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Manafort met with Assange. TRANSCRIPT: 11/27/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Adrienne Elrod, Chris Wilson, Jackie Speier, Daniel Goldman, Julian Castro

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 27, 2018 Guest: Adrienne Elrod, Chris Wilson, Jackie Speier, Daniel Goldman, Julian Castro


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We are out of time. HARDBALL is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Case for collusion. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

A potentially explosive new report today could show a crucial new link between the Trump campaign and the Russian conspiracy to subvert the 2016 election. It`s raising serious questions now about two primary figures in the collusion probe. Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who released Russian-hacked emails to wreak havoc on the Clinton campaign in 2016.

Today the British newspaper "the Guardian" reported that according to their sources, Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has been living in asylum since 2010.

According to this report the meetings took place during three separate visits in 2013 and 2015. And in the spring of 2016 reportedly around March. That`s the same month Manafort officially joined the Trump campaign.

NBC News has not independently verified "the Guardian`s" story. However, if true, the report would link Manafort to this key intermediary in the Russia conspiracy during a crucial time frame.

Russia had already hacked the DNC by the time Manafort reportedly met with Assange in March of 2016. And that some - same month, March of 2016, Russia was also in the process of hacking the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. And three months later in June of 2016, WikiLeaks communicated with Russian hackers and began releasing stolen emails in July.

Responding to the report late this afternoon, Manafort released a statement today through his spokesman saying this story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never reached out to Assange or WikiLeaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against "the Guardian."

Well, likewise WikiLeaks tweeted they are quote "willing to bet "the Guardian" a million-dollars and its editor`s head that Manafort never met Assange."

Well, this comes on the heels of last night`s bombshell news that Manafort`s deal with the special counsel is kaput. Prosecutors say that that despite agreeing to cooperate in change for a lighter sentence, Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying to the FBI and special counsel`s office on a variety of subject matters.

I`m joined right now by Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "the daily Beast." Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent with PBS News Hour, Elliot Williams is a former federal prosecutor and justice department official and Tom Winter up in New York is investigative reporter for NBC News.

I want to start with Elliot on this. What is the potential damage here? Put it all together because we have been trailing this. I`m one of those who believe that if Mueller gets collusion, that`s the home run. That`s where he has to go. It is nice to get obstruction, but that`s the one people that might turn the Republicans even.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And signs are increasingly pointing to it. Well, what these guys all have in common is that they seem to not tell the truth and all they seem to have connections to Julian Assange. We seeing it with Jerome Corsi. We are seeing it with Manafort. And Manafort has now gotten himself in a heap of trouble with a much bigger sentence and potentially things that could come up against him in court if he ends up in court. So yes, this is definitely pointing there. And it is potentially a lot of liability for all these folks.

MATTHEWS: Tom, give us a sense from this. Put the jigsaw puzzle together. (INAUDIBLE) working in, but this is pretty much in. If you can show a connection between Manafort, the chairman of the campaign, when he went to work for Trump, bringing this Russian connection with him, I mean, looked like I got my bag here candidate, Mr. Candidate, I have something that`s going to help you blow Hillary out of the water here. Go ahead.

TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yes. I think, Chris, the timing of this is going to be very important. To your point, we haven`t verified it. Manafort has denied it strenuously. Same with Julian Assange. But we are in a little bit of -- feels like we are kind of coming to a point here, Chris, with respect to this WikiLeaks business.

You have Jerome Corsi doing interviews with my colleague, (INAUDIBLE). We have seen draft documents that were apparently shared with him as far as what he would be charged with and what he allegedly did. We have obviously a lot of news about Roger Stone and associates of him. And it`s really the one thing that Robert Mueller in his indictment so far, Chris, hasn`t touched on, which is WikiLeaks specifically, and specifically John Podesta`s emails.

I think a lot of people are forgetting here, Chris, that they were several hacks that occurred. There was the hack of the DNC. And everything that happened with Bernie Sanders and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and things that you talked about extensively at the time.


WINTER: But there`s an entirely separate hack. The John Podesta hack was not tied to DNC. It was a hack of his Gmail account. And I think - and that occurred, you pointed this out smartly in the time line there around the time to this alleged meeting occurred between Manafort and Assange in London.

So you have a lot of smoke here. And really, we are going to have to follow what comes out in court documents and what comes out after last night, Mueller`s team promised us that they would be filing some sort of an update to the court as far as those crimes and lies. That was the quote in those documents last night that you showed earlier, the crimes amiss (ph) that Manafort is alleged to have committed here as far as this cooperation phase. So we are going to find out exactly what it is that he may have been untruthful about. And then we will really kind of get a sense of what this is all about, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We are going to put this all together. But one more element tonight, as Tom mentioned, right wing author Jerome Corsi who has walked away - who walked away from rejected a plea deal facing potentially imminent indictment for lying to prosecutors as well about his own involvement with Assange and WikiLeaks.

