Show: HARDBALL Date: December 14, 2017 Guest: Adam Schiff, Jill Wine-Banks, John Sipher, Randall Woodfin, Ashley Parker; Susan Page; Michael Steele
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: -- done a lot of good work on the camera and behind it and while overdue, we wish him congratulations.
That does it for "the Beat." I will see you back here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. eastern. HARDBALL starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Not my fault. Let's play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews back in Washington.
Republicans are now a party in panic after a Democratic David brought down a GOP goliath in Alabama. While President Trump publicly congratulate Democrat Doug Jones on his hard fought victory, those were his words, "the Washington Post" reports that in private, Trump has bristled with the nose that he bears, he Donald Trump bears, any response voting for Republican Roy Moore's lose.
According to a senior administration official, the President has said I won Alabama and I would have won Alabama again. Well, the report goes to add that he faulted his former chief strategist Stephen Bannon for selling him what one outside called -- described as a bill of goods and urging him to support Roy Moore. And he faulted Moore himself for being an abysmal candidate. He had also groused about Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. That's a quote.
Well, Trump's behind the scenes' blamed game is a far cry from his mutant public response. Here's what he told reporters yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of Republicans feel differently. They are very happy with the way it turned out. But I would have -- as the leader of the party I would have liked to have the seat. I want to endorse the people that are running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could that loss affect your agenda?
TRUMP: I don't think it's going to affect it. I think we are doing a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, "the Washington Post" also reports that inside the west wing Jones' upset victory left some of Trump's top advisers worried about both the 2018 midterm elections and the President's own low popularity.
Meanwhile the Web site Axiose writes that the Democrats performance in Alabama has Republicans rattled adding that President Trump is slowly but surely giving Democrats an increasing shot at winning the House and Senate in 2018.
Democratic national committee chairman Tom Perez echoed that sentiment earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: We are leading with our value. We have learned from our mistakes. And we are leading into the 2018 elections. I think we're going to win the Senate and the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Doug Jones' victory down in Alabama sharpens the Republican's already raiser thin majority in the Senate. Democrats will need to gain just two seats in 2018 now to retake control of the chamber. "The New York Times" reports that the Alabama laws exposed fishers in the GOP that could spell disaster in 2018, writing, for Republicans competing in the first midterm elections of a President that's unpopular was always going to be difficult. But that natural disadvantage is being exacerbated by the conflict between Senate Republicans and anti-establishment conservatives such as Steve Bannon.
(INAUDIBLE) Ashley Parker, White House reporter for "the Washington Post," Michael Steele, former Republican national committee chair and Susan Page Washington bureau chief for "USA Today."
Ashley, let's go to this story here. Give us this story now in real time. What is Trump denying about the loss this week?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, the key thing he is denying is that he has any culpability in the loss. As you mentioned there is a number of people he is blamed, none of which are himself. So he has been frustrated with Mitch McConnell in the run up to the race. He felt McConnell was sort of too aggressively trying to push out Moore. He is frustrated with his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon who as you mentioned, he felt - sold him a faulty bill of goods because he really only got in this race partially because Bannon has sort of assured him that Moore was going to win, and the President, if we know anything, like Tuesday back a winner is he is frustrated with Moore himself who he correctly knows was a pretty poor candidate. So that's the one thing he sort of this agree with, this is anyway a referendum on himself.
MATTHEWS: Is he alone in this? Is he a bad guy, Bob in there in the White House now, a guy who is saying we haven't lost while the people around him day to day in the office they don't agree? Where does that stand?
PARKER: Well, the people in the office do make one point that the President is also making, they sort of say, look, this isn't a referendum on him. They say endorsements of any sort are overrated and don't matter that much. But I think among them there is a recognition there is a sort of a problem or concern particularly with their political operations. And I don't want to say a shake-up. I think that is too strong. But there's some talk that they may sort of beefing up their political operations that has been faulty (ph) a little bit especially as they head into the 2018 midterms.
MATTHEWS: Has Bannon had his pick on this?
PARKER: The President is certainly angry and frustrated with Steve Bannon right now. But people I talked to both in Bannon's orbit and the President say that they imagine the President's anger will subside and the two -- look, we reported when Bannon left the White House the two still talk on the phone. They may not be talking that much this week, but we assume those phone calls will continue at some point.
[19:05:08] MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the knives being in the way they always in politics, and they should be out. Somebody has got to take the hit for a loss, a big loss like this. Jack Kennedy said, their victory has 100 father's defeats in orphan, OK. So nobody is going to take responsibility for this, right? So who is going to get hit for it?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, the orphan is going to turn around and hit a lot of people for this one. And because the fact of the matter is the President, Bannon, and the House, I mean, the Senate leadership, all of them have a hand in creating the mess they are in right now.
