Sessions will not appoint 2nd special counsel. TRANSCRIPT: 03/29/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Ted Johnson, Christina Greer, Carrie Sheffield, Laura Bassett

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 29, 2018 Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Ted Johnson, Christina Greer, Carrie Sheffield, Laura Bassett

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: More drama for the Trump White House. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

Another day, another drama for President Trump and his cabinet. Attorney general Jeff Sessions telling Congress he will not appoint a second special counsel to look into political bias in the FBI. That is something the President made clear that he wanted. And this comes after yesterday`s shake-up with the President firing his Veterans Affairs secretary.

Now early in his term, President Trump promised that his cabinet would be the finest group of people ever assembled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of smart people. I tell you what, one thing we have learned, we have by far the highest IQ of any cabinet ever.

There are those that are saying it`s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a cabinet. We are very proud of it. We have a phenomenal team of people. A great group of talent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Since then though, the President has fired or forced out more than half a dozen of those people he was including in that praise. And yesterday, President Trump announced the firing of VA secretary David Shulkin. He did this through a tweet.

Quote "I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate admiral Ronny Jackson M.D. as the new secretary of Veterans Affairs. I am thankful to Dr. David Shulkin`s service to our country."

Now Dr. Jackson who is the current White House physician and has no management experience will be tasked with fixing the government`s second largest agency which has been plagued with scandals.

According to "The New York Times" Trump feels more confident that he understands the job of President and he is relying more on his own instincts putting a premium on his personal chemistry with his people and their willingness to acknowledge that his physicians are ultimately administration policy rather than on their resume or qualifications for the job.

Recently, the President told reporters change isn`t such a bad thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They wrote a story about staff changes that was very false.

There will always be change. And I think you want to see change. And I want to also see different ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The news marked the end of secretary Shulkin`s time at the VA given the President`s public backing before this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I also want to express our appreciation for secretary Shulkin who is implementing the dramatic reform throughout the VA. I have no doubt it will be properly implemented. Right, David? Better be, David. We will never have to use those words. We will never have to use those words on our David.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And according to NBC News, President Trump who built his career in part on telling people you are fired on reality television, he tasked his chief of staff John Kelly with firing Shulkin just before the President tweeted the news himself.

For more I`m joined now by Kristen Welker, White House correspondent with NBC News, Nick Confessore, political reporter with the "New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst and Elise Jordan, also an MSNBC political analyst.

Kristin Welker, over to you first where the news happened yesterday and the President put that tweet out. That`s a pattern in this administration. We turn on twitter. We learn something pretty big has happened from the President`s account.

But take as through what we have learned since. When and why the President turned on David Shulkin because you heard the praise before this, so when and why he turned on the VA secretary and how it was he then turned to his personal physician.

KRISTIN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, I think that this was not necessarily a surprise, Steve. Part of the pattern that we are starting to see in addition to everything you just mapped out is sort of bubbling up to the surface, frustrations that the President starts talking about with his advisers. We learn about it in the press. And then it`s a matter of weeks or months before the person ultimately winds up leaving the White House.

In this case, there were a couple of issues. One, I think that the President clashed with the VA secretary on policy issues including how the VA should be run. The President wanted to see more privatization. David Shulkin was as opposed to that. And then also there were ethical concerns and questions surrounding the VA secretary including this trip that he took to Europe with family members. It was an official trip. He mixed in some personal activities. He did wind up reimbursing the VA. But only after all of that had been exposed in the press and had been heavily scrutinized.

So I think that there were a lot of things at work here. But it goes back to another point that you made, Steve. The fact that the President clashed with him. And I think what you are seeing increasingly is this President who wants to be surrounded by people who agree with him, who he has faith in and that is where we then turn to Ronny Jackson.

He is someone who has earned the President`s trust. And you will recall, we met him for the first time really when he had that remarkable press conference in which he gave the President a clean bill of health but also said he wanted to put him on a diet.

Now, of course, a lot of questions surrounding his confirmation process because he has never headed an agency much less the second largest agency in the federal government. So there is some concern, some criticism that he is not necessarily the right person for the job. But again the President trusting his gut on this and the fact he has a relationship and a good rapport with admiral Ronny Jackson.

KORNACKI: And Kristin, let me just follow up on this. Because again, it is such an unusual move when you just take a step back like many moves we have seen. Whatever you think of it, it is unusual for the President to turn to a personal physician for a spot in the cabinet. So tell us a little bit more about what you know about the relationship between Trump and Dr. Jackson. Because this is somebody who didn`t come to the White House with Trump. He was already there. He had been there under Obama starting in 2013. So where did that relationship come from? How close is it? What do we know about that?

