Cohen set to deliver blockbuster testimony. TRANSCRIPT: 02/26/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Ted Deutch, Denny Heck, Anita Kumar, Leonard Lance

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 26, 2019 Guest: Ted Deutch, Denny Heck, Anita Kumar, Leonard Lance

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Michael Cohen left his ten-and-a-half hour Senate testimony today during our show and promised honesty tomorrow for the House. We will have special coverage. I will be a part of it. It starts at 10:00 a.m. eastern on MSNBC. And we are going throughout the day including NBC specials. Tune tine to learn what happens.

As for right now, HARDBALL is up next.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: The fixer talks. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

And we are following a couple of breaking stories tonight. The House just voted in a major rebuke to block President Trump`s national emergency declaration. Now that bill moves on to the U.S. Senate. And after nine- plus hours of questioning, Michael Cohen has wrapped up his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee. That happened just a few minutes ago.

This was the first leg of what will be a three-day marathon of hearings for the President`s former lawyer. One of which will be broadcast live for the world beginning tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. eastern time. Here was Cohen leaving today`s hearings just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: At this point in time I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and tell the truth. And I look forward to tomorrow to be able to have my voice tell the American people my story. And I`m going to threat American people decide exactly who is telling the truth. So I want to thank you all again for sticking around. Have a good night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Cohen`s team is promising big new revelations from his testimony. But his testimony is just one of two major stories that will be showcased in what you call split-screened coverage this week.

At the very moment, Cohen was arriving on Capitol Hill this morning, President Trump was 8,000 miles across the globe. He was touching down in Vietnam for his high-stakes summit with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un. Both stories could deliver dramatic headlines with potentially far-reaching consequences for Trump`s presidency.

In fact, CNN is reporting that on the eve of his crucial meeting with Kim quote "the expectation is that Trump will stay up overnight in Hanoi and watch Wednesday`s hearing," this according to a senior White House official.

Meanwhile, new reporting today continues to build the anticipation for that public testimony from Cohen tomorrow.

A knowledgeable source telling NBC News quote "Cohen will detail his allegations of the President`s lies, racism and cheating as a private businessman."

Most explosive, however, is that quote "Cohen will provide evidence of his old boss` alleged criminal conduct since becoming president and will provide granular details pay offs to Stormy Daniels."

While Cohen has already implicated the President in that scheme, the "Daily Beast" reports that Cohen is prepared to share who sign the $35,000 monthly checks he received in reimbursement for those hash money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Further, he is quoted - expected to bring documentation revealing who signed the checks.

I`m joined now by Democratic congressman Denny Heck of Washington who sits on the House intelligence committee. They will be hearing behind closed doors from Cohen this week. Barbara McQuade is a former federal prosecutor, Michael Steele is the former chairman of the NRC and Anita Kumar is a White House correspondent and associate editor at "Politico."

Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Congressman, let me start with you. The public phase, the public leg of Michael Cohen`s tour of Washington takes place tomorrow. As we say it starts at 10:00 a.m. How will what you hear tomorrow from him at this open public hearing effect your approach to him behind closed doors?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We don`t know. I guess that depends, Steve, to some degree on what it is he actually says. But we have actually got some divided up jurisdiction here. Obviously, the intelligence committee is going to be more focused on matters relating to the Russian interference and also counterintelligence matters. So it will depend on part on what it is he actually says.

Personally, I think that the world is going to learn some new things tomorrow. And I`m absolutely convinced that the Intel committee members will learn something new on Thursday.

KORNACKI: Yes. I`m wondering if you are getting any sense but we shared some of the reporting there that is coming out from folks around Cohen folks, around the scene there in Washington that may be what this will -- a big piece of the focus tomorrow will end up being the hush money payment, the allegation there of a campaign finance violation of what role Trump had there. Do you think that`s going to be a significant part of tomorrow?

HECK: Yes, I do. Again, I think people are going to be quite surprised at what it is that Michael Cohen brings to the table and testifies to tomorrow. I have been telling my friends you better buckle up because I think this is going to be significant.

