Senate to hold public hearing with Ford. TRANSCRIPT: 9/17/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Anna Eshoo, Yamiche Alcindor, Jennifer Rubin, Joyce Vance, Adrienne Elrod

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 17, 2018 Guest: Barbara Boxer, Anna Eshoo, Yamiche Alcindor, Jennifer Rubin, Joyce Vance, Adrienne Elrod

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, much more coverage tomorrow on these issues regarding Judge Kavanaugh. I will be joined by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Michelle Goldberg, Irin Carmon and Alexis Miguel Johnson. We also be joined live by former senator and secretary of state John Kerry tomorrow on THE BEAT.

HARDBALL is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: To be or not to be, let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Mathews up in Philadelphia.

Well, the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh plunges deeper into danger tonight over an allegation of sexual assault that leaves his confirmation in mortal jeopardy. According to NBC News, judge Kavanaugh spent the majority of today in meetings with White House legal counsel Don McGahn and others from the counsel`s office calling key members of Congress in a direct effort of damage control, actually a desperate effort.

And here`s the breaking news tonight. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will hold public hearings this coming Monday with Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford. It came from all ten Democrats from that committee sent a letter to chairman Chuck Grassley requested a delay writing quote "there are serious questions about judge Kavanaugh`s record, truthfulness and character."

A growing number of Republican senators have also expressed concern over the allegation and said that the Senate needs to hear from the accuser. The White House said in a statement tonight judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation.

Earlier in the day the President reaffirmed his support for his nominee with the reservation that he, the President, wanted members of the Senate to be happy with the process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is an outstanding intellect and outstanding judge, respected by everybody. Never had even a little blemish on his record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should it be delayed?

TRUMP: I don`t know. It depends on the process. I would like see a complete process. I would like everybody to be very happy. If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay. It shouldn`t certainly be very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he offered to withdraw?

TRUMP: Next question. What a ridiculous questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this confirmation is on track?

TRUMP: I think he is on track, yes. I mean, I think he is very much on track. If they delay it a little bit just to make sure everybody is happy, they want to be happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In an explosive On the Record interview, Ford accused Kavanaugh of attacking her while they were both in high school. Ford said she decided to go public with her story because she felt like her civic responsibility outweighed her anguish and terror about retaliation. She had initially written a confidential letter to her congresswoman Anna Eshoo and senator Dianne Feinstein in July about the allegation but declined to go public for fear of retribution.

In an extensive interview with "the Washington Post," Ford now recounts in detail events that happened roughly 30 years ago. Ford alleged that while in high school, Kavanaugh and a friend both quote "stumbling drunk, stumbling drunk," corralled her into a bedroom where she said Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her over her clothes, clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit. Well, she told the Post that she thought quote "he might inadvertently kill me." By the way, he put his hand, she said, his hand over her mouth so she couldn`t scream.

Well, Ford said she told no one about the incident in any detail until 2012, that`s six years ago during couples therapy with her husband. She also told her husband obviously at that time. The therapist provided notes to "the Washington Post" in support of her claims.

NBC News has not spoken to Ford nor seen the letter she wrote. This morning her lawyer told NBC that she is willing to testify under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Katz, is your client willing to testify about the judiciary committee publicly and tell this story?

DEBRA KATZ, CHRISTIN BLASEY FORD`S ATTORNEY: She is. She is willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, she has already taken a lie detector test administered by a former FBI agent. Brett Kavanaugh refused to answer any questions from reporters on his way to the White House earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kavanaugh, are the allegations true?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any response to Christine Ford?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Judge Kavanaugh, will you testify?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the White House did provide this statement on behalf of judge Kavanaugh.

Quote "this is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes to her or anyone. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation."

Anyway, Congressman Anna Eshoo from California joins us now.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. I have known you a lot time, a lot of respect for you. Tell us in detail if you can right now, how did you learn about this allegation?

REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: My constituent called my office and asked to meet with me. It was as simple as that. And so an appointment was set up. When I returned from Washington that week, I met with her with Dr. Ford, for an extended period of time, I think about an hour and a half. The first thing that I thought was important to tell her was that everything that she spoke about with me had complete privacy because these -- all of my constituents receive that, but I thought it was very important that she understand that.

