Show: HARDBALL Date: March 1, 2019 Guest: Julie Zebrak, Mieke Eoyang, Gerry Connolly, Natasha Bertrand, Caroline Fredrickson, Greg Brower, Aisha Moodie-Mills, David French
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And also their rebuttal to Fox News` attacks on their interview with Kamala Harris. You can hear all of it on our new podcast which is going to go up this week on Apple or wherever you get your podcast. The whole interview is also on You Tube. You can just type in THE BEAT with Ari and the breakfast club and check out what we talked about.
We are out of time. HARDBALL starts right now.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Top secret clearance. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews. Chris will be back from his vacation on Monday night.
Tonight though we continue to follow the explosive news that President Trump reportedly lied about how Jared Kushner received his security clearance. Four people briefed on the matter told the "New York times" that quote "Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant security clearance over ruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House`s top lawyer. The decision was so alarming to then chief of staff, John Kelly that Kelly quote "wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been ordered to give Kushner his clearance."
According to the Times, White House council Don McGahn also wrote a memo outlining concerns the CIA had about Kushner`s clearance as well as his own recommendation that it be rejected.
In May of 2018 it as reported that Kushner was granted permanent clearance by career officials after the completion of the FBI background check with no involvement by the President. The decision effectively ended months of drama over the matter.
Earlier that year John Kelly had limited Kushner`s access to the most sensitive secrets because according to the "Washington Post" he was uncomfortable with Kushner`s interim clearance status. President Trump publicly backed that decision. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That will be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot and General Kelly will make that call. I won`t make that call. I will let general, who`s right here, make that call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: U.S. intelligence officials had flagged a number of concerns to the White House like reports foreign intelligence officials from the United Arab Emirates, from China, Israel and Mexico were privately discuss in ways in which they could manipulate Kushner.
In our concerns related to his involvement in a Trump tower meeting and a Russian lawyer and two unreported transition meetings with a Russian ambassador and a head of a Russian state-owned bank. The Russian-related contacts were of particular interest to the special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. The disclosure of the memos contradicts previous denials of Trump`s intervention, not just by Trump himself but by Kushner`s own lawyer and by his wife, Ivanka Trump. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, JARED KUSHNER`S WIFE: There were anonymous leaks about there being issues. But the President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband`s clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Just two months ago, the House oversight committee launched an investigation into the White House security clearance process. And today the chairman of that committee, Elijah Cummings, threatened to subpoena the White House for documents related to its clearance protocol.
For more, I`m joined by Gerry Connolly, Democrat from Virginia and a member of that House committee, the House oversight committee. Julie Zebrak, former deputy chief of staff to a deputy attorney general, Ken Dilanian, NBC News intelligence and national security reporter and Mieke Eoyoang, vice president of the National Security Program Third Way.
Thank you all for being with us.
Congressman, let me just start with you. First of all these memos that are being reported from McGahn and from Kelly, have you confirmed -- has your committee been able to confirm at this moment they still exist somewhere?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: No, we have not which is one of the reasons we`re seeking documents and cooperation from the White House. You know, failing that, obviously we are going to have to reach out both to McGahn and Kelly and to try to get their individual cooperation with the committee and ask them to produce those memos.
KORNACKI: How would you? The conversations, the communication between your committee and the White House. As said in this letter tonight that your chairman, Elijah Cummings, is sending to the White House. He makes reference there to making efforts to pursue this privately, to not go public with this and so forth. Have they been cooperative at all?
KORNACKI: Has there been any explanation on their part for why they are holding this or at least not confirming it?
CONNOLLY: No, Steve. They have completely stonewalled these requests. And by the way our concern about security clearances predates this incident by, you know, over a year. We have been concerned about, for example, the issuance of the interim security clearances. And you remember the (INAUDIBLE) incident where there was great puzzlement as to how Mr. Porter, guilty of domestic violence get any kind of security clearance interim and otherwise.
So this is not the first time or the first time we have tried to get documentation about process and issues. We knew there were issues with Jared Kushner, now we know just how bad they really were.
KORNACKI: How much time does the White House have here before your committee moves on a subpoena?
CONNOLLY: I believe that Mr. Cummings, the chairman of our committee, indicated in today`s letter this is your final warning and we will give you until on or around March 5th as a recall the letter. After that we will resort to other legal means.
KORNACKI: And the other question that you eluded to this a minute ago. This involves memos from McGahn and Kelly. If there`s a subpoena issue at the same time, would you be reaching out to them?
