Show: HARDBALL Date: August 9, 2018 Guest: Ruth Marcus, Timothy O`Brien, Emily Ngo, Noah Rothman
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We broke some news. We talked about the news. But we are out of time for news. That is THE BEAT.
HARDBALL starts right now.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Will Trump ever sit down with Mueller? Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I am Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.
The public relation blitz from the President`s top lawyer continues. Rudy Giuliani after rejecting special counsel Mueller`s conditions for a sit down interview with Donald Trump, Giuliani going on FOX News, demand that the investigation wrap up and in a hurry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: If it isn`t over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the justice department rules that you shouldn`t be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, there has been an informal tradition in the justice department, if not making public moves on investigations that involved candidates within 60-days of an election. But in a recent report the justice department inspector general noted the 60-day rule is not written or described in any department day policy or regulation and does not call to an end for active investigations.
Explaining his rejection of Mueller`s terms, Giuliani also attacked the special counsel`s motives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: He knows the answers to every question that he wants to ask. He is going to ask him, did you tell Comey to go easy on Flynn? The President are going to say, no, I didn`t. Hey, Bob, you know it. Why do you want to get him under oath? Do you think we are fools? You want to get him under oath because you want to trap him into perjury. We are not going to let you do that. The reality is, he doesn`t need to ask a single question on obstruction, he has all the answers. They are not going to change. The President is not going to change his testimony. So stop the nonsense. You are trying to trap him into a perjury because you don`t have a case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: For his part, President Trump joined in on the attack on Mueller tweeting today, this is an illegally brought rigged witch hunt run by people who are totally corrupt and/or conflicted. It was started and paid for by crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, phony dossier, FISA disgrace and so many lying and dishonest people already fired. Seventeen angry Dems, stay tuned.
The confrontation between Trump and the office of the special counsel could be more political than legal. Jonathan Swan of "Axios" summing up, Giuliani has demand writing. Giuliani is setting up unmeetable expectations for special counsel Mueller a kind of insurance policy with the President`s base by claiming them as totally reasonable asks when Mueller ultimately doesn`t deliver by Labor Day. Rudy helps fuel the base`s rage all the way through to midterms.
I`m joined now by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and Caroline Polisi, a criminal defense attorney.
Peter Baker, let me start with you just on what Giuliani is up to. What the strategy is here? Is this a strategy that is still designed in some way to create conditions under which the President could meet with Giuliani or purely for public consumption and purely trying to create a public spectacle that the President can use his political advantage?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it is interesting. Of course, there has been seven, eight, nine months that they have been talking whether the President would agree to an interview with the special counsel. They - the President`s lawyer sent down conditions that the special counsel won`t meet and then complain that the investigation is dragging on for too long.
You heard just today, actually, you know, Rudy Giuliani giving two different answers to this basically. He tells FOX that it would be outrageous if Mueller doesn`t wrap up by September. He tells CNN that he actually hopes it goes to the election because a good way to energize the President`s base. He hopes the investigation continues, he said.
So, you know, overall the map on this. And I think that, you know, as with many things with Trump, we try to discern strategy when sometimes often feels like, it is just, you know, impulse of the moment.
KORNACKI: Caroline, how do you read what Giuliani is doing here. I mean, is this just purely a public relations exercise where he doesn`t actually think this is ultimately going to be an interview with Mueller, and so this is just putting a show on or do you think this is some kind of, you know, negotiating leverage play on his part.
CAROLINE POLISI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I don`t buy it. I don`t think he is - look, Rudy Giuliani is the former United States attorney for the southern district of New York. He knows how these things work. He doesn`t get to dictate the terms of a sit down interview with Robert Mueller. That is ridiculous. This good cop-bad cop thing, just theatrics, they are drawing it out. I don`t see how they could be serious.
KORNACKI: I mean, are they ever -- what is the level of negotiation generally in an investigation? Zero, yes.
POLISI: Zero. Literally zero. So you know, what is interesting about this is we are hearing only one side of a negotiation. Robert Mueller`s team isn`t doing interviews. He is not leaking. You know, he may not even necessarily want to talk to Trump. We are just hearing that he does. Traditionally, the justice department doesn`t subpoena targets of investigation to the grand jury because of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. It would be silly to ask somebody to talk if they are the target of investigation. So you know, he could be ready to write this report without the testimony of Trump. I mean, it is going to get to a subpoena if anything.
KORNACKI: Yes. And Jennifer Rubin, I mean, it is like - we show those -- the tweets from the President, some of the comments from Giuliani. Twenty years ago right now, there was the Ken Starr investigation, the Bill Clinton kind of coming to ahead. That report was dumped off in September `98. The strategy of that White House is attack the prosecutor, question his motives, when the reports comes at, you can call the political document. Are we seeing the same thing here?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think so.
