NYT: Franken's deeds "fall short of criminal" Transcript 11/21/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Donna Brazile, Julia Ioffe, Zack Beauchamp, Sahil Kapur, Ginger Gibson, Michelle Goldberg, John Archibald; Michael Steele; Heidi Przybyla; Gene Robinson

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 21, 2017 Guest: Donna Brazile, Julia Ioffe, Zack Beauchamp, Sahil Kapur, Ginger Gibson, Michelle Goldberg, John Archibald; Michael Steele; Heidi Przybyla; Gene Robinson

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:00:00] ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the prevalence of those causes an employment contracts. And again, women are silenced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The key point there, what Gretchen Carlson was alleging about at FOX News is also what others are alleging about the U.S. Congress and the products of both parties, money buying secrecy. We will have more on that story in the days ahead.

"Hardball with Chris Matthews" starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump backs up Moore. Let`s play "Hardball."

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.

Late today, after more than a week of silence, President Trump weighed in on Alabama Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you one thing for sure, we don`t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I have looked at his record, it`s terrible on crime, it`s terrible on the border, it`s terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that`s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the second amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. I mean, if you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn`t happen and, you know, you have to listen to him also. You are talking about, he said 40 years ago, this did not happen. So, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to campaign for Roy Moore?

TRUMP: I will be letting you know next week. But I can tell you, you don`t need somebody who`s soft on crime like Jones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Moore has been accused of sexually misconduct by nine women, including one who says he sexually abused her when she was 14 years old. Moore has denied the allegations. Well, today President Trump was asked if he takes Moore at his word.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe this?

TRUMP: Well, he denies. I mean, Roy Moore denies it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what about the women?

TRUMP: And by the way --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the women --

TRUMP: A total denial. And I do have to say, 40 years is a long time. He has run eight races and this has never come up. So 40 years is a long time. The women are Trump voters. Most of them are Trump voters. All you can do is you have to do what you have to do. He totally denies it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what about the nine women, Mr. President? "The Washington Post" went to them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Well, his support for Moore, which falls just short of an endorsement, comes after the "Daily Beast" reported yesterday that Steve Bannon intervened with Trump in defense of Moore. Quote "according to two sources, Bannon has spoken multiple times on the phone to President Trump since late last week. At least one of those calls was devoted to discouraging the President from rejecting or criticizing Moore in public statements."

Amid the wave of allegations against men in positions of power, Trump was also asked if he has a message to women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Women are very special. I think it`s a very special time because a lot of things are coming out. And I think that`s good for society. And I think it`s very, very good for women. And I`m very happy a lot of these things are coming out. And I`m very happy it`s being exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, prior to the President`s remarks, in an interview published in the Alabama newspaper, Moore said he has known intention of withdrawing from the race adding quote "President Trump has not asked me to withdraw from this race. I`m sure he understands the damage false accusations can do. And the danger of rushing to convict someone in the court of public opinion," closed quote.

Meanwhile, Moore`s opponent, democrat Doug Jones is running a new ad out there, using the words of President Trump`s daughter, Ivanka, and other Alabama Republicans who have spoken out against Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Roy Moore`s disturbing actions, Ivanka Trump says there`s a special place in hell for people who prey on children and I have no reason to doubt the victims` accounts. Jeff session says, I have no reason to doubt these young women, and Richard Shelby says he will absolutely not vote for Roy Moore. Conservative voices putting children and women over party, doing what`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by Eugene Robinson, columnist for "the Washington Post," Heidi Przybyla, White House reporter for "USA today," Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, and John Archibald, a columnist for the Alabama media group.

I want to start with John Archibald. I have a sense that this election down there, coming up in early December, is still, even though their margin is being overrun by an edge to Jones, that this race could go either way. Why it is still up in the air this race, given all the stuff thrown now at Judge Moore?

JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: I think first of all, just the sheer notion of the liberal media and the Washington establishment, coming out with these things against Moore, as the Moore campaign would say, as a sense of sort of mobilizing that base. And his surrogates today got up in a press conference and basically said all of those things and did everything they can to impugn the women who made the statements. And so I think they put a little crack in it and let people try to grab on to something they can use to rationalize voting for him.

[19:05:29] MATTHEWS: Well, Moore`s supporters are still fighting back against the allegations against Moore, battling what they believe is Washington establishment conspiracy, as John just said. At a press conference earlier today, Moore campaign strategist Dean Young said the voters` decision would affect the course of the nation. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN YOUNG, MOORE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I think the future of this country rides on this race. And let me tell you why. Donald Trump just exploded the establishment. This is the first senatorial election since Donald Trump went into office. So, the magnitude of what`s going on here can`t be overestimated.