CONNOLLY: I think certainly with General Kelly there could be an opportunity for voluntary compliance. Because obviously he was bothered enough about the nature of the denial of the security clearance. And the fact the President lied and told him to overturn that negative recommendation and grant anyhow, that he felt the need to memorialize his concerns in a memo.
And I would hope upon reflection, General Kelly might voluntarily cooperate with the committee and produce that memo.
KORNACKI: All right. Congressman Gerry Connolly, again, a member of the House oversight committee where this all may be coming to a head very soon.
Congressman, thank you for joining us. CONNOLLY: My great pleasure.
KORNACKI: Let me turn to our panel now.
And Ken Dilanian, just right now at this moment what can you tell us about the status of Jared Kushner inside the White House? What kind of clearance, what kind of access does he enjoy right now?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Steve, our understanding is he hold as top secret clearance but not a top secret clearance that gives him access to sensitive compartment and information. That`s what some people called a high level of clearance that allows you access to CIA source reporting and NSA intercepts.
The CIA which flags concern in his background never did grant that higher level of clearance, we are told. But because of the President`s orders, the White House security office did grant him a top secret clearance even though members of the White House security staff had recommended against doing that based on the FBI background check.
I know there seems are complicated. There`s two processes here. But the bottom line is both FBI and CIA flagged significant concerns with Jared Kushner`s background including issues of foreign influence.
Now, that is not unprecedented. That happens with applicants and it can be mitigated. But there was no such mitigation in this case. And that is one of the big issues. Does he still have these issues? Is he still subject to foreign influence? And of course, the other issue here, Steve, is the lies.
KORNACKI: And just when you say potential foreign influence, the things that are flagged, we sort of go through the headlines there but take us through specifically what are the kinds of things that are setting off alarm bells there?
DILANIAN: Well, obviously he has got a sprawling in real estate empire with foreign countries. Only recently his major investment on 650 Fifth Avenue got huge infusion of cash from a company associated with Katari (ph) wealth fund. And so, these are potential conflicts of interest. These are potential avenues of foreign influence on him. It doesn`t mean that he is an influence. It is just a concern that officials would have that anyone would normally would have to mitigate.
And then, you know, look, let`s go back to the beginning. Remember, he didn`t even fill out his initial security clearance form correctly. He neglected to list any of his foreign contacts. For a normal applicant, Steve, that would rule you out a clearance holder. That would essentially -- you would be done at that point. So he got lot of special treatment here.
And Julie Zebrak, take us through, for folks who are just hearing about the security clearance process in the executive branch for the first time, it`s one of these things with the Trump administration, all these different areas of government that don`t get a lot of attention day to day. A lot of procedural staff has gotten new attention to Trump era. This is one of them. Take us through typically how this process would work for somebody in Jared Kushner`s position?
JULIE ZEBRAK, FORMER JUSTICE CHIEF COUNCIL: Right. Well thanks, Steve. Yes, suddenly clearance is hot in Washington and around the country.
One of the things that I can tell you and from have worked at DOJ for 18 years and served as an employment lawyer in terms of dealing with people who are trying to come work that department and sometimes having hiccups in their background is that what happens is, and this is very similar with respect to the White House but investigators are on the ground looking into your foreign contacts, into your neighborhood, into your former employers. They are trying to run down any issues that could impact your ability to be trusted.
And so what happens is that the investigators sort of dig up anything there is on you and then they present it to career officials whose job day in and day out is to evaluate across the board the types of issues that every day people have. And they then take those evaluations and recommend whether they see no issue and you have a national security access and having top secret clearance or they raise red flags. And when those red flags are raised, it`s incumbent upon the employer, the agency to make the call. Here we know there was some dispute. And usually when there`s dispute, frankly, we are on the side of not granting the clearance.
KORNACKI: Now former acting general attorney Sally Yates, who Trump fired 10 days into the presidency, remember that one, he waived - excuse me, on the "New York Times" report tweeting quote "hard to know which is more dangerous, jeopardizing our national security information or cavalierly lying about it. Have we lost our ability to be shocked?"
Mieke Eoyang, let me bring you in on that because we have the public comments from Trump. And Ken mentioned this a minute ago, the public comment to Trump and the veracity of those comments now being called into question, obviously, by this reporting. But just in terms of the law here, in terms of the procedure, he does have the power, the correct, if he (INAUDIBLE), to order a security clearance to go through. Is that right?
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, THIRD WAY: That`s right. And we have never had a president before who has been so cavalier about the national security secrets. The President is the ultimate classification authority. He can decide what is, isn`t classified. He can decide who sees what information.
