A.G. Sessions under new scrutiny Transcript 11/3/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Sol Wisenberg, Levar Stoney, Jennifer Rubin, Matt Apuzzo, Joyce Vance

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 3, 2017 Guest: Sol Wisenberg, Levar Stoney, Jennifer Rubin, Matt Apuzzo, Joyce Vance

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad memories. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Philadelphia. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It`s the strategy of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions on Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that`s one person. But he was dealing as he should have been --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the election?

TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians. Is that what you`re saying?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not, and I`m not aware of anyone else that did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: New information this week is showing serious differences with President Trump`s and Jeff Sessions` accounts. First came court documents in the case of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. They described a March 31st meeting last year with Trump and his foreign policy team, "When defendant Papadopoulos introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin."

Here`s a photograph, by the way, from that meeting showing Papadopoulos sitting prominently at that table with Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Also at that same meeting, J.D. Gordon, another campaign adviser. He`s the one sitting right next to Papadopoulos. He told "The New York Times" Papadopoulos went into the pitch right away. He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin. According to the times, Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled, "And he said that no one should talk about it", because Mr. Sessions thought it was a bad idea that he did not want associated with the campaign, he said.

Well, Gordon confirmed the account to NBC News. Meanwhile yesterday, a person described as being familiar with Sessions` views told NBC News, "As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it, and he moved the meeting along to other issues."

While leaving the White House this morning for a 12-day trip to Asia, the president was asked about that meeting in March of last year. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you remember George Papadopoulos during that March meeting --

TRUMP: I don`t remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting. It took place a long time -- don`t remember much about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you stand by your claim that you never -- in the campaign never talked to anybody from Russia? Do you stand by that claim?

TRUMP: All I can tell you is this. There was no collusion. There was no nothing. It`s a disgrace, frankly, that they continue. You ought to look at Hillary Clinton, and you ought to look at the new book that was just put out by Donna Brazile, where she basically bought the DNC and she stole the election from Bernie. So, that`s what you ought to take a look at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by "The New York Times" Matt Apuzzo, NBC national political reporter Carol Lee, and former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance.

Let`s start with Matt. It seems to me now we have an accumulation of at least three people now. We`ve got Papadopoulos. We`ve got somebody close to Sessions himself. And we`ve got this guy Gordon, J.D. Gordon. Three people all said they discussed Russia at that meeting and Trump now says he doesn`t remember much about it, it`s like I don`t know much about history like in the song. Can he get away with this legally and politically, I don`t remember?

MATT APUZZO, THE NEW YORK TIMES: legally this issue is much more significant for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions because, of course, when he talked about this, he was under oath. He was talking to Senator Al Franken of the Judiciary Committee. I mean, Donald Trump can say, well, look, I said it in February. I didn`t -- I don`t remember. I don`t have any recollection of this. I think we`ve seen again and again from people around Trump and from people in the campaign that they say no Russian contacts and then reporters go out and find Russian contacts. I mean, whether he can get away with it, I mean, that`s a political question. But legally, this is much more serious for Jeff Sessions.

MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats are, of course, demanding Jeff Sessions come back and testify under oath. Here was Senator Al Franken on HARDBALL just last night. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: He has contradicted himself so many times in the last -- since January that it really is hard to believe that he`s been telling the truth at any one point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Carol, thank you -- let`s -- thanks for coming on. Did you see it? Tell me how the attorney general, who knows the law, he made (ph) that slow way of talking and all, and he always seems hesitant to say anything. How is he wrangling his way through this because he`s apparently, through some intermediary, put out the word, yes, he was at the meeting and, yes, I shut down the idea of further conversations with Russia. But in so doing, was saying, yes, I knew there was contact with Russia. Who`s sort of -- how`s he doing this thing?

CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, what their argument is that he shut it down and that was the end of it, and it was insignificant. And -- but Attorney General Sessions has a problem here because of all those clips that show him testifying on the Hill and saying one thing and then other -- whether it`s documentation or other people`s versions of things that happened during the campaign coming out and contradicting that. And I think the real problem for him right now is that you don`t know what`s out there that hasn`t come out yet. And, he`s really boxed himself in on this. And this is just the beginning of what Robert Mueller is going to reveal in this investigation.

And the problem for Jeff Sessions is, was he involved in any of these other discussions about contacts with Russian officials? You know, George Papadopoulos also had contacts where he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Did Jeff Sessions know about that? Robert Mueller knows a lot, and so the senator -- or Attorney General Jeff sessions has more to answer to than just these calls on the Hill for him to come back and testify. He could potentially be in his own legal jeopardy.

