Show: HARDBALL Date: January 22, 2019 Guest: Hakeem Jeffries; Jackie Speier, Jill Wine-Banks, Claire McCaskill, Dana Milbank
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: -- very special we think unusual related to the Mueller probe and we would like you to see it. It will be on the show tomorrow 6:00 p.m. eastern. That`s all I can say.
Don`t go anywhere, though. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: An offer he couldn`t refuse. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews live from Washington where the government remains down but the BS is sky high with Rudy Giuliani all over the TV and the President`s state of the union still in the dark. The question is will he or won`t he? Will Donald Trump appear next Tuesday night? And will Rudy ever not appear?
We have big HARDBALL show tonight. Claire McCaskill will join me to talk about the shut down or actually showdown between President Trump and speaker Pelosi over state of the union and the government shutdown now in day 32.
Plus, a new tell-all both from a White House insider paint a picture of a chaotic west wing with the President having an enemy`s list of his own aides he doesn`t trust.
We begin with Rudy Giuliani`s confession that Donald Trump pushed a real estate deal in Moscow right up until the 2016 election that casts the Trump campaign in a dark new light. It means that trump was seeking Russian rubbles at the same time Kremlin weighed an un-precedent influence campaign to deliver him American votes.
Not only that, the timeline of Trump`s Moscow project raises new suspicions about his foreign policy proposals during the 2016 election. That includes his talk of breaking up NATO, lifting sanctions and recognizing Crimea, all kisses to Russia. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you about NATO. It`s obsolete and we are paying too much money. Either they pay up including for past deficiencies or they have to get out and if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.
I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK. And I mean, where we have the strength. I don`t think you would need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you became President, would you recognize the annexation of Crimea as Russian territory and also if the U.S. were going to lift sanctions that are currently (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: We will be looking that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani tried desperately yesterday to take back his confession about the timeline in the Moscow project. Nothing about it sounds hypothetical. Giuliani said the same thing in December. He said that President told Mueller in his written testimony that talks over the Moscow project could have gone off all the way to the election in November of 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered up to November of -- November of 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that answer from Giuliani last month is exactly what he said again on Sunday. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: I`m guessing you had to answer this question in written form by Mr. Mueller. So it`s your understanding it ended when?
GIULIANI: Probably, up to, could be up to as far as October or November. Our answerers cover until the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Our answers cover until election.
I`m joined by John Brennan, the former director of CIA and an MSNBC national security analyst.
Boy, it sounded like a direct question in this room the other day on Sunday on "Meet The Press." Did this include -- getting included in the President`s written responses to Robert Mueller? And it said we had negotiations with the Moscow deal all the way to the end of the election.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think he is trying to cover the bases all the way up to Election Day. But it`s quite clear I think in my mind that Donald Trump was uncertain whether or not he is going to prevail in the election. And he was keenly interested for many years in trying to get a Trump tower in Moscow.
And so, keeping those interactions and engagements open and trying to entice the Russians in terms of what it is that he might be able to do, I think it just reflects that there were active business discussions ongoing when Donald Trump was running for President of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Well, the obvious conflict was even obvious to Donald Trump because he has lied about this all along. He never has admitted that he was doing these dealings with Putin who has to approve any real estate of that magnitude during the time he was campaigning as an American leader, trying to pretend he was looking out for the American people when he was actually work on a deal all that time.
BRENNAN: Well, I think Trump is always been interested in his own profile, public profile but also in his own pretty purse. And I think he was pursuing some financial opportunities while he was considering first the run for the President and then also during the campaign. And that`s why I think the Mueller investigation is really important to try to get to the bottom of what was underway in terms of what was talked about, what was promised, what was pledged, because certainly since Election Day, Donald Trump`s behavior and actions towards Russia and toward Mr. Putin are quite, quite puzzling in terms of what is he doing? Is he trying to pay back? Is he trying to cover up? Is he trying to follow through on some commitments? And the FBI financial investigators among the best in the world. And I am hoping and confident that they are going to come up with whatever might have transpired.
MATTHEWS: Every time we see the President with Putin, Putin is smirking. He is smirking all the time. And he is cold customer, very cold. And I get the sense that he knew everything we are talking about. His intelligence people informed him that Trump was trying to get a deal on the tower. Skyscraper in Moscow in which he was going to allow him having a penthouse suite for $50 million worth. All that time he is watching Trump campaign and deny all the time that he was working such a deal. He knew Trump was lying to the American people.