But the real challenge here is that presidents have always looked out for the national interest and tried to prevent people who could be compromised by foreign governments or others from having access to that information and they are very concerned about leaks. They are very concern about people who take it on to themselves to put that information out there and they are also concerned about people whose decision making could be suede on behalf of foreign or financial interests.
KORNACKI: Well, so Ken, I`m curious then. If Trump does have the right, the power do this. If he turns out, that he lied about it in public but it is not a legal thing where lee did it in a court of law or something like that, what`s the end game?
DILANIAN: This is more of an issue of political norms, Steve. You know, the President has the authority to shut down a justice department investigation as well in theory. But no president since Watergate has ever dare to that. Most Presidents don`t even comment on justice department investigations.
Similar thing here. We can find no precedent of a President ever overruling a security establishment. In fact, our sources told us when we reported on this that they had never seen their own work over ruled before by supervisor in the White House office. Generally, bureaucrats, the career specialists get to make these decisions so that the process has integrity.
And I will just add, Steve, that we have new statement tonight from Jared Kushner`s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who said at the time that Kushner got his clearance by the book. He is now saying that he, Mr. Lowell, was not aware that the President had intervened. Very specifically, speaking for himself and not his client, which I find very interesting.
KORNACKI: That is an interesting twist there.
And Julie, the possibility here - again, we just talked about this with Gerry Connolly, the possibility with the House oversight committee will put a subpoena in front of the White House there saying hand these documents over, the prospects of the House committee ultimately being able to compel the White House to do this. So what are the prospects?
ZEBRAK: Right. Well, certainly there`s always a give and take between the White House and Congress in terms of what kinds of documents they are willing to turn over. I would expect this to be a very hard fight because it goes to the core of the Trump family. And I expect that the House oversight is go having to go other routes to get what they need and that may be very be looking at John Kelly and getting it directly from him.
KORNACKI: And Mieke, this also changes a little bit this reporting, changes our understanding of what have been going on behind the scenes there. Because the reporting a while (INAUDIBLE) when Kushner had been OKed for a security clearance, in a lot of people`s minds put to rest out of these questions about potentially being compromised and those sorts of things.
EOYONG: Yes. I think that was a little premature when you look at the financial entanglements that the Kushner family had and his refusal to divest from that. When you look at his deceptiveness about his foreign contacts, I think that the idea be put to rest without real blind trust or other financial mitigation I think was over stating the case. But what we saw in the Cohen testimony earlier this week, is how exactly the President gives these kinds of instructions to people where he repeats what he wants. He give as meaningful look, he expects orders to be followed. So when he says I didn`t do this, he expect everyone to fall line even though we know now he did.
KORNACKI: All right. Mieke Eoyoang, Julie Zebrak and Ken Dilanian, thank you all for joining us.
And coming up the growing witness list. Congress wants answers from the man who knows the Trump organization`s finances inside and out.
Plus, President Trump said he did not hold Kim Jong-un responsible for the dearth of Otto Warmbier. We knew a blistering statement from Warmbier`s parents who say now we must speak out.
And after a week of setbacks from President Trump, one person does certainly seemed to be on his mind is former fixer, Michael Cohen. Just how damaging was that Cohen testimony this week? We will take a step back and trace back.
We got a lot to get to. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there other people that we should be meeting with.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: So Allen Weisselberg is the true financial officer.
In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump organization.
Allen Weisselberg made the decision.
The bottom signature I believe is Allen Weisselberg`s.
That`s signed by Weisselberg.
Mr. Weisselberg for sure.
But always Allen Weisselberg on the check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Michael Cohen repeatedly implicating Allen Weisselberg. He is the chief financial officer of the Trump organization in the scheme to cover up elicit hush money pay offs during the campaign among other things.
Throughout that public testimony this week, Cohen identified Weisselberg by name more than 20 times. And as a result, he is now come under increased scrutiny by Congress. After 45 years with the Trump family business, Weisselberg value as potential witness can`t be understated. His former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in his recent book quote "Weisselberg knows of every dime that leaves the building." In fact, Weisselberg already received partial immunity last summer for his testimony about hush money payments to silence two women before the election.
According to Cohen, it was Weisselberg who, on Trump`s orders, devised the plan to disguise the payment to Stormy Daniels and then reimburse Cohen through false invoices. Cohen said that scheme represented a criminal conspiracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Are you telling us, Mr. Cohen, that the president directed transactions, in conspiracy with Allen Weisselberg and his son, Donald Trump Jr., as part of a civil criminal -- part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud. Is that your testimony today?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: NBC News has learned that the House Intelligence Committee now intends to call Weisselberg to testify.
