Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/8/2016

Bob Shrum, Cornell Belcher, Ruth Marcus, Rudy Giuliani, Susan Page, Leon Panetta

Date: September 8, 2016
Guest: Bob Shrum, Cornell Belcher, Ruth Marcus, Rudy Giuliani, Susan Page,
Leon Panetta

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Two months left.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Philadelphia.

It`s the day after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both appeared before
veterans and answered questions about protecting our country. Donald Trump
made the most news and stirred up the most heat. He ridiculed American
military leaders, saying the generals had been reduced to “rubble,” and he
suggested he`d fire them. He praised Vladimir Putin, calling him, quote,
“someone who has very strong control over his country.”

He said he could tell based on their body language that national security
officials giving him his intelligence briefing were not happy with
President Obama.

And today, Hillary Clinton reacted to that.


generals, saying they`d been, quote, “reduced to rubble.” Meanwhile,
bizarrely, once again, he praised Russia`s strongman, Vladimir Putin, even
taking the astonishing step of suggesting that he prefers the Russian
president to our American president.

What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks
America`s generals and heaps praise on Russia`s president? Every
Republican holding or seeking office in this country should be asked if
they agree with Donald Trump about these statements.


MATTHEWS: Well, traveling overseas, President Obama was also asked about
Trump`s performance last night.


qualified to be president of the United States, and every time he speaks,
that opinion is confirmed. And I think the most important thing for the
public and the press is to just listen to what he says and follow up and
ask questions about what appear to be either contradictory or uninformed or
outright wacky ideas.


MATTHEWS: Well, for his part, Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for her
performance. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The whole country saw how unfit
she was at the town hall last night, where she refused to take
accountability for her failed policies in the Middle East. Her policies
unleashed ISIS, spread terrorism and put Iran on a path to nuclear weapons.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is one of Donald Trump`s top
advisers, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. By the way, in recent
weeks, Mayor, you`ve said the following about Hillary Clinton`s health.
Let`s watch that.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: She has an entire media
empire that constantly demonizes Donald Trump, fails to point out several
signs of illness by her. What you got to do is go on line…


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her campaign and a number of people defending her
saying there`s nothing factual to the claims about her health.

GIULIANI: Go on line and put down “Hillary Clinton illness,” take a look
at the videos for yourself.

I think Hillary`s tired. I do. When I saw Hillary at the press conference
sitting down with the police, with the Democrat-appointed police chiefs,
pretending she`s pro-police, it one of the most pathetic press conferences
I`ve ever seen.

QUESTION: What do you mean?

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, she looks sick.


MATTHEWS: Well, Mayor, you had a good look at Hillary Clinton last night.
I guess you saw the performance by her and then by her opponent, Mr. Trump,
who you back.


MATTHEWS: Do you think there were any signs of illness last night by the
former secretary of state – signs of illness?

GIULIANI: No, but I thought there were the day before…


GIULIANI: … when she coughed for about, I don`t know, 15 minutes and
then she coughed on the airplane and then she spit something up and – I
don`t know what`s wrong with her, but they kind of hide her…

MATTHEWS: Mayor, Mayor, Mayor, have you got any evidence besides…

GIULIANI: I don`t.

MATTHEWS: Do you have any evidence that she`s ill? What is the evidence?

GIULIANI: I don`t. But I – I – the evidence is I…

MATTHEWS: You have no evidence that she`s ill, but you say she`s ill.


MATTHEWS: You don`t think like that!

GIULIANI: Chris, Chris, let me answer the question, OK?

MATTHEWS: Sure. Go ahead.

GIULIANI: I have eight times on line since January in which she`s had
massive coughing fits, in which she couldn`t complete her speech. I`ve
seen her lifted onto airplanes and – I don`t know what`s wrong with her.

And then in the FBI report, it says that she can`t remember her exit
interview from the FBI because of her concussion because she didn`t have
the memory. But she was acting as secretary of state at the time, which
means we had a secretary of state who was acting who doesn`t have a memory
of what she was doing. So these are not illegitimate issues. Beyond

MATTHEWS: Well, then you were surprised, then – you must have been
surprised then, Mr. Mayor, to watch her performance last night, when she
was quite professional, quite smooth. She didn`t sweat. She didn`t seem
to act in any way harbored (sic) by an illness at all. Were you surprised
at how healthy she looked like night?

GIULIANI: I was surprised how angry she was last night. I thought I

MATTHEWS: How healthy she was. Did you think she was healthy last night?

