Date: November 27, 2017 Guest: Anita Kumar, Dana Milbank, David Catanese, Matt Apuzzo, Barbara McQuade, Peter Baker; Annie Linskey; Eugene Robinson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears? Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.
President Trump now denies the authenticity of that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. The "The New York Times" reports that the president has disavowed the tapes legitimacy writing he suggested to a senator early this year that it was not authentic and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently. This is part of President Trump doubling down on his support for Roy Moore.
For weeks, congressional Republicans have distanced themselves from the Senate candidate in Alabama, but not Donald Trump. "The New York Times" reports Trump`s reasons for sticking with Moore may be more personal than political.
Quote "he sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. That of course was the 2005 tape unearthed during the election in which Trump was caught on hot mic boasting about being able to grope women. Let`s listen again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now I`m automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It`s like a magnet. Just kiss. And when you are a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the (bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that assertion would directly contradict Trump`s own words in the hours after the tape was revealed last October. Here is what he had to say then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have said and done things I regret. And the words released today on this more than a decade old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don`t reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong. And I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And now he is saying he never said it. Today White House press secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn`t directly answer whether the President still accepts the authenticity of the tape, but said he hasn`t changed his position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President addressed this. This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the President and the fact that he is sitting here in the oval office today. He has made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people and their support of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, over the weekend, the President reinforced his support for Moore by attacking his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. The President went on twitter. He wrote there quote "the last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer-Pelosi puppet. He went on to add Jones would be a disaster.
In his second tweet, Trump wrote I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls, but it wasn`t enough. Can`t let Schumer-Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad.
Well, nine women have made accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore, most of whom were teenagers when the incidents occurred. And some say more pursued than predate. One says he sexual abused her when she was 14. Moore has denied all the allegations and President Trump has expressed skepticism about Moore`s accusers.
For more, I`m joined by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Annie Linskey, national political reporter for "the Boston Globe," and Eugene Robinson, a columnist with "the Washington Post."
Let me go back to the Times report. Peter Baker here, what is going on here? You guys are reporting that Trump is now denying there ever was such a tape. It has no authenticity which means according to -- I`m looking up on Webster`s. Basically, he is denying it`s factual, that there is no real tape. What does he mean by that, there is no authenticity to that tape?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, exactly. He seems to be suggesting that the thing is a fake like everything else he says is a fake. Fake news media, fake reports, fake investigation, fake collusion with Russia, fake everything. And it just seems to be part of, you know, this is a President who sort of sets his own reality. And once he decided on, you know, a version of events and a version of facts as he sees them, he tends to stick to them.
What is surprising is he already previously acknowledged the authenticity of this tape. So then switch around and try to pretend or to convince himself or convince others that fact in fact is not a real thing is a pretty big switch.
You heard Sarah Sanders today. She really wasn`t denying that he had switched his view on it. She tried to duck the question. But you know, he has been telling people in private that he doesn`t think the thing is real.
MATTHEWS: Well, Annie, he did. And just like Peter said, what`s her name, Sarah Sanders today said well, he was elected. Therefore I guess what he said matters and it`s OK. But looking up in Webster`s, authenticity, worthy of acceptance of belief as conforming to or based on fact.
Now there is a factual question here. Was there in fact him speaking on that bus in that "Access Hollywood" tape. Did that actually occur? Did we actually hear it? Or is it like Groucho Marx? We either believe him or believe his tape. I mean, what world are we live in here where a President can deny what is obviously manifestly a fact?
[19:05:15] ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. I mean, there are so many pieces and bricks that hold that story up that it was actually Donald Trump speaking. I mean, Billy Bush, his voice was also on that tape. He lost his job because of it. And Donald Trump apologized because of this.
I mean, another thing to look up in Webster`s is the word credibility. Because, Chris, every time every time Donald Trump pulls one of these stunts, he does something much larger to his presidency which is erode credibility. And that`s something the United States President, the leader of the free world really needs when push comes to shove and when he begins to ask Americans to do unpopular things.
And I just, you know, it`s sort of like he is trying to create his own reality. But it`s just not even slightly believable, because he himself has acknowledged it before.
MATTHEWS: Too bizarre.
