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Recount underway in Florida. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Mike Espy, Philip Rucker, Helene Cooper, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Eli Stokols

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 12, 2018 Guest: Mike Espy, Philip Rucker, Helene Cooper, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Eli Stokols

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The fog clears. The Democrats won. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Mathews in Washington.

The first full week after the election, the fog is starting to clear over the Democratic victory in the midterms. Nationally, the Democrats beat the Republicans 52 to 45 percent in the popular vote nationally. The Democrats could pick up to 40 seats now in the House of Representatives, something I have been predicting since last April.

They had two big other victories worth talking about on Tuesday. One was in the suburbs where women repudiated Trump`s behavior going back to the area that Access Hollywood tape. And the other victory very important, Democrats won big in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Midwestern states Trump won in 2016, and would need to win in 2020 if he runs again. No wonder President Trump continues to stew with loose and wild talk of rigged elections and corruption in those races yet to be called.

Before I say anything about Florida, the main focus of Trump`s hostility, let me say this. There are two simple understandable reasons why the vote count wasn`t complete on election night. One, very understandable, absentee ballots needed to be counted. Two, provisional ballots needed to be counted. Those were held to be counted if they proved decisive, which of course, they are now decisive.

Well, it`s one thing to be frustrated about a count taking time taking these days. It`s another thing to throw around charge about vote rigging. That`s demagoguery. It is what Trump was firing off in 2016 when he expected to lose in 2016. And I don`t know why Rick Scott down in Florida is going down the same thing going down the writ (ph), same Trump path now.

Officials in Florida, 67 counties, began a machine recount of all the votes in that state on Saturday. Those counties have until this Thursday, three days from now, at 3:00 p.m., to finish the job.

But irresponsibly, Trump called for an end to a process that is legally required for an election this close. He tweeted, the Florida election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron Desantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible. This is the President of the United States talking. Ballots massively infected. Must go with election night.

Well, Trump and his allies in Florida have presented zero evidence to back up their claims of fraud. And now Florida judge overseeing a request by Scott`s team admonished everyone to tone down the rhetoric, saying, if anyone has evidence of fraud, report it. Everything the lawyers are saying out there at the elections office is being beamed out across the country. We should be careful what we say.

Well, Scott`s campaign told NBC News that he will travel to D.C. this week to participate in some new member orientation activities as if he has won already.

For more, I`m joined by Howard Fineman, MSNBC News analyst, of course, and Elise Jordan, cohost of the "Words Matter Podcast" and also an MSNBC political analyst.

Howard, I want to talk to you. You know, it is frustrating in Florida, I agree on part of it. I want election night that night. I want it over. I don`t want to hear about absentee ballots and provisional ballots. But fact is when you have a close election you have to count every ballot.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: You have to count every ballot and you got to let the process work as imperfect as it can sometimes be. As you pointed out, Florida legal officials who have looked into it have not found any -- they have not heard any evidence of fraud, reported to them, let alone found any upon investigation. There is none. The system is working.

MATTHEWS: What crap pile of information has the President had his notion (ph). Where is he getting this stuff from?

FINEMAN: He gets it from pure -- with the President, an accusation by a friend of his or an ally of his is as good as fact. And that is a very dangerous situation to be in. Time and time again he has gone after every institution of American society, to go after an election where the counting hasn`t finished and call it infected with fraud when there is no evidence. I keep saying it`s the height of irresponsibility by the President of the United States. One of whose jobs is to be the symbol of everybody, take it easy and listen to the law. That`s what he should be saying.

MATTHEWS: Fake news. Fake elections. Elise, he goes all across the board. Nobody is to be trusted by him. He does act like a tin pot dictator sometimes. Only trust me. You know the third world countries especially Arab countries where the picture of the President or king, if they call them kings, all over the country. That`s the only person you are supposed to listen to. That`s Trump now. Don`t trust the press, don`t trust election results.

ELISE JORDAN, COHOST, WORDS MATTERS PODCAST: Well, Chris, the favorite country that Donald Trump went to, his first foreign visit, he loved that the Saudis put his picture all over their own buildings and gave him that kind of welcome, because he, as we have seen in his consistent behavior, he admires autocrats. He does not criticize them. He has -- finds more of an affinity with Vladimir Putin or Mohammed bin Salman than he does a leader of NATO or anyone in eastern Europe.

And so, this is just, you know, par for the course that Donald Trump wants everyone to discredit and distrust the election results. He wants everyone to believe only his absolute truth, which is not truth and it`s not factual. And we can`t trust anything that comes out of his mouth quite frankly.

