CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad trip. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Unable to play national unifier in the wake of last weekend`s shootings, President Trump reverted to the role of victim. Instead of commanding moral leadership, he ended the week as the country`s sore loser. And during his visits to Dayton and El Paso, the president even managed to inflame political divisions rather than heal them.
It was The New York Times describes it, it was a day intended as a show of passion to a city scarred by a weekend of violence but which quickly devolved into an occasion for anger-fueled broadsides.
Despite his promise to remain above the fray this week, the president couldn`t resist issuing more than ten attacks against his critics, lashing out against Democratic office holders, presidential candidates and local officials, as well as, of course, the media.
As hundreds of demonstrators made clear that Trump was not welcome in El Paso, some of the victims in the hospital declined to see the president while he was there. The Washington Post reports that according to a hospital spokesperson, none of the eight victims of the El Paso mass shooting still being treated at the University Medical Center agreed to meet with President Trump when he visited.
Furthermore, as Trump met with the hospital`s medical staff, he bragged about the size of his recent rally and attacked El Paso`s former congressman, Beto O`Rourke. And even though the White House press corps was kept at bay, a local CBS affiliate in Texas managed to obtain a video of the president during that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I was here three months ago. We made a speech. We had the -- what was the name of the arena? That place was packed, right? That was some crowd. Then it twice the number outside.
And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot. They said his crowd was wonderful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And he`s in that hospital meeting with the victims of the tragedy, using that quality time to attack Beto O`Rourke, the local congressman.
And when asked about why the press was kept away from the president during his hospital visits, the White House Press Secretary said the visit was never intended to be a photo op. Yet Trump`s aides still held a photo op of their own and by the end of the day had released three highlight videos.
Well, The Washington Post also reveals that two White House officials said there were concerns that the press could capture an impolitic moment of the president making an insensitive comment. These are staff guys working for the president of the United States who trash him by saying he`s like a big dog you got to keep off the lawn.
In sum, the trip was generally seen not as ideal, they said. And the words of one senior administration official, four others describe the trip in similar terms.
I`m joined now by Ashley Parker, Washington Post White House Reporter, Joel Payne is a Democratic Strategist, Anthony Scaramucci is the president`s former White House Communications Director.
Mr. Scaramucci, why the people who continue to work for this president who talk about him in such embarrassing ways, they don`t show any respect for him, they say, basically, he will poop on the couch if you let him in there, and they still work there? Who are these people?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, you tell me though. You live in that place. I only could last 11 days. That speaks well of those people that they can`t put their names on something and speak honestly about something. That speaks well of them if they can`t take a number and get into the Oval Office and look directly at the Commander-in-Chief and say, hey, this isn`t working. Here are the five reasons why it`s not working.
You know something about Washington, where there is an allergic reaction to the truth and people would rather tell the reporter on an anonymous phone call about what they think is going on in an attempt that they think actually saves their face, you know?
So, look, the president didn`t do well on the trip. He probably would be mad at somebody for saying that. Maybe he`ll Tweet something negative about somebody for saying he didn`t well do on the trip. But the facts are he did not do well on the trip because if the trip is being made about him and not the demonstration of compassion and love and caring and empathy for those people, then it becomes a catastrophe for him, the administration, and it`s also a bad reflection on the country.
But those people inside the White House are a bunch of cowards. They should tell the guy the truth instead of picking up the phone and calling a reporter.
MATTHEWS: Ashley, along those lines, I know you use these people as sources, so I`ll ask you another question all together differently. Can this president distinguish between the time to fight and the time to be a leader of a truce? It seemed like this was a week for a truce, to go into the hospital rooms, if you can get in there, talk with the victims about their lives, talk to their family members, the victims` families, and not use it as a time to keep spit-balling people like Beto O`Rourke.
Beto O`Rourke is not his leading competitor. There is no reason to take these shots at him. Why did he do it?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, this is a president who prides himself on being a counterpuncher. And when you pride yourself on being a counterpuncher, it means you view the world through the lens of there is never not a time to fight. And that`s what was so striking.
I was on that trip with him yesterday. And he went into it, he and his staff saying this is a time for healing and unity, and it was a time for those things. But then he sort of couldn`t resist taking political digs and going after anyone who he felt had slighted him, and that included yesterday Vice President Biden, Senator Sherrod Brown, the Dayton mayor and members of the media, and he just cannot resist.
MATTHEWS: It seemed to me though he was really overzealous with the counterpunching with Sherrod Brown and the mayor of Dayton because they were relatively non-political. Why do you think he swiped back at them so hard?
