Show: HARDBALL Date: September 24, 2018 Guest: Ginger Gibson, Charlie Sykes, Donna Edwards, Glenn Kirschner
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Kavanaugh at the abyss. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.
The news tonight is that Brett Kavanaugh finds himself in a desperate fight to save his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court with two women now making accusations against him. On Thursday at 10:00 a.m. this week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will sit across from 21 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. The full power of her accusation is set forth in the letter Dr. Ford sent senator Dianne Feinstein released late last night.
Ford wrote, Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom. They locked the door and played loud music, precluding any successful attempts to yell for help. Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with Judge, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh`s hand over my mouth, I feared he may inadvertently kill me.
In the letter sent to the committee today, Dr. Ford wrote the decision to first report the assault to my congresswoman was a very difficult one, but I felt that this was something that a citizen couldn`t not do.
Meanwhile today, Judge Kavanaugh spoke publicly for the first time since Ford`s allegation became public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: The truth is I`ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise. I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone in someplace. But what I know is I have never sexually assaulted anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Kavanaugh is also defending himself now against a second accuser. Deborah Ramirez is a former classmate of Kavanaugh`s from Yale. She told the "New Yorker" that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself, exposed himself in a drunken dormitory party, thrust his blank in her face and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.
Well, she acknowledged that there are gaps in her memory and she had been drinking a lot during her encounter. Republican staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee have reached out to Deborah Ramirez` lawyer for a preliminary inquiry into her allegation. Kavanaugh denied the allegations, claiming they were a smear.
Well, the President, according to the "Associated Press," believes that the allegations were a democratic plot being advanced by the media, once again publicly voiced his support again for Kavanaugh. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be sad indeed if something happened to reroute that. This is a fine man. And we certainly hope he is going to be confirmed and quickly. His family has suffered. His family has suffered. What`s going on is not something that should happen. Brett Kavanaugh is an absolute outstanding person. Hopefully he will be confirmed quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Majority leader Mitch McConnell who dismissed the new allegations as part of a larger smear campaign vowed to plow ahead, that was his phrase before, with the nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I want to make it perfectly clear, Mr. President, judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor, up or down, on the Senate floor. This fine nominee to the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this Senate in the near future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, given the new allegations, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has called for a postponement of the Kavanaugh nomination.
For the latest, I`m joined by Heidi Przybyla, NBC News national political correspondent, Eugene Robinson, "Washington Post" columnist, and Robert Costa, "Washington Post" national political reporter.
Robert, what`s the latest on this? The President is supporting this. They are pushing this. Mitch McConnell wants to, as he keeps phrasing it, I think nicely, plow it through demanding a vote and yet now we have a second accuser.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: They have been keeping close tabs on Senate Republicans. And as long as Senator Collins and Senator Flake and senator Murkowski don`t break and continue to say they want to hear from Dr. Ford at Thursday`s hearing, then this nomination moves forward. It`s not going to get pulled. And the President in private conversations with Senate leaders has been pretty defiant. He sees this as a war against political correctness as much as it is a battle for his own nominee.
MATTHEWS: What`s the political -- help me here. What`s politically correct or incorrect about the charge made by Dr. Ford here? Who said it`s OK to behave like this accusation runs?
COSTA: Of course, any sexual assault would be inappropriate and wrong. But what Kavanaugh`s nomination has become, Chris, as a totem for many on the right who see this as part of their war against the establishment. So you see conservatives across the board, whether it is Rush Limbaugh on radio, conservative groups going on air with ads, they are fighting for this nomination. Because for them, it is a cause. This is not just about the allegations at hand, it`s about reshaping the federal judiciary for generations to come.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton did this, they wouldn`t have a problem with it? Are they defending the behavior or their side politically?
COSTA: At this point they are saying they are just dug in with Kavanaugh. That this is a war they think against Kavanaugh that`s wrong. He is going on FOX News to talk about it. They know there`s a lot of pressure for him to step down just weeks before the midterm elections. A lot of unease when I`m talking to my top GOP sources. But for now they are holding steady because of what they see at the end of the horizon.
MATTHEWS: Gene, what they are doing is they are trying to avoid attacking the accuser.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, yes.
MATTHEWS: Because that will look terrible.
MATTHEWS: But what they do is suggest that she is dizzy, she is miscued, she is confused or whatever. She, you know, mistaken identity.
MATTHEWS: Any way to avoid saying -- but how do they deal with the fact if it`s true? If she makes a credible case on Thursday, how are they going to deal with it?
ROBINSON: Well, the problem to me and what sort of hollows out any argument that the Republicans are making is that they won`t investigate. They don`t want an investigation. They don`t want to do any actual fact finding or attempt any actual fact finding. They say, well, it will just be he said/she said. How do they know?
