Show: HARDBALL Date: November 15, 2017 Guest: Ruth Marcus, Eli Stokols, Toluse Olorunnipa, Rosie Gray, Sam Stein; Bret Stephens; Anna Claire Vollers, Vince DiPierro
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Two more accusers. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in San Francisco.
The National Republican Party is abandoning him, but Roy Moore says he is not about to quit. The Republican national committee has ended its field operation in Alabama to assist his campaign. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell suggested a potential write-in campaign for attorney general Jeff Sessions down there. And Sean Hannity on FOX has issued an ultimatum for Moore to clear up inconsistencies in his story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: For me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If you can`t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While there have been reports that Steve Bannon is weighing in, whether to ditch or weighing whether to ditch Moore, though, NBC reports that for now, he is standing by Moore.
Despite all the pressure, Moore is defiant. He has denied the allegations and he tweeted today, we believe in God, the constitution, the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of marriage. We are everything the Washington elite hates. They will do whatever it takes to stop us. We will not quit.
Well, last night judge Moore joked about his situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Obviously, I have made a few people mad. I`m the only one that can unite Democrats and Republicans. Because I seem to be opposed by both. Why do you think they are giving me this trouble? Why do you think I`m being harassed by the media and by people pushing forward allegations in the last 28 days of this election? This is not just a battle for Democrats and Republicans and how they vote on issues. This is a spiritual battle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, NBC News spoke with one of Moore`s accusers, Leigh Corfman, who said Moore pursued her when she was 14 years old. Moore has denied that charge today. She told NBC, I stand by the story, it`s absolutely true. I have nothing to gain, nothing to lose.
Meanwhile, there are two very different pictures about where this race stands. A new public poll in Alabama shows Moore, judge Moore, leading his Democratic challenger by six points, that`s six points past Doug Jones. But NBC News obtained part of a poll taken by the National Republican senatorial committee which rescinded its support for Moore. It shows the Republican firebrand trailing Jones by 12 points. Are they putting out bad news on this guy on purpose to get him out of the race?
Anyway, the committee isn`t sharing the rest of the poll nor is it saying which polling firm actually conducted the poll, which is very sneaky. Anyway, also this evening, two additional accusers have come forward, as I said. In a new report from al.com, one woman accused Moore of groping her in his law office back in 1991. Another woman said she was 17 when a 35- year-old Roy Moore asked her on date. She said she turned him down and he walked away.
Well, NBC news reached o out to the campaign for a response. Soft so far, we have not heard back.
Well, Anna Claire Vollers is the reporter for al.com who broke that story. I`m also joined tonight by Sam Stein, politics editor of the "Daily Beast" and Bret Stephens, a columnist with "The New York Times."
Let me go to Anna Claire Vollers on this. Anna, tell us about the two separate cases. They are different types of inappropriate behavior and some of it felonious, maybe not. But what do you make of it? Tell us about them?
ANNA CLAIRE VOLLERS, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: You know, I would not have reported on it if I did not find both of these women credible. One of them reached out to me, wanting to tell her story. The other one, I was directed to by another person that I had been talking with. And I reached out to her. And she finally decided she wanted to tell her story. It`s my job to be skeptical about these things, but as I dug into it and spoke with them several times and did my research, I found what they had to say very credible.
MATTHEWS: Well, the first one was a mature woman in her 20s, who you said, what did he do improper? Just describe the improper behavior there?
VOLLERS: Sure. She had gone to his law office in Gadsden, Alabama, with her mother, to sign some papers, regarding a custody situation. Her mother had hired Roy Moore at the time he was a private attorney, to handle this. And they went to the office to sign papers. He immediately started flirting with her, she said. She said he told her how pretty she was, that she had beautiful eyes. She said he asked her out on a date, those kind of things. And then when they were done, they got up to leave, her mother walked out the door first. She walked out and Roy Moore, she said, was behind her and that he grabbed her bottom.
[19:05:08] MATTHEWS: And the other case was more like the other ones, with a teenage girl, older man type situation.
VOLLERS: Yes, she was a -- she was a hostess at the Red Lobster in Gadsden. She was 17. She was a high school senior. She said that he walked up to her one day in the restaurant and he is pretty well known around there back then, and he asked her out on a date, she says. And she said she told him, do you know how old I am? And she said that he said, yes, I go out with girls your age all the time.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Let me go to Sam Stein on this. Thanks for that reporting. We are back to you in a moment.
