understand the full political impact. That political impact was twofold.

For people who were always a little embarrassed by Trump, but sort of liked some other things, that embarrassment level just went through the roof. That has clearly had a huge impact on moderates, on independents, and on some Republicans. It has always, again, supercharged the Democrats.

They`re going to be much more comfortable now.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: I guess the question I have is the context of it. A guy who began his presidential campaign by talking about Mexicans as rapists, a guy who called for a ban on all Muslims coming into the United States as a presidential candidate, the confidence that Charlottesville is going to mark some kind of breaking point when that`s the track record, how do you distinguish?

NICHOLS: I`m going to tell you, again, I had the luck of being on a little bit of a book tour and doing other things, been around the country, more sometimes outside of Washington.

And what I want to emphasize to you is, people really get the word Nazi. They really get the word fascist. They really get Confederate, slavery, things like that.

And, in my view, they should have been shocked and terrified back in 2015 when he was talking about banning Muslims and when he was saying the things he has about Latinos.

But now you have gone into like the hard wiring of the American history. I mean, you have got Nazis marching. You have got people marching under Confederate Flags. And I just think this has shocked a lot of people into a much more critical position.

KORNACKI: Robert, I hear you trying to get in. We`re up against a break. But, quickly, what do you want to say?

TRAYNHAM: Well, just very quickly, I don`t think most Americans are embarrassed by this.

I think most Americans are offended by this.

NICHOLS: Sure.

TRAYNHAM: This is ridiculous.

To stop and think about it for a moment, that a president of the United States is saying that both sides are to blame here? This is not about embarrassment. This is offensive, and most Americans know that.

KORNACKI: OK.

Robert Traynham, John Nichols, thanks to both of you for joining us.

A quick break. But up next, as the cleanup from Hurricane Harvey gets under way, there is a growing concern that the immigration policies of the Trump administration could end up hindering that rebuilding effort in Texas.

That is ahead. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love you. You are special. We`re here to take care and going well. And I want to thank you for coming out. We`re going to get you back and operating immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump promising Texans they would be able to rebuild immediately after Hurricane Harvey.

But as NBC News reports, the president`s immigration policies could hinder the rebuilding efforts, since his pledge to start mass deportations and build a wall along the Mexican border appear to have resulted in an increase of immigrants staying close to home.

Texas` construction industry relies on undocumented immigrants. The Pew Research Center estimated last year that undocumented workers make up 28 percent of the state`s construction work force and the need for workers will only increase as Houston works to recover.

I`m joined now by MSNBC contributor and University of Texas professor Victoria DeFrancesco.

So, Victoria, take us through this. I guess, at a practical level, massive rebuilding job in here. We don`t know the full scale of it, but it`s going to be off the charts. That statistic jumped out at me.

I didn`t realize that. You`re almost at one-third of the construction work force there is undocumented. Connect that to President Trump`s policies. Is there a direct connection between Trump`s policies and the ability of the construction industry to pull off a rebuilding job like this?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Very much so.

So, let me give a little perspective here. Houston is consistently one of the fastest growing cities. So there`s a lot of building going on. But following the Trump administration coming into power, we saw that undocumented persons were getting nervous about staying in Texas, staying so close to the border, because of President Trump`s strong stance on immigration.

And then you lay on top of that the anti-sanctuary cities bill that Texas passed. So folks are leaving Texas. Those construction workers you just cited, they`re leaving Texas. So there`s already a shortage in Houston, in the larger state of construction workers.

And now we get hit with Harvey. And we`re going to need massive reconstruction efforts. And we are going to need those construction workers who have been leaving.

And this isn`t just theory, Steve. We know from practice, we know from Hurricane Katrina that literally New Orleans was built on the backs of Latinos, more specifically Latino undocumented labor. That is what was able to get the city up and running again.

The same thing would be needed for Houston. But given the climate right now, the question mark is, are going to we have that manpower?

KORNACKI: Do you have a sense? Are you able to put any numbers on it, if there is a potential for shortfall of workers, how significant that shortfall would be? Is there a number that -- a rough estimate you could put on it?

DEFRANCESCO: What we have been seeing, as you said, in Houston, we know that about 10 percent of the population is undocumented, which is close to double of the national average.