MATTHEWS: Joyce, back at Watergate days, they had a phrase limited modified hangout where they would go from stonewalling to admitting something. Now, here you have the attorney general somehow leaking, getting word out that, yes, okay, I was at the meeting, but I was there shooting down the idea. So he`s admitting now, he wasn`t honest or fully honest in his past statements on their oath that he -- when saying there was no contact with Russia, but he`s also trying to deny he went along with it by saying, yes, I was at the meeting where Russia was discussed but I shoot the idea -- I shut the idea down.

Legally, how does this protect him? And he must know the law. Why would he shift from I don`t know nothing to, yes, I was there but I shot down the idea?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He`s had to progressively walk back his statements here, which is very interesting. But, Chris, the standard for proving a perjury charge, which is what we would be talking about here, is a very stringent one, and the burden is very heavily on the questioner. So what prosecutors will focus on here will be the precise question and the precise answer in light of what they can prove Attorney General Sessions knew at the time.

One would think that this dance of excuses or this dance of language would have something to do with that calculus of what the exact question was and what his answer was. It`s interesting to note, though, that in addition to legal jeopardy to potential criminal prosecution, there`s also a strict standard inside of the Justice Department for candor to the court or candor to the tribunal. If this were a prosecutor in open court who made a conversation, who made a comment like this, they would likely face some sort of internal investigation. No word yet on whether that`s in the winds for Sessions.

MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told "The New York Times", "The media`s willingness to inflate Papadopoulos, a young unpaid volunteer and supposed energy expert, into an important thought leader in the campaign or Russian operative is ludicrous. The evidence so far suggests he attended one meeting, said something about Russia and was immediately shut down by everyone in the room."

Well, it`s not the media that elevated George Papadopoulos. It`s Donald Trump himself. In March of 2016, that month that we had that meeting, Trump read off a list of people on his foreign policy team. His team identified by him. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and is a counter-terrorism expert. Carter page, PhD, George Papadopoulos, he`s an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Matt, rolling disclosures at work here. In fact, some of it seems to be retrenching. They go from admitting the guy exists, who was a top adviser, admitted by the presidential candidate. And then all of a sudden, he`s a nobody.

APUZZO: Right. And what you see here is the Papadopoulos case, in general, can be dismissed by the White House and say, look, this guy is a nothing. This guy is a nobody. And, you know, they can even make the political truth and the admission, that this task force, this consulting committee, this advisory committee was all just for show at a time when we were getting criticized for not knowing anything about foreign policy.

The problem is they keep saying things that then get undercut. That`s the problem they have. Nobody met with Russians. And then we find out, oh, no, no, we did. I didn`t know anything about it. Well, actually I was in a meeting about it. That`s ultimately the problem here. It`s -- for Donald Trump, it`s not what Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to, it`s just that it makes us question even again how honest the president is being.

MATTHEWS: Do we know, Carol, or do you know as a reporter any hint at least that they can go further? That the -- it`s been said just a few minutes ago that Robert Mueller knows more.

Now, does he know more that you know of? Does he know more about the entanglement, the collusion, between this team that we`re walking through here and watching them in action overtime and the Russians?

LEE: Well, he only knows more than any of us do and any of what has been reported. And he definitely has a much stronger indication than any of us about whether or not there was this collusion. That`s what he`s investigating.

And I -- and the thing that`s going to happen is in the next coming days and weeks, all of that stuff is going to be rolled out. And what we saw in this past week is just the tip of the iceberg.

MATTHEWS: So you see the vector here? And you see the direction he`s going as the beginning of something bigger, not just cleaning up the little bit of information they have, but beginning to chew away at the larger block of information coming?

LEE: Sure, definitely. If you look at the way that what we know about this investigation, you can see a very methodical and calculated investigation. He`s moving pretty quickly, but also very methodically and carefully. And this, you know, is just -- I think all of us who`ve covered this believe that this is just the beginning.

There are also -- we know that he is looking into a number of other individuals including the president`s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, his son -- you know,, Michael Flynn`s son. He`s looking at meetings that the president`s son and son-in-law have had. So this is -- it`s just going to keep going, and more is going to come out. And that`s where these -- for the president, his attorney general, and others are going to be faced with these questions again about and holding up their past comments on what they said happened during the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know three people, all men, who may well agree with what you said. Those are the three Republican Congress people who are out there with a resolution right now to take Mueller`s job away from. We`ll see more about that by next week.