She told me her story. I asked her many questions along the way. And I thought that it was important, Chris, to tell her that I was not there to tell her what to do, that she was there with me and that I would assist her in whatever her choice was. And so on the heels of that, I contacted senator Feinstein because she is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is where the issue is and where it lies. And about ten days after that, my constituent wrote a letter to senator Feinstein. We made sure that that letter was communicated the very day, the date of that letter.

I was struck by more than one thing. My constituent is the professor next door. She is soft-spoken, very intelligent, very concerned about her family, her privacy. But there was no question in my mind at the end of our meeting that she had endured a lot, and that she carried a lot of pain because of what she was subjected to.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe her?

ESHOO: I told her at the end of our conversation that I believed her.

MATTHEWS: And you do?

ESHOO: I do.

MATTHEWS: OK. Tell me about her passion, her feeling, if you can. Are you in a confidential relationship with her at this point? Can you tell us how this experience that she told about, all these years ago affected her life? And the part that grabbed me I think and a lot of people was struck by, it not just he went after in a sexual way, it`s not that he was drunk, whatever he was, but that he held his hand over her mouth so she couldn`t call for help. That really struck I think a lot of people we talked to today.

ESHOO: Well, there was no doubt in my mind when she shared the details of what had taken place -- and in detail, she had detailed memory of it -- that it was, it was still with her. She was still living with this.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ESHOO: And over the years she, she knew because his name was in the newspapers. That he was served in a Presidential administration. That his name was placed in nomination for a judgeship. And that, you know, the succeeding chapters were marked by the experience that she had with him. And it was very painful for her.

So I think that she`s tremendously courageous. It really takes courage to have courage. And I think that inside of her, she examined what it meant to remain private, and also what it would mean if she crossed over into the public square. And that takes a tremendous amount of courage and weighing the equities on both, I think that she decided obviously, in the last many hours, that she wanted to tell her story, the truth, to the American people, and not have it mischaracterized by anyone else.

MATTHEWS: Did she think it`s a matter of current character? Did she think that what he did to her, that she said he did to her those years ago reflect on who he is today? Did you get that from her?

ESHOO: I don`t think those are the words that she used. But she was deeply violated by what happened.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ESHOO: And like so many others that are subjected to sexual abuse, they end up feeling guilty themselves. They feel ashamed of what happened. They are afraid if anyone learns about it, what they will think of them. And that`s why I think the truth -- Chris, in a democracy, we are always seeking the truth. And so she`s courageous to tell the truth and that I should be honored, and she should be not only -- that truth should be honored by demonstrating respect for her as she moves forward to give her testimony.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think you are a great representative. Thank you. Stick around for a moment, congresswoman.

ESHOO: Thank you, Chris. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in former California Democratic senator Barbara Boxer. She is host of a podcast "Fight Back," it is called. Also Kasie Hunt, our colleague, Capitol Hill correspondent for the NBC News.

Barbara, Senator, thank you for joining us. Longtime senator.

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: One of the reasons I believe you were elected back in the `90s is Anita Hill and you are the woman and all that. I remembered it well. What do you feel about all this today looking back at your Senate experience and this case?

BOXER: Let me be clear. I wouldn`t have gotten to the Senate were it not for Anita Hill. I feel, you know, I would like to believe it was my winning personality. But people looked at the senate, they saw two women. The House has very few. No women on the Judiciary Committee.

And Chris, this is eerily, eerily just like what happened to Anita Hill. Even you have Chuck Grassley who was on the committee really being terrible to Anita Hill. And Orrin Hatch and others. And they are still there. The difference is Dianne Feinstein is the ranking member. Kamala Harris is on the committee. Mazie Hirono is on the committee. Amy Klobuchar. There is big difference because we now have a more representative Senate.

This woman is to be believed. Anna Eshoo is one of the most incredible people I know in this world. She has a heart of gold and she is sharp. She knows after sitting with that woman, you can believe Anna Eshoo, and you can believe Dr. Ford. This was attempted rape. And this is a woman who exhibits, Dr. Ford, courage, but the classic signs of posttraumatic stress.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me bring in Kasie Hunt, senator. You asked Senator Susan Collins if she believed Ford`s allegation. And here`s what senator had to say to you, Kasie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Having the opportunity to observe her, being questioned, read a transcript or a deposition and make that kind of assessment is so important. Obviously, if judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well certainly senator Orrin hatch of Utah, a member of judiciary as well was asked a similar question by NBC. Here`s what Hatch said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that any of these claims are legitimate?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: No, I don`t. I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up and -- but I can`t speak for her. All I can say is, no, I don`t. I know the, I know the judge very, very well. I know how honest he is. I know how straightforward he is. I know how he stands up for what he believes and what`s right. And frankly, if you were going to believe anybody, you would believe him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Kasie, you weren`t around during that period when Anita Hill was up. But I tell you, Hatch is talking the same way he was back then. Immediate presumption that the guy is telling the truth, the woman isn`t.

KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that`s right. Orrin Hatch was here back then, so as Pat Leahy who also sits on the judiciary. But I think Senator Boxer`s point that the committee is Senate changed on the Democratic side is a good one.

I also think that you saw a very quick evolution of thinking on this topic. And it evolved away from where senator Hatch started the day. And frankly where Mitch McConnell started this afternoon around 3:30. He went to the floor and said, you know, Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee, they are going to handle this and, you know, by the book. It is what he said. There`s no book for this first of all.

But second of all, you know, they were talking about doing background calls to fix this. It became very clear, very quickly over the course of the following hours that Republican -- members of the Republican conference -- and I`m going to name the three women in particular who you should be focused on here, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and I`m going to add Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia to that list. Because she actually came out tonight and said, we need public hearings. We need to hear from this woman and from judge Kavanaugh under oath in public.

And so this is just -- this tells you a lot about where this confirmation process is. And it is balanced on a knife`s edge right now here in the Senate. It really could go either way. And this public hearing promises a public spectacle unlike, in many ways, like nothing we have seen since that Anita Hill hearing 26 years ago. And it`s one that really could, you know, go either way. I mean, these public hearings are so unpredictable. And again, to go back to Senator Boxer`s point. Dr. Ford is going to be given a lot of opportunities to make her case, probably more than the opportunities that Anita Hill was given because there are going to be women on this committee that are very fired up about it.

And quite frankly, the optics are difficult for Republicans because they are going to have a panel of all men sitting on the other side. And there is going to be a lot of thought. This is why at 3:30 in the afternoon, Mitch McConnell wasn`t interested in having a hearing like this because there is a very real risk in this new culture that we living in in the Me Too world where frankly women voters, women candidates are so engaged. This was already the year of the woman. And you are going to throw this on the flames just a couple weeks before the midterm elections? It`s not a good look.

MATTHEWS: Senator Boxer, I just wonder, you have a memory I know of what as you said was what helped getting you elected to the Senate all those years ago, the Anita Hill. You do you sense of deja vu all over again here with Hatch?

BOXER: Unbelievable. Orrin Hatch says already he doesn`t believe Dr. Ford. A, he hasn`t met her. B, she took a lie detector test. Why isn`t he suggesting that judge Kavanaugh take a lie detector test? I mean, it is stunning that all those years later and Orrin Hatch is saying the same thing.

I want to make a point. After Anita Hill -- and it was a de debacle. There were three women waiting to come forward and corroborate her testimony. This cannot be a rush job. We are talking about attempted rape here. This is serious. This is serious stuff. Putting your hand over someone`s mouth, you don`t forget when that happens to you. And women all over this country and the men who love women and there`s a lot of men who really care, are going to be searching for the truth.

And here`s the deal. There is no rush. Do you know that the Republicans waited a full year before they filled that Judge Scalia vacancy? Now it`s been just a couple of months. Sit back, do your job, do it right. Let the truth come out. Let there be justice in this land.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Thank you very much, former senator Barbara Boxer of California.

Thank you, U.S. congresswoman Anna Eshoo. You are great.

And thank you, Kasie Hunt, my colleague.

By the way, this appointment for Supreme Court is for life. They can take their time.

Coming up, President Trump is reportedly playing off the Kavanaugh story, a conspiracy theory. Isn`t that wonderful, created by of course, the Democrats. But the reality is the President has another political disaster in his hands. I think he is facing catastrophe on this no matter what happens. If he gets confirmed, God help. How can he explain his presence to the Supreme Court?

Plus, what comes next now that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. He is telling them all.

And how is the drama over Kavanaugh`s nomination? How is that going to affect the Midterms comeback can happen just 50 days, 5-0 days.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is somebody very special. At the same time, we want to go through a process. We want to make sure everything is perfect, everything is just right.

I wish the Democrats could have done this a lot sooner, because they had this information for many months. And they shouldn`t have waited until literally the last days. They should have done it a lot sooner.