PARKER: You`re right. Their comments were actually somewhat neutral to positive. Because they said, look, he came here, he did the right things, he said the right things, he comforted the people. But, again, if you listen to his words and you looked at the videos that the White House put out, the president as his social media director said in a Tweet wanted to be treated like a, quote/unquote, rock star. He was talking about all the love and the adulation. And I think he was frustrated, and you heard that in his public comments that they sort of weren`t as adoring and appreciative of his visits as he would have liked them to have been.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Joel. Here is the question, because, you know, even in movies like Dave, you know, they talk about a regular guy being president and sort of pretending to be president. You`re pretty good if you`re a human being at just sort of, you know, families lost people`s lives, relatives are dead, kids don`t have parents. Okay. They`re Hispanic people. They`re Latino people. You`ve had a war of the issue of immigration but not against them individually, you know? Why can`t he just do that?
JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think we know this president is anything but a regular person. He is not. He doesn`t have a sense of humor. He doesn`t have empathy. He doesn`t have impulse control, Chris. I mean, these aren`t even characteristics we look for for presidents. These are characteristics we look for in friends and neighbors, and he doesn`t have them.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, you`re very observant. He doesn`t really have a sense of humor.
PAYNE: He really doesn`t, and which is kind of a dangerous quality in a leader.
Can I pause as something radical here? Is it possible that this president is kind of floundering around on this trip? Because Democrats on the left and progressives have kind of won the culture war on guns, and this president doesn`t know what to do.
You know, The Washington Post has some great reporting about the fact that the NRA has kind of put the president up against the wall, pressuring him not to do anything on background checks. It`s a 90 percent issue in favor of doing something, even 54 percent were Republicans. Can I suggest that maybe part of what we`re seeing is a president who doesn`t have an exit plan?
MATTHEWS: To get out of this one?
PAYNE: Yes, to get out of this one. He doesn`t know what to do. Because he knows he`s got to do something, but the moneyed interests behind him won`t let him do it. And he has no way out.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Scaramucci on that. Anthony, what is the story on this guy? Because he seems like he is playing an old trick. The old trick last time when we had the last shooting was to say while the heat was on, say something. And when the heat is off, do nothing. It always works because the anti-gun people or the gun control or gun safety people, they keep their interests up for a week or two, maybe ten days and they`re on to something else, climate change, whatever else, whereas the gun people are still around, the NRA is still around, still watching to see if there is any give. So he says all the right stuff when the heat`s on, we`re going to do something of background checks.
But this time, it looks like even Mitch McConnell feels they`re caught here. They got to do something in three or four weeks when they do come back. I`m not sure that`s true. They could play this game again like Lucy and the football. They can say, we`re going to do it and then drop the football again.
SCARAMUCCI: I think it`s tough for them to do something, because the calculation that they`re making is they need 100 percent of the base and they`re fearful that if they do something related to the guns. Right now, the status quo, unfortunately, 200 plus incidents, the status quo seems to be okay. They wait it out for the next crisis. But the truth of the matter is something will happen after the 2020 election, because the NRA has basically been gutted. And so follow the money in Washington. They don`t have the money that they used to have. And so therefore they don`t have the power.
And if the polling is as bad as it actually is on the gun issue, without the money behind the NRA anymore, Chris, they`ll end up flip-flopping and going in another direction away from the NRA. But I think the chances of them doing that before the 2020 presidential election are low because they`re making a calculation, just look at the political strategy that they need every single person in that base lined up like they were in 2016.
MATTHEWS: And you dance with the one that brung you.
Anyway, Trump has been roundly criticized for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, which parallels the racist declaration of that El Paso gunman. Anyway, while Trump condemned the white nationalism that motivated the attack this Monday, he`s downplayed the threat they posed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don`t know anything about what you`re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist.
You wouldn`t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.
You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.
You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
REPORTER: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?
TRUMP: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ashley, your thoughts about why he won`t nail these people.
PARKER: I mean, he is incredibly reluctant to criticize, disavow, condemn white nationalists. He has done it occasionally, it`s worth noting. But often when he does it, he does it under a degree of duress, he does it after being pressured by aides, he does it when reading from a teleprompter and then he watches the coverage and feels he is not being sufficiently applauded for what he did, and then he retreats back to the place where he is more comfortable, which, for instance, with Charlottesville was saying, there are some very fine people on both sides, or both sides were to blame. And that is just sort of where his public comments, his gut is on this issue.
