Show: HARDBALL Date: December 6, 2017 Guest: John Archibald; Ruth Marcus; Ryan Williams; Cheri Bustos, Dennis Heck, Michael Crowley, Eugene Scott
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Learn to write. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris imagine use back in Washington.
The GOP civil war between the nationalists and the establishment is getting nasty. Steve Bannon defended Roy Moore last night and trashed Mitt Romney in very personal terms. Mitch McConnell defended Romney today.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators are calling on their colleague Al Franken to step down after another woman has come forward to accuse Franken of trying to forcibly kiss her. Franken denied it. But in the wake of a new calls for him to step aside, Franken`s office said he will make an announcement tomorrow. It is been a rough day.
And a rally for Roy Moore last night in Alabama. Steve Bannon responded to a tweet permit Romney that said Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate will be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Romney said no vote is worth losing how our honor -- our honor and integrity. Bannon questions Romney`s own honor. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity. You ran for commander-in-chief, you had five sons. Not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties and where were the Romneys during those wars?
You want to talk about honor and integrity, brother, bring it down here to Alabama. Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in the pinky finger than your entire family has in his whole DNA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there is the nasty voice of super nationalist my guess you can say if you like the guy.
Anyway, Stephen Bannon has been loyal to Donald Trump who avoided Vietnam with (INAUDIBLE) and another firm determine for medical reasons so-called and he ride bone spurs in his feet.
Anyway, Trump once joked with Howard Stern that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating was his personal Vietnam. None of his children served in the military either.
Anyway, Bannon`s attack on Romney and his religion was rebuked by Republicans today including Mitch McConnell. McConnell also mocked Bannon`s record of success, political success. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: What he is a special in is nominating people who lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night Steve Bannon launched into an attack on Mitt Romney. That was just, you know --.
MCCONNELL: I could tell you what --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.
MCCONNELL: I can tell you what I think of Mitt Romney. I think he is a great American and has an outstanding career and is a truly remarkable Republican. I`m glad he`s a member of our party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement, Steve Bannon`s attacks on governor Romney and his service are disappointing and unjustified. I also resent anyone attacking any person`s religious` views, but our own Christian LDS faith and the selfless service of missionary work.
And Senator Mike Lee also of Utah said Mitt Romney is a good man whether you agree or disagree with him on any man of public policy. You can`t credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character, especially on the basis of his religious believes or his outstanding service, again, as a missionary.
For more I`m joined now by Ryan Williams, former deputy national press secretary for Mitt Romney`s Presidential campaign. Ruth Marcus is a columnist with "the Washington Post" and John Archibald from the Birmingham News.
I want to get to John. Birmingham, pretty much the start with this. How does that race look down there right now, Roy Moore, how does that look with Doug Jones?
JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: It is really, really tight. Too close to call. Both sides are really angry and really energized. And you have a taste of that with the Steve Bannon rhetoric last night.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the national echo down there? What influence does the fact that Steve Bannon is the nationalist self-described nationalist going to war with the establishment? Mitt Romney, you know, is a member of the LDS church, of course, and sort of throwing that in his face. How does that ricochet down there politically in terms of next Tuesday`s voting?
ARCHIBALD: Based on last night, I would say that he is speaking directly to the Roy Moore voter. I mean, that is the same sort of belief system, the same sort of rhetoric that you hear from them. And I think -- I think he was really rallying that base and it seemed to be pretty successful last night.
MATTHEWS: Ruth, tell us about this. What is your sense from up here? Because I have been hearing indirectly like a lot of us pick up news that a lot of the people down in Alabama, whatever their educational level or whatever, they think this northern influence is not what they like. They are blaming people up here like us, saying that`s why I`m going to vote for Roy Moore because you guys are trying to interfere with our election.
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Right. And I thought it was interesting that Senator McConnell said that Steve Bannon is an expert in picking people who lose well, TBD. Let`s see what happens on Tuesday because I`m not in any way when you say sticking up for Steve Bannon. I thought pretty much everything he said last night was both wrong, reprehensible and hypocritical.
[19:05:15] MATTHEWS: Yes.
MARCUS: But you know, the trifecta of offensiveness. But nonetheless, he is -- he is in the ascendency in that race --
MATTHEWS: Moore is.
MARCUS: Moore is and Bannon is. He picked the right - he pick the winning candidate in the primary there and he may be riding that horse all the way to the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, I`m sorry to be cynical here but it looks like they are all track touts or at the race track and they all think, well, it looks like Moore is going to win some and I`m going to endorse him now.
And that includes McConnell, that includes the President and that includes Bannon. All of them. They are jumping on a winning horse.
RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER ROMNEY STRATEGIST: And look. It looks like he`s going to win. Obviously, it puts senator McConnell in difficult position. He has called for him to get out. If he gets to the Senate there will be an ethics investigation right away.
But look, the team isn`t on the same page here. Republicans wanted to get Roy Moore out and Trump came around and said I`m going to endorse him. It is strong everything in the chaos. The RNC said to come back, you know, this race after polling out. I talked to my friends at the RNC. They are not thrilled about this but it is the reality of things. And he probably will win and if he gets to the Senate he is going to cause not just problems because of this issue but, you know, who know what he will do. He is a loose cannon. Once he get to the Senate, he is going to cause problem after problem the entirety of his tenure.
MATTHEWS: Steve Bannon also went after Mitch McConnell last night. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: The Republican establishment campaigned for a Democrat for four solid weeks. And we are going to hold you accountable. You are not going to be able to walk away now Mitch. They think you are a bunch of rubs, right. They hold you in total contempt. Could anything show more contempt than what they did to Judge Moore?
By the way, Mitch, the tax cut won`t save you, right. Tax cuts, OK, but it is not going to save you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you at this big fight. Let`s start with the personal fight. The guy you work for, Romney, he respect. You are talking about that before the show. How much you respect Mitt Romney. One, is he really despise have contempt for Moore, Roy Moore, and basically let`s be honest, Trump.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think with Roy Moore it goes beyond politics, you know. This is a moral issue.
MATTHEWS: What is beyond politics?
WILLIAMS: The fact that of accused child molesters are nominee for Senate in Alabama. That goes beyond just politics. It is not, you know, about his policies. He lacks for moral character.
WILLIAMS: And the governor sees politics kind of moving toward this kind of dark area that Bannon puts forward. I think he is concern about it as a leader in the party, he feels a need to speak out.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he will be in the Republican caucus by this time next year?
WILLIAMS: Steve Bannon?
MATTHEWS: Your guy.
WILLIAMS: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Come on. You are here to give me some information. Isn`t Romney clearly running for the Senate?
WILLIAMS: I think he has a desire to contribute. And I think that that desire and that opportunity --
MARCUS: Wait -- it is up to the voters of Utah. Isn`t that what we say?
WILLIAMS: No. I think at this time, it is up to Senator Hatch to see if he is running or not.
MATTHEWS: Of course it is up to him. But you are getting the pressure any way. Trump has to stick around. Clearly Bannon would rather have -- well the whole thing is -- so let me get down there to Alabama. Let me ask you about this thing, John, down there. This fight nationally, again back to the question, how does this national fight, I mean, I`m trying to pick the sides, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Flake of Arizona, all joining sides with Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell all against the President and Roy Moore and again Steve Bannon. Who is the side of people of Alabama on? I think I know.
ARCHIBALD: Well, they are clearly on Bannon`s side. Yes, there is no question about it. I mean, Flake and all of guys you talked about, they were punch lines in the Bannon routine last night. And they all got be got bigger cheers frankly than Roy Moore did. So I think that tells you where they are lining up.
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday Republican senator Jeff Flake, I mentioned him, of Arizona said he was writing a check to Roy Moore`s Democratic opponent Doug Jones for $100. Bannon mocked him last night. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: Let`s talk about Jeff Flake. Did he sign a check today, $100 to Jones? Come on, brother, if you are going to write a check, write a check, right. Don`t give the man a $100.
Hey Flake, this is why your approval rating in your home state like 11 percent. Jeff Flake has done nothing but run the President of the United States down since the President won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile as I said another Republican senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska knocked the Republican National Committee for its decision to begin spending money again for Moore. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: They explicitly admitted in the past they believed these women in Alabama. And somehow now the RNC is giving money. It doesn`t make any sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ruth, you know I think I said this the other night but I`ll say it again, a lot of Catholic priests, good ones, felt ashamed because they are part of an organization, the priesthood that had a lot of bad apples in it. A lot of bad apples. Too many. And I wonder if the Republican Senate caucus are going to feel very happy having a guy like Roy Moore among them in all their meetings with the pages and interns and watching him. And the kids will be watching that guy, too. And you could be there will be scuttlebutt among the interns. What is up with that guy? Are you keeping away from him?
[19:10:19] MARCUS: Well, you could tell from even senator McConnell who yet opposed Roy Moore, tried to get him to pull out, is now kind of reluctantly acknowledging the, you know, semi -- reluctant support has said we will have to seat him and there will be an ethics investigation. We will see what happens there. But they do not want him to be a part of them. And let me say --.
MATTHEWS: They do not want him to be their caucus but he will if he wins be in their caucus.
