Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/24/2016

Guests:
John Brabender, Amy Holmes, Cornell Belcher, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ken Vogel, Molly Ball
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: August 24, 2016
Guest: John Brabender, Amy Holmes, Cornell Belcher, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ken
Vogel, Molly Ball

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Clinton face time.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston. Anyway, Donald Trump`s
going on offense tonight against the Clintons, zeroing in on recent reports
on their global foundation. He`s hammering away at Bill and Hillary
Clinton, accusing them for pay-for-play politics and profiting from their
charitable work.

Well, it comes after the Associated Press reported Tuesday that among the
State Department calendars the AP reviewed, more than half the non-
government officials Clinton met with as secretary of state had donated to
the Clinton Foundation.

Well, Trump, Donald Trump, ratcheted up his rhetoric against Hillary
Clinton today in Tampa, calling her actions criminal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She sold favors and access in
exchange for cash. She sold it! She sold favors! She sold access! And
wait until you see when it`s revealed, all of those people – now it looks
like it`s 50 percent of the people that saw her had to make contributions
to the Clinton Foundation.

Wait`ll you see, ultimately, what she did for all of those people. Wait`ll
you see. These are not people that go in, as I said, and talk about, How
are you feeling.

It`s impossible to tell where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State
Department begins.

She did so to cover up a vast pay-for-play scheme. Her actions are
criminal. Hillary Clinton thinks she`s above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, in his introduction to Trump today, former New York City
mayor Rudy Giuliani took it further, alleging that the Clintons did – what
they did is worse than Watergate. Listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I am more than willing to
predict, when the history of our day is written, the scandal you are
watching unfold is going to be like the Teapot Dome scandal was in the
1920s. and maybe bigger. It`s going to be bigger than Watergate! Nixon
had to leave office, and he did a lot of bad things, but it wasn`t raking
in millions and millions of dollars through a phony charity!

You know what the Clintons must be saying? What a jerk that Nixon was.
You want to know how to really be a criminal, you destroy the evidence!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not a phony charity. Let`s get that straight.

Anyway, earlier today, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook took issue with
the Associated Press report and denied there was a conflict of interest
there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: By our count, there were over 1,700
other meetings that she had. You know, she was secretary of state. She
was meeting with foreign officials and government officials constantly. So
to pull all of them out of the equation, cherry pick a very small number of
meetings, is – is pretty outrageous.

At every juncture, the foundation set up the highest possible standards to
prevent any conflict of interest.

Hillary Clinton and her family had a foundation. It is charitable. They
don`t receive a salary from it.

Hillary Clinton doesn`t have a conflict of interest with charitable work.
That`s all it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, earlier today – actually, earlier this evening, Bill
Clinton weighed in on what would happen with the foundation should Hillary
Clinton win the presidency. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I made it clear
that if she becomes president, we`ll have to do more than we did when she
was secretary of state because if you make a mistake (INAUDIBLE) appeal to
(INAUDIBLE) if you`re secretary of state. If you`re president, you can`t.

But we`re going to transition all these responsibilities that would require
foreign or corporate donations, which I won`t accept. And I won`t raise
money for the foundation, if she wins. And I`m happy to do the transition
as quickly as we can. We`ve already found partners who want to do – take
over some of this stuff. But we have to do it in a way that no one loses
their job, no one loses their income and no one loses their life. That`s
all I`m concerned about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So is this about quid pro quo, or is it about social as well as
political access to people who donate? Is this really pay-to-play or is
this another more common case of pay-to-play with, to have access with
people, socially as well as politically?

NBC`s Andrea Mitchell covers the Clinton campaign, is the host of “Andrea
Mitchell Reports” here on MSNBC at noon weekdays. Andrea, just give us the
– what are the facts here that we can discern in terms of any possible
conflict of interest between the people who come to see Hillary Clinton as
secretary of state, who have already given to this Clinton Global
Initiative? Is there a conflict there?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Look, there are lots of people who are
either corporate or social friends of the Clintons and contributors to the
foundation. And they have had meetings with Hillary Clinton. And they got
access. They got access, many of them, because they were officials or they
were – had relationships with other think tanks or non-government, NGOs,
groups that do charities elsewhere, like – like, you know, the Gates
family and others, Muhammad Yunus.

This has been handled very sloppily, I think, and the firewall was not
properly defined as well as it should have been. There was a memorandum of
understanding that was signed by both sides when Hillary Clinton was
confirmed by the Foreign Relations Committee, by John Kerry and Dick Lugar
and people representing the White House, Valerie Jarett, and also the
Clintons, Bruce Lindsay.

So they all agreed to the terms. They probably were not as careful as they
should have been.

There is nothing here that anyone has been able to determine that was
illegal, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump notwithstanding. The State
Department says that no rules were broken, no ethical rules were broken.
No laws were broken. It was all aboveboard, that these people would have
had meetings with her in any case.

