(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: There was just parts of the girls` lives that I just knew were going to be OK because mom was there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s the best thing about Michelle Obama that makes you proudest?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, now I -- my saying is, when I grow up, I would like to be like Michelle Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And she gets the last word on our show tonight.
"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Up to his elbows. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
There`s an old saying, when you are up to your elbows in alligators, it`s easy to forget the goal was to drain the swamp. And that`s exactly where President Trump finds himself today, up to his elbows in alligators.
After last week`s rebuke in the midterm elections, fears that special counsel Robert Mueller could be closing in and the potential onslaught of subpoenas from the new Democratic majority in the House, President Trump is angry and the bad optics of his recent European trip only added to his frustrations.
"The Washington Post" reports now that Trump`s five days of fury, during his 43 hours in Paris over the weekend quote "Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections, that he had claimed as a big victory. He erupted at his staff over media coverage to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I."
And while the "L.A. Times" reports that with the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment. The President`s frustration since the election have boiled over into outbursts against foreign leaders, reporters, and White House staff.
Increasingly the subject of Trump`s ire, his chief of staff John Kelly and homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen. The Post noted that Trump has been plotting a staff shakeup.
Quote "he told advisers over the weekend that he had decided to remove Nielsen and that he also was seriously considering replacing White House chief of staff John Kelly."
In an interview today, Trump said simply, I will be making a decision on homeland shortly. I have not made decisions yet. I will be making changes on various things. Wow.
I`m joined right now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS "Newshour," Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The New York Times," Susan Page is a Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and Tim O`Brien is the executive editor of "Bloomberg" opinion.
What is going on? I want to start with Eli. You are on top of this thing. Why is Trump acting like Peter the Hermit in the guy in, you know, Network. I`m sick and tired and I won`t take it any longer. Why is he angry and hiding?
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you laid out a lot of things that he was worried about or angry about, the election, the returns results coming into focus being worse for him over the last several days, the trip not going well in France.
But, you know, it is also that he was on this sugar high of campaigning. He was doing this for weeks and weeks. He was out there. He was reveling in the adulation and adoration from his fans at all of these rallies and kind of I think felt convinced that if he did this just like in 2016, it would work out in the end. And I think it really affected him to step back and realize it department work. He told voters over and over again that you have to pretend I`m on the ballot.
Voters delivered a message on Tuesday, that`s become clear. And it is not a message that is good for him or, as one person put it, good for his brand. And so there`s a lot of frustration over that and wallowing, I think. And also, sort of an uncertainty about how to respond, what to do to pick up the pieces and how to turn the page.
MATTHEWS: And Yamiche, at your face. I mean, he came right at you as the symbol of all that frustrates him or whatever. But do you think he likes being President right now? I get the feeling that as wonderful as it must be to get up in the morning and say, I`m President of the United States. I`m every young kid`s dream of a job. Here I am. And then realized but, I have got deal all of these people coming at me, I`m not as popular as I thought I was and I have got enemies coming at me who could ruin my life, ruin me, put some of my kids in prison, and make my life -- wish I had never come here.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, I think it`s clear to pretty much everyone who covers the President that he is doing what people when they don`t feel like going to their job is doing, which is kind of holing up, being under the sheets, tweeting when he wants to, except that he is President of the United States. So everyone noted it.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about that hiding. Because I think presidents do a lot -- the boy scouts come, they shake some hands, the future farmers come, they do all that stuff. He has apparently cut out all of that stuff. And he is going through executive time and now he is getting something called policy time. More time alone.
ALCINDOR: And there`s also the idea that he didn`t leave the White House on the day after Veterans Day to go to Arlington Cemetery, which is very, very short ride. But I think Eli has this right. There`s something about the branding and about the sugar high of campaigning being over.
MATTHEWS: You can see Arlington Cemetery?
ALCINDOR: You can basically see Arlington Cemetery from the White House. And when you think about it, President Trump had to watch cable news and all these other places, talking about how he punked up because of the weather, all of these pictures of Obama that were on the internet of him holding umbrellas. There is all sorts of people and delivering speeches in the rain.
MATTHEWS: But I want something --.
ALCINDOR: That`s not good for --.
STOKOLS: He loves photo ops and he is refusing to do it.
MATTHEWS: Give us some depth. Is this guy -- he`s not bipolar. There`s no clinical problem with the President that I know of. So what`s his problem? Is he hiding so he can make some really nasty decisions? Fire Kelly? Fire Nielsen? Go to war with John Bolton? What is he up to?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, you do get the sense there`s a gathering storm around the White House, because of two things. Democratic investigations, Robert Mueller`s report. And one of the things that I think makes things tough for President Trump is he doesn`t have a cabinet around him that he trusts. He doesn`t have a kitchen cabinet around him that he trusts. He has family members whom he trusts and that`s about it. And I think when you get into trouble, we know how Presidents like to rely on people we know will have their best interests and who can give them good advice. I`m just not sure there are very many people around President Trump that fill that role.
MATTHEWS: But I don`t believe that either, too. And I don`t believe his family members are interested in him entirely.