WELKER: Well, this is, as you point out, someone who served in the Obama administration. So it is notable that he was able to forge this relationship with President Trump. This is someone who has spent a lot of time with the President, again suggested putting him on a diet. So someone who is also able to give him some truth talking, as well.

But I think that this developed over time. But he also is someone who looks the part. He was very strong in that briefing that we had. And remember, the President sometimes likes to pick people who look the part who he thinks are strong characters in front of a camera. And he thinks that that`s part of being a part of his administration. So I think there were a range of different factors that played into this.

Now, how is this going to play once he needs confirmed on Capitol Hill? That`s where the real question lies now. And I think we will have to wait and see, Steve, how it all unfolds because again, there is some skepticism about his lack of experience.

KORNACKI: Yes. And those confirmation votes at least early on in his presidency were not necessarily, I mean, there are very (INAUDIBLE), a lot more dissent than we have seen before.

WELKER: Right.

KORNACKI: Nick, there is a couple ways to think about this with Ronny Jackson, probably more than a couple of ways of thinking about it. Let me give you two basic schools of thought and see where you kind of land on this. One is, this is consistent with what we have seen with Trump. It sort of an unconventional pick, seemingly announced spontaneously. Kind of catches everybody off guard. Continues all the sort of palace intrigue reality show effect. So maybe you have got that or this idea that Trump is maybe turning a little bit as President and asserting himself a little bit more in these personnel decisions putting a little bit more of his personal stamp on these personnel choices. Not listening, even less I guess to the folks running. How do you understand this one?

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So a bit from column A and a bit from column B, right. The President is always casting a reality show. It`s not "the Apprentice," it is "Survivor." And he likes to cast people who look the part, as Kristin Welker said, he values what, fortunes and loyalty and stars on the shoulder and people who are good on TV. That`s how he casts his show.

But I also think for the first year of his job as President, he was (INAUDIBLE) by people in the establishment in D.C., put around him, people who are experienced in the ways of Washington, people who are not always synced with him on policy. He is basically pushing most of those people out. And he is the President. He doesn`t held to have people who believe in what he believes in.

KORNACKI: And Elise, it also occurs to me that the proposition here with Ronny Jackson going to the VA, a troubled and massive part of our government, the proposition is really almost the same that Trump offered in the campaign in 2016. It was, there is big problems here. The folks who have credentials, the folks you normally turn to have screwed it up. They are not going to get you out of it. You need an outsider to do it.

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think it`s unfair to lump Dr. Ronny Jackson in with some of the more inexperienced cabinet picks because he is a lifelong military doctor. He is a rear admiral which means that it is equivalent to a one or two star. You don`t rise within the Pentagon ranks and not know how to manage people by the time you are at that level of promotion. And I think that there`s a lot that could potentially be gained by having a military doctor run the VA just because the regular military health care system isn`t synced with the VA system necessarily. And a lot of the more exploratory treatments that are being pioneered on the military side, you know, such as to combat PTSD aren`t necessarily available to veteran.

So I think that this is, you know, Dr. Jackson is someone who is trusted by President Bush, President Obama and clearly President Trump and I think it`s actually an exciting pick.

KORNACKI: In other news today as well on the personnel front in the White House, the President also saying good-bye to one of his longest serving aides and someone who has been one of his strongest defenders, Hope Hicks. This is video of the President wishing her well before he departed for an event in Ohio today. It is unclear who replace Hicks. But "Politico" is reporting the President sees no urgency to fill the position because according to two senior administration officials, nobody can fill Hicks` shoes.

But behind the scenes "New York" magazine reporting there is a brutal competition between two front runners, Mercedes Schlep, the current director of strategic communication and the treasury department spokesman Tony Saeh, if I`m saying that one right.

Kristen Welker, I`m curious, we are talking about the changes here in the administration, the idea the President as Nick was saying a second ago in some cases jettisoning some of the folks who came in with him, some of the folks with the institutional knowledge. Look, Hope Hicks came to Washington with him. He didn`t really know it before he got there. But still, in terms of somebody who is very close to him who know him very well, understands him, this departure probably does need a big hole there.

WELKER: It`s a big hole. So I have spoken to a number of people here about Hope Hicks departure. What does that mean? And who is going to replace her? And everyone says the same thing, Steve. No one can replace Hope Hicks. Why?