MATTHEWS: Why not bring the guy -
MATTHEWS: Heidi, why not bring the guy who she says was in the room the whole time and was part of this misconduct or even assault.
HEIDI PRYZBYLA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, USA TODAY: Well, he has changed his position slightly, too. At first, he adamantly denied that anything like this ever happened and then he said he had quote "no memory" and that he had also interest in testifying.
MATTHEWS: What about his tales of drunken behavior with his buddy, Bart O`Kavanaugh.
PRYZBYLA: Well, that`s the problem, Chris. It also could be the Republicans don`t want any association there because if you read the latest reporting from "the New Yorker," the accusations against Mark Judge are far more troubling than the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh if you read (INAUDIBLE) in the piece. There is an allegation by a former girlfriend that he had admitted to her his participation in what sounded like a gang rape.
PRYZBYLA: And so to have someone like that in any way associated with Brett Kavanaugh --
MATTHEWS: Gang rape, if you will, multiple males and one woman but he was saying it was consensual on the woman`s part.
PRYZBYLA: But here is the problem, Chris. It`s no longer he said/she said. Like "the Washington Post" said it`s he said/they said.
PRYZBYLA: And can this process be perceived as fair in the end if none of these other witnesses, corroborating witnesses are allowed to come forward. And all of the people who are wanting the investigation are the accusers and not the accused.
MATTHEWS: Gene, it`s like the Florida recount. Let`s stop counting. We`ve got one vote and let`s not hear anymore.
MATTHEWS: I mean, how do you say you`re not going to hear from Ramirez?
ROBINSON: Well, I don`t know how you do that. In fact, Susan Collins just came out and said we need to hear from the second accuser. We need to hear -- the Senate needs to hear from her. Now, Collins is not on that committee, but she is one of the pivotal votes. And what she says carries a lot of weight in the Senate. So I`m sure Mitch McConnell is listening.
MATTHEWS: How can they vote without that?
ROBINSON: I don`t know how you can -- I just don`t know how you can vote without saying, look, we are going to look into this as opposed to just ram it through or plow ahead as Mitch McConnell says.
MATTHEWS: Here`s Michael Avenatti who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels said he is now representing an accuser who says she has credible information about Kavanaugh and his high school friend, Mark Judge.
In a tweet, Avenatti writes, we will demanding the opportunity to present testimony to the committee and will likewise be demanding that judge and others be subpoenaed to testify. The nomination must be withdrawn.
Well, Avenatti tell "Politico" that his client will go public with details of her accusations in the next 48 hours.
So Robert, from the President`s point of view or at least his public point of view, his attitude publicly, does he believe this stuff is made up, all three of these cases?
COSTA: He stands with Kavanaugh. And he has been a little bit at a distance from the preparations for Thursday`s hearing. He knows that it`s an uneasy situation. He has been delegating a lot to Don McGahn, his White House counsel, who really has wanted Kavanaugh to be the nominee for months. But you have the presidency and this as part of a broader political fight he is waging. And that if he backs down on Kavanaugh, he feels like he could open himself vulnerably in a way politically that he doesn`t want this close to the midterm elections.
And you see the White House is listening to Senate Republicans. As long as they are there at this moment, they are not going to start trying to rethink the whole nomination.
MATTHEWS: Well, over the weekend, it was reported publicly that Kavanaugh has spent the past week preparing for the upcoming hearing.
According to "the Washington Post." Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits, I don`t know about this phrase, and his sexual proclivities. Whatever that phrase refers to. He addressed of those issues during his interview on FOX. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: We are talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I have never sexual assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you are saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?
KAVANAUGH: That`s correct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And through what years in college, since we are probing into your personal life here?
KAVANAUGH: Many years after, I`ll leave it at that. Many years after.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Gene, what do you think the relevance of that is?
ROBINSON: Too much information. Too much information.
PRYZBYLA: I`m glad you didn`t come to me on that one.
MATTHEWS: But here is the question. Why is he saying all that?
ROBINSON: I don`t know, because it`s not relevant to the accusations. The accusation are not sexual intercourse. The accusation is, you know, attempting to tear a woman`s clothes off while keeping her locked in a bedroom and cover her mouth with your hand which sounds like an attempted rape and exposing himself. But they are not about sex.
MATTHEWS: Let me bring up something. I don`t think it has been brought up enough about her fear for her life. She said her fear for her life. (INAUDIBLE) is an expert who wrote a book about "Gift of Fear" and you have instincts. You have to follow your instincts, like this guy who was going to rape a woman. In fact, he did rape her. He first closes the window. And she knew what is going on here. Then he is going to kill her after he raped her. She closed the window. She realized he closed that window because he didn`t want my screams to be heard. And then you lock the door from a woman, you haul her into a room, you are drunk, you lock the door and then you turn the music up so the squeals can`t be heard and then put your hand over her mouth so her squeals will not be heard, you have a reason to fear. And this is something that it hasn`t been - but it`s not about sex, it`s about power.
