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Trump installs loyalist. TRANSCRIPT: 11/8/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Bret Stephens; Elizabeth Holtzman, Peggy Noonan, Philip Bump, Basil Smikle, John Podhoretz, Zerlina Maxwell, Jackie Speier

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 8, 2018 Guest: Bret Stephens; Elizabeth Holtzman, Peggy Noonan, Philip Bump, Basil Smikle, John Podhoretz, Zerlina Maxwell, Jackie Speier


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

And we have a big show for you tonight. It`s becoming clearer that Donald Trump was handed a crushing defeat on Tuesday night. When all the votes are counted, Democrats are on track, catch this, to gain an astounding 35 to 40 seats. A huge victory for the Democrats.

In the wake of that defeat, the President`s focused on one thing, a naked power grab. That`s the big news tonight. Trump has handed the reins of the special counsel`s investigation to an unabashed Trump loyalist, a personal loyalist to insure that the President will be protected, not investigated. Trump`s choice of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general is raising alarm among those who consider the equal administration of justice a bedrock principle of American government. Well, that`s because by elevating Whitaker, the President of the United States is effectively hijacking the independence of the department of justice itself.

NBC News today reports that in the justice department, Whitaker was viewed as an agent of the White House. As one administration official said, it`s no secret where his loyalties lie. They are with the White House more than with the department.

As an out spoken Trump advocate, Whitaker has expressed disdain for the special counsel`s investigation itself. In 2017, he tweeted an article calling Mueller`s prosecutors a lynch mob. He argued in an op-ed that Mueller would be going too far by investigating Trump`s finances. And he questioned the FBI raid of Paul Manafort`s house saying, do we want our government to intimidate us?

Well, tonight, we are also now learning that Whitaker has prejudged the results of the Mueller investigation itself. Betsy Woodruff of "the Daily Beast" is reporting in a radio interview in June of last year, Whitaker who now oversees the Russian probe, comes to the conclusion that the President did not collude with Russia. Let`s watch.


MATT WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign. There was interference by the Russians into the election. But that is not the collusion with the campaign. That`s where the left seems to be just combining those two issues. And the last thing they want right now is the truth to come out in the fact that there`s not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or even improper relationships with Russians. It`s that simple.


MATTHEWS: Well, it is part of an emerging body of evidence revealing Whitaker`s true feelings about the Mueller probe itself. Not only that, Whitaker has worked for and maintains a friendship with a key witness in the Russian investigation. Former Trump adviser Sam Clovis who has testified before the Mueller grand jury. And now, Democrats as well as several legal experts say that questions about Whitaker`s impartiality should bar him from overseeing the investigation of the President.

However, according to "the Washington Post," Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel probe, according to people close to him who added they do not believe he would approve any subpoena, catch this, of President Trump as part of that investigation. He would be against any subpoena of the President.

The question tonight is will the President get away with all this. I`m joined by former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the judiciary committee during Watergate and author of a new book "the Case for Impeaching Trump." Bret Stephens is of course a columnist with "The New York Times." Robert Costa is a national political reporter with "the Washington Post," and Betsy Woodruff broke that story tonight for the "Daily Beast."

Betsy, thank you for leading us off tonight. What do you have on this guy, Whitaker? It seems like he has been working -- auditioning is a pretty good work for it, auditioning for the role of Trump protector in the role of acting attorney general.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s certainly the view within the justice department. One important piece of context to bear in mind, as Whitaker has now risen to and taken power within DOJ, is that he and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who was heading, supervising the Mueller probe until Whitaker took Sessions` old job, don`t really get along according to a host of officials in the DOJ that my colleague Aaron Bingo and I spoke with yesterday in the hours after Whitaker took that position.

Rosenstein and Whitaker are not on the same page on a variety of issues, in terms of their personalities. Our understanding is that they just don`t mesh. And having those two people running this department at this time has led to a lot of friction. Additionally, of course, Rosenstein is a lifelong DOJ employee. He has been scrupulous about trying to appear to be by the book, trying to bend over backwards to comply with rules.

Whitaker in the meantime, as we reported just about an hour ago, has said just last year that he had already forejudged the conclusions of the Mueller probe. He already claimed that this probe, which he is now supervising, was essentially without merit. And that is something that without a doubt will rankle not only career officials in the department but also people fairly high up who have to work with Whitaker day to day.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Robert.

Robert, you are the Trump watcher for me. And I think that he has got steel ones to pull this off. I mean, it`s unbelievable. He didn`t go to Rosenstein. Everybody in the planet said he has got to go to Rosenstein as the fallback if he gets rid of Sessions. Out of nowhere, he picks this guy who auditioned for the job of Trump protector for months. He got the job. How come we all thought he couldn`t do this and now he has just done it in our face and nobody is trying to really stop him from doing this? He is taking control of his own investigation, an investigation of him. It`s all in his control now. It`s breathtaking, and nobody in the Republican Party or in the Democratic Party has stood up and said we are going to stop this. This will not stand. No one is saying this about his picking of Whitaker. How come?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, Democrats are certainly calling for his recusal.

