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"Fire and Fury" sells out rapidly Transcript 1/5/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Lizz Winstead, Richard Blumenthal, Tara Dowdell, Nan Hayworth, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Rosie Gray, Michelle Goldberg, Charlie Sykes

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 5, 2018 Guest: Lizz Winstead, Richard Blumenthal, Tara Dowdell, Nan Hayworth, Caitlan Huey-Burns, Rosie Gray, Michelle Goldberg, Charlie Sykes

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Book of revelations. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews. Chris will be back on Monday night.

It is the book Donald Trump can`t seem to stop talking about. Michael Wolff`s chronicle of the Trump presidency hit book stores today with the best publicity possible. The President himself trying to keep people from reading it. Trump`s lawyer even threatened lawsuits to keep it off the shelves. That did not work.

This morning the President slammed the book and its author tweeting, I authorized zero access to the White House, actually turned him down many times for author of the phony book. I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don`t exist. Look at this guy`s past and watch what happens to him and sloppy Steve.

That last part a reference to Steve Bannon who was interviewed by Wolff and offered strong critiques of the President and his family.

Trump also tweeting, the fake news media and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an election. Sad.

And he doubled down on his new nickname for Bannon, the Mercer family recently dumped the leak or known as sloppy Steve Bannon. Smart.

And interview on the "Today Show," Michael Wolff responded to the President`s threat of legal action. Also to his criticism of his reporting.


MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: Where do I send the box of chocolates?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he is helping you sell books.

WOLFF: Absolutely, I mean. And not only is he helping me sell books, but he is helping me prove the point of the book. I mean, this is extraordinary that a President of the United States would try to stop the publication of a book. This doesn`t happen -- has not happened from other Presidents, would not even from a CEO of a mid-sized company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you talk to the President? Did you interview him for this book?

WOLFF: I absolutely -- I absolutely spoke to the President. Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don`t know. But it certainly was not off the record. My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on earth at this point.


KORNACKI: In "Axios" today Michael Allen reported President Trump is so furious about the book that some aides are just trying to avoid him. Allen also reported more than half of dozen of the more skilled White House staff are contemplating imminent departures. Many leaving are quite fearful about the next chapter of the Trump presidency.

I`m joined now by "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg, author and commentator Charlie Sykes and White House correspondent for the "Atlantic," Rosie Gray.

Rosie, let me start with you. Just in terms of the reaction from Donald Trump here, look, it certainly seems from an outside advantage point to be impulsive. It seems in many ways to be consistent with Trump as we have known him for a long time now. Strategically inside that White House, is there something they are trying to accomplish here in terms of the threats of the lawsuit, the tweeting or is this just Trump lashing out?

ROSIE GRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it looks to be mostly Donald Trump lashing out. I mean, I think that if you were really thinking rationally and thinking strategically about how to respond to this book, you wouldn`t be reacting the way that he is. I mean, the President of the United States trying to stop publication of a book is basically guarantee that it will get, you know, massive nationwide attention. So it is really self-defeating actually what they are doing.

KORNACKI: Yes. And I mean, Charlie, that is one of the things that strikes me too is when this news of this book first leaked, which a couple of days ago now, President Trump put out that sort of extraordinary statement attacking Steve Bannon and really kind of I think adding to the anticipation of this book. Now it seems like the message he is trying to put out there is don`t believe it. Guy had no access. Nothing to see here. Sort of contradictory messaging.

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR, RIGHT WISCONSIN: No. And not only contradictory, but I mean, yes. You know, as mentioned, self-defeating because he is guarantee it is going to be a blockbuster, you know, if not an HBO miniseries at some point.

But you know, you can keep two thoughts in your head at the same time which is number one, that there are flaws in this book. They are might be some questionable journalism but Michael Wolff, you know. But it is also a devastating portrayal of what is going on in the White House. And, you know, confirming a lot of the other reporting that has been going on here.

But again, I do think that -- if this White House had had a more strategic approach, they could have actually done a more effective job in discrediting the book because there are some flaws. But the other problem, of course, is that most people in Washington are going looking at this and going, yes, we pretty much knew that the President of the United States is the way he has portrayed here.

KORNACKI: Yes. And that is one of the big questions that is emerging from this too. It is not about the individual anecdotes but about the overall culture inside the White House and the President himself misconduct. Michael Wolff telling Savannah Guthrie today that senior people in the President`s stuff have questioned the President`s fitness for office. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the overarching themes is that according to your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family members, questions his intelligence and fitness for office.