MARCUS: Yes. But can I say something? I was really struck listening to Steve Bannon. I thought he was going to say deplorables. He was trying to convince the people in Alabama, those Roy Moore supporters in Alabama, that Mitch McConnell and his ilk, the Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake and everybody else who he was attacking there, think of them in the exact same way that Hillary Clinton thought of them. They are just part of the basket of deplorables and they have disdain for you. I think that --.
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you? I think you are right.
MARCUS: It tells you that it is a powerful message. It also tells you that he has no shame. And you know, this is a White House that its original position was no Senate seat is worth having a child molester there. That is what Marc Short said. That is what Kellyanne Conway said. The original version was if true then he would have to pull out. The new version which is now the official Trump version, the RNC version and the Bannon version is, of course, any seat is making sure there is not a Democrat in there. And we don`t care what he did.
MATTHEWS: Remember Megan`s law?
MATTHEWS: You have to notify the neighborhood when you are moving in if you are a child molester. This is not seen as something you could solve.
Let me get back to John Archibald. You know, send them a message, by the way, that has residence in Alabama, I`m sorry guy. That`s what we remember back from the 60s in George Corely Wallace (ph) which was send them a message. Elect me. Nominate me for president. Is there a send them a message sentiment down there about Alabama to the rest of the country?
ARCHIBALD: Absolutely. Roy Moore`s primary surrogates have made that a real talking point as the world is watching us. The world is watching us. Of course Doug Jones` people are saying the same thing. They just mean it quite differently. The world is watching us there too.
But you know, in the 60s, of course, we had all of the talk about outside agitators coming down and stirring things up and Steve Bannon -- but the problem is, you know, he is a bit of an outside agitator himself. So you know, everything that had said seems to echo in more than one way.
MATTHEWS: Well said. This a where you kind a worms down there. And by the way, the whole world is watching. I have been hearing a lot about the world news organization. This is -- they are looking at America. They are looking in Alabama. They do remember I think vaguely the idea of George Wallace down there.
Anyway, thank you Ryan Williams. Thank you Ruth Marcus. And thank you John Archibald.
Coming up, Senator Al Franken is denying the latest allegations of sexual misconduct but Franken will make an announcement tomorrow after many of his Democratic Senate colleagues including now as of today Chuck Schumer today calling on him to resign. And that is ahead.
Plus, some big developments in the Russia investigation. We will bring you tonight. A whistleblower says Mike Flynn told a former business partner that U.S. sanctions on Russia would be ripped up. And he did it just 11 minutes into the presidency of Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump Jr. testifies before the House intelligence committee.
And Trump announces a move that has enraged the Muslim world including our allies. He`s officially today recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is as if he`s daring Muslims to lash out. Is that going to help him cut a peace deal in the Middle East?
Finally let me finish with Trump watch. He won`t like it.
And this is "Hardball" where the action is.
[19:15:03] MATTHEWS: "Time" Magazine is named the silence breakers. The women have spoken out about sexual assault and harassment as their person of the year. Those recognized included Tirana Berg (ph) who start the me- too movement as well as actress Ashley Judd, one of the women who accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The President Trump was named runner-up.
Last month Trump tweeted that the magazine told him he would finally be named person of the year but he decided to pass on the offer. "Time" magazine has widely denied Trump`s claim. And we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:17:41] SEN. KRISTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK. None of it is acceptable. And we as elected leaders should be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard. And we should fundamentally be valuing women. I do not feel that he should continue to serve. Everyone will make their own judgment. I hope they do make their own judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
That was, of course, New York senator Democratic Kristen Gillibrand urging her colleague Senator Al Franken of Minnesota to resign following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Well, much of the Republican Party is falling in line behind Roy Moore Senate candidacy in Alabama. A flood of Democratic senators, many of them women, are calling for Franken to step down and leave the United States Senate after being elected twice. Senator Gillibrand led the charge. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILLIBRAND: Well obviously there were new allegations today. And enough is enough. I mean, this is a conversation we have been having for a very long time. And it is a conversation that this country needs to have. And I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, over half of all Senate Democrats called on Franken to leave the Senate by now. And late today, the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer joined his colleagues in a statement writing Senator Franken should resign. I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments. But he has a higher obligation to his constituents and to the Senate and he should step down immediately. Well, the calls comes as "Politico," the magazine, broke news of a new allegation against Franken reporting quote "a former democratic congressional aide said Franken tried to forcibly kissed her after a taping of his radio show back in 2006."
Well, that incident happened reported three years before Franken became a senator. According to the report, the former staffer ducked to avoid Franken`s lips. As she hastily left the room. She said Franken told her, it is my right as an entertainer.
Well NBC News is not independently confirmed that allegation. In a statement Franken wrote, this allegation is categorically not true. And the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.
Well, Franken`s office says he will make an announcement in Washington tomorrow. I`m joined by Democratic representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent.