MATTHEWS: Well, he didn`t get the Sally Field treatment on last Tuesday. So I think that explains why he is so unhappy. The country doesn`t love him.

If you compare Tuesday`s election to similar wave elections in recent history, Democrats national House vote margin is in this year`s election was on par if not better than Republicans did in 1994. The Democrats did in 2006 and Republicans did in 2010.

Howard, I get the feeling that no matter what an act Trump puts on, he is a good actor sometimes, he`s hurt. He didn`t do well. He lost the one part of the country, he absolutely positively knows he needs to win next time and he lost it all. He lost Michigan, Wisconsin, in our state, you are in my state, Pennsylvania. It is rather soundly. Soundly.

FINEMAN: Yes, I think that`s right. And I think -- I think what he doesn`t understand is that this kind of reaction, strong as it was from the Democrats and strong as it was from suburban women voters and in the Midwest and so forth, it`s part of the ball game. Don`t forget that Barack Obama in 2010 lost 63 seats, and he said, it was a shellacking.

MATTHEWS: What did this guy say? I hate you.

FINEMAN: This guy said, that election`s a fraud. Don`t listen to the election results. And I have got to say, Chris, this was a concern in 2016 and it`s going to be a concern heading into 2020. If Donald Trump doesn`t like the way things are going, he is going to try to discredit the entire electoral system. And then we are in for something that we haven`t seen here ever.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to possible replay, Elise. Let`s talk about Florida. This Thursday they have one of these deadlines. Now they also have a requirement to recount the vote electronically and then if it`s within half a point, within a hand. At the same time they have these requirements to recount and get it straight, they had these deadlines. I don`t know who cooked up this system. We went through the same thing 18 years ago with the Florida recount. So, what happens if come Thursday, which is not a millennium from now, it`s three days from now, what happens when they are still counting in Broward County, a Democratic strong hold, and Trump says it`s over, are we going to have judge Kavanaugh come in and decide this thing like they did last time, the Supreme Court? Who is going to rule on this thing?

JORDAN: Well, it just sounds like high drama. I am baffled that, you know, 18 years later, nothing has been done to make this system more transparent, and just more productive in terms of the time line that`s followed in the aftermath of a voluminous recount. It really is shocking that we are still literally basically in the same position we were in 2000.

MATTHEWS: You know, Howard knows this and you know this. It`s not just that our systems aren`t that great in counting close elections, but we are having really, really close elections now. And it seems like purple state -- is there a more purple state than Florida?


MATTHEWS: Where it`s almost down to 50/50 for the Senate, for the governorship. It`s chillingly close because we are a divided country. In that state where there are southern accents, their New York accents, there is people from all over the world, it is a real collection of humanity down there.

FINEMAN: Well, that`s one thing to point out as Elise was just doing, that there`s incompetence, lack of funding, lack of modern equipment and so on. All of that is a serious concern. It`s fine if the President wants to say that. But for him to say, you know what? They should just go with what the count was on Tuesday night, forget everything else -- it`s ridiculous. It would be comical if it weren`t so dangerous.

MATTHEWS: Elise, I want you to respond to this given your Republican background. You know, Republicans always say leave it up to local jurisdictions.


MATTHEWS: They are much more reliable than Washington. Let the local - and then you got these ballots, the butterfly ballot that all the Jewish people voted for Pat Buchanan which was a joke. He even said it was a joke. And this time around when you had to look way down in the corner for this secret thing called the United States Senate election on the ballot, and everybody says oh, leave it up to local jurisdictions, they are more reliable. I don`t think so.

JORDAN: Well, it`s - I mean, it is insanity to claim that these elections have been well administered. And you look back at -- well, who are the officials who are actually overseeing these procedures? Well, Governor Rick Scott, while not directly involved, but he is the leader of the state. And then you look in Georgia, Republican secretary of state Brian Kemp. And you can`t say that the elections, the images we saw of super long lines, hours long waits of machines that weren`t working, power cords not brought for these machines, you can`t say that that is basic competence that you want to see on the behalf of your administrator.

MATTHEWS: Elise, thank you.

And Howard, it`s so interesting because it`s like baseball where the batter says, that was a ball. That was another ball.

FINEMAN: I`m taking first base.

MATTHEWS: I`m taking first shot at this.

Hey, let`s turn now -- thank you both. You are great.

Let`s turn now to the Mississippi runoff race where Republican senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a double brow name, is facing criticism for joking about attending a public hanging. Well, Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy who is African-American in a run up to determine who will serve the remaining two years of Tad Cochran`s Senate term.

Well, during the campaign stop in November 2nd, Hyde-Smith can be heard praising a local rancher who was standing beside her. Let`s listen to what she said.


SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public hanging I would be on the front row.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was a hoot.

Well, after the video was posted, Senator Hyde-Smith issued the following statement.

Quote "I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

Well, according to the NAACP in Mississippi alone, more than 500 blacks were lynched from the 1800s to 1955.

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy, of course, the former secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.


MATTHEWS: Don`t monkey up this race. And people come up with -- I know now there are talkers like me and there are listeners, and a sensitive talker knows that there are listeners. But your thoughts historically?

ESPY: Well, first, Chris, happy veteran`s day. And thank you so much for having me on.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

ESPY: Well, I mean, I heard what she said. I have to confess to you I have never heard that time of colloquialism, you know? That comment that she made was very disappointing and harmful. Disappointing to millions of Mississippians of good will, but very harmful because it again reinforces stereo types that we have been trying to get away from for decades. Stereotypes that just continue to harm our economy and costs us jobs. And I don`t know, I can`t reach into her heart and determine why that came out of her mouth. But it was wrong.

MATTHEWS: We have got that whole history in our country of lynching and, you know, Billy Holiday, strange fruit, right?

ESPY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, you know that history. You are not as old as I am, but I have heard about it. And there is even a popular song about the horror of lynching. It was called strange fruit, right, something like that, you know.

ESPY: Yes, strange fruit. You know, I know that history very well because I`m on the board of directors of the Mississippi civil rights museum. It`s one of the best museums in the United States. It`s brand-new. And it`s got -- it`s got a lynching or public hanging exhibit and it`s visceral and it`s sobering. And you just -- when you go through that, it`s got a list of every Mississippian from reconstruction through the mid `60s that were lynched and it`s got their name and the allegations, you know, for that punishment, if you will. And you just have to come through there. When you get through there, you have to take a deep breath, Chris.

So, this is -- these comments from a sitting U.S. senator have harmed our state and it`s just -- you know, we have to get beyond this now. It`s 2018. We are now going into the third decade of our 21st century. It`s just time-out for these type of comments, these throw back comments, Chris.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump, President of the United States, single out African-American journalists, some of the top ones, you know, April Ryan who I have known forever, fabulous journalist, and people going like Maxine Waters out in California who has been a veteran U.S. Congress person. And always going to the stupid thing. Always low I.Q. this or you are stupid. He does seem to -- I don`t know what his soul is all about, but he does seem to have this instinct that go for what he thinks is the jugular which is I.Q., that`s what he does, and that`s the President.

ESPY: Well, I have heard those comments as well, but I really have to tell you, we are just keeping our head down, you know, running for 27th of November, going out to all around Mississippi, talking about health care and making sure that these rural hospitals stay open, just try to make sure that we can protect, you know, citizens who may be under the threat of uncompensated care. And expanding our public schools and making sure our students can graduate. So we have got our head down, not worrying so much about Trump, but just, just looking at a victory on November 27th, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, sir, I have always thought of you as a good public servant, a very good public servant. And I appreciate your running. It takes guts to run for office after all the good thing you have done as a servant of the public, a public servant and as agriculture secretary and everything else. And I wish you well down there.

Mike Espy, it`s great to have you on tonight.

ESPY: Thank you, Chris. Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, while President Trump get away with appointing a partisan loyalist as head of the justice department without a Senate confirmation even? Democratic leaders already raising concerns about this unprecedented move.

Plus, what exactly are thousands of U.S. troops doing at the southern border? What are they doing down there? Pentagon officials are calling it a massive waste of time and money not to mention the morale of the troops sitting down there missing the holidays. And a cold, wet welcome for President Trump in far-off France, rebuked by voters here on home last Tuesday, and international leaders this weekend in France.

Finally, I`m going to close tonight with a story about Gulliver`s Travels. It is a satire on the dangers of our country or a political party dominated by its elite.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.



MATTHEW WHITAKER. ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I just, I think the premise as to why he was appointed in the first place was wrong. And I don`t think it was necessary. But you know, here we are today and I think it`s going to be very hard to undo, you know, his investigation.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Trump`s attack -- there was a Freudian slip, attacking attorney general - acting attorney general Matt Whitaker calling the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller wrong, when it was done in 2017. The President`s decision to promote an unabashed loyalist like Whitaker to effectively high jack the Russia probe has a growing fuel of backlash. The question is will he, the President, get away with it? Well, he get away with using Whitaker to stifle the whole Mueller probe altogether?

Not only did Whitaker`s elevation to the job circumvent the Justice Department`s line of succession, but because he was not confirmed by the Senate, he was never properly vetted. That makes his appointment virtually unprecedented in modern American history.