I mean, you can't escape this. The President (INAUDIBLE) head of the party, did the robo calls. This was his guy. He got out in front. Now you can sit back and, you know, remake that history all you want. But the reality of it is you said that your agenda would be in trouble if this man did not win this seat. And now you are saying, we will survive. Our agenda will be just fine is now believable.
The majority leader and others did not want to go down this road. They wanted to play their card with Luther Strange. That was their strongest card to play. Had the President and Bannon got behind them on that and understood the politics at the end of the day, Luther Strange --
MATTHEWS: Was there a winning path there? Could they have backed strange and beaten this guy?
STEELE: Absolutely. And it was evident they could have beaten him, because the number of Republicans who walked away from this campaign. There was a whole lot of history with Moore before when we got to --
MATTHEWS: Who was walking away from him down there?
STEELE: You make the case. But the red hats aren't the only ones who were voting and that was very clear on Tuesday.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Look who he did lose. He loss white suburban especially college educated one, especially women. I mean, those are the ones who help give Trump a 28 percentage point advantage there in the presidential election and came out this time and voted the other way. And that is very much a reflection on the President. And the President can say this wasn't a referendum on him. But we know that midterm elections especially in the House are a referendum on the President.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) and Ashley you can pick on it. I don't know if anybody knows the answer to this. I thought it was interesting that (INAUDIBLE) who really likes Trump generally and probably still does like Trump, found a way around voting for a guy who was really bad news, this guy Roy Moore with the behavior he has had over the years, and voting for a pro-choice Democrat. He found - she found a way just not voting. Isn't that an explanation why the rural vote was down?
PARKER: So I don't necessarily know exactly why that vote was down. But I do think it proves several things we are concerning which is that basically that the President has broken and defied all the rules of political gravity by writing this populous, you know, anti-establishment not political correct weigh in. And there was a sense especially in some of the candidate Steve Bannon has been trying to back. So you can sort of choose anyone and they can do the same thing. And the truth is you simply can't.
You actually have to be a pretty good candidate for a lot of these Senate seats, these House seats, these governor races. They are not just going to overlook everything the way voters in many ways did with the President.
MATTHEWS: I think being a senator is a big deal and I people do set a standard. Ironically, instead of clear standing for president last time. Colorado senator Cory Gardner who chairs the committee charged with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate in 2018 said Alabama lost didn't raise any red flags. He also expressed confidence that Republicans can flip Democratic seat while running on their agenda. Here he is with the cheer leading.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO), CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: I feel very optimistic about 2018. Look at our agenda. We are going to pass tax cuts for the American people, growing this economy, creating jobs and opportunity for the American people. If you look at Missouri for instance, look at the public poling is available in Missouri. So this I am very excited about. But last night I think was about a candidate. It wasn't about an agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That's a walking flacking machine. But that may be a hard sell with voters. A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows that only 26 percent of the public approves of the GOP tax plan compared to 55 percent who don't like it.
Susan, I don't think the Republicans are in great shape right now. I mean, I can imagine as of what happened Tuesday night. They can pick up Nevada, they can pick up maybe Arizona, they may pick up Tennessee and not lose anyway. They can win the Senate, not just the House. I think they will win the House.
PAGE: And if they pick up two seats, they have control. If they can keep the seats, they hold down. The problem for Democrats is they have 26 seats up. Ten of them are in states Trump carried, five of those are in states he carried by double digits. They are in states like Montana and Missouri and Indiana where Democrats ought to have a hard time. Now, maybe they won't have a hard time next year. But that is the challenge for Democrats. They need a really strong showing in the Senate take control. Not so much in the House. The house looks it's increasingly like it is within reach for Democratic control. And that will be a different role for President Trump if Democrats control the House.
MATTHEWS: Well, she may hold the (INAUDIBLE), she may resign after they retire, after getting it back, who knows. But let me ask you about this. Why would somebody who voted for one of the senators, incumbent Democratic senators five years ago, why would they switch and dump him now, that they are less enthusiastic anywhere about Trump? Why would they want to go or Trump now?
[19:10:14] STEELE: That narrative is the reason why the party should be concerned because that is -- the hard truth is, you know, Roy Moore is not going to be literally or figuratively the only candidate they are going to have to worry about. It's going to be everything that is left over, the residual that the party is going to have to worry about.
MATTHEWS: I think the Trump act is wearing. Most acts do wear. This is a red television shows only last less certain amount of time. I think his sell by date and starting to appear. I think when he went down and did a robo call for this guy, he jumped in this race at the last minute. As Ashley said he had a choice. He chose to jump in, didn't do any good in a red state.