Anyway, those three have introduced a measure calling on Robert Mueller to resign, "Be it resolved, that the House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately."

Joyce, last word to you. Does that indicate to you that they think he`s got some pay dirt? They want him out of the job?

VANCE: People who have nothing to fear from a criminal investigation open their books, go in and talk with prosecutors, and are honest and forthcoming. People who call for a prosecutor to be forbidden from doing his job, those are folks who are worried about the outcome.

MATTHEWS: Sounds right to me. Thank you, Matt Apuzzo. Thank you, Carol Lee. And thank you, Joyce Vance.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he`s frustrated that he can`t make the United States Department of Justice go after Hillary Clinton. He actually called it the saddest thing, that he can`t be involved in Justice Department decision making.

And he also said we shouldn`t worry about all the vacancies at the State Department because he`s "the only one that matters". He`s talking about himself. If you were worried Trump was becoming an autocrat, this won`t help.

Plus, that crucial race for governor of Virginia is down to the wire. This last weekend in the campaign, the Democrats are hanging on for dear life, this is going to be a close one. And speaking of the Democrats, the party`s differences are on full display after the great Donna Brazile. And I mean that shed light on the fundraising deal Hillary Clinton cut with the Democratic National Committee long before she won the nomination. And that is not cricket. And that`s causing supporters of Bernie sanders to cry foul loud.

Finally, let me finish tonight with the answer to the number one question I`ve been asked this week. And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Despite a deepening investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, talks are underway to set up another meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin today confirmed that details are being coordinated to have the two world leaders meet on the sidelines of an economic summit in Vietnam next week. In an interview last night on Fox News, President Trump seemed very open to the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You`re going to talk to him on this trip?

TRUMP: We may have a meeting with Putin. We may -- and again, Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea.

INGRAHAM: Syria?

TRUMP: They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Trump`s remarks over the last 24 hours reveal that he doesn`t believe the powers of the presidency are as vast as he would like. He now says he wishes he could direct the Department of Justice to go after his political enemies.

In a radio interview just yesterday, Trump said that the saddest thing about being President is not being able to direct the actions of the FBI and the Justice Department, which they act independently of the White House. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, the saddest thing is that, because I`m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I`m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I`m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I`m very frustrated by it.

I look at what`s happening with the Justice Department. Why aren`t they going after Hillary Clinton with her e-mails and with her -- the dossier? It`s very discouraging to me. I`ll be honest, I`m very unhappy with it, that the Justice Department isn`t going. Now, maybe they are. But hopefully they are doing something. And at some point, maybe we`re going to all have it out.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump also took a jab at the military over the decision today in the Bowe Bergdahl case which allowed the Sergeant Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion, to avoid jail time. The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our country and to our military." This comes after the military judge in that case had already said that the president`s ongoing comments will weigh in favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant.

I`m joined right now by Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Sol Wisenberg, who`s a former federal prosecutor and was deputy independent counsel under Ken Starr.

First of all, Jonathan, just the overall look as a fellow generalist like I, the idea of a president of the United States wishing that he had the FBI as his personal weapon.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s pretty incredible. Look, this is a country that`s based on the rule of law and even the customs and traditions of the president not involving himself with the internal mechanisms, particularly an investigation at the Justice Department. To whittle away at that is to really whittle away at the foundation of our democracy.

And just think about a year ago, Chris, when everyone`s hair was on fire because President Clinton -- former President Clinton boarded the plane of then Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the implications that had for then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign going forward. And how Donald Trump used that as a way of whittling away at Hillary Clinton`s credibility and, you know, her using power to benefit herself.

And so now we have the president, the current president of the United States, saying -- saying that he wishes he could wield power, and doing so in a way that, you know, makes him a victim.

And listening to the clip that you just played, I just kept saying, oh, boo-hoo, power is hard. When you`re president of the United States, you`re very powerful, but there are limits on that power, for good reason.

MATTHEWS: You know, one great thing about being a columnist like you is you see references and parallels, and you see inconsistencies and connections, because your mind is working that way, always to relate one thing to another.

Does Trump just not see this continual contradiction in his whole narrative, that he will say one thing one day, as if that day was a -- on some other planet from this country and this world, and then another one in a totally other universe? And then there`s another universe the next day. And nothing relates to anything.