GIULIANI: Well, look, I don`t – I don`t – I don`t know whether she`s not
– whether she`s sick or she`s not. I do know that there are 14, 15 videos
of her that show her in very, very strange condition. I don`t know what it

But that`s not my real issue. My real issue is that the woman exposed
thousands and thousands of classified documents, which if I exposed one of
them when I was in the Justice Department, they would have put me in jail.
That`s what I know.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s…

GIULIANI: And – and…

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m not getting anywhere with you.


MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, you are adamant on this subject.

GIULIANI: I will tell you this…

MATTHEWS: You are adamant. I just want to end this. I want to…


MATTHEWS: You are adamant that there`s a health concern with the candidate
for president of the Democratic Party.

GIULIANI: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: You say there`s a health condition problem.

GIULIANI: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Well, what are you saying?

GIULIANI: All – all – all I do is see all these incidents of her
coughing all the time. I don`t know what it is. And I`ve seen her in
several other situations where she didn`t look healthy.

And then I see in the FBI 302, which was put out on Memorial Day (sic)
weekend in print about this big, where you needed to use a magnifying glass
to read it – but I read it twice – I saw something that really concerned
me. It said she can`t remember her exit interview from the CIA (sic)
because she had no memory for a period of time after she had a concussion.
She was secretary of state when she had no memory! Now…


GIULIANI: … there`s something really seriously wrong…

MATTHEWS: … you think these next debates coming up – do you think these
next debates will be a test of her health? The three hour-and-a-half
debates coming up…


MATTHEWS: Will they be adequate to test her health?

GIULIANI: I think this is – I think – I think these debates coming up
are going to be a test of who the American people like better, who they
want in their living room more, who they think is better capable of being
president of the United States.

And I don`t think a woman who has revealed numerous classified information,
doesn`t know that the letter “C” means confidential…


GIULIANI: God almighty, I mean, Chris, I was in the Justice Department for
three years. I remember my entry briefing by the CIA. I can tell you the
date of it. I remember my exit interview from the CIA.


GIULIANI: And I remember that “C” in parentheses means confidential. She
said she thought it meant alphabetical order. But nobody bothered to ask
her, did she ever see an A, a B, a D or an E. If I were cross-examining
her, I darn well would have asked her that question.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the commentary last night by your candidate last
night. Donald Trump said he welcomed praise from Russian leader Vladimir
Putin. Let`s watch this point he made.


MATT LAUER, NBC: When referring to a comment that Putin made about you –
I think he called you a brilliant leader – you said it`s always a great
honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his
country and beyond.

TRUMP: Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating, according to the
different pollsters, who, by the way, some of them are based right here…

LAUER: You want to be complimented by that former KGB officer?

TRUMP: Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I`ll take the compliment,
OK? I mean, the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it`s a
very different system and I don`t happen to like the system, but certainly,
in that system, he`s been a leader far more than our president has been a


MATTHEWS: Now, there`s two ways to address the question of what do you
think of Putin. One is what do you think of him as a leader in the sense
of – I`m now putting a scale together of toughest world leaders. OK,
Putin`s up there.

But in terms of our adversarial relationship with him, should we be
saluting him as a great leader at this point, or should we be telling the
American people we`ve got challenges from this guy, who may be threatening
NATO, who may be threatening the Baltic states, who may be causing us
trouble in the Middle East, maybe, instead of just saluting his grandeur?
Shouldn`t we be tougher on him in our public statements…

GIULIANI: But Chris…

MATTHEWS: … than your candidate is being?

GIULIANI: Chris, what you left out of that was he went on to say that all
of that praise wouldn`t mean anything to him in negotiating with Putin.
Plus, that day, he gave a speech in which he said he`s going to take our
Navy, which is now at World War I levels – he`s going to take it up to 350
ships. He`s going to take our Army up to 6,000, and Obama and Hillary are
going to take it down to 4,200. He`s going to take our Marine Corps from
23 battalions to 35 battalions, and he is going to reestablish and
modernize our nuclear program.

So Ronald Reagan (sic) is going to go into negotiations with Putin from a
position of strength. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama gave up the game on
day one when they reset the relationship with Russia and they gave up the
nuclear defense of Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin took a look at
them and said, I can push these guys around the world. These are children
compared to me. Donald Trump is not a child.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a decent argument.

GIULIANI: Donald Trump…

MATTHEWS: You didn`t mean Ronald Reagan. You meant Donald – you said
Ronald Reagan there a minute ago.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) you really meant Donald Trump.

