Show: HARDBALL Date: June 27, 2018 Guest: Maria Cantwell, Jonathan Turley, Alexis McGill Johnson, Alexis McGill Johnson, Ken Vogel, Sabrina Siddiqui, Dana Milbank
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It is big night. And HARDBALL with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It`s time for Democrats to play HARDBALL. I`m Chris Matthews urging them to do just that.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
There are times to fight and this is one of them. If the Democrats in the U.S. Senate allow Trump to pack the Supreme Court with a 5-4 majority for the next 30 years, it`s not something the progressive Democratic voter will soon forget.
Two years ago, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell mocked the Democrats by refusing to even meet with President Obama`s court nominee. In 2018 with just a handful of months before Election Day, one that will decide which party controls the Senate, Democrats owe it to their party, principals and their own survival to do to Mitch what Mitch did to them.
If this strikes anyone as a manifesto from me so be it, but it isn`t true, a statement of political reality. The Democratic base will not accept failure and will not listen to arguments how the 49 Senate Democrats could not stop the 50 voting Republicans from picking a Supreme Court for much of the century.
Justice Kennedy was the defining force that is saved abortion rights, gave us marriage equality who led a court majority for tolerance and respect for individual decision making. Believes Donald Trump has made clear he doesn`t share. He believes as he told me personally that there needs to be some form of punishment for a woman choosing an abortion. He has supported capital punishment even for minors. And he, Donald Trump, is the guy out to pack the court with his idea of individual rights and criminal justice.
If the Democrats fail to stop him, there will be I predict a full scale rebellion against the leaders. The first sign of which we saw in Joe Crowley`s stunning defeat yesterday in New York. That would be seen as the beginning of the fall if the Senate gives Trump his pick to fill this critical decisive historic vacancy on this country`s highest court. For those who say the Supreme Court is above politics, let me recite to you some cases.
Bush v. Gore, that put W. in the White House. And the country headed toward war in Iraq. Citizens United that put money in the power seat of American elections, both decisions were 5-4. If Trump gets his way in filling that number five seat, expect a lot more in the decades to come. If the Democrats fail to stop him, put a good share of the blame there.
Justice Kennedy delivered the news he`ll retire on July 31st to President Trump in person earlier today. His decision effectively puts control of the nation`s top court in the hands of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority. And sets up what will most likely be one of the most epic battles over his replacement. The President promised to begin a search immediately despite of being this close to an election. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, it`s an election year. Would you give consideration to holding that of spot open till the Congress is determined?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t really thought about that. I think you want to go as quickly as possible to process. But I haven`t really thought of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And that`s acting. Majority leader Mitch McConnell who orchestrated the strategy of blocking former president Barack Obama`s Supreme Court pick called on senators to make sure that the President`s nominee is considered fairly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump`s nominee to fill this vacancy. We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy`s successor this fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called McConnell out. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016. Not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Senator McConnell would tell anyone who listened that the Senate had the right to advice and consent and that was every bit as important as the President`s right to nominate. Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the President`s nominee and their voices deserve to be heard now as leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then. Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But with so much at stake, Senator McConnell doesn`t care about right or wrong, he just cares about winning much like President Trump.
For more I`m joined by Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat from California, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This came as a surprise it came today. But we knew it was coming.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: The on the heels of the Janice decision, yes.
MATTHEWS: On federal public employees.
Let me ask you, what`s it going to look like if he gets his pick? If Trump gets what he wants here? What`s the court going to look like for the next 30 years?
HARRIS: We are looking at a destruction of the constitution of the United States as far as I can tell based on all the folks that he has been appointing thus far for lifetime appointments. He has been appointing that`s far for lifetime appointments. He has been appointing ideologues. He has been pointing people who have refused to agree that Brown v. Board of education is settled law. He has been appointing people who haven`t even been found to be well-qualified or even qualified by bar associations.
So this has got to be one -- we all need to understand this to be one of the most serious fights that we have yet to have had with this President. And we cannot relent. We are going to have to fight to the end to make sure that we can do anything and everything that is possible to require this President to choose a consensus pick.
Talk to Democrats. The position is going to be filled. But with the track record that he has demonstrated so far, it does not look good. And so we are going to have to put all the pressure that we possibly can to make sure that the person who fills Kennedy`s seat is someone who is a consensus pick and who is going to respect the constitution of the United States and respect the fact that our system is supposed to be about equality for all and justice and fairness. And not about the politics and the political games that so far I see that a lot of his nominees are prepared to play.
MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader said no to Barack Obama`s pick Merrick Garland for the whole year. So I`m going to go and talk for the guy. I`m not going to have hearings. I`m going to let me and my people talk to him and he won because now you have got Neil Gorsuch. Are you guys going to play HARDBALL this time and say we are not going to let you pass this? You are not going to rush this through as in a few months before Election Day?
HARRIS: Based on every conversation I have had with my colleagues so far this afternoon, everybody is prepared to play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Can you push this off until after the elections so that we can take this matter to the people?
HARRIS: We are going to have to fight to push it off because listen, unlike Merrick Garland where there were eight months left in that term, there is four months. We are four months away from an election. One-third of the United States Senate practically is up for election. The decision that we make is going to have generational impact. And the American people should be able to weigh in on who will be this in this position on the United States Supreme Court.
And let`s remember, Chris, this is not like Gorsuch where Gorsuch was about one conservative replacing another conservative. And we fought on that one. I voted against him but he`s there. He replaced Scalia. This is about a swing vote. This is a different seat, a different seat and everything lays in the balance in terms of how this court could swing on everything from choice, Roe v Wade to what we did in terms of same-sex marriage to so many issues that are about fundamental rights and about respecting the constitution of the United States. So this is not like Gorsuch.
HARRIS: This will have generational impact. And let`s all be clear about this. The decisions made by the United States Supreme Court make decisions about who we are as a country and who we can be and who will be where in this country. Had the United States Supreme Court under the leadership of Earl Warren, a Californian, not decided Brown v. Board of education, I would not be sitting here talking with you right now.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the heart we are going to lose here, because Justice Kennedy, although he was a conservative, he was a northern California conservative. So I sort of get that.
MATTHEWS: In other words, he was a bit of live and let live guy. He found in the constitution the way that the landmark decisions always find in the constitution something really wonderful. He found not just liking in Warren found the injustice of separate but equal, the essential injustice of it. He found in it the liberty clause. He found in it the essential constitutional protection for people to have same-sex marriage to have -- not to be stopped by an undue burden to make a choice about reproduction. He found that essential American liberty that we treasure. Do you count on anybody Trump picking doing that?
HARRIS: There is a way that that can happen. And that`s bring a consensus pick. That`s what happened with Merrick Garland.
MATTHEWS: A pro-choice conservative.
HARRIS: President Obama consulted with Republicans. This President should consult with Democrats and choose a consensus pick. And anything less than that would be unacceptable entirely unacceptable and something we should fight tooth and nail against.
MATTHEWS: The new trick, it used to be you picked a Supreme (INAUDIBLE). He is unfortunately raw white males for years, occasionally a Jewish seat so-called. But they were older men, right. Now, it`s like pick somebody as young as you can, fresh out of law school, give them 10, 15 years to show which way they are going politically and then jam them on the court like Clarence Thomas for 40, 550 years. So when you pick this next person, man or woman, whatever, they will be there much of this century.
HARRIS: You are exactly right. This will have generational impact. This will have impact on issues that we decide in terms of discrimination, who will have equal opportunity, who will have equal rights under the constitution and under the law.
This is -- this is one of the most important powers that a President has. This is why the federalist society for decades have been creating this road map for decades to make sure that precedent is built up toward the United States Supreme Court making decisions that are going to be about choice as we go forward. About issues that relate to immigration, issues that relate to fundamental rights.
And to your point about Kennedy, he understood that on same-sex marriage, he understood it`s a fundamental right marriage. There`s so many issues that this court decides that goes to the heart of what we value as Americans. And what we decide should be the personal rights and liberties of individuals. This is -- this has potential disastrous consequences.
MATTHEWS: How do you think a right wing, if you will, a rightist judge coming in as number five on the court on the conservative side outweighing or outvoting the four liberals, what would they do to Roe v. Wade? How do you see them dismembering it? What would it look?
HARRIS: So what it would look like is this. It would look like the various states that have already been passing legislation at a state level to restrict a woman`s access to health care to, reproductive health to abortions affirming those rules, those laws that are passed by the states.
MATTHEWS: Like it has to be a hospital.
HARRIS: It has to be a zone of safety or in terms of what term, what stage in the pregnancy a woman can having abortion or not. What parental consent, whether a woman has to, if she is 17, a young woman, does she have to have parental consent before she can have an abortion?
