ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We`ll have more coverage as Bill Barr faces the Senate.
Don`t go anywhere right now. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Could moment be tougher? Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. We`re looking tonight at a real possibility that the Mueller report will turn out to be far tougher than Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump have been saying. This could explain why the President has been bashing both the Mueller report and the democrats who want to see the document in full next week.
Attorney General Barr was on Capitol Hill speaking publicly for the first time since he obtained the Special Counsel`s report almost three weeks ago. Appearing before the House of Appropriations Subcommittee, Barr said he`s on track to deliver a redacted version of that report within a week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: From my standpoint, by -- within a week. I`ll be in a position to release the report to the public and then I will engage with the Chairman of both Judiciary Committees about that report about any further requests that they have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Barr says he has no intention however releasing Mueller`s full report, which could prompt the House Judiciary Committee to issue of that subpoena they authorized last week.
The most significant thing that happened today was that Barr refused to say whether anyone at the White House has been briefed on the contents of the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter? Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the Judiciary committee?
BARR: I`ve said what I`m going to say about the report today. I`m not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and everyone has a chance to look at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as the New York Times notes that Barr`s non-answer there, quote, his demurral raised the possibility that the White House knows more than the public or the Congress about what Mr. Mueller has reported. This comes as the associated press reports on a new urgency within Trump`s inner circle. Some Trump allies are concerned that the President was too quick to declare complete triumph and they`re pushing the White House to launch preemptive attack. Well, according to the A.P., their goal was to discredit what`s coming. We`ve already seen the President step up his attacks on the Special Counsel and on the democrats seeking the full report. But the President said on Saturday, I have not read the Mueller report yet, even though I have every right to do so.
Joining me right now is U.S. Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, she`s the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Congresswoman, it`s great to see you on the show. And I love when you guys do what I try to do every night here, I ask the right questions. And what did you make of his jaw- dropping non-answer when you asked him a pointed question, has the President seen, does the White House have seen it, which is a better question, and he didn`t answer.
LOWEY: You are correct, Chris. First of all, it`s a pleasure for me to see you again and I`m delighted to be on your show. It was very clear for me that this report was reviewed by many people, including those in the White House. And the Attorney General towards the middle of our discussion kind of clammed up and really didn`t want to answer any questions. But I made it very clear, as did my colleagues, I`m a member of Congress, I have the responsibility to ask and get the complete report. I look forward to seeing a version that is not redacted.
And certainly if he`s not going to give it to the Appropriations Committee, we know Chairman Jerry Nadler will subpoena the report and we can all review it. Look, I have seen many reports that can`t be viewed by the whole public. You go down where to the SCIF where you see a version that will include every bit of information. We need that report. We don`t need that report that`s redacted. We need the whole report and I know the Judiciary Committee will get it if he`s not going give it to us in Appropriations.
MATTHEWS: Well, what is the right answer to the question you put to him? Do you believe that the President has been briefed on this Mueller report already?
LOWEY: Look, if the Attorney General said he consulted with the White House, do you and I really believe that they kept it secret from the President of the United States? I don`t believe that.
MATTHEWS: Well, I can`t tell how much this Attorney General is like the Roy Cohn that the President wanted, how much like he`s like Bobby Kennedy somewhere in the middle or how much he`s like Janet Reno who used to pull out a notepad every time the President called her because she wanted to be so official about everything. I don`t know how close he is to the President. We`ll see that.
The Washington Post was reporting that during a meeting with House Republicans, President Trump suddenly launched into a tirade about Congressman Jerry Nadler who has been seeking the full Mueller report. To the embarrassment of the lawmakers, Trump reportedly called Nadler Fat Jerry among other things, as he described Nadler`s weight loss surgery in the 2000s and suggested the democrat was still overweight.
Is the President getting antsy, nervous or what? I mean, this personal nonsense of an 8-year-old or a bad 8-year-old, is this because he thinks this has gotten a lot messier look at him than the way Barr described it three weeks, this report?
LOWEY: Well, I think you`ve been around long enough. Your analysis is right on target. But the bottom line is we need that report. And if Jerry Nadler, the outstanding Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has to subpoena it, he will do so. And I will see that report because that is my responsibility.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, it`s great to see you in your chair. I`d love to see you again. You have some power. It takes so long to get any power in Congress and you have it now as Chairman of the Committee. Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Nita Lowey of New York.
LOWEY: Thank you so much. And next time, we`ll talk about Tip O`Neill. A pleasure to be with you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Congresswoman.
