Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/16/2016

Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, Anne Gearan, April Ryan, Ruth Marcus, Francesca Chambers

Date: March 16, 2016
Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Amy Klobuchar, Anne Gearan, April Ryan, Ruth
Marcus, Francesca Chambers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump`s the boss.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

You know who the boss is when you can`t start without you. (sic) Anyway,
today, Donald Trump made that clear. He said no more debates, and there
will be no more debates. Trump cleaned up in four of the five states
holding contests last night, narrowly edging out Ted Cruz in Missouri and
North Carolina, while John Kasich pulled out his first win of the 2016
primaries in his home state of Ohio.

Trump`s overwhelming victory in Florida dealt a knockout blow to Senator
Marco Rubio. He announced last night that he was suspending his campaign.
Well, today, one of his top backers, Governor Nikki Haley of South
Carolina, announced she`s now supporting Cruz for the nomination.

Well, despite Trump`s loss in Ohio, a look at the delegate count shoes that
the front-runner has opened up a wider lead over Ted Cruz. He needs to win
over half the remaining delegates to lock up the nomination before the
Republican national convention in July. I`m talking about Trump.

Well, this morning, Donald Trump said that he would not participate in the
Republican debate that had been scheduled for this coming Monday in Salt
Lake City. Kasich`s campaign then announced that Kasich wouldn`t
participate without Trump, which forced Fox News to cancel the debate
altogether today.

Anyway, and Trump also warned there would be riots – that`s the headline
tomorrow morning – at the convention if it did not give the nomination to
the delegate leader himself automatically.

Let`s watch Trump in action here.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we`ll win before getting
to the convention. But I can tell you, if we didn`t and if we`re 20 votes
short or if we`re – if we`re, you know, 100 short and we`re at 1,100, and
somebody else is 500 or 400, because we`re way ahead of everybody – I
don`t think you can say that we don`t get it automatically. I think it
would be – I think you`d have riots.


MATTHEWS: Riots. Well, that`s going to be the headline tomorrow.
Michael, thank you. I`m joined right now by MSNBC political analyst Robert
Costa of “The Washington Post” and Michael Steele, former chairman of the

Michael, that`s a hell of a threat.


MATTHEWS: And that`s what it is, it`s a threat. You don`t give me the
nomination if I`m even front-runner, forget the majority – if I`m the
front-runner, you give it to me or I`m going to – well, it sounds like he
would encourage riots.


MATTHEWS: It sounds like (INAUDIBLE) I just heard it.

STEELE: I don`t know if there`ll be riots on the street, but there
certainly will be pandemonium on the floor. And look, Chris, the delegates
who are supporting Trump who`ll be coming to this convention have been sort
of itching and banking on this possibility for some time now. There have
been tell-tale signs of unrest among a lot of delegates about how they
perceive the national party and those within it are sort of trying to
structure the deal away from Trump.

So they`re going to come to this convention loaded for bear, which I`ve
been trying to raise that yellow flag, saying, Careful how you approach
this. If Donald Trump is 100 delegates away, by all rights, it will be
hard for anyone to take away those 1,100 and give it to someone who`s is
sitting at 600 or 700. That`s his central argument, and it is one the
delegates are going to hold the convention to.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Robert Costa – you cover him all the time –
was he being hyperbolic, or does he mean it? When he says riots, was that
just a way of saying pandemonium, people aren`t going to like it, or this
is going to get physical?

what he sees at his rallies. These crowds are fervent. They`re for Trump.
They think that the establishment wants to steal the nomination.

You got Trump`s campaign right now working with veteran Republican
consultants, guys like Ed Brookover (ph) came over from the Ben Carson
campaign, now thinking ahead to the convention. You got Lewandowski, the
campaign manager. He`s running to be a delegate in New Hampshire, maybe
trying to get on the Rules Committee once Cleveland comes in July because
they`re watching the others.

They`re watching the rivals. They see Kasich`s hiring his own people, guys
like Stu Spencer, who worked on the Ford campaign in `76.

MATTHEWS: Well, this looks like a collision, then, a collision…


MATTHEWS: … the people that won`t accept him and he won`t accept denial
at this point, right, Robert?

COSTA: It`s a collision. This is going to be a fight for the future of
the Republican Party. And it`s a lot of campaigns, the rivals and
associates of Cruz and Kasich – they say, Look, if Trump is nowhere near
1,200, if he`s even at 1,100, that`s not enough. It`s about getting the
coalition together. That`s why you see people like Haley going to Cruz
today. There the thought, if it`s Cruz, Kasich, if it`s Cruz, someone
else, there`s some kind of coalition that could be brokered.

