Show: HARDBALL Date: November 16, 2017 Guest: Josh Moon; John Archibald; Catherine Rampell, Kimberly Atkins, David Jolly, Geoff Bennett, Annie Linskey, Dana Milbank, Seung Min Kim
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: All right. That does it for our show tonight. I will see you back here tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. eastern. "Hardball" starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Nine women. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Seattle.
Well, we are following major developments on two fronts tonight. In Washington, multiple senators have called for an ethics probe against senator Al Franken after a radio news anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her and of having her picture taken while she slept with his hands over her chest. It happened during a USO tour in 2006. The two were rehearsing at the time a skit that included a kiss.
Leeann Tweeden spoke to reporters today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEEANN TWEEDEN, SEN. FRANKEN ACCUSER: I was just like, OK, fine, just so he would shut up, you know. And he just sort of came at me and we did the line and he came at me and before you even know it -- I mean, you kind of get close and he just put his hand on the back of my head and he mashed his face against -- I mean, it happened so fast. And he just mashed his lips against my face and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in his statement, Franken said he doesn`t remember the rehearsal the same way, but he also apologized and called for an ethics investigation. We will have more of that story, coming up.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, there are two new accusers against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. That brings the total number to nine, most of whom were in their teens when the incidents occurred. Though they vary by age and circumstances, some say Moore just pursued them for dates. Others say he assaulted them.
According to the "Washington Post," quote "Gena Richardson says she was a high school senior working in the men`s department of a sears at the Gadsden mall when a man approached her and introduced himself as Roy Moore. Moore was 30 at the time. He asked her where she went to school. A few days later, she said she was in trigonometry class at Gadsden high school when she was summoned to the principal`s office over the intercom in her classroom. Richardson said Moore called the school to ask her on a date. He continued to pursue her. Eventually, she agreed to go out with him. She said the date ended with Moore driving her to her car in the parking lot and then giving her what she called an unwanted forceful kiss that left her scared.
Well, "the Washington Post" reports that another woman as well quote "Becky Gray, who was then 22 and working in the men`s department of Pizitz says Moore kept asking her out and she kept saying no."
Gray spoke to NBC today. Let`s watch.
BECKY GRAY, RAY MOORE ACCUSER: I just always thought that it was very creepy and I had complained to my manager about him coming in there. I was never sexually molested by Roy Moore. I was harassed, you know. But as far as any of the other things that the women had to go through, I didn`t go through. But I know these women are telling the truth. I mean, it`s -- you can`t make this stuff up. And also, the community knew about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the Moore campaign responded to "the Post" saying in part, if you are a liberal and hate judge Moore, apparently he groped you.
Well, NBC news also spoke to Tina Johnson today. Her allegation against Moore was first reported last night my al.com. She said Moore groped her in his law office back in 1991 when she was 28. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA JOHNSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: My mother went (INAUDIBLE) when I got up and I went out. He grabbed my behind, just hard. I was in shock. And I was so humiliated and sickening. You -- I didn`t do anything. And that`s what I regret. I just got out of there. Speed up a little bit and got out the door as quick as I could. And he grabbed it so hard that it was almost like (INAUDIBLE). And he was -- it was such a hard like I could feel the dents of his fingers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, senator -- Judge Moore has denied all the allegations against him, as he did again today. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: As you know, "the Washington Post" has brought some scurrilous, false charges, not charges, allegations, which I have emphatically denied time and time again.
Many of you have recognized that this is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will not stand for it. They got a call that said -- asked me to step down from the campaign. Well, I want to tell you who needs to step down. That`s Mitch McConnell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:05] MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by John Archibald, columnist for the Alabama media group, Josh Moon, columnist for the Alabama political reporter and Catherine Rampell, columnist for "the Washington Post."
Let me start with John. What do you make of this charge? He seems to be focusing his fire now on his defense against Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate leader, rather than the "Washington Post" or the media or anybody else or the liberals for that matter. What do you make of this?
JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Well, they are in that shotgun blast, but the Republican establishment is number one. That really hasn`t changed that much from the beginning. As soon as really when the first allegations were made last week, a lot of Moore supporters were bubbling up, saying, pointing at Mitch, more than Democrats.
MATTHEWS: What is the image of McConnell down there?
ARCHIBALD: They despise Mitch McConnell down here. I think they think he is worse than a Democrat because he is a Republican. They would consider a rhino. And he is the reason that Roy Moore is about to face election.