I`m joined right now by Elliot Williams, former Deputy Assistant General of the Justice Department, and Neil Kinkopf is a former Special Assistant to the Attorney General and a Professor at Georgia State University. . I want to bring in Neil, the new fellow here, the newbie, if you will. What do you make of this role the White House is playing here? First of all, I`m not sure they should have any role here. The President is the subject of this report. Why in heck would he get a copy of it or any look at it before the people that are looking to investigate him on the Hill? This is the House of Representatives with the impeachment power before them. And the President gets to document maybe before they do?
NEIL KINKOPF, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO ATTORNEY GENERAL AT DOJ: Well, he certainly shouldn`t get it before they do. Now, Attorney General Barr refused to say whether or not the President will see it, whether or not it will be shared with the White House, or even more chillingly, whether the White House will play a role in deciding what information is redacted from that report.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Elliot on this, because I think this is really messy. I mean, Nita Lowey, she is a smart politician as well as a public servant. And she -- they all smell there`s something up here, that Barr is working with Trump.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. And the way he answered the questions doesn`t inspire a great deal of confidence. Look, there are three acceptable answers when you`re asked that the President has looked at something. Yes, no, or I can`t tell you because it`s protected under our deliberative process or something like that.
Now, we would have bickered about the last one. but, you know, either he saw it or he didn`t. And so this whole -- this weird answer of, well, I don`t want to tell you, I am making choice not to tell you because I`ve already talked about this enough, it`s hiding something from the American people given the public interest --
MATTHEWS: Well, in our long conversation with the producers here, we all think that there`s a connection between the huffing and puffing of (INAUDIBLE) with the president lately. He was supposed to be exonerated. He`s clean as a whistle. What`s the problem? Now, he`s getting angry again. He`s getting angry about the report, getting angry at people like Jerry Nadler who are going to release it or trying to get it released. So has he seen the bad side of the Mueller report that was hidden from him three weeks ago?
WILLIAMS: We know that there is bad information in the report. They would not have put in the, quote, unquote, summary document that this does not exonerate the President if there wasn`t an information that wasn`t at least, in some way, harmful to the President.
Now, it wasn`t stuff that you can charge the President with criminally, that`s fine, but it`s still damaging to the President of the United States and it`s of interest to the American people, and we just need to see what`s in it. So they know something is coming even if it`s -- again, we know it`s not felony charges but it`s bad misconduct by the President.
MATTHEWS: How about being manipulated by Russian intelligence? That`s pretty bad. And that`s what we`re hearing (INAUDIBLE). Barr has also said he`s currently working with Special Counsel Mueller to complete his redactions. Yet, when asked about the four-page letter that he wrote on the Special Counsel`s conclusions part, he said he couldn`t answer why Mueller said the report does not exonerate the President on obstruction of justice. Here`s that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): Can you elaborate on what is meant by does not exonerate the President?
BARR: I think that`s the language from the report.
CRIST: Right, I understand that.
BARR: That`s a statement made by the Special Counsel.
BARR: I reported as one of his bottom line conclusions. So I`m not in a position to discuss that further until the report is all out. And then what is meant by exonerate is really a question that I can`t answer, what he meant by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Neil, this is such an interesting, almost peculiar kind of American constitutional law here where you don`t exonerate because you can`t indict, but then the President can`t be indicted. So what do you say? It seems like we have a Catch 22, I`ve said before here. If you can`t indict the guy and you are not supposed to talk about bad things he did, if you don`t indict him. This is going to be the thinnest -- well, we know it`s a 400-page document, so it`s got to go after the President. That`s what it`s about, 400 pages.
KINKOPF: Right. Well, Attorney General Barr subscribes to this odd theory of presidential power, the unitary executive theory, under which it`s impossible for President Trump to commit obstruction of justice even if he could be indicted. And so Barr is really kind of out on the extremes in terms of how he views presidential power.
I think the other important thing that came out of the hearing today is that Barr is planning to redact information that might damage the reputation of what he called peripheral characters. But he said peripheral characters are people who can`t be indicted, which we know includes the President. So in Barr`s rendition of things, President Trump is just a peripheral character when, to the rest of the nation, President Trump is the central player in this whole drama. And so I`m really afraid that so much of the information that`s damaging to the President will simply never see the public light of day.
MATTHEWS: I can`t wait to see a 400-page document reduced to 200 or 300 pages of black paper, just big redaction, redaction, redaction. Anyway, thank so much. It`s great to have you on, Neil Kinkopf, and as always, Elliot Williams.