Tim, I get the feeling that Jared and Ivanka, I think they have got their own Middle East goals and everything. They have their own policy agendas. I`m not sure they are not more in love with maybe John Bolton than the President should be, you know? I don`t trust that whole operation. I think they came with a purpose, too. Your thoughts about Trump? Why is he in this funk? Why is he hiding? Why is he in a cocoon? And why is there a lid on the White House? When they put the lid on, that means nothing is happening. Hence forth today, they put the lid on at 10:00 in the morning today, I believe. Nothing is happening here -- or Monday. Nothing is happening here in the leader of the free world`s house.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: But Chris, I don`t think that there`s anything particularly new here. The Trump administration has been a center of chaos and a locus of chaos since the President was inaugurated. And he has had staff turmoil, he has had staff turnover, he has been in over his head from the second he took the oath of office.
I think we are going to have two more years of this. We may have six more years of this. Because it boils down to the fact that the President lacks the intellectual and emotional discipline and sophistication to manage a large organization.
Ideology and partisan politics aside, he is not good at managing people or process. He surrounds himself with third-tier people who don`t challenge him, because he is insecure. And those problems are coming home to roost now. We have seen them in motion, again, since he was inaugurated. The big difference now is that a hostile House is staring him in the face. And he desperately needs people now who can defend him against this, you know, incoming launch of subpoenas, that`s going to begin in the new year, in which they are very sorely prepared to deal, as well as the Mueller investigation.
And I think he is definitely feeling the pressures of this. But the Trump we are seeing right now is the Donald Trump who is always existed. He ran his business this way. He got up late in the morning. He didn`t pay attention to detail. He cracked under pressure. And he tried to paper all of that through the force of personality and marketing, which he was able to do when he was running the Trump organization that had maybe two dozen employees. The federal government employees, two million people. It`s a vast bureaucracy and the White House is a conflicted place.
MATTHEWS: Well, the tension in the White House has also spilled over to the west wing, to the east wing, that`s where the first lady holds reign. And late today, the White House announced the departure of John Bolton`s deputy, Mira Ricardel, just one day after the first lady Melania`s office called for her to be fired, an extraordinary. There`s a picture of her on the left.
Chief of staff John Kelly and Bolton had also clashed over his deputy, with NBC reporting that according to four people familiar with this situation quote "Bolton recently learned that Kelly has quietly mounted an effort to oust Ricardel and was furious.
NBC News also reports that Kelly has run afoul of the first lady, noting Kelly had repeatedly denied her request to promote some of her aides and then having learned of the dispute, the President was furious and told Kelly to give the first lady what she wants.
You know, I don`t understand these people, Eli. Why do they fight with first ladies? Give it up. The first lady sleeps with the President of the United States. She`s -- well, they normally do. They are, OK. They are close to them. The President relies on an emotional connection with the wife. I think we are all familiar with this, pretty much. You know, if mama is not happy, nobody is happy. I don`t understand why you go to war with -- why would the chief of staff mess with --? If she wants to promote some of her people inside, why would he say no? What does he get out of - Kelly?
STOKOLS: Well, typically, the first lady also isn`t commenting on releasing statements and trying to, you know, have an influence on the personnel at the national security council.
MATTHEWS: Well, because the NSA lady went over to the deputy over there tried to ruin her trip.
STOKOLS: Well, that`s one version. That`s the first lady`s version of the story.
MATTHEWS: Well, she wanted a seat on the plane. She didn`t have her own plane. Can`t the first lady go on her own trip?
STOKOLS: Well, I mean, I don`t know the particulars of what happened on that plane, but, yes, it was a mess. But I think, you know, this is a person on the NSC who has also had issues with defense secretary Mattis. I mean, there were a lot of issues. I think it gets back to the point that Tim was just making about the organization and the atmosphere that Trump creates.
There is always back-biting. There is always rivalries. Trump sort of creates this climate where that just inevitably happens. And then, you know, you see him as an executive not really wanting to pick a side or make a decision. And that continues to pit people against each other. Even after she put out that statement yesterday, the White House said, no, she still works here. And it wasn`t until today, tonight that she was replaced.
MATTHEWS: I have worked with people in, when I was in politics, that like to have competing staff. They don`t want to hear there`s a meeting that they didn`t run, the boss. They want to have people rival each other so they can manipulate everybody.
This is an old Kennedy trick, a Roosevelt trick, assign the same speech to two or three people and see which speech you like, get them -- but this is different. But from what I have been reading today, Trump likes it when people hate each other.
ALCINDOR: Well, here is a thing. People have always talked about Melania Trump as maybe being maybe to some - she is kind of different from President Trump. She is the softening of him. What we saw was President Trump-like actions out of Melania Trump. She could have just whispered to her President and say, look, we need to get rid of this lady. Instead, it`s is a public embarrassment for you to release --
MATTHEWS: Why did she go outside, then?
ALCINDOR: That`s the question everyone seems always wants to know because there`s this idea that why would you have to go publicly if you are the first lady. I was just married, happy wife, happy life. I hope my husband --.
MATTHEWS: I love that phrase. Happy wife, happy life. I like that.
