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Lawmakers play blame game on Senate floor Transcript 1/19/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, Ayesha Rascoe, Doug Thornell, Ryan Williams

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 19, 2018 Guest: Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, Ayesha Rascoe, Doug Thornell, Ryan Williams

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: High noon at midnight. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

It`s 7:00 p.m. on the east coast right now and the U.S. Senate is still without a deal to prevent a government shutdown come midnight. Senate Democrats are set to meet tonight at 8:30 to see what they can do. Leaders from both sides of the aisle have spent the past 24 hours playing the blame game. Here they go.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Now that we are 13 hours away from a government shutdown that Democrats would initiate and Democrats would own, the craziness of this seems to be dawning on my friend the Democratic leader.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: If 87 percent of the American people think we should provide legal status to the D.R.E.A.M.ers, let us do our job. Let us pass this legislation.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: This is the greatest country in the world. But we do have some really stupid people representing it from time to time.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Let`s be clear. With Republicans in control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, the only person to blame, if the government shuts down, will be President Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: That`s Senator Markey of Massachusetts.

Earlier today, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer traveled to the White House to sit down with President Trump, but no agreement was made. Here they go.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I`m going to be brief. I`m not going to answer any questions. OK. We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress. But we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.


MATTHEWS: Well, late today, the President tweeted, excellent preliminary meeting in oval with Senator Schumer. Working on solutions for security and our great military together with senator McConnell and speaker Ryan. Making progress. Four-week extension would be best.

Wow, that was the President of the United States tweeting.

Anyway, a government shutdown seems to be a fitting close to a chaotic year in the Trump administration. And happens to coincide with the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

The President delayed plans to travel to Mar-a-Lago, however, for a lavish celebration marking this occasion opting instead to tweet this morning to Democrats.

Government funding bill passed last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed, if it is to pass the Senate. But they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018. You put all that together.

Back in 2013, by the way, before the last government shutdown, Donald Trump had a different opinion about who to blame when there`s a shutdown. Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is going to take the blame, board room here, who is getting fired? Who is going to bear the brunt of the responsibility if indeed there`s a shutdown of the government?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if you say who gets fired, it always has to be the top. I mean, problems start from the top and they have to get solved from the top and the President`s the leader.

You know, the interesting thing is in 25 years, in 50 years, in 100 years from now when the government is -- when they talk about the government shutdown, they are going to be talking about the President of the United States, who was the President at that time? They are not going to talk about who the head of the house was. So I really think the pressure is on the President.


MATTHEWS: Did you hear all that?

Anyway, apparently, the public agrees with that assessment. According to a new "Washington Post"/ABC poll, more Americans blame President Trump and the Republicans than they blame Democrats. Forty-eight percent say Trump and congressional Republicans are responsible for the potential shutdown tonight, 28 percent blame the Democrats. Independents seem to agree, by the way, with the Democrats, 46 to 25, they blame Trump and the Republicans. So the independents go to the Democrats this time.

Anyway, the current impacts pass comes as Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. You figure out who to blame. They control all three pieces.

Anyway, since taking over all three branches of government, the Republican -- by the way, they have the courts, too. The Republican legislative agenda has focused on trying to repeal the affordable care act, big deal for them, and passing a tax cut for the wealthy. They have not figured out how to pay the government`s bills, however, a small matter.

For more, I`m joined by Charlie Sykes, an MSNBC contributor, Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for the "Washington Post" and Maya Harris, MSNBC political and legal contributor.

In that order, starting with you, Charlie, how does this size up or does it even matter? I wonder, whenever you get into a process matter, whether the public just, OK, the zoo lights go out for a couple weeks and a few other screw ups out there, and there may be trouble, but most times we forget about it two weeks later. Your thoughts about the blame game that Trump seems to be pointing his flame thrower at the Democrats hoping they will take the heat.

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes. I mean, the Republicans, you have quite a campaign though, the #Schumershutdown. And of course, it is the Democrats who are pulling the trigger on all this.

But look, we are living in the era of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the star of every play, right. He is the bride at every wedding. He sets the mood music for everything that`s happened over the last year. You think about the symbolism of shutting down the government on the one-year anniversary. How that encapsulates so much about all of this. You know, what a bad negotiator he is. You know, the fact that he basically blew up any sort of a deal, you know, with his shithole countries meeting. All that would be a disaster.

So, you know, I understand the argument that you blame Chuck Schumer, but I don`t know how Donald Trump does not become front and center in all of this. And how that talking point that the Republicans control everything. And they haven`t managed to get a spending bill through time and time again.

MATTHEWS: The title, Catherine, is chief executive. He is supposed to keep the federal government running. He is acted, strangely, he usually has a lot of hubris, this time he seems beak a deer in the headlights.