One major sign of trouble for the president is a questions of job approval. Exit polls in Alabama showed a tied 48-all in a state Trump carried overwhelmingly a year ago. "The Washington Post" further reports that one advisor said Trump on Wednesday dismissed his poll results in Alabama and nationwide by saying they were fake and instead talked about his accomplishments.
I don't know what to say. Where do we go from here? Let me go back to Susan. I mean it seems to me that Trump had some magic as a no. It is the way voters in the suburbs could say no. I'm tired of the establishment Republican Party. I'm sick to death of Hillary and the establishment Democratic Party, so I'm going to vote for this brand "x." The hell with the country - not the country, hell of the government. And now I see these suburbs moving in Virginia. I see the suburbs moving in Alabama. The suburban vote, which is always the swing vote has swung already against Trump. I think people -- somebody told me in Israel they don't want to vote for -- not because they are right wing enough, because it's low brow. I'm beginning to think Trump looks low brow. And the middle class person who moved to the suburbs to get ahead in life, but maybe I'm too good for this guy Trump. They don't think -- I don't think they think he is their guy anymore. I'm just, based -- based upon these votes.
PAGE: And you know, one thing that has great concern to the White House is that in Alabama, they had a historically terrible candidate in Roy Moore. But in New Jersey and Virginia you see some of the same trends when you look at --.
MATTHEWS: What (INAUDIBLE) Trump in Roy Moore in terms of their past behaviors?
PAGE: Well, that's a big question.
MATTHEWS: Well, what's the difference between the two of them?
PAGE: I think Roy Moore is an even - I think Roy Moore is a pretty historically terrible candidate.
MATTHEWS: Because he preys on the young.
STEELE: Right. But I think in terms of --.
MATTHEWS: Personal behavior, why is Trump cleaner that -- I'm asking a serious question. Is he cleaner than this guy?
STEELE: I don't think it's a question of being cleaner than one or the other.
MATTHEWS: He is.
STEELE: Well, he is. But I'm just saying in terms of how voters look at it is the nature of action of preying on women.
PAGE: But you go back to the political effect --
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, you lost me around the turn there. What are you saying? Is Trump better than Roy Moore? I mean, serious question here, my friend.
STEELE: In terms of what?
MATTHEWS: Personal misconduct. Sexual misconduct.
STEELE: No, it's both bad. It's a matter of degree. I mean, you know, saying that, you know, you think you can have any woman you want and they are going to want you just because --
MATTHEWS: He says it on tape.
STEELE: I know. They are the same.
STEELE: But I also think it is also what the country is trying to sort out right now, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. I think they are sorting it out, Susan.
PAGE: OK. Just to go back to the politics of it --
PAGE: Just to go back to the politics of it.
MATTHEWS: I'm talking about the politics in terms of picking somebody for President again that you made a mistake about the first time. It's very possible people say you know what, I didn't know about all this stuff.
PAGE: But that's 2020. We are talking about 2018.
MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.
PAGE: And what you saw in this election so far this year is not only are some reports of the Republican coalition kind of depressed, not turning out but Democrats are really -- look at the African-American turn out. It was incredible. Turnout in New Jersey which was not that competitive to race, but in Virginia which was.
MATTHEWS: Just thinking the Democrats get a program together. Their program right now is anti-Trump. Just thinking of the odd --.
STEELE: They are going to be running against Roy Moore in every state of the union next year. So they are going to have to have good candidates.
MATTHEWS: They are going to be running against Donald Trump.
Thank you Ashley Parker.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Ashley, always.
Coming up, nearly a year into his presidency, Donald Trump still rejects all the evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 Presidential election. "The Washington Post" reports Trump has never held a candid level of Russian interference to do so when it acknowledged that it happened. And if intelligence officials bring up Russia the daily briefings they say go off the rails.
One of the rising stars in Alabama politics joins us. The city's youngest mayor in over a century, he joins us to talk about the big win Tuesday night pie Doug Jones and what kind of senator he'll be.
Plus, back to Alabama. One of the rising stars in Alabama politics joins us, Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin, the city's youngest mayor in over a century. He joins us to talk about the big win Tuesday night by Doug Jones and what kind of senator he will be.
And Omarosa strikes back. There's a story. The newly dismissed White House advisor says she wasn't fired and says she observed a lot of things in the White House that made her unhappy and uncomfortable. There's a book being sold. We will get to that with the HARDBALL round table tonight.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch, he won't like it.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
[19:16:14] MATTHEWS: Republican congressman Blake Farenthold has dropped his 2018 reelection bid making him the latest lawmaker to leave the Congress amid of flurry of sexual misconduct allegations. It was recently revealed that Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a claim brought by his former communications director. She alleged among other things that Farenthold had told one of his aides that he was having sexual fantasies about her. Her lawsuit claimed that he made inappropriate comments intended to gauge whether she was interested in a sexual relationship. Farenthold has denied those allegations.
