CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A pardon. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, President Donald Trump is saying publicly that a pardon is on the table for Paul Manafort. For the first time, the President himself is talking about protecting the former star witness and convicted felon who now stands accused of lying to federal investigators.
In a move that`s raising new questions about obstruction of justice, Trump today told the "New York Post" that he won`t rule out a pardon saying it was never discussed with Manafort but I, big but here, I wouldn`t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?
Well, this comes after "the New York Times" revealed the explosive news that the President has been getting information from Manafort, the same witness former governor witness he may now pardon.
Quote "a lawyer for Paul Manafort repeatedly briefed President Trump`s lawyers on his client`s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel." That means that Manafort`s lawyers were actively helping Trump whom Paul Manafort had supposedly flipped on.
Most significant is that by funneling inside information to the President`s lawyers quote "his updates helped pressure Mr. Trump`s legal team that Manafort had not implicated the President in any possible wrong doing." So all the time, the guy seem to be turning state`s evidence, he is telling Trump, don`t worry.
Anyway, Mueller discovered the arrangement before he called off Manafort`s cooperation deal this week having concluded that Manafort was lying to, rather than cooperating with his prosecutors.
Well, the communication between Manafort and Trump`s respective legal teams could represent obstruction of justice. Witness - in fact, witness tampering itself, especially in light of the fact that President Trump is now publicly dangling a pardon to Manafort.
I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California and sits in the House intelligence and judiciary committee and Michael Schmidt who broke that story for the "New York Times" last week.
I want to go to the congressman in this thing. Pardon, it`s in the President`s arsenal, it`s one of the weapons he has got. Is he going to use it? He is talking about using it here?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He is dangling it, which is useful to him right now. Whether he actually follows up and helps Paul Manafort in the end, who knows with this guy, you know.
MATTHEWS: Explain why would dangle it?
SWALWELL: Well, right now, he is dangling it for Manafort who has backed off. Corsi I think also sees --
MATTHEWS: But why is he saying in public for Manafort who is basically in chains --?
SWALWELL: This guy is so exposed.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I can get you out of this.
SWALWELL: He is exposed. It`s so obvious that they were eager to collude with Russia. Now we are seeing the evidence that there was a conspiracy to cover up. And he is, you know, playing the last, you know, hands that he has out of desperation.
MATTHEWS: Michael, he doesn`t hide his technique. Here is out there saying I want to shut this guy up. I`m going to protect myself by giving him his freedom, at least from federal law.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It`s also not new. So in the fall of 2017 when Mike Flynn was going to flip and cooperate with Mueller, John Dowd, the President`s lawyer at the time, said why is he going to that? The President will pardon him. This has been an easier --.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is new for Manafort.
SCHMIDT: He was talking to Manafort`s lawyers at the time as well back in 2017. And then when Mueller wanted to tell Trump`s lawyers the questions he wanted to ask Trump, that was in there. What did you know about pardon offers that John Dowd was making? So when you look at the broader obstruction question, this is not a new thing. This is something that has been going on and has been on Mueller`s radar.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s bring in Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate prosecutor.
Jill, thanks for coming in from Chicago tonight. And what do make of this? I it is not like this is sneaky pro. Here is a guy saying to the `New York Post," not - of course, he is not of the esteem of "the New York Times" by any way, but here you are telling the "New York Post" which is going to put on the front page tomorrow or would. They are going to give the big story, pardon. Why is he doing this?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: He just doesn`t understand what is right and wrong. He is apparently not a very good lawyer because he has made a big mistake in saying this. The pardon dangling could definitely be obstruction of justice. The cooperation between Mueller - I`m saying not between Mueller, between Manafort and the President`s trial team is really not an appropriate thing. It could be one of the other accusations that could lead to impeachment and/or an indictment because I still think legally he could be indicted, the President.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get back to that question. It seems to me everybody wonders. Will Manafort talk? Will he give up the President to save his rear end and keep himself from spending the rest of his life in prison?
Last couple of days, we get the report from your paper basically he is not going to cut the deal. He is not going to live up to the deal. He is not going to give it. And we are also getting the word from your paper that he is talking to Trump`s lawyers all this time saying don`t worry I`m not giving your guy up. So it seems like he is playing it both ways telling Mueller I`m going to give the guy up, get me out of here. And he is telling the President, don`t worry, we are not going to give you up. How long can he play that game? Apparently not longer than this week.
SCHMIDT: He can play it a long time. But you have to understand --.
MATTHEWS: Well, not this - past this week about doing it.
SCHMIDT: Hold on. What Mueller has done is he tore up the plea agreement with Manafort. So there`s only one person left that can stop Donald Trump from spending - I mean, can stop Paul Manafort from spending the rest of his life in prison, and that`s Donald Trump who has the power of pardon. Mueller has said he will not do that for him anymore. No one else has that power except for Trump, (INAUDIBLE).