You have got to understand Alabamians that the world is watching you. And you have to show the world that we won`t be tricked. That we are not a bunch of idiots. We are not a bunch of sheep like the mainstream media wants you to act like or Mitch McConnell.

Are we going to be sold a bill of goods by Mitch McConnell and the fake news? Are we? Are we that -- are we that gullible? And that`s why you saw Kellyanne come out yesterday and say, we have got to have somebody like Judge Moore. We have got to have someone like Judge Moore. And you know, Kellyanne does talk to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Gene, why don`t you explicate all the shots that just came from that man, Dean Young`s mouth, because there was a lot in that fuselage.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he`s just drawing lines. He is drawing lines between us, the good people of Alabama, the, you know, Alabama Republican tribe and the -- you know, Washington, which is a bad word. And Mitch McConnell, which is a bad word. And fake news and liberal media.

You know, it`s tribal. And it`s an attempt surely on that basis, really without credibly dealing with the accusations against Roy Moore. Strictly on the basis of us versus them, to get Alabamians to vote for Roy Moore.

MATTHEWS: So, they are changing the subject. He is also doing something else. He is nationalizing the election there saying the world is watching. This isn`t just about the qualifications of Mr. Moore, it`s not about the other guy. It`s about how this is going to look to the country. This is going to hurt Trump, if Moore loses.

ROBINSON: Yes, and, you know, we can`t back down. They are all looking at us. We can`t back down. We have got to stand up for our side and go ahead and vote for Judge Moore, that`s what he is saying.

MATTHEWS: You know, Heidi, I just heard a phrase there from the old days, Gene, just to vote, to stand up for Alabama. I remember that phrase from Governor Wallace, George Corley Wallace. HE says stand up for Alabama.

What do you make of this? Because the choice issues come in here, too. I think they are appealing to women who are -- men who are pro-life, to say, well, as bad as this customer might be, this judge Moore character is unfit. He has proven himself to be based on the testimony of all of those women. He is still pro-life and the other guy isn`t.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, USA TODAY: It`s a short-term political calculation. It`s the same calculation that the President is saying by saying look at Doug Jones. He`s soft on crime. Look at Doug Jones on the military.

But, Chris, I think that the lawyer there is right. And that this is a much bigger issue and that, yes, the country and the world is watching. And I actually believe it`s not an over dramatization to say that if there is a breakup in the GOP as we know it, that these events and this election will most certainly be in the timeline. Because let`s think about what we have seen here. We have seen eight or nine women hold hands, come forward, and share very intimate stories about how they were abused as children. You have the community, Trump voters too, by the way. You have the community having a mall watch out on him.

And despite what Donald Trump said, that that he strongly denied, he did not strongly deny it. He just said that he asked the mother`s permission and that he never assaulted anyone. And we haven`t really heard much from him since. So I think we are going to watch what happens both in Alabama and in the suburbs with those more educated moderate women voters and how they are going to respond to this.

MATTHEWS: And you see this has a breakup of the Trump coalition beginning now?

PRZYBYLA: I see it as the establishment justifying the breakup that may be necessary in the New Year, depending on what happens in the 2018 midterms, going into the 2018 midterms, whether women, moderate women, in the GOP are going to be able to stomach this. Because implicitly, what`s happening here with what both Trump is saying and what the lawyers for Moore are saying is don`t believe the women, believe Roy Moore. He denied it. That`s it. This is the play book. Game over.

[19:10:17] MATTHEWS: Michael, you have got a fight here going on. It`s a three-sided fight. You have got Stephen Bannon pushing the President to stick with Moore. You have got the Republican organization down the post- civil rights era, Republican Party down there leadership down there backing this guy, and you have that core of evangelicals, tough, hard right people.

Is this -- tell me how all those three sides deal with this thing between now and early December, the 12th?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, they all play to their core, you know, base. And that is, in this case, keeping the seat in the hands of the Republicans. I mean, I think whether you are an evangelical or you are a Bannonite or a Trump voter, whatever you call yourself, this is the fight, I think, of the individual there in the tape put it best, he said, this is about, you know, the first Senate election after Trump has become President.

This is also a little face saving, as well. Steve Bannon calling the President is all about saving face. Because, remember, Steve Bannon went out there and jacked up Roy Moore and said, this is our guy and the President was not with him on that. And so, now, with the possibility of the President backtracking and stepping away from Moore after his victory, that`s an embarrassment to Bannon.

So this is about self-preservation and their own self-petty little political agendas. This is not about the Republican Party. They don`t give a damn about the Republican Party. This is not even about the women in this case. They don`t give a damn about them either. That`s what is so sickening about what the President did today.

