ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me, and I will see you back here at 6:00 P.M. Eastern, a lot of news this week. Don`t go anywhere because HARD BALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Countdown to Mueller. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. With 36 hours until the Mueller report gets released, a terrible anxiety is mounting inside Trump world. Those in the White House are wondering who among them is going to be outed as a witness against the President, who has given evidence to the investors against the man in the Oval Office.
NBC News is, today, reporting that some current and former White House officials who spoke to Mueller`s prosecutors are worried tonight that Thursday`s report will expose them as the source of damaging information against the President. According to several witnesses, a particular concern is how Trump and his allies will react if it appears to be clear precisely who shared information with Mueller. As one former official described it, they got asked questions and told the truth, and now they are worried the wrath will follow.
Attorney General William Barr stated in his letter last month that the Special Counsel interviewed approximately 500 witnesses throughout the investigation. Among them, here it is, numerous current and former Trump administration officials cooperated with prosecutors voluntarily and any of them could have provided damning testimony against the President. They include top officials, like former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, former Chiefs of Staff, Reince Priebus, John Kelly, and most likely of all, the cooperating witness of all, Michael Flynn. What did he tell the prosecutors? Even current officials, like Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Sarah Sanders participated in those interviews with the Special Counsel, and most important, several in a position to have firsthand information about possible acts of obstruction of justice by the President.
You may have known about Trump`s unseemly request to stop the investigation of Michael Flynn or about Trump`s demand for loyalty from James Comey. They could also know the reason why James Comey was fire. And they could describe the pressure Trump put on his former Attorney General to end the probe itself. Finally, they could explain what happened when the President attempted to fire the Special Counsel, himself.
I`m joined by Kristen Welker, White House Correspondent for NBC News, who is covering the story, U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland who serves on the House Oversight and also in the Judiciary Committee, and Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor.
What is the problem here? I know I`m going to sound naive, Kristen, but here`s the question. Why would anybody fear telling the truth? They were supposed to tell the truth. Why would they now be in fear for their lives that they didn`t tell the truth in their part of the case against Trump?
KIRSTEN WELKER, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well -- and I think what they are concerned about is some type of wrath from President Trump himself. They told the truth, they cooperated with Mueller and, of course, some of those officials, current and former, who you listed off, were there for some of the most difficult moments of this administration, particularly in the early days, Chris. Think about the moments that you named, the firing of James Comey. But we also know that there were conversations here at the White House, President Trump using about the possibility of firing Mueller. We know that White House Counsel Don McGahn, for example, threatened to quit, as you just said, over that very issue. And he sat for more than 30 hours of testimony with Mueller. So that`s just to name a few.
There were other issues. Of course, Michael Flynn, remember why he was fired. He was fired, the President said, for lying to top officials here, including the Vice President, about having communications with Russia`s Ambassador during the transition period. So President Trump said that`s why he was fired. But, of course, the question that Mueller would want to know is how many other people knew about those conversations, the content of those conversations. Was he directed to have those conversations?
So those are among the big question marks, I think, Chris, that hover over this. And, again, remember when they sat for those interviews with Mueller at that point in time, it wasn`t clear how much of this report might ultimately be released. That`s still a big question mark. We do know that there are going to be significant redactions. But will there be names, will those names, even if redacted, will it be obvious who is doing the talking in this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think, Glenn, as fascinating as the President talks, I imagine he is mumbling in the White House, what are we going to do to save -- we`re going to save Michael Flynn, our guy. We`ve got to save our guy. We`ve got to get to this guy, Comey. We`ve got to get the FBI off his back. We`ve got to get Comey to give us some kind of loyalty test. We`ve got to get rid of Comey. We`ve got -- it`s like this Popeye, constantly mumbling, what are we going to do. And there`re people always in the room listening to him.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. Let`s compare and contrast two witnesses, General Flynn and Don McGahn. So General Flynn may have said some really damning things about Trump. But you know what people are going to do? They`re going to attack General Flynn. They`re going to say, wait a minute, you were a cooperator in the Special Counsel, asked for only zero to six months in prison. Now, Judge Emmet Sullivan pushed back on that. But people are going to be able to attack Flynn`s credibility because he has something to gain by cooperating.
However, Don McGahn? What does he have to gain by telling the truth, by providing incriminating information about Trump? He has nothing to gain but he has everything to lose if he lied to Special Counsel.
And let me just spin this one scenario out, Chris. Let`s assume Don McGahn is talking to the President. The President thinks it`s kind of a one-on- one, nobody is going to repeat this outside the Oval Office. And the President makes a request to do something. And Don McGahn says, Mr. President you can`t do that. It`s not lawful. And the President says, Ii don`t care, Don. Make it happen. Well, you know what, we just looked inside the President`s mind and we saw his intent and it`s corrupt. McGahn could be a danger zone to the President.