As NBC News reports, Whitaker appears to be the first person named acting attorney general who was not already serving in a Senate-confirmed position, hadn`t been approved by the Senate.

Now, with a majority in the House -- the Democrats got one -- the Democrats are grappling with a question of how they can protect the Mueller investigation from Whitaker, from Trump himself. So far, they have demanded that Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the probe. And they have promised to subpoena him, if necessary.


MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Do you think, under Whitaker, that the integrity of this investigation is in peril?


First of all, I think that he should recuse himself.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We will make sure that Matt Whitaker immediately -- one of the first orders of business will be to invite him, if necessary to subpoena him, to appear before the committee.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he`s doing anything to interfere with the probe.

Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer, and any role that he plays will be exposed to the public.


MATTHEWS: I wonder.

They`re also threatening to add protections for Mueller to an upcoming spending bill, a move that could prompt a government shutdown if no compromise is reached.

Well, tonight, a Department of Justice spokesperson announced that Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal.

Joining me right now is Paul Butler, a federal -- former federal prosecutor, Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post."

I am skeptical. I have watched them before. I don`t think the Democrats have the stuff to stop this -- this appointment. I don`t know how they yank him out of there. I think it`s a fait accompli. What do you think?


MATTHEWS: He`s here. He`s attorney general. He`s the boss now of the FBI, the probe, everything.

BUTLER: Even the Department of Justice statement says that he will consult with the ethics experts, who will definitely tell him that he`s compromised.

The Government Ethics Act directs the Department of Justice to come up with rules for recusal. Those rules say that if you have a political or personal interest in a matter, you must recuse yourself.

The problem, Chris, is that Matt Whitaker is the head of the federal legal system. He`s the nation`s chief law enforcement officer. So he gets to decide whether that rule applies to him. So even if they tell him, you need to recuse yourself, you`re hopelessly conflicted, you have said that it`s witch-hunt, you have said that it should be starved to death, he gets to decide.

MATTHEWS: While you`re on this question of power, because I am, as a student of politics, interested in power, not always what`s right or wrong, because you can`t make that. But you can`t decide on power.

Suppose someone like Adam Schiff or Jerry Nadler subpoenas the acting attorney general to come to the Hill and answer questions about his personal conversations with Trump before he was named. Does he have to respond?

And if he doesn`t want to respond, how does the House of Representatives make him show up there? Do they send the sergeant of arms down to the Department of Justice? How do they physically bring him up there if he doesn`t want to do it? He`s attorney general.

BUTLER: Yes, so he does have to respond.

We saw this with the Republican Congress and Eric Holder. So he would have to come. He would have to testify. He could claim privilege about certain conversations and documents. But, at the end of the day, if the Democrats aren`t happy with his responses, they can hold him in contempt.

They can even move to impeach him. And I think the attorney general can be impeached, just like a president or a Supreme Court justice.

MATTHEWS: And they could do this to an acting person?

BUTLER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And what would stop Trump from naming somebody else, then?

BUTLER: Well, again, there`s a whole parade of horribles who would no doubt apply in the same way that Matt Whitaker applied, which is expressing their views on the Russia investigation.

They take the loyalty pledge. And, again, that`s Trump`s number one criteria for who should be the attorney general.

MATTHEWS: I know. I`m waiting for Chris Christie to come along and get confirmed, because they got what, 54, Senate seats now.

PHILIP RUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And Chris Christie, Chris, is a legitimate candidate for attorney general.

I was talking to some White House sources today who said he`s very much in the mix. The president is thinking about appointing him, nominating him, rather, for Senate confirmation. And there`s a feeling that he would probably do well before the Senate, because he would be seen as neutral enough to safeguard the Department of Justice.

MATTHEWS: And a former U.S. prosecutor.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s how White House adviser, good old Kellyanne Conway responded when she was pressed about Trump`s knowledge of Whitaker`s past statements.

This is actually almost sickly comical.

Watch this.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Did he know that he was such a sharp critic of the Mueller investigation?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I`m not aware of that, because it`s not even clear to me that Mr. Whitaker has been briefed on the Mueller investigation.

We are so far past the period in which those comments were made by Matt Whitaker as a private citizen.

WALLACE: Given his predisposition against it, can be fairly oversee it? And if he decides to some way limit or block the Mueller investigation now, because he can as the acting attorney general, will the president back him?

CONWAY: The president is not looking -- the president has said he has not discussed the Mueller investigation with Whitaker. He`s made that very clear.




MATTHEWS: I mean, this is the president of the United States, who says, I don`t know the guy, I don`t know the guy, I don`t know the guy five times, and yet he`s all these periods before that saying, I know the guy well, I know him well, we have talked.