MATTHEWS: You know, I agree with that, and I also agree with Anthony just said, that Trump to win, which is going to be a very close election, because the black vote in the big city is going to be much more aroused this time because of Trump being the target. And, of course, I think the suburbs are going to vote differently because there is no Hillary situation like there was before.
But it seems to me he needs to get everything as far right as you can go. He needs it. Is that why he won`t go after them?
PAYNE: Sure, politically. Look, as a strategist, I can sit here and say that. But the evidence is clear that this is just kind of who he is and what he believes in. I mean, he has employed white supremacists in his White House, his cabinet, Steve Bannon, I mean, Stephen Miller, you know? I mean, look, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it`s a duck.
So I think we have a hard time calling this out because we don`t want to believe the worst about our president because it reflects the worst in our country.
MATTHEWS: I think I that`s so true.
PAYNE: But, you know, time and time again, the president is who really is.
MATTHEWS: An establishment figure like him that has all that money and all those buildings in New York and all the celebrity and all that T.V. time, if he`s one of them, if he is basically a fascist.
PAYNE: And they`ve got a mouthpiece in the White House now like they`ve never had before.
SCAMARUCCI: I don`t know if I`m allowed to interrupt, but he is not a white nationalist and he is not A white supremacist. But if you want to say that he is a political opportunist and he is playing a strategic game of how to line up for the 2020 election, I will totally accept that.
PAYNE: Anthony, that`s not good enough though. That`s not good enough. I`m sorry.
SCARAMUCCI: Hold on a second. You`re making a moral judgment about the situation.
SCARAMUCCI: I am trying to just be objective about what`s on the field and what the people are really like. So --
PAYNE: The presidency is unlike any other position because it is a position of moral clarity.
SCARAMUCCI: Okay. But you had -- you had a situation last time where a very large group of the American people rejected these establishment figures, and they felt quite frankly that these establishment figures were failing America. And so he got put in place to wreck things.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to ask you, Anthony, about this closely. This is something we talk about all the time, what you`re talking about.
SCARAMUCCI: I have been calling balls and strikes on the president, but he is not a white nationalist, so just be objective about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s -- why don`t you call some of these pitches? When he pitches the argument for months that Barack Obama is an illegal immigrant, the guy snuck in the country, has a false identity, is really a Kenyan who shouldn`t be eligible constitutionally for the presidency, is that a game or is that a belief?
SCARAMUCCI: Okay. Well, again, you know, that`s three or four years ago and he --
MATTHEWS: Is it a game or a belief?
SCARAMUCCI: When he went up to the Trump Hotel, he walked it back. I wasn`t with him at that time. So --
MATTHEWS: Walked it back?
SCARAMUCCI: He did at the Trump Hotel. He admitted at the Trump Hotel when they were cutting the ribbon in October of 2016, he walked back the birtherism.
PAYNE: What you`re hearing right now is the thought bubble that every Republican in leadership in Congress is going through right now. It`s what Mitch McConnell as he`s coalescing (ph) --
SCARAMUCCI: I`m not going to accept that.
PAYNE: -- in Kentucky. That`s what they`re all doing. They`re equivocating. They`re making excuses for Donald Trump`s behavior.
SCARAMUCCI: I`m sorry. I don`t equivocate for the president. I called his Tweets racist two weeks ago. I called the rhetoric racially charged and totally unnecessary. I said a very large group of Republicans are going to break off from him if he keeps up the nonsense. I`ve been very straight up on the issue. But I`m just calling balls and strikes, you know?
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. Thank you, Anthony, for coming in, Anthony Scaramucci, Ashley Parker and Joel Payne.
Coming up, Joe Biden makes the moral case against Donald Trump, accused the president of fanning the flames of white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced the political strategy of hate, racism and division.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think he is on Joel`s side on that one.
Anyway, a senior adviser to the former Vice President joins us here next.
Plus, just hours before the president arrived in El Paso, a community shattered by the deadliest attack on Hispanics ever, nearly 700 workers in Mississippi are rounded up in a sweeping ICE raid, leaving young children to fend for themselves after their first day of school. In politics, timing is everything, and this was bad timing, don`t you think?
And breaking tonight, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, the man who authorized the investigation into Trump`s ties with Russia is suing the DOJ, the Department of Justice, saying when he refused to pledge allegiance to the president, he was retaliated on.
We`ve got much more to get to. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Even his supporters know who he is. We`ve got to let him know who we are. We choose unity over division. We choose science over fiction. We choose truth over facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
History shows that presidential elections are about what the country feels it needs most and needs now. And right now, most would say we need moral leadership. And that point was made sharply yesterday by Donald Trump`s personal conduct, don`t you think?