MATTHEWS: Of course, they are calling -- that is so wifty (ph). I don`t know what the word is. Of course, he is not going to recuse himself. He took the job not to recuse himself. Why would they call for him to do it? He is now the acting attorney general. He doesn`t have to listen to Democrats.

COSTA: Well, they are going to have to make a choice, are they going to call for the President`s impeachment for this kind of move.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they will? Do you really think they will for picking the guy he wants as attorney general? That`s impeachable?

COSTA: We haven`t seen that kind of message yet from the Democrats. In fact, the Democratic leadership talked about a possible deal with the President.

MATTHEWS: Ok. Keep listening. OK, I`m going to go to Liz Holtzman.

I mean, I`m not saying anybody in the past is better than today, but I have never seen such wet liberalism. It is all wet, gooey, gee whiz, please recuse yourself. How about using the power given to you by your office and stopping this? And nobody - he is picked his guy to take - he is not going to answer questions. Giuliani is working in the backroom. And Chris Christie wants to be the full-time attorney general. They are all in this together. They are not going to give it away. They got it.


MATTHEWS: And he lost 35 to 40 seats in the House. He is still grabbing for power.

HOLTZMAN: It`s not an issue of weak liberalism. It`s just weakness.

MATTHEWS: It`s weakness.

HOLTZMAN: Just weakness because this is something that affects Republicans, Democrats, Independents. Are we a banana republic? Do we have a President of the United States who can stop investigations into himself, his family, his friends?

MATTHEWS: But when you have bananas for the opposition, you have a banana republic. Because I don`t hear anybody saying we are going to fight this in the courts.

HOLTZMAN: It needs to be fought in the courts. And it`s not clear who has got the power to do it. There are a few other questions here. Is the appointment even legal? Forget about a recusal.

MATTHEWS: OK. Wait a minute. You say legal. That means the Supreme Court that he has just stacked with his guy, with his deciding vote, is going to pull away his new acting attorney general? You really think this Supreme Court led now by the decisive vote of Brett Kavanaugh, who also was picked because he is a Trump guy, who believes in -- right? This guy, Bret Stephens, and this guy, Matt Whitaker, all believe in strengthening the power of the President.

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, look. We are going to find out if Whitaker actually tries to quash the investigation. Look, the good news is that the Mueller probe is far --

MATTHEWS: How about starving it? Forget squashing it. How about getting rid of their computers and staff?

STEPHENS: There are all kinds of ways. You are absolutely right, there are kinds of guerilla style tactics that Whitaker can employ to basically destroy the Mueller investigation. I don`t think it`s going to be so easy for him to do that. Why? First of all, because the investigation is very far along. We are now 18, 19 months into it. Secondly, Congress is soon going to have subpoena power to find out what Mueller knows, and thirdly --

MATTHEWS: Who enforces those subpoenas? What court?



STEPHENS: Well, maybe.

MATTHEWS: You think Kavanaugh, his first major act in history, is going to be the fifth vote?

STEPHENS: I don`t know.

HOLTZMAN: Well, you should know this. Congress can actually haul someone who is in contempt of Congress into their office.

MATTHEWS: Sergeant in arms?

HOLTZMAN: You bet.

MATTHEWS: All right. OK, Liz, that`s absurd. They are going to send the sergeant in arms of political appointee to go to the White House and demand the President show up.

STEPHENS: Well, Congress has subpoena powers. And if Trump wants to make himself look guilty, the quickest way he can do that is trying to quash the report. I think Robert Mueller has sufficient political credibility, precisely because Democrats did make such gains in the House that it`s dangerous for Trump simply to try to kill the Mueller probe. Simply makes him look guilty.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to how clever this President is. You don`t have to like him or respect him. That`s easy. But look what he is pulling off here. He actually is pulling off an (INAUDIBLE) landing like McArthur in the Korea. I`m going in behind. I`m going in behind Rosenstein. I`m going to make this whole probe by Mueller ineffective because I have the attorney general on my team now.

In the 2017 interview, just months after Mueller began his probe, this new guy, Matt Whitaker, said it was ridiculous that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel. He said it was ridiculous that there even was a probe by Mueller. Here`s the new attorney general of the United States, ladies and gentlemen. Here he goes.


WHITAKER: For whatever reason, Rod Rosenstein determined that the department of justice couldn`t handle this in their ordinary course of work, which I think was ridiculous. I think it smells a little fishy, but I just hope it doesn`t turn into a fishing expedition.


MATTHEWS: And another radio interview, wonder how Sean Hannity got this get, Whitaker said that Trump`s request to former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn was not, catch this word, not obstruction of justice. And here comes Matt Whitaker, the new attorney general of the United States. Here he goes.


WHITAKER: Let`s assume that the President asked him to stop investigating Flynn. That doesn`t rise to the level of obstruction of justice and it doesn`t sound to me based on what`s been reported that Jim Comey, as he sat there, believed that the President was telling him to stop the investigation.


