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Transcript 12/8/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Eli Stokols, Sabrina Siddiqui, Renato Mariotti, Thomas Friedman, Charlie Sykes, Karine Jean-Pierre

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 8, 2017 Guest: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Eli Stokols, Sabrina Siddiqui, Renato Mariotti, Thomas Friedman, Charlie Sykes, Karine Jean-Pierre

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump touting more. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Even as some in his party warn of disaster if Roy Moore wins next Tuesday, President Donald Trump is going all out with the Alabama Republican. And just over an hour from now, Trump will hold a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida. Just 20 miles from the Alabama border. It`s a city that shares a media market with mobile, Alabama. Well, the White House insists the rally is not a Roy Moore campaign event. But the President is expected to slam his Democratic challenger, Doug Jones.

And the Moore campaign is actively encouraging supporters to go to this event tonight. This morning, President Trump offered his most explicit endorsed yet. The last thing the make America great agenda needs is a liberal Democrat in the Senate where we have so little margin for victory already. The Pelosi-Schumer puppet Jones would vote against us 100 percent of the time. He is bad on crime, life, border, vets, guns, and military. Vote Roy Moore. That`s the President this morning.

NBC`s Vaughn Hillyard is at Pensacola right now, the site of tonight`s rally.

How close are these two gentlemen getting politically right now, Vaughn? Trump and Roy Moore?

VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are using each other at this point. I mean, if you are Roy Moore, what you need is the President on your side. Why? Because at this point in this race, this race is so up in the air, polls are tough to go off at this point. And actually, it`s interesting. That tweet you just read off there, President Trump almost in a way is focusing the message for Roy Moore, who has struggled for several weeks, in doing such.

Over the last month, Roy Moore`s campaign has been focused on these allegations, the yearbook, propagating the idea of a conspiracy. When you look at what President Trump is putting out there, he is making the case we don`t need a liberal democrat, that being Doug Jones in the U.S. Senate. We need Roy Moore. So if you are looking at it from Roy Moore`s vantage point, the President is actually seemingly being helpful in terms of his own messaging for his candidacy.

MATTHEWS: Well, it seems like there are three ways to vote down there. You can vote on party loyalty, vote Democrat or Republican, Moore or Jones, or you can vote on the moral issues, I guess. If you see it that way, like abortion rights, if you`re pro-life, you don`t want to vote for Jones. But also, this question of who`s the person? The person you are sending to Washington. Is it true that Trump is trying to get people not to think about the person they`re sending but the ideology?

HILLYARD: I will say it worked a year ago. I mean, in Alabama, he received almost a two to one margin over Hillary Clinton in November of 2016. But yes, in this race, I mean, it goes back to the Supreme Court. You look at the flyers that the super pacs have been sending out on behalf of Roy Moore and the campaign itself have been focusing on the confirmations, abortion, second amendment, right? So those hot button issues for Republicans and conservatives.

And you are looking at, I do want to point out, though, that we talked to a large number of Republicans, particularly in the suburbs around places like Birmingham, Montgomery, outside of Mobile, right, where Republicans are hesitant to vote for Roy Moore, understanding allegations that are out there.

And I want to say that I talked with the secretary of state here of Alabama just this evening. And he said that they`re expecting at least a 25 percent turnout. Why? Because multiple counties, Chris, are seeing requests for absentee ballots six fold. Compared to what they were just in the run-off earlier this year.

If you look at some counties, I want to take you back to 2012, right? When Roy Moore last run state-wide, he ran against the Democrat for chief justice by just three percentage points. There`s a couple counties where Roy Moore lost in 2012 but Mitt Romney won. Some of those places, Huntsville, in the Birmingham area, too. We are seeing the requests for those early ballots exceedingly high, as I said, six, sometimes nine fold of what they had been in the past, which is encouraging if you`re looking at it from Doug Jones` vantage point at this point.

MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like it`s still very much in the air.

Thank you, Vaughn Hillyard down there in Pensacola, Florida.

Anyway, President Trump is one of the few national Republicans openly endorsing Roy Moore. For the post part, the party has tried to distance itself from him. Let`s watch.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I had hoped that Judge Moore would resign, but that obviously is not going to happen. If he were to be elected, I think he would immediately have an issue with the ethics committee, which they would take up.

SEN. BEN SASSES (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.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I still think it`s unfortunate. We are going to have a tough enough time in the coming years. And being the party of Roy Moore is not going to help.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I made a lot of people on the mall, and if you get kicked out of the mall, that`s a pretty bad situation to find yourself in. And I don`t want the Republican Party to tolerate behavior like this when it`s just overwhelming the man has a problem.


MATTHEWS: That`s the best line ever.

For more, I`m joined by author and commentator Charlie Sykes and Karine Jean-Pierre, senior adviser for Thank you.