SWALWELL: There is a break in case of emergency option. And you have to believe that Bob Mueller is talking to the New York attorney general`s office, talking to other local prosecutors who have jurisdiction to make sure that there`s a backstop against any Trump pardon.
MATTHEWS: The federal government plays ball. I don`t think Trump is worried about the New York --.
For Manafort, should be.
MATTHEWS: That`s right. There`s also new concern - new concerning, a news concerning that infamous Trump tower meeting. Remember the Russians in June of 2016? Who could forget it? And what the President may have known about it as a candidate.
According to "The New York Times" now, Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Mr. Manafort`s lawyer told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the President knew about that June 2016 Trump tower meeting. NBC News today reporting that in his written answers to Mueller`s questions, the President specifically denied being told about the meeting.
Michael, (INAUDIBLE) in the Times story here. Who is leaking the President`s answers?
SCHMIDT: Who is leaking the President`s answers? I don`t know. But I guess this is the narrative that they want out there that he didn`t, you know, he didn`t know about the meeting, you know. He didn`t --.
MATTHEWS: This is what the President`s lawyers want out? So they are leaking their own answers?
SCHMIDT: I don`t know who is leaking it. But this is a good for them. They think is a good message. He didn`t know anything, trying to put arm`s distance between, you know, himself, Stone, who is under scrutiny, and the Trump tower meeting.
MATTHEWS: Did he think that`s exactly what Manafort said so they were matching up in their testimony?
SCHMIDT: I don`t know that.
MATTHEWS: Was Manafort lying when he said the President didn`t know? So the President thought he could say he didn`t know?
SCHMIDT: I don`t know that.
MATTHEWS: It`s like the Menendez brothers with connected phones giving the testimony. I know. I loved the Menendez brothers story because they had their phones taped together so they could give the same story.
SCHMIDT: I can`t -- I don`t have answers to your questions, but the problem is by having the arrangement they did, it created the appearance of an impropriety. And that`s the issue at the very least. And it doesn`t look good to the average person who says, why are they talking to each other?
SWALWELL: The timing though of Trump turning his answers, he has had these questions for months. When does he turn them in? After Matt Whitaker is placed as acting attorney general. He has a new window into the Mueller investigation, and after Manafort starts feeding back information to Trump. I think he turned in those answers to couch them to what he knew other witnesses were saying. That seemed to make more sense than anything else.
MATTHEWS: Jill, let me go to you on the jurisdiction or the jurisprudence aspect to this. I don`t think we go with guidelines or precedent or whatever the way things are done when you go to Donald Trump. He doesn`t want to hear any of that. He decides what he can get away with.
Now he put -- everybody said he had to go with Rosenstein, the deputy. HE had a follow procedure. Give the guy his job. It should be the job. He said, no, I`m going to bring this guy, this ringer in, this guy Matt Whitaker and then make him acting attorney general as long as I want him to be there.
So he doesn`t listen to precedent. He doesn`t listen guidelines. He doesn`t care. What`s to stop this guy from just coming out in the next couple of weeks with a whole bunch of pardons? I have keep asking myself that and testing with the Supreme Court which he basically put together, his Supreme Court. Why not? What he has got to lose?
WINE-BANKS: Well, the only thing that he has to lose is the support of even the most loyal Trump supporters.
WINE-BANKS: And hopefully even in Congress. And I want to just point out another thing about what the evidence is. Manafort is accused of lying. That means that Mueller has really direct, hardcore evidence that is opposite of whatever he said. So to the extent that there was coordination in the answers between what the written answers from the President are and what Manafort said, it means that the prosecution can prove that both are lies. He can prove it without any testimony.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think (INAUDIBLE) where you are at. Our people I work with here thinks that`s what`s going on here. It may be speculations, but it seems pretty solid that the reason the President we are sure are confident in saying I knew nothing about the Trump tower meeting in June of 2016, is that I know that Manafort`s always given that same testimony, and therefore, I`m going to be matched up with my buddy who is now going to get pardoned at some point, right? You are smiling.
WINE-BANKS: Exactly. And I never used feminine intuition before, but I`m telling you from the day I heard about that meeting, there is no way that his son who sought his approval did not tell his father about that meeting. He would have gone bragging to him saying I have just got something really good to help you. I know that`s true. I believe it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that`s human intuition, by the way. (INAUDIBLE). And guess that -- guess what, I got some dirt on Hillary. You might win this after all.
Anyway, another point of possible conclusion, above Trump associates who appeared to have - well, they did, had advanced knowledge of the released of those Russian hacked emails. In a new story in the plea deal that Jerome Corsi rejected this deal, "The New York Times" again reported, they did it again, Mr. Corsi`s dealings with Mr. Muelller prosecutors have caused alarm among the President`s legal team, specifically Trump`s lawyers were troubled by stated by prosecutors that quote "Corsi said that Roger Stone who Corsi understood to be in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign including with the then-candidate Donald Trump asked Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks.