He can say anything he wants, and his 40 percent will say, yes.

CAPEHART: Oh, yes, absolutely, Chris.

And here`s a perfect example of what you were just talking about. Today, before he got on Marine One, he said, oh, I don`t remember having these conversations related to Russia, when, just last week, he said, in relation to the widow Johnson, the Gold Star widow of La David Johnson, the Green Beret who was killed in Niger, he said, I have the greatest memory of all time, and I remember what happened in that phone conversation.

So, that`s just one example, Chris, of many examples of the president saying one thing at 9:00 a.m., and then contradicting himself maybe in a tweet or an offhand comment two hours later or even a day later.

MATTHEWS: Sol Wisenberg, I just saw that film about Mark Felt, the guy who was the Deep Throat giving away the Watergate story.

And one thing that came through in that movie I thought was pretty authentic was the institutional pride of the FBI, how they -- and even under Hover, especially under Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover. They said, no White House has any right to tell us what to do.

In fact, they had John Dean before he went -- you know, he went with the prosecution, John Dean was over there telling them what to do, and the acting FBI director, Mark Felt, was going nuts. What is he doing here?

Tell us about that institutional independence, especially of the FBI, and no president should have any right to tell them what to do.

SOL WISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the irony here, Chris, is that, technically speaking, the president does have the ability to tell him what to do. He`s the chief officer of the executive branch.

The president doesn`t even realize his own power. The question is, is it proper? Is it consistent with our institutional norms? And, of course, it isn`t. It`s totally proper if he`s president of Russia. It`s totally proper if he`s the president of Freedonia or some other mythical entity, but it`s not proper here.

But it`s not always easy to explain to people who don`t understand why it isn`t proper. But, as a matter of pure, raw power, he does control the Justice Department and the FBI. And, certainly as you know, presidents have policies all the time. They get elected, and they say, I want to have this immigration policy, I want to have this drug policy, and that`s one thing.

But they typically don`t call up the attorney general and say, investigate my political opponent. That happens in banana republics.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about what happened with Nixon, not that the parallel is ever perfect. But here`s a guy that wanted to get rid of Archibald Cox, who was investigating him and demanding tapes that would knock him out of the presidency eventually.

So, he had to fire a whole line of people at the Justice Department, starting with the attorney general, and then down the line to Bork, to get somebody to do it. The solicitor general, he finally got to do it.

You`re right. Is that what you mean by technical or constitutional power, as opposed to appropriateness?

WISENBERG: Well, that`s exactly what I meant.

In the case of Archie Cox, Ruckelshaus and Richardson had made promises to Congress when they were confirmed that they would protect Archibald Cox`s independence.

I can tell you this. Absolutely, if the president asked Rod Rosenstein to do anything that Rosenstein believes is improper, including firing Mueller without good reason, he will resign before doing so. And that was the subtext of Rod`s speech a couple of nights ago to the D.C. White Collar Bar.

MATTHEWS: Just like Richardson and Ruckelshaus. Thank you.

Well, President Trump also attacked the State Department in another revealing interview last night. He argued that the vacancies -- and there are so many of them inside the department -- are not significant because, as he said last night -- quote -- "The only one that matters is me."

He actually said that. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m a businessperson. And I tell my people, where you don`t need to fill slots, don`t fill them. But we have some people that I`m not happy with there.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But assistant secretary of state, you`re not getting rid of that position?

TRUMP: But let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I`m the only one that matters, because, when it comes to it, that`s what the policy is going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, it gets back to something, Jon. And I don`t think the guy studied liberal arts in school. He just did business.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, he doesn`t understand he has a trust as president, but it`s not his acquisition. It`s government of the people, by the people, for the people. It always will be.

That`s the ideal. That`s the reality of our Constitution. He acts as if it`s his possession, and he can move it around the way he wants, up to his -- according to his personal id. Whatever he feels like doing at 6:30 in the morning should happen.

CAPEHART: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s true.

CAPEHART: Look, Chris, the sound bite that we heard there should not come as a surprise to anybody who has been watching Donald Trump since he was a candidate, and certainly since his convention acceptance speech, where he said, "I am your voice" to his supporters.

But he also said, in relation to the problems of the country, "I alone can fix it."

And so for him to say that it doesn`t matter that the State Department is decimated and that the halls are empty, and that he`s knee-capping his secretary of state with every comment because, you know, whatever the policy is of the United States, it`s going to come from him anyway, so why do we need all of these people?

