Show: HARDBALL Date: September 21, 2018 Guest: Sam Stein, Annie Karni, David Jolly, Jeremy Peters, Ayesha Rascoe, Samantha Guerry
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Lighting the fuse. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, we are awaiting word from lawyers representing Christine Blasey Ford on whether or not she will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. The Senate Republican chairman of the committee has said a deadline of 10:00 p.m. tonight for her lawyers to respond and said the committee will vote on this confirmation on Monday if Ford`s lawyers do not meet the deadline or if she decides not to testify. So we could be having a vote this Monday. We are going get to that next with a friend of Dr. Ford`s who is a fellow student at Holton-Arms School.
But first, the other breaking story is that the fuse has been lit, I believe, for a Saturday night massacre. For over a year now President Trump has been dying for a way to get rid of special counsel Robert Mueller, and now it looks like he may have found that fuse. That`s because the only man with the ultimate authority over the Mueller probe is once again in Trump`s crosshairs.
The "New York Times" reported today what the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump, secretly record him in the White House to expose the chaos consuming his administration. And he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.
Rosenstein`s remarks came in a meeting with justice department and FBI officials just one week after the President`s firing of James Comey. The account of what happened is attributed to people briefed on the meeting as well as people familiar with the content of memos documenting Rosenstein`s comments.
However, other sources familiar with that conversation tell a different story to MSNBC News, saying that Rosenstein`s remarks were not meant seriously. One senior justice official who was in the room for the meeting said this statement was sarcastic and was never discussed with any intention of recording a conversation with the President, yet "the New York Times" further notes that Rosenstein also discussed recording the President, recording the President in the oval office on other occasion, at least one other occasion.
In a statement earlier today, Rosenstein called the report inaccurate and factually incorrect, adding that it`s based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department. And he said, this is Rosenstein, based on my personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th amendment.
Whatever Rosenstein`s intent, the dispute over what was said or how it was said is not likely to deter this President if he is intent on cleaning house at the justice department.
I`m joined right now is the author of that story, Michael Schmidt of the "New York Times." Barry Grissom, a former U.S. attorney who worked with Rosenstein and Joy Ainsley is a national security and justice reporter for NBC News.
This is explosive stuff, Michael. And I can only believe that if Trump knows which he already knows now from this report that Rosenstein was talking about going to invoke the 25th amendment, that he was talking about wiring himself on two occasions to go in and see the President, and basically taught the President that he is on his way out.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, that is what remains to be seen. Is the President going to look at this and say fake news because he is very concerned about the 25th amendment?
This is a big issue for him. He does not like that. A lot of pushback from the White House on that, trying to get us to not write about that. Is he just simply going to lump all this in with the same basket and say look, this is just a big fake story. I don`t care about it. Or is he going to have a larger issue with Rosenstein.
We know the President is already considering even before the story came out finding new leadership at the top of the justice department. He is going to wait until after the midterm elections to put someone else in. This is something he has wanted to do since the beginning of his presidency, since attorney general Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.
So here we are now. The President maybe has some ammunition. Maybe he doesn`t, you know. It remains to be seen. We have not heard from him yet. He`s had several public appearances today.
MATTHEWS: Julia, the President, rather, the justice department has sweeping discretion as the what to prosecute. Why wouldn`t the President use this as an opportunity within a couple of weeks to simply say you know what? I`m getting rid of Sessions who I don`t think anything of. I`m going get rid of Rosenstein. I`m going find a way to plumber my way, figure out the right plumbing system that gets me to the special counsel Robert Mueller and quash this damn thing, because I don`t want my sons, I don`t want my son-in-law, I don`t want my daughter prosecuted, I don`t want my son prosecuted. The fastest way to do that is to get rid of the team that seems intent on prosecuting me -- Julia.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That`s exactly right, Chris. And this article could be handing an exactly the ammunition that he would need to carry out that kind of Saturday night massacre that you are describing, especially when you put in the context that the fact that his personal lawyer is now cooperating with Mueller`s team. And Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager has flipped and is now cooperating as well.
There a lot of pressure on him right now, which is putting pressure on the justice department. But, Chris, if you look at the calendar, we are just a little more than a month out from 2018 midterms. And it`s sort of been an assumption for some time that the President would wait until after the 2018 midterms to fire Jeff Sessions and the potentially Rod Rosenstein as well, that he didn`t want this at this time it would be hard to get somebody confirmed in this kind of environment the take that place.
As we know, the number three right now is in an acting position. So you would have to fall way down the totem pole to the solicitor general. You would really have a justice department weakened at the knees if he decided to fire these people overnight.