RUCKER: Well, he knows him.

He was actually briefed by Matt Whitaker in the Oval Office several times because the president didn`t want to be briefed on Department of Justice business by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, because he hated Sessions so much. So he would have Whitaker do the briefings instead.

But whether they actually discussed the contours of the Mueller investigation before this appointment to acting attorney general, we`re not sure. The president says they haven`t. But it doesn`t matter, because the president knows his views on the Mueller probe, given everything that Whitaker said on TV and in columns.

MATTHEWS: Two questions I got. Who wired this whole thing for Trump? He didn`t figure it out himself, did he?

Who figured out the idea he could drop Rosenstein, ignore him, ignore the succession, the normal succession, the institutional integrity of the Justice Department, and just jam in this guy, first of all, as chief of staff to Sessions, who seemed to be unknowing of what`s going on, that he`s picking his successor, have him in there for a while to sort of justify him, and then spring them as the new A.G.?

Who wired this whole thing? Is it Giuliani? Who is teaching Trump all these tricks?


RUCKER: It`s a good question.

Trump did not want to fire Rosenstein, as well as Sessions. He wanted to get rid of Sessions. He`s become a little more comfortable with Rosenstein.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s neutralized him.

RUCKER: But he doesn`t trust him enough to have made him the acting attorney general.


BUTLER: Well, that`s the diabolical beauty of this move. Now he doesn`t have to...

MATTHEWS: Well, who figured it out?

BUTLER: He doesn`t have to fire Rosenstein. He doesn`t have to fire Mueller.


MATTHEWS: He`s got somebody like you around him. Who is telling Trump how to do this?

BUTLER: Everybody knew that Sessions was going to be removed from office. So I think there was some vetting.

But, again, the main criteria was the loyalty pledge on the Russia investigation.

MATTHEWS: Well, this guy did an audition. He went point by point, saying all -- hitting all of Trump`s erogenous zones, all the things he wanted to hear.


MATTHEWS: And he said, well, thank you. You`re exactly the guy I want. And the guy says, guess what? I knew what you wanted. And that`s why I said that stuff.

BUTLER: And this is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I mean, this is the man who has a walking conflict of interest, not only all of his statements about the -- his ignorant, uninformed statements about the Russia investigation, but his own exposure, this company that he was on the board of that the FBI called a -- or the FTC called a scam company, fined them $25 million.

So the Miami FBI is investigating that. He`s a subject of that investigation. Walking conflict of interest.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know I`m older than you guys. And I tell you something.

There`s a big difference between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Richard Nixon had some shame. This guy has none.

Thank you, Paul Butler and Phil Rucker.

The midterms are over, but thousands of troops now are deployed on the border, on the south border. They`re still there. Look at them. There they are, those borders trapped -- those soldiers trapped in a mission many of them are calling -- these are soldiers talking -- a political stunt.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we looked at those soldiers. And you saw that barbed wire going up, that barbed wire.

Yes, sir. We have barbed wire going up, because you know what? We`re not letting these people invade our country. So, if you want more caravans and you want more crime, vote Democrat. It`s very simple.


TRUMP: If you want strong voters and safe communities, vote Republican.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, President Trump appealing to his base shortly before the midterm election by amping up the threat of a migrant caravan, his favorite word, and championing the troops he sent to protect the border from that caravan.

Well, the election is over. The caravan isn`t even close to the border. But, as "The New York Times" reports: "The 5,600 American troops who rushed to the brown, dry scrub along the southwest border are still going through the motions of an elaborate mission that appeared to be set into action by the commander in chief determined to get his supporters to the polls and a Pentagon leadership unable to convince him of its perils."

Well, according to "New York Times," again: "Pentagon officials privately derided the deployment as an expensive waste of time and resources and a morale killer, to boot."

"New York Times" Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, one of the writers that article, joins me now.

Helene, thank you so much.

Your part -- your article was very graphic. And tell us, for those who didn`t read it this Sunday, about the situation of an average G.I., if you will, sitting down there in the dust of the border, probably going to miss Thanksgiving at home, probably, whatever -- what is their mission to them?

What do they think they`re doing?

HELENE COOPER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right now, they`re going through the motions of setting up for war.

But it`s a very weird sort of dance that you see. It`s very similar to -- you know, I have been on deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when American troops first arrive, the first thing they do is, they set up base, and they set up their tents, and they -- just like Iraq and Afghanistan, at the beginning of the wars, there`s very little electricity.

There`s -- it`s hard to charge their cell phone. But the only differences is, there`s not -- they all know that there`s nothing really coming at the end, because, at the end of the day, this -- you know, we don`t even know that migrant caravan is going to be getting to the border.