MATTHEWS: Interesting, and even the Barr report, Congressman, even that limited four pager comes out and says, most -- that was the key word. Most of the charges of obstruction were publicly known, but that means some haven`t been known, like this guy.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): But not all of them.
RASKIN: And I know that`s one of the things that the people in the White House are very nervous about because we are going to get some new information, presumably, possibly, about what those attempted interferences were with the Mueller investigation.
Now, remember, this is all going to be redacted.
MATTHEWS: But how much do you think? How much black ink is going to be on those pages?
RASKIN: Well, it`s going to be color coded, as the Attorney General has said. So it`s going to be in a bunch of different colors. It`s going to look like a rainbow ransom note with the black outs and white outs and the red outs and the blue outs and so on. So we don`t know exactly what`s going to come through.
MATTHEWS: But Trump will know. He`ll be able to read through the context and say, well, that only person in the room when I said that was this guy.
RASKIN: He will be able to figure it out. I mean, the catch all category here that`s the real danger is the one where the Attorney General just pluck this doctrine out of thin air, saying that he would redact information that might harm the reputational interest of peripheral third parties. And for all we know, since the Attorney General is doing the definition, he could describe the President as a peripheral third party.
MATTHEWS: But that would be a joke. If you can`t indict the guy and you can`t talk about what he did wrong, if you don`t indict him, that`s a Catch 22. That covers 100 percent of wrongdoing by the President.
RASKIN: Right. But remember, the A.G. has used belt and suspenders already to say, first, we can`t prosecute the President for anything because he can`t be prosecuted and the President, also as a matter of law, can`t be guilty of obstructing justice. So he`s already excluded the President from the field of prosecutorial inquiry there, which is why I think that the independent --
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re a law professor. What do you make of this claim that the President of the United States has total executive authority over everything, that his cabinets are (INAUDIBLE), but he owns all the power?
RASKIN: It`s an extravagant and extreme claim that is rejected by basic constitutional doctrine. Look, the President cannot decide to drop criminal charges against this or that person. The President can`t interfere in a law enforcement investigation to say this person is off limits. The President -- I mean, that cuts against two centuries of understanding of the relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice. But this A.G. goes along with it. And he is the one who is asserting this unitary executive approach that basically the President is like a king and he can pronounce you guilty, he can pronounce innocent, he can say, prosecute this person and not that person.
MATTHEWS: Cooperating Attorney General. Anyway, NBC News is reporting tonight that Trump`s legal team met again today to prepare for the report`s release, Mueller`s report this Thursday. And the White House staff will do the same over the next two days. Additionally, Rudy Giuliani told Politico in a series of middle of the night texts that the President`s counter- report has been edited and is now at 34 or 35 pages. He says, the more concise, the better. 400 pages is a novel.
Kristen, a couple of questions to you. Retaliation, I mean, this is not exactly what you call human resources, but you have a President of the United States who may not like the behavior of his team if they talk the truth.
WELKER: Well, that`s right. And, look, that is why you have this counter- report that`s at the ready that has been prepared by the President`s legal team because they want to rebut anything that they find to be damaging once that report is released, even though we do know that significant portions will be redacted.
But I have been told based on my conversations with the President`s legal team that they haven`t made any final decisions about how much of that counter-report they are going to release and what the final language of it will be. So this is still very much a moving target, Chris.
We know that both the White House and the President`s outside legal team want to have a very rapid initial response. But then, I think, they`re going have to sort through the details in the report, as we all are going to have to. And then after that, you will see a more robust response, possibly an hour or several hours once we have time to digest all of it.
But, again, the counter-report, they have been holding on to it, because if there is, in fact, damaging information, they want to be able to respond forcefully, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, it will be three categories of people I can think of. There`s probably more who watch this Mueller report when we get hands on it Thursday morning. One will be the President, who can, with the help of his lawyers, figure out who is talking. There will be Congress people who`s just as smart, they`ll know who is talking. The reading public led by The New York Times and other organizations will be able to figure this out.
The Congressmen who were skeptical about what can cover up, how much can they cover? He said they can cover up people who haven`t been indicted. You mentioned, the President of the United States hasn`t been indicted, so no dirt on Trump. What would be the point of the Mueller report, which is all on Trump, has no dirt on Trump? What would be the point of the damn thing? I`m sorry. I`m questioning the very logic of this. I didn`t exercise.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. Let`s hope it`s not going to be a Technicolor cover up, right? And I agree with the Congressman that there is this new category that apparently Barr made up at a whole cloth, a peripheral person privacy privilege. There is a lot of alliteration. There`s no substance because there`s no such thing.