The reference suggests Mueller has potential evidence that could draw a line from Trump through Corsi and Stone to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks who released the Kremlin hacked emails. NBC News is also reporting today that in his written testimony to Mueller, the President did not ever receiving or discussing WikiLeaks with Roger Stone.
I have to go to "The New York Times" with this one, Michael. This -- I always thought what he said it`s John Podesta`s time in the barrel, and his kind of gross way of describing that bad news coming for Podesta, that you know, he isn`t one of these guys that used to be on television 40 years ago that could predict the future, what`s in your pocket and all that nonsense.
How else did he know except he knew? And when you knew about it, breaking at it, it`s presumed possible, in fact, probable that you knew you were part of the break-in to come.
SCHMIDT: Two weeks ago they were preparing to send in his answers, his lawyers found out and saw the Corsi draft deal and they didn`t like the language. They thought the language made the President look like an unindicted conspirator. And even though it didn`t say that, they though it made it look like he was part of the communication chain between --.
MATTHEWS: What made it look like that?
SCHMIDT: The Corsi`s plea deal had a thing in it that discussed whether Stone had told Corsi that he was in touch with the President. The President`s lawyers didn`t like that. They didn`t like the pressure that was being put on Manafort at the time. They did not like the fact that these documents were unsealed in the eastern district of Virginia that showed that Assange was charged. And they said what is going on here? Is there something afoot? Are they laying a trap for the President? They went it, met with Mueller`s team. We were reassured to that. And then provided the answers.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, congressman?
MATTHEWS: And I think we are getting into the really deep possibility of collusion here, not just obstruction.
SWALWELL: Well, they colluded and they conspired to try and cover it up. Roger Stone is a dirty trickster. There`s no reason to believe that he would change his ways when his best pal is running for President and he has information that is about to come that he wouldn`t have told Donald Trump. The same intuition that Jill Wine-Banks had about Don Jr. tell his father. The same intuition I and others had that Roger Stone, of course, would have pulled the candidate that he has got the goods.
MATTHEWS: Who could believe not long ago that this whole thing about this President and how he got to be President and how the Russians helped him had to do with old Nixon trickster, Roger Stone?
Anyway, thank you U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, Michael Schmidt of the great "New York Times" and Jill Wine-Banks. You are amazing. Thank you for coming on.
Coming up, as the President lobs attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on a bill to protect Mueller. What will this mean for the Russia probe, the Russian? By the way, look. Talk about a protection racket being run by Mitch McConnell.
Plus, Democrats in the House voted today on the future of their party. And Nancy Pelosi won the first round. She is the nominee for speaker. We will see if she gets the job on January 3rd. How much deal making went into that? We`ll get to that point with the progressives.
And what steps are Trump, is he willing to take to protect himself and his family from the Russia probe. How many pardons and could his efforts put his reelection bid in serious jeopardy.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As Robert Mueller`s investigation seems to be picking up momentum right now, don`t you think? And moving closer to the President, there`s a new urgency to protect the work of the special counsel, to protect Mueller himself. However, the Republican-controlled Senate, a coequal branch, remember, meant to serve as a check on the presidency once again has failed to act.
A single Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, blocked a vote on a bill that would have protected the special counsel. Arizona Republican Jeff Flake who is retiring worked with two Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: With the President tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and rid ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him being fired is folly for us, I believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senate majority Mitch McConnell knew it wouldn`t be him and has shown little will to protect Mueller. Let`s watch him in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a solution in search of a problem. The President`s not going to fire Robert Mueller. We have a lot of things to do to try to finish up this year without taking votes on things that are completely irrelevant to outcomes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Meike Eoyang, vice president of the national security program at Third Way.
Senator, why does he had the crest scene behind him? Why does he have to have the two shepherds or the two sheep standing behind him (INAUDIBLE)? Why are they always stand there behind him, Mitch McConnell?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Do I have a right to remain silent?
MATTHEWS: OK, fine.
What do you make of the fact that-you know, here`s my big question. If Mitch McConnell is refusing to do anything to statutorily protect the role of the special counsel, so he doesn`t get thrown out like Nixon through Cox out the door, do you have any confidence he will do anything of Nixon, thus throw? If he does throw Robert Mueller at the door, he fires him and we can`t -- one morning, he is tweeting, I fired him. He has so - he is gone. Do you think Mitch McConnell will do anything then either? Do you think?
BLUMENTHAL: I think he would.
What would he do then?
BLUMENTHAL: I think it would take his membership in effect compelling him to act, you know. You don`t wait to buy a fire truck until the fire department has to put out a fire.
MATTHEWS: That`s what you`re saying he is going to do. He is waiting for the fire.
BLUMENTHAL: I think what we have in store is a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion, strangling and suffocating the special counsel through his acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, who has been hired for that purpose, in effect.
And I think it will take the kind of outrage that we saw today on the floor of the Senate about the failure to produce Gina Haspel for a meeting on...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. We will get to that in a minute.
That`s the whole question of what they`re -- why they`re covering up the Saudi killing.
Mieke, this whole question of -- you know, we -- three branches of government.