BRENNAN: Yes. And I think it`s quite clear that Mr. Putin knows a lot more than the American public knows about what Mr. Trump has done and said vis-a-vis Russia. The two-hour one-on-one conversation that Mr. Putin had with Mr. Trump in Helsinki. There`s still not been a readout that Mr. Trump has given to his national security team. And so I think over the course --.
MATTHEWS: Here he is smirking again. I`m sorry, Mr. Director. He smirks every time he gets in a room with a guy.
BRENNAN: Well, there`s some type of special rapport relationship between the two of them. And I think Mr. Putin, who is an exceptionally well- trained KGB officer, intelligence officer I think has exploited and has cultivated this relationship and now is taking full advantage of it.
MATTHEWS: Would Trump be behaving any differently right now in terms of public policy toward Russia if there weren`t compromised?
BRENNAN: I don`t know the answer to that question. Again --
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t he act like a guy that has been taken?
MATTHEWS: He acts like he has something, an ulterior motive that is not apparent. And again, whether or not he is trying to cover up something, whether he is fearful of what Mr. Putin might do. But it does make any sense because the national security establishment is very much critical of his, of Mr. Trump`s policies towards Russia.
Even the Republican senators that were abandoning him with the recent vote in Congress. That rather than relax the sanctions on Mr. Deripaska, a number of Republicans said no, that`s not the right thing to do. So why is he doing this at such a political cost within his party, within the national security environment? It`s really quite unclear.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump Jr. is also playing down the family`s Moscow project and his part in it. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When was the last discussion can about this Trump tower deal? Because Rudy got everybody really confused, I have to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I don`t know. I don`t talk about things that I don`t know about. You know, unfortunately, that sometimes happens. They are no different than anyone else. But the reality is this wasn`t a deal. We don`t know the developer, we don`t know the site, we don`t know the -- anything about it. Ultimately it was Michael Cohen essentially trying to get a deal done, you know. He was there for a long time. He wasn`t exactly a deal guy. He didn`t bring too many to the table. So I don`t think anyone took it too seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But Michael Cohen`s guilty plea may clear that Cohen quote "discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Trump and he briefed family members of Trump within the company about the project. We also know that Trump Sr. signed a letter of intent with the Russian coming pursue the Moscow deal.
And I guess the question is, is it a possible that the family didn`t even know this? That Cohen was out there as a lone rider cutting these deals that who is now, of course, being dump by the Trumps?
BRENNAN: Well, I feel it hard to believe that Cohan would have went out on a limb when he was such a part of the Trump, you know, syndicate at that time. But I must say during the summer and fall of 2016, when I was director of CIA, there were a lot of very, very curious interactions between U.S. persons that may have been affiliated with the Trump campaign and with Russian officials or Russian citizens. And Jim Comey and I had a lot of conversations about it. That`s why I said in public testimony that it was right the FBI pulled these threads to find out whether or not individuals, would it be Michael Cohen or others were being duped or were actually cultivating on their own the relationship with Russians that they were trying to then capitalize on. Because I do think that Mr. Trump really looking to be able to increases his financial interests in the event that he didn`t win the election.
MATTHEWS: You know, right up here in Washington, on Wisconsin Avenue, at that high promontory up there overlooking the city with a line of sight to the White House, we have got the Russians. We got the residence sure up there, what are they saying? In your sense, you are the pro here, what do you think that you think about Trump? And what he is up to? When they watch him on TV and they report the soft intelligence every night about Trump`s kisses he keeps blowing to Moscow, how do they interpret that over there? The experts here, rather, about what is going on between those two men?
BRENNAN: Well, I think first of all, Russians are laughing at what`s happening United States because we are in such disarray and because Mr. Trump is pursuing these mindless policies that I think are undermining U.S. national security interest. So even though Mr. Putin has not achieved his objective of getting sanctions totally removed, I think what Mr. trump is saying, you know, the dissolution of NATO or other types of things --
MATTHEWS: Yes. Getting rid of NATO, it seems to me like a dream, like a high school kids crash dream. You are going to get rid of the greatest bull work against us since 1947.
BRENNAN: Beyond their wildest expectations and an American president will be saying this about the world`s greatest alliance that has kept this country and Europe free and safe over the last 70 years. But also the reckless announcement about pulling our troops out of Syria and other types of things that he is doing. It`s just playing into Moscow`s hands. So I do think that they are continuing to react to all of the pivots that Mr. Trump is making.
MATTHEWS: Is he loyal?
BRENNAN: Is who loyal?
MATTHEWS: To the country.
BRENNAN: To himself he is.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much John Brennan, former director to CIA and an expert all his life in defending his country,
Joining me right now, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California who sits on the House intelligence committee and U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
Thank you both for joining us right now. I think I`m looking at Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi stay next to each other.