MATTHEWS: Liz Holtzman, I don`t know the law like you do. Obstruction of justice, the President may have done it again. But they are not going to stop him, it seems, because it is within his legal power to pick an acting attorney general after he got Jeff Sessions to, at your request, Mr. President, I`m resigning, creating an opening for his guy.

HOLTZMAN: Well, but if the objective here by Trump was to stop the Mueller investigation, prevent his son from being indicted, prevent Roger Stone from being indicted, prevent himself from being named in some kind of indictment, then it`s definitely an impeachment offense. I don`t know if it`s prosecutable.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, here we go again. What liberalism. It`s awful but we can`t do anything about it.

"Politico" has reported today that the President hasn`t decided whether to actually submit his written questions or answers rather (INAUDIBLE) questions still to Mueller`s questions.

Anyway, according to Rudy Giuliani, the President`s lawyers have prepped the answers for Trump to review. In other words, have writing the answers for him, but they have made no final commitment to sending those answers to Mueller. This comes after "The New York Times" reported in September after lengthy negotiations, Mueller told Trump`s lawyers he would accept some written answers.

Now, Robert, here is (INAUDIBLE) on the left and the opposition side, I`m talking about, but the stones of this President to decide that he is not going to answer questions, that he won`t even now apparently answer written questions which his lawyers will answer for him, I mean, it`s almost like he is above the law. Am I understating that? Like he is above the law -- Trump.

COSTA: Giuliani tells me that once the President gets back from Paris this weekend, they are going to make a decision. But as we all know, tracking this story, Giuliani has pushed the timeline again and again on the interview and the written responses to Robert Mueller`s team. The President has shown really no inclination at this point to really sit down and answer verbal questions. And the question is, what is the extent really of these written questions? Is it just a few lines about the Comey firing? And what else?

MATTHEWS: Well, what about -- let me go back to Betsy who broke the story tonight about Whitaker and his M.O. and his job application, which took months to undercut. He was telling people on the train. He was talking to passers-by, I`m doing all this TV so I can get this job as attorney general. It`s broad daylight, Betsy. You are laughing because it`s broad daylight. This guy applied for the job of Trump protector and he got it.

OK, now, apparently, is he going to quash this subpoena? Is he going to -- if they try to subpoena, he is the attorney general, say nice try, Robert Mueller, but you are not going to subpoena the President?

WOODRUFF: I can only surmise. But I think we can safely surmise that it is not particularly likely that Matt Whitaker is going to let Mueller direct a subpoena at the President who put Matt Whitaker in the position which he holds right now. And that`s really important because the threat of a subpoena is the single most powerful bargaining chip that Mueller and his team have had over the White House.

Part of the reason that the President`s lawyers going all the way back to the day of Ty Cobb and John Dowd were openly thinking and debating and seriously considering even letting the President have an in-person verbal interview with Mueller is that they dreaded the idea of a long, drawn-out, ugly legal fight that potentially could end in the Supreme Court to try to determine whether or not the DOJ had the authority to subpoena the President of the United States.

But now, if Whitaker refuses to sign off on letting a subpoena happen, then that question is moot, and Mueller has lost the biggest tool that he had to try to get more information out of this White House.

MATTHEWS: Bret, I have to ask you the final question tonight, knowing all you know about this case, knowing who Matt Whitaker is, why he applied for the job, why he got the job as acting attorney general. What on a score of one to 100 are the chances that he will recuse himself from the Russian probe?


MATTHEWS: You think he might do it?

STEPHENS: I mean, zero being the least chance. I would say there`s a five percent chance.

MATTHEWS: You think he is going to betray the President of the United States?

STEPHENS: Well, because he might be interested in bidding for the job. And I think if he quashes the probe when there are serious investigation or serious evidence of malfeasance kills his chances of ever being attorney general beyond the 210 days he has.


COSTA: Chris, the DOJ may have to make a decision on that. He may not make the decision himself. DOJ ethics lawyers could say to Mr. Whitaker, sir, you can`t oversee it.

MATTHEWS: Is that binding, Robert?

COSTA: It`s binding for him to even practice law. If you get ethical guidance from the department of justice that you can`t oversee an investigation and you refuse to comply, that would raise questions about your status as a lawyer.

MATTHEWS: Well, I got to tell you say Trump will be surprised by this, in fact, some commanding authority below the new acting attorney general below even the cabinet that is going to tell Trump what he can do.

Thank you very much, Elizabeth Holtzman. I have watched this thing going on. I`m watching Trump with strength. I`m watching the opposition without it.

Anyway, thank you Bret Stephens.

Thank you, Robert Costa.

Betsy Woodruff and one of the great Congress people of our history, Liz Holtzman.

Coming up, an update on that still undecided senate race out in Arizona. Still counting, the Democrat Kristen Sinema just took the lead. Pretty good for her. This is a late comeback. We are going to have the latest coming up from Arizona.