Well today, Corsi provided NBC News himself a draft documents from the special counsel`s office that summarize some of the evidence Mueller has gathered against him, Jerome Corsi. The documents state that former Trump adviser Roger Stone told Corsi in a July 2016 email to quote "get to Assange, Ecuador embassy in London and get the pending WikiLeaks emails.

What more do you want? According to NBC, Corsi said he declined the request. He made it clear to Stone that an attempt to contact WikiLeaks could put them in investigators` crosshairs according to the draft court documents. But Mueller`s team said that was a lie.

Look. I`m going to start with Betsy, Yamiche, all of you. I have known Roger Stone a long time. What he specialize in is the dark arts. He gets stuff on you then you don`t believe he has, anywhere of getting it. He is really good at it. Here he is in this whole question with his friend Jerome Corsi, and you have Manafort. All these guys, he was a business partner with Manafort and Stone for years here in Washington. All this connected with what guys are really good at digging up dirt. And then we find out they are dealing with Assange and WikiLeaks and the Russians ultimately, and all this got to us as voters and as commentators, as news reporters, during the campaign.

We were hearing about Podesta. We were hearing about, you know, (INAUDIBLE), commentaries and little notes and in embarrassments and stuff. Why are we hearing about it? Why was it making Hillary`s campaign look bad? Because these guys were all involved with doing it.

Betsy, this is we are getting to the belly of the beast here, I think.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Podesta`s emails didn`t just come out during the campaign. They came out a mere few hours after the "Access Hollywood" tape that caught Donald Trump on camera talking about allegedly sexually assaulting women was released.

MATTHEWS: Not alleging. Claiming to. He did do it.

WOODRUFF: Claiming to, exactly, yes. Right, exactly. Commenting about it.

MATTHEWS: More about that at the ended of show, by the way.

WOODRUFF: Boasting about it. And the timing of this WikiLeaks emails could not have been more helpful for the Trump campaign. It was like as soon as that tape dropped, somebody in WikiLeaks knew that this bombshell, this collection of bombshells or bombs that they were setting on needed to get injected into the American news (INAUDIBLE).

MATTHEWS: And just to remind everybody and myself, Trump was not winning this campaign through the summer. It looked like really close, in fact, it looked like until election night that Hillary was going to win. So he needed a long ball, a Hail Mary pass. He needed some really good dirt. It looks like he got some.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: What`s telling about some of these emails that we are talking about is there`s literally - - I want to read it because it`s one shortly-timed for after I come back and one timed for October 2nd, planned to be very damaging.

So it is not even -- we don`t have to really ask whether or not they were doing this because they wanted to have the timing. It`s literally in the email that Robert Mueller has. It`s a red flag that says, hey, this is when we are going to drop this. We are going to do this right now and we are going to make sure Hillary looks weak and we are going to try hurt her campaign. And you have someone who is now tied with Donald Trump sending these emails and knowing about this.

And I mean, as a reporter, I remember going through these WikiLeaks dumps and reading all this stuff and thinking, wow, now they are really going to be in trouble because we did learn so much and some of the stuff was normal political banter, but it looked so bad because we only got it from the Hillary Clinton side.

MATTHEWS: You know, this is like we are fortune (ph). We are looking at this big wall. We are trying to figure out that sentence that we are seeing different letters in it and we are seeing, you know, we are seeing signs visit from, you know, probably, according to "the Guardian" where the meeting with Manafort. And we are hearing about Corsi having conversations with Roger Stone about how they get the stuff. But they all knew ahead of time about what the Russian dump was going to look like, the second dumb from our friend at the embassy, whatever where they talked dark arts. We are getting a picture here. It is starting to fill out.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I don`t think it is weird --.

MATTHEWS: So the question to you.


MATTHEWS: Question of the hour.

WILLIAMS: Let`s hear it.

MATTHEWS: Does Mueller got it already?

WILLIAMS: He has totally got it already. This isn`t wheel of fortune, this is wheel of guys who can`t get their stories straight. And this is -- .


WILLIAMS: No, but this is the kinds of the emails and the kinds of evidence that makes prosecutors salivate when they see guys talking about their friend in the embassy and literally --

MATTHEWS: Talking in that language.

WILLIAMS: Talking in that language and talking about the day on which they are going to make an email dump. And so, certainly, Mueller has that but he is also got other evidence to corroborate it too.

So, you know, last time, I was sort of I don`t know. I don`t know who far this is going to go. This is getting more and more obvious as to how clear what the evidence has.

MATTHEWS: I love the way they say. You know, I figured it out. (INAUDIBLE), one of those guys that can predict the future. Figure out what you got in your pocket.

Anyway, according to the documents that Corsi, Jerome Corsi provided to NBC News today, the special counsel can show that Corsi wrote Stone in early August predicting what WikiLeaks would do next, referring to Assange. Of course he wrote, word is friend in embassy plans two more dumps, one shortly after I`m back, 2nd in October. Impact planned to be very damaging.