GIULIANI: Because I see…

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Trump last night…

GIULIANI: Because – because…

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

GIULIANI: … I see – I see a comparison between the two – peace through


GIULIANI: What you don`t – what – what – what you don`t grasp is that
day he gave a speech in which he said he`s going to build the U.S. military
up to Ronald Reagan levels. If we build our military up to Ronald Reagan
levels, Putin`s not going to push us anywhere because he can`t match us –
6 percent, 5 percent of our GDP. For him to match us, he has to spend 25
percent of his GDP, and it will bankrupt his country. Donald Trump

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about something else…

GIULIANI: Donald Trump…

MATTHEWS: That`s all right.

GIULIANI: … knows how to use leverage in negotiations. Hillary Clinton
and Barack Obama, never being in business, never really negotiating, give
away for nothing things they shouldn`t give away. They gave away the
defense of the Czech Republic and Poland to reset the relationship with
Russia for nothing.

The day they did that, Putin, who`s a KGB killer, figured out, I can push
these guys around the world. They will not – he will not be able to push
Donald Trump around the world. Believe me, this guy is not going to get
pushed around.

MATTHEWS: You say that we`ve given up our support of the Czech Republic
and Slovakia, those countries and Poland. Why so? Because we didn`t put
the monitors there, the nuclear monitors. Why is that giving up on
defending Europe? Where have we done that? Where`s Obama done that?

GIULIANI: This – this – if you read history, right, if you read


GIULIANI: Gorbachev`s memoirs said the key in – in – in winning the cold
war was our insistence on nuclear defense because they knew they couldn`t
match us. We have proven with Israel that nuclear defense works. Our

MATTHEWS: Iron Dome works, of course, and “star wars” was never proven.
But you`re right, Mayor, it was a brilliant bluff of the Russians. We said
we could do it…

GIULIANI: Not a brilliant bluff.

MATTHEWS: Well, we didn`t do it, so – we don`t have a shield, a nuclear

GIULIANI: Let me make the following point. Here`s why – here`s why
nuclear defense makes sense. And I know something about this. A missile
can take an airplane out of the air. A better missile can take a missile
out of the air.

We are technologically ahead of Russia and China. We can develop a nuclear
shield for the United States, for Poland, for the Czech Republic. Russia
is deadly frightened of that. They have been trying to get us to give that
up for 20 years since Reagan. Clinton wouldn`t give it up. Bush wouldn`t
give it up.


GIULIANI: He gave it up on the first day…

MATTHEWS: We don`t have a strategic defense…

GIULIANI: And here`s the worst thing…

MATTHEWS: We don`t have a strategic defense system.

GIULIANI: I asked – I asked Secretary…

MATTHEWS: We just don`t have one.

GIULIANI: I asked Secretary Gates what did they get in return for giving
up the nuclear shield of Poland and the Czech Republic. You know what his
answer was? Nada. They got nothing.


GIULIANI: You don`t go…


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you one last question. I have to ask you one last
question. I know you don`t like this question, but I think it`s
appropriate, given you are a major – as you just demonstrated, a strong
surrogate and defender of the candidacy for president of Donald Trump.

A couple of his people, including his vice presidential running mate, Mike
Pence, the governor of Indiana, and of course, Dr. Ben Carson, have both
come out in the last days, hours, practically, and said they believe that
President Obama is a legitimately elected president of the United States.
In other words, he was born in the United States.

Do you confirm that? Do you agree with that?

GIULIANI: I confirm that, and Donald Trump now confirms that. You know,
Hillary Clinton…

MATTHEWS: When did he do that? When did he do that?

GIULIANI: He did that…

MATTHEWS: When did he do that?

GIULIANI: Two years ago, three years ago.

MATTHEWS: When did he – he has now accepted that birtherism was nonsense?

GIULIANI: Look, Hillary Clinton…

MATTHEWS: When did he do that?

GIULIANI: Chris, Hillary Clinton`s campaign…

MATTHEWS: He did not do that yet. I am waiting for him to do it.

GIULIANI: Hillary Clinton`s campaign was the first one to bring up the
fact that there was a question…

MATTHEWS: Where did they do that? Where did they do that?

GIULIANI: Donald Trump has said that…

MATTHEWS: Give me an example of when they did that. You just said that
Hillary Clinton accused the president – has Hillary Clinton ever accused
the president of being foreign-born, ever?

GIULIANI: Her campaign – her campaign during the primary.

MATTHEWS: Her campaign…


MATTHEWS: … the Hillary Clinton for president campaign did this?



MATTHEWS: No, it didn`t. There`s no evidence the Hillary campaign…

GIULIANI: I was always responsible for…

MATTHEWS: I want to know whether you believe that your candidate for
president believes he would succeed a legitimate president or not.