And in Houston, of those undocumented persons, a quarter are construction workers. So I haven`t seen exact numbers yet since President Trump took office. But just hearing from folks on the ground, from folks working with construction workers as advocates, we know they`re leaving and they`re going to other friendlier states that don`t have this climate that Texas does.

KORNACKI: But let me ask you a question from the perspective, I imagine, somebody who would be on sort of the hard-line side of the immigration debate might put it.

And they would say, well, those jobs should be for American citizens. If there are fewer undocumented immigrants who are taking those jobs, it means more jobs for American citizens. And, ultimately, that`s a good thing.

DEFRANCESCO: And that`s a valid argument. That`s a valid line of argument.

But then the question is, how much are we willing to spend on the rebuilding effort? How much is Congress willing to give in terms of dollars to rebuild? How much is going to FEMA give?

So, if you want to do this purely with American workers, you have got to be prepared to pay the wages that American workers are going to need and then pay into that. So, that`s the question that Congress is going to have to grapple with.

KORNACKI: OK, Victoria DeFrancesco down there in Texas, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

DEFRANCESCO: Absolutely.

KORNACKI: All right, another quick break.

Up next, though: President Trump continues his all-out attack on the legacy, the governing legacy of President Obama. That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to go after Barack Obama`s legacy, Obamacare, immigration, environmental regulation.

On Thursday, McClatchy reported that President Trump is expected to end the Obama era program that shields young people from deportation. The move would allow Trump to fulfill one of his many campaign promises.

He addressed it today. Let`s look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Should DREAMers be worried?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We love the DREAMers. We love everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Late Friday, the White House announced a decision that would be announced on Tuesday. So, is this another campaign promise he has yet to fulfill? Repealing and repealing Obamacare, but he`s actively killing it by attrition. NBC News reports that President Trump is cutting funding for ACA advertising by 90 percent.

For more, I`m joined by our roundtable, Eddie Glaude, a Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor; Catherine Rampell, she is an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post"; and Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist and author of "GOP GPS".

Eddie, it sounds like we`re getting mixed signals here. You had that report. He was going to end it. You have that comment we just showed, he says, we love the DREAMers, whatever that means. We had reporting from our own Hallie Jackson at the start of the show saying maybe Harvey has complicated this.

Do you have any sense where this is going to land?

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, based upon his executive order to undo the Central American minors decision by President Obama, which allowed those folks from -- those young kids who are coming from El Salvador, Honduras, he`s ended that. If that`s any indication, DACA is done under --

KORNACKI: Do you think -- because Hallie was saying it sounds like the politics maybe, at least from a timing stand point of what`s going on with Harvey might be affected.

GLAUDE: Well, it might be that. It might be the case. That might be the case. And also might be the case that he is failing with regards to the wall and he needs to throw some red meat to his base. So, I think Harvey is gumming up some matters but I think in the end, he`s going to appeal to the base by doing this.

KORNACKI: Catherine, immigration polling to me is a very hard one to figure out, because I think a lot of times, the number on the surface could be misleading or can tell part of the story. I think more than a lot of issues are subject to how you ask the question, sort of how you phrase the question. That being said, when you look specifically at this issue of DACA, when you look at this issue of kids who came to the country, their parents brought them here, they had nothing to do with decision and having protections for them. That does poll well, and that polls well among Republicans.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.

KORNACKI: Even among Trump`s base.

RAMPELL: Which is why during campaign, he was loathed to say that he was going to repeal DACA. If you remember, I mean, he ran entirely on a campaign of how tough he was going to be on those darn illegals, but he would not commit to undoing DACA. He said he had a big heart, things along those lines.

KORNACKI: I mean, that`s what he`s saying -- when he says, we love the DREAMers, there is some recognition, it seems to me, of the politics of it.

RAMPELL: I think Republicans on the Hill realize this as well. Part of reason I`m more optimistic maybe than you are, hopefully, I`m not going to be eating my words in a few days, is that, you know, Paul Ryan came out and said that he does not think that Trump should take this action. Orrin Hatch and other relatively right wing Republicans have said the same thing.

And I think it would be very embarrassing to Trump to sort of be overruled by Congress. And what matters to him most of all is showing that he is powerful, not being politically humiliated. So, maybe he`ll hold his fire.