PRYZBYLA: Can I just say something that I don`t think has been analyzed enough in this whole scenario, which is that the circumstantial evidence here that something very traumatic happened to Dr. Ford is strong, OK. She -- if you read this "Washington Post" piece, she underwent a personality transformation in between high school and college. She became reclusive. Her grades were failing. It was after that that she moved across the country and she chose to dedicate her life studies to studying the impact of trauma on depression and anxiety. And I have to say there`s a similar chord there as well with Deborah Ramirez who volunteers at a center for victims of sexual abuse, I think it is.
MATTHEWS: The fear is real and the trauma is real. And the idea that she`s part of some left-wing conspiracy is an insult to this person.
Heidi Pryzbyla, every individual counts. Every American counts. And you have a right to petition your congress. That is in your constitutional right, to petition Congress. And Congress ought to listen to people like this or else what are they there for. They are supposed to represent people. If they don`t represent people like this, who do they represent?
Anyway, Heidi Przybyla, thank you for that last analysis. And Eugene, as always, sir. And Robert Costa, thank you.
Coming up, a Trump aide today said the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are beginning to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy. Will senators agree after Christine Blasey Ford testifies on Thursday? Will they stick for that case?
Plus today`s other major development, Rod Rosenstein`s future seems more uncertain. The man overseeing the Mueller probe will meet with President Trump this week.
And President Trump and Republican leaders continue to stand by Kavanaugh. Will that decision come to bite them in the midterms and in the future if this guy gets in? Do they want him that dirty?
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He definitely won`t like this.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Arriving at the U.N. this morning, President Trump was asked about the state of U.S. relations with North Korea three months after Trump`s summit with Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It looks like we`ll have a second summit quite soon. As you know, Kim Jong-un wrote a letter, a beautiful letter and asking for a second meeting, and we will be doing that. Secretary Pompeo will work that out in the immediate future. It looks like it`s moving very, very well. Tremendous progress on North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, critics say there`s been anything but tremendous progress on denuclearization with intelligence officials reporting that North Korea is stepping up efforts to hide its nuclear activities from outside observers.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything. But I am with judge Kavanaugh and I look forward to a vote. And for people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mentioned it, all of a sudden it happens, in my opinion it`s totally political. It`s totally political.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump standing by Brett Kavanaugh this morning in the wake of a second allegation of sexual misconduct against him published now by the "New Yorker." It comes just days before both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Ford`s allegation that he sexually assaulted her while they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denies both claims.
"Axios" reports today that Republicans plan to fight quote "foggy memories of his accusers, noting the plan is to fight back right away and to emphasize denials and hazy recollections. And the mission is to portray the debate as cheap-shot politics orchestrated by liberals and abetted by the media."
In his letter to the senate judiciary committee today, Kavanaugh once again called the allegations against him smears, pure and simple.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway leveled a similar charge in an interview with CBS this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I thought that his comment last night about the second so-called accuser is incredibly instructive. He is now calling this a smear campaign. Indeed this is starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There`s a phrase.
Anyway on Capitol Hill today, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell carried that argument a step further, pointing the finger at his Democratic colleagues. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Even by the far left standards this shameful, shameful smear campaign has hit a new low. Senate Democrats and their allies are trying to destroy a man`s personal and professional life on the basis of decades-old allegations that are unsubstantiated and uncorroborated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more I`m joined by Donna Edwards, a former Democratic congresswoman from Maryland, and Charlie Sykes, contributing editor to "the Weekly Standard."
Charlie, I`m curious what you are hearing and what you are thinking about the way this has been handled and how the Republican Party is going to get past this, win or lose. How are they going to look after a vote is held next week perhaps?
CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, it`s a very dangerous moment.
But emotions are running very, very high. Obviously, you have some irreconcilable differences here. You have tremendous stakes, and maybe the truth is unknowable.
But I will say that there was tremendous blowback to that that "New Yorker" story. And I do think you need to separate that out from Dr. Ford, the fact that there is -- the evidence is so thin. It is weak tea, and the fact that "The New York Times" spoke to what they said were dozens of potential witnesses, none of whom who could corroborate all of this.
So I think that what`s happened, at least for the moment -- and this is, by the way, dangerous, I think, for the Republicans, is because they are -- they are so angry about that, what regard as a smear, that there is an unusual pressure, do not cave in, do not let them get away with all of this. So who knows how that`s going to play out over the next several days?