And there`s a lot of chat about a second ballot. And you got the former
speaker of the House, John Boehner, coming out today, talking about Paul
Ryan. Paul Ryan then threw some cold water on the idea of being that
candidate. But there is chatter out there each and every minute.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Politico reports today that top conservatives are
gathering tomorrow to plot a third party run against Trump in case he
becomes the Republican nominee. Exit polls, by the way, show that if Trump
and Clinton are the choices in November, 29 percent of Republican voters in
Florida, for example, would consider voting for a third party candidate, as
well as 45 percent of Republican voters in Ohio.

Michael, what`s worse for the Republican Party, Trump gets the nomination
and everybody stews about it, or he doesn`t get the nomination, he walks
out, starts a Bull Moose Party a la Teddy Roosevelt, and the residual of
the Republican Party is worth what? I just wonder.

STEELE: Or – or the third scenario, Chris, is that these people who are
having the meeting tomorrow actually find someone, a Mitt Romney, a Paul
Ryan or someone else, to run as a third party candidate in the fall. None
of those situations are good for the party.

I think, though, in the end, cooler heads have to prevail. Donald Trump
can be worked with. He can be negotiated with. Deals can be struck with
him by the leadership of this party, should he become the nominee, to work
out a strategy going forward. He`s making the overtures now with the Hill.
He`s making the overtures with state party officials, the rank and file,
because he recognizes his success is going to be dependent on them as their
success is going to be dependent on him.

They got to get past this crazy talk about a third party and all of this
nonsense of trying – you know, trying to defeat him and just let the
process unfold. If he is the nominee, work with him to defeat Hillary.
That`s the bottom line.

MATTHEWS: Well, Robert, the problem with that is – it sounds logical –
is Trump doesn`t work if he`s not Trump. If Trump becomes a mouthpiece for
the establishment Republican Party, for the Ben Ginsbergs and Charlie
Blacks, et cetera, if he starts talking with (INAUDIBLE), he`ll sound like
any other hack out there. He doesn`t want to do that.

COSTA: Yes, he`s not really doing it. He`s expanding his circle. Trump`s
a phone call guy, loves getting on the phone, doesn`t use e-mail. I hear
he was calling around the Senate today. He`s starting to build
relationships, even if he`s not hiring people on board.

I got some fresh reporting in the last few minutes about this meeting
tomorrow. It`s 8:30 AM, Washington, D.C., a group of a few dozen
conservatives. They are going to start looking about a third party bid.
One name I keep hearing, Chris, Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska. They think
this young senator, first-termer from Nebraska, even if it lets Hillary get
the White House by having a split race, three-way race, they think he could
be a standard bearer for the hard right.

MATTHEWS: Well, who are these people that are meeting in a room. What
have they got, cigars? I mean, what kind of a meeting is this?



COSTA: … power structure.

MATTHEWS: … so far into modern politics.


MATTHEWS: … on line, what are they, social media people? Or are they
actual government people who`ve been elected a governors or a senator or
something heavy?

COSTA: No elected officials are coming. I hear some aides to some House
members. This is Freedom Caucus members of the House. I hear their aides
are coming. You got a lot of bloggers. It`s being organized by Erick
Erickson, the conservative blogger and columnist, and you got a lot of
people who come from the Reagan years who were part of the conservative
movement at its start. They`re part of this meeting, as well.

MATTHEWS: Government by blogger.


MATTHEWS: That`s an improvement over what you had? I mean, it seems like
Trump beat the Republican Party. He didn`t join it, he beat it.


MATTHEWS: Like Sanders could have done it, didn`t do it, but he beat the
party. He now owns it, potentially, and once he owns it, they`ve got to
accept that they`ve been taken over or not accept it. And if they don`t
accept it, they`ve got to walk out of their own convention.

STEELE: Yes, that`s basically what this is leading to. And my question is
– you know, Ben Sasse is a great guy and I`m sure, you know, brings a lot
to the table. But what does that say to Ted Cruz? You know, where does
all of that conservative support for Ted Cruz go?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Exactly.

STEELE: So now you`re going to create friction within the conservative
movement itself by pitting Sasse against Cruz. This – folks, this is so
silly. Just let the thing play out. Let Trump run his race. Let the
other two gentlemen run their race against him. And getting to the
convention, let the nominee emerge. But this is not the way to do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Tip O`Neill used to say, I wouldn`t know Ben Sasse from
a cord of wood.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump today attacked Hillary Clinton – whatever a cord
of wood looks like these days. He attacked Hillary Clinton with a new
Instagram, which causes a – uses a clip out of context of the former
secretary barking like a dog. This may be new low-grade Trump. But let`s


arf, arf, arf, arf!



MATTHEWS: Well, that clip of Secretary Clinton was pulled from a story she
told in Nevada last month about a radio ad in Arkansas. Here`s what
Clinton actually said in the actual context.


CLINTON: One of my favorite, favorite political ads of all time was a
radio ad, rural Arkansas, where the announcer said, Wouldn`t it be great if
somebody running for office said something, we could have an immediate
reaction as to whether it was true or not?