She has been with President Trump since day one, since he launched his improbable campaign. She was there through the highs, through the lows. She helped him to get his campaign back on track, helped him to win the White House frankly. And she is someone who has a relationship with him that extends far beyond a communications director. One official said she plays a number of different roles within this administration including maybe his closest adviser.

So who is going to relays her now? I`m told the President isn`t going to replace her with great urgency. He is certainly thinking about it. But Sarah Sanders the current press secretary along with Mercedes Schlep as well as Kellyanne Conway, I`m told, are likely going to fulfill that role together. They will basically serve in the role of communications director. The three of them while the President determines who if anyone specifically will be named the lead communications director, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Kristin Welker over there at the White House, Nick Confessore and Elise Jordan here with me in New York. Thanks to all of you.

And coming up, could special counsel Robert Mueller use the news that President Trump`s attorney floated the idea of a pardon for Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort to build an obstruction of justice case? Lots of new developments in the Russia investigation. That is coming up.

Plus, if you want to understand the new face of the Democratic Party, look no further than the march for our lives last weekend, the people that took to the streets are the ones taking charge of the grassroots politics of the Democratic Party and they are not all teenagers or not necessarily what you might expect. We will show you what the big board in. It has been a year of memorable parodies of Trump administration officials on "Saturday Night Live." But the new one we got last night was from a former "SNL" star, maybe the funniest yet. We will have that tonight.

And finally, the HARDBALL round table is going to be here with three things you might not know.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Late this evening, NBC`s Savannah Guthrie sat down for an exclusive interview with Russia`s new ambassador to the United States. And despite ongoing hostility between the U.S. and Russia. The ambassador described the recent phone call between President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin as a warm exchange. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANATOLY ANTONOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: What I know I know official reports from Kremlin from minister of foreign affairs. It was constructive conversation, could I add even that it was warm conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Warm?

ANTONOV: Yes, it`s my position. It was not mentioned in the statement but how I read it. And if you look at the substance of this conversation, our two Presidents have discussed the real problems we face today and how it is important to unite our efforts to tackle these challenges to our security to security of the United States people as well as Russian people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: More of that exclusive interview will air tomorrow morning on "Today." And we will have the latest developments in the Russia investigation right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The revelation that Donald Trump`s former lead attorney, John Dowd discussed pardons for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort last summer has raised new concerns about the President`s potential legal exposure. Dowd`s overture was intended to silence Flynn and Manafort or to discourage them from cooperating with investigators, it may theoretically represent obstruction of justice. As the "Washington Post" reports, what specifically Dowd offered and whether Trump approved the idea could now become part of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation.

Trump`s lawyers have denied that Dowd had those reported conversations about pardoning Flynn and Manafort. However, we have seen over the last nine months that President Trump and his associates have not denied that a pardon is possible in connection with the Russia probe. Every time they have been asked, they have been careful not to completely rule it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We will see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would he consider pardoning him?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m not aware that has come up or any process or decision on that front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to pardon Manafort?

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the President consider or rule out pardoning either of them?

SANDERS: I haven`t had any conversations with him about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pardon power is quite broad. I have not studied it. I don`t know whether that would be appropriate or not, frankly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the President rule out giving pardons to people like Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and any others in this investigation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not had the conversation with the President about any of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: I`m joined now by Daniel Goldman, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at "the Atlantic" and an MSNBC contributor.

Danny, it is quite a revelation the idea of these conversations that being dangled by Trump`s lawyer about pardons last summer but didn`t happen. Paul Manafort and Flynn ultimately the special counsel took legal action against them. So from that standpoint, when you look at the idea of an obstruction of justice case, the fact nothing seems to have come of this, how does that affect it?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I think that`s actually worse for the obstruction of justice angle. The fact you would dangle this constitutional and broad power and yet not exercise it is an indication that you are really using it for ulterior or alternative purposes.

So let`s just hypothetically say they had this conversation and he dangled the idea, hey, if you don`t testify, then you know, maybe you will get a pardon down the road. By not actually executing the pardon, he is not dealing with the ramifications politically that should come with it. And so, what he has got is a situation where he is floating it out there for his personal use. And that is not the purpose of the pardon power from -- that`s in the constitution.

And the other point, Steve, that`s -- that`s really important here is, this was not White House council Don McGahn having these conversations. And, ordinarily, pardons, commutations of sentences, they run through the White House Counsel`s Office.

This was Donald Trump`s personal lawyer having these conversations who is defending him in these investigations. So it directly links it to the investigation, which makes it a little bit more suspect from an obstruction perspective.

