Show: HARDBALL Date: November 29, 2017 Guest: Gregory Meeks, Annie Karni, Ken Vogel, Heidi Przybyla, Katie Townsend
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Matt Lauer, terminated. Let`s play "Hardball." Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Matt Lauer, the long-time anchor of the "Today" show and icon of morning television was fired by NBC News. It came after NBC received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
According NBC News press Andy Lack quote "it represented after serious review, a clear violation of our company standards. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he has been in NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident," close quote. Well, Matt Lauer has not publicly commented on his firing. This morning his "Today" show co-host celebs Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb reacted to the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, TV HOST, TODAY SHOW: We are heartbroken. I am heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friends and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here. And I am heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation they have behaved badly. And I don`t know the answer to that. But I do know that this reckoning so many organizations have been going through is important. It`s long overdue. And it must result in work places where all women, all people feel safe and respected.
HODA KOTB, TV HOST, TODAY SHOW: I have known Matt for 15 years. And I have loved him as a friend and as a colleague. And again just like you were saying Savannah, it`s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know who walks in this building every single day. We were both woken up with the news kind of pre-dawn. And we are trying to process it and trying to make sense of it. But it will take some time for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon, "Variety" published a story in which three unnamed women accused Lauer of sexual harassment. "Variety" conducted a two-month investigation and talked to dozens of current and former staffers. And according to his report for Lauer, work and sex were intertwined. His behavior included exposing himself to a female employee in his office and inviting women who work for NBC to his hotel room while covering the Olympics.
Meanwhile, the "New York Times" reported NBC received at least two more complaints today related to Lauer.
Quote "one complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her. She told the Times, she felt helpless because she didn`t want to lose her job."
Well today, NBC said in a statement, we can say unequivocally, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer`s conduct.
Well, here`s NBC`s Stephanie Gosk with the latest.
STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The allegation of inappropriate sexual conduct was made Monday night. Roughly 24 hours later, Matt Lauer, anchor of NBC`s "Today" show for 20 years was fired.
In a statement, NBC News chairman Andy lack shared few specifics about the accusations, but wrote, it represented after serious review, a clear violation of our company`s standards. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he has been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.
GUTHRIE: This is a sad morning here at "today" and NBC News.
GOSK: On the "Today" show this morning, Lauer`s co-anchors reacted to the news.
GUTHRIE: For the moment, all we can say is we are heartbroken. I`m heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here. And I`m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
MATT LAUER, FORMER TODAY SHOW HOST: I`m Matt Lauer at Olympic park in Sochi.
GOSK: The alleged misconduct began at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and continued after, according to an NBC spokesperson.
The lawyer for the accuser had this to say. In part, I am in awe of the courage my client showed to be the first to raise a complaint and to do so without making any demands other than the company do the right thing.
Today "Variety" magazine published a report laying out a pattern of alleged sexual misconduct by Lauer, including exposing himself to an employee in his office and inviting women employed by NBC late at night to his hotel room covering the Olympics.
Three unnamed women tell "Variety" they were sexually harassed. Their accounts, "Variety" says, corroborated by friends or colleagues. The magazine also reports that several women made complaints to executives at NBC which were ignored.
In September, Lauer interviewed Bill O`Reilly who had just been fired from FOX News over allegations of sexual misconduct.
LAUER: Doesn`t it seem safe to assume the people at FOX News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for to you stay on at FOX News?
BILL O`REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: That`s a false assumption.
LAUER: But you don`t let your number one guy go.
O`REILLY: Sure you do.
LAUER: Unless you have information that you think makes him -- there that`s not true.
GOSK: For NBC News the star anchor`s departure is an enormous loss. Lauer has been the face of the network during pivotal news events, influencing the world`s most influential people.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s NBC News` Stephanie Gosk.
For more, I am joined by NBC senior media editor Claire Atkinson.
And Claire, thank you for this story. It`s what it is or something more here we should know about, the context, who knew about this, whatever?
CLAIRE ATKINSON, SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER, NBC NEWS: I mean, I think people always ask those questions about who knew what when? And I think with these allegations, it`s very difficult to know what`s going on. They happened in private. Unless women very forcefully come to management and say do something about this. I think all companies are in these situations where, you know, there is a he said-she said. I believe NBC had a very long discussion with Matt Lauer yesterday to get to the bottom of it. He apparently is very remorseful. We have had no apology, no comment, no statement whatsoever from Matt Lauer today at all. So I guess take that for what it is.
