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Lewinsky describes "flirtatious encounters". TRANSCRIPT: 11/16/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Sean Morgan, Tiffany Cross, Chris Lu, Rick Tyler

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 16, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Sean Morgan, Tiffany Cross, Chris Lu, Rick Tyler

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Just answer the questions. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

This is the week when Donald Trump began to worry. He knows that the Mueller probe on which all else rides is closing in. He said as much this afternoon, that the investigation is quote "ending now."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The witch hunt, as I call it, should never have taken place. It continues to go on. I imagine it`s ending now. From what I hear it`s ending. And I`m sure it will be just fine. And you know why it`s going to be just fine? Because there was no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: From what I hear, it`s ending. Well, Trump also knows that the Democrats are coming and with greater strength with up to 40 new seats in the House of Representatives, the body that impeaches Presidents.

Yes, the past week has been a sobering reckoning for President Trump as he sinks increasingly deeper into possible the most perilous time of his presidency. And as I said, he has lost ground on several fronts, a rebuke at the hands of the American people in last week`s midterm elections. He faced defeat in his war with the media after a federal judge ordered his administration to restore a White House reporter`s press pass. And of course, there is that looming specter of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation and the existential threat it poses to its presidency and to the liberty of its founding members.

Well, today, Trump was asked about his twitter rant against the special counsel and his team yesterday and what may have triggered it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On twitter yesterday, you seemed agitated about - which you might be perceiving the Mueller investigation.

TRUMP: No, I`m not agitated. The whole thing was a hoax. There was no collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, did anything trigger that sort of tweets?

TRUMP: No. No at all. I`m very happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump also awaited on one of the most contentious aspects of Mueller`s investigation announcing he would completed the written answers to questions in the Russia probe, insisting he had done it all by myself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My lawyers are working on that. I`m working on that. I write the answers. My lawyers don`t write answers. I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I have answered them very easily, very easily. I`m sure they are tricked up because they like to catch people. You have to always be careful when you answer questions with people that probably have bad intention intentions. But, no, the questions were very routinely answered by me -- by me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter from "Bloomberg News," Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent from the "New York Times." Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor, David Jolly, former Republican congressman who is no longer affiliated, I love the way you put that, no longer known as the Republican.

Anyway. Thank you, Dave Jolly.

Let me go to Michael on this. Michael, can you report now what is in the questions that Trump says are so easy to answer but he hasn`t done it yet. Easy but I haven`t done it.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: They have had the questions since February -- since March of this year. They know what the topics are. They knew in September that Mueller would take written response responses. They said the responses were going to go on Wednesday. They still haven`t gone. Why haven`t they gone? What is holding them up?

Mueller wanted to sit down with the President. He made the accommodation to allow him to give written answers. He has gone that far. Why is it that the President can`t hand it over?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to the possibility that there`s a conflict between the President and his attorneys because three days of arguing with them, he has come up with nothing. He doesn`t want to release. Somebody says I want a release. Somebody says don`t do it. Do you think there`s a part in this that says, you know, in the end you don`t testify in you don`t have to, the oldest rule for a defendant.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The oldest rule, there is zero chance any lawyer would allow him to answer the questions by himself, a, and b, ever get in front of a grand jury and talk to Mueller. That is never going to happen.

If he`s subpoenaed and it goes to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court rules that he has to testify in front of the grand jury, he is just going to take five. This President is never going to testify.

MATTHEWS: What about this take-home exam that he has been playing with?

ALKSNE: First of all, this business about I wrote them myself and all that excitement that he had today for us, that just didn`t happen. That`s just a lie.

MATTHEWS: Well, why would he lie? Because by saying I personally put these words on this paper, doesn`t that put him more in a perjury trap?

ALKSNE: Yes, absolutely. He has given away a defense because one defense was always to be or the lawyers made me write that. He has given that away.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I mean, these are his questions to answer though and it is his name on them. You can`t have your lawyer go in and testify in the grand jury box. So technically, he has to be the one to answer the questions.

MATTHEWS: I worked in the world of politics for years --

PETTYPIECE: Lawyers have been working on these questions for weeks but technically he has to be the one who says he answers them.

MATTHEWS: If he answers -- if he signs it, Cynthia, if he signs the statement, does that make him culpable for perjury, even if he didn`t write them? Are you responsible --?

ALKSNE: Yes, if he signs them. But can you see him saying to the American people or testifying later or going to trial or something and saying, well, the lawyers just told me to do that, the truth of the matter is I was very busy. I was negotiating treaties with North Korea and trying to avoid nuclear war and they made me sign and I didn`t pay much attention and therefore I had no intent.

SCHMIDT: Here`s the thing, is that he wants this to be over. He doesn`t want this to drag on. So whatever is stopping this is so powerful that it is continuing to allow this to drag on. They need to get some sort of answers from him before they close the investigation. That is what`s delaying it.

MATTHEWS: Is this the last step in the process? And you suggest it is? This is it.

SCHMIDT: He thinks so. I mean, you know, everyone thinks they know what Mueller`s going to do. I mean, we don`t know. We think it is close.