And NBC News is also reporting tonight that Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are crafting a request to the IRS for the president`s tax returns.
I`m joined now by Greg Brower, a former senior FBI official and U.S. attorney. Caroline Fredrickson is president of the American Constitution Society. And Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at "The Atlantic."
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Natasha, let me just start with you.
We mentioned it there, Allen Weisselberg, 45 years around the Trump family business empire. The interesting thing to me about him is, when you look at the circle of people around Trump, usually, in some way, you hear from them in public, you see them. This is somebody who has managed to stay close to Trump and entirely behind the scenes for more than four decades.
Talk a little bit about the role he plays in Trump`s world and what he would potentially be in position to shine a light on.
NATASHA BERTRAND, "THE ATLANTIC": Yes, it`s really amazing that we have heard nothing from him, but he is apparently excessively private, and that is how he has managed to escape all of the scrutiny that surrounds the Trump family, right?
The Trump Organization is also a very small organization in terms of the amount of people that work there. It`s kind of like a mom-and-pop shop in many ways. So he was able to have this ability, as the CFO, into virtually everything that the Trump Organization did in terms of its finances.
So, for example, when Donald Trump Jr. said that Russian assets and Russian money makes up a disproportionate amount of their assets, of the Trump Organization`s assets, Allen Weisselberg is in a position to tell Congress whether or not that`s actually true.
When we talk about the sudden spending of millions and millions of dollars in cash by the Trump Organization to buy certain properties, where did that money come from? Allen Weisselberg is in the position to tell Congress, again, where that money came from.
How did he insert $200 million into his Scottish golf courses that were failing? Where did he get that money? All things that Allen Weisselberg could potentially be able to answer. And that`s what makes him so valuable here, is, he could say, look, this money potentially came from a foreign entity, this money was used in an illicit manner.
Whether or not he`s actually going to testify, though, unless he gets immunity, because, of course, as we have seen, he couldn`t be actually part of these crimes, is another question.
KORNACKI: Well, and, Caroline, so, to that question, then, there`s all sorts of possibilities here of things he might know, things he might be able to connect the dots on, if there`s anything there.
But the question is, would he be willing, do you think, to answer any questions on those fronts?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: Well, I think Congress is certainly going to put the questions to him.
It`s hard to know how he`s going to get out of coming up before those committees and talking about what he knows. I think the committees learned very clearly from the Cohen hearing that it seems like the Trump Organization is a criminal enterprise.
And to get to the bottom of it, they are going to need to follow the money. And the one who knows where the money is, is Allen Weisselberg.
KORNACKI: But, Caroline, I guess my question is, Cohen was there voluntarily. He`s going to prison in a few weeks. Seems like he was thinking, yes, maybe in terms of his reputation -- something was motivating him there to voluntarily appear and say everything he said this week.
If you`re Allen Weisselberg, what would prevent him from showing up and pleading the Fifth?
FREDRICKSON: Well, he`s already cooperating with Southern District of New York.
I think he knows that he`s got a lot of liability out there. And I -- it`s very, very possible that he could see that it`s in his longer-term interest to speak with candor about what he`s been involved in and the role that he played in these variety of fraudulent enterprises, and the inflating of assets and the deflating of assets and tax fraud and so forth.
I mean, he`s got a lot at stake. And I think the prosecutors have a fair amount over him. Cooperating with the committees as well may be really in his interest.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s a question, too, is sort of a division of labor question, maybe, Greg.
If Congress is interested in these things, and Weisselberg is not interested in talking about them, is there a concern there, if you`re Congress, and there`s the idea of granting some kind of immunity to get him to talk, does that potentially limit -- if you give him immunity to talk to Congress, does that limit the ability of prosecutors potentially to take any steps, any actions?
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Potentially.
I will tell you, as a former federal prosecutor, any time you can turn the CFO of an organization, whether it`s a small mom-and-pop, which this organization has been described as, or a large publicly traded company, the CFO is a gold mine of information.
If it`s a follow-the-money type of case, which most white-collar cases are, it`s the CFO you want to get. So, here, he`s a potentially very valuable witness for both Congress and for prosecutors. And so there has to be a certain amount of deconfliction, coordination that takes place to -- in order to maximize his value as a witness for both investigations.