"The New York Times" also reported this week that Farenthold runs a frat house on the hill where sexually explicit conversations are routine and pick up lines are part of a daily life. In a video statement Farenthold apologized for running a decidedly unprofessional work environment. The congressman has not announced that he would resign prior to the 2018 election.
And we will be right back.
[19:19:16] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Given that former national security advisor Michael Flynn is now a witness for the prosecution, the Russia probe is clearly bearing down on President Trump. But the fact is that even before this appointment of the special counsel the President consistently rejected the fact that Russia waged a covert campaign to influence the 2016 election.
Now in a comprehensive new report "the Washington Post" has spoken to 50 current and former U.S. officials who have painted a devastating picture of how President Trump is willfully ignoring Russian's attack on our democracy. As the former administration official tells it quote "there is an unspoken understanding within the national security counsel that to even raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity which the President would see as an affront."
Well, according to a senior intelligence official, the President has an aversion to intelligence about Russia. If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference, that takes the presidential daily briefings off the rails.
We have also learned today the president spoke to Putin today by phone. I'm joined now by the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff.
Just supposing Trump knew he did something wrong, no knew he was was exposed during the campaign to dealing with Russian meddling from our side, it's not paranoid for him to worry about getting caught and hating the issue.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, that would be, of course, the simplest explanation. Either he is just fundamentally insecure and can't stand any question about the legitimacy of his election win, or there is something that he's concerned the Russians may expose, or both.
But yes, and it looks like Putin is playing him like a fiddle. Putin's comments right along the Trump narrative, we never interfered in U.S. elections, why are they trying to discredit him, why are they disrespecting his supporters out there? Those talking points could not have been better written if they came from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
But what I found most shocking in the story, and none of it was surprising, it's all shocking and none of it is surprising, is the comment that basically they have to write the president's daily brief in a way that doesn't upset the president, like he's a child. This is the commander-in- chief. This is the leader of the free world supposedly. And they can't tell him things about one of our strongest adversaries, Russia, because it might upset him.
What does that say about the state of our national security?
MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like a third world dictator, that's what it sounds like. Anyway, The Washington Post details how the president appears to be defending the country that sought to undermine U.S. sovereignty. Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat. And he has resisted any attempt to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.
Anyway, Mueller, the fact that he knows that Mueller has got Michael Flynn as his star witness, the witness for the prosecution of all time who probably knows every conversation as affected -- it touched on Russia, that's reason for him to truly be scared, isn't it? I mean, I think he'll either go to pardon people now or he'll get rid of Mueller, more likely go to pardon route right now.
SCHIFF: Well, he has got...
MATTHEWS: Or discredit him completely.
SCHIFF: He has got to be deeply concerned because Mueller has told us publicly he has a story to tell. He is now telling that story to Bob Mueller, Flynn is telling that story. And more than that you've got Manafort facing very serious charges. And should he ultimately decide to plea and cooperate, that's the campaign manager with other stories that he could tell.
We're also seeing though, in addition to him not being able to get briefed by his briefers without acting out, that the calls that he was making to Congress to shut down the investigation are gaining traction. You could see that in the hearing where they -- Republicans were trying to shut down Mueller. We see that now in a very worrying way in our investigation.
The House majority is scheduling interviews with key witnesses out-of-state while we're in session so that members cannot attend them. They are scheduling...
MATTHEWS: How does that hurt Mueller's investigation?
SCHIFF: Well, it hurts our investigation. And I think the strategy is they can't shut down Mueller before they shut us down, otherwise how do they explain why Congress has continued its investigation if they think Mueller should be finished. So the game plan I think is shut us down. They don't want to follow the facts anymore where they lead, rather, they're heeding the president's injunction and Steve Bannon's injunction you need to bring these investigations to a halt.
But we still have dozens of very pertinent witnesses to interview and very relevant documents to obtain, and people who have refused to cooperate that need to be subpoenaed. And there's no way they can shut this down if they're serious about getting the truth. But increasingly it looks like that is not their objective.
MATTHEWS: Two questions. Does Mueller have his tax returns?
SCHIFF: I don't know the answer. I think the way you get to the tax returns is not by starting out with them. I think you get them by following the money. And if you learn that, for example, the Russians were money laundering through the Trump Organization or guaranteeing loans for the Trump Organization, and you would need the tax returns to determine is that true or is that not true, then there's a basis for Mueller to get them. But I think...