PETTYPIECE: I mean, there`s one thing that is likely holding this - I mean, it could be a dispute over these questions. It could also be that his lawyers have said in exchange for submitting these questions. They want some assurances that this is it, that you are not going to make him come in, that this is are going to satisfy, that you are not going to make him come in, still for an in-person interview. If we give you these questions, that`s it, we are done. You are not going to come back at us with a subpoena for something else. So I think his lawyers probably want assurances.

MATTHEWS: Dave Jolly, in the politics of those rig, most of us watching this, most of the journalist side, everybody are watching Trump looking like he is caught right now. He doesn`t look happy.

SCHMIDT: He is.

MATTHEWS: He just doesn`t look -- despite the tanning parlor he goes to or whatever, he doesn`t look healthy, doesn`t look happy, looks agitated and then we got word he fought with his attorneys for three days and then went out to cover the whole thing up with this smiling number today, (INAUDIBLE) number he put on today, but nobody believes it. Why? What`s wrong?

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: No. Look, at this point I think Donald Trump should plead the fifth and here`s why. The answers he submits will be a sworn statement from the President of the United States. And even if the lawyers think they have nuanced it so it not committing perjury or it is not revealing culpability for criminal activity, Bob Mueller is not going to agree to no follow-up. There will be follow up.

And here is the reason for the panic. Donald Trump knows he is the corner but he doesn`t know which corner he is in because he doesn`t know what other information Bob Mueller has gotten from corroborating witness. And that is the panic.

This isn`t a matter of Donald Trump, you know, to verify here, am I telling the truth based on what I, Donald Trump, said a year ago. This is am I telling the truth based on evidence Bob Mueller has from others that I don`t have visibility into which is the reason for the panic and I think at this point, the reason Donald Trump should plead the fifth.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia?

ALKSNE: I definitely agree. And I think that Bob Mueller would never make the deal that the lawyers may be pressuring, which is that they don`t ever have to have follow-ups. I mean, these questions do not reportedly do not include anything about the obstruction. And there is no way that Bob Mueller would agree that he is just never going to ask the President questions. And he is not going to try to do it. That is not in keeping with this character or with any prosecutor I have ever known.

PETTYPIECE: And I think that could be the holdup, that they still want answers to obstruction questions and the President`s lawyers want a guarantee that if we answer these questions on collusion, you are going to leave us alone on obstruction.

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, President Trump may have unwillingly revealed his true intent behind this. This is to install Matt Whitaker as his new acting attorney general.

In an interview today, asked who might replace Whitaker as a permanent attorney general, a question that did not mention the Mueller probe at all, Trump quickly digressed into a rant about the Russia probe. Trump responded in part, Whitaker is just somebody that is very respected. I knew him only as he pertain, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions.

And you know, look. As far as I am concern, this is an investigation that should never been brought. It is an illegal investigation.

Now Michael, he knows why he put Whitaker there. It was to protect him from the Russia probe. And now he is saying whoever I put in there permanently will have the same job description. Keep those people down.

SCHMIDT: Well, he has also tried to put some distance between himself and Whitaker as the press for Whitaker has gotten worse and worse. So there has been all these stories about different issues that Whitaker has and the questions about why he is truly there and the President keeps moving and closer and closer to the side.

MATTHEWS: That`s usually what he does to people right before he dumps them.

Right before the tweet comes out.

MATTHEWS: I know - I don`t know nothing. Sergeant Schultz, I don`t know nothing.

SCHMIDT: But he maybe the best bet that he has if he do the same said he wants.

MATTHEWS: I think he is wall (ph).

PETTYPIECE: Yes. There seems to be no idea who the next attorney general is going to be. He has had two years to think about it basically. And I can`t get any sort of clearance (INAUDIBLE).

MATTHEWS: Well, does anybody here -- Cynthia, maybe you are the one, does anybody think that Whitaker is not going to be the line on which Trump is going to fight and stick with Whitaker all the way? Because I don`t know what are the other game he has besides the pardon.

ALKSNE: Here is the interesting point that John, you made the other day of all people. And that is that if Rosenstein said to Mueller, no, you can`t do something, that would have been over because Rosenstein had so much credibility. If Whitaker says, no, you can`t subpoena that witness and then Whitaker has to tell Congress under the rules, Whitaker doesn`t have the same credibility. Mueller might just say, you know, you are not properly assigned.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If you`re Trump, you ant want a guy that`s going to back you up and take the heat.

ALKSNE: I know. But the problem is that because Whitaker doesn`t have credibility, it weakens his ability to control the investigation ultimately.

MATTHEWS: OK, Dave. Let`s talk politics.

It seems that if you are Trump, you don`t have a lot of options. One is to say, everybody said around here three weeks ago it has to be Rosenstein. He is going to be the next gut. This is all in the rules. It is all there, all part of our judicial culture, it has to be him, all these little rules and ethics rules.

And Trump says, look, I have been shooting the moon all my life. I`m not going to play by your rules. I`m shooting the moon. I`m going to pick my guy. I`m going to dare you to get rid of him.

JOLLY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: And I`m going to keep him there. Because I know I need to keep him there because if this guy, that this guy Mueller gets free reign, I`m dead.