WOLFF: Let me put a marker in the sand here. One hundred percent of the people around him. I will tell you the one description that everyone gave. Everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. And what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It is all about him.


KORNACKI: And several allies of the President strongly pushed back on that today.


REP. ROONEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Frankly, any discussion on the President`s mental fitness I think is nothing but gossip because I have worked with the President. I have worked with his officials and his administration and that is sincerely not the case at all.

DAVID BOSSE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN DEPUTY MANAGER: There is just factual inaccuracies in this book. There is nobody worked harder than Donald Trump. It is outrageous that they say he didn`t expect to win, he didn`t want to win. He worked his fingers to the bone.

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: I`m around the President. I have been around him quite a bit through the past year. I met him 20 years ago. He is not psychologically unfit. He is not lost it, as he claimed. This is just an absurd allegation by someone who has talked to a lot of disgruntled people at the White House.


KORNACKI: Michelle, you have a column about this. So you have got -- Wolff is saying the universal characterization that he gets from everybody he talks to is that the President is like a child. That he is impulsive and petty. All of this sorts of things. You have a column about what those folks in the White House -- if that is what they are thinking, what you think they ought to be doing.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this has been the story since the beginning, right. There is nobody close to Donald Trump who respects him. There is nobody close to Donald Trump who would trust him with the stewardship of their own small business or corner store or deli, right. And so all of these people who say that he is insane, he is erratic, he is irrational, he needs to be managed and yet -- and they say this kind of off the record as if they can salvage their own reputation by standing somewhat outside of it and then they either go on television, like Kellyanne Conway or some of, you know, the other people and insist that the emperor is fully clothed.

It is not -- there`s the partisan game but then the existential survival of this country which I think is not an exaggeration to say that is what is at stake when you have someone like Donald Trump who believes in his marrow, in his own expertise, who taunts North Korea on twitter and who is willing to make decisions with no input and even sneaks around his aides as this book reveals when he feels like they are getting in the way of something he wants to do.

KORNACKI: And let me take it from this angle, sort of the devil`s advocate angle. From the perspective theoretically of a staffer who feels all of these things that Wolff is describing. The option would be, you are saying one option there is you go public. You say I have been on the inside. I have seen this. I want to sound the alarm publicly.

What about if that person is thinking, look, I`m on the inside now. I have some measure of access. I may have some ability to shape how this President acts, maybe it is better if I keep my mouth shut publicly and stay in here and just to make sure he doesn`t do anything extremely out there.

GOLDBERG: You know, and I think that`s probably true of the national security people, right. I mean, I think that, you know, a lot of the generals, Mattis and some of these other figures, are doing something kind of quietly heroic by sacrificing their reputation and the reputation will be irrevocably tarnished to try to restrain this person who has no business in the oval office.

But, you know what, somebody in the communications department, some of these other figures, there is no plausible way in which they are actually making things better. Even if that is what they are telling themselves to be able to sleep at night. And honestly, how they are able to live with themselves is a continuing enduring mystery to me. That I would love for someone to explain to me.

KORNACKI: You know, Charlie, it is -- all of these characterizations of President Trump from this book, it is not just from this book. We have seen other reporting for the last year that sort of in line with this. But it also strikes me that a lot of those characterizations and a lot of that reporting were things we were talking about and were being reported during the campaign.

I mean, how much of a case of this is that the American people did get a look at these tendencies, these impulse, these style and make some kind of judgment about that on the campaign.

SYKES: Well, yes. I mean, a lot of things that have happened should not have been a surprise. On the other hand, you know, what we are seeing is a portrait being painted by - remember, these are his supporters, the people who are closest to his, of a man who is manifestly unfit for office.

You know, we are talking about the staff and why they continue to defend him and enable him. You know, what does it say about congressional Republicans? Look. If you are in Washington, D.C. you have heard stories. You know the speculation. You have seen things that then you walk out of the White House and what you don`t talk about, you continue to cast this in a completely different way.

I think that one of the real tells here, whatever happens with the Michael Wolff book, is that if there are this many staffers, or this many people seeing the President of the United States behaving this way, you know, this will not be the last book that will be written. This will not be the last tell-all. And you kind wonder, you know, what is it going to be like when the dam breaks and people say, OK, now I could tell you what was actually happening? Now I could tell you what I didn`t say when I was on, you know, that cable show.

And so, that`s going post a real problem I think, you know, long term for this Trump White House and its defenders and its enablers and rationalizers.