MATTHEWS: Josh, I have this sense of sort of Russian boxes where the box that matters down there is the core, the support on the right, of course, that supports judge Moore. Outside that box is the Republican establishment of Alabama which is dependent on that core and therefore has to keep endorsing this guy no matter what they think at the top.
And then outside that is a larger box, which is the Republican establishment up here, actually in Washington, D.C., I`m in Washington State, in Washington, D.C. that basically has to go along with whatever happens at the state level. Is that the way it is?
JOSH MOON, ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I would say that that`s pretty true. And especially at the state level where the Roy Moore supporters here can swing a statewide election. And so they have to be very, very careful when they are coming out against him and that`s the reason why I think you saw the steering committee here in the state kind of back Roy Moore and reconfirm their commitment to him as the candidate in this race.
MATTHEWS: Catherine, thank you so much for coming on. What do you make of the fact that the target here is McConnell? And McConnell does seem to have an institutional respect for the Senate. I think in this case, he may be driven by more than just sheer partisan politics. He doesn`t want Judge Moore, to be a colleague of his in the U.S. Senate.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Probably in an ideal world, if you are Mitch McConnell, you don`t want him to be your colleague, although I think we should get him On the Record now, McConnell, as saying, if the voters speak and decide that they are going to elect Roy Moore to the Senate, we will expel him. Because I don`t trust Mitch McConnell to stick to his guns if Moore gets elected and that McConnell will say, you know what, the voters have spoken, let`s move on.
You know, McConnell likes to portray himself as some sort of feminist hero because of the fact that, for example, he led the Senate ethics committee when Packwood also faced charges of misconduct during the mid-90s. And McConnell voted to expel him then. But, remember, McConnell dragged his feet for a really long time before actually finally giving in, because he had no other options, but to vote to expel Packwood.
So my fear is that with tax cuts on the line, that that marginal Republican vote will be too valuable for McConnell to give it up and basically say, you know what, we should kick this guy out. I just don`t trust him on that respect.
MATTHEWS: You think he will fear the hard right?
RAMPELL: Yes, I think he will fear the hard right. I think he will fear the donors who worry that he is jeopardizing tax cuts by potentially throwing into turmoil that seat going forward. And that McConnell I think just doesn`t have the guts to decide, you know, what we don`t want this guy walking among us. We don`t know what he is capable of. We don`t know how he will treat his staffers. We don`t know if he is still going after teenagers.
I think what he cares about is tax cuts. What he cares about is a win. And if the voters decide to send Roy Moore to Washington, McConnell might say, you know what, with let`s move on.
MATTHEWS: I think everything you say is true. But I also think he has a reserve respect for the organization of the United States Senate. He has been with it in all of these years.
Anyway -- but everything you said is right. Again, at his press conference today, a number of religious leaders defended Moore, including Alan Keyes. Remember him? You might remember him parachuting into that 2004 Illinois Senate race against Barack Obama. Let`s watch Mr. Keyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET PORTER, PRESIDENT, FAITH2ACTION: They are insinuating that what just simply can`t be true. You simply cannot fake being a godly, a true, a trustworthy a valiant leader on the principles of the bible. You cannot fake that.
STEVEN HOTZE, PRESIDENT, CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS OF TEXAS: He can help drain the slimy swamp, which is inhabited by cowardly rhinos, communist Democrats, greedy lobbyists. And the alt-left lackeys in the press.
[19:10:04] ALAN KEYES, RENEW AMERICA: He stands on the premise that when you come to take our rights, you spit in the face of God. And that is why they hate him and that is why they mean to destroy him.
RUSTY THOMAS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, OPERATION SAVE AMERICA: You need to send the strongest message possible to the powers that be. Alabama will not bow. Alabama will not kiss the ring of political hacks who have sold their souls to the devil to maintain their political power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: John Archibald, give us the libretto to all of that. What is all that music and lyrics about? I mean, that`s incredibly fire and brimstone about why anybody who opposes Judge Moore is the devil?
ARCHIBALD: Yes. And it was, what, 20 people speaking for two hours, all of whom had the same tone and tenor. None of whom really said anything about child molestation or child abuse. And all of them, except for one, I believe, were not from Alabama. So I don`t know what to call them, perhaps carpet teabaggers. But I don`t know how they affect the Alabama Senate race.
MATTHEWS: I think you coined a term for better or for worse.