Sam, this seems to be - I mean, with all of us are pretty distant from this case. So we don`t know -- its years ago, but the pattern is so strong. I mean, in his 30s, he was known to be somebody that had to be banned from a local shopping mall, sounds like a nice place to hang out for teenagers. What was he hanging out there for? And why did he have to be banned, which is an amazing atrocious situation. A grown man with a law degree, an assistant D.A., even, having to be physically banned from a public space because of his horrible behavior, his trolling behavior. That`s very hard to deny as a fact, it seems to me. If you hear this from so many people.
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think it would certainly be a senatorial first, if he were elected, the first person ever banned from a shopping mall prior to being elected.
MATTHEWS: But accepted by the Senate but banned by a shopping mall.
STEIN: And voters, I suppose.
You know, the reporting, I think the process of the reporting in this story is what`s critical to this story which is the reporters have been on the ground. They have been hearing these things, rumors, stories. And they have been following it up diligently by talking to people, getting them On the Record, and then corroborating their stories with other sources. This is what good journalism is about.
And I know that Roy Moore says that this is all fake news and that this is part of the establishment media. But these are people not in Washington, D.C. or in New York City or the Acela court. These are people going to Alabama, talking to locals in Alabama, listening to the stories that Alabamans tell them and reporting it. And I think that`s where Roy Moore`s problem is, is that this isn`t a concocted story. This is something that has, unearthed, that was in his past, but that people apparently knew about and are just speaking up about now.
MATTHEWS: Bret, you know, I have been trying to figure out politics since World War II as a kid. I got to tell you. There`s a certain pattern. It`s what side are you on? It`s gotten more vicious lately, but it`s almost like facts don`t matter. If you are in a certain side, you put up with it just about anything bad on your side. And you say, so is your old man to the other side and stick to your side.
Is there a tipping point? Is there something that even the alt-right or should I say even the hard right won`t accept? Is this a case where people like Mitch McConnell, and he is pretty prudish, I think, on these kind of things, which I like, has been over the years, has been written up, is this one of those cases where you don`t just say, screw you, you`re on the other side, you`re the establishment, you`re the elite, I`m sticking with my guy. Is there a tipping point?
BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think the precedent here is 1991 when David Duke was running for governor of Louisiana and George H. W. Bush and the rest of the Republican establishment got behind his Democratic rival, because Duke, of course, was so toxic to the Republican brand. And I think Moore is just about meeting that test.
On the other hand, I feel, I have mixed feelings about the Republicans trying to take a mulligan on Moore. He is the guy they nominated. He was already a fairly well-known quantity, even before the recent charges came to light. They should own this kind of candidate, if only as a lesson in the kind of politics that people like Steve Bannon are indulging. Someone, at some point, Republicans so learn the lesson that if they go with candidates like Moore, they are going end to up with results like this.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a hard -- you have to hold on to the guy, no matter how bad he looks, because you have got to teach yourself how bad he looks. Anyway -- I understand. We will get back to that because I think we have seen for years now, decades now, the weaknesses of the American political establishment in spades. We have seen how bad the leaderships are. How boring they are, how cold toast they are. They say nothing new, except how to raise money, the latest way to do it. And now we are learning the downside of the outsider. Anyway, Republicans in Washington continue to jump ship, as I said. Let`s watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We have got a disturbing situation in Alabama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to write in yourself?
SHELBY: I`m not going to write myself in. I wouldn`t do that. But I will be writing in as a distinguished Republican.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I met a lot of people on the ball, and if you get kicked out of the ball, that`s a pretty bad situation to find yourself in. I don`t want the Republican Party to tolerate behavior like this when it`s just overwhelming that the man has a problem.
[19:10:07] SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Believe that it was appropriate for me to withdraw my endorsement. And I think it`s obviously in the hands of the voters on December the 11th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the choice is between a Democrat and Roy Moore, I would choose the Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I got to give some praise to Lindsey Graham. He has a sense of humor. Almost anybody can hang around a shopping mall. There`s no standards of admission. And to find that you have been banned from a shopping mall.
Anyway, there are no indications Republicans in Alabama are divorcing themselves from Moore. The chair of the state party had this warning for Republicans in the state even considering endorsing a third party candidate.
Quote "it would be a serious error for any current elected GOP official or candidate to publicly endorse another party`s candidate, an independent, a third party, or a write-in candidate in a general election as well. I have heard of no GOP elected official or candidate that is even considering this option."