But with all of that being said, we want to go through the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. .

That was President Trump, of course, in his first public comments on the allegations of sexual assault that threatens to derail the nomination of his Supreme Court pick, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump is standing by his nominee so far. He said it was ridiculous whether Kavanaugh would withdraw his nomination when he was asked about that by a reporter.

Kavanaugh spent hours at the White House today. But an official told NBC News they did not include a meeting with the president. So they`re keeping him away. And a source close to the process told NBC News that White House counsel Don McGahn wants Kavanaugh to fight.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reports that the president has told those close to him in recent days that he believes there`s a conspiracy or organized effort by Democrats to smear Kavanaugh and try to derail the nomination of a -- quote -- "good man."

And Bloomberg is reporting that, according to one White House official, the train -- the Trump team plans to try to discredit the charges for surfacing late in the confirmation process and to question the credibility of the accuser because she didn`t tell anybody about the incident when it happened.

For more, I`m joined by Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer for "The Washington Post," and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour."

Jennifer and Yamiche, my question is this. I`m going to end with it tonight.

It`s one thing to cover up something that you`re embarrassed by or you tried to forget or maybe successfully forget, or if it didn`t happen. OK, that`s always a possibility. But for a president to stick by a nomination that he now believes may well be true -- a problem about may well be true, a serious problem, a serious problem of this nomination, how do you explain Trump sticking with this thing, if he does, knowing now that this woman is going to testify under oath, she`s already passed a lie detector, she told her husband six years ago, she told people in family therapy six years ago?

Why would she ever make up a story like that if it wasn`t true? Your thoughts, Jennifer? And if it is true, why would Trump stick with this nomination?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Trump always denies it. He always discredits women.

Listen, this is a guy who is already an unindicted co-conspirator, thanks to Michael Cohen`s testimony in open court. He has always disparaged women. He stuck by Rob Porter, said he was a fine guy, almost exactly in the same terms. So why would he do any differently?

And, frankly, I think his notion that the Republicans are going to get up there and do what they did with Anita Hill is in fantasyland. I mean, at this point...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I thought.

It`s not just you`re thinking -- you`re not just saying he doesn`t believe women. He has to face the political reality -- reality. Is incapable -- Bob Woodward says in his book he`s incapable of facing reality.

The reality, as I see it right now, probably this nomination is cooked, and he doesn`t -- is he willing to accept that when the time comes and withdraw it or not? Does he have that ability to face reality?

RUBIN: Yes, he doesn`t believe it. He believes he`s just going to muscle through, like he always does.

I think, when those senators get in front of her and she in front of them, and we see that she`s a sane, stable, credible person, then I think perhaps we will see some change.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think, Yamiche, the question is on the table. Can the president accept reality?

If it comes out that she`s credible, if it comes out that his party and the country believes she`s credible, and believe that Brett Kavanaugh, for whatever reason, is denying it, memory loss, wants to deny it, saves his own skin, why would Trump not just say, OK, I`m going to throw it in, I`m not going to get any hurt, I`m not going to hurt my party over this, I`m going to drop this guy?

Why would he continue with it if he`s facing reality? I don`t get it.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": I think there are a couple of things at play.

The first is that President Trump himself stands accused of sexually abusing women, and that he was able to overcome that. He was able to go ahead and win the nomination and win the presidency with women, countless women telling "The New York Times" and other publications that this president assaulted them.

Add to that the fact that President Trump doesn`t like to admit when -- a failure. He wants this to be a success. Evangelical Christians voted for the president because they said he can get a Supreme Court nominee through. And if he fails at that, it really, really hurts him politically.

And I also think Brett Kavanaugh is telling people at the White House over and over again that he denied this. And, as a result, the White House sources that I have talked to...

MATTHEWS: Well, he would, wouldn`t he?

ALCINDOR: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, he would say that. Of course he would.

ALCINDOR: This is completely true.

But the White House sources I have talked to you said that they feel as though this nomination is still on track and they can still get him through, because of -- partly because of President Trump`s success.

MATTHEWS: I think, Jennifer, that the president is not facing reality here. The issue isn`t how the Democrats released this information why they held it so long, because the woman asked to be -- remain anonymous and all that. That`s irrelevant. It`s not a sporting event.

It`s not about breaking the rules in a sporting event and getting fouled. It`s about the simple question: Should this guy sit on the Supreme Court, alongside Clarence Thomas and the rest of them? Should he be on the United States Supreme Court?