JOLLY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: My first (INAUDIBLE) with my oldest son. I am dead. And so I`m going to --.

JOLLY: And look.

MATTHEWS: That`s easy in Trump`s approach.

JOLLY: Certainly. And if you are Donald Trump and you are trying to trying to pick out a loyal fall guy, it is Matt Whitaker.

I mean, Matt Whitaker could do all the dirty work over the next six to eight weeks and then Trump could let him go and actually nominate somebody for the next two years and make Whitaker the fall guy on terminating the Mueller probe.

What is different though, and this is also why we are seeing the anxiety is we have been living for two years where there is no oversight from the United States Congress in any of this, no subpoena for testimony from any of these administration officials. That all is about to change. And that is why I think we are going to see Donald Trump start to play by different rules, rules that even further confront some of the constitutional norms that we have seen over the past several years.

MATTHEWS: Is this his avenue, Michael first, is this his avenue, these months before January 3rd when the new house comes in?

SCHMIDT: I guess so. But whatever he does will still get scrutiny then. So I don`t know where he really has to rule. Like where are the places that he can go? If he does something in this period of time that the Democrats don`t like, they will bring it up in the beginning of January. So I don`t know if it really matter.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think he is Houdini like I do sometimes.

SCHMIDT: Look. His best quality is a bit --.

MATTHEWS: Your guy act he is done. He is finish. He has stayed down. He is done.

PETTYPIECE: He might be politically Houdini. I mean, if he can convince, you know, the Senate not to remove him from office --.

MATTHEWS: Well, they will never going to do that. He has almost got 91 percent Republican Party.

PETTYPIECE: Right. And if he makes the Democrats look like fools for impeaching him and be like Clinton and have his approvals go up after an impeachment (INAUDIBLE).

MATTHEWS: The only Republicans that come out against Trump are those heading out the door. And you know, they are heading up there because they are coming out against Trump. And that would be Corker, goodbye. Flake, goodbye. Ryan Costello, goodbye. Charlie Dent, go on. They just leave. Nobody who sticks around for the national election challenges Trump. Nobody.

ALKSNE: You don`t know what they will do. They need you the right thing if the evidence warrants it. I mean, you have to have some --.

MATTHEWS: Name the Howard Baker this time. Name the one Republican who would stand up.

ALKSNE: I don`t. I can`t. I have given up on the whole --.

SCHMIDT: It`s a different Republican Party. All those people go.

ALKSNE: You have to assume the evidence is going to matter.

MATTHEWS: David Jolly, by the way, is gone.

David, it seems like the only people that are willing to stand up against Trump are those who don`t have to stand against Trump with the voters.

JOLLY: Chris, I was a sitting member of Congress in December of 2017 who called on Trump to drop out of the race. There are several reasons I probably lost my last race. One was redistricting but that was the other one. You confront this President you lose.

MATTHEWS: Sure, you did.

JOLLY: And look. That`s a greater test of leadership, right. Instead Republicans today have become more Trump-like. They have fallen in line on the hill. There is not that Howard Baker. We shouldn`t expect that from today`s Republican Party. We know that.

MATTHEWS: It was to be proven, has been proven.

Thank you, Shannon Pettypiece. Thank you, Michael Schmidt, Cynthia Alksne and David Jolly, not a Republican.

Coming up, the justice department is preparing to criminally charge WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange. Don`t you love that name? Could this help prove the extent of Russia`s conspiracy to get Trump elected in 2016? I think so.

And dozens are dead and more than 600 are now missing out there in California, as those wildfires continue to devastate the state. The President blamed the fires on gross mismanagement and threatened to withhold federal money. What message will the President have when he visits the states tomorrow?

MATTHEWS: Plus, she`s in it to win it, facing opposition for dinner party, Nancy Pelosi is launching an intense battle on Capitol Hill as we speak to regain and hold her speakership.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Since the outset of the Mueller probe itself, investigators have been establishing the broad scope of the Russian conspiracy intended to help elect Donald Trump in 2016. A key piece of that puzzle is the role of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, there he is, who has made it his mission to undermine governments around the world by leaking state secrets.

As Mueller made clear in his indictment of Russian conspirators last July, Kremlin operatives gave WikiLeaks the Democratic email they expected that had been hacked to heighten their impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election. So the Russians gave their stuff to WikiLeaks to put out.

And now NBC news reports in a court document filed by mistake has revealed that he justice department is preparing to criminally charge Assange himself. The clue was found in a motion filed last August in a completely unrelated case, a case brought by the same federal prosecutor who is also investigating WikiLeaks in the eastern district of Virginia.

Well, that prosecutor accidentally stated in the (INAUDIBLE) the complaint would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges and can therefore no longer evade or avoid or arrest an extradition.

Well, Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past eight years. This makes his potential extradition difficult. And while it is unclear whether the charge is against him would be brought in connection with Russians` hacking, his knowledge of that operation or any conspiratories (ph) on that would be of valued to prosecutors.

I`m joined now by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. And Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor.

Glen, tell us how -- take a minute. How does this all connect?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Chris, we have seen now with some of the indictments that Bob Mueller has returned against those Russian military operatives for hacking into and trying to impact our elections. We are about to see, we all believe, the American side of that. As soon as Bob Mueller shows his cards, whether by returning indictments, authoring a report to Congress or both.