But you are lucky. You are much -- congresswoman, you are much looser, I must say.
But let me ask you about what has been going on in this Russian probe and the fact that this, Rudy Giuliani seems out of his mind. He is making references to tapes. He is making reference at the (INAUDIBLE) even talking about tapes. He will admit to the fact that the President signed on as his written response to Robert Mueller about working with - about Rudy Giuliani`s role and what he told in then -- all this stuff and then he denies it all. What do you make of what is going this carry-on White House right now?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I actually think it`s intentional. I think it`s his way of leaking out explosive information drip by drip and then confusing everyone by saying one thing one day and contradicting himself the next. So when in fact the Mueller investigation becomes public, people aren`t going to be shocked and surprised by what they hear and they`ll be confused, which is exactly what Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani want to have happen.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you congressman, if Trump was going to engage in a big business deal right through the election and obviously in conflict with everything he is saying to the American people at the time, why wouldn`t he be willing to collude on other matters like getting Hillary, beating her?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s a very reasonable question and with each passing day, with each bit of additional information and evidence that comes into the public domain, the cloud of suspicion over Pennsylvania Avenue and the Trump campaign grows stronger. That`s why we need a full and fair an investigation, which is currently being led by special counsel, Bob Mueller, into whether there was a serious conspiracy between the trump campaign at the highest levels and Russian spies to sell out our democracy and artificially place Donald Trump into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And we as House Democrats are determined to make sure that when that investigation reaches its logical conclusion, that information gets presented to the American public.
MATTHEWS: Well, here is another example right in today of how Trump appears to be helping the Russians. Remember this guy, Deripaska? There he is billionaire, there is a picture over there, billionaire Russian oligarch. He used to work with Paul Manafort. Manafort reportedly get - owes him millions of dollars. He is into him for that. And even offered him briefings in the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016.
Well, this month, the Trump administration defended their sudden decisions to lift U.S. sanctions on Deripaska`s company saying he had made major financial concessions in exchange for relief.
However, the "New York Times" is now revealed a binding confidential document signed by both sides. And it appears to show that Deripaska could actually benefit from the agreement. That document reportedly shows that the deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company.
Congresswoman, what do you make of this constant throwing of kisses, blowing of kisses to Moscow? I have never seen an American Presidents more pro-Russian.
SPEIER: So Chris, I would also say that there is a couple of other things we have to look at. Mr. Mnuchin, who is the treasury, secretary, who put this together also sold his interest in a Hollywood studio to Leonard (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) as it turns out also gave a million dollars to the Trump inaugural. (INAUDIBLE) also is the second largest holder of (INAUDIBLE) stock which is the company that Deripaska owns.
The company has actually seen that shares increase by 125 percent since the announcement was made about the sanctions being removed. This is a travesty and it shows once again that President Trump all roads lead to Russia.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what can the Congress do, the House of represents which is run by Democrats now knew? What can you do before you get a Robert Mueller report? That could be six months on, it could be February, could be next summer, God knows when. What can you before that to investigate this president?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think we are going to see active investigations ongoing conducted by Jackie in the intelligence committee as well as under the chairmanship of Jerry Nadler with respect to unfolding and unraveling some of these connections so that the information he gets presented to the American people in the event that the department of justice decides to block access to the Mueller investigation.
As you know, Chris, having worked here in a high-level within the institution, we pride ourselves in the House in being a separate and coequal branch of government and we have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch. We are going to take that responsibility seriously. I think that`s going to be led by both the Intel committee as well as the judiciary committee.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, can you get enough evidence on your own to consider impeachment, to consider it? Or do you have to have Robert Mueller? People are saying right now around the edges that the Congress shouldn`t wait for Mueller, that they should act on their own investigative ability to find the evidence one way or another and decide on impeachment. Do you need Mueller?
SPEIER: I think we do need Mueller. I think he has so much more information than we have at this time. But I was really struck by the poll today that shows that 67 percent of the Americans don`t trust the President of the United States. Is that a high crime and misdemeanor? Is that a lack of trust in the President of the United States that we should act upon? It`s certainly something we need to start considering. But I do think the Mueller investigation and its report is going to be key to our movement forward.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. Both of you, Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn. By that way, you represent my son now. He lives in your district, Mr. Jeffries.
JEFFRIES: I`m proud to do it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Coming up. Rudy Giuliani says he doesn`t care that his epitaph could be he lied for Trump. How is that for an epitaph? Put that in your tombstone. But he will be daddy, so it doesn`t matter. That`s a grand look.