I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. And, I guess, the question goes to you on intelligence because if you can`t nail the President because you can`t indict him or because you don`t think he has committed a criminal act in terms of collusion, the question of counterintelligence just jumps out at me here. I mean, what are we going to learn in this document about we are already learning from top journalists that it includes a charge that the President was manipulated by Soviet intelligence -- I mean, Russian intelligence?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes. And that`s been one of the things that actually has not gotten enough discussion is the counterintelligence issue here and foreign interference and foreign influence. And we just saw in the last week or so the story about a Chinese spy going to Mar-a-Lago and basically trying to make her way in and do who knows what. But with the Russians, it`s the same thing, trying to have influence over the President and his circle, obviously, what they did to interfere with our elections.
And so it seems like during this Trump era, countries are making an even bigger effort to have influence over our politics and to manipulate our politicians.
MATTHEWS: Like inviting the son, the Fredo-like son of the President to a meeting to give him dirt on his father`s opponent in a way that a child would accept that. Anyone else would say, wait a minute, I`m not going in a meeting with the Russians to find dirt on my opponent. This looks likes like a honey trap or something, right?
CASTRO: Well, that`s the thing, Chris, yes, absolutely, is when are governments think that you are open or susceptible to their invitations to make trade-offs like that, then they`re going to come back and try it again with a wider and wider circle of people. And it will not just be Russia, it will be China and it will be other countries as well. And I think that`s what we`re seeing.
MATTHEWS: Well, Attorney General Barr also said he is reviewing the conduct of the investigators particularly when it comes to the counterintelligence probe that the FBI opened in the summer of 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what do you make of the Republican effort to try to not white wash the President but to blacken the reputation of those who began it? It seems like this is a real effort to come back and get even, just going to get fires (ph) and all that this stuff? Yes.
CASTRO: Right. I think you take that statement and then you see what Devin Nunes is doing, aggressively going after folks who talked about collusion. I mean, look, we can`t get to a point where you come after people who do their jobs in the intelligence community and you try to you`re so aggressive that you chill people from investigating anything else. And it seems to me right now like that is the agenda, at least of Devin Nunes and some other people.
MATTHEWS: Where are you on the dossier and including all its gory details after all these months? The dossier had -- what worth would you attach to it right now, all this stuff in the dossier?
CASTRO: I mean, it seemed to me based on everything that I heard throughout the investigation that there were some parts of it, I think, that were absolutely relevant. There were obviously some parts that were not. And I`m hoping that with the Mueller report, we`ll get a better sense for that. I think the whole country should be able to make its own judgment about the dossier and everything else.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the House Intelligence committee.
Coming up, who`s in charge here after Kirstjen Nielsen`s ouster, and with at least five other senior officials expected to leave Homeland Security, who is running our country`s home front security? Is White House aide Stephen Miller the guy to do Trump`s dirty work, the Mr. Tough Guy? There he is.
Plus, ahead of today`s election in Israel, President Trump went out of his way to politically boost his friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, making some stunning policy shifts that could have far reaching ramifications for our country. We`ve got the latest on that very close race tonight over at Israel and whether Trump`s efforts paid off for his bud. We`ve got a lot to do tonight. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s purge of several top officials at the Department of Homeland Security has brought chaos to the leadership of the country`s Immigration and National Security Agency. The ouster has led one official that tell The Washington Post, they are decapitating the entire department. But today, the President pushed back on that characterization that he is trying to clean house at the agency. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I never said I`m cleaning house. I don`t know who came up with that expression. We have a lot of great people over there. We have bad laws. What we need, Homeland Security, that`s exactly what we want. There`s no better term and there`s no better name. We want Homeland Security, and that`s what we`re going to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, just in four days, Trump forced the resignation of his Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and his Secret Service Director. He also withdrew the nomination of his acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director, that`s ICE. And he`s moving his Customs and Border Protection Commissioner to replace Nielsen.
But the President is also reportedly considering removing the acting Deputy Secretary who, by law, would fill in for Nielsen and I`m looking to sack the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. So everything is up in the air.
The Washington Post reports, I, with Senator Chuck Grassley, warned against additional firings, saying he is very, very concerned. Grassley added, the President has to have some stability particularly with the number one issue that he has made for his campaign. He is pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal is. Wow.
Other Republicans echoed that concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I`m concerned of a growing void of leadership within the Department of Homeland Security.
And this is a department that is charged with really trying to grapple with some of the most significant challenges facing this nation.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all by the departures at the Department of Homeland Security and the void that that`s leaving?