We don`t know his position on the issue holding this up, DACA. He won`t say I thought he was for DACA last Tuesday. By last Thursday, he wasn`t for it. He is all over the place. He won`t say. That`s a problem for a leader not to say what you think about a key issue holding the whole thing up and keeping the government perhaps making it closed as of midnight tonight. Your thought?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It`s incredibly difficult to negotiate with someone who doesn`t actually know what he wants, right? You don`t know what possible bargaining chip might be effective. And it`s not only Trump who doesn`t know what he wants. To be clear, it`s the entire Republican Party.

While Republican voters support DACA, something like 80 percent of Republicans amongst the general public think that the D.R.E.A.M.ers should be allowed to stay, within the Republican caucus, among star elected officials, that is not the case, right. You have a lot of disagreement. They don`t know internally what they would actually be willing to vote for, what they would be willing to hold up. And if you don`t have any leadership from the very top, Donald Trump nudging people to vote one way or the other, it`s incredibly difficult to sit on the other side of that negotiating table and have to any meaningful progress.

MATTHEWS: Well, breaking news tonight. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has announced he will hold a procedural vote at 10:00 eastern tonight, two hours before the deadline.

Let me go to Maya on this question because it seems like we know the fight here. It`s not all procedure. It`s not all whatever, mechanics. People know the Democratic Party is basically lined up with the cause of the D.R.E.A.M.ers, people who came here as young kids because their parents brought them here. And the Republicans on the hardest right side of the Republican Party. People like -- what`s his name, Tom Cotton and his buddy Perdue from Georgia, they say no way at all. They are not going to do anything that helps anybody Hispanic who came here without papers to stay here. They are not going to help - they want to be against anything that even looks like amnesty toward anybody. Is that the issue as you see it, Maya?

MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL/LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, that hints where we are. I mean, we want to get -- if they want to get a deal done, it`s going to have to include a DACA deal in the next bill that goes up. Now, it could be a slim DACA deal where it`s DACA and, you know, border security. It could be a more expanded DACA deal where you have DACA and you have, you know, like the Durbin and Graham bill, which had all four things being addressed that Donald Trump said that he wanted addressed. A DACA solution, border security, dealing with the family based immigration, dealing with the diversity visas. And so there is room for a deal here, and a bipartisan deal here, and Democrats are trying to negotiate that in good faith. But there is not a deal with DACA not on the table.

MATTHEWS: I think you had it nailed there.

Anyway, the shutdown has highlighted the divide within the Republican Party. Senator Lindsey Graham who has advocated for legislative protections for D.R.E.A.M.ers, he is looking out for the DACA people, rejected a proposal pushed by Senator Tom Cotton, I mentioned him, to end family-based immigration, what they call chain immigration. But let`s watch.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We are not going to end family immigration for DACA. The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he has become sort of the Steve King of the Senate. I like Tom, but on immigration, he is putting something on the table that there`s just no market for in phase one.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Steve King, by the way, is one of the House`s most outspoken anti-immigration hardliners.

Anyway, Senator Cotton was asked to respond to Graham`s comments. Here he goes.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: The difference between Lindsey Graham and Steve King is Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa. In 2016, we had a Presidential campaign. Donald Trump won our party`s nomination. Lindsey Graham didn`t even make it to the starting line. The American people have made it clear, certainly Republican voters have made it clear, that they want Donald Trump`s approach to immigration. Which is strong on our border, and focused on American workers when it comes to legal immigration, but also being generous to the DACA population, giving them legal protections.


MATTHEWS: That`s you, Mr. Cotton. You are a big generous kind of guy.

Let me go to Charlie. You know as often there (INAUDIBLE) word that explains everything going on here that we don`t quite have the English word for, it is called michigas (ph), confusion, congestion insanity.

This is the United States government. These guys know we have a hot immigration issue. They, all men and women, all note of every ethnic group north and south, knew we had an immigration issue, knew we had a DACA question on the table, we knew we had a deadline, we knew the United States government has to get funded and they got to pass a continuing resolution. All of this is foreknowledge. And here we go to midnight. Why don`t they ever do anything ahead of time? Are they all have -- I know the answer so I`m just throwing it out there. They all play the clock. They all wait to the last minute to squeeze what they can out of the other side.

What does the Republican Party want by midnight tonight to keep the government going? Is it there anything to keep it going in their eyes?

SYKES: Well, I mean, you know, they are using, you know, all those children and C.H.I.P., you know, as kind of hostages in all this. You know, and I think one of the sad things is watching --

MATTHEWS: They have cared a lot about C.H.I.P. over the years --.


MATTHEWS: Come on.

SYKES: No, no, no. That they are using them to how cynical this is, is my point. If they are using that. But I think one of the saddest things is watching the hackification of somebody like Tom Cotton. You know, the shot that you just played against Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham, who I don`t always agree with, seemed like the only adult in the room, you know. He and Dick Durbin had actually hammered out a bipartisan consensus. You know, this should not be that hard. You know, you are a big bipartisan majority is in favor of DACA reform, big by partisan majorities in favor of C.H.I.P. Nobody wants to leave the military high and dry. So, you know, this game playing and Donald Trump`s inability to lead, his lack of credibility, his lack of consistency, has led us to this point.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Charlie Sykes. You are always good on these points. Catherine Rampell, thank you. I read your column assiduously. And Maya Harris, thank you. Is your sister running for President, by the way? Can you help us out here? Any answer tonight?