Anyway, also Donald Trump is reportedly planning a walk-through, catch this, for his state of the union address, the speech Speaker Pelosi has suggested that he forego during the shutdown. Is he going to win the showdown? I don`t know. Former Senator Claire McCaskill is coming here to talk about it.
And a fortune of a White House in chaos. A new book a tell-all by a former staffer dishes dirt on Trump, drafting an enemy`s list of his own staffers. Can you believe that? And a Presidential chief of staff ultimately wanting to get fired. We are back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Rudy Giuliani was hired as the public face to fight Robert Mueller. But the former New York mayor has been a torrent of contradictions, confusion and conspiracy theories.
And today brought another example. To clean up comments about the president`s involvement in the Moscow Trump Tower discussions, Giuliani made things worse.
In an interview with "The New Yorker," Giuliani retreated from his previous denials, saying it doesn`t matter because, "even if he did do it, it wouldn`t be a crime."
Well, Giuliani also tried to knock down that explosive set of allegations by BuzzFeed that Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress by claiming he had been through all the tapes.
Well, in the next breath, Giuliani said to the reporter: "I shouldn`t have said tapes. No tapes," like he`s erasing his words. "No tapes. Well, I have just listened to tapes, but none of them concern this."
Confused? You`re not alone.
Giuliani`s verbal acrobatics have left even some of the White House people perplexed. A senior administration official told NBC News that Giuliani`s recent comments were "not helping." And in regards to his television appearances -- quote -- "If nothing good can come of it, don`t do it."
For more, I`m joined by Jill Wine-Banks, a former assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation, and Michael Steele, former Republican Party chairman.
Jill, thanks for all this.
And I keep thinking of Ron Ziegler back in the Nixon administration during -- during Watergate that Nick von Hoffman, the columnist, referred to as a Schwarzwald clock figure, a cuckoo that came out once in a while, said something ridiculously wrong and dishonest, and then retreated back into the clock.
MATTHEWS: Well, Rudy Giuliani is not a Schwarzwald clock figure, but he is out there like a rodeo clown.
What`s his role? To distract us, to take the heat, to muddy the waters? How do you see his role?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think he is distracting us. And we shouldn`t let him distract us.
If there is a theory behind his ridiculous statements, it`s hard to figure out what it is. But, possibly, it is to deliberately distract or to sort of announce in advance what bad news is coming, because, as defense lawyers, it is not atypical for us to try to get it out before it comes out, so that it sounds less bad to a jury.
But, in this case, I think when it comes out in context, it will sound even worse, because he`s been going back and forth. If he would at least stick to one story, it would be better, but he doesn`t. He says, tapes. Oh, whoops, I shouldn`t have said tapes. Oh, well, there were tapes, but it has nothing to do with this.
You can`t get away with that.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this? Do you think he`s always clear- headed when he does these interviews, to put it bluntly? Is he always sharp of mind when he decides to go on television?
Sometimes, when he goes on with Chris Cuomo...
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... it`s after dinner. I`m not sure that`s the best time to go out on national television.
STEELE: Oh, stop.
I think -- I think if there is any degree of confusion, it comes from whatever conversation or exchange he had with Donald Trump beforehand. And so he`s trying to sort of mix together all the various angles that probably Trump has talked to him about, because, at the end of the day, Rudy is there to be the front man for Donald Trump, and to basically parrot back to the public what Donald Trump is...
MATTHEWS: Does he know what he`s talking about?
Because he does this thing they used to -- the communist suspects back in the bad old black list days would say, I`m not a communist, but, if I am, so what? And he keeps saying he didn`t do it, but, if he did, so what?
STEELE: It`s kind of out of that school.
MATTHEWS: He always has that fallback thing he does.
STEELE: Right, because then -- then that puts the onus on you to prove, what`s so bad about what I`m doing?
STEELE: And so it puts -- it puts you a little bit on the defensive to come back and go, well, this is what is wrong with what you`re doing.
So he throws it out there and say, well, so what if it is, what`s the big deal, why are you making such a big deal of this?
It dumbs down the conversation.
MATTHEWS: Is it a prevent defense?
STEELE: And it`s obvious -- yes, very much a prevent defense.
MATTHEWS: Is it a prevent defense?
STEELE: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Let them have the yardage.
MATTHEWS: Jill, I don`t know if you follow NFL, but, basically, it`s let them have the yardage, we`re ahead in touchdowns, we will give them a few yards.
