Show: HARDBALL Date: September 27, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal; Anna Eshoo; Cynthia Alksne, Barbara Boxer, Eli Stokols, Tim O`Brien
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Brian.
It has been a day of high drama just a few blocks from here on Capitol Hill. Over the course of nine hours, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh provided real human drama with one person delivering the indictment and other defending his lifelong reputation which he said was already been destroyed.
For the first time Dr. Ford spoke publicly about her accusation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH`S ACCUSER: I am here today not because I want to be, I am terrified, I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well Dr. Ford detailed her private pain in front of a massive public audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: I don`t have all of the answers and I don`t remember as much as I would like to, but the details that -- about that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: When roughly four hours of testimony, she shared in searing detail what she alleges happened one evening back in 1982.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: What is the strongest memory you have, strongest memory of the incident? Something that you cannot forget? Take whatever time you need.
FORD: Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two and they are having fun at my expense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well after a short recess, it was Judge Brett Kavanaugh`s turn to share his account. He launched into an impassioned defense directing his rage toward Democrats and displaying sadness at the process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME JUSTICE NOMINEE: I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford. This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy. I intend no ill will to Dr. Ford and her family. The other night Ashley my daughter Liza said their prayers and little Liza all of ten years old -- said to Ashley, we should pray for the woman. It is a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old. We mean no ill will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well it quickly dissolved into a -- evolved into an explosive partisan battle with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina going after his Democratic colleagues personally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What you want to go is destroy this guy`s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020. You said that. Not me. I would never do to them what you have done to this guy. This is the most unethical sham since I have been in politics. And if you really want to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn`t have done what you`ve done to this guy. Are you a gang rapist?
GRAHAM: To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you are legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics. I hope you are on the Supreme Court. That is exactly where you should be. And I hope that the American people will see through this charade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And when the hearing today concluded, the President Trump tweeted judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful and honest and riveting. Democrats search and destroy strategy is disgraceful. And this process has been a total sham and an effort to delay, obstruct and resist. The Senate must vote.
Well, NBC News reports that all Senate Republicans are going to meet tonight in a conference later tonight sometime. That will be something. Senator Richard Blumenthal joins me now.
Senator, you are an old prosecutor. You know how to judge a witness. Why didn`t you believe Kavanaugh in his denials?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I refuse to discount and disbelieve Dr. Blasey Ford who was so credible and powerful today. Not only in what she remembered, but what she frankly admitted that she couldn`t remember. And her call for an FBI investigation, judge Kavanaugh refused to do it, her presenting corroborating witnesses which judge Kavanaugh lacks, her taking a polygraph, which judge Kavanaugh has not done, all of them as a contest of credibility, plus the gaps in judge Kavanaugh`s account and the serious issues of credibility. His statements contradict known facts and evidence. And so that has led me really to believe her and not him.
MATTHEWS: You know his testimony reminded me of Clarence Thomas. To this extent he seemed angriest not in his defense or denial but he seemed angriest at the process. Angry that some would bring up an old case like this 26 years ago. He doesn`t say high-tech lynching the way Clarence Thomas did but he seemed to be indicting the committee, you and all of you guys, for the way this was held as he said, held to the last minute, this charge from Dr. Ford.
BLUMENTHAL: These survivors came forward voluntarily. He wants to blame it on a vast left wing conspiracy, a cabal, which is the ultimate insult to these grave and courageous survivors of sexual assault. And really an insult to the community of survivors. They demonstrated in their sworn statements and Dr. Blasey Ford demonstrated clearly and indisputably today how credible they are, how deserving of respect. He demonstrated how little respect he had for them.
MATTHEWS: You know, by the end of her testimony, I think everybody watching, certainly I did. I thought she was compelling, genuine, authentic and likeable if that matters. But certainly authentic. By the end of the day, just a few moments ago, I get a sense the Republicans on this committee had regrouped and had their morale build up again. They were blowing the trump and Lindsey Graham leading the charge. And it looks like they are still going to push through with this. Do you think they will tonight?
BLUMENTHAL: Nobody can predict what the Republicans will decide as a group. But I hope that at least some of them look into their conscience and do the right thing. It will take some backbone and grit and gumption to stand up to Donald Trump, but we are all hearing from the survivors of assaults all across the country that Dr. Blasey Ford has given them hope and inspiration and courage and fortitude and a vote for judge Kavanaugh will really be devastating in the disregard and disrespected demonstration and the kind of shame and silence that all too often causes sexual assault to be underreported. I hope my Republican colleagues will stand up and speak out.