Let me go to congressman Bustos first. Well, what we are hearing is he hasn`t made up his mind yet. He is going to still think about it tonight. Your thoughts about that development.
REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I think that, if you are in Washington, D.C., serving as a senator, a House member, if you are a Democrat, a Republican, if you have been out here for 40 years or one year, if you have a problem with sexual harassment, it is time to go.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the timing? Do you think it is important that he do it right now, just get out of the door?
BUSTOS: Well, he will have his announcement tomorrow. It looks like the pressure to resign is mounting, when you have got the leadership now of the Senate calling for his resignation, when you have Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Gillibrand, who started this and many others joining that today.
I think the pressure is mounting. And, Chris, I think part of what we need to look at too is, as members of Congress, I know we don`t have the utmost respect from the American public, this institution. But we need to start chipping away at that distrust and what the American public thinks of those who serve.
I think public service is a great honor, and I hope we can start winning back the public trust. And this is a move in that direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, how would you like to serve in the U.S. Congress that has no Al Franken, but has a Roy Moore? Because Roy Moore looks like he is going to next week. And he will be a member of the Senate, of the upper body, so-called. You don`t think that spoils the system a bit?
BUSTOS: Well, yes, it does.
I guess at least as we`re bipartisan in the sense that there is sexual harassment that is happening on both sides of the aisle, unfortunately. It is a terrible place to have a bipartisan approach.
But here is the thing. The leadership among the Democrats, we have called for the resignation of those who have been accused by very credible sources of committing this kind of...
MATTHEWS: I know that. Nancy Pelosi as well, the leader, has done that too.
BUSTOS: Yes, but look at what is happening.
And I hope Alabama, I hope the voters in Alabama say, we are better as a state than to elect somebody who has molested 14-year-olds. No, I don`t want Roy Moore to enter that building behind us. That country is better than that. And I hope the Alabama voters realize that when they go to the voting polls.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Well said. It`s good to have you. Hold on for a second, Congresswoman.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Kasie Hunt about this.
What was the -- I try to keep the timeline. Everything changes around here in politics every 15 minutes, it seems. You are covering it every 15 minutes. And I`m thinking there was a time after the initial accusation against Senator Franken where people said, OK, he`s going to the Ethics Committee and let`s see what they decide there. He seems to be handling this difficult situation the best way you can, given the accusation.
And then these accusations continued, and then they continued again, like a water torture. When do you think the breaking point came, when the Democrats began -- just sort of rushed to the door, rushing him to the door?
KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I think there`s been some private conversations, especially among women members of the Senate, that have been going on kind of behind the scenes since this first happened.
But I do actually think that this morning was a real breaking point. I have one source who told me that Chuck Schumer had called Al Franken as soon as that Politico story came out and said, listen, you really have to step down.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really?
HUNT: And as the hours unfolded this morning, you saw women really taking the lead and all of those women senators putting out a joint statement, basically -- or excuse me -- not a joint statement, but clearly coordinated, all at the same time, saying that Franken needed to step down.
And I do really think it is what you point to. It is this sort of collective sense that this was a pattern of behavior. And that is -- and you and I have talked about this on your show quite a few times.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
HUNT: That that really distinguishes things here. And, yes, there are other political considerations.
Certainly, Democrats don`t want to look like hypocrites when they say that the president shouldn`t be where he is because of those allegations and when they say that that Roy Moore should be considered untenable.
And, yes, they are relying on women voters in 2018 and going forward. Women have been very energized in opposition to President Trump. So, yes, all of those factors are true. But, also, Senator Al Franken is pretty well liked by his colleagues.
MATTHEWS: That is what I`m curious about.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this.
Maybe, since you tell the story for you, but you are one of the best up there anyway, maybe the best. Is there something more that people all know about, but don`t say? In other words, is there a pattern that extends beyond the reported complaints that people know about and that adds to their fervor to get him to quit?
HUNT: Not that anybody has talked to me about at this point, Chris.
But at the same time, I think that what is now out there in the record really is enough.
HUNT: And I think that this is the thing. And Senator Gillibrand, I think, articulated it this morning, in saying, hey, I`m tired of being asked what is the nuance, what is the difference between sexual harassment, sexual assault and all of these -- what are the differences between these men who have acted badly? The reality is, if you are a public servant, you should be held to a higher standard, and none of this is OK.
And so I think -- I really do think that the pressure on Senator Franken at this point is really insurmountable. I think they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but not anymore.
Let`s talk about his political self-interest. And I have to tell you, I don`t know him as well as some of these women know him. I respected the book he wrote recently. I respected the fact he went through that really harrowing transition from public entertainer, wise guy, to being, it seems to me, a conscientious senator from Minnesota.