Well, we`ve trained this dog, and the dog, if it`s not true, he`s going to
bark. And then the dog was barking on the radio. We need to get that dog
and follow him around, and every time they say these things, like, Oh, you
know, the great recession was caused by too much regulation – Arf, arf,
arf, arf, arf! You know?


MATTHEWS: OK, Robert, that was pretty low, treating her like a dog, let`s
face it, what they`re up to there. In the world of sexism, that would be
pretty high up, I would say, just because they took that ad and cruelly
made her look like that.

COSTA: You see how…

MATTHEWS: Robert Costa…

COSTA: … it blew up on Twitter? You see how it blew up on social media
on the right? I mean, Trump – he has – is viewed by – you know, by a
lot of conservatives with suspicion, but when they look ahead to the
general election and hard tactics you would take against Clinton, this edge
he has and these kind of Instagram ads and videos, they like it.

And when you talk to party officials, there`s a sense that because of this
edge, Trump may be able to bring the party together because of the way he
hammers Clinton on these issues.

MATTHEWS: Well, to quote Carly Fiorina from a thousand years ago – in
other words, a few weeks ago – she said every woman in America knows what
he meant.

Anyway, thank you very much Robert Costa. Thank you, Michael Steele.
There`s a reason you`re laughing.

Coming up – running the table. Hillary Clinton goes five for five at the
big state primaries last night. She`s tightening her lock on the
nomination thanks in large part to women voters. And for that, she may
want to thank, in the weirdest possible way, Donald Trump. And that`s

Plus, President Obama dares the Republicans to stay no. He`s chosen now,
today, the safest Supreme nominee – Court nominee he could pick. But
Senate Republicans are digging in, saying they won`t consider any nominee
until the next president is sworn in. Well, can President Obama win this
squeeze play of his?

And as the Republican establishment braces for a convention fight, where
does the anti-Trump vote go now that he`s pulling away in the Republican

Finally tonight, the HARDBALL roundtable tells me something I don`t know.

And this is HARDBALL itself, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, just hours after his state`s primary last night, Florida
governor Rick Scott has endorsed Donald Trump for president. Governor
Scott writes, quote, “If we spend another four months tearing each other
apart, it will damage our ability to win in November. It`s time for an end
to the Republican-on-Republican violence. It`s time for us to begin coming
together. We`ve had a vigorous primary. Now let`s get serious about
winning in November.” That`s Donald Trump.

Donald Trump won Florida last night with 46 percent of the Republican vote,
beating home state senator Marco Rubio, who was way down at 27 percent, a
thumping, in other words, in Trump`s, well, visiting role there.

We`ll be right back.



is another super Tuesday for our campaign.


CLINTON: Thank you, Florida. Thank you, North Carolina. Thank you, Ohio!


CLINTON: We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination
and winning this election in November!



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Hillary Clinton, of course,
last night claiming victory in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. But the
night got even better for the former secretary of state. She also swept
the entire evening with unexpected victories in Illinois and Missouri,
where she`s also the apparent winner. Her string of wins padded her
delegate lead over Bernie Sanders and moved her closer to becoming the
Democratic nominee for 2016.

In her victory speech, Secretary Clinton turned her sights to the GOP
front-runner, Donald Trump.


CLINTON: Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not
embarrass it…


CLINTON: … engage our allies, not alienate them, defeat our adversaries,
not embolden them. When we hear a candidate for president call for
rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the
United States…


CLINTON: … when he embraces torture, that doesn`t make him strong, it
makes him wrong!



MATTHEWS: Well, Anne Gearan`s a political correspondent for “The
Washington Post” and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother

Let me ask you about last night. It still seems like last night to me!


MATTHEWS: I`m sitting out in Cleveland for seven or eight, nine hours.
And I was thinking that rarely do politicians surpass what they think
they`re going to do. And I was hearing from her people, one of her people
you all know very well, who said, We`re going to have a hard time in
Missouri. And they pulled that out, even!

ANNE GEARAN, “WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, I mean, the lowering of expectations
game is…

MATTHEWS: You think that was a scam on us?

GEARAN: In – in – in part. I mean, they all do it to a degree. I mean,
I think they really did think they were going to lose Missouri. Certainly,
Sanders really thought he was going to win it.


GEARAN: And Illinois appeared to be kind of on – on – on the bubble.
She did much better than expected also in Ohio. They thought they were
going to win Ohio, but she did better than they thought.

MATTHEWS: She was walking around with a ball and chain on. She had Rahm


MATTHEWS: … trade issue. Bernie was on fire, and she still won five for
five. It was amazing.

winning Michigan the week earlier, we thought that there was a template
being set.

MATTHEWS: And the polls didn`t count.