MATTHEWS: Well it is an amazing day, senator. Thank you so much for -- I haven`t seen anything like this in watching politics for decades. A
Anyway, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During her remarks today, Dr. Ford recounted the alleged incident. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This is what terrified me the most and had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe and I thought that Brett was accidently going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They seemed to be having a very good time. Mark seemed ambivalent at times urging Brett on and at times telling him to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So compelling. And joining me right now is U.S. Congress woman Anna Eshoo from California, Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor. Jason Johnson, politics editor at the root.com and Shannon Pettypiece of Bloomberg News and the White House correspondent for them.
Congresswoman, thank you. I have known you a long time. I think you are a great person. I just want to ask you. Did you know, was this bad when she first came to you? This is about attempted rape and fear of being killed, if accidentally, but killed by this perp. And what do you think of Brett Kavanaugh now at the end of this day?
REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: Well thank you, Chris for having me on. I think that first of all I`m so proud of my constituent Dr. Ford. I mean, she offered compelling, honest, really riveting testimony, but in such an honest, clear, plain way in a very soft voice. And when you compare this morning and her testimony with this afternoon, where there was anger and sniping at senators and -- really I think a belligerence on the part of judge Kavanaugh, you know, in life you listen to quiet people, they have a quiet confidence and then you listen to someone that is yelling and shouting and talking over people. And I had a sense of what is this man trying to hide.
So there was a clear contrast between the two. And she said I`m here and I`m terrified. When she said what she recalled most vividly to Senator Leahy, the laughter, laughing at me, I think that that -- for me, that will remain with me always. And it`s the exact story that she shared with me when she first came to meet with me and revealed what experience she had and talked about where she wanted the information to go to.
MATTHEWS: But just for the record, everything you heard today squared with everything she said to you initially when she first came to you.
ESHOO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, congresswoman.
Republicans while not attacking Dr. Ford questioned whether she has mistaken, in a case of mistaken I.D. I guess. She was asked about that during the hearing today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAHY: Dr. Ford, I just conclude with this. You do remember what happened, do you not?
FORD: Very much so.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Last night the Republican staff of this committee released the media a timeline that shows that they have interviewed two people who claim they were the ones who actually assaulted you. I`m asking you to address this new defense of mistaken identity directly. Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?
FORD: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Cynthia Alksne, you are pro at this. I`m not. If I was sitting on a jury, not in this case but in anyone. How --?
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No one would put you on a jury, Chris.
You know, as a journalist, I have never been able to get on one unfortunately, because I would love to get on.
No. This question of Kavanaugh`s defense, it doesn`t seem to me like a real defense. He had this global defense. I never did anything -- but when asked about being a belligerent drunk which is really the issue that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde problem with this guy, if it is real. The idea that when he drinks too much he is a bad guy. He is aggressive. He may even be a criminal in that extent of assault.
He didn`t like that question. He didn`t really answer it. And my question is, he seemed more angry at the fact that this old stuff is being brought up than he was in indignity that anyone would accuse with this stuff. Because I heard a guy defending his resume, I didn`t hear a guy really showing indignant emotions that anybody would say he would behave like this. He seemed uncomfortable that it seemed to be hedging. Your thoughts. You are the expert.
ALKSNE: I had a couple of thoughts about him. First I thought he basically had a tantrum and showed that he doesn`t have the temperament to be a Supreme Court justice. And he also showed that his -- he can be an angry and belligerent person and --
ALKSNE: And it just felt like, that is what he`s like and angry and belligerent when he`s drunk. Can you imagine if a woman came into the Senate chamber and screamed and hollered at senators like that and interrupted them and was that rude? She would be taken out in a strait jacket. Because it is -- it is judge Kavanaugh, he got away with it. I thought it was shocking. The other thing --
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think he got away with it because you were watching. Let`s watch that so everybody knows what you are talking about. Here is Kavanaugh being combative with the Democrats on the committee. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And what you`re saying, if I understand it, is that the allegations by Dr. Ford, Miss Ramirez and Miss Swetnick are wrong?
KAVANAUGH: That is -- that is emphatically what I`m saying. Emphatically. The Swetnick thing is a joke. That is a farce.
FEINSTEIN: Would you like to say more about it?
Senator, let me take a step back and explain high school. I was number one in the class.
LEAHY: I thought --
KAVANAUGH: No, no, no --
LEAHY: I thought it was --
KAVANAUGH: I`m going to talk about my high school -- no, no --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him answer.
KAVANAUGH: I`m going to talk about my high school record if you are going to sit here and mock me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well back to you, Cynthia, how would you describe that public personality you just saw from the judge? Cynthia?
ALKSNE: I would describe that as a person who does not have the temperament to be a Supreme Court judge -- justice.