KORNACKI: Well, another witness set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee now is Felix Sater, a Russian-born Trump business associate who helped Cohen pursue that Trump Tower project in Moscow.
And according to multiple reports, Sater pleaded guilty in the late `90s to stock fraud in connection with the Russian mafia. Yet Trump reportedly worked with him on various projects since at least 2005.
In a 2013 deposition, Trump notably downplayed his association with Sater, saying he barely knew him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn`t know what he looked like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Despite Trump`s sworn deposition, Cohen testified that the president did know Sater well enough to give him an office in Trump Tower.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that President Trump knew convicted Russian mobster Felix Sater in 2013, when he made that statement?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that, because of Mr. Sater`s relationship to the Trump Organization, that he had an office in the Trump Tower?
COHEN: And on the 26th floor. Mr. Trump...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the 26th floor is important why?
COHEN: Because it`s Mr. Trump`s floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on those facts, isn`t it true that President Trump misled, at best, or, worst, lied under oath?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, Natasha, look, so this question of Sater and the Trump Tower deal, Cohen, he pleaded guilty -- he has pleaded guilty now to lying to Congress over this project, this Trump-Moscow project.
What could Sater, what light could he shed on it?
BERTRAND: A lot.
I mean, where to -- where to even begin with Felix Sater? It`s a completely open secret. I mean, sources have told me that he had this office on the 26th floor in Trump Tower, that he had a standing meeting with Trump every week when he was an adviser to the Trump Organization.
And I think that he could probably speak to the extent that the negotiations actually went on, right? And it`s just another corroborating witness to what Michael Cohen has told the committee.
Michael Cohen obviously is not the most credible person in the world. But when you haul Felix Sater before the panel, and you ask him to describe all of the efforts he took to pursue this massive real estate deal in 2016 with his Russian contacts, which he boasted about -- I mean, he boasted about knowing Putin. He boasted about knowing all sorts of high-level Kremlin officials.
When you ask him to go into that in detail -- and I think he would be willing to do that, because he really is not in kind of the Trump camp at this moment. His allegiance right now is to -- with whoever can help them avoid further trouble. Then you could potentially learn a lot.
And Cohen could then also gain some credibility by the corroboration that Felix Sater could provide.
KORNACKI: All right.
And, meanwhile, Paul Manafort`s lawyers filed a pre-sentencing memo tonight in the Eastern District of Virginia. It appears to be an attack on Robert Mueller.
It says -- quote -- "The special counsel`s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale. The special counsel`s conduct comes as no surprise and falls within the government`s pattern of spreading misinformation about Mr. Manafort to impugn his character in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades."
Greg, what`s Manafort`s team up to here?
BROWER: Well, this is an unusual approach, I can tell you, having -- filed and read many such filings.
Look, the Mueller report -- the Mueller filing -- I shouldn`t say the Mueller report. We haven`t seen that yet. The Mueller filing recently, the sentencing memo, was pretty harsh. It was -- it was no-holds-barred, and I think for good reason, based upon what we know about the case, about Manafort`s conduct, and about his lack of cooperation.
And so I guess his team thought that they had nothing to lose, and perhaps something to gain, by taking a swing at the special counsel. But I can`t believe it`s going to work. The judge will see through this, and I expect a very, very tough sentencing for Mr. Manafort.
KORNACKI: All right, Greg Brower, Caroline Fredrickson, Natasha Bertrand, thank you all for being with us.
And up next: The governor of Washington state, what can he do to stand out in a very, very crowded presidential field? He`s running for president. He said so today.
I`m going to go over to the Big Board. We`re going to take a look not just at him, but we`re going to take a look at the big question, one of the big questions for 2020. Will a dark horse candidate emerge?
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Governor. What do you have to say about climate change? GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot.
We have got to stop global warming. Everyone in this country knows climate is changing.
I`m Jay Inslee, and I`m running for president, because I`m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation`s number one priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Another day, another new candidate for president. You heard it right there. Jay Inslee, Democratic governor of Washington state, he said today he is running for president.
He joins a very long, by this point, list of Democratic candidates. And here`s the thing. Not only is he part of a long list of candidates, but let me show you where he starts out.
Jay Inslee, if you take a look at a poll -- this is Morning Consult. They have been doing a bunch of Democratic polls. You`re used to seeing Biden in first. You`re used to seeing Sanders in second. You`re used to seeing all these names.
But look at this. Go through all the usual suspects, and you got -- what is this, a nine-way tie here of candidates with 1 percent, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Holder, potential candidates, below them, Jay Inslee at zero percent. I believe it puts him at 19th place in this poll.