Anyway, meanwhile former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said the President`s recent behavior is classic Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFF: This is a clear example of Donald Trump being embarrassed and as a result, you see him sulking. And he is pouting, like a child. And as a result, he is going to continue to lash out and everybody around him will be miserable. Just way he likes it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Just the way he likes it. That`s the part she does that.
Susan, stepping back from the family turmoil in there, I get the feeling that a lot of they think so are happening right now, and that`s why the President is objectively worried.
Look, Mueller`s going to act. He is probably going to go after Roger Stone. He may well go after Donald Jr. in the very near future before Christmas, before the holidays. Could happen. To prevent that, to preempt it, he brought in Whitaker, to possibly stifle further indictments, a report going to the Congress, whatever, do the best he can.
At the same time, he is saying people on the hill are starting to react to Whitaker, and thinking, they have got to take steps to - we will get to that later in the show, to protect Mueller. All of this is objectively, it seems to me, coming and Trump realizes, he is going to lose the subpoena power, he is going to lose the House, he may lose control of his tax returns, everything.
PAGE: And these are things that are beyond his control to affect. You know, before this, he has had control of Congress. He has had the bully pulpit. He maintains support of his core supporters. But when it comes to legal action from Mueller, when it comes to subpoenas from the House Democrats, those are things that he can`t do anything about. And I think you get this sense of growing realization about what that will exactly mean.
I think during the campaign, it was not clear that the President understood how much difference in his life it was going to make if Democrats won the House. And I think that is dawning on him now.
MATTHEWS: Yamiche, do you think this is like the guy who has been dumped on at work. He goes home and kicks the dog? Is this what this is about? He just seems to be hitting everybody who is below him?
ALCINDOR: I mean, there are all of these really aides that are telling people that he is basically angry at everyone and that he is raging out because he is just an unhappy person right now. And again, I go back to that human idea that like everyone gets in a bad mood, everyone gets mad, but everyone isn`t the President of the United States. So in this case, you still have to do your job, which the President in some ways people say, isn`t wanting - isn`t in the mood to do and it`s running the free world.
MATTHEWS: Two years from Gwenn Ifill.
MATTHEWS: It`s good to have heroes. We all need heroes.
Yamiche Alcindor, Eli Stokols, Susan Page, and Tim O`Brien, bye. You guys are like the ghost of Christmas past. You guys know this guy and you are bringing it all up. Everybody who ever knew Trump say, same old Trump, same old Trump.
We are going to have some breaking news right now. NBC News is now ready to make the following call. NBC is calling Democrat Andrew Kim the apparent winner in New Jersey`s third congressional district. That`s another Democratic pickup.
And coming up, Trump`s attempt to install a loyalist at the very top of the justice department. That would be Whitaker, is generating backlash on both sides of the aisle now. Are Republican lawmakers finally onboard with legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation?
Plus, after a Democratic victory last week, winning between 35 and 40 seats in the House of Representatives, can the party ride the blue wave out of the midterms into 2020?
And the progressive caucus in the House is now facing off against a more moderate group of incoming Democratic freshman, fresh people, I guess. Can Pelosi keep both groups happy?
Finally, in an illuminating and inspiring look at the diverse makeup of newly elected Democratic members of Congress. Wait until you see this as the many faces of -- what was it? What was that? I forget. I`ll think of it. Many faces of --.
Anyway, this is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s fear of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation led him to install his own personal fixer at the very top of the justice department, Matt Whitaker, to protect him and his family from the reckoning that may come soon. And since he appointed acting attorney general Whitaker last week, Whitaker`s documented hostility toward the Mueller probe has created a sense of urgency to protect the special counsel. A push to ensure that justice will be served, not stifled.
However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell today, late today, blocked a bipartisan effort led by Democratic senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Jeff Flake to vote on legislation to ensure the investigation continues unimpeded.
In response, Senator Flake announced he will hold up the confirmation of Trump`s judicial nominees in committee and vote against them on the floor until the full Senate votes on the bill to protect Mueller. So he is going to fight pack to some extent. Here`s Senator Flake late tonight in a press conference alongside Senator Coons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: When you have the attorney general fired and the oversight for the investigation moved to someone who has not received Senate confirmation, who has expressed open hostility to the Mueller investigation, then there`s a problem. And I think that most of our colleagues feel the same way.
I have explained today, I have committed not to advance anymore nominees through the Judiciary Committee. They will not receive my vote. And with the margins we have I the Judiciary Committee, it will mean they should not move forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Matt Whitaker recuse himself from overseeing the investigation?
FLAKE: Yes, absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
FLAKE: Yes, right. Well, I think he shouldn`t be in that position at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, even Trump`s outspoken ally Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had previously backed away from a bill to protect Mueller, conceded to Reuters yesterday that: "It probably would be good to have this legislation in place just for the future."
I`m joined right now by Natasha Bertrand, a staff writer at "The Atlantic," and Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor.
Glenn, this is kind of a wet noodle to throw at this guy. I`m sorry. We have got 30 judgeships already to be confirmed on the floor. They have already gone past the Judiciary Committee, where -- you know, and this guy could have held them up a day or two.