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): No question.
The fact that there there`s a whole raft of vacancies in the Department of Homeland Security is a real concern, not just at the border, but there are many things that the department is responsible for. That gives us some concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But the bloodletting at DHS is just a piece of the administration`s new policy from the hard-liner who`s really in charge at the immigration front.
And it`s a frightening picture. And that`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Whoa. There`s a tough guy, little strange going there. I have never seen anybody talk that way about American life before.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was White House senior adviser Stephen Miller in 2017 mounting an authoritarian different of President Trump`s immigration policy. Miller was arguing against federal judges` authority to review executive action, such as the administration`s travel ban that he helped -- that`s Miller -- helped create.
The hard-line policy adviser is now reportedly one of the driving forces behind President Trump`s leadership purge at the Department of Homeland Security.
And just moments ago, outgoing Secretary -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted that acting Deputy Claire Grady offered the president her resignation effective tomorrow. So, here again, the president gets to pick his person.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports an administration official said President Trump recently told Miller -- quote -- "You`re in charge." Steve Miller is in charge.
The Axios reports that Miller is a part of the president`s plans to make new hard-line border policies, adding that: "Sources close to outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen tell us that Trump and Steve Miller have called for changes that are legally dubious and would therefore be operationally ineffective."
For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios, and author Ron Reagan.
You know, I`m -- I -- hesitant sometime -- I hesitate to attack everything about Trump, because I`m not sure the Democrats have offered a clear alternative that the public should understand on border policy.
But family separation is a political, moral and every other kind of human disaster. Why does Steve Miller like it and want to bring it back, Jonathan?
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Stephen Miller views the separation of families as a deterrent.
And you have to remember, the zero tolerance policy that Jeff Sessions announced, that there was no secret about why they announced it. They said it. They said it out loud, explicitly, that it was deterrent, that it would have a deterrent effect.
MATTHEWS: So, a mommy and a daddy down in Central America in a dangerous situation says, do we make a chance, do we gather our money together, what little we have, and make a run for the U.S. border and asylum, knowing that, once we get there, our kids will be taken away from us?
MATTHEWS: That`s what...
MATTHEWS: That`s the choice they wanted.
SWAN: That is the deterrent.
MATTHEWS: Ron, that sounds like "Sophie`s Choice" stuff to me.
RON REAGAN, AUTHOR: Well, it does.
It`s hard for people like us, I think -- and I will include Jonathan in this, because I`m sure he`s a decent fellow. It`s hard for us to look at a situation like taking babies away from their parents, throwing them into cages, and maybe never reuniting them, because you lose track of them, it`s hard for us to look at that and say, well, I guess it`s tough, but it`s acceptable.
We find this appalling, absolutely appalling.
REAGAN: And it`s a little confusing to see a president apparently, and maybe again, embracing this policy.
Why would they do that? The optics are awful. Politically, it has to be a disaster. But I think Trump sees it differently. And I think his base sees it differently. I think he knows that, as far as they`re concerned, as long as it`s little brown babies that are being thrown in cages, they don`t really care. It`s fine with them. They think it`s tough.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s that way with him, really that bad?
REAGAN: Yes. Yes. No, I think so. I think he`s entirely cynical about this.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think people don`t -- people don`t trust governments to take care of their kids.
And the idea people don`t even check their luggage at the airport anymore, because they want to hold on to it. The idea of saying your kid is going to be returned to you in X many weeks, when, in fact, some of them weren`t returned, as Ron`s right -- some of them didn`t get back to the parents.
I don`t think it`s clear at all that they are returning to the zero tolerance policy. They have certainly discussed it. Stephen Miller...
MATTHEWS: What is zero tolerance?
SWAN: Zero tolerance is, they prosecute everyone, which is -- which results in family separations.
What they are doing and what they intend to do is what amounts to the most aggressive, hard-line immigration policy changes that we have seen since Trump was elected. And, mostly, it makes it much more difficult. They want to make it much more difficult for people to seek asylum in America.
That is the call. It`s not about the wall. It`s about asylum.
MATTHEWS: Well, today, the president denied he`s trying to separate families again, but defended the policy`s effectiveness and falsely blamed his predecessor, Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it. You know it. We all know it.
I didn`t have -- I`m the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation. Now, I will tell you something. Once you don`t have it, that`s why you see many more people coming. They`re coming like it`s a picnic, because let`s go to Disneyland.