I don`t think most Republican senators are going to say yes. I don`t think they will in the end. They don`t want to ruin their careers.

Your thoughts?

RUBIN: Well, I think there`s two things.

MATTHEWS: Orrin Hatch. Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, OK, they`re old- school, or whatever you want to call it, yesterday, hopeless.

But I don`t think the newer members want to ruin their whole careers by having a yea next to this nomination. Do you?

RUBIN: I think -- no, I think they`re going to have a lot more trouble than they have bargained for.

And I think there are two things. One, you saw today how they completely flipped -- 24 hours ago, they were not going to stop and -- they were going to go forward and have that vote on Thursday. That`s changed, precisely because you have senators like Flake and like Bob Corker coming forward.

And the second thing is, you`re right. As soon as this woman gets up there, is a real person -- you will notice Kavanaugh simply refers to as the accuser -- but a real person before them who is presenting her story in a credible, emotional fashion, I don`t know if the Republicans are going to have the nerve to beat up on her the way they beat up on Anita Hill.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, I`m glad we have mostly women on tonight. I think young women have experienced this kind of thing with guys who have been drinking. I think they know this guy got -- to say out of hand is ridiculous -- worse than out of hand.

He got criminal, apparently, from -- if you listen to the testimony of her so far. I`m going to -- I`m going to go along with Jennifer. I think when you see this person TV, a human being saying something that she remembers with tremendous tragedy in her voice, and then another guy coming along and saying, I don`t remember nothing, it never happened, I was never there, who are you going to believe?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The guy -- the one who can remember what happened, not the one who can`t. Your thoughts.

ALCINDOR: I think, based on my reporting, the White House is being cautious for a reason.

President Trump, while he`s still sticking by him, is being very reserved. He`s not attacking this woman on Twitter. He`s not going on rants after the Democrats, talking about the timing. He`s saying, I want to hear more about this.

And that`s a lot from a president who sometimes goes off on Twitter. And I`m told it because White House aides have met with the president over and over again and said, please be cautious, please be reserved.

And the fact that Brett Kavanaugh was here at the White House with me and all these reporters waiting to talk to him and get a question in, and that he wasn`t -- he did not meet with President Trump, tells me that this White House at least senses...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s that about?

Yamiche, what is that about? Why did the people in the White House and the president decide not to get him in the same room with Brett Kavanaugh with this hanging on him? Why? What was the strategy there?

ALCINDOR: I think the strategy is that there that -- that they`re playing it cautious.

The fact that they were literally feet away from each other and not put in the same room is because they`re trying to protect the president and keep the president being reserved. And I think they sense that they have a problem here.

Even if publicly they`re saying that this nomination is on track, I think that they a sense that there`s a problem here, and that he might possibly have to withdraw.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.

Jennifer Rubin, thank you.

Yamiche Alcindor, I think you`re dead right. He wants to keep a door open to get rid of this guy.

Up next: With Manafort and Cohen cutting deals with Mueller`s investigators, who will be next to flip and what will it mean for the president?

They`re all flipping, Mr. President.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: This sends a message to anyone who is in Bob Mueller`s crosshairs right now. You better get to the special counsel and make your deal down, because anyone who gets indicted by Bob Mueller goes down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on Intelligence, reacting to the news that Paul Manafort has caved to the pressure and will cooperate in full with investigators in the Russia probe.

Under the broad terms of the agreement, Manafort must divulge everything he knows about potential Russian collusion, including any new details about that infamous June 2016 campaign meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.

Manafort is now the fifth Trump campaign associate to cooperate with the special counsel after pleading guilty to criminal charges. And late today, in an apparent act of retaliation for all this, Trump used his presidential powers to immediately declassify documents relating to the investigation, including select pages from a surveillance warrant of former campaign adviser Carter Page.

Furthermore, the president has directed the Department of Justice to publicly release all text messages related to the Russia investigation without redaction of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.

A former senior intelligence official tells NBC News there is a real concern that this is a misuse of intelligence for partisan reasons.

I`m joined now by former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance.

I think the present will do whatever it takes to save his skin. And I question. But there`s one thing I think he`s sure to do. Joyce, I believe he will pardon his kids. He has to. And the fact that Manafort is now cooperating and knows all about the Trump Tower relationship, and he knows about Donald Jr. being there in that meeting with the Russians, and knows about Jared, his son-in-law, being there, does this force the story to the end, the endgame, where Trump to protect himself is going to have to pardon his kids?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It looks like we`re rapidly heading towards an endgame, Chris.