Well, former Vice President Joe Biden has been campaigning on Trump`s dire lack of moral authority since he first announced for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.
The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America, America is at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday in Iowa, Biden unleashed a scorching attack on the man he hopes to replace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. His low energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week, I don`t believe, fooled anyone.
He seems more concerned about losing their votes than beating back this hateful ideology. He says guns are not the problem in mass shootings; the issue is mental health.
It`s a dodge. Hatred isn`t a mental health issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Symone Sanders, senior adviser to the Biden campaign.
Well, I will give the credit where it`s due. And Vice President Joe Biden made the issue moral from the beginning. He didn`t say it`s about more -- different kinds of health insurance, although he has a plan on that. He said the central question is getting rid of this immoral man from the White House.
SYMONE SANDERS, BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Yes.
Vice President Biden, I think unlike anyone else in this race, Chris, uniquely understood from day one the moment that we`re. And we were criticized, if folks will remember, when we launched the campaign, for making a general election argument, for being too forceful against President Trump.
But I think what we have seen, unfortunately, this week is that now, more than ever, Vice President Biden`s message rings true. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation.
Our standing, not only at home, but at abroad, is at stake. We have to rebuild the backbone. We have to unite America. And the speech that he gave yesterday in Burlington, Iowa, I think was exactly what the American people were looking for from the current president of the United States, but he has failed to rise to that moment time after time again.
MATTHEWS: How do you enlarge the electorate in the primaries beyond the people that normally show up in Iowa? Because, normally, the people that show up and spend three or four hours in public are an unusual group of people.
There is nothing wrong with them. They`re very patriotic people. But most people who are Democrats want to stay home on a cold night. They want to send in their votes. You know how it works. And they don`t want to go out and prance around with their politics.
But yet the Biden voter strikes me -- I looked at all the statistics coming out of Pennsylvania today. They tend to be women. They`re older people. They tend to be people with less money, not all first-class college educations.
They`re regular people.
MATTHEWS: How do you get them energized, these regular people, like the activists are, progressives are?
SANDERS: I think regular people are energized, Chris.
I think there is a tendency to skip -- to look back to 2016 and skip over 2018. In 2018, Donald Trump did in the closing days of the midterm elections what he is doing right now and, frankly, what he has been doing all year, making an argument that appealed to the worst of people, making an argument, fanning the flames of white supremacy.
And voters sent a resounding message in 2018. Vice President Biden was one of the most requested folks on the campaign trail in 2018. He went out and campaigned for more than 60 people. And we won in some very red places.
And so our strategy, Chris, is to speak frankly and directly and plainly to the American people about the issues that they care about. It`s to lay it on the table. That`s what he did in that speech yesterday and that`s what he is doing in Iowa right now.
MATTHEWS: That was a good speech. No, it was good. I said to you during the break I thought it was a good speech.
President Trump must have been watching your -- Biden`s speech yesterday. He tweeted: "Watching sleepy Joe Biden making a speech, so boring. Our country will be do poorly with him."
In other words, is he going to be president?
NBC`s Mike Memoli caught up with Biden after that tweet from Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Do you want to respond to the president responding to you?
BIDEN: He should get a life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
SANDERS: I concur, OK? I concur.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the challenge you have.
I`m looking at all the polls. And what`s going on is, Biden is holding his numbers, 33, 32. It`s always around that same level, but it`s crested. It doesn`t go up.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Warren, who just seems every time, every poll I look at, up a couple of points, every poll up a couple of points. She is going to close on him by February 3 in Iowa.
SANDERS: Well, we don`t know, Chris. It`s still early. But what I will say...
MATTHEWS: Unless you grow -- unless you grow your numbers.
SANDERS: I think we are growing our numbers.
Look, Vice President Biden, again, we`re in Iowa right now. And I think there is a tendency for folks to look at these national polls and forget that the Democratic primary is a game of counting. It`s a game of delegates. It`s an election of delegates. And it`s a game of individual states.
And so, right now, we`re in Iowa, and everyone is focused on Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and then people are looking at California.
But I will say, in polling in Iowa, for example, which, as you just noted, is a progressive place, there are more -- some extremely progressive people. And Vice President Biden...
MATTHEWS: It`s not left-wing. No, I have watched it over the years.
MATTHEWS: I would call it a bit further over than most states, Democratic group. But I think it`s the nature of the caucus.
MATTHEWS: The kind of people that come out are more activist.