We are also 44 years since President Nixon resigned. So it often doesn`t work to attack the media to attack your opponents. So I think in this case, Rudy Giuliani has been talking nonsense from the get go. He says what the law is what the law is not. He says the facts are but the facts are not.
Donald Trump has never been in a position to sit down and testify under oath, not under oath because he can`t tell the truth. He can`t determine fact from fiction. He will either incriminate himself because keeps not understanding what is illegal or he will commit perjury. So this is all been a ridiculous shelf.
And I think the problem with their show is that they have been banking on frankly just like we heard last night from Devin Nunes. A lot of protection from the House Republicans to some degree in the senate. And what happens if that goes away? What happens if you have real committee chairman who are going to start subpoenaing all kinds of documents, who are going to take their charge seriously. So the protecting of the President, I suppose an argument that they won`t be able to remove him in the senate. But if we get that part down the road, the party and Donald Trump are in deep, deep trouble.
KORNACKI: Well, late today, another member of Trump`s legal team, Jay Sekulow tempered expectations of any interview. Sekulow telling NBC`s Kristin Welker that there is still quote "a steep hurdle" for an interview and that quote "the legal team has concerns about questions related to any decision President Trump has made as President."
"Axios" reporting that according to Giuliani quote "there are two topics the President`s lawyers want to rule out in order to agree to a Trump sit down with Mueller. Number one, why Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Number two, what Trump said to Comey about the investigation of former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.
Now Peter Baker, we have seen Donald Trump cycle through lawyers before and through all sorts of advisers and people in his inner circle. I`m curious right now what is your sense behind the scenes there Trump`s relationship with his current representation with Rudy Giuliani, with Jay Sekulow. How closely is following their advice? Is he hughing to what they say? What is your sense and what the relationship is like behind the scenes?
BAKER: Well, look. I think what the President wants in a lawyer right now is somebody to get out there and fight. Somebody who get out there and say things that may not be the things that other lawyers would say, right. To get out on television and to challenge and stir to up the political waters if you will.
That is certainly what Rudy Giuliani is doing. I think he is doing what the President wants him to do. That may not be the best strategy. It may be that another lawyer who has gone through these high profile cases would have different kind of advice. But the President got tired of that kind of advice when he got rid of his previous legal team. He wanted to be out there and mixing it up. He didn`t want to sit back and play the lawyer`s game. So I think this is the strategy that he wants.
Now, you know, I hope someday if I ever get in trouble with a prosecutor, I get to decide what they ask and what they don`t ask. But you know, for the moment, he has managed to drag this out. And he is kind of bringing it out into the fall election campaign and possibly for good reason. It may be a motivator for the Republican side. And the Democrats are already pretty motivated.
KORNACKI: And Caroline, you said something interesting a minute ago, that you know, maybe the way this all sort of developed Mueller and his team don`t need to talk to Donald Trump. But we saw the quote from Rudy Giuliani essentially arguing the same thing, hey say, you know, Mueller knows all the answers. He knows what he would be asking Trump. He knows what Trump would answer. Is there truth in that? Is there not a lot of value potentially?
POLISI: No. I don`t think what Giuliani is saying, I don`t think there is merit to that. I think he is being disingenuous there. President Trump has been completely equivocal on all of the reasons in this investigation. Just for example why he fired James Comey. One, is it because of the pre textual memo written by Rod Rosenstein or is it because of the Russia thing that he told Lester Holt?
So he is on paper inconsistent in those statements. And the heart of any criminal charge has always have to be the state of mind. You have to criminal intent or bad purpose. So that information can only be ascertained from President Trump.
KORNACKI: How essential is it then to get the interview?
POLISI: Well, I mean, they could, it depends on how much Mueller wants to bank on this subpoena issue. Whether or not he feels like if the law is on his side. He is going to take it through a subpoena.
I personally do think the law is on his side. It is going to take some time. We have the Nixon president in EO (ph) decision saying that, you know, a sitting President is not above the law. It wasn`t exactly on point. It was for documents not tape but everything would indicate that the court would rule in Mueller`s favor saying that the President has to sit for an interview.
Look. It behooves both parties to do this voluntarily like Clinton did. The negotiated the terms of that agreement and we all saw him testify before the grand jury via video tape so that worked out for him. I think they both want to make --.
KORNACKI: That is interesting too, there was negotiation with Clinton.
KORNACKI: So there is a precedent for a president is legal to negotiate.
POLISI: Absolutely. And Ken Starr give a subpoena to Bill Clinton but he withdrew the subpoena after they agree to the terms of the negotiation which is why the issue never reach the Supreme Court. We may have gotten an answer but had that gone all the way up.
KORNACKI: Yes. I`m curious, Jennifer Rubin, I mean, that possibility then if the special counsel, Mueller and his team do feel it is essential to sit down with President Trump and get to this state of mind question, as Caroline is talking about here, what do you think happens if there is a subpoena?