And every self-respecting Republican needs to stand up and say, enough. You cannot side with Roy Moore on this. You have got nine women who have come out, credible, laid their case out there, made that case to the people of Alabama, and the President is going to sit there and go, oh, well, he said he didn`t do it.

I mean, this is beyond stupid. And it is irreparable harm that`s being done to this party and to this country. Someone needs to take control here and it`s certainly not the President and it damned sure isn`t Steve Bannon. It`s got to be the people of Alabama, who stand up and say enough.

MATTHEWS: Is there a voice down there, like Michael`s, John Archibald? Is there a voice like you just heard from Michael Steele down there? Tell me how it sounds down there?

ARCHIBALD: Yes, I mean, I would like to think I have one at times, you know. There are a lot of people who come out and say, this is ridiculous. What you are seeing now from the President is exactly the same thing you have seen here. And that`s simply a matter of putting ideology in front of decency and character and behavior. And the thing that is different now is that we are just coming out and admitting that we are going to do that, whether that`s the President of the United States or whether that`s the governor of the state of Alabama. And that is a point which, you know, in my lifetime, I have never seen before. I mean, it is -- we have crossed a point that I don`t know if we are going to come back from.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Gene about the column you wrote about the issue the word, tribe. It`s a new word for us. This is being cultural tribe, meaning, as long as you say you are pro-life, like Trump says he is, although, nobody really believes it, as long as you say certain things about immigration, the ethnic stuff, as long as you are sort of conservative on ethnic stuff, right-wing, you are OK with us. No matter what else you are like personally, that the tribe is what matters, not the person.

ROBINSON: Yes, I think it does. And I think you could call it cultural. I mean, you know, you could look on the broadest scale, you can see how Republicans and Democrats have become more tribal generally.

But this is a more specific and more specific instance, I think, and example of that sort of tribalism in American politics. And it`s just like, my side right or wrong, I`m sticking with my side. Unwillingness, even in the case of a credibly accused child molester, to consider voting for a Democrat whom everyone agrees is a decent man. You might disagree with him on abortion, but he`s not an accused child molester. He is not an awful person. He is a person of character. And that doesn`t matter anymore.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think we are used to laws now that say if you are a child molester, you have to be registered and known in the neighborhood. Here`s a guy that`s known pretty much like that and may well win, still.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson, Heidi Przybyla, Michael Steele and John Archibald.

Coming up, CBS and PBS cut their ties with Charlie Rose after eight women accuse him of unwanted sexual advances. Rose is the latest in a string of high-profile men accused to varying degrees of sexual misconduct in what has been an explosive moment for our country. And that`s coming up next.

Plus, Donna Brazile is coming here to "Hardball" tonight. I want to know whether she agrees with Hillary Clinton`s latest that the 2016 election was not legitimate.

And the Russia investigation. Trump and Putin talked on the phone today, as Robert Mueller closes in. The Trump White House seems to be whistling past the graveyard.

Finally, let me turn tonight with a troubling Trump watch. And this is "Hardball," where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:32] MATTHEWS: NBC News caught up with some undecided Alabama voters in Huntsville where many offer a similar take on their choices in the December special election. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roy Moore and Doug Jones?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t like either candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you usually vote Republican?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time, no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a little hesitant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably not going to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you u vote for the Democrat or just not vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I probably won`t vote. Which means that the Democrat probably will take it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: We will be back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."

CBS, PBS, and Bloomberg all said today they are dropping Charlie Rose. It comes after "the Washington Post" reported today that eight women accused Rose of quote "unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks, or genital areas."

Well, yesterday, Rose said that while he didn`t believe all the allegations were accurate, he apologized for his quote "inappropriate behavior." Rose is one of a number of high-profile men accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct. Buzzfeed broke the news last night that Michigan congressman John Conyers quote "settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not succumb, in her words, to his sexual advances." Conyers said today, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations with an expressed denial of liability, in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment" -- close quote.

Well, a third story making national headlines today, Senator Al Franken responded to an allegation by a woman saying he groped her on her rear while taking a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Franken said he didn`t remember taking the photo, but feels badly that the woman -- quote -- "came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

In "The New York Times" today, columnist Michelle Goldberg said she`s conflicted about Franken -- quote -- "It`s easy to condemn morally worthless men like Trump. It`s much harder to figure out what should happen to men who make valuable political and cultural contributions and whose alleged misdeeds fall far short of criminal."

Michelle Goldberg joins us now, along with Reuters correspondent Ginger Gibson.