Anyway, the "Access Hollywood" tape was not the first time audio surfaced of Trump bragging about his own inappropriate behavior towards women. In a 2005 interview with Howard Stern, of course, Trump talked about walking in on contestants at the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants when he was owner of the franchise. Let`s listen to his bragging here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell you the funniest is I`ll go backstage before the show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TRUMP: And everyone is getting dressed and ready and everything else. No men are allowed anywhere. And I`m allowed to go in because I`m the owner of the pageant and therefore I`m inspecting it. You know, I`m inspecting it and I want to make sure everything. Is everyone OK? Stand there with no clothes. Is everybody OK? And you see these incredible looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Over the course of the campaign, more than a dozen women, of course, accused Trump of sexual assault or misconduct. He calls the claims against him totally and absolutely false and attacked the women making the charges. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: These people are horrible people. They are horrible, horrible liars.
I have no idea who these women are. I have no idea.
When you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said I don`t think so.
All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Gene, I think we are in the midst of some fun house mirrors here rather. I don`t know what to describe it as because Trump brags about doing what he doesn`t admit to doing relentlessly than he does.
But the larger thing here is I want to talk about this. It seems to me he actually is afraid right now. He is afraid that the sleaze of Roy Moore is going to slip off on to him. And therefore he is determined even as he defends him, he doesn`t want to be accused of being like him. That seems to be what he is worried about this week or even today.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, with good reason he would worry than. Because obviously if he is going to defend Roy Moore has he has been doing, then people are going to look back to that more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. But so now with this, you know, maybe it`s not authentic, I mean, there are only two possibilities, you know. He is lying. He is plain outright lying, or there is some kind of dementia going on. I mean, the President -- no I`m serious. That if the President can convince himself that a tape which he has apologized for, acknowledged and apologized for, is not authentic, if he can convince even himself of that much less anybody else, you actually have to wonder about the President`s mental condition. You really do.
MATTHEWS: You know, Peter, I go back to not that there is any moral equivalence necessary here. But remember Clinton? Remember he had that tape with the old girlfriend and was it Flowers. Gennifer Flowers with a G.
And in the tape, we all heard the tape. But it sounded like his voice. In fact had to apologize to the late Mario Cuomo over it. But Carvel, his guy went around, James Carvel saying that was all edited tape. It was all edited. He kept saying edited. And here we are back again to reality check in a different case. I mean, we all watched that tape one zillion times. And now he is saying it`s not authentic to your people. I think you two sources on this. Are they recent sources? I mean, how do we put these in context here of denial?
BAKER: Yes. The sources are recent. One of the conversations with the senator I think took place earlier in the year but was recounted to us recently. And it`s just, you know, so it`s not entirely in the context of Roy Moore. But it`s coming out now in the context of Roy Moore. And you know, you see him defending, if not defending Roy Moore exactly or the sort of defending Roy Moore, definitely attacking his opponent and giving the impression --
MATTHEWS: What`s his political move here? What is Trump`s move between now and December 12th? Does he want Moore to win? Does he want him to lose? Is he setting it up that he has a win-win here? What`s going on?
[19:10:01] BAKER: Yes. It is a win-win in the sense that, look, if Roy Moore wins, he will claim undoubtedly it is because he stuck by him while the rest of the national Republican Party didn`t. If Roy Moore loses it will be because, you know, the Republicans picked the wrong guy. Remember, he endorsed Luther Strange in the primary. And so therefore people should listen to him in the first place. No question he will cite it is a mark of his influence either way.
But he is not going down there. Sarah Sanders said today that his schedule does not allow him to go down to Alabama between now and December 12th to campaign for Roy Moore. And that`s his choice as well. Whether -- he doesn`t want to be too associated with him, even though he is out here defending him and sort of saying that he is being unfairly attacked, in effect like he thinks or at least he is saying he thinks. He was unfairly attacked last year.
MATTHEWS: He is giving him a full Gillespie in other words, what he died the guy in Virginia to lost.
BAKER: Yes, I lost. Gillespie didn`t have the same kind of allegations, to be fair.
MATTHEWS: No. No but he also wouldn`t get out of campaign, wouldn`t be seen with the guy. So is he somehow the President you want to say you should be elected by, but you don`t want him to be seen with you? What is the nuance here, Annie, if you get in here?
MATTHEWS: Why do people want Trump to endorse them but they don`t want to be seen with him? Or he doesn`t want to be seen with them.
LINSKEY: I wouldn`t imagine that --.
LINSKEY: Yes, I think it`s a bit of the opposite where I think Roy Moore would, you know, welcome Donald Trump with open arms down there. I mean, this is a lifeline for his campaign.