KORNACKI: You mentioned Paul Ryan, the speaker of the house, that Republican reaction, President Trump as Catherine just saying. He is under some pressure now for Republicans on the Hill not to end the DACA program. This is what Ryan had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOST: There`s a lot in the news right now that the president might be looking at pulling back DACA. The DREAMers Act.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, I mean, I actually don`t think he should do that, and I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, he`s been a Trump critic of late. He tweeted, Congress needs to take immediate action to protect DACA kids. Orrin Hatch, chair of the powerful Finance Committee, he had the statement out saying, I`ve urged the president not to rescind DACA, an action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent legislative solution.

But, Evan, OK, what Paul Ryan is saying is he wants Congress to address this. The Republican position has been -- Barack Obama did this basically by fiat a couple of years ago. No president should do that. You should undo what Obama did, but should you immediately pass this legislation in Congress.

I`m wondering, we have seen this issue of immigration. This has been a major fault line within the Republican Party. If something like this, something as simple -- seeming as DACA, comes before Congress and Democrats are for it and Paul Ryan is for it. Maybe Orrin Hatch is for it.

Is there still a chance here of a major revolt from that Republican base because we have seen immigration issues in the past have brought that out?

EVAN SEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look at the Republican base, only 22 percent of Republicans support ending DACA. There`s going to be massive political fallout for Republicans if they do end DACA. You`re going to see Hispanics completely move away from the party. And 44 percent of voting eligible Hispanics are millennials. And millennials already don`t identify with Republican Party as well. And if you do that within 10 days of pardoning Joe Arpaio, what message does it send in terms of what the Republican Party can offer?

KORNACKI: When I say I wonder if the polling on this doesn`t always capture it, this is a good example of things, because I wonder, right now, you poll the questions of kids, among Republicans, the idea of DACA conceptually as popular. Do conservative radio hosts start calling this amnesty and then suddenly, the Republican base see something very different?

GLAUDE: Well, yes, I mean, this is the thing -- I really don`t -- so if all that we were saying is true, it seems that it would make no political sense for President Trump to be pursuing this right now. But it seems to be the case that what he`s doing is he is really speaking to that cultural anxiety at the heart of his base. That his immigration policy isn`t really about law and order. It isn`t about undocumented workers. It is about the cultural anxiety that is at the heart of all those core Trump supporters who believe America is changing, that America doesn`t look like it`s supposed to look.

And so, DACA, right, is part of this. The wall won`t be built of he can at least say, because he`s already told the Honduran kids, the El Salvadorian kids, oh, they`re not coming . We`re going to send these other kids back. So, it seems to me that this is really a part of this other agenda, this at the heart of how we understand the political actions of the base at the heart of Trump.

RAMPELL: But there is another reason why this timing is coming now, right? It`s that there are these Republican attorneys general who are threatening to sue the administration coming September 5th next week. So, basically, they have forced this deadline upon him. I think he doesn`t want to make a decision one way or the other.

KORNACKI: And also, this is one of those -- it looks at least before today, the last couple of days, there was an opportunity here, maybe legislatively for him to pair this with the wall somehow, but it looks like now, some indication to the administration, the wall, maybe we can put that on hold until December. So, it becomes just a question of DACA.

Again, we`ll see if that decision comes out. The White House suggesting at least right now Tuesday. We`ll find out.

Roundtable, they are staying with us. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The Department of Labor has released its monthly report for August, with both job creation and unemployment numbers falling short of economists` expectations. The U.S. economy creating 156,000 jobs in August. That missed the Wall Street expectation of 180,000 jobs. The numbers also down from 189,000 jobs that were created in July.

The unemployment rate, it edged a little bit higher to 4.4 percent and was expected to hold steady at 4.3.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CLARKE, MILWAUKEE SHERIFF: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to make something very clear: Blue lives matter in America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was controversial Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke at the Republican Convention last summer. Well, late Thursday, Clarke was a vocal advocate and ally of President Trump and announced his surprise retirement, tweeting, quote: After nearly 40 years serving my community, I`m retiring. What a ride. I will announce my future plans next week after the Labor Day holiday.

Well, "Politico" is reporting that Sheriff Clarke is expected to take a job in President Trump`s administration. But according to the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel", Clarke is looking for opportunities outside of government that support the Trump agenda and keep him in the public eye. Recently, Sheriff Clarke has been under increased scrutiny after four people and a newborn baby died while in custody at the Milwaukee County jail.