So it is like a political campaign. Do senators and Congress members
accept phone calls from people who are their contributors before they hear
from, you know, the average person? Yes. That is the way business is done
in Washington. It`s something Bernie Sanders and others have been, you
know, campaigning against. And it`s not illegal. It is certainly, though,
the old way of doing business and it`s not something that voters like, and
it could hurt her at the polls.

MATTHEWS: Well, prior to becoming secretary of state, as you said, Andrea,
then Senator Hillary Clinton of New York signed an ethics agreement with
the State Department which was meant to serve as that firewall between her
duties as secretary and the activities of the Clinton Foundation.

Now, the letter she signed said at the beginning of the letter, quote, “For
the duration of my appointment as secretary, if I am confirmed, I will not
participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving
specific parties in which the William J. Clinton Foundation or the Clinton
Global Initiative is a party or represents a party unless I am first
authorized to participate.”

Now, that`s pretty legalese. I`m wondering if that has an understandable
meaning? What would the firewall be – I won`t meet with people who gave
to the foundation? Does it mean, I won`t serve in office, little duties,
little tasks to undertake as secretary of state that meet the needs of
donors?

How do you read it, Andrea?

MITCHELL: It means no – it means no quid pro quo. And we, frankly, have
not found a quid pro quo. For instance, earlier tonight, I interviewed F.
Daniel Abraham, who is the founder of Slim-Fast.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

MITCHELL: His communications, the e-mails to Huma Abedin asking for a
meeting – he`s in town, he wanted a meeting with Hillary Clinton. Was
that a quid pro quo?

He tells me that he was meeting with her on – that he knew her since 1992
and that he was meeting with her as head of the Middle East Institute on
issues of Middle East peace…

MATTHEWS: Sure.

MITCHELL: … getting the Palestinians and the Israelis together. And he
was calling for that meeting when he was with a high-ranking Israeli
official.

So he`s got an explanation. It doesn`t sound like a quid pro quo. He`s
been – he`s known Hillary Clinton for all of those years. He would get
that meeting no matter when or how or whether or not he`d given to the
foundation.

In the case of Governor McDonnell, the Supreme Court unanimously made it
very clear that you have to do something absolutely overtly. She has to
pick up the phone and say, I am calling and doing this for you because you
are a donor. It has to be very explicit. They overturned that conviction.
So there is no – as far as we know, no legal case here.

And it`s really a matter of politics that the Republicans are claiming that
this is pay-for-play and something that should lead to her being indicted
or convicted or lock her up. That is really the campaign. We have yet to
see anything from any investigator that says that this is the case.

MATTHEWS: You know, and Mr. Abraham – we both know him. I mean, I know
of his work, and he`s a man…

MITCHELL: 92 years old.

MATTHEWS: … very much concerned for peace in the Middle East.

MITCHELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: He`s not some rabid Likudnik or anything. He`s a guy who
happens to be Jewish who really believes in trying to find peace between
the Palestinians and the Israelis.

A friend of mine, Wayne Owens, a former congressman, worked for him, died
over there working for him, of natural causes, but he gave his life,
basically, over there working for that cause. It was great cause. Why
shouldn`t he get to meet with our secretary of state?

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell, for including that bit of fact.

Anyway, with me now is John Brabender, who`s a Republican strategist, and
Jonathan Capehart`s an opinion writer with the “Washington Post,” and
course, an MSNBC contributor.

What would you call this, Jonathan Capehart, if you discovered that
somebody had gotten a lot of access in terms office time, whatever the
percentage is of a public official, for people who had given money to that
person either as a charitable cause or as a campaign contribution?

Would that be new to you? Would that be unethical to you? Would that be
the way things work? What would you call it?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`ll take first
and the third piece first. No, it would not be new to me. It would be
something that to me, as someone – when I was a board member for the
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, we had to go out and
raise money, do philanthropic work for our own organization, a 501(c)(3).

And you know, people give money to nonprofits for all sorts of reasons, for
access, to be close to important people.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: We would do a dinner every year with big journalists, and people
would pay a lot of money just to be able to sit next to Tom Brokaw or Dan
Rather. I`m dating – I`m dating myself here.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: But people give money to philanthropic organizations for various
reasons.

And what`s at issue here, to get to your “Is it ethical” piece – as Andrea
said, from reading the AP story, I did not read anything that was remotely
illegal. You know, you want to talk about appearances, you know, this
whole story and the way it`s been handled feeds into the narrative that the
Clintons can`t be trusted.

But if you actually read the AP story, as I did – I came away thinking,
Where is the beef here? If you`re going to hang your entire story…

MATTHEWS: I know. OK…

CAPEHART: … on Muhammad Yunus, you have – you really have no story, at
least not the narrative…

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Brabender.

CAPEHART: … people thing it is.