HARRIS: Beats me.

MATTHEWS: If you don`t know, we don`t know. Thank you, Maya. Please keep coming back.

Joining me now is the great Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Sir, what is the position of the Democratic National Committee, Democrats overall in the country on DACA?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, DACA, it`s not just the Democratic National Committee. It`s the overwhelming majority of the American people support a clean DACA bill. We know right now, Chris, that if this bill came before the house and the Senate, there`s a majority in both to pass the bill.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t have a majority of members bring it up.

PEREZ: And the problem is there`s been a hostage taking.

MATTHEWS: Is this a hill worth fighting for? You fight for this. You know they say in a war, is this the hill you are going to die over? Is this worth taking some heat for, saying you are willing not to keep the government going tonight because the other party will not go along with DACA taking care of this?

PEREZ: You know, this is more than simply about D.R.E.A.M.ers. And D.R.E.A.M.ers have been suffering for so long.

MATTHEWS: What more is it about?

PEREZ: It is about making sure we have funding to deal with the opioid crisis. Making sure that we have funding, we had all these hurricanes and there`s a relief program in there. Forty percent of the people of Puerto Rico still don`t have electricity, and here you are dithering here on Capitol Hill.

MATTHEWS: So what do you guys want to give up, to be blunt about it, in the deal making process? The Republicans don`t want DACA. Democrats and independents, we showed the numbers, want it. What do you give? Is there anything you are willing -- are you willing to do more border enforcement? What are you willing to do?

PEREZ: You know, we have been very clear.

MATTHEWS: Give me something. What are you going to give them? It`s midnight.

PEREZ: We have given them too much.

MATTHEWS: What do you give them?

PEREZ: My goodness. I mean, look at the chaos of this first year of this administration. There`s been so much. They have gotten -- look at how fast they did that tax cut for wealthy people. And they can`t find the time to help expand the children`s health insurance program, expand DACA, make sure there is money out there for all the relief programs.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the Republican Party is anti-Latino?


MATTHEWS: Are you going to look out for young people whose parents brought them here who didn`t break any law by themselves and by the nature of this whole executive order can`t have broken any laws by themselves. They`re clean people. They deserve a chance.

PEREZ: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Why is the Republican Party opposing them?

PEREZ: I mean, look at what Donald Trump, at every turn, what he says about the judge in the case last year.


PEREZ: He has demonstrated throughout --

MATTHEWS: Give me the words. What`s wrong with these people? Animus. He doesn`t like these people.

MATTHEWS: He has demonstrated antipathy. He does not like Latinos, judging by his actions. And you see it day in and day out, whether it was DACA, whether it was his comments about Mexicans, whether it`s his comments about other immigrants. And you know, May 2nd of last year, Chris, he said a government shutdown would be a good thing.


PEREZ: And you know, I can`t help but wonder if he`s getting what he wanted from last year because it`s not -- this is about Latinos but it`s about more. It`s about making sure that we are protecting so many vulnerable people. It`s about making sure that we are helping the victims of the hurricanes. It is about making sure we are helping our veterans who have been suffering. There`s pension issues on the table.

MATTHEWS: If your party gets fire - I mean, the Democrats get the House of Representatives, and the numbers look good, you are going to get the 218. Do you think there is going to be an impeachment effort next year?

PEREZ: Well, we will have to wait and see.

MATTHEWS: You want to wait and see? You don`t think there`s enough evidence?

PEREZ: We will wait and see what director Mueller does. But I`m confident there is going to be a lot of people who are going to start asking this question. This President is reckless. He is childish. He is the most incompetent president I think in American president.

MATTHEWS: Would you bet he would get impeached next year?

PEREZ: I don`t know yet. Because, you know, I don`t know what the evidence will show.

MATTHEWS: Because I keep seeing dozens and dozens of Democratic members of the house have already signed up for impeachment effort.

PEREZ: Well, I mean, one thing that is clear, this is the most incompetent and dangerous President in American history. And what I think my role is, as DNC chair, is to make sure we elect Democrats up and down the ticket so that we can make sure that this Trump era is a very short era.

MATTHEWS: Tom Perez, that`s your job and you are here to tell us about it. Thank you. Comeback often.

Coming up, Democrats are fighting to save the D.R.E.A.M.ers, as I said, and most Americans, including independents, are with them. They want a deal to protect the D.R.E.A.M.ers, these kids. They were kids when they came here. But what does Trump want? This is insane. Nobody can tell us what Trump`s position is on the issue we have been talking about for the last 20 minutes. He has been all over the map on D.R.E.A.M.ers and even Mitch McConnell doesn`t know where the President stands. This is during the headlights presidency. You are wacthing it and that is ahead.

