‘Hardball’ Horror: Rhodes Hints Trump Backs Dead Reporters, Matthews Compares Kushner to Saudi Prince

Thursday’s lead Hardball segment offered blistering hot takes concerning the likely death of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi with former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes suggesting that President Trump’s disdain for the press allowed for Khashoggi’s death and host Chris Matthews equating Jared Kushner to the Saudi Crown Prince.

Unfortunately for Matthews, his runaway comparisons between Kushner and the Mohammad bin Salman was quashed by The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, who tamped down on Matthews’s link between Kushner and the U.S. response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

 

 

Matthews first teed Rhodes up by arguing that “[t]his seems to be a clear-cut case” where America “defend[s] a journalist who apparently was killed, according to the President, was killed but it doesn’t seem like we're taking the side of the victim here and his interests against the killer.” 

Moments later, Rhodes uncorked his hot take that the President created the atmosphere where dead journalists are acceptable (click “expand”):

So, what we're seeing here, Chris, is really the continuation of a profound realignment of American foreign policy under Donald Trump where we longer speak up for democracy and human rights. We no longer speak up for journalists. Instead, we call them the enemy of the state and we're giving a green light not just to this Saudi regime, but to any regime around the world who wants to harm dissidents, harm journalists because the most powerful democracy in the world is no longer on their side and I think we can't imagine the message that that's sending to people and governments around the world and just how much that's shifting the workings of the global order that the United States has led since the end of World War II. 

Matthews interjected to make sure he heard Rhodes correctly, stating that he believed Rhodes had just told him “that the signal was sent by this President to the world and to the bad guys of the world, including the Saudi family, that we hate journalists to the point where whatever you're going to do with them is fine with us.”

Rhodes doubled down, asserting that Trump’s rhetoric against the media has had the “chilling effect abroad, particularly with governments who are willing to do horrific things to squelch dissent.”

He added that “there are plenty of other governments around the world who would do harm to journalists” and “dissidents” and while the United States would normally stand up for freedom, Trump’s America has allowed those possibilities to flourish.

Sadly, the people of Cuba, Libya, Iran, Syria, and Yemen were not available for comment on the Obama administration’s record on spreading democracy and human rights.

The MSNBC pundit kicked the crazy train into another gear, telling NBCNews.com’s Heidi Przybyla that he thinks “it has to do with Jared, his son-in-law, he’s been sort of his viceroy when it comes to dealings with the Arab world” who’s “in bed with this royal family over there, that his sort of Romanoff phony family and their family seen to be locked together” because “Jared, this crown prince, and his crown prince, seem to be in bed together politically.”

Przybyla didn’t disagree and thus Matthews expanded on his comparison between Kushner and the Prince helping to oversee a totalitarian regime (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: They see, the Saudi royal family, especially this young prince, sleek prince, seems to think of Jared of something like him in the United States, the son-in-law, the crown prince. They seem to have built that relationship as if it’s two royal families interlocking, if you will, hooking up if you will and it seems to me that this President looks at it the same way in reverse. 

PRZYBYLA: Well, you definitely can draw a line back to the fact that the very first visit — a foreign visit by this President was to Saudi Arabia and the fingerprints of Jared Kushner on that and now the question is, I think...we’ve already — we’ve already seen that this is not going to be an investigation. They’ve already had too much time. They’ve had Pompeo come over there and not make demands, for example, listening to the tape and what not and so, the question is has the United States already allowed Crown Prince to — to — to argue plausible deniability that, no matter what comes out of this investigation. He didn’t know about it.

Costa eventually got a chance to speak, telling Matthews to “[p]ut aside for a moment this Romanoffs allusion you’re making” since the administration’s point person is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and especially considering it was Pompeo instead of Kushner who went to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Nonetheless, Costa put in a plea for Democrats to take over Congress so they could investigate how the Trump administration has dealt with the Khashoggi matter:

[T]hat’s why the midterms matter because Congress needs to ask these kinds of tough questions, maybe under subpoena, maybe invite the Secretary of State to Capitol Hill. Senator Corker’s asking questions, but a lot of Republicans right now aren’t asking the questions you’re asking.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on October 18, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
October 18, 2018
7:06 p.m. Eastern

BEN RHODES: Ben Rhodes, thank you, once upon a time, not too many years ago, this country had moral authority in the world. We tried to position ourselves as the good guys, as the ones believed in freedoms and human rights generally, going back to Jimmy Carter, going back to Roosevelt. We tried to be the country that was for the good guys and looked out for the underdogs a lot of the time. This seems to be a clear-cut case. We defend a journalist who apparently was killed, according to the President, was killed but id doesn’t seem like we're taking the side of the victim here and his interests against the killer. 

BEN RHODES: Yeah, Chris, I mean, we've become essentially the Trump administration a co-conspirator in the cover-up. I mean, at this point, a normal administration, not just Obama, but any traditional American administration, would be working with those very same allies that you showed Trump criticizing. The European Union, Canada, to figure out what are the consequences that we're going to impose on Saudi Arabia? Let's face it, we don't need to know much more than we already know. The man went into the Saudi consulate and never came out. Decisions like this, to send hit squads into other countries to kill journalists, do not get made in the Saudi system without Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne, knowing about that. So, what we're seeing here, Chris, is really the continuation of a profound realignment of American foreign policy under Donald Trump where we longer speak up for democracy and human rights. We no longer speak up for journalists. Instead, we call them the enemy of the state and we're giving a green light not just to this Saudi regime, but to any regime around the world who wants to harm dissidents, harm journalists because the most powerful democracy in the world is no longer on their side and I think we can't imagine the message that that's sending to people and governments around the world and just how much that's shifting the workings of the global order that the united States has led since the end of World War II. 