Manafort is sort of like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for prosecutors. No one really thought that he would end up cooperating with Mueller. We still don`t know what led that to happen.

But one important piece of information was revealed in court when prosecutor Andrew Weissmann indicated that one of the reasons that they were entering this cooperation agreement was because they had had the opportunity to debrief Manafort, and they actually had three days where they were able to talk to him.

Prosecutors don`t usually conclude a plea deal and figure, we will we will work this out as we go along. We will see what this defendant has to offer after he`s cooperated and pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors know up front what they`re getting. In this case, it looks like they really are getting very high-value intelligence information. And, as you say, it could easily lead to the president`s kids.

MATTHEWS: And what do you make of this thing about retaliation, where he`s declassified all these -- I mean, it sounds like we did -- went through this three or four weeks ago, when the word get out that Trump was going to try to destroy the prosecution by releasing all their information.

VANCE: We don`t know for a fact that this is specific retaliation for Manafort.

But it`s clearly an effort to undermine Mueller and to undercut the investigation`s credibility. It is also unprecedented. It is dangerous to release this FISA-related information. It could reveal methods and sources. It could put people who are currently helping our government out in danger.

It could make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to get cooperation that the intelligence services could use in the future to keep Americans safe from harm. So, very dangerous to compromise the FISA process.

It`s equally unprecedented to reveal information and evidence during an ongoing criminal investigation. Carter Page is still likely a subject or a target of this investigation. Bruce Ohr`s notes about the Russia investigation are ongoing information that is being used.

The president is deliberately compromising this investigation, trying to undercut Mueller, trying perhaps to save his own skin, but certainly not putting the best interests of the American people first.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s a domino situation, now that Manafort has come down, that anybody now is getting the message, don`t mess with Mueller, plead, make your best deal, give him all you got, break with Trump?

VANCE: Manafort is sort of an octopus here. We don`t really know how many tentacles he has. We have some suspicion.

We know certainly he can talk about the Trump Tower meeting, where he was a participant.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

VANCE: He can talk about the Republican Convention and changes to the party platform.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

VANCE: But what else can he talk about? Are there foreign dealings? Is there money laundering? Who is at risk? We don`t know.

Certainly, people who`ve had transactions with him that are on the criminal side of the spectrum should be very frightened right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it might put the president directly into collusion with the Russians over the -- over the Trump Tower meeting. He may have known of it ahead of time. And this guy knows it. Manafort knows it.

He also could know all about why there were so many Russians floating around at the Republican Convention in Cleveland. Why did that become a Russia event? And what did Trump know about that?

Thank you so much, Joyce Vance, for that.

Up next: To what extent would putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court motivate Democratic and Republican voters this November? I would think a lot. If this guy is still pending as a nominee, you`re going to see a lot of anger on both sides -- well, not anger, but passion.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: This is extraordinarily unfair to Judge Kavanaugh. This is an allegation that`s 35-plus years old and now you`re going to attempt to try to deal with that in a very truncated period of time.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: To my opinion, most Americans are looking at this, most mainstream Americans and they`re thinking that Congress has hit rock bottom and started to dig.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up. I know the judge very, very well. I know how honest he is. I know how straightforward he is. I know how he stands up for what he believes and what`s right. And frankly, if you were going to believe anybody, you`d believe him.

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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the White House and Republican leadership are lined up in support behind Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced tonight they will hold a public hearing with both Kavanaugh and the accuser Christine Blasey Ford, Dr. Ford, next week. I think it`s Monday.

And this comes as senators on both sides of the aisle have raised concern that Thursday`s vote which was going to happen as it should be delayed, until the allegation against Kavanaugh is further investigated. Well, obviously. With less than two months by the way until the midterm elections, how Republicans handle this could have a significant impact, don`t you think, on the election?

Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable Michael Steele, of course, former RNC chair and MSNBC analyst, Adrienne Elrod, former director of strategic communications for Hillary for America, and Jonathan Allen, national political reporter for NBC News.

I want to go to Adrienne on this.

Adrienne, how do you look at this? I think the Republicans -- maybe I`m just projecting where I think it`s going. I think based upon what we`ve heard from Anna Eshoo who I think is great, and her recounting of what her meeting for an hour and a half was like with the accuser, with Dr. Ford.