What more do you want? The email suggests that Corsi was familiar with the timing and the content of the Russian hacked emails that Assange would eventually release. They knew it all ahead of time. Guess how. However, here`s how Corsi explained to NBC News how he came to have advanced knowledge of Assange`s plan.


JEROME CORSI, ROGER STONE ALLY: It was speculation. It was deduction. I just happened to be right. I said to myself, if I had these emails I would use them as the October surprise. And why did I think they were going to come out serially, drip by drip, because Assange is very strategic. He understands the news cycle. And he had some 50,000 emails.


MATTHEWS: The oracle of Delphi. He sees the future.

Tom, what do you make of this defense based upon my ability to tell the future because I have that ability?

WINTER: So Chris, I saved all of my emails from all these various leaks as they came out from that summer in 2016. And in going back and looking at those today, I remember we were all surprised. The fact that the DNC was hacked and then eventually we saw that information, we knew the DNC was hacked because of their own disclosures ahead of that information becoming public in July of 2016.

What we did not know, what nobody knew, was that John Podesta was hacked at that point. Now maybe U.S. intelligence, maybe U.S. government knew at that time, but publicly none of us knew that, Chris.

So for them to all of a sudden just come out and say, well, Podesta is going to be the guy in the barrel rot o come out and say he is the next one that`s going to be next, who would have thought John Podesta was going to be the next person that was going to come up?

Another thing that I want to point out, Chris, is that they were talking a lot in these emails. And you have talked about one on screen in which he refer to one earlier. In this exchanges that we see in this court documents, they talk about how bad it is going to be for the foundation. And some people are trying to say, well, you know, clearly they didn`t really know it was Podesta because they are talking about the foundation. Not so fast.

Going back and looking at those emails from John Podesta, he was the chairman of the Clinton foundation at that point. And his emails go back to 2008. And I remember going through and reading a lot of them. And one of the reasons why I read through them because I thought we would get some information on the foundation and get a little bit of a better understanding of it. So it`s very possible that it was communicated to these guys whether it was by Assange or by somebody else saying, hey, we have got Podesta`s emails. But remember, this was while he was chairman of the Clinton foundation. There is going to be some stuff in there.

And so, it think that those are two really important things that we need to keep in mind as we go forward in the next couple of days and start to report this out.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I want to go far ahead, Yamiche. This is a big of the long ball here. You know, if we are getting this information through a glass darkly, you like, in an old Polaroid. It is finally coming clear to us about this Assange connection with Manafort and the whole thing to do with WikiLeaks, the whole thing to do with the Russian hacking and the DNC, all this dirt on Hillary being filtered out to the public by the ultimately by the Trump campaign.

How does Whitaker hide this? How does he deep six a report like this from American history? It has happened and it will be clear to us by the time they decide the report has happened that there was collusion. How can he bury it?

ALCINDOR: I don`t think he can bury it, not only because now we have this out in the public. We have these the least specific emails out in the public. You also have the Democrats who are now in control of the House who will be happy to pull Bob Mueller for any reason if he is fired and say give us all the stuff that you have. I don`t think --.

MATTHEWS: So they can get -- they can grab anything they know exists.

ALCINDOR: Essentially you can start subpoenaing people and to say what do you know? Where did you - where do you have? And what can you tell us about what was going on. I also --.

MATTHEWS: There`s is no burp bag at the special prosecutor`s office or the Whitaker`s office?

ALCINDOR: I mean, maybe other people -- I don`t think that they are going to be able to do that.

MATTHEWS: This is a hell of the story and it is developing fast tonight.

Thank you, Betsy Woodruff, Yamiche Alcindor, Elliott Williams and Tom Winter.

Coming up, more on this particular question but another angle. The Mueller investigation deepens. Trump continues to lash out on twitter, calling it a phony witch-hunt. What`s the President afraid of? Probably what we were gist talking about.

Plus, foreman HUD secretary and potential 2020 candidate Julian Castro joins us tonight to talk about the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, now that U.S. should address the escalating situation.

And we are less than one hour away from the polls closing in good old Mississippi where voters will decide who their next senator will be. Will Trump`s last-minute efforts help push the Republican to victory? This is the tough one for you, Mr. President. Mississippi.

Finally, let me finish tonight with the Democrats` big victory this month. Democrats have got to learn how to brag. Are you listening, Al Gore?

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Reacting to the Manafort news that he met with Assange, President Trump again lashed out against Robert Mueller and his team today calling the special counsel a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue who is doing quote "tremendous damage," close quote, to the justice system.

Well, in a series of morning tweets, President Trump made unfounded accusations in an apparent attempt, catch this, to discredit the special counsel`s probe.

He tweeted quote "the phony witch-hunt continues, but Mueller and his gang of angry Dems are only looking at one side, not the other. Wait until it comes out how horribly and viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie."

Well, Rudy Giuliani, the President`s lawyer, I guess, told reporters that there was a joint defense agreement with Paul Manafort. That agreement allowed Trump`s lawyers access to confidential information. In the 18 months since the beginning of his investigation, Robert Mueller, a decorated Vietnam veteran who volunteered for service has delivered charges against 32 people, including 26 Russians now. Four of those charged have direct ties to the 2016 campaign. They are, of course, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates. They have all pled guilty to various charges.