Plus, another deadly gun massacre. But it`s the new norm, isn`t it? This time in a California bar catering to college kids. Is this the new normal? Thirteen dead, including the shooter. We are going to talk to someone who has lived through gun violence, U.S. congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. Remember Jonestown? She was there, shot five times, survived.

And Trump is, by the way, Trump is going after his critics by revoking security clearances, banning journalists from the White House, and firing his own attorney general. What will the big loser of Tuesday this week who lost 35 to 40 seats do next in his new power rage?

Finally, another big consequence of Tuesday`s vote was to do with Medicare. Obamacare, it is huge news. The Republicans have given up the ghost on fighting Obamacare. Affordable care act is severely going to be the law for the rest of our lives. We will explain that later.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s big news tonight coming out of Arizona. Remember that Senate race out there? Well, the race is still too close to call to NBC News.

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat, has now taken the lead with over -- only 2,000 votes separating her from Republican Martha McSally, who we thought was winning. Now it looks like Sinema is winning. That`s a big deal for the U.S. Senate. It`s going to cut Trump`s big victory to maybe one or two.

Tuesday`s election was a national referendum, of course, on Donald Trump`s presidency, and with a majority of voters making clear they want to keep him in check. Democrats continue to rack up victories in the House, picking up three more seats today, including a seat once held by Newt Gingrich down in Georgia in the donut down there.

Republican Karen Handel, who won the seat in a special election in 2017, against a guy who didn`t live in the district, can they now concede it to somebody who does? There`s a trick. All politics is local. Live in the district you run in. Lucy McBath does. She won.

Democrats are on track to gain an astounding 35 to 40 seats, according to NBC, now. This is the most significant pickup for the Democratic Party since the post-Watergate election, electing all those Watergate babies back in 1974.

David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report, tweeted that a clearer picture is emerging of a true post-election beat-down -- I don`t know where he got that phrase -- of House Republicans.

Anyway, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama suffered similar defeats during their midterm elections, but had decidedly different responses.

Let`s watch.


BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the Democrats in control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable yesterday. And I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of the elections.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, this was a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is something that I think every president needs to go through, because, you know, the responsibilities of this office are so enormous, and so many people are depending on what we do.

Now, I`m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like they -- like I did last night.


MATTHEWS: So, all three of these presidents got a shellacking, as President Obama put it, and they learned from their lesson. They made course corrections, some more drastic than others, and they got reelected.

In contrast, here was President Trump yesterday:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think my message was very well received. I mean, just look at the results. Midterm elections are disasters for sitting presidents and administrations.

This has been a very successful -- and, look, you can write it any way you want. And if you disagree with me -- this has been incredibly successful.

I was very well received by this great country.


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, which I listen to all the time, and John Podhoretz, "Commentary" magazine editor itself.

I got to go with Zerlina, because you were laughing. This reminds me of his crowd size estimates after the inauguration...


MATTHEWS: Saying, mine was bigger than his, the whole ridiculous thing.

MAXWELL: Yes. He`s doing a great job in his own mind.

But America on Tuesday told us that they do not like the direction of the country. That matches the exit polling data and right direction/wrong track.

But, also, I think what it showed is, women, who came out the day after Trump was sworn in, a million of us took to the streets and said, we reject this and what this means, particularly after the "Access Hollywood" tape.

MATTHEWS: Now we have 100.


MATTHEWS: Now we have 100 women in the House.

MAXWELL: And now we have 100 women in the House.


I want to cut you off for a second, because I got to go to Podhoretz and then back you about this question.

This battle of who won, who lost -- well, it`s clearly the president lost in the House, 35 to 40 seats. But in the Senate, he`s been doing, big me, look at me, I got all these new Senate -- well, one he didn`t get he thought he got, apparently, is McSally didn`t win, clearly hasn`t won yet out in Arizona.

Sinema got ahead now.

JOHN PODHORETZ, EDITOR, "COMMENTARY": She didn`t win. She didn`t

He targeted Jon Tester heavily in Montana. Tester...

MATTHEWS: That scalp he wanted.

PODHORETZ: He desperately wanted that scalp because he was mad at Tester for attacking his doctor, whom he tried to put in as the head of Veterans Affairs.

And he didn`t get the Tester scalp. What he got was pretty significant majorities for people in the Trump states that we all expected were going to fall, right? So Donnelly...

MATTHEWS: Ruby red stayed ruby red.

PODHORETZ: Ruby red. And he got very big numbers there. Josh Hawley won by 12 in Missouri and so on.

MATTHEWS: But Arizona is red.

PODHORETZ: Right, Arizona is...

MATTHEWS: Arizona is red. And it looks like it`s going to be blue before the week is out.

PODHORETZ: Well, we -- so we don`t know that.

But my -- I`m struck by the fact that the dramaturgy of this on Wednesday, had Florida not been an early state to report, and we saw that big flip, right, where the Democrats seemed to have lost, right, although now we`re doing all this recounting, had Florida come in at 10:00 or 10:30, instead of 7:00, it would have looked like the Democrats were just rolling across the country very happily and very easily.

