Show: HARDBALL Date: December 11, 2017 Guest: Annie Linskey, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Eighteen days. Let's play "Hardball."
Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington.
In an exclusive report today, NBC News has revealed new details about the direction of special counsel Mueller's Russia probe. An investigation that could reach the President himself. According to people familiar with the matter, special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that national security adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia. That warning was issued by acting attorney general Sally Yates, who told White House counsel Dan McGahn that Flynn was vulnerable because he misled the vice President and others about the nature of his conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Despite her warning, President Trump chose to keep Flynn on the job as top national security post for 18 more days, according to the report. Mueller's goal in part is to determine whether there was a deliberate effort to cover up the information that Yates had provided the White House.
As NBC reports, multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House counsel don McGahn himself and others who have worked in the west wing to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.
We have known since June that President Trump is under investigation, possibly for attempts to obstruct justice. This is the latest sign that Mueller is pursuing every lead in that area.
I'm joined right now by the author of that report, Julia Ainsley of NBC News. Matt Apuzzo is a reporter with "the New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Anne Milgram is the former attorney general of New Jersey. Thank you all.
Let me go with Julia. Just lay it out. The possibilities here are fraught. It seems to me the question at large here in our faces, did the President attempt to cover up the fact that he knew that his guy, his national security guy Michael Flynn had lied about his conversations with the Russians about sanctions?
JULIA AINSLEY, REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yes, Chris, that is the question, of course, that Robert Mueller is zeroing in on. It may be that Mueller already has a lot of information from Flynn. We know he is a cooperating witness on what went on during these 18 days.
Most lawyers who we've spoken to say a lawyer in McGahn's position would have immediately gone to Flynn after a meeting with Sally Yates and said so did you lie to the FBI? That information could have been given to him, could have been given to President. And maybe Mueller knows that now.
But what he is doing as he goes methodically through these people who a lot are still in the White House is he comparing Flynn's testimony to theirs. So this is a large legal exposure for a lot of people who are still in this administration, including for President himself, especially if it turns out that Donald Trump knew that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, and that he knew that when he was pressuring Jim Comey to drop the case.
MATTHEWS: How do we know that he was told what Flynn said to the FBI?
AINSLEY: So we --
MATTHEWS: How do we know there was such a conversation between anybody and I assume McGahn, his White House lawyer, who knew the situation, but how do we know anyone told the President that his guy lied?
AINSLEY: So at this point what we are going on is the fact that former federal prosecutors that we have spoken to have said look, it would make a lot of sense after this January 26th meeting between Sally Yates and Dan McGahn that these conversations started.
Sally Yates described a change in McGahn's demeanor between the 26th and when she was called back at 27th. It was clear he had spoken to lot of people at the White House. So these conversation mace have spread. Flynn may have very well told McGahn and that information could have gotten to Donald Trump.
We don't know exactly what Flynn told McGahn. We don't know what went to Donald Trump. But that sat the heart of this investigation. And we are sure that Mueller wants to get to the bottom of that question.
MATTHEWS: Well, among his many conversations with ambassador Kislyak was Flynn's phone call on December 29th last year in which Flynn discussed reversing U.S. sanctions on Russia. About two weeks later on January 15th, vice President Pence publicly denied that sanctions were discussed in that conversation. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Mike Flynn ever discuss lifting sanctions in any of those conversations? Do you know?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to General Flynn yesterday. And the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:12] MATTHEWS: Well, then during an interview with the FBI on the 24th, Flynn lied about the nature of that call, saying sanctions were not discussed.
On January 26th, acting attorney general Sally Yates then warned White House council Dan McGahn, as I said, that Flynn was susceptible to Russian blackmail because it was clear he had led the vice President and others. Here is how she described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House because -- in part because the vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public, and because we believed that general Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, for 18 days after she delivered that warning to McGahn, the White House lawyer, Flynn remained in his job as national security adviser. For 18 days he stayed on the job after they knew he lied.
On February 13th, the President fired Flynn, but only after it was reported that he had lied to the vice President. The next day, according to FBI, former FBI director James Comey, the President urged Comey, him to drop the FBI's investigation of Flynn.
Matt, give us a sense of this intrigue here, what you see happening, what all this has told us so far.
MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, all this has told us is Bob Mueller's got a hell of a puzzle to put together. And part of this he wants to know because maybe there is a crime. But part of this is he is trying to figure out exactly what happened. His mandate is understand Russian influence, understand what happened in these crazy moments early on in the Trump administration. And after a campaign where Russia was repeatedly reaching out and trying to make contact with people in the Trump campaign. So he wants to know what happened, whether it's a crime or whether just to be able to say I figured it out. I know what happened.