MATTHEWS: Does he need a court approval to do that, a court order?
SCHIFF: I don't believe he needs a court order to do that. I think he can probably do that with a subpoena...
MATTHEWS: A search warrant -- he doesn't need a search warrant?
SCHIFF: But I don't know precisely what the IRS regulations are.
MATTHEWS: My other question is my favorite character in all of this is Jared Kushner, who I assume knows nothing about anything, really, maybe a little business knowledge, a little. He seems to be one -- the next one they would want to turn after you get past Flynn.
SCHIFF: Well, he has testified now obviously before our committee and before other committees, as far as I can tell. And with the Flynn plea we know that he may very well be -- this hasn't been confirmed, but it has been reported. He may be one of those senior transition officials that was in the know about what Flynn was talking to the Russians about.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) like telling him what to talk about with the Russians.
SCHIFF: So the question is, is that -- among other questions, is that inconsistent with -- if that turns out to be...
MATTHEWS: I thought it was Jared and K.T. McFarland were the two people giving him orders before he went to see Kislyak.
SCHIFF: This has been reported. I don't know if that's accurate. But...
MATTHEWS: I think we know.
SCHIFF: Given Kushner's central role in the campaign and the transition continued to this day, should he decide to cooperate, then there's no telling.
MATTHEWS: Get ready for the pardon, Congressman.
SCHIFF: I hope not.
MATTHEWS: That's when the pardon comes.
SCHIFF: I hope not. I hope not.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. It's always great to have you over here, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
I'm joined right now by Jill Wine-Banks, the former assistant prosecutor during Watergate. And John Sipher, he's a former member of the CIA's senior intelligence service.
Jill, what do you make of that? I guess this is a wide open generalist question for you. And I guess would go to anybody. What do you make of it, a commander-in-chief who won't listen to his G2, his intelligence officer? And that's the CIA and defense intelligence, and all the rest of them. That's where the -- they have always been the agents of the president, his personal information service.
How does he serve as commander-in-chief and head of state even without the knowledge of what's going on in the world and the belief in that knowledge?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: It's very dangerous for him to be in a position where he isn't getting the full information, where people are afraid to tell him. And it reminds me of during Watergate when no one was willing to tell President Nixon, you can't do what you're doing, it's illegal, it's wrong, it's morally corrupt, it's against the law.
And here we're in a situation where it's affecting foreign policy around the world. Our relationship with our allies is being hurt by his lack of knowledge. So it's a very dangerous thing.
And the second thing is it's also circumstantial evidence about his involvement with Russia. Why is he so irate about hearing about Russia? There has to be some reason. And the only thing I can think of is that it in some way is evidence of his past relationship and possible conspiracy working with Russia to affect the election.
And that's the third thing, the danger to democracy if we don't find out how the Russians hacked into our systems and interfered with our elections. We must stop it before our next election.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to John on that same question. Could it be he doesn't want any information on the Russia connection because knows it all already? He knows it all. He was part of it. I'm serious.
JOHN SIPHER, FORMER CIA SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Yes, well, he may think he knows it all, but he certainly doesn't. He may know what he and his people did. But, you know, listen, we've had presidents who have damaged personalities before. And we've had presidents that have blown off intelligence before. I mean, policy is made in so many ways from personal relationships and political choices and everything that you don't necessarily need to follow the intelligence that's given to you. It doesn't have to drive your decision-making.
We used to have a saying in the CIA is that you can lead a policymaker to intelligence but you can't make him think. And so those people that are giving those daily briefs don't expect him to necessarily act on all that information. But if we're getting to the point where we are self-censoring the information that we give to the president because we're worried about his reaction, rather than giving him the straight facts, we're in a very difficult place.
I lived in the part of the world where they used to have a thing called "Finlandization" in Finland, next to the Soviet Union, where people over time learned what they could do and not do and just started to self-censor themselves. And if you get to that point where people around the president and around the White House are scared to bring up key issues in important areas for us, then we're in a really difficult place.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to both of you. I want to start with Jill on this. Something that has confounded me since the beginning of this campaign by Trump, and it's about three things I did -- I didn't vote for the guy, but there's three things I liked about Trump. He said he was going to rebuild the country, he has forgot all that, rebuild the train stations, rebuild everything, the airfields, rebuild the country in terms of just communicating -- transportation, just make us up-to-date in the world. He never did any of that stuff.
Stop stupid wars. I wish he would. He started another one over the Intifada III over there in the Middle East. I mean, he's not (INAUDIBLE) that. But he also -- sensed -- I had this sense he was going to try to prevent another Cold War with the Soviet Union, now the Russia -- the republic of -- Russia Republic. And he was going to try to fence-mend and end that worsening relationship.