With Gillespie in Virginia, I mean, there was a bit more ambivalence about whether Trump would be really helpful for him because you have all these suburban voters. But at this point, I mean, Roy Moore is a Republican on life support. And if he is able -- if he wins down there, which he may very well do, I mean, I think absolutely Donald Trump is going the take credit for that and, you know, just swim in it. And as well he should. I mean, the polls that have come out since Trump has been supportive of Roy Moore have switched and have changed the dynamic down there quite a bit.
MATTHEWS: We have had one upset in Alabama recently.
Anyway. Meanwhile, some Republican senators all but campaigning against Moore. South Carolina`s Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both from South Carolina. Both called on Moore to exit the race for the good of the Republican Party and the country. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don`t know what winning looks like with Roy Moore. If he wins, we get the baggage of him winning and it becomes a story every day about whether or not you believe the women or Roy Moore should he stay in the Senate, should he be expelled.
SEN. TIM SCOTT, SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s pretty clear to me the best thing Roy Moore could do for the country is to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Gene, explain the new south, will you? I mean, they are not that many miles apart between South Carolina. Is South Carolina now to the left of Alabama? It seems like it.
ROBINSON: Apparently. Look, the senators from South Carolina are part of the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment is at war with the Republican base in many ways. And it`s a Republican base in Alabama that is supporting Roy Moore. And look, look at Roy Moore`s ads. I mean, his campaign right now is more against Mitch McConnell than it is against the Democrats. It`s an extraordinary thing.
I just wanted to comment one other aspect of this whole story, though, which is the idea from Sarah Sanders today that winning an election voids anything that you did before. Completely voids all these allegations, these credible allegations of sexual misconduct against the President and presumably if Roy Moore were to win, would void the allegations against him. That`s nonsense. It`s not true. It doesn`t just make it all go away.
MATTHEWS: You know, Gene, that`s why you are a great columnist. Because this is a real turn in the wind, that now if you get elected, then everything you said is true, no matter how dishonest it was. It reminds me. I watched a football game this weekend where a quarterback jumped up in the air and threw the ball over two lines of scrimmage and hit the guy in the end zone. I said we have seen something close to the forward pass this weekend. Brand-new.
Anyway you caught the pivot in history there. And thank you. I don`t want to have too many comparisons here.
Eugene Robinson, Annie Linskey, and Peter Baker. Good work on the Times again.
Coming up, attorneys for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have stopped talking to Donald Trump`s legal team, signaling Flynn may have flipped to become a witness for special prosecutor Robert Mueller. What does this mean for Trump and Mueller`s investigation? That`s ahead.
Plus Senator Al Franken says he has a long way to go to win back the trust of his supporters. His renewed apology comes as House Democratic Nancy Pelosi is under new criticism of her defense of congressman John Conyers.
And Donald Trump uses a ceremony honoring the Navajo code talkers who helped us win World War II to revive his oft repeated nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren. And Senator Warren has responded.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. It is about his Merry Christmas to the top one percent.
And this is "Hardball," where the action is.
[19:16:07] MATTHEWS: Roy Moore is back on the campaign trail tonight. Meanwhile, he is out with a new ad, slamming liberal elites and the Republican establishment. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five state campaigns, 40 years of honorable service. Roy Moore has been intensely scrutinized and not a hint of scandal. But four weeks before the election, false allegations, a scheme by liberal elites and the Republican establishment to protect their big government trough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
[19:18:45] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." There are potential signs of another shoe to drop in the Trump Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. NBC News has confirmed the reporting from "The New York Times" that lawyers for Michael T. Flynn notified the President`s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel`s investigation according to four people involved in the case. An indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.
There are good reasons why Flynn could strike a deal. He has a lot of potential legal exposure. And as we learned this month, Mueller has gathered another evidence to bring charges in the investigation.
However, Trump`s defenders have publicly downplayed any possible consequences for the President himself. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow warn that one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the President.
And a White House official told NBC News there is no concern at the White House that Flynn will implicate the President.
ABC news also reports that Flynn`s lawyer met with Mueller`s team this morning.
I`m joined right now by two MSNBC contributors. Matt Apuzzo broke the story in "The New York Times" and Barbara McQuade is a former federal prosecutor.
Let`s get the news, Matt. What do we know now factually in terms of the situation with Flynn, his attorneys and their relations with the White House attorneys?
MATT APUZZO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Sure.
It`s common practice in these complicated white-collar investigations for people involved in the case, whether it`s witnesses or subjects, to have either formal agreements or informal agreements to share information, kind of keep each other abreast about what`s going on in the investigation.