President Obama separated children. They had child separation. I was the one that changed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ron, he`s -- he`s speaking with a forked tongue again, an old cowboy movie expression. But the fact is, he says, it`s a bad thing to do this to separate them. Obama did it. But I`m doing it because it works.
I mean, what is it? Is he condemning the policy of family separation, or celebrating it because he`s going to bring it back?
REAGAN: Well, that`s a very good question.
I mean, you have pointed out that what he said made no sense. I mean, he`s essentially blaming Obama for having a child separation policy, which is technically true, but not really. And then he`s saying that -- but this is the only thing that works.
Well, so, was Obama good or was he bad? And did he make a mistake by stopping the child separations, then? Is that what he`s suggesting?
REAGAN: I don`t -- I don`t think so. But it was a little confusing.
MATTHEWS: Well, the country is divided, I think. I think that the president`s going to say come next election -- I don`t care who the nominee is of the Democratic Party.
He`s going to say, an open borders policy is against -- so either like what I`m doing, which is thuggish, or get nothing done, force the American voter to go, do I want something done, which is thuggish, which is family separation, which is immoral to me, or the Democrats, I can`t quite figure out what their alternative is?
That`s what Trump`s quite happy with, apparently, that choice.
SWAN: Yes. Yes.
And Trump is willing to go further than any political candidate that we have seen. Like, he wants to -- when someone comes to this country from Central America, some of these impoverished places, they have what`s called a credible fear interview, and they describe their fears.
Trump wants it -- to make it much harder for them to get through that interview, basically. So he is willing to go places. He wants to speed up deportations. He`s willing to go places that we have not seen modern politicians go on this...
MATTHEWS: What did Kirstjen Nielsen do wrong? Why was she sacked?
SWAN: In Trump`s mind, she did not use executive power aggressively enough to get rid of people, to stop asylum seekers seeking asylum in this country. His view was that she was weak, that she didn`t do what she needed to do.
The counterview is, every time Trump has tried to do one of these unilateral policies, almost without exception, that`s very aggressive, the courts have enjoined him. And so everything is caught up in the courts.
And I think where we`re heading now is basically 18 months of litigation, because it`s all through...
MATTHEWS: Well, he may like that. He may want to have Steve Miller fighting the bad guys, the courts, as he sees it.
Anyway, today, Iowa Republican Steve -- Chuck Grassley was asked about Stephen Miller`s influence over administration policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): I have no way of measuring it, except I don`t see a lot of accomplishments that an adviser in the White House has accomplished for the president on immigration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, Ron, to watch the sort of reasonable Republicans, like Mitt Romney, who can be a mixed bag -- let`s face it.
But on this, I watched him on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. He sounds like a reasonable conservative about what you do. He is for E-Verify, stopping illegal hiring, the usual sort of menu of ways to stop illegal immigration. And he didn`t seem to be crazy.
And I think this guy, Grassley, has never been accused of crazy. He could be an SOB sometimes. He`s a tough customer. I don`t mean SOB. I mean really tough. The guy is tough. And yet he doesn`t like the way Trump`s doing stuff.
Well, then he`s not going to get a job in the Trump administration. He`s not crazy. I guess that`s -- you have got to be that.
REAGAN: Listen, if Stephen Miller wants to be in charge of immigration, if Trump wants Stephen Miller to be in charge of immigration, let`s make him in charge of immigration.
Let`s make him the director of homeland security. Let`s give him a real title. Let`s bring him before Congress and see if he can get confirmed.
Stephen Miller has been -- he used to go to a high school near where I grew up, Santa Monica High School in Los Angeles, SAMO, we used to call it.
REAGAN: He distinguished himself there by being an obnoxious racist.
He has been this apparently his entire life. And now he`s going to be in charge of our immigration policy.
MATTHEWS: You know the story, don`t you, Ron? He would say, throw trash on the ground so the working people have to clean it up.
MATTHEWS: It`s not your job to be neat. Make them work for their money.
MATTHEWS: What a mentality that guy has.
REAGAN: Yes. Well, yes.
REAGAN: And he`s in the White House now advising the president.
MATTHEWS: Yes, by the way, I didn`t like the use -- I always think about myself when I say things on live television.
I think Chuck Grassley is one of the toughest, toughest, toughest guys try to get confirmation from in the Senate. SOB was too strong for even Chuck.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Swan. Ron Reagan, thank you.