MATTHEWS: Anne, explain obstruction here in this context. What would obstruction be? Is this what it looks like, the attempt by the President to keep on a guy he knew had lied, perhaps lied to the FBI as well as the vice President?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY: So I think they have always been asking this question on whether or not there was obstruction here. And the court questions are really what did the President know, when did he know them and what if any actions did he take to prevent that investigation from going forward or to prevent relevant information going to the investigators like the FBI or the United States department of justice.
And I think that goes back to when Flynn was first interviewed by the FBI. He was a member of the administration at that time. And so I think Mueller will want to know what did Flynn say when he was interviewed at that time. Did the President have any conversations with him before that interview took place with the FBI?
Of course, after Sally Yates spoke to the White House, the question would be what, if anything did Trump know or say to Flynn and others. And then finally in this conversation with Comey. So there are a lot of conversations that could have involved both the President and general Flynn.
And remember here that the key thing that has switched in the last couple of weeks is about a week and a half ago, we know that Michael Flynn plead guilty and is cooperating with the government. And so while Mueller's team would have been trying to understand all of these conversations and what happen during that 18-day period from day one, at this point he now has someone who was in a lot of those rooms who is giving him information about hey, this is what I said. This is what the President said, this is what the White House council said. And so they're trying to put together those pieces of the puzzle.
MATTHEWS: Let me look at this. The President appeared to suggest that he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time he fired him, saying in a tweet this month, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. Well, Trump lawyer John Dowd has since taken responsibility for that tweet, which he said was a mistake. The White House wouldn't say exactly when the President first learned when Flynn lied to the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did the president know that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As I said earlier, I refer you would back to John Dowd's clarification.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm asking future a day. When did he find out? Was it made Friday or the day prior to that?
SANDERS: Again, I'm not aware of those specifics. But I would refer you to John Dowd for that specific question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a statement of fact. What day the President discovered this lie issue.
SANDERS: And I'm telling you as a statement of fact that you should contact John Dowd. It doesn't seem that hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It doesn't seem that hard. That's snarky.
Anyway, reached for comment last week, John Dowd told ABC News I'm not going to engage on this subject.
Back to you, Julia. I want to take a chance to try to make this, you know, I keep thinking of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia. Explain it to my grandmother, OK. I real have to let people catch up on this story. If the question here is about whether the Trump administration in its early days, in its infancy was involved already, back and forth and in cahoots with the Russian, fine.
The question is did they obstruct justice by trying to protect that information. If the President knew that his national security guy had in fact discussed sanctions, relieving sanction under the new administration, if he knew that happened and helped him keep it secret from the investigators, would that be, even if it was only for 18 days, would that be obstruction?
[19:10:08] AINSLEY: So what we can say here in a way that I can explain it to your grandmother is that when the President is pressuring his national security adviser, whether it's to make this phone call in the first place, whether it's to then go lie to the FBI about it or possibly lie to the vice President about it, he is inserting himself in a way that could be part of the collusion investigation. Where we come into the obstruction investigation is then if he tried to obstruct the FBI's, again, at this point it's just the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn. This is before Robert Mueller came on.
Obstruction would be if he interceded with the knowledge that his national security director had lied or perhaps directed him to lie, that would also be part of obstruction, and told James Comey to drop the case. That would be the obstruction prong of this. Of course, this is still building. Mueller is a looking into whether the President obstructed justice. We don't want the make complete, definite claims here because this investigation is ongoing.
But it's clear here that Michael Flynn is a soldier. It would be kind of rare for him to go out on his own and make these calls and go rogue and lie to the FBI and not be talking to anyone about it. So there is a reason why Mueller is really focused on this. And this could end up giving him a lot of the answers he needs, both about the way the Trump transition worked possibly with Russia and the way that this administration tried to cover up those contacts.
MATTHEWS: Again, back to Anne for the expertise on obstruction. If the President knew that his guy had lied to the vice President, if he had known or gotten word that he had lied to the FBI, if he had let him sit there and let him look legitimate all those weeks, for 18 days, two and a half week, if highway he had done all that, is that obstruction?
MILGRAM: I think that's the exact question that Mueller is going to answer.
MATTHEWS: As an expert, is that one of the elements of obstruction?