RUBIN: Well, I think there will be a subpoena if unless he is very satisfied that he really has him dead to right. And by the way, that negotiation with Bill Clinton was not on what subject seems going to be ask, but whether he would, for example have to come into a grand jury without his lawyer or whether it would be done on videotape, those sorts of logistical things, not the subject matter of the questions which is preposterous.
So what happens when he gets the subpoena? His lawyers presumably say we don`t have to respond to this. We are above the law or there are some other reason. And the prosecutor then goes to court and says please order Mr. Trump to show up. He either gets an affirmative ruling or not. If at some point he gets a ruling that he has got to show up and Trump doesn`t show up, we continue up the way - all the way to the Supreme Court and ultimately the Supreme Court is going to have to decide does the President of the United States in a criminal trial have to respond to a subpoena?
Now, once again, he could take the Fifth Amendment if he responds to the subpoena and he is afraid of self-incrimination. That would be truly horrible for the head of the federal government, the chief law enforcement officer, to be interposing his own interest between that of law enforcement and the President of the United States.
So that becomes a very painful exercise. And I just think it is not a good look for the Republicans to have the President claiming that he is above the law. It doesn`t go over well, it sits poorly with people. And I think it is going to be very hard if this thing goes up the chain for Republicans who are likely to take quite a beating anyway in November to continue to defend this kind of behavior.
KORNACKI: And Peter, you know, again, which Jennifer is describing there, if it ended up, you know, playing out this way, that would also be playing out with the midterm elections sort of the backdrop with the midterm elections. You were talking about this earlier. Your sense is in the White House do they genuinely believe this could be an asset for them on the midterm campaign trail or is that just bluster?
BAKER: Well, you know, they know this is going to be an issue on the campaign trail. So therefore, they might as well try to use it to generate as much passion as they can among supporters.
And look, you know, Jennifer is right about with what the Clinton team did in terms of negotiating with Ken Starr. They did it because they have a subpoena. And they concluded that they didn`t have a legal case to stand on to resist the subpoena. That`s why they decided to go ahead and give the interview, not because they wanted to give it.
And she was right, they didn`t negotiate the subjects, they negotiated the time limits and so forth. But they did have a midterm election in the middle of that case as well. And that actually worked out well for Bill Clinton because the Republicans didn`t do as well as they though. That then influenced the impeachment effort in the hill. He still got impeached but the Senate wasn`t going to go along to convict him.
That could happen here. I think this is no question going to be turning on this midterm election. What do the voters tell people they feel about this situation? If the Democrats win the House, no question, there is going to be impeachment inquiry. I think that seems logical anyway whether it should be or not. And Republicans when there is not going to be unless there is something, you know, extraordinary that we don`t know about right now.
So you know, this is a big election and there is no question that impeachment is at the heart of it.
KORNACKI: Yes. It is fascinating too. One key difference Bill Clinton`s approval rating as this was happening was in 1998 was in the high 60s. And Trumps in the low 40s. But hey, polarized America. Maybe it is about firing up the bases right now.
Carolyn, I just quickly want to ask to you, too, about this issue Giuliani talked about the 60-day rule.
KORNACKI: Nothing is written down on this. I used to cover politics in New Jersey. So did cover one or two politicians who were carted out to jail. And I do remember this coming up with the idea of candidates in two months. Take us to your understanding of that, I think, tradition and informal tradition.
POLISI: Right. People are calling it a bit of a guideline. But I think the key to focus on and why Giuliani is wrong, is that, it is specifically about a candidate. And President Trump is not up for reelection, we all know.
Look. I think that Mueller and his team will take that into consideration. I agree that if they don`t come down with an indictment or subpoena prior to September 1st I think they will likely wait and do it in the New Year. But just to keep that, to preserve that window, but look, James Comey didn`t follow that rule. We all remember. He didn`t follow that rule. So it is not really like a hard and fast situation.
KORNACKI: All right. Caroline Polisi, Peter Baker and Jennifer Rubin, thank you all for joining us.
And coming up, remember when Donald Trump promised to hire quote "the best people." Well, his former campaign manager now on trial in Virginia. His first national security adviser pled guilty to lying to the FBI. Two cabinet members have been forced to resign over ethics issue. Now, one of his earliest congressional supporters is facing charges of insider trading. It has Democrats wondering, will voter punish the party of Trump this November?
And speaking of November, going to head over to the big board and take a look at the state of play heading into those midterms following some very interesting primaries. Not just the special election in Ohio, it was a lot more that happened on Tuesday. We are going to break that down.
And President Trump also bragged that any candidate he campaigns for will win, not all Republicans agreed. And the HARDBALL roundtable going to weigh on that as well as calls for Hope Picks to rejoin the Trump team ahead of the next presidential election.