All these are laws that have been created at the states right now. And it would go then to the United States Supreme Court that would affirm those restrictions on an ability that a woman has to have an abortion or to have access to reproductive health care. And that could be again disastrous because it would essentially undo the protections that women currently have under Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at these two contestants at the top. Your party leader, Chuck Schumer, smart guy.
MATTHEWS: He had been around in a-while in both houses. You got Mitch McConnell who is wildly character, you don`t have to like him to know what he`s up to. He manages to get reelected all the time.
MATTHEWS: Who is better at parliamentary procedure? Can your party get -- ?
HARRIS: I put my money on Chuck Schumer.
MATTHEWS: Do you have enough strength to hold this vote off at least until the voters have voted in November?
HARRIS: Listen. I think that Chuck is an incredible leader. And he cares deeply about this issue. I have actually talked with him today about it. He is reaching out to all of us because he knows how critical this is and he is going to need all the soldiers on the field. And I believe that he is committed to this and he is going to fight to the end to make sure that the right thing happens.
MATTHEWS: What`s going on in the Democratic Party? Just, I know you are a progressive and you are young and you are new. In many ways you are new even though you have had a political history of real substance as attorney general.
I saw that -- I know all elections are local. I know Tip always said all things local. But I don`t think everything is local. A young Hispanic woman, Hispanic woman, was able to knock off a name brand product of this country, Joe Crowley. What is going on? She is 28 years old. What`s going on?
HARRIS: What`s going on is that I`m seeing it around the country. There are people who have never run for political office, a lot of them are women. Who are deciding that their voices are not being heard, their voices are not present and they are getting out there. They are showing courage and determination and they are putting themselves out there. They are running for office and they`re winning.
HARRIS: I think it is great thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, we are all going to know her name within a week because it is a power house election. I do. If I were in the leadership, I would be thinking what you just said. People want change. They want things to move on.
HARRIS: So they want is they want leaders who are going to be courageous enough to speak truth no matter how unpopular it may feel at the moment. They are going to want people who are elected, the voters want people to run for office and they are going to elect people who have the courage to speak truth nothing matter how uncomfortable it makes other people feel because that`s what we need right now.
We have got a lot of people in our country who are very distrustful of their government, its institutions and its leaders. And one of the best ways that we develop relationships of trust is we speak truth. And that I what I think we are seeing around the country.
People are outing themselves out there because they are courageous enough to speak truth and they are winning.
MATTHEWS: I hope you can stop this nomination before the election. I think the voters should be heard from. I think it should be taken to the voters.
HARRIS: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: A 30-year decision. They ought to have some say in it.
Senator Kamala Harris, a member of the senate Judiciary Committee which will decide this matter ultimately.
Let`s bring in Eugene Robinson, columnist of the "Washington Post" and Susan Page, "USA Today" Washington bureau chief.
Both of you, Gene and Susan. First all, Gene, I want you to talk about so anybody that doesn`t get it yet, the importance of number five seat on the United States Supreme Court.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Justice Kennedy was the swing vote. And everybody understands that. He was a conservative identified as a conservative but he voted with the progressive side of the court on a number of issues. He was the leading voice on the court actually for LGBT rights in a very real sense. And he played that crucial role in a court otherwise evenly divided.
So the Gorsuch seat replaces Scalia that`s a conservative for a conservative, as Senator Harris said. This is an entirely new, an entirely different ball game. And it has different stakes including for some Republican senators such as Susan Collins and such as Lisa Murkowski and even Jeff Flake and bob corker, people who have been critical of Donald Trump. So there has to be a nominee who is palatable on these contentious cultural issues.
MATTHEWS: Susan what, about the timing? I mean, for whatever reason justice Kennedy decided to drop this bomb today a few days before July, the big election on whether the Senate will be Republican or Democrat controlled is coming up in November. There will be what do you call vacations or working at home periods, whatever they call it, between now and then. They are going to race this baby through. Do you think they are going to try to do it? I think they will. Will the Democrats be able to stop them?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, it`s hard to see what tactics Democrats have available to them to stop this with the Republican Party in control of the Senate. You would have to swing a Republican vote your way and hold all the Democrats. Remember, there are about a half dozen Democrats running for reelection in states where Trump is popular. This could be a tougher for them.
One other thing to remember even if Democrats succeed in delaying this vote until after the midterm elections President Trump will still be able to make a nomination. It`s just that it is possible that Democrats will be in a stronger position to temper his choice. President Trump will make this nomination and he will make a conservative choice for this seat.