And it just betrays a total lack of understanding or appreciation for the enterprise that is the United States government.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s my bet. When he meets with Putin next week, he`s not going to let Tillerson in the room. That`s my bet.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart and Sol Wisenberg.

And thank you, Mr. Sol Wisenberg, for coming on.

WISENBERG: No problem.

MATTHEWS: Up next: With just days to go in the Virginia governor`s race, can the Democrats get out the vote and eke out a win? This one is getting close.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening.

President Trump has just landed in Hawaii at the start of a 12-day, five- country trip to Asia.

The New York City Police Department says it has a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein and is gathering evidence ahead of a possible arrest.

The Trump administration has released an ominous report on climate change. It contradicts top Trump officials and places the blame for rising global temperatures squarely on human activity -- and now let`s take you back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The critical election for Virginia governor is down to the wire now, with just one weekend left before voters head to the polls.

Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are making their final pitch to voters with new ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: In Washington, we have a president who is dividing America in a way we have never seen before. Here in Virginia, we can do better. As governor, I will move Virginia forward by bringing people together.

ED GILLESPIE (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ralph Northam doesn`t just disagree with million of Virginians who don`t share his liberal policy agenda. He disdains us. It`s an attack on all Virginians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, two polls out this week show the race is neck to neck. A "Washington Post" poll has Northam with a five-point advantage over Gillespie, while Suffolk University, with a more recent poll, gives Northam only a four-point edge.

Well, the election will come down to which side gets its turnout. "The Washington Post" also notes that, for the Democrat, Ralph Northam, victory may hinge on black voters.

For more, I`m joined now by the mayor of Richmond, the largest city, Levar Stoney.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining -- I think it`s may -- Virginia Beach may have edged you out there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Tell me about the excitement level in the city of Richmond tonight. Is there one?

LEVAR STONEY (D), MAYOR OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: Hey, what`s up?

Four days left until Election Day, Democrats, Chris, are ready to turn out. I mean, when you have a president in the White House right now who is dissing President Obama on a daily basis and unwinding and undoing all of President Obama`s work, I think folks know that the stakes are way too high.

Every single day, you see an image on TV that we wish we had November 2016 back, but we get an opportunity to voice -- let our voices be heard on -- in this upcoming Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor, getting caught on a tape saying something about Northern Virginia being enemy territory?

STONEY: Well, you know, this is -- that should not be surprising to anyone, because this is the sort of divisive campaign that Mr. Gillespie has run the entire time he`s been running for governor.

He`s run a slash-and-burn campaign. But we should not be surprised by this. We have on one hand a governor, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who has been a public servant most of his life, from the time he worked in the Army as an Army doctor to his time as a pediatrician.

And we have him up to Ed Gillespie, who has, you can say, been self-serving for most of his career.

MATTHEWS: Well, Doug Wilder, of course, he`s a favorite if mine. He was Virginia`s former Democratic governor for years. He was the first African- American ever elected to that office. He has not endorsed the Democratic candidate. Why do you think?

Anyway, meanwhile, a book by former DNC chair Donna Brazile has opened up a rift again within the Democratic Party. It alleges that Hillary Clinton`s campaign effectively controlled the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 primary, before she locked up the nomination.

My colleague Katy Tur asked Northam, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, about that today. Let`s watch her with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned that you could be the first potential victim of that rift after this book?

NORTHAM: No, Katy. Like I said, we`re unified in Virginia. We`re focused on this election on November the...

TUR: You say you`re unified, but, at the same time, Doug Wilder isn`t endorsing you. There`s some division within Virginia. Are you really that confident?

NORTHAM: I am confident. And, you know, Doug Wilder is a good friend of mine. He was a great governor.

TUR: So why is he not endorsing you?

NORTHAM: Well, that`s up to Governor Wilder, and he will make that decision at the appropriate time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Your Honor, why do you think the former governor is not endorsing the gubernatorial candidate of his party?

STONEY: Hey, Governor Wilder has been a lieutenant governor, and he also has been a governor as well.

He understands the value of these down-ballot races with Justin Fairfax, who I think will win the lieutenant governorship here in a few days.

I have worked in campaigns. I have ran campaigns. I used to run the Democratic Party of Virginia. And now I`m the mayor. I have been a candidate before as well.

These statewide campaigns, there`s a drop-off in the -- from the governor`s race to the lieutenant governor`s race to the A.G.`s race. Every vote counts. All hands on deck. And I`m glad to see that Governor Wilder is on deck.