Charlie, I will start with Karine now. It looks like the Republican Party has an icky attitude about this guy. Even the President is going to Pensacola, but he is not quite touching Roy Moore. He is saying I`m against his opponent, Doug Jones, from across the border but he could drive. That plane will take him anywhere he wants to go tonight. That plane is not taking him to Alabama, his own air force one.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR, MOVEON.ORG: But to your point, he could go anywhere today, but he is still in Pensacola. I think this still is very much a full-throated campaign for Roy Moore, absolutely. I think the problem that you see when you see Lindsey Graham and Flake talking in that video is that whether they win or lose, whether Roy Moore wins or loses on Tuesday, they own this. This is like a skunk now, they can never get off it.

MATTHEWS: That`s strong. Let me go to Charlie. I think you might be right.

Charlie, is this a skunk smell. Will they pay for this if he stands in the caucus and has his picture taken standing next to Mitch McConnell now and then?

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they are going to wear Roy Moore around their neck throughout the entire 2018 off- year elections year.

Look. This is a catastrophe for the Republican Party. The Republicans can say that Roy Moore is not the face of the Republican Party. But when you have the leader of your party, the President of the United States, endorsing him and campaigning for him, you do own him. And I think this is another measure, and I think David Brooks and "The New York Times" had a fantastic column this morning. This is really a measure of what Donald Trump is doing to this party. Leave aside for a second the allegations of molestation by the women.

There are more than a dozen reasons why this man should not be acceptable to Republicans. And in any other time, in any other political party other than Donald Trump`s Republican Party, Roy Moore would have disqualified himself many, many, many times over. This is going to hurt the party badly.

MATTHEWS: Charlie, you sound as if Roy Moore is worse than Donald Trump.

SYKES: No --

MATTHEWS: Is he? Is he worse?

SYKES: Well, yes, in a certain way, because he is so -- it`s so unvarnished. It`s like the party said, hey, after "Access Hollywood," we`re going to accept Donald Trump, you know. And so that was a warm-up, what if we had Donald Trump, you know, who was going after teenage girls, who said that Muslims should not be allowed to serve, you know. That women should never be allowed to run for public office, you know, who would harken back to the (INAUDIBLE) days of slavery, would Republicans still go along with that? Would Trump Republicans still go along with that? And the answer is yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, you are teaming up to this one. Even before the accusations against judge Moore by nine women became public. He was an extremely divisive politician. One of Moore`s more unbelievable quotes resurfaced thanks to a tweet from a former Obama administration official that went viral.

"The Los Angeles Times" reported on a Moore rally back in September. According to the "L.A. Times," one of the only African-Americans in the audience asked Mr. Moore, Judge Moore, when he thought America was last great. Moore said, "I think it was great at the time when families were united, even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. Our families were strong, our country had a direction," close quote.

Well, Moore campaign official told NBC today, judge Moore clearly made his point, which is America is great when our families and our faith are strong. To suggest that Judge Moore condones slavery is recklessly malicious, except that`s what he said.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, it is. I mean, just what you just said.

MATTHEWS: How are families, African-American families treated when they were slaved in terms of taking the families together?

JEAN-PIERRE: Terribly. They were taken apart. They were, I mean, they were beaten. I mean, it was a terrible feeling.

MATTHEWS: They were ripped apart and sent to different states.

JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. They didn`t have a family, most of them. They had to look for their family. But look, this is not surprising. Roy Moore has said racist, Islamophobic, homophobic things before the sexual assault accusations came out.

And you know, back in 2002, Trent Lott, if you remember, he said something similar. He was a minority leader as a U.S. senator then, and the Republican Party forced him out because of the things that he said that were similar to what Roy Moore was quoted as saying.

And the thing that you see there is Trump has taken this Republican party so far backwards with race here in this country, with race, with this party, and it`s just really just amazing, unfortunate to see, and now he`s using his power and prestige of the office to go and campaign for Roy Moore.

MATTHEWS: You know, Charlie, I wanted your perspective on the race issue. Because I know a lot of suburban Republicans especially suburban Republic, can`t stand the racist tag. They don`t want to vote for anyone who looks like a racist. Whatever they are - feelings are (INAUDIBLE), no matter how far they move from the city, they got away as far white flag whatever. They don`t like admitting it.

What do you make of this? Can Trump build a political party based basically on white votes? It seems like that`s what he`s doing.

SYKES: Well, that`s what he`s trying to do. And the answer is no, he can`t. I mean, you look at the demography of the country, you realize where he is taking this political party. This is a President who keeps going to the base, but that base is shrinking. It`s shrinking. It`s getting smaller and smaller. And yet he keeps doubling down.