Let me go to Josh on that one. Carpet teabaggers. What do you think of that, what we just heard? Because that was one hell of a serenade. It seemed to me like deep belief, deep fear, deep anger, all the emotions there over what is really just a Senate race. It is not the most important thing in history. And it is only going to be for three year, half a term, and yet they are fighting like it is God and heaven against the devil and hell.
MOON: Well, that was -- that press conference was essentially a microcosm of Roy Moore`s entire political life. You know, this anti-everything, I`m the Christian warrior God. We are fighting for the rights. Follow me into this battle for Christianity. And that`s what Roy Moore has been his entire life.
He has been a man on an island. That`s the reason why the Republican establishment kind of hates him at this point, because he will not agree to their terms on things. And that`s the reason most Democrats hate him, because he has been out here pushing this stuff for so long, calling everybody that disagrees with him, a communist or anti-Christian. And that`s basically been his life. That`s what you saw today. That kind of hatred and angry that comes out of him in these sort of settings.
MATTHEWS: Catherine, you were pretty good a moment ago on sheer political calculation here. What do you think? If you are Mitch McConnell or a hero John Cornyn or anybody up there in the Republican leadership who wants to keep the Republicans in-charge and a serious political party, I think they are better off in judge Moore loses. And I think they may have come to that conclusion at this point. What do you think is their calculation?
RAMPELL: Yes. I`m sure that their first choice actually is not necessarily that Roy Moore loses to the Democrat, right. But that somehow, they are able to pull off an amazingly successful write-in campaign or they are able to delay the election, who would be inherently un-Democratic, of course. But somehow, they are able to get another Republican in that seat instead.
Remember, Republicans are doing quite badly with the voters of the future, i.e., millennials, my generation. And by the way, my generation is often accused of having a victimhood complex. I think you saw that on display right there in Alabama. But in any case, they are worried about how their party appears before young voters. And young voters are already inclined to see Republicans as the party of homophobia and bigotry and sexual deviancy of sexual predation, in any case. And this is not doing them any favors in terms of the national brand.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Catherine. Anyway, thank you Catherine Rampell, our John Archibald and Josh Moon.
OK. Coming up, a radio news anchor accused Senator Al Franken of Minnesota of forcibly kissing her and have having his picture taken with her as she slept with his hands over her chest while on a USO tour before he was in the Senate. Franken has called for an ethics investigation of himself for the actions and apologized to his accuser. And she says she accepts his apology. Tonight, top Democrats wants answers.
Plus, Trump`s dilemma on Roy Moore. As I said, if he comes down on the side of Moore, he would be at odds with virtually every Republican in Washington D.C. But if he comes out against Moore and in support of Moore`s accusers and Moore wins, he, Trump, will look like a loser which he never wants to look like. Maybe that`s why the President isn`t even talking right now which is really strange.
And the Trump tower tax cut. Let`s call it that. The Trump tower tax cut. The Republicans are moving forward with what really is a windfall for the President and his family, about $1 billion for them personally and the country`s other richest people. Tonight, we learn just how much Trump and his family would benefit personally if this plan gets passed. In the years ahead, it`s more than $1 billion.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch and Trump`s reversal of President Obama`s ban on importing elephant trophies into this country. The pigs are being pigged.
This is "Hardball" where action is.
[19:16:16] MATTHEWS: Joining -- today`s White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked why the public should find the Moore allegations very troubling. But shouldn`t believe the allegations of sexual misconduct made against President Trump. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I wonder what you would assert to be the difference between the two situations, such that on the face of things, we should find one set of allegations very troubling and on the other, we shouldn`t pay attention to them at all or we should totally disbelieve them.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the President has certainly a lot more insight into what he personally did or didn`t do. And he spoke out about that directly during the campaign. And I don`t have anything further to add beyond that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will have more on the President`s handling of the Moore controversy later in the show.
We will be right back.
[19:19:08] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
For weeks now, revelations of inappropriate sexual behavior by powerful men have reverberated through Hollywood. The media, now Capitol Hill, of course, and new allegations have emerged against Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
Los Angeles radio host, Leeann Tweeden says Franken forcibly kissed her without her consent and groped her during a rehearsal for a USO tour in 2006. Well, earlier today, Tweeden spoke about the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWEEDEN: He stuck his tongue down my mouth and I remember, I pushed him off with my hands. And I just remember, I almost punched him, because every time I see him now like my hands clench into fists and I`m sure that`s probably why. And I said, if you ever do that again to me, I`m not going to be so nice about it the second time. And I just walked out away from him. And I walked out. And I just wanted to find a bathroom and I just wanted to rinse my mouth out, because I was just disgusted, you know?