MATTHEWS: Do you think you can read the Republicans? Do they believe, is it their judgment that, if these stories are true, that the nomination should not be confirmed?
SYKES: No, I don`t think that`s what they`re saying. Now, obviously, there are some who are willing to say that, but, I mean, obviously, these charges are disqualifying. And obviously, his -- his denials would be disqualifying, if in fact he did it.
But I do think that this second allegation in some ways has had the effect of undermining the credibility of the first one, because, look, this is the moment where you want solid, credible information that lines up.
This is also why I think it`s a huge mistake Republicans not to reopen the FBI investigation. If they are concerned about these false allegations, make people tell them to the FBI. Put some real stakes there.
So the fact that they are so reluctant, I think, is somewhat inconsistent what their concern about finding out what in fact is true.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donna, we got the protesters now.
Meanwhile, citizens were making their voices heard on Capitol Hill today. Big crowds demonstrated their opposition -- there they are -- to Kavanaugh outside the offices of several Republican senators, including Nebraska`s Ben Sasse, Maine`s Susan Collins, and Arizona`s Jeff Flake.
Look at the people.
Axios reports that: "Kavanaugh`s future rests partly with Republican Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. But the senator who most worries Kavanaugh supporters is Jeff Flake of Arizona, who`s retiring and has ripped Trump and has been ripped by Trump."
First of all, there`s three accusations now have developed, because of Michael Avenatti. So here we are.
DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: That`s right.
And here`s the thing. If Republicans really wanted to give the judge, Judge Kavanaugh, a clean pathway into the -- into the Supreme Court, what they would do is open up an FBI -- FBI investigation. They would start where they started at the beginning, which is to hear Christine Ford, hear Dr. Ford, hear her out.
But it seems that they have already come to judgment before that, which raises a question of -- for women all across this country, what does it mean to have a hearing if you have already decided that you`re going to plow forward with the investigation?
MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" reports that President Trump has privately vented his frustration about the Republican response to the allegation against Kavanaugh, but he remains largely reduced to a spectator, noting: "Constrained by his party`s perilous electoral prospects and the accusation of sexual misconduct conduct he himself has faced in the past, the president is virtually powerless to influence the outcome of perhaps his administration`s top priority."
Charlie, this thing, the fact they don`t want to really have an FBI investigation, they don`t want to hear from the guy Judge, Mark Judge, who is apparently a pretty interesting character, to put it lightly, according to the "New Yorker" piece, a pretty bad guy, perhaps, and yet they don`t want to hear from him, how do they defend that?
Why not bring in the prime witness?
SYKES: Yes, I think that`s going to have a long-term -- that will have long-term consequences, because at the moment, they -- they don`t want to be rolled by the Democrats.
But if they rush ahead and do plow ahead with this and do this confirmation, it will stick with them, because people will say, why didn`t you know this? Why didn`t you slow down to get the facts?
Because, look, in a court of law, there`s a presumption of innocence, right? You have to prove that somebody is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
But in -- the standard for being on the U.S. Supreme Court also want to be that you ought to be qualified beyond a reasonable doubt. And if these are in fact serious charges, which they are, wouldn`t you do everything possible to get as close to the truth as you can?
And, again, reopening the FBI investigation seems to be the simple no- brainer here. So you have to ask, why are they not doing it? And they`re failure to do it is going to be very difficult to explain going forward.
MATTHEWS: Last thought?
EDWARDS: Look, I think that this is going to come down to Christine Ford sitting at the -- in the Senate and offering her testimony, and her believability, her credibility. And I think it ends right there.
I will be surprised if Judge Kavanaugh lasts through the gavel.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he looks too strong. We will wait to see how strong she is.
But I agree completely with Donna. This is television, live television, daytime television. We`re going to make -- everybody`s going to make their own judgment. They don`t have to hear from the commentators. They`re going to watch her and say, yes, yes. Looks like slice of life to me.
Anyway thank you, former Congressman -- Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Charlie Sykes.
Up next: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has not been fired, but what`s ahead for the man over -- there he is coming from his house -- overseeing the Russian investigation? If he gets lopped off, Trump may grab control of this thing and save himself.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you are going to fire Rosenstein?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, when I get back from all of these meetings. And we will be meeting at the White House. And we will be determining what`s going on. We want to have transparency. We want to have openness. And I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump this afternoon announcing he will meet with the deputy attorney general this Thursday, with his job on the line, you might think.
Rod Rosenstein met with Chief of Staff John Kelly today, before a regularly scheduled meeting at the White House. And, today, the two could be seen shaking hands outside before Rosenstein departed.
Isn`t this fascinating?
Anyway, "The New York Times" reported Rosenstein was ready to resign and convinced, wrongly, it turned out, that President Trump was about to fire him, so he wanted to quit before he was fired.