CORN: … you know, on trade issues, and some working class economic
issues. Things that she and Bernie Sanders had been tussling over for
weeks seemed to be paying off for Bernie Sanders! And it didn`t work for
him last night.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) I think this is the audience that explains, women
and even girls, some of them, very young people. Anne, I just think
there`s something happening. This is my hunch (INAUDIBLE) Late last night,
it came to me. What was the big visual story last week? It wasn`t her.
It wasn`t Bernie. It was the horror around Trump…

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: … the racial fist-fighting…


MATTHEWS: … tearing the scab off America`s racial history right in front
of us, the one thing people hate to think about. I have a feeling that
women especially said, None of that, and they went to her.

GEARAN: Yes. I mean, you may well be right. I mean, Certainly, Hillary
Clinton has been waiting for sort of Donald Trump`s true colors to reveal
themselves or for people to decide they`ve had enough, or something. We`ve
all been waiting for something to happen with the Trump phenomenon, and it
hadn`t really happened yet.

MATTHEWS: Well, and look at these numbers. According to the exit polls
last night, women made up nearly 60 percent…

CORN: Wow.

MATTHEWS: … that`s three out of five who voted in Florida. Of course,
women tend to live longer in the retirement communities. We know that
unfortunate fact for men.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Clinton also – of them, she won 68 percent. You do the
math of 68 times 60. Anyway, in Ohio, women (ph) made (ph) up (ph) 56
percent of voters, and Hillary won 63 percent. These are huge percentages!

GEARAN: Yes, I mean, Trump was never going to approach the kind of numbers
on the Republican side with women that she was going to be able to do in
Florida, and certainly not with Hispanics.


MATTHEWS: … out of your mouth and brain. Why are women as a gender
turned off by – would they be turned off, potentially, by what we`ve been
watching in this country in the last week or so?

GEARAN: Well, I mean, I can`t speak for all women, but I think, certainly,
what we see in polling, in some of the exit polling last night, suggests
that women particularly and older people generally, certainly older women,
hear some echoes here.

They hear things that they have heard in other parts of American history
that they don`t care to relive. That is certainly the case with older
African-American voters, and many people hear echoes of another time and
another country – and another continent in Europe.


MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. They look like Third World.

GEARAN: Well, they`re saying that now. People are saying they`re


MATTHEWS: … talks about arresting Hillary Clinton if he wins, that`s so
Third World. That`s something that like in Pakistan, when they say, I`m
going to arrest President Bhutto and hang him. If I win, they die. This
sounds like that.

CORN: Democratic strategists for weeks now have been holding focus groups,
and they – about Donald Trump, and they find that women have a visceral
reaction to him. They recoil at him. They use phrases like he reminds me
of my abusive ex-boyfriend.

They really, really dislike him. And I think, in the last week, with what
you talked about – I was thinking about this today earlier – I think it
is causing some Democratic voters to say, you know what? I may like
Bernie, I may like Hillary Clinton, but I think when it comes to the
general election, she might be a better choice.


MATTHEWS: This is what we fear in this country, this racial, face-to-face

Anyway, in a speech last night, Senator Sanders joined Clinton in attacking
Donald Trump. Here he is.


Trump will never be elected president is the American people will not
accept insults to Mexicans, Muslims or women.


SANDERS: The American people will not accept a president who insults our


SANDERS: … or who, several years ago, led the so-called birther effort,
which was an ugly, ugly attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the
presidency of Barack Obama.



MATTHEWS: Well, go, Bernie. If I were Hillary, I would be saying, go,
Bernie, because that`s the kind of campaign oratory that would help Hillary
in the general if she were the nominee.

GEARAN: Right. I mean, she is certainly hoping that – assuming she is…


MATTHEWS: He is the barn burner.

GEARAN: I mean, she can do – he can do many things, frankly, that she
cannot, in terms of drawing an enormous crowd, keeping that crowd fired up.
He knows how to build the rhetorical crest and all of that stuff.

MATTHEWS: How about this thing?


MATTHEWS: The birther thing, you know, it`s great stuff.

GEARAN: And he`s kind of the conductor. He looks like – I think we
should score music to…

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

But I`m just saying, because the question raised in the papers this
morning, your paper, too, I guess, was, can he continue without hurting
her? And if he goes that way, he can.

CORN: Yes. Well, this is his decision to make. And you talk to his
advisers today, as people around here have done, and they keep saying,
there is a path, we can win the next few states, and we can bring it all
the way up to California and win California and squeak by her.

I don`t know if that is…

MATTHEWS: Can you do that with a relatively positive anti-Trump campaign?

CORN: I don`t think you can do that by sticking to the high road, without
really mixing it up with Hillary and trying to bring her down.

So, this is the big decision that he and his team have to make relatively

MATTHEWS: What do you think his motivation is right now? He has had a
hard time. He was hoping to have a political revolution. He was hoping to
really roll the score up, and beat her in these industrial states

GEARAN: Sure. Sure. And he had a bad night last night. He was hoping to
have a real moment last night that would build on Michigan, that would show
a path, that would show a clear way that he can keep going with a real
rationale, and at least a plausible or almost plausible argument that he
has the momentum to be able to keep going.