It was just one of those -- I don`t know. I was violated. I just felt like, you know, he betrayed my trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Ms. Tweeden also posted a photo of Franken posing with his hands over her chest while she was sleeping on that flight.
Franken initially responded with a short statement, but later issued a much lengthier apology, writing: "While I don`t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women`s experiences. I respect women. I don`t respect men who don`t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
"I don`t know what was in my head when I took that picture. And it doesn`t matter. There`s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn`t funny. It`s completely inappropriate."
Well, Tweeden`s allegations were met by bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation, including by one by Franken himself, who said he would gladly cooperate with an investigation.
For more, I`m joined by NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt, and Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter for "The Boston Herald."
Thank you, both, for joining us.
I guess, what do we -- where does this stand, just in terms of the institution, Kasie, and the political, looking at it? There would be -- do you think there will be an Ethics Committee investigation of this incident from his tour for the USO?
KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It seems like it`s on track, Chris, for there to be an investigation.
Leaders in both parties are saying that that`s what needs to happen. Obviously, Franken himself said that. This is a pretty rare thing, though, and we almost never really get a glimpse at even what they`re looking at or investigating.
And, you know, examples where there have been, you know, significant consequences out of some of this are relatively few and far between. There was a senator expelled back in the 1860s. Most of the senators that have ever been expelled were expelled for joining the Confederacy, essentially.
And so then there`s not very many modern-day examples. Now, Bob Packwood is obviously the one who comes most clearly to mind. And that was actually Mitch McConnell who recommend, when he was chairman of the Ethics Committee, that Packwood be thrown out of the Senate over it. Packwood resigned before he allowed that to happen.
So I think this is clearly something where you can tell that members of Congress are trying to figure out, in some ways, what is the right thing to say in this new reality? I mean, Democrats, quite frankly, were running away from our cameras today. Chuck Schumer canceled a press conference.
Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota, who I have talked to actually multiple times in recent days about sexual harassment issues on Capitol Hill, and who was pushing a resolution through the Senate to try to change training over there, kind of went to some lengths to avoid cameras as she was leaving today.
So, you know, we haven`t really had a chance to hear from a lot of these members. And, you know, Republicans have been dealing with their own issue around this, Roy Moore, obviously, a different case than Al Franken, primarily because it involved a child. And, clearly, that is not the case at this point with Al Franken. So there is that distinction.
But, at the same time, you know, this is a completely new world that, frankly, the country is living in when it comes to these allegations. And you heard it from Leeann herself today, when she said, look, this happened 11 years ago. I thought I would get annihilated if I came forward and said anything.
And now, you know, she feels empowered to speak. And that -- that is a very, very powerful thing. And you can tell that there, you know, are definitely people who are nervous, and I think reevaluating some of the things that have happened in their past.
So, you know, I personally am waiting to see what Al Franken says when he does speak publicly about this. I mean, it`s going to be unavoidable to a certain extent. He`s going to have to do it at some point -- how he approaches it. What is his tone?
Because I think, you know, quite frankly, there are a lot of powerful men who are grappling in new ways. And he put out two statements today. The first one was very short, came out this morning not long after the allegations were first posted online. It essentially said, hey, that photo, I -- it was probably meant to be funny.
And, clearly, that -- the statement didn`t go over well. And 90 minutes later, they put out a much longer statement, clearly much more thought- through. I think that even shows you a little bit of this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It`s well done.
Anyway, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were among the first to request an ethics investigation into Franken. And colleagues on both sides of the aisle expressed support for that idea. Let`s listen to them all here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Sexual harassment is inappropriate in every circumstance, in every way, whomever is involved.
So let`s start with that. And I do support that there should be an ethics investigation, and we will see where that ends up.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D), NEVADA: I`m very disappointed. I support an ethics investigation. This kind of conduct should not be tolerated by anyone and any public official.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think Senator McConnell`s got it right. This is a matter that should be referred to the Senate Ethics Committee.