MATTHEWS: Well, Andy Lack put out that statement this morning. I got this morning at 6:49 before I went on another interview program. And I have to tell you, I got a clear indication reading Andy lack`s comment that basically was saying that this act that they were describing that Matt had performed or been involved with was enough in itself for dismissal.
ATKINSON: Right. There is no details on what that act is other than it is inappropriate sexual behavior at the workplace. So a lot of folks are left with the question of what exactly happened. I know "Variety" laid out some pretty ugly details this afternoon. But as you said, we don`t know what happened with this particular instance with this lady.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. It is good to have you on, NBC`s Claire Atkinson.
We will continue to follow this story as news develops, of course.
Meanwhile, as Congress continues to grapple with its own issues of sexual misconduct. Prominent Democratic lawmaker John Conyers is back at Detroit today under growing pressure to resign.
Well, late this evening, Conyers speak to - Conyers` attorney told NBC News that he was still thinking through his options but has no plans to resign at this time. This comes in the wake of new allegations from Deanna Maher, a former Conyers` staffer who told the Detroit News, the newspaper, that Conyers made unwanted sexual advances toward her in three occasions when she worked for him 20 years ago. She described the incident to in this NBC News, let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEANNA MAHER, REP. JOHN CONYERS ACCUSER: He came up this way and his right hand went up my dress and my thighs. And I`m there in front of an audience, this is an audience, an audience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he do?
MAHER: He whispered into my ear. He says, something to the effect, I didn`t know you had such great legs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Conyers denies all allegations of (INAUDIBLE) lawyer, by the way in a statement issued to the Detroit news said that his client quote "confident, that he will be exonerated because he maintains he has not done anything wrong."
A total of four women, however, have accused the congressman of inappropriate behavior. This comes as the House passed the bill mandating sexual harassment training. They did that today. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi took to the floor just before that vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Brave women in every corner of the country and in every industry are making their voices heard. As members of Congress, we have a moral duty to show real effective leader scholarship to foster a climate of respect and dignity in the workplace with absolutely zero tolerance for harassment discrimination or abuse. Anything less is unacceptable, my colleagues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For the latest, I`m joined by NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt.
Kasie, I have the sense the leadership is playing catch-up ball here since Sunday. They really weren`t on top of this. They weren`t ready for it. They were caught wrong footed to use a British expression. And now they are trying to get it straight what they intend to do.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: I think that that`s right, Chris. And especially for Nancy Pelosi who has come closer to the oval office than any woman. She is the only woman that has ever been third in line to the presidency. And I think the comments she made on Sunday, where she referred to Conyers as an icon and said she wasn`t sure who the accusers were, really made a lot of women that I have talked to on Capitol Hill feel deeply betrayed and feel as though a top female leader was out of step at the moment the country is facing.
And clearly, this is not a partisan problem. You have Nancy Pelosi. You also have House speaker Paul Ryan speaking out today about sexual harassment. He and his wife, both former congressional staffers saying that there is no place for harassment in the Congress. So they are going to review the workplace rules here.
But the reality here is this is still a place where denials are more prevalent than people holding themselves or being held accountable in some of these instances. And it is not a partisan problem.
John Conyers is a Democrat. Roy Moore, of course, running in the state of Alabama, a Republican. The allegations against him are different. Al Franken, another Democrat. Many Democrats I talked to point to the President as somebody who has denied multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against him. And one of the leaders of the congressional black caucus today when asked, what was the difference between politician here and people in other businesses, entertainment media who are held accountable? Mr. Clyburn, Jim Clyburn, the number three Democrat in the White House said, well, who elected them? And I think that that is one of the things that everyone here on Capitol Hill is really grappling with because this is a problem of behavior. It is a problem of power and power difference.
And really, I think there is a realization setting in of the depth and breadth of the problem that the country is facing as a whole. And I think that there is appoint where they know that they have to do something about it. And there are a lot of questions about how and what happens next. But I think the tide is definitely turning, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much, NBC`s Kasie Hunt on Capitol Hill.
Earlier today, members of the congressional black caucus, a group Conyers helped found, held a previously-scheduled meeting. And yesterday represent Cedric Richman (ph), the head of the CBC said he wouldn`t press Conyers to resign.
In a statement issued to the press, he said, I agreed with his decision to step down as ranking member at the House judiciary committee at this time. I also told him that I encourage and expect him to fully cooperate with the Ethnics investigation. Richmond added that Conyers said he would.
For more, I am joined by a New York Democratic congressman and CBC member Gregory Meeks.
You were a prosecutor, sir. What is the fair way to deal with this?