MATTHEWS: Yes. So now?

GEARAN: So, he got stuck. He got stopped last night.

And he is not going to leave the race for any time soon. Why would he?
The longer he stays in, the more leverage he has, the more ability he has
to affect the outcome. The question, though, is exactly as you say. Can -
- will he decide to go negative on her as the – kind of as that path?

MATTHEWS: Some permanent wounds.

GEARAN: Which I think is why Robby Mook, the campaign manager, came out
very pointedly on that today. He issued this memo today, the very first
point of which was that Sanders had spent all this money, and didn`t get
anywhere in Ohio, and that – and had run a negative ad that backfired.

CORN: Bernie still gets a lot of credit for changing the tone of the
campaign, pulling Hillary Clinton towards…


MATTHEWS: “Enough about the e-mails.”

CORN: And so, you know, he has gotten a lot of what he has wanted. He has
affected – here`s an independent Democratic socialist senator from the
state of Vermont who has shaped the whole national political discourse.

That`s tremendous. He wants to probably do more of that. I don`t think he
cares about a Cabinet position or an ambassadorship.


CORN: Maybe he wants a highway in Vermont.

MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary and her camp has to figure out how to deal with
some of the truths that has emerged with, the stuff the makes sense, and
also grab all those neocons who are going to look for a new home now.

CORN: Well, they need some…


MATTHEWS: Because they ain`t going to be for Trump.

Anyway, Anne Gearan – or let the Republicans split. That could work for
her too. But it wouldn`t be good for the country.

David Corn, thank you. Anne Gearan, thank you.

Up next: Supreme Court showdown. President Obama offers a judge with past
bipartisan backing, and Republicans are already vowing not to even consider
him for the high court. I will speak to two members of the Senate
Judiciary Committee right away, in about a minute.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


what`s happening.

President Obama issued an order stopping new sanctions on North Korea in
response to the country`s recent nuclear and ballistic activities.

Officials say today`s shutdown of the D.C. Metro rail system for safety
checks was necessary. The system is expected to reopen tomorrow, though
some stations that require repairs may remain closed.

And the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and cut the number of
anticipated rate hikes for the year to two from four. It also expects two
increases in 2017 – now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the battle has now officially begun with Senate Republicans and
President Obama over the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S.
Supreme Court.

The GOP leadership have set up a blockade against the nomination, saying
they won`t even offer courtesy meetings with Judge Garland, who was
introduced today by President Obama in the Rose Garden.


are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric
and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they`re disposable, this
is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the
process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care
it deserves, because our Supreme Court really is unique.

It`s supposed to be above politics. It has to be. And it should stay that


MATTHEWS: Judge Garland currently serves in the United States Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia, and he`s a Harvard-trained lawyer and
veteran judge who is considered eminently qualified by everybody,

Well, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the
Senate to denounce Obama`s decision. Here he is.


constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice. And it is the
Senate`s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold
its consent.

It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination, not, not with the
intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for
purposes of the election.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a squeeze play between the White House and Republican
leaders, who vowed at the start of his term to thwart President Obama at
every turn, and Republican senators like Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly
Ayotte of New Hampshire, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey in
Pennsylvania and Rob Portman in Ohio, who are all in tough fights to keep
their seats right now.

Anyway, joining me right now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both Democrats who are on the
Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Klobuchar, it looks to me like this puts these five senators that I
have mentioned who are up for reelection in purple states on the hot seat.
But how do you force them to force their leadership to allow true
consideration of this nomination?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I think, first of all, Chris, you
have seen a number of senators, including Senator Collins, who actually
said today she has to do her job.

She has agreed to meet with this great nominee, Judge Garland. You have
Senator Flake has agreed to meet with the nominee. And I think, as the
people of the country get to know Judge Garland, here is someone who gave
up some fancy job in a law firm and went to work in a room without a window
in the Justice Department, rose up there to oversee the two biggest
criminal cases of the last century, the Unabomber, and then the Oklahoma
City bombing.

He did that. And has an incredible reputation. He bucks the trends often
on the court and does what he thinks is right. And I know several of these
– I was there for the last two confirmation hearings. Several Republicans
have said to me, even when they voted against Justice Sotomayor or Justice
Kagan, well, Judge Garland, he`s different.

And so I think when those stories start coming out and you see the
Republicans that have voted for him before, Senator McCain, Senator Hatch,
Senator Collins, Senator Cochran, I mean, you go through the list, there`s
a number of them still in the Senate.

And I think it going to be hard for our colleagues not to even meet with
him, but have a hearing. You don`t have to vote for him. But at least
give this great public servant the hearing that he deserves.

MATTHEWS: Well, well said.

Senator Blumenthal, you already have the issue. And I think your colleague
spelled it out. You have the issue. You have got a very qualified
candidate who should be given consideration, and probably confirmation in
normal times. But how do you get a confirmation, 60 votes, at a time when
the other side has set up this barricade against any nomination, even up to
the point of just not even meeting the people, meeting the new nominee?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: He is, as you have said, Chris,
eminently qualified.