MATTHEWS: Well, the President`s son speaking of him, Donald Trump Jr., is already fanning the flames today after this report came out, tweeting, shocked, absolutely shocked! Who are we kidding at this point? No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine Donald Trump.
He is talking about the justice department. He is talking about Rod Rosenstein. And late tonight, "the Daily Beast" reported that current and former administration officials said that they fully expected President Trump to dismiss staff inside the justice department. Less clear was how many people will get the ax and when exactly it will fall.
Barry, give us a sense of this, because Trump talks about the power of the President under the second article, article two of the constitution as sweeping, that he is the chief law enforcement official of the law, that he is in charge of all executive authority in this country, the President. That`s his interpretation of things. Why wouldn`t he act in accord with that and just take over this prosecution?
BARRY GRISSOM, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, sadly, I think this is one more example that the President doesn`t understand the constitution fully. The justice department is not his law firm. The attorney general is not his personal lawyer. And it seems that for months, when he talks about not having his attorney general and how sad it is, it`s not his attorney general. It`s the attorney general that represents the interests of the United States.
You know, going back to Rod for a second, and I think this is something people need to understand. I know in "The New York Times" article they made reference to it.
Rod is a career guy. He has been there since 1990. He served as U.S. attorney in Maryland for 12 years. He was appointed by George W. Bush. He was asked to stay over by President Obama. And I can tell you during the time I served with rod as a U.S. attorney, I can never recall him talking about politics at all. But what I can tell you about Rod is he has a very dry sense of humor.
GRISSOM: And when I read that, there was someone who said they saw him say this in a sarcastic way, I tend to believe that.
MATTHEWS: Well, as the only person with authority over this special counsel`s probe, Rosenstein has long been a target for this President and his allies. Just last night, amid chants of "lock her up," President Trump rallied his supporters against his own justice department. So this is the thing I`m talking about. Let`s watch Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up!
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How is our justice department doing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last April the President went after Rosenstein by name, tweeting that Mueller is most conflicted of all except Rosenstein, who signed FISA and Comey letter. Trump`s allies on the hill went as far as drafting articles of impeachment against Rosenstein that month.
NBC reported that Rosenstein even told confidantes during that time that he was prepared to be fired.
Michael, you are the reporter. You wrote the report that will be out in the paper tomorrow morning again that looks to me like the fuse has been lit. I looked - we are all students of Trump. This news gives him an interpretive power. He can say you know what? This is another Strzok case, another guy like that FBI agent. More evidence of the deep state animus toward me. These are all a bunch of lefties. I don`t care what Rosenstein, says whether he is not a Democrat. He is a Democrat.
SCHMIDT: He is from Baltimore there are no Republicans from Baltimore.
MATTHEWS: That`s an argument in terms of statistics perhaps, but not reality here.
SCHMIDT: You know, the President is very conspiratorial minded, you know. He talks a lot about John Dean and Richard Nixon, what that relationship was about. He told Comey you better hope there is not tapes. He used to record his conversations before. He thought Trump tower was wiretapped during the campaign by President Obama. So this fits right into that narrative, the idea that there are folks out to get him.
SCHMIDT: And there is something.
MATTHEWS: From day one. This happened way in the beginning of the administration last year. And my question is, technically, who would rather Rosenstein take his wire -- if he taped his meetings in the President`s office in the White House, who would he give them to? Would he use them as part of a 25th effort to say this guy is not fit?
SCHMIDT: It happened in a very, very particular point in the chaotic first few months. This is the eight days between when Comey was fired and Mueller is appointed. Rosenstein is thrust on to the national stage. He has never had such exposure like this. He is getting crushed for his role in helping get Comey fired. He is trying to vindicate himself, telling people he will ultimately be vindicated when everything comes out. And he is throwing around lot of different ideas. This is what we are trying to show. These are the extreme measures --
MATTHEWS: But two times you report he talked about wiretapping the President.
MATTHEWS: Two times he did this.
SCHMIDT: And the pushback from the justice department and some other outlets have sort of latched on so is the idea that this was a sarcastic comment. Well, he brought it up twice, and he was asked are you serious about this? And he said he was. So I understand why Rosenstein may feel the need to go out and say it`s sarcastic, but that`s not what we found.
MATTHEWS: Julia, nut together in terms of where we are headed. I mean, we all expect that a report from Mueller at some point maybe by the end of the year, I don`t know, on obstruction of justice, and now we don`t know when that`s coming or what`s coming. But this President, I don`t think he is going to sit here and wait for the ticking time bomb and just month after month after month watch his presidency be jeopardized by this report if he can do something about it which is clean house.