And finally, roundtable with the easiest job in the world, telling me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
KORNACKI: Vice President Mike Pence was at the Pentagon today laying the groundwork for a new sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces, dub the space force. Hence, said America must prepare for quote "the nest battlefield" and echoed the President`s desire to establish dominance, his word there, in space by the year 2020.
Just last year, defense secretary Mattis said a space force would run counter to the military`s ongoing push to integrate operations across all branches of the service. President Trump is pushing hard for the idea today tweeting space force all the way.
Be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The cabinet, we are going to have all the best people. And find out who they are. And it is not going to be a politically correct choice either.
I have got some really good ideas for some positions. I really I think some terrific people.
We have some incredibly talented people that will be put in Cabinet positions and other positions. You will be very proud of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump on the campaign trail back in 2016 boasting that he would hire only the best people to work in his administration.
A year-and-a-half into his presidency, it`s a pledge his critics say he has fallen far short of.
His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is on trial as we speak, charged with tax evasion and bank fraud. The deputy campaign chair, Rick Gates, pled guilty to similar charges. Now he`s cooperating with the special counsel.
Trump`s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI. And in the latest example, Congressman Chris Collins, an early Trump supporter who served on the presidential transition team, has been charged with insider trading. He`s denied those charges.
Also, two of Trump`s Cabinet secretaries were forced out over alleged ethical violations.
It has Trump`s critics saying, see, we told you so. And it has Democrats hoping it might stir a backlash with voters in November.
I`m joined now by Timothy O`Brien, the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion.
Tim, what do we know about how Donald Trump hires people?
TIMOTHY O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, he`s never the -- if you`re going to hire the best people, you have to be the best person.
And Donald Trump has never really been the best person. He`s not as sophisticated manager. He`s not patient. He`s never built strong teams. He`s always sort of cut through people very quickly. That was true in the Trump Organization. It`s been true of the White House.
And if you don`t build a strong team, you don`t have a lot of loyalty and you don`t attract first-tier people to come on to your team. So the question then is, who comes down to a team like that?
And what we have learned in Trump`s Washington is that he`s attracted opportunists. I think the people who came into his campaign weren`t convinced that he was going to win the election. And they saw it as sort of a quick hit. They could either pad their resumes or actually get some business opportunities out of it.
And then, lo and behold, he got elected. And so they traveled with him to Washington, but they weren`t going to Washington, for the most part, because of public service. They weren`t going there because they had a legislative or a public policy agenda they wanted to enact.
They went there because, to a certain extent, they were on the dole, the Trump dole.
KORNACKI: And we`re joined now Ruth Marcus, columnist for "The Washington Post."
We were having some technical difficulties there a minute ago, but there she is, all set to go.
And, Ruth, I`m curious too. I think it was -- I heard Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, certainly an ardent Trump critic these days, I heard him on a -- I think a podcast recently. He said he likened the campaign team that Trump ended up putting together in 2016, I think he called it the political equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys, sort of making the point -- we were just hearing here that these are folks who probably wouldn`t have found a home in a lot of cases in other political campaigns, and maybe, if you extend that, in other administrations.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Sure.
I mean, I have a very vivid memory of that. When then candidate Trump came to "The Washington Post" editorial board in March of the election year, he unveiled his list of foreign policy advisers. They were a list of foreign policy advisers that none of us had really ever heard of.
They included Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. How did that one work out?
And that`s the interesting thing, too, Ruth, because, of course, obviously, that`s led to so much controversy, speculation, investigation, and all of that. And it ends up being a defense that you heard offered by Trump allies that`s essentially, hey, the guy put no effort into this, just wanted some names on a piece of paper.
That ends up being the defense of Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and their role on that team, is, basically, they`re essentially saying, Trump didn`t really care. He just wanted some names on the page.
MARCUS: Well, he did care, in the sense that he want -- the people that he has surrounded himself with -- I think Tim is exactly right -- the supply is limited, right?
A lot of people who would ordinarily want to work in a White House scurried as far away from this one as they could. And so you got those opportunists, as Tim said.
But you also have a president -- Tim knows this as well as anybody -- who wants to be surrounded by sycophants, who wants that adoring Cabinet meeting and all the ego-stroking that he basks in. And if you`re not willing to do that, he`s going to -- he`s hiring for the stroking.
And if you`re not willing to do that, he doesn`t want you around him.
KORNACKI: But, Tim, it`s interesting. Donald Trump, the guy who ran for president in 2016, a lot of people would argue he was in position because of "The Apprentice," and because he played the guy who he fired, but he ultimately hired somebody. He had the eye for talent and all that sort of thing.
I`m wondering, though, back in -- the reputation politically now is that a lot of people who have the sort of traditional political resumes on the Republican side do not want to be near this administration.
Back in the days of Trump the businessman, what was the reputation of the Trump Organization in that world?
O`BRIEN: It was very similar.