You don`t want to be on the side of Kavanaugh of next Monday`s TV performance. He`ll be saying I don`t remember nothing. I don`t remember nothing. I wasn`t there, I don`t know what she`s talking about. I never met her, blah, blah, blah.

And this doctor is going to come on, this PhD, is going to come on and in detail describe what happened. I don`t think it`s a fair fight. I think she`s going to make the case.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, this is a bad scenario for Republicans in general. I mean, first of all, if you`re Mitch McConnell, there is no easy answer here going forward. On the one hand, you`ve got her testifying in front of a committee which, by the way, the Judiciary Committee, every single Republican on there is a white man. So, going in front of that committee and trying to, you know, and showing that I have every reason to believe she`s going to show she`s a credible witness and that her story is very credible, that looks bad for the Republican Party in general.

And then, of course, going forward, what do you do if she comes off as credible, if Republicans decide they think Kavanaugh comes off as credible, what does Mitch McConnell do, does he allow this to go forward? Or, you know, either way, you are not placating to white suburban women --

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Adrienne. I agree with you completely.

Let me go -- let me go to Michael on this. Michael, if you`re a Republican and you like the job as senator, do you want to vote for this guy or you`d rather avoid -- you`d like the president to pull this baby as fast as possible? Your thoughts.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: First off, you want this vote like three weeks ago at this point. So, that`s that.

But you`re right, I think they want -- they are probably looking for ways to avoid this and I believe that it at least is beginning to be considered and discussed in some circles at least how they withdraw this nomination, which opens up a door that the party leadership does not want to have go through come the fall.

So, this is a no win scenario for them. If she comes off as really credible before the country, he largely doesn`t remember what happened, there is the problem there. And then it becomes a matter of, do you go through with this nomination and push a vote, in which case everybody now is going to be on the hook, which I think puts the Senate in play in a way that people aren`t calculating right now.

Or do you pull this nomination and start over, which then again opens up the door, Chris, where there is no confirmed nominee. The base is ticked off. Democrats seize an opportunity, and you`re a whole different space.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, you`ve got Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court for life. If you put this guy and you have two guys with this problem, both Republicans, that`s two out of nine. I mean, it reminds me of the situation election six years ago when you wonder, which is the rape candidate, was it Murdoch or was it Aiken? I mean, this is not good politics if they win. I don`t see the win here for the Republicans.

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS DIGITAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think you`re right, Chris, in that the Kavanaugh nomination is now so damaged, you talk about that area of the electorate where Republicans are suffering the most right now. And it`s suburban white women. This is not going to play well with them whether or not Brett Kavanaugh gets this confirmation.

And in addition to that, you know, Senator John Cornyn earlier this year told a Koch network donor conference that he wouldn`t mind if this nomination slipped a little past October 1st. The idea being it would be good for Republicans if this was held closer to Election Day. It would motivate their base.

But, you know, sometimes you should be careful what you wish for because this is getting pushed back further --

MATTHEWS: I don`t think so. I don`t think you want this at the top of the question for the people. Anyway --

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ELROD: No.

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, there are new polls -- I have to go to the new polls. New polls in our HARDBALL 10, these are top 10 races in the election for Senate this years, deciding who controls the Senate come next January. According to CBS News poll out right now, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill of Missouri is tied with Josh Hawley in Missouri, tied. And Democratic incumbent Jon Tester is up by just two points against Matt Rosendale out in Montana, only two points, and he`s the incumbent.

The Democrats get a boost however from a new CNN poll in the two key states they`re hoping to pickup in Tennessee, Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former governor, is leading Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn by five points. In Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is leading by seven points against Congresswoman Martha McSally.

Let me go to Adrienne on that and start with you. I`ll tell you, it`s tough to pick up the Senate because either win four and lose three, or you win three and you lose on. I mean, it`s very hard and there`s only really four potential pick ups. And then you have to win with Beto O`Rourke. Of course, if Beto O`Rourke wins, anything is possible.

Your thoughts? Can they still win the Senate, the Democrats?

ELROD: First of all, I actually think that the events that transpired in the last 48 hours, I think Democrats are going to win the Senate. Secondly, it`s also important to keep in mind, Chris, and, of course these polls were conducted before Dr. Ford came out. And, of course, before the spectacle that`s going to take place next week.