AINSLEY: It`s interesting, Chris, because he has taken a long time to do anything about it yet. I heard someone say earlier that this President, for all of his bluster, actually tolerates a lot of insubordination, particularly from this justice department.
AINSLEY: If these things that they are saying actually were said how could he stand to have people like that working under him? But the question is does he want to risk political capital to fire them now? And when you bring up the timing of that report, it seems a lot of people think that anything that touches the President very closely or his family or his organization could actually be in violation of a norm at the justice department that you don`t put out any kind of public indictment or other public announcement in an investigation that could influence an election coming so close to the midterms.
And I understand there could even be a conflict for Rod Rosenstein over that if you think about it. That`s exactly the basis he used for firing Jim Comey. With the Comey announced that reopening of the Hillary Clinton investigation too close to the 2016 presidential election. So he of all people would be put between a rock and a hard place if Mueller came to him with the need to go forward with an indictment very close to these midterms.
Another thing I want to point out that Michael rightfully notices and puts out in his reporting is this is at a very key time for Rod Rosenstein. And people who I have talked to today who talked to Rod Rosenstein around that point say that this is a very kind of erratic time for him. He wanted to be vindicated, not just by people who are criticizing him outside, but people within the justice department who knew Jim Comey and thought that he made the wrong decision. So it would make sense that he would say something like what do you want the do, Andy? Should I wear a wire? He wanted to be vindicated, and he would have been in a place of kind of using that sarcasm in a cutthroat way.
MATTHEWS: I think the fuse has been lit, as I said. We are going see if we have a Saturday night massacre sometime in November. I do believe it will be after the election.
Thank you Michael Schmidt and Barry Grissom and Julia Ainsley.
Coming up, Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee gave Brett Kavanaugh`s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, a deadline of tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern, agree to testify or they are going to call a vote on the nomination confirmation this Monday without her testimony. This is HARDBALL time for that committee.
Plus, one of Ford`s friends joins me to talk about how the Kavanaugh care is faring under national scrutiny, including the President`s latest twitter attack on her.
And speaking of, it`s not the first time the President attacked a woman who accused a man of be bad behavior. We have got the tapes.
Finally, let me finish tonight with some good news.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Vice President Joe Biden was on "the Today Show" this morning and spoke about Anita Hill and Kavanaugh`s accuser Dr. Ford. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anita Hill was vilified when she came forward by a lot of my colleagues, character assassination. I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions, the way they asked them. I hope my colleagues learned from that, learned from that. She deserves to be treated with dignity. It takes enormous courage future a woman to come forward, and the bright lights of millions of people watching and relive something that happened to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the former vice President was also asked about 2020, whether he is going to run or not, but deflected the question. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We have got to stop this degradation of the system that`s going on. That`s why I`m campaigning all over the country. I`m campaigning for candidates because we have to build a berm out there. We are going win back the United States House of Representatives, I promise you. And I predict we`ll win back the Senate too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After a week of holding back, Donald Trump has now publicly undermining Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both teenagers in the `80s, a claim Kavanaugh has denied again and again.
Well, the President tweeted today, I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents.
Well, the President`s claim runs contrary to the fact that most sexual assault victims do not report the incidents.
The President also tweeted, Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man with an impeccable reputation that is under assault by radical left wing politicians. Well, it was a line of attack he previewed last night during an interview with Sean Hannity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why didn`t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago? I mean, you could also say when did this all happen? What`s going on? To take a man like this and besmirch. Now, with that being said, let her have her say and let`s see how it all works out. But I don`t think you can delay it any longer. They have delayed it a week already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, a Republican close to the confirmation process told "Politico" that Trump`s tweet was a necessary shift of tone to put the White House back on offense.
Susan Collins, a key Republican senator from Maine told reporters that she was appalled by the comments by the President. Let`s listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I was appalled by the president`s tweet.
First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault -- I`m not saying that`s what happened in this case, but we know that allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So, I thought that the president`s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Against this backdrop, negotiations with Dr. Ford continue.
Republicans have accepted her request to limit media access to the hearing and have said that they will make sure that Kavanaugh is not in the same room as her.
What remains unclear is if she will accept the Republicans` counteroffer. Her lawyers have until 10:00 tonight. If she fails to do so or refuse to appear, the committee has scheduled a procedural vote on Kavanaugh`s nomination for Monday.
For more, I`m joined right now by Annie Karni, White House reporter for Politico, and Geoff Bennett, White House correspondent for NBC News. The former Republican Congressman Dave Jolly also joining us from Florida.
Geoff, what do you make of this back and forth, these latest dealings?
GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Because they`re saying, the Republicans, if they don`t respond by 10:00 tonight...
MATTHEWS: ... they`re going to vote on Monday, basically.
BENNETT: It`s a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
And, look, they have already blown past one deadline, which was 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Now they`re saying 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And the Republican counteroffer at this point is to have this hearing on Wednesday, to bring in outside counsel, we understand, that would question Dr. Ford alongside some of the other Republican senators.
But you saw there they agreed to -- agree to meet her demands for security and things like that. But people close to Dr. Ford make the point that this is really a job interview for Brett Kavanaugh. It`s not an interrogation or a trial for Dr. Ford. So, they`re really trying to limit that sort of aspect of it.
MATTHEWS: How about the gaming from the other side, from Dr. Ford? There is a lot of gamesmanship. She said she wants to have him speaking first and her speaking second, which doesn`t make any sense in a criminal kind of situation, because you have to make the accusations and then defend them.
ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: Right.
MATTHEWS: That she wants to have the committee members who look oafish and ogre-ish do the questioning. She doesn`t want some hotshot woman lawyer coming in there and looking and cool and brilliant and tear her apart.
There is a lot of gamesmanship back and forth here.
KARNI: Right. And there is a lot of gamesmanship...
MATTHEWS: You pointed out that Ricki Seidman has been brought in, one of the sharpest minds in the Democratic world.
KARNI: She is advising her now.
She is a longtime Democratic operative. She worked for Ted Kennedy. She was the first person that Anita Hill came to with her allegations against Clarence Thomas. She worked for Obama. She worked for the Clinton White House. She is now advising Dr. Ford.
The thing that I understand, though, is that they haven`t been doing mock hearings or anything.
MATTHEWS: What is their prep?
KARNI: Nothing right now. She is not there yet, as far as I understand it
She -- and she has this one adviser. She has her lawyer. She has a very small team around her. And part of the reason for that is Democrats have been very careful not to further politicize this. They don`t want to bog her down with Democratic activists and tie her to activists in the MeToo movement or Democratic progressives.
She didn`t come to this through politics, they say. They want to make sure it...
MATTHEWS: But how do you -- how does she prepare for the shots that will be made against her?
MATTHEWS: People will say, what time of night was it? Can you tell me what day of the week it was? Can you tell on what block this occurred/
I can see adversarial questioning, Geoff, that will just be brutal.
BENNETT: And you already got some of that telegraphed by the president himself with that tweet saying, well, why didn`t she make this known at the time?
MATTHEWS: Well, she wouldn`t have gone to the FBI at the time. And her parents aren`t going to call the cops. Come on. The president is out to lunch on this. We know that. But I think this lawyer -- if they bring in a hotshot lawyer in here, they will know exactly how to carve her.
KARNI: She is not used to the public spotlight. She is not used to Washington politics.
She is -- from what I understand, she is not yet at all ready for this kind of grilling that she is going to be walking into, which is part of the delay, which is part of the back and forth about whether she wants to do it or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, who would be?
Well, earlier today, a White House source told Axios how hard it has been keeping the president from attacking Dr. Ford.
This morning, Kellyanne Conway, the president`s senior adviser, scoffed at reporters who asked her if she had advised the president not to attack Dr. Ford. Here is that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: We hopefully will hear from them last week.
The president doesn`t need anybody to tell him. He does the right thing.
QUESTION: But it seems like the White House if following your lead, since you were the one out first, who said it first, that she deserves to be heard and setting a tone for her not to be attacked.
CONWAY: Well, she should not be attacked, and -- but -- and she should be accommodated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She should not be attacked. She should be accommodated.
But a few minutes later, after Kellyanne, who speaks for the president, here is what Trump tweeted. He began his attack Dr. Ford.
Dave Jolly, they`re not really coordinated at the White House. They have got the president`s id to deal with, and his id is out there saying, I got to attack.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Yes, look, we saw the true Donald Trump today.
But, very importantly, Chris, there were a series of tweets. And the first was a defense of Kavanaugh. And whether you agree with him or not, that`s kind of fair space.
But the second was to attack and undermine and question the credibility of Dr. Ford. That is not safe space, nor fair space.
One of the things that surprises me that is not being talked about enough right now, Chris, is, Kavanaugh should withdraw. Judge Kavanaugh is the one person that can save the nation and save the court from this controversy.
JOLLY: And what Republicans don`t realize is, regardless of who you believe, the nation will never decide together who we believe. I choose to believe Dr. Ford. Others choose Dr. Kavanaugh.