The Trump Organization was a boutique, mom-and-pop operation. Elite real estate developers in New York laughed at Donald Trump. Major commercial banks did not lend him money. He was considered something of a cartoon character.
I think people underestimated the traction he had in the American imagination that you saw him in "The Apprentice," in which he was selling this illusion of being a gifted entrepreneur and being someone who could spot talent.
And he -- he sold a similar illusion the campaign trail, that he would come to Washington, that he would shake down the federal bureaucracy, that he would get things working, be a great deal-maker, on and on and on. It was a very "Apprentice"-type promise, which he hasn`t largely not been able to deliver on.
I think the other thing is that Donald Trump himself is enormously conflicted. He has more financial conflicts of interest than anybody else who`s ever sat in the Oval Office. So anyone in his administration who`s looking for guidelines, whether you`re Wilbur Ross or Scott Pruitt, about how to conduct yourself and whether to observe ethical norms are going to throw that out the window because the president himself is not observing them.
KORNACKI: Well, Democrats, meanwhile, trying to shape this as a culture of corruption argument, and hoping it`ll help them in November, just as it did for Democrats back in 2006, when they regained majorities in both houses of Congress.
As "The Washington Post" puts it -- quote -- "Trump and his staunchest allies` ethical and legal problems, even if unconnected, are piling up. They are threads that are getting easier for Trump`s critics to tie into a bumper sticker argument that Republicans are out for themselves. Collins may be a minor figure in all this, but his legal troubles land at the exact right time to make him a poster child for that political attack."
I guess I wonder about that a little bit, Ruth, in this sense. In 2006, there was -- there were a number of Republican congressional scandals. I think the one right before the election was Mark Foley, the congressional page scandal, I think, a couple weeks before the election.
Drain the swamp, culture of corruption, that was the Democratic rallying cry. I`m wondering, is there any difference in how the public perceives all of this now, only in the sense that so much this about Trump was aired in 2016 -- I guess I`m wondering -- in 2016.
I guess I`m wondering how much of -- how much of this was just baked in when he was elected?
MARCUS: Well, I think that, in 2018, you have got an electorate that`s pretty much convinced that the whole place thinks, that it`s swampy with Democrats and swampy with Republicans.
And the culture -- and I think you make a really important point. The culture of corruption argument worked very well for Democrats back in the day because the centerpiece of the corruption and the corruption scandals actually were in the Congress.
You had all of the Jack Abramoff-related congressional scandals, Bob Ney, people going to prison over taking money from and gifts from lobbyists and things like that.
Here, it`s a -- it`s a little bit of a bank shot. Collins might make it easier. I think that the better argument for Democrats is not just culture of corruption, but more focusing about check on Trump, check on power. People understand that this administration needs a little bit of oversight, say.
And that`s where that interesting Devin Nunes tape comes in. So not just draining the swamp, but overseeing the president.
KORNACKI: Yes, a check on the president, that is a midterm message that has always worked, with only two exceptions, since World War II.
That`s probably as bankable a campaign strategy as we have seen for both parties.
Ruth Marcus,Timothy O`Brien, thank you both for joining us.
Up next, I`m going to head over to the Big Board. We`re going to try to figure out what this latest round of -- the special election in Ohio, we have talked about. There were some primaries on Tuesday that may have offered even more powerful clues about the November midterms.
At the Big Board after this.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: All right, welcome back to HARDBALL.
We have been stayed in here all week talking about Ohio`s 12th District, that special election. Trump won it by 11. It`s too close to call still. The Republican leads by less than a point right now.
Democrats looking at that, saying, hey, even if we don`t win, this portends a blue way for November. Certainly, that`s how Democrats are feeling.
But you know what? There were some other elections, some primary elections on Tuesday that also offered clues about November, maybe in some cases even some stronger clues.
Here`s what I mean. Washington state. Primary day in Washington state, but they do it differently in Washington state. They are open primaries, they call us this, like California. Everybody, Democrat, Republican, whatever party you are, you run on the same ballot.
What does that mean? You kind of get a preview of the November election in the primary. The primary results are often pretty similar to the general election results.
And so let`s take you through what we saw in Washington.
Right here -- I pressed the wrong button. Can you believe that?
Right here, this is the biggest headline out of Washington. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, she is the number four Republican in Washington. She is in the leadership. This is a pretty solidly Republican district traditionally. And yet look at this.
In this open primary, she ran barely ahead of her Democratic opponent. So she`s under 50 percent. She`s an incumbent. She`s a Republican. She`s a member of leadership. She`s running in a pretty solidly Republican districts. It`s been 24 years -- 26 years since it elected a Democrat, and yet under 50 percent.