Well, under Alabama Republican Party rules, the party can keep any candidate off the ballot for six years if they publicly support another candidate other than the Republican.
Anita, what do we know about that? Is there political news down there? I know you are covering the misbehavior front, the serious stuff, but anything in the politics down there that would allow the Republicans to get through this and still have a Republican senator from, Richard Shelby from Alabama?
VOLLERS: The national GOP leader soon to be jumping ship, but down here, a lot of the -- we really haven`t heard anything like that from local Republican leaders. I believe even as recently as early this afternoon. Leaders from some of our largest counties, one up in north Alabama, and one Shelby County near Birmingham have come out supporting Moore. So he does still have a lot of support here on the ground from GOP.
MATTHEWS: Anna Claire, explain that. Is that just because they have known him for years, they like the way he stood up for the Ten Commandments? What he said on social issues? Is it his history, his legacy? What is it that they like about him that allows them to get past this real embarrassment, I would say at the minimum?
VOLLERS: Yes. He has been talking about things that Alabama voters care about for decades. I mean, he was around. He was -- he was Roy Moore long before Steve Bannon or anybody else came around. And he -- people like his outsiderness. And I think now maybe even more than ever, and he has been talking about, you know, the constitution. He talks a lot about his faith. And those are things that Alabama voters really care about. And I think it`s hard for them to separate in their mind now the Roy Moore that they think they have known for three or more decades with what they are hearing now.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s how desperate this case has come to be for Roy Moore and his lawyer. Here is his attorney, appearing on MSNBC earlier today with Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle. When the lawyer was asked about Moore`s comments that he didn`t remember dating teenage girls, he strangely alluded to Ali Velshi`s own quote "background" closed quote. Let`s take a look at this rough exchange here.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: If Roy Moore doesn`t remember, how could he say that it`s definitively false? And number two, why would he need permission from any of these girls` mothers if they weren`t underage?
TRENTON GARMON, ROY MOORE`S ATTORNEY: Sure. That`s a good question. And culturally speaking, I would say there`s differences, looked up Ali`s background there, and wow, that`s awesome that you have got such a diverse background. It`s really cool to read through that. But point is this.
RUHLE: What does Ali`s background have to do with dating a 14-year-old?
GARMON: I`m not finished with the context of it.
RUHLE: Well, please answer. What does Ali Velshi`s background have to do with dating under -- children, 14-year-old girls?
GARMON: Sure. In other countries, there`s arrangement through parents for what we would --
RUHLE: Ali`s from Canada. Ali`s from Canada.
GARMON: I understand that. And Ali`s also spent time in other countries.
RUHLE: So have I.
GARMON: So it`s not a bad thing.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: I don`t know where you are going with this.
MATTHEWS: Sam, what do you make of this? Well, we know what he - he is trying to talk about countries where they have harems and all kinds of other - typically, well, unlike -- stuff we don`t like, and therefore, he`s saying Ali comes from a background that`s different from the Caucasian world of North America. Whatever they are up to. I don`t know what he is up to. That maybe he would be more sympathetic or could be accused of being more sympathetic to the idea of going out with 14-year-olds?
STEIN: I mean, I`m speechless. It`s just like.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what --. You`re speechless, Sam, but you know and I know what he was up to.
STEIN: Everyone knows what he was up to. I mean, it is racism, basically. But it also doesn`t make any sense. Like is he saying that Roy Moore is acceptable because someone of Indian descent has got a culture -- I just can`t even put -- I can`t draw the lines together in my head. Maybe I`m slow, but it doesn`t make any sense. And I think it`s indicative of the great hole in which Roy Moore finds himself.
And yes, this may be passable for the voters of Alabama in the end, but he still has to contest, if he were to win, he still will have to contest with what happened should he come to Washington, D.C. and this is going to be a rude awakening for Roy Moore. And you are not going to be able to insult Ali Velshi`s heritage as a way out of it.
[19:15:26] MATTHEWS: I think we are going to have to call this, Sam, the Lowell Abner defense. We are out here in the holler. We do things different out here. I mean, come on. Give me a break.
Anna Claire, thank you. Anna Claire Vollers who broke the stories. And Sam Stein as always, and Bret Stephens.