But Republicans have already lost this politically. When Donald Trump says things like that, when Grassley says things he`d do -- frankly -- he does, frankly, when Susan Collins continues to show up and defend the integrity and the fidelity of things that Dr. Ford are saying, the Republicans have already lost this.
They can replace Kavanaugh with another nominee that will be just as conservative, but will not bring the controversy to the high court that Kavanaugh suggests he believes greatly in and holds great fidelity for.
MATTHEWS: But, David, if you believe that she made these -- this claim, this accusation because it happened and her memory is clear on it and strong, her memory, and sharp, and she knows what she`s talking about, if she believes that, do the Republicans believe that she believes it?
Do they believe it`s on the level, or are they just -- I think they do. But some of them probably think it`s another one of these left-wing strategies, she was taught -- but I think it`s very hard to not believe that this person, Dr. Ford, doesn`t believe herself in what happened. They very hard for me to believe.
JOLLY: Chris, can I say something very raw?
Regardless of your gender, regardless of the situation, if somebody puts their hand over your mouth and holds you against your will, you remember that moment and you remember their identity. And, frankly, one of the things the Republicans are doing right now are ignoring the trauma of millions of people who have yet to come forward.
What the answer lies -- where the answer lies today is for Kavanaugh to withdraw, for Republicans to suggest they at least understand the issue. Whether or not they are willing to fully believe Dr. Ford or Dr. Kavanaugh, recognize, as a moment of national conversation, now is where we move past this conversation.
Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw.
Well, an interview -- a new interview by -- with former White House staffer Boris Epshteyn, President Trump urged senators to move forward. It just happened. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can only say this. Let her speak, but Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest people you will ever meet. I think it`s been extremely hard on him and his family, when I look at what`s happening.
Here is a man with an unblemished record, and to be going through this all of the sudden. So, I won`t say anything now. All I`m saying is that let it play out. Let her have open voice, and let`s see what happens.
BORIS EPSHTEYN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Do you think he will get confirmed in the end?
TRUMP: I do. I do.
One of the finest judges we have, one of the greatest intellects we have, top of the line in every way. This is a shame. This is actually a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that the only way the Republicans can get past this is to establish reasonable doubt.
MATTHEWS: Because you can`t say the woman is crazy. You can`t say the woman is lying. That won`t wash.
But you can say it was mis -- it was a bad judgment as to who it was. You can argue that at least there is a reasonable doubt it was somebody else. I wouldn`t do that, but that would be their argument.
BENNETT: Well, Ed Whelan tried to do that on Twitter just last night.
But the other way to do that is to get this wrapped up as quickly as possible. It was just a couple days ago where President Trump said a little -- a little delay is OK.
But now he`s trying to get this thing done as quickly as possible. It`s because the White House knows all too well but more Americans now oppose Kavanaugh as a nominee than support him.
And the thinking is, if they have to withdraw his nomination for any reason, there is not enough time in the calendar to get someone new confirmed before the midterm elections.
KARNI: I think another way this goes, if she decides she doesn`t want to testify for one reason or another, then I think that it -- there can be a reasonable doubt that we don`t have the whole story and we`re not going to get the whole story. And no one comes forward, and then he could get through also.
MATTHEWS: That sounds right for them.
Will that sell with Flake and Murkowski and Collins?
KARNI: And I think some of what we saw today with Mitch McConnell speaking fairly strong that this is going to get pushed through is kind of trying to set the deck for her to feel that way, is what I have heard people say.
MATTHEWS: In other words, she will be afraid of that.
MATTHEWS: Do you like this phrase today, we`re going plow through this, like it`s not a human being here?
KARNI: Right, trying to set the stage that she will be afraid to come. And I think their best case is that she doesn`t testify.
MATTHEWS: Plow through this, that`s what he said.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Annie Karni. Thank you, Geoff Bennett. And thank you, Dave Jolly.
Up next -- David Jolly.
Up next: Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford`s friends and family are coming out to support her ahead of the possible testimony coming next week before the Judiciary Committee.
We`re going to talk to one of those friends right here straight ahead, one of the doctor`s friends.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDRA FORD MENDLER, SISTER-IN-LAW OF CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: I feel proud of her for stepping forward. Like I said, I think she`s really focused on raising her voice to be good -- good men.
And I was just -- I`m proud of her for having the courage to face this situation. And, like I said before, I don`t think she ever expected it was going to come out quite this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Sandra Ford Mendler, who is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s sister-in- law, speaking about her reaction to Dr. Ford`s allegation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were high school students in Maryland in the 1980s, an allegation that Kavanaugh has called completely false.