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: I think the fair way to deal with it is first of all, Mr. Conyers has maintained his innocence and he wants to go through the ethics process. And so I think that he has to go through the ethics process the same way that we would and anyone would. And that determination would be, so he has to make the determination himself as to whether or not he wants to openly agree to work with whatever that process is. Or, you know, and I also believe that the women that are involved have to be able to participate in that process also.
MATTHEWS: Is he getting any pressure within the CBC?
MEEKS: I think it is up to Mr. Conyers. Mr. Conyers and his family needs to make a determination of what to do. I said it earlier the reason I came on this show is a couple reason. Number one because I said earlier, I thought that he should step down as a ranking member which I still think was the right thing to do.
And then he has to make the other decisions, himself. He has the right to do that, if anyone would. But I also came over because I think being a part of the United States Congress, we got two prevalent issues that in America that we got to have a conversation about. One of them definitely is sexism. No matter whether it`s Congress and the news media, sexism and racism.
MATTHEWS: Where does the racism come in here?
MEEKS: Well, the racism comes in because we looked the, and I brought the report, because I was concerned about being transparency, et cetera, with reference to the office of compliance. And as I looked at the office of compliance, which I think is something that would be transparent. I want to look at - there was a section or two of claims of discrimination and/or harassment listed by protective categories. So I want to know what happened there. So there was ten cases, disability, there was nine, race and color, 31. These were adjudicated cases.
MATTHEWS: People who claim that they were prejudiced against by a member because of their race?
MEEKS: Well, a member or this is within the entire institution of Capitol Hill, it could be the capital police. It could be, you know, some other parts, but sex and gender was 19. So the two highest forms of claims of discrimination were, was race, 31 instances, and sex and gender 19 instances, which I think is reflective of a systemic problem in America that we have to address.
MATTHEWS: You think Mr. Conyers has been criticized here or charged because of his race?
MEEKS: No, I don`t think race has to do with it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Because I know that historically the congressional black caucus has been protective of seniority and making sure that the black member of the Congress do have the fullest possible opportunity represent themselves in the country.
MEEKS: I also, you know, understand Miss Guthrie when she talked about how close she was to Matt Lauer. For me, this is a difficult time. John Conyers has made America a better place, when you look at it, there would not be a Dr. King holiday for it wasn`t for John Conyers. But I think about what he did for Rosa Parks, but I think about all of the issues, you who he`s moved America forward. So this is a difficult day. And what may or may not happen is difficult. It`s difficult to even have this conversation. I do know sexism by anybody is wrong and cannot be tolerated.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on. This is not an easy time, very much. Thank you so much. He was Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York.
Coming up, stunning reporting by the "New York Times" and Donald Trump`s embracive conspiracy theories. He is back to questioning again believe it or not, of course you believe it, Barack Obama`s birth certificate again.
Also he said he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud. And he has told recently the voice the ""Access Hollywood"" tape wasn`t that of Donald Trump, isn`t that something? Full of squarely here, isn`t it? And that`s ahead.
Plus, we learned this week that Donald Trump paid over a million bucks to settle a class action lawsuit brought by undocumented polish workers, people working here illegally who helped clear the way for Trump tower. He kept all that secret. Those workers were paid as little as $4 an hour and they were paid it all less than half the union wage at that time.
And Trump had war with the Democrats over the tax plan and the budget standoff, even North Korea. In Trump`s mind it`s all the fault of the Democrats.
Finally, let me finish with Trump watch. He is not going to like this one.
And this is "Hardball," where the action is.
MATTHEWS: "Politico" reports that President Trump is considering ways to help boost the campaign of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. While the President has no plans to visit Alabama quote "the White House is considering flooding the state with robo-calls, emails and text messages in an offensive designed to activate the President`s supporters on Moore`s behalf."
The article goes on to say that President Trump has doubted the accounts of Moore`s female accusers and questioned why they are emerging just weeks before the election.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
While Donald Trump has long had a reputation for bending or exaggerating the fact, there is new evidence that he is now peddling outright falsehoods. "The New York Times" are reporting more about Trump`s revision his history when it comes to his on camera boast of sexual assault.
Quote "in recent day, Trump has continued to see doubt about his appearance on the Access Hollywood tape. Stunning his advisers. Shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump had told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording. `We don`t think that was my voice,` Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation."
"Access Hollywood" has stood by the authenticity of that now famous recording, and during the campaign Trump publicly admitted to saying those things.