Plus, what do we know tonight about the deal by Trump`s lawyer to pay $130,000 to an adult film star? Think about that, baby.

And the showdown over keeping the government running caps off a year of right governing by chaos for this President at the one year mark. That`s what it is. Our new poll shows the most common word given to pollsters to describe the Trump presidency is an unusual word but a familiar one in your own home, disgusted.

Finally, let me finish with a football game this Sunday night in the city of brotherly love. There may not be a lot of love there, but there`s going to be a lot of heat this Sunday night in Philly.

This is "Hardball," where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, the Supreme Court said today that it will consider the legality of one of the White House`s most controversial initiatives, the Trump travel ban. The case concerns is the third version of the ban, which restricts travelers from eight countries, six of them with Muslim majorities. Well, the court which is back at full strength now following Trump`s the appointment of Neil Gorsuch already has a number of significant items on the DACA this year. They include cases on voting rights, union power, and religious freedom.

We`ll be right back.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The Democratic leader has convinced his members to filibuster any funding bill that doesn`t include legislation they are demanding for people who came into the United States illegally.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: This is about a heart-wrenching issue that is before us because President Trump made a decision September 5 to end the program. And that`s the challenge we face.

To say we`re in no hurry, well, we may not be as senators and congressmen, but these young people are in a hurry to find out whether or not they have a life.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and then Senate Minority Leader -- or Whip Dick Durbin on the Senate floor this morning with very different philosophies.

At the center of the standoff over keeping the government open is the fate of those nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, so-called dreamers, who have been left in limbo ever since President Trump rescinded the executive order program last December, giving Congress until March 5 to save the DACA program and the dreamers. Joining me right now is one of the individual, Samantha Ramirez-Herrera.

Samantha, Sam, as you`re called, I want to you -- here`s your chance, a couple million people watching right now. In your words, explain what it means to be a dreamer.

SAMANTHA RAMIREZ-HERRERA, DACA RECIPIENT: Well, right now, to be a dreamer is actually very psychologically and emotionally, it`s like riding an emotional roller coaster.

And it`s -- you know, every single day, 122 dreamers are losing protection. The deadline of March 6 is arbitrary. At that time, 1,200 dreamers are going to lose their protections every day. That means that people are losing their ability to work, their ability to drive, their ability to report crimes.

You know, there`s dreamers that are living in fear right now because we are in a limbo. We`re in a limbo right now, not knowing if we should continue paying for school, if we should continue going to work. We don`t know what`s out there for us. So there is a sense of urgency right now for all dreamers out there.

MATTHEWS: Right now, because of the executive order of 2015, you do have a driver`s license, you do have a business. You have got -- do you have a Social Security card number? How much full citizenship do -- the effects of citizenship do you enjoy right now as a dreamer?


Right now, I`m actually a business owner. I have a driver`s license. You know, I`m able to pay taxes. I`m able to employ American citizens. I`m able to fly, so that I can meet clients that we`re meeting. You know, it`s -- like, DACA, having DACA has given us so much liberty, and we would like to continue contributing to this country, because that`s what we`re doing.

They call us dreamers, but we`re actually out here doing. We are, you know, giving back to our community. We are paying taxes. We are actually out here doing things.

MATTHEWS: So any of the negative terms used by President Trump or any of the hard-right people against people who have come here from across the border, either because their parents brought them or they came on their own, they don`t apply to you, those knocks, because I understand that, if you`re a dreamer, you can`t have committed a crime or, period, you lose all of the DACA protections right on the spot.

RAMIREZ-HERRERA: That is correct.

When we went through the DACA process, we actually pay a fee, and we go through extreme vetting. We actually go through background checks. And if we commit any crimes, our DACAs are stripped from us.

Right now, dreamers are living in fear because a traffic violation could land you in an immigration detention center. And that`s what we`re asking for. We`re asking for protection from deportation and for a pathway to be made.

People are always asking, why don`t you just get in line? Why don`t you do it the right way? What we`re asking for is for an actual pathway to be made, because we will gladly get on that line, so that we can have a pathway to citizenship, as long as we have protections from deportation, so that we continue contributing, going to work, providing jobs for other people, and just giving back to our communities.

MATTHEWS: When you were growing up and you realized that you were undocumented, what -- people want to hear this. I mean, good people out there want to hear this.

When you grew up and you realized your classmates had something you didn`t have, U.S. citizenship, tell me about that feeling and what -- the whole transformation through DACA and now this whole perils of the perilous situation now. How have those periods of your life been different?

RAMIREZ-HERRERA: Growing up undocumented and going through high school, and when you start to -- that`s when the reality of being undocumented really hits you, when you realize that, while your friends are planning to go to college, that they`re getting scholarships, they`re applying for financial aid and even getting driver`s licenses, you realize that you can`t do anything of -- any of those things.