He went through that difficult -- going back to Minnesota, living there, serving his time, if you will, with the people, studying the people, really going out and listening to people. And now he has to give it, based on a set of events which really came from the past.
Now, here is the question. What has he got to gain in quitting? Why isn`t it in his interests to say, you know what, I`m going home this holiday season, want to think about it with my family, I will let you know January 6?
Why wouldn`t that be something -- and the reason I say this is, won`t he regret any impulsive decision now years from -- Cronkite in a totally different situation regretted quitting. What`s he got to lose by stretching this out two or three more weeks, Kasie, politically?
HUNT: Well, I think that the reality is, what does he gain from stretching it out?
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe the chance that they will stop, this will stop.
HUNT: I mean, maybe.
But I think the reality is, Democrats in the Senate have made it pretty clear that, if he stays, he`s not really going to be welcome.
HUNT: And the Senate is a pretty small club. And, quite frankly, if people if they decide to snub him, there is not a lot he can do. And I think the same would hold true for Roy Moore.
MATTHEWS: OK. The judgment has been made.
Let me ask the congresswoman that, because it sounds like that your sense is from your reporting the judgment has been made and it is final.
Do you agree with that, Congresswoman, that there is no gain for him in simply giving himself, after all the work he put into getting where he got, to give himself a couple of weeks to think this through? You don`t think that is not in his interests, you`re saying? Or is it?
BUSTOS: Well, at some point, you have to say, what is good for the American public?
If you are in the line of work of being a public servant, of being a United States senator, or a congresswoman, it`s really, you hope, service over self, and you hope you are doing things in the best interest of the country.
At this point, it is not in the best interest of this institution or for our country for him to stay in the U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough.
I guess I`m too much in the world right now of people like Trump and Roy Moore, who don`t give a damn about that question you just asked. They just don`t. And so this is a guy we`re asking to think in terms of the country over himself, in a political world that stinks right now, where people don`t think like that.
They think about, how can they get more power, how can they survive longer? They stick around too long, when they have lost any good ideas. You know the people I`m talking about. They are still around. And there are people that only think about themselves who are saying, OK, Al Franken, be better than these other characters.
Well, it is tough. And maybe it`s the exact right thing to say to him. But it is holding him to a standard a lot of clowns are not meeting themselves any day of the week.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. I have a great respect for you.
BUSTOS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kasie, as always, you`re the best.
Up next: The president`s son Donald Trump Jr. was questioned in the Russian probe today -- that should be interesting -- oath today. Don`t forget that baby, under oath.
And it comes amid shocking news about Michael Flynn. While on stage at Trump`s very inauguration ceremony, up on the platform, he was texting about a business deal involving Russia. Well, that is moving fast.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins with breaking news.
A new wildfire tore through several homes in Brentwood, Bel Air and other exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, triggering mandatory evacuations. rMD-BO_UCLA canceled classes. And residents in Santa Monica and Malibu and parts of West L.A. were told to stay home.
Four more wind-driven fast-moving fires are burning in other parts of Southern California. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County is the largest, torching some 65,000 acres.
So far, none of the fires are contained. They have destroyed at least 184 homes and forced the evacuations of nearly 200,000 people -- now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the president`s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was privately questioned under oath today, under oath, by the House Intelligence Committee as part of their ongoing Russia investigation.
He was likely asked about the three known overtures that he received from Russians or Russian cutouts with links to the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign.
They include a conversation with a former Russian senator, Alexander Torshin, at a private NRA dinner in May of last year, a June 9 meeting, campaign meeting, with Russians at Trump Tower, and the messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks in September.
That also comes after NBC News reported yesterday that, according to the Russian lawyer, in that June meeting, Trump Jr. actively solicited dirt on the Clinton Foundation. In other words, he wasn`t just hearing her out, as he said in the past.
This is now the second time Trump Jr. has been grilled about Russia on Capitol Hill.
And after he spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past September, Senator Chris Coons issued a rather cryptic statement, saying that "Material false statements to Congress are criminal," suggesting that the senator believed junior wasn`t telling the whole truth.
I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state, who sits on the House Intel Committee, and Betsy Woodruff, who covers Russia for The Daily Beast and is an MSNBC political analyst.
Congressman, there seems to be a big shift in what Donald Trump Jr. has said about that meeting in June. First of all, he`s sort of in there. We hear the Russians might have something to give them. And then it`s, do you got anything on Hillary and how much she`s getting from the Russians?
A totally different slant, if not change of subject, about what is going on. And he was the one trying to get the dirt on Hillary.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Chris, you know better than most people I`m duty-bound not to reveal the particulars of our interrogation today.