MATTHEWS: That`s supposed to be the Hillary role, right? This is what Comey did to Hillary and he doesn`t want to do that.
KIRSCHNER: That dog doesn`t hunt. I mean, you can`t -- these two situations are not comparable. Hillary wasn`t president, Trump is. So I hope what we see gives everybody enough information to actually glean what`s going on here.
And here`s the thing, it`s all coming out at some point, whether through a court battle. Somehow, the unredacted report will come out. And if Barr is perceived as having suppressed damaging information to the President just to try to protect the President, it will end badly both for the President and for Barr.
MATTHEWS: I hope we don`t --
RASKIN: I want to make one more point. The witness intimidation, that`s a crime. Witness and victim and informant intimidation violates 18 USC, 1315, not just violent retaliation or intimidation, but non-violent, where you interfere with somebody`s economic livelihood, you try to get them fired or what have you. It`s very serious business. I mean, the rule of law or system of justice operates --
MATTHEWS: Does Trump know this law?
RASKIN: Well, he --
MATTHEWS: He`s the executive. He has all powers, as you pointed out. He says he believes he can do anything to any employee of the federal government.
RASKIN: And, unfortunately, his Attorney General agrees with him. But, look, the whole point of having a democratic system of government instead of a monarchical system of government is that the rule of law binds to everybody, including the President. Nobody is above the law.
MATTHEWS: I like that. Anyway, the President continued to attack the investigation itself today, Tweeting, the greatest scam in political history. If the mainstream media were honest, which they are not, the story would be bigger and more important than Watergate someday. I guess he`s talking about the investigators.
Here`s what he said about the Mueller report in an interview in Minnesota last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I heard it`s going to come out on Thursday. That`s good. And there can`t be anything there because there was no crime. There was no anything. The crime was committed by the other side. This crime was all made up. It was all a fabrication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here it is, the talking points. No collusion proven, therefore, obstruction is irrelevant.
MATTHEWS: That`s what he`s going to say.
KIRSCHNER: And I find that interesting that they`re talking about rebutting the Mueller report, which they also claim, totally exonerates. Now, something totally exonerated me, I`m probably not going to try to rebut it. That wouldn`t wise.
RASKIN: Much less suppress it.
KIRSCHNER: Much less suppress it. And so we have to wait and see. It looks like Thursday morning is going to be sort of the truth or consequences moment.
MATTHEWS: But wait a minute, I wasn`t one of the Watergate burglars, so you can`t get rid of me as president.
RASKIN: It is not the case that just because there is no collusion, there was no obstruction. First of all, collusion is not a crime.
MATTHEWS: That`s his argument, not mine.
RASKIN: But, I mean, this is their big talking point. It`s not true. Martha Stewart went to prison for obstructing justice, not for the underlying insider trading. She was never convicted of that. People can try to obstruct justice because they think they are guilty, even if they`re not. They can try to obstruct justice because they are guilty but the prosecutors aren`t able to find enough evidence against them or they can try to obstruct justice because they`re trying to protect someone else or they`re trying to keep secrets.
So there are lots people are convicted of obstructing justice even without the underlying crime, even if you`re not prosecuted.
MATTHEWS: Everybody watching now understands. Thank you so much for that. And was an education, by the way. Thank you, Professor, as Congressman, in all these things, you are. Anyway, thank you. NBC`s Kristen Welker, always great to come on the show, U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin is our Congressman now and Glenn Kirschner.
Coming up, Bernie`s fast start, his fast break, you might call it. He is the insurgent no more. He`s one of the frontrunners right now, and that`s making some democrats, shall we say, nervous.
Plus, divide and conquer, how President Trump sees his attacks on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as a part of a winning strategy. Don`t you think so for 2020?
And how to survive in Trump world, that`s an interesting question. Single- page memos, and flashcards, and if you are Gina Haspel, relying on your spy skills, certain skills, to get through to him. Much more to come. Stick with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): I guess the President watches your network a little bit, right? Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released ten years. Please do the same. Let the American people know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders last night taking a shot at President Trump during a Fox News Town Hall. That`s a mix of words. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist has generated a lot of attention for the appearance last night, where he touted his economic plan, defended his own newfound wealth from writing and got some unexpected support for his national health plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRET BAIER: This audience has a lot of democrats in it. It has republicans, independents, democratic socialists, conservatives. I want to ask the audience a question, if you could raise your hand here, a show of hands of how many people get insurance from work, private insurance right now. How many get it from private insurance?