MIEKE EOYANG, THIRD WAY: Yes.
MATTHEWS: One of them`s the U.S. Congress.
MATTHEWS: It`s supposed to put a check on executive power, in this case, the president`s power to stop a prosecution of himself. They`re not doing it.
EOYANG: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And Mike Lee, by the way, who is breaking with the president on the Saudi thing, is not breaking with him on this one.
And he`s claiming that Scalia had said that this statute for the special counsel is a constitutional violation. To protect the Constitution, you shouldn`t do this.
But what he`s failing to recognize is the unique threat that this president poses to the Constitution.
MATTHEWS: You mean Mike Lee or Mitch McConnell?
EOYANG: Mike Lee, failing to recognize the unique threat that this president poses to the Constitution itself, to undermining the rule of law, to so many of the things that he`s doing, where he`s trying to really take on himself powers that he really shouldn`t have. And so...
MATTHEWS: But aren`t Republicans for limited government? Isn`t that one of the prized principles of the party? Less government? Less government?
BLUMENTHAL: The Republican Party has betrayed a lot of its prized principles, like fighting the deficit, like states` right and sovereignty.
MATTHEWS: You mean that trillion-dollar deficit we got?
BLUMENTHAL: Like basic integrity in government.
And what we need is Republicans to stand up.
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, two key Trump administration officials were on the Capitol Hill today, where they defended Saudi leaders. What is going on?
Secretary Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, and Jim Mattis, secretary of defense, briefed all 100 senators and were asked about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You have seen all the intelligence, presumably. Do you believe that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered Jamal Khashoggi`s killing?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I do believe I have read every piece of intelligence, unless it`s come in, in the last few hours. I think I have read it all.
There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The two deputy -- the two secretaries also tried to convince U.S. senators that America should continue to support the Saudi war in Yemen.
In fact, the briefing comes a day after President Trump continued his vocal defense of the Saudi crown prince.
He told -- Trump did -- "The Washington Post" -- quote -- Take everything into consideration. And, again, he totally denies it. And he denied it to me on three different occasions on three different calls. And a lot of other people deny it too. Did he do it? As I said, maybe he did and maybe he didn`t. But in the meantime, Saudi Arabia is spending billions and billions of dollars in the United States, and I want them to the spend it here."
Bipartisan lawmakers were unconvinced. Hours after the briefing, 63 senators out of 100 voted to advance a resolution that would end U.S. support for the Sony-led war in Yemen, which is starving all those people down there.
Senator, again, what is the motive for this president and his obviously impressive Cabinet members -- there`s nothing wrong with Pompeo, as I can see it, nothing wrong with Mattis -- they are solid, sober-minded, smart, patriotic guys who are defending the indefensible. That prince did this.
Why are they saying it didn`t happen that way? Why are they refusing to listen to the tape? Pompeo says, "I don`t speak Arabic."
I spent the `60s going to foreign movies. I didn`t speak French or German or anything Italian, but I like -- I got the message. Why doesn`t he want to listen to the tapes of what happened?
BLUMENTHAL: What is most significant...
MATTHEWS: As if he couldn`t figure them out because he didn`t know what was going on in Arabic. Come on.
BLUMENTHAL: What`s most significant about that vote, Chris -- and it implies the combination of skepticism and outrage that you...
MATTHEWS: Bolton said that. I`m sorry.
BLUMENTHAL: That 19 of my colleagues switched their votes from the last time that this resolution was before us. I co-sponsored this resolution back in March. We got only 44 votes. Today, we got 63.
Those 19 switches were the result of any lack of credible or persuasive explanation for the administration`s position. In fact, it was a deeply costly briefing for this administration.
BLUMENTHAL: The failure to produce Gina Haspel, the lack of credibility in the supposed explanation given by the secretary of defense and the secretary of state, the two highest-ranking administrative officials, was directly responsible for that stunning rebuke.
MATTHEWS: Mieke, do you think United States has some tribal connection with Saudi Arabia now?
MATTHEWS: Like the Sunnis were against the Shias in Iran? So anything they do, we`re on the side of.
What is the -- they`re defending this murderous starvation of people in Yemen. They`re defending the murder by -- this American journalist. They will defend anything now. Why?
EOYANG: Yes, you saw this administration go all in on Saudi Arabia early, despite all the terrible, erratic things that they have done under the leadership of the crown prince.
And they just keep doubling down it.
MATTHEWS: Is this the son-in-law?
EOYANG: The president`s son-in-law?
MATTHEWS: It`s Jared? He`s our crown prince. Is he calling the shots?
EOYANG: I think that`s a serious question.
I think that we, the American people, don`t know whether it`s about Saudi financing of the Trump real estate empire or this arms deal is a serious problem.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t said it in a while, but they are the Romanovs.
Thank you, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. And, Mieke Eoyang, thank you much.
Up next: Nancy Pelosi wins at least the first round in her fight for the speaker`s gavel. If she pulls it off in January, what kind of House will she be leading?