Well, Dr. Ford`s family and friends are speaking out, as she and her lawyers are locked in negotiations with the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee about the terms of when and how she`s going to testify.
It also comes as President Trump is attacking Ford`s claim on Twitter, question the credibility of her account and why she didn`t make her allegation that the time. That`s 36 years ago.
Joining me right now is Samantha Guerry, a friend and former classmate of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Thank you so much. I have been impressed by your comments on the air.
What do you think of President Trump going after Dr. Ford personally like this?
SAMANTHA GUERRY, FRIEND OF CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: Well, when you think about it, he`s going after a 15-year-old girl for not coming forward about a really traumatic event in her life.
And what`s so telling about that is, is a real ignorance of trauma of this kind. This is not reported by most women who experience it. I think as much as 65 percent of women never tell anyone. And I have had that really underlined this week, because just this week, I have had a significant number of women everywhere that I go tell me that they had similar experiences, and many of them said that they have never spoken about it before this week.
So I think there`s a -- this is really hitting a nerve with a lot of women right now.
MATTHEWS: When you heard the story developed, when Dr. Ford made her claim, her allegation, that Kavanaugh corralled into a room, jumped on top of her, rubbed against her, when she started to yell or whatever, he covered her mouth with his hand, rough stuff, by anybody`s standard -- this is beyond whatever, beyond the normal have a couple beers and making a pass at somebody. This is rough stuff.
Does this -- how did that fit with your memory of parties that you went to back in those days at Holton-Arms and at Georgetown Prep?
GUERRY: Well, I mean, certainly...
MATTHEWS: Did they get out of hand?
GUERRY: Well, they typically got out of hand in the same way they probably got out of hand when you were in high school or kids today are in high school.
GUERRY: So this is abhorrent by any measure.
I think that -- I think that there is some credence to the idea that these all-male schools are a little rougher, a little more aggressive, and perhaps a little more rowdy, as we`re calling it.
MATTHEWS: But this instance, as described by Dr. Ford, does that step out of the norm you experienced? This seems criminal.
MATTHEWS: At least, people say a misdemeanor at least.
You know, I would like to answer that a category -- as a categorical, yes, it was unusual. But, as I said, there are enough women that I know who experienced this in high school and since that I don`t think it was as unusual as we would hope.
MATTHEWS: What about what do you hear from Dr. Ford now, what she`s going through, how she`s preparing for what might be, might be testimony next week?
GUERRY: Well, I don`t know exactly how she`s preparing. I have been really -- as I think her sister-in-law pointed out, she`s really kept her circle of communications pretty small.
But I have been communicating with the people who are communicating with her. And I think that she`s starting to -- this came about, her -- her letting her name out came about pretty quickly, so she didn`t have time to prepare.
I think she`s had some time now to take a deep breath and get her head on. And I`m hoping that, by the time we see her, she will be the -- in full strength.
MATTHEWS: How important is it that she speak and testify? Is it important?
GUERRY: I think it...
MATTHEWS: If you were her, would you testify?
GUERRY: I think, at this point, I would.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
GUERRY: I think I would.
MATTHEWS: Samantha Guerry, thank you for coming on.
GUERRY: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Well, I will shake your hand.
MATTHEWS: I have a cold, but -- be careful.
Up next: Trump`s going on the offensive in the fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. Will attacking the accuser work for him yet again? I don`t think so.
Kellyanne, by the way, Conway and him seem to be on different channels. She was saying, oh, he wants to hear her voice, he wants to give her a chance to talk and give her case, Dr. Ford. And then he slams her. They got to get together.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Axios reported this morning that White House officials were in overdrive to keep Trump from attacking Kavanaugh`s accuser. A few hours later, the president questioned on Twitter if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says. He`s not getting the message.
It`s not the first time Trump publicly doubted women who have accused men of abusive behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Roger Ailes, is he helping you? Is he advising you?
TRUMP: Well, I don`t want to comment, but he`s been a friend of mine for a long time. And I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he`s helped them.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on Mr. Porter, sir.
TRUMP: He said very strongly yesterday that he`s innocent, so you will have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.
Personally, I think he shouldn`t have settled, because you should have taken it all the way. No, I know Bill. Bill`s a good person. I don`t think Bill would do anything.
Right now, I am being viciously attacked with lies and smears. It`s a phony deal. I have no idea who these women are. Have no idea. These people are horrible people. They`re horrible, horrible liars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight.
Ayesha Rascoe is White House reporter for NPR. And Sam Stein is politics editor for The Daily Beast. And Jeremy Peters is a reporter for "The New York Times" -- a great panel to talk about this.