Last week, Michael Flynn`s lawyers cut off President Trump and his lawyers and said, we can`t play ball anymore. And that`s a clear sign that Michael Flynn is either cooperating with Mueller or is negotiating some sort of cooperation agreement with Bob Mueller.
Now, of course, that can change. Those deals can fall apart. But that`s the state of play.
MATTHEWS: And so you don`t buy this other report that they were meeting today, the White House people with the Flynn lawyers?
APUZZO: Well, these are conversations that are going to be ongoing. And, certainly, if a deal does get struck, then they`re going to be happening again and again.
MATTHEWS: OK, I`m sorry.
So, these are conversations between Flynn lawyers and Mueller`s lawyers. It`s not between -- there is no interplay now between the White House lawyers for the president and those for Michael Flynn?
What happened is, Michael Flynn said: Sorry, can`t talk anymore. Can`t be part of our previous deal -- an indication that Michael Flynn was going to be talking to Bob Mueller.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Barbara on this.
Barbara McQuade, thank you for your expertise here.
We have been waiting a long time with the speculation, I will call it that, or even more so the belief that Flynn was vulnerable to being squeezed, and that his squeezing would lead perhaps to his testimony against the president. How do you see this latest news?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, well, I agree with Matt that it does seem like the most likely scenario here is that there is some cooperation going on.
And the reports that there was a meeting today between Flynn`s lawyers and the Mueller team suggests that they are going down that path of providing information to reach some sort of cooperation agreement.
You know, it seems like a turning point may have been when there was reporting that Flynn`s son faced some exposure. Flynn himself may have said: I`m a tough guy. I can take it. I don`t mind going to prison.
But when his son started facing some criminal exposure, that might be the thing that provided the inducement for him to cooperate.
MATTHEWS: Now, how is this done in the backroom when they sit there, prosecutor to attorney, defense attorney? Do they inch it along? Do they just -- I mean, it is like an interrogation? How do they move a witness toward what they want or find out what the witness has, rather?
MCQUADE: Well, the first step is usually some sort of proffer agreement, where the prosecution says, come in and tell us what you know, and we will agree not to use your statements against you, because we want to evaluate what you can tell us.
One, we want to evaluate your credibility.
MATTHEWS: That`s use immunity.
MCQUADE: That`s right, use immunity.
Does it match up with other facts that we know, so we can assess your credibility? And then also making an evaluation of, what`s this worth? Are you just telling us things we already know, or are you telling us new things that could be valuable to us in our investigation that would qualify as what is known as substantial assistance, in which case we`d be willing to give you something, some sort of leniency, in exchange for that?
So, that first step is, witness, you come to us, target, you come to us and tell us what you know under this use immunity agreement, and then we will take it one step further from there.
MATTHEWS: And would this have to be in open court, in court? Would they have to give this testimony -- in other words, would Michael Flynn, the general, have to testify against someone in open court, perhaps even the president?
MCQUADE: The first step would be to just talk in a conference room to see what they know. But it could ultimately lead to that.
The next step might be to testify before a grand jury. And to receive full credit in a case that is going to trial, then, yes, that could be part of the agreement, that he would have to provide sworn truthful testimony at a trial.
MATTHEWS: Matt, what do we know about the context? Has the president been talking? I remember, right after Flynn was fired, basically, he was fired, the president made an effort to sort of pat him on the back, keep in touch, publicly supportive, trying to keep the ties open between the two of them.
APUZZO: Yes. And the White House has been signaling for some time here that, no matter what happens with Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, no matter what happens with Michael Flynn, the president is not concerned. These guys don`t have anything that they can offer against the president.
And, frankly, Michael Flynn`s exposure here includes matters that aren`t directly related to the president, undisclosed lobbying related to Turkey. So, the president and his team are saying, yes, sure, he is going in and he is talking to prosecutors. That doesn`t mean he is giving up anything on the president.
MATTHEWS: Well, they can put him away for the FARA act, this Foreign Agents Registration Act. They could hit him on something like that and throw the book at him or threaten to, right?
Couldn`t they, Barbara, threaten to throw the book at him on what would normally be let go as maybe an oversight and they would say, no, this was a criminal decision on your part not to register as a foreign agent, and we`re going to push you against the wall unless you tell us what we want?
MCQUADE: Yes, so it seems that there is exposure under that, sort of the same charges that we saw with Paul Manafort with respect to the failure to disclose your lobbying activities on behalf of a foreign government.