Coming up, we are going to have much more on Roy Moore, of course. The latest allegations and the new counterattack from his team and the silence, interesting silence from the great tweeter. Ron Reagan is going to be with us coming up in a minute.
Plus, the "Hardball" roundtable and the troubles ahead for Trump now that he is in Washington. He and his party are doubling down on their plan to kill Obamacare at the same time they want to give rich people a tax cut.
And big show tonight, a big moment. A witness to an assassination. We are going to talk to the man who caught Bobby Kennedy, caught him physically when he was shot at the ambassador hotel. Vincente Detiero held Bobby up after the assassin`s bullets hit him. He will tell us his story tonight.
Finally, let me finish tonight with my reflections on that fateful night in 1968.
And this is "Hardball," where the action is.
[19:17:34] MATTHEWS: During the 2016 Republican primary, Donald Trump repeatedly mocked little Marco Rubio, he called him, even poking fun at the senator for his water break during the state of the union response. Here`s Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they put Marco on to refute President Obama`s speech, do you remember that catastrophe? And he`s like, and we will, I need water, help me, I need water! Help! And he is -- this is on live television! It`s Rubio!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So anyway, today at the White House, Trump had his own Rubio moment. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Japanese companies have announced investments in the United States worth more than $8 billion, 17,000 jobs. Thank you. They don`t have water. That`s OK. What? Oh, it`s OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, senator Rubio responded on twitter, saying that the President quote "needs work on his form. It has to be done in one single motion and eyes should never leave the camera. But not bad for his first time." Rubio`s getting funny.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even before those latest allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, advisers to Moore launched their own counterattack against one of Moore`s accusers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP JAUREGUI, ATTORNEY FOR ROY MOORE: I have traveled with judge Moore all over the state, different states across the nation. I have been with him in probably over 100 different meetings, and been around probably in excess of 10,000 ladies in Judge Moore`s presence.
And not once, not one time have I ever seen him act even remotely inappropriate against any women, toward any women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Beverly Young Nelson said on Monday she was sexually assaulted by Moore when she was 16, when he offered her a ride home from her job at a restaurant. She spoke with reporters while accompanied by her attorney, Gloria Allred.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me, him putting his hands on my breasts.
I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over, and he locked it, so I could not get out. I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head on to his crotch.
At some point, he gave up. And he then looked at me. And he told me -- he said, "You`re just a child." And he said, "I am the district attorney of Etowah County."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Nelson also said that Moore even signed her high school yearbook, writing in it -- quote -- "To a sweeter, more beautiful girl, I could not say merry Christmas. Christmas 1997. Love, Roy Moore, Roy Moore, DA" -- close quote.
But Moore`s campaign attorney disputed that the handwriting in the yearbook belongs to Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAUREGUI: Now, Judge Moore not only has denied everything she said before, but now flatly denies that. And he says it`s not true. We have a handwriting expert, pardon me, that`s looking at those.
But here is the problem. A handwriting expert can`t look at a copy on the Internet, right? They have got to look at an original. So right now, Trent Garmon, our attorney, has sent a letter or is sending a letter to Gloria Allred demanding that the yearbook be released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, while the attorney disputed Ms. Nelson`s claims, he took no questions and did not address any of the allegations against Moore that were initially reported by "The Washington Post."
Moore himself has denied "The Washington Post" claims, calling them false.
For more, I`m right now joined by Ruth Marcus, columnist for "The Washington Post," and Ron Reagan, an MSNBC political analyst.
I want to start with Ruth on this.
Ruth, you can watch this lawyer. He`s so obviously a lawyer. He says, my client says, my client says, my client says. He`s not saying he believes him.
This looks like tactics. They`re playing for time with Sean Hannity, of all people, who`s now playing Spencer Tracy in this thing and saying he`s going to be the judge.
MATTHEWS: Fine. If he can get away with it, fine for Sean.
But the fact is, this is tactical, it seems like to me. I`m asking you. Yes, let`s get the original. We want to see the actual yearbook. And, of course, Gloria Allred will never give away anything without some sort of negotiation. She will put off that. She`s now calling for Senate hearings.
They`re all playing the game of playing for time. But this is going to give Sean a chance tonight to give the guy a pass for a couple of days at least. It just looks all so tactical. Only addressing one in five of the claims against Judge Moore, only one in five at a press conference with no questions.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You work with -- when you`re a defense lawyer -- and he`s essentially in the role of a defense lawyer -- you only can work with the facts that you have at hand.