That looks to be about where he is starting out, not well-known, ton of competition. Now, he says climate change, he`s going to really focus on climate change, really try to make that his calling card. We will see if it gets traction.
But it raises a question. Whether it`s Jay Inslee, whether it`s anybody sitting here at 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent, the folks who start out at the back of the pack, the potential dark horses, the ones who want to go from worst to first, what`s the track record there? How often does that happen?
We`re used to seeing front-runners. We`re used to seeing folks who start out with a real base of support, end up winning the nomination, like Hillary Clinton a couple years ago. How often does it work the other way, does somebody come from nowhere to win the nomination?
There are a couple of examples in modern times. We thought we would take you through them.
First of all, this is a very famous one. Early on in the 1972 Democratic race -- again, not everybody ended up running. Primaries worked a little bit differently back then. But this guy, George McGovern, from South Dakota ended up being the Democratic nominee. That`s where he started out. And he ended up being the Democratic nominee. Of course, didn`t do so well in the general election. That`s another story.
Seventy-six, here`s a famous example, one of the first polls you saw from Gallup as that race started, George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Scoop Jackson, Washington state, like Jay Inslee. Go all the way down the list. And, look, at the very bottom, there is, Jimmy Carter from Plains, Georgia, the peanut farmer, the famous story.
He went from worst to first. Didn`t just win the Democratic nomination, but won the presidency. That`s the most famous example, I think, of a dark horse who emerged.
In `88, of course, Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee. He started at 4 percent. What really helped Dukakis, this guy up here. Gary Hart, the front-runner, imploded in scandal, through the race wide open. Dukakis was able to eventually win the nomination; `92, all the big-name Democrats stayed out of that race. They thought George Bush Sr. was invincible.
Turned out he wasn`t. But Bill Clinton started at 5 percent. But there was not a clear front-runner.
On the Republican side, one famous example of this in modern times, the most recent, last time around, our poll, on the eve of Donald Trump`s campaign announcement in 2015, he was at 1 percent in our poll. And he overcame this field, won the Republican nomination, won the presidency.
Might be one of the reasons so many Democrats like Jay Inslee are looking at the Democratic field right now, and they`re saying, why not me? I might start out back there, but if Trump could get to the top, maybe I could too.
Maybe that`s why there`s so many Democrats out there.
Anyway, up next: Between Michael Cohen`s public testimony, a fruitless North Korea summit and bipartisan backlash over his remarks on Otto Warmbier, it was a tough week for President Trump. But, when the dust settles, can we expect anything will change politically?
That`s coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There have been many tumultuous weeks in the Trump presidency, but, by some measures, this one has been particularly rough for the president.
That House voted to terminate his national emergency at the southern border. That sets the stage for what could be a similar rebuke from the Senate and maybe the first presidential veto.
Also, Michael Cohen accused Trump of multiple crimes, opening the possibility of new congressional investigations. And Trump`s summit with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un went nowhere. The self-described dealmaker-in- chief conceded he had to walk away, said North Koreans asked for the lifting of all sanctions.
But a senior State Department officials who requested not to be named says that Trump exaggerated North Korea`s demands, noting that Kim wanted economic sanctions removed, but did not ask for the removal of all sanctions on armaments.
The president also drew criticism for defending the North Korean dictator over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, telling reporters that Kim felt badly for Warmbier`s death and takes Kim at his word that he didn`t know about Warmbier`s treatment while in detention.
In a statement this morning, Warmbier`s parents responded in writing. They said this -- quote -- "We have been respectful during the summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."
But on his first morning back in the United States, President Trump gave a clear indication of what part of his very bad week got under his skin the most.
We will tell you what that is straight ahead.
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TRUMP: As far as Cohen is concerned, he`s convicted. He`s a liar. He`s defrauded at a high level. He`s got a lot of problems.
And it was very interesting, because he lied so much. I watched some of it. I actually was able to watch some of it. He said no collusion. And I said, it`s funny. He lied about so many things, and yet he could have said -- he might as well lie about that one too. But he said no collusion. And everybody said no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump just before he left Vietnam reacting to Michael Cohen`s scathing testimony to Congress. The president came back empty- handed from that summit with Kim Jong-un, and spent much of his first morning back in Washington raging about his former lawyer`s testimony.
He fired off a series of tweets, accusing Cohen of writing a secret manuscript for a book Trump described as a love letter. In one tweet, he wrote this: "Michael Cohen`s book manuscript shows that he committed perjury on a scale not seen before."