Okay. Now, of those, how many are willing to transition to what the Senator`s government-run system?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Sanders was the first 2020 candidate for the democratic nomination to appear in a Town Hall on Fox, a fact not lost on one of his most loyal viewers, its most loyal viewers. President Trump wrote on Twitter, so weird to watch Crazy Bernie on Fox News. He added, the audience was so smiley and nice. Very strange.
Anyway, The New York Times` Jonathan Martin reports Sanders`s recent momentum, and he has momentum, has some of the Democratic Party agonizing right now, quote, how some democrats are beginning to ask, do they thwart a 70 something candidate from outside the party structure who is immune to intimidation or incentive and while support from an unwavering base without simply reinforcing his, the establishment is out to get me, message, the same grievance Mr. Trump used to great effect.
Form more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, Director of Progressive Programming for SiriusXM, Michael Steele is former RNC Chair, Andrew Sullivan is Writer-at-Large at New York Magazine
Zerlina, Maxwell, your thoughts about, well, Senator -- Senator Sanders is doing really well. A lot of people thought, well, it was a one-trick pony one year, he`s over the hill.
He`s not. He`s clearly going to be in the running. I see him getting in the mid-30s, maybe up to 40 percent. He might win the whole game. He might win the whole contest.
What`s that do, to have a self-proclaimed socialist who`s not a member of the Democratic Party being its head going into a general election against Trump? What`s that going to look like?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO: Well, I think that`s an interesting dynamic, because you have somebody who has the title Democratic socialist, but, honestly, we`re living in a capitalist society.
And so it`s not as if Bernie Sanders is putting policies forward that are out-and-out socialism. They are, yes, some government-run programs, like health care, but a lot of the other Democrats are also talking about that.
So, your question to, what is this going to look like in a general election, I don`t know, Chris, because we have never had a candidate...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.
MAXWELL: ... an incumbent president like Donald Trump.
I mean, I think some of the difficulty we had in the Clinton campaign in competing against a candidate who lies all the time, you can`t fact-check him because he doesn`t care, and so it is a difficult terrain to navigate.
And so, if Bernie is the nominee, which I think all of the candidates have an equal shot at this point, because we haven`t met any voters yet -- so, if Bernie is the nominee, he`s going to have to navigate that difficulty, where you can`t push back against the candidate who has no shame.
MATTHEWS: Well, he calls himself a socialist.
I`m not sure he does what AOC does, calls himself a Democratic -- he just calls himself a socialist, and has never called himself a Democrat. So I don`t know how it`s going to work.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Well, I would just say that...
MATTHEWS: It`s how he calls himself.
SULLIVAN: ... if you look all across, all across the West at left-of- center parties, the center-left is gone, disappeared.
You see this in Britain. You see this in France.
MATTHEWS: What happened to the Labor Party of Tony Blair? It`s gone.
SULLIVAN: It devoured itself.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
SULLIVAN: He`s despised, in the way that Clinton is despised by many people on the left today.
And even Barack Obama is getting a bit of shade in this campaign. But, look, we`re in a different world, Chris. I mean, the inequalities are getting really intense. The insecurity of living in this economy is becoming worse.
And people want to be reassured. Now, that`s what the strongmen are doing. And I just don`t know what`s the best tack. I suspect that a full, like, we`re going to take care of you, we`re going to -- we`re going to make sure your entitlements are secure, we`re going to give you health care, that kind of works.
The last British general election, Jeremy Corbyn, who makes Bernie Sanders look like Bill Clinton, ran on the most radical manifesto they had ever had, big redistribution, big socialism, like the `70s.
MATTHEWS: But he`s not the government.
SULLIVAN: But let me point out this.
MATTHEWS: He hasn`t won.
SULLIVAN: He just put it out. He put the manifesto out there. He gained 20 points in one campaign.
SULLIVAN: But he didn`t win.
And so the question is whether the left populism and right populism are equally strong.
MATTHEWS: Let`s start about the president and how he`s going to exploit this.
It seems to me he`s very good at explaining minorities on the other side, women on the other side, especially immigrants, this woman Omar. He`s going after this congresswoman, this very impressive woman, but he`s going after her, because she`s a woman, she`s a minority, she`s an immigrant, and he uses as his number one target practice.
STEELE: Yes, create many targets.
And the press and the left and others will spend a lot of times tracing behind those targets to capture the story, tell the story. Meanwhile, he`s creating the narrative, just as we saw...
MATTHEWS: She`s ungrateful.
MATTHEWS: That`s his big word. That`s his power move.
And it is a powerful word, because for those Americans who feel that her rhetoric is harsh and antagonistic to the 9/11 memory, she is, in that view, ungrateful.
So, create as many targets as possible, and for everyone to respond to. Meanwhile, he will continue to shore up that base that will deliver that vote for him this time next fall.
MATTHEWS: Is it your bet he has enough to win by 40 percent?