And there are moments when you step back and you go, OK, you know, obviously, you understand this is a political dead end, you know. Not to mention that it is, you know, it is morally repulsive. And yet, as long as Donald Trump is, you know, pursuing this, than the Republican Party is going to be owning it. When they seat Senator Roy Moore, you know, you are going to see, you know, it is going to be another one of those moral tests for the Republican, which I`m afraid they are going to fail once again.

MATTHEWS: Well, Charlie, in a new fund-raising email this morning, Roy Moore campaign argues, Al Franken has proven Roy Moore is innocent. The email argues that people like Al Franken, Matt Lauer, and others have a pattern of abuse that continues until recently.

Quote "these abusers don`t stop. It`s a way of life. That`s why they all have been forced to admit their misdeeds due to verifiable recent evidence. But the D.C. establishment wants you to believe that Roy Moore was all wrong 40 years ago and then became a model citizen, gentleman, father, and grandfather for decades. That doesn`t happen, just as it didn`t with real abusers like Franken and Weinstein."

There you go. Circular reasoning, whatever it is. But they are saying basically since he hasn`t done anything wrong in a while, he didn`t do anything back then. In other words, don`t believe those women, they made up their stories completely because - but ty the way -- your thoughts.

JEAN-PIERRE: It`s ridiculous on its face. This is the Trump playbook that Roy Moore is playing right now in this race, which is if you deny, if you lie, then it`s true.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Charles on that. Your thoughts. What do we make of this argument that somehow because Franken admitted what he had done, that proves that Roy Moore didn`t do what he said he didn`t do?

SYKES: What a dumb time to be alive, Chris. I mean, really, that just makes no sense.

I will say that I know a lot of Democrats are very, very unhappy with what happened with Al Franken, but the fact that the Democrats really kind of cleaned the slate with John Conyers and Al Franken, I think is going to up the pressure or certainly the focus on the Republicans, the party of Donald Trump --

MATTHEWS: Really? Really? What makes you think that? What makes you think that?

SYKES: I mean, maybe not internally, because now the spotlight is going to be on them. All right.

MATTHEWS: It`s been on them. Shameless.

JEAN-PIERRE: Starting with the President.

SYKES: We are in in middle of a cyclone that is about to become a tsunami, and eventually, the Republican Party is going to have to answer for the President of the "Access Hollywood" video, when all of the women who have come forward, should they be believed? And then, and then you have just this toxic figure from Alabama coming to the U.S. Senate. You know this is not the party of profiles in courage lately. I think it`s going to up the pressure on them immensely.

JEAN-PIERRE: I don`t think so.


JEAN-PIERRE: No. The Republicans have been complicit since day one. They haven`t done anything. They vote in lock step with him. They let him get away with -- I don`t see how this is going to change. How is Roy Moore coming into the Senate going to change how Republicans have been behaving for over a year with Donald Trump being the nominee and now the President?

SYKES: I`m not saying that they are going to change. But voters in the midterms, if you want to -- if this is going to be one of the defining issues of 2018 --

MATTHEWS: Different point but well made.

SYKES: This is a perfect storm for Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Karine Jean-Pierre and Charlie Sykes.

Coming up, major developments tonight in the Russia investigation, including the fiance of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos who said Papadopoulos set up meetings with world leaders and was in constant contact with top campaign officials. A far cry from the coffee boy that Trump`s allies have called him. It comes as a top democrat on the house intelligence committee says the country will learn surprising things in the Russia probe.

Plus, Trump continues to congratulate himself for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but was it a strategic mistake? "New York Times" Thomas Friedman says Trump gave away an important bargaining chip to the Israelis without getting anything in return. And he will join us tonight.

And the White House is blasting civil rights icon John Lewis for skipping Trump`s appearance at the new Mississippi civil rights museum this weekend. The White House press secretary put out an absurd statement saying it unfortunate that Lewis won`t honor the sacrifice made by civil rights leaders when Lewis is one of those civil rights leaders, the new museum is actually honoring.

Finally, let me finish with Trump watch. It`s about Mississippi.

And this is "Hardball" where the action is.


MATTHEWS: U.S. congressman Trent Franks of Arizona stepped down today. NBC News has confirmed Franks allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office, offering one of them $5 million to act as a surrogate to conceive a child. "Politico" further reports quite "the sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who had struggled with fertility issues for years. But the aides were concerned Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether if he was asking about impregnating the woman through sexual intercourse or invetro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.

Anyway, one woman said Franks retaliated against her when she rebuffed him. He cut off access to him. Franks denied the allegations although he acknowledged he did speak about surrogacy with his staffers.

And we will be right back.



REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (R), TEXAS: As I stand here now, I think that there are going to be some things that come out that will be very surprising and disturbing to the American people.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro delivering an ominous message last night about things to come in the Russian investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller already has two cooperating witnesses in the case. And there are new signs today that one of them, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos may have had relationships with more high ranking campaign officials than we previously knew.