Based on reporting we have seen, it seems like they have already got charges there. But we have also seen evidence of perhaps even more serious charges, the conversation about kidnapping Fethullah Gulen out of Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, sure.
MCQUADE: The information that -- and the information that Sally Yates provided in her testimony before Congress, when she was concerned that Flynn might have been compromised by the Russians.
So, there may be even more activity that could bring with it more criminal exposure in terms of a harsher sentence. And so all that, I think, would be explored by Mueller.
I don`t think he wants to be done with the quick and easy FARA charge if there is perhaps other more serious crimes.
MATTHEWS: Remind us of what Attorney General Yates had on him. What was that thing with the Russians that she thought he was guilty of?
MCQUADE: Well, you may recall that Sally Yates came and testified in May before Congress about her conversation with Don McGahn, the White House counsel.
And although much of the content of that was classified, so she wasn`t able to get into the details of it in a public setting, what she said was that statements that Flynn had made and had told to Vice President Pence appeared to be not truthful because of other information that she knew that had been brought to her attention by the FBI.
And that information caused her to believe that Flynn might have been compromised by the Russians. So we don`t know exactly what that is. But I will bet you Robert Mueller does, because he would have access to all of that information.
MATTHEWS: Matt, are you on top of that too? Do you see all the possible exposure that Flynn faces if he doesn`t come clean?
APUZZO: Yes, there is no question that he had -- he had some serious exposure.
And, as you said earlier, well, our reporting shows that Flynn really was concerned because his son also had criminal exposure here.
APUZZO: Michael Flynn Jr. was essentially his father`s chief of staff. And so a lot of these meetings and a lot of these financial deals, if Michael Flynn was aware of it, involved in it, his son was too.
And we have been told that Michael Flynn has said in recent days and weeks to friends that he was concerned about his son. And so this does seem to be an instance where Mueller`s putting pressure, looking for pressure points to apply. And, in this case, it was his son.
And you can see a situation where Michael Flynn, he is one of the most important advisers to the presidential campaign. He is the architect of the America-first policy. He is supposed to be the bedrock of the president`s national security team.
I`m not sure, if I`m Bob Mueller, that I can go through that investigation and not get a sense of what Michael Flynn knows.
MATTHEWS: Well, just because he has done some bad things doesn`t make him a bad man. We will see. It`s going to be very important. I think he may end up being a witness for the prosecution.
Thank you so much, Matt Apuzzo of "The New York Times" and Barbara McQuade, for your expertise.
Up next: Allegations of sexual misconduct continue to rock Capitol Hill. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is under fire right now, this Monday, for what many call a tone-deaf response to accusations against Congressman John Conyers yesterday on "Meet the Press," this as Senator Al Franken returns to work today and vows to regain the public`s trust.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.
More than 100,000 people are fleeing an erupting volcano in Bali that has forced the island`s international airport to close for a second day.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson says he may vote against the GOP`s tax bill in the Budget committee Tuesday unless his concerns about the legislation are resolved.
And the U.K.`s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle have officially announced their engagement. Markle`s engagement ring includes two diamonds that belonged to Harry`s mother, Princess Diana -- back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I know there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust.
And I know that`s going to take time from these stories. It`s been clear that there are some women -- and one is too many -- who feel that I have done something disrespectful that`s hurt them. And for that, I am -- I am tremendously sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, apologizing to the women who have accused him of sexual harassment, including a news anchor who said he forcibly kissed her and three women who have said that Franken grabbed their backsides while meeting him in public.
With allegations of sexual misconduct continuing to surface, there has been a renewed focus on the men in Congress. Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers stepped down yesterday from his position as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, but continued to deny the allegations made against him, even after his office confirmed that it issued a settlement to a woman who said she was fired after resisting Conyers` advances.
And questions arose about how the Democratic leadership handles allegations of sexual harassment when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that she didn`t know if she believed Conyers` accusers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused -- and was it one accusation or it is two? I think there has to be -- John Conyers is an icon in our country.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Do you believe John Conyers?
PELOSI: I don`t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.
TODD: So, you don`t know if you believe the accusations?
PELOSI: That`s for the Ethics Committee to review. But I believe he understands what is at stake here. And he will do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt.
Kasie, I have loved your reporting on this. You have had a great perspective every time I have heard on this.
So, the tricky thing here is a number of factors. There is the charge that have not certainly been proven yet, although they seem to be acknowledged in a way, or the settlement was made because this woman didn`t do what the chairman wanted her to do.