MATTHEWS: John, what are your – John, you look at this, try to look at
this from both sides, whoever was doing it. It doesn`t seem strange to me.
In fact, my hunch is a lot of the people that gave to the Global
Initiative, the Clintons, also gave to their campaigns, knew them socially,
whatever.

And also, Jonathan`s so right. A lot of people give money to politicians,
or whatever the cause, so they can sit next to them at a dinner. They just
like the closeness of somebody important.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, well, there`s a couple things.
First – well, as you know, Chris, I`m a campaign consultant, so I look at
this in a different context. I look at it as the fact that we`re having a
conversation a little more than two months out whether or not Hillary
Clinton broke the law is probably not a good day for the Clinton campaign,
number one.

MATTHEWS: Well, who said she broke the law? Who said she broke the law?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: … say that?

BRABENDER: People are saying, We`re looking at this, and we`ve yet to find
anything that – where she did break the law.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BRABENDER: The point is, we wouldn`t even be having that discussion if
there weren`t at least some concerns that there was some stupidity
involved.

The second thing that I think you got to realize in a situation like this,
is you have Bill Clinton now saying, Well, you know, if she`s president,
we`re not going to do it this way. It could be a conflict.

Well, that was the same problem when she was secretary of state. If it was
a bad idea when she was president, it`s a bad idea when she`s secretary of
state. And I think they should be willing to own up to that.

MATTHEWS: Back to you, Jon, on that. That point sounds important to me.
If it`s a problem so much that the president, the former president, has to
pull out of this deal and say, No more foreign contributions, no more
corporate contributions – by the way, I`m ducking out of the deal if she`s
elected president – if you admit that concern about a conflict, why not do
it earlier, do it when she was made secretary of state?

CAPEHART: But wait, because we`re talking about two different jobs. Of
course, if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States, all
the things that the foundation has announced that it will do, that it would
do if she`s elected, are things that have to be done. I mean, the people
who are saying right now that the foundation should close, that they should
cease all their activities, at no point do they talk about what happens to
the people on the other end of those services that the foundation helps.
No one talks about the lives involved.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jonathan, I will – and John Brabender, both of you
gentlemen, I will talk about that at the end of the show because I believe
because I`ve had firsthand experience with it, with the Clinton Foundation,
I think it does great work, and I would hate to see it stop.

Anyway, coming up – thank you, gentlemen, both. Coming up – Donald Trump
plans to meet with black and Hispanic Republicans tomorrow. But his
outreach isn`t exactly being conducted the normal way. It`s an invitation-
only thing to Trump Tower. They have to come to him, take the escalator up
and meet him in his home place, his kingdom, if you will.

Also, overseas, new details of a murderous attack in Afghanistan today at
the American University in Kabul. NBC`s chief foreign correspondent,
Richard Engel, will give us the latest on that horror.

And Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls in most of the big states that
matter. Could she win this thing a landslide? I think it`s doable, at
this point, if these trends continue. And our roundtable`s here to size up
whether 2016 will look more like that lopsided race where Reagan got
reelected or Nixon got reelected or Johnson got reelected, one of those
babies, or more like the squeaker we saw, when the Supreme Court had to put
its nose into the thing in 2000.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight, as I said, with this attack on the
Clinton Foundation and Global Initiative.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, former Philadelphia and Miami police chief John Timoney
was laid to rest Tuesday in New York City. Hundreds of mourners turned out
at St. Patrick`s cathedral to honor Timoney, who lost his battle with lung
cancer last week.

He was born in Ireland, John Was. Timoney moved to New York at the age of
12 and would later become an NYPD police officer. He rose up to first
deputy commissioner in New York under Bill Bratton before his top positions
in Philadelphia and in Miami.

In a eulogy today, Commissioner Bratton described John Timoney as, quote,
“one of a kind.” And he was also one of the last of that kind. What a
great man, what a good man he was, John Timoney.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump continued his outreach,
if you will, to minority communities today, again asking them, What do you
have to lose? Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What do you have to lose? What do
you have to lose? It cannot get any worse! And believe me, I`m going to
fix it. I`m going to make it so good. So to the African-American voter –
great people – to the Hispanic voter who have been absolutely treated
terribly, I say what do you have to lose? What? I will fix it. I`ll be
able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city or
wherever you are, you`re not going to be shot!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s pretty rough stuff. Meanwhile, he seems to be
moderating his language on deporting illegal immigrants. In the past, he`s
said he would round them up and even called for a deportation force he
would create. Well, here he was last night, however.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You seem to, in the last week, be revisiting the
issue of sending everybody back that is here illegally. Tell us where you
stand on that.

TRUMP: We want to follow the laws. You know, we have very strong laws.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: Is there any part of the law that you might be able to change
that would accommodate those people that contribute to society, have been
law-abiding, have kids here? Would there be any room in your mind or –
because I know you had a meeting this week with Hispanic leaders.