But, you know, I don`t sense this is a real threat to Trump.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It doesn`t seem like it. And it really does seem like, at this moment in time, Mueller needs protection.
So whether we see this bill actually pushed through and land on the president`s desk, Chris, I think one of the most interesting questions from a legal perspective is, what happens if a bill to protect Robert Mueller lands on the president`s desk?
KIRSCHNER: He`s got two options, right? He can sign it. What does he do? He`s enabling and protecting the person who is investigating him.
MATTHEWS: It could also be April 1. It could be April Fool`s Day, because I don`t think it`s ever going to get on his desk.
MATTHEWS: Because Mitch McConnell represents the 91 percent of Republicans in this country who back Trump all the way down the line.
KIRSCHNER: I agree it may not, but you know what? Maybe there will be a significant push and maybe they will get something to him.
So, he signs it and he`s protecting and enabling the person who is looking to potentially take he and his family down. Or he vetoes it, and then we have to ask the question, if he does that with a corrupt intent, is that something that Mueller could use against him? It is a very sticky wicket.
MATTHEWS: Well, both of you, starting with Natasha.
I`m sitting around, like everybody, trying to figure out, why now? Why everything now? Why did he bring in Whitaker now? Well, it`s the day after the election. He can get away with it without paying a price.
But he wants to act ahead of Mueller. Mueller could indict -- well, Mueller could indict, what, Corsi?
NATASHA BERTRAND, "THE ATLANTIC": Right.
MATTHEWS: He can indict Roger Stone. And Trump will live with it.
BERTRAND: And why now?
MATTHEWS: Except Stone knows an awful lot about what Trump has been saying ever since he started playing -- running for president. He knows a lot he can rat him out on.
But what`s he do when his kids are indicted? The kids can`t rat him out. The kids can`t flip.
MATTHEWS: The kids go to prison. And I don`t think Trump wants to put up with that.
BERTRAND: So, it was pretty common knowledge that after the midterms, the Mueller investigation was going to ramp up. There was legal exposure for Don Jr., Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, all of these players that could have linked the Trump campaign essentially directly to WikiLeaks.
And I think the president is really worried about that. But we also have to ask the question...
MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t you?
BERTRAND: ... why now?
Yes. This is something...
MATTHEWS: This is the one objective reality the guy has actually faced.
BERTRAND: And now we know also that the questions that Mueller has asked the president in these written questions that Trump is now apparently responding to, it`s focused all on conspiracy, not necessarily obstruction of justice.
So, that is still what Mueller is really interested in.
MATTHEWS: You mean collusion, yes.
BERTRAND: Right, a conspiracy.
MATTHEWS: Collusion. You`re advancing a criminal conspiracy, you`re guilty.
But, Glenn, let me ask you this. First of all, I don`t think this is anything more than a joke, this written stuff. It`s just to slow the thing down. It`s like negotiating with the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. We will talk and we will fight, we will talk and we will fight, but we`re not going to give anything. We`re just going to play games with you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we already know that Whitaker was effectively trying out for the job in the administration back several weeks ago by defending the president publicly on places like FOX and slamming the Mueller probe in media appearances.
And it`s now apparent that those efforts paid off. This is great stuff. According to Politico -- great reporting here -- the White House foisted Whitaker on Attorney General Sessions to be his chief of staff. Former White House counsel Don McGahn pressured Sessions into hiring the little- known attorney -- that would be Whitaker -- as his new chief of staff.
"Sessions came away from his interactions with McGahn with the impression that he had little choice but to accede to the White House`s demand."
This is so Machiavellian. So they put this guy, Glenn and Natasha, as his number one assistant, his chief of staff, all the while planning to use him to replace the guy.
BERTRAND: They have wanted him in this position since last year. They have been interviewing Whitaker for top-level positions either in the White House to defend him against the Mueller investigation, or to be the deputy attorney general.
So the idea that Trump did not know Whitaker before he appointed him as acting attorney general is just completely absurd. They have known since last year that Whitaker was a big critic of the Mueller probe.
MATTHEWS: How tight a hold does the president have on Whitaker, Glenn? I think he`s got a hold. If this guy even says the word recuse, he will wish he was never born.
KIRSCHNER: Again, that`s a great question, because there is at least some reporting that Whitaker has consulted with the PRAO, the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office.
Chris, these are the ethics gurus. Some of these guys have been in place for decades. And what they do and all they do is, they study these issues to see whether a Department of Justice official is recused, needs to remove himself, not only if he has an actual conflict, but I can tell you, as a former career prosecutor, we`re big on the appearance of conflict, because we -- if we have the appearance of conflict and we`re overseeing an investigation...
MATTHEWS: But would Trump rather have the appearance of conflict or his son in prison?
KIRSCHNER: Oh, Trump doesn`t care about the conflicts. Trump installed Whitaker for this very reason.
MATTHEWS: Do you think -- well, do you know about enough -- Natasha, you have been reporting this.
Do you know enough about Whitaker to know how tough he is? Does he have the stuff to say to these ethics guys, look, I`m here because of one guy, not because of you, and I`m not recusing myself?
BERTRAND: He seems to have a one-track mind.
