Show: HARDBALL Date: October 4, 2018
Guest: Ashley Pratte, Greg Brower, Natasha Bertrand, Mark Osler
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Profile in courage. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
It was a dramatic day on Capitol Hill as we await now a showdown over the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senators spent the morning reviewing the FBI background investigation into Kavanaugh, such as it was, after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell set in motion the process of voting for his confirmation.
NBC News has learned the FBI spoke with just nine people in its probe, into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. Six have been identified, including one of his accusers, Deborah Ramirez. Notably not interviewed, Christine Blasey Ford, whose allegation prompted the investigation, nor did they talk to judge Kavanaugh.
There was one notable profile in courage today. I must say, North Dakota Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp, who is locked in a very tough reelection battle out there, announced her decision to vote against Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: The process has been bad, but at the end of the day, you have to make a decision. And I have made that decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that decision will be what, senator?
KEITKAMP: I will be voting "no" on judge Kavanaugh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in a statement, Heitkamp noted she voted for justice Neil Gorsuch, but added, when I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse.
Other Democrats expressed frustration that the FBI had not spoken to Ford nor a host of other potential witnesses in connection with the probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The most notable part of this report is what`s not in it. It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: We had many fears that this was a very limited process, having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realized.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: I`m not allowed to discuss it. The public can`t see it. It`s a complete sham. The investigation was a sham.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW YORK: They didn`t interview all the potential eyewitness. They didn`t interview all the corroborating witnesses. I`m actually shocked. I`m actually shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, President Trump was briefed this afternoon or this morning, actually, on the contents of the report, which will not be made public, at least not officially. In a series of tweets, Trump lamented what he called the harsh and unfair treatment of Kavanaugh and the quote "totally uncorroborated allegations." Well, obviously, they didn`t get a chance to find them.
In a second tweet, Trump wrote, this is now the seventh time the FBI has investigated judge Kavanaugh. If we made it 100, it would still not be good enough for the obstructionist Democrats. That`s Trump.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell indicated his plans to move full speed ahead joining the President in defending Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: For goodness sake, this is the United States of America! Nobody is supposed to be guilty until proven innocent in this country. I will be proud to vote to advance this nomination tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the first procedural vote, which will test the power of those for Kavanaugh will come tomorrow morning. There are still four key senators who remain publicly uncommitted. These are the ones we are watching. Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She is a strong person. Maine`s Susan Collins, Arizona`s Jeff Flake, and one Democrat, West Virginia`s Joe Manchin.
I`m joined right now by Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent. Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney. Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for "the Washington Post."
Kasie, I have a lot of hopes that maybe Murkowski will show some leadership. She seems more like a leader than the others. How do you figure the order of succession in the decision making of those left to decide?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, I think that your sense on Lisa Murkowski is correct. And she actually spent the afternoon here at the capitol, meeting with survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Many of whom came out of her office in tears, after having talked about their own experiences. She has very carefully avoided our cameras, so we haven`t spoken to her today. But everyone that I have talked to, all of my sources and senators in leadership who I have spoken to off the record suggest, or, excuse me, on background I should say, not off the record, have suggested that she may be more willing to potentially play a vote, a "no" vote.
Now, Susan Collins, on the other hand, they tend to say the opposite. That she has been throughout this process looking for a way to vote "yes." But we also don`t know yet what her decision is going to be. She has said she is going to have an announcement tomorrow. She spent a good chunk of the evening. She was one of the last people to leave the secure area, where the FBI report was. So I might put her on the other end of the spectrum.
And then, Jeff Flake and Joe Manchin are real wild cards here. And I think that the dynamic that I have heard from my sources is that nobody wants to be the 50th vote. Nobody wants to be the person that makes or breaks this nomination. Joe Manchin, I think, would prefer to be able to vote "yes" on Kavanaugh from a political perspective, for him, it`s really a no-brainer and the way that this has come to the forefront over the last week has made it much harder for him in a race where he has previously felt pretty secure.
But the reality is, if it`s a Democrat that puts Kavanaugh on the court, that`s going to be an impossible position to be in, too. So it`s really kind of this bizarre game of chicken, where they are all watching each other to see what they are going to do. And I think that the dynamic is really very unpredictable at this point.
And I also think that, you know, you could potentially see some cracks or fissures in the event that it does seem like this is going down. This is a difficult vote for some other members of the Republican conference that we are not even talking about, like, perhaps senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. I don`t want to suggest that he is in play, but you know, this is a tough vote for somebody in a swing state like that.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how the nomination can still be defeated. You have got Heitkamp, who has had the guts to be a profile in courage. Now you have got, it seems to me, with Murkowski, if she moves against this nomination, will flake go with her?
HUNT: You know, I`m just not sure, Chris. I don`t know if you can -- I`m not sure if you can go that far. No one has been able to kind of get inside Jeff Flake`s head, because, quite frankly, there was a time when he was a yes. He put out a statement saying, I`m going to back Kavanaugh after hearing all of this, and he wavered and went into this FBI investigation. So the person I spoke to most recently with the most position to know says, you know, nobody is inside his head, no one has any idea what he is going to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, one person could be in his head.