KORNACKI: Well. So Barbara McQuade, let me bring you in from a legal standpoint. This is somebody, Michael Cohen, who has already set to go to jail. His legal case has already worked its way through the system. Is there anything he might reveal to these congressional committees that he hasn`t to the authorities?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I don`t know that he reveal anything that he hasn`t already revealed to the authorities. But I think there`s certainly the potential for him to reveal things that have not been revealed to the public. And so, there may be things that we learn as members of the public tomorrow in his testimony. He promises granular details about the Stormy Daniels` payment, for example.

And we know from the filing in the southern district of New York that he makes reference to individual one, believed to be President Trump, directing him and coordinating with him. And so, I think there is plenty of room there for new revelations about the involvement of President Trump in that activity. I don`t think it`s anything that the southern district of New York doesn`t know. But it remains for the world to see.

KORNACKI: And Barbara, what about -- you know this is going to come up tomorrow, the question of his credibility. This is somebody coming back before Congress, testifying before Congress, who has been convicted of lying to Congress. What about his credibility? How does he handle that tomorrow?

MCQUADE: Yes. Steve, you are right. He is about at the lowest ebb of credibility that one could imagine having not only lied and admitted to lying but lying to Congress, the very place where he will be.

Well, the way that prosecutors deal with people who are known liars is to insist to corroboration for everything that they have to say. Don`t take my word for it. I will narrate these documents for you but I will show you in documents or point to the testimony of other people so that you don`t have to believe my word alone but you can believe the word of others.

As an insider, he does have insights that can connect the dots. But I think he needs to demonstrate dots in the form of documents or other objective evidence to bolster his credibility.

KORNACKI: Well, last month, Cohen`s attorney postponed his previously scheduled testimony citing that ongoing threats against Cohen`s family from President Trump. It came after the President had publicly singled out Cohen`s father in law in an ominous post to twitter. And now, Republican congressman Matt Gaetz who is well-known as a Trump ally appears to be following the President`s lead, leveling this on substantiated allegation against Cohen in a tweet just hours ago.

He see -- tweeted this. Quote "hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder what she will remain faithful when you are in prison. She is about to learn a lot."

Responding in a statement, Cohen`s lawyers say quote "we will not respond to Mr. Gaetz`s despicable lies and personal smears except to say we trust that his colleagues in the House, both republicans and Democrats, will repudiate his words and his conduct."

Gaetz was asked about that late today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Can you explain to us what you meant in that tweet?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: I think my tweet speaks for itself. You should go read it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does it mean? I mean, do you have any insight on to Michael Cohen`s relationships or --?

GAETZ: Well, I think you should tune in tomorrow to find out. This isn`t witness tampering, it is witness testing. And when people like Michael Cohen who is about to go to prison for lying, come before the Congress, there is an enhanced responsibility on the part of members of Congress to tests that veracity, to test the truthfulness and character of the witness, I think we ought to do it with great figure. We already know that Michael Cohen lies to Congress. We already know that Michael lies to law enforcement. Now we are going to find out if Michael Cohen lies to his own family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Michael Steele, there`s the question here of this is a member of Congress putting this out there the way he put that out in public view. All the questions that that raises about Gaetz as a member of Congress. But what I would be curious to ask you is looking at that committee tomorrow, that oversight committee, the Republicans on is what you are hearing from Gaetz, seeing from him in this tweet, do you think that is representative of the tone that will be struck by the Republicans on this committee tomorrow?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I hope to heaven that isn`t. That was a pathetic display of gangsterism by Mr. Gaetz. I can`t even refer to him as a congressman in that regard because that is the kind of behavior that a congressman should not display the evening before a very important testimony.

Yes, Gaetz makes the point that Cohen has lied to Congress. And now Michael Cohen has to come before has as already been discussed and put down the evidence in this moment that he is not lying and that he is correcting himself, correcting the record, if you will.

But I hope that with respect to the Republican members that they don`t, you know, they take the Trump hat off long enough to listen to the testimony, particularly listen to any corroborating evidence to that testimony. And do the due diligence and the level and give the witness the level of respect, regardless of what you may think of him personally. And certainly this idea that Gaetz put out there about his wife and his family is just despicable and it is unbecoming of a member.

Just, you know, Mr. Congressman, if someone would have said that about your family situation, how would you take it? Regardless of the circumstances to put something like that in a tweet about a person`s family and specifically his wife is inappropriate.

So I`m hoping that the members on the committee take not the Trumpian-Gaetz approach, but take the responsibility in that approach that the American people expect of them to do a good job of paying attention and listening and weighing the evidence.