KORNACKI: I guess the part I wonder about, when you just broaden this out and think about it a little, is that presidential power to pardon is pretty absolute. We have seen presidents exercise this in any manner of different ways through the years.

And we just -- you have got the president there in those clips we`re just playing. He has kind of talked about this. He is saying, not the time for a pardon yet. Not the time to be talking about a pardon yet.

If you got that the power and you`re out there publicly even just sort of generally saying it, where is the difference between that and the kind of obstruction you`re talking about? Because anybody who is in a jam and potentially has something on the president is going to take that message.

GOLDMAN: Right.

Let`s use Jim Comey as an example. The president has the authority to fire the FBI director. But the argument in favor of an obstruction of justice charge would be, you cannot use your power, whether it`s executive power or constitutional power, corruptly, with a corrupt intent.

So, if you`re using it as it`s designed to be used, and you face whatever political ramifications you face, which is how it was designed, then that`s fine. But if you used it with a corrupt intent, then it`s obstruction of justice.

And so they`re different sources of the power, but it`s an analogous situation.

KORNACKI: What do we -- Natasha Bertrand, what do we know about the state of pardon politics, if you want to call it, inside the White House right now?

Because you have got, obviously, as we say, we know what`s happened to Flynn and Manafort since these discussions. But we still have the Russia probe ongoing. Do we know what`s going on behind the scenes there in terms of discussions, if there are any, in terms of consideration? What is going on there?

NATASHA BERTRAND, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, we know that they haven`t ruled out, that they have not stated categorically that this has never been discussed and that it won`t be discussed again in the future.

And I think that it`s above all a really important window into Trump`s state of mind. If indeed he did speak to John Dowd about potentially pardoning Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, which would be very surprising if he didn`t -- it would be very surprising if John Dowd went about kind of freelancing on all of this -- if he did, it would just be one more thing in Mueller`s toolbox to look when he`s considering whether or not Trump wanted to end this investigation for corrupt reasons, in order to protect himself.

So, in the White House, I`m sure that this is something that is being talked about. And the idea that he was dangling this in exchange perhaps for them not to testify against him really raises questions about, well, what was his intent when he fired James Comey, what was his intent when he was going around Capitol Hill last year asking senators to come out and say publicly that he had not colluded with Russia, to asking his NSA director and his CIA director to publicly exonerate him and say that he was not under investigation?

So, all of these things put together will allow Mueller to pursue an obstruction case. And we have seen that that`s exactly what he`s doing.

KORNACKI: Despite pressure, meanwhile, from the president`s allies on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today said in a letter to House Republicans that he was declining to appoint a second special counsel to investigate alleged bias at the FBI, this setback for the president and his defenders who claim that the FBI abused the surveillance warrant process and mishandled the Clinton e-mail investigation.

The decision sure to further irritate the president, who already blames Sessions for allowing the special counsel`s Russia probe to begin in the first place. And Sessions` decision to recuse himself from the investigation last year did ultimately lead to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.

Sessions tells "TIME" magazine in an interview for their new cover story that he has no regrets. Session said he: "stands by his recusal from the Russian investigation. I think I did the right thing. I don`t think the attorney general can ask everybody else in the department to follow the rules if the attorney general doesn`t follow them himself."

Dan, this is an interesting dynamic, I think, politically. Jeff Sessions was one of Donald Trump`s earliest, most influential supporters, I think the first senator to come out and endorse him. We have seen that tension very publicly between Trump and Sessions.

This move, this refusal to go along with something that Trump has been publicly agitating for, what do you make of it?

GOLDMAN: Well, I make of it as Jeff Sessions following the rule of law and following the Department of Justice policies and regulations.

And that`s exactly what Jeff Sessions has generally done. One may disagree with his policies. They`re very different from what Eric Holder and the Obama administration had. But he has really done a pretty good job of following the policies. And there is no reason in this particular case for a special counsel.

And I think he`s right, because there`s an inspector general. And the inspector general has all the powers that you need. And, in fact, that`s the job of the inspector general, to investigate violations of laws or regulations within the Department of Justice.

And he even went one step further, Steve. And he has assigned this investigation to the U.S. attorney in Utah to look into it further, which is an additional step that may not be necessary, but it is an additional step. And the notion that you need a special counsel for any wrongdoing, to investigate any wrongdoing in the Department of Justice would turn the special counsel regulations on its head.

KORNACKI: All right.