TRUMP: I did. I did. I did. I had a meeting with great people, great
Hispanic leaders. And there certainly can be a softening because we`re not
looking to hurt people. We want people – we have some great people in
this country. We have some great, great people in this country.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So but we`re going to follow the laws of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, according to today`s “Washington Post,” Trump is trying
shed the label that some critics have stuck with him – or stuck on him or
racist.

Well, – quote – “Trump has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black
and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate
publicly for his candidacy.”

Well, tomorrow, Trump will meet with a group of African-American and
Hispanic Republicans up at Trump Tower, an invitation-only affair, of
course.

Can Trump outrun his birther past?

Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster, and Amy Holmes is a political
analyst for Rasmussen Reports. She was a senior speechwriter to former
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Let me start with Cornell and then go quickly to Amy.

What is your sense of what Trump is trying to accomplish here? And does he
have the bona fides to pull it off?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, I don`t really take
it seriously.

I mean, one thing, if I want to how to better connect with African-American
voters and Hispanic voters, I`m not necessarily meeting with black
Republicans. Only 6 percent of African-Americans in battleground states
are identifying as Republicans. And less than 20 – around 20 percent or
so of Hispanics are identifying with Republicans.

I don`t see this as an outreach the African-Americans at all. What this
is, Chris, as you look inside the polling numbers right now in some of
these battleground states. And we talk a lot sort of about what – sort of
he is losing ground with white college-educated voters.

He runs about 15 or 16 points off among Republicans where Mitt Romney was,
right? There`s a whole swathe of moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans
who are uncomfortable with the idea of supporting a racist. This is about
them. This is not about actually African-Americans and Hispanics
forgetting a whole year of racism and xenophobia.

MATTHEWS: Amy, your thoughts?

AMY HOLMES, RASMUSSEN REPORTS: Well, I think Donald Trump would love to
get a larger percent of the African-American vote and the Hispanic vote.

We know that Donald Trump, he likes to aim big. I don`t disagree that part
of this outreach is to try to quell discomfort among some of those more
centrist independent-leaning voters that he needs if he wants to become
president of the United States.

But at Rasmussen Reports, in a four-way race among likely voters, we find
Donald Trump getting 7 percent of the African-American vote.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HOLMES: Compare that to Ross Perot back in 1992, who spoke in front of the
NAACP, addressing that crowd as “your people.” And he still got 7 percent
of the vote.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HOLMES: I think Donald Trump certainly has a lot more work to do. And his
campaign has announced that they intend to hold a rally in Jackson,
Mississippi, which is a town that is 80 percent African-American. I think
it is going to be much watched TV. And the big challenge for Donald Trump
will be, not only does his message resonate, but does he keep his cool
being in front of a crowd that may not be his biggest fans?

MATTHEWS: That`s a great question.

Cornell, would you take this seriously or more seriously if he were to go
into black churches, where the environment would be more conducive to the
congregation there than to him, more comfortable than the people welcoming
him than it might be to him?

That`s usually the way you show your politics in this country. You go into
all kinds of areas and show your – you have got the right chemistry to
approach people who may have a different background than you. And that
shows, I`m willing to do what it takes to ask for you vote. That`s the
true ask.

Is it a true ask to invite people up to your gold tower and say, come on up
for tea there or whatever tomorrow afternoon, I might give you some time?
It doesn`t seem like the way you campaign by inviting people to you. You
have to go to them, usually.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: Well, it`s very condescending, but I don`t know why we`re
surprised by that, right?

Another thing is, Chris, look at where he`s going. Last time I checked,
Mississippi was not necessarily a battleground state. If this was actually
about winning over African-Americans in places that are in play, you need
to go – you need to be in Florida and Ohio.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, but the big cities in the South. You know the big cities
are minority…

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: And Pennsylvania.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But, Cornell, big cities are where you get an African-American
audience in the South.

BELCHER: Well, to go Cleveland. Go to a big city in a battleground state,
where it is actually competitive. Why go to a big city in Jackson,
Mississippi?

Last time I checked, Democrats weren`t playing in Mississippi. This is
more about shoring up some of his voters than it is reaching out to
African-Americans. Now, that said, I`m for him all going into Mississippi.
I`m for him to black churches. I think more competition for the black and
brown vote, the better it is for the black and brown voters to move their
agenda.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this new report that just came out, Amy.

You were on this one first. In a yet-to-be-aired portion of an interview
with Sean Hannity – I guest it will be on tonight – Trump seems to imply
he is open to allowing some illegal immigrants – of course, I think he
implies from the southern border – to stay in the U.S.

Quote: “No citizenship – let me go a step further. They will pay back
taxes. They have to pay taxes. There`s no amnesty as such. There`s no
amnesty, but we work with them. Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones
out. But when I go through and I go meet thousands and thousands of people
on this subject – and I have had very strong people come up to me, really
great, great people come up to me. And they have said, Mr. Trump, I love
you, but to take a person who has been here for 15 or 20 years and throw
them and their family out, it`s so tough, Mr. Trump. I have it all the
time. It is a very, very hard thing.”