I mean, the reason why he was doing the media rounds last year was to get President Trump`s attention. He`s been wanting Trump`s approval for the better part of a year. And he knows that that`s the way to the top. And he`s exploited that really well.
MATTHEWS: He won`t double-cross him?
BERTRAND: No, not at this point.
BERTRAND: It doesn`t seem that way, based on the reporting.
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, there`s more news for Trump`s -- bad news for Trump`s adviser Roger Stone.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that: "Mueller`s office is crediting whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who was contradicting Mr. Stone`s version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks," which released those Russian-hacked e-mails in 2016."
Stone has said that radio personality Randy Credico was his back channel to WikiLeaks. But Credico denied it. "The Journal" reports that e-mail sent to Credico say that: "Mr. Stone threatened to sue the `blank` out of him, called him a loser, a liar, and a rat and told him to prepare to die."
MATTHEWS: That`s Roger Stone talk.
Separately, NBC News is reporting tonight that text messages provided by Stone to NBC News show that Credico appeared to be providing regular updates to Stone on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange`s plans in the days before the hacked e-mails were released.
For instance, in October, texts shows Credico predicted Hillary`s campaign will die this week. Six days later, WikiLeaks released its first dump of e-mails stolen from Podesta.
This, to me, gets to the belly of the beast, the very heart of the question of collusion. If Trump`s people, in the person of Roger Stone and Credico, knew all about what the Russians were planning to dump on WikiLeaks about Hillary and Podesta and all the other people in there and that campaign to humiliate them and mis -- distract the American voter, if that`s all part of a deal, then Trump knew about it.
There`s no way Roger Stone didn`t know all this crap was going on and didn`t tell Trump.
KIRSCHNER: And that`s Russian conspiracy and collusion all day long, if they told Trump.
And it sure seems like they would have. But there`s this unholy trinity of Stone and Corsi and Credico. And it`s a race to the basement with respect to their credibility, because none of them have any credibility. Here`s what I find most interesting.
MATTHEWS: But they`re not going to prison.
KIRSCHNER: Well, here`s what I find most interesting.
Two of the three have said they expect to be indicted. Right? Stone said he`s probably going to be indicted. Corsi said he`s probably going to be indicted. Credico -- Credico went in the grand jury, testified for three hours, by his own account, because he came on MSNBC right after that.
He was still sweating, and he said, boy, they sweat me for three hours. And he told a little bit of it. He has never said, I think I`m going to be indicted. That tells me something.
And if I can talk about one of the e-mails, because...
MATTHEWS: You mean he talked?
KIRSCHNER: ... we now have these -- yes, we now have these e-mails, and Stone says it`s Credico, and Credico says it`s Stone with respect to who`s really in communication with Julian Assange.
But you know what? Here`s a great bit of insight into what Stone was involved in and what Credico was involved in. He says that Credico texted Stone the following -- quote -- "Why can`t you get Trump to come out and say that he would give Julian Assange asylum?"
What does that tell us? It tells us that Credico knows that Stone is the guy who`s got access to the president.
MATTHEWS: OK, quid pro quo.
Thank you so much, Natasha Bertrand and Glenn Kirschner.
We`re getting into it here, aren`t we? We`re getting to the heart of this thing.
Up next: The battle for 2020 is under way. Will the current blue wave lead to a win for Democrats against Trump? The potential -- a potential, I think very potential 2020 candidate is going to join us here in one minute.
This is HARDBALL.
Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the victor.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tuesday night was a big night for Democrats in the Great Lakes states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
The Democratic candidates for governor and Senate swept those states, only two years after Donald Trump picked them up, essentially knocking down that blue wall back then.
But Democrats were less victorious in neighboring Ohio, where the state elected only one Democrat to statewide office. That would be Senator Sherrod Brown, who was reelected to his third Senate term.
Here he is on election night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: You all showed the country that progressives can win and win decisively in the heartland.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BROWN: And you showed the country, by putting people first, and by honoring the dignity of work, we carry a state that Donald Trump won by almost double digits.
We, as progressives, we celebrate the dignity of all work. When we fight for workers, we fight for all people, whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge, whether you work for tips or you work for a salary, whether you`re raising children or you`re taking care of an aging parent.
And we -- as we celebrate the dignity of work, we unify, we will not divide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So how did a progressive Democrat win in a state that voted for Donald Trump by double digits?
For more, I`m joined by the man himself, the newly elected senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown.
It seems to me that an old labor guy once said this to a senator I knew who had betrayed him. He said, you dance with the one that brung you. The people that built the Democratic Party in this country, they`re working people of all backgrounds. They`re working people that build things, the people that worked in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin.
It`s always been Democratic territory. Trump stole it, grabbed it -- grabbed it, I should say, two years ago. How do you get it back?
BROWN: Well, you get it back by talking about the dignity of work.
I think you point out this sort of phony populism of Donald Trump, where he talks about working-class voters, but he divides them.
MATTHEWS: Does he know any?
BROWN: Yes, probably -- he probably doesn`t know too many of them, number one.