Coming up: Voters in Israel headed to the polls today to choose their new -- well, next prime minister -- maybe a new one. We`re going to take a look at the unprecedented ways in which our president worked behind the scenes and in front of the scenes to help push the election of his chosen candidate.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, Israel held one of its most consequential elections in decades. And, as of right now, it`s not quite clear who`s the winner. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scandal-plagued and facing indictment on fraud and corruption charges, faced centrist candidate General Benny Gantz.
Both candidates remain locked in a neck-and-neck race right now. Of course, they`re six hours ahead of us right now. They`re basically midnight over there, late past midnight. We may have to wait for tomorrow.
But, historically -- this is the point tonight -- American presidents from both of our parties have abstained from getting involved in Israeli politics, opting instead to play the roles of -- two roles, friend of Israel, but also regional honest broker.
Not this time. President Trump broke with his predecessors, taking a number of steps to help ensure that his friend Bibi Netanyahu was victorious today. Since the 2016 election, the president has moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, formally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
And just days before the election, he designated Iran`s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. Trump even invited the Israeli prime minister to the White House two weeks before the election. There they are posing for a photo-op in the Oval Office.
President Trump has forged no deeper political bond than with the one he has with Benjamin Netanyahu. And, right now, it`s unclear if Trump`s push to get him reelected has paid off.
For more, I`m joined by Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post," Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter at Bloomberg.
Shannon, this election, I have been following the Middle East, like every grownup American who lives in this country. We all follow Middle East negotiations and politics.
And always our president, from Eisenhower from all the way up to W., although some leaned towards Israel more, some leaned against a little bit, their government, they have always played this other role as honest broker in the region, so they can bring peace and play a bigger global role than just being buddies with Israel.
This president has ignored his global role, ignored the role, forfeited that of peacemaker or honest broker, and just played political sidekick of Bibi.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I mean, yes.
And different presidents have had different levels of honest broker that they have played. Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu when he came to visit once before the election, saying it was too close to the election. Of course, those two had quite a chilly relationship.
And President Trump did not come out and endorse Netanyahu, which would have been a real sort of diplomatic no-no. But, as you pointed out, there`s been no hesitation about his enthusiasm and the timing of some of these moves, the Golan Heights, the Revolutionary Guard, so clearly linked to the election.
And it kind of speaks to, one, sort of the relationship that the president has with Netanyahu, the relationship that Jared Kushner has with Netanyahu. Their two families go back a long time. They have been friends for years and years. And how much of the president`s Middle East peace plan is riding on Netanyahu getting elected, because he is really someone they have formed an alliance with.
If Netanyahu is not there, this peace plan they have been working on just sort of falls apart, to any extent that there is a peace plan at this point.
MATTHEWS: Let me go right to the jugular.
How much of this is Trump`s connection with American evangelicals?
EUGENE ROB INSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I think that plays a role. Sure, I think that plays a role.
It helps, you know, shore up his continuing support from the evangelicals and gives them a reason to forgive all the un-evangelical things he does, un-Christian thing he does.
But also, let`s not forget that Bibi Netanyahu knows how to play Trump like a violin. I mean, he gives him the flattering, the adulation, and -- that he thinks he ought to get everywhere. Bibi gives it to him and gives it to him quite skillfully.
MATTHEWS: He`s like Churchill talking to Roosevelt.
MATTHEWS: He talks like our best friend in all of this.
ROBINSON: Exactly. He knows how to play him. He plays him really well. You know, this will turn out to be one of the most controversial legacies of the Trump administration. He`s squeezing toothpaste out of the tube, but I don`t know if it can be put back.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk politics here in America. For all of our viewers, and viewers right now. Shannon, if Bibi goes down, is this an outpost, a political outpost of Trump following the year before his reelection?
PETTYPIECE: It`s hard to tell how much the Israeli populace can reflect the U.S. But, yes, Netanyahu does reflects this similar style of Trump. They are both this sort of take no prisoners political fighters. They get backed by the sense of nationalism. They sort of askew and shrug sort f political norms and political correctness. So, in a lot of ways, I think that kind of speaks to the bond and the relationship that these two have developed and a lot of ways that they have the same style.
So, right, as we sort of saw this wave of Trumpian candidates around the world come up. I mean, maybe, he knows, we could look years from now and say this was the beginning of the end of that wave of Trumpian nationalist candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, this past weekend, President Trump told the Republican Jewish coalition, which consists of American voters, that he supported their prime minister, Netanyahu. Let`s watch. He called them --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stood with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu. How is the race going, by the way? How is it? Who is going to win the race? Tell me, I don`t know.
Well, it`s going to be close. I think it`s going to be close. Two good people. Two good people.