KORNACKI: It is also the case there of the ma whose words to Michael Wolff sparked so much. The Steve Bannon now apparently so announce with the President. That Trump has even bestowed on him nicknames, sloppy Steve. It is a pattern with Trump.

Here are some of the other people who have achieved that marker.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I noticed that Chuck Schumer yesterday with fair tears. I`m going to ask him who was his acting coach.

We have low energy Jeb Bush, lying Ted and little Marco.

As I say, crooked Hillary. Crazy Bernie. He is a crazy man. I was being hit by Pocahontas. Pocahontas, that is Elizabeth Warren.

Little rocket man. He is a sick puppy.


KORNACKI: So Rosie Gray, what I`m curious is what this could mean for the future of Bannon and Trump? Because there has been a lot speculations that, a, with Trump you are out but you never really permanently out. Maybe somehow Bannon could come back sort into alignment with him in the coming months, coming years. But does Trump -- bestowing that nickname, does that sort - does that mark Bannon`s permanent banishment from Trump world?

GRAY: Well, it is true that, you know, Donald Trump does have a pattern of welcoming people that he has ex-communicated, you know, back into the fold. But not just the nickname. I mean, it is also the fact that he put out a lengthy statement slamming Bannon as having lost his mind, being a leaker, which is a very, you know, loaded thing in that world. And, you know, the bohemians with which Donald Trump reacted to Bannon`s statements in this book. I mean, I think that actually can be really hard for Bannon to come back from politically.

In terms of his future work wise, as of right now he is still in charge of Breitbart. The Mercer family has cut him off. But, you know, my sources told me that was in the works for a while actually even before this. So you know, Bannon, his 2018 project, his sort of inter-party insurgency looks like it is, you know, in jeopardy in terms of his future in the media, I think that sort of unresolved.

KORNACKI: Yes. We came into 2018 thinking that would be a major political story, Bannon, the establishments, those primaries may not be what we are talking about this spring.

Michelle Goldberg, Charlie Sykes, Rosie Gray, thanks to all of you for joining us.

And a programming note as well. Michael Wolff, he is will join Chris Matthews on "Hardball" this coming Tuesday. 7:00 eastern. Don`t miss that.

And coming up, that bombshell report from "the New York Times" that Trump had the White House counsel push attorney general Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in the Russia investigation. It is part of what may be an obstruction of justice case against the President and it comes as two Republican senators also call for a criminal investigation against the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele. That is ahead.

Plus Trump`s quote "dishonest media awards," he promised to announce them on Monday. The late night comedy host all want a piece of the action.

And as Trump huddles with Republicans to plan for the midterms, it looks like Steve Bannon, not surprisingly here, has been left out in the cold.

And finally, the "Hardball" round table will tell us three things we will be talking about this weekend.

This is "Hardball" where the action is.


KORNACKI: The President`s secretary of state Rex Tillerson was also forced today to respond to questions about the President`s mental fitness. Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody in this book, you know, questions his mental fitness. Have you ever questioned his mental fitness?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.


KORNACKI: According to reporting from NBC News, Tillerson did call Trump a moron at a July meeting at the Pentagon, as charge he never explicitly denied. President Trump responded to those reports at the time by saying I think it is fake news but if he did that, I guess we will have to compare IQ tests and I could tell you who is going to win.

Be right back.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to "Hardball."

President Trump`s failed attempt to prevent attorney general Jeff Sessions from recusing himself adds a new dimension investigation in to possible obstruction of justice. According to "the New York Times," the President instructed his White House council Don McGahn to stop Sessions. However, McGahn was unsuccessful. And the President erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials saying he needed his attorney general to protect him.

The news comes after the President told the Times in July that he disagreed with the attorney general`s decision enough to regret appointing him in the first place.


TRUMP: Sessions gets the job, right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that a mistake?

TRUMP: Well Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He gave you no heads up at all?

TRUMP: Zero.


KORNACKI: And meanwhile in a move sure to inflame partisan divisions, Republican senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham of the judiciary committee that made a criminal referral in their investigation of Russia meddling.

According to "the New York Times" they told the justice department they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in the dossier and they urged the department to investigate.

The move follows Republican efforts to portray the dossier as a partisan hit job because it was compiled as part of an opposition research effort for the Clinton campaign.

And joining me is Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal who sits on the judiciary committee.

Senator, thank you for joining us. So these are your colleagues, your Republican colleagues on the committee saying to the just department there ought to be a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele, the author of this dossier.