I`m joined now by Aisha Moodie-Mills, a Democratic strategist and a fellow at Harvard`s Institute of Politics, and David French, a senior writer at "National Review."
Thanks to both of you for joining me.
Well, look, we have reached sort of the end of the week here. We`re trying to make sense of everything we saw. I want to just go over the politics, with the political reality that emerges from this week, with both of you.
And, Aisha, let me start with you on the question of Democrats in Congress. And I`m curious here this question of, politically, do they emerge from this week with enough to go forward with impeachment, if that`s what they were looking to do?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, yes.
I mean, the Cohen -- what Cohen did, is Cohen actually showed up with receipts. For all of the anecdotes -- anecdotes that we have already known, he showed up with evidence and a trail that kind of leads us to being able to ask more questions, that, surely, if the Democrats wanted to say, we`re going to formally start impeachment proceedings, then they could.
Now, let`s remember that the point of impeachment proceedings is ultimately to open up a formal investigation, to be able to ask questions and to be able to get to the heart of the heart of the things that Donald Trump is hiding.
And what this -- what I believe that this hearing did with Cohen is not only did he produce some initial evidence, but if you listened to the Democrats line of questioning, they also were able to pull out names, like Allen Weisselberg and others, and to also start to ask questions about Trump`s tax returns that really, really teed up the opportunity for them to follow up on some of the conversation that was started at this hearing.
So, whether they politically feel like they`re in a place to formally call it impeachment proceedings and to start that process, I think what we`re going to see is surely an investigation that mirrors the question-asking and the interrogation that impeachment would provide.
KORNACKI: David French, I`m curious, what do you think from a Republican standpoint? Clearly, the folks on that committee, I won`t say they were interested in defending Trump, but they were interested in attacking the guy who was going after Trump.
What do Republicans take away from this week in terms of how they view this president and the sense of peril around him?
DAVID FRENCH, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Look, I think Republicans very clearly are more afraid of the Southern District of New York than they are of congressional Democrats.
I think that, if congressional Democrats moved on impeachment with the current level of evidence -- and, again, we have not had the Mueller report yet, we have not had the full completion of the Southern District of New York investigations -- but if Democrats moved on impeachment right now, at this point, it would be an overreach.
It would be a political overreach, at a time when the president is on his heels, quite frankly. But if you talk to Republicans right now, they are far more concerned about what`s coming out of Manhattan in that Southern District, perhaps even than they are concerned about the Mueller report itself.
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s an interesting question too, Aisha, just in terms of, look, Cohen gave Democrats, you would say, plenty of ammunition here on the question of Trump`s character, on the question of Trump`s sort of moral fitness for the office, if you want to call it that.
I do wonder, though, in terms of fueling an impeachment drive, the fact that he ultimately says, look, I have no evidence of collusion, he did not order me to lie, I have no proof that he ordered me to lie, and he also gave this answer where he said, I have never been in Prague in my life.
And the significance there is all of this talk about the -- this dossier. That`s a blow to the dossier, it seems, if that aspect of it is true.
Did that deprive Democrats of some of the fuel they would need for any impeachment push?
MOODIE-MILLS: So, here`s the thing, is that we have been focused on this very singular idea that Russian collusion is the only thing that Donald Trump is doing wrong.
And the truth is, is that what impeachment proceedings would allow to happen -- and, again, I`m saying that the Democrats could actually start to investigate this without a formal impeachment -- but we need to understand Trump`s finances.
We need to know if he`s enriching himself and using this office for the benefit of him and his family, as opposed to the benefit of the people of the United States. We also need to understand if he is putting us in harm`s way, if he is even fit to do this job.
There are a lot of questions that come up that we need to understand about this Trump administration and how it is or isn`t in the best benefit of the United States that go beyond, for sure, just Russia.
And so I think that that`s what we`re starting to get to with this character, this character conversation, and the financial -- the financial transactions and the shadiness. I mean, he`s literally being shown to act like a mobster in the way that he conducts himself with the people that he -- that he works with.
And so we want to be able to get into that. And Michael Cohen brought some receipts to start to take us there a little bit. And so now I think it`s really important for the American people to be able to understand who this is in the White House. Is he fit to do this job? And is he actually working in our best interest?
And that`s not just simply that collusion, that singular collusion.