And, meanwhile, there are new developments on that collusion side of the Russia probe. Reuters reporting today that investigators are asking witnesses about key events that took place during the 2016 Republican Convention.

Specifically -- quote -- "Mueller`s team has been asking about a convention-related event attended by both Russia`s U.S. ambassador and Jeff Sessions." And they`re also asking "how and why Republican Party platform language hostile to Russia was deleted from a section of the document related to Ukraine."

Natasha, can you shed any more light on what`s going on here?

BERTRAND: It`s really interesting that this is coming out now, after we know that Rick Gates is cooperating with the special counsel.

Of course, Rick Gates was an aide to the Trump campaign, was a deputy to then campaign chairman Paul Manafort. And what we know now is that Mueller is probing these very, very significant campaign events. What happened at that event at the Mayflower Hotel where Jeff Sessions met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador?

What happened and what led up to this change in the Republican platform in which an amendment that called for providing lethal defense weapons to Ukraine in order to defend themselves against Russian aggression was taken out and was actually watered down and changed to provide appropriate assistance to?

So these are questions that -- and we actually saw that Carter Page, who was on the campaign, he congratulated the campaign staff for their success in changing that platform. So all of these clues are coming together.

And they are going to be of interest to Mueller because he, of course, is investigating whether the Trump campaign was trying to appease Russia during the election, and, if so, why was that?

KORNACKI: All right, Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Goldstein (sic), thanks to both of you.

And up next: No one loves big ratings more than President Trump. Two shows brought in some very big audiences this week, and they elicited very different reactions from the president.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The president watches "60 Minutes." If he`s watching tonight, what would you say to him?

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: He knows I`m telling the truth.

LAURA METCALF, ACTRESS: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?

ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he would shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.

METCALF: Have you looked at the news, because now things are worse?

BARR: Not on the real news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s hard to imagine a more politicized week for network prime-time television ratings. First up, it had Stormy Daniels earning huge numbers with her tell-all interview on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night; 22 million people tuned into that, the biggest audience for that show in a decade.

Then, a couple nights later, on Wednesday, 18 million tuned in to watch Roseanne Barr`s return to prime time. Her character, like the actress herself, a Trump supporter. According to NBC, President Trump called Roseanne to congratulate her on the show`s revival.

Here`s what she said about that this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: We just kind of had a private conversation, but, you know, we talked about a lot of things. And, you know, he`s just happy for me. I have known him for many years. And he`s done a lot of nice things for me over the years.

And so it was just a friendly conversation about work and, you know, television and ratings.

QUESTION: He does focus a lot on ratings.

BARR: Oh, yes. He really understands ratings and how they measure things. And that`s kind of been an interest of mine too for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Donald Trump has frequently brought up television ratings both as a candidate and as a president, as they were just talking about there. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have had a successful life. "The Apprentice" became one of the great shows on television.

That was some crowd. We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

QUESTION: Do you have similarities with Vladimir Putin?

TRUMP: I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on "60 Minutes" together. We had fantastic ratings, one of your best rated shows in a long time.

So, they set a tremendous ratings. I mean, the ratings were like through the roof.

He had his highest ratings in four-and-a-half years.

So, the ratings were phenomenal.

How would you like to be at a party where Trump wins, where Trump gets, by the way, the highest ratings in the history of television?

They said the other day, why are you always talking about ratings? You`re always talking about ratings. Isn`t it terrible? Nobody else does. I said, that`s because I`m in first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And joining me now is Ted Johnson, senior editor at "Variety" magazine`s D.C. bureau.

Ted, thanks for joining us.

Well, speaking of ratings, when you look at "Roseanne" and you look at that audience of 18 million, and you look at the markets where the show did the best, Tulsa, Kansas City, Pittsburgh area. You`re talking about red America markets.

I haven`t seen -- there you go -- you can see some of them up on your screen right there. You`re not seeing New York. You`re not seeing L.A. You`re not seeing the heart of blue America.

I haven`t been able to see where this is for "60 Minutes." But I`m tempted to look at this week and say that red America got a big event on "Roseanne"`s debut and blue America got something they really wanted with "60 Minutes" on Sunday.

Is that part of the story here, you think?

TED JOHNSON, "VARIETY": Sure is, yes.

I think part of the reason that "Roseanne" did so well is ABC really did market this as kind of a show for the Trump -- the Trump voter. Roseanne was out there. She was very up front about her support of President Trump and the fact that the show would have her as a Trump voter.