But I will say this. I will characterize it generally. It was a very worthwhile use of our time. In fact, I would say this is progressing nicely across the investigations, Senate, House, fourth estate, but ,most importantly, Bob Mueller. In fact, if this were a football game, we`re in the third quarter, may even be the beginning of the end.
MATTHEWS: Betsy, what do you think about all of this? This guys, this kid, I don`t know how smart he is or what -- he certainly isn`t informed about how to deal with reality in Washington.
The fact is, he says one thing one month. The next thing we know, it isn`t him going over to hear if they have anything to say. It is over there probing them for dirt, because he needed something to help his father.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Don Jr. seems to have the same habit that a number of folks in Trump`s inner circle have, which is this propensity either to selectively forget things that should have been quite memorable, like, for instance, asking a Russian Kremlin-linked operative to share information with you that would have damaged your father`s political opponent.
But this isn`t just Don Jr. This is a number of very powerful people in the Trump administration who we see engaging in this kind of selective amnesia, not to mention the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is seeming to have trouble remembering conversations he has with Russian officials.
Jared Kushner had to try nearly half-a-dozen times to list all his foreign contacts for him to get a security clearance. Don Jr. is not alone when it comes to this very complicated relationship with the truth.
MATTHEWS: Just using our powers of discernment, us three sitting here, you being an elected member of Congress, using our powers of discernment, would there be a different order of magnitude for a person in a political campaign in the United States talking to a foreigner, who has other interests, other foreign interests, to ask them anything you want to talk about, as opposed to going into the room and say, do you have anything of useful value for my candidate to win, such as dirt on his opponent?
Is there a difference in that, in those two operations.
HECK: Well, sure there is. Listen, I want to say...
MATTHEWS: There is? So, there clearly is a difference between having your ears open and having your mouth open and saying, give me all of the dirt you got?
HECK: And, Chris, I`m not describing that to what happened today or in any other interview.
MATTHEWS: I got you, in principle.
HECK: But I will say this as well, not, again, ascribing it to today, if had a nickel for every time I have heard a witness say "I do not recall," I could retire on the interest earnings.
MATTHEWS: Is it credible that they have such weak memories? Jeff Sessions does it all the time.
HECK: It is completely without credibility. If you look at the body of evidence here, there is no question about it.
Chris, there is a reason why there are now two convicted felons in the inner circle and two more who are under indictment. There is a reason why it was revealed this week more indictments are coming. There is a reason why the Mueller investigation is literally now in the White House, interviewing people immediately surrounding the president.
They`re one step away from the president at this point.
MATTHEWS: Again, a speculation. Why would a presidential campaign that was intent on trying to begin some rapprochement, some coming together with the Russian government to avoid a second Cold War, why would they be hiding that, if that was their grand ambition?
HECK: Well, isn`t that the question of the week?
Why did any of these people lie? Why do they keep lying?
MATTHEWS: The question of the year and the last two years.
Anyway, also today, members of the House Oversight Committee have asked -- have raised new concerns about Michael Flynn`s involvement in a private U.S.-Russia business proposal to build nuclear power plants in the Mideast. Remember that one, building power plants for nuclear work down in the Mideast, Russian deal?
Well, according to ranking member Elijah Cummings, an unnamed whistle- blower told his committee in June that Flynn, General Flynn, assured a former business partner -- quote -- "that U.S. sanctions on Russia that could block that nuclear project would be ripped up once Trump was inside the White House."
According to the whistle-blower, just 11 minutes into -- you`re watching it, the inauguration -- 11 minutes into that inauguration, where Trump was yelling about the size of the crowd as president, Flynn texted his former partner during the inaugural ceremony itself, saying that the deal was -- quote -- "good to go."
As Congressman Cummings summarized in a letter to the committee chair: "Our committee has credible allegations that President Trump`s national security adviser sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners."
Cummings delayed releasing this information until now at the request of the special counsel.
Congressman, this is like -- this is like, I don`t know, a smoking gun, whatever. But here you have a guy up there, he can`t wait to text, hey, we got money coming our way. This is a big deal for all of us. We got our sworn in now, so now we`re going to make some money on it.
Do you understand -- you mentioned Mueller, Robert Mueller. Is he looking at the possibility of a criminal enterprise here by the Trump people?
HECK: Well, of course he is. Look...
MATTHEWS: A criminal enterprise aimed at making money.
HECK: Well, listen, we have no eyes in the Mueller investigation, and appropriately so. There is a firewall separating their work from our work.
But, listen, anybody who wears an orange jumpsuit, the currency of the realm is cigarettes. It will be interesting to check Mr. Flynn`s cell fast-forward at the point at which he begins serving his term.
Remember, we`re now talking about a convicted felon, punishable by up to five years in prison.