So you have soldiers eating MREs. They`re putting up the sick tent and doing all that sort of thing, but it`s very much, sort of almost a charade, and they all seem to be aware of that.

MATTHEWS: Could you tell -- did your reporting down there give you any indication how many of them think this was just P.R.?

COOPER: A lot.

MATTHEWS: Did they know?

COOPER: Yes. Yes, they all knew. Yes, they do know that it`s not -- I mean, troops, American troops are very careful when they`re talking to reporters, but there are many, many of them who will talk to us privately as well about whether or not this is P.R.

So we do have people who`ve told us that they think that this is -- just roll their eyes. People at the Pentagon in particular privately say that this is sort of -- they were -- the military was opposed to this to begin with. The Defense Department didn`t want to do it.

But you have -- we`re in a very weird situation right now between Mattis and -- Defense Secretary Mattis and President Trump.

MATTHEWS: We talk about this at home, my wife and I, a lot about the military.

And because these top people, like the president, can make all kinds of decisions, and these soldiers will do almost anything -- they will risk their lives, they will live in horrible places out in the mountains of Afghanistan, they will do anything they`re told under orders -- that you have to be so careful morally, morally, what you tell them to do.

COOPER: That`s...

MATTHEWS: And to put them on a mission that`s full of B.S., it`s like the parade they were going to have on Constitution Avenue, remember that one, with the tanks up and down, but they said, it would do too much damage to the street.

And now they have this thing, which looks like a real caravan, just like we have put the caravan. Look at this.

Ahead of the election, President Trump said he`d have a wall of people lined up at the border, and that he`d consider rock-throwing by immigrants to be tantamount to a firearm -- in other words, to gun play. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: It`s very important.

We have to have a wall of people, very highly trained people, terrific, dedicated patriots. That`s what they are.

Anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico, we will consider that a firearm, because there`s not much difference.

Oh, this is totally legal. No, this is legal. We`re stopping people at the border. This is an invasion. And nobody`s even questioning that.


MATTHEWS: According to "The New York Times," the White House and the Defense Department have clashed over what exactly the troops should do at the border.

They write that: "The Defense Department rejected the White House`s request that troops deployed to the border be armed and prepared for direct contact with the migrants, that they viewed the request as inappropriate and legally treacherous."

Apparently, they didn`t even like the title of the mission down there, the soldiers.


Mattis -- Defense Secretary Mattis changed the name of the mission on -- Operation Faithful Patriot. He changed the name on Election Day. And now -- and the Pentagon put out a note the day after the election saying, we`re just going to call it border support.

But the one -- the whole firing on the migrant caravan issue is a very important one. And there`s something -- legally, you -- the American troops can`t do that. There is a -- there is a law called the Posse Comitatus Act. And that was passed in 1878, when Ruther -- President Hayes became president.

And this was all about pulling the troops, the Union troops out of the Southern states. And the whole point behind this law is to prevent the American military from being used for domestic political purposes.

So, American troops cannot get involved, active-duty troops cannot get involved in any kind of part of law enforcement...

MATTHEWS: This was part of ending Reconstruction, wasn`t it?


Yes, it was all for...

MATTHEWS: This was a big sellout by the Republican Party to get the presidency in the disputed election of 1876, when Tilden should have won. But in order for Hayes to win, the Republicans had to give...


COOPER: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... on the one great thing that they were doing, which was Reconstruction in the South.


MATTHEWS: And they gave it away.


But this is all -- so now we have got this law that says American troops cannot get involved in any kind of law enforcement capability.

MATTHEWS: Helene, another -- incredible reporting by you. Thank you so much.

COOPER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I`m a big, huge fan of you, Helene.

Up next: Trump`s wild weekend in France, rebuked for his nationalistic, well, rhetoric, criticized for skipping a visit because it was rainy out.

The nuns used to say, "What, are you sugarplums?" when we wouldn`t go out in the rain. Anyway, what`s going on?

And, by the way, was he better off just staying home and not even bothering?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump spent the weekend in France -- did you notice? -- for events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and remembering those lost in war, of course. And yet the president drew criticism for several instances of bad -- let`s call them optics.

On Saturday, Trump canceled a planned visit to an American cemetery due to rain. On Sunday, Trump was conspicuously absent as his fellow world leaders marched in solidarity down the Champs-Elysees. There they are for an Armistice Day ceremony. It`s very impressive. Before showing up separately at the conclusion of the march at the Arc de Triomphe. That`s at the end of the street.

In his own remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron issued a stern warning about the dangers of nationalism, a label President Trump recently embraced with open arms.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, by saying ours interest first, who cares about the others. We hold dear what gives it life and what is essential. It`s moral values.