We already know that in March of last year, Papadopoulos told Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and others that he had Russian connections that could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. We also know that he continued his efforts to arrange such a meeting in Russia through the summer of 2016.

Now, in an interview with ABC News, Papadopoulos` Italian fiancee is speaking out, saying he was frequently in touch with other campaign officials during the election who were aware of what he was doing.


SIMONA MANGIANTE, FIANCEE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: He was constantly in touch with a high-level official in the campaign, and he never took any initiative, as far as I know, unauthorized.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Constantly in touch, you say, with members of the campaign. Was he in touch with the chief strategist, Steve Bannon?

MANGIANTE: Yes, as far as I know, yes. I know Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He was in touch with Michael Flynn, General Flynn?

MANGIANTE: Yes as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you`re saying he had communications with top levels of the campaign.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Everything he was doing was with the knowledge of those officials?

MANGIANTE: As far as I know, absolutely, yes. He never took any initiative without the blessing of the campaign.


MATTHEWS: When the Papadopoulos plea deal was first unsealed in October, Trump`s defenders pushed to -- rushed to downplay his role in the campaign.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was a campaign volunteer. He wasn`t somebody that was a senior adviser, as many of you want to bill him to be. He was somebody that played a minimal role, if one at all, and was part of a voluntary advisory board.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He was not a person who was involved with the day-to-day operations of the campaign.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I never heard of Papadopoulos. He never showed up at Trump Tower, never had any interaction with any of the campaign leaders around me. He was the coffee boy.


MATTHEWS: Coffee boy.

In other words, this is another indication that George Papadopoulos was more than just a coffee boy.

I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, investigative reporter with NBC News, and Renato Mariotti, who is a former federal prosecutor.

Gentlemen, first of all, let`s talk about what role did Papadopoulos play, because he told Stephanopoulos there he played -- his fiancee said he played a significant role, reporting regularly, in fact, consistently, to the top Trump campaign people.

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, this was a remarkable interview.

There was almost a taunting quality to it. Normally, people who are defendants in a white-collar case, have pleaded guilty, they lay low. But, here, the fiancee was out in public, sort of almost sending a message to the Trump people. You want to call him the coffee boy? Let me explain to you actually how important he was.

Now, we could -- we shouldn`t overstate this. This was not a major figure in the Trump campaign, but we still don`t know to what extent Papadopoulos cooperated. What did he do? Did he wear a wire, for example? Did he make phone calls on behalf of the FBI?

There were many months that he was cooperating that the Trump campaign was not aware of it. And it has got to be very disconcerting to wonder what it is that he has on them.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he might -- his fiancee may be very shrewd here and strategic, and that she is raising his value, getting it reappraised upward? My God, this guy doesn`t just -- he`s no coffee boy. He has got the inside track on everything they were up to, making his value as somebody who swings to the direction of the prosecution more valuable.

DILANIAN: I think that`s a great point, because there could come a day where he`s on the witness stand, and Robert Mueller or his prosecutors have to sort of emphasize his value to a jury.

The other interesting thing about is, in the interview, she said he was writing a book and he`s taking notes for a book. Well, all those notes would be discoverable by any defendants in this case, so a lot of interesting stuff here, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Renato on the same question.

What are we looking at here? We`re looking at a guy who may be bigger than we thought he was, because he was put down by the press secretary to the president, who said, he`s nobody. He`s a coffee boy, basically. You can`t pay attention to him, no matter what he says.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I thought that was -- some of those comments were pretty funny, Chris.

And I think my sense of the interview, I thought Ken was right. There was a taunting quality to it. I think what the quality that I saw was, my guy, my fiance is not going to be the fall guy for everybody.

You know, I think there was a sense, probably, from her fiance that they were going to make him take the blame for everything, and what she`s trying to emphasize is a lot of people were behind this. He was taking orders. He was part of a bigger operation, and he`s going to be on the right side of things in the end.

And, by the way, her statements can`t be used against him. That`s one of the rules of evidence. She`s not speaking on his behalf, as far as we know. So, really, she -- she can speak more freely than he can.

MATTHEWS: Is that because she`s a fiancee? Is that the same as being married, under the law?

MARIOTTI: Well, you know what? Even your wife`s statements can`t be used against you. They can be -- if they`re your agent, if she`s speaking -- for instance, if I sent my lawyer out to speak for me, and I`m authorizing his statements, perhaps, but, generally speaking, your fiancee or even your wife`s statements can`t be used against you in a court of law.

And, you know, I did notice when I watched the full interview, she said the attorneys told her not to reveal any documents, not to reveal any e-mails. What I thought was interesting is, this woman apparently has viewed some of the evidence that we haven`t seen.

So it will be interesting to see how her statements match up once we actually have a chance to see some of that evidence.

MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" is also reporting tonight that White House communications adviser Hope Hicks was warned about operatives who were trying to make contact with her after President Trump took office.

According to "The New York Times," senior FBI counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her and said that they were not who they claimed to be.

Well, their concern was that the e-mails were part of a Russian intelligence operation. However, the story notes that there`s no evidence Hicks did anything improper.

"The New York Times" also reports that Hicks interviewed with Mueller`s investigators yesterday and again today.

What do we make of all this, this advice? Was that a warning, Ken, to be - - it sounded like a warning: Be careful, these guys are working for the state. They`re working for the KGB modern version.

DILANIAN: Yes, Chris, absolutely.

And this is very standard. FBI agents will do this with members of Congress, for example, if they think they`re being approached by foreign intelligence assets.

But what`s fascinating about this is, don`t forget, while this was going on, they had an open FBI counterintelligence investigation into the question of whether the Trump team was colluding with the Russians.

But they were also juggling this fact that these guys had now taken office. He`s becoming the president. She`s becoming the communications director, so they have to sort of warn and guide them away from the obvious Russian intelligence infiltrations.

One wonders, though, when they warned her, did they explain what else -- what other information they had about Trump associate contacts with Russians and the scope of their investigation? Probably not. It also raises the question of what other warnings there were along the way. It`s just a -- it`s a fascinating development.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the general question, Renato.

What about getting to Hope Hicks for information? Apparently, she`s very close to Trump, trusted completely by him, and for good reason. She`s reliable as a person who keeps secrets. Is she going to be pressed here, squeezed?

MARIOTTI: Oh, I -- for sure.

I mean, everything that she heard Trump say or saw Trump do is something that could be very helpful to Mueller in this investigation. And I think these communications from the Russians you were talking about, Chris, they show how intensely interested they were in reaching out and getting to know the Trump camp.

They knew that the FBI was looking at them, and they still made the attempt anyway. And, as Ken said -- I thought Ken made a very savvy comment a minute ago -- whatever warnings there were to the Trump camp could be used against them later if they were less than careful in the future in subsequent outreaches by the Russians.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re seeing a lot of evidence over the last several days the Russians were reaching out to the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign, as we heard yesterday, was reaching out to them. The family was as well.

Thank you, Ken Dilanian. And thank you, Renato Mariotti.

Up next: Forget the art of the deal. How about the art of the giveaway? "New York Times" Thomas Friedman is coming here. He argues that the president just handed over important leverage in future Mideast negotiations.

He joins us next.


RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in the MSNBC newsroom.

President Trump just arriving in Florida. Live pictures here. He`s in Florida for a campaign-style rally just days ahead of the Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate.

The White House is saying Trump is not campaigning specifically for Roy Moore at this event. You`re looking at some live pictures again of Donald Trump, the president greeting some onlookers, that event, which is being held just 20 miles, by the way, from the Alabama border.

In California, dry Santa Ana winds are not letting up, pushing raging wildfires across parts of the state at a record pace. Those winds are not expected to die down until Monday, at the earliest.

And in the Russia investigation, new documents showing Paul Manafort was heavily involved in drafting an op-ed while under house arrest, prosecutors saying that violated a court order barring him from trying his case in the press -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

From Jordan to Indonesia, Muslims poured into the streets to protest President Trump`s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Clashes also erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley defended the president`s decision during an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

Let`s watch.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States took this step in full knowledge that it will raise questions and concerns.

Our actions are intended to help advance the cause of peace. We must recognize that peace is advanced, not set back, when all parties are honest with each other. Our actions reflected an honest assessment of reality.


MATTHEWS: Well, the special session at the U.N. was requested by eight states on the 15-member body, the Security Council, who objected to the move.

In a statement issued late Friday evening, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: "The United States has become no longer qualified to sponsor the peace process."

"New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman was critical of the move, writing -- quote -- "In nearly 30 years of covering United States foreign policy, I have never seen a president give up so much to so many for so little. Every Israeli government since its founding has craved United States` recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. And every United States government has refrained from doing that, arguing that such a recognition should only come in the wake of an agreed final status peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians -- until now."

I`m joined right now by "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman, whose book, by the way, "Thank You For Being Late," is now out in paperback, and it is number one.

Thank you.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": A couple weeks ago, yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Tom.

Here`s the problem. If you go over there, you realize that there`s West Jerusalem, which is Jewish. It`s been there since `48, and then there`s the East Jerusalem, which is Arab and was picked in the `67 war.

And -- but it`s always been seen as disputed or occupied, depending on your lingo. And now it seems like the president was saying all of that is now Israeli. It sounded like that is what he -- is that what he was saying?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think they deliberately were -- they were deliberately vague about that, Chris, in order to leave it to the parties to decide what they want in the negotiations, i.e., if Israelis were to give Palestinians part of East Jerusalem...