For more I`m joined by California congresswoman Jackie Speier, member of the House intelligence committee, and Daniel Goldman, former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. What a busy court that is.

Let me go to the congresswoman. We just spent about 15 minutes talking about the latest developments, "the Guardian" newspaper reports that has Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange three times, including a critical meeting apparently in March of 2016 about the time he went to work for the Trump campaign and about the time he went to work for the Trump campaign, at about the time we were getting the Podesta -- right after the Podesta stuff was coming out, and the hacking by the Russians, and then right before the DNC stuff was coming out from the Russians.

It`s all starting to paint a picture of collusion between the people around Trump, including -- including Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi and Paul Manafort, et cetera, et cetera, and the Russians.

Your thoughts?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think what it`s also suggesting is that Manafort may have even committed treason, when all is said and done.

I mean, this is all becoming very clear. The president became manic with his tweets after he submitted his answers to questions by the special counsel. And I`m beginning to wonder if there were answers that he gave that now would suggest that maybe he wasn`t being as truthful as he should have been.

But, clearly, Manafort has been not at all reluctant to continue to lie after he cut a deal with the special counsel. And he`s seeking a pardon.


SPEIER: And what he doesn`t appreciate is that he still has state court to deal with as well.

MATTHEWS: I appreciate that.

Let`s come at the federal issue, leave it at that for a minute. And there is a state issue here. The congresswoman`s right, of course.

Let me ask you about -- we were asking Susan Page, who is a really top- rate, I mean, top-drawer reporter, who was here was last night. And she said, if you accept life imprisonment at his age, life imprisonment -- and that`s no -- that`s no way to end your life, 15, 20 years behind bars with the wrong people you don`t want to hang out with, and a prisoner, why would you take that, which he seems to have chosen by choosing to lie, rather than tell the truth and get out in two or three years, unless he`s facing horrible danger from abroad, or he`s hoping for a pardon?

It`s either extreme, it seems to me, at this point.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think you`re assuming that he`s a rational actor, Chris.

And I think that may be a mistake, because someone like Paul Manafort, who has lied and schemed for so long, thinks that he can pull one over on just about anyone, including prosecutors.

I think the most likely scenario is that Paul Manafort wanted to minimize his own conduct. The congresswoman just referenced treason. We don`t quite know exactly the extent of Paul Manafort`s international connections, what he was doing during the campaign.

But Bob Mueller certainly has a good indication of it. And Paul Manafort would have to admit to all of his additional criminal conduct as part of cooperating. And he may have to plead -- he may have had to plead guilty to more conduct. He might be trying to avoid that by minimizing his conduct.

So I understand the pardon rationale, which I don`t buy. If he wanted a pardon, he should not have admitted to all these crimes for a variety of reasons, including state court.

MATTHEWS: Let me try -- let me challenge you there, then, to the congresswoman.

Let me start with the congresswoman on that.

Everything Trump`s been saying lately and his spokesperson, his surrogate, Rudy Giuliani suggest they will -- they intend to discredit whatever Mueller comes out with. No matter what it is, it`s no damn good, it`s a witch-hunt, it`s phony, it`s this, that, so that it seems to me he is trying to set the -- shape the battlefield for claiming it was an unjust misuse of prosecutorial discretion, and, therefore, I`m going to pardon the guy.

Why does he keep doing this, Trump?

SPEIER: Well, his goal is to discredit everyone. I mean, that`s -- his antisocial behavior is in full display all the time, because he gets great pleasure out of discrediting people.

What he doesn`t realize here is that, unlike the Kenneth Starr special counsel that went on for six months and cost over $55 million, this has gone on for about a year, has cost $17 million. People are behind bars now. People have pled guilty. People have been convicted.

And there`s something to show for the special counsel and the way that he has conducted himself, which is truly not taking the bait, not taking any interviews, not responding to any of this.


Well, here`s Rudy Giuliani, the president`s lawyer. He was asked by NBC News today -- or tonight, in fact, that the president has or will offer Paul Manafort or Jerome Corsi -- that`s the Roger Stone buddy -- a pardon.

He said -- this is Giuliani -- "Is it conceivable that Paul Manafort and Jerome Corsi, who is saying Mueller`s people are pressuring him to lie, are telling the truth? And the special counsel, in their zeal to get the president, may be going too far."

And just moments ago, Giuliani told "The Wall Street Journal": "It`s my job as his private lawyer to tell him, you should not even consider it now because it will be misunderstood." That`s about a pardon.

In March, "The New York Times" reported Trump`s team had already broached the idea pardoning both Manafort and his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

So you -- Dan, you don`t think there`s any chance of pardons right now?

I do, but that`s my non-lawyer`s view, because I believe Trump always shoots the moon. He always does what he`s not supposed to do in the worst way. What`s to stop him now?