But then there is the Black Caucus power. I worked on the Hill all those years. I know the enormous power of the Black Caucus within the Democratic Caucus and the sensitivity about matters of seniority, the ranking membership, chairmanships, which these members spent decades to achieve. Very sensitive about anyone being pushed aside.
What happened yesterday to get Conyers, who is a very stubborn guy, to give up his ranking membership on that committee, on Judiciary? What pushed it?
KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, you`re absolutely right about the politics at play here.
And it`s part of what Nancy Pelosi stepped into what every Democrat I talked to has privately said was a pretty big mistake on her part in that "Meet the Press" interview.
And the reality is, a lot of her power -- she was speaker, now she is Democratic leader -- has come from the Congressional Black Caucus. And she has come under fire in the past. She pushed Charlie Rangel out of the Ways and Means Committee when he had some ethics problems.
And she has been treading lightly. And my sources tell me she has been working behind the scenes throughout this process to try to encourage this outcome starting on Tuesday when these allegations first came out. My understanding, based on my sources, is that there was an agreement that he would step aside today.
But after that interview that she did with Chuck Todd, it was made clear that the timing of that needed to accelerate. And it was, I think, around this issue of sensitivity to the CBC that you bring up.
And we should note, too, that there was some pressure from members of the CBC, who said, hey, you should step aside while this investigation unfolds.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about Al Franken, because I think Franken has - - I don`t even know the -- I know the circumstances. I accept them almost prima facie. I don`t think there has really been a serious dispute about what he did in these circumstances on the USO tour, the seven tours he took, what he did in that case in that rehearsal. It seems to me what happened, happened.
So, we`re left with these facts, the one about the time where he grabbed some woman at a state fair. That seems to be what happened. He hasn`t denied it. He says he can`t remember it.
But assuming that these cases have merit, it seems to me the Senate is left in the Ethics Committee with a couple of options. They can reprimand him. They can censure him. Joseph McCarthy was censured, basically. That would be extreme.
So we`re talking about whether he gets reprimanded or not. Isn`t that sort of the lay of the game here, of the situation?
HUNT: I think that`s right, Chris.
I think part of this, an undertone that people aren`t necessarily talking about is, some of the cases we have seen that, when there is a problem, there is a serial problem. There`s a lot of other people out there who can come forward.
MATTHEWS: Yes, fair enough.
HUNT: And I think that Senator Franken waited for 10 days. And I think an ethics investigation could potentially uncover more.
I think there is more of a comfort level now that they have an understanding of what actions were taken that women thought were inappropriate. And I think you saw Franken approach that with what I interpreted to be real contrition and embarrassment today on Capitol Hill, coming back up.
He seemed like a diminished figure. He is somebody with a big personality who has a famous past as a comedian. And he had just started to come out and sort of be that comedian again in public. He sort of set it aside and tried to run as the straight man, the unfunny guy previously.
He developed some credibility as a politician and was coming back out into kind of the fuller personality of what we might remember Al Franken from being on "SNL" and other places.
That clearly has evaporated in the face of all of this. So, I mean, we will see what the investigation, the ethics investigation, uncovers in that particular case. I think that they have some options. They could, as you say, reprimand him.
Expelling him would be very rare. Censure would be very rare.
HUNT: Obviously, we have talked about expulsion in the potential case of Roy Moore. I think that would be an extraordinarily extreme example.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think not since the Civil War have they gone that far. And I think we have to keep our eye, as viewers and as me in my role, what are the charges? Have they been proven thoroughly?
Even though this isn`t -- we don`t try people in the press. I think that the charge to someone who was fired because they wouldn`t have sex with a chairman of a committee or a ranking member is an awful, awful situation. What we know about Al is, we know what he did.
And it looks like there is not a dispute over facts. We have to look at that and see if there -- as you say, I think very smartly, if is there a serial problem here, if there is a behavior problem, which also could merit a lot more serious sanctioning here, a lot more serious.
Thank you so much, Kasie Hunt. I have loved your reporting.
Up next: Donald Trump uses a ceremony honoring Native Americans, of all people, to once again revive his ugly nickname or idiot nickname, because idiots would use this nickname, Elizabeth Warren, for her.
Anyway, that`s straight ahead.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump used an event recognizing Native Americans to once again revive his oft repeated nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren. Trump was speaking at a White House ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers who served in World War II when he referenced Warren, saying they call her Pocahontas. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago, they call her Pocahontas. But you know what? I like you, because you are special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, notice how he didn`t even accept authorship of the nickname Pocahontas.