KORNACKI: Anita Kumar, the President, of course, as we said, he is across the globe right now, 8,000 miles away getting ready for the summit. You got that reporting that he may be watching this testimony tomorrow. Reporting that some folks in the White House may be a little on edge about this.

In terms of how the White House is planning to handle this, what are you hearing? Is there a plan here, a coordination at all taking place for how they are going to respond to this tomorrow?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, as you said the President is overseas and so are many of his top aides. You saw the press secretary Sarah Sanders sort of pushing back today on Cohen.

Of course, she is overseas as well. So this is, you know, they are 12 hours ahead. So it`s very much not in their favor, right. So if they do want to watch it, if they want to react in real time, they are go having to stay up and I do believe that many of them will be doing that.

They have been waiting to hear what he has to say not just on the, you know, Stormy Daniels issue which I understand there`s been a lot of attention paid to. But this is also going to delve into, as the chairman said, Chairman Cummings said, Trump`s businesses, his foundation, all his, you know, taxes and finances. The very thing the President is very sensitive about. He said he didn`t want this investigated and looked into. This is something that his adult children are involved in. So they are going to be watching and waiting and responding.

But remember, a lot of the Republican Party, the RNC, the Republican National Committee, a lot of Trump supporters are here at home in Washington. So they will be able to respond more quickly in real time.

KORNACKI: Congressman, that is your colleagues we are talking about there when we mentioned Matt Gaetz putting this out there about Michael Cohen, putting all those unsubstantiated allegations. What is your reaction to seeing that?

HECK: Well, Steve, I am completely out of patience with people that confuse the hard work of governing in a high pluralistic democracy with tweeting the most sensational outrageous thing they can have. I found the tweet to be vulgar, personal and highly inappropriate. And frankly, I think it reflects more on the person who tweeted it than anything else.

KORNACKI: Barbara McQuade, I have seen some conversation on twitter raising legal questions about that tweet from Matt Gaetz with the word obstruction has been thrown around. Is this something, is this just in poor taste but within a congressman`s right to do? Or does it raise any legal questions?

MCQUADE: You know, I think technically you might be able to make out the elements of a witness tampering charge. I don`t know that any reasonable prosecutor would charge it. You have to prove not only that that he wrote the tweet but that did so with an intent to influence, delay or prevent the witness from testifying.

And I don`t know that it is his intent. I think his intent is to harass or embarrass or score some political points here. So probably not a crime, but certainly is designed to intimidate a witness. And you know, in that regard, is certainly as has been said already, counter to the spirit of what Congress is there to do and that is to divine the truth and not to bully people from appearing or telling the truth.

KORNACKI: Meanwhile, we mention again that today behind closed doors, Michael Cohen was testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. The ranking member, Mark Warner, Democrat from Virginia spoke to reporters during a short break in those hearings, said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-WA) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: A little bit more time finish and only time I`m going to make is two years ago when this investigation started I said it may be the most important thing I`m involved in my public life in the Senate. And nothing I have heard today disgrace (ph) me from that view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Michael Steele, I`m just curious. What is your sense when you look at Trump`s standing with Republicans on Capitol Hill right now? How are they looking at this in private conversations?

STEELE: Well, the private conversation is often very different from the public pronouncements. Let`s just put it that way. The private conversation tends to be a little bit more wailing and gnashing of teeth and, oh, I agree with you. And I can`t believe this is where we are kind of thing.

But publicly, you know, unless they are in the Gaetz camp, for example, where there is hard core Trumpians, they tend to sort of take a softer, more methodical approach to a lot of the noise that comes out of the White House. And certainly a lot of the revelations from the ongoing probes.

They are nervous about this, Steve, as you probably well know and looking at the numbers on the ground. The Republican Party has lost an enormous amount of traction with the voters. It was translated in the 2018 election. You are looking at the Senate race in particular, races next year with the 23-24 Republican seats in play against eight Democratic Seats. The possibilities of losing the Senate are high, particularly when you look at right now, six or seven of those Republican senators in blue states are in some trouble.

So there`s a lot of nervousness about how all this plays out and ultimately how it will impact them, not just the President or the party, but them specifically. And I`m looking for that there turning point, as I`m sure you are, when they really focus on their own self-preservation relative to Trump`s survival.