GIULIANI: Yes. He believes…

MATTHEWS: Does he believe he would succeed a legitimate president?

GIULIANI: Donald Trump believes now that he was born in the United States.
But that issue was raised originally…

MATTHEWS: When`s he going to say it?

GIULIANI: That issue was raised originally…

MATTHEWS: When is he going to say…

GIULIANI: … by Hillary Clinton for…

MATTHEWS: … that this president is legitimate? This is a fundamental
question, Mr. Mayor. Is the president of the United States legitimate or

GIULIANI: He believes…

MATTHEWS: Do you believe it? If you believe it, why doesn`t your
candidate state it?

GIULIANI: I believe it. He believes it. We all believe it. But it took
a long time to get it out…

MATTHEWS: He does? Are you speaking for him now?

GIULIANI: … and the first one…

MATTHEWS: Are you speaking for – are you speaking for Donald Trump
tonight, on live television? Are you saying for him, I`m saying he`s about
to buckle and say, finally, that Barack Obama is the legitimate president
of the United States?

GIULIANI: He is the one who got him to finally produce the birth
certificate. Hillary Clinton`s campaign first raised this issue.


GIULIANI: He picked this up from Hillary Clinton when she…

MATTHEWS: He has subsequently said he does not accept that as the final

GIULIANI: He – he picked it up…

MATTHEWS: OK. Can you commit to your candidate saying within the next 24
hours that President Obama`s a legitimate president? Can you commit for

GIULIANI: He has said it already.

MATTHEWS: … that he will say that?

GIULIANI: He has said it already. And the fact is…

MATTHEWS: No, he hasn`t.

GIULIANI: … that is an issue that was originally…

MATTHEWS: You`re wrong on the fact here, Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: … introduced by Hillary – well, every once in a while, I am.
But I think he did. And the fact is, I believe…

MATTHEWS: I think you`re wrong.


GIULIANI: But the point is that Hillary Clinton`s campaign is the first


GIULIANI: … to do it because all she does is engage in negative


GIULIANI: … against Barack Obama and against Donald Trump. Her only –
her only…

MATTHEWS: That`s – first of all, she`s never said that. And your
candidate has on numerous occasions, and I`m asking you the final word –
we`ll end this back and forth. Can you say authoritatively on behalf of
Donald Trump that he was wrong in saying the president was born in another
country? Can you say that now?

GIULIANI: I believe he picked up on what Hillary Clinton`s campaign said.
He pushed Obama, Obama finally produced the birth certificate, and it
showed he was born in Hawaii.

MATTHEWS: And therefore?

GIULIANI: Therefore, he`s an American citizen.

MATTHEWS: As per Donald Trump.

GIULIANI: As per Donald Trump. But for me…

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump says so? He`s told you that? Has he ever told you
this privately, that he believes this president is legitimate?

GIULIANI: He has told me that he is proud of the fact that he finally got
Obama to produce his birth certificate.

MATTHEWS: OK. Fine. I think we have it on the record, Mr. Mayor. I`m
glad you came on. But I do want to put this to rest.


MATTHEWS: I don`t think this is funny. I think when you accuse the
president of the United States of being someone who snuck in the country…

GIULIANI: Now, wait a second! Wait, wait, wait, wait…

MATTHEWS: … and assumed an identity – because that`s what Trump has
been doing for years now.

GIULIANI: Not when your – not when your opponent in the Democratic
primary, Hillary Clinton, who has lied probably 1,000 times over her e-

MATTHEWS: Let me just tell you, there`s no record at all, Mr. Mayor, on
the record right now – we checked this before you came on because one of
our producers, senior producers, thought you might say this. There`s
absolutely no record ever of Hillary Clinton or anyone in her campaign ever

GIULIANI: Her campaign…

MATTHEWS: … that President Obama is not legitimate.

GIULIANI: Her campaign raised it.


GIULIANI: Originally.

MATTHEWS: You`re wrong.

GIULIANI: I`m not wrong. I`m right about that.

MATTHEWS: Look, anybody can say anything they want, but she can control
her own campaign, and she has never said so, nor has anyone speaking for

GIULIANI: Her campaign…

MATTHEWS: Now you`re speaking – now you`re speaking for Donald Trump.
And we`re ending this now because we`re spending a lot of time on it, but I
think it is important. You say this president`s legitimately elected
president of the United States…

GIULIANI: I believe…

MATTHEWS: … and you say your candidate agrees with you.

GIULIANI: … he`s a legitimate president. And instead of – instead of
talking about the fact that Hillary Clinton violated probably about 40
different federal laws, we`re talking about this, which is ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Well, it is ridiculous, and I`m trying to put
the ridiculousness to bed.