But that`s not the only sign that the president is at odds with reality, as "The New York Times" also reports, in recent months, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama`s birth certificate.
This, of course, isn`t the first time the president has spread or initiated conspiracy theories without evidence to back them up. From the birther movement to the Kennedy assassination, here are some of his most far- fetched claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Do you accept that President Obama was born in the United States, is not Muslim?
TRUMP: No, I don`t know. I really don`t know.
Do you know that Hillary Clinton was a birther?
Father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being shot. The whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up.
QUESTION: You mentioned President Obama being the founder of ISIS. What did you mean by that and Hillary Clinton?
TRUMP: Exactly that. He`s the founder of ISIS.
But you have to be a citizen to vote. You have places where people just walk in and vote.
When you look at people that are registered, dead, illegal in two states and some cases maybe three states, we have a lot to look into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by two MSNBC political analysts, Robert Costa of "The Washington Post" and Heidi Przybyla of "USA Today."
Robert, you are a Trump watcher.
I don`t understand what he meant when he was going after Ted Cruz`s father, saying he was with Lee Harvey Oswald before Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. Lee Harvey Oswald was in jail before he was shot. And that`s after he shot Kennedy. Why would he say with him before he was shot? He said it twice. What does that mean?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t understand it at all. It doesn`t make any sense historically. And I have no other reporting on that.
But I think this is indicative that this is a president who indulges at times in conspiracy. It was seen throughout his campaign and throughout his presidency now. He is using social media at times to feed his own assumptions about different events happening in politics or history.
MATTHEWS: Well, how does he deal with facts about North Korea?
Here`s a real critical situation, maybe like the Cuban Missile Crisis. And we are asking him to discern reality from fantasy and rumor. And he continues over and over again to engage in belief, public belief, in crap, basically, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. In some weird way, his mother went over there and had the baby over there, so her son could be president by sneaking back over here, the craziest theory in the world that makes no internal logic.
And, of course, everything else he says, I don`t get it.
Anyway, Heidi Przybyla, how do we deal with a president who can`t discern reality from his own fantasies and conspiracy theories?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": Chris, with almost 20 years in this business, I can say that this has almost never happened to me before, where I actually have Republicans contacting me because they`re concerned about what`s going on with the president.
MATTHEWS: About his balance?
PRZYBYLA: With the tweets about going back to birtherism, about retweeting the alt-right anti-Muslim hate groups, denying that that is his own voice.
They are saying they are concerned that this is a compulsion that he can`t break, on addiction almost, to not only telling lies, but if you look at the way he talks and continues to tweet these things, actually believing the lie, which is a separate category.
MATTHEWS: You heard -- what is the -- now that you got this reporting out here, what do the people on the -- who are closer to him than we are, what do they make of it? Do they worry that he is unbalanced?
Do you think he`s Captain Queeg like in "The Caine Mutiny," who doesn`t have his -- everything together?
PRZYBYLA: Well, there`s concerns from a policy perspective, like you say, like with North Korea. Oh, let`s just let them launch the missiles and then, don`t worry, don`t worry, everybody, we will deal with it after.
MATTHEWS: We are handling it.
PRZYBYLA: We are handling it.
And then danger to our democracy, because if you see the model in Russia of how to erode a democracy is not by telling any one particular lie. It`s the accumulation of lies that exhausts the public, so that they give up on actually pressing for and demanding the facts and what is truth.
MATTHEWS: Well, this morning, President Trump also retweeted a series of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader of the far-right nationalist Britain First party.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president doing that, saying it was OK for him to repost those tweets without verifying the content and claims they contain. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does the president and White House have a responsibility to verify information before they retweet it out? Isn`t it fake news not to do that?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, again, whether it`s a real video, the threat is real. And that is what the president is talking about.
QUESTION: So it doesn`t matter if the video is fake?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, I`m not talking about the nature of the video. I think you`re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`re focusing on the wrong thing?
Anyway, the office of Britain`s prime minister respond today with this statement -- "Britain First seeks to divide communities in their use of hateful narratives, which peddle lies and stoke tensions. It is wrong for the president to have done this."
Robert, again, what do you make of it when he picks up something on social media that is being moved around by the right, by Ann Coulter or somebody in this case, and he just pushes it along? I know people that do this, but they`re not the president.
COSTA: Mrs. Huckabee Sanders likes to say these instances of the president tweeting these kind of inflammatory things is about a bigger picture he`s trying to make.
But let`s remember that these statements he makes on Twitter do have consequences, and the prime minister`s reaction is so telling, because the Anglo-American relationship remains one of the most central relationships in U.S. foreign policy, yet today it had a stumble.