SANDERS: My point about Iowa, though, is that, in Iowa, in polling right now, if you ask folks about the various health care plans, more than 56 percent of Iowans, Democratic voters, in that state will say that they favor building on Obamacare.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SANDERS: And they`re not in favor of Medicare for all.
MATTHEWS: And they`re not for outlawing -- they`re not for banning health insurance.
SANDERS: Our campaign strategy is to be very frank, be honest. And that is the kind of campaign that we`re running.
Your candidate, the former vice president, is holding back from accusing the president of being a white supremacist. The other candidates have said that. Where is he?
SANDERS: Well, I think we saw -- he dedicated 35 minutes yesterday.
MATTHEWS: But he is not calling him a white -- he is not calling him a white supremacist.
SANDERS: He said he was fanning the flames of white supremacy.
Today, Vice President Biden said that everything Donald Trump does contributes to white supremacy. And that is, frankly, probably more dangerous than anything else.
And so what the American people, I believe, are looking for is someone that uniquely understands the moment that we`re in, that will lay it all on the table for them, but also talk to the American people and tell them how we plan to work through and work out of this. And that`s Vice President Biden.
MATTHEWS: OK, I will say this, as an observer. He was better in the second debate than he was in the first. He was still better the next day with that gaggle of reporters outside on that Thursday.
And he was still better in his speech yesterday. He knows how to read a prompter with heart. And Trump can`t.
SANDERS: Well, he knows how to read a prompter. But he doesn`t -- Donald Trump definitely...
MATTHEWS: You argue with me when I am praising the guy. I`m sorry.
SANDERS: I know he`s -- praising.
But not only does he just know how to read a prompter. Vice President Biden was out on the stump today. And what -- one thing he does really well is retail politics. So we look forward to getting out there a little bit more.
MATTHEWS: I tell you -- I told your people I want to cover him going door to door. I just want to stand there when he goes door to door and talk to me of what he`s hearing from people. That`s retail.
You can retail me.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Symone Sanders, thank you for coming on.
SANDERS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Surrogate for the former vice president.
Up next, breaking news tonight: Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, the man who authorized the investigation into Trump`s ties with Russia, is suing the Department of Justice for what he says was an unlawful firing. What is going on?
He is accusing Trump of hatching an unconstitutional plan to purge employees that Trump thought were disloyal to him politically.
More on HARDBALL coming after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, remember him, filed a lawsuit today claiming that he was terminated, fired unlawfully. The suit brought against the Justice Department and the FBI alleges that it was Trump`s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be as -- his partisan opponents, because they were not politically loyal to him.
McCabe was fired just hours before he qualified for his pension. According to the DOJ, McCabe had violated department policy by authorizing a leak to "The Wall Street Journal" and -- quote -- "lacked candor" -- close quote -- in discussing it afterwards.
Well, in an interview last February, McCabe alleges the president fired him because it was he who opened the obstruction of justice investigation in the first place of the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did you expect to be fired 26 hours before you were able to collect your pension?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I guess I should have, because the president spoke about it publicly. He made it quite clear that he wanted me gone before I could retire.
I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Greg Brower, former deputy general counsel at the FBI.
Certainly, there is a pattern here. This is what happened to Comey. You don`t snap to, you don`t click your heels, you`re gone.
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that`s certainly what McCabe is alleging in his lawsuit.
And I will tell you, Chris, having supervised a lot of this type of litigation at the FBI, these suits are very difficult for plaintiffs to win typically. But this is not the typical case.
And the president, I`m afraid, once again -- I`m afraid for the government`s sake, has so poisoned the well with respect to the McCabe firing, that McCabe actually has something to talk about here.
MATTHEWS: Well, it just seems when I look around, I look at the Sue Gordon situation, which all broke today, another person who was up to be acting director of the DNI, the director of national intelligence.
If you`re not a Trumpie, if you`re not a loyal soldier to him in partisan fashion, he wants you gone from anywhere. He wants the government completely cleaned out of what we think of as civil servants.
BROWER: That certainly seems to be the developing pattern.
And the latest news with respect to Sue Gordon is especially troubling. She, in my experience with her, was a consummate professional, very well respected within the intelligence community.
And this move does appear to be part of an effort to politicize the intelligence community, something that is very dangerous.
MATTHEWS: Well, not -- well, not just the intelligence -- it seems like law enforcement generally, I mean, the FBI, everything.
BROWER: It seems to be a pattern. It really does.
And it should be troubling to Americans. If there is anything that our government, our system of government stands for, it`s the rule of law and the independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI. And there is a lot of doubt about that in this country right now.