Now we have got Julian Assange and WikiLeaks right smack in the middle of it. And, obviously, you know, what I find most intriguing about this is, the president was benefiting from the fact that WikiLeaks had these illegal e-mails. They were disclosing them for obviously political reasons.

And we have seen that montage of the president saying WikiLeaks about 1,200 times, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks.

And I will tell you, that`s the president exploiting stolen information for his own purposes. And that is yet another potential crime, receipt of stolen property, exploiting it for your own benefit.

So I actually think the Assange piece is right smack in the middle of the Russian piece and the Trump campaign piece, and it`s going to be really interesting to see what happens if we get our hands on Assange.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Glenn just mentioned, WikiLeaks played a major part in Trump`s closing argument against Hillary Clinton back in the 2016 election.

Here`s candidate Trump repeatedly praising WikiLeaks, who was doing Russia`s bidding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, did you see another one? Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks, it`s like a treasure trove.

This WikiLeaks is unbelievable.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: What we have learned about her and her people.

Oh, we love WikiLeaks. Boy, they have really -- WikiLeaks.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: They have revealed a lot.

Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn`t it?

I will tell you, this WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.

Now, this just came out. This just came out. WikiLeaks -- I love WikiLeaks.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator, I think they call that soft intel in the -- in the spy game. It`s open and right there in the public. I mean, right in public, you see President -- well, candidate Trump benefiting and wanting more benefit from the Russians through WikiLeaks.

He knew what he was doing. It looks to me like this would be part of any kind of report from Mueller when it comes, perhaps soon.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It should be part of any report that Bob Mueller produces.

And, in fact, I am going to be introducing legislation that requires a report, along with full disclosure of any findings and evidence, in the event that he is fired or forced to resign. And the key word here is the one you use, Chris, conspiracy.

Roger Stone, who may well have had advanced knowledge, a close friend of the president and a confidant, others who may have disclosed to Donald Trump about what was going to appear on WikiLeaks, as well as Julian Assange`s involvement, all of it amounts to a potential conspiracy.

And that`s exactly what the collusion charge may involve.

MATTHEWS: Well, making that point, there are at least three Trump associates who have reported ties to the WikiLeaks, Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone, you mentioned, and Donald Trump Jr. -- there`s a hot one -- all of whom had been subject of recent speculation about coming indictments.

According to NBC News, Mueller has communications suggesting that Corsi had advanced knowledge that stolen e-mails from Clinton`s campaign chair had been given to WikiLeaks.

We also know that Roger Stone, who claimed to have a back channel to WikiLeaks, discussed the release of those e-mails in a text message conversation just before they were leaked. And "The Atlantic" has reported that Donald Trump Jr. -- there`s the hot one -- exchanged messages with WikiLeaks in the fall of 2016, telling other members of the Clinton campaign WikiLeaks had made contact.

Let`s start with this, Glenn. Everybody on this program, working with me for the last 20 years, has known that Roger Stone has been pushing Trump to run for president for 20-some years. We have a picture of him. He joined Melania when he came to Penn, when we interviewed him there for that big town meeting back in `99.

Roger is always close at hand. He`s always been pushing Trump to run. He can`t disown him now, can he?

KIRSCHNER: Well...

MATTHEWS: Or will he?

KIRSCHNER: That`s what makes Roger Stone one of the potentially big ticket co-operators, because if they can crack open Roger Stone, and all the information he has...

MATTHEWS: Well, he doesn`t want to go to prison.

KIRSCHNER: No, he`s not going to want to die in prison. He doesn`t look like he would thrive in prison.

If we -- if they can crack him open and get all the information that Trump may have had or that he may have provided against Trump, that`s going to be -- that`s going to be big.

And there other thing we should -- like, looking forward, Chris, let`s pay attention to if the U.S. gets its hands on Assange and can extradite him from the Ecuadorian Embassy, he`s a big fish, but you know what? Mueller will look to cultivate him as...

MATTHEWS: Why don`t we pull one of those Israeli numbers and just go get him?

KIRSCHNER: Yes, rendition, just sort of -- yes.

MATTHEWS: Just go grab him.

KIRSCHNER: But you know what? They will step to anybody as a potential cooperating witness, except the biggest fish. Obviously, the biggest fish is the president.

Everybody below him, including Assange, is in play.

MATTHEWS: Senator, what do about how close this report is coming?

We had people on tonight, smart people, Cynthia Alksne, of course, Michael Schmidt of "The New York Times," they know what`s going on. And they -- they all seem to be suggesting that the last element in this whole report by -- oh, I`m losing the names -- by Mueller, that they`re all coming, it`s all coming to an end once they get their written answers from Trump.

Is that -- is that your understanding, we`re getting close to the end here?

BLUMENTHAL: My hunch -- and it`s not much more than an educated guess -- is that the special counsel still has a good deal of work to do.

Remember that the written answers to these questions pertain only to the pre-election period. So far, Trump has apparently refused to answer any questions involving the transition or post-inaugural period, which has to be unacceptable to the special prosecutor.