MILGRAM: I think that just knowing there was an ongoing investigation, I would want to know if I were Bob Mueller, I would want to know when the President knew what he was told, what he said exactly to James Comey. We have Comey's testimony. And I think that there is a good case to be made that there was obstruction of justice here. But I do think that the devil is going to be in the details on what was known when and what was said.
And so remember, with obstruction, there has to be an investigation going. There are different legal components to it. It could be obstructing Congress. It could be obstructing the department of justice.
And so, you know, the questions that Mueller is going to be asking are not just those questions about Comey, but also what, if anything, did the President say to Flynn? Did he encourage Flynn to say that they hadn't talked about sanctions? That's a potential question of obstruction. And so there are a lot of pieces here that I think a lot of the piece of the puzzle are coming together, but I would want more before I walked into a grand jury.
MATTHEWS: My question, Matt is when do we know? How do we know the President was told if Flynn lied to the FBI?
APUZZO: We don't know that. And we have all been covering this now for almost a year. And in my reporting and I haven't seen in any other reporting that suggests the President is telling Flynn to lie to the FBI or when he was told that Flynn lied to the FBI or that his firing was to try to cover up something with the FBI.
MATTHEWS: You're going to a whole new supposition here.
APUZZO: What we know is Mueller is asking questions of people about Flynn's tenure and his dismissal. But I mean, making the jump -- frankly, the President is allowed to keep his national security adviser on even after he has been told by his attorney general hey, the guy is a security risk. Hey, I'm the President.
MATTHEWS: Even if he told him the jump he told him to lie?
APUZZO: Yes. I think the question out there, you know, well, did he keep him to the order on when did he know? Did he keep in on? I mean, we don't have those facts. I mean, a lot of it is sort of supposition.
MATTHEWS: At some point we might hear from McGahn.
Anyway, thank you, Julia Ainsley, great reporting. And Matt Apuzzo, thank you as always. And Anne Milgram, thank you for your expertise on prosecution.
Coming up, it's the night before the special election in Alabama. Obviously, we all notice is all over the papers, the Democrats are hoping Doug Jones can pull up what was once considered unthinkable, a victory in Trump country over Roy Moore. We will see about that. Trump is so in for Moore. Obama is not quite in for Jones. Anyway, Alabama's top Republican senior Senate Richard Shelby says the state deserves better, better than Roy Moore. And he is really being emphatic. And that's ahead.
Plus, that "New York Times" report about Donald Trump's battle for self- preservation. Trump fights hour to hour looking to vanquish rivals and legitimacy. It is all feel by a ton of cable news and diet coke. About four hours a day of us and 12 diet cokes makes a man like Donald Trump be Donald Trump.
And as the me-too movement takes down high profile men in politics and public life, three of Donald Trump's accusers are speaking out again today and clearly they want Congress to investigate Trump's behavior as the White House denies their claims.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. You will not like it. I don't like this stupid war he is starting over there, this third intifada over in Jerusalem, which is a stupid thing he did. And we are all going to pay for it.
This is "Hardball," where the action is.
[19:16:29] MATTHEWS: A suspect in custody tonight following an attempted terror attack on the New York subway system. Surveillance cameras captured this video of 27-year-old Akhed Oa walking through a crowded passage way near the Times Square subway station. Moments later the low tech explosive device that he was wearing detonated, injuring himself and three others. Oa was taken into an area hospital where he is being treated for burns to his hands and abdomen.
Authorities say the suspect lives in Brooklyn and came to the U.S. from Bangladesh about seven years ago. A senior law enforcement official says he told investigators that he carried out the botched attack in the name of is. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:19:16] SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: There's a time. We call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip. When it got to the 14-year-old story, story, that was enough for me. I said I can't vote for Roy Moore. The state of Alabama deserves better. I think we have got a lot of great Republicans that could have won and carried the state beautifully and served in the Senate honorably.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball"
That was senior senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby saying he couldn't vote for the candidate from his own party, Roy Moore.
Well, today the former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, an Alabama native made a similar appeal. She said I encourage you to take a stand for our core principles and for what is right. These critical times requires to come together to reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance. I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington, but we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear."
That's Condoleezza Rice.
Anyway, Alabama goes to the polls tomorrow.
In the final hours, Republicans got a boost from the president of the United States. Donald Trump not only endorsed Roy Moore. He also recorded this robo-call for him. Here he goes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi. This is President Donald Trump, and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. It is so important.
We're already making America great again. I'm going to make America safer and stronger and better than ever before, but we need that seat. We need Roy voting for us.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, former President Barack Obama also recorded a robo-call for Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, though it's unclear whether the campaign is using it. That's interesting.