Well, Senator Warren responded on MSNBC this afternoon. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur. Look, Donald Trump does this over and over, thinking somehow he is going to shut me up with it. It hadn`t worked in the past. It is not going to work in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined by the HARDBALL round table tonight. Dana Milbank, columnist for "The Washington Post." Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, and David Catanese is a senior politics writer for the "U.S. News and World Report".
Let`s go to David on this.
David, I think we see the beginning of a 2020 matchup here. What do you think?
DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: Oh, that would be great, wouldn`t it?
But put some context into this about how Pocahontas evolved. It was during the 2012 campaign of Elizabeth Warren where she had it listed that she was Native American to try to apply to law schools to be a professor. A genealogist dug it up and found she is 1/32 Native American. And Republicans said, hey, she was using this to try to become a minority hire.
So, I think for Trump, it`s word association. He`s in this meeting -- he`s in this event at the White House event with Native Americans. He doesn`t have any other association with Native Americans. So, the first thing he goes to is the insult to the senator from Massachusetts.
And, you know, I just think this is how this guy. It`s nicknames. It`s the easy insult. And that`s what he went with today.
MATTHEWS: Anita, he seemed like he was afraid of the face of those Native Americans, some of them very heroic people for our country who -- because he had to say they call her Pocahontas, which is a lie. He calls her Pocahontas but was afraid to say that to her face.
So, even he has a little bit of shame here. Maybe? What do you think?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Oh, I don`t know. I think David is right. I mean, he is just trying to think of something to say as he is there, he ad libs a little bit. Clearly, that couldn`t have been in his prepared remarks. It jogged something in his memory. He thought about it.
You know, there is a lot of news today about his pick for the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Elizabeth Warren helped put that into place. Perhaps he was just thinking about her and it jogged something with memory and he thought he`d just -- he`d just say it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Dana, I think he gets up every morning and besides thinking about himself, which he does quickly, he also thinks who might humiliate him in 2020. I do think he thinks about her because I think she is one of the people who could stand on the platform next to him and match the stuff, the mud back and forth, she can throw it right back at him, maybe with more vem (ph).
And I do think he doesn`t want her to exist on this planet, basically, and that`s why he keeps going at her.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I do think that`s true, Chris, although it`s hard to know whether anything is sort of premeditated in Donald Trump`s head. I got up this morning and saw the day book and just jokingly thought to myself, I wondered if he would pull the Pocahontas line again. You can`t parody the man because he parodies himself.
I don`t think people maybe appreciate just how outrageous it is because we`re talking about Native Americans. Imagine this president, you know, the Hanukkah candle lighting in a couple of weeks, telling to the assembled Jews, yes, we`ve got one of those over in the Senate, Chuck Schumer. They call him Heimie (ph). Can you just imagine the reaction?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I get that part.
MILBANK: And then this just blows over.
MATTHEWS: You know what, as they say in baseball, David Catanese, he`s hitting it for the circuit here. I think he has gotten African-Americans with his birther crap and then he went after Mexican Americans with they`re all rapists, and anyone after Muslims, they`re all terrorists. And now, he is working his way back to the people who built this country in the first place.
I mean, he is hitting all the points here.
CATANESE: He is.
MATTHEWS: Of enmity.
CATANESE: I`m not even sure he`s aware that this is offensive to some people. I don`t really even know if it`s deliberate. I think he thinks it`s funny joke because Pocahontas is a cartoon character. I mean, you know --
CATANESE: It`s hard to get in the president`s head on this. But when he is riffing like this, I don`t even know if he understands the gravity.
MATTHEWS: Well, his aim wasn`t here. His aim wasn`t at Native Americans. And now because he is speaking in front of a group of Native Americans hero, obviously, now, they have to share this thing from the insult, even though the initial insult was somewhat comical because it was directed at somebody who had said they were part Native American to get ahead. They had done it and that`s a fact.
CATANESE: Right, and they`re questioning. And, look, Republicans are pushing out tonight, the White House is pushing out that they don`t believe Elizabeth Warren is authentically Native American. They are still contesting that.
If you back and look in 2012, "The Washington Post" didn`t even fact check it because it was very hard to. So, they`re trying to focus on that fact, that she --
MATTHEWS: Oh no.
CATANESE: -- fibbed this to get ahead years ago.
MATTHEWS: You mean when she said she was 1/32 to get a affirmative action opportunity, 1/32?