In fact, the special prosecutor may well seek some kind of oral answers to these questions, as he probably should. So, I think we still have a ways to go. And you said earlier that Donald Trump is looking like he is caught.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: I think the walls seem to be closing in.

And as Manafort and Rick Gates and Michael Cohen continue to cooperate -- remember, they were all active just this past week and talking to the prosecutors -- there is still more information to be gleaned here.

And I -- Robert Mueller is nothing, if not methodical, determined, by the book, and meticulous.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think you`re talking about a reckoning and, in fact, the constitutional reckoning, perhaps a -- a really, serious one, because I don`t think Trump`s going into that room and answer questions in live -- in a live situation.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I just don`t think he`s capable of it. And I think he will probably be told he`s not capable of telling something like the truth.

Anyway, thank you, Richard Blumenthal, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re a great guest and very helpful to understanding this.

Glenn Kirschner, of course.

And up next: Dozens of people are dead and over 600 unaccounted for, as those wildfires continue to burn in California in that Chico-Paradise neighborhood.

After threatening to withhold federal funds, however, because of what he calls gross mismanagement of the forest, what will President Trump`s message be when he visits the state tomorrow? He`s got to say something nice.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

At least 66 people have now died and more than 600 remain missing, as wildfires continue to ravage California. Three are major wildfires burning north of Sacramento and west of Los Angeles.

And last Friday, the Camp Fire in Northern California engulfed the town of Paradise, leaving an apocalyptic landscape in its wake. There it is.

The Camp Fire is now California`s deadliest and most destructive fire in the state`s history. Look at this. It`s like after World War II there.

President Trump is set to tour the area tomorrow and had this to say in an interview with FOX:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": California, the purpose of your trip tomorrow?

TRUMP: Just to see the firefighters. Nobody`s ever seen what`s going on over there. And now they`re saying it could be as many as 600. This just came out before we met.

WALLACE: Right.

TRUMP: Could be as many as 600 people killed, up by 400. It`s incredible, what`s going on, and burned beyond recognition. They can`t even see the bodies. It`s incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for the latest, I`m joining on the phone by the mayor of Chico, California, Sean Morgan.

Mr. Mayor, what are we dealing with there?

SEAN MORGAN, MAYOR OF CHICO, CALIFORNIA: You know, Chris, you just said it. It`s catastrophic. No one has seen anything like it before.

I don`t even know how to describe it. You said looks like the aftermath of World War II. The analogy I made to someone the other day -- I was just talking to the BBC, and I have seen pictures of when London was bombed after World War II with St. Paul`s Cathedral standing up. That`s what it looked like.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

Well, what`s it like when it strikes? Because we hear about people getting killed. And most of us are used to fires that move, well, not at a human pace. They don`t usually catch up to people if they really get a jump on it.

That doesn`t seem to be the case. Tell us what happens to people when they get caught up in this inferno.

MORGAN: Well, you end up seeing what your clip on, what the president just said. You end up with a lot of dead people.

The fire was moving at a rate of almost 800 yards a minute. The inferno wasn`t that fast, but it was jumping that quickly. So there were people that didn`t get out.

What`s extraordinary is, 50,000 evacuee -- people evacuated, 63 dead so far. I`m surprised the number is not higher. They did an amazing job getting people out of that town.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the people who escaped and are in your town of Chico right -- your city of Chico right now.

What do you have? How do you handle, what is it, 50,000 people that have just come?

MORGAN: Yes, we don`t know exactly how many are here.

And, Chris, we have got a -- we have got a small humanitarian crisis here. We`re a very compassionate community. There`s people in homes. There`s people in sanctioned shelters. There`s people in unsanctioned shelters. There`s people in parking lots.

And when I say we have got somewhat of a humanitarian crisis, have got the norovirus breaking out in some of the shelters. And FEMA and California OES is just starting to get a handle on that as we move people, more and more people into proper shelters.

MATTHEWS: What are you going to ask the president when you meet him tomorrow, if you get -- if you could meet him tomorrow?

MORGAN: Well, I don`t know if I`m going to get to meet him. I don`t know what -- what I would ask him.

I`m going to give him a Paradise football ball cap and ask if he would it in honor of the football team. And I`m going to say, hey, thanks for coming, because, Chris, you know what? We don`t get national politicians in Northern California in the rural valley. The governors don`t come up here. The presidents don`t come up here.

So the fact that people are paying attention and we`re getting the full cooperation of the federal and state government is huge to the citizens of Paradise.

MATTHEWS: What do you want to ask for the American people to do right now? I want to give you a chance to make a pitch for help.

MORGAN: If I can make a pitch for help -- God, wow, what a great question. Thank you so much.

I got two things. Number one, I`m going to ask for continued prayer, because that`s what we need. And then, number two, the town of Paradise needs hope and it needs money to rebuild.

And the best two places to do that are the North Valley Community Foundation, and NVCF.org, and Golden Valley Bank. They`re both local institutions. Golden Valley Bank, you can find it online. All that money will go to the victims of the fire. It`s not going anywhere else.

It`s not going to admin. It will go directly to rebuilding a fantastic town that right now is part of our city. And we`re happy to -- we`re happy to have them. But we`re also anxious to get them back where they want to be.