He says, things might be illegal, might be legal. First of all, he says he didn`t do it. Then he goes, well, he may have had that conversation. Yes, he may have had that business deal right through the end of the election. Oh, yes, he may have been colluding, but that`s not illegal.
That seems to be non-lawyerly. But what do you make of that kind of fallback he keeps pulling?
WINE-BANKS: Well, the best news of this, as a lawyer who has heard almost every lawyer joke you could hear, is that he`s really acting as a P.R. agent. He`s not acting as a lawyer.
WINE-BANKS: I don`t know when he last practiced law. So he`s giving P.R. people a bad name, instead of lawyers.
And I`m relieved about that, because he`s making legal gobbledygook. It`s just nonsense.
MATTHEWS: Well, another bizarre exchange -- here he is -- Rudy Giuliani was asked if he was at all worried that his public legacy would be affected by his tenure as Trump`s lawyer.
He told "The New Yorker" magazine: "Absolutely. I`m afraid it will be on my gravestone. Rudy Giuliani, he lied for Trump. Somehow, I don`t think that will be it, but if it is, so what do I care? I will be dead."
This is Rudy talking.
MATTHEWS: "I will be dead. I don`t think, as a lawyer, I ever said anything that`s untruthful. I have a sense of ethics that is as high as anybody you can imagine."
STEELE: He cares. Trust me, he cares. He does care very much.
And the defensive tone of that, the way he comes back around on that, tells you that that is concerning to him, how he`s perceived publicly.
I mean, he was the mayor of New York at 9/11. And that...
MATTHEWS: America`s mayor.
STEELE: That had a level of gravitas to it that surpassed everything.
And now, compared to what he`s doing, you know, yes, he`s...
MATTHEWS: I`m with Michael, because, with all Rudy`s problems, like announcing his divorce on television, all the Donna -- with Donna Hanover, and all the terrible personal stuff, he was somebody during the hell of those days after 9/11 that was giving us the news as he got it.
I remember him talking about anthrax and coming out explaining, we just got this and we just got that. That`s what you want. You want the cop, the police commissioner, the mayor on the corner when there`s a five-alarm fire. You want them standing there giving you the stuff.
Now he`s giving us what you call gobbledygook. It`s not a good show.
I worked with him in the organized crime section. And he was a very revered and respected lawyer. He did a good job then.
And something has diminished him. It`s his behavior, of course, has diminished him. But I don`t know why he is acting this way. And that`s something that worries me as to, why is he acting this way?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it was Joe Louis, the great boxer, who became an official greeter out at Caesars Palace. Some people get these second careers, aren`t as -- they`re not quite as spiffy as the first.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jill Wine-Banks, and thank you, Michael Steele.
Up next: Are Republican lawmakers willing to risk the wrath of their people who vote for them for Trump`s $5.5 billion wall? Are they willing to fight for the wall as much as he will? And how does putting government employees out of work help advance that agenda?
That`s coming up next. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Will he or won`t he? White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just told reporters moments ago that President Trump is moving forward, as she said, with plans to deliver the State of the Union address one week from today -- that`s next Tuesday -- despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s request to delay it.
According to the White House, that might mean delivering it somewhere other than the Capitol.
A senior administration official tells NBC News that White House speechwriters are working on -- quote -- "separate passages" -- close quote -- if Trump were to deliver it somewhere else and perhaps to an audience other than members of Congress.
Pelosi was asked about that earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: We understand that the White House has sent a letter to the sergeant at arms that President Trump still intends to come give the State of the Union here next week.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We just want people to get paid for their work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: With no resolution expected by tonight, for the 32nd day, government shutdown, 800,000 federal employees will miss another paycheck at the end of this week. Today was the deadline.
But President Trump tweeted that he has never seen Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans so united on an issue.
Well, that unity will be tested on Thursday, when the Senate will vote on two bills to reopen the government. The first bill is the president`s proposal that includes the money for the border wall. The second is the Democrats` proposal to simply reopen the government until February 8, without the president`s border wall.
Both proposals are expected to lose.
For more, I`m joined by former Democratic Senator from Missouri -- and Missouri -- Claire McCaskill.
MATTHEWS: Senator, it`s great to have you on.
It`s not so great you lost, but it`s so great to have you on, and you`re part of our family now. Thank you for coming on.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: You bet. It`s my pleasure. It will be fun.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
And let me ask you about this crazy game of chicken. The president seems to be threatening Pelosi with, I`m going to show up whether you invite me or not. I may show up in the Senate. I may show up at Dubliner, the saloon, I mean, near the White -- near the Congress.