Let me ask you first, the evidence that they say they have encountered that justifies this investigation, have you seen that evidence? Are you aware of what their referring to here?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I have seen no evidence. None whatsoever that would justify this criminal referral. And I know of no such evidence stunningly and sadly this first major action by the Republican leadership in the Judiciary Committee is aimed at someone who reported wrongdoing, rather than committed it.

And very, very strangely, it`s apparently based on evidence that the Department of Justice already has, and may well have been provided to them by the Department of Justice.

So, it seems more like an effort to distract from the real priorities, what should be the priorities of the committee, namely, looking into obstruction of justice, collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian meddling, and even to discredit law enforcement agencies like the FBI.

KORNACKI: Because I`m just trying to get a sense of what life is like on that committee right now. Is this something you found out reading about in the press today? Is this something the committee has been discussing? Have Republicans been raising this?

You haven`t seen the evidence. Are you at least vaguely aware of what they are referring to, or is this -- are you just totally being hit out of the blue with this?

BLUMENTHAL: That is really a very, very important point.

The fact is, really unfortunately, that there was no consultation and no collaboration, which really runs against the grain of what traditionally should be a proper bipartisan investigation. There has been no real collaboration in this referral.

And, in fact, the efforts here should be focused on the committee`s priorities, the Russia meddling, obstruction of justice, the possible oversight of the Department of Justice, which is our mandate and our bipartisan purview.

KORNACKI: Because Lindsey Graham has said -- his argument is basically, look, he says he wants Mueller to proceed unimpeded. He thinks there ought to be looking here into this issue of Russia meddling.

And he thinks there also needs to be some kind of look, some kind of investigation into this dossier, into whether the FBI was relying on what he sees as opposition research work.

In terms of the Russian meddling piece of it, do you think he, do you think the Republicans on that committee are taking that seriously?

BLUMENTHAL: There is a really indisputable fact here, which is that the FBI investigation of that Russian meddling and the Trump campaign`s collaboration with it was triggered by information completely independent and separate from Fusion GPS or Christopher Steele.

We know, from excellent reporting, that it resulted from information from within the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos talking to the Russian -- or the Australian ambassador and other intelligence sources. So this really seems like a distraction and a deflection of attention.

KORNACKI: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, in the news tonight.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

KORNACKI: As "The New York Times" reports, when the president was unable to stop his attorney general from recusing himself in the Russia investigation, he said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him.

Mr. Trump then asked, "Where is my Roy Cohn?"

He was referring to his personal lawyer from years ago and fixer. Cohn has been Senator Joe R. McCarthy`s top aide. His reference to Roy Cohn raises new questions about how Trump views the independence of the Justice Department.

Cohn, who gained national notoriety for hunting suspected communists in the McCarthy era, later worked for Trump, until he was disbarred in 1986 for dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation, per "The Washington Post."

I`m joined now Matt Apuzzo, a reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Maya Harris is an MSNBC political and legal analyst.

Now, Maya, let me start with you.

Just in terms of this new reporting on Trump, so we have got a couple of pieces of it here. Number one, leaning on the White House counsel there, Don McGahn, to tell Sessions you don`t need to recuse yourself, you shouldn`t recuse yourself, I don`t want you to recuse yourself.

Now, we know Sessions did recuse himself. Did Sessions have to recuse himself? MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that it was politically untenable certainly for him to stay in the role after what the revelations have been.

But, normally, in terms of a recusal, you want to look at whether or not somebody has conflicts of interest. They`re usually something like if you have a family conflict of interests, a family member involved in the investigation, a financial conflict of interests.

So there can be an actual conflict of interests, but it is also important whether there is an appearance of a conflict of interests. And then in this situation, Attorney General Sessions was involved in the campaign, and he also had his own Russia issues, in that he had failed to disclose meetings with Russians during the campaign, and then testified under oath that he no meetings with Russians.

And so in terms of the integrity of the investigation, public confidence in the investigation, he really had to recuse himself from this investigation.

KORNACKI: And, Matt, you have been reporting on this. Take us through a little bit, because we have got that anecdote in there, again, a window here maybe into how Trump views the Department of Justice, the attorney general, how he thinks the role they should be playing.

He sees a role here of personal protection. I know there was a quote a couple weeks ago, maybe a week or two ago, where he basically said he thought that Eric Holder had acted to protect Barack Obama, hint, hint there, Jeff Sessions you should be doing the same to me.

MATT APUZZO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it is actually remarkable, given the Republican criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder during the Obama administration was pretty roundly that he was just too chummy with President Obama.