And this is an ugly and not-very-powerful set of facts for the Roy Moore defense. Did not hear anything in that news conference that I found to be exculpatory in any way.
The campaign adviser who said he had seen Roy Moore with a whole bunch of ladies, thousands of ladies, never seen any bad behavior.
Well, we all know from Harvey Weinstein and everything else, guess what? That`s not how it happens, not out in public. It happens behind closed doors.
And even the -- they couldn`t even say that the handwriting expert could dispute the thing. Nobody would have written -- if you were making it up, you would not have written that weird phrase from Roy Moore. So, I don`t know what Sean Hannity is going to say, but I was decidedly unconvinced.
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, I think we`re going to see in the next three weeks that this guy sticks at it, every dirty trick in the book.
The one with Ali Velshi, well, "You people, you understand."
MATTHEWS: I mean, alluding to his ethnic background.
This whole thing was so lowbrow, so below the belt. Having the guy with supposedly with the New York accident, with a Jewish name, Bernie Bernstein, calling up and saying, do you have any crap on the judge? We don`t want to investigate. We`re just going to smear him with it.
This is getting dirtier and dirtier, but it is sort of bringing out all the rats. Everybody is going to know now all the dirty tricks in the business, right now.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s fascinating, too, of course, that these same Republicans who were so outraged by Harvey Weinstein, as they should have been, as we all should have been, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., on and on and on -- all those people, by the way, are on hiatus.
Harvey Weinstein is longer producing films. Kevin Spacey is no longer acting in a television series. Louis C.K.`s comedy specials have been canceled.
Roy Moore, on the other hand, may be heading for the Senate, you know? And Donald Trump has got a big problem on his hands, because Donald Trump is expected to say something about this. And what is Donald Trump going to say about Roy Moore and his accusers, who sound awfully like Donald Trump`s accusers?
They`re saying the same sort of thing. And, of course, the difference between Donald Trump and Roy Moore is, we don`t have Roy Moore on tape bragging about doing this sort of thing.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Ruth.
You have been to many pressers like today. What did you make of that presser on the White House lawn or wherever the hell it was? What do you make -- what do you make of the game they`re playing about the yearbook?
MARCUS: The yearbook? I`m not sure about that yearbook game you`re talking about.
MATTHEWS: Well, Allred wants to -- Allred`s got the yearbook with the little happy signature at Christmastime to this older man`s younger, supposed, what he thought was his girlfriend, I guess.
And then we have -- and then we have the fact that the lawyer for Moore says, oh, we want to see the actual yearbook, because then we can do a proper handwriting analysis.
MATTHEWS: Boy, they want to stretch this baby out pretty long.
MARCUS: Yes, good luck with that.
But, like I said, that`s just the kind of -- when you have bad facts, you`re going to sort of do with them what you can. They have got a bunch of really bad facts here.
And let me make a bold prediction. They`re only going to get worse. As terrific as my colleagues are at "The Washington Post" in the newsroom, I did not think they had found the only four women in Alabama that Roy Moore had molested or asked out when they were teenagers.
MARCUS: Turned out they didn`t. And I suspect there are more bad facts for the Moore attorneys to deal with to come.
I think the question of what President Trump is going to do, as Ron suggested, is really interesting, because he is in a very bad situation. He`s got all the Senate Republicans, essentially, saying, I believe the women. If he says, I believe the women, then the question becomes, OK, how about the women who accused you?
And if he says, I don`t believe the women, then there`s a, well, why not you, if everybody else does?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
I want to say something good about Mitch McConnell, because I do believe Mitch McConnell believes in a couple of things.
MATTHEWS: One is the institution of the United States Senate. I really think he wanted to keep the filibuster rule, because it really does make the Senate different than the House. You actually have unlimited debate. That is the principle.
And now again he doesn`t want the Senate stunk up by this new character from Alabama. I really think, as he was with Packwood in that case, I really think he wants to keep a certain level of moral dignity in the place, Ruth. I think he does. Anyway...
MARCUS: Well, he does have a track record on that, that goes back to Larry Craig, and it goes back to Bob Packwood.
REAGAN: Let`s remember we`re talking about pedophilia here.
REAGAN: This is a 14-year-old girl in one case. This isn`t just behaving inappropriately with another adult. This is -- this is different.
MATTHEWS: I know. Ron, I`m trying to throw a small bouquet to somebody with some dignity.