I don`t know where he intends to hold this thing. But what do you make of this standoff? MCCASKILL: Well, it`s a little bit of theater on his part. That`s what he`s good at, is trying to dominate a new cycle with outrageous stuff.
There`s no way he is going to give the State of the Union address from the House chamber without the speaker of the House signing off on it.
MATTHEWS: I know that.
MCCASKILL: So, I`m betting, I`m just betting that he ends up with one of those rallies. He loves him some rallies.
So I`m betting he ends up with an auditorium full of very, very rabid Trump supporters, where he will riff for 45 minutes about how much he`s winning and how great everything is. That`s what I`m predicting.
MATTHEWS: And that message will be, I warned you about the deep state and how the Democrats, the liberals, the media. They control the White -- the government, and now I`m the outsider.
Does he want to be the outsider? Does he want to be the guy shut out of the party?
MCCASKILL: I think he wants to be seen as the guy who is against the establishment and against the status quo.
The problem is, he`s -- he`s gone so far. So many people are out there that are suffering right now that aren`t getting paychecks. So many people are seeing this as, really? You guys can`t figure out how to pay the people who are supposed to be protecting the border, who are supposed to be making sure that people who go through airports aren`t terrorists?
I mean, you can give all the lip service you want to national security, but he is really stretching national security with his unwillingness to reopen the government and then sit down and work a deal in the middle on some immigration reform.
And I will tell you what we need at the border. We need more port of entry officers. That`s where the drugs are coming in, and we`re way understaffed at the ports of entry. I`m not talking about the agents that patrol the border. I`m talking to people in the ports of entry.
That`s what we should be talking about. How do we stop this fentanyl from coming in the country, with adding more people at the ports of entry?
MATTHEWS: You really think Trump cares about drugs? I think he cares about the Hispanic and Latino people coming from below the border that his constituents are mad about.
MATTHEWS: That seems to be what is -- he`s playing the ethnic card here. It`s not about drugs. It`s ethnicity and race, I think.
MCCASKILL: I don`t think he cares about anything, other than himself and keeping his base.
And so, yes, there`s an undercurrent of race there. But he keeps talking about the drugs. If he really wanted to do something about the drugs, he would sit down, and we would hammer out -- they would hammer out some kind of compromise around stopping the flow of drugs through the mail and through the ports of entry.
And -- but here`s the thing. The thing they`re going to vote on Thursday that Mitch is going to put on the floor for the Republicans and what`s called a side-by-side for the Democrats -- the Democrats are going to put something up -- everybody`s going to be able to vote to reopen the government, and then they`re going to go home.
If they were serious about getting that passed, Chris, they never would have put a poison pill in there basically blowing the asylum process out of the water. They put that stuff in there because they`re not serious about getting votes for it.
But with neither the Senate bill expected -- neither bill expected to past this Thursday you mentioned, the question remains, how`s the government shutdown end?
One Republican with close ties to both the White House and congressional leaders told "The Washington Post" that White House officials and GOP leaders would accept virtually any offer from Democrats to end the impasse, hoping they sell it to Trump as a victory and move forward.
I think that`s so interesting. You`re pointing out basically that senators, in a CYA move -- in other words, protect themselves at home -- will be able to say they voted to reopen the government.
But, of course, they will be voting for a bill which either has the wall in it or doesn`t have the wall in it, and both are deal-breakers.
And the thing that really shows McConnell`s hand -- if McConnell wanted to get a bill passed -- we passed a bill last year when I was still in the Senate 100 to nothing that would have funded the government.
MCCASKILL: If McConnell wanted to get a bill passed, he wouldn`t have put stuff in it that he knew would scare off most of the other side.
And that`s the things he stuck in there about asylum, basically ending the asylum process, for all practical purposes, for many, many people through - - throughout the world that might want to come to this country because of untenable conditions in their own nation.
So I don`t think he`s serious about Thursday. I think he`s just posturing. If Mitch McConnell wanted this to end, he could figure out a way to get it ended before the weekend.
MATTHEWS: What`s the story on the guy`s face we just showed, Mitch McConnell? I mean, he seems to have no moral purpose. I don`t even know if he has any ideology, except I guess lower -- less taxes, I guess. That helps him politically.
But he just survives. And he doesn`t stand for anything. He -- especially during this crisis in the government shutdown, he doesn`t stand for anything. And he just stands by and watches Pelosi fight it out with the president. How`s he do it?
MCCASKILL: First of all, he does have an ideology. It`s called: I want to remain majority floor leader.