Well, NBC News reports that Rosenstein also discussed his future with the White House counsel, Don McGahn, this Saturday.
Well, according to a person familiar with that conversation -- quote -- "Rosenstein made clear he would not accept being terminated by Chief of Staff Kelly, wouldn`t let Kelly fire him. Instead, it needed to come to the president. He wanted the president of fire him, if anybody fires him."
Rosenstein`s job is in jeopardy after "The New York Times" reported Friday -- seems like a year ago -- in a meeting last year, he had discussed secretly recording the president, taping him secretly, and the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
As the only person overseeing the special counsel`s probe, he`s on top of it all. It`s Rosenstein`s job to decide what happens to Robert Mueller`s final report, which means he could hold the fate of Trump`s presidency in his hands.
Does he turn it over to for impeachment? What does he do? Does he go ahead with the indictments?
I`m joined by -- right now by Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC News, and Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor.
What is this whole -- is this like a trip to the woodshed? Is this Trump doing Trump, trying to show, I`m the muscle guy here, you`re the little guy, you`re the bureaucrat, I`m going to let you come see me for another meeting, I`m going scare you a little bit, and I will let you stay if you give me some sort of sign of support?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He`s handing this over his head, for sure.
But it seems clear that both of these men were headed toward the end of Rod Rosenstein`s work at the Justice Department, and that something pulled them back from the brink. We know for people who talked to Rod Rosenstein, he was talking about resignation. And a lot of them said, wait until you`re fired. Don`t -- it actually means a lot...
MATTHEWS: Why is it a better deal for him to be fired?
AINSLEY: Well, for -- under the federal Vacancies Act, it`s a lot more difficult for the president to put whoever he wants in that job if he is fired, rather than resigns. It`s easier for the president if he resigns.
And then, with the president, we -- we have seen publicly the advice he`s got. We have seen Sean Hannity, which we know has an ear to the president, say...
MATTHEWS: Yes. He said, don`t fire him at all. It will get you in trouble. You`re being set up.
AINSLEY: Don`t take this bait. It will get you -- exactly.
And so something pulled them back. And part of it is that reporting that we have that he wanted to talk to the president himself, not John Kelly. And then it`s a win for Trump, because he gets to hold this over his head and have a distraction when we get into those Kavanaugh hearings on Thursday.
MATTHEWS: OK, a question that`s been bugging me all weekend.
What`s the plumbing route? If you`re the plumber, like you`re president, and you want to find a way that gets -- pipes you to where you can get rid or basically quash the investigation by Trump -- by Mueller, what -- who do you have to fire "Saturday Night Live"-style to get to that point where you`re the boss?
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think, Chris, you have to fire, first of all, Rod Rosenstein, and then you have to replace him with somebody who`s more amenable to doing your dirty work in getting rid of Mueller.
MATTHEWS: How do you get that person in the chain of command? How do you get them in there?
KIRSCHNER: Well, right now, it looks like it goes down to the solicitor general.
But there`s a suggestion that he may be conflicted out because his law firm actually was representing Trump. So then it continues down the line. So I`m not sure how you get there.
MATTHEWS: Can he spook out somebody who`s willing to play ball with him and just say, I hear there is a really good guy five levels down, U.S. attorney`s office in, I don`t know where, Montana, but if we get him or her in there, they will kill this investigation?
Is there anybody like that?
AINSLEY: Yes, well, I mean, technically under this Vacancies Act, he can go with anyone who has been presidentially appointed and Senate-approved.
MATTHEWS: In anything.
AINSLEY: In anything, regardless of whether or not they even have the legal chops to do this.
MATTHEWS: So, he can take the ambassador to the Vatican and put her in charge of this thing?
KIRSCHNER: Yes, but here`s why it matters with respect to whether he`s fired or resigns under the Presidential Vacancies Act, because, first of all, let`s assume for a moment that Rosenstein did nothing wrong.
He`s not going to walk in there and resign and give the president that opening to appoint somebody. Moreover, if he`s done nothing wrong, it looks a lot different on the obstruction front if -- if the president actually takes that step and fires Rosenstein, as opposed to Rosenstein resigning.
And Rosenstein is, at his core, a prosecutor. He knows the difference between those two things. And I suspect we know how he`s going to play it.
MATTHEWS: OK, what about sort of Finlandizing him? Making him somebody -- somebody, his guy? How does he do that? Is Trump trying to do that, do you think? Is he trying to soften up Rosenstein?
AINSLEY: I don`t know if he`s trying to...
MATTHEWS: These woodshed things, summoned to the White House today, going to be summoned on Thursday? Is he going to get a whipping?
MATTHEWS: I mean, what is this about?
AINSLEY: That`s a good question. Why would he draw it out?