You had the prime minister reacting in a negative way to the president of the United States. That`s a real consequence for an important alliance.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s like he doesn`t care.
Huckabee Sanders is a good spokesman for this president. I`m unfortunately saying that, but that`s filled with irony. It doesn`t seem to be ironic to her to say that the president doesn`t care about the fact that he speaks or retweets.
PRZYBYLA: Chris, the point here is whether or not this is true, because the purpose of this propaganda, of this anti-Muslim propaganda is to manufacture hate, to mislead and manufacture hate.
And if you look at the contents of those tweets, anyone who can navigate the Internet can immediately determine that these were false. You have the Dutch government also having put out tweets saying this young man, the one who was featured in one of the Trump retweets, is not even -- was born in the Netherlands and born and raised there.
He was not a Muslim migrant.
PRZYBYLA: And anyone who wanted to double-check that on the Internet could have.
COSTA: Yet, amid all that, yet amid all this that we are discussing, the Republicans continue to plow forward on their tax cut proposal.
It`s revealing that this is a party that, in spite of the president`s behavior, they believe he is useful to them as they pursue their agenda on Capitol Hill.
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s the goose that keeps laying the golden eggs, I guess.
But the question is -- well, anyway, "The Times" further reports that "Advisers say the president continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact. Mr. Trump`s journeys in to the realm of manufactured facts has been frequent enough that his own stamp has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump at meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain."
Heidi, here we have -- this is the thing I don`t know -- and both of you have to respond. Do the people around him know that you can`t trust him for facts and you just have to assume he is speaking metaphorically or generally or symbolically, that he knows the facts of what he is saying are not important to him?
PRZYBYLA: It sounds like that was the whole purpose in bringing Kelly around was to try and wall off some of the competing information that he was getting, so that at least they could try and control who was coming to him with information and make sure that he was surrounded by actual facts.
But when he goes into that black hole of the Internet and the Twitter sphere, he is retweeting things from these conspiracy Web sites.
MATTHEWS: I think for him to give the imprimatur to any tweet by putting it out by himself, he does give it some veracity to people on his side politically. And that`s a horrible thing, because he is selling stuff he doesn`t even believe in, himself.
Robert, last word.
COSTA: When you look at the president`s responses to North Korea and many military matters, he`s getting the counsel of Secretary Mattis and General Kelly. And you do see a limited amount of restraint.
And part of that, I am told by my sources inside of the White House, is they believe, on politics and most of the tweets, it`s OK if the president goes in his own direction, but, on foreign policy, they want him to take guidance, but even today we saw that`s not always the case.
MATTHEWS: How can he make proper judgment if he can`t have the facts in his head, Robert? How do you judge the facts if you don`t accept them?
COSTA: He`s a reactor. He is someone who consumes media information.
He has Dan Scavino, his social media director, sometimes alerting him things that pop up on Twitter or on Facebook. And he likes to react. This is the core -- one of the core qualities of his character.
MATTHEWS: But that`s not reality. That`s a lot of right-wingers and left- wingers in some cases passing around the same echo chamber nonsense that pleases them. It`s not an objective effort to discover the truth. Does he know that?
COSTA: And throughout his career -- well, throughout his career, Chris, we have seen that when it comes to his finances, the state of his business, the state of his celebrity, he has often created his own realities around him as a way of forwarding his own ambitions.
MATTHEWS: Well, that missile that just almost hit the Japanese mainland was real. It`s real. It went 3,000 miles into the air. It can travel long intercontinental distances. We better get some thinking into the White House somehow. Maybe it has to be force-fed through Mad Dog Mattis.
Anyway, Robert Costa, thank you, and Heidi Przybyla.
Up next: Newly released court documents reveal that President Trump paid big money to settle a lawsuit brought by undocumented workers he hired back in the `80s. It`s a story about illegal immigration, exploitation of scared illegal workers, and ultimately a big cover-up by this president.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t settle lawsuits, very rare, because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you. Very simple. The lawyers learn, you don`t settle, they don`t sue. So I don`t settle lawsuits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump talking about his own rather litigious history. Despite his claim, "The New York Times" reports Trump paid over a million dollars in a labor settlement, reporting that: "In 1980, Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts to demolish the Bonwit Teller Building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story golden-hued Trump Tower now stands. The workers were paid as little as $4 an hour for their dangerous labor, less than half the union wage, if they got paid at all.