Michelle, I have been reading you and a couple of your columns recently, and I have seen a lot of unusual, in these circumstances, true discernment. I think discernment is a term that shouldn`t be just for religious thinking, but for secular thinking, about people`s behavior, bad and good, discerning one from another, looking for the unique, looking for what`s different and what`s the same, and trying to find, at some point, it seems to me, a standard we can enforce across the political aisle.

Your thoughts? I think you already have them. Pretty clear.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I don`t know if we have found a standard that we can enforce across the political aisle.

And that`s part of what`s so difficult about this moment, right? I mean, part of me wants to say that the Democrats should be the party of no groping whatsoever and, you know, that this should be a place to draw the line.

And, at the same time, there`s something so utterly perverse about the idea that Al Franken would be forced out of the Senate, while Roy Moore is brought into it.

The alleged misdeeds are so different in scale that I actually think that, rather than having a hard-and-fast rule, as much as I might like one, we`re going to have to learn how to discern and, you know, and judge these things individually, even though it means this is a difficult case for Democrats to make, right, because although I don`t think there is any moral equivalency between Al Franken and Roy Moore, Republicans will certainly milk the Al Franken thing for all its worth and use that as an excuse to let Moore into the Senate and to excuse the fact that their alleged sexual predator of a president is now out there basically endorsing him.

MATTHEWS: Ginger, I wonder whether we in the press can do this. I think we can report. And I do like the graphic nature. For a long time, we were prudish about what happened to the altar boys, for example, in my religion. And they would say words like molest or something like that.

I wanted to know exactly. I`m sorry. I want to know what the priest did. And once I learned what they did, or Sandusky did at Penn State, I was smarter about the issue. And I had an attitude about it I didn`t have as clearly and as powerfully as I did once I heard what was going on.

I think we do benefit from the language I used in the beginning of this segment, talking about what Charlie Rose was accused of doing. I think it`s helpful. But I don`t know if we can go past the descriptiveness to really making the judgment for -- as if we`re the tribunal. That`s where I don`t know whether we can do that. Your thoughts?

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS: We can`t make the decision for the voters of Alabama. We can`t make the decision for the voters in John Conyers` district. They`re going to have to make that. We can just give them all of the details.

And I think, as journalists, it`s important that we don`t allow ourselves to start writing these off as just another case. There`s a real risk there that if we hear about another one -- and I know there are likely more being reported as we speak, other stories to break, more to come -- that we don`t start brushing them off as saying, oh, well, that`s not as bad as Franken, or that`s not as bad as Moore, or that`s not as bad, but it is bad, but we have already heard that story before, so why are we going to talk about it again?

I think it`s important that we remain diligent in bringing those facts forward.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

But what about discernment? How do we categorize? Do we take a construction worker yelling something he shouldn`t at a woman who walks by, and compare that to someone who`s a predator, who`s out to use his power in the office to get sex, to go to bed with someone? I mean, these are -- there are discerning differences here, it seems to me.

GIBSON: There are, and we have to sort of treat them equally.

I think we also need to be aware that we`re writing about industries that we have close exposure to, people that we work with, people that we encounter, that we see on a daily basis.

We`re not writing about industries that don`t get this kind of exposure. We`re not writing about the chain fast food manager who`s harassing his employees or the guy running a retail shop who`s using his power to influence the women working for them.

And we also need to make sure that, when we`re discerning in this way, we`re looking at those, too, that we`re making sure that while the manager of the fast food restaurant might not warrant a story in "The New York Times," his employees warrant the same amount of respect that other women do.

And it`s important, I think, that we remember that as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at the current situation, Michelle, first, then Ginger, because this is real life. The president is talking about Franken. He`s talking about Al Franken in the same regard that the conversation was all around Roy Moore.

Is that fair, Michelle?

GOLDBERG: I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are they in any way equal? I don`t see the equality, but...

GOLDBERG: No, of course they`re not. Of course they`re not equal.

And I think part of the problem here is that because there is so much bad faith on the right and such sort of bottomless depravity among Trump and his circle, that it makes it difficult to reckon with these things properly among Democrats, which is where most of this is going on, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOLDBERG: Most of these kind of purges are happening in left-leaning industries, in part because that`s where people in power are responsive to this torrent of revelations, you know?

Republicans just hear about it and shrug their shoulders and do nothing. So, you don`t have the same sort of energy of people being exposed and held to account.

One result of that is that you have this hugely disproportionate standard, where Democrats and Democratic institutions are sort of turning themselves inside out, while Republicans are skating blithely forward.

MATTHEWS: I`m so with you. I`m so with you, Michelle.