And having that pressure on you, being an adolescent at that time, and having that type of pressure on you, it`s psychologically damaging. When DACA came into place, it provided an opportunity for us to apply to colleges.

We actually do pay to go to school. Dreamers do pay to go to school. The narrative that we`re getting free education is completely false. Dreamers actually pay out-of-state tuition in many states. They pay out of pocket. And if they receive a scholarship, it`s a well-earned scholarship through private funding.

So, during that time, it`s very, very stressful because you don`t know. You feel like there`s a cap on your potential. Having DACA, being able to get a driver`s license, being able to have a Social Security number, where you can start building credit, being able to have a home in your name, being able to drive legally, all of those things are lifted off of your shoulders, and you feel like you actually have a chance at tapping into your potential.

And that`s what we`re asking, for an opportunity to tap into our potential, not to have things handed to us, not to be on welfare, not to avoid paying taxes. We do all of those things. We`re asking for protections from deportation, which our government said that if we came forward and came out of the shadows and that we actually, you know, came forward and presented ourselves and went through this vetting and went through these background checks, they said that they would protect us from deportation.

And now that has been stripped from us, and we`re living in a perpetual state of confusion. There`s so many feelings out there. And there`s so much that we`re going through right now, and all we`re asking is for a pathway for us to be made.

MATTHEWS: Well, Samantha, I have to tell you, about two million people just heard what you said, and I know my viewers enough, the viewers of HARDBALL, to know that it sunk in. What a powerful statement you made.

Thank you, Sam, Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, for coming on and explaining what it`s like to be a dreamer. I mean that.


MATTHEWS: Up at the White House this morning, legislative director Marc Short said the administration had put forward its plan on DACA, but, as of last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn`t seem to know what those plans involved.

He doesn`t know what the president wants or what he`s willing to fight for, what he`s willing to give. Let`s listen.


MCCONNELL: The presidency under our constitutional system is not irrelevant. He`s the person who signs things into law. And for most of us in the House and Senate on the Republican side, we`re interested in what his views are. And those have not been made fully apparent yet.


MATTHEWS: Well, in a bipartisan meeting in immigration last night, the president left the details up to the Congress. Let`s listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. If they come to me with things that I`m not in love with, I`m going to do it ,because I respect them.


MATTHEWS: So what does the president believe about DACA?

Joining me right now is Ayesha Rascoe, White House correspondent for Reuters.

Ayesha, I don`t get it. He`s the leader, isn`t he? Didn`t he run for this office?

AYESHA RASCOE, REUTERS: Yes, yes, he did.

But he -- I think he`s being pulled between his base, which wants him to be really tough on immigration. He promised to build a wall and to do all these things to cut down on illegal immigration. But he also has said he wants to be a president with heart. He doesn`t want to deport these kids.

MATTHEWS: Why does he care what Bates Motel thinks? What does he care -- why does he let Tom Cotton and this guy Perdue tell him what to do, two guys?

RASCOE: Well, we talked to President Trump this week, and he told us that he felt like Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue were more in line with where he stands, and that he -- you know, he was kind of presenting himself as very hard-line.

MATTHEWS: I thought he was going along with the middle-of-the-road deal with Lindsey Graham and Durbin. I thought that was where he was.

RASCOE: Well, that was last week. And then this...

MATTHEWS: That was Tuesday. That was Thursday.

RASCOE: Yes. So, he says...

MATTHEWS: So here we go into the night. As I said, this is high noon at midnight. I get the sense that the key issue holding up the government tonight, which is the demand of the Democrats to do something for these dreamers, like the young Sam we just had on, and the president is indifferent. He`s agnostic.

He has no position on the issue. He wants the people in the room, as he put it, to do it.

RASCOE: I think he -- well, as always, I think he wants to come out looking the best, obviously, and I think that he is afraid of his base and looking weak.

He also bristles at the idea of he didn`t get anything for the wall. He hasn`t gotten enough for the wall. He`s constantly making that argument. I haven`t changed. I haven`t evolved. We`re going to have the wall.

So, I think that he is afraid of...

MATTHEWS: Why do these guys spook him then? He was all ready to make a compromise deal, and two guys show up, Cotton and this guy Perdue, and he just melted. I mean, it`s horrendous.

The two guys, what did they carry, what did they bring in with them to scare him so much?

RASCOE: Well, I think he`s always very in tune with his base. And that`s the one thing that he never wants to lose, is his base.

MATTHEWS: Well, it is a base, isn`t it?

Anyway, thank you so much, Ayesha Rascoe, for coming on.

Up next: According to "The Wall Street Journal," President Trump`s lawyer reportedly paid off an adult film star just weeks before the 2016 election, in October of 2016, in fact, right on the eve of the election. Paid out $130,000 to this person through an interesting myriad of ways to do it, keeping it secret.