MATTHEWS: Well, why are they fighting? Why are these people fighting? Why are the Palestinians fighting if they think they have still got a good shot at East Jerusalem, their share of Jerusalem?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, I`m sure, from their point of view, they think it`s over.


MATTHEWS: That they have lost it all?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you a tougher question.

I watch with skepticism Jared Kushner. I have no idea what his background is.


MATTHEWS: He`s probably pro-Israeli, but that`s all I get.


MATTHEWS: He goes over there and he says he`s going to put together a grand deal. It`s going to be Saudi Arabia, Jordan, our Sunni allies, and Israel all together against the Iranian-led Shia, and it`s going to be our side is going to win, and it`s going to make sense, and it`s going to be cohesive, with Israel a key partner in that coalition.

And then we go away and we make a deal like this that throws it right in the face of our potential Arab partners, our Sunni partners.

FRIEDMAN: Well, the first rule, I think, of Middle East peacemaking is that the Arab states, Chris, will never go farther than the Palestinians.

That is, if Israelis and Palestinians agree to something, the Arab states will be there the morning before. But they will not be there the morning before, all right?


FRIEDMAN: And it`s a grand illusion, which I have seen played out numerous times, that some of the Arab states are going to do something for Israel, absent real concessions by Israelis or real agreement between Israelis and Palestinians on a final status agreement.

So, my beef with the deal is that, you know, Nikki Haley there saying, you know, well, we were honest with our parties, well, that`s stuff and nonsense, OK?

The fact is, this was a huge asset. And Trump could have come to the Israelis and said, Bibi, you have wanted this. Every Israeli government has wanted this for 70 years. Here`s the deal. I will recognize Jerusalem as Israel`s capital, but, in return, I want you to freeze all settlements in the West Bank beyond the settlement blocks that everyone knows will go to Israel in any peace deal.

Now, what if Trump had done that? Bibi could have gone to his Cabinet and said, look, we all have wanted this Jerusalem thing for so long.

MATTHEWS: But would have Israeli -- would the Israeli right have accepted West Jerusalem without all of Jerusalem?

FRIEDMAN: Well, again, the Americans kept it vague, because they -- all we had to say was, whatever you guys decide in a deal, we`re recognizing Jerusalem as the capital.

Bibi could have gone to the cabinet and said, we`re getting this, we`re final recognition of Jerusalem as our capital. In return, we just have to freeze settlements deep inside the West Bank.


FRIEDMAN: Now, then, Abbas could have gone to his people and said, OK, well, they agreed in principle to that. But look what we have got, you know?

MATTHEWS: Well, you know -- Tom, you know that his coalition, his Likud bloc includes the settler community that wants unlimited right to keep settling and growing.


MATTHEWS: They don`t want to have a limited role in Israeli future. They want to own as much of the West Bank as they can get ahold of.

FRIEDMAN: I`m sure they do, but our job as Americans is to look out for American interests, not for the interests of Bibi Netanyahu or for Abbas.


MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you. How -- just to finish the question, Jared Kushner is out there.


MATTHEWS: He always looks great in the pictures. He`s young. He goes around there, very clean-cut. He looks like he might know what he`s doing, I guess.

How is that whole thing he`s doing with the Saudis going to work with this thing of giving Israel the capital?

FRIEDMAN: I don`t think it -- I don`t think it has...

MATTHEWS: It`s not going to work?

FRIEDMAN: -- any connection whatsoever.

MATTHEWS: Has Jared talked to his father about what his father -- his father-in-law is doing?

FRIEDMAN: Chris, the first rule of Middle East reporting is, the Middle East only puts a smile in your face when it starts with them, OK?

Camp David started with them. Oslo started with them. The Arab Spring started with them.


MATTHEWS: OK, bottom line, is the father-in-law talking to the son-in-law? Is Trump talking to his son-in-law about this?


FRIEDMAN: I have a feeling nothing was happening, and I think this is a cover for the fact that nothing was happening, and nothing was going to happen.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s my domestic analysis.

FRIEDMAN: Go ahead.


MATTHEWS: I believe that Trump knows he`s never going to get over 40 percent in this country, maybe 43 percent in a tough election with a weak opponent, if he can beat them up.

So, what he wants to do is solidify all his borders. Christian right help with Roy Moore down here. This helps with Roy Moore, with the Christian right by going out so pro-Israeli. Going out with the ranchers and the miners, you know, in Utah, to grab that land back, give it to them.

I think he`s going around the country, parceling out, almost in biblical fashion, like the unjust steward, giving everybody a piece of what they want so they will stick with him. I think it`s all politics with him. He doesn`t care who Roy Moore is. He just wants to build up that support with that evangelical right down there, just like he`s doing with the capital of Israel. It`s all politics.

FRIEDMAN: Whatever you say, I would believe.