And so it is interesting to see that that is what was most attractive to President Trump about the Holder era. There has been certainly no shortage of criticism from President Trump about the Obama era, but he likes the fact that the attorney general was very -- was seen as a close ally and friend of the president.

It just really does speak to what the Trump administration, what the president sees the role of the attorney general is. We have heard Donald Trump say, I have the right to do to do what I want in the Justice Department, to make decisions in the Justice Department.

The reference to Roy Cohn is obviously a reference to his own lawyer. Where is the guy who is going to protect me? And as you just mentioned, Jeff Sessions kind of was bound to recuse himself.

In addition to the regular recusal standards, the Justice Department internal regulations are pretty clear on questions of, if you are part of a campaign, you don`t get to investigate any part of that campaign. So he was pretty far down the track of recusal when the pressure from the White House began, saying, no, no, don`t recuse yourself.

KORNACKI: And "The Times" also reporting that the president`s talk of firing former FBI Director James Comey unnerved some inside of the White House Counsel`s Office.

And it even led one of Mr. McGahn`s deputies to mislead the president about his authority to fire the FBI director. In effect, the lawyer led the president to believe he needed cause to fire Comey, despite conducting research that showed he did not.

Maya, maybe you could offer a little bit of a tutorial here for folks like me about the role of White House counsel, because we`re seeing McGahn here, the president leaning on McGahn, go to Sessions, take care of this for me, to sort of play that more personal role, that more personal protector role.

But the White House counsel is not supposed to enjoy that kind of relationship with the president. Is that correct?

HARRIS: Well, it is not inappropriate for the White House counsel to actually speak to the attorney general. In fact, that is the appropriate line of communication from the White House to the Justice Department.

But what is inappropriate is, for example, you gave the example of the deputy White House counsel. There is sort of the fact of the propriety of what he did, as well as the sort of fact of what it illustrates.

And what I mean by that is that his role is not the private attorney for the president. His role is to be the attorney for the presidency. And, in this instance, it looks like he was attempting to help perhaps the president save himself from himself.

He understood that it would be problematic potentially under these circumstances for him to fire the attorney general. And so, in that situation, his role is actually to provide candid, accurate, truthful advice to the office of the presidency.

But what I also thought was interesting about that snippet from "The New York Times" article was what it illustrates in terms of everything else we`re hearing about Donald Trump and this presidency and the White House, and the way that people who work directly with this president do not seem to have confidence in his ability to take information in, to process that information, and to exercise reasonable judgment and discharge his duties as president.

And in the situation, in some ways, this deputy White House counsel was probably the smartest person in the White House`s Counsel Office, because he probably anticipated what it was that Trump would do with that information and understood that it was headed nowhere good.

KORNACKI: It sounds like there was a strategic component to the thinking there and then a projection of what the response would be.

Maya Harris, Matt Apuzzo, thanks to both of you for joining us.

And up next, for your consideration, Stephen Colbert and the rest of the late-night hosts launch bids to take home President Trump`s coveted fake news awards. Those are supposedly coming Monday.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump tweeted earlier this week: I will be announcing the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year on Monday at 5:00. Subjects will cover dishonesty and bad reporting in various categories from the fake news media. Stay tuned."

In response, late-night hosts have submitted their own for your consideration ads, like you would normally seen for the Oscars.

Stephen Colbert took out a billboard in Times Square and gushed over the awards on his show, calling them the Fakies.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": I`m excited for the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year, or, as we call in the biz, the Fakies, because nothing gives you more credibility than Donald Trump calling you a liar.


COLBERT: I`m hoping to be nominated in all categories, including outstanding achievement in parenting George Soros` talking points.


COLBERT: Best sound mixing, best Chex mixing, least Breitbart-y, the Eric Trump Memorial Award for Disappointment.


COLBERT: Fakest dishonesty, corruptest fakeness, dishonestest corruption, and smallest button.


KORNACKI: Trevor Noah took out an ad in "The New York Times," tweeting: "Donald Trump, prove you`re not semi-literate by reading our full-page ad in the failing `N.Y. Times.`"

And Samantha Bee tweeted: "Nice try, `The Late Show` and `The Daily Show,` but we are sweeping the Dishonesties this year. P.S., Donald Trump, how about a female host next time?"

I`m joined now by Lizz Winstead. She was the co-creator of "The Daily Show."

Lizz, thank you for joining us.


KORNACKI: Well, this feels to me almost like an extension of what we were talking about at the top of the show, where Donald Trump sends his lawyers after Michael Wolff and this new book, and it`s the best publicity this book could possibly have.