MATTHEWS: The name of this show, Mayor, is called HARDBALL. Remember that?

OK, now, here`s the HARDBALL question for Friday night.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Where are you -- no, you`re not getting away, because I`m going to respect you for this one.

Where are you? Because I`m kind of troubled by this whole debate. Where are you on the statues of Confederate generals in Virginia? What do you think should happen to them?

STONEY: Hey, I have already publicly said that, personally, I believe that they are shameful reminders of our past, and they should be removed and maybe put up in museums.

But, you know, what I focus on as the mayor every single day is on the living, the blood and flesh of our city, and not on granite and bronze. And all day, I see people who seek to divide us, who want to focus on inanimate objects.

Let me see your plan on expanding voting rights and civil rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Let me see your plan on expanding Medicaid expansion and Medicaid in Virginia. Let me see your plan on tearing down public housing in Virginia.

I have not seen anything like that from the Republican Party, who uses these inanimate objects, Confederate statues, as a way to divide our commonwealth. And you know what? If you want someone who is going to support and bring people together, who is going to provide opportunity for all, you vote for Ralph Northam on November 6.

MATTHEWS: I like your politics, and I like your political ability.

That`s called the pivot, by the way, Mr. Mayor, what you just did. Thank you for that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You pivoted to an area you want to talk about, not the one you don`t want to talk about.

Thank you, Mayor Levar Stoney, of the great city of Richmond, Virginia.

And as we come to join -- Tuesday night, we get close for all the news out of Virginia. I will be here on HARDBALL that night, of course, when the polls close, when they close. But we`re not going to get the answer, so we`re going to come back at midnight on election night.

So, I will be back with special coverage starting at midnight for an hour, Eastern time, for the biggest election in the country next Tuesday night.

Up next, as I mentioned, the new book is exposing old wounds in the Democratic Party. It says that Hillary Clinton, as I said, took control of the DNC long before winning the Democratic nomination.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In an explosive excerpt from her new book, Donna Brazile yesterday revealed the existence of a previously secret agreement that seemed to confirm some of Bernie Sanders` supporters` fears, that the DNC was playing favorites.

Brazile writes: The agreement specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party`s finances, its strategy, and all the money raised.

For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight: Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer with "The Washington Post", Sam Stein, politics editor with "The Daily Beast", and Yamiche Alcindor, reporter with "The New York Times".

I want to talk about the Democratic politics first of all. Sam, is this going to give people within the ranks, and there are a lot of them in the ranks, the Bernie crowd, the chance to say, we were right, we were robbed?

SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: It already has. It`s not just the Bernie crowd. Elizabeth Warren, who did endorse Hillary, had a prime-time speaking spot at the convention, was on the campaign trail, said yesterday that the process was rigged against Bernie.

You know, the Bernie people have rightful grievances. Though these fund- raising agreements were available to the Sanders campaign, that`s an important distinction, he had the ability to do this joint fundraising agreement, he did it, he didn`t take advantage of it, the fact of the matter is they forfeited essentially operational control to the Clinton campaign, and the date of that memo is what is most important. It was 2015.

And so, they do have a rightful grievance that there was a tilt -- a weight on the scale in Clinton`s favor, and this perpetual civil war that the Democrats seem to be engaged in looks like it won`t be ending anytime soon.

MATTHEWS: It looks to me, Yamiche, like it`s going to open up for 2018 and then big time for 2020. I think the left on the ascendancy in the Democratic Party, this is going to give them a bloody shirt to wave as they said after the civil war.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think Donna Brazile is making a calculation here that the future is with Bernie Sanders. Remember that Donna Brazile was someone who had her own issues because people thought she was being partial to Hillary Clinton and was sending her questions before the debates. So, now, you have Donna Brazile kind of coming out and throwing dirt essentially on Hillary Clinton`s coffin here by basically saying she was allowed to take over the DNC.

Of course, the problem with that in some cases is that like was said before, Bernie had the opportunity to do this. So, he could have been in his own joint agreement, but he just didn`t want to use it. But also that he wasn`t a member of the party and as of today still does not want to be a Democrat. So, there`s this idea that Democrats are fighting over someone who wants to remain an independent.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- let me go to Jennifer on this because it seems like the outside people, the people on the conservative side of things, including the Republican president -- he`s our president too, but he`s the Republican leader of the party -- sees this as a great wedge opportunity.