If that's behind all this, an attempt to end that worsening relationship, why is he hiding it? That's the question. That's the $64,000 question, we used to say. To Jill, why hide the grandest thing you were attempting?
WINE-BANKS: I don't think he has been trying to hide it. He verbalizes that all the time. And yet it is the wrong thing to do in the circumstances where it's interfering with an investigation. And you said something earlier, Lawrence (sic), which was that sometimes the simplest explanation is correct. And during Watergate, my trial partner, Rick Ben- Veniste, would always say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, sometimes it is a duck.
And I think we have to look at it that way, that the simplest explanation may be that there is something going on between the president and Russia that he cannot tolerate, or that it is just his personality, he is so paranoid that he can't stand to admit that possibly there was some help from the Russians in his being elected.
MATTHEWS: Well, it's not paranoia anymore because people really are coming for him, Jill. I think -- I mean, the (INAUDIBLE) has got himself one hell of a witness in Michael Flynn. Anyway, thank you, Jill Wine-Banks, for coming on again. And thank you, John Sipher.
Up next, Roy Moore refuses to concede, saying the battle rages on in Alabama. But whether he likes it or not, Democrat Doug Jones is headed to the U.S. Senate. We're going to talk about Tuesday's big win with a rising star in Alabama politics, Birmingham's young mayor, Randall Woodfin.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Roy Moore still isn't conceding defeat down in Alabama. Let's watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), DEFEATED SENATE CANDIDATE: This has been a very close race, and we are awaiting certification by the secretary of state. Immorality sweeps over our land. Even our political process has been affected with baseless and false allegations which have become more relevant than the true issues which affect our country. This election was tainted by over $50 million from outside groups who want to retain power and their own corrupt ideology. No longer is this about Republican or Democrat control. It has truly been said there's not a dime's worth of difference between them.
It's about a Washington establishment which will not listen to the cries of its citizenry, and the battle rages on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In response, Doug Jones said today that it's time to move on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG JONES (D), SENATOR-ELECT FROM ALABAMA: I understand the frustration a little bit. It is a close race. But I would say, look, it's time to move on. We feel very confident in the outcome of this race.
MATTHEWS: I'm joined right now by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who is, at 36 years of age, the youngest person to ever be elected mayor of Birmingham in over a century. I guess they had really young guys way back then. Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, thank you very much, you know, that ain't a dime's worth of difference is George Corley Wallace verbatim. What did you make of that?
MAYOR RANDALL WOODFIN (D), BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Chris, I'm glad to be on. You know, I think it's time to move past what happened Tuesday as it relates to a so-called recount. Doug Jones is the clear winner. And I'm glad he will be the next U.S. senator of Alabama.
MATTHEWS: I'm looking at about three things that happened in your state, Mayor. And one of them was lower than expected rural white turnout, a shift in the suburban white vote, and, most importantly, a huge African- American vote for Jones. In fact, I think most of his votes were African- American voters. So tell me about all three, whatever you know about all three.
WOODFIN: Well, I will say this about the African-American vote. At a certain point we have to look past only entertaining support from African- Americans for the get-out-the-vote effort. I think what Doug Jones did a good job of was persuasion as well, that if you want people to turn out for you, you have to be in a space of persuasion and interacting with and engaging voters prior to the get-out-the-vote effort.
As it relates to suburban Alabama, where we saw a lot of what are so-called defiant soccer moms, I believe they have daughters, and all the allegations in place, it made them choose someone outside of Roy Moore.
And I'm not surprised at the low turnout among rural Alabama. When you consider Alabama, made of 67 counties, somewhere between 24 and 25 will always be blue and the remaining 40-plus will always be red. But within this election what we saw was not just a flawed candidate but in Moore we saw a candidate that doesn't necessarily represent the best of Alabama.
And whether you're in rural, suburban, or urban Alabama, our voters and residents saw that Doug Jones was the clear and best choice.
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the Democratic spread to the South. There is no -- I think there's now two southern Democratic senators. There's Bill Nelson in Florida. Florida is sort of a southern state, at least the northern part is. And then you've got now one from Alabama. But the rest is all Republican. How do Democrats win back statewide elections in the South, Democrats?
WOODFIN: I think it's all about what are we doing in supporting our bench. You know I talk about this whole idea of the resistance of Donald Trump starts with municipal elections. But for Democrats across the entire Southeast, what are we doing as far as prepping and engaging and supporting the bench. I believe that bench starts at the mayor level. It starts at the county commission level and working our way up, making sure our candidates are viable, making sure from a messaging and a story standpoint that we have candidates that our residents believe in and can trump this whole notion of blue and red or Democrat and Republican.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir. It's an honor to have you on, sir. I hear a lot about you, it's all good. Mayor Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, Alabama.