CATANESE: To get a affirmative action opportunity. And the genealogists said that she was 1 /32. That`s the statistic from the New England Genealogist Society. That`s the best they could come to on this.
So, people have thrown their hands up on the facts. And that`s sort of what Republicans are arguing, that she started this by fabricating it in the beginning when she was trying to get a job at Harvard.
MATTHEWS: Well, Anita, here we are in D.C. and here we are continually, but not lately, but talking about Redskins as the name of the football team which played on this Thanksgiving which a lot of people felt was quite ironic. The Indians, the Native Americans, must go, wait a minute, we gave them the food. We gave them the turkey. We helped us from starving on Thanksgiving and now they name their team the Redskins and they`re playing on Thanksgiving.
It does go round and round, Anita.
KUMAR: It sure does. I mean, just look what happened today at the White House briefing. I mean, I was there. You know, this is the day they wanted to talk about tax reform and here once again Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to be talking about something that Donald Trump said just a few minutes earlier.
She -- this was one of the shortest briefings she`s had in weeks, I think. It was 16 or 17 minutes. And most of the questions were about this. Or not about the topics they wanted to talk about today, again.
MATTHEWS: What a strange job she has.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will be giving us some scoops you`ll be talking about tomorrow.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I`m speaking tonight at Harvard University`s John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics. Mike Barnicle from up here in Boston is moderating my conversation with Carrie Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, about my book, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit."
Now that we`re past Thanksgiving, I`m urging you to get your copies of Bobby Kennedy. It`s a beautiful book, a great read for today and to have on your shelf for 20 years from now. A perfect gift this season for people loyal to this show. It`s about the kind of unifying moral leader we need today, the kind we lack.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the hardball round table.
Dana, tell me something I don`t know.
MILBANK: Well, I got a little "drain the swamp" update for you. The Trump administration lawyer who wrote the memo justifying Trump`s takeover of the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau, it turns out three months ago, he was representing a foreign payday lender in a case with the CFPB, which had accused that foreign payday lender of abusive lending practices.
MATTHEWS: Oh, most of them are pretty nice people, aren`t they?
KUMAR: Sure. Several Trump staffers who left the White House earlier this year left without filling out their required financial documents. It`s called a termination report --
KUMAR: -- listing their financial -- you know, finances. And it is something that has to be done. It`s required by federal law. And some of those people include Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon.
MATTHEWS: Well, throw the book at them.
CATANESE: Chris, there is a new candidate in the Alabama Senate race. Just today, Lee Busby is a 60-year-old retired marine. So, if you`re a disillusioned Republican who doesn`t want to vote for Roy Moore, can`t vote for Doug Jones, there is another option for you. Lee Busby is his name. He is a write-in.
MATTHEWS: Well, this looks like a death knell for Roy Moore.
Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank. Thank you, Anita Kumar and David Catanese.
When we return, let me finish tonight with the "Trump Watch". He won`t like this one, I can tell you.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Monday, November 27th, 2017.
This tax bill Trump is pushing is an insult to democracy. It`s Trump saying merry Christmas to the country`s top 1 percent. The Trump Tower tax cut for the top donors to the Republican Party. A payoff for service rendered and nothing more.
Why, you have to ask yourself, is he getting rid of the estate tax? You to should know so that a couple with more than $11 million to give their kids will be able to do it tax-free. More than 11 million to pass on because that`s the amount they can give under present law. Trump wants to double that amount to $22 million.
Now, who would he be doing that for? And while he is giving this huge bonanza to America`s dynasties, he is killing the individual mandate, the underpinning of the Affordable Care Act. Why would he do that?
Because it allows him to cut a third of a trillion dollars in taxes from those at the very top. It helps give corporations a tax cut from a rate of 35 percent down to just 20 percent.
Democrats are unlikely to vote for this bill. Republican senators are going to do it themselves. If your senator is one of those giving this bill the thumbs-up, be sure to remember that, and that he or she did it.
A Republican candidate for president once infamously mocked what he called the 47 percent who depend on the federal government for special breaks -- presumably he meant those lower down on the income scale. But at least Mitt Romney was only talking out of school. Donald Trump is now giving the lion`s share of these tax cuts to the top 1 percent right in your face.
If you think this is a good idea, write your Republican senator. Tell him, good work. Keep it up. If you don`t think this Trump Tower tax cut is such a good idea, tell him or her that too.
Here are the Republican senators to keep an eye on this week: Bob Corker, Rand Paul, Susan Collins, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Ron Johnson.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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