Donald Trump goes after the media with an award like this. Late-night comedy, they are salivating over this.



Well, what is so funny is, the brick doesn`t fall far from the wall I guess is how that goes. But it is so amazing that Donald Trump would actually have an awards show the day after Seth Meyers will excoriate him at the Golden Globes.

It`s -- he just doesn`t think things through. And why there even needs to be categories, because basically all of this is about one category, least supporting actor in a media role, because that is all he cares about, is loyalty towards him.

And he just wants to try to point fingers at people who didn`t support him, when, if you are going to talk about -- if any of these late-night hosts thought they were going to win, they clearly are going to lose. It is going to be a sweep by Michael Wolff.


KORNACKI: Well, it is interesting, though, talking about late night, just because they seem so ginned up for this.

It has been interesting to me over the last year. The Trump presidency -- and I think of Colbert. It was probably about a year-and-a-half ago I was reading stories that he was struggling to find a direction taking over after Letterman, maybe the ratings weren`t there.


KORNACKI: This has been grist for these late-night hosts, just the fact of Trump being president.

WINSTEAD: Well, and it is almost overwhelming, because, usually, in these kind of -- in these situations, there would be three times a week where you would hit a story that would -- you could milk it for two or three days.

And now when things happen every 20 minutes or there is a tweetstorm, I mean, what is the date today? The 5th of January? And we have already had this explosive book, his tweetstorm earlier in the week.

And it is really hard to keep up and also -- and just follow things through, because it is like, you write it, it goes away, it is dead. And so, conceptually, it is really fun to have something to hang your hat on that goes to the awards on Monday, which I can`t wait for the red carpet.


KORNACKI: Yes, we`re very curious to see if this is going to be an actual ceremony, if he`s going to say something on Twitter or not.

I`m curious, though, just talking about late-night television here. It has gotten so political, so Trump. There is a huge audience clearly that is out there for it.

I do -- do you worry, though, ever that it may in some ways further the divide, because it is so built around Trump, and if you are on that anti- Trump side of the divide, you got late-night television? But basically half the country was there voting for him. Half the electorate almost was there voting for him.

Does this further the divide between that side of the country and the rest?

WINSTEAD: I mean, I think that if the divide -- if you are still doubling down on defending Trump, after the massive amounts of falsehoods that he and his administration have brought forward, and the terrifying brink he`s bringing us to nuclear war, I think that that divide, you`re not going to bridge it by talking to people.

I think you need to marginalize Trump and do everything you can to prove that he`s ridiculous. And so I think also it is pretty hard to not have it be politicized, because Trump weighs in to everything.

There is not a story in the news that happens that does not have Trump`s imprimatur on it. He either has created the mess or he`s stepped in and dragged it around the world. And so that is what we`re faced with as comedians. You are default -- by default, a political satirist.

KORNACKI: All right, well, 5:00 Monday, we will see what that brings.

Lizz Winstead, thanks for joining us to preview it a little bit.

WINSTEAD: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: And all right, up next: Fresh off his feud with Steve Bannon, Trump holds a meeting at Camp David to plot the Republican path in 2018. And it comes amid word that the president spoke with Mitt Romney.

Are the two ready to bury the hatchet?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump departed for Camp David this afternoon following a week in which his ugly feud with Steve Bannon may have left his former strategist out in the cold for good. The president will huddle with Republican congressional leaders this weekend. They`re going to try to chart a course for the 2018 midterms.

Meanwhile, a possible 2018 candidate Mitt Romney out in Utah spoke by phone with the president on Thursday night. This is amid speculation Romney is going to run for that seat that Orrin Hatch is retiring from out in Utah.

"Politico" first reporting the news nothing the president wished Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, best of luck in his future endeavors.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Caitlin Huey-Burns, political reporter for "RealClearPolitics", former New York Republican congressman Nan Hayworth, she sits on the board of directors at the Independent Women`s Forum, and Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

Caitlan, let me start on this news of the phone call between Romney and Trump. Romney trashed Trump during the campaign. Romney may have almost been secretary of state after the campaign. Now, it looks like he`s doing to be a U.S. senator. He`s a rock star in Utah. Utah Republicans are not too crazy about Trump.

What is the White House`s thinking about the prospect of Romney coming to Washington?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think they anticipate if Mitt Romney were to come to Washington that he could be this kind of thorn in the president`s side. He`s been a very outspoken critic of this president. That`s no secret.