And, number two, the position that the majority leader has taken is simply
unsustainable. As a former law clerk on the United States Supreme Court
and a prosecutor who has argued four cases before the court, I have immense
respect, in fact, reference for the court.

And I think that sense is shared basically by the American people, who will
heed the president`s sentiment that the court should not be dragged down
into the ordinary morass and muck of partisan politics.

And here is the essential point. The American people are fed up with
Washington, because it can`t get things done, because it shuts down the
government, because it is gridlocked. And here, again, the Republicans in
fact are shutting down the government, effectively.

And I think that will really resonate in some of those races that you
mentioned, Chris. And I think that they will, in turn, those endangered or
at-risk Republicans will see the folly of this stance, which will only
guarantee a more progressive justice appointed by the next president, if
Judge Garland is not confirmed.

MATTHEWS: That`s interesting. So, the Republicans will get someone they
like much less.

Anyway, for months, Republicans raised the rhetoric on the nominee fight.
Senator Lindsey Graham said on “Meet the Press” in February this year he
wouldn`t even vote for himself. Let`s listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think we should let the next
president decide. The person I admire the most is me, and he you nominated
me, I wouldn`t vote for me this year.


MATTHEWS: There`s an honest statement.

Anyway, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt said the nomination should be stalled
until after the presidential election this November, insisting – quote –
“Even if the president nominated my daughter, who is a lawyer, to the
Supreme Court, I think the American people ought to get to vote and decide
if they would like to see my daughter on the Supreme Court.”

Senator Klobuchar, back to you. It seems to me that what Republicans want
to do is have one big roll of the dice. The voters, the American people
should pick the president who should fill the Supreme Court out.

And, on the other hand, you look at it the way that Senator Blumenthal just
said. No, what we`re seeing here is a shutdown of the judicial branch,
just like we have seen the legislative branch shut down by people like Ted
Cruz. Now they`re going to another level, escalating the shutdown to the

It`s – I just don`t know you get to 50 Republicans who aren`t up for
reelection, who don`t have to worry about this, to move, led by Mitch
McConnell. It looks like he wants to be where is he at.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, Chris, two-thirds of the American people want to go
forward and have a hearing.

The president noted that today when we were in the Rose Garden, two-thirds
of the American people. And you look at history. You go back to 1916.
There`s always been a hearing for a presidential nominee since we have had

And so I think you have history on our side. You have the public on our
side. And now you have an excellent nominee. And the people are going to
say, come on, you`re not going give the guy that supervised the Oklahoma
City bombing cases, this great prosecutor, this esteemed judge, you`re not
going to give a hearing?

And I actually detected that today when they – when the president put
forward Judge Garland and he stood before that beautiful day with that sun
shining down, and he choked up a bit. And I thought, you know what? He
not only has been nominated for this incredible job on the highest court of
the land, but he actually has the burden of representing this simple notion
that we have an independent judiciary.

And our job as the Senate is to fund them. It`s to make sure that we
advise and consent under the Constitution. But we are not supposed to stop
that branch from functioning.

MATTHEWS: You`re right. He also came across as a mensch, a nice guy.
Choking up was not faked.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Senator Blumenthal, thank you, sir.

Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.

Still ahead: Trump wins big last night. Kasich hangs on. And Cruz, well,
that`s not hard for him. He says he is going to keep up the fight. The
guy always fights. But with the Republican establishment unhappy about
their front-runner now, where do the anti-Trump voters actually go?

The roundtable is coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



Donald Trump keeping up the drum beat, making the case that this is his
nomination to win and if the party tries to take it away, there will be a
revolt, a riot, as he put it.

Today on FOX News, Trump said he wouldn`t attend the network`s debate
schedule for Monday. Here he is.


debates. We`ve had 11 or 12 debates. I did really well in the last one. I
think I`ve done well. I mean, according to Drudge and everybody else, I
won the debates. But I think we`ve had enough.

How many times can the same people ask you the same question. So I was
very surprised when I heard that FOX called for a debate. Nobody told me
about it. And I won`t there, no.


MATTHEWS: Well, a short time later, the Kasich campaign put out a
statement essentially saying if Trump doesn`t show, neither will Kasich.
By this afternoon, the Republican National Committee and FOX announced the
debate has been canceled.

Meanwhile, the front-runner, that`s Trump, says if he falls short of
delegates and the party tries to deny him the nomination at the convention,
there could be riots. That was the words he used.

I`m joined right now by tonight`s roundtable, HARDBALL roundtable, April
Ryan, of course, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks,
Ruth Marcus is a columnist for “The Washington Post,” and Francesca
Chambers is White House correspondent for “The Daily Mail”.