KORNACKI: And Anita Kumar, quickly, are we expecting that President will be using twitter as part of his response to this?

KUMAR: I think it`s a good bet. I have no knowledge of it. But remember they are 12 hours ahead. So we are going to be seeing tweets at various times that we are not used to, right. The early morning tweets will be happening soon.

But I can -- I assure you that the White House and the Trump supporters and allies will be responding. They are not going to let this go. This is going to be an all-day event tomorrow and they are not going to let that go.

KORNACKI: All right. Anita Kumar, Michael Steele, Barbara McQuade, Congressman Denny Heck, thank you all for being us.

And coming up, a question of forgery, did former acting attorney general Whitaker tell the truth about alleged efforts by the President to influence the investigation of Michael Cohen?

Plus, government documents reveal possibly widespread sexual abuse against migrant children in U.S. custody. The man who released those document, Congressman Ted Deutch joins me next.

And moments ago, the House, as we said, approved a resolution to reverse Trump`s national emergency declaration. It now moves to the Senate. If it does get through there and Trump vetoes it, what are the chances of an override? Actually happening.

We have a lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There are new questions about whether President Trump tried to influence a federal investigation of Michael Cohen.

Sources telling "The Wall Street Journal" that the House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, who was then the acting attorney general, whether Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman could regain control of his office`s investigation of Cohen and Trump`s real estate business.

Berman, the former legal partner of Rudy Giuliani, was personally interviewed by Trump for the position of U.S. attorney after donating more than $5,000 to Trump`s 2016 campaign.

The news that the president allegedly wanted to install a perceived loyalists to lead the investigation of Cohen was first reported by "The New York Times."

During a February 8 hearing, Whitaker was asked if anybody from the White House reached out to him about the Cohen investigation, something he denied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Mr. Whitaker, did the president lash out to on or about December 8, 2018, to discuss the case before the Southern District of New York, where he was identified as Individual 1?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, Congressman.

CICILLINE: Did anyone on the president`s behalf, either out -- inside the White House or outside the White House, contact you to lash out or express dissatisfaction?

WHITAKER: Did they contact me to lash out?

CICILLINE: Yes. Did they reach out to you in some way to express dissatisfaction?

WHITAKER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Berman was never reinstalled because he was recused by senior Justice Department officials from the case.

President Trump`s outreach, if proven true, could contradict Whitaker`s sworn testimony and possibly lead to a perjury charge. It could also help bolster inquiries into whether the president tried to obstruct investigations in the Southern District of New York.

President Trump has denied the allegations.

And just moments ago, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler from New York, announced that Whitaker has agreed to come back to the committee to clarify his comments.

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch from Florida. He sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Thanks.

KORNACKI: On this reporting from "The Wall Street Journal," is that accurate? Do you, does your committee believe that it has evidence that Whitaker committed perjury in his testimony?

DEUTCH: Well, Steve, thanks for having me.

That`s exactly why it`s so important for the former acting attorney general to come back. This responsibility of our committee to conduct thorough oversight, including probes of obstruction of justice, requires us to bring him back and ask him about these allegations.

This story about the president telling him, asking him whether he might be able to cause the U.S. attorney to unrecuse himself, so that he gets more favorable treatment, that, together with the questions about the testimony that he did offer about the time that he interviewed for the job, whether they knew his positions on the Mueller report, whether the president lashed out at him after the Cohen guilty plea, all of these things require him to come back.

And we take this responsibility of doing our oversight seriously. I`m glad he`s coming back. And you bet he`s going to face some tough questions.

KORNACKI: OK.

You have got some confusion. You have got him coming back. You say you want to clarify things. You have got a bunch of questions. But, again, that idea -- that story that says you believe you have evidence of obstruction -- excuse me -- of perjury, is that accurate?

Do you think there`s evidence right now, from what you have heard, of perjury?

DEUTCH: Well, if you -- if you look at some of the responses that he gave, the responses to Mr. Cicilline, the responses that he gave to Ms. Lofgren and her questions about when he interviewed for the job that ultimately went to Ty Cobb, clearly, it appears that he brought up some of these issues in his conversations.

If you go back and look, he was very careful with the way that he responded to the questions in front of our committee. It`s really important for us to be able to probe to make sure that he wasn`t attempting to get around the truth by trying to add additional language and additional statements to confuse us.