SEN. DEB FISCHER (R), NEBRASKA: There`s never an excuse for it. There`s never any way that you can defend it. And it`s very serious. It needs to be looked into.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I think the Ethics Committee is appropriate. It deals with the conduct of a member. And it deals with the reputation of the institution. Look, this type of conduct, for what was alleged, is unacceptable. And we have to make that clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kimberly, I guess this is the -- the question here is, apparently, Ms. Tweeden has accepted the apology given so far by the senator, by Senator Franken.
And I guess the question is, what`s the sanction here? By the way, this is something we have been dealing, this question of the proper sanction, since the Clinton investigation with Monica Lewinsky, which is, most people thought it was way over the top to remove him from office.
In the end, they didn`t do that. It wasn`t really a big issue that people said, OK -- they couldn`t find a proper way to censure him, because it wasn`t in the rule book. There wasn`t such a thing. But maybe -- I think they needed something like that.
This is something that occurred, one incident so far, before he was a senator, when he was on a pretty good, important mission for the country, which was this USO Tour.
What`s the sanction here?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, "THE BOSTON HERALD": Yes.
MATTHEWS: I mean, what are we talking about, a time-out? In football, you get fined. You get suspended -- or in major sports. I`m trying to think, is there any other sort of field of play, if you will, where you pay a price, and everybody knows it, and you take the shame for having paid that price, but that`s the end of it?
Or you`re just whacked. Your career`s over. What`s the story here? We`re in strange territory here, I think. Your thoughts?
ATKINS: We are. We definitely are. And I think it remains to be seen.
I mean, we have seen the Congress censure people for certain actions or another, which really doesn`t mean much more than a vote taken to censure them. And we have seen other cases such as...
MATTHEWS: Well, Gary Studds, remember him?
MATTHEWS: Remember Gary Studds from Massachusetts. And he refused to look at the House when they censured him. I mean, he wouldn`t even accept it, the shame that came with his conduct.
I mean, I think it depends on what comes out of this investigation. You mentioned Senator Packwood, who the Ethics Committee, led by Mitch McConnell, actually had recommended that he be expelled before he actually resigned.
But, look, we had Leeann Tweeden today. I think one interesting thing that she said during her press conference is that at least one other person had come forward. She hadn`t followed up with it, but if we see more people coming forward with similar stories, I think this quickly escalates, and this quickly becomes a bigger political problem for Senator Franken.
This happened 11 years ago, so the idea that he might face any sort of criminal conduct out of this seems very unlikely, but -- because of the statutes of limitation. But I think if we see a growing number, as we have seen, with Roy Moore and with other people who have faced these kind of allegations in recent weeks, it could be a different -- a whole different story.
MATTHEWS: And I think they`re all looking to their own conduct.
Anyway, earlier this week, a House committee held a hearing focused on harassment on Capitol Hill. Congresswomen from both parties shared stories about unnamed male colleagues -- I mean, fellow members. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve. These harasser propositions, such as, are you going to be a good girl, to perpetrators exposing their genitals, to victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor.
REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), VIRGINIA: This member asked a staffer to bring them over some materials to their residence. And the young staffer -- it`s a young woman -- went there, and was greeted with a member in a towel, who was a male, who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose himself.
That kind of situation, what do -- what are we doing here for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Kasie, you and I have known each other for a while. And I have to tell you, some of this is so gross, you just go, well, that`s an easy one. Get rid of that person. Just get him out of there.
Other stuff, it looks like it requires some kind of censuring, something to make sure it never happens again.
But these are widely varying, it seems to me, in the awfulness of the conduct. That last one was horrible for a staff member. I have been a staff member. You do what the boss tells you. And in situations like that, what do you do? You`re talking to your boss.
Anyway, your thoughts?
And I think there are a lot more women that we haven`t heard from who have had things like this happen to them. And, you know, it`s a very difficult line, Chris, for women who are trying to get ahead in a very, you know, very -- it`s a small town. Washington is a small town. Your reputation is everything. Your network is everything.
And if you`re a young woman, and your boss -- even if it`s conduct that, you know, perhaps we would consider to be appropriate, like asking somebody out for a drink or suggesting, you know, that perhaps you do something late at night, what do you say if you`re the woman in that position?
HUNT: Because, if you say no, then you are potentially recriminated against, or the boss doesn`t give you the plum assignment or retaliates against you in some sort of very subtle way.
I mean, this is -- you know, this is -- this is something that has been talked about so much, and it`s still so buried. And, frankly, people -- this woman who named Al Franken today, she doesn`t work in politics, right? There`s nobody who works in politics right now who is willing to name an accuser.