And additionally, he really hurt his credibility by dancing around and trying to avoid responding to the question about an FBI investigation. And the way he would say, oh, they are just 302s or there are just this and that, we all know those of us in the law enforcement community and so does he that when the FBI would go to interview Mark Judge, that would be a critical interview and no such thing has occurred. And according to this victim Mark Judge was in the room. He is a critical witness. There is no excuse that he hasn`t been called. And the way that judge was constantly trying to get away from responding to that damages his credibility beyond repair for me.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know both sides are politicians. Won`t say Democrats aren`t being Democrats tonight. But I do want to ask this question, what is the rush, Jason?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: The rush is because --
MATTHEWS: They don`t have a case for a rush.
JOHNSON: No. None at all. They just don`t want more of the allegations to come out.
MATTHEWS: So they want to stop the clock.
JOHNSON: They want to stop the clock. They want to push this through as fast as they can.
What I found is this. Look. If you are a Republican and you are hoping and praying that he wouldn`t absolutely implode, you might feel slightly more comfortable after what you saw today.
MATTHEWS: We just heard the Senator Flake is saying he doesn`t know how he is going to vote. If they lose him and the two women it is over.
MATTHEWS: Or one of the women.
JOHNSON: That is what they`re facing right now. And I don`t know how they are going to vote on this at end but I will say this, for your regular citizens, right, who were just catching this tonight because they haven`t been watching it all day, they see a guy who is supposed to be on the Supreme Court who is yelling and arguing and screaming, who tried to say this whole high school experience was American pie. But everything we heard about it is pokies, an animal house. This, the drinking, boozing, that whole story about Renate alumni, nobody buys that who went to high school. He sounded like a terrible liar.
MATTHEWS: Look. I think the Democrats were Johnny Windos (ph). They say FBI --. I always say be coherent. The look coherent. Everybody said the same thing. Let`s go to FBI. Good mood. But I wonder why there wasn`t more questioning of his belligerence and his drinking. They all talked about the gang rape and all that, the colorful information we have getting for the last few days. They didn`t really get into that and say was there a culture of this kind of behavior. Did you ever go to a so-called party where this behavior was going on?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well I think the committee hearings often turn to the debate over process and the talking past each other and insider conversation about an FBI investigation when people don`t care about that. They are interested in this person`s character. But I think the Democrats, it seemed, got a little nervous about him looking like the victim. I think he is following a playbook that is often followed when people are accused either rightfully or wrongfully of deny, attack, and become the victim. We saw it with Clarence Thomas. We saw it with Bill Clinton. It is something that Donald Trump mimics all of the time. So if he --
MATTHEWS: You are right.
PETTYPIECE: So, if he came off looking like a victim and they came off attacking this man with his daughter and his wife and his mom in the front row, how is that going to make them look --
What did you think of Lindsey Graham`s (INAUDIBLE)? I mean, his call to war. I mean, Jason, it was personal with this guy. He was accusing all of the Democrats of being bad guys, bad women, the whole thing.
JOHNSON: Right. And then he is like I have been ambushed.
Look. I didn`t buy that, right. And I thought it was over the top just like he was crying at the beginning.
MATTHEWS: But it was personal, though.
JOHNSON: It was personal.
MATTHEWS: Why did he do it? What is the emotion and motive?
JOHNSON: Because emotion is one, he wanted to make sure he is in there with Donald Trump. HE wants to make sure that he is defending what his boss wants. And then, two, the only way this could work is if you try to make it more personal than Dr. Ford.
PETTYPIECE: And the White House clearly liked it. I don`t know if he was performing to an audience of one but Sarah Sanders tweeted about it and so did Donald Trump Jr.
MATTHEWS: I think they are so invasion of the body snatchers here in the Republican Party. Some of this behavior is frightening. They are so afraid of the guy that controlled 90 percent of Republican voters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. And with McCain gone too, I think that was a bite of different tone.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Change of reality.
Anyway, Kavanaugh was asked about his drinking habits. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: So let me, if I can, return to a line of questioning my colleague was on before. Which was about whether you have ever gotten aggressive while drinking or forgotten an evening after drinking.
KAVANAUGH: Those are two different questions. I have already answered the second one. As to the first, I think the answer to that is basically no. I don`t know really what you mean by that. Like -- what are you talking about?
COONS: Well --
KAVANAUGH: I don`t mean it that way. But no is the basic answer unless you`re talking about something where -- that I`m not aware of that you`re going to ask about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here we go. Cynthia, you are the expert. It looked like that - - I said this before, that`s the question he didn`t like and everybody knows what a bad drunk is. Anybody who has been out on a social case. You bump into people who don`t know how to hold their booze. They don`t get happy and friendly and tell funny jokes. They get mean. And he knows what that meant and he didn`t want the question because he didn`t want the answer.
ALKSNE: Right. He does know and he knows that his roommate from college said he was a mean drunk.