But I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So people jumped on that term, your. They`re Americans. He`s saying, I don`t -- that`s -- I`m not sure.
ROBINSON: They are Americans. Democrat or progressive said that, you know, if Ilhan Omar said that, it would have been, you know --
MATTHEWS: Shocking, I get it.
ROBINSON: -- it would have been screaming headlines.
MATTHEWS: The United States has a policy. It`s bipartisan for years now, since Oslo, that we want to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people. They`re people, too.
MATTHEWS: Just like the Jewish people. In fact, you`ve got a lot of Arabs living in Israel. Almost all Arabs live in the West Bank and they want to have a country.
And that`s been our policy. You`re going to get a country. We will work this thing out. Bibi is not doing that.
ROBINSON: That`s not the policy now. No. Bibi has foreclosed the possibility of a two-state solution because he`s offering, you know --
ROBINSON: Yes, he`s offering Swiss cheese, basically.
MATTHEWS: He`s recognized all the existing settlements, all the outpost settlements are all going to be part of greater Israel.
ROBINSON: So, who can accept that?
What happens when you default to a one-state solution? That`s the question. And that will be answered by future generations. It may not be answered until Bibi Netanyahu`s --
MATTHEWS: Well, the arithmetic suggests that a one-state will be Arab mainly.
ROBINSON: Well, the arithmetic is relentless. So, he said in a one-state solution and we will find out what that looked like.
MATTHEWS: You know, I was in Israel in the early `70s and I spent a month over in the old city, and I have to say, that issue of can Israel be a democracy and can it be a Jewish state is always conflicted by the huge number of Arabs if you annex all those?
Shannon, that conundrum sits in the face of every Israeli voter. It still does, and the people who support them here. How do you have a democracy if you include so many majority people at some point if you bring all in the West Bank? How do you do it?
PETTYPIECE: Right. Well, that`s what makes this problem so difficult to solve and why we are struggling with this over decades. You know, I think one of the issues that the president said he tried to do with moving of the embassy the Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to some extent is take some of these contentious issues off the table and saying it`s settle, it`s done, now, let`s try to negotiate. And that tactic doesn`t appear to be working so far.
Our reporting from my colleagues in the Middle East kind of show that this has been a big set back, especially the Golan Heights move, that you cannot get the Arab leaders to the table at this point. It`s really put them in a bad corner. And so, as far as this whole Mideast peace plan goes, I think it`s difficult there.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Shannon Pettypiece. And thank you, Gene Robinson.
Still ahead, this summer marks the 50th anniversary of America`s first moon shot. How time flies, and serves as reminder what this great country can do when we work together. Look how proud we were in that day in the world. The whole world said the United States can do it. What a country. What a moment.
We`ll be back with that. Can we impact that pride? Back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win and the others, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This summer will mark the 50th anniversary since astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fulfilled Kennedy`s pledge to go to the moon. In his new book "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race", historian Douglas Brinkley describes the profound effects that moment had on our country. He writes: Whenever we worry about American decline, Kennedy`s moonshot challenge has stood as the green light reminding us that together, as a society we can accomplish virtually any feat.
Joining me right now is the author of the book, Doug Brinkley.
Douglas, thank you, and that is inspiring. I felt it when I said it. It made every American proud. It made all the squares out there, the hardworking guys with the slide rules and the guys that are not so cool or hip, all those people that make things work and study in school and did their homework.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN MOONSHOT": Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: We can put a man on the moon.
BRINKLEY: Yes, and Kennedy as a senator was very into stem in the idea of beating Russia with science education. "Time" magazine picked scientist as the Person of the Year in 1960. And when Kennedy came in, we had the microchip in the late 1950s. Radar had been perfected. Of course, we were doing satellite technology.
And Kennedy put the new frontier and decided technology and space is going to be a part of the heart and soul of the new frontier. And computer science classes started on campuses. NASA spread the money around to MIT, Rice, Caltech, on and on.
MATTHEWS: And these World War II guys, the greatest generation as Tom Brokaw has christened them, these guys, Kennedy included, and Cronkite, who covered World War II, the guy you`ve written about in the great book, they were all into the cheering section. Everybody was together on this thing. There was nobody against it really.
BRINKLEY: Not really. Barry Goldwater wanted to go to the Air Force. He didn`t like civilian space.
By the late `60s, people like Walter Mondale and Fulbright thought it might be used for domestic programs. But remember, it really was a hangover effect to Paul Levin (ph) of World War II when we could all do big things that hurry up the economy approach. Everybody thinks of NASA in the `60s as the beginning of Silicon Valley --
BRINKLEY: -- and all of that. But it`s also the last big act of World War II.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.