MATTHEWS: But the voters, it seems to me a position on the court which will have a profound effect being number five, the decisive middle of nine, we can all figure out the arithmetic here for 30 years. And yet the voter will get to decide after it`s done. They are going to be a fait accompli.
Gene, I want to get back to the argument -- it`s my argument. I think it is a good one. That the voter ought to -- this ought to be taken to the people. And I don`t see how the Democrats can come back and lose this before the election and say there`s still a decent opposition, a decent resistance when they only have a one-vote deficit against the Republicans and weren`t able to slow this down so the votes had to vote first.
ROBINSON: Well look, I think the Democrats have to fight it tooth and nail. They have to be seen to fight it tooth and nail if they want have any credibility of the leadership. And maybe they can slow it down.
As Susan Said, President Trump ultimately will make the nomination. And look, anyone with an understanding and appreciation of the recent history of this country, the past 50-year history of this country and of the court would understand that this crucial middle vote, the swing vote, the nominee has to be somebody who is not way, way over to the right.
ROBINSON: I think anyone with that sort of appreciation would understand it. Donald Trump doesn`t have that kind of appreciation of history that anyone can discern. And so who knows what sort of nomination it would be. If he is smart and he wants it to go through quickly, he will nominate a more moderate justice. But it`s not clear to me that that`s even in the realm of possibility.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have learned a Republican actually just as justices are picked by Presidents, Presidents are picked by justices and we saw in 2000 Bush v. Gore. And we better remember teach the voters as journalists. The voters understand that this Supreme Court is damn political. Look what it did in citizens United. Look at what it did in Bush v Gore. It makes really partisan decisions on a partisan basis. Five Republicans over four Democrats. That`s the way they act.
This should be part of our electoral process and not allowed to occur before we get the vote.
Eugene Robinson and Susan Page, thank you so much.
Coming up, Justice Kennedy had been the deciding vote on some of the biggest cultural values issues of our time. President Trump is already gloating about his quote "excellent list of replacements." One thing is for sure, every one of them would lurch the court even further to the right. Don`t you think?
Plus, during the 2016 election, Trump told me that some form of punishment should be in store for women who have chosen abortions. Well, with Trump`s ready to pick Kennedy`s successor, what does that mean for women`s right? Suppose he gets somebody who thinks like he does.
And the HARDBALL roundtable tackles today`s upheaval at the Supreme Court and last night`s stunning upset in New York City, the fourth ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives was unseated by Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez a 28-year-old self-identified Democratic socialist. What does this say about the energy on the left heading into November? I would say it is a warning to the leadership.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, against the backdrop of this seismic shift in the U.S. Supreme Court, we have got another major ruling on immigration from the high court.
Last night, a federal judge ruled that U.S. immigration agents can no longer separate families caught crossing the border illegally, and families that have been already separated must be reunited -- here`s the order -- within 30 days.
In addition to that, the House today rejected a sweeping immigration reform bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for dreamers, as well as funding for President Trump`s border wall. There`s a combo. That bill failed by a wide margin, despite the last-minute backing by Trump.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Justice Anthony Kennedy has arguably been the most influential justice of recent years, and actually decades. Sometimes, he sided with the conservatives, like in Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and the Heller case on guns, overturning Washington, D.C.`s handgun ban back then.
But he also advanced progressive causes. Perhaps his greatest legacy on that side will be his deciding vote in the 2015 ruling that struck down bans nationwide on same-sex marriage.
In that Case, Kennedy wrote: "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization`s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
Well, for more, I`m joined by Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent, Charlie Sykes, contributing editor at "The Weekly Standard," and Jonathan Turley, George Washington professor -- University law professor.
Thank you. What a group.
Pete, we have been talking about this for about three hours. I want to skip the politics for about five minutes. And that`s all, because I want to go back to it, because I really think the Democratic Party is loaded for bear on this baby.
But talk about Justice Kennedy. You`re from California. You went to Stanford. I think understand the nuance of what a California Republican is, a Northern California Republican is all about. I think Kennedy`s the essence of that.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he`s from Sacramento.
Remember that it was President Reagan who put him on the Supreme Court. And initially he voted with the conservatives. But one of his first breakaway votes was on the core question of the Roe v. Wade decision.