MATTHEWS: Because he said he didn`t like his roommate from freshman year.
ALKSNE: He didn`t. Of course, he didn`t because --.
MATTHEWS: In all fairness, you don`t pick your freshman year roommates. Let`s get that straight.
MATTHEWS: And we all know that story.
How many first-year students have the same roommates the second year, their sophomore year? So I can get that part.
ALKSNE: I loved my freshman year roommate.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you`re -- you`re lucky. But go ahead.
Anyway, it`s an interesting question about whether or not he could have been so drunk, and he and his buddy were so drunk, that they don`t -- this incident was of so little moment to them that, even though she remembers it for all time, he doesn`t even remember it.
And that seems to me to be sort of where this incident probably happened, that they were so drunk they don`t remember.
MATTHEWS: But he remembers not remembering.
ALKSNE: He remembers that he was never there, even though he doesn`t know what the date is.
MATTHEWS: OK. That`s my problem.
I`m going to go back to everybody here, because I will start with you, though. You`re the expert on this.
Global denial. He denied ever drinking too much to excess, never getting - - never being -- blacking out, never being forgetful of something, never being at a party the whole junior year, juniors doing nothing but jock stuff and going to stuff with his father and working his butt off.
ALKSNE: And going to church.
MATTHEWS: And -- yes, he denied going out basically that whole summer.
ALKSNE: That is right. How convenient.
MATTHEWS: It is a global defense.
ALKSNE: He also says constantly that the four witnesses back him up.
They do not. That just is not true. Two people -- two of the women who were downstairs don`t have any memory of this either way. And why would they? Because they were not upstairs when it happened.
And Mark Judge is the third person. He was in the room and is a co-perp. Why would he say he remembers it? So, he constantly repeated that, as if at some point we`re all going to be stupid, we`re going to believe it.
He also went on and own about his yearbook, about, oh, it was all so incredibly innocent, and we love this woman whose name begins with R, who I refuse to say her name because it is so obnoxious, the way he treated her.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
ALKSNE: And they expect -- he expects us to believe that. And he thinks we`re dumb. If he just says it, we will agree.
It is insulting that he does that. And it is insulting that the Republicans don`t have any desire to find out the truth and to have this guy Mark Judge interviewed. It is critical to deciding whether or not this guy should be on the Supreme Court.
And here is what is going to happen. At some point, Mark Judge cannot continue to hide out at the beach with his comic books. At some point, someone is going to find out what happened. And if this guy is on the Supreme Court and he says something else, he`s injured the Supreme Court in a huge way.
The whole Supreme Court is being injured here by this. It is sort of the last institution that anybody had any respect for. And now it`s going to be dragged through the mud. Thank you, Brett Kavanaugh.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we have counter plans here.
The Democrats want to take all of the time they can get to show this guy`s deficiencies, and the Republicans want to have a quick call tomorrow, as fast as they can get one.
Anyway, in defending himself from these allegations, Judge Kavanaugh blamed Democrats, saying the events of the last couple of weeks represent revenge on behalf of the Clintons among other things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
This is a circus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it was a partisan, awfully combative display, as you just saw.
But when it came to hear from the most crucial Republican, Senator Flake, he, the senator from Arizona, did not tip his hand as to how he might vote when it comes to it.
Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I would just urge my colleagues to recognize that in the end we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent.
And in the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today, and that, as we make decisions going forward, I hope that people will recognize that, and in the rhetoric we use and the language that we use going forward, that we will recognize that, that there is doubt, we will never move beyond that, and just have a little humility on that front.
So thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining us now is the former Democratic senator from California Barbara Boxer.
Senator, thank you for coming on tonight.
BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Of course.
MATTHEWS: How did you see it today? What do you think? The Republicans are -- they were definitely backs against the wall around 3:00 this afternoon.
And then they seemed to get some -- pepped up because Lindsey Graham did that call to arms, and they felt a little righteously indignant. Where do you see this going tonight and tomorrow morning?
BOXER: Well, let me say it was exhausting day, I think, for everybody, and especially for women who have had this experience and for women who have had relationships with very angry men.
And I think -- I have listened to your commentary. I think you`re right. All of a sudden, we see a man transformed from a choirboy, who, up until now, has said, after hours in front of the committee, that he lived this very perfect life, all of a sudden, his anger is triggered.
And what we saw today is someone who you could now see attacking a woman. It is very frightening. And I think your guest, who was so good and said, temperament is -- temperament is so important for who you put on the court.
This guy not only showed this belligerent anger, but he had like a personality transformation.
Now, what do I think will happen? We all know it`s a few Republicans who really hold this decision on their shoulders. I don`t know anyone who didn`t think that Dr. Ford was credible. And when she said, I am 100 percent sure who this was, I believe her.