And there is a reason for that. And the culture here, I`m interested to see if it`s going to change. We may be on the cusp of that. But I think it`s it`s different than what`s going on in the media and in Hollywood.
Kasie, thank you so much for that perspective, as a reporter and as a person who works among these people. Thank you so much, Kasie Hunt.
And, thank you, Kimberly Atkins.
Up next: President Trump`s never been shy about giving his opinion on just about everything, but he`s staying silent when it comes to Roy Moore. Notice the silence. How long can the president and the leader of the Republican Party, that being him, dodge the issue of Roy -- well, Roy Moore? How much more of Moore can he take?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you all.
QUESTION: Should Roy Moore resign, Mr. President? Do you believe his accusers?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Do you believe the accusers of Roy Moore, Mr. President? Should he resign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s reaction to the allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has been one of conspicuous silence.
However, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn`t avoid questions as easily. Today, she maintained the position that Moore should only step aside if the allegations are true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does the president believe Roy Moore`s accusers, and does he think Roy Moore should drop out of this race?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously. And he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.
QUESTION: Why won`t he weigh in on this? Why won`t he take the same type of strong position that these other Republican senators have taken on Roy Moore?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, the president supported the decision by the RNC to withdraw resources from this race, but feels it`s up to the people of Alabama to make the decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the allegations against Judge Moore, which Moore denies, has put the president in a difficult position.
As "The Washington Post" points out -- quote -- "If he were to say that he believes that women`s accusations, as McConnell and others have done, it would raise comparisons with the sexual harassment accusations that he has faced and denied."
I`m joined right now by Geoff Bennett, White House correspondent for NBC News. And David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Let me start with Geoff on this.
Geoff, I`m not sure what the motives of the president are, but what do you think they are? Why is he so quiet? GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in talking with people close to the president today, they point to a pure political calculation.
They say there`s no reason -- the president sees no reason to inject himself into this race, given that Luther Strange was his chosen candidate in the September primary, which is true. But it`s also true that after Luther Strange was defeated, the president deleted his tweets in support of Strange and then immediately threw his support behind Roy Moore.
So, essentially, what this all boils down to is that the president sees no good options, and that essentially opposing Moore now could really diminish his conservative brand among the same Alabama Republicans who support Roy Moore. So that`s one of the reasons why you saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders today take that middle road at the White House press briefing, saying that it`s at this point up to the will of the Alabama voters, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Jolly, what do you make of the politics of this and the personal vulnerability of this president? It does seem odd that Donald Trump is in the role of judge and jury of Roy Moore. It just seems odd.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Listen, he`s making a decision based on politics, not on principle. And that`s exactly what we should expect from Donald Trump.
Donald Trump wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. Steve Bannon wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. The alt-right wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. And there is no reason for Donald Trump to go any other way, but based on principle.
And so that`s what we are seeing in this administration right now. There is no win for Republicans in this scenario, other than, in the long lens of history, Doug Jones winning this seat.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of McConnell? Will he accept him if he wins?
JOLLY: So, Chris, look, you have lived through this. You get it as a staffer. You get it as somebody who believes in the institution.
There is no way that, if the people of Alabama, knowing everything they know, fully vetting their candidates in a fair election, elect Roy Moore, that the U.S. Senate can deny him a seat.
And so, when Cory Gardner and when other senators have suggested that they won`t seat him, that`s not the case. That is a perfect nightmare for Mitch McConnell. If Roy Moore wins this race, they are going to have to seat him. It is lose-lose.
The best-case scenario right now for Republicans is for Doug Jones to win this race.
MATTHEWS: For Doug Jones. Boy, I agree with you completely.
Anyway, Geoff, do you want to weigh in on that? As a reporter, maybe you can`t, but you can certainly analyze it, because if Trump gets this guy he really doesn`t want -- and he will get him because he has to, because he`s part of the whole alt-right and part of the whole Bannon operation -- but if he gets this guy he never wanted, because he knew he was going to be an embarrassment, and not just because of this, but all the stuff we knew before, I really -- I go along -- I go along with the former congressman.
I think he`s better off with taking the loss.
BENNETT: Yes, potentially.
I mean, the other thing that`s true about this race is that, at this point, the race is a referendum in many ways on Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment. You have Steve Bannon stirring up disaffection there for McConnell. You have Roy Moore doing the very same thing.