GOLDMAN: I wouldn`t say there`s no chance of a pardon.

MATTHEWS: Like, he`s going to pardon his kids. I`m sorry. There`s no doubt in my mind.

GOLDMAN: Maybe you`re right.

MATTHEWS: They`re not going to prison.

GOLDMAN: And I would never say that Donald Trump is not going to pardon anyone.

I`m just saying that I`m not sure Paul Manafort lied to -- as part of his cooperation to get a pardon. But I think that what Rudy Giuliani -- he`s playing with fire here, because if he wants to say that the special counsel is pressuring Corsi into lying or pressuring Manafort into lying, and that maybe they`re telling the truth, the special counsel is going to lay out his case in court.

And he is going to show why he believes they lied. And it is not going to be a close call.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, I`m going to ask you a big picture question for one minute. You have one minute to answer, because it`s really big picture.

I get the feeling that Trump`s defense is worse for this country than anything he did wrong in the campaign.

I was reading about Zimbabwe today, and I have been to Zimbabwe. I know it`s a young country with all kinds of problems. But that was -- that`s sort of a young democracy trying to figure things out.

He is taking us back to where they are, where all the opposition does is say that people who win elections are crooked, that everything`s rigged, everything`s -- nothing`s on the level, there`s no such thing as objective truth. Everything is tribal. Our side is always right. Your side is always wrong.

He is -- well, that`s my judgment.

What do you make of this guy? Is the crime worse -- is what he`s doing to cover up worse than the crime or equal or what?

SPEIER: Well, I would say that he -- Vladimir Putin couldn`t have dreamed of a better mouthpiece for undermining the democracy.

I actually think that we haven`t even uncovered much of what Donald Trump, the entrepreneur, was doing in these failed hotels in Toronto, SoHo, and in Panama. That`s going to start to come out, I think, and we`re going to find out that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was violated over and over again by Donald Trump, and that he was in bed with a lot of mafia from Russia.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will find out where you get the tax returns, thanks to the House Democrats, when you finally take over, January 3.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a real friend of this show.

SPEIER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Dan Goldman. Thank you, sir.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump`s using flat-out false and misleading claims, as I said, to justify his administration`s treatment of migrants.

Former Obama administration Cabinet secretary Julian Castro is going to join me next to talk about the crisis unfolding on our southern border.

Look at it. We`re watching it every night.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have had some very violent people. And we don`t want -- frankly, we don`t want those people in our society. We don`t want those people in our country.

But we had tremendous violence. Three Border Patrol people yesterday were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones.


MATTHEWS: Apparently, not very badly hurt.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump on his administration`s use of tear gas against Central American migrants at the border over this weekend.

But Trump`s assertion that agents were injured when some migrants protesting the asylum process attempted to rush the U.S. border from inside Mexico on Sunday contradicted the account of Border Protection itself.

In a statement Monday, the CBP commissioner said: "Agents managed the situation safely and without any reported serious injuries on either side of the border."

Well, Trump was also asked to respond to images of women and children fleeing pepper spray and the tear gas in the ensuing chaos. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Well I do say, why are they there? I mean, I have to start off.

First of all, the tear gas is a very minor form of the tear gas itself. It`s very safe. But you really say, why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it`s going to be formed, and they`re running up with a child?

And in some cases, you know, they`re not the parents. These are people. They call them grabbers. They grab a child because they think they`re going to have a certain -- they`re going to have a certain status by having a child.


MATTHEWS: Well, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen joined the president in fending off criticism, arguing children were being used as human shields.

Well, today, in the first White House press briefing since October, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if the White House regretted those well- pictured, well-photographed incidents.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, no one wants women or children or any individuals to have this happen, which is why we have encouraged them to actually follow the law and go to ports of entry.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Julian Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development under President Obama. That`s a long time ago.



MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this.

And I don`t want to press you too hard, because I don`t think there is a -- I don`t know anybody who has got a clear-cut alternative to either open borders or this horrible treatment of people. But I would love to hear it, if you got it. Do you have one?

CASTRO: Well, I think...


MATTHEWS: Is there a solution we can agree on?

CASTRO: I think that we had five years ago now a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that got 68 votes in the Senate, and would have passed in the House if it had been put on the floor.

I think that one message from the American people a couple of weeks ago was that they want folks to work together again on things like that. And so, I mean, yes, I think...

MATTHEWS: Who has got to lead? Can Nancy Pelosi lead, if she is speaker?

CASTRO: I think she can, yes. I believe that she can.

I think that, whether you take health care or other issues, she has shown that one of her strengths is the ability to marshal that caucus and to get things done. So I think that she can, yes. I think the question is going to be...


MATTHEWS: This is a general question. It`s like asking an African- American how do the African-American look at -- community look at anything, because, obviously, not everybody can speak for a monolith.

But what do you think the people -- you have grown up in Southern Texas, right? You...


CASTRO: San Antonio, yes.

MATTHEWS: Like Beto grew up in -- where did he grow up?