It`s up to them. Do they believe her?
And the last point I will make is, if you are undecided, there`s only one way to know. And that`s to get an independent FBI background check. And, frankly, anyone who doesn`t support that doesn`t want to get to the truth. And that includes Judge Kavanaugh.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
Senator, the idea of doubt, I -- we just heard it from Jeff Flake, who is a guy who`s teetering here. He says he`s teetering. And he is certainly no friend of this president or perhaps his nominees.
But the -- I guess what`s your experience with the FBI? Will they clean it up? Will they go after this guy Judge, Mark Judge, out of -- he`s out hanging out at Rehoboth somewhere, Dewey Beach or somewhere, reading comic books.
Are they going to get the woman who was there? I`m -- I want to hear under oath in a hearing from the other people that were there, because something happened.
MATTHEWS: And it was probably the -- the judge who was the person who did it. I just want to have some corroborating evidence to back up what was a very compelling witness, but only one witness.
And it was certainly the victim. But I don`t understand a party that nobody went to. I don`t know this world. I mean, don`t they have friends around them? Or are they under omerta?
Is this whole social crowd keeping a secret? I don`t get it. I mean, I know it was a while ago, but they all -- those people don`t leave Chevy Chase. They grew up here. They see generations. I know the world. I know what we`re talking about here.
BOXER: Well, Chris, you did not -- you and I did not grow up in privilege.
I grew up in the inner city of Brooklyn, New York. And this kind of a world is pretty alien to me.
BOXER: But here`s a guy who was supposedly in the room where it happened hiding out in a faraway room on the beach. And we know that he is in hiding.
And you asked me about the FBI. When I was a United States senator, I had the privilege, 24 years, to recommend a number of people for judgeships, not Supreme Court, but the lower courts. The FBI always did a background check. And guess what? A couple of times, they learned a couple of things, and they had to go way back.
BOXER: And they came to me and said, uh-uh, uh-uh.
So they`re the ones who can do this. They don`t have any prejudice. They`re not political. They will go back and find the truth. And I will tell you, I know people are criticizing my Democratic colleagues, but they made that point. And that`s the only point you can make when you`re faced with this anger mixed with crying.
I have never seen. It was like Clarence Thomas, plus crying. It was bizarre.
MATTHEWS: It was emotional.
Senator, we miss you. I hope -- I think you probably miss this, but thank you so much. Your -- Kamala, replacement, is doing welcome.
BOXER: Well, I`m happy to be in California.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BOXER: I`m happy to have Kamala there.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, former Senator Barbara Boxer California.
Cynthia Alksne, great expertise, of course, for us benefiting from it tonight from your prosecutorial and defense experience. Shannon Pettypiece, great journalist. Jason, our colleague, here.
Up next: more on how today`s contentious hearing was received at the White House, although I don`t know if I believe anything coming out from Trump. He will say was thrilled by it. I don`t think he liked the crying by his guy. Crying is not one of Trump`s of -- it`s not in his toolkit.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump was a spectator to today`s hearing, of course, over at the White House, watching much of Christine Blasey Ford`s testimony on Air Force One actually coming down from New York, and the remainder from inside the White House itself, upstairs, in fact, in the residence.
As I mentioned earlier, Trump tweeted moments just after the hearing wrapped -- quote -- "Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest and riveting. Democrats` search and destroy strategy is disgraceful. And this process has been a total sham, an effort to delay, obstruct and resist. The Senate must vote."
Well, the only public comment from inside the White House during the hearing came in a tweet from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who tweeted praise for Lindsey Graham, saying, he -- quote -- "has more decency and courage than every Democratic member of the committee combined."
I`m joined right now Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The Los Angeles Times," and Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion.
Thank you both.
We`re just getting the word there was a huddle in the hallway. It was Susan Collins and Murkowski, the two women who are pro-choice, and who may well vote against this nominee for other reasons as well, and also joined by Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who is teetering, in fact, not willing to say where he stands, and Jeff Flake.
So they are the deciders.
ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Right.
It`s high drama right now. And those are the four -- thought to be the four swing votes on this. And it really depends on who you talk to.
I talked to a Democrat on The hill who said: I think -- I think he`s going through and we may see no Republicans defect, because that -- the last couple hours of that hearing was such a rallying cry for the Republicans and for the Republican base, although those senators we`re talking about who are having to decide, those are the ones who matter.
Those are not base senators. And I think it just -- it does come down to that. The White House loved it. The Republican partisans loved it.
MATTHEWS: They said they loved it. They said they loved it. You believe them?
STOKOLS: Well, they loved it because they felt like they were in a hole this morning. And I think after Kavanaugh...
MATTHEWS: All those tears? All those tears from the judge?
STOKOLS: The president is not a crier, but he liked that he fought. He liked how hard...