GOLDBERG: It`s very complicated. I`m complicated because, on the one hand, we also don`t want to all lower our standards and say that the standard is, as long as you`re not a child molester, then we`re OK.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Ginger, can you imagine if Barack Obama had been taped saying what he -- what Trump said on the "Access Hollywood" tape about women`s private parts and how he could grab them at will because he`s a celebrity? I think he would have been cashiered in about two weeks.

(LAUGHTER)

GIBSON: There`s no doubt that almost no one else but Donald Trump could have survived that.

And I think that one of the things we have to remember is that electoral politics might be the worst universe to have this discussion in.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. I think you`re right.

GIBSON: There`s a lot of rationalizing that can be done. And I think we`re seeing that in Alabama, where you can be a conservative and say, OK, maybe Moore was wrong and he did what he`s accused of, but he would vote against abortion, and that just matters so much more to me than anything that he might have done.

And I think that that rationalization can happen on the left just as easily. And for that reason, there can`t be a worse way to have a discussion about the horrors of sexual abuse than doing so in an election.

MATTHEWS: I agree completely, because, you know, your vote is such a crude tool. It`s yes or no. And you have to use it to include every concern, every value you have, every behavior, observation you made, everything into one yes or no. It`s always binary, two people running, yes, that guy, no, that guy.

You`re right. It`s a conflicting lifetime. And I wonder whether we should be doing it in politics, but we`re doing it.

Michelle Goldberg, great writing. Great column writing. Thank you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Ginger Gibson, great to have you on.

Up next, former DNC chair Donna Brazile is coming here. Hillary Clinton says there are questions about whether the 2016 election was legitimate or not. Does Donna Brazile agree?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins.

Air Force One has touched down in West Palm Beach, Florida. President Trump is spending Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Uber paid $100,000 in ransom after hackers stole the data of 57 million users and drivers. The ride-hailing company hid the breach for a year, and has now fired its chief security officer.

We`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Days after WikiLeaks dropped its first batch of e-mails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile took to the stage as the interim leader of the DNC and put on a brave face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNA BRAZILE, AUTHOR, "HACKS: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE BREAK-INS AND BREAKDOWNS THAT PUT DONALD TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": And let me say this.

As your incoming chair of the Democratic National Committee...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: ... I promise you, my friends, I commit to all Americans that we will have a party that you can be proud of. We will elect Democrats up and down the ballot. And we will celebrate together the inauguration of President Hillary Clinton in January 2017!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But, according to a new book, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House," Donna Brazile paints a very different picture.

The picture she paints is that of a party engulfed in turmoil and a candidate running an anemic campaign.

Brazile writes -- quote -- "As I saw it, we had three Democratic Parties, the party of Barack Obama, the party of Hillary Clinton, and this weak little vestige of a party led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz that was doing a very poor job getting people who were not president elected."

As for the candidate, she writes: "Hillary Clinton was our best hope and I wanted more than ever before for her to win, even if in my heart I had doubts she could."

I`m joined right now by Donna Brazile.

Thank you. Donna, thank you for coming on.

BRAZILE: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You finally got here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We have been waiting here for weeks. But I know why you may have put us off. This is HARDBALL.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: A couple questions you may not like to be asked, but one is this.

I watched from the outside as the Democratic debate schedule got set up in the primary season for last year. And I noticed that a lot of the big debates were the same nights as big NFL football games. And I thought that looked rigged in favor of Hillary, so not too many people would watch Bernie Sanders take her on.

Is that a fair assessment that I had, that it looked rig?

BRAZILE: Look, let me just say this. The former chair tried to schedule these debates similar to what was going -- what happened in a previous cycle to get a maximum audience.

We know that that was not the case. As vice chair of what I sought to do, and many, many others, including a few other officers, was to expand the number of debates, so that in addition to having them on weekends, that we could go to other networks and we could have them during the week, so that people could watch our candidates.

MATTHEWS: That`s right, like a night that everybody`s home.

But let me ask you this. So they did rig it to have them when nobody would be watching?

BRAZILE: I don`t know if the actual word is rigged, but I do know that what Debbie was doing was following a prescription from a previous time, and not understanding that there was a great hunger inside the Democratic Party to have more debates, town halls, and forums.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

What do you make about Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden? They`re both pretty long in the tooth, as you used to say. Do you think it`s wrong for them to take a serious bid in 2020? I know you have to be 35 to be president. Should there be an outer age where you`re just too old to run?

BRAZILE: Well, Chris, I predict tonight that there will be literally over 25 people who will consider running for the president, perhaps Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders. I don`t know all of the other individuals, but I tell you...