WOODFIN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Omarosa, you know her, just one word, Omarosa, speaking out. She's denying reports she was sacked, fired, and says that she saw things at the Trump White House that made her deeply uncomfortable. Looks like a book pitch.
You're watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who's ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Wow, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Omarosa Manigault Newman, one of President Trump's fiercest advocates during the campaign. I said advocate. Well, now, she's out of a job.
A source close to the White House tells NBC News she was, quote, forced out of her job, close quote, and then escorted off the grounds of the White House after chief of staff John Kelly decided to terminate her. Omarosa spent nearly a year as director of the communications office of public liaison focusing on outreach to the black community.
In an interview with "The Daily Beast", she described her portfolio as including everything, but couldn't say what that meant. Well, that was a put down by somebody.
According to several media reports the office she ran was barely functional. One source told "The New York times" it was a island of misfit toys. And other source told "Politico" it was, quote, a dumpster fireplace to work.
Anyway, in an interview with morning, Newman denied that she was fired but acknowledged that her departure was not without tension. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWMAN: There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with, that I was very uncomfortable with, things that I heard, I listened to.
INTERVIEWER: Such as?
NEWMAN: I can't expand on it because I still have to go back and work with these individuals. But when I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, quite a story to tell, as the only African-American woman in this White House, at a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that has affected me deeply and emotionally and affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I'm joined by the HARDBALL roundtable: Yamiche Alcindor, national political reporter for "The New York Times" and MSNBC contributor, Jason Johnson is politics editor at theroot.com and MSNBC political contributor. Thank you all.
You know, Walt Disney rather said rather brilliantly it's what you do not what you got. She's been fired. She got a pay slip.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It sounds like she's already readying herself for a book deal. You can tell she's already trying to tee herself up for a big tell-all sort of medium. And essentially this is someone who has gotten almost a PhD in marketing herself and getting herself in places of power. So, she attached herself to President Trump. He rewarded her for her loyalty. But essentially, her coworkers really hated her essentially and they really saw her as a polarizing figure.
MATTHEWS: What would be less effective in the office of public liaison in her absence? How will it being diminished by her departure? I'm being sarcastic. I'm not sure what all this does. What did it do?
ALCINDOR: Well, under her, it was supposed to be creating connections with African-American communities, working on HBCUs, which is historically black colleges and universities. She was supposed --
MATTHEWS: How'd that line up?
ALCINDOR: My sources told me she really do much of anything.
MATTHEWS: Did she establish an interplay with the president.
ALCINDOR: There was a meeting at the White House, but then after that, the CBC refused to ever come back and the president was sending them letters trying to get to come back, and they refused. They essentially did not see Omarosa as someone that they could trust or someone that was furthering their views or furthering their values in any way, shape or form.
MATTHEWS: You know, when someone said this the other day, and these are always tricky questions, but why didn't Trump make more of an effort with the black community. I mean, there was sometimes like Ole Miss, he wasn't treated very well down there. But, you know, even presidents like Reagan that didn't get much of a black vote, didn't make the effort to show up at certain things because they knew it looked bad it you didn't.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right, I don't think Trump ever care. And getting Omarosa to be your black outreach person is an indicator that you don't care.
MATTHEWS: You mean she's just showbiz.
JOHNSON: She's just showbiz. She was loathed by white people and black people. Lots of people did not like her.
MATTHEWS: Why? Tell me -- because of the character she played on television.
Look, I interviewed several of the black cast members from "The Apprentice" for "The Root". They all couldn't stand her. They said, look, what you see on TV is not an act. The African-Americans that I talked to, people who have been loyal to Trump were like, I cannot believe I was skipped over for this job by this person who was a long-term Democrat.
So, when you add that up, the hostility within the administration, outside the administration, bad public reputation, you can't pick Omarosa if you're actually trying to do outreach to the African-American people. She's the single worst person. It's like picking Roy Moore to do outreach to teachers or the LGBT community. It's a bad choice.
MATTHEWS: And Yamiche?
ALCINDOR: And also apparently, actively like the idea of being the only African-American in the White House. There are a lot of black Republicans who said she didn't want other people in that office, so she was blocking other black Republicans from getting White House appointment.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like he fired her, Trump wouldn't see her when she went to appeal her case.
A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, Trump as we know as Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" has schooled us in, does not like to fire people. So, he's really tough and confrontational, and he'll call you names and he'll bully you. But when it actually comes to firing someone that has been in his mind loyal, he can't take it.
MATTHEWS: So why didn't he save her?