MATTHEWS: It seems like a lot of what Trump does is, as he does with Latinos, Hispanics, he wants to always send a signal, not just punish somebody, but punish them out loud, like this big raid we`re going to talk about later in the show, this ICE raid.
He wants everybody to hear the pain, because that somehow -- that is how dictators rule. They scare the hell out of people. This firing of McCabe, he fired him right before he could get his lifetime pension. If you`re a bureaucrat -- and I don`t use that derogatorily -- you have spent 30 years building up your points.
MATTHEWS: And he goes, oh, nice try, buddy. You`re scratched.
BROWER: And that`s part of McCabe`s lawsuit, of course, the timing.
And then, of course, the things the president has said publicly, repeatedly over months and years about McCabe obviously feed the allegations in the complaint. And like I said, these suits are very -- typically very difficult to win, but McCabe has a lot to talk about.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he was wrongfully terminated?
BROWER: I don`t know all the facts. By the time that happened, I had moved on from being an FBI lawyer to running the congressional affairs at the FBI. And so I don`t know.
I have to assume, though, that between the very good lawyers at DOJ and the FBI, that decision was completely buttoned up in terms of the law. It was based, as you know, primarily on the Office of Inspector General report that was very, very damaging to McCabe`s credibility.
BROWER: And so -- but, again, because of the president`s comments about this -- in the military -- I`m a former naval officer -- we call that command influence. And, oftentimes, court-martials can be derailed because of something the commanding officer says that tends to suggest that he or she has prejudged the outcome of the case.
BROWER: Arguably, that`s exactly what the president has done here.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Thank you so much.
Great to have your expertise here, Greg Brower.
BROWER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: A massive ICE raid, as I said, down in Mississippi leaves children sobbing as they wait for word on the fate of their parents, aunts, uncles, and friends.
What a show. What bad timing this has been.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Hours before President Trump visited a community down -- well, actually, on edge in El Paso the other day where a gunman targeted what he called the Hispanic invasion, the Trump administration sent a chilling message to the Latino community in nearby Mississippi.
ICE agents raided food processing plants in six counties in Mississippi, apprehending 680 -- 680 immigrants the agency said are in the country illegally.
Well, the raids are believed to be the largest single-day immigration sweep of one state in American history and occurred on the first day of school down in Mississippi.
So, "The Washington Post" reports many children didn`t have a loved one or a friend, family friend, anybody to go home from school with. They had to come home alone, but were locked out because their parents had been detained in the raid. So they got home. Nobody is home. The parents had been picked up.
Anyway, the Jackson, Mississippi, "Clarion-Ledger" report under the headline "Where Are Mom And Dad?" scenes of children waving goodbye to parents as the adults were taken into custody.
Well, some distraught children were taken to a community gym to wait to be picked up by neighbors or others. Many were unable to stop crying as they wandered around wondering where their parents were.
For more, I`m joined by Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, of course, of Jackson, Mississippi, and Julia Ainsley, NBC News correspondent.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.
Give us your insights as to what happened, why it happened, the timing of it.
CHOKWE LUMUMBA (D), MAYOR OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: Absolutely, Chris. Thank you for having me on your show.
What we saw was a deplorable demonstration of a lack of humanity. We had people who were taken from their place of employment while their children, many of them had children that were attending their first day of school. And so, this was a human rights abuse in my view.
The Trump administration has suggested that this was preplanned, and it had nothing to do with the El Paso event. We feel that is disingenuous. They could have paused this raid. They could have decided that it was bad timing. There have been 300 people that have now been released by ICE for humanitarian reasons.
It shows that this whole raid was ill-considered and that they had no -- there was a complete lack of demonstration of a concern for the people in and their families.
MATTHEWS: Mayor, I want to go to Ashley -- Julia, rather. It seems to me they did this for noise. They wanted to make a lot of noise, ICE. They wanted everybody to talk about it. Yet they timed it just after what happened to El Paso.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We know from watching this administration that time and time again, they want the big splash. They want something like the travel ban that catches everybody by surprise.
MATTHEWS: They want to be Eliot Ness.
AINSLEY: Right, they want the shock and awe when it comes to immigration. I think that is especially transparent here. A, because of the timing. They could have pulled back, just like the mayor says.
They pull back often if there is a natural disaster in an area, if news of the raids come ahead. They pull back. These are nebulous timelines that they can pull back.
But I think the fact that they went off immigrants rather than the employers first, that shows --
MATTHEWS: Walk in the door, if they think there is a lot of people working there illegally without documentation and they know it and they got the evidence, turn the evidence against them. The employers are the ones making the money. The workers are minimum wage at best.