So, it sounds like he doesn`t want to be the cartoon version of Donald
Trump anymore on this issue, Amy.

HOLMES: Yes.

And it sounds like Kellyanne Conway is influencing the direction of his
campaign, as his newly elevated campaign manager. The question is, of
course, will Donald Trump supporters be unhappy with this softening of his
rhetoric around immigration?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Good question.

HOLMES: And what I think is, interesting, anecdotally, the answer is no,
because I think they think that Donald Trump is with them.

And early in his campaign, he said some pretty tough things. So, his
instincts are in the right direction, not unlike in 2008 when then Senator
– President – or Senator Obama, rather, said that he defined marriage as
a covenant between a man and a woman before God.

But those who supported same-sex marriage, they knew, you know what?
Secretly, he`s with us. His instincts are in the right direction when it
comes to this issue.

And it turns out they were right. So, the question is, will Trump
supporters` own sort of acceptance of this new campaign rhetoric also have
the same payoff for them?

MATTHEWS: Good question.

It`s like when you pull the blanket around at night, somebody loses the
blanket and get cold, while you pull the blanket your side. Look, when he
tries to help the middle, he may be hurting the right.

How will his softening on this issue of deportations play with his base?
Well, some conservatives are not happy.

For example, columnist Howie Carr up here of “The Boston Herald” up here:
“Hey, Donald Trump, don`t go softening your stance against illegal
immigration too much. I know, you`re back in a dead heat with Hillary in
some of the recent polls, but don`t let it go to your head. You didn`t
where you are by challenging Jeb Bush.”

And here of course was Ann Coulter last night here on HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “IN TRUMP WE TRUST”: I`m starting to worry that he`s
panicking and talking to the wrong people, because he`s sounding a little
bit more like the candidates he defeated with the talking points about
softening on deporting the ones who are, oh, they have been here a long
time and they are law-abiding.

Yes, that`s true, but how about you just say, no, my policy is consistent?

This could be the shortest book tour ever if he`s really softening his
position on immigration. But I don`t think he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Amy, where are you on the softening of Donald Trump?

HOLMES: I think it is him pivoting to the center in the hopes of winning
this election.

Will he lose those core Trump supporters? I don`t think so, for the
reasons that we were just discussing, which is, I think that they think he
has the right instincts, so – from their point of view.

So, when push comes to shove, as president of the United States, he will be
supporting their outlook on these things. They didn`t have the same
confidence in Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. They thought that they were soft to
begin with.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HOLMES: Again, the question is, those Trump supporters, are they correct
in this assessment?

MATTHEWS: It sounds right to me.

Thank you so much, Cornell Belcher. And thank you, Amy Holmes.

Up next: new details on a dangerous story unfolding in Afghanistan right
now, as the American University over there comes under attack in Kabul.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, back to politics in a minute, but welcome back.

We`re following breaking news out of Kabul, Afghanistan. That`s where
officials say militants attacked the American University of Afghanistan,
killing one person and injuring dozens more. This happened Wednesday
evening Kabul time.

Anyway, witnesses say they heard gunfire and explosions. And one student
said two grenades were thrown into his classroom. Well, security forces
are now combing through the campus in search of the attackers.

Richard Engel is NBC chief foreign correspondent.

Richard, what do we know about who did this and why?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, we don`t
know very much about who did it.

We have one main suspect, which is the Taliban. And the why is because it
is the American University in Kabul. It has long been a target. Two
professors, including one American professor, were kidnapped from – just
when they left this campus about two weeks ago.

This is the first major attack, however, on the facility. But if you are
the Taliban, this facility represents everything that you oppose. It is
co-ed. It brings American professors teaching Afghan boys and girls about
civil society, teaching them in a Western education.

Frankly, it is one of the most positive legacies that the Americans have
left in the city. And it is something that the Taliban has been determined
to oppose. The Taliban hasn`t claimed responsibility. But the reason I
say that they`re the most likely target is, there has been an increasing
campaign against the Taliban recently.

While the rest of the world has been focused on the Olympics or the
domestic politics in this country, the war in Afghanistan has intensified
and the Taliban has come under heavy bombardment from the U.S. So, it
could be a retaliation.

MATTHEWS: How do you protect a soft target like a university campus?

ENGEL: It is protected. There`s a wall around it. There`s a gate to go
in.

But, frankly, if you set off a bomb, which is what happened in this case,
and then rush in with gunmen, you have to be on a military-style footing to
prevent that. It is not just normal security if people are willing to blow
themselves up at a gate and then storm through commando-style. How do you
prevent that?

I mean, you have to build every building like a supermax prison, frankly.
And if you go through Kabul, a lot of the buildings look like supermax
prisons. You have to go through airlock gates, that is, one gate, and then
it closes behind you. And then they check you. And you have to go through
another gate.