I want to start across the board the other way, this time, Francesca.
Trump is the boss now and acting like one.

wouldn`t want to debate again either. It mostly consists of them all
beating up on him and him having to defend himself, Trump University and
all these other things.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about saying there will be riots if I don`t get the
nomination, even if I`m only have most of the votes, I don`t even – I
don`t need to have the majority, he is saying.

GRAHAM: Well, I think it`s true, there are a lot of people in America who
supported Donald Trump, who would be very upset if he got that close to the
nomination, and then John Kasich tried to swoop in and take it from him on
the floor, which Kasich is being very open about, like that`s his plan. He
is not being – he is not hiding it, Chris.

MATTHEWS: The picture attached to it. We know what a riot looks like, at
his rallies.

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: We know what riots look like at his
rallies, and we know what riots look like at conventions. And we do not
want – I mean, we, America should not want that, and American candidates
for presidents should not be encouraging that.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen those pictures like countries like South
Korea, where democracy –

MARCUS: In the parliament, yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s like a hockey game.

MARCUS: Well, I guess we had caning on the Senate floor.

MATTHEWS: That was 1848.

MARCUS: I guess we`ll be back to the future, right?

MATTHEWS: I just don`t know what this guy riot, the word “riot” sounds
like he`s threatening. I mean, he`s just using hyperbole, I don`t know.

early on when he started speaking, there was a homeless man was peed and
spat upon.

MATTHEWS: For what?

RYAN: Because they used the name Donald Trump. This is was for Donald
Trump. This was early on, a couple of months back. Look at what is
happening. The words are getting stronger.

MATTHEWS: You mean some other occasion, not when Trump was around.

RYAN: No, no, not where Trump was, a couple of months back. Early on –

MATTHEWS: So, he`s turning on the ugly.

RYAN: There is a portion of America that is giving into the ugly side of
themselves. And, unfortunately, you know, when I hear from the Secret
Service who`s covering Donald Trump or watching him and watching these
rallies, they`re saying there is anger there. They were saying this before
the South Carolina primaries.

MATTHEWS: OK, takes two to tango, or whatever. Takes two to tango as

What do you make, Ruth, of these Republicans on the other side acting like
Trump didn`t win, hasn`t been winning, they act like, oh, that`s just his
numbers out there, we`ll bring in Paul Ryan? I mean, what – are you
kidding me? That`s an insult for every voter who has shown up at the booth
since the beginning of this year. We`re going to find somebody who never
even ran.

MARCUS: Sure. I think – Trump should not be encouraging or imagining
riots. I also think the Republican Party, like all parties, has rules.
Their rules are 1,237 delegates, if he short of 1,237, it`s legitimate to
have a –

MATTHEWS: When has that ever happened?

MARCUS: Well, we`ve been looking for it for years, right, but the
Republican –

MATTHEWS: In `52, come on, last guy that ran the primaries, and beat

MARCUS: The Republican Party looks for that and it`s also fair, the point
that you`re making is that, kind of want somebody who has won some
delegates who emerges as a potential –

CHAMBERS: Which is the Kasich – exactly, the Kasich argument, which is
that I have won a lot of the delegates, so I should be considered. Or the
Cruz argument or the argument that maybe they`ll come together and possibly
make some sort of a deal here.

I thought it was really interesting, today, though, that John Kasich was
asked about that, right? Will they be talking and working together to
start the situation? And he`s like, I`m not a political operative. I`m
just a candidate and I`m just –

RYAN: Kasich has a point. I mean, he can talk right now, because he has
gotten 66 delegates. Ohio was a big win for Kasich and Trump wanted that.
Trump wanted that. Kasich had a target. He wanted it.

MATTHEWS: What will it get him, HUD?

RYAN: It might.


MATTHEWS: Much more at the roundtable ahead. This is HARDBALL, the place
for politics.


MATTHEWS: New numbers on general election matchups in Pennsylvania. Let`s
check out the scoreboard.

According to a new poll from Mercyhurst University, the two frontrunners go
head to head, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton matchup, Clinton leads now.
It`s Clinton 43, Trump 35, an eight-point spread.

If Clinton she faces Ted Cruz, she`s also up, but the margin narrows, it`s
only Clinton 45, Cruz 42.

Only one candidate beats Clinton in Pennsylvania, guess who? That`s
neighboring governor, John Kasich. If it`s Clinton versus Kasich, he takes
49 percent to Clinton`s 36 percent.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back now with more on today`s Supreme Court announcement
from President Obama. For weeks, Republican leaders had vowed to block any
nomination President Obama put forward, and they are standing by that
commitment. Today, now that the president has chosen Merrick Garland for
the post, Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking member, Democratic member on
the Judiciary Committee, said today that kind of blind rejection fits a


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: What they`re saying is the president
didn`t win the election last time by 5 million votes. This is the same
kind of thing we`ve heard from them for all these years. The president
really wasn`t born in Hawaii.