And that`s something we just don`t see in prime time. I think that that really made the show stand out. We`re in this period right now where we`re seeing some revivals of sitcoms from the `80s and `90s. We`re going to see "Murphy Brown" next season, actually. And "Roseanne" is definitely one of them.

So, there`s that built-in audience. But I think that they were really able to use this as, hey, this is something that you don`t see in prime time every night. It also refutes the idea that liberal Hollywood only makes liberal content.

KORNACKI: Well, yes, and I take your point on that.

I guess what I wonder, is it possible, in this day and age, when you think back to -- a lot of people mention "All in the Family" in the `70s. Of course, there were four channels on television in the `70s.

But liberals and conservatives both watched "All in the Family." The "Roseanne" premiere the other night, there certainly were -- there`s a liberal on that show in her sister. You hear plenty of anti-Trump commentary from her and you hear plenty of pro-Trump commentary from Roseanne.

Is there a recipe where it`s not just Tulsa, Oklahoma, that shows are resonating with, but New York and L.A. can too? Can you bridge that divide at all in the ratings these days?

JOHNSON: Oh, I think so.

You mentioned "All in the Family." That was a show that definitely bridged the divide in a time when there just weren`t a whole lot of choices on TV. I think you can still do that. This is the show that is still on broadcast network television, which, you know, the audience isn`t what it once was, but it`s still commanding two times, three times, four times the audience that you will actually see on a more niche network or a niche platform like Netflix.

So I think that the networks still are looking to really command, I mean, to really gain those viewers who are from both sides of the political spectrum. They`re not so much into targeting, like you may see in content that`s on HBO or Showtime.

KORNACKI: And we know folks in your world, folks in those network executive suites, they live and die by the ratings. They make judgments about the world based on the ratings. But it seems we have a president who does, too.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Yes, he sure does.

In fact, he used to -- when he was doing "The Apprentice," he used to call our ratings guy at "Variety" and find out the numbers were the previous night and have a little chat about it.

Yes, definitely, this is his currency. And I don`t think it`s much of a surprise then, when he sees a hit show, it`s almost as if he`s trying to take some of the credit for it, because it was so heavily promoted, with Roseanne talking about her support of President Trump and the show being what a family deals with in -- quote, unquote -- "Trump`s America."

So I guess, you know, the fact that this is a hit and that he would actually pick up the phone and call the star of show really didn`t surprise me a whole lot.

KORNACKI: Yes, that`s a very interesting anecdote there, a president very curious about ratings, long before he was president, too.

Ted Johnson from "Variety," thanks for joining us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

KORNACKI: And up next: Hundreds of thousands turned out for last weekend`s March For Our Lives. And contrary to popular belief, they weren`t all teenagers. Far from it.

We are going to take a look at a statistical breakdown of who was there, why they were there, and what it means for the future of the Democratic Party.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. Well, if you were watching this channel or anything on television news over the weekend, you know all about the March for Our Lives. You had thousands of people turning out in Washington, D.C., other cities around the country in response to that massacre, that tragedy at that Florida school a few weeks ago.

And, of course, it did raise a question, those seas of people you saw on your screens or that you saw in person, who were they? What brought them there? What does it mean for the future of American politics really?

Well, guess what, a political scientist was on the scene there in Washington, D.C., someone who is studying the resistance movement to President Donald Trump and decided to do a study, to try to do a demographic profile of the folks who turned out in Washington, D.C. It`s very interesting what she found. It tells us what maybe wasn`t happening we thought might be happening and what really was happening and what it means for the future.

First of all, check this out. This was not necessarily, at least according to this research, not necessarily a big bipartisan event, basically almost eight out of ten at this one in D.C., they identified themselves as left leaning, almost nine out of ten voted for Hillary Clinton. So, really, you`re not going across the political spectrum. We`re really talking about Democrats, Democratic leaning voters.

What else did we learn about them though? Well, also, there were plenty of young folks there. There were 10 percent who are under the age of 18. We talked a lot about students getting politically active as a result of that shooting.

But, look, the average age was significantly older than that, 49 years old was the average age of the folks who are turning out. So, maybe a little older than we thought, maybe on one side of the political spectrum a little bit more or a lot more than the other side.

How about this? Seventy percent of them were women, seven out of ten. More than two out of three were women at that march in Washington according to this study.

Also, a very educated group, 72 percent, almost three in four had at least a bachelor`s degree.

And then there`s this -- this one surprised me the most, 27 percent had never protested before that. That means 73 percent had. So, this is a group of folks who weren`t just by and large turning out for the first time. It`s folks who turned out before.