By the way, the lineage in this district, 1994, a Democratic speaker of the House, Tom Foley, represented the same district. He ran poorly in the open primary in September 1994. People started to say, does this mean there`s a big wave? Here two months later, Democrats lost the House for the first time in 40 years, and Foley became the first House speaker since the Civil War to lose in his district.
And now another member of leadership, other party, may be in danger out there.
How about this one? You go to the 8th District? Now, this is an open seat here. You got a Republican incumbent not running. You got a district that was won by three points by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Republicans recruited this man, Dino Rossi. He`s well-known in Washington state.
And they said, OK, we got a great candidate here. This is an at-risk district, but we got the right candidate.
Well, a test this week. How popular is Rossi in that district? In this primary, 43 percent -- and look at this, open primary. You can add up the numbers. The Democrats behind him there. Not the number Republicans wanted to see for Rossi in this primary.
This one, 3rd District. This is Southwest Washington, some beautiful land here in the Southwest part of Washington. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican, she`s a more moderate Republican. She wouldn`t support Donald Trump in 2016. Running with just 42 percent in this primary.
Again, that is a trouble sign. These are the sorts of indicators. When they pop up in primary season, you start to say, ooh, is there a trend? Is there a pattern here?
And I will give you one more. This wasn`t a primary this week, but it`s something we have been talking about the last 24 hours.
Chris Collins, Republican from New York, he`s now under indictment. He says that`s -- I`m running anyway.
He`s running. So take a look at this. It was a district that was on nobody`s radar until about 24 year -- until 24 hours ago, because President Trump carried this thing by 24 points in 2016.
But if Collins stays in this race -- look, this is still so Republican, and really Trump Republican. Hey, maybe he will still win. We seen that before. Staten Island, remember, reelected Michael Grimm a couple years ago.
But if you want to know, funny things start to happen in wave years. Candidates get jammed up like Collins. Maybe you know this name. If not, Google it. Michael Patrick Flanagan. Think about that one. Go Google it, 1994, and wonder, could something similar happen here in New York`s 27th District?
OK, that`s it for that.
Up next, the Republican tax plan not cutting it with voters, according to polling, trump`s appeal is wavering, so the GOP are going to that old -- they are ramping up the fear and anxiety when it comes to Pelosi. Will it work?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If the Democrats get in, they`re going to raise your taxes. You`re going to have crime all over the place. You`re going to have people pouring across the border.
TRUMP: Democrats want anarchy. They really do.
REP. LOUIS BARLETTA (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Bob Casey wants to stop that. He has because one of the most liberal senators in Washington.
BARLETTA: He is leading the resistance in obstruction to President Trump`s agenda.
TROY BALDERSON (R), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We can fight illegal immigration.
Dishonest Danny O`Connor wants to take away your guns.
BALDERSON: Dishonest Danny supports open borders and sanctuary cities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tuesday`s special election in Ohio highlighted the challenges facing Republicans this fall. Worried a campaign on the tax cuts they passed which are polling negatively, they may be turning to a new strategy.
As "The Associated Press" writes, quote: As Republicans enter the final month of the primary season, they`re looking ahead to a general election strategy of embracing anxiety as a tool to motivate voters.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable. Emily Ngo, national political reporter for "Newsday". Eddie Glaude, professor at Princeton University, and Noah Rothman, associate editor with "Commentary Magazine".
I mean, Eddie, it`s -- one way to look at this is we were just talking about this in the last block, the White House party almost always loses seats in midterms. The opposition party can just say don`t you one a little bit of a check and that seems to sell well with voters, this is an attempt perhaps by Republicans to try to tell voters, hey, the other option is worse.
EDDIE GLAUDE, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, yes, I mean, that -- I don`t know how successful they will be. It`s very difficult to kind of develop a clear and coherent message when the message of the party is a personality. Donald Trump is the Republican Party, so I don`t know how you make an argument around conservative policies when the avatar of the party isn`t conservative, when the avatar of the party is a kind of, shall we say a firestorm of controversy.
So, it`s very difficult to get out from under him. And I suppose you can demonize the other side but Trump takes up so much oxygen that I don`t know how the Republican Party can message.
KORNACKI: That`s an interesting question too, Emily, because we`re getting the impression here I think that Donald Trump is going to spend an awful lot of time this fall on the campaign trail and when you see, he`s out there, they may hand him a script, but we`ve seen this, how many times, he goes off the script, he tries to read the crowd. He says something and it suddenly becomes the new national political debate for a week.
In the end, is that the only message voters are going to hear from Republicans.
EMILY NGO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NEWSDAY: You know, I`d be the last thing they hear and depending on how close to the election he stumps for that candidate, it might not be a very great message to send across population already it doesn`t necessarily translate, it`s not transferrable, and we see that we`ve seen in a couple examples when candidates like get behind him full-throated or halfway, they might not be so successful.