And so some of that, some of the thinking of the president, according to people close to him, is that, you know, for him to get involved, there`s a huge risk of this entire thing backfiring, for a couple of reasons.
One, if he talks to Roy Moore and encourages him to get out of the race, and he doesn`t, then Donald Trump is on the losing end of that. And then, if he backs this third -- this alternate approach, this write-in campaign, well, Roy Moore is already on the ballot.
And if you have a Republican mounting a write-in campaign, that...
BENNETT: ... bifurcates the race, potentially, and hands it to the Democrat.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s better to lose sometimes. This ain`t your night, Mr. President.
Thank you, Geoff Bennett.
Thank you, former Congressman David Jolly, for your knowledge and wisdom.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump has insisted time and again that he has nothing to gain -- listen closely -- nothing to gain from the Republican tax plan. Well, it turns out that`s wrong. Trump and his family could see a windfall if this bill passes, up to a billion dollars -- a billion. It`s the Donald Trump, Trump Tower tax bill. Don`t you forget it, and it`s coming at you.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After years of rough drafts and blueprints, House Republicans have finally passed an actual tax reform bill, if you want to call it that. It`s actually the Trump Tower tax cut. A new analysis by NBC News shows that under the House bill, President Trump and his family could save more than $1 billion on this baby.
Trump took a rare trip up to Capitol Hill to pressure his fellow Republicans to get the job done, of course, and the bill sailed through the House with only 13 Republicans voting against it. However, a new poll signals potential danger for the president and his party. A majority of voters do not support this bill. Sixty-one percent, three in five, think it mainly benefits the rich, which it does.
Meanwhile, over at Senate side, Republicans are full steam ahead with their own version of the tax overhaul, which according to another report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, would give large tax cuts to millionaires, while raising taxes on American families who make between $10,000 and $75,000 a year. That`s in the average range.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALLL roundtable. Annie Linskey is with the "Boston Globe," Dana Milbank is with "The Washington Post", and Seung Min Kim is a reporter with "Politico".
Thank you all.
Let`s start with Annie on this. How do they sell it when people see, when they see it`s really about the estate tax for people that have more than $20 million to give their grandkids. When they see that it`s the corporate windfall of 35 down to 20, of the richest losing -- getting a big tax break at the top. And also things like taking away the tax break you get for paying interest on your student loans, while giving people tax deductions for sending their kids to prep schools.
ANNIE LINSKEY, REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, I think that they sell it by hoping that people are going to focus first on the fact that they`ve done something. I mean, what the Republicans are trying to do and really need to do is change the narrative that they are unable to govern. And so, I think, first of all, there will be this sort of, we can accomplish something. And then I think they`re going to hope that people just don`t necessarily notice the changes to their bills.
I mean, there`s no other way to put it, and so many people are actually going to see -- they`re going to be paying more to the federal government, rather than less.
And I guess they`re also selling it to a different group of people, Chris. They`re trying to sell it to the very wealthy, who are going to be happy.
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, I think they`ll buy it. Annie, I think they`re going to buy it.
Anyway, what about -- let me go to Seung Min Kim. Seung, I just don`t understand how the Democrats can be so incompetent to let this go by them without playing the populist card for all it`s worth because it ought to be played here. This is an anti-people tax bill.
SEUNG MIN KIM, REPORTER, POLITICO: They are pushing back as hard as they can against these tax bills. And remember, on the House tax vote today, no Democrats supported their legislation. And in the Senate, we don`t -- there were a few votes in play, but we don`t expect if any votes from Democrats for that bill. I mean, they framed it as, especially on the Senate side, a giveaway to corporations. We know that a revised plan from the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week makes a lot of the individual side tax cuts temporary. They actually expire --
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, I know, but the corporate stuff is permanent.
KIM: But that corporate stuff is permanent. Now, Republicans will say that, you know, you create these consistencies for businesses and helps generate economic growth, but surely, it`s given some political ammunition for Democrats there.
MATTHEWS: Well, Dana, I have to ask you about this wealth that`s going to go to the kids. I mean, Trump is almost like the John Houston character in "Chinatown". I want to, it`s for the future! For the future!
The billions of dollars that he`s saving his kids down the road and their kids and then he`s saving their right to kill elephants and bring back the tusks. I mean, everything is for these rich kid, heirs of his, and it`s so -- I say the Romanovs. They behave like a royal family that somehow acquired the United States government.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and think about it. I mean, very deserving, these Trump children, just think of all the elephant parts they`re going to be able to re-import when they have this extra a billion dollars or so. The elephants will be gone from Africa with all the parts they can now import.