So, I think Democrats are very well-positioned. I wouldn`t have said this two or three months ago, but when you look race at this races race by race, individual candidate by individual candidate, and, of course, you couple that with the polls, Democrats are very, very well-placed. I would much rather be a Democrat, which I am, than a Republican at this stage of the game right now in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Jon, where are you on this? I think it`s still tough to win the Senate. I think they`ll win the House. The Senate you`ve got to win four, lose one -- or lose two, win three and lose one. They`ve got to pick up two seats and it`s very hard.

Your thoughts?

ALLEN: I agree, Chris, it remains extremely hard for Democrats to win. You`ve got the same two basic forces opposing each other you`ve had all along, which is you`ve got a Democratic enthusiasm, maybe a wave building. On the other side, these races are in heavily Republican states.

Look at the way Missouri has been voting, I think 16 points for Trump, Montana even larger than that, a victory for Trump. So the fact that these races are close is good news for the Democrats running in them. And at the same time, they`d like to be able to see some separation.

One thing in that Arizona poll, they just had a tough Republican primary there. I bet that closes a little bit before Election Day.

MATTHEWS: So, McSally is going to pick up points. Let me ask you about that. Michael, do you see a chance for the Democrats to win the Senate?

STEELE: I do. I think there is a pathway there. A number of us have been talking about this for a while now, that, you know, everything is on the table in this election. This is a lot more like 2006 that I think people realize in terms of how voters are processing how they feel and the president for good or bad is at the tip of that spear. So that`s what`s going to drive the number.

Now, you layer on top of this the mess that is now becoming the Kavanaugh nomination, that`s going to animate the base on both sides. Now, the question really becomes, are those Democrats seen the potential to hold off a Republican nominee on the Supreme Court from getting on the bench as a big animator or big Republican base that says, we`ve got to protect Kavanaugh, what draws them out is going to be what ultimately wins this election.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you one thing it does, protects Heitkamp and Donnelly and Manchin from having to vote for the nominee.

STEELE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have to vote for this nominee any more. They are protected from that by common sense.

STEELE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, Adrienne Elrod and Jonathan Allen. Great panel.

HARDBALL back after this.

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MATTHEWS: We got a couple exciting programming notes for HARDBALL this week. Tomorrow, two big interviews on the show. Filmmaker Michael Moore and author Bob Woodward both our guests tomorrow night here on Tuesday here on HARDBALL. On Friday night this week, I`ll be out in South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame with Senator Joe Donnelly of South Bend, Indiana. We`re going to talk about that. The senator is in a tough rematch, reelection. He`s one of the key, by the way, senators likely to decide the fate of Brett Kavanaugh`s Supreme Court nomination.

And we`ll be right back.

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MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Monday, September 17, 2018.

The Kavanaugh nomination is now about Donald Trump. The man who nominated Kavanaugh will ultimately have to renominate him if, after we hear testimony from the accuser and testimony from Kavanaugh, the president will need to say whether he still wants him on the Supreme Court. It comes down to whether this president is willing to accept facts or not.

There is no way Trump would have picked Kavanaugh, let`s be honest, for the Supreme Court with this hanging over him, no way he can realistically or morally stick with this nomination given what Christine Ford has now said. When she told her husband a half dozen years ago, which she passed a lie detector testifying to. It will come down to the two questions about Trump raised by Bob Woodward`s book, can Trump recognize reality? Can he tell the truth when he does recognize reality?

Woodward quotes the advice Trump gave a friend who had confessed a bad behavior toward women. Quote, this is from Trump. You`ve got to deny, deny, deny, and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you`re dead. You`ve got to be aggressive. You`ve got to push back hard.

I repeat, the issue here now is Donald Trump. If he sticks with Kavanaugh, if he sticks to this nomination, he`s doing so with full knowledge that there is a person out there, Christine Ford, who says his Supreme Court nominee put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming, of desperately yelling out the ugly truth of what was being done to her at the time. If Donald Trump sticks to this nomination, he with all his power and prestige as president of the United States, he`ll be doing the same thing, putting his hand over her mouth.

It`s still up in the air, of course. But Donald Trump will have the opportunity next week to hear the case against his nominee. If the case is sound, he, the president, will have to budge off his position supporting Kavanaugh. He`ll have to admit that the nomination cannot be justified. Knowing Trump, that will not be easy nor is it something we can safely expect him to do.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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