MATTHEWS: And what was that? Just give me that address again, for people who didn`t hear it, didn`t write it down. Golden...

MORGAN: So, North Valley Community Foundation is NVCF.org, NVCF.org, locally run, very, very well run. I know the executive director.

The other one is our local community bank, Golden Valley Bank and ChicoCalifornia.com. They have got a donate button right on the front page. And they are -- they have been here for years. We will make sure all -- they will make sure all those donations go the right places and don`t get sucked up into admin and other things.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have learned over the years that the HARDBALL viewers, a lot of them respond to these pleas. And I think you will get some response. And it looks like you need some. Look at these pictures.

Thanks so much, Sean Morgan, mayor of Chico.

Up next...

MORGAN: Hey, thank for helping spread the message, Chris. We appreciate what you`re doing.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Up next: a big showdown looming on Capitol Hill, as Nancy Pelosi of California ramps up her campaign to get the speaker`s gavel back -- 17 Democrats are now saying they will not vote for her, but Pelosi says she`s ready to call their bluff.

Is that the right phrase?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is working overtime these hours to win the support of her party, and with it the gavel of the speaker of the House.

In a sign that she`s in it to win it, Pelosi has begun making concessions on a couple of issues. In a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, "The Washington Post" reports that Pelosi -- quote -- "pledged to give committee chairs a free hand to move legislation through their panels, a major issue for the CBC, which counts five incoming chairs in its ranks."

And the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a statement indicating that Pelosi was willing to provide freshman members roles in key committees -- quote -- "With the talent of the incoming class of new members, we agreed that there should be opportunities not only for season CPC members, but also for our brand-new CPC members, many of whom bring particular issue area expertise."

Will these concessions be enough to corral the party behind her bid for speaker?

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable.

Tiffany Cross is co-founder and managing editor of The Beat D.C. Chris Lu is former assistant to President Obama and White House Cabinet secretary. And Rick Tyler is a Republican strategist.

Let me -- let me start with you, Tiffany.

Is Pelosi going to make it?

TIFFANY CROSS, THE BEAT D.C.: I think she will.

I think we have seen this time and again. I remember, when she first ran for speaker against Harold Ford, and he made these kind of sexist comments, called her sweet and endearing.

I remember the last time that Tim Ryan challenged her, and when she passed all those reporters in the hallway, they were all asking for comment. And she just said two-thirds, because she got two-thirds of the vote.

And I know you call them concessions, but I think they`re actually necessary steps to take to involve an increasingly diverse Democratic Party. And I think it makes sense for her to come out and endorse the Rooney rule, for people to make sure their staff looks like America.

I think it makes sense for her to create room for rising stars in the party, like Hakeem Jeffries, who is such a superstar. I think she has to make room for people like that to come to the forefront.

And so I think she`s going to be totally fine in the speakership. I know she`s been challenged by Marcia Fudge.

MATTHEWS: But how do you get past the people who promised -- Chris, they promised their voters they`re going to vote against Pelosi, and they go on the floor and they say present? That doesn`t sound like voting against Pelosi.

CHRIS LU, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, I -- look, I think it`s going to be challenging.

I`m not a vote counter. She is one of the best vote counters there are.

MATTHEWS: How about 218?

LU: I think she will ultimately get there, and she should get there.

I will tell you, from my perspective in the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, how -- you`re not answering my question. How do you say to your voters for months, I`m going to vote against Pelosi in your ad campaign, and then get a picture on C-SPAN of you voting present?

LU: Well, look, I think she`s going to make some concessions.

And I think, clearly, there needs to be new blood in the party. And I think she will try to bring more people onto our leadership team. And I think, in the end, she may have made the concession she will just serve these two years.

But, look, at this point, we are about to embark on an epic fight for the next two years. We don`t have the luxury of having a speaker who needs on- the-job training. And she`s the right person for...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a normative argument, a political argument.

Now to the factual problem. You`re a Democratic freshman. The first vote you cast betrays your promise. How do you deal with that?

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You say, I couldn`t vote for the other guy.

Look, there`s a way to get -- look, if the sky is blue, if the wave is blue...

MATTHEWS: But the people know this.

TYLER: ... Nancy Pelosi will be speaker. There`s no question in my mind.

MATTHEWS: You can vote -- you can vote for John Lewis. You can vote for anybody you want on the floor.

CROSS: But they`re not running.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, you can just name anybody you want.

TYLER: It`s going to be binary, like Clinton against Trump. It`s going to be binary. And they`re going to say that Nancy Pelosi was it.

Look, she just won the best Democratic gains since Watergate. Why wouldn`t they pick her?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: One thing about politicians that people don`t like, Bill Clinton runs around in Arkansas saying, give me one more term, I won`t run for president. Just give me one more term. And he runs for president.

They are used to this stuff.

TYLER: Yes, but you know what?

MATTHEWS: Teddy Roosevelt once said, I didn`t run because I promised not to. I didn`t want to be a politician like everybody else.

So the first step you make is, you say, I`m just a politician.

TYLER: But I`m not -- look, I`m not a Democrat. No one cares what I think about -- on this thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You might be the honest one thing.