MATTHEWS: Beautiful country.

I`m joined by the HARDBALL round table, Omarosa Manigault Newman, former White House staffer, of course, Eli Stokols reporter for "The Los Angeles Times", and Kimberly Atkins, Washington bureau chief for "The Boston Herald".

What a weekend. It`s all about optics and it didn`t look good. Is this just a bad streak of luck that started last Tuesday for this guy? Your guy?

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: I just came back from Europe. I was in London, and he truly just embarrassed our nation on the world stage. He had an opportunity to really bring the allies together. And in the true Trump fashion, he just squandered it.

MATTHEWS: You know, Eli, this wasn`t as bad as Bitburg, but it was like it. It was like, why blow what is basically a visual?

ELI STOKOLS, REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes, this is not a really high degree of difficulty for a presidential foreign trip. This summer, he had a NATO meeting, he had a bilat with Theresa May.

This is photo ops. And you know what, photo, we saw the president, we saw him giving the thumbs up to Vladimir Putin when he showed up. You`re seeing it when the president actually showed up to that event. You didn`t see him walking with all the other leaders as you showed down the Champs- Elysees.

And the message that was sent by not finding a way -- yes, the Marine One couldn`t fly in the weather. The weather was the reason, but they didn`t have a back up plan and there was certainly not a president who said to his staff, you find me a way to get to this cemetery because that`s an important statement for a U.S. president to make.

MATTHEWS: I think Reagan would have made it. I think Obama would have made it. What do you think?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON HERALD: Yes, I think so, but it is a continuation of what we`ve seen President Trump do on every one of these trips abroad. He goes -- he picks fights with U.S. allies. The only time he seemed happy at all was when he got that glimpse of Vladimir Putin. This is the same --

MATTHEWS: What is that? What is the tail wagging for?

ATKINS: It`s consistent from what he`s done since the beginning of the campaign. And that`s why we increasingly see our allies, whether it`s Macron or Theresa May or Angela Merkel saying, United States is not -- we can`t rely on them any more.

MATTHEWS: Look at that picture. That`s what most presidents, tall or short, whatever they are, Republican, Democrat, have admitted we`re part of the world. And they may think we`re an exceptional country, which I think we are in many ways. Trump, I think Eli, didn`t want to be seen in a group.

STOKOLS: He didn`t like the group shot. You remember the last group shot a couple of years ago when he showed up and pushed another leader out of the way so he could get to the front of the line.


STOKOLS: The president likes being on the stage at rallies --

MATTHEWS: Poor Montenegro got shoved out of the way.

STOKOLS: He wants the spotlight on him.

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, former -- we can argue this is my favorite conversation because I came up with this fight. Here we are. Former first lady, of course, Michelle Obama`s new memoir, "Becoming", hits book stores tomorrow. The former first lady`s book store also kicks off tomorrow with a sold-out first stop moderated by Oprah Winfrey at Chicago`s United Center. That`s where the convention was held there.

Anyway, that`s unusually used for sporting events and Democratic conventions. Well, the rock star roll out for Mrs. Obama is reminiscent of another first lady, I think, Jacqueline Kennedy. In an interview with ABC News, 2020, Mrs. Obama said she was excited and nervous about what lies ahead.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: I`m excited and anxious to, you know, see what people get from it. I`m hoping that it generates a conversation.

INTERVIEWER: What do you want your legacy to be?

OBAMA: Young people are the future. And if my story, my journey somehow gives them hope, if I played a role in that for some young people coming down the line, then I`ll feel good about it.


MATTHEWS: I get the feeling she`s going to be a world figure.


MATTHEWS: I think she`s going to blossom like from the caterpillar, she`s very careful in the White House as we know, to being the butterfly. Bigger, more global, bigger. Not as fashion plate like Jackie O, though she dresses beautifully. But I think she`s going to be a figure.

Mandela is gone. Bill Clinton sort of faded a bit. I`ll hear about that later. He`s faded a bit. I think we need a world presence. I think her husband will give her space the next couple months to show her stuff.

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: She has the goods. She has a platform. She is very connected to women`s issues around the globe. And people like her. Her approval ratings have always been so much higher than others, but particularly higher than the current president.

ATKINS: Yes, I think she`s been a butterfly for awhile. One of the most electrifying moments at the DNC was when she gave her speech. That was the moment she upstaged Hillary Clinton a little bit. She is somebody who has -- she`s different from Jackie Kennedy in that she is free to say things about President Trump. She is free talking about her family. She has her own goods.