AINSLEY: Exactly. If you really want to go after the problem of hiring illegally, you go after the employers. But this seemed to want to go after immigrants in order to have that shock and awe factor. It`s a much bigger spectacle to arrest 680 immigrants rather than to arrest seven people who were doing the hiring for these companies.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the economic impact on this as well as the human impact. Mayor, tell me about it. It seems we live in the world where there is a lot of under the table hiring. We know that. People come to cut the lawn, people do all kinds of work.
These are terrible jobs, apparently. You`re pulling chickens apart all day long. It`s dangerous even in terms of your physical well-being every day. Nobody else wants these jobs, so therefore they`re taken by people without documentation.
What is that for the economy? A guy once told me you want to go to a delicatessen and get sandwich, that`s the way it works. Your thoughts about it?
LUMUMBA: Absolutely. Well, first and foremost, I think that your other contributor is absolutely correct that they have decided to criminalize the true victim in this matter. And once you truly become informed as to how many of these individuals end up in this country, they`re often solicited from their home, their place of origin with the promise of a new opportunity, often giving over their total life savings in order to arrive in Mississippi or in other states, seeking another opportunity.
And then they`re held under the thumb of oppression of the employer who threatens to send them back with nothing to return to. And so, the true criminal in this circumstance is the employer. We often are caught up in this rhetoric which suggests that someone`s taking our job. If it was your job, no one could take it from you.
So, the one who is getting away is the employer who is making people work for slave wages, not offering them a better opportunity or any of the other people in this nation who are seeking true living wages.
MATTHEWS: That`s so well said. What do you think, the president wouldn`t seem to be the kind of guy who would arrest and punish much less imprison the boss? That wouldn`t be Trump`s style that.
AINSLEY: That wouldn`t be his style at all. He is much more in the business of pardoning people like that.
MATTHEWS: Because he was one of these people?
AINSLEY: Yes, actually, right. But you look at the Trump golf courses, it would maybe hypocritical of him.
But aside from that, and I will say -- I point-blank asked the U.S. attorney in the southern district of Mississippi today on a conference call what will happen to these employers? Are they being investigated or did they cooperate with you in order to hand these people over for some kind of lenient sentence? And he said, I have to be vague about that.
So, they`re not giving us any information on that.
MATTHEWS: Not cute. Isn`t that great? That`s how it works today.
Anyway, Mayor, you`re an impressive guy. Thank you, I mean that. I`m just taken by somebody that can talk on the show so well about what is so tricky a subject, and it is a tricky subject. Thank you so much, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.
And, Julia Ainsley, thank you both. Great witnesses on this one.
Up next, pressure is mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do something to stop the gun killing. Something about spraying of bullets by people, by the dozens.
Well, Minnesota senator and presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar, is going to join us to talk about the chance of getting anywhere with McConnell in charge.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that he`s not planning to call the Senate back early to address gun legislation but said ultimately, failure to pass anything is, quote, unacceptable.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: You`re not calling people back in early for -- to address this gun legislation?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, if we did that, we`d just have people scoring points and nothing would happen. There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on, background checks and red flags would probably lead the discussion, but a lot of other things will come up as well. But what we can`t do is fail to pass something, you know. By just locking up and failing to pass, that`s unacceptable.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Late this afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to President Trump asking him, him to call the Senate back into session immediately to consider House passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation. The speaker noted that Mitch McConnell described himself as the Grim Reaper has been an obstacle the taking any action.
I`m joined by Minnesota senator and presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar.
Senator, thank you for joining us.
You`re going have to be our reader tonight.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Has something changed Mitch from saying doing nothing is unacceptable? Is that something new from him?
KLOBUCHAR: You know, I think we thought for a while these extreme risk orders or as he called them red flags would be something that might move through. But I just -- I don`t think that`s enough. And if that`s what he means, no, that`s not enough.
And where I really didn`t like is when I heard him say people will just try to score points. I mean, seriously. We lost nine people in Dayton. We lost over 20 people in El Paso. And that`s how he`s thinking.
What I think is we have background legislation that is sensible, picked up some Republican votes in the House that is sitting at his doorstep. We have a bill that would help with the wait times so there could be better assessments of risk.
KLOBUCHAR: And then we also have another bill that passed the House on closing the boyfriend loophole. So there are three bills that are right there that we could pass in a day. This is not -- and I would, of course, prefer to do magazine limits and the assault weapon ban and all kinds of other things. But at least we could get that done and then move on to those other things.