MATTHEWS: All right.
Tim, well, it was a cri de guerre, a call to arms.
Tim, my question is, who`s the decider here? Is it the president? Is the holdouts? We were mentioning the four guys in the hallway. Or is it McConnell?
Who is going to decide they`re going to go for broke, risk a vote in the caucus -- in the committee, the 11 -- hope the 11 hold, including Flake, and then go for 50 in the Senate? Who`s going to decide that?
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, I think -- I think that axe on a lot of this is going to end up being Mitch McConnell.
This is hardball politics. He`s going to keep people in his party lined up on this. And I think the first pressure is going to come to bear on Jeff Flake. He`s on the Judiciary Committee. So he`s going to have to stand up tomorrow and decide where he`s going to be on this.
And then there`s going to be a lot of pressure over the weekend on the other potential holdouts, Collins and Murkowski, et cetera. I have a feeling that there`s going to be a line vote on this, but I don`t know. I`m not a fortune teller on this.
MATTHEWS: You mean a line vote meaning -- you mean 50 Republicans at least?
O`BRIEN: Yes, totally.
MATTHEWS: Well, the pressure on Flake would be, if he ever wants to run for office again in Arizona, the smart move is to vote for the nomination, right? You want to be a Republican at the last moment, don`t you?
STOKOLS: I suppose so. But nobody knows where the Republican Party is going. I mean, even if he votes for this nominee, if the party continues in the trend that we have seen, with Donald Trump taking over the party, Jeff Flake went from being one of the most conservative members of this party to now not being considered conservative enough.
So it`s hard to know if this is a vote that really has as much to do with his political future or not. But I think, in terms of base politics and what`s driving this and the hard politics with Mitch McConnell, why the White House was excited when Lindsey Graham tweeted was because he broke the pattern there with the woman questioning and very sober questioning of Kavanaugh.
It became sort of a partisan slugfest after Lindsey Graham.
MATTHEWS: Let me try something by both you experts.
If you`re Trump the president, and you`re the nominee for the Supreme Court, and you`re McConnell, you figure you got very little chance of getting this through, but you have a bigger chance now than you will have three or four days from now. Go for the vote, just like in the Florida recount.
Count it now. Stop the count. Stop talking about it. Stop more witnesses coming forward. Get it over with. You may not get it, but you damn well won`t get it by next Thursday.
Your thoughts, Tim?
O`BRIEN: That`s totally, I think, where Trump is right now.
And I think his -- his tweet was evidence of that. I think there are two people here who are going to be very important, Murkowski and Collins. I have to believe the very sympathetic and credible testimony that Dr. Ford gave today is going to weigh very heavily with them.
But there`s no question that this is going to be powered through in a highly partisan way. And that`s why Lindsey Graham`s outburst during the testimony day, I think, is going to be a signal moment around all of this.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it was like calling the charge.
MATTHEWS: Trump loved it. Somebody had to do it. Somebody had to say, we can still win this thing.
O`BRIEN: Well, also, Lindsey Graham has been very in the Trump camp plane a number of issues over recent months.
And he was one of the people, with McCain, who was willing to be a Trump critic for quite a while. And it`s a little bit -- it`s interesting to me the kind of leverage the White House now has over Lindsey Graham.
MATTHEWS: By the way, the death of John McCain is being recognized here. I think we`re seeing something that would not have been happening if he`s still alive.
STOKOLS: That may be true, and a lot of speculation about whether Lindsey Graham wants to become the attorney general after this and is sort of sucking up to the White House.
But they needed somebody to change the dynamic in that hearing, because they didn`t like when the outside -- the prosecutor who was brought in to give that appearance that they were questioning Dr. Ford, they didn`t like the way that hearing was proceeding when she was just quietly assessing and looking to get the facts.
They liked it much better inside the White House, and I think Mitch McConnell liked it a lot better after Lindsey Graham sort of turned the tide. They got rid of that pretense that they were after fact and information, and they just went full-bore at the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: They didn`t like that fact-finder.
O`BRIEN: And Judge Kavanaugh himself, he was channeling Trump. His belligerent, aggressive, defiant behavior was Trump. And Trump liked it.
So, I think you also can`t discount the fact that the judge himself turned the sentiment.
MATTHEWS: But, of course, the great irony, Tim, was he`s denying what it meant to be belligerent. He didn`t understand the question. What do you mean belligerent? What do you mean by that?
I think he knows, because he showed it.
Eli Stokols, thank you, and Tim O`Brien.
Up next: an accusation and a denial. So who do we believe? I`m sure people watching right now have a very strong belief in who they believe.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
And what could be a late night tonight. Senator Republicans are holding a conference meeting right now in the Capitol, a few blocks from here to discuss the path forward on Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination for the Supreme Court.