She`s making a lot of deals on the left and in the middle. Will we see a fully functioning legislative body or a full-throated resistance to the Trump agenda?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The final midterm battle of the Senate played out in Mississippi last night, with a win for Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith. She got 54 percent of the vote.
On the House side, the Democratic leadership is holding votes today. And the top three positions remain unchanged, with Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and James Clyburn of South Carolina all winning a majority of the votes in the Democratic Caucus.
Pelosi received 203 votes in favor and 32 votes against. There was no opponent. Three members left their ballot blank. And one member was absent for the vote. That is far fewer votes against Pelosi. Back in 2016, 63 House Democrats voted against her in the caucus, but, of course, back then, she had an opponent, Tim Ryan.
In order to reclaim her title as speaker of the House formally, she will need to get 218 votes on the House floor coming in January. Pelosi spent the past few weeks making deals and wrangling those in the party, including the large group of freshmen progressive members, to back her for speaker again.
For more, I`m joined one of those incoming Democrats, congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar. And Michael Steel is a former spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Congratulations, congresswoman-elect, for your seat in the U.S. House.
And now your first request from me is, what was it like in the Democratic Caucus today when you renominated Nancy Pelosi?
ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Thank you so much, Chris, for having me.
There was a lot of really exciting energy. There was an overwhelming support for the speaker to get her back her gavel and to lead our caucus.
MATTHEWS: Did you hear from the people who voted against her or who voted nothing, who voted present? Did they have anything to say?
OMAR: No, actually, on the contrary, we heard from folks who were eager, who understood that we got elected to make a decision about the direction of our nation, that it was going to be important for us to build consensus and be a deliberative body, to decide on who is going to get us the progressive wins that we need to have going forward, so that we can have prosperity for all Americans.
MATTHEWS: How do you get stuff done? You control the House now. A good portion of the Democratic Caucus is progressive now, with 90 members.
How do you get those 90 members to project their power through the Democratic leadership, through the whole House, past the Republican- controlled Senate, which is more Republican now, and then past a Republican president? How do you get what you just said done, a progressive agenda?
OMAR: So, as you probably know, Leader Pelosi is a strong progressive.
And we have full confidence in knowing that she is going to push for the agenda that we all got elected on, making sure that we have health care be affordable and accessible for folks, that we are tackling the issue of student debt, that we`re working to make sure that we reform our immigration system, and that we put Americans back to work and fix our infrastructure.
Today, we heard from people from all walks of life who represent Americans come to speak on her behalf, folks within the Progressive Caucus and with other caucuses, who have clear trust in knowing that she is an expert, that she is a thoughtful leader, a consensus-builder, and someone who has the best interests of all of us to make sure that our voices are at the table and ultimately we move an agenda that is inclusive and progressive and one that leads to prosperity for all of us.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congresswoman.
Let me get another voice here.
Michael Steel, you worked for the Republican leadership. You had all kinds of deals inside your caucus. To begin with, you have the -- you had the Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party people that had a kind of veto. We would hear about how Boehner would come to the White House. He gets in the car to ride away having cut a deal with Obama.
Next thing you know, his chief of staff says, excuse me, that`s not going to sell.
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER JOHN BOEHNER SPOKESMAN: But...
MATTHEWS: So, how does -- looking at the Democrats now in a similar position, come riled, all kinds of excitement and optimism coming in, but yet with a group of them that have very progressive goals that they want to see achieved?
STEEL: I would tell both the progressive members and the leadership in the Democratic Caucus right now, enjoy the honeymoon.
MATTHEWS: What would you say positive, besides sarcasm? What would you say positively?
STEEL: About what they can do to...
STEEL: Look, I think Speaker Pelosi is doing a great job getting the votes to become the next speaker of the House.
I think that the argument that Democrats couldn`t win with her as leader got blown up by a 40-seat victory in the midterms. And she`s going to have a period of time when she`s going to be able to wield her caucus effectively.
But I think it`s going to be short. There is an -- there is a frustration that comes with controlling one-half of one-third of the federal government and the limits with what you can do with that. And you can`t enact a progressive agenda. You can do oversight. You can block Trump, but you can`t enact an aggressive agenda that way.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me try something that will start a little -- a fight here.
Congresswoman, thank you, because you said something I completely believe in, comprehensive immigration reform. Let`s stop arguing. Let`s be Americans, and put a good American immigration plan together, and put it into law and enforce it.
But my question is, the Republicans, when they had a chance to vote on a bipartisan measure coming out of the Senate back at five years ago, they wouldn`t let it come to a vote, because the Republican Tea Partiers wouldn`t let the speaker, who was a Republican, even bring it up, even though it had majority support in both houses.
As progressives, will you push for votes, even when you disagree with it, if they have majority support?
OMAR: So, I mean, I think the difference is that we have a leader that has been really effective in governing.
And so we`re excited to know that we have someone who knows how things are supposed to work, who knows the hard work that goes into building consensus within your caucus, and someone who understands the kind of mandate that we have to get real change instituted for all of us.