Number two, the White House looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives. But he has put this phony populism out there. And real populism isn`t racist. Real populism isn`t anti-Semitic. Real populism doesn`t push people down. It lifts people up. It doesn`t divide workers, it doesn`t call people names.
And a campaign against Donald Trump is, you put up his phony populism that`s really for Wall Street against real populism that`s for workers. And, as I said there, when you talk about workers, you`re talking about all workers, whether you punch a clock, whether you work for a salary, whether you working at a hospital, working construction, or...
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s how Bill Clinton won.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton won in `92. He said he was for the people who work hard and play by the rules.
He`s looking for the regular guy who does 50 hours of work, comes home, have a beer, watches a little TV, and worries about his family.
BROWN: Should be able to get ahead. Yes, should be able to get ahead.
If you work all your life, and you have followed the rules, and you have contributed to your community, you ought to have a secure retirement. And we really don`t here.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, here`s the upshot. Here`s the bad news about the failure to meet that goal.
Fifty-percent -- I believe the latest number is 52 percent of people who don`t have a college degree are -- were for Trump. And 52 percent of people with a college degree are for the Democrats. How`d the Democratic Party become the party of gown and the Democratic -- the Republican Party the party of the townies, the regular people?
How`d that happen? They flipped.
BROWN: Well, it did -- it happened because Democrats weren`t listening well enough.
I think Democrats on trade and tax policy -- and we have seen the business plan -- and you and I have talked about this, and you have talked about this lots of times when I have seen your show.
We have followed -- we have encouraged business, through trade and tax policy, to shut down production in Mansfield or Dayton, Ohio, and move overseas and collect a tax break. And it`s a tax policy, it`s a trade policy. We haven`t looked out for workers.
This town, frankly, doesn`t really understand the dignity of work. I was talking to a Teamster -- a group of about 200 Teamsters last night in Washington right around the time I saw you coming off your show, and talking about their pensions.
And these workers understand the dignity of work.
BROWN: And it`s -- and, you know, we have got to reach them. We have got to speak to them where they are. They have worked all their lives.
They believe that Washington doesn`t even understand the collective bargaining process. You give up money today -- you`re a worker in Philadelphia, you`re at the bargaining table with your union. You give up money today to put aside for the future.
MATTHEWS: OK, you don`t have to make the announcement here, although I would like you to make the announcement when you do decide about running for president, because I have always thought you fit the uniform of who should run.
What -- how do you be tough against Trump without getting down into the crap hole with him? How do you -- Marco Rubio tried to get dirty with him. It didn`t work. He made a fool of himself.
How do you stand up to him? Like, if you`re debating him on television, and he comes up like this galoot behind you and looms over the back of you, and pulls those kind of numbers, how do you show you`re tougher than he is without becoming like him?
BROWN: Well, I think you -- in the primary, they all -- he called them all names and they called him names back.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It worked.
BROWN: And that`s not the way -- you don`t make it personal.
I don`t use the president`s name very often, but I do talk about the interest groups that controlled -- I had a bill in the lame Congress that I handed to the president at the White House. It`s the Patriot Corporation Act. It says simply -- we have talked about it on this show -- it says simply, if companies pay their workers well and benefits and make their production here, they get a lower tax rate.
If they pay their workers $8 or $10, they are levied a corporate freeloader fee, because those workers get Medicare, those workers get housing vouchers and food stamps. So you challenge this president. You make that contrast, his phony populism that calls names and degrades people and pushes people down, vs. the real populism of supporting workers.
It`s a pretty simple argument. You don`t do it by name-calling.
MATTHEWS: I hope you run for the simple reason -- I want you to run because I want somebody to stand up to Trump with working people.
BROWN: Well, that`s what...
MATTHEWS: And take them back.
BROWN: ... I have tried to do for my whole career.
MATTHEWS: Because you dance with the one that you brung -- that brung you.
BROWN: Well said.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much, Sherrod Brown, Senator -- senator again from Ohio.
BROWN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the fight to control the Democrats` agenda in the House. Who`s playing hardball?
Well, you`re watching it. We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Congress is back in session today and the House Democrats are back fresh off a big midterm election victory, last week, picking up two seats in California and New Jersey today. And while Democrats take control in January of the House, the two factions in the House, the progressive caucus which keeps getting bigger and the more moderate group of incoming freshman members will have to compete to set an agenda. Which faction will control and reins and who will lead them is still in question, which makes it interesting.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is confident she`ll once again take the speaker`s gavel, especially as yet no one`s out to challenge her, at least not personally. Pelosi will have to try to bring together those two new forces to incoming freshman members, 12 of which have promised to vote against her in the ever-growing progressive caucus which wants some issues decided up-front. Pelosi got a taste of the difficult task in her first day back as congresswoman.
Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of course, who bet Joe Crowley up in Brooklyn, or in Queens, joined a climate change protest. She went to a protest out in front of the speaker`s office. This is how it works now.
I`m joined right now by tonight`s special HARDBALL congressional roundtable, Congressman-elect Joe Neguse, Congressman Tom Reed, and former Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
All three of you know what it`s like to be in the House, at least, you`re learning, sir.
Let me go to Donna -- Congresswoman Edwards.