So all you have to do is figure out, what is he going to do to protect his members? He wants to make sure that those senators, Republican senators, that are in tough states in 2020 get reelected. He`s always wanted to be majority floor leader. He only wants to be majority floor leader, and he wants to stay majority floor leader.
He doesn`t care about Donald Trump. He cares about staying majority floor leader. And so what he`s going to do is what he thinks he needs to do to protect his members, period, end of discussion.
MATTHEWS: God, it sounds like Bibi Netanyahu.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, he just likes the job.
Let me ask you about the Democratic Party looking at 2020 and states you -- it looks to me Missouri`s almost insurmountable, at 13 points. I mean, Trump really seems to have your state, Ohio pretty much too.
Should the Democrats be looking at a different map? Should they be looking at North Carolina and Arizona, states that are much -- were much closer in 2016? Where should they be looking to win this thing, if Trump runs again?
MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, I think Ohio is a state we have to look at. Sherrod Brown was reelected there last year.
Trump, his numbers are not great in Ohio. I think that`s definitely going to be a battleground. And even though Trump won my state by almost 20, Chris...
MCCASKILL: ... you know, our election was much closer than that. So, I -- here`s the bottom line, we`ve got to nominate somebody who`s inspiring, who has great ideas, who is going to convince the American people that he could actually move the needle in things that matter in their life and it has to be somebody that is relatable to places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Arizona.
Those are the places -- North Carolina. Those are the places that this presidency will be in play. He is not doing well in those states and he won all of them in 2016.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I hear you, Senator.
MCCASKILL: So, we can turn this around. We just have to nominate the right person.
MATTHEWS: Please keep coming back with that leadership call. Thanks so much, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Up next, tune in tomorrow night. We`ve got to this, Mitch McConnell is coming on. Mitch McConnell? Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans is coming. He`s one of really, perhaps a dark horse for 2020 there, a very powerful guy.
And coming up next, a new book shows the chaos in the Trump`s White House. It`s all about loyalty, not to country or party, but to guess who? Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re getting another insider account of life in the Trump White House. This time, it`s a book "Team of Vipers" from a little known former special assistant to the president, Cliff Sims.
"The Washington Post" got an advanced copy of the book in which Sims describes a White House he called absolutely out of control.
And one example references Trump`s reaction to criticism for House speaker -- then Speaker Paul Ryan shortly after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: According to this book, comments like those inspired the presidents to telephone Ryan. "The Post" reports from the book, quoting President Trump telling Ryan, Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your blank for decades? Because they know a little word called loyalty. Why do you think Nancy Pelosi has held on this long? Have you seen her? She`s a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth, another Republican gets elected, but they stuck with her. Why can`t you be loyal to your president, Paul?
Well, the book also goes on to describe President Trump calling Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the aftermath of that "Access Hollywood" tape. Quote, I remember being, this is Trump talking, I remember being in Wisconsin, and your own people were booing you. You were throughout dying like a dog, Paul, like a dog and what did I do? I saved your blank.
Well, "The Post" also reports that Sims, quote, recalls a private huddle in which he and Keith Schiller, the president`s long time bodyguard and confidant, helped Trump draw up an enemy`s list with a Sharpie on White House stationery.
Quote, this is Trump: We`re going to get rid all of the snakes, even the bottom feeders, he told them.
But wait until you hear what former chief of staff John Kelly told Sims about his job bhiend close doors, and that`s coming up next, and you don`t want to miss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Although I read it all the time, pretty consistently, I`m not quitting today. I don`t believe and I just talked to the president, I don`t think I`m being fired today, and I`m not so frustrated in this job that I`m thinking of leaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was a pumped up guy, former chief of staff, John Kelly, describing his job back in October of `17, not too many months ago.
Kelly`s discontent was widely reported, right until his departure last month. Former White House staffer Cliff Sims offers up an insider`s account of Kelly`s unhappiness in his new book, what a great title, "Team of Vipers."
According to excerpts obtained by "Washington Post", Kelly once confided to him in a moment of exasperation, this is the worst blank job I ever had. People apparently think that I care when they write that I might be fired. If that ever happened, it would be the best day I`ve ever had since walked into this place. Wow.
I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent to the "PBS NewsHour", and Dana Milbank, whose sense of humor this matches. He`s a columnist at the "Washington Post."
Yamiche, it seems like there`s no loyalty. I`m a big believer in loyalty to the guy you work, even Trump. But these books are just coming out. Omarosa, this guy, and they talk about everything that happens in there.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: I mean, it`s partly because the president had this kind of open door policy where you had staffers that would never usually have this much access to the president being able to walk in to the Oval Office and really kind of spew whatever they wanted.