It was that weird psychodrama of Florida in 2016, 8:00 at night starting to...


MATTHEWS: How about sometimes people taking the long view and staying up until 11:00 at night?

I`m sorry. I predicted in April the Democrats would win 30 to 40. As it got closer to the election, I said it looks like 40. I think I`m going to be right.

But Carville comes on and says -- James Carville is a smart guy. And he comes on and says -- he comes on like Jacob Marley coming, like it`s all over.

PODHORETZ: He did it. Van Jones did it.

MAXWELL: Yes. Everybody did it.

PODHORETZ: It was just this -- so, imagine a night without..

MATTHEWS: Weak-of-heart Democrats. Why are Democrats so nervous?

They were all going in this election, oh, we`re going to do it again like `16. We`re going to blow it? We`re going to blow it? What is that nervousness? PTSD? What is it?



MAXWELL: For me, it was PTSD. I definitely was in the fetal position at around 8:00.


MATTHEWS: You`re pretty young, but you have been through other elections where you thought you would win, and you did win.

MAXWELL: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: It wasn`t like `16 is the only election in history.

MAXWELL: Well, it`s just the most recent one in history, and so that`s very, very fresh.

MATTHEWS: There a were a lot of complications with Hillary. There were just too many...

MAXWELL: Certainly.

MATTHEWS: And then Comey and...


MAXWELL: Certainly.

So, early in the night on Tuesday just felt a little bit like 2016, but the difference is, is that women saw what happened in 2016, and they stepped up themselves.

I think the big message from this election is not just that women won, but that women chose to step up and run for office. And we`re seeing that in other contexts in American culture. We have lived through a year of MeToo. We have lived through a year of women standing together and telling their truth and being brave.

MATTHEWS: In the burbs. In the burbs.

MAXWELL: Correct.

MATTHEWS: In the burbs.


MATTHEWS: You can`t generalize, because that`s not the case out in the Western more red parts of the country.

MAXWELL: The gender gap was 19 points, Chris.


MATTHEWS: I think the Northeast is lost for the Republicans because of women. I agree, the Northeast, all the way out to Ohio almost.


PODHORETZ: But that Handel-McBath race in Georgia is very illustrative, because the ring counties around...


Do you have the umlaut on that Handel? Or is it -- no, it`s pronounced just Handel?


MAXWELL: Handel. Handel.

PODHORETZ: Right. I don`t know.

But those ring counties around Atlanta, there was this massive shift from 2012 to 2018. We`re talking about counties that were 12 percent Republican going 8 percent Democratic.

Now, if Georgia becomes a swing state in 2020...

MATTHEWS: That`s more of a -- let`s be careful about our geography.


MATTHEWS: The suburbs around Georgia -- around Atlanta are a lot of Northerners.


MATTHEWS: It`s kill Northern Virginia.

It`s not a bunch of, you know, people from the country. These are people who moved in for high-tech jobs, good income jobs, ethnically diverse. It`s more -- it`s not a bunch of Southerners.

MAXWELL: Good real estate.

PODHORETZ: No, it`s not.

But, still, you still have -- they`re there and they`re voting now. So, however you slice it, the demographic changes in a state like Georgia, if Georgia is in play in 2020 for the Democrats, which has always been like sort of...


PODHORETZ: ... that could be...


MATTHEWS: Well, that could be the big story, the fusion.


MATTHEWS: By the way, I think you`re right about women, clearly.


MATTHEWS: When you have a 25 percent gender gap, Republicans are lost.


The other thing about Georgia, though, is I think that we need to be talking about voter suppression that we`re seeing in this race in Georgia before the 2020 election.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

MAXWELL: So I think that certainly the demographic shift is happening, but I think Democrats need to start talking about voter suppression and perhaps policies to prevent it. Otherwise, we`re going to in the same...


MAXWELL: ... in 2020.

MATTHEWS: I have two issues. One is, I don`t like stupid wars. And the second thing -- that`s where we disagree.

The other thing...

PODHORETZ: Oh, yes, I love stupid wars, Chris. Nothing better than stupid wars.


MATTHEWS: Bret Stephens, all you guys, anyway. Everybody.

And the other thing I care about, every American should have the right to vote. Is that simple and is that true?

MAXWELL: Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And it`s cheating to deny people that. It`s cheating like in sports. How about -- I will talk Republican. It`s like cheating in golf. Do you understand me?


MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Anyway, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz, a great guy.

Up next: 12 more victims of gun violence in America. This is not fun. This time at a college bar in California, 12 dead, 13, if you count the shooter.

Is this the new normal? It feels like it. Just a week-and-a-half ago, Pittsburgh. And it just happens again, with some regularity. Does it have to be this way?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, late last night, a single gunman walked into a crowded music bar in Thousand Oaks, California, and murdered just in a room 12 people, including Sergeant Ron Helus.

Authorities still have not named all the victims.

Jason Coffman sobbed as he told reporters that his oldest son, his firstborn, Cody, was killed in the shooting.