STODDARD: No, no, I think he was talked into it by John Kelly according to the best reporting on it. John Kelly indicated months ago she was one of the trouble makers. He probably gave her a list of things she had to do. She continued to antagonizing people, probably didn't do.
Maybe she kept storming in the office or whatever. She broke the Kelly rules and that was a threshold for --
MATTHEWS: What did she do to get Trump to drop any loyalty to her?
YAMICHE: I mean, she was actively sending him articles and back channeling with Trump even when Kelly said don't do that.
MATTHEWS: That bothered Trump?
YAMICHE: That bothered John Kelly and when she took it to Trump, that bothered Trump.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really? I always thought Trump wanted that backchannel.
JOHNSON: She was one of the people who have open door privileges and one of the first things that John Kelly tried to stop. He didn't want her out there gossiping, she antagonized the president of the United States, and she didn't have a clear job.
MATTHEWS: I hate to tell everybody including the president she's out there now and selling a book.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will give me some scoops we'll be talking about tomorrow. You're watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday morning, the "Today" show picked my book "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit" as a top book of the year. Here's Hoda getting the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HODA KOTB, TODAY SHOW: OK, let's go nonfiction, all right? Take us, Emily, where are we going?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going with "Bobby Kennedy."
KOTB: Oh, that's Chris Matthews' book. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Chris Matthews' new book. I'm fascinated by the Kennedys, I think a lot of people are. I've read everything about the Kennedys.
He's my favorite though. Bobby's my favorite. He embodies I think the ideal itch of that family. He's just the best of what that family offered. This is a very intimate portrait.
KOTB: So, do you -- because often when you feel like, well, I've read everything about the ken Kennedys. Do you learn more in that book?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do, you see him from the perspective of the brooding young soul, you really feel like you get to know him intimately. If you like the Kennedys, this is a great one. Chris Matthews is a great writer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I bumped in to a lot of people during the book tour, and they say I keep them sane every night. This book will actually raise your spirits.
We'll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: We're back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
We start with Yamiche. Tell me something I don't know.
ALCINDOR: Foreign leaders have seized on President Trump's term of "fake news" to crack down on foreign media. So, we're talking about Russia, Venezuela, Syria. It's becoming a serious thing around the world.
JOHNSON: Priorities USA and Senate majority PAC are now bragging about the fact that they spent $1.5 million specifically focused on black turnout in Alabama. It's not just about winning for Doug Jones, they're trying to encourage everybody else to say the Democratic party is serious about minority turnout.
MATTHEWS: And voting anti could be as strong as voting for Obama.
MATTHEWS: That's what I think.
STODDARD: Everyone in the Republican establishment is hoping Steve Bannon has been killed off by the loss in Alabama but he has not. He will be --
MATTHEWS: Is this Freddy Kruger stuff or what?
STODDARD: First of all, he still has Trump's ear and we all know that and he will continue to. He's going to play a difficult role for them, complicating the deal on DREAMers. He believes, told some donors recently, Republican donors, that if Trump folds on this and gives amnesty, he will lose the base and that three to five Republican Senate seats could be in play.
That might be a Bannonism exaggeration. But he will certainly be playing a role and who's going to replace Paul Ryan as speaker and he's going to mess DACA.
MATTHEWS: Building the future of the Republican Party on hatred of immigrants.
Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, Jason Johnson and A.B. Stoddard.
When return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." I said he won't like it, you'll know why.
You're watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch" Thursday, December 14th, 2017.
Five years ago today, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School up in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, Donald Trump has been elected president. His position is that the more people that have guns, the less gun violence there will be. It's a street corner version I suppose of mutually assured destruction.
Here's what the president said after another mass shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or right to their ankle, this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting, and one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes boom, boom, you know what this that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks. That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there's a flaw in that loud argument. It assumes the good guys will be around to outgun the bad guys. That's the Trump view how to bring law and order. This would require to have teachers trained in marksman ship, and handling a gun under pressure, being able to act instinctively and instantly when danger appears.
Well, then there's the broader question, are we safer in the streets, in stores, in movie theaters, on subways and restaurants and bars, with lots of people around carrying guns? Well, maybe in certain cases that might be true, where the good guy or good woman has been trained, where they at least have passed background checks and are mentally stable enough to be trusted with a gun.
But here's the rub. People like Trump won't even meet that bare minimum requirement. They don't like background checks. And because they don't, their whole argument that the good guys will be there to outnumber the bad guys doesn't work because they're not willing to find out who the good guys are, who the law-abiding and mentally stable people are.
Mr. President, that defeats your argument, doesn't it? Wouldn't it be great to think about the issues of gun violence honestly?
That's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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