The HARDBALL -- well, this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: There are new developments today in that unfolding story that`s been sidelined in the otherwise busy news week we have had.

The whole story comes from "The Wall Street Journal," which reported last Friday that President Trump`s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult film star a month before the 2016 election. That`s in October of `16.

According to "The Journal," the payment was "part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump," but "the Journal" reported, is -- according to people familiar with the matter. That`s how they reported it.

The story says that the woman, who goes by her stage name, Stormy Daniels, told people in private that she had an affair with Trump in 2006, when she was 27 years old.

Well, now "The Wall Street Journal" is further reporting that, according to corporate records and people familiar with the matter, Michael Cohen formed a Delaware-based limited liability company to pay Daniels for her silence. That would insure additional privacy because -- quote -- "Delaware doesn`t require companies to publicly disclose the names of their managers."

In his response Friday, Michael Cohen said -- quote -- "President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence, as has Ms. Daniels."

However, he did not deny making the payment of $130,000.

Joining me now is Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" and of course an MSNBC political analyst.

I have been watching the story develop. It doesn`t develop much, but there it is, the money payment, the reason for it assumed to be the president`s silence on the matter, denial.

And I guess, is this all baked into the cake of who we think Donald Trump is, to the point it`s barely even a ripple? It doesn`t seem to be -- except for "The Wall Street Journal," your paper, it`s not bopping around top of the fold.


And I think when there were over a dozen women who came forward during the campaign with public allegations, they didn`t have situations like this, where we have seen hush money payments dolled out, but we had a lot of women going on the record making similar allegations about stories like this, that candidate Trump at the time had at some time in the past come on to them in a very forceful way and made them uncomfortable.

And I think what`s interesting about this is, you went through how Michael Cohen less than a month before the election set up this company, this company in Delaware, this LLC...


STOKOLS: ... just, it looks...

MATTHEWS: To write that check.

STOKOLS: To write that check.

MATTHEWS: So it`s got a checkbook with one check drawn.


STOKOLS: You do this -- you go through that for the anonymity, and then he put his own name. You have to file somebody who`s responsible for the LLC. Normally, if you`re trying to obscure your identity, you get some faceless lawyer, somebody who nobody will...


MATTHEWS: So, he left the cookie crumbs for "The Journal."

STOKOLS: So, he put his name on the docket.


Well, Cohen also provided "The Wall Street Journal" and other reporters with a letter which is dated January 10 of this year and signed by Stormy Daniels. There it is, the letter.

The letter denies an affair and says that -- quote -- "Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false." That`s from her.

Another sentence reads: "When I met Donald Trump, he was gracious, professional, and a complete gentleman to me and everyone in my presence."

However, Daniels had previously acknowledged having an affair in a lengthy 2001 interview with "In Touch" magazine, which is a serious magazine, which was not released until after the "Journal"`s this month.

So, she told the magazine the story that was at the heart of this whole thing, apparently.

Anyway, the Associated Press reports tonight that four former employees from "In Touch" say the magazine withheld the story because Michael Cohen threatened to sue them, but have subsequently published it.


STOKOLS: This sort of corroborates the story, in the sense that she was -- she was in graphic detail with a lot of detail.

MATTHEWS: Apparently, it was detailed.

STOKOLS: Spelling out how this happened, what happened, a lot of details about their interactions.

And this, it was an interview she gave, I guess some time in 2006 or after the encounter took place. And the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen, whatever you want to call it, they were able to keep this under wraps with a threat of litigation until now.

MATTHEWS: This is so interesting. Now for an editorial...


MATTHEWS: I have often said that conservative white people view, real conservative people and their culture, all they want is a clean president, they say. All they want is a guy that`s faithful to his wife. All they want is a guy who pays his bills, lives like a good person, is a good husband, a good father.

Barack Obama was every iota of that, every single bit of that. And they never gave an inch of credit.

Donald Trump comes along and breaks every rule their catechism tells you you`re not supposed to break, and they don`t bat an eyelash. Where`s the hypocrisy there? Just think about it. It`s deep.

Thank you, Eli Stokols, "The Wall Street Journal."

STOKOLS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The battle over the shutdown caps off a year in which President Trump has governed by chaos. He publicly feuds with his top staffers. Have you noticed? Undermines congressional leaders. Have you noticed? And can`t seem to make up his mind about what he actually wants, like tonight. Why is he shutting the government down?

The HARDBALL Roundtable tackles that, as the shutdown deadline gets closer by the moment.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the deadline for the government shutdown draws closer, it`s midnight, tomorrow marks a full year of the Trump presidency. A year that as "Politico" reports, it`s coming to a close with administration officials exhausted and uncertain about two extraordinary weeks of chaos.

It notes that the drama underlines a fundamental truth about Trump`s presidency. The faces may change, but it seems the story line never does. It`s been a year of controversies, culture wars and feuds, with his staffers. He with his staffers. That feud.

Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself.

I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don`t have any doubt about it either.

We have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.

Roy Moore denies it.

Sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.

But let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I`m the only one that matters because when it comes to it, that`s what the policy is going to be. You have seen that, you have seen it strongly.


MATTHEWS: And it`s a year that could end with a government shutdown. By the way, he doesn`t know what his policy is on the Dreamers because he said so today.

Anyway, let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable: Katty Kay, correspondent for BBC World News America and an MSNBC contributor, Doug Thornell, former adviser to the DNC, why am I burping? And Ryan Williams is the former national security -- press secretary for Mitt Romney.

We got a real display of political views here.

Katty Kay, this year, your grade. Your grade?


MATTHEWS: You don`t want to give a grade.

KAY: Ask Trump supporters and they`ll tell you it`s an "A" grade. Ask the rest of the world and Trump`s critics, and they`ll tell you it`s a failed grade.


KAY: And, somewhere, we`re on those two parallel tracks and the question is, at what time do the tracks come together? This is clearly Donald Trump`s country. He dominates the mood of the White House. He dominates the mood of the country. He sucks the oxygen out of every other story in the world. People are fascinated, riveted and watching it. Is there going to be a crash at some point?

MATTHEWS: I can`t imagine how many times we have said the word Trump on the show in the last year. It`s like that thing that lists all the references in the magazines, the periodicals.

It`s the word on everyone`s tongue in Washington. You meet somebody at the airport, Trump, how do we get rid of Trump? Some liberals, are we going to get rid of him? Is he gone next year?

Everybody. It`s all consuming. It sucks the oxygen out of everybody`s lungs.

DOUG THORNELL, FORMER DNC SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, he`s defining everything in Washington. And that`s probably a bad thing for Republicans in 2018. Because I think the midterms are going to be defined --

MATTHEWS: Well, what about when he runs?

THORNELL: Well, when he runs, I think -- look, I think it still remains to be seen. But I think right now, my money would be betting against him to win re-election.



MATTHEWS: How about you?

RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER ROMNEY DEPUTY NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t know. He has to run first, obviously, but `18 looks like a tough year for us. It`s always difficult --

MATTHEWS: What about `20? What are you hedging your bets for?

WILLIAMS: I can`t predict anymore. No one can predict anything, I mean, after 2016. It`s a fool`s errand to make any predictions in politics now. But it does look like 2018 will be a challenge for us. We have to run on our accomplishments in office which were the tax reforms. I hope the president can give us the ability to run on that and not cause constant distractions that divert us from the issues.

MATTHEWS: What about the word disgusting -- I love the pollsters because they ask what word comes to mind, and than they blow it up proportionately to how often it`s quoted.

Disgusted is an odd word. It`s an odd thing to say. You may say this hotel makes me sick. It`s disgusting.

What do you say when the president is disgusting?

KAY: You throw in the "Access Hollywood" stuff. You throw in the latest Stormy Daniels stuff, some of the comments that have been made about African countries and I think that`s where that word comes from. But I can`t believe the people who are using the word, the number is very much larger than it was the time when the president was elected.

What we have learned over the course of the last year is people who love Donald Trump still love Donald Trump. Those who hate Donald Trump still hate Donald Trump. There`s very few people who are up for grabs in this. This is why, I think he has a reason -- as you`re suggesting, I think he has a reasonable chance of being re-elected.

MATTHEWS: He gave a great speech the other day and he`s talking to his people in western Pennsylvania, and the number of people who approved of him as a person before the election in `16 was 34 percent. It`s now job approval, 39 percent. It`s not going down.

Every time I read a headline, lowest in this, lowest in this. It`s not the lowest for him. People lied. They voted for the guy who they didn`t like or they voted for the guy they didn`t like and wouldn`t say they liked him.

THORNELL: Right. Well, his opponent in 2016 also had low favorables, too. So when we pit him in 2020 against an opponent, that`s --

MATTHEWS: You believe will be more popular than Secretary Clinton.

THORNELL: I believe so. Yes.

WILLIAMS: Who? Who do you have?


WILLIAMS: Who is on your bench?

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton was pretty popular going into the election.

THORNELL: People who are thinking about running.

WILLIAMS: I mean, the bench on the Democratic side is pretty wake.

THORNELL: I don`t think it`s weak at all. You have Mitch Landrieu, mayor of Louisiana. You got John Hickenlooper.

WILLIAMS: He`s laughing at you.


WILLIAMS: You got John Hickenlooper.

MATTHEWS: Ha! This list is unbelievable. This is the most amazing list. I mean --

THORNELL: Cory Booker.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, he looks good. But the other two, I say really? Maybe it`s possible, but nobody else is thinking these things.

THORNELL: Donald Trump, president of the United States.

KAY: You have to admit, there`s no great stand-out star on the Democratic side, right?

THORNELL: We`ve got to have the campaign.

KAY: Not that far away.