MATTHEWS: Right. Yes, but he will get less than that if he talks.
HECK: If he flips bigger fish. And isn`t that the reason why...
Let me get just back to -- let me get back here to Betsy, because I have been trying to learn this. I don`t have any real big presumptions about where this case -- except I do believe Mueller will get it. If there is something there, he will get it. I do have confidence in that.
And if Trump has something to hide, he will find it. I believe that. I don`t know what it is. But there is something he`s been hiding all along.
And my other question is, was there money involved? Were a lot of these people, including the president`s sons, out there for the buck, not just to win the presidency, but to turn it into a money-making enterprise?
Was Flynn up to that? Was Manafort up to that? Was Gates up to that? Was Rick -- all these people involved, were they all -- did they have their hand sort of out the whole time?
WOODRUFF: We can say with absolute confidence see that Mueller`s team is interested in the financial dealings of folks in Trump world.
WOODRUFF: Part of the reason we can say that, I broke the news earlier this year that Mueller actually worked with special agents from the IRS in the criminal investigation division. That`s what they do. They investigate financial crimes.
Additionally, Mueller`s team, if you look at it, it`s a host of attorneys who specialize in going after criminal enterprises and in going --
MATTHEWS: And do they have the tax returns already in hand?
WOODRUFF: I can`t speak to that.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe they do?
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Many people believe tht tax returns already and that means they are going for the roses.
HECK: Tick tock, tick tock then.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state and Betsy Woodruff. Thank you.
Up next, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel`s capital despite widespread condemnation from world leaders. So, why is Trump doing it? And why now?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Defying vocal opponents, President Trump today recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel`s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the recognition upends 70 years of American foreign policy and jeopardizes the peace process spearheaded by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He also said he would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but set no timetable for that.
Shortly after Trump`s announcement in a televised address, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the move and said it was, quote, tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator. U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News that both Secretary Mattis and Tillerson voiced concerns to the president about the threat that moving the embassy would create for American personnel abroad. The move delivers on a promise Trump made during the 2016 campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by the round table tonight: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC, Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent for "Politico", and Eugene Scott, political reporter with "The Washington Post".
Thank you all.
This is a very hot issue, Andrea. Nobody knows it more than you. The intricacies of Middle East negotiations and here the president is saying to the Jewish people, actually the state of Israel, here it is. We`re giving you the end result, just like that.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And what does he get for it. It`s not as though Israel has made an attempt to not expanding to Palestinian areas. This was the prize at the end of the rainbow --
MITCHELL: -- the pot of gold for people delivering on their willingness to compromise and come up with a peace deal. And yet, he`s giving it to Israel for nothing. And one has to assume it has a lot to do with domestic politics, namely Alabama. This is enormously powerful incentive. It is what the evangelicals and down in Alabama and other parts of the country, the religious right wanted to hear this.
MATTHEWS: And in terms of voting power, even if you say right wing Jewish people, a minority of the Jewish community, but if you look at evangelical Christians in the South, that`s a huge voting block in this country. And they`re very biblically pro-Israel. It is complicated, it`s a nuance, we`re pro-Israel, on every issue. They don`t know what it looks like over there when you go to the old city, they`re not familiar with it, I think a lot of cases.
So is this a political move with an -- maybe a thousand or couple more votes for Roy Moore, a man who`s very religious --
EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it certainly appears that way. I mean, based on people I`ve spoke to today who are evangelical Christians, this is something that Trump promised to them during the campaign that is really important for them to see him deliver on.
The details of why this is really important to them isn`t quite clear. I asked some people why do you have issues with Palestine. They weren`t really able to articulate that. But for them, it`s a win and I think that`s really important to Trump who hasn`t experienced many wins recently.
MATTHEWS: I want to get this directly into the political sphere, rather than the Middle East region, I know you`re good at both of them. I have a sense that what Trump is up to right now is he knows he`s not going to be a popular president in the sense of majority popular support. He doesn`t need to be. He has proven he can win an election and the electoral college. He is low 40 percent, he could squeak it.
I think he is going around like a politician fence-mending. So, he goes out to Utah, the miners and the ranchers and say, I`m going to give a whole huge amounts of land you can develop and rip open, rip the tops off of this land and, you know, strip mine and make a ton of money. So, why else would he do it?
And then did this to the evangelicals and to people like Sheldon Adelson, like the real hawks. But it seems like he`s going around mending his fences and saying, all right, 40 percent is good enough for me but I`m going to hold that 40.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes, it`s a base play. And --
MATTHEWS: A base play. I love that lingo.
CROWLEY: Well, Chris, and that might be something you would do in addition if you were worried about holding the line among congressional Republicans if you were potentially bound for an impeachment proceeding. You`ve got to hold the line with congressional Republicans and you got to make sure those congressional Republicans are shored up on the right, and are going to stand with you, if the Mueller investigation leads to an impeachment.