MATTHEWS: Trump is not a man of values. Just a guess.

Thomas Friedman, the best columnist out there, thank you, sir.

FRIEDMAN: I appreciate it, pal. Thanks a lot.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The White House shames Congressman John Lewis for boycotting Trump`s appearance at the opening of a civil rights museum, even lecturing Mr. Lewis on the incredible sacrifice of the movement`s leaders.

It`s as if the Trump administration is oblivious to the fact that John Lewis, that man right there himself, is the civil rights icon of what happened down there in the Deep South in the `60s.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Civil rights icon U.S. Congressman John Lewis has canceled plans to attend tomorrow`s opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. In a joint statement with Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who is also boycotting, the congressman wrote, President Trump`s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.

In part, they cited the president`s disparaging comments on race.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESS: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don`t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.

Wouldn`t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out, he`s fired. He`s fired!


MATTHEWS: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders struck back at the boycott saying: it`s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn`t join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history. The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.

Well, John Lewis, of course, was a co-organizer of the 1963 march on Washington. As well as the 1965 Selma voting rights march, an event that became known as Bloody Sunday after activists were confronted by Alabama state troopers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis was beaten so badly, his skull was fractured.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the "Wall Street Journal," and Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter from "The Guardian".

I don`t know where to start except the audience, what is going on here? The president shows up where he probably shouldn`t show up, and the people who should be there aren`t showing.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Which shows you why he`s showing up to honor himself. Look, all praise to the state of Mississippi. Apparently, it`s a very honest, hard-hitting museum. Haley Barbour, the Republican governor who pressed forward.

But no respected civil rights leader like John -- like my colleague in the House could possibly go, because of both words and policies. He sat in the Congress for a full year with disparaging policies and disparaging words. And now, the last thing he should do is to honor the president, because that`s what we would consider it, by insinuating himself into this very important ceremony.

He`s trying to say, look, I have always been for you, so here I am. And that shows it. Disregard everything that happened in the past year.

MATTHEWS: What`s the hypocrisy by the president? Because it seems to me he`s playing to those last suburban Republicans, white people, basically, who still don`t want to believe they`re in a racist political party, and they`re supporting a racist president. So, he`s saying, look, I`ll give you some cover. I`m going to this thing.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Maybe, but I also think that there`s plausible deniability because he certainly want to go, we want to honor this museum and the sacrifices of the people like John Lewis, but they also know by going, they will get the reaction. There will be protests and that will be --

MATTHEWS: You are Machiavellian, sir. He wants a racial fight --


STOKOLS: Think about -- this is -- Donald Trump, back in the campaign in march of 2016, was going to go to Chicago rally Friday night, south side of Chicago. Why would he go there? There were people marching in the streets. It got violent.

He didn`t go. He canceled it. I don`t know what kind of --

MATTHEWS: He picked a spot where he would be igniting a protest, and then he got the protest he wanted.

STOKOLS: And it`s happening in a border state in Alabama.

MATTHEWS: Eleanor, you don`t believe it?

NORTON: Of course not.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think he`s that Machiavellian.

NORTON: Well, I think you disparage the people who support him to think that`s what they want. Of course, they`re going to support him whatever he does, but I don`t think they want him to go down there and in fact cook up a dispute with black people.


SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: I think there are two threads here where on the one hand, you can understand where someone like Congressman John Lewis is coming from because it`s essentially a photo op for the president. He kind of checks off a box where he says look, I have extended this olive branch by commemorating the civil rights struggle even though he`s shown no understanding of its true meaning and has had a record of incendiary comments about race that predate even his time in political office.

You have the policies and then you have Trump even before he came into office with being sued for racial discrimination against African-American tenants in the early `70s, taking out an ad against the central park five, calling for death penalty, and even after they`re exonerated, still insisting they were guilty.

MATTHEWS: Even their actual innocence didn`t (INAUDIBLE)

SIDDIQUI: So, this is not just about the politics.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, I knew about you long before you got to Congress from the District of Columbia. But you were one of the leaders in all kinds of EEOC stuff, all the equal opportunity stuff. Back in the civil rights day, you and all kinds of people, I`m thinking of everybody I knew ended up in D.C., it seems.

But tell us what it was like in Mississippi and what that feeling was when you had to open up Ole Miss with James Meredith and those three civil rights guys buried alive.

NORTON: I went in `63, where there were like half a dozen civil rights workers in the state, and it was the seat of American terrorism. And I saw the sacrifices people on the ground had made. And saw this state come now to be a state where it has the largest number of African-Americans. In their state legislature in the United States, but they have only one African-American in Congress because of the way it`s gerrymandered. Of course, that`s Benny Thomas. You have to ask yourself why, if they have so many African-Americans, is that the case.