So, I think the difference between the Tea Party coming in, in 2010 to kind of be the obstructionists, and those of us coming in to bring about hope, to bring about change, to work on behalf of Americans is a really big difference.
OMAR: And I think we`re going to see that going forth in this new class.
MATTHEWS: I hope you`re right. And I hope we have Democratic will, lowercase D, as well as uppercase D, that the majority wins, and we get votes when a majority wants a vote.
Thank you so much, Minnesota congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, and, of course, Michael Steel, who is here all the time. Thank you.
Up next: How far is Trump willing to go, him, to protect himself and his family from the Mueller investigation, how many pardons, how much obstruction?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
In fact, in addition to publicly acknowledging a pardon is on the table for Paul Manafort today, President Trump is defending two other central to special counsel -- other central figures to the special counsel investigation into possible collusion in the 2016 campaign, Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.
In his interview with the "New York Post" today, Trump argued the three were being asked to lie by the special counsel, saying: "You know, this flipping stuff is terrible. You flip, and you lie, and you get -- the prosecutors will tell you -- you get -- 99 percent of the time, you get people to flip. It`s rare they can`t flip.
Well, Trump went on to add, I had three people, Manafort, Corsi, I don`t know Corsi, but he refuses to say what they demanded. Manafort, Corsi and Roger Stone. It`s actually very brave, he said of the trio, and I`m telling you, this is McCarthyism.
I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Ginger Gibson is chuckling, a political correspondent for "Reuters". Corey Lewandowski, well, we know him, the former chief political adviser of Trump`s 2016 campaign, and author of the new book, "Trump`s Enemies," its` coming out. "How the Deep State Undermining the Presidency" as we speak. And Jason Johnson is politics editor for theroot.com.
All of you, I mean, what do we make of this?
GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I think it`s important to remember that Donald Trump has very keen political instincts that that he is going to be figuring out what`s best looking at the election coming in 2020.
MATTHEWS: Well, he always gets warm and fuzzy to the guys he want to keep, Corey. Like he was doing with Flynn, oh, we like him a lot over here, and he`s doing it now with, of course, Manafort. Of course, he`s doing it with Roger Stone. There`s a sweetheart.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, AUTHOR, "TRUMP`S ENEMIES": He`s a real prize.
MATTHEWS: And Jerome Corsi. He always says nice things about guys he doesn`t want to flip.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, let me say this -- we talked to President Trump in our book and we interviewed him saying, what did you think of the Mueller investigation? He said, it makes my base stronger, which I think is true.
He understands that many people who voted for Donald Trump think this is a witch-hunt. And so, him continuing to go after --
MATTHEWS: Roger Stone knew weeks before the leak -- WikiLeaks that Russian hacks came out and they knew exactly by name who was going to be hit by it.
LEWANDOWSKI: Roger and Paul go (ph) back a long time together, Chris. They`ve been partners for 30 years. Paul`s inside, Roger maybe joined him.
MATTHEWS: But you didn`t answer my question. Why did Roger Stone the Russian hacking was going to happen?
LEWANDOWSKI: It`s a great question. If you go back --
MATTHEWS: I`m asking you. You were on the inside.
LEWANDOWSKI: I never talked to Roger Stone. Luckily for me, I haven`t had to talk to him.
MATTHEWS: You don`t have a Nixon tattoo on your back?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, I`m going to Trump one I think.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jason, because I think that is the thing. A lot of this stuff gets murky. But when you know about the break-in ahead of time, you know exactly what the address is going to be, you know, who`s going to have their desk ransacked, and you find out in modern cyber terms, you knew it was going to be a hacking of John Podesta e-mail, and you knew it weeks before. That tells you you`re in on it?
JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: Not only are you in on it but you promote conspiracy theories that come from it like (INAUDIBLE) and things like that, that lead to violence and sort of an undermining of our overall system of elections. I think this is all disgusting. I think it`s all treasonous.
Whether or not we`re going to eventually find out this is legally, whether or not we`re going to find out that this goes all the way up to the presidency is really what I think is most important to most voters. Where would he know there`s a bunch of guys who are circling around the president, but we don`t know quite know --
MATTHEWS: Corey, you said something. Jill Wine-Banks is a real believer in the law. She`s not a political person. She said the minute people find out there`s inclusion with Russia, they`ll turn on him.
LEWANDOWSKI: Hold on. Is this the one that used (ph) women intuition?
MATTHEWS: Don`t do that here.
But do you really believe -- honestly, will the Trump voter will be turned off with factual evidence of collusion with the Russians?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I was there. I was there. There was no collusion.
MATTHEWS: Will they be turned off? Will they be turned off by it? Speculate with me?
LEWANDOWSKI: Here`s what I think -- I think Trump supporters are with Trump because they know there was no collusion. The other thing I know, it`s very important --
MATTHEWS: You`re walking around my question.