According to CNN, Obama says in the call: "This one's serious. You can't sit it out. Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress. Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama."
I'm joined right now by "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson and "The Boston Globe"'s Annie Linskey.
Gene, and thank you, Annie.
This is -- I never thought of Richard Shelby in this way. But he has come off his -- you know, he was a survivor all these years. He switched parties to survive down there because Democrats couldn't get elected anymore.
You know, he did what he had to do to stay in office. And now he seems to have a role. He reminds me of John Warner in the olds days against what's his name, that interesting character they beat in Virginia that time.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It surprised me.
MATTHEWS: Ollie North.
ROBINSON: Ollie North, right, of course.
But it surprised me that, you know, at this late and crucial juncture, Shelby came out, and came out strong, said: I can't vote for the guy.
MATTHEWS: Is that because -- can I dare to be skeptical and say, Shelby is 83, 84? He is not running again.
ANNIE LINSKEY, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": He is not running again.
MATTHEWS: He's got five more years of this.
LINSKEY: That's right.
MATTHEWS: So, he can tell the people about what he thinks, finally.
LINSKEY: Yes, and I think it's going to make a difference.
Chris, I have spent -- I have been down to Alabama twice in the last three weeks. So I spent quite a loft time down there. And one thing people keep on saying over and over again is, they don't want to hear from outsiders. They don't -- they weren't too thrilled to hear from Steve Bannon.
To be honest, when I was talking to people who went to his rally, they said, we don't care what Steve Bannon says. We want to hear from Alabamans. And so I think it does matter.
MATTHEWS: How do they like you down there?
LINSKEY: Well, they were very polite. They were very polite.
MATTHEWS: This outsider thing...
MATTHEWS: Because this Alabama thing about -- they don't like outside agitators.
LINSKEY: Yes, they don't.
MATTHEWS: That whole thing.
LINSKEY: Yes, they did look at me as a Yankee. I mean, look, I'm from "The Boston Globe."
MATTHEWS: When you said "Boston Globe," what...
LINSKEY: Yes. They were just like, what are you doing here?
ROBINSON: ... you're a Yankee.
ROBINSON: But, you know, the women who accused Roy Moore are also Alabamans, OK? They're Alabamans. They're locals.
MATTHEWS: When I heard about this focus group down there, they don't believe them.
LINSKEY: I talked to a lot of those -- I did. I talked to a lot of people who are saying similar things, that -- or they are saying they believe them, but, hey, this isn't that different from what my grandparents did.
I talked to one woman who said, yes, my grandma, she was 16 years old when she got married to my grandfather.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but her grandfather was 17.
LINSKEY: Yes. No, no. In this case, he was older. He was in his 30s.
MATTHEWS: Are they dreaming this up just to win the case down there? That seems very convenient.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, many Republicans in Washington here continue to express concern about the prospects of Roy Moore actually winning tomorrow. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Roy Moore will be the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. It will define the 2018 election, at least 2018. And to think you can elect Roy Moore without getting the baggage of Roy Moore is pretty naive.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have always said that, so far, as far as I can tell, the allegations are significantly stronger than the denial.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I didn't have to withdraw my endorsement of Moore because I didn't endorse him in the first place.
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I think Roy Moore is an abomination to the Republican Party. And that's one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Gene, what does this mean? It's not going to be a welcome wagon if he gets elected.
ROBINSON: No. If he gets elected, it's going to be really weird, because now we have a whole bunch of Republican senators on the record. It says that this guy is scum, right? This guy is an awful guy, and we don't want him.
So what if he shows up? If he shows up, presumably, they start an ethics investigation. But that's what first day like in the Republican Caucus meeting right when they sit down? It's like, Roy, you got anything to say?
MATTHEWS: I'm just getting the word, by the way, from my producer that they might -- executive producer -- that the robo-call from Obama is going out, trying to get the vote out.
LINSKEY: Oh, it is. OK.
MATTHEWS: Annie, this is interesting, because, besides being a reporter, you're a woman.
And this is one of the issues, probably one the really -- since arguing over women's being able to right -- suffrage.
MATTHEWS: It really is a gender issue.
MATTHEWS: It's become -- because the targets of this behavior, misconduct, crime, has been women.
LINSKEY: Yes. Absolutely.
And I went down to Alabama specifically to find women who were supporting Roy Moore. And it was hard. I was in a county that was 76 percent -- voted 76 percent for Trump. So, three-quarters of voters in that county voted for Trump.