HUNT: He`s clearly personally affected.
MATTHEWS: One person could be in his head. That is Mitch McConnell when he agreed to go along or he had to go along with this week long shorthand investigation.
MATTHEWS: Did he get a commitment from Flake if he does this, he will vote "yes," if he didn`t find anything big?
HUNT: My reporting doesn`t necessarily bear that out, Chris, although, clearly, McConnell felt as though this was a way that he could potentially get the votes he need from this group of people. So there certainly was that level of understanding, but I don`t think that there was any, you know, straight out commitment that this is fine, you know, we will vote "yes." because, also, we don`t know what`s in the report.
MATTHEWS: What are we hearing right now? Is that the protesters right now?
HUNT: Yes. So that`s - they are actually right over my shoulder. I think you can only really see the trees, but they are kind in a tent. They are going to be here totally overnight. We could hear a little earlier Bernie Sanders` very distinct voice. I spent a lot of time on the trail with Bernie Sanders, so this was giving me some flashbacks, but we`re told they`re going to camp out all night long until tomorrow morning, when we know that Mitch McConnell just announced that the vote will be tomorrow morning.
MATTHEWS: Good for them. Thank you very much.
Senate Republicans have seen the FBI report and argued it vindicated Kavanaugh and the allegations against him and pressed to move forward on a vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Senators who requested the supplemental FBI background check got what they requested and I am ready to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step back.
GRAHAM: Because you humiliated this guy enough and there seems to be no bottom --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he would take a polygraph --
GRAHAM: So why don`t we document in the water and see if he floats.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is a search and destroy mission. This is not a search for the truth. And this man is qualified. And to put him through this type of a mess, just because they are unhappy that Donald Trump had the right to appoint him, is just plain wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Barbara, if this is a job application and we`ve been told that`s for all of the Republicans, for all of those weeks, of the actual earlier confirmation hearings, it was a job application, not a criminal investigation. Yet if it`s a job application and you have testimony that the guy is a belligerent drunk at times, when he drinks too much, he gets very belligerent, dangerous even to people, why didn`t they go down that line of inquiry? It seems that would be one of the things you have to look at.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I agree with you, Chris. I think that they want to have it both way. I think that either deliberately or inadvertently confusing the American public where the standard in a criminal case is guilty under reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence and all of those things. And that does matter when you`re talking about taking away someone`s liberty.
In this instance, it is a very different matter it`s not taking away Brett Kavanaugh`s liberty. It`s, should we be giving him the privilege and responsibility of sitting on the highest court of the land, which oversees the criminal justice system. And, if you have someone with a credible allegation of sexual assault in their past and other allegations, as well, like the one we`re getting from Deborah Ramirez, why on earth would we want to taint the Supreme Court with someone like that, when there is a long line of other conservative judges who could equally be nominated to this court, who don`t have that taint? Neil Gorsuch, for example, made it through without these kinds of allegations.
MATTHEWS: But the allegations also include, I know it is Swetnick, you can argue whether she is a great witness or not, but she is talking about that should be investigated, this idea of getting women drunk, young girls actually drunk so he could have sex with them, with multiple partners, against a thoughtful process at least, deliberative process. And that`s what Cosby has been sent away for, rightfully, in prison right now. If this is true, it`s incredibly serious and looks like they didn`t have even want to talk to her. They didn`t talk to Swetnick. Barbara?
MCQUADE: Yes, and you know, again, it seems that the FBI was given a short leash, due this in less than a week, and had some limitations on who they should be talking to. There have been many people who could corroborate the story to have Deborah Ramirez, certainly listening to what Julie Swetnick had to say. If this is a quest for the truth, you would want them to ask questions of all of those people and provide all of that information. And I think they are gambling on the fact that they`re going to get a vote and going to get a confirmation. But that fails to account for, this is only going to be thorough if the Senate says it is, because they have to be satisfied that they have had a thorough investigation.
And don`t think this is the end of it. Those people are going to continue to come forward. I think we are going to see journalists telling their stories in the weeks and months to come. And do we want -- a justice Kavanaugh and a Supreme Court to be forever tainted with these stories that didn`t come out until later?
MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon, President Trump told reporters in Minnesota that Kavanaugh is quote "doing well," whatever that means.
This morning, deputy press secretary Raj Shah said the White House is fully confident that the Senate will vote to confirm Kavanaugh and the report would satisfy senators` concern. Here`s Raj.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We are fully confident after reviewing this information senators are going to be comfortable voting "yes".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And press secretary Sarah Sanders tried to back charges that the White House had micromanaged the FBI investigation by limiting the list of witnesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- pushes back on the fact that Dr. Ford wasn`t given ample opportunity to make her case and state her case has been living in a cave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Phil, I have watched this game all day today. The Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, says, well, it`s the FBI who had to decide what was in that inquiry. They were -- the President told -- oh, it`s the FBI. Everybody is passing the buck about who limited this to a quickie three days.
PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, but the White House had a lot of authority over this process. And talking --
MATTHEWS: Are they admitting it?
RUCKER: Well, talking to officials there today, the uncertainty that Kasie described on Capitol Hill, the White House is not conveying. There is a really high level of confidence, even in private conversations there, that this is pretty much a done deal. And what you see the President doing, he`s got a rally tonight in Minnesota. He is trying to create signs of political momentum around the vote, create an environment where it becomes just so difficult, if not impossible for those three Republican senators to end up voting "no," even though they are still deliberating about the vote, and it may not be as certain as the White House officials are trying to present.
MATTHEWS: I have heard it said that if Collins, Susan Collins of Maine, who is a Republican of some independence, if she votes for this nomination, she is guaranteed a really rock them, sock them Democratic opponent when she runs for reelection in 2020.
RUCKER: And if she votes against Kavanaugh, she is potentially guaranteed a rock them, sock them Republican primary challenge in her reelection.
MATTHEWS: But that`s the --
RUCKER: That`s the dilemma she is facing. And I think the White House feels like Collins and Murkowski in particular may end up making a political calculation that they don`t want to have to deal, a primary challenge in their own party and vote for Kavanaugh. At least, that`s what the White House is counting on at this hour. But tomorrow`s a new day.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m thinking the road to hope here for those who oppose this nomination is Murkowski, followed by Flake, followed by Collins, and maybe by Manchin.
RUCKER: That`s quite a road. We will see.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Phil.
Anyway, Phil Rucker, thank you. Kasie Hunt, Barbara McQuade.
Coming up, five days and nine interviews. Why was the FBI background check on judge Kavanaugh so limited in scope?
Plus, a Yale law school classmate of Brett Kavanaugh withdraws his support after watching his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
And what is senator Heitkamp`s brave stand today mean her reelection chances come up next month? And what does the Kavanaugh fight mean for Democrats` chance of taking back the congress? We will see. It`s up in the air right now.
Finally, let me finish tonight with the constitutional role of the United States Senate. They have got to fill it, now.
And this is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: In a Kavanaugh -- anti-Kavanaugh protesters descended on Washington today, as we have said, as senators were briefed on the contents of that FBI report on Kavanaugh. Let`s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, after North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp announced that she planned to vote "no" or nay on Kavanaugh, the protesters took a break to thank her.
And we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So just to be clear, should the FBI interview all three of Brett Kavanaugh`s accusers?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wouldn`t bother me at all. I think the FBI should interview anybody that they want, within reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Brett Kavanaugh be interviewed by the FBI?
TRUMP: I think so. I think it is fine, if they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Despite the President`s word on Monday that the FBI should have a free hand in conducting their background investigation of judge Kavanaugh. There`s mounting concern today, Thursday, that the bureau didn`t do a thorough job.
Today`s 46-page report is the product of a five-day inquiry, including -- actually, consisting of nine FBI interviews. That`s it. Neither Christine Blasey Ford nor judge Kavanaugh were interviewed at all, nor were numerous potential corroborating witnesses referred to the FBI by Kavanaugh`s accusers. And several took their own unsolicited statements to the FBI, hoping they would be heard.
However, current and former FBI officials confirmed to NBC news yesterday that agents have not been permitted to talk to many of these people who want to talk to them. Likewise, Bloomberg`s reported yesterday that the FBI hasn`t interviewed Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford because it doesn`t have clear authority from the White House to do just that. Well, despite those reports, Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee said today that no limitations who the FBI could or could not interview were made.
Let`s watch them play this game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We did not come up with a list of people who the FBI should interview.
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Just to be clear that we did not give them a list of people, and only these people they can speak with.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The FBI has gotten all the -- all the permission they have need in order to interview whoever they think is necessary.
There has been no one to corroborate any of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or by Ms. Ramirez. And the FBI has reported that back to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is Natasha Bertrand, a staff writer for "The Atlantic," and Greg Brower, a former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official.
Greg, first of all to you.
Everybody`s throwing the hot potato around. I mean, this -- I watched the Republican senators today all say, we had nothing to do with restricting it. We told them to do whatever they wanted, to follow -- the president said in front of -- in the Rose Garden the other day, on the Canadian trade deal, he said, I told them to go wherever they want to lead.
And then we find out all that all they talked to is a few people. They didn`t go after the drunken belligerence thing that everybody was trying to figure out about or any kind of really going after the Ramirez case. They didn`t follow up all the leads that have been given to them. They won`t even talk to the people coming forward.
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, so I obviously don`t know who said what to who, but I will tell you, in my...
MATTHEWS: Who tells the FBI to do?
BROWER: The White House does.
But in my experience at the FBI and as a former federal prosecutor, I just can`t imagine this investigation being done without the FBI interviewing both Ford and Kavanaugh. That just -- I think that makes sense to just ordinary folks as well.