"The workers` treatment led to years of litigation and, in 1998, documents show that Mr. Trump did pay a total of over $1.3 million to settle the case."
The details remained sealed for nearly 20 years and were only made public last week in response to a motion filed by Time, Incorporated, and the Katie Townsend, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
For more, I am joined by the Katie Townsend, litigation director for the Reporters Committee, an organization for which I am proud to say my daughter-in-law works, proudly.
Let me ask you about this.
What was it in this? How did you get the courts to finally bring out these documents to show that Trump is a fraud, that he hires illegal workers, he exploits the hell out of them, gets people to do -- these are window washers. Makes them tear down the building, a very dangerous job, without hardhats or any safety precautions, pays them, as I said, about four bucks an hour, and gets away with pretending he is tough on immigration, illegal immigration. KATIE TOWNSEND, REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: These documents, as you mentioned, Chris, have been under seal since 1998, when that settlement was entered into.
We at the Reporters Committee, along with Time, saw the public interests in seeking to unseal those documents. For one thing, this is a president who campaigned on a platform of curbing illegal immigration, and yet at the same time it was -- as was demonstrated by this class-action lawsuit, he was utilizing -- or contractors that he had hired were utilizing undocumented Polish labor to build Trump Tower.
We thought that was information that was certainly in the public interest. And I think it`s important too to note that this is a president who is, as you say, litigious. The "USA Today" reported during the campaign that he is a party or has been a party over the past three decades in over 4,000 lawsuits.
MATTHEWS: I hear the pattern is -- maybe you can help me on this -- it`s not in your ken to do it, but what he does is, if he doesn`t pay a bill and somebody causes -- makes him pay the bill, he sues them. He just keeps suing.
Let me ask you, how did the courts rule? How do you think you won the case in court to unseal this and get this information out now?
TOWNSEND: Well, there is the First Amendment right of access to court records, which the court ruled that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, who opposed our motion to unseal, they hadn`t demonstrated a reason to keep this material under seal that would overcome the public`s right of access.
I think the court also explicitly recognized the context here, that this was a matter of public interest, this was a lawsuit that involved the now the president of the United States. It was important for the public to see the documents.
MATTHEWS: Can you get his tax returns for us?
TOWNSEND: I don`t know about...
MATTHEWS: What are you working on right now to try to bring to the public that he`s hiding? Anything else?
TOWNSEND: We are working on a number of unsealing matters.
And we are particularly interested in government surveillance matters, particularly as they relate to reporter-source regulations. One of the things that we`re really concerned about and I think journalists are very concerned about is the use of warrants, subpoenas and other types of electronic applications by the government.
MATTHEWS: Suppose Bob Woodward were working today, and he was down in the basement somewhere with Deep Throat, and he was getting inside information.
How would the attorney general, if he were partisan or she were partisan, find out what was going on?
TOWNSEND: There`s a variety of ways.
And it includes ways that don`t involve warrants. For example, the United States Supreme Court heard an important case today, United States against Carpenter, that involves the use of warrantless cell phone tracking.
So, you can imagine...
MATTHEWS: So, they could follow Bob Woodward`s phone right into the basement?
TOWNSEND: They could. They could.
And they could follow the guy meeting over there, Mark Felt, and would know the whole story. And there wouldn`t have been a Watergate expose.
TOWNSEND: Would have been a different outcome, I think.
MATTHEWS: Nixon would still be president, maybe.
Anyway, thank you, Katie Townsend. It`s great to have you.
We have got to keep doing this kind of exposing.
Anyway, up next: President Trump goes to war with Chuck and Nancy, as he calls it. He spent the past 24 hours blasting Democrats for being weak on crime and immigration, and even staged a photo-op scolding them for missing a meeting at the White House.
By the way, I don`t think that he ever sat Democrats to his left and right like that. That is a such phony-baloney setup.
You are watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not show up for our meeting today. I`m not really that surprised. We have a lot of differences. They`re weak on crime. They`re weak on illegal immigration. They want the illegal folks to come pouring into our border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, President Trump scolding Democrats for not attending his meeting with congressional leaders, going so far as to highlight the empty chairs he staged there for the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Well, the Democrats decided to not attend the bipartisan meeting after President Trump tweeted that he was, quote, meeting with Chuck and Nancy today by keeping government opened and working. The problem is, they want illegal immigrants flooding into our country unchecked, are weak on crime and want to substantially raise taxes. I don`t see a deal. That`s all Trump talking.