STEELE: Oh, right now, yes.
Chris, his numbers are -- his numbers, given everything we know and understand about this president, are unbelievably strong, 46-53, depending on the poll, percent job approval, 46-53 percent.
SULLIVAN: No, it`s 41 percent.
STEELE: No, 40 -- the latest poll that -- a couple of weeks ago that came out was 46 percent job approval, not anything else.
SULLIVAN: That`s way off. That`s way off the current polling.
MATTHEWS: I understand he`s got 58 -- he does have 58 on economic performance, which is unbelievable.
STEELE: He`s got strong numbers.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me.
Back in 2016, I pressed Senator Sanders on one of his proposals, which is his plan for free access, free tuition to public colleges and universities, right here on HARDBALL.
Let`s watch that conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, you`re asking me how do I pay for it. I will tell you how I pay for it.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t asked that. I have asked you, how do you pass it through the Senate? How do you get 60 votes for any of this?
SANDERS: We are going to pay for it through a tax on Wall Street speculation.
MATTHEWS: Who`s going to pass that tax?
SANDERS: The American people.
MATTHEWS: The Senate is going to pass that?
SANDERS: Look, Chris -- Chris, you and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the Beltway. I`m not an inside-the-Beltway guy.
MATTHEWS: No, but the...
SANDERS: I`m an outside-the-Beltway guy.
MATTHEWS: But the people that vote on taxes are inside the Beltway.
SANDERS: And those people are going to vote the right way when millions of people demand that they vote the right way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Zerlina, a lot of Senator Sanders` ability is this aspirational optimism about how he`s going to get 60 votes to change our basic economic structure at some point on every front, whether, as Andrew said, it could be the economy, but, generally, it`s education, free education, health care, a national health situation, replacing Obamacare.
All that takes about 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, even if you have the House, and you have Bernie as president. This isn`t easy.
MAXWELL: No, it`s not easy.
MATTHEWS: And he acts like there`s going to be a revolution. He just has one word for it. They will be a revolution. That`s an answer.
And I think you hit the nail on the head into terms of your question to Bernie, because it`s the right one. It`s, how are you going to get it done?
I think my number one critique of Bernie Sanders, while I agree with so many of his policies, is that he`s great at articulating what the problem is, but he is not good at telling me how he is going to solve it. And
I think that`s where the winning strategy -- strategy is going to be in this Democratic primary and through the general election. You can`t just say to voters, look at all these problems. They`re terrible. You have to tell voters how you`re going to get it done. How are you going to fix -- fix those problems? What are your solutions?
And, yes, reforming the filibuster or getting rid of it somehow is a part of That. That conversation is already happening. You hear Elizabeth Warren talking about that.
MATTHEWS: Well, yes.
MAXWELL: And you have other Democrats talking about those structural reforms in the system that would allow for these transformational changes.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Zerlina. I`m sorry to interrupt.
But the fact is, if you get rid of filibuster, they can repeal everything you passed with 51 votes of their own.
MAXWELL: Oh, absolutely. I`m not...
MATTHEWS: It`s just as easy to erase everything you just did if you don`t have the filibuster.
I want to ask Andrew the same question.
MATTHEWS: What about this? Can they just come in and do the nuclear option? They got a president, if Bernie wins. Bernie wins. He`s got the vice president to break the tie. All he needs is 50 votes in the U.S. Senate, just get rid of all the filibuster and pass the whole social agenda.
SULLIVAN: That`s what he`s, I think, intending to do.
Now, whether that works or not, I don`t know. I personally want to preserve the filibuster. But I think the filibuster was created for a world in which two parties could have a reasonable discussion...
SULLIVAN: ... and in which there was some capacity for compromise. It kind of assumes that.
SULLIVAN: In fact, much of the American democratic system assumes that.
That cannot be done anymore. Tribalism has taken over. So if the filibuster is a sacrifice in that, you can`t do it, as the Republicans have on judicial nominees, and threaten to do it on legislation, and not have left-wingers wanting to the same thing.
MAXWELL: I wasn`t arguing -- I wasn`t arguing to scrap the filibuster. I`m just saying, the Democrats right now we`re actually having that conversation.
And Bernie Sanders, I think should, jump on board and come up with some ideas and present those to voters. How are you actually going to get these policies passed?
MATTHEWS: We`re going to come right back. Michael, we will be right back.
Zerlina, Michael and Andrew, they`re sticking with us.
Up next: Trump`s 2020 campaign strategy is starting to come into focus, divide America and conquer. We have seen this before. Will it work again? Could Trump`s warnings about illegal immigrants and the controversial words of a Muslim member of Congress be enough to reenergize the old Trump base?