JASON COFFMAN, FATHER OF VICTIM: His name was Cody Coffman, my firstborn son. Only him and I know how much I love, how much I miss. Oh, God. This is so hard. Oh, son, I love you so much.



Well, the gunman identified by authorities as Ian David Long was found dead at the scene after killing himself. According to the Ventura County Sheriff`s Department, Long was known to law enforcement, which carries a lot of information, known to law enforcement. Doesn`t that tell you a lot?

According to Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that provides information on gun-related violence, this is the -- you`re not going to believe this -- 307th mass shooting in the United States this year alone.

A mass shooting represents an incident where four or more people were shot in the same incident.

Well, California`s incoming Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom hailed the heroism of the sergeant who lost his life in this incident, but condemned the country`s gun culture.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Jackie Speier, a friend of this show, author of "Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back." She represents California`s 14th District, just south of San Francisco.

Jackie, thank you so much, Congresswoman, for joining us.

I -- when I listen to that father, as a father myself, I just don`t -- you know, we talk about statistics and mass and use numbers like that, and we often forget or we don`t know, this is a real person, a real son, a real daughter, a human being who`s now gone forever to their parents.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: And what do we do? We do motions of...

MATTHEWS: And then do it because somebody is a nut, or this guy, a nut has a gun, a gun with a nut, a nut with a gun, whatever it is, somebody with an attitude, a bad life experience, whatever it is, the easiness with which you get a semiautomatic Glock, which you go, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

It doesn`t take any intelligence or skill or talent to use one of these guns to kill just people in their face. And they`re doing it now with some rapidity in this country.

SPEIER: So, you`re right.

The moments of silence are about all that Congress has the guts to do. And it`s not good enough.

In addition...

MATTHEWS: You mean thoughts and prayers?

SPEIER: Yes, thoughts and prayers.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. That should be outlawed. I know it`s well intended in some cases.

SPEIER: Well, no, it isn`t. It`s...

MATTHEWS: But usually it`s a throwaway line by a staffer who knocks off some script, some product, some wordage for somebody political to make it sound like they give a damn.

SPEIER: The 12 families that lost loved ones, that father we just saw, don`t give a bloody you know what about our moments of silence and the thoughts and prayers.

We have to do something real in this country around the gun violence. You know, not only have we had all of these mass shootings. We have had six this month, six, and we haven`t even gotten to the middle of November yet.

And we have had 12,000 people this year who have been victims of gun violence and are now dead. And 3,000 of them have been children. So...

MATTHEWS: Well, the NRA is laying off, apparently. They`re so complacent they have won this battle.

Well, you know this stuff, Congresswoman. They don`t even spend a lot of money anymore fighting gun safety people.

SPEIER: No, they don`t because they whisper into the president`s ears.

And, you know, first, he says I am absolutely going to do something, and then they show up at his doorstep. And they spent a lot of money on his election to the presidency, and he, you know, salutes them.


SPEIER: We have to have more guts in Congress to do some really rational things.

And I think one of the issues we have got to look at is the mental stability of individuals. Right now, the law requires you to be mentally defective. It`s such a high standard.


SPEIER: And, meanwhile, we know that there are 75,000 Americans who are severely mentally ill in this country who get SSI, and President Obama tried to at least have them not be eligible to have guns. And we couldn`t even do that.

MATTHEWS: For the president, it seems like just another cultural button to push, you know, like moving the embassy in the Middle East, one of these things like, it will get him some votes in the evangelical community.

He says these things like protecting your Second Amendment rights. The culture war you`re up against is brutal. They just push these buttons. And these people, oh, yes, yes, amen to that, amen to that, Mr. President. You`re one of us. You`re one of us.

It`s horrible. It`s not even about actual safety. It`s not actually about people shooting each other, plugging 12 people in a bar. It`s about this almost -- almost neo-religious notion of the Second Amendment, as if it`s God-created. Your thoughts?

SPEIER: Well, the Second Amendment says you have the right to own a gun.

It doesn`t mean that you have the right to not close loopholes that exist in the law. And there are plenty that we should be shutting down. The fact that you`re a -- you can still buy guns on the Internet or at gun shows, even if you`re a felon, even if you have committed domestic violence, even if you`re mentally ill is crazy.

We have to do some rational thinking here and deal with this in a manner that makes sure everyone feels that their guns are not going to be taken away from them if they`re law-abiding people, but those that shouldn`t have guns, those who should have a pause and not have their guns for a period of time, we need to address it, because there`s too many lives lost.

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re a young woman. Do you believe that anything will be done by the Congress now that the Democrats are back in power?

SPEIER: Well, you will have...

MATTHEWS: You have got a comfortable edge of people there, 35 seats, maybe 40 picked up. Are you going to be able to use that to put gun safety laws in force?

SPEIER: Well, we will be able to pass gun safety legislation in the House. Now, the question is, what happens in the Senate?

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Please come back any time you want from California.