You know, it is extraordinary how this tax bill was sold in the first place. And, you know, there are more broken promises in this thing than we`ve seen at any point since the Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City. You know, the -- it is a huge tax break for the wealthiest.
They actually had to insert a provision in the House tax bill, waiving a previous law that said -- that required a two-thirds vote to increase people`s taxes, because they are increasing the lowest tax rates from 10 to 12 percent. They`re increasing taxes for people making around $40,000.
The Senate gets rid of some of that problem, but then it takes away health care. And then, it takes away all the tax cuts on the individual side. So, nobody is getting a tax cut.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen the face on the people of the late-night plane flying out of Las Vegas? I`ve got just enough money to get home on and they can`t afford one hotel room night more. That`s what the American voter for Trump should be looking like tonight.
Anyway, here`s what we`re talking about with the elephants, by the way. A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife told NBC News today that the agency lifted a ban that prohibits hunters from importing trophies of elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid big game hunters. This picture, by the way, taken six years ago, shows Donald Jr. posing with the tail of an elephant he killed. He cut that tail off for his whatever.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, three scoops we`ll be getting and talking about forever.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I`m out in Seattle tonight for Bobby Kennedy, a raging spirit tonight. I`ll be speaking at the town hall Seattle, a Temple to Hurst Sinai.
Then, on Saturday morning, I`ll back on the East Coast, speaking at the Miami book fair.
On Monday, I`ll be in D.C. to host HARDBALL, of course. Then that evening, he`ll be speaking at the new Politics and Prose at The Wharf, all for "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit".
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with a round table.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
LINSKEY: Well, I`m going to tell you about the guy running against Roy Moore. His name is Doug Jones. He`s a Democrat. He supports transgender rights. He is pro-choice. And he`s a Yankees fan. And he might just be the next senator for Alabama.
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s a triple. That will get them on base.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Dana.
MILBANK: All right. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in trouble for his excessive travel, mixing personal travel with professional travel. He has come up with a response. And, of course, the real problem is, it`s the Obama administration`s fault for the dysfunctional travel setup that they had.
MATTHEWS: And how does that explain the fact that he`s sort of enjoying the advantage of business travel that benefits personal travel? How is that working?
MILBANK: You don`t understand, Chris. Everything is the Obama administration`s fault.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just a general guilt of Barack Obama.
Anyway, Seung Min, please?
KIM: Big news on the judiciary front today. The Senate Judiciary Committee is going ahead with confirmation hearings for a Trump judicial nominee that had been blocked for months, actually, by none other than Al Franken. It`s kind of an escalation in the judicial wars over this obscure blue slip tradition that`s been around in the Senate for about 100 years. And we`ll see how Democrats react. The confirmation hearing is later this month.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Annie Linskey, Dana Milbank and Seung Min Kim.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch" Thursday, November 16th, 2017.
Let me finish with the news that along with its plundering cash and the billion dollars won for the Trumps in the tax bill, the president killed the Obama ban on ivory and other big game souvenirs entering the country from Africa. You`ll see them here in these pictures. The lure such bloody stuff holds for the Trumps.
They kill for the photo op. Kill large African animals for the bragging rights for the pictures of themselves, as Ramars of the jungle, as 21st century Tarzans of the jungle. Look what I just killed. Me Tarzan. You Jane.
I admit we`re prejudice here. I love the wildlife of Africa, love the great herds of the African plains, the elephants and lions and Cape buffalo. They are the one great natural wonder of the world over there, and knowing they are gives me a sense of human history, knowing we`ve grown up part of this million years of history.
Why would anyone want to kill it off? Why would anyone want to be sufficient a selfish pig, such a slob of history, and our earthly habitat to want to destroy it for a picture? A pair of tusks on the wall, a tail to hold in the air?
Perhaps Trump has no idea how much we treasure the wild of Africa, the romance held by a part of the wild still not turned into sidewalks and condo developments and greedy developers and their children getting their pictures taken with the beautiful, the wild and now dead.
I spent a couple years in Africa and I don`t want to see it`s great natural wonders, much like in our Grand Canyon and Grand Tetons, and yes, Niagara Falls falling to the shots of rich kids from America, whose father cares so little about Africa`s future and about mankind`s love of this planet. The only one, by the way, we have.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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