Why did Trump switcheroo from a guy who seemed like he`s in a straitjacket, saying nothing against this accuser, and now he`s trying to destroy her?
AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: You know, I think this is just kind of his natural instinct.
Like, when, looking back at those video clips, part of the reason why he`s always kind of taking up for at least as allies who are accused of something is because he`s been accused of sexual assault.
RASCOE: He`s been accused of these things, and he goes after the women and basically just says that she`s a liar.
MATTHEWS: But in his case, he knew he was guilty.
MATTHEWS: Then why does he not assume that these other guys are guilty?
RASCOE: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: I`m just talking rationally.
SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think a lot of it is actually just it`s that, and he would be implicated himself. But also it`s strictly partisan, right?
I mean, he assumed Bill Clinton was guilty. Obviously, he brought Bill Clinton accusers to the debate to confront Hillary Clinton. So when it`s in his self-interest, he`s fine assigning guilt to the men. It`s when it`s not in the self-interest that he suddenly becomes an apologist for the worst of the offenders.
MATTHEWS: And, well, meanwhile, speaking at the Values Voter Summit today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to relieve concerns about an eventual confirmation of Kavanaugh. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: You have watched the fight. You have watched the tactics, but here`s what I want to tell you.
In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on United States Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don`t get rattled by all of this. We`re going to plow right through it and do our job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love the word, the keep the faith line about -- what is the faith? That they can steamroller this thing?
JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Exactly.
Well, that`s -- and then that`s exactly what they`re planning on doing. I mean, I think looking at this from the way Mitch McConnell tends to evaluate these situations, he probably sees it`s bad for Republicans either way.
They pull back on Kavanaugh, the base is outraged. This is why Donald Trump was elected president, so people like Brett Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would be on the court, to cement a conservative majority for a generation.
MATTHEWS: Even if it`s dirty?
PETERS: Even if it`s dirty. All the better.
MATTHEWS: Why do you say that, all the better?
I mean, it was terrible, what they did to he Merrick Garland. They didn`t care.
PETERS: No, they didn`t care.
MATTHEWS: They just trashed him, steamrollered his nomination, ignored it, and moved on to theirs. It didn`t hurt them any.
PETERS: No, there`s no conflict here, no sense of propriety.
I think it`s just, do what you have to get it done. I mean, Donald Trump kind of changed the political culture there, where there are no rules anymore. And they have been breaking down in the Senate on judicial confirmation for a long time.
But I think you look at the other side of the equation for Senate Republicans and why it`s so bad, if they ran it through, they lose too, because the left will be so outraged. I mean, this could finally be the left`s moment to galvanize around the court as an issue.
RASCOE: But I think that what they have determined is, they have to have their base.
If that they don`t have the base, they are probably going to win over a lot of these people who are kind of standing on the sidelines anyway. But they have to have their base. So I think that`s why they are trying to move forward with this, no matter what.
MATTHEWS: If you move in, if you take Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court, and you win two of mine, admittedly two -- if you count Judge...
MATTHEWS: ... Thomas as another problem, but the two wins, you go into the red states, where the real win opportunities are for them -- the way I look at the Senate race, I think the House is going to go Democrat.
They can hold the Senate if they hold the base.
STEIN: Oh, absolutely.
I mean, but that -- is this is the calculus. You`re absolutely right. At a time when they`re bleeding support from suburban women, at a time when Democrats are incredibly riled up, the one possible way to pull this thing out is to really get that Trump base reengaged.
And there`s two reasons that they`re engaged in the first place. The first is, they love Trump the fighter. He doesn`t care about political correctness. He doesn`t care about the accusations of sexual...
MATTHEWS: He`s a winner.
He`s a Barry Switzer, just win, baby, type guy.
The second thing is, he will pack the courts. And this is a microcosm of those two promises. It is the no-holds-barred politics and the courts.
MATTHEWS: And they`re waiting for Ginsburg too. They`re waiting for more.
PETERS: Well, they also realize that if Kavanaugh doesn`t go through, it`s very likely that Democrats take control the Senate, and not a single justice to the Supreme Court...
MATTHEWS: I will give you a hard story if you`re progressive, OK? A lot of progressives watching right now. Here`s a hard story.
They got more seats empty after -- because they win -- they win in North Dakota. They win in Missouri. They win in Florida. They win in Indiana. They win in -- who knows, other places. They win in other places, they could -- Blackburn could win. If they win in all those places, they will have 53 seats.
They won`t need the two women. And when you have a Roe vs. Wade issue coming up, they will pick somebody that`s on the wrong side if you`re a progressive. They can do this. It`s within reach.