There it is. There he is with his people.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s November 9, 2016, and Donald Trump has just won the presidential election. The lead of "The New York Times" reads: "Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday in a stunning culmination of an explosive populist and polarizing campaign that took relentless aim at the institutions and long-held ideals of American democracy."
As the 2020 election heats up right now, we may not be able to predict who will win, but we can predict how they will win. Imagine it`s November 2020, and Trump has just won reelection. The newspaper`s lead might be, President Donald Trump was able to squeak by insert Democratic candidate here and win reelection after a campaign spent exploiting anger over outspoken Muslim minorities, refugees and a Democratic Party tilting towards socialism.
As today`s "Times" points out, Trump is currently ramping up his division 2016 playbook, and he`s found a perfect foil in Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman and Somali refugee Ilhan Omar.
Over the past week, Omar has faced criticism for a speech she gave last month saying that on 9/11 some people did something while talking about Islamophobia and America. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: Far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen. And, frankly, I`m tired of it and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.
CARE was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, those comments taken out of context led to right-wing backlash, including multiple attacks from President Trump.
Here he was last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She`s been very disrespectful to this country. She`s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn`t really understand, I think, life, real life, what it`s all about.
It`s unfortunate. She`s got a away about her that`s very, very bad, I think, for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back with Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Steele and Andrew Sullivan.
I think Trump`s picking his enemies, don`t you? I think he wants to run against Congresswoman Omar or Maxine Waters or somebody else he likes to go after. That`s who he wants to pick as the leader of the Democratic Party. What do you think?
MAXWELL: Yes, but he might want to learn that black women are the base of the Democratic Party.
And while most folks don`t know it, one in five Muslim Americans is a black person. And so I think Ilhan`s identity and the intersections of that identity are going to be a problem for Trump, because what he`s doing right now is making me as a black woman really pissed off, because he`s essentially saying singling her out based on her identity, and not really, Chris, based on something she has said, because he`s saying that she`s anti-Semitic.
He literally went to a Jewish Republican organization last week and did the thing where he accused them of dual loyalty, last week, Chris. So the idea that he is somebody who can be the arbiter of who is anti-Semitic and who is not is a joke.
But I think this is a strategy, for sure, to play to his base.
MATTHEWS: I know what you`re doing. Zerlina, you`re engaging in the same kind of repartee that I know they do. And maybe that`s fair.
But he referred to a -- a Jewish audience, he referred to "your prime minister," meaning, you are loyal to him.
I -- OK, go ahead. You can defend -- I`m not going to defend him.
MAXWELL: Right, but he accused her of that.
MATTHEWS: But everybody gets into this game.
MAXWELL: He`s accusing her of that, but he`s actually engaging in that on a regular basis. That wasn`t the first time Chris. Kevin McCarthy, Donald Trump Jr., they have retweeted literal Nazis.
So what I`m saying is, this is a bad faith attack, and it`s really one that is an attack more on her identity than the substance of anything that she is saying.
STEELE: I agree with what Zerlina is saying there. She`s absolutely right in terms of how this is playing itself out.
But the question for Trump is not how black women react to it. It`s how white America reacts and responds to it, because that`s his whole audience. He`s not concerned about getting the black female vote next year. Can we just be honest about that?
So, black women, Muslims, whomever being upset is not what is driving or motivating him.
MAXWELL: Well, they will turn out, is what I`m saying, Michael.
STEELE: No, I understand.
But I`m just saying, from his perspective, again, going back to the point I made before, he`s putting out the -- he`s putting in play fires that people will go and try to deal with.
Meanwhile, that distraction allows him to do other things and to say other things. And he just keeps bouncing from thing to thing. Right now, it`s Omar. In a few weeks, it could be Ocasio-Cortez again.
MATTHEWS: I know.
STEELE: It could be Bernie Sanders.
So we have to understand how he`s playing the game on this field, particularly the Democratic candidates, if they want to get in a position where they can outmaneuver, if you will, some of that strategy.
SULLIVAN: Which is why, in a way, Bernie`s simplicity...
SULLIVAN: ... and clarity works.
And he`s not easily distracted by Trump, because he`s had the same opinions about everything for his entire life. He basically has the same views he had when he was 16.
Now, they can communist him and all the rest of it. But it`s...
MATTHEWS: Nobody`s done that yet.
SULLIVAN: He`s capable of actually keeping his focus on the issues.
The other one that is able to do that, I think, is Buttigieg, is Pete, inasmuch as he doesn`t seem to be able to be thrown off his game. Look, this is a time where people don`t want to have tax cuts for the rich. They want to have national health insurance. All the issues are on the Democrats` side.