MATTHEWS: We`re told they were told not to. Is that possible? BROWER: It is possible, because the White House does guide the process.
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the theory that`s making the rounds. I got this from David Corn today. And I think he`s reliable.
I know he has a point of view, but he`s reliable as an journalist. That they didn`t want to interview her because they didn`t want to interview him, because they didn`t think that he could handle an FBI investigation.
An FBI inquiry about his drinking habits, his belligerence when he got drunk, the amount of drinking he did when he was young, the whole story, he couldn`t stand the muster of in a one-on-one interview with an agent.
NATASHA BERTRAND, "THE ATLANTIC": It`s possible.
MATTHEWS: Because he`d have to lie.
BERTRAND: Yes, it`s possible. I think that it would have been limited anyway, because the White House limited the scope, saying that they could only talk about the sexual assault allegations.
So all of the witnesses who Blasey Ford has, who Debbie Ramirez has that can talk about his drinking habits in high school and college, they would technically be off-limits for the FBI.
MATTHEWS: But every incident that has been mentioned here, in which he was blotto.
BERTRAND: Exactly. And that`s why Republicans have said that the Democrats are now shifting the goalpost and saying that his drinking has become the issue.
But his drinking is central to it, because he was drunk, allegedly, in every one of these incidents, as you said. So it`s extremely important to not only get information that could corroborate the sexual assault allegations, but also information about his habits in high school and college.
MATTHEWS: Nobody assumed he would ever have exposed himself, to use the phrase we use, if he wasn`t blotto, drunk, of course.
Deborah Ramirez, for example, his law school classmate, alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while at Yale, told "The New Yorker": "The people who were key to corroborating my story have not been contacted. I feel like I am being silenced."
This is Ramirez talking.
Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford also said in a letter to FBI Director Wray -- quote -- "The investigation conducted over the past five days is a stain on the process, on the FBI and on our American ideal of justice."
BROWER: Yes, I think the White House and the Senate Republicans sort of missed an opportunity here to take a big process foul call away from the Democrats.
Had the -- had Ford and Kavanaugh been interviewed, had all of the Ramirez witnesses been interviewed, the Democrats still, virtually all of them would be opposed to this nominee, but they wouldn`t be able to say that the FBI reopening was rigged or somehow wasn`t full and complete. But here we are. That`s exactly what they`re saying.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re ignoring the very strong possibility they would have found what they went looking for, the problem.
BERTRAND: Right. Right. Exactly.
And I think that the FBI, the people in the FBI are naturally -- they want to get to the truth. And they are very, very frustrated, from what I`m hearing, that their hands are tied about this. And...
MATTHEWS: So the G-men were what? We they G-men or not? Were they acting as G-men or acting as tools of the White House?
BERTRAND: I don`t know what a G Man is.
MATTHEWS: A government man.
MATTHEWS: You don`t know the old `30s movies.
MATTHEWS: But don`t shoot, G-man, the FBI guys.
BERTRAND: Ultimately, the White House is their client, so they are restricted. But they know and they recognize that...
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re not Pinkertons. They work for the United States, not the just the president.
BERTRAND: Right. But it is -- the White House is ultimately the client. And as Greg said, there are things that the White House can limit the scope on.
And they realize, they recognize that they`re being used by the White House here, that they`re being used by the Senate.
BROWER: Chris, I would just -- I would say, as I mentioned, the White House does control the background investigation process, both the scope and the duration, but, obviously, the Republicans in the White House have an optics problem here.
It just doesn`t look right to a lot of folks that those two individuals were not interviewed as part of this. It doesn`t -- I just don`t think it makes sense to people.
MATTHEWS: OK. Suppose the guy was up for secretary of defense, like John Tower once was. He had a drinking problem. He had his face in the steak, you know, whatever he was doing. But he didn`t pass muster.
Can you tell if you`re doing a job check on somebody, can you say, yes, I want you to check the guy out for this job, being a member of the Supreme Court, associate justice, but don`t go into this drunken mess thing of his, this Dr. Jekyll problem of his, because it`s showing up in all of these incidents, but don`t check that one out?
Can you actually do that at the White House? Can you say, don`t check out the main problem?
BROWER: Yes, it`s not likely to happen, because this whole process, the background process, exists for the White House`s benefit. It`s a way for the White House to vet potential nominees.
MATTHEWS: To cover up? But it sounds like you say they can give the FBI the job of covering up.
BROWER: Well, normally, they have no incentive to do it, because they -- the problem, if they say that to the FBI in the case of a normal B.I., background investigation, and then later after the nomination is announced, something comes up, the White House would be embarrassed.
So, in my experience, the White House wants a very full and complete process.
MATTHEWS: So let me ask a question about the trail.
Can the Democrats, if they get their act together, people like Feinstein, can they -- if they ever get the House or the Senate back, can they subpoena the directions given by the White House to the FBI in this case, so they know how they restricted the operation?