And he`s been a pretty consistent vote on abortion rights ever since. Now, he did vote to uphold a ban on what are called partial-birth abortions. But on the core holding of Roe v. Wade, he`s been very solid.
Affirmative action, his vote has been critical. You mentioned his vote on the 2015 decision on gay marriage. He actually wrote that decision. And it`s interesting you picked that quote because it has the word dignity in it, and that is the word that appeared in that decision I think 10 or 12 times. It was all about dignity.
He has been the deciding vote, the swing vote ever since Sandra Day O`Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006. She was also a moderate conservative. And let`s not forget Justice Kennedy is a conservative.
And I think that`s one of the reasons why he`s stepping down now. He`s comfortable with this president. He`s comfortable with this president`s choice of Neil Gorsuch, someone that was a former Kennedy clerk, who Kennedy swore in when Gorsuch was a judge on the 10th Circuit, and again when he became a Supreme Court justice.
He had Ivanka Trump and her daughter up here shortly after the inauguration. So, as he said today, he has a deep desire to spend more time with his family. And I think he just decided, after nearly 31 years, it was time to step down.
MATTHEWS: Let me -- Jonathan, let me ask you how his politics worked, because it`s implicit in what Pete was saying, his report there.
Somehow, he managed to be a libertarian within the conservative caucus on the court. He`s not -- he`s not -- he has fought for the right to avoid any undue burden for a woman choosing abortion. He has been for the essential liberty of this country when it came to sexual orientation and gender and sex, the whole thing.
He seemed to understand that, that it was wronging to have sodomy laws, et cetera. And yet he never seemed to be antipathetic. Nobody had any hostility towards him. You never hear anybody, like Scalia, dumping on him. I think sometimes Scalia did question him.
How did his manage to -- because he knows. He would say he was just, what`s the right word, capricious. But what do you make of how he was able to behave as a conservative without being the kind of conservative that, say, Mike Pence likes?
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Frankly I think that the loss of Justice Kennedy on this court is a certain loss of grace.
He was a bridge justice that really had a unique voice. In fact, his voice was most clear, most profound, most passionate when he was talking about individual rights. For those of us with libertarian tendencies, he was the truest voice in that sense.
But what he really show is that you can have a conservative perspective of the Constitution and still defend individual rights. He took that from John Stuart Mill and other philosophers from the 18th and 19th century.
He believed in the concept of liberty. He believed that within the Constitution embodied a protection of individual dignity and self- expression.
And when he spoke to those interests, I think you really heard the true voice of Anthony Kennedy. And it was really transcendent in a way that his other opinions perhaps were not.
He also wrote other opinions that were incredibly historical and important. But I think it`s in those opinions that you hear this voice of Anthony Kennedy.
Let me go to our friend Charlie Sykes.
I mean, I -- you hear from people all the time in a way I`m glad I don`t. People really are able to talk to you on radio all the time. He seems to be not a quite -- maybe Atticus Finch is too much. But he seems like he was -- he seems to fit so comfortably into the American culture, this guy.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes.
And it`s a good reminder, as Professor Turley pointed out. Not all conservative judges come from the same mold. And Anthony Kennedy did have that specific lane, that real respect for human dignity and liberty.
And, quite frankly, look, he has been for the last several decades the most important member of the U.S. Supreme Court. And right now, Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, is the most important man in America in choosing his successor, because I think there`s been a lot of -- look, there is a lot of admiration for Justice Kennedy.
But also for movement conservatives, there`s been frustration that he has in fact been unpredictable. And that unpredictability of course made him so significant. I don`t think that the choice of his successor will be of someone like Anthony Kennedy. And I think, you know, you look at that list...
MATTHEWS: That`s what we worry about on my side. That`s what I`m worried about.
SYKES: It is a very impressive list.
SYKES: But I do think, as we go through it, understand that not everybody who is described as a conservative judge comes from the same school or emphasizes the same sort of thing.
And also Anthony Kennedy is a reminder how justices can change and grow once they get on the bench.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe we will bring back the sodomy laws and Trump will get his way and we will have some form of punishment for women who choose abortion. What a world we`re headed towards.
Pete Williams, thank you so much, NBC`s Pete Williams. Thank you, Charlie Sykes, and Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School.
Up next: With Justice Kennedy`s retirement, it`s virtually certain a that woman`s right to choose is in jeopardy. Don`t you think?