Joining me right now is NBC News` Garrett Haake.
Tell us about the fabulous four, the three Republicans and the one Democrat Joe Manchin kind of figure how they`re going to go.
GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, two meetings of note, one happening right now and the other one just concluded. Republican senators are meeting in Mitch McConnell`s suite of offices to decide their way forward on this nomination.
But earlier tonight, three crucial Republican votes, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake met with Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator of West Virginia, in Susan Collins hideaway office here in the Capitol.
Now, we know the three of those senators watched the hearing very closely. Jeff Flake, of course, was in the room for the duration today. I talked to Joe Manchin, he was leaving the Capitol tonight as Republicans were gathering for their confab, he was really reluctant to characterize their conversation at all, would not say if they discussed their votes, would not say if they would all vote the same way, joked that the only thing he would say for sure is they didn`t talk about the weather here in Washington.
But those four votes, I think you could argue, have been the most in play this entire time. Collins and Murkowski who have shown they have the spine to vote against their party and their president when they feel it`s the right thing to do. Flake, who used his one minute of speaking time today to remind everyone in this hearing to judge based on the humanity of these two people and Manchin has been a wild card in this. Early on in the process, I think a lot of folks who followed what was going on felt like Manchin was somebody who wanted to vote yes on Kavanaugh simply because it would play well back in West Virginia, but he`s been much, much quieter about his leaning on this as we`ve gotten a little bit closer.
So, I think that foursome is the one to watch more so than in the Republican conference meeting. Although I will add to that, Bob Corker who is the other person we`ve been watching closely, told reporters on the way to the meeting he watched the whole hearing and he made up his mind already.
MATTHEWS: I heard him.
HAAKE: So, a lot of moving parts here tonight, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Garrett Haake, out there in the Senate floor.
Joining me right now is Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Post", George F. Will, syndicated columnist with "The Washington Post", and Jonathan Allen, NBC news digital national political reporter.
I just want to ask -- I just want to run through the mechanics here. If the Republican leadership and the president decide they could still win, but go ahead with the vote, if they find out there are too many defectors, they`re not going to go ahead. They`re not going to take a loss.
Is that a fair assumption? They would rather lose than quit?
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think Brett Kavanaugh made it harder for them to not plow ahead and go with the vote. If you remember, back in the --
MATTHEWS: He said he won`t quit.
MARCUS: Back in the Judge Bork days, we all knew, Judge Bork knew that he was going to lose and yet he insisted on a vote and I remember having to confront him at lunch that day with the news he`d just been defeated.
MATTHEWS: George, how did you read Judge Kavanaugh`s denial of guilt? Did you read it denial of guilt or indignation that his old high school days are being replayed 36 years later?
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Both. I think when you do have someone being -- questioned by senators about stuff in the high school year book, you reach a kind of nadir.
On the matter of the vote, Senator McConnell, who`s a really good legislative mechanic and doesn`t brag without knowing where he`s going, said on the Senate floor the other day that he would -- that Kavanaugh would be voted on. That means it would come to a vote in the Senate, which means he`s going to get out of committee, which means he`s not going to lose any votes there, which means he`s not going to lose Flake on the vote to get him to the floor.
MATTHEWS: That`s a logic train. So, if flake sticks with the majority of the committee, the 11, he`s one of the 11, that means he`ll be one of the 50.
WILL: No, it doesn`t mean that. It means -- because there is a tradition of saying I don`t want to deny the man a full vote and an airing on the floor so we can vote to get him out of committee, report him favorably, but not to vote on him favorably.
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS DIGITAL, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: A couple of things there. First of all, I think they report to the Senate floor adversely if they want to, so that is a possibility. Even if Flake doesn`t --
MARCUS: And that has happened previously. It happened with Judge Bork.
ALLEN: As far as McConnell goes, I think what he was saying on the floor the other day was a warning to his own members that they couldn`t sink this nomination behind closed doors by withholding their votes secretly and basically saying I`m not going to support this guy and saying I`m going to put this on the floor and make you vote in front of your own voters and constituents.
What I thought was amazing about this hearing was the incredible shift in tone between the testimony we heard from Dr. Ford in the morning to what we heard from Brett Kavanaugh in the evening. He went full partisan which I think was his best strategy to make it as a partisan blood bath as he possibly --
MATTHEWS: Call for division.
ALLEN: Absolutely. Because he wasn`t going to pick up a lot of Democratic votes.