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I suppose it is. Listen, he is the master of misdirection, and when subpoenas are coming and indictments are coming and plea bargains are coming, what does he do? He goes to attack Hillary Clinton.

Of course, it`s all irrelevant from his standpoint. The Democratic could have nominated anyone they wanted by any rules. But, listen, for those people who are disenchanted for the Republicans, when they look over the Democrats and see this fighting, they say, are these people ever going to get their act together?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, let me just suggest there`s some brains behind Trump, even though he usually operates from id and instinct. Could it be -- I`d start with you, Jeff, on this --- could it well be that he wants a Bernie type to run against him 2020 thinking that the middle might shift back to him out of opposition to out now socialistic perhaps in the case of Bernie, but somebody like him politically, doesn`t call himself a socialist? If he can make the Democratic Party the British Labour Party, for example, in effect, the Corbin party, he`s got at least a chance of getting reelected?

STEIN: I think -- I think that`s right although if you talk to some Trump associates and people who worked on his campaign, they genuinely and sincerely do believe that Bernie would have presented a much more complicated and difficult opponent than Hillary did. It`s precisely in those Rust Belt states where his message would have resonated. I believe Trump`s pollster, maybe he was just trolling people when he said this, but Tony Freezio recently said that he believed Bernie would have won if he had been the candidate. Now, that could have be just to mess with Democrats` mind.

MATTHEWS: Do you buy that? Do you buy that?

STEIN: I don`t know --

ALCINDOR: Here`s what I think.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, what do you think? We might as well ask everybody what they think. Go ahead, Yamiche.

ALCINDOR: I think for me as someone who covered both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, I remember literally being on the phone with Bernie Sanders and telling him that he had won Michigan. And he was as surprised as I was.

STEIN: Yes.

ALCINDOR: So, there`s this idea that Bernie -- I remember him coming, getting together and holding this press conference. He literally had no idea he had won Michigan, and he was surprised as ever. I think that tells me there were people who saw in Bernie Sanders somewhat of a rock star, covering to them, speaking to the people, speaking to the working class people and saying I care about you in a way they didn`t see in Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: It`s so wacky. Michigan once voted in a primary for George Wallace. Let me -- it`s true.

Jennifer, what do you make of this Pocahontas line? Is it working? I know it works with people like Howie Carr of "The Boston Herald" and all. But does it work for a president to make fun of a U.S. senator, a woman who is obviously distinguished, certainly in her expertise, which is Wall Street, to make fun of her personally like that in almost a disdainful way?

RUBIN: Well, listen, I don`t think anybody is undecided on Donald Trump at this point. You either like him, and you think is all hysterical and part of the game, or you think he`s a racist pig and really, you know, a misogynist.

MATTHEWS: Yes. A lot of territory there.

RUBIN: So, listen --

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIN: -- is he changing any minds? No.

But I think he does go back to the well on these things when things are not going well. He has to have an enemy, and preferably, either a minority or a woman. And this is what he does. This is what gets him up in the morning. This gets his troops lined up.

They`re not cheering for him as so much as they`re cheering along against his enemies.

STEIN: He also likes to make the people he opposes toxic to their own people. And so, one of the ways he won was not by bringing himself up obviously, but by bringing Hillary Clinton down and she certainly helped in the matter.

ALCINDOR: I think it`s memorable --

(CROSSTALK)

ALCINDOR: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Yamiche.

ALCINDOR: I was going to say, I think it`s memorable when he gives people nicknames, right? Even if it seems childish, you can remember who low energy was. You can remember who Lyin` Ted was. You can remember Little Marco.

Those are things from a marketing perspective are in his favor.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ve got to go. You know what I`ve learned lately, politics is not a seesaw. Just because one person goes down, the other doesn`t go up. The Democratic Party is not doing great in the polls right now.

The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these three will tell us something -- well, some scoops we`ll be talking about all weekend.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Jennifer, tell me something I don`t know.

RUBIN: A little nugget in the tax bill, taking away the deduction for medical expenses over 10 percent. This is for people in nursing homes at the end of life. Trump is taking that away. About six times as much is being given back to people to get rid of the AMT, rich people, and about three times as much to get rid of the estate tax.

So, he`s taking money from old grandma, who is at the end of her life, and giving it to Ivanka Trump essentially.

MATTHEWS: What a bedside manner that man has.

Anyway, Sam?

STEIN: I did not know that, Jen.