KORNACKI: Well, Noah, it also gets to a question - about what is it? There was some surge I think in turnout that Donald Trump benefited from, especially in rural areas the northern sort of tier of the country in 2016. I looked at Ohio this week the places that surged to Trump in 2016, they were strongly Republican but the energy level was low their relative to the suburban parts of the district. What is it that motivated them in and can that be replicated anyway in `18?
NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE: Yes, the dirty secret is that Republican voters are depressed. They`re not happy about what`s happening in Washington under united Republican governance, and that`s why you have an almost explicitly negative message coming from these candidates.
And political professionals will tell you negative messaging works, right? Sure, but this is a referendum on Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the message of this election. It`s not a referendum on the economy. No one is talking about the economy, even though it`s pretty good.
It`s not about a foreign policy issue like it was in 2006. It`s not about the Iraq war for example. It`s a values election, and the values are Donald Trump`s, and it`s a referendum up or down on those values.
So the extent you`re going to put Donald Trump out there, it`s going to reinforce that message for good or for ill.
KORNACKI: What did they want? What did they want what`s your reading on it? There`s the debate that is best I can see, was it cultural stuff that resonated in rural areas in heartland? Was it trade? Was it economic? Was it more of a populist economic message?
ROTHMAN: Well, it was all of those things and also a negative referendum on Hillary Clinton. That was a referendum on also the party in power, which was Barack Obama`s party, Hillary Clinton, a negative message. So, to the extent you`re going back to the well, maybe it`s going to help you out a little bit, but you -- again, I would like to see them I think run on a positive message of what we did this term, what we did in this Congress, which was tax cuts. And there`s a story to tell there, but nobody wants to tell it.
KORNACKI: How about from a Democratic standpoint, Eddie? The energy for Democrats in their core base though, the folks that were already with Hillary Clinton in 2016, these suburban areas, we saw it again this week in Ohio, it is there clearly.
I look to those other areas, those rural areas I talked about, the thing that was so striking to me in Ohio this week was there parts of that district that Obama won. As recently as six years ago, Barack Obama was able to go in and win these parts of the district that are now voting Republican by 30 or 35 points.
Is there a message from Democrats to them this midterm or is the Democratic strategy basically no, our folks are energized and we`re going to ride that?
GLAUDE: Well, I think it`s a combination. They must have a message, right, and I think that message has to do with this is the vote of your life, right? That the direction of the country is not a good direction for you or your children, and that we need a new set of policies, right?
It`s not just simply Donald Trump, it`s a set of policies, right? It`s deconstructing the administrative state. It`s deregulation. It`s a range of things that that are following on the heels of Republican control.
But I think what`s interesting about this year, in 2016, we had Hillary Clinton. We had in some ways an unmotivated base. African-Americans didn`t turnout at the same level. We had questions around voter suppression that impacted Michigan, that impacted North Carolina, right?
Those things in terms of motivating black voters that`s not quite that`s not quite the issue now, and then, of course, there`s some issues stuff around Russia. So, I think folks are excited Donald Trump shows up anywhere. The Democratic base will be motivated.
And more importantly, I think those folks who don`t vote, who haven`t voted previously, if he shows up on the scene, they will be motivated to show up. And that can have some impact.
KORNACKI: Well, in it that that is a dilemma too I think for a lot of Republican candidates we saw I keep talking about Ohio it`s so fresh on my mind. But there was -- you know, he campaigned for Balderson, the Republican, at the last minute. The next day, John Kasich, the governor`s out there saying, hey, I`m not sure Balderson actually wanted him to do that.
Republican candidates in potentially competitive races and there`s at least to the House side, there`s -- you know, five, six dozen of them, do they want him out there campaigning for them?
NGO: I mean, it`d be hard for them to make up their minds. I mean, these races especially show the import of the suburban voter, too, that swing voter, that purple voter. When we think about Republican policies that should be touting for a positive effect like the passage of the new tax law, it doesn`t help those in the suburbs. So, they`d like to tamp that down and whether Donald Trump comes out there, and talks about the tax law or about himself, like that remains to be seen.
KORNACKI: All right. The roundtable is staying with us.
Up next: Trump allies are reportedly trying to draw former White House communications director Hope Hicks back into Trump`s inner circle, as she really put D.C. in her rearview mirror.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: All right. Things are getting wild in Kansas where the Republican primary for governor remains a nail-biter between the incumbent Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach who, of course, has the endorsement of Donald Trump over 300,000 votes cast and counted. But the count is continuing to fluctuate. The vote difference now stands at 121, with Kobach holding the slim lead. It was 191 when the day started today.
Election officials are still counting provisionals and mail-in ballots. Given his position, it is actually Kobach who is responsible and in the end for overseeing the vote counting in this race, at least for running the secretary of state`s office. Colyer called on Kobach to stop giving advice to county election officials, accusing him of saying things, quote, inconsistent with Kansas law.