LEWANDOWSKI: It`s very important. Roger Stone says one thing and does something different. When I call him out, he says what I said, I really never did. The guy is a serial liar. You can`t believe a word that comes out of his word. He and Paul have been lying to each other for 30 years. Look, Manafort, Stone, and black (ph), right?
MATTHEWS: Anyone who turns against the president is a liar?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, not all of them. Those two are clearly in that bucket.
MATTHEWS: The president you`re going to be in a barrel in a minute.
Anyway, the president took a time-out to retweet a Trump fan account this morning. The tweet came from the Trump train suggesting a number of Democrats and current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials should be tried for treason. Among those pictured behind those bars, President Obama, both Clintons, Robert Mueller, James Comey, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Corey, why would the president put out a picture that shows all these people of various walks of life but all prominent Americans as treasonous? Why would he do that?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t know. I don`t know who`s retweeting it.
MATTHEWS: You know Trump. You got a book called "Trump`s Enemies". You know the guy. You`re selling books about him, and you won`t tell me why he would do that?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, in that picture, there are some enemies of Trump. The guys who use their badges to spy on Americans on domestic soil because they don`t like their political parties, Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, those guys are enemies and there has to be accountability.
MATTHEWS: Why are they enemies of Trump? What made them enemies?
LEWANDOWSKI: What made them enemies were they used their badges as FBI agents --
MATTHEWS: Why? What would be their motives against him?
LEWANDOWSKI: Look, because they had an insurance policy to make sure Donald Trump was never elected.
MATTHEWS: Oh, the Democrats?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, no. They didn`t want Donald Trump --
JOHNSON: So, basically, you`re saying these are the most idiotic conspiracy theorists on the face of the planet because if they`re goal was to stop the president from getting elected, they failed tremendously. The issue is the terminology and the visuals that this president puts out endangers people, when he says that someone is an enemy of the country, when he says that the press or the ex-president is an enemy of the country, was trying to spy them through microwave, that leads to crazy people in this country committing violence. That`s why this is dangerous.
It`s not just cute. It`s not just people lying. It endangers the sanctity of this country and our elections and our integrity.
LEWANDOWSKI: Did Barack Obama know about Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI`s plan to spy on American citizens on domestic soil through a faulty FISA application? The answer is he did. We know that now. We know the highest levels of government knew that.
Did they condone it? I don`t know. But they clearly know about it and that should give pause to any American.
MATTHEWS: Spy on who?
LEWANDOWSKI: On Carter Page, who was an American citizen, never been charged but had a FISA application served on him, first FISA application was denied by the FISA court.
MATTHEWS: He`s never denied working with the Russians.
LEWANDOWSKI: He`s never been charged with a crime.
MATTHEWS: But he`s working with the Russians. Shouldn`t we know he`s working with the Russians?
JOHNSON: Should we be concerned with that?
LEWANDOWSKI: About Hillary Clinton working with the Russians on the Uranium One deal?
GIBSON: Donald Trump is winning if we`re arguing about whether or not Hillary Clinton created treason. This is about distraction, this is about undermining the investigation, this is about preemptively undermining anything that they find. This is about getting us to debate these things so that we -- no one else is paying attention to the things they don`t want to pay attention to.
MATTHEWS: Between Trump and his kids, what`s he`d decide?
LEWANDOWSKI: I think he takes his children.
MATTHEWS: So, he`ll pardon them if he has to?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don`t think they`re accused of any crimes, but I think if it were me, I would do anything I could to protect my children.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. We agree.
The roundtable is sticking with us.
And next, Ivanka Trump is defending her use of private e-mail saying lock her up doesn`t apply to Ivanka Trump. Anyway, will congressional oversight committees agree with that thought?
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know Hillary can`t be trusted. We`ve learned that with America`s security. You take a look at her e-mail situation, can we trust her with our security?
We are a nation of laws, and that we are all equal under those laws. Hillary`s corruption shreds the principle of which our nation was founded. If that were a Republican that did what she did with the e-mails, they would have been in jail 12 months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you heard it all there, equal justice, we all should be treated the same.
Well, Donald Trump made Hillary Clinton`s untrustworthiness a central theme of his 2016 campaign, criticizing her use of a personal e-mail account when she was secretary of state.
But as "The Washington Post" reported last week, his daughter, Trump`s daughter Ivanka Trump is now facing similar criticism for using a personal account, to send e-mails about government business.
In an ABC interview today, Ivanka was asked about the similarities between her e-mail use and Hillary Clinton`s. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Your father had taken Hillary Clinton to task for this. How did you wind up in a similar situation?
IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: Well, there really is no equivalency. There`s no prohibition from using private email as long as it`s archived, and as long as there`s nothing in it that`s classified.
INTERVIEWER: But your father hammered Hillary Clinton on this.
TRUMP: My e-mails have not been deleted, nor was there anything of substance, nothing confidential that was within them. So, there`s no connection between the two things.
INTERVIEWER: So the idea of lock her up doesn`t apply to you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back with Ginger, Corey and Jason.