MATTHEWS: Ben, you were the spokesman for foreign policy for the previous government — previous administration, White House. Do you really believe, I'm not going to put words in your mouth, but I think I just heard them, that the signal was sent by this President to the world and to the bad guys of the world, including the Saudi family, that we hate journalists to the point where whatever you're going to do with them is fine with us. 

RHODES: Well, look, we've been saying for many months that we're concerned that the rhetoric he uses at home against journalists could have a chilling effect abroad, particularly with governments who are willing to do horrific things to squelch dissent. The Saudis undertook this operation knowing that it wouldn't just silence Jamal Khashoggi. It was so brazen that they want the message to go out to any Saudi journalist or dissident in any country in the world that this could happen to you. The chilling thing is the Saudis might not mind the attention this is getting because it's getting that message across and if you take that and on top of that, you have a U.S. President who seems more concerned at protecting Mohammed bin Salman and at protecting the Saudi government after this action, then that message is only compounded and there are plenty of other governments around the world who would do harm to journalists, who would do harm to dissidents who will take comfort in the fact that the United States is no longer figuring out what consequences we can impose on a country like Saudi Arabia after they do this, we're figuring out how to get them through this.

MATTHEWS: Well, Heidi, I don't mind going to general quarters on this, meaning where I usually go. I think it has to do with his family. I think it has to do with Jared, his son-in-law, he's been sort of his viceroy when it comes to dealings with the Arab world. I think he feels that somehow he's in bed with this royal family over there, that his sort of Romanoff phony family and their family seen to be locked together. Jared, this crown prince, and his crown prince, seem to be in bed together politically. 

HEIDI PRZYBYLA: Well, you raise the exact question and the answer is we don't know and why don’t we know? Because he’s not — unlike every president  before him, prior, you know going back to Nixon, actually disclosed his financial interests. From what we do know, the Saudis have definitely invested in him. From what we do know, during the campaign, he opened at least eight companies in Saudi Arabia. Is this because of some kind of a direct financial connection or is this just part of a broader pattern of affinity that he’s shown toward 

MATTHEWS: Well affinity, right?

PRZYBYLA: — these types of autocratic leaders. 

MATTHEWS: Jump to that. That’s the word I’m interested in. They see, the Saudi royal family, especially this young prince, sleek prince, seems to think of Jared of something like him in the United States, the son-in-law, the crown prince. They seem to have built that relationship as if it’s two royal families interlocking, if you will, hooking up if you will and it seems to me that this President looks at it the same way in reverse. 

PRZYBYLA: Well, you definitely can draw a line back to the fact that the very first visit — a foreign visit by this President was to Saudi Arabia and the fingerprints of Jared Kushner on that and now the question is, I think — 

MATTHEWS: Look, there they are together. 

ROBERT COSTA: Chris — 

MATTHEWS: His buddies.

PRZYBYLA: — we’ve already — we’ve already seen that this is not going to be an investigation. They’ve already had too much time. They’ve had Pompeo come over there and not — 

COSTA: Chris — 

PRZYBYLA: — make demands, for example, listening to the tape and what not and so, the question is has the United States already allowed Crown Prince to — to — to argue plausible deniability that, no matter what comes out of this investigation. He didn’t know about it.

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern

COSTA: Put aside for a moment this Romanoffs allusion you’re making because, based on my conversations with White House officials, Chris, it’s really about Pompeo, the Secretary of State, playing his own chess game in the Middle East, thinking they’ve got to go after Iran, Saudi Arabia is crucial in how the U.S. is positioning itself with Iran, the President with his transactional view of foreign policy, all about money, the arms deals, the oil. That and Jared — with respect to Mr. Kushner — based on the conversations with White House officials, more of a side player, partially because he seems a little bit hot. A little bit hot because of his relationship with Mohammad bin Salman. 

MATTHEWS: Yeah, but what about this — I know he may be covering up for this or leading the cover-up because isn’t the son-in-law Jared the one who’s supposed to put this grand treaty together? Something like the old green line with some changes but it doesn’t protect the Arab rights in Jerusalem. Isn’t he — aren’t they looking for the Saudis to underwrite that deal? Wasn’t that the plan by the —

COSTA: That was — 

MATTHEWS: — Crown Prince?

COSTA: — that was the plan but actions speak louder than any kind of plan. Who went to Saudi Arabia? Mike Pompeo. Who’s gone to Turkey. It was the Secretary of State, not Jared Kushner. 

MATTHEWS: Okay. Why didn’t the Secretary of State ask to hear the recordings that the Turkish govenrment and its official newspapers have been putting out with all the hard – I mean, really horrifying details about the torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi? Why don’t they — why didn’t he ask if he could listen to that tape when he was there?

COSTA: That’s why — that’s why the midterms matter because Congress needs to ask these kinds of tough questions, maybe under subpoena, maybe invite the Secretary of State to Capitol Hill. Senator Corker’s asking questions, but a lot of Republicans right now aren’t asking the questions you’re asking. 

MATTHEWS: They’re sitting here talking about sports or something? I don’t know what they’re having such a great time about. This is this week in the aftermath of an unbelievable torture and murder and a dismemberment and this guy’s the chief suspect and Pompeo’s having — I don’t know — tea with the guy. I don’t know what’s going on.


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NBDaily Middle East MSNBC Hardball Video Government & Press Robert Costa Chris Matthews Heidi Przybyla Jared Kushner Donald Trump Ben Rhodes Jamal Khashoggi
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