When I was looking for women who would say on the record that they were voting for Roy Moore, I mean, they laughed at me. They just laughed at me. And many -- and almost all of them said no.
I mean, I was in a Waffle House where people were just laughing at me, say, oh, gosh, golly, I'm not voting for that guy.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have a secret ballot in this country. Do you think that laughing was real?
LINSKEY: It was real.
MATTHEWS: Or it was just public?
LINSKEY: In this county, which was...
MATTHEWS: So you think the election might be more to Jones than we thought?
LINSKEY: I think that they're -- it's definitely -- I know the conventional wisdom is that Roy Moore is going to walk away with this tomorrow by a few points.
But, you know, when I was in this county, I was really having a hard time finding people -- finding women, at least.
MATTHEWS: Look, I believe in the shoe-leather approach.
MATTHEWS: You went out there and did it.
LINSKEY: And there were signs -- there were no signs. That was the other thing. There were no Roy Moore signs, you know?
ROBINSON: Somehow, I'm not surprised.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the final weekend of the election, Democrat Doug Jones made numerous campaign stops, but where was Roy Moore? Great question.
According to Politico: "Moore hasn't held a public event since Tuesday," since Tuesday. It's now Monday. "Two Republicans briefed on Moore's schedule before the weekend said he intended to spend Saturday in Philly at the Army-Navy game, the football game, a long-planned trip" -- that was this Saturday" -- "that the West Point grad had insisted he would still take in this year, despite the election. Moore's campaign declined repeated requests to discuss his whereabouts and refused to say whether he had in fact gone" -- this is spooky.
It either is he is sure he is going win or he has considered that he thinks he seems better than he looks.
MATTHEWS: So he doesn't want people to meet him.
MATTHEWS: Or he doesn't want questions raised.
ROBINSON: He doesn't want to answer the questions. He doesn't want to be in a situation where he can be pressed to answer the questions that he has such trouble answering.
LINSKEY: Right. That's right.
ROBINSON: He just -- he denies. But first he didn't actually deny. And so what was that about?
He just doesn't want that. So, he figures he has a better chance if he actually stays away from the state, which is an amazing way to run for office.
MATTHEWS: I think I'm beginning to think maybe it's a slight victory for Jones. We will see.
Thank you, Gene Robinson.
I know I will be held to that.
MATTHEWS: We will be covering the special election in Alabama tomorrow on HARDBALL at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and then back again at midnight. We will have a special hour tomorrow night at midnight.
I love these hours, believe it or not. I love staying up late, because we know then the crackle of defeat or victory, it's all clear. No more talk. It's decided. I love it.
Up next: a staggering new report about Trump's life inside the White House. The president is watching up to eight hours of TV a day -- he is a couch potato -- using the cable news coverage to hone his talking points.
He is practicing on us. Isn't it supposed to be other way around and we learn from him? No, no. He learns truth from television.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Milissa Rehberger. Here's what's happening.
Wind gusts are spreading the huge wildfire from Ventura to Santa Barbara, California, forcing more evacuations. The Thomas Fire is one of several burning in Southern California. It is only 15 percent contained. President Trump has declared a state of emergency and ordered federal agencies to help with firefighting efforts.
A judge has ordered the Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist in the military beginning January 1, this despite the president's opposition. Potential transgender recruits will still have to overcome the armed services' lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental health requirements -- back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Over the weekend, "The New York Times" published an in-depth piece exploring a day in the life of President Donald Trump.
Speaking to roughly 60 sources -- that's 60 sources -- "The New York Times" paints a picture of a president preoccupied by his own self-preservation, someone who views every day "as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals."
Much of what fuels his day is his seemingly insatiable appetite for cable news and Diet Coke. According to "The New York Times," the president starts his day with a healthy dose of TV in the White House master bedroom.
Quote: "People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day and sometimes as much as twice that in front of the television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back."
Well, "The Times" also reports that the president has had a -- quote -- "difficult adjustment to the presidency because he assumed it would be more akin to the popular image of imperial command."
Well, during the first months of his presidency, he even barked commands at senators.
Well, earlier this morning, the president reacted to the article, tweeting: "Another false story, this time in the failing 'New York Times,' that I watch four to eight hours of television a day. Wrong."
For more, I'm joined by author and MSNBC contributor for Reagan -- actually, not a contributor, actually Ron Reagan himself.
Ron, he sounded like the old John McLaughlin. Wrong.