MATTHEWS: But should they run? Should the older guys run?

BRAZILE: The last thing I`m going to do at the age of 57 is to kick somebody who`s 65 or 70 and tell them that their days are over.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But they`re way over 70. Donna, they`re way over 70. Why are you dodging this?

BRAZILE: Chris, we have a big bench. I`m not asking anybody to leave the room. I think the Democratic Party should allow everybody to run, everybody who wants to run. Let`s not dog people just because of their age.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, you have no problem of Uncle Joe running or Bernie running? No problem?

BRAZILE: If they have fresh ideas, if they can reinvigorate our democracy, they should run.

And Hillary, if she wants to run again, Elizabeth Warren, if she wants to give it a try, run. We, as a country and as a party, I think we can afford to have as many voices on the stage as possible.

MATTHEWS: If you were Hillary Clinton, would you run again?

BRAZILE: You know, when Al Gore left the stage in 2000, people said, should he run again? That`s his decision. That was his decision. And I think this is a decision that Hillary Clinton should make herself.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about Hillary Clinton`s statement recently that the 2016 election wasn`t legitimate.

Now, that is very confounding to me. Does that mean it shouldn`t count? What does it mean to say it`s not legitimate? You may not like a lot of things done in it. A lot of things get bad done. There`s dirty campaign fund-raising and people break the rules all the time. There`s prejudice, racial prejudice, all kinds of prejudice. But the election still counts.

Do you mean -- do you think she`s saying it was not a legitimate election? What do you say to that?

BRAZILE: I think she was saying that this was a disruptive political season.

And what we are learning, Chris, every day is that the Russian interference went beyond the stolen e-mails...

MATTHEWS: Right. Sure. I know that. Yes.

BRAZILE: ... and the weaponization of information.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, but just to the point, you think it was a legitimate election, right?

BRAZILE: Look, Donald Trump cracked the blue wall. We know that. He was able to win votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

But, yes, I do believe Secretary Clinton is making a very important point, the role of social media, this coordination between WikiLeaks and possibly the Trump campaign. We need to get to the bottom of it.

MATTHEWS: I know.

BRAZILE: And I hope that Director Mueller can get to the bottom of it.

MATTHEWS: I agree. We do it all the time. We do it all the time here, Donna. My question to you is, was it a legitimate election? Does it count?

BRAZILE: My personal view is that it was not a legitimate election.

MATTHEWS: So it doesn`t count?

BRAZILE: Chris, remember, I am the campaign manager of Al Gore in 2000, and where, as you well know, the Supreme Court decided. This election will always have an asterisk by it.

And that`s why I think Donald Trump should take steps as president to clean up our system, so that no more foreign governments or no foreign meddling would occur in our future.

MATTHEWS: OK. We have a definitional problem, because, what`s his name, Trump is out there. He`s said for years that Barack Obama wasn`t a legitimate president because he was an illegal immigrant.

And that`s what illegitimate means. Is it a legitimate election or not? And you`re saying it was not a legitimate election, it doesn`t count. That`s a strong statement.

BRAZILE: Chris, Chris, Chris, I have worked on more campaigns than many Americans, and I can tell you something. When you see all of the evidence that it`s a mountain of how the Russians interfered in our election...

MATTHEWS: I know.

BRAZILE: ... which is why I wrote the booked "Hacks," when you see what they did in social media with Facebook and Twitter...

MATTHEWS: OK. So it doesn`t count.

BRAZILE: We have to -- we need to get to the bottom of it, Chris. And I will come back when the investigation is over with.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re going in different directions. I think the world illegitimate is Third World, Fourth World. Hillary should have never used it.

She can say there was a corrupt aspect to it. She can say people did bad things, there was interference from abroad, but that Electoral College count is for real.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I agree on that point.

But you`re arguing semantics, when I want to argue that there was some big issues, big problems, and she faced a significant headwind in 2016. And I think what she means when she talks about legitimacy, she`s talking about the foreign interference and meddling and what I describe in my book, "Hacks," the corruption of our files and what they did to try to destroy the Democratic National Committee and discredit our nominee, Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well said.

Let me ask you one last question. I know you have been running this over in your head ever since. You`re a pro, maybe the best pro in the party.

What is it -- if you could think of a sentence or two, what would have won it for Hillary, if she -- how would she have won the Electoral College, if she had done something else? What would it have been?

BRAZILE: Oh, look, Chris, I mentioned she faced a significant headwind.

I describe in the book that I think the campaign was really overconfident. They believed they had the election in the bag. They did not put the sufficient resources that were needed in those three states.