During the 2016 campaign, Trump did tell me there needs to be some form of punishment. He never said which, but it is certainly was a wild, wildly, dangerously stated thought. Is that where we`re headed now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that`s really what`s going to be -- that will happen.
And that will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It will happen automatically?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
During the presidential debates, as you saw, Donald Trump said very clearly that he intended to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would be willing to overturn the court`s landmark decision of Roe v. Wade.
Well, most remarkably, Trump went so far as to say there should be some kind of punishment -- he never said what kind of punishment -- for a woman who chooses to have abortion.
Here`s my interview, just to remind you, with then candidate Trump in back March of 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He said it.
And now with the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, President Trump is set to appoint his second justice to the high court. And that could have, of course, massive implications.
For years, opponents of abortion have been leading a campaign against the right to choose in courtrooms across the country. It could just a matter of time before one of those cases reaches the Supreme Court.
Joining me right now is Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State, and Alexis McGill Johnson, a Planned Parenthood board member and the executive director the Perception Institute.
I want to talk to the senator first.
Just generally, you have been confronted with this staggering news that the vacancy sits there, number five on a nine-person court, right in the middle.
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Unbelievable.
I think the most important thing about this whole thing is that the president`s views are out of the mainstream of the American public. So the question is, is the president going to insert his views, or is he going to consult with Congress on what are the mainstream views of America on this particular issue?
MATTHEWS: What did you make of his talk about...
MATTHEWS: It`s a little weird to talk about even. What did he mean by some form of punishment? That`s a little imaginative.
CANTWELL: The fact that he took this pledge during the campaign and said that he is going to appoint nominees that believe this, so he`s not for holding up the privacy rights that now have been well-established and supported by many courts.
He`s basically saying, I`m going to roll that back. And so now he has an opportunity to really put his thumb on the scale to make that difference, we have to do everything possible to make sure that that doesn`t happen.
So, his views are not in the mainstream. And that`s the case that we need to take to every member of the United States Senate. You`re willing to change what has now been accepted as policy. In our state, it`s been codified into state law.
Maybe we will have a campaign in every state in America to show people that we are going to fight for these privacy rights.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ronald Reagan picked Justice Kennedy. And Justice Kennedy basically believed in the Casey case. He said there could not be -- and the essential right of a woman to choose an abortion, the right to choose, to make the decision, must be protected, and there will be no undo burden put on her.
Like, you can`t -- you got to do this one minute after midnight. No tricks. No undue burden. He said none of that.
And so the point is that you have now this libertarian judge now being replaced by a president who is showing authoritarian tendencies.
MATTHEWS: Mike Pence tendencies.
CANTWELL: Authoritarian. So, he`s like, it`s my way or -- and this is the way...
MATTHEWS: Can you stop this? Can you slow it down to -- here`s my hope. You can slow it down until after the voters vote, so you can throw this to the people this fall, so they can have a say in this thing.
CANTWELL: We`re going to throw it to them right now.
These privacy rights that are so important across the board are things that have now been well-established and in the penumbra. What We`re going to point out is that this president, if he`s getting his list from the Federalist Society or the Heritage Foundation, is supporting textualists.
That`s it. And a textualist means they`re not going to agree that these privacy rights, whether it`s your right to privacy at home, whether it`s your right to privacy on the Internet, whether it`s your right to privacy as a woman, that they are going to support the penumbra that is in the Constitution.
That`s the fight we are going to take to the people. And that`s where we`re going to ask our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to make sure that they`re supporting those privacy rights as well.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator, very much. Thank you very much for coming.
I want to go to Alexis on this, because I think that every great Supreme Court decision, whether it was Roe vs. Wade, about sort of the basic privacy rights of a woman to make a decision about her body, and the idea that separate but equal is wrong inherently, these are all profound decisions that -- where you can`t find in the letter necessarily of the Constitution.
You have to find it in the spirit inherent in it and what the Constitution is all about in terms of the Bill of Rights. And so you`re not going to get a textualist, as the senator just said, to help you on these landmark decisions.
They`re always going to be saying no. They are always going to say, leave it the way it was.
ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PERCEPTION INSTITUTE: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Except for Roe vs. Wade. That`s what they want to change.
MCGILL JOHNSON: Right. Exactly.
And, look, I was born in 1972, five months before Roe v. Wade. And so the idea that a right that has always existed in my lifetime and a majority of women have grown up under is something that this administration wants to undermine and overturn is completely insane.