It seems that there are a lot of conversations that will happen between now and Thursday. I don`t even know that the president really knows what he will do on Thursday.
But another point...
MATTHEWS: By the way, he didn`t deny -- I read that statement carefully. He didn`t deny talking about wiretapping the president. He said, I didn`t pursue it. I didn`t go through with it. But he didn`t say he didn`t talk about it.
KIRSCHNER: And here`s -- it doesn`t surprise me.
I know everybody said, this is crazy that a deputy attorney general is thinking about wearing a wire to talk to the president.
But let`s look at the president`s track record. When he`s behind closed doors with Comey and says one thing, he denies it later. I`m not saying everybody needs to wire themselves up to go in and meet with the president, but how else are you going to protect yourself?
MATTHEWS: So, it was a reasonable conversation.
AINSLEY: But, now, what he has said -- I talked some people who talked to Rod Rosenstein over the weekend and said that he thinks the 25th Amendment piece, that he brought that up, is absurd.
He`s still denying that, even to his close friends. And he is saying that this is a knife in the back. He feels like he has been the victim of people who -- his colleagues...
MATTHEWS: Who is knifing him?
AINSLEY: Someone who was in that meeting, someone who is either a current Justice Department official or former. And he`s...
MATTHEWS: Isn`t Washington wonderful?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Julia Ainsley. And, thank you, Glenn Kirschner.
We`re going to see. I`m watching Trump`s way of getting out of the whole business, including his son getting indicted. I think that`s the thing Trump`s got his eye on right now.
Up next -- Donald Jr.
Up next: President Trump is doubling down on defending his nominee for the Supreme Court. Is this the right move for Republicans for the midterms just six weeks away? Do you want to be a Republican senator who voted for this guy without an investigation?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you still support Judge Kavanaugh?
QUESTION: Mr. President, people just have concerns about...
TRUMP: He`s a fine man with an unblemished past.
These are highly unsubstantiated statements from people represented by lawyers. You should look into the lawyers doing the representation.
Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding person. And I am with him all the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The more the guy gets accused of stuff, the more he gets perfect, in the mind of this president. Anyway, he`s standing by Brett Kavanaugh even after these new allegations have been made against the Supreme Court nominee.
Well, today, Kavanaugh said he spoke with the president about his nomination. Let`s watch that.
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QUESTION: Do you believe that President Trump is going to stand by you throughout?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I know he`s going to stand by me.
He called me this afternoon and said he`s standing by me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable: Ginger Gibson, a political correspondent for "Reuters", David Corn, of course, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and Beth Fouhy, politics senior editor here at NBC News.
Beth, you start. This case, I mean the drama is like we`ve never seen, one on one -- one on one in daytime. I remember Tim Russert once said the recent Clarence came out on top is he got to speak at primetime whereas Anita had gotten to speak in daytime, and he had a much bigger audience, one of the technical things that matters in this business.
BETH FOUHY, POLITICS SENIOR EDITOR, NBC NEWS: A hundred percent. I mean, we, at this point last week we really didn`t think this meeting, this clash of the titans was actually going to happen. Lo and behold when it was actually scheduled, I think we were all looking at each like we are going to see the most important moment of political television in quite some time on Thursday, a time when everybody is going to sort of stop and watch and hopefully listen to what these people are saying.
Everybody is coming from their corners. Everybody has got on their jerseys. Everybody has decided who they`re with and not with. Hopefully a little bit of light will be shed on both of these people`s stories and people can somehow ascertain the truth out of it.
MATTHEWS: It`s a national jury scene.
FOUHY: It sure is.
MATTHEWS: It really is. David? I mean, you`ve got to watch one person. I think she`s telling the truth. You look at the other guy, I think he`s scared, I think he did it, and that`s the way some jurors will look at it.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Yes, each person will get to present their case. And Brett Kavanaugh has spent his career listening to cases and presenting cases. I think it`s a harder territory for Dr. Ford. But we will be --
MATTHEWS: Why is it harder?
CORN: Well, because she`s never done anything like this.
CORN: She`s never been in the public like this. This is like --
MATTHEWS: And he`s also getting a lot of, what do they call it --
CORN: Coaching. But we will be missing an important element, an investigation. Nobody, you know, on the Republican side has allowed for an FBI investigation. Trump hasn`t called for it. Republicans haven`t called for it. They did it in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas case.
So, as Beth said, people are coming from their different corners wearing their different jerseys and it`s pretty clear who`s going to think she did better and who`s going to believe Judge Kavanaugh. And yet we won`t have - - we probably won`t have a lot of new information to evaluate who might be telling the truth.