And one last thing with regard to what Garrett Haake was saying about Joe Manchin, President Trump is going to be in Wheeling, West Virginia, this weekend, for a Make America Great rally, there`s going to be a ton of pressure on Joe Manchin to vote for Kavanaugh.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Anyway, the White House was relatively silent during Dr. Ford`s testimony this morning. "Politico" reported her questioning left some officials cringing, noting Trump was not angry so much as shocked by the spectacle of the hearing. Over on Fox News, the president`s network of choice, of course, reaction to her testimony was largely sympathetic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: This was extremely emotional, extremely raw and extremely credible. This is a disaster for the Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is extremely credible and Rachel Mitchell not only is not laying a glove on her but in my view is actually helping her credibility by the gentility with which these questions are being asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, those were the journalists over at Fox. A small group. But nonetheless journalists. Chris Wallace, of course, and Brian -- and the rest of them, Brit, and the others.
MARCUS: Well, the testimony was incredibly searing, incredibly powerful. There are gaps in her story. She acknowledged the gaps.
But it was clear at l least to me that when she said she was 100 percent confident, she 100 percent believed that. And I --
MATTHEWS: And she said she knew this guy. She knew Brett. She knew him from the neighborhood.
MARCUS: She said it wasn`t that she was mistaken, it wasn`t that she mistook him for somebody else. So, that was some searing testimony and I really kind of wonder about Jonathan`s assessment that going full partisan was the right strategy for Brett Kavanaugh because it might be a good inside strategy with senators and those are the ones whose votes you need to get, but I wonder if people watching that, watching his anger and --
MATTHEWS: They weren`t going to --
MARCUS: -- lashed out at the Clintons.
MATTHEWS: Because you always shift the question from who is right to what side are you on? That is always what you do in politics.
WILL: He went partisan. Now he is the guy, as you mentioned, the Democrats said was evil, was going to kill millions of people and you say he -- what, he picked a fight?
MARCUS: No. You know -- when Judge Thomas, Justice Thomas now was up there and he came out after Anita Hill with this veracity, I had expected - - especially because there were questions about Brett Kavanaugh`s temperament, whether he was an aggressive belligerent drunk that he would come off as the judge Kavanaugh that we`ve all known for some time, which is, you know, polite, respectful, a nice kind of guy. Kind of guy.
MATTHEWS: But did you sense that he looked like he`d already lost? He said, you`ve destroyed my reputation. I can`t even be a high school coach anymore. I can`t be a coach. I can`t do anything.
His whole life, he said, was destroyed. He sounded to me like a guy who is on his last leg and all he could do is declare partisanship.
ALLEN: The terrible thing that would happen to him is he would sit as a circuit court judge for the rest of his life.
MATTHEWS: Not if Senator Whitehouse has his way, anyway, because he may go after him all the way and impeach him there.
Anyway, Ruth Marcus, George F. Will, and Jonathan Allen, thank you all.
More on today`s dramatic hearing on Capitol Hill coming up. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: In today`s emotional hearing, Judge Kavanaugh consistently resisted pressure from Democrats to call for an FBI investigation to help what they say clear his name.
Well, here`s how Democratic Senator Durbin from Illinois pressed him on that point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Judge Kavanaugh, turn to Don McGahn and to this committee and say, for the sake of my reputation, my family name and to get to the bottom of the truth of this, I am not going to stay being an obstacle to an FBI investigation and I would hope that all members of the committee would join me in saying we`re going to abide by your wishes and we will have that investigation.
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I welcome whatever the committee wants to do, because I`m telling the truth.
DURBIN: I want to know what you want to do.
KAVANAUGH: I`m telling the truth.
DURBIN: I want to know what you want to do, Judge.
KAVANAUGH: I`m innocent. I`m innocent of this charge.
DURBIN: Then you`re prepared for an FBI investigation?
KAVANAUGH: They don`t reach conclusions. You reach the conclusions, Senator.
DURBIN: No, but they do investigate questions.
KAVANAUGH: I`m innocent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with what we saw today in the hearing room of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Up through 2:00 p.m., we heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford deliver what one expert called dazzling testimony, remembering being sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. I believe those who wanted to believe her did. And those who didn`t were left fearing that they had just confronted a witness who was not only credible, but likable. And most important, authentic.
Starting at 3:00 p.m. today, we heard a prominent man, Judge Kavanaugh, defend his hard earned reputation. He spoke of having worked hard to make great grades in high school, of having gotten into Yale, and then into Yale Law School will ever beginning a successful climb in the Washington political governmental and judicial world.
In a sense, Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh were arguing past each other with equal emotion. And despite or because of all of his protestations and claims to liking beer, I had the feeling that Judge Kavanaugh was primarily angry he was being judged on his behavior so many years ago and not on the success of his resume. Dr. Ford was testifying to what she remembered Judge Kavanaugh on what he said he could not remember.
There are more ways to get to the truth, by the way, than relying on the public testimony of just these two people. This should be the beginning of an inquiry, not the end.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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