MATTHEWS: Let me do it, OK?
Ron Reagan, thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Trump`s trip to Asia may have been grueling, but things aren`t any easier back at home. Trump has yet to weigh in, obviously, on this Roy Moore controversy. He`s hiding in the bushes on this. And his party is taking another stab at dismantling Obamacare.
This is really awful, what they`re doing now, not only giving tax breaks to the very rich. They`re paying for those tax breaks by taking away the -- really the underpinnings of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Action.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Now that President Trump is back from his marathon tour of Asia, which produced few concrete accomplishments, his fix-it skills will quickly be put to the test.
In Washington, Republicans still have to pass an unpopular tax bill that now includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act`s individual mandate. Recent polling shows that voters reject the plan by a 2-1 margin, the Republican plan.
For more, I`m joined by the Roundtable tonight.
Our HARDBALL Roundtable includes Rosie Gray, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic," MSNBC political analyst Eli Stokols of "The Wall Street Journal" and Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for Bloomberg News.
Thank you for all for joining us.
I want to focus on one thing tonight. We don`t have a whole lot of time. It`s this attempt to finance tax cuts for the capital class, the capitalist class, by getting rid of the individual mandate, which basically knocks about four million people off Medicare -- off of Obamacare, just knocks them off, because the young and healthy people are not going to go into this thing without some incentive.
Let me go to that. What do you make of that, Ruth -- or, rather, Eli?
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it`s a poison pill for Democrats, so it just makes it harder for Republicans to get the votes. They have to do it again with Republican votes.
And we have see, when they tried to do anything on Obamacare, they couldn`t secure 50 Republican votes on that. So, I think it just complicates this. The politics are complicated.
We understand the Republicans are desperate for some sort of win on tax reform at the end of the year. But, again, you showed the poll; 24 percent of Americans actually approve of this plan right now. If that`s their win, it`s not going to be much of a win.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Toluse.
What do you make of this whole -- well, everybody here, get in on this. What do we make of the fact you take away the individual mandate, which I was always for, Hillary was always for, because you can`t get people who are young, restless, and healthy to take out insurance until they`re getting a little sick, a little more vulnerable?
And if you have an insurance plan based on only sick and more vulnerable people in it, it isn`t really an insurance plan. It`s just a maintenance program for unhealthy people and older people. That`s what it becomes.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, BLOOMBERG NEWS: That`s exactly right, Chris.
You can expect Democrats, consumer groups, health care groups to come out furiously against this bill. This is really a redux of skinny repeal, which went down in flames earlier, earlier this year.
The health care bill that the Republicans tried to put through earlier this year was unpopular. This tax bill is unpopular. Now they`re putting the two together. And what do you get? Nothing but a very unpopular bill.
You can expect there to be a furious backlash against the idea of taking health care away from potentially 13 million people by getting rid of this mandate and also increasing premiums by 10 percent, not something that people are going to be happy about.
OLORUNNIPA: And especially when it`s for corporate tax cuts.
MATTHEWS: Rosie, let`s go into the industrial areas, where Trump was able to win the election and the Electoral College last year. I`m thinking of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan.
These places, you tell those middle-class and working-class people up there that they`re not going to have health insurance because it`s been undermined by the president to finance wealthy tax breaks, what do you think? Is that going to even be anything more than laughed at?
ROSIE GRAY, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, look, I mean, it`s clear that this tax plan, polling has shown that it`s unpopular.
But I think that the Republicans are thinking to themselves that, if they don`t get something passed on this, they will have gone the entire first year of Trump`s presidency without, like, a major legislative accomplishment.
And so I think there is a thought that, politically, it`s advantageous to just sort of get something done, get something on the board. But if it`s something really unpopular like this, that`s sort of self-defeating.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes, it`s better not to do anything.
Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next, we will get some scoops from these people we will be talking about.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: We`re back with the roundtable.
Rosie, tell me something I don`t know.
ROSIE GRAY, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: A story that didn`t get much notice today is that the Russian parliament has passed a law that would require foreign media companies to register as foreign agents in retaliation for RT having to register as a foreign agent in the U.S. And so, I think that that will be a sort of interesting dynamic to watch as the sort of broader Russia story plays out.
MATTHEWS: They have no idea what a free press is. Anyway, thank you.