BERTRAND: Chuck Schumer is already talking about it. Chuck Schumer is already saying that...
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have the subpoena power, does he?
BERTRAND: No, he doesn`t, but the Democrats -- the Democrats in general, they do want this directive, because they think that...
BERTRAND: ... explanation.
MATTHEWS: Are they in writing?
Greg, are they in writing?
BERTRAND: The directive for this...
MATTHEWS: From Don McGahn to this character at the FBI. So we may never be able to find out what the restrictions were. That`s cute.
BROWER: Well, I suspect that Democrats in the majority would likely want to subpoena witnesses to ask them those questions, and that will turn into a big fight about privileges and other things.
MATTHEWS: But can you get -- is it in writing? Or does McGahn get on the phone with Christopher Wray and say, let`s keep this tight? Can he pull that number? Keep this tight, just limit it?
BROWER: Well, as I said, in the normal course, the White House Counsel`s Office does provide that kind of guidance to the FBI, not for the purpose of purposefully not finding things, but just to kind of keep it on track, keep it within deadlines.
MATTHEWS: We`re talking Trump here. OK?
BROWER: This is not a normal background investigation in any way.
MATTHEWS: Trump is not Mr. Truth.
Anyway, thank you, Natasha Bertrand and Greg Brower.
Up next: A Yale law school classmate of Kavanaugh`s now opposes him. He`s coming here.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(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: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s been exactly a week now since that guy, Judge Kavanaugh, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that way, getting into contentious exchanges, of course, with Democratic senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: Then you`re prepared for an FBI investigator...
KAVANAUGH: They don`t reach conclusions. You reach the conclusion, Senator.
DURBIN: No, but they do investigate questions.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Did the word ralph you used in your yearbook relate to alcohol?
KAVANAUGH: I already said -- I already answered the question.
WHITEHOUSE: Did it relate to alcohol? You haven`t answered that.
KAVANAUGH: I like beer. I like beer. I don`t know if you do.
KAVANAUGH: Do you like beer, Senator, or not? What do you like to drink?
WHITEHOUSE: Next one is...
KAVANAUGH: Senator, what do you like to drink?
WHITEHOUSE: ... Judge...
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: You`re saying there`s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn`t remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened?
KAVANAUGH: It`s -- you`re asking about, you know, blackout. I don`t know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just -- so you -- that`s not happened? Is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yes. And I`m curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, Judge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, after watching that hearing, Mark Osler, a Yale Law School classmate of Kavanaugh`s who had originally supported his nomination, retracted his support.
In a letter written with another Yale Law School classmate, he wrote: "Having watched those hearings, we must withdraw our support for Judge Kavanaugh`s confirmation."
Mark Osler, who is a professor at St. Thomas Law School, joins us now.
Professor, thank you for joining us.
And tell me how it`s gone through your mind from the beginning of this a couple of weeks ago to now, where you do oppose the nomination?
MARK OSLER, FORMER KAVANAUGH CLASSMATE: Well, I originally signed the letter supporting Judge Kavanaugh because I knew him, I liked him when we were in law school, and I knew that he had a good reputation on the court of appeals.
I talked to some people who were practitioners there. They said he was fair, that he hired the good clerks. And then we got into the hearings. And what I saw last Thursday was pretty distressing.
I`m someone who teaches now. I teach law students and I teach advocacy. And we view the Supreme Court as kind of the Roman Coliseum. And to see that kind of process associated with the Supreme Court and what we saw from Brett Kavanaugh on that day a week ago is deeply troubling.
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s amazing, for a non-lawyer like me and everybody else and a lot of other people, when we watch the Supreme Court debate, we love that period of arguments. It`s just -- it`s crisp, it`s sharp, there`s no wasted words. The economy of words is fabulous.
The people speak in logic. You get it. And that calls for a certain kind of, I guess, temperament, right?
And it`s not just the temperament that they show with the litigants. But they`re part of the larger sphere of those who control our government. They have to interact with the other branches of government. And one of the things we saw with the interchange last week was Judge Kavanaugh having that kind of troubling discourse with a co-equal branch of government.
And that added to the weight of what`s troubling a lot of people, I think.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mark, let me know what you think of this.
At an event today in Florida, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who`s 80 -- I`m sorry -- 98 now, said that last week`s hearings caused him to change his mind on Kavanaugh. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: The qualifications for -- to sit on the Supreme Court, the hearings caused me to change my mind. He has demonstrated a potential bias, and that the senators should really pay attention to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was the guy who wrote the majority opinion on Roe, I think. We`re going way back with him, Stevens guy.
Let me ask you about what you saw. I thought -- I wondered -- you know, we had to live through, you and I, we all did, lived through Bush v. Gore back in 2000, which I thought was a political decision, right? The remedy was 5-4, and it was, give the election to Bush, the Republicans.