I want to start with Jason.
Do you see a parallel here in the lock her up world if you use outside e- mails you are not a law-abiding citizen? And, by the way, Trump laid it out, all people should be treated the same I heard.
JOHNSON: Right. This is just nonsense. It`s a corrupt swamp of perpetual liars and hypocrites who are in this White House.
Look, lots of people use private e-mails in ways that they shouldn`t, right? Reince Priebus was doing this. Bannon was doing this. There are questions as to whether or not the president has always has the most secure phone.
Is it the same thing as Hillary Clinton? No, because Ivanka is not secretary of state. But does she know everything she`s communicating over e-mails isn`t necessarily something secure? Isn`t something that we need to be concerned about? We don`t know that. She can`t prove it one way or another.
And that`s why this is a problem. This sort of laziness and dishonesty.
MATTHEWS: What do people do it? Let me go to Corey on this. Why do people do this? Why do they break the rules for their convenience when they know they`re going to take a lot of hell of it?
LEWANDOWSKI: I really think it`s a convenience factor. Look, Ivanka Trump --
MATTHEWS: So, you break the law if convenient?
LEWANDOWSKI: No, Ivanka Trump came into the government, unlike Hillary Clinton who had been a creature of the government for 30-plus years, she came into the government from the private sector and I`m sure she was briefed on --
MATTHEWS: She lived through this whole thing with Hillary.
LEWANDOWSKI: There`s a fine difference between having worked three months government and 30 years in the government.
MATTHEWS: But she lived in the United States the whole time we talked about Hillary e-mail.
LEWANDOWSKI: There`s also a very big difference case of having your own server set up in someone else`s bathroom and using a dotcom account.-
MATTHEWS: Are you allowed to speak against the Trumps?
LEWANDOWSKI: Of course, and I do all the time.
MATTHEWS: Give me an example.
LEWANDOWSKI: I have said so many times the mistakes of this administration made were hiring the wrong people, they continue to hire the wrong people.
MATTHEWS: What`s the worst thing about Donald Trump?
LEWANDOWSKI: He works too hard.
JOHNSON: Oh, my goodness, gracious.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking like Joe Biden.
JOHNSON: On the golf course, maybe.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts about e-mail comparison, e-mail used by Hillary Clinton and that by Ivanka Trump, a White House staffer.
GIBSON: It`s clearly not the same --
MATTHEWS: For starters.
GIBSON: For starters because she didn`t set up a server, like Hillary Clinton did.
But what is amazing is especially with a president who`s politically astute and very careful about public perception that they didn`t think that any use of public e-mail in this situation --
MATTHEWS: Caesar`s wife, remember that one? Caesar`s wife means be careful because everybody`s watching. You`re my daughter.
GIBSON: You have to know that even if you sent a "thank you" e-mail accidentally on your Gmail, you`re at risk of that being criticized. It`s surprising that it`s sort of an own goal, they gave it up for no good reason.
MATTHEWS: I thought Hillary had a good reason for keeping that separate e- mail and having a server. It doesn`t ass, boy, muster or be kosher or anything like that, whatever the phrase is, but I know why, she`s raising a keeping a happy -- a political army. She was going to run for president when she was secretary of state.
She had to keep everybody`s promises and requests, and all this stuff, keeping in touch with people. Can you get my daughter into Stanford? Can you get this done? All that stuff. You know how this stuff -- Corey, you know this too. It wasn`t easy.
JOHNSON: The issue is just the security part. Yes, it`s not just an issue of the own goal, but it`s the fact this administration doesn`t care. When they spend two years screaming about this, they don`t care that they`re lying, that they could be endangering people. And she`s not the only one who`s done it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, equal, equal, good for the goose, good for the gander.
Thank you, Ginger Rogers -- Ginger Rogers, I`m old, you know? Anyway, Corey Lewandowski, thank you. Good luck on the book. And Jason Johnson, you`re great, Johnson.
When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". It`s all about him, he won`t like it.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", November 28th, 2018.
The picture of Russian collusion is coming into focus now. We are seeing how Trump`s people, starting with Roger Stone, knew all about the Russian hacking in the 2016 election ahead of time. They knew it completely and they knew it before it got released. It`s as if the Nixon people weren`t caught chatting about the Watergate break-in long before the break-in.
And now, if it comes out that the Trump people were working hand in glove with Moscow to flip the election, would that constitute evidence of capable of winning Republican support for conviction? We talked about that tonight, would it move the GOP of the 21st century the way the smoking gun tape moved the Republican forbearers to join the push for Richard Nixon`s removal. Would today`s Republicans even pay serious attention to evidence of Trump`s people working with Moscow, would they stretch their imaginations to picture what their verdict might be had it not been Donald Trump but Hillary Rodham Clinton who had been caught working with the Russians?
It`s food for thought, isn`t it? Because there will be a time when the whole country will learn whether we are, in fact, one country or simply a battling pair of tribes, each honoring its own truth, ignoring all else. That`s what I fear.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
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