MATTHEWS: Who`s the best bet in your mind?

THORNELL: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Hickenlooper or Landrieu?

THORNELL: I like both of them. But look, Cory Booker is the guy I think could be president.

MATTHEWS: Who`s Trump afraid of?

WILLIAMS: Oprah maybe.

MATTHEWS: She`s not doing it.

WILLIAMS: I think we would like to see Elizabeth Warren run.

MATTHEWS: Are they afraid of Biden? We hear they`re afraid of Biden because Biden gets the regular guy vote.

WILLIAMS: Biden would be a strong candidate, but I don`t know if the Democratic base would go with him. They want a Warren. They want a fire breather. They want a Sanders.

THORNELL: He`s got a lot of votes.

MATTHEWS: The hardest thing for the Democrats is to thread the needle in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and to California. For a moderate center left person to get through the route is difficult.

KAY: Do you know what Biden has going for him, he has found a way of attacking Trump and sounding like he`s having fun doing it.


KAY: He doesn`t let Trump get under his skin in the way so many Republican candidates did when he was running against them in 2016.

MATTHEWS: Who`s willing to stand up next to Trump in three years look him in the face and call him out, give him a nickname?

KAY: Biden will do that. I think that`s Biden.



MATTHEWS: I think McAuliffe could do that. He said he was going to deck him the other night. That was impressive.

THORNELL: Well, you also, I mean, Biden has got, I think, a pretty terrific story. It`s a very compelling story. And he`s from Scranton. He`s always connected well to the blue-collar votes, but he also has a lot of Obama support too.


THORNELL: So, I think it could --

MATTHEWS: So, `18, what`s your bet on `18, Mr. Republican?

WILLIAMS: I think we have a good chance of running -- keeping our majorities if we can run on the issues, but the president needs us to give us the ability.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you. If it`s look, all they have to do is get the average pickup, 32 seats, and they get the House back.

Anyway, historic accurate since Lincoln`s day.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these people are going to tell me something I didn`t know. I`m talking fast. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump once declared himself pro-choice in every respect. Those were his words. Now as president, he`s now a champion of the anti-abortion rights movement. President Trump today became the first sitting president to address the March for Life rally via satellite in remarks made from the Rose Garden.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.



MATTHEWS: Well, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump told me that there should be punishment for women who receive abortions. Let`s watch that moment.


MATTHEWS: Do you believe -- do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Katty, tell me something I don`t know.

KAY: So, a year into the Trump presidency, I was talking to Admiral Mike Mullen, the former joint chiefs of staff this week and he told me that America is closer to war with North Korea than it has ever been. But here`s what he also said, the country is woefully unprepared for what that actually means. And America has not had the conversation about the horror of nuclear war and what that could mean. I thought that was really striking.


Sir, Thornell?

THORNELL: House Democrats have a concerted effort to recruit veterans to challenge incumbent Republicans this cycle, and so far, they have got nearly 40 veterans they have recruited.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`m impressed. I have been talking to some of them. They want to get on the show, people like that. They have been good at people like this guy Lamb, in Western Pennsylvania, getting guys with clean young records, attractive in the sense that they have the legal background, the prosecutorial background. They`re not lefties. At least they don`t seem that way. And military service.


MATTHEWS: A lot of Seth Moultons.

THORNELL: They have really expanded the map this cycle.

MATTHEWS: You know why that`s happening, don`t you? They think they`ll win.

THORNELL: Yes, they do. That`s why Republicans aren`t running.

MATTHEWS: Yes, all these guys deciding to retire in their early 60s.

THORNELL: Right, committee chairmen.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Ryan.

WILLIAMS: On the note, I talked to some people who are closely following the --


WILLIAMS: It`s a race that is shaking up to be close, but Republicans are optimistic about it, polling showing it to be a high single digit rate.

MATTHEWS: How about the unions in Secane (ph), are they going to kill him?

WILLIAMS: They`ll be against him certainly, but it`s --

MATTHEWS: Unions matter in Pennsylvania.

WILLIAMS: They do. But Trump was also very popular in that district.

MATTHEWS: Oh, touche. Good point. I mean it. He gave a good speech yesterday.

Thank you, Katty Kay. Thank you, Doug Thornell, and Ryan Williams. Great team tonight.

When we return, let me finish with something that for millions of people is far more important than what`s going on in Washington right now. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me finish tonight with something that for millions of people is far more important than any screwed up government shutdown. I`m talking about the Eagles. I`m talking about the big battle with the Vikings. I`m talking about Sunday night.

It`s why I`m wearing my green tie. I come from a city that doesn`t get all the breaks, and believe me, knows it. Philly`s a tough town for a tough reason. It`s gotten some tough breaks over the years. It has a distinctive attitude, don`t you think, about it.

So, here`s what I want. I want the Eagles to fly. I want it because it matters so much, and I`ll be there to see it. Go Eagles!

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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