ELI STOKOLS, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Everyone pays such close attention to the theatrics at the White House that oftentimes things that are happening at the agencies get overlooked. Today, the Interior Department, the Fish and Wildlife Service, overturned another Obama-era move that basically barred the importing of elephant and lion and big game trophies from some countries in Africa.
Today, the Interior Department reversed that. So, now, hunters can go over there and bring those things back. Conservationists are really upset about this. They believe that not only does it endanger the species. It empowers some of the dictators running those African countries.
MATTHEWS: You mean, Trump has legalized the ivory trade?
STOKOLS: Essentially, yes.
MATTHEWS: That`s a fairly rotten thing to do. So he wants to eliminate a species known as the elephant?
STOKOLS: Got very little coverage today, but conservation groups are pretty upset about it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, one of the more despicable pictures I ever saw, and I don`t mind talking about his family in this case, is the picture of his sons over there standing over some dead animals that they killed. It`s unbelievable.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: In deep red Oklahoma, Democrats flipped a state Senate seat. It was a seat in a district that went for Donald Trump by over 30 points. A Democrat newcomer took that seat and Democrats are looking at that saying it`s a sign that there`s going to be a big wave in 2018.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. Rosie Gray, Eli Stokols, and Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you.
Up next, I`ll speak with a man who was there, in the firing line when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Vince DiPierro caught Bobby right after he was shot and mortally wounded. He tells his story, coming up next.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On June 4th, 1968, Bobby Kennedy won the decisive California presidential primary. And after midnight, he stood with his wife, Ethel, before a ballroom of cheering supporters. His victory signaled he now had a good chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Then came the horror. Leaving the ballroom through the kitchen, Bobby was shot and mortally wounded. Standing near him was 19-year-old Vincent DiPierro. He`s here with us right now.
Vincent, thank you for joining us.
The reason I`m inviting you, the other night when I was speaking about Bobby Kennedy in Santa Monica, the moderator of our program asked if anyone was at the Ambassador Theater the night that Kennedy was shot and you said you were.
So, tell us what you told me the other night about why you were there, what happened.
VINCE DIPIERRO, WITNESS TO RFK`S ASSASSINATION: Well, I was working for Robert Kennedy from approximately April 1st until June 5th. And I had no intention, really, of even being at the event. And my dad, who was the maitre d` for the hotel, he said that Robert had asked where was I? And I said, well, you know, I said tell him I`m studying for my finals.
So I kept doing that and doing that and finally, after three times, he said, Robert`s really pissed off, you better come down. So, I -- at around a quarter after 11:00 that night, I left, I got dressed, went down to the hotel. And I got there around a quarter of midnight. And my dad said, do you want to go up and get him with me? And I said, no, I`ll wait down here.
So, when he came down in the elevator from the room service, he looked at me and he goes, oh, I see you made it. And I said, yes. And he says, he said, that didn`t sound affirmative. And I said, well, I do want to really go. We were going to the factory, which was a private club for a party after.
And he says, I`ll see you in a little bit. And he went up and through the kitchen, we made a path, and he went up on to the stage, from the bottom of the stage, and then he made the speech. He was supposed to come back down the same way. And at the last minute, he was told they were going to do a press conference. So, he turned around and walked through the back of the stage.
At that point, I went running into the anteroom, as he was coming down the incline, and I put my arm around him and as we were going through the anteroom, as we called it, there was a double doors going into the pantry and Paul Schrade actually got in between me and Robert, and I knew Paul, because he had worked with the auto union, so he was OK to be there.
And so, I was walking through, Robert shook my hand as we passed the swinging doors, turned to the other people on his left, made some handshakes. As he released his hand from Jesse Perez, which was a dishwasher, he -- I saw this gun literally come up from the right side of my eye and it was Sirhan and the gun literally was inches away from his head.
When the first shot rang out, I got splattered with the splash of blood from his head. The second shot -- his hands went up to his head. The second shot, I didn`t see. It went right in -- it looked like it hit him in his left -- excuse me, his right arm. He went limp and he started falling backwards towards me. And the third shot went through the top of his jacket, hit Paul Schrade in the head.
Now, I had Robert Kennedy in my -- middle of me, I had Paul Schrade on my left. And Karl Eucker was trying to subdue Sirhan and banging the gun on the table. And what was terrible was that every time that gun was banged on the table, the bullet went -- you know, the shot was -- came out.
And so, for seven of the eight shots, I actually shot come out of that gun. That was, for a 19-year-old, that was quite horrific.