So, that would be another rational for it. But I don`t see a strategic rational. So, I agree with you.
I don`t see a strategic rational. It only creates more headaches. No one can articulate a bank shot game plan --
MATTHEWS: That is what I was thinking. I think billiards you want to play the ball after the shot. Where are we going to be now for the next couple of months with the Arab Islamic world which is a billion people, 350 million Arabs in places where we`re vulnerable? We are much more vulnerable than Israel, we don`t have a wall. We`ve got guys and women in posts as we now in Tanzania, as we now in Kenya, places where they could bomb the hell out of us. We`ve got people getting in their cars tomorrow morning, all, we have business people, missionaries, tourists, all over the world. There are American targets, and we`ve said to those people -- look, that`s we`ve done, we`ve said that to the world.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, they have sent out -- the State Department has now sent out alerts, more alerts to embassies and consulates around the world.
MATTHEWS: So, we know what we`ve done. So, why did we do it?
MITCHELL: The story of the Iraq war in 2003. They are that nervous about the security of it. Tillerson and Mattis both very --
MATTHEWS: By the way, are we spending more money on -- on embassy security despite all of this Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi? Are we spending more? Are we doing any more to protect our troops out there?
MITCHELL: Well, they did not propose more, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and other Appropriation subcommittees are putting in more because they were appalled that the initial proposal for the State Department did not include more.
CROWLEY: And, by the way, you mentioned Benghazi, to help people visualize what the stakes are here. Benghazi was part a wave of protests around American embassies and compounds around the world, I mean, like a dozen plus. In some cases, people went over the fence. And so, you`re really playing with fire here. That`s what we`re talking about as a potential Benghazi.
Last quick point, Mike Pence, don`t forget him, key player here. Kind of the spokesman for evangelicals in this White House. He`s headed to the region soon. That`s going to be very interesting.
MITCHELL: And he was a big advocate for it, so was Nikki Haley. The other --
MATTHEWS: So is Jared too. It`s a mixed bag here, a dangerous coalition.
MITCHELL: But Jared has not produced (INAUDIBLE). They were supposedly producing a peace plan. If they had a peace plan and this was part of it. But there`s no rational yet in terms of how the --
MATTHEWS: This destroys any chance. We`ll be right back with Eugene.
Round table is sticking with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the HARDBALL round table gives us three scoops we`ll be talking about tomorrow. High bar there. Back after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Andrea, you start, tell me something I don`t know. A high standard I must say.
MITCHELL: I don`t know, you know everything.
The Saudis are actually in agreement with this decision.
MATTHEWS: What, losing the capital?
MITCHELL: Yes, in agreement with this, but I am told that that is not true. The king and MBS more importantly are really annoyed and that Jared Kushner brought back that message that the Saudis were OK with it, without really understanding the king.
MATTHEWS: One of the three holiest places in Islam is Jerusalem, as well as the Christian and Jewish centers.
CROWLEY: Trump has another big Middle East deadline coming up. Two actually next month in mid-January, whether to waive sanctions on Iran and recertify that Iran nuclear deal. He said that if Congress doesn`t take strong action, he`ll blow the thing up. It`s not clear whether it`s going to happen. It might be another case where we`re going along in the Middle East and allies are flipping out.
MATTHEWS: Give me some good news, Gene.
SCOTT: I don`t really have any good news. But what I do have as a conversation that`s continuing about how we talk about sexual harassment, there`s been an increased emphasis on revisiting how America responds to the Clarence Thomas hearings, and there is a piece in "The Washington Post" today asking for his resignation.
MATTHEWS: Oh, but it is a permanent appointment as we know that too.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Andrea Mitchell, Michael Crowley, and Eugene Scott.
When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Wednesday, December 6th, 2017.
The Republican Party has broken into a civil war. It started, but may well not end in Alabama. Right wing activist Steve Bannon is out there raising his pitch fork for Roy Moore. Mitt Romney`s urging the forces of the Republican establishment to let Moore get beaten by the Democrat next Tuesday.
What we`re watching is a battle between the new, loud, nationalist wing of the GOP that`s rallied around Trump and Roy Moore against the quiet, dignified forces of the old Republican establishment. Look who`s rallying around Bannon, it includes Donald Trump and those who accept his leadership. Those rallying around Mitt Romney begin with his fellow Utahans and fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints who resent Steve Bannon`s assault last night on Romney`s patriotism.
Perhaps not intending or perhaps intending just that, President Donald Trump`s endorsement of Alabama`s Roy Moore has started a civil war between the well-established Grand Old Party and the newly named grand old pedophile.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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