MATTHEWS: Like, I -- what do you make of the television binge and the fact that he seems like a reaction, not rocket man, but reaction man? Why would you watch all day just thinking of ways that you get mad that you can react to?
That's not leading. That's reacting.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: There is a lot that is disturbing in this story.
You know, let's just take the two little headline items that you mentioned, the television bingeing and the Diet Coke. This is behavior that would be concerning to a parent if they found it in their high school student. They'd want to intervene.
And you wonder. Eight hours of television a day? The presidency is a pretty all-consuming job. When does he find time to actually be president? The answer from this article seems to be that he's not really ever being president in the way we think of being president, in other words, engaging with issues all the time, grappling with different things, you know, arm- twisting members of Congress, all that sort of thing.
He is mostly interested in how he is being spoken about on television. But the meta points about -- that came out to me, at least, about this article are, one, that so many people within the White House, people who work under Donald Trump, are willing to anonymously at least talk about his lack of fitness for the office.
And the other thing is that we are talking about that too, and have been since the election. This whole -- all of this stuff, this conversation that we're having now, is circling around the point of, is this president mentally fit to be president of the United States?
REAGAN: And I think a lot of us privately are thinking, no, he is not. And that includes a lot of Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about the terrifying power he holds, even in this television obsession of his.
I remember an old "Twilight" episode where this young kid turns out to have supernatural powers. He can -- he -- what do you call it, he has kinetic powers. He can make things happen. He can make people die. Remember that kid?
MATTHEWS: And they all pander to him, scared to death of him.
REAGAN: Yes, he wishes people into the cornfield.
MATTHEWS: Right. Exactly. You remember the...
REAGAN: And everybody has to tell him it's a good day, Bobby. It's a good day. Yes, everything is fine.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think -- I imagine the people fluttering around him at the White House all pandering to his needs because he is the commander in chief and he can hurt people .
He cannot just fire them. He can perhaps bring -- he can bring doom on this planet.
Anyway, the article in "The New York Times" also reports that some of President Trump's associates have raised questions about, as Ron just did there, his capacity, willingness to separate bad information from factual information.
"Even after a year of official briefings and access to the best minds in the federal government, Mr. Trump is skeptical of anything that does not come from inside his bubble."
Well, here is something that didn't come inside his bubble. If you move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and you make it look to the Arab world like they're never going to get a capital in East Jerusalem, that they're just screwed out of any deal, that we're no longer the honest broker, we're just Israel's ally, and it's as simple as that, and they're finished, you're going get an unending third intifada.
And let's face it, it has begun. And there's no sign it's going to end. Did anybody inside the bubble, like Jared Kushner, say, Mr. President, that's a dumb thing to do, with huge consequences?
REAGAN: Apparently not. Apparently they didn't.
But this is something he could do. It's something. He could sign a document. And we know he loves to sign those documents.
REAGAN: And it's something he could do unilaterally without consulting anybody. And so he did it, because it was a big dramatic gesture.
But it has no thought behind it. There is no strategy there. He didn't consult with allies about this, which you would do if you were going to undermine the position of the -- let's say the entire European community regarding Israel, you might want to consult with your allies about that.
But, no, no, he doesn't. Surprise, we're moving our embassy to Jerusalem, you know?
Ron, you're great. You have got a great satirical mind, which is perfect for this situation.
REAGAN: It's the only thing that will save us all.
MATTHEWS: Maybe it will. There is some humor with it.
Thank you so much, Ron Reagan, from Seattle.
Up next: The women who accused President Trump of sexual misconduct are speaking out once again, detailing their allegations against the president and calling on Congress to investigate these events.
You're watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It became apparent that in some areas, the accusations of sexual aggression were being taken seriously. And people were being held accountable, except for our president. And he was not being held accountable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked that Congress put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump's history of sexual misconduct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Those are two of the women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct, speaking out today, this morning, and calling on the U.S. Congress to investigate those allegations against Trump. Well, the accusations have gotten new attention as the me-too movement has taken down high profile men in politics and public life. And as Trump has thrown his support behind Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Well, three of the president's accusers spoke today with NBC's Megyn Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ACCUSER: All of the sudden, he was all over me, kissing and groping and groping and kissing. When his hands starting going up my skirt, I'm not a small person, I managed to wiggle out.
SAMANTHA HOLVEY, TRUMP ACCUSER: Looking me over like I was just a piece of meat, like, you know, I was not a human being. I didn't have a brain. I didn't have a personality. I was just simply there for his pleasure.
MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS HOST: So he kept kissing you?
RACHEL CROOKS, TRUMP ACCUSER: Yes, he went -- I don't know how many times back and forth, multiple. And then he kissed me on the lips. And I was shocked. Yes. I mean, devastated. I didn't -- it happened so fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, they spoke out one day after these comments from Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador -- well, our ambassador to the U.N.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump has denied the allegations against him. In his statement, the White House called the charges politically motivated.
And Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations. And this took place long before he was elected to be president. And the people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Going back to the HARDBALL round table.
Francesca Chambers is White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail", Ken Vogel is political reporter for "New York Times" and Jeff Bennett is White House correspondent for NBC News.
Gentlemen and lady, thank you.
Why don't we talk here about this thing? What -- what can be done? I'm not complete hard-nosed political assessor, but besides sort of dressing down the president for what he did and making it clear that these events did happen, and you just have to accept them as -- they're not really being challenged as truth.
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: So --
MATTHEWS: What does that get done? Does it diminish this president? Does it teach a lesson to other men or what? Where are we going here?
CHAMBERS: Right. On the other end of that question, asking that question to today's briefing about the congressional investigations. But that is something I have also wondered there. The women are saying that Congress investigated Al Franken. So Congress, the Ethics Committee should also investigate president Trump.
MATTHEWS: They didn't investigate Trump. I mean, they didn't investigate --
CHAMBERS: And then he supposedly and then he left. But the reason he came under, Franken, under an ethics investigation is because he is a senator and it's their job to police that body.
And so, when it comes to President Trump, you're asking at this point maybe the oversight committee. You're asking some committee in Congress to decide to take it upon themselves to investigate the president. And with Republican-run Congress, the likelihood of something like that happening is just almost nothing.
MATTHEWS: What would they do with their investigation if they did conduct one? I mean, with the permanent subcommittee --
KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We saw a lot of it.
VOGEL: They would bring forth these allegation in a way that you saw them here and a way that you did see them.
MATTHEWS: It's a separate branch of government. It is.
VOGEL: Right. There is almost nothing they can do short of bringing articles of impeachment. I don't know on what grounds they would do that. And, obviously, Republicans don't have the House anyway. So, it's kind of a moot point.
But there is this change where when these allegations were first aired during the campaign, we were not in this moment that we are right now? We've had sort of a cultural shift. I think a lot of it has to do with allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Explain that, because I think the cosmos shifted there. I think because the Ronan Farrow, and because "The New York Times" went after him in a way that looked very credible.
He looked like the bad guy. There was no real defense there was a lot of witnesses, all on the record by name, a lot of really strong reporting. It was pretty much a done deal. And what did that do?
VOGEL: Well, what that has done is shifted the burden of proof. It made it more likely culturally for accusers, particularly women accusing men of sexual misconduct to be believed and emboldened more women to come forward. If you remember in the week before the election, there was set to be a big press conference where a woman who had made some explosive claims anonymously in a lawsuit against then candidate Trump was going to come forward.
She backed away at the last minute. She said she was scared. I think there is much more support for these women now.
MATTHEWS: You're thinking the political context has changed. We don't know what is going to happen tomorrow in Alabama. So, we'll all be experts tomorrow night around midnight.
GEOFF BENNETT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: And even as, you know, Ken rightly points out, the culture has changed. The official line from the White House regarding Trump's accusers has not changed.
CHAMBERS: That's right.
BENNETT: Sarah Huckabee Sanders reverted back to the official White House line which is to deny, which is to discredit the accusers to a certain degree and then to deflect.
MATTHEWS: She said the jury was the voters.
BENNETT: Well, that's right. I mean, the point the White House makes is the American people knew about these allegations when they elected Donald Trump. And that puts all of this to rest.
MATTHEWS: The popular vote went against him, so you have to say they did judge him guilty.
BENNETT: Well, yes, and the other thing she said was that these allegations are from a long time ago. That's not necessarily the case. Some of these accusations are from fairly recent.
CHAMBERS: But also that there were eyewitnesses that would be able to say that these things that they say didn't happen, didn't happen. And so then she said she would potentially provide us a list of those. And so, I think we'll all be very curious to see if they can provide a list of eyewitnesses who say that the incident didn't happen, didn't happen.
MATTHEWS: I'll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today. Everybody promises somewhere they're going to come out.