There is a question, though, of, you know, whether he would really be, right? You`ve had people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, all have had scathing criticism of this president, and yet have voted for major pieces of legislation that are in light with his, like tax reform, health care and so forth.

So, I`m taking this call for what it is today, because remember that famous dinner that we saw the two of them at, only for Romney to come out. But I think it serves Romney well to show when he distances himself from the president and in a place like Utah and when he agrees with him.

KORNACKI: I`m trying to figure out what Romney has in mind here. Because does he want to be sort of an elder statesman, take a Senate seat and hold it for a while. Is there a part -- because, you know, when they run they get that, you know, Potomac fever. Does part of him think I go there to the Senate, maybe I stand up to Trump on something, maybe I get some good press and a year later, maybe it`s a Republican primary, maybe it is an independent.

Is there another run for the White House?

NAN HAYWORTH, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, INDEPENDENT WOMEN`S FORUM: You know, I`m not thinking that Romney is thinking about 2020. I really don`t. He is the type of man who I think is compelling to public service.

He won Utah by 72 -- 72 percent of the vote in 2016 -- in 2012 rather. So, his prospects are superb that he will be the next senator but I think he is mission-driven and I think he sees this as an opportunity to serve. I don`t think he`s going there seeking to usurp the president.

KORNACKI: Well, Romney`s prospects, Tara, look good in Utah. But Republican prospects overall in 2018, I mean, look, they are out there at Camp David this weekend, Republicans. They think tax reform at the end of the last year they think might help them. Signs the economy is still sort of -- it`s moving along in a positive direction. They think maybe that redound to their benefit at some point.

As a Democrat, how are you feeling looking ahead to this year?

TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously, Democrats are feeling very positive about 2018. Certainly, it`s a measured positive reaction from Democrat.

But look, Democrats are going to hammer Republicans on this tax bill, on this tax scam. That is what that is going to be the talking point, that`s going to be the continued hashtag, GOP tax scam, and what Democrats have on their side around this issue is that the bill is unpopular, we`re at a time when there is record amounts of wealth being held by 1 percent of our country, 40 percent of the wealth in the country is held by the top 1 percent, 60 years -- it hasn`t been like this in 60 years.

And so, Democrats are going to push that message and the message is resonating already. We see it because the bill is unpopular.

KORNACKI: And the word, Nan, that is floating around, a lot of Democrats want to -- maybe some of them are scared to say it right now, this wave. They are hoping this is a wave election in the midterm, dozens of seats, they get back the House.

You ran in a wave election year, 2010, as a Republican, the anti-Obama year. You got elected 63 Republican pickups in House.

HAYWORTH: It was amazing.

KORNACKI: Do you feel an opposite wave -- a blue wave forming right now?

HAYWORTH: I think the response to the tax bill -- the tax cuts is going to be overwhelmingly positive. I mean, there are lots of commentators who ordinarily wouldn`t be disposed to support the president or the Republicans who have expressed even to their somewhat astonishment that actually, yes, people are going to benefit.

They`re going to start seeing those benefits very quickly in their paychecks. Two million Americans have been put back to work in just 2017 under President Trump. The economy is booking. And employment is at a record low.

I think the Democrats are dreaming if they`re going to have a wave election. I just don`t see it happening.

KORNACKI: Well, was it 24, the magic number for Dems is 24 pickups, they get the House back.

The round table is staying with us. Up next, Joe Biden responds to Trump`s taunt that he has a bigger nuclear button than North Korea.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: In a new interview with "The New York Times," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reflects back on election night, saying that at time, he expected to be heading to Washington with President Trump. Christie says his wife looked at me and said, are we going to Washington and I said, I really don`t know. But get ready.

The governor adds, I think both of our expectations at that moment was that he would probably offer me something that I was willing to leave office to do. But in the end, he never did.

We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he`s worried the United States and North Korea are closer than ever to nuclear war. Biden criticized President Trump`s tweet earlier this week in which he said that he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button that Kim Jong-un. The former vice president argued that such talk damages our standing with other world leaders.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: When we engage in activities like "let`s compare the button," they all for different reasons and different motivations lose confidence in us. They wonder, do we know what the hell we`re doing? I`m worried they then decide they`re going to find separate ways to figure out how the do this.

This can`t be done in a way that doesn`t have all the players in the game on the same page, and I just think that -- and the other thing is, you know, you draw these lines and you don`t respond, it diminishes your credibility. And it`s just dangerous.


KORNACKI: A little interesting to hear him throw in the line at the end of the Syria red line that Obama drew in 2013 at one point.