Chuck Schumer called the meeting a photo op.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: With his tweet this morning, President Trump made sure that today`s meeting was nothing but a photo op. These issues are far too serious for these kind of games. Mr. President, it`s time to stop tweeting and start leading. There are serious questions that must be answered and many things that must be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The president later tweeted: After the North Korea missile launch, it`s more important than ever to fund our government and military. Dems shouldn`t hold troop funding hostage for amnesty and illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can`t now threaten to shut down to get their demands.
Well, Congress has to come up with a spending bill or deal before government funding runs out on December 8th, which is pretty coming soon.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.
Annie Karni is White House reporter for "Politico", Ken Vogel is a political reporter for "The New York Times", and Jonathan Capehart is opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and an MSNBC contributor.
Annie, I don`t know, this is embarrassing. This is just low-level government. This chicken, and the game of chicken they play, who is going to shut down the government? Who is going to get blamed? Empty seats.
You know, I`m embarrassed for everybody here. Nobody looks good. The comments that Chuck Schumer reads and Nancy are written by staff, they`re boring, they`re boring, they`re boring. Nobody believes it`s more than staff-written nothing.
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: It`s all show. It`s time to stop tweeting and start leading is a little too cute.
MATTHEWS: Oh come on. Eternal line.
KARNI: But what`s happening here is both sides are trying to paint the other side as the obstructionist. The Trump people are trying to say, we won, we played to our base, assuring them that not like last time Chuck and Nancy came over, Trump is not going to give away the store on DACA without getting anything in return. And they`re the ones that didn`t show up for a presidential meeting.
Schumer and Pelosi see that they have leverage over the Republicans who need their votes to prevent a government shut down and start saying, if Trump starts the day saying no deal, why would we show up? So, everyone thinks they have the leverage here.
MATTHEWS: I hate this stuff.
Ken, I don`t really think Trump is stupid enough to send auto those young people home to Mexico, you know, under arm, having them all arrested, these kids that came here underage, basically because their parents brought them here. They speak American English. They`ve been here a long time. They feel themselves American. They are American, and to haul them off, it would be a travesty for him.
So, what`s the argument? I thought he gave in on the Democrats month ago and said, OK, you won on DACA. The kids are too attractive for me to make them into hostages.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he gave in and then he retracted his adjusted stance.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he really will do this, push this little wall?
VOGEL: I`m not sure if he will. We could see several reversals before that actually expires in March. However, this is clearly another example of him trying to react, trying to appease his base in different ways, trying to look like he is taking a hard line against Democrats, in a way that could hurt him.
MATTHEWS: Who is the joker came up with the empty seat idea? First of all, I don`t think they ever sat, the Democratic leaders on his either right or left of him. It`s such a phony baloney.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`m so glad you are showing that clip right now.
MATTHEWS: He looks like a fool, sitting there in the middle. Then he got -- this little guy, this puppet down the end there and --
MATTHEWS: Speaker Ryan, supposedly from an independent branch of government and Mitch McConnell down there. They look like imbeciles, look at them.
CAPEHART: Protocol-wise, those two men should be sitting right next to the president, on either side of government. They`re the leaders of the House, the leader of the Senate. Yes, the whole theater of that is absolutely --
MATTHEWS: Theater, good word.
CAPEHART: Theater, it`s absolutely ridiculous. But here`s why the president said what he said about illegals streaming over the border in that unbelievable tweet. Democrats --
MATTHEWS: By the way, they had a bill to pass, they had a comprehensive bill to pass, and it was the Republicans who refused to pass it.
MATTHEWS: Never going to forget that. They had it on the table and 12 Republican senators, a big vote in the United States Senate, and they wouldn`t bring it up in the House. And he claims and it would have stopped illegal hiring.
MATTHEWS: It would have done a lot to stop it.
CAPEHART: It would have done a lot of responsible things.
But Democrats on the Hill have been saying for a while now they want to take care of the DACA kids.
MATTHEWS: By the way, Trump doesn`t want to stop illegal hiring.
CAPEHART: Personally, of course.
CAPEHART: Democrats are trying to get -- are talking about DACA as part of the budget bill because the budget is a must-pass piece of legislation. And so, that`s why the president said what he said in that tweet. But Chuck and Nancy are making it clear, oh, OK. You`re going to send out that tweet before we come over? We`re not coming over. And, in fact, we actually know that you can`t pass this budget deal without us.
Think about that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Psycho bubble here. Annie, you got the job, OK?
Why did Trump dump on the one chance he had to get out of here by Christmas to go play golf at Mar-a-Lago, which he wants to do?