Finally, The Daily Beast reported tonight, thanks to our guy here, current and former administration officials expect President Trump to fire Justice Department staffers after reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein floated the idea of removing the president from office.
According to one former official, Trump`s going to go on a jihad. That`s exactly -- I thought this. You reported it. They`re going.
I mean, this was like the -- the fire was all there ready...
STEIN: ... the match. And this is the match.
Trump has a pretext.
MATTHEWS: It`s his Strzok, another one of his Strzoks.
STEIN: Trump has a pretext to say, you know what? I gave you the benefit of the doubt. It turns out you were back there backstabbing me, talking about my mental instability and unfitness for office. I have a pretext to let you go.
Now, we talked to a bunch of people about this. They`re not totally sure if it comes now or it comes after the election. But it`s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Why not after the election he fires Sessions, fires Rosenstein, just goes right down, until he finds a way to set up some plumbing system that allows him to get rid of Mueller?
RASCOE: That is something that he could try.
I do wonder if getting rid of all these people, that is what Trump seems that definitely want. But there`s going to be such blowback. And does it really help this administration to look like it`s really being managed well, when you`re just getting rid of people left and right and it`s chaotic?
MATTHEWS: OK, do you want your kids indicted? Do you want the kids indicted?
RASCOE: Well, that`s the question.
Is he thinking about just himself? Well, is he thinking about himself and what`s going to be best for him and his family?
STEIN: The calculation he has to make, honestly -- it comes down to this - - is, how much will a Republican-led Senate and the House allow me to do?
And he`s got to figure that the House is going to change hands.
PETERS: I don`t know that he figures that. I don`t know that he`s accepted that at all.
STEIN: Maybe he hasn`t accepted, but he certainly knows it`s a possibility.
So if you want to move, you move now.
MATTHEWS: By the way, the House can impeach, but only the Senate can convict.
PETERS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, only the Senate.
And, by the way, it needs two-thirds in both houses to do this 25th Amendment thing, by the way.
PETERS: People seem to forget that.
PETERS: If Donald Trump is impeached, he is still president. People forget that.
MATTHEWS: I know, power, force majeure, right? Force majeure.
The Roundtable is sticking with us. And up, next these people will Tell Me Something I Don`t Know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: President Trump`s in Springfield, Missouri, tonight, stumping for Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley. Hawley is locked in an extremely tight right with incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
The most recent polling of registered voters done by CBS News has Claire and Hawley tied at 45 percent, I mean, dead even. Trump, by the way, won that state by 19 points in 2016, but his popularity has dimmed a bit with his attempts to dismantle Obamacare and his tariffs, which have hit Missouri farms and industries pretty hard.
By the way, trade has always been a big issue in Missouri. Just remember, they voted for Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower, after voting for Eisenhower in `52. They voted against him in `56, I think over the trade issue.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the Roundtable.
Tell Me Something I Know, Ayesha.
RASCOE: So, my colleague came out with a story today looking at these tweets from these Russian troll farms.
And what they found is that of the tweets talking about guns, 77 percent of them were positive. They were pro-gun, pro-NRA. And so for some reason, these Russian troll farms are trying to promote the pro-gun agenda.
MATTHEWS: I never heard of Russians being gun-toters. Commies, yes.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Sam.
STEIN: OK, it is 7:54, and Rod Rosenstein is still employed, for now.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
PETERS: So, think about, in 1992, the conservative media apparatus and the legal machine that they had defending Clarence Thompson in the Anita Hill charges, and think of it now, and how much greater it is and, behind the scenes, what they are doing to prop up the Kavanaugh nomination, to intimidate senators, to kind of make it look like there`s more of a grassroots energy behind this nomination than there really is.
It`s quite impressive. And there`s a lot of money behind it.
MATTHEWS: And I`m worried about the -- I`m worried about the dangerous stuff too, the further right.
Anyway, Ayesha Rascoe, Sam Stein, and Jeremy Peters.
When we return, Let Me Finish tonight with some good news.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let Me Finish tonight with some good news, at least for me.
I spent last weekend out in Mount Shasta in far Northern California with some of the people I spent two years with in Africa 50 years ago. We were Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland, a small country tucked between South Africa and Mozambique.
And I and a couple of other guys were trade development advisers working with local businesspeople. And, last weekend, it was all about reliving that experience of being out there in the African veldt separated from television, electricity and contact with America, getting to know people who could not have been nicer to us.
It was a great, positive adventure for all of us, and a lot of warm friendship to share over an American weekend last weekend. Being back together was an affectionate, wondrous time for us all. I hope those who missed this trip with us will be with us the next one.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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