KORNACKI: Well, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, told "The New York Times" -- quote -- "Yes, we have unambiguous evidence that the president has committed a crime at this point, I think. Do we have unambiguous evidence he has done impeachable offenses? We have got a ways to go yet."
Another Judiciary Committee Democrat, Rhode Island`s David Cicilline, said Democrats are proceeding cautiously, for good reason, but also said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: If you`re asking me today if it seems more likely that the president could be removed from office based on what we know, is it more likely today than it was on Tuesday, I think the answer to that is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: David French, let me ask you about -- I think what Nadler might be alluding to there -- to there is this issue of the campaign finance violation.
KORNACKI: This idea that, hey, a felony was committed to conceal a politically damaging extramarital affair.
Now, Nadler was there in `98 when Clinton got impeached by Republicans for committing a felony to conceal a politically embarrassing extramarital affair. Nadler was a no one on that. There`s a question for him, would that be a reversal if you took a different position now?
But how about Republicans? How about Republicans 20 years ago, who said, that is grounds for impeachment? Should they be there, will they be there today saying the same thing?
FRENCH: You will see a complete flip-flop on both sides if there is an impeachment proceeding that moves forward on these campaign finance violations.
And I think that the very fact of that dramatic flip-flop, the very fact that Republicans would say, wait a minute, wasn`t this litigated in `98, and these kinds of sexual indiscretions, even if accompanied by federal crimes, are not sufficient for impeachment, I mean, you`re going to see the waters being muddied with people who were a no on Clinton being a yes on Trump, people who were a yes on Clinton being a no on Trump.
The only thing we`d be sure of would be that hypocrisy would abound. And I think that`s why you have seen some of the Democratic leadership exercise a note of caution. They have put their feet on -- their foot on the brakes. And I think that`s smart, because there`s a presidential election just next year.
KORNACKI: All right, that`s right, a year-and-a-half away. We just talked about the Democratic field growing even more today.
David French, Aisha Moodie-Mills, thank you both for joining us.
And up next: How much will memories of 2016 impact Bernie Sanders in 2020?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")
QUESTION: Could I just interject really quickly, though?
We`re hearing about a lot of Democratic candidates who are meeting with Hillary Clinton for advice, though, some people like Amy Klobuchar.
Do you think you will do the same?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suspect not. Hillary has not -- you know, she has not called me.
SANDERS: Look, we have differences. She -- Hillary has played a very important role in modern American politics.
QUESTION: But you`re not interested in any advice from her?
SANDERS: I think not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, that caught some attention earlier today, Bernie Sanders not interested in sitting down with a woman who bested him in the 2016 primaries.
And, as he said there, it`s not like he`s heard from her either. So the frostiness may be mutual.
Make no mistake, there is unresolved tension from 2016 between Sanders, Clinton and their most loyal supporters. Sanders` comments today come in the wake of this story a few days ago that featured some Clinton campaign staffers claiming he had acted like a prima donna in the general election three years ago, that he had demanded private flights to go campaign for Clinton against Donald Trump.
Said one Clinton staffer: "I`m not shocked that, while thousands of volunteers braved the heat and cold to knock on doors until their fingers bled, in a desperate effort to stop Donald Trump, his royal majesty, King Bernie Sanders, would only deign to leave his plush D.C. office or his brand-new second home on the lake if he was flown around on a cushy private jet, like a billionaire master of the universe."
Sanders, who is known for flying coach frequently, disputed the claims, said he only flew private in 2016 when there was no other option.
His former campaign spokesman accused Clinton and her loyalists of holding a grudge -- quote -- "You can see why she`s one of the most disliked politicians in America. She`s not nice. Her people are not nice."
At the root of this, there are those from the Clinton camp who blame Sanders, at least in part, for her defeat to Donald Trump. They say he stayed in the Democratic race too long, that it got too nasty, that he did too little to heal the wounds that had opened up.
Sanders and his allies, obviously, they feel differently about it. They point to the 17 events that he did for Hillary in the final week of that campaign, for instance.
And the question is whether this will cost Sanders in the Democratic race this time around. How deep do the sentiments of Clinton loyalists go with Democratic voters?
Polling now suggests it may not be that deep. Sanders` favorable rating with Democrats, 75 percent, to 15 percent unfavorable. Those numbers aren`t very different from Joe Biden`s.
The real question may be influence, though. The Clinton vets, the activists, the folks who do hold a grudge from `16, will they raise their voices loudly to try to stop him? And, if they do, will Democratic voters listen to them?
That`s HARDBALL for now.
Chris will be back here Monday night, 7:00 Eastern.
And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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