That`s -- again, Steve, that`s why he has to come back, so that we can pursue all of these issues with him directly to get to the truth and to get further into the issue of whether or not the president of the United States obstructed justice in this case.

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, is that perjury, if somebody comes before your committee and gives the answers that are, technically speaking, true, if you just write the sentence out, you can`t actually find a false statement in the sentence, and yet it is sort of, in spirit, misleading?

Is that perjury?

DEUTCH: It`s perjury when a witness comes to the United States Congress and lies under oath. And that`s exactly what we`re going to be asking him about.

KORNACKI: In terms of the question you also raised there of the president committing of obstruction of justice, again, the president denying what was reported by "The New York Times," but "The New York Times" saying that he at least made some kind of inquiry there about getting this perceived ally back in control of the -- of the Cohen investigation, the fact that didn`t actually happen, the president makes the inquiry, doesn`t actually get this guy installed, does that -- does that hinder the ability to make an obstruction case?

DEUTCH: Well, it wouldn`t.

The idea behind obstruction of justice is, what was the intent of the person who engaged in the behavior? And if the intent of the president was to get favorable treatment from someone that he viewed as an ally, then that would be a problem.

That`s -- again, that`s why we want to talk to the former acting attorney general. It`s also why we need to -- why we need to move forward quickly on hearings on obstruction of justice and whether the president violated the oath of office, whether the president abused his power.

There is so much evidence that was left ignored during the prior two years, that we have to now conduct our oversight. That`s the job of our committee. And we take it very seriously.

KORNACKI: Another hat you wear there in Congress is chairman of the Ethics Committee there in the House.

Tonight, one of your colleagues -- we were talking about this earlier -- Matt Gaetz put that tweet out where he launched those unsubstantiated allegations against Michael Cohen. A lot of outcry you`re hearing about that already.

Is that something, is that tweet, is what Congressman Gaetz is saying there on Twitter, is that something the Ethics Committee might at all be interested in, in some way?

DEUTCH: Well, Steve, first of all, I would start by reminding your viewers that federal law protects witnesses from the intimidation and attempted intimidation by others.

With respect to the Ethics Committee, as chair, I can`t talk about what matters may come before the committee. But what that tweet reminded me of was what my colleague did just earlier today, when he downplayed the importance of the revelations about the potential sexual abuse of kids being held in detention facilities.

It also reminded me, frankly, of his behavior a couple weeks ago, when he tried to get two of my constituents, parents, fathers whose kids were gunned down at a high school in my district, thrown out of the hearing room. This is the type of behavior that we`re talking about.

And it`s, unfortunately, been fairly consistent.

KORNACKI: And you mentioned this too as well there.

Earlier today, the House Judiciary Committee did have a hearing on the Trump administration`s policy of forcibly separating immigrant families seeking asylum. Ahead of that hearing, the Department of Health and Human Services released documents showing that, over the past four years, roughly 5,000 migrant children held in U.S. detention facilities have claimed they were sexually assaulted while in custody.

Documents also show an increase in allegations of assault after the implementation of the zero tolerance policy.

Congressman, you were alluding to this a minute ago. What exact failure does this point to, in your view?

DEUTCH: Well, we`re just starting to wrap our heads around what happened here.

We received this information from HHS in response to an inquiry. It was buried in some other documents. The fact that there were thousands of allegations, including over 150 just in the past three years of allegations of sexual assault by adults against migrant children in these detention facilities, this is -- this -- the reporting on this is horrific.

We have to understand what it is that they were thinking at the time they moved forward on the zero tolerance policy. They knew there was a problem. They knew -- they knew going back years, when there was a policy implemented to try to detect and prevent sexual abuse in these facilities.

And what we tried to figure out at this hearing today is, who knew about it? Did the secretary know? Before they started ripping kids away from their parents, did he know that they would rip them away, traumatize these kids, and then put them in these facilities, where they were at risk of being sexually assaulted?

There are more questions than answers today. But we intend to get to the bottom of it. It`s a black mark on the administration, and the American people need to understand exactly what happened here.

KORNACKI: Ted Deutch, Congressman from Florida, thank you for taking a few minutes.

DEUTCH: Thanks, Steve. I appreciate it.

KORNACKI: Coming up: Last night on HARDBALL, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said a debate on slavery reparations is a discussion worth having.