But in this book, I got my hands on a copy as well, what you see is really a Trump White House that`s out of control, where people are just doing whatever they want and where the president himself is more interested in watching TV and talking about chyron, than listening to the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan. That`s pretty remarkable.
MATTHEWS: We`ve had Nixon`s enemy`s list, which made sense, in some perverse way. But he had an enemy`s list that he put together of the people working for him in the White House.
MATTHEWS: Bottom feeders, he called them. What he called these people that he`s getting advice from every day, bottom feeder.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: There are enemies everywhere for this president. And, you know, I think the remarkable thing would be if somebody writes a book and says there`s order in the White House or that the president --
MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani will do that one.
MILBANK: He may be the only person left who actually could do that.
MATTHEWS: Let`s find the flip side, the silver lining here. It seems he wanted to spank Paul Ryan for loyalty. The role model he hung up was Nancy Pelosi and now he`s going to war with her.
ALCINDOR: And it tells you that even he has political differences with Nancy Pelosi, that he respects her.
MATTHEWS: No nickname.
ALCINDOR: No nickname yet. No nickname that stuck in. There`s also this idea that she knows how to deal with her people. That she -- that the Democrats -- that whatever their issues are with Nancy Pelosi, they rally around her.
So, President Trump is saying, even if I think Nazis are very fine people, I deserve your loyalty and you need give to me and he`s not getting that from the Republican Party because he never really wanted him to be president in the first place, and he`s realizing that Nancy Pelosi just has more love in her party, or more fear in her party than he does.
MATTHEWS: I think she`s got both. I think people are afraid of her, but they like her.
Anyway, meanwhile, as Yamiche alluded to, excerpts of the book released by "Axios" detailed the former reality TV star president`s cable news obsession. According to "Axios", in the book, Sims writes, the most Trumpian tactic the communications team employed was arguing with TV networks about the chyrons, the words displayed at the bottom of the screen that act as headlines for whatever the commentators are discussing. People watch TV on mute the president told them. So, it`s those words, those sometimes beautiful, some nasty little words that matter.
In other words it`s not just television, it`s television without the sound, it seems to be his focus.
MILBANK: You know, there are people who think in paragraphs. Lindsey Graham, just last week, was saying Trump is sort of a one-page guy. I think he overstates it a bit. I think Trump is a one-line guy, you know? I mean, we all know MSNBC has the best chryons in the business and everyone is proud of this, but you know --
MATTHEWS: Here they are. Trump obsessed over sometimes nasty TV banners.
MILBANK: Right. And that`s all that people are watching now. But that`s all that Trump is watching, it`s basically distilled down to the insult, the tweet, the chryon. Unfortunately, and I think this book adds to this impression, it`s just how the president thinks. He does not seem to have an attention span, any sort of depth of understanding or ability to analyze --
MATTHEWS: How many characters are there in a tweet? I think that`s how many characters he can handle at the time. But, you know, Mike Deaver, the genius behind Reagan, he used to say, they have a piece on about how to manipulate the media, and often thanked Leslie Stahl, good solid, Leslie, because they just wanted to see the pictures.
ALCINDOR: I think that this is a president that it sometimes reflects American society, as someone who`s been a writer and has been on TV, there are people who call and yell at me just because of the headline and for a while I`d say you need read my entire article. But then I realize sometimes people only read the headlines, and the headline which a lot of writers don`t write for themselves, that could be the most important part people take away from your article.
So, as much as the president is in some ways reflecting not a depth of knowledge. He`s also reflecting what a lot of Americans see, which is that they really do read things and only care about --
MATTHEWS: I`m with you, Yamiche.
MILBANK: And he`s not wrong, as a salesman, but he`s wrong in terms of governing. That`s why he`s getting clobbered in the shutdown.
MATTHEWS: Perversely correct.
Anyway, Yamiche Alcindor and Dana Milbank.
When we return, the student at the center of that face-to-face confrontations speaks out. Stay tuned.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Kentucky high school students were in the spotlight this weekend after a video went viral showing them inciting Native American veteran Nathan Phillips. There you go. In the original video, student Nick Sandmann appears face to face with Phillips. Phillips says he stepped between the students and another group to defuse a tense situation.
NBC`s Savannah Guthrie spoke to Sandmann in an exclusive interview today and she had some tough questions for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Do you feel from this experience that you owe anybody an apology? Do you see your own fault in any way?
NICK SANDMANN, COVINGTON CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: As far as standing there, I had every right to do so. I don`t -- my position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I`d like to talk to him.
I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could have walked away and avoided the whole thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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