TYLER: But I have to say, as I get older, I`m a little tired of the argument that we need young people.

I don`t want young people in there. I want experienced people in there. So, if I look at my party, I want experienced people running who have experience with their job. Look at the president of the United States. He`s not young, but he has no experience with his job.

MATTHEWS: Well, why -- why -- well, here you go again. Here`s a question.

So President Trump loves this guy Mike Pence. He`s very religious. He`s pious even. Is he going to keep him?

TYLER: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Is he? Why does he keeps saying, does he like me? Are you sure he`s loyal?

TYLER: Because he punks him. He likes to do that. He likes to -- he likes keep every on edge to let them know, in the pecking order, that he`s in charge and put them on edge.

He`s doing that with Kirstjen Nielsen, who was behind him in his -- in his presser today.

MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that the press is beginning to question the loyalty another member of his White House, repeatedly asking aides and advisers in recent weeks if Vice President Mike Pence is loyal.

According to "The Times": "Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone."

Just last week, Trump was asked whether Pence would be joining him on the 2020 ticket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I haven`t asked him, but I hope so.

Where are you? Mike, will you be my running mate, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Stand up, Mike, please. Raise your right hand. No, I`m only kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Will you? Thank you. OK, good.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Yes. The answer is yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Chris, what do you think?

LU: Look, there`s always idle speculation -- speculation like this in a White House.

MATTHEWS: But he`s the one doing the speculation.

LU: Well, that`s the important part.

(LAUGHTER)

LU: And the key thing in "The New York Times" story is a recognition in the White House that perhaps the demographics the Republican Party aren`t big enough to make a winning coalition.

The truth is, can any vice presidential candidate really expand Trump`s base significantly and expand...

MATTHEWS: How about female?

LU: Possibly, but Oprah is not going to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: Listen, I don`t think it matters who is on the ticket.

TYLER: I don`t think -- exactly. It doesn`t matter.

(CROSSTALK)

CROSS: Yes. This is a lesson to Republicans who thought they won in 2016. No, you didn`t win. Donald Trump won.

(CROSSTALK)

CROSS: ... Kanye West as his running mate. He`s still going to win.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s one person he could pick who would look like his successor. And she is female. She`s a woman. That`s Nikki Haley, because if he picks Nikki Haley, she looks like somebody who wants to be president and is going to get there someday.

CROSS: She will outshine him, though. And he doesn`t like to be outshined. So I don`t think he will...

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER: I will agree with that.

LU: I don`t think people pick the president based on the vice president.

You would be hard-pressed to sort of figure out...

MATTHEWS: You have never looked? You have never thought that way in your life? You have never looked at the V.P.?

My first phone I cast, I voted for Humphrey and Muskie because I didn`t think Humphrey would get us out of the war. I thought Nixon actually -- I voted for Humphrey. And I did it because of Muskie.

TYLER: You`re the only one.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A very close election, sir.

No, Rick, you`re not old enough.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That was within 500,000 votes. That was very close.

TYLER: Vice presidents don`t really make a difference. The only difference they make is, which state do they bring?

MATTHEWS: That`s the only time they make a difference.

TYLER: Well...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me you about Lewinsky.

Why is she -- Chris, you have this hot one. Why is Monica Lewinsky 20 years later after the relationship -- I wouldn`t call it an affair -- relationship with the president, is she coming back for a three-part docu- series on it?

LU: Well, look, I don`t want to speculate about why she`s doing it.

But, from my perspective, this is ancient political history.

MATTHEWS: Not for her.

LU: Well, no, look Hillary Clinton`s not the president. She`s not going to be a presidential candidate.

MATTHEWS: Really?

LU: She is not going to be...

MATTHEWS: You didn`t read Mark Penn`s piece the other day.

(LAUGHTER)

LU: In fact, I did read Mark Penn`s piece. And she will not be a candidate.

But I will say this. This is -- for those people that don`t realize what happened with impeachment in 1998, they should watch this.

Anyone on the Democratic side who`s clamoring to impeach Trump needs to remember that, when Bill Clinton finished impeachment, his approval rating was 73 percent, and he had won five seats in the House.

So let`s...

MATTHEWS: So, you think -- anyway, this Sunday, A&E is premiering a new documentary series, "The Clinton Affair." And Monica Lewinsky is telling her side of the story on a scandal that captivated the country 20 years ago.

Here`s a bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: It`s not as if it didn`t register with me that he was the president. Obviously, it did.

But I think, in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time, the truth is, is that I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desire desired me.

However wrong it was, however misguided, for who I was in that very moment, at 22 years old, that was how it felt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

CROSS: I think, listen, I -- we are close in age. And I remember I was in college when all this happened.

And I know and it`s like to have the seduction of power of an older man go after a 22-year-old. She was taken advantage of. And she was really the casualty of this Republican effort to target Bill Clinton.

I`m so happy that she is telling her story in her terms, in her own voice. I think she deserves that through this lens of times up.

MATTHEWS: She -- according -- I have been reading this in her words, that she felt that she was betrayed by Clinton when he denied the relationship.