So, the 5-4 Republican court gave it to a Republican candidate. I guess you`re not supposed to act that way at least. You`re allowed to vote that way, but not act that way. I`m being a little facetious here. But if this guy Kavanaugh had sat back on the court back then, he would have said, screw the Clintons. we`re going with this guy, almost.
It`s almost the way he was talking. Your thoughts?
OSLER: Well, we have to hope that won`t be the case if he is confirmed.
But with Justice Stevens saying that, no one needs to talk to me. And look at what Stevens did when he was on the court as well. In my own field of sentencing, the decision that made the biggest difference in my lifetime was Booker in 2005. And that was Scalia and Stevens on the same side working together in that opinion.
And I`m not sure that we are going to see that that kind of collaboration and crossing of lines if this political division continues.
MATTHEWS: You`re at St. Thomas out in Minnesota, right?
OSLER: That`s right. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that Gene McCarthy country? I think it is. One of my heroes went there, taught there, Gene McCarthy.
OSLER: We have got a lot of fascinating characters floating around, so, yes.
MATTHEWS: Good for you. Thanks for teaching. Thanks so much, Mark Osler.
Up next: Voters on both sides of the aisle have been energized by the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. What does that mean for November? Apparently, a lot, according to Steve Kornacki, who`s coming up. This guy knows his stuff.
This is going to matter in the election, both ways probably.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The fight over Brett Kavanaugh is hot right now, tonight, especially tonight. And Republicans are sounding -- well, they are confident. They think they are.
Anyway, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Axios, "The Kavanaugh debate has dropped a political grenade into the middle of the electorate that been largely locked in Democrats` favor for the past six months."
Well, a new NPR, National Public Radio/PBS/Marist poll showed a huge jump in Republican enthusiasm since July. Now virtually matching that of the Dems.
Well, that enthusiasm may be helping out in one key race, in the Senate. A Fox poll out of North Dakota shows Heidi Heitkamp trailing her Republican challenger, Kevin Cramer, by double digits now. She had been trailing by only four.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Some big shots tonight.
Steve Kornacki, NBC News national political correspondent, now there`s the title, national political, look out Tom Brokaw, national political correspondent, and the author of "The Red and the Blue", Ashley Pratte, conservative commentator, well, that`s a generous title. And Jason Johnson is politics editor at "The Root" .
You know, I think a couple of things are real. And I think -- I wonder if they`re still true. You`re the expert this year, in this cycle. I think women are going to vote. I think they`re going to vote in the `burbs.
I think women and there were some who had a problem with Hillary, are going to vote the pure way they were going to vote before all the mishegoss with Hillary last time and they`re going to vote big. And their husbands, the more moderate, all the type, more modern men, are going to vote with them.
But I think out west, there`s going to be a smaller red wave. Your thoughts?
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and even - - not necessarily just out west, there`s a lot of districts where they`re sort of split in half. And you`ve got a suburban, metropolitan portion of the district where that Democratic energy is high, and all year, Republicans have been looking for something that will fire up the rural, the ex-urban parts of districts.
And they think just in the last week with Kavanaugh, they weren`t expecting it, but they think in terms of the polling they`ve been seeing --
MATTHEWS: Who gets fired up on the Kavanaugh side of this fight? Ashley?
ASHLEY PRATTE, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Gender wise, because I`m going to say --
MATTHEWS: Well, people, give me who they are. Paint a picture.
PRATTE: I`m going to independents and young female women like myself.
MATTHEWS: They get fired up against Kavanaugh.
PRATTE: Yes, sure.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But what about who`s on the other side? Who likes Kavanaugh? Who likes Kavanaugh?
PRATTE: I`m going to say these old, white men. And that`s what the Republicans have always represented. And this does nothing to help that stereotype.
I used to vote Republican. 2016 was a huge turnoff to me. They could have recruited me back, but guess what, they`re not.
This whole disgusting charade that they have put forward has been a huge issue and will be for females further to come. They say they`re a big tent party in 2012, in their defeat. They said they wanted to embrace minorities and young women. They`ve done nothing but discourage that.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the thing they did last week, this investigation?
PRATTE: Yes. Well, I mean, I applaud Senator Flake, Murkowski and Collins for all trying to step forward, but we all knew nothing could be accomplished in a week, nothing definitive, anyway. And this was more of a delay tactic --
MATTHEWS: Why don`t they vote "no"? It`s a charade but they`re voting for it. It looks like they are.
PRATTE: It looks like they are. I`m going to hold up that senator flake being in my home state of New Hampshire the other night, he`s thinking about being that Never Trump, anti-Trump 2020 candidate hopefully, and he will go down in history for doing something historic.
MATTHEWS: What do you see happening now? Jason, first of all, the politics -- do you think this is going to help who?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: This is going to help Republicans who are worried about enthusiasm. But here`s the thing, they were behind in enthusiasm, right? This is really just a catch-up. It`s not really a game-changer at this point.