So you know all about living Anglo, so-called Anglo. That`s everybody who`s not Hispanic and everybody who is Hispanic.

What do the communities down there think about the ultimate goal? What should our country be like in terms of the border? What`s -- ideally?

CASTRO: Well, I saw this research the other day that was fascinating, because it said that all of the fear-mongering that Trump did right before the election with this caravan that was coming to invade, that it had the least impact on those border states, voters in Texas, in New Mexico and Arizona and California.


CASTRO: And part of the reason is because folks get to reality-test more. They understand that we have been able to deal with this issue and that folks are not...


MATTHEWS: You mean through assimilation?

CASTRO: Yes, you have cultures that have mixed there for generations and folks that have found a way of life where -- that families are often blended, and there`s a bicultural, binational sense to that border area.

People -- and this is one of the reasons that there was a concern about the port of entry being closed. Trade happens. People go legally every day to work or go to school on both sides of the border.


CASTRO: And so my hope is that we can have leadership that tries to forge a compromise and a solution that`s based on the facts.

The problem is that we have too many leaders, like the president, that are dead set on using this issue to fear-monger.

MATTHEWS: Well, because it works. You know where it works? It works in the industrial states up North, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, because it`s the unknown.

And sometimes it`s fear of the unknown.

CASTRO: It is.

And that`s why it`s incumbent upon all of us, right, to keep reaching out and to keep stating what the facts are.

MATTHEWS: OK, I have a guess.

2020 is coming. That`s one thing we can be sure of. The Earth is going to be here, hopefully. No matter how hot it`s going to be, it`s going to be here.

You`re probably going to run. You don`t have to tell me. I think you`re going to run. I think Beto is going to run.

CASTRO: I probably am, yes.

MATTHEWS: What is it going to be like to have -- I mean, it`s going to be a diverse crowd. We`re going to have Cory Booker, probably. We`re going to have probably Kamala Harris. We`re going to have Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand.

I`m just beginning the count. Joe Biden maybe, John Kerry maybe, some of the older guys. What`s it going to be like that 40 people running for president?

CASTRO: Oh, I think we need it actually on this side.

I think it`s going to be good for the party. What happened in 2016, wherever you were, whichever camp you were in, there was a good amount of bitterness after that campaign.


CASTRO: I think it`s going to be cathartic for the Democratic Party to go through this process, where, as you say, a lot of talented people with great ideas are going to run.

There are probably going to be a lot of debates this time.

MATTHEWS: I think there`s going to be four tiers of debates.

CASTRO: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: You`re -- what would stop you from going ahead and running?

CASTRO: Well, what would stop me would be personal concerns.

MATTHEWS: That`s a Tim Russert question, by the way. That was a Tim Russert question.

CASTRO: Yes, I mean, but...


MATTHEWS: Clearly, you`re headed there..

CASTRO: But I am very likely to run for president. And I have said that.

And if I decide to do it, then I`m going to go on my own timeline.

MATTHEWS: When are you jumping When are you making the jump?


CASTRO: As much as I would love to break the news tonight here, I will do that in Texas if I...


MATTHEWS: Well, when do you think you would make the decision? Give me the month. When are you going to decide?

CASTRO: No, I`m going to decide before the end of the year.

MATTHEWS: Before the end of the year.

CASTRO: So, I`m going to decide during December, yes.

MATTHEWS: What do you think will be your unique selling point, as we say in business? What would be the Julian Castro case for him being the president?

CASTRO: That I have actually shown at the local level and the federal level that I can get things done, whether it`s expanding pre-K or expanding broadband access.

I have a track record of getting things done as a mayor and in the federal government, and a strong vision for the future of this country. I`m a...


MATTHEWS: Let me stop you, because we are getting pushed.

Would a Mexican-American, a guy who grew up on the border, have a better chance of leading the fight for a good American-style immigration policy that we`re all proud of?

CASTRO: Well, I mean, I would just say that, in my family`s experience, with my grandmother coming over from Mexico, and that we have been able to live our American dream, I think that represents the history and the experience of so many people, whether they`re Irish or Italian Americans, or Chinese Americans.

MATTHEWS: How did you know Irish? How did you name my grandmother came from Ireland?

You knew. Did you research me?


CASTRO: I think that my experience speaks to the experience of so many Americans.

And so, apart from where I specifically am coming from, I think that I can relate to what we want this country to be and what we aspire to.

MATTHEWS: Yes, my grandmother spoke with a strong foreign accent, by the way.

Thank you, Julian, Julian Castro. Thank you.

Up next -- candidate for president, probably.

By the way, the polls in the Senate runoff in Michigan -- or Mississippi, actually, are closing in less than a half-an-hour now. We`re going to see how Mike Espy is doing down there. Will Trump`s support help send embattled Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith back to the Hill?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The final, I mean, final contest of the 2018 midterm election is still under way as we speak, in racially charged Mississippi, in that runoff down there between incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, the former secretary of agriculture.