And even that kind of system doesn`t stop necessarily a determined
attacker. So many buildings in Kabul are ringed by tall concrete T-walls.
But if you`re willing to set off a bomb and then rush through with an
assault rifle, it is not always going to stop you.

MATTHEWS: You know the area over there for a long time now.

And I was just thinking how wondrous it was after the Taliban fell, thanks
to our forces over there, at the end of 2001. And to see the women waiting
in movie lines, to see them knowing that they could dress the way they want
in a free society, is that what it is like over there? Is that what drives
the Taliban crazy, that people are actually culturally free to make their
own religious and cultural decisions?

ENGEL: Well, that`s part of it.

The Taliban is a reactionist group. It wants to impose a strict version of
Islamic law. It sees the world as completely corrupt, and through its
vision. And, by the way, the al Qaeda vision is quite similar. ISIS`
vision is quite similar. It`s this romantic idea that, if only pure
Islamic law could be implemented, that all the ills of the world, which
have been brought by the West and by Jewish conspiracies and things like
that, would be wiped away.

So, that`s why it has been so important for the Taliban to attack things
like girls education, to keep women oppressed in the most medieval kind of
circumstances. And the American University in Kabul, as is embodied in its
very name, is, frankly, trying to teach the opposite of that.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have nothing but respect for those professors who risk
their lives to teach freedom.

ENGEL: Let`s hope they keep on doing it.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Richard Engel, so much for giving us a great
report again on a sad subject.

ENGEL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: back to politics. Polls show that Bill Clinton –
Hillary Clinton has big leads over Trump in decisive states. If the trend
continues – there`s an old political phrase – if the trend continues,
could she win big enough to actually gain control of Congress? Could this
be a mandate election this November, one that really matters historically?

We`re watching HARDBALL right now, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, recent polls show Hillary Clinton with big a lead over Donald Trump.
According to our most recent NBC News online tracking poll, Clinton beats
Donald Trump by nine points. Getting close to double-digit.

In Virginia, she`s up 16 points. In Pennsylvania, a state we know Trump
people need, she is up by 11.

And in Missouri, Republican-leaning state, normally, Clinton is behind by
only a point, but in the margin of error. So, if the polls we see now
hold, Hillary Clinton is on a track, and I think to win and win big come
November, which is getting closer.

The default position for American politics lately I`d say, about 50/50,
however. Most issues, people divide left versus right about 50/50. Well,
the next 76 days, if they`re like the next few weeks, Trump could be in for
an historic beating.

In a town hall yesterday, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said he
would like to support Trump but he doesn`t think can or should win. He
doesn`t think Trump should win. He also added that he has little faith at
this point that Trump will change.

So, just how big can Hillary Clinton win this baby? And can she make a
play for Democratic control of Congress so she can actually govern with a
mandate?

Joining me right now is tonight`s roundtable is Sabrina Siddiqui, political
reporter for “The Guardian” newspaper, Ken Vogel chief investigative
reporter for “Politico”, and Molly Ball, political reporter for “The
Atlantic”.

Well, I want you all to get into this scrum and I want to ask you about,
what do you think the likelihood right now is that we`ll break from our
normal pattern of 50/50 elections, that this could be a big one for
Hillary.

Let`s start with Sabrina.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, Chris, a lot of the polling that`s
done after the convention is typically predicted of where this all will
end. Certainly, that`s been the trend in recent cycles. And Hillary
Clinton in recent week has pulled ahead of Donald Trump by as much as
double digits in key battle grounds.

It has reached a point where states like Arizona, Utah and Georgia are
potentially in play, and Donald Trump is underperforming, among several.
So, it`s hard to imagine when you take that and you couple with it the
advertising advantage Hillary Clinton has, the organizational structure
that she has which Donald Trump still has not shown how he can possibly
turn it around with just less than three months to go.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, the other thing that you see in these
polls, Chris, is that she has disproportionate leads in the swing states,
and that is because she actually has a campaign, and Donald Trump. She is
running tens of millions of dollars of ads and has super PAC running ads
and he is running almost no ads. She has a ground game. She has a field
organization, organizing people to get ready to go out and vote for her.
Trump doesn`t have that and it`s very hard to build at this late date.

And that gives her a floor in the states that she`s actually counting on to
give her the electoral votes, which means that even if Trump turns his
message around, turns his message around, if the polls start to tighten the
way political scientists tell you that they should in a home stretch, it`s
hard for him to make up some of that ground.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: You know, I agree, Chris, both with what Molly said
about the Electoral College. It could be a landslide in the Electoral
College, and really that`s all that matters. But I do think that the
popular vote will get closer and the reason that I think that is that they
both come into this with such high negatives, really historically high
negatives.

If you look at the elections where we have had landslides in the popular
vote, back to 1984 and 1964, you have a real imbalance. You had one
candidate who was very popular, Ronald Reagan versus Walter Mondale in `84,
and LBJ versus Goldwater in `64, and the other candidate was very
unpopular.