CROSS: She was betrayed by Clinton. She was betrayed by Linda Tripp. And she was betrayed and bullied by the investigators who targeted her.

I think it was all set. Everybody`s gotten to move on, Chris, and live their lives, except for this girl. And I`m going to tell you, if I was judged by the decisions I made at 22, I would not be sharing this panel here with you, gentlemen, tonight.

MATTHEWS: Rick?

TYLER: Tiffany is so right.

I love this story, because this -- I want to relive this. I love politics. I love history. I think we should go through this again and see it through the new lens through the MeToo movement, through what happened through a new lens of history. And she finally gets to tell her story.

I think it is a great redemption story. And people should watch it.

MATTHEWS: Chris?

LU: This was not a bright moment for either of the two parties.

And so I think a lot of people would rather put this behind them. But I agree with Tiffany. This is a powerful -- it`s a sense to sort of see how far this country has come in terms of the MeToo tomorrow.

MATTHEWS: Well, Hugh Jackman is doing this new movie on Gary Hart.

LU: Gary Hart, yes.

CROSS: Gary Hart. I`m so excited about it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Snakes come in pairs.

Anyway, thank you. The Roundtable is sticking with us.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

Tiffany, Tell Me Something I don`t know.

CROSS: All right, 81 percent of venture capitalist firms do not have a single black investor.

I`m going to tell you why this matters, because these are the venture capitalists who fund how we get our news. They fund platforms like BuzzFeed, FOX and Axios.

MATTHEWS: Why is that the case?

CROSS: Well, people are trying to change it.

I think the pipeline, the work force diversity is not always as easy.

MATTHEWS: Too risky? Is it because it`s risky?

CROSS: I don`t think it`s -- no, not at all. It`s not too risky at all.

The blame line that we hear all the time is people don`t know how to find these people. But there`s a group that`s trying to change that.

MATTHEWS: What`s the name of the group?

CROSS: I don`t remember, but I will tweet it out. I will tweet it out.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Mail it in.

Chris.

LU: All of the talk was about Hispanic turnout. Asian Americans turned out 77 percent for Democratic candidates. It was a critical factor, not only places like Nevada and Virginia, but in Orange County, where they make up 20 percent of the population.

And it`s a clean sweep for...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What is the group? Is it Vietnamese? Its it Vietnamese Americans?

LU: It`s Chinese Americans.

MATTHEWS: All groups?

LU: It`s all groups, Indian Americans -- 77 percent voted Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think?

LU: I think it`s a lot of the cultural issues. I think it`s immigration. I think it`s the rhetoric.

But Republicans are making a play for them on affirmative action. So you can`t take them for granted.

MATTHEWS: But I would say, without denigrating any group, Asian Americans would seem to be the most entrepreneurial, the most interested in having completely free opportunities economically in this country, rather than being for a big social welfare state.

LU: But that shift really occurred during the Clinton administration. And a lot of it is the rhetoric that`s coming out of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: You mean cultural trashing of people.

LU: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, that makes sense.

Rick -- Rick, you have got time.

TYLER: Democrats should run...

MATTHEWS: In 2020?

TYLER: In 2020, Democrats should run someone who can beat Florida in one swing state. And you got new swing states now. You got Georgia, you got Arizona, and you got North Carolina.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re the new breed guy. I know you.

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER: Listen to me, Democrats.

Or they have to -- they have to win Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, some combination of those, or two of those states and one other swing state, and you`re in. You`re done.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think? The new breed guys are pushing this, Arizona, Georgia.

(CROSSTALK) TYLER: ... different. I haven`t changed.

MATTHEWS: I`m pushing the same old, same old, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan.

Anyway, thank you, Tiffany Cross, Chris Lu, and Rick Tyler. Great Roundtable.

When we return, Let Me Finish tonight with Trump Watch.

You`re watching it, HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Friday, November 16, 2018.

I began this week speaking about Robert Kennedy at the 92nd Street Y up in New York. And, next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I will be signing books at Mitchell`s bookstore in Nantucket.

I`m convinced that the deepening interest in Bobby Kennedy is a necessary reaction to what we`re getting from our political leadership in the White House.

I cannot remember or ever imagine the president attacking minorities so nastily and personally as this one has so recently.

Donald Trump seems to save his worst vitriol for our African-American women, whether he`s calling Congresswoman Maxine Waters a low-I.Q. person or insulting my friends and colleagues Yamiche Alcindor and April Ryan for their -- quote -- "racist and stupid" questions?

He reserves an even nastier tone for people from below the border, grouping them as gang-joining criminals and rapists.

The hero in my book could not have been more different. Bobby would campaign in an open car, with a popular middleweight champion one side and the city`s new African-American mayor on the other, in Gary, Indiana. He wanted to unite, not divide people.

Bobby was the first mainstream American politician to take up the cause of the Latino farmworkers in California, joining in a religious bond with the great Cesar Chavez.

And he never broke faith with the white working-class families that came out to mourn him.

I`m asking you to go out this upcoming weekend and get the story I have written of this man, now in paperback, because it`s what I believe an America can and should be, what I believe good leaders can remind us about ourselves, as opposed to the tribalist bitterness that Donald Trump has shown his ability to resurrect.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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