MATTHEWS: Why did he mess the water? Why did right before Chuck and Nancy as he called them -- first of all, call them by their demeaning of names, you know, diminished them by the nicknames, and say they`re coming up here to do nothing. So, why would they come?
KARNI: I think it was overcompensation for the last Chuck and Nancy meeting, the last time Chuck and Nancy came over for Chinese food at the White House. They left gloating that they had got --
MATTHEWS: They put off the government shutdown until December?
KARNI: No, they got DACA without agreeing to the construction of a border wall. This freaked out Trump base. This freaked out Republicans. His aides had to go around assuring people that that was not the case. He had made no such agreement and walk it back like Ken said. So, I think this was an over conversation for him to show like they`re not going to play me again.
MATTHEWS: Pop quiz. You first, Ken. Which of the two parties is the governing party today? Who`s actually -- I have a problem. I think they don`t have a governing party right now. I don`t think either party is taking responsibility for keeping the government going.
VOGEL: Yes, I mean, the Republican Party is fractured and fractured particularly in the House of Representatives. That`s why they need Democratic votes, to be able to keep the government open, and this type of maneuvering while may look good for the base, is not really getting them any close to --
MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.
Up next, we get more scoops and three big ones coming here for tomorrow.
You are watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: President Trump today traveled to Missouri to promote the Republican tax plan despite numerous nonpartisan estimates that showed the legislation would benefit corporations and the wealthy. The president portrayed the bill as one that is designed to help the middle class. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mail rooms and the machine shops of America, the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe fitters, the people that like me best. Actually, the rich people actually don`t like me which is sort of interesting and that`s fine, right? You know what, I like that trade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that wasn`t true at all. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
KARNI: The stories in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" yesterday about Trump not understanding the reality and trying to change things has his own aides, the people I`ve talked to, wondering if this is a shot across the bow to start invoking the 25th Amendment, which should be ground --
MATTHEWS: You mean an opportunity?
KARNI: They think that this is opening up a conversation.
MATTHEWS: I think it is.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s a real question of how much control over reality he has.
VOGEL: Well, this week, in addition to being embarrassed by that botch sting over "The Washington Post," James O`Keefe`s nonprofit -- its tax return showing it raised $5 million last year. I talked to a number of conservative operatives today who said that they think that this is wasted money and that they`re sort of being embarrassed by this type of activism and this would be money better spent on other --
MATTHEWS: I think the stingers were stung.
CAPEHART: So, Chris, I interviewed Hillary Rodham Clinton for my podcast. It came out yesterday. And if you read her book, you know she doesn`t like President Trump.
I asked her about why she thought it was important for her to talk about race during the campaign and particularly about President Trump and she said, he was kind of an equal opportunity bigot. He went after immigrants and foreigners and he was very sexist and homophobic and obviously Islamophobic. Given the tweets that the president retweeted today, that`s perfect.
MATTHEWS: What`s the name of your podcast?
CAPEHART: Podcast is "Cape Up" at the "Washington Post."
MATTHEWS: "Cape Up".
Thank you, Annie Karni, Ken Vogel, and, Jonathan Capehart.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He`s not going to like tonight especially and you`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Wednesday, November 29th, 2017.
The great New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously decreed that we were entitled to our own opinions, not to our own facts. It was one thing for the president to argue that his inaugural crowds were larger than anyone else. That was simply odd, something to do with his male ego, like his bizarre fixation on the size of his hands.
But it`s when the president turns to easily known facts versus easily dismissed claims that we have to worry about his ability to discern reality, you know, the kind of reality he needs to grasp when dealing with North Korea and its ballistic missiles.
So, here we go. What do we make of a person, forget he`s president for the moment, who denies that it is he there on that camera being recorded? What does it mean when Trump denies the undeniable, that it`s him on that "Access Hollywood" tape, the one for which Billy Bush, the other person there, was fired? Do we take him as a liar, a lunatic as Kim Jong-un called him or simply a guy with a character problem?
What do we discern in Trump when we hear he`s out there again pushing the charge that President Obama was born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to be president? Why would he keep doing that?
And what about claiming that Ted Cruz`s father was in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald or that enough of Hillary`s vote where people in the country illegally that he, Donald Trump, actually did win the popular vote?
Again, what is going on in Trump`s head when he says this stuff? Is it a printout of his thinking process? Is it evidence of his inability to discern reality from what he`d like reality to be? If so, we are in deep trouble. We are facing a nuclear threat from North Korea with a commander- in-chief measurably incapable of deciphering reality.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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