And so, I don`t think this is scoring points. I think there is something right in front of him, and it`s on his doorstep.
MATTHEWS: Trump`s strategy has been when the heat son as it is now, right now these days ahead, maybe another week to two weeks, the heat is on guns and availability of guns to people that shouldn`t have them. He always says something like, well, we`ll do something, blah, blah, blah. And then when the heat is off, he does nothing.
He seems to follow this pattern. He knows the pattern of public interest. And he exploits it to do nothing.
KLOBUCHAR: He does.
MATTHEWS: This time. Go ahead.
KLOBUCHAR: And it is the most cynical thing. When you think about those ordinary people, the courage they showed, the extraordinary courage in the Walmart where the mom protects her baby and gets killed but her baby lives, or the veteran getting people out of there, unbelievable courage. The first responders, the police in Dayton that get there in a minute. It could have been so much worse.
And yet, he`s still talking to the NRA. He`s still afraid of them. And I sat across from him after Parkland and wrote down nine times he said he wanted to see background checks.
We put a video out on my Twitter feed of it. Nine times he said this. You can watch it. He said it.
But what happens? He then goes and meets with the NRA the next day, and he folds. And so there is a pattern of this. You`re exactly right. When the moment is right and the cameras are on, he acts like he is going to be reasonable. He could call Mitch McConnell tomorrow and get the Senate back in session to get this done.
KLOBUCHAR: He could say I publicly call on the Republican senators to vote for this background bill and get it done. Come on. We all know that. He is just as responsible as Mitch McConnell.
MATTHEWS: After the terrible shooting at parkland down in Florida, he made fun of senators and Congress people for being afraid of the NRA. Is he afraid of the NRA? Is this president afraid of them?
KLOBUCHAR: He did.
MATTHEWS: Wayne LaPierre and that lot.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Yes, he is. And that`s -- yes. I was at that meeting when he said that. He was there. He said that that`s what was going on, that people get concerned about them.
This is the kind of thing he says. And people have to realize that right now what`s at stake is people`s lives. That guy in Dayton got that military style weapon, huge magazine capacity, and he used that in 30 seconds he killed nine people.
The vast majority of Americans think that is not OK, far from OK. And also, a great number of hunters at least want to see the background checks put in place.
And I`m out here in Iowa on a 20-county tour in Robbins, Iowa, right now, and I can tell you, people are coming up to me all the time, not just Democrats, people are coming up to me in these small towns saying they want to see a change. And that`s what`s happened since Parkland. That`s why they elected two great new women Congress members out of Iowa.
KLOBUCHAR: And they went and supported that background check bill. So, the sea and the tide is changing, and Mitch McConnell is on the opposite side here of history. So, if he is not going to call us back, history will tell him differently.
MATTHEWS: You know, Senator, I`ve known you a long time, and I think your book title is very apropos to Iowa because you are the senator from next door. You are from Minnesota, which is right there on top of Iowa.
Anyway, I hope you have a nice weekend with those 20 counties.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for joining us, Senator Amy Klobuchar.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, we will. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
A new Pennsylvania poll tells us about the state of the Democratic race. Lots of information about who`s backing Biden, who`s backing Senator Warren. Fascinating stuff, I think. I`m a junkie, of course.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: A new Franklin and Marshall poll has studied Pennsylvania Democrats and tells us a lot about the coming 2020 presidential election. I`ve noticed some interesting dividing lines between the two I see right now as the eventual front-runners.
Joe Biden is ahead now, winning big among moderates, leading among women, older voters and those who didn`t finish college. Biden also leads among those making less than $35,000 a year and among African-Americans, Catholics, and evangelicals.
Elizabeth Warren wins among liberals, among voters of college graduates and those making more than $75,000 a year.
The competition between these two front-runners is getting serious. Biden holds the lead but still needs to grow it. Warren has climbed to number two position, has been relentless.
So, here is where the race appears to be heading by the time of the first big test that would be the Iowa caucuses in early February. If Biden`s numbers starts to grow, look out. He is unlikely to be caught. But that`s the big if.
If not, the Massachusetts senator will continue at her current rate catch the former vice president by the critical days of Iowa. This is how it`s headed in the race to take on President Trump. It`s a two-person race, and it`s going to be close.
The question I have to suppose is which of these two candidates, Biden or Warren or still possibly some other candidate can do the essential job most Americans most want accomplished, not just winning in Iowa and later in Pennsylvania, but removing Donald Trump from his current address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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