And you have to look at the difference between states where there`s a tight Senate race and states where there aren`t, right? You look at Georgia, for example. There`s no Senate race there, but you have Brian Kemp who came out and endorsed Kavanaugh. That may end up hurting him.
You got Florida. Hey, may be some people that`s going to help Rick Scott, but it also empower independents who want to vote for Nelson, and you`ve also got somebody like Gillum who`s carrying things along.
So, I don`t think this is a general win or a loss for Republicans. I think it depends on state by state by state. And you know what? If he gets confirmed this weekend, where does that enthusiasm go, right?
MATTHEWS: You think it`s over?
JOHNSON: I think it`s over.
If he gets confirmed this weekend, who gets galvanized by that? Democrats do.
The Republicans won! They`re partying and drinking at that point, so there`s no value to it. So I think this whole idea of enthusiasm that`s attention being paid now, but in another three weeks, if Kavanaugh is already on the Supreme Court, it only helps Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Steve, do you think that the Kavanaugh, the pain he went through last week, a week ago, the excruciating look on his face. He was being pounded by the Democratic senators. I think appropriately so.
Is that really going to rebuild the Trump coalition?
KORNACKI: What drives -- one of the things that drives politics these days, it`s not necessarily what your party`s for, it`s who`s against your party.
KORNACKI: And on the Republican side, what did they look up and see? How is it perceived? In a lot of quarters, it was obviously the Democrats, it was the media.
MATTHEWS: They didn`t like Klobuchar, they didn`t like Kamala Harris, they didn`t like Cory.
KORNACKI: They felt their enemies were in a pile-on and they rally. I think that`s what I see in those numbers.
MATTHEWS: And they identified with Kavanaugh`s accused behavior? What he did?
PRATTE: I think as a young woman, what I saw, even today in a press conference, again, these all-white older men sitting there telling me how I should feel about something, and this is a sham, and this is a problem. And I will never agree with that. And a lot of independent, young female women, there`s never going to be --
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back. I`m going to say something, more dramatic than I`ve heard in the last three minutes here. Trump comes out on national television the other night and trashes the woman who said she was sexually assaulted.
MATTHEWS: And there`s a message, you`re telling women, shut up.
JOHNSON: He`s telling women to shut up.
MATTHEWS: I`m putting my hand over your mouth like he was supposed to have done. Are you getting what that`s saying to people?
JOHNSON: Look, there are people who like it. I describe --
JOHNSON: There are Republicans people who like it.
PRATTE: That is true.
JOHNSON: There are women who like it. There are a lots of people who do.
MATTHEWS: What, they like somebody locking the door, turning up the music, and putting their hand over your mouth?
JOHNSON: Because they don`t think it happened. You got to remember that a lot of Republicans are driven more by who they don`t like than what they want.
When Ted Cruz put out a picture showing Klobuchar and Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, he was saying, look, the colors and the women are coming for you. And there`s people who were motivated by that. Like, we can`t pretend that`s not a driving force --
MATTHEWS: But who and the women?
JOHNSON: The colors in the winds (INAUDIBLE).
But, look, that`s what he`s saying. These people who aren`t like you are trying to take someone down. You are Brett Kavanaugh.
It doesn`t matter if you`re not rich. It doesn`t matter if you didn`t go to Georgetown Prep. And that`s going to work.
The problem is, I don`t know that that matters once the guy gets in.
MATTHEWS: So Brett Kavanaugh is the last surviving white guy, is that what he`s selling? Is that what Trump`s selling?
KORNACKI: Well, it is the Trump base, the folks who surged in 2016. They have been looking all year, Republicans, to find a way to get him to surge again.
MATTHEWS: Oh, we got some breaking news, it`s a live show. Judge Brett Kavanaugh just published an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal."
He wrote in part: I testified before the Judiciary Committee last Thursday to defend my family, my good name, and my lifetime of public service. My hearing testimony was forceful and passionate, that is because I forcefully and passionately deny the allegations against me. At times, my testimony both in my opening statement and in response to questions reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused without corroboration, of horrible conduct completely contrary to my record and character.
My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how these allegations have been handled. Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28- year legal career -- hard-working, even-keeled, open-minded, independent, and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good.
He`s Billy Budd. This is Melville. He`s Billy Budd. He`s wrongly accused.
PRATTE: Even-keeled and open-minded?
MATTHEWS: You know, Jason, what I`m talking about.
JOHNSON: OK. This is what gals galls me about this. One, isn`t that what everyone with a drinking problem does? I will never do that again. Oh, my god, that was only last weekend.
And as I`ve said before, talking about the rally and the people who were excited about this, this to them is just placating those liberals. They don`t believe that. They think that Kavanaugh was fine as he is.
And like I said, the people who rally around him and support him, they`re like the crowd of the guys in the accused, they like this violence and they think that this fighting back is what they really want to see and he`s a representation of that.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see. And these are unlikely candidates for John Wayne, Lindsey Graham, this guy.
Anyway, Ashley Pratte, thank you, Jason Johnson.