BRINKLEY: Yes. And FDR did, you know, Grand Coulee Damn and, you know, Eisenhower had the Interstate Highway Project, the big one.
BRINKLEY: Kennedy went for the moon.
MATTHEWS: They like the idea of leapfrogging. When I was growing up in the `50s, Walt Disney which was a great show for education, had Wernher von Braun, the old German nuclear scientist, a rocket scientist. He would come on and say, we`re going to be the first ones, we Americans to get satellites out there. They pick up the paper one day, it was a paper, and there is sputnik in `57. It took from `57 to the end of the `60s to leapfrog the damn Russians.
BRINKLEY: And that`s the word Kennedy loved, leapfrog. And in `57, when Sputnik went up, Von Braun was furious, because he knew he could have done it, but he didn`t get funded by Eisenhower.
Ike held a grudge against von Braun for World War II being a Nazi and von Braun out of Huntsville just was not getting the funding. By the time of post-Sputnik, people started funding more on von Braun, and, you know, those vanguard rockets that you see collapsed at Cape Canaveral, those were Navy rockets, the von Braun`s army rockets were flawless and he built the moon rocket, the Saturn V.
MATTHEWS: Well, today, a lot of Americans think of us as the rocket that won`t make it. What happened?
BRINKLEY: You know, we lost --
MATTHEWS: Under Trump, the sense of lack of pride.
BRINKLEY: It`s a low ebb in American history. Kennedy you know wrote the book on Nixon. Kennedy barely beat Nixon, but he had a 60, 70 percent approval rating because he worked from day one to unite the country on a big goal. Trump plays the politics of division, and hence, you are not going to get a moon shot. I mean, going to the moon cost $25 billion, $185 billion a today we appropriated.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but it sent a message to the world that we are the winning country. We`re not the Russians. You know, we were the third world -- I was in Africa and I was watching the whole thing. Those countries said wait a minute, the Americans know how to do this. The Russians can`t do this.
BRINKLEY: The whole world, 550 million people watched Neil Armstrong. John Glenn in 1962 became not just a folk hero, but he went all over the world. His capsule, Friendship 7, would go travel the countries, people would wait four or five hours. Everybody loved the United States` space program because --
MATTHEWS: What can we do today like this? How do you bring it back?
BRINKLEY: There are some people think we work with NASA and go back to the moon and like Buzz Aldrin wants a Mars shot. There are other people who think it`s time to do an earth shot, that you have to deal with climate change and how to, you know, structure a fossil-free economy. But other things we need is a moon shot for cancer like Joe Biden. The word moonshot is out there and we are hungering to do something together.
MATTHEWS: It`s good to succeed.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. What a beautiful book, I tell you, this goes on your shelf. I mean, this is inspiring and it`s proud because Americans did this.
Thank you, Douglas Brinkley.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, President Trump promised to pick the best people for government. But the best for whom, the American people or Trump?
Back after this.
MATTHEWS: You know how the Senate gets to confirm the top government officials in Washington? It`s a way of sharing power between the president and Congress on who gets to run the government.
Under Donald Trump, it doesn`t actually work that way. He`s put people in top positions that only he, Donald Trump, approved to put there. So, we have an acting secretary of defense, an acting secretary of homeland security, an acting secretary of the interior, an acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, an acting head of FAA, an acting head of FEMA, an acting director of the Secret Service, and also an acting White House chief of staff.
Is this what Donald Trump promised? Hardly. Candidate Trump told voters he`d pick the very best people out there for the top jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want experts. Our finest people, we don`t want people at the B level, C level, D level. We have to get our absolute best.
The cabinet, we`re going to have all the best people. We`re going to find out who they are, and it`s not going to be a politically best choice either.
We`re going to use our smartest and our best. We are not using political hacks anymore. That`s the people that do these deals. They are political hacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Instead, we`ve got a government of deputies, people either reached the top only because the person on top was dropped or quit, or those who didn`t make the cut the first time around. But if we are not getting the top official Trump promised in the campaign, we`re getting what he now wants, people who might not be able to pass muster with the Senate, but can be thrown into the positions without the delay or possible refusal of the Senate confirmation process. And most importantly, will do what they are ordered to do by Trump.
The result is a government of Trump`s people who lacked the credibility of a confirmation from the Senate. We have a government of, by, and for, Donald J. Trump.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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