MATTHEWS: Did you catch Senator Kennedy as he fell? What were you doing at that moment?
DIPIERRO: Yes, as he came back with his hands up to his head, he fell backwards and I put my arms out, and I caught him. And as the third shot rang out and Paul got hit in the head, he fell on top of me and my left side and now, I`m going down on my left side with Paul and I have Robert in my hands. And we`re now almost on the floor. Ira Goldstein was walking away from the shooting and he got shot and then he fell on top of me on my right side.
So, I had Paul Schrade on my left, Robert Kennedy in the middle of me, and I had Ira Goldstein on my right. So I was in the middle of all of that on the floor.
MATTHEWS: Did you have -- do you have any -- after all of these years, do you have any doubt from the beginning that it was Sirhan Sirhan who shot and killed and mortally wounded Robert Kennedy?
DIPIERRO: No, I have zero doubt. The reason being, according to the testimony that I gave, and I didn`t realize it at the time, I was the only witness who had the only unobstructed view of the first shot.
DIPIERRO: And that first shot is what killed Robert Kennedy, and the only person holding that gun was Sirhan. So --
MATTHEWS: So, there`s only one shooter, only one shot -- only shots you heard from Sirhan and saw it, the only aiming the gun, no one else present with a gun?
DIPIERRO: No, I didn`t see anybody else with a gun. There was a security guard who had a gun but he didn`t carry a .22. It was a .38.
DIPIERRO: And that was a hotel security guard and I don`t believe he ever fired a gun -- his gun at that time. There were balloons popping. There was a lot of noise.
DIPIERRO: It was chaos and many people said, oh, there`s more than one -- more than eight shots. I -- I don`t know. It was so much bedlam. It was so difficult.
DIPIERRO: And a 19-year-old is not exactly, you know, paying attention to all this. I was lucky I was alive. I was very lucky I lived through that because I -- the shirt I was wearing actually has a bullet hole through it.
MATTHEWS: Vincent, thank you. Stay with us. We`re going to be back with you in a moment.
I want to talk to you about Bobby Kennedy`s last words. You were there. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: I`m back with Vincent DiPierro who was with Robert Kennedy the night he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in June of 1968.
You were there as I lie there on the ground in the kitchen. What were -- do you remember what he said? Did he have something to say?
DIPIERRO: Yes. The -- he was laying on the floor bleeding and he was very groggy, obviously. And the first thing that we were telling him was, don`t speak, just lay calm. And the first thing out of his mouth was -- and I`ll never forget this -- was, is everybody else all right? He was more concerned about the people that were around him than himself.
MATTHEWS: Well, sir, thank you for coming on. I can`t think of any greater last words than somebody caring about other people as they themselves are passing away.
DIPIERRO: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Vince DiPierro, I`m so glad I met you, sir, the other night and so glad you raised your hand when people asked, was anybody there the night Robert Kennedy was shot. Thank you so much, sir. It`s honor to have you on.
DIPIERRO: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with that night in Los Angeles, my own views about that, that night in 1968.
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MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with that night in Los Angeles in 1968.
I don`t think you live through the `60s without keeping such moments as this close to your soul. You know where you were, we remember what we felt. I was in Montreal on those morning hours. I woke up well past 3:00 in the morning to find out who had won the great presidential primary between Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy out in California.
And even I had been thrilled to go with Gene McCarthy in the beginning, when he announced the previous November, I had been praying for Bobby to win in California for the basic reason that he was the only anti-war candidate who could win and end the war. When I turned on the radio, I heard what sounded like a replay of that old recording from five years before in Dallas, Texas. I suddenly realized, it wasn`t a rerun of a tragedy but a new one. An incredible shooting of a second Kennedy.
I didn`t know then nor did any of us what Bobby had been thinking the last hour of his life. Well, now, I do.
Quote: I have an association with those who are less well-off, he told a reporter that night, bringing the country back together and that we can start to put into effect all this work and programs that will have some meaning. If the division continues, we`re going to have nothing but chaos and havoc here in the United States. I think we can end the divisions within the United States, he told that last crowd the night of victory, whether it`s between blacks and whites, between the poor and more affluent, or between age groups we`re in the war in Vietnam.
We can start to work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country. I intend to make that my basis for running.
Well, Bobby Kennedy had found his purpose, his mission in life. He wanted to go on, wanted dearly to go on.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
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