And the preview -- we have seen the trailer. Eighteen states actually have existing laws. Unlike Senator Cantwell`s state, there are 18 states that have existing laws that are intended to overturn, to eliminate abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
So there`s reason to be incredibly concerned about trying to find a textualist, as opposed to really having this conversation with the people, with the 70 percent of Americans who support Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: Is your group going to try to stop this vote from occurring before this election?
JOHNSON: Well, we`re doing exactly what Senator Cantwell suggested. We are out talking to every senator, having these conversations because it is imperative that the Senate rejects any candidate that opposes Roe. So, you know, part of the resistance has been engaging in the streets, in the marches and the movement.
The other part is, is having these conversations with our senators. People like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who have been incredibly thoughtful on helping support women`s health care. These are the kinds of voices the conversation that we need to be having, activating, engaging in people across the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said Roe v. Wade is settled law when asked about abortion rights this afternoon. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, first of all, I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It`s clearly precedent and I always look for judges who respect precedent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Susan Collins is great and she said she respects judges that accept it as it is. But what do you think, Senator Cantwell? Do you believe that Roe v. Wade is safe?
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: I -- no, because when a president makes that pledge on national TV and says he`s going to stick to it and then goes to the certain measure of saying he would punish women, then I think you have to take what he said during the campaign, he is implementing. And what we don`t want is a bench that basically is going to follow that textualist list that`s being sent to him.
CANTWELL: It would be one thing if he was calling us up and saying, OK, I hear you. Let`s hear who you think or justices that would follow privacy rights.
MATTHEWS: Well, this 5-4 court has done stuff none of us could imagine, intervene in a presidential election in 2000, took it out in the hands of the states and decided that George W. Bush, the five Republicans on the court, said should be president and they voted 5-0 to make George W. Bush the president of the United States. On Citizens United, they said money should talk more than a voter.
MATTHEWS: They made that partisan decision. They keep making partisan decisions and then they say we`re above partisanship. What nonsense.
CANTWELL: It`s not about partisanship, where it is, but it`s about corporations. The other side right now is hurrying to end the tax bill to give corporations what they want. They have people who are in the cabinet, who are not following regulations, and now they want a court that is also going to side with them and basically say whether it`s clean air that basically was so hard fought.
MATTHEWS: You mean the working people of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana and Michigan, places like that, the working stiff out, the man and woman, they thought they were getting a populist president. What they got is a corporate shill.
CANTWELL: Well, right now, if they`re going to overturn this as the textualits want, then, no, the little guy is not going to be represented on the bench.
MATTHEWS: Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state, I want to thank Alexis McGill Johnson, I wish we had more time. This is a huge night.
Up next, Justice Kennedy`s retirement is shaking this city of Washington and this country to its core. Is there anything Democrats can do right now to keep Trump from putting another hard-core conservative on the nation`s highest court by October? There`s the October surprise.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even before news broke of Justice Kennedy`s departure coming in in a couple weeks, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell was gloating about the way he`d helped transform the high court. In the wake of the Supreme Court`s decision yesterday to uphold Trump`s travel ban, McConnell tweeted this picture of himself with Justice Neil Gorsuch. Isn`t that something? A little bromance there.
Today, McConnell took another victory lap, defending his decision to refuse a hearing for President Obama`s nominee Merrick Garland. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it was the single most consequential decision I`ve made. I felt very confident that had the shoe been on the other foot, the Democratic Senate simply would not have confirmed a Supreme Court nominee by a Republican president in the middle of an election.
I was pretty confident that the complaints would be pretty rank hypocrisy knowing full well that in the middle of a presidential election, you`re not likely to be able to confirm. If the Senate is controlled by the other party, not likely to be able to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Speaking of hypocrisy, I`m joined by the roundtable to talk about what you just heard from Mitch McConnell. "The New York Times`" Ken Vogel, "The Guardian`s" Sabrina Siddiqui, and "Washington Post`s" Dana Milbank.
What do you make of the hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell saying -- having refused President Obama`s choice of Merrick Garland for a whole year, he now is going to try to jam through his -- well, he doesn`t know who the nominee is, he`s going to jam through before October or November.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, we just heard him laugh off the charges of hypocrisy. He knows that he`s going to get them and he knows the political benefit of this. You talk about the decision yesterday on the travel ban. The one that really resonated with him was the one today and this Janus case that really sort of neuters public sector labor unions.
MATTHEWS: Where is the heart of the labor union movement right now.