Be right back.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A few months after leaving the White House, the president`s former communications director Hope Hicks made a guest appearance on Air Force One, accompanying her old boss to Ohio last weekend.
The visit left many wondering what she`s up to. According to "Politico", she may be making a comeback. According to sources, people close to the president want Hope Hicks, quote, to play a role in Trump`s nascent 2020 campaign. People close to Hicks say she is open to.
We are back with a HARDBALL roundtable. Emily, Eddie, Noah.
Emily, it`s -- it`s one of the stories of the Trump presidency. People are in, then they`re out, then they`re back in. And if they`re not back in yet, everybody`s talking about them being back in I guess.
NGO: If Hope Hicks comes back to the White House, comes back to the campaign, it`d be because she`s very loyal to the president. That we know they have a genuine connection, a real relationship, father-daughter, and she is known in the West Wing as a Trump whisperer.
If they`re floating these stories, floating the idea of her coming back and helping out somehow in 2020 because they need her. They need her to translate his ideas into policy. They need her to calm him when he needs to be calmed.
KORNACKI: Is there -- in the post-Hope Hicks White House from a -- just from our standpoint here, is there any discernible difference to you, Eddie?
GLAUDE: No, absolutely not. It`s just chaos to my mind. I guess it`s a reasonable chaos with Hope Hicks` presence.
Look, I don`t understand this. I have no idea what`s going on here. All I know is that Hope Hicks had had an interview with Mueller, right, and all I know is that I remember reading "Fire and Fury" where there`s that moment on page 279 when Steve Bannon means --
KORNACKI: We got to page numbers here.
GLAUDE: When Steve madden loses his mind because of the Air Force One meeting that Hope Hicks is back there doing, and he says, I`m going to tell your dad on you, and on the 279, he says Donald Trump Jr. will crack like an egg, Michael Cohen will crack like an egg because this was treasonous.
Now, she come back but that still that still hovers over her head just like it hovers over everybody else.
KORNACKI: Well, you got the book memorized it sounds like.
GLAUDE: Noah, Kansas governor`s race, that`s I want to ask you about that. I`m fascinated by the irony that Kris Kobach who has made his name nationally on election security -- election minutia. It`s now going to come down potentially to a recount that officially his office ultimately has some control over statewide.
But more broadly here, this is a big moment I think for the Republican Party in a way. What Kris Kobach represents potentially being nominated in Kansas versus this much more sort of establishment candidate and in a difference here of dozens really of votes.
ROTHMAN: Yes, there was no internecine feud here until the president overruled some people around him in his orbit and said I`m going to endorse Kris Kobach for this governorship, over the incumbent sitting Republican governor. You don`t normally do that, you don`t do that for a reason because it results -- the incumbents have very much, you know, built in base of support and obviously, Donald Trump commands a lot of power and influence within the Republican Party and it becomes this absolute stalemate.
It doesn`t get any closer than 91 votes out of a statewide race, and now, we have basically an open war within the Republican Party in Kansas over the future of this. And meanwhile, a Democrat is going to be very competitive in this ruby red state. Kathleen Sebelius, former health and human services secretary, was the governor of Kansas.
A Democrat can win a statewide race in Kansas and governorships are going to be extremely important. We don`t talk enough about them. Democrats are going to do very well in the state level, and, it`s arguably a lot more important than what`s going to happen in Congress from the standpoint of a conservative reformer.
KORNACKI: Yes, and Kansas, it`s a fascinating race. Democrats certainly have a shot out there. There`s an independent, Greg Orman, remember the 2014 midterms. Orman tried to crash the Senate race out there.
Anyway, our roundtable is staying with us.
Up next, these three tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
KORNACKI: And we`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Emily, tell me something I don`t know.
NGO: "Newsday", like so many other outlets, has found the record number of women running for office this election cycle. What we`ve heard from analysts, experts and the candidates themselves that women were hesitating before because they need to be asked, but they need to be recruited. There`s polling being done this cycle about whether they`re running all their own emphasis or they were asked and experts are predicting that it`s going be the former that they`re going to do it, decide that it`s their time to do it.
KORNACKI: Very interesting. Eddie?
GLAUDE: Well, this day, August 9th, 1936, on the eve of our anniversary of Charlottesville, Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal in the face of white supremacy and Adolf Hitler. It`s something to remember in this moment we when we confront the white supremacy of Charlottesville.
KORNACKI: That`s an amazing moment there in history.
ROTHMAN: "New York Times" is reporting last hour that the NATO summit last month, a communique was pushed ahead by John Bolton in order to get a really meaty agreement to defend the alliance done before Donald Trump could get there, to avoid a G7 summit like blow up. Whatever you think of this presidency, a president who is not in charge of his own foreign policy is not an ideal thing and that`s what we`ve got.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, thank you to Emily Ngo, Eddie Glaude, and Noah Rothman.
That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.
And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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