SPEIER: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Trump is going after his critics by revoking security clearances, banning journalists, like Jim Acosta, and even firing his own attorney general. What`s he going to do next? He lost all these seats, but he`s acting like he has got some new mandate.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



After losing the House to Democrats, apparently 35 to 40 seats, President Trump is doing everything he can to go after his perceived -- well, his critics, from firing Jeff Sessions to attacking the media in the form of one reporter and even taking away a reporter`s White House pass, that one, after a contentious exchange yesterday.

This, by the way, I have seen a lot of contentious stuff with Dan Rather and Nixon over the years, I have never seen anything like this brawl.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN. If you did it well, your ratings would be much better. That`s enough. That`s enough. That`s enough. That`s enough.


REPORTER: The other folks --

TRUMP: That`s enough.

REPORTER: Pardon me, ma`am.

TRUMP: Excuse me, that`s enough. Peter, let`s go.

I`ll tell you what? CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn`t be working for CNN. Peter, go ahead.

REPORTER: In Jim`s defense, I traveled with him and watched him. He`s a diligent reporter.

TRUMP: Well, I`m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest.

REPORTER: I understand. Let me ask you a question.

TRUMP: You aren`t the best.

REPORTER: Mr. President, you repeatedly over the course --

TRUMP: Just sit down, please.

When you report fake news, no -- when you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.


MATTHEWS: It`s John McEnroe talking to the umpire. It`s not the first time this president has targeted his political foes, or people he sees as foes. In August, he revoked CIA Director John Brennan`s security clearance because of Brennan`s involvement in investigating Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. As he told the "Wall Street Journal" at that time, I call it the rigged witch hunt. And these people led it, so I think it`s something that had to be done.

Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Peggy Noonan, the great columnist for the "Wall Street Journal." I read every Saturday "Wall Street Journal", with avid interest. Philip Bump is a political reporter for "The Washington Post," and Basil Smikle is a former, nobody`s former around here, executive director of "The New York State Democratic Party. Everybody stays.

Let me start with Peggy, my friend, and we`ll go around the guys.

What is Trump up to because he did lose in the popular vote because the House is the people`s vote, and basically the number of people across the country as a country voted against him a bit. But yet, he acted like I have new power in the executive branch. I`m going to utilize it now against my enemies.

PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It`s -- I feel like he`s getting either reckless or hard ball in some way. And I can`t quite tell. I thought, by the way, that the house vote, the congressional vote, might be much more strongly a rebuke of 40, 50, 60 seats, than it turned into. Maybe there was -- I mean, I talked to somebody at the White House who said we`re relieved that it was not so terrible.

MATTHEWS: That is also clever politics to say you`re relieved, as if to diminish a 40-seat loss.

NOONAN: Yes, but I did some research on it. The average loss for a president in a midterm is 30-something seats, and he`s about 30-something seats.

MATTHEWS: It`s 29.

NOONAN: I think it`s 30. But I forgot my point.

MATTHEWS: What it`s called is low-balling, what people always do.

I understand what`s going on. I heard George Will, who I respect enormously, saying they only got half they wanted. Well, we`re going to get 80 seats? I don`t think so. Your thoughts.

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, during the Obama administration, Democrats lost almost 1,000 seats in those eight years. There`s a lot of infrastructure that we actually have to start building back. But I do think that what happened on Tuesday gets us to that point, and with respect to Trump --

MATTHEWS: How come you couldn`t beat the crook in upstate New York? Not naming names. I got a problem with him.


SMIKLE: You can`t take his name off the ballot unless he dies or moves out of the state, which is ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: Why is Trump so powerful? Why is he going after the press, after the guy at CNN, dumping his A.G. with a so-called letter of resignation which says at your request --

SMIKLE: Well, it`s two things. One, he clearly feels significantly threatened by Democratic victories, no question about that. And he reacts like a wounded animal would.

MATTHEWS: A guy from Queens.

SMIKLE: Reacts like a wounded animal, from New York, from the streets. Acts like a wounded animal because this is him punching back and pushing back. I do think that the letter was planned to sort of take the midterms out of the news a little bit and sort of give him a little more of a pulpit, but the truth is, I expected him to react this way. He doesn`t react any other way.

MATTHEWS: Phil, who`s behind him? Somebody is thinking through these steps, putting Whitaker in there, somehow use him to get to Mueller`s investigation, denying the chance to subpoena. It looks like there`s thought behind all this. I don`t think it`s all impulse.

What do you think, maybe it`s impulse?

PHILIP BUMP, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don`t know. I sort of disagree. I think that the way that Whitaker got into his position seems as though a pretty good strategy move by Whitaker himself in order to get to the position he was in at the DOJ and impressed Trump from there.

You know, it`s probably a mistake to lump Costa into what happened with Sessions. Trump has been at sessions for well over a year. He`s obviously frustrated with Sessions.

MATTHEWS: Does Sessions know that his chief of staff was going to cut him out?

BUMP: It`s pretty clear that Whitaker had a stronger line to Trump than Sessions did by the end there. I think Costa, if you want --


MATTHEWS: One question to Peggy, my friend. Do you think Trump`s in better shape now to get re-elected than he was three or four days ago or not?