In this case, you have two candidates who are very unpopular. So, I don`t
see Hillary Clinton opening up a huge lead in the popular vote over someone
who is sort of grappling with her for a title of most unpopular
presidential candidate in the modern era. But that might not matter
because the electoral vote is all that matters.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re all smart.

Anyway, take a look at this. Trump needs 270 electoral votes, as any
candidate does to win. Last week, his new campaign manager Kellyanne
Conway was here and she said he can get them. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. Do you have 270 electoral votes in your head? Do you know
where you`re going to get them?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP MANAGER: I do. We do. I`ve got one that got us
to 284, one has got us ahead 270-plus.

MATTHEWS: Not a lot to spare.

CONWAY: But we`ve got different situation.

MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania in there? Pennsylvania in there?

CONWAY: Yes, it is. It is in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I should not have interrupted, because really she was
making the case of how difficult it is, because getting as her high point
of gold of here is 270, 284, that is a squeaker already.

Anyway, according to our battleground map calculations, Hillary Clinton
leads right now with 288 votes herself. Trump is down at 174.

Let me go back with Sabrina on this and start through everybody here.

Let me just ask you about something. Maybe this is nirvana. I keep hoping
we`re going to have a government in the United States, something where
whatever mix of the two parties, the country has delivered a mandate to a
presidential candidate and there`s a sense that that person ought to get
something done. It`s their turn at bat, if you will, in baseball terms.

And that candidate once elected president and sworn in will be given the
respect of having won a mandate, and therefore, both parties will get
together and actually pass legislation to support the mandate. So, the
vote letters feel like they got something done instead of going back to the
same old whatever thing we`ve been having now for 20 years, which is
nothing.

Any hope for that? A governing majority, a governing presidency. Can we
get one out of this election or we`re wasting our time voting?

SIDDIQUI: I think turning over the house is still very improbable but
Democrats also shouldn`t take for granted their chances of taking back the
Senate, although they are favored, simply looking at the map. There are
several key battlegrounds where the Republican incumbents are running ahead
of Democrats, even in states where Donald Trump is underperforming in the
polls. You have Rob Portman in Ohio and Marco Rubio in Florida who have as
much of a 6 to 8-point advantage in a series of polls, even though Donald
Trump is losing, according to most polling in Florida by double digit.

So there have been some candidates, Republicans, who`ve been able to
separate their support for Donald Trump by focusing on local issues and
maintaining their appropriate level of distance. Certainly, Democrats have
to do a better job if they plan to simply hang Donald Trump around their
neck and take back the Senate that way.

MATTHEWS: There are still three seats there that they could pick up rather
quickly, right? Illinois and Wisconsin and what`s the other one, there`s
another one down there, too. I think they`ve got three anyway.

But go ahead. I think that`s depressing because if we have Hillary
Clinton, Democrat, as president, a Republican Senate, a House of
Representative is Republican run by an ideologue, nothing is going to
happen.

VOGEL: You know, ironically, Chris, I think that Trump`s reverse
coattails, that is the fact that we`re talking about here is dragging down
some of the Senate candidates in key states is going to make it even harder
for a President Clinton to come in with the ability to govern with that
mandate because they`re going to see this candidates start to break off,
these endangered Republican Senate candidates, maybe even House candidates
start to break off and say, I oppose Trump, but you need elect me because I
will be a check on Hillary Clinton. That`s how they`ll distance themselves
from Trump. That`s going to come in already, sort of begin the Clinton
presidency in a very adversarial fashion.

BALL: Right. If this race turns out to be a landslide, that`s not going
to be seen as a mandate for Hillary Clinton. That`s going to be seen as a
referendum on Donald Trump and all of his unusualness as candidate.

MATTHEWS: So, what`s the purpose of running elections for two years now
we`ve had a presidential campaign? And you three are telling me, pretty
much, we`re going to go end with the same hopeful crap we`re going into
this thing, which was nothing gets done? Is that where we`re headed, to a
January outlook of nothingness?

BALL: Well, no, look, whether Democrats take Senate or not, they`re not
going to have 60 votes. Whether Democrats take the house or not, they are
– which is very, very unlikely, it still depends who the Republicans are
who come back to Washington and how frightened they are by what they`ve
seen, right?

MATTHEWS: What message? I agree with you. I agree completely.

BALL: I don`t think they`ve made that decision. It could be the case that
the only Republicans left in the House are the ones from the deepest red,
the maddest, the most right wing districts. So, they are more oppositional
than ever. It could be that the proverbial fever finally breaks and all of
these guys who`ve won the states where Hillary also won feel like they have
to cooperate.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re all smart. Somebody give me some hope besides
brains. I`m getting brains, I want some hope. Does anybody see the
possibility, the combination of people who win, the Democrats who win for
example, and the people who get the message on the Republican sides adds up
to a governing move for actions somewhere near the middle politically?
Anybody believe that?