Back now with the roundtable.

Evan, this is one of those political characters. Sheriff Arpaio kind of falls into this category I think too. He had prominence before, but who really have gained a new level of national prominence through Donald Trump, and probably wouldn`t, if any other Republican had won the nomination last year. This is a guy, Sheriff Clarke, who speaks to and for I think a part of Donald Trump`s base.

You`re a Republican. I`m curious. What is the message that Sheriff Clarke is delivering? And how many people is he speaking for?

SIEGFRIED: I don`t know what the message is other than he is playing to the worst and base instincts of a certain portion of the Republican Party that shouldn`t be there. And if he goes in administration with his 32 pieces of flair, you know what? That`s absolutely an embarrassment.

He`s been an embarrassment as a sheriff. He`s disgraced anybody who wears a uniform. And look what he says about Donald Trump in the past week of how or what he views law enforcement as. He celebrates Arpaio and Clarke as somehow heroes of law enforcement.

They are the exact opposite of what we want law enforcement officers to be. They don`t follow the rules. They have no problem ignoring federal court orders. They have no problem mistreating people in inhumane circumstances that end up getting them killed, but, hey, Donald Trump says they`re great for keeping us safe.

KORNACKI: Eddie, I think, politically, what Evan is just describing roughly, it reads to a certain part of electorate as a guy who is willing to do tough things you need to do to maintain. Is the old law and order message in some ways, we had prevalent in our politics a generation or two ago, it feels like Trump has brought that back in some way.

GLAUDE: Right and so deeply racialized. In some way, I`ve said in other places that this is a presidency of hate. Having to do with not only DACA, having to do with the transgender ban, having to do with the comments of Charlottesville. It also has kind of embodied in his call for law and order.

I mean, Donald Trump imagines himself as a strong man who stands above the law, who executes it cruelly and Sheriff Clarke is a great, emblematic example of that particular position. Here`s a guy who he thinks he stands above the law as he supposedly represents it.

And what do we see? We see people dying in jails. We see him, you know, just flouting the law at every turn when it tries to hold him accountable, and this seems to me to reflect generally Donald Trump`s orientation to the whole matter.

KORNACKI: And I grapple with it. I`m trying to figure out after tonight. I don`t have the answer in terms of how many people somebody like Sheriff Clarke speaks for and Arpaio. But I am struck, Arpaio last week, when the pardon went out, the media coverage of it was almost universally negative, highlighting all of these problems, these issues, these controversies, the legal problems. And yet, I know he was defeated for reelection last year, but he also managed to have -- for a generation of politics in Arizona, in this county that`s more than half the states, won five elections.

That style does reach I think maybe a bigger part of electorate than we often acknowledge. For better or worse, I think maybe it does.

RAMPELL: Yes, for worse. I think absolutely for worse. Not for better.

These are -- these are people who represent our basest instincts. Who make people feel good about the fact they can wish the worst upon people that don`t look like them and don`t speak like them because, hey, that`s law and order, right? I mean, it`s basically finding a way of justifying this vile hatred and acting upon it in violent ways that in the end put people`s lives at risk.

I mean, remember that both of the sheriffs that you`re talking about had a large number of people died under their watch in their prisons or jails. So, this is a way of excusing that behavior and justifying it, as saying it`s in the best interests of the country.

KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three people will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Eddie, tell me something I don`t know.

GLAUDE: Well, there was a tweet out there about the incoming class at Harvard University. That 41.2 percent of the incoming class are legacies - - 41.2 percent are legacies. Nine out of ten of those legacies are white. And the DOJ is worrying about affirmative action.

KORNACKI: Catherine?

RAMPELL: Donald Trump Jr. is going to be giving a speech at the University of North Texas to the tune of 100 grand. And the questions will be provided in advance.

KORNACKI: OK. Evan?

SIEGFRIEND: Foreign policy circles are getting very worried about China`s aggressive expansion because it threatens us economically and geopolitically. They`ve been going using the one belt policy to go into Africa, Greece, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Panama.

KORNACKI: OK, that is going to do it for tonight. Eddie Glaude, Catherine Rampell, Evan Siegfried, thank you all for being with us.

That`s HARDBALL for now. And thank you for being with us. Chris Matthews, he returns next week. Join him Tuesday, special guest, Al Franken.

"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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.