A little bit of a nugget on our own reporting. George Papadopoulos, how did he get on the Trump campaign? Not many people know including his college professor, who when I talked to him said he was a terrible student and was shocked to find out that he was a Trump aide.

MATTHEWS: Probably good in Russian.

Anyway, Yamiche?

ALCINDOR: So, there are several female lawmakers who are out saying that they were actually sexually harassed by their colleagues. This is not just staff members saying that members of the Congress are taking advantage of them, but these are actually people who are peers of other men saying that there are people saying that they were thinking about them in the shower and basically inappropriately touching them.

So, this I think is an interesting chapter.

MATTHEWS: Interesting is a good word.

Jennifer Rubin, thank you. Sam Stein, and Yamiche Alcindor.

Up next, this week marked the arrival of my new book, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit". A look back the highlights from the week that was this week, right after this.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Through all these months of nasty political tweets, cynicism and social division, I believe America can benefit from a revival of our spirit. I believe we need a tonic of the heart. Compelling evidence that our country yearns still for leaders who can inspire, unite, offer moral leadership. Men and women who believe a great country needs to be a good country.

I spent a week doing just that, debuting "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: I had asked Mr. Matthews to come in tonight to talk about his new book on Bobby Kennedy, which is called "A Raging Spirit." It comes out tomorrow. It`s great. It is beautifully written and I learned lots of stuff, including stuff I felt guilty I didn`t know before reading it.

Now I have the world`s greatest excuse to pin Chris down on this huge day in the news as well as his new book.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you nice? Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you for being here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST, MORNING JOE: There has not been another politician since June of 1968 that could bring together those two people back to the tracks to salute the same person.

MATTHEWS: That`s why I wrote the book. I think this will remind a lot of people during these dreary times that America is better than that, than what we have, and it can be again.

He spent his whole life chasing bad guys but he said he decided one thing. The villains in this world create their own hells on earth. So, focus on the victims, that became the later part of his life, looking after the people in trouble.

If anything, this book is going to revive the belief that it`s doable. That working white and black people can have the same political goals.

The reverence these people had as a person.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD: He won the California primary.

MATTHEWS: Right.

O`DONNELL: Would he have won the nomination?

MATTHEWS: You`re killing me.

O`DONNELL: Would he have won on election night if he won the nomination?

MATTHEWS: We thought he was going to do it, because it`s a dynamic. I think he would have shaken it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want the contrast of you explaining this. I want you to explain all of JFK on a podcast, so I can listen to it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve run out of time in this segment.

So, but look up -- just look into it. Read this book. But look into JFK, the whole era was so fascinating and what happened in those days. That was just something.

So, our thanks to Chris Matthews, members of the audience are getting a copy of the book, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit."

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I want these pictures to be America again. A guy that was looking -- reaching out to young kids, minority kids who were exuberant to see him and staying true to working class people, white people.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: It`s an incredible book and the timing is perfect and you`re perfect --

MATTHEWS: Why is it perfect? You know why? Because Trump --

WALLACE: Because we need it.

MATTHEWS: Trump doesn`t understand unity.

WALLACE: We need to think there`s another Bobby Kennedy out there that`s going to save us. I need to think it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: Thank you for this book about Bobby Kennedy. Hereto me is the heart-breaking Kennedy. This picture, one of the earliest memories of my life was watching that train. And I remember my sister putting her arms around me and point me to the TV and explaining what was happening, who this man was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy has my heart and I`m so happy that it`s reaching so many others.

When we return, let me finish tonight with a question I get asked all the time this week. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the most frequent question asked of me this week. Who did Bobby Kennedy say killed his brother?

Here he is in March of 1968 just a few months before his own assassination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOBBY KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR & ATTORNEY GENERAL: Could I just say -- and I haven`t answered this question before -- but there would be nobody that would be more interested in all of these matters as to who was responsible for the death of President Kennedy than I would. I have seen all of the matters in the archives. If I became president of the United States, I would not -- I would not reopen the Warren Commission report. I think I stand by the Warren Commission report. I`ve seen everything in the archives. The archives will be available at the appropriate time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, some have written or say he couldn`t quash his doubts there were others involved. This is what he said, well, you just heard it. It`s also what his surviving brother, Ted, confirmed that Bobby believed.

That`s HARDBALL for now.

Tonight, I`ll be speaking at the Free Library of Philadelphia to a sold-out crowd. And tomorrow morning, I`ll be on "A.M. Joy" with Joy Reid, and then with Alex Witt, my other friend, right here on MSNBC.

"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

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