NOONAN: I don`t know. I think he`s about to go through two bad years, and the whole country is about to get torn up in this, probes, investigations, side stuff in Washington, when I would argue what`s important is serious policy. There are breakthroughs now that could happen with legal immigration.

Everything is moving around in Washington. Therefore, there are openings. It`s not a frozen landscape.

MATTHEWS: I knew, it`s a great time.

NOONAN: However, who thinks that will happen.

MATTHEWS: They can fix health care, immigration, do decent infrastructure. And the president has to take the lead. He`s saying Nancy has to come to me.

I disagree. The president proposes, Congress disposes.

NOONAN: That`s totally true. The great sentence he said, I beg your pardon, to me, the key thing --

MATTHEWS: You stopped me in my tracks. I have to come back with you in a minute.

I`m coming back with Peggy Noonan. We`re staying with the roundtable.

Up next, the Democrats take over the House in January. What would it mean for Republican efforts to kill Obamacare? They`re over. Mitch McConnell gave us the big hint they`ve given up on fighting Obamacare.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans have threatened forever to repeal and replace Obamacare ever since the law was passed. But now, the Democrats taking over the House. Big story is being made.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, no fan of Obamacare, has admitted it`s not ever going to happen. Watch.


REPORTER: If you look at the exit polls, one of the most important issues to voters was healthcare. Did you take away from that the message that any effort to repeal ACA at this point is dead?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it`s pretty obvious the Democratic house is not interested in that. There are serious problems with Obamacare that need to get fixed. They raised the phony issue of whether or not we were for or against pre-existing conditions. So, the rhetoric doesn`t solve problems and there are serious problems with Obamacare, and I think we`re going have to obviously now try to address it on a bipartisan basis.


MATTHEWS: Well, cutting through some of the B.S. there, he was making a really historic statement, the fight`s over.

NOONAN: I think that was more-or-less what he was saying. I think the interesting part was when the reporter said, if you look at the exit polls. That just tells you everything about this election and 2020, if this sort of thing isn`t kind of resolved, I also thought it was interesting that Trump yesterday, for all his bombastic theatrics, did sound like he wanted a deal on healthcare and he signaled, I`ve got plenty of give here.

MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan, in 1982, knew the fight over whether Social Security should be Social Security said we will fix this thing, we won`t stop this fight. This fight is over.

SMIKLE: It is. And I`m going to use your word, because all of the bombast that Republicans had in talking about the Affordable Care Act since its inception, nothing has actually worked for them. It`s proven to be a pretty resilient bill. And the truth is, when you put policy in people`s lives, embedded in their routine, it`s hard to beat.

MATTHEWS: Philip Bump?

BUMP: Yes. I mean, they have been fighting in the beginning and they love to fight against it.

Mitch McConnell couldn`t be happier that he gets to fight against Obamacare. He gets to say in two years time, we spent two years trying to get the Democrats do something on healthcare, they didn`t do anything, those Democrats are obstructionists. Republicans are extremely excited to not have to try to fix Obamacare after --

MATTHEWS: If Democrats don`t take this deal from Republicans, they don`t want a deal. And I think they --

NOONAN: Do they want a deal?

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know. Maybe they just like the issue. Healthcare is a good Democratic issue.

NOONAN: It sure is.

MATTHEWS: But, you know, it would be nice if after all the fighting, we actually could get something done. They do make 170 a year to get something done.

SMIKLE: Just think about it, this is why Faso lost in New York 19th, Anthony Delgado pounded him away on his Affordable Care Act vote. This has become a good solid Democratic issue.

MATTHEWS: Elections matter.

SMIKLE: They do.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Peggy Noonan, my favorite columnist. I still like Will a little bit, but you`re the best.

Anyway, thank you, Philip Bump, and thank you, Basil Smikle.

When we return, let me -- let`s talk about elections mattering again because we`ll end the show tonight with something`s got done this Tuesday for a long time to come. It`s going to matter what happen on Tuesday, whatever Trump is doing.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Elections matter, don`t they? They decide who governs, of course. They`re also capable of sending powerful messages.

The 2018 election said the country wants the government to assume responsibility for healthcare. The Honorable Mitch McConnell made that official yesterday, saying the Republican Party will no longer try to kill Obamacare. And this is a case of history just happening.

It`s not that either party has decided how the government should fulfill its mandate to provide affordable access to healthcare, simply that the mandate now exists. No future Congress is likely to ever try to deny this mandate. And this as former Vice President Joe Biden once said is a BFD.

Name any serious national politician who calls for eliminating Social Security today or Medicare or even Medicaid, they`re accepted foundations in the country`s social safety net right now. Well, the same is now true of healthcare for all Americans. Whether the country ends up with a public option or single payer system, we have reached the point of no return. Henceforth, there will be a national healthcare policy of some kind.

And as of yesterday, politics of both sides are accepting the same principle on the need of Americans for healthcare protection. And that is quite an election result, don`t you think?

That`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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