You know, like Omarosa said. She`s Harvard and Princeton educated, but she`s also beloved by particularly in the black community, but she was also derided. I mean, she`s had horrible things said about her as well. She has her own story, that I think does connect with a lot of people. A lot of people still don`t like her, but a lot of people love her.

MATTHEWS: Timing is everything. She`s coming out of eight years as first lady. The people that feared her maybe aren`t afraid of her as much, but because of her for mid ability.

STOKOLS: I think back to the Obama administration, the second term when the president lost popularity, he was out there in 2014 less, she was the draw on the campaign trail. She never lost popularity. She was someone who was widely popular across the country. And now, you know, as you do when you leave office, you step back a little bit. It`s been almost two years and so, I think the public is probably ready to hear from Michelle Obama again.

MATTHEWS: Well, she`s a strong person. Anyway, the round table is sticking with us. Up next, these people tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the round table.

Omarosa, tell me something I don`t know because I always want to hear from you.

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: But you may not know that I was a military chaplain. I got to serve with the California state military reserve, and currently in this country, we have a shortage of military chaplains, particularly Catholic priests. In fact, the Pentagon is putting out incentives, paying for education and bonuses to recruit more military chaplains.

MATTHEWS: So, what was your affiliation?

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I was with the California state military reserve.

MATTHEWS: What was your religion?


MATTHEWS: I just want to know.

MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Missionary Baptist.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Eli?

STOKOLS: Well, we know there was a large turnout on Tuesday, but 115 million cast ballots. That`s 32 percent more than the turnout in the last midterm in 2014. But what`s amazing, the number that really jumped out at me. It`s 49 percent of all eligible voters for the entire country who voted --

MATTHEWS: Everybody over 18?

STOKOLS: Yes, eligible voters, people registered eligible to vote. And that is the largest percentage we`ve seen since 1914, before this country even allowed women the right to vote.

MATTHEWS: That is so great. We always say percentage of registered voters instead of people that could vote if they wanted to.

STOKOLS: That`s right. So, it`s a larger part of the population that`s been galvanized that is participating in politics.

MATTHEWS: What do you think did it?

STOKOLS: I think the Trump administration, this presidency. This has been popularized in a way where poll extinction is now sort of -- politics is now -- it bleeds into every aspect of our lives. People are getting off the sidelines and being more intentional about their participation.

MATTHEWS: Kimberly?

ATKINS: Midterms are over. An effort to season some of that energy. Are you ready for 2020 ads? They`re going up. Democratic PACs are already launching television ads, a messaging ahead of the --

MATTHEWS: Who is out first?

ATKINS: We have -- you`re getting me on the spot.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.

ATKINS: Priorities USA is getting their messaging out. We have ads up by patriot majority. We are well into 2020.

MATTHEWS: Real-time news announcement. Excuse me, real-time news announcement. McSally has conceded in the Senate race out in Arizona, and so Sinema has won. So, we got another Democratic seat for those watching the count. Big pickup in Arizona.

Thank you so much, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Eli Stokols and Kimberly Atkins.

When we return, I`m going to close with the story from "Gulliver`s Travels," and the danger leaders of a country who are a political party run by its academic elite.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Remember "Gulliver`s Travels"? Remember the land that Gulliver discovered where the people were ruled by a group of well-educated elite who lived on this flying island? The rest of the people looked up to and saw hovering up in the sky above them looking down on them.

Well, Jonathan Swift called that flying island of intellectuals Laputa. Its population consisted mainly of the sophisticated, the finally academic sort who were fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology, but absolutely useless at putting their knowledge to any practical use. They were so lost in thought they couldn`t actually function in the everyday world.

Well, yet, the people on this flying island of intellectuals were able to dominate the people down on the land below them which, of course, caused enormous resentment by those people down on the land below them. I read today that the Democratic party from which a majority of college grads now vote now controls almost all the country`s most highly educated congressional districts, the party that once represented the working people of this country, the skilled workers, the electricians, plumbers, masons and carpenters, now it`s the home room of the college crowd. The party of the town is now the party of the gown.

In other words, it`s beginning to resemble Jonathan Swift`s flying island of Laputa populated with the educated elite looking down literally on those below them. I hear people, I agree with politically, blaming the Democratic Party`s loss of the working party on race. Working people they say are simply angry at the progress of minorities and the arrival of darker-skinned immigrants into the country.

I think that`s way too convenient and far, in way, from a complete explanation. One at least the Democratic leadership off the hook. And two, of saying the majority of Americans working class are hopeless bigots.

Well, let me offer a more measured explanation for the Democrats` loss of support among working people. It`s that the Democratic Party is focused in recent years on addressing the topics and concerns of members of the party who are its better educated and also its better off.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.