If Sanders just runs on what Trump actually ran on last time, and delivers -- like, if the Democrats go and say, we`re going to have the same tax cut, but you know what, unlike this guy, we`re going to give it to you, we`re going to take it from them and give it back to you, the same tax cut, that`s a simple thing.
SULLIVAN: It exposes Trump`s complete fraudulence.
And the only thing they...
MATTHEWS: How about the devil you know? Trump runs on the devil you know. I`m the devil you know. This guy is going to be worse for you.
I mean, isn`t that what he`s going to run on?
SULLIVAN: He`s going to run on, this country doesn`t exist anymore because there is entirely an open border on the -- at the south, and no Democrat wants to stop uncontrolled immigration.
And that is why he will win, if he wins.
STEELE: And Democrats want abortion on demand, regardless of the tri semester, first semester, doesn`t matter.
So you have these other ancillary issues that are there in the making for Trump to manipulate and to us as fodder. And...
SULLIVAN: Immigration is beyond him.
I mean, it`s been around for a long time. It is the most important factor in all of Western politics right now.
MATTHEWS: It is.
SULLIVAN: It is scrambling every European country. It`s bringing neofascist governments to power in Europe.
STEELE: So, but what does that tell you?
STEELE: ... their borders.
MAXWELL: But I think that, in part, this is...
MATTHEWS: Zerlina, go ahead.
MAXWELL: This is the result of -- this is the result.
If you read Malcolm Nance`s book "The Plot to Destroy Democracy," it actually goes through the chronology...
SULLIVAN: Jesus lord, you`re recommending that guy?
MAXWELL: Yes, I am. Yes, I am.
SULLIVAN: He`s a complete fantasist.
MATTHEWS: Who`s this?
SULLIVAN: This guy Malcolm Nance.
MAXWELL: No, I`m actually...
SULLIVAN: He spreads so many conspiracy theories and nonsense, and you`re citing him?
MAXWELL: I just wanted to articulate the point that I was making, which is that he ties it historically to the rise of white nationalism throughout Europe.
And so that is something that is tied to the debate over immigration, was my only point there.
SULLIVAN: Of course it is.
It`s being created by mass immigration. And you either to have to choose between mass immigration or a liberal democracy. You can`t have both.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Steele, and Andrew Sullivan.
Thank you all for joining us.
Coming up: survivor, White House edition. What does it take to hold on to your position in the high-turnover administration like this baby? Skills as a spy may help.
We`re going to get to that after the break.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Donald Trump was the first reality star to compete and win the presidency. For more than two years in, we continue to watch in real-time a political game of White House survivor. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is the latest who has been cast off the island, if you will, for not playing by the rules.
According to "The Atlantic", the keys to surviving the president are Praising Trump, that works, mastering skills that he values and forging alliances. If all that fails, plant yourself in front of a TV camera and press the boss.
Both senior policy adviser Steven Miller and counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, have been rewarded for their ability to play the game. But nobody seems to thrive like the president`s dutiful deputy, Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.
Thank you for your boundless faith in the American people. President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.
I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet, of millions of Americans when I say congratulations and thank you. You restored American credibility on the world stage. You signed more bills rolling back more red tape than any president in American history. You spurred an optimism in this country that`s setting records.
I`m deeply humbled as your vice president, to be able to be here.
It`s the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to President Trump. He`s a man of his word. He`s a man of action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He is praying to Trump, praying there. It`s like we are in church.
Anyway, the vice president`s unflinching support and adoring gaze have become a hallmark of his term. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a romantic movie that was.
Anyway, it wasn`t going to notice. "The New Yorker" once noted: The adoring gaze has rarely been seen since the days of Nancy Reagan. In fact, one Reagan official told "The Atlantic", I`d like my wife to look at me just for one day the way Mike Pence looks at President Trump every day they are together. That would be special.
Anyway, stay tuned now to find which cabinet official is using her skills as a spy, literally to get what she needs from the president.
You are watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
CIA Director Gina Haspel joins the rarified group of individuals who have figured out how to get this president`s attention. According to "The New York Times", she utilizes her years as a career case officer trained to handle informants. She`s relied on the skills of a spy -- good listening, empathy and the ability to connect to make sure her voice is heard at this White House.
Well, last March, according to sources close to Haspel, she put the skills to the test when President Trump and a team of national security officials were discussing how to respond to Russian agents poisoning a former Russian intelligence officer over in Britain. In order to persuade the president chose the most forceful retaliatory option, Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sicken by that nerve agent. She then showed a photograph of ducks, ducks, that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of those operatives. Guess what worked.
For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, "Associated Press" White House reporter, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, former senior White House official and author of "Unhinged: An Insider`s Account of the Trump White House".
I want to go to Jonathan first.