The candidates made their final pitches last night. Let`s listen up.


SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: What`s on the ballot tomorrow is not just my name, Cindy Hyde-Smith. It is your conservative values. That`s what`s on the ballot tomorrow.


MIKE ESPY (D-MS), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: This is a campaign that goes to the color line and reaches across color line.


We should try to rise up, above all (ph) the division, above all the dysfunction, (INAUDIBLE) and if we`re going to rise, we`re going to rise together.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump campaigned obviously for Hyde-Smith yesterday, hoping to give her a boost in a deep red state that he carried by 18 points.

Anyway, former President Barack Obama released a robocall in support of Mike Espy. Espy is facing an uphill climb, of course, in a state where white voters outnumber African-American voters nearly 2 to 1, and where, obviously, identity is tied to ethnicity, let`s face it.

According to "The Associated Press", at the rate, Espy would have to win 30 percent or more of white votes, a tough test in a state with possibly the most racially polarized electorate in the country.

Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable, Adrienne Elrod, former director of strategic communications for Hillary Clinton. I emphasized that word. Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster, and Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post."

Jonathan, I don`t know -- she didn`t say the worst stuff in history, but there certainly was some dog whistle there.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, dog whistle. In a midterm election campaign where the president was bull horning racism as the closing argument for why the American people should vote for Republicans. Now, he did it in red states and basically did it to pull the Republican senators over the line.

But Cindy Hyde-Smith, having her closing argument standing next to the president saying, if you`re for conservative values, vote for me, campaigning with the president with that kind of closing argument, she`s not talking to all of Mississippi. She`s talking to --


MATTHEWS: You know some of this history. Down there, there were conservative issues for the white citizens council. They used to call them white citizens councils and then conservative councils. That word has certain value there, too, for certain politicians.

CHRIS WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: I seriously doubt Cindy Hyde-Smith is aware of that.


WILSON: I think you guys seriously overestimate the significance of her rhetoric. But I think she clearly --


CAPEHART: That`s unbelievable offensive, Chris.

WILSON: Your conclusion is offensive to anyone who says, who calls themselves conservative. To equate those two is offensive to me, frankly, you`re going too far. You`re going too far with you`re saying.

CAPEHART: What you just said was that she doesn`t understand the rhetoric she`s saying.

WILSON: I mean, she`s not putting the two together. Do you know her as a person? Do you know her as a person?

CAPEHART: I don`t know her.

WILSON: Then don`t make those comments about her. That`s just wrong.


WILSON: Those are two very different things.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, Mike Espy ran a very above the board campaign focused on the issues. While in contrast, Hyde-Smith has been focusing on dog whistles, like, you know, if there was a public hanging I would show up. He can be very proud, regardless of the outcome tonight. It`s kind of campaign he ran.

And Companies like Walmart, this very rarely happens. Walmart, corporate America will give donations to incumbent candidates because she`s been an incumbent seat for the last year or so. But a lot of corporations wanted their money returned.

MATTHEWS: Because of what she said?

ELROD: Because of what she said.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, Chris?

WILSON: I`m not going to defend what she said in that situation. I`m saying she has the tendency to put her foot in her mouth. I don`t know her either, to be clear. But I also don`t believe --

MATTHEWS: You don`t know her either?

WILSON: I don`t know her as a person.

CAPEHART: Thanks for that lecture. You don`t even know her.

WILSON: So I would not jump to conclusions about her. I don`t make a tendency to go judging somebody`s heart if I don`t know --

CAPEHART: I`m not judging her heart, I`m judging the words that came out of her mouth. She`s running for Senate seat from Mississippi with the history that it has.

You`re not going to lecture.

WILSON: No, I`m not trying to lecture. You don`t triangulate --


MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to move on.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi faces a real fight in her first test in reclaiming the title as speaker with House Democrats scheduled to vote tomorrow. That`s going to be a private vote. No one has stepped up to challenge Pelosi, which is significant.

But she`s still facing opposition from within her party as members continue to position themselves. They want something from her. They`re all squeezing her from the center and left. As of now, there are 22 current and incoming members of the House who said they will vote against her, not vote present, not enough to keep her from winning the nomination tomorrow but it will be enough to keep her from getting the necessary votes on the House floor come January 3rd when it`s all on public vote, all on C-Span.

We should have results, by the way, tomorrow night on HARDBALL about how the caucus goes.

Adrienne, any indication, say she gets 60 votes against her tomorrow like she`s had in the past, does that tell us anything how she has to turn the screw to get the 218 on January 3rd?

ELROD: Well, she`s not going to get 60 or 70 votes against her. She might get, you know, 15, 16, maybe 20 votes. Of course, it`s important to remember this is not publicly known to your fellow caucus members.

MATTHEWS: You do possibly know how many voted against her?

ELROD: Yes, you do, you do. But look, Seth Moulton who I have a lot of respect for, I mean, he has been talking for the last two years about challenging Pelosi and trying to --

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he do it?

ELROD: He hasn`t been able to pull anything together. It`s been a fiasco.