Put it all together, what you`re seeing here maybe is the face of Democratic Party activism in the Trump era. Democratic Party activism that was at the women`s march before, that`s been at some of these other protests. It`s very educated. It`s female much more man male.

And again, it`s about middle age when you average it all together. Is that the future of Democratic Party activism? Are we seeing that take shape? What would that mean for the future of the Democratic Party? What would that mean for the future of American politics?

I`m going to walk and hopefully not break my -- I`m going to talk about this with our panel here. Let me bring them in. Laura Bassett, political reporter for "The Huffington Post," Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold Media, national editor for Accuracy in Media, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University and NYU`s McSilver Institute fellow.

Christina, I`ll start with you. When you see that demographic profile, what do you make of that?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR: Well, I just want to remind everyone that, you know, we have had lots of protests in the past 15 months. But keep in mind, there are lots of Americans who are protesting well before the election of Donald Trump. They weren`t greeted with the same response from the media. They were greeted by tanks and militarized police officers from the U.S. federal government.

So, we have to remember this is also an extension of protest movements that have been seeding the ground for quite sometime. I do think that there is a partisan element obviously. There are a lot of Democrats who feel incredibly frustrated by the shenanigans and wholly incompetent nature of Donald Trump as president right now.

Hopefully, it will maintain itself not just in November for the midterms but all the primaries coming up in a lot of these states especially for Democrats honestly who some have been asleep at the wheel. And that`s a real wake-up call for a lot of elected officials who see Democrats are galvanizing to be on message.

KORNACKI: That`s what I`m wondering about, too, in particular, is within a Democratic primary, if that`s it the mobilizing force now.

Carrie, from the other standpoint, though, from a conservative standpoint, you`re looking at masses of people turning out for not just this, the women`s march, a lot of other events, you`re looking at that demographic political profile we`re seeing there. What do you make of that?

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, BOLD MEDIA PRODUCER : Sure. Well, I think it would be foolish for Republicans to not see the level of energy and the level of enthusiasm. Pennsylvania 18 special election showed that the enthusiasm was for the liberal-leaning candidate. That being said, Democrats would be smart if they want to win and I don`t want them to.

However, they need to look at Pennsylvania 18 and say this playbook in terms of the candidate who ran there, he was much more centrist than these marchers. These marchers are not representative of where the center of the country is. They`re not representative in terms of this grassroots march.

As you said, it was not grassroots, high school students. Ten percent were under 18, whereas the census bureau says 23 percent of the country is under 18. This was clearly not reflective of the demographic arc of the country. Republicans you know, they need to be serious about making sure that they are targeting who in their district, they`re shoring up their base and making sure the energy is being focused on bringing people to the middle honestly.

I think that a lot of people are upset about how polarized the country is. So, if the progressive base is going to nominate a bunch of left-leaning incredibly leftist people, they`re going to lose.

KORNACKI: Laura, the thing that`s interesting to try to reduce this to the basic election terms, when we look at the trouble Republicans may be in, we`ll see what happens, but maybe in heading into November, a lot of discussion comes back to women with college degrees. Suburban women in this massive gender gap we`ve always talked about a gender gap. But we`re looking at a bigger gender gap than in the past, at least right now. And when you look at the folks out there, that`s what I`m seeing in statistics.

LAURA BASSETT, HUFFPOSTS, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. And think that women have always leaned a little bit Democrat while the majority of men leaned Republican. But I think this year, we`re seeing, it`s a very specific moment, because what happened in the election, in the 2016 election, was that we came so close to having the first female president and whatever you think about Hillary Clinton, that was a huge milestone for women`s rights.

And instead, we got this president who bragged on tape about having grabbed women by the you-know-what and has hired people who feel the same way about women, people who have been domestic abusers and he`s been accused of sexual assault by more than 12 people. So, I think women were awakened by that moment and woke up. And we`re seeing that in the women`s marches, 2017 and `18, which was almost as powerful and the march last weekend.

Women are leading the resistance and twice as many women are running this year as did in 2016. So, I think Republican do have something to fear. And I think it`s women.

KORNACKI: That`s the sea change we could be seeing at the end of this year. Again, if these women win these Democratic primaries and if this wave we`ve been talking about actually does emerge, then you`re going to having this, you talk 1992, they called the year of the woman. That might be nothing compared to this. We`ll see though. It`s all perspective at this point.