Come on. Stop the nonsense. Stop the games. Let`s start following the


MATTHEWS: Yes, what was like Clint Eastwood saying, feeling lucky?

Anyway, April, Ruth, and Francesca are still with me.

April, this thing – this question, I think – do you think people look at
this as another one of those boots in the face to the president on the
racial front? First of all, he`s a birther, he`s not legitimate. Now,
we`re not going to give him a chance to name a Supreme Court nominee.

RYAN: Of course, yes, I call it black-lash. You know, he is the first
black president and there`s a segment in society, and even some on the Hill
who don`t like the fact he`s there and he almost finished his term. They
don`t want him to have a legacy piece.

But what this president is doing, he`s put forth a conservative, someone
who is fitting more so for the job, more so than fitting. He dealt with
issues in Oklahoma City. I mean, that was one of our first terrorist
attacks on the ground. He is capable.

And what the president is doing, he`s trying to humiliate the GOP because
if they don`t put forward his nominee or talk to him, they look back.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s a prosecutor, not an ACLU lawyer, this guy. He`s not
a left.

MARCUS: I think it may go too far to call him conservative.

MATTHEWS: Prosecutorial background.

MARCUS: He`s very judicious.

RYAN: He`s not liberal. He`s not as liberal as Thurgood Marshall.

MARCUS: I have to disagree with April on the racial component here, with
all due are respect.


MARCUS: I have zero doubt if Barack Obama were Barack Obama with an
apostrophe –

RYAN: Barack Hussein Obama.

MATTHEWS: You`re getting into the fact that tomorrow is St. Patrick`s Day.

MARCUS: Indeed, it is.

RYAN: My last name is Ryan, so I`m Irish, too.

MARCUS: There you go.

MATTHEWS: Accept you completely.

MARCUS: The Republican obstructionism that I`m not endorsing, I think it`s
outrageous, would be just as forceful. I think it has very – this one has
very little to do with skin color and everything to do with politics.

MATTHEWS: You do believe what April just said, they really feel – the
bar`s been changed, like it often is accused of being changed for black
people, just to change the rules. These are not the usual rules. This
disdain they have for their appointment.

MARCUS: We can all agree there`s a change in rules.

MATTHEWS: Francesca, there`s an ugly aspect to this, dismissal, just
dismiss the guy, you know, nice try, buddy, you`re not going to get to pick
a Supreme Court nominee.

CHAMBERS: Yes, what I was going to say in response to that was that they
were going to oppose whoever he put up, whatever color that person was,
they were going to oppose whoever that was, could have been black, could
have been white, could have been Hindu –

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he go with a black woman?


MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he go with a black woman?

CHAMBERS: I think that`s an excellent –

MATTHEWS: There`s an answer to that question. What is it?

CHAMBERS: I think it`s an excellent question. I think part of it is
because that person was never going to make it on the court.

MATTHEWS: Neither is this guy.

RYAN: Why wouldn`t she make it on the court because of race –

CHAMBERS: No, because Republicans would have pushed back. This at least
preserves those options potentially if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders –


RYAN: A lot of policy.

CHAMBERS: – were to win, anyone else could still potentially be on the

MATTHEWS: Anything the president does, whatever side he`s on, there`s
always guile. I see it here. He`s going to make the Republicans look bad.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these people tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching
HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We are back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

April, tell me something I don`t know.

RYAN: President Obama understanding the racial component when it comes to
this nomination for the Supreme Court pick. Right after he was in the Rose
Garden, he met with a group of leaders, union leaders, African-American
leaders, Hispanic leaders, as well as Asian-American leaders in the
Roosevelt Room to once again reaffirm the reason why he chose Merrick

MATTHEWS: Which was?

RYAN: Because he stands the test of time and because of his background and
that`s what he`s saying. He understood, he took letters from the
constituency like the Congressional Black Caucus, black women`s roundtable
asking for a black woman or an African-American.


MARCUS: Republican senators who are up for re-election are already
thinking about their version of triangulation which is that they are going
to need, if Donald Trump is the nominee, in particular, to separate
themselves from the prospect of a President Trump and instead of embracing
the top of the ticket, they`re going to argue that it shows the importance
of retaining a Republican Senate in order to be a bulwark, against yes, you
got it, President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: You`ve seen this statistics on what happens in Senate races when
we have a presidential election 90 percent of the time. They vote with the

MARCUS: They can only argue what they can argue.

MATTHEWS: Francesca?

CHAMBERS: Bernie Sanders` campaign says that it`s only halftime in this
race, that only half of the pledged delegates have been given out. They`re
going to move westward now in areas they think Senator Sanders will do
better in. Idaho and Washington they say are looking very good for them as
well as Utah. So, it`s not over yet, Chris, is what they`re telling
reporters on the call today.

MATTHEWS: Those are delegate-packed states.

Anyway, thank you, April Ryan, Ruth Marcus, Francesca Chambers.

That does it for me and HARDBALL tonight.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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