So, where do his fellow candidates and where do regular Americans stand on this controversial issue?

Straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have long believed that this country should resolve its original sin of slavery, and that one of the ways we should consider doing that is through reparations for people who are the descendants of slaves.

It is interesting to me that, under our Constitution and otherwise, that we compensate people if we take their property. Shouldn`t we compensate people if they were property?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was this show last night, almost exactly 24 hours ago, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro saying that he would support taking a look at the idea of reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves in this country.

This is a topic that, somewhat surprisingly, has emerged in the Democratic presidential race in the last couple of days. We mentioned Castro on our show last night.

A few hours later, Bernie Sanders, another candidate, had a town hall event on CNN. The issue was raised there, too. Here`s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: So what is your position specifically on reparations? I ask the question because Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, they have indicated they want what to...

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What does that mean? What do they mean? I`m not sure that anyone is very clear.

What I have just said is that I think we must do everything that we can to address the massive level of disparity that exists in this country.

In other words, as a result of the legacy of slavery, you have massive levels of inequality. It has to be addressed. And it has to be addressed now.

BLITZER: In 2016, you said it would be divisive, reparations.

SANDERS: Well, again, it depends on what the word means.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: All right, that Sanders` answer last night.

And as you heard in that introduction, there are other Democratic candidates who`ve been asked about this, who are talking about this, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris. It`s unclear exactly what the position Kamala Harris was taking was. At least she seemed conceptually open to the idea. Cory Booker seems to be against it.

But this is a topic. It`s not one that`s really come up that much in presidential campaigns in the past, a little bit here and there, suddenly getting some play in the last couple of days.

So it`s one of those we said, where do voters actually stand on this? Where do all voters stand? Where do Democratic voters stand on this? It`s not a topic that gets polled all the time. So, actually, you got to go back in time about three years to the 2016 campaign to find the last really good solid poll on this.

And you can take a look here. This was from the spring of 2016. This was, overall, all Americans, 26 percent support the idea, 68 percent, about two- thirds, say they oppose the idea of reparations, of paying African- Americans who are the descendants of slaves.

Now, let`s take a look at where that 26 and 68 come from, because there are some interesting divisions here. One, you just look at the question of race. Whites, overwhelmingly, you see 81 percent opposed, Latinos basically split on it. African-Americans, 58 to 35 percent support, as of 2016, support the idea of reparations payments.

Again, we`re talking here, right now, the context of this Democratic primary. Remember, African-Americans a major constituency within the Democratic Party. That`s why, when you break it down by party, you do get an interesting divide here, among Democrats, 38-55. There is a majority opposition. At least there was the last time this was polled, but it`s not that overwhelming.

Among Republicans, it certainly is at, 86-10 -- 55-38 there when you break it down by party. There is also a generational component to this. Check this out. Again, the silent generation, these are basically folks born between about `24 and `45, somewhere in there. They`re 70-plus years old, overwhelming opposition. The baby boomers, pretty much the same, overwhelming opposition.

Generation -- I think I`m Generation X. You can see there pretty overwhelming opposition, but a pretty stark shift suddenly among millennials. Support jumps to 40 percent. And you`re under 50 percent there in opposition.

So, again, you talk about Democrats, Democratic candidates there need support from African-American voters, young voters. You`re seeing a little bit more openness there to this idea of reparations. And, again, we say the polling is three years old. There`s a question here.

The way politics have played out for the last three years, if we polled it again now -- and I bet someone`s about to -- if we poll it again now, do we see some movement from what you had three years ago?

So it does look like this question, this topic of reparations may come up a little bit in this presidential campaign. We will see how the public sorts itself out. And it`s an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

Up next: The House has voted on a resolution terminating President Trump`s national emergency declaration at the southern border. We`re going to tally the votes, break down what it means going forward. Could there possibly be an override of a Trump veto?

Don`t go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The House of Representatives in a major rebuke to President Trump passed a resolution just a short time ago terminating his national emergency declaration at the southern border. The measure passed the House by a 245 to 182 vote. Thirteen Republicans crossed over, voted to rebuke the president for bypassing Congress.

That sets up a vote in the Senate sometime in the next 18 days. Now, so far, three Republican senators have announced publicly that they will support the resolution. Susan Collins for Maine, Thom Tillis, North Carolina, and Alaska`s Lisa Murkowski. One more Republican defection on top of those would presumably allow the measure to pass, send it to President Trump`s desk and set the stage for what then would be the first presidential veto.