Nevertheless, I think the state comes a step forward when it puts a museum up that apparently does not hide the ball at all. And I think they`re willing to do -- they`re willing to do that, we think we ought to give them credit.

If it had been any other president, I mean any other president. The Bushes weren`t our favorites, I don`t think he would have seen any reaction like that. John would have gone, Bennie would have gone, and everybody would have applauded the bipartisanship represented at this moment, but not after the first full year of the Trump presidency.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back. The roundtable is sticking with up.

And up next, these three will give us some scoops for the weekend. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Former Vice President Joe Biden says he entered public life having been animated by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But in this, the age of Trump, issues of racial injustice continues to be a motivating factor for Biden. He is one of the most vocal critics saying Trump emboldened white supremacists.

So, it`s no wonder that many are asking if Biden will run in 2020? That`s a new question we tackle in a new documentary airing this weekend.


INTERVIEWER: Do you think you could go to your grave never having run for president?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, man, you are tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to run for president?

MATTHEWS: Are you going to run?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there no scenario you could see yourself getting in this race?

BIDEN: I`m not going to run for president.

I don`t know.

The answer is there`s a lot at stake and I might.

MATTHEWS: You look like you are running for president. Are you?

It`s a question Joe Biden has been asked for decades.

VALERIE BIDEN OWENS: All the time, particularly now. They say hi, Valerie, is Joe going to run?



MATTHEWS: With Donald Trump`s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, speculation about a Biden 2020 run has only intensified.

BIDEN: Do I regret not being president? Yes. I thought there was a need to bring the country together.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He`d be a formidable opponent. He`s got a good standing with the American people. I think people like Joe Biden.

VALERIE JARRETT: I can`t think of anyone with more experience in the Senate and the White House and as a citizen than Joe Biden.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST, ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS: I would never count Joe Biden out. This man is the Energizer bunny. He just does not quit.


MATTHEWS: "Headliners: Joe Biden" airs this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We are back with the HARDBALL round table.

Congresswoman Norton, tell me something I don`t know.

NORTON: I bet that you didn`t know that the 700,000 people that live in the District of Columbia are number one per capita in taxes paid to support the government of the United States. They have one disempowered congresswoman, me, and no senators, and we have a record number of co- sponsors for the bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. So, take that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I hear that, I`m not shocked by it, but I`m impressed.

Go ahead, Eli?

STOKOLS: Just to pick up on somewhere we`re just talking about, I did speak to someone close to the president`s political operation. He said if the election was in Montana, he would not be going to Mississippi this weekend. It tells you something about his motives.

Also, new jobs numbers out this week, out just today, 228,000 new jobs last month. This is a president overseeing a really good economy. He`s getting good marks on how he`s handling the economy. And yet, he`s 20 points under water in his overall approval rating. You talk to pollsters, they say it`s really hard to be that under water when the economy is doing this.

MATTHEWS: You wonder how bad it will be if the economy drops.

Go ahead, Sabrina.

SIDDIQUI: New numbers coming in from the Virginia governor`s race to help understand some of the themes. And many people think that foreshadows a potential Democratic wave according to internal numbers that Ralph Northam`s campaign has cited, Ed Gillespie`s attacks about MS-13 backfired tremendously. So, in so far as igniting some sort of immigration debate and demonizing immigrants, that`s apparently not a winning message and Trump --

MATTHEWS: Well, it was very hard to tie him to MS-13, I thought. That was pretty tenuous.

Anyway, U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, I`m honored to have you. Thank you. Eli Stokols, as always. And Sabrina Siddiqui, as always.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". He won`t like this one. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Friday, December 8th, 2017.

The president heads to Jackson, Mississippi, this weekend to celebrate the opening of the civil rights museum there. It`s a strange mission for Donald Trump. Why is he attending, much less appearing to celebrate events of the 1960s to which he seems and acts so much opposed?

In 1961, Air Force veteran James Meredith wrote the attorney general asking him to use the power and influence of the federal government to force the University of Mississippi to admit him, an African-American, as a student. As I describe in my book, "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit", the attorney general, Robert Kennedy, took up the case, demanding that the governor of Mississippi ends segregation at Ole Miss.

Then came an epic struggle between federal marshals and eventually federal troops against white protester who stormed the university campus. At one point, Bobby Kennedy sent an order to protect James Meredith at all cost. Shoot anybody that puts a hand on him, he ordered. His decision kept me alive, Meredith said later.

Not until that night in Oxford, Mississippi, did the Kennedy brothers grasped the depth of opposition existed to racial integration in the Deep South. Well, that was more than a half century ago, but does anyone question on what side Donald Trump would have stood? He made that clear when he denied that the first African-American president was even born here.

"Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirits" which speaks the story of the civil rights movement makes a great gift this holiday season especially for the HARDBALL fan. It will be great if you went out there and got it.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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