Anyway, "The Associated Press" reports White House advisers were stunned by Ambassador Haley's comments, adding that according to two sources familiar with the president's views, quote, Haley's comments infuriated the president. Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling his associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
What's the point of the president saying I remind me of Roy Moore? Why is he saying that? Why would you say I sound like Roy Moore?
CHAMBERS: I mean, in this race, I think it's very clear that the president feels that he's got to get Roy Moore elected. He's got to get this guy into the Senate. They cannot afford to lose the Senate seat. So, short of appearing with him on stage, because he won't do that, he'll just go 15 miles to the border and not appear with him on stage. He's got to get guy in.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk to Ken, and Geoff, and then back to you again. Why are these voters interviewed on the focus groups down in Alabama, people just saying, you know, I don't really think that's what happened? Just saying it.
It's like voter nullification. I don't believe these stories from these women down there.
VOGEL: Yes, it's rationalization. They want an excuse to be able to vote for the person they wanted to vote for independent of all of this stuff. So even as we from the outside say this has become a referendum on these allegations of whether we believe these women, the Alabama Republicans, they want a Republican. And they're willing to hold their nose --
MATTHEWS: You're so smart.
VOGEL: I don't know about that, but explain away.
MATTHEWS: I do think --
CHAMBERS: That's what President Trump is doing as well there was a point that I was saying. He is a Republican. Then we will test tomorrow night how far it goes.
BENNETT: Especially for conservative evangelicals who have as a litmus test abortion. I was talking to a Democratic strategist in Alabama who said if Doug Jones was anti-abortion, then he would probably have this sewn up by right now. But it's that and it's also party identification. There are a lot of voters who have never voted for a Democrat in a federal election.
And, you know, a lot of Doug Jones supporters are they won't necessarily view this race as a binary choice between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. The other choice is for some of the Republicans to stay home and that will give Jones a boost.
CHAMBERS: But the Senate is not a binary choice. There are Republicans and there are Democrats. And there are either 51 seats or 52 seats Republicans, and that's what --
MATTHEWS: It's the nature of the beast, binary, one or the other. The round table is sticking with us.
You're watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL roundtable will be back with three scoops you'll be talking about tomorrow.
Back after this.
MATTHEWS: We're back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Francesca, tell me something I don't know.
CHAMBERS: All right. While I was in India hearing Ivanka Trump speak, she said that the administration was going to be working hard in the New Year on paid family leave. And that's something I'm hearing from allies of the administration, it's just not something there is a major appetite for in the House. So, we'll see if she can get that national paid family leave pushed through next year.
MATTHEWS: I'm sure it's a big corporate agenda item. Go ahead, Ken.
VOGEL: There has been a surge of reporting on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct allegations in the United States Congress. My sources tell me that it has prompted a deluge of complaints to the House Ethics Committee.
MATTHEWS: About members?
VOGEL: Members and high-ranking staff members.
BENNETT: To that end, Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore sent a letter to the Senate operations team asking them to put a plan in place to protect Senate pages in the event that Roy Moore --
MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. It's ludicrous. You have to have a restraining order on a U.S. senator just because -- it's crazy. Anyway, if you like the guy that needs to be restrained?
Anyway, thank you, Francesca Chambers, Ken Vogel and Geoff Bennett.
When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch".
You're watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Monday, December 11th, 2017.
The president would have us believe there is honor in his declaration of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. He promised some groups he would do it, therefore he finds honor in delivering on that promise. Oh, yes?
Well, I can distinctly remember a far larger promise Trump made in the campaign, far more important and far more wide ranging in its consequences. He promised again and again and again that he would not enter this country into what he called stupid wars, wars that do nothing to advance our country's security. He was referring to Iraq in particular, an argument I completely agreed with.
And now look at what he has done. Trump has stirred up all kinds of trouble throughout the Islamic world, on the West Bank, in Lebanon. And who knows how many other places? People are getting killed because this president wanted to pander to those who backed him last November.
Meanwhile, he has dishonored one of the few heroic commitments he took in the campaign, to oppose American entry into stupid wars, wars that fail to deliver security for the American people.
Why is Trump humiliating those Arab states who have stood with us over the years, countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia? Why has he bollocks up his own son-in-law's efforts to build a Sunni/Arab/Israeli coalition against Iran? Why is he giving Iran the greatest break in the world by blowing that alliance apart?
But Trump's greatest betrayal is to those who believed his promise to end stupid wars. In declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, by forecluding (ph) East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, Mr. Trump has forfeited America's indispensable role as peace broker. Instead, as he has done at home, he has taken division, which was bad, and managed to make it worse.
That's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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