How does Nancy Pelosi decide that she lean in and get some support from these new members, some of whom are moderates, they get elected in sort of purple districts, maybe red districts. They said they weren`t going to vote for her. How does she get them out of that promise? Let`s start with that one.
FORMER REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I mean, I think that she can. I mean, obviously, she can afford to lose some of them. So that`s OK. And I think Nancy Pelosi is actually masterful at making sure that she manages the entire caucus. And I think that`s what people are going to see in her leadership.
And I think that they will be able to vote against her in the caucus, to get her nomination to the floor. And they`ll be able to either vote present or vote for her on the floor.
MATTHEWS: Is there enough -- is there enough strays out there that she can let go and still get the majority?
EDWARDS: Well, remember, she got those strays and some of them the last time that she ran. It`s not that she hasn`t ever faced opposition.
But here`s the thing, for Democrats, it makes no sense to being have this fight right now. You have the leader who brought you to the dance, who got you your seat, and now you`re going to throw her out when she`s brought in more women than have ever been in Congress before? It makes no sense whatsoever.
And this is not the last vote that these young Democrats are going to have to cast. So I suggest they really think about that.
MATTHEWS: Congressman-elect Neguse, I have to tell you, I`ve been watching this thing for 60 years. And every time, every time the Republicans want to knock off a Democrat in the middle part of the country, they take some ethnic person, black, Italian, Jewish, whatever, someone who`s a little different than the people in their district and they make them the face of their opponent.
So, they say, I`m running against Pelosi, I`m running against Tip O`Neill, I`m running against Vito Marcantonio, I`m running against Bella Abzug, I`m running against somebody, Teddy Kennedy, somebody that they don`t like.
How is it in your race? Did you have to defend Pelosi?
REP.-ELECT JOE NEGUSE (D), COLORADO: Look, I don`t think that tactic necessarily worked this time around. I represent a district that`s 90 percent white, so being a person of color, again, I`m just not so sure that that argument --
MATTHEWS: So they went directly against you?
NEGUSE: That`s right. But they didn`t pull it off. And I tend to agree with Congresswoman Edwards. I don`t know necessarily that this is the battle we should be focused on right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, you have the battle. You`re going to vote a week after Thanksgiving. Aren`t you going to vote?
NEGUSE: I`m going to vote, but I think the freshman class wants to get to work and wants to move on to the big, important policy debates.
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, in the Republican side, Kevin McCarthy will become the House minority leader, easily beating Congressman Jim Jordan today, a Trump ally and a member of the Freedom Caucus. Well, according to "Politico", President Trump has privately urged the House majority leader, that will be McCarthy, to strike a deal with the Conservative Freedom Caucus founder. Anyway, a deal could include an appointment as the ranking house member on the House Judiciary Committee, a key post that will be involved in many of the Democratic investigations against the president.
Anyway, let me go to Congressman Reed -- congratulations on your victory.
REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Great to be with you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Is there a chance you might vote for Pelosi?
REED: Well, that`s part of what I`ve offered. We`re part of the group that`s trying to reform the rules of the house to get the House working for the American people. So any candidate I`ve been open to supporting as long as we reform the rules of the House to make it not this top-down, speaker- driven controlled organization that it has become. It`s got to be responsive to the American people and that`s what will break the gridlock rule reform and the Problems Solvers Caucus, and our No Label organization has stood for, and I think we can get there.
MATTHEWS: Why don`t you pass a rule that says, you have to bring up for a vote anything that will happen? Because I saw this with the immigration bill a few years ago. It was going to pass overwhelmingly and they wouldn`t even bring up the damned thing.
REED: And that`s the cornerstone of one of our reforms. If we get to certain levels of bipartisan support, we`re guaranteed an opportunity to vote for it on the floor of the House. You`re absolutely right, Chris. I agree with you on this? The house needs to reflect the will of the people that have been elected as members of Congress to represent their districts. And having that block of a top-down, speaker-driven controlled organization has to come to an end. That`s why I`m glad to be part of this.
MATTHEWS: You like the idea of having a Freedom Caucus, Tea Party type on the Judiciary Committee?
REED: Well, you know, I`ll leave it to up -- we`ll leave it up to their role in the Congress. There`s a role for them in our caucus and our conference, and they`re going to relish that role and they`re going to stand firm for whatever they believe in. But at the end of the day, I`m here to legislate for the people back home.
And that`s why I`m glad to be up here with a new member coming in from Colorado, who I think we can develop a friendship and relationship with to govern --
MATTHEWS: Are you in the progressive caucus, sir?
NEGUSE: I am, although I`ll say, I agree with Representative Reed regarding the Problem Solvers Caucus. I think the reforms are good thing and I think Leader Pelosi issued a statement today that was largely supportive of him. So hopefully there`ll some changes in that regard.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s some good news. Florida`s Republican Senate hopeful Rick Scott has assumed he`s won. He`s attending orientation, there he is, for freshman senators on Capitol Hill. There he is. He won.