The roundtable is staying with us. Up next, we`ve seen plenty of great impersonations of Trump administration officials. We got a new one. It might be the funniest one yet.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Well, political impersonations are nothing new but they`ve seen what you might call a renaissance in the age of Trump. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA MCCARTHY IMPERSONATING SEAN SPICER: I`d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halloween is over but I see some of you guys are still in your journalist costumes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thing to remember about Russia is that we won and I don`t know why you keep bringing up the election.

ALEC BALDWIN IMPERSONATING PRESIDENT TRUMP: I fired him because of Russia. I thought he`s investigating Russia. I don`t like that. I should fire him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you meet with any Trump surrogates about Russia?

KATE MCKINNON IMPERSONATING JEFF SESSIONS: I -- I do not recall. You know I recall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I convinced this country to elect Donald. And I can do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody loves the mooch. You know how you miss me. I`m like human cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think the problem is that the words that were coming out of my mouth were bad and that is because they came from my brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just crazy how one day you`re the CEO of Exxon, a $50 billion company, and the next day, you get fired by a man who used to sell steaks in the mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Working at the White House was like going to summer camp. You know? You make all these new friends. You barely get any sleep and then everybody leaves after eight weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, last night, there`s a new one that came out to add to that pantheon. You`re not going to want to miss it. It is coming up next.

The HARDBALL roundtable.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA CARVEY AS JOHN BOLTON: It`s important for me that nobody thinks President Trump has handed the keys to the war machine as some sort of hair trigger lunatic.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN/TV HOST: Well, that`s very reassuring, sir.

CARVEY: Because if I heard someone say that, I would blow them up quick. Trump`s giving me the nukes, bada boom. Bap, bap, bap, bam!

I`m a rational man and reason dictates whether it`s ayatollah, some rogue king of Denmark or the person taking too long in line at the airport tomorrow, you hit them first!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was comedian Dana Carvey underneath that big bushy moustache as John Bolton.

We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

I don`t know. I see Dana Carvey doing an impersonation, I still see George H.W. Bush a little bit there. But, you know, we played before the break all the other impersonations we`ve seen, wherever your politics is, a rich time for this kind of parody. In this administration, there are so many characters.

BASSETT: It`s such a cast of characters. I think -- I mean, we laugh so much just in the newsroom just every day. There`s a news story that`s just hilarious. I feel like these skits really write themselves. I can`t decide if the "SNL" writers have a really hard job or an easy job, because in some sense, they seem to try to write themselves, but then trying to write something that`s funnier than what`s happening.

I think back to Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes. They put out the clarification saying, no, he was among the bushes. I mean, we had the best day in the newsroom that day. And what`s more -- Melissa McCarthy supposed to do about that, she was just like -- she was historical, but not even as funny as Sean Spicer.

KORNACKI: And no shortage of material.

SHEFFILD: No, it`s true. And I`ve got to hand it to "SNL," I think they do a much better job of being bipartisan when they`re taking their punches, whereas Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart were so hard left. I make the wager they helped contribute to the rise of Donald Trump because they were not bipartisan in the hits they were taking. They left a lot of conservatives feeling marginalized.

Big Hollywood tilt so hard left. You look at their political donations, you look at just the overall tilt of the culture what`s coming out of leftist Hollywood.

The conservatives are left behind. And so, that`s why Trump feels this huge vacuum for so many decades the conservatives have been shut out of Hollywood.

KORNACKI: Christina, we got to go to a break, but, quickly, do you have a favorite of all these impersonations we`ve seen?

GREER: I`m going to say Jeff Sessions just because he does lie. I think the way Kate McKinnon portrays him is quite accurate. I mean, we`re in the land of cast away dolls and unfortunately, "The Onion" seems like "The New York Times" some days because of what`s coming out of the White House.

KORNACKI: There is no precedent for a lot of it.

The roundtable is staying with us.

And a program note at the top of the hour, the ousted V.A. Secretary David Shulkin going to join Chris Hayes on "ALL IN."

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And we`re back.

Laura, tell me something I don`t know.

BASSETT: So, ICE, immigration enforcement decided today that they`re no longer going to automatically release pregnant women from detention.

KORNACKI: Carrie?

SHEFFIELD: Massive bias against conservatives and libertarians in Silicon, Lincoln is an organization in Silicon Valley tells us how to fix it.

GREER: If you`re watching New York state politics, Cynthia Nixon is going to give Governor Andrew Cuomo a run for his money.

KORNACKI: All right. Christina, Carrie, Laura, that does it for us. Thanks for joining us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END