VOGEL: Yes, this has been a bugaboo of his for years as a sort of campaign finance deregulator, this is what having a conservative Supreme Court means to him and Republicans.
MATTHEWS: They seem to understand this is big casino, the Republicans. They seem to get it. That`s why they fight so hard for this.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Republicans have galvanized their base behind the Supreme Court and judiciary for years. Democrats have to do the same. You know, your 2016 exit polls found that 20 percent of voters said that the Supreme Court was the number one priority for them. And 56 percent of those broke for Trump, whereas only 41 percent broke for Clinton.
So, Democrats have not been able to successfully mobilize progressives behind this --
MATTHEWS: Who wins if this issue becomes the national issue of going into November, Trump`s pick for the Supreme Court?
VOGEL: I think Republicans win.
MATTHEWS: You do?
VOGEL: I mean, as Sabrina cited, they`ve done a really good job of this. They have a whole network of groups funded by some of the biggest donors on the right who get out the vote on this issue.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Mitch McConnell may be utterly unprincipled but I do think he has the politics right and that`s because Democrats suffer from Garlanditis. They -- the Democrats thought their base would get all riled up about why he`s not -- why they`re not confirming the nominee, they didn`t. With the possible exception of Bork which is too many decades ago, we do not see the Democrats get riled up in the same way the Republicans do.
Now, if and when it`s probably more likely when abortion rights are lost, then you will see the left get much more fired up than the right. You have to get to that first it seems.
MATTHEWS: Put together some things. I was overwhelmed because I know the House. Joe Crowley was on his way to be speaker, at least many though. He`s blown away by a new person, Ocasio-Cortez, 28-year-old activist.
I mean, this must be sending a message to the leadership, you better not lose the big ones. I`m just wondering what people like Schumer of New York is wondering, if I lose this fight over this Supreme Court nomination, the base of this party, Latinos, all kinds of young people, are going to say what a joke this crowd is.
VOGEL: Yes, the energy is on the left of the party right now.
MATTHEWS: And not the establishment.
VOGEL: And that tends to happen -- right, that tends to happen when a party is out of power. It could help Democrats I think in the general election. And I don`t see the potential for sort of a Tea Party-like break up of the House Democratic caucus because we`ve seen a number of incumbents who are facing challenges from the left stave them off.
This one last night in Queens is the exception rather than the rule.
SIDDIQUI: I also think what happened to Crowley is similar to what happened to Eric Cantor where he had his eye on his national profile.
MATTHEWS: He was number two Republican in the House.
SIDDIQUI: I spoke with someone who voted for Ocasio-Cortez who said that her campaign knocked on her door three times. She heard from Joe Crowley`s campaign not once. Also I think that Ocasio-Cortez is better representative of the demographics of that district and ran unapologetic economic progressivism.
MATTHEWS: OK, I got to ask, we`ll do it another show, why they split the primary in half? Why there`s a primary for governor in, what, September and they had the primaries for the House --
MILBANK: Well, it was an extremely low turnout election.
MATTHEWS: Twenty thousand votes for 600,000 people in the district.
MILBANK: People are reading way too much saying this is some sort of establishment versus insurgency. It had nothing to do with ideology. He is the only incumbent to fall, 27 of 29 House Democrats backed by the DCCC in their primaries have won.
The establishment of the party has already lost the battle in the sense that they`re now just as progressive as the insurgents are. So, I think it`s a completely false narrative. He lost because he moved his kids to Washington.
MATTHEWS: When I walk through the forest, I hear every sound around me and I make an effort to pay attention.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And Dana Milbank who fears nothing and learns nothing from these strange elements of change will be back with us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Sabrina, tell me something I don`t know.
SIDDIQUI: On Trump and his impact on the judiciary, three-quarters of his confirmed judges are male. Almost 90 percent of them are white and a third of them have proven anti-LGBT records. This is where he has the most impact.
MATTHEWS: Trump guys.
Anyway, thank you, Ken Vogel, Sabrina Siddiqui, and Dana Milbank. A little preview of what`s to come.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 27th, 2018.
I said at the top of the program it`s time for Democrats to play HARDBALL, because there are times to fight and this is one of them. I`ll say it again now. If the Democrats in the U.S. Senate allow President Trump to pack the Supreme Court with a 5-4 majority for the next 30 years, they don`t deserve to be there, and there will be I predict a full scale rebellion from the base of the Democratic Party against its leader if they blow this one.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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