Vice President Mike Pence met with resistance at lunch of Senate Republicans this afternoon. "Politico" reporting, quote, as many as ten Senate Republicans could support a resolution to disapproval if a vote were held today, according to four GOP senators who attended the lunch.

And today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to say if President Trump`s national emergency is even legal.

When President Obama issued an executive action on immigration in 2014, McConnell and a host of Republicans had no qualms about accusing President Obama of overstepping his authority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes the will on the country, Congress will act.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), FINANCE COMMITTEE: This president, if he doesn`t get his way, I got pen. I got a phone. I`m going to go it alone. Well, that`s a disaster waiting to occur.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We the Senate are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration at its unconstitutional amnesty.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: It may take a while to get him but the thing is history will treat him unkindly on this if he thinks he can become king.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If he has the power to do that, what could a Republican do regarding laws they don`t like? He`s created an executive action that I think flies in the face of checks and balances and he had two years of Democratic controlled House and Senate with super majorities and he never lifted a finger.

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KORNACKI: So, what`s different for Republicans now? We`ll tell you how Republican congressman explained it next.

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KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A congressional resolution terminating President Trump`s national emergency at the southern border now heads to the Senate for a vote after passing the House in just the last hour. During the previous administration, many Republicans criticized President Obama for actions bypassing Congress.

Today, one Republican congressman who voted against that resolution told the "Washington Post", quote, I`ll be real honest. If Obama had done this Republicans would be going nuts. That`s the reality. Even if Obama had the authority to do it just like I think President Trump does.

Joined now by Michelle Goldberg, columnist for "The New York Times", and Leonard Lance, former Republican congressman from New Jersey.

Leonard, I`m curious. You had that quote from Mike Simpson. He ended up staying with the president on this vote. It sounds like about a dozen of your former colleagues there on the Republican side didn`t. You`ve got some signs of a breakage on the Republican side of the Senate.

It looks like this may head to a situation where it does get through the Senate, the president vetoes and then there`s the question of, does the dam just break on the Republican side and there`s an override? Is an override remotely possible to you looking that state of play there right now?

FORMER REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: Yes, I don`t think here`s going to be an override. I don`t think the votes are there, but 13 Republicans voted the way I would have voted today. And this is ultimately going to end up, Steve, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

I believe based upon Justice Jackson`s decision, the concurrence in the steel seizure case that the court will rule what the president did was not constitutional.

KORNACKI: So, you see a court ending here. Let me ask you about the politics though, because you just -- you had the experience of running into one of the districts we talk about all the time. One of those districts, traditionally, classically suburban district, that didn`t seem to like Donald Trump that much. You try to hang on to your seat. You fell just short there.

The president sees, from all the reporting a political advantage heading to 2020 by stressing the issue of the border, by playing it the way he`s playing it right now. Thinking of your district, one of those classically old school, Northeast Republican suburban districts, is at all winnable for Republicans if the president stays on this course on this issue?

LANCE: In a way. There was a blue wave last November. It is moderates who do not return. This is true with Democrats in 2010 as well. So, no, I don`t think that we increase our majority in any way and, of course, the president was elected four years ago based upon the Electoral College, not based upon the popular vote. So I don`t view it politically the way the White House may be viewing it.

KORNACKI: Michelle, we talk about Republicans kind of changing -- kind of changing their tone from when President Obama was looking at all those executive actions four or five years ago. What about Democrats? They were OK with President Obama testing the limits of his presidential power. Trump seems to be doing the same here.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I don`t think that -- I mean, it`s not that Democrats have a position on executive power per se, right? It`s the use of executive power is lying and ginning up this false crisis and then using it to override the expressed will of Congress, and it`s not just that Democrats don`t believe that this border situation is an emergency.

I mean, Donald Trump, at least if you go by the rambling press conference that he gave after he said he was going to declare the state of emergency said, I don`t have to do this. I just want to do it faster, right? So the whole thing is a farce. And the whole thing is clearly a misuse of the kind of -- this particular statutory authority.