And look at Minnesota. Look at the states that we barely eked by. No question she won the popular vote. No question that, on Election Day, there were people, more people preferred her than Donald Trump.

But the Electoral College is the Electoral College. The Democrats have been comfortable with the 18 states and D.C. that provides 242 electoral votes, so comfortable that, at times, we don`t spend money in those states.

I was criticized, Chris, because I sent money for robo-calls for Tammy Duckworth in Illinois. I sent robo-calls for Kamala Harris in California. I wanted to win.

And yes, I got Tim Kaine to also do robocalls in the state of Virginia, because I was worried. You can never take the voters for granted. Many voters decide to either stay home because they say, well, she`s going to win, or they voted for a third party candidate, because they thought, well, what matters? Why does it matter?

MATTHEWS: My question is, and I`m so hard to get you, I`ve been waiting for you so long, Donna. So, I have to ask you one more question. I thought Sherrod Brown could have been a stronger candidate in the Rust Belt. That he could made a difference in his own state in Ohio, could have sent a message into Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania where I`m from that Hillary Clinton cared about the working people of those manufacturing areas, where they`ve been hit so hard. And he`s also a tough guy on trade.

Would that have been a better pick than Tim Kaine for a running mate?

BRAZILE: I`m a big fan of Tim Kaine. I became chair the first time after he stepped down the run for United States Senate.

Look, I don`t want to get into what ifs, but I can tell you what I do believe. And that is Hillary Clinton did her very best, despite so many odds against her, including the fact that she was a woman. She did a very -- she ran a tough campaign, but in the end, I don`t want to speculate in terms of what if Sherrod Brown, what if Cory Booker. We could have got more youth, millennial, et cetera.

What if she had Tina Turner or what if she had Diana Ross? What if she had me? We could have gotten more black women. I don`t know.

Chris, all I know is that she won the popular vote. We fell short in the Electoral College. And I would like the Democratic Party to become stronger, our democracy to also become stronger so that we can prevent the kind of foreign meddling that we saw --

MATTHEWS: OK, now, that we`re talking --

BRAZILE: That`s why I wrote the book "Hacks". That`s "Hacks".

MATTHEWS: OK, "Hacks" is the name of the book. A great book.

BRAZILE: And I like your book, by the way.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

BRAZILE: You have a great book. I hope to see you soon, so you can sign my book.

MATTHEWS: Former DNC chair, Donna Brazile, still a perfect politician.

Up next, Trump and Putin spoke for over an hour today. It comes amid reporting in the Russian investigation that Trump`s Twitter habit could help build an obstruction of justice case against him, Donald Trump.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A week after President Trump said he believes Vladimir Putin meant it when he said Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, the two leaders spoke again today for over an hour. However, according to a readout of the call, Russian meddling was not even discussed.

Meanwhile, as we learned from "The Washington Post" this week, President Trump has accepted his attorney`s reassurances that the special counsel`s Russia probe will wind down around the New Year. Yet others suggest the president may be in denial about the danger the investigation still poses.

As a source close to the administration told "The Post," the president says this is all just an annoyance, I did nothing. He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.

Anyway, so is President Trump whistling past the graveyard here?

I`m joined right now by the roundtable. Julia Ioffe is a staff writer at "The Atlantic", Zack Beauchamp at "Vox", and Sahil Kapur is national political reporter for "Bloomberg News".

What do we make of the president`s almost comic reassurance, arrogance that he`s as clean as a whistle, he`s got nothing to worry about? Julia, is that posing or is that what he idiotically believes?

JULIA IOFFE, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I don`t know. I don`t know about you. I have not been inside his mind, but it is kind of part of his consistent approach to politics. He`s Teflon Don. He`s said himself, that even if he shoots somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, it`s going to roll off his back, and so far, everything has.

Even the "Access Hollywood" tapes, right? Everyone`s talking about sexual harassment and assault right now, Donald Trump is still president. So, I think he probably believes -- I think it`s more hubris than everything -- he believes that, you know, even if Mueller finds something, that he`ll be able to kind of bluster his way through it.

MATTHEWS: So, Zack, here`s his lawyer making him feel really warm and fuzzy about the outlook. It`s all blue skies ahead. Nothing`s going to happen, Mueller doesn`t have anything, never will have anything.

But suppose we get to March or April or May next spring and this thing`s still rolling ahead, witnesses are still being called, people are called in before grand juries, documents are being demanded and received and this thing keeps creeping toward him. Won`t he begin to wonder whether Ty Cobb, his lawyer, let him down and betrayed him?