So, she`s very strong, there`s nobody more effective than Nancy Pelosi when it comes to knowing her caucus, knowing where they stand, knowing where the votes are.


ELROD: That`s why -- especially right now when we have so much turmoil going on in Washington. We need an experienced leader in that position and that`s what her caucus knows.

MATTHEWS: What`s the case against Pelosi, Chris, except for San Francisco and she`s a liberal? She looks swank, looks wealthy. But I`m not knocked for any of that stuff, but some people do. You look too -- whatever.


WILSON: To be clear, if Republicans were smart -- it was interesting to see she was able to quash any challenge to the left immediately. So, that never materialized. She`s got a challenge to the middle right now.

The only candidate that could have challenged her lost in the primary. And so, if you have a moderate try and bring in Republican votes, they might actually be successful. But that hasn`t happened at all. There`s nobody trying to do that and if Republicans are support, they will support her for re-election anyway.

MATTHEWS: Jon, easy question. Why do they trash her? Republicans.

CAPEHART: Because she`s effective, because she`s the leader. Who were the Republicans -- if it weren`t Nancy Pelosi, if it was Congressman Moulton, they`d be attacking him. That`s why they attack --

MATTHEWS: Not the same way. I know what Chris does. I know what you guys and the Republican Party do. Go ahead.

CAPEHART: But the number one issue is she`s effective. One of the things she proudly told me when she -- in the first meeting she did as minority leader and I asked her, does Speaker Boehner have the votes to raise the debt ceiling, and she said, you have to ask him. I said, but you know where all, you just said you know where the votes are, that you`re a master vote counter. And she said, well, yes, but I`ll say this, I passed the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. That`s effectiveness.

ELROD: Right.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. Learning a lot here.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the round table.

Adrienne, tell me something I don`t know.

ELROD: So, there`s one more unresolved House seat in the country. That`s California 21st congressional district.

MATTHEWS: Which is going for Democrats, 400 votes right now.

ELROD: If Democrats win the seat, we`ll have flipped 40 seats.

MATTHEWS: Who predicted the Democrats would win 30 or 40 seats all through the election, starting in April. Let`s go to you, Chris?



WILSON: California has legislation to move its presidential primary up to February, which makes one of the first. And with this incredibly foiled vote counting system, we might know who the Democratic nominee is. You may have people who dropped are still getting delegates in 2020, going into April and May with this vote counting system they have.

MATTHEWS: Did you say I was right in my prediction, Adrienne?


MATTHEWS: Thank you.


CAPEHART: The Democratic caucus vote on speaker isn`t the only big vote tomorrow, it`s also who`s going to be the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. And if all goes according to plan, Congresswoman Karen Bass of California will be the next chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and she is the former speaker of the California assembly, and she`s someone to keep an eye on.

MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a new speaker in the next two years? Any thoughts about that? Will Nancy Pelosi win on January 3rd, floor of the House, become speaker, constitutional officer, and yet at some point in those two years give it up?

ELROD: I don`t think she`ll give it up. She`s going to win resoundingly. And I think we need her experienced leadership right now.


MATTHEWS: Resoundingly?

ELROD: Resoundingly.

MATTHEWS: I was thinking she might pull out sometime without notice in 2020 to allow the more moderate Democrats not to have to deal with the issue. I think she should be speaker, but just my thinking because I`m a political animal.

CAPEHART: I`ll ask.

MATTHEWS: Adrienne Elrod, thank you. Chris Wilson and Jonathan Capehart.

When we return, let me finish tonight with the Democrats` big victory last month. Actually, it`s still November, this month. Why don`t the Democrats learn how to brag? They had a huge wave, all blue.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the Democrats` big victory this month of November of 2018. The party now stands as we just heard from Adrienne on the verge of winning 40 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 40. That`s if California 21 comes in for the party and that looks very good out there, up 400 points, the Democrat.

But I`ve been predicting something like this since the spring. This is hardball, April 5th.


MATTHEWS: I believe the Democrats will carry the House. History suggests and the level of this president`s popularity suggests they will pick up more than the average 29 seats the party opposing the president gets in the first midterm election. I believe they`ll do better, somewhere comfortably between 30 and 40 seats picked up.


MATTHEWS: Comfortably.

And on September 12th, watch this.


MATTHEWS: I think the Democrats have picked up 30 to 40 seats in the House.


MATTHEWS: Then again when the election drew closer on October 9th, a month out from the election.


MATTHEWS: Well, tonight that prediction is stronger than ever, 30 to 40 seats, the Democrats will pick up in the House of Representatives.


MATTHEWS: My prediction was not based on the whimsy of the weak, but on two key factors, one history. As I said, the party of power gains average of 29 seats in the first presidential midterm. No surprise there.

Two, and this one is big, Trump. I believe that this president never got past that "Access Hollywood" tape. People, most notably, heard it, and have spent the last two years watching Trump live up to it. The payment for "Access Hollywood" came due early this month.

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.