So, I don`t think to say yes, Obama, you know, tested the limits of executive power to overcome -- to be able to act in the face of Republican intransigence in situations of actual emergency to then say that gives carte blanche to Trump sort of rule as a dictator in response to his own racist fantasies is -- you know, I don`t think it`s a valid comparison.

KORNACKI: We put this data on the screen a number of times, 89 percent. If you look at Gallup right now, Trump`s approval rating with his own party, with Republican voters sits at 89 percent. I just wonder looking at that vote in the House, looking at the pending vote in the Senate, how much -- when you`re looking at a vote in Congress, how much does that weigh the fact that the party, the rank and file seem to be so much behind the president?

LANCE: I think it depends district by district, and state by state, Steve. I would have voted with the 13 who voted the other way and I think that would be the view of my district and I think that would be true of those districts where the 13 voted as they did, and to be reelected president, Donald Trump is going to have to carry Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin, or at least two of those three states and I`m not sure that was the case. Traditionally when you`re running for reelection, you want to increase your support, not just be based upon your base.

KORNACKI: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, immigration at a border, is it a winner or a loser for Trump in those states?

LANCE: I don`t think that it wins him more votes in those states, and I think if the election were today, he might not win those three states.

KORNACKI: Michelle, there`s the question of the precedent. Leonard Lance says he thinks this ultimately goes to the Supreme Court. They said no, you can`t do that. OK, that`s one --

GOLDBERG: We hope that that`s what they say.

KORNACKI: Well, I say, what if this goes the other way. What if this can`t be over ridden and what if the court upholds it. There`s a Democratic president, let`s say a couple years from now revisit the power and how they will apply it.

GOLDBERG: I think there will be a lot of pressure and then to do that, although I actually think that if the court upholds it, it will be such a nakedly partisan ruling that we can`t assume that it will be applied fairly when, say, President Kamala Harris declares a national emergency over climate change or gun violence, right? I mean, I just think that the Supreme Court that allowed Trump to get away with this is a Supreme Court that is reaching for partisan Republican outcomes and will figure out a way to rule against Democrats in analogous situation.

KORNACKI: Does that issue of precedent -- does that enter into it at all? You heard Lindsey Graham say a few years ago saying, hey, if Democrats do this with Obama testing the limits, imagine what Republicans do? Do Republicans look ahead and say, hey, what if there`s a Democratic president in 2021?

LANCE: Absolutely. I was critical of President Obama where I think he stretched the limit and voted as I said today. And I want this for insurance because I don`t want a Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren to go beyond what I believe is constitutionally permissible for the executive branch. I think we should defend the Constitution regardless of which party controls the White House and I tried to be consistent on this issue. I was critical of Barack Obama and I would be critical of Donald Trump, and I would be critical of any future Democratic president.

KORNACKI: All right. Former Congressman Leonard Lance from New Jersey, Michelle Goldberg, thank you both for joining us.

Up next, in less than 12 hours, two controversial leaders will meet in Hanoi. Soon after, Michael Cohen will testify before Congress and the nation. Tomorrow will be quite a day.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

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KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Halfway across the globe right now, President Trump is waking up in Vietnam`s capitol ahead of his second summit with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. President Trump arrived to a red carpet reception in Hanoi following a 20-hour flight. Kim Jong-un opted to make the journey by train. The 65-hour journey, more than 1,000 miles through China.

Along the way, the North Korean dictator was caught giving in to one of his vices, taking a smoke break and using what appeared to be a crystal ash tray. The two will meet tomorrow night for a one-on-one conversation, followed by a dinner, before diving into the thick of negotiations over North Korea`s nuclear program.

Among the many questions, the most critical: is Kim truly prepared to give up his nuclear weapons? And what is Trump prepared to offer in return? Even before getting to those questions, officials are still reportedly working on an agreed definition of what denuclearization actually means.

And in another twist, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also in Vietnam this week, apparently with no set agenda. According to "The Associated Press", Lavrov said the U.S. had asked Moscow`s advice on how to deal with North Korea. And we can`t forget that all of this is happening as the president`s former lawyer, his so called fixer, Michael Cohen, is preparing to publicly testify before Congress tomorrow, and to give what his lawyer is describing as chilling new details about the president.

That testimony set to begin when President Trump is scheduled to be back in his hotel room, perhaps in front of the television. It sure would be a pivotal day for the president in Hanoi and in Washington.

That is HARDBALL for now.

And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END