But, Tara, it is -- Joe Biden tried to run in 2008 with his calling card being national security experience, you know, authority, command on that. All the concerns that are being raised about President Trump, interesting to see Joe Biden inserting himself into this debate.

DOWDELL: Well, you look, remember Joe Biden`s history, which I know you know very well, is he was also an expert on Georgia and Russia, right? So before there was Ukraine and Russia, before some of these other issues, there was Georgia and Russia, and that was something that Joe Biden was very much intimately involved in. So, his history and knowledge of Russia and that region is very deep.

I think the problem for Trump is that Trump is Trump, and Trump is his own worst enemy. Speaking of buttons, every world leader knows exactly what button to push if you want to manipulate Donald Trump. The Saudis know that you just give him everything and make him feel good and put regalia on him and celebrate him. They know how to take advantage of him.

The Chinese know how to take advantage of him. Russia knows how to take advantage which, by the way, Russia was giving oil to North Korea recently, despite all of the efforts to try to tamp them down. And they can do that because there`s no strategy.

And people know that Donald Trump is not serious. All of his business is on display on Twitter for the world to see and these guys are very smart. All of our world leaders, men and women, are very smart, and Trump is easily manipulated and they see that.

KORNACKI: Also in this interview, Biden would not rule out a run for president in 2020. Well, Biden acknowledged his age is a legitimate factor. He did take a swipe at a Democrat who is calling out another of the party`s older contenders, Vermont`s Bernie Sanders.

Let`s take a listen.


JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: Howard Dean said this morning, former Democratic Party chair, he said, the old people in the party need to, quote, get the hell out of the way and --

BIDEN: Well, tell Howard I can take him physically, OK?


KORNACKI: Tell Howard Dean I can take -- this is an interesting dynamic here, but Biden --


HUEY-BURNS: The infighting is already starting. Well, Howard Dean, remember, was talking about this during the DNC chair race. He backed one of the younger candidates for that.

You know, I think Democrats are anxious already for 2020 and reasonably so. They do have to get through the midterms and I think, you know, an anti- Trump strategy certainly works in the midterms because it will be a referendum on the president. But in 2020, it`s a different kind of bag, right?

It`s more of a vision and there are a lot -- I think Democrats are going to have this problem of a lot of people interested in this race and a lot of people in this field. And, Biden, I think, there is -- he`s inserting himself into these debates and he`s making himself a presence and others are kind of angling as well.

KORNACKI: Let me -- Biden against Trump, if that`s what it was, is that a strong or weak candidate for the Democrats?

HAYWORTH: I think it`s a very strong candidate for President Trump because what does Vice President Biden represent? He was the vice president for President Obama whose -- who President Trump is reversing in so many ways and proving, in fact, to our adversaries and to our friends that he is building our United States economy, he`s building our military, he is showing great strength in leadership at the U.N. through Nikki Haley and through our relationships with other nations.

So, I think he`s going to continue to build strength through to 2020. So, if Vice President Biden wants to take him on as a symbol of the failed past, I think that would bode very well for President Trump.

KORNACKI: That`s the White House Trump Republican perspective right there on a Biden/Trump race. If it ever came that. There`s about 28 other options for Democrats as well.

The round table is staying with us.

Up next, three things you`ll be talking about this weekend and a program note. Author Michael Wolff will be Chuck Todd`s guest this Sunday on "MEET THE PRESS."

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Nan, tell me something I don`t know.

HAYWORTH: Steve, stem cell therapy to combat ageing is going to be a growing field. Dr. Joshua Hale at the University of Miami has performed successful infusions on 30 elderly people and helped make them stronger. So, look to that, look to stem cell therapy for combating ageing in the months and years to come.

KORNACKI: OK. Caitlin?

HUEY-BURNS: Big news in the Senate map. Republican Josh Mandel backed out of the Ohio Senate race today. Republicans don`t really have a top-tier challenger for Sherrod Brown, which is important because Trump won Ohio by eight points. And also, Sherrod Brown is, of course, talked about as a potential 2020 --

KORNACKI: Yes, one of those 28 names out there.


DOWDELL: Well, we all need some good news about the chaos and scandals. So, fewer people are getting cancer and fewer people are dying from cancer.

So, I mean, fewer people are getting cancer and also fewer people who get it are surviving.

KORNACKI: Both pieces of very good news. Great news to end the week on, as a matter of fact.

Tara Dowdell, Nan Hayworth, Caitlan Huey-Burns, thanks to all of you for joining us.

And that is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being us.

And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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