Steve Kornacki, you`re going to stick around. We have more to talk about, especially your book.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: President Trump is speaking right now in Rochester, Minnesota. He attacked Democrats, saying they`re willing to do anything or hurt anyone to get the power they so desperately crave.
We`re monitoring the president right now and we`ll bring you any news that actually comes of it, real news.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re sitting here with Steve Kornacki, the great author of the blue -- actually, "The Red and The Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism".
The question I get asked, I`m sure you asked all the time, how did we get to this mess where nothing gets done, nobody agrees, and parties march in lockstep?
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, we talked about this a little bit in the last block, but it`s the idea that party came to mean something more than just which issue positions you agree with. Party now has cultural meaning. Party now has identity meaning.
There was a poll in 2016 that sort of what inspired this in part. It asked people, asked Democrats and Republicans, would it bother you if your son or daughter married somebody who`s in the other party? And sixty -- more than 60 percent in each party said yes. Those are interracial marriage numbers from the old days.
MATHEWS: I`m sorry, aren`t there any brothers and sisters anymore who disagree on politics?
KORNACKI: Yes. Well, you still -- sometimes you`re forced with the family at Thanksgiving and everything, but it becomes increasingly you see these stories of traumatic family gatherings and Trump dividing families.
But it`s a long time coming. And it used to be, party was just -- it was label people didn`t think that much about in party, now is taking on deeply personal significance to people.
MATTHEWS: OK. What`s the best thing about a Democrat?
KORNACKI: The best thing about a Democrat?
MATHEWS: Yes, there`s good things on both. What`s the best thing about Democrat, morally speaking? What are they good about?
KORNACKI: Well, boy, this is a good question.
MATTHEWS: Give me one. I know things.
KORNACKI: What do you think the best thing about a Democrat, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Diversity, they`re tolerant.
MATTHEWS: They`re not only for white people or one group.
KORNACKI: What do you think the best thing about a Republican?
MATTHEWS: It used to be fiscal responsibility, it used to be concerning about not wasting money on everything and not caring where you`re spending your money. I think the Democrats were, in the `60s and `70s, were anti- war. I think Hillary went the other way. I think there are a lot of hawks at the Democratic Party, all supported the war.
It used to rely on them to have sort of a post-Vietnam sensibility. I think they`ve lost that. But I think it`s --
KORNACKI: That`s transformation, that moment you`re talking about, that`s the big thing in the book. The Democrats trying to recover from the McGovern --
KORNACKI: Trying to recover from Mondale, trying to recover from three presidential elections where they got beaten.
MATTHEWS: They sure did.
KORNACKI: And that was Bill Clinton, and some of the lessons that I think Bill Clinton learned and Hillary Clinton learned sort of being his political partner, you fast forward a generation later and maybe some of those lessons didn`t hold up.
MATTHEWS: With Bill Clinton, with all the wars we`ve been in since World War II, skirmishes like Granada, et cetera, Panama, he was for every single war except the one he had to fight in, Vietnam, every other war.
KORNACKI: But do you remember Bill Clinton`s answer in the Gulf war in 1991?
MATTHEWS: What was it?
KORNACKI: He`s the governor of Arkansas, doesn`t want to take a position. They cornered him the night before the war. Remember, the Senate had just voted.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
KORNACKI: He said I agreed with a lot of the arguments of the minority, but I think I might have voted with the majority. And then a year later, he had been for it from the beginning.
MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you something, he skated it.
Anyway, Steve Kornacki, a brilliant political analyst. The book is called "The Red and the Blue". If you want to know what`s going on today, look how we got here, it`s about the `90s, the birth of political tribalism. There`s a phrase we didn`t even use before.
When we return, let me finish tonight with the consequential role of the United States Senate, which they ought to remember the next 24 hours. They have a job and it`s not working for the president.
This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with three kinds of U.S. senators. There are the party line Republicans, the party line Democrats, and those of independent character, in other words, those senators able to vote in a way that says who each is as an individual.
It takes character to vote against the way the wind is blowing back home.
And here`s how John F. Kennedy described it in his "Profiles in Courage". This prospect, the prospect of forced retirement from the most exclusive club in the world, the possibilities of giving up the interesting work, the fascinating trappings, and the impressive prerogatives of congressional office can cause even the most courageous politician serious loss of sleep.
How can you not be impressed right now that Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota declared today that she will vote against confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court? I say the same for Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who has made the same declaration.
Wouldn`t it be wonderful if three other senators would do the same? Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Jeff Flake of Arizona?
Senator Flake has shown himself a man of conscience by rejecting the behavior of the president and insisting that the FBI be given some time to look at the accusations against Kavanaugh. The United States senator does not protect its constitutional role of the Senate as a whole by bowing to the executive. The U.S. senator who votes for this nomination must believe that what we see or she sees in it is worthy of a lifetime trust.
The duty to decide now is up to the soul and guts of the senator who says yay when he personally would vote no.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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