ZACK BEAUCHAMP, VOX: That`s very possible. I mean, the president has a long history of getting angry with people when they aren`t performing to his expectations and firing them. Think of how many campaign managers he went through. And this is a notorious problem at his businesses.

I think the issue here is that the president doesn`t follow the policy details here. It`s actually quite a complicated investigation when you look at all of the different moving parts. And it takes a lot of knowledge about it to understand just how dangerous it is. And the truth is, it is quite, quite dangerous.

MATTHEWS: If I were Trump, I`d think, wait a minute. He`s already got Manafort in the way to the jail probably. He`s got Flynn probably headed that way. He may have Flynn`s son headed that way. He may be ready to get Jared.

And my question is, what makes him think it`s going to stop until it gets to him?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, Chris, the president seems to be getting talked down by his lawyer, as you mentioned, with assurances that this will be over by Thanksgiving or maybe over by Christmas and the end of the year. And the real question to me is how the president is going to react once he realized that this could, as "The Washington Post" reported, go deep into 2018. It could become a campaign issue. Imagine Democrats running attack ads, saying we need to take back the house, we need to take back the Senate, and the entirety of President Trump`s administration is under threat, as a result of that.

We have seen indications that Bob Mueller is moving closer and closer into his inner circle. We saw the Kushner back and forth, you know, on this investigation. And we`ve seen that Mueller`s going to be interviewing Hope Hicks, who is probably the closest aide to President Trump, dating back all the way before the campaign began. So, things do seem to be moving closer and closer to him, toward a reckoning.

MATTHEWS: And I don`t think he can do what Governor Christie did in New Jersey saying, I don`t really know Bridget Kelly. I don`t think he can say that about Jared or Hope Hicks. They`re him.

Anyway, the roundtable -- as you say, the roundtable is sticking with us. We`re going to come back and get some scoops from these people. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Up next, the hardball roundtable will give me three scoops you`ll be talking about tomorrow.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Julia, tell me something I don`t know.

IOFFE: So you can now buy Trump wine at the Shenandoah National Park. Hopefully it will extend to other national parks.

MATTHEWS: Hopefully for him. Anyway, thank you.

Zack?

BEAUCHAMP: Back in 1990, President Trump previewed his electoral strategy by saying the campaign of then-Klansman David Duke for Louisiana was tapping into the anger that was going on in that state.

MATTHEWS: A preview of coming attractions.

Sahil?

KAPUR: Chris, the House and Senate Republican tax bills that are quickly moving through Congress have a little-known provision that has personhood language, in other words tax breaks for unborn children so their parents can set savings account for them. Reproductive rights advocates fear this could lead to a rolling-back of abortion rights for women if unborn children are perceived as persons.

MATTHEWS: Well, another angle.

Anyway, thank you, Julia Ioffe, Zack Beauchamp and Sahil Kapur.

When we return, let me finish with a troubling "Trump Watch".

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Tuesday, November 21st, 2017.

He denies it. He denies it. That was the president late today repeating Roy Moore`s denials, repeating them again and again, as if that counters all the credible charges against him. He denies it.

I think we have come to where we Americans or many of us take our stands on one side or the other of the country`s cultural divide, and ignore any fact that might bring that loyalty into question. Why accept more information once your decision`s been made?

We do this now in police situations where we once hear of a policing shooting, we immediately oppose the police or back them up. Why look for evidence when you know who`s wrong already?

Yet it is the duty of journalists to deliver those facts, to assemble such evidence, to give the reader or the viewer the information necessary to make a judgment, to discern the unique elements of each particular case. Not throw them all into one, the way the war hawks connected the attack on 9/11 to its push for our attack on Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

Conflation. That`s the word I`ve come to fear now in every discussion, whether it be about war or the conduct of police or this current discussion over sexual misconduct. It`s the tendency usually pushed by one side or the other to throw everything into one box.

What comes through in today`s headlines about Charlie Rose and those ongoing headlines about Judge Moore or the recent accounts of Senator Franken`s behavior is the need for all of us to get the facts. Get them clear in our head.

Not all the cases that come along fit neatly into the same category or order of misconduct. One size does not fit all. We`re not out there somewhere buying socks.

Finally, we`re judging those accused on our side of the political divide the same way those on the other. Are we doing that? Would we have been as lenient with Richard Nixon and he`d been involved with a young staffer as we were with Bill Clinton?

Well, this is where the Congress is going to have a problem. When they judge Senator Franken, will they construct a standard, a red line for misconduct they truly commit themselves to enforce with the same ferocity elsewhere? Will they? Or will they punish him knowing that his misdeeds are not his alone that they`ve let similar conduct by others go by the board. If this is a time of reckoning let us try to make it a good one.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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