VOGEL: Well, if Clinton governs like her husband did, which is the sort of
the strategy of triangulation and for real small ball victories where they
could get –

MATTHEWS: Well, how about an immigration bill that`s fair and enforced,
how about that?

VOGEL: I think that`s a little bit too ambitious.

MATTHEWS: Oh my God. We`re the only country in the world that can`t
govern. It`s immigration policy. It`s a fair, American way. We can`t –
it`s hopeless, in other words, you guys are all saying, to have an
immigration policy as an example, it`s hopeless.

BALL: I don`t think it`s hopeless.

MATTHEWS: Is this it?

BALL: I think there`s a slight chance that the same Republican Party that
decided after 2012 that they needed to pass immigration reform, looks at
2016 and says, if only we had done it four years ago.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it would be great for the country to have
something to be proud of and enforced. A law we believe is fair and
progressive and open and American. And we enforce it because we believe in
it. Is that asking too much? So far, yes.

And the roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. And this is
HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got new polling data right now from a state that went blue
in 2008 but red in 2012. That`s North Carolina.

Let`s go to the HARDBALL scoreboard.

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Clinton is up by one point in North
Carolina, the Tar Heel State. It`s Clinton, 44, Trump, 43, with
Libertarian Gary Johnson coming up, by the way, at 11 percent. Research
Triangle votes there, I would say are for Johnson.

And in Arizona, Trump is up by five. It`s Trump 43, Clinton down at 38.
Gary Johnson there in third with a strong 12 percent, heading toward the 15
percent you need to get into the debates.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Molly, tell me something I don`t know and make it optimistic, please. I`m
just kidding. Go ahead.

BALL: Bernie Sanders tonight kicking off this new non-profit Our
Revolution to try to keep that progressive energy going, keep the activism
going for the people who supported him. They`re going to be active in the
November election. They`re going to support progressive candidates up and
down the ticket, all the way down to local office. Also possibly
advocating for some progressive ballot initiatives in states, like the
single-payer initiative in Colorado and anti-death penalty initiatives in
several states.

MATTHEWS: Get rid of super delegates. That`s what I`d like.

Anyway, Ken, Ken Vogel?

VOGEL: Campaign finance reports filed over the weekend show that the Trump
campaign spent $8.4 million on digital consulting and online ads. That`s a
ton of money for a campaign that hasn`t spent a lot of money on this type
of traditional political blocking and tackling. Most of it went to this
firm out of San Antonio that had never worked on campaign before. It`s a
firm that`s owned by his digital director, Trump`s digital director. Its
only experience with Trump prior to this point had been working on websites
for his golf courses.

MATTHEWS: OK. Sabrina, only a couple of minutes, a couple of seconds left
here.

SIDDIQUI: So, I interviewed the RNC`s director of Hispanic outreach and
asked her directly, should Trump apologize to the Hispanic community for
saying that the majority of Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers,
were attacking an American judge over his Hispanic heritage.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SIDDIQUI: She told me as a matter of fact, no, he shouldn`t apologize.
And he is most likely not going to apologize. So, as he expresses
unspecified regrets for comments he`s made in the past, don`t expect him to
get much more specific –

MATTHEWS: Well, that explains how you get a job like that, doesn`t it?
Doesn`t that explain it? That`s what you have to do to get that job of
working for Trump.

Anyway, Sabrina Siddiqui, thank you. Ken Vogel, and thank you, Molly Ball.

HARDBALL is coming back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this attack on the Clinton Foundation
and Global Initiative. Let me say what I often say, that people only truly
believe what they discover for themselves. It`s not until you come face to
face with a subject that you really know it.

And I`ve said this before a number of times, but let me say it again with
pride. For five months after he graduated from college, our son Michael
worked in Rwanda, getting AIDS drugs to people in that country, all the
while ensuring personally that these medicines paid for by world donors
didn`t fall into the hands of those who would sell them on the European
market.

This was a classic example of how the Clinton Global Initiative works.
They do two things to make sure aid to developing, vulnerable countries
works. One, it gets the governments to commit to keeping their hands off
the money. Two, they convince the donors in Europe, the United States and
elsewhere, that that is one aid program that gets all the money to the
person for whom is intended. It`s not going to find its way to the pockets
of corrupt government officials. It`s not going to get lost on the route
between donor and intended recipient like so much aid has been over the
past year.

So, if you ask me if I believe in the Clinton Global Initiative, I do.
I`ve seen how it works and proud as an American that we`re doing this kind
of thing, that Bill Clinton and his people would found a way to serve the
world, to encourage giving and to make sure that good people get what they
need without bad people trying to grab their piece of it.

So, let`s keep our eye on potential conflicts here, not on the Clinton
effort itself. Shutting down the Clinton effort would hardly make this a
better world. Getting others to do what it`s doing, would.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being here.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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