MATTHEWS: And we`re not even getting into the question, you`ve got Cory Booker on one side is going for president and you`ve got Kamala Harris going for president. They want to score some points. On the other side, you`ve got the old fogies, the guys like Orrin Hatch who just want to say she must be confused, you know, that kind of argument. He always does that.
CORN: Yes, that`s not going to work.
GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: They all know this isn`t just a jury watching at home, they are all voters who are going to be voting in less than six weeks. That`s really important to remember.
Women across the country have watched in polls as the approval for Kavanaugh has fallen off after these accusations.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s a negative theory.
GIBSON: And it`s going to matter how these senators handle this process. If they think this is all a ruse and they have already decided who they believe in, there are so many women who have had an experience or know someone who`s had an experience like this.
MATTHEWS: How about Senator DiFi who was a grown up. I`ve always respected her vintage knowledge of the world, she assumes, right in the middle, she said are we going to have an investigation of this or not? Mr. Chairman, are we going to have an investigation? That`s a powerful demand.
Anyway some breaking news just now. Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee say they will hold a committee vote on Kavanaugh`s nomination as soon as possible if not compelling new information comes out on Thursday`s hearing. According to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, it could be by the end of the week.
Senator McConnell has made it clear, we`re going to process the -- I`m quoting Cornyn, through the committee and come to the floor and vote. There`s no reason to delay.
Beth, they could -- it looks like they`re going to rush this baby the minute they get out of there.
FOUHY: You know, this is such a mistake. There`s no way that Republicans can come out looking good in this. Unless Dr. Ford comes off as completely implausible, which is really hard to imagine at this point given what we know about her story and the steps that she has taken to have that story vetted through her therapist, she`s talking to lawyers who are credible people who aren`t going to work with some flake. If she gets out there, describes this horrifying thing that happened to her on national television and then the 11 men on the Senate Judiciary Committee say, well, let`s go to a vote, that`s not going to fly.
People need to listen to what she says. They need to process that information. They cannot push it through like that.
MATTHEWS: It will be interesting to watch the faces of the members. It`s going to be like Howie Mandel sitting out there judging the talent. I mean, you can see the camera, I`m sorry, camera going to members and they`re going like this. And the other guys are going like this, like you`re just doing, Beth, I don`t believe a word of this. They`re looking at the faces at the committee members.
CORN: Well, they will, and they will be judged. But it seems to me as with so much of the Trump presidency and the Republican tenure in Congress, they`re playing to just one, you know, segment of the population, the Fox News crowd. That`s all they care about. You know, the women that you mentioned, Ginger --
MATTHEWS: Why did Brett Kavanaugh go on one TV network?
CORN: Well, he went on Fox News obviously, and said things that no one ever expected a Supreme Court nominee to ever say. And that seems that they want to show, at least their base, that they are willing to crush the liberals even if it means ignoring the ramifications of the testimony that may come up on Thursday. I mean, I think it`s stupid.
MATTHEWS: Robert Costa earlier in the program tonight said they see it as a political correctness issue.
CORN: Oh, god.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think an issue of assault is okay with one party and not okay with the other.
GIBSON: And, look, they almost see themselves being in a no lose situation. I`ve had Republicans already tell me if they have to yank Kavanaugh`s nomination at the last minute, that it could bring them electoral wins.
MATTHEWS: How? Explain that one.
GINGER: A vacant Supreme Court seat is what they attribute having won a 2016 election. You now motivate a base that is overwhelming seemed not interested in showing up in the election.
MATTHEWS: I think they rather have a dirty win than a happy loss.
Anyway, meanwhile, we`re just six weeks away from the midterm elections and a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Democrats with a 12-point lead now about who should control the Congress among registered voters. It`s the highest by the way so far in this election. It also showed the polls that Brett Kavanaugh has a net disapproval rating at 34 percent positive, 38 percent opposing him.
GIBSON: This is going to be in the minds of most of these members of Congress. They are looking at generic numbers. Many think that 12 points would be a wave. That`s when we start talking seriously about the Democrats winning the Senate.
And they have to know that voters are paying attention. Daytime or primetime, this story is not going to be missed by many of the Americans.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Senate could go Democrat?
GIBSON: I think it`s a real possibility and I think Republicans believe that too at this point.
FOUHY: Chris, you know, just sort of, if you look deeper into that poll, the thing that is most striking is the gender gap is extraordinary. You have men wanting a Republican Congress by a margin of plus 3. You have women wanting a Democratic Congress by a margin of plus 25.
We`re not seeing a blue wave here. We`re seeing a pink wave. That is what`s driving this.
It`s women. It`s women in the suburbs, it`s educated women. Even married women who typically vote for Republicans are starting to move into the Democratic camp. This is not the fight Republicans ought to be having.
MATTHEWS: I think suburban men pay attention to how their wives vote. I think there will be some male voting supporting the candidates.