The problem is the recount in that Florida Senate race isn`t over. It`s still underway and they`re waiting to hear from the military votes coming in later this week. And today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said if all 8 million votes can`t be processed by tomorrow`s deadline, that deadline should be extended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel as if those deadlines should be moved out --
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Absolutely. Every vote should be counted. It is unconstitutional to say every vote should count in rural counties because they can count quickly, but every vote shouldn`t be counted in the more urban, and populated counties because it takes them longer to count the vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, not surprising, Rick Scott`s campaign sees it differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the ballots are not counted by then, then we know that Florida law has a fallback and that fallback would allow for the tally that stood before the recount started to be the actual tally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: If the tally went back to Tuesday night`s number, that would be election night, it would also mean those voters who submitted absentee ballots, provisional ballots, military ballots would be totally ignored.
Donna, how do we explain -- how do you tell people who bothered to vote by absentee, we`re not going to count your ballots?
EDWARDS: You don`t. It`s a really simple principle here and Republicans should get this. Count every vote that`s been cast. I feel like we`re doing a replay of the 2000 election. That is nowhere we want to be in 2018. Count every vote.
MATTHEWS: Why does a state have -- well, any of you. Congressman Reed, you can answer this. Why does a state set deadlines like Thursday this, Friday that, when they know they can`t count that fast?
REED: Well, I think, you know, obviously, every vote should count. But you do need to make sure that you don`t change the rules in the middle of a recount. And whatever the rules are, I think we should adhere to them as we go forward.
MATTHEWS: In other words, go back to what happened -- so whatever was being reported on television on election night --
REED: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: That`s what the rule says?
REED: No, I think every vote should be counted, but at some point in time, you have to recognize, you need to bring finality to these elections and move forward to the next cycle.
EDWARDS: But one of the challenges here is that there was an overwhelming voter turnout, a lot of absentee ballots, provisional ballots, overseas ballots, and so for an election that was not predictable. So what`s wrong with the principle of counting every vote?
When I show up to vote, I don`t think, well, they`re not going to take this one because I did it by absentee. I mean, it makes no sense at all. I don`t even think you can at all. You can`t explain that to the American people that you cast a vote but you`re not going to count it because you ran out of time.
MATTHEWS: I would like one -- I know it`s up to states, but I`d love the states to all agree on one form of machinery, one paper ballot, everybody gets as a backup, and the same rules for every state. If it`s an ID, it`s an ID, whatever the deal is, same for everybody so it can`t be played like gerrymandering, like a gimmick.
NEGUSE: It sounds like a bill --
REED: I look forward to that.
MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, the difference between diversity in the newly elected Democratic Caucus and the monochromatic look of the Republicans -- by the way, it was called the many colors of Benetton. I forgot that phrase from the old ad.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, the newly elected members of Congress took their first group photo. Anyway, it`s a history making group, of course, when you look at the new members separated by party, the contrast is striking.
The Republicans freshman class is composed of mostly white men, well, there they are, with only one female Republican elect, that`s West Virginia`s Carroll Miller. There are two Republican women whose races have not yet been called yet by NBC, including California`s Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress.
Now, on the other hand, the Democratic freshman class, which is overwhelmingly diverse and female, includes the first Muslim and Native- American woman elected to the House, as well as the first back woman to be elected from Massachusetts and Connecticut and the first black male elected to Congress in Colorado. I guess Congressman-elect Joe Neguse.
We`re back with the round table.
What do you make of your party? It`s like it`s the U.N.
NEGUSE: It`s pretty incredible.
MATTHEWS: I think there`s a Hindu member, too, somewhere in there.
NEGUSE: There is. It speaks to I think the unity in our party, believing in equality and justice for all. That everybody should have a seat at the table. It`s an incredibly diverse class. It is an incredibly diverse class, particularly in the Democratic Party, and that`s something we should be proud of.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Reed, now, let`s talk about you chaps.
REED: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What do you think makes your party so monochromatic?
REED: Well, you know, it is a problem. I think we have to recognize that problem. And I think what we as a Republican Party need to do is take a hard look at --
MATTHEWS: Is Trump helping?
REED: Well, you know, obviously, he`s a very divisive president. But I will tell you, what he`s doing in regards to economic recovery, getting people back to work, and lowest unemployment rates for African-American and women participating in the workplace, those are good things.
And what I think we need to do as a party is do a better job of selling and telling people what we stand for. The president did a good thing today with prison reform. I think that was a good thing.
MATTHEWS: I remember Jack Kemp. Kemp was great on that.
REED: Jack Kemp is great. I have parts of his old district, no doubt about it.
EDWARDS: Well, look, I think the president`s language, and his demeanor and everything, he`d completely alienated the very people needed to build the Republican Party. We have a Congress where we`re going to have 102 women, the largest number of women ever and the diversity you talked about. I think the Democratic Party really represents the face of America.
And, you know, it`s not about making America great again because we don`t want to go backwards. It`s about how we go forward.
MATTHEWS: I can think a lot of African-American Republicans, Jackie Robinson, I think, Wilt Chamberlain, Lionel Hampton. But they`re all gone.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman-elect Joe Neguse, Congressman Tom Reed, and former Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
I`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: That`s all -- that`s HARDBAL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END