It seems like you have to take real skill, you know, like "Taken". You know, you have to come up with a special skill to make it in the White House. Did these seem familiar to you, the spy skills?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, this is sort of perhaps slightly extreme version of it. But, yes, there is a real art, trade craft, if you will, stick with the spy terms, in order to brief President Trump and saying his good graces.
First and foremost, you don`t want to be ever seen as giving too much publicity or credit. You don`t want to be the power behind the throne or Trump`s brain as we have seen others, like Steve Bannon be labeled and that person be soon thereafter exited from the White House. Instead, you need to brief him and this is according to our reporting as well, this terrific "New York Times" piece, with a couple of different tactics.
Yes, you want to flatter him. You don`t want to publicly disagree with him or embarrassed him. Sometimes, you want to appear on television, to make your case that way, particularly Fox News.
LEMIRE: Be persuasive on television. He`ll see that. Sometimes he is more receptive to something he sees on the screen than he is the briefing room.
Find a way to convince him to your point of view and perhaps as you`re saying something like this, like images. We know he was convinced to ordering an air strike in Syria also when he saw images of sick and dead children. Or convince him that your idea was originally his idea, and that`s the way of flattering him and that`s one that Mike Pence in particular has used time and time again.
MATTHEWS: Do you think, Omarosa, he likes -- thanks for coming on. Do you think he likes to have people like yourself when you were at the White House, competing with other people, rivaling them to show how much flattery he can throw at him and how much nice you can say about him on TV. Do they -- does he like that word?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Well, he loves to see his staffers fight. He loves to see them disagree. He loves to see them scratch each other`s eyes out, because he knows there`s tension between collaborating and computation.
But, you know, I used my skills as an elementary school teacher when I briefed Donald Trump. You know, he --
MATTHEWS: What are grade was Trump in?
NEWMAN: Fourth grade, low attention span, very limited vocabulary, inability to process difficult information. And so, I drew from that the skills of working with very young individual.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Pence. This is -- he has almost this beatific. He`s like in church looking at the Lord. It`s a strange -- and it`s really strange.
NEWMAN: He`s like a Stepford vice president.
NEWMAN: He knew exactly what to say and what to do. Watching him fawn over Donald Trump in those cabinet meetings and private meetings in the studies, it really was alarming.
MATTHEWS: I thought that Ken Adelman, we didn`t give his name, Adelman was a friend of him. He was an arms control expert in Reagan. He said, I like to have my wife look at me just once the way he looks at the president every day.
What do you think of that beatific love affair in the eyes of the vice president?
LEMIRE: Well, it`s a few things. Mike Pence knows he owes his career to Donald Trump. He was facing a tough reelection bid in Indiana for governor in 2016 and Trump -- when Trump picked him as his running mate. I think he is also someone who has seen what happens if you cross Donald Trump.
Think of all the advisers he`s jettisoned. Secretary of State Tillerson and James Mattis, the defense secretary, one who managed to stay in Trump`s good graces for a while, but eventually, he too was shown the door. Pence is obviously a much bigger deal to replace your vice president on the ticket. No one suggested that was a consideration.
But Pence was a pretty loud voice in the White House. He wants to preserve it. He also knows that Trump is very popular among Republicans. So, I`m sure part of this cozying himself up to Donald Trump is an eye to not only his short-term survival but his long term political health in his own party. If Trump is reelected, Pence serves another four years as vice president and becomes the odds on favorite to be Republican nominee for president in 2024.
If Trump defeated in next year, well, then Pence still is set up. He hasn`t alienated fellow Republicans. He`s got a shot to make his own bid in the next election.
MATTHEWS: What does it feel like being a pander bear at the White House? You just pander to everyone.
NEWMAN: I wouldn`t pander. I mean, he wants people who are willing to go on television and say things that are -- and defend decisions that are morally reprehensible. And the moment you don`t, like me, then he will discard you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Lemire, and thank you, Omarosa Manigault Newman, as always, thank you, Omarosa.
Up next, how the city of lights managed to protect its glean after yesterday`s devastating fire at Notre Dame.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: With Notre Dame in flames last night, the people of Paris could sing still in serene harmony. Let`s listen.
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MATTHEWS: Already, the president of France has vowed to rebuild what has been lost, but when the sun rose up at the Seine River today, the face of the great cathedral still stood. Its tower saved, its dramatic flying buttresses and walls mythically surviving the historic fire.
And through it all, the city of the lights, City of Lights and its jewel above all managed to hold its glean. Look at this photograph following the fire taken inside the cathedral showing the crucifix in all its radiance reflecting a French heart said even now on Notre Dame`s joyous resurrection.
And tonight, Parisians gathered in jewel to respect this great work of mankind, constructed to honor God and surviving as a memorial to a country and its faith.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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