CORN: But also, consider what`s going to happen between now and election day that may have a big impact on this. This fight will continue, but what is Donald Trump doing that is addressing concerns of the women or anybody else out there? We may have a shutdown. There may be more chaos. If he fires Rod Rosenstein at some point, chaos, chaos, chaos. It`s not going to help these numbers.
The Republicans are looking at things, the prospects of things only getting worse before election day, not a lot of sunlight for them in the next couple of weeks.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, the highest stock market in history practically, it is the highest, it`s not helping.
Finally, multiple sources tell NBC news that it was over the weekend that Donald Trump made the decision not to fire his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. The president discussed it with his staff and outside allies - - Sean Hannity, who said he shouldn`t do it. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I have a message for the president tonight. Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody. The president needs to know it is all a setup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Not since Edward R. Murrow has someone in the news had so much power.
GINGER: I think what we`re watching unfold here is an internal dispute, forces pushing Trump to not do, not fire Rosenstein, not fire Sessions. All of this leak and this misinformation and is he fired or isn`t he fired is what happens and has happened previously when the White House is in that kind of turmoil. People trying to persuade him through Hannity, through leaks to "The New York Times." I mean, that`s what -- this play has been played before.
MATTHEWS: The brain trust of one has a lot of power.
CORN: We had this thing this morning, right, where it was reported he was resigning, reported he was being fired, then he was not being fired. Washington feels like it`s on thin ice. That at any moment we could be through a constitutional crisis and total upheaval. And, you know, Trump I think likes that.
MATTHEWS: What phrase is Trump known for?
MATTHEWS: You`re fired.
The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: That`s right, we`re checking in with HARDBALL Ten right now. The ten races that will decide who controls the Senate come November.
A new poll by the Public Opinion Research lab at the University of North Carolina shows a tie now in a race between Democrat Bill Nelson, the incumbent, and Republican Rick Scott, the governor. Each at 45 even. That is so close. In fact, it`s even.
The poll shows some interesting numbers, by the way, in the Florida governor`s race. Democrat Andrew Gillum leads Republican DeSantis, Ron DeSantis, 47, 43. That`s going to be a barn burner, too.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.
GIBSON: The U.N. is meeting this week. And one thing to pay attention to is the story of my coworkers who have been imprisoned in Myanmar for 287 days now, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo --
MATTHEWS: Who they work for?
GIBSON: They work for "Reuters". They have been held unjustly for committing acts of journalism. This is something that is going to get a lot more attention as they push for freedom of press in this country.
CORN: Well, I hope you`re right. I hope they do.
My something that you don`t know is that Matt Whitaker, the chief of staff now for Jeff Sessions was talked about today replacing Rod Rosenstein should he be fired. Well, he is a very interesting background. He has denounced the Manafort raid. He has said if Mueller looks at Trump`s finances, it`s going across the red line.
And he retweeted a story that basically call the Mueller thing a witch hunt.
MATTHEWS: Oh, Trump wants to hear, he`s going to condense the mandate.
CORN: Yes, he does. He may not be in charge of it, but Trump will have an ally --
MATTHEWS: He can rewrite the mandate, too. I beat.
Go ahead, Beth. Beth Fouhy.
FOUHY: All right. I`ve got to go a little lighter. I like to binge watch fun TV when I get home. I didn`t get to "The Sopranos" when they first came out. So, we`re watching it now. Watched the finale, Donald Trump invades, Tony Soprano`s son says his career goal, his career goal, is to be Donald Trump`s personal helicopter pilot.
MATTHEWS: That`s what he says?
FOUHY: That`s what he said.
MATTHEWS: Amazing. Art and life. Now it`s life.
GIBSON: Forever conjoined.
MATTHEWS: Ginger Gibson, David Corn and Beth Fouhy.
When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", September 24th, 2018.
There`s surprising common ground on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s accusation. And its proper influence on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination.
A, she was clearly within her constitutional rights in getting her accusation to the Senate. We have a First Amendment right to petition the government.
B, she had a duty to inform the Congress of what she had witnessed. How many times have we told, if you see something, say something? How can witnessing a sexual assault not be relevant information on a confirmation to the Supreme Court?
C, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been right to have her testify. Does anyone argue that they should have swept Dr. Ford`s account under the rug to act like her story doesn`t exist?
So, here we go into Thursday with a witness being heard and judgments to be made. The next part will be difficult. I believe the Senate needs to have the incident Dr. Ford describes investigated by the FBI. I believe we need to leave the matter of Brett Kavanaugh`s confirmation held open until other witnesses have had a chance to come forward. Only then will we have a situation where all sides can claim they have done the right thing.
Short of that, we will have a real division in this country on the value of citizen`s petition to be heard and respected.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us.
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