GIULIANI: So – so let`s talk…


MATTHEWS: We`re trying to pick the next president, not review the birth of
the current president. Anyway, thank you, Mayor Rudy Giuliani…

GIULIANI: So let`s talk about the next president being someone who would
be prosecuted if she wasn`t a Clinton because I would have prosecuted her.


GIULIANI: And I`ve seen plenty of people prosecuted for much less, like
Martha Stewart!

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much.

GIULIANI: You know how many false statements she made to the FBI? They`re
so long, I can`t count them.

MATTHEWS: And the FBI had the right to review that, and they did and found
her not in any criminal violation. Anyway, thank you, Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: Three days – three days after the…

MATTHEWS: We have to go on. It`s a live show.

GIULIANI: Three days after the interview…

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Joining me right now is “USA Today” Washington bureau chief Susan Page,
MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance. He`s the executive director of the
Terror Asymmetrics Project.

Susan, thanks for joining us. And you cover all kinds of things. What do
you make of that, what we just heard?

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: Well, I think that Mayor Giuliani was misstating
some facts. In fact, Donald Trump was asked about whether he stood by his
birther comments about – birther questions about President Obama just this
week by reporters, and he declined to respond.

And so far as I can recall – and I haven`t had a chance to research this
fully – I have never heard Donald Trump say definitively that he accepts
that Barack Obama was born here. He has dropped the issue as he`s become
the nominee and moved on, but so far as I know, he`s never made that kind
of statement.

I`m also not aware – and again, it would be good if I had time to research
this – I`m not aware of Hillary Clinton ever raising questions about…

MATTHEWS: No, she…


MATTHEWS: We have evidence. Politifact said – Politifact has ruled on
this, and they`re a very legitimate organization. They said neither
Hillary Clinton nor anyone officially or in her campaign has said that. Of
course, people can all join in any chorus they want. But all she can
control is her own campaign.

Malcolm, here`s a question I didn`t expect to ask you, sir, but one reason
why people in the minority community, African-Americans especially, have a
problem with this candidacy of Donald Trump is because of what he has
continued to say and has never taken back, his charge that the president
was illegitimately elected by the American people, that he somehow snuck
into the country under some sort of strange guise and managed to convince
everybody he was born in Hawaii, when he was not.

This went on for months. It has never stopped. I would like to end it.
Rudy Giuliani almost ended it, but he wouldn`t say that he could speak for
the candidate yet tonight, except to say he believed it and he thought that
Trump had stopped doing it. But Trump hasn`t stopped doing it. He has not
changed, as Susan just – just explained.


Well, you know, birtherism is the ultimate form of racism, when you
consider that it`s the first black president of the United States. By
claiming that he`s an illegitimate entity, that he had no right to even be
in the United States because he was born in another nation, did a
convoluted plan that took decades which involved his mother to show that he
was not actually allowed to be here, in the face of all the investigative
arms of the United States government, it`s just a form of – it`s beyond
political. It`s just racist.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think – let me ask you this, Susan.

Why do you think Rudy Giuliani – he`s not comfortable with the issue.
He`s very aggressive, of course, but not comfortable defending birtherism.
He said he doesn`t believe in it. Dr. Carson, Ben Carson, doesn`t believe
it. Mike Pence, Trump`s running mate, doesn`t believe it.

But Trump won`t give on this. What`s that about?

PAGE: Well, I don`t know. I don`t know why Trump doesn`t give on this.
Maybe it`s because he`s staked out a position, and he doesn`t want to back
off on it.

I will tell you, Rudy Giuliani was pretty aggressive in pressing questions
about Hillary Clinton`s health. And this is yet another case where there
is no evidence that there`s a problem with Hillary Clinton`s health. She
had a coughing fit. Big deal.

And we will have a good opportunity to see the stamina of both candidates
in three 90-minute debates.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I said.

PAGE: So, this is another case of pressing an argument on which there
doesn`t seem to be any factual basis.

And I think this is one of the things that a lot of Americans find so
frustrating about politics in general and this election in particular.

MATTHEWS: There`s an old movie line in “Anatomy of a Murder,” the Jimmy
Stewart movie, and Ben Gazzara movie, where the lawyer in the case said to
the jury, don`t think of a blue cow. Of course, you do think of a blue

Suggest something like he snuck in the country, blah, blah, blah, or
suggest that Hillary has a coughing problem, some serious health problem,
get that into the power of suggestion, get it out there so some people on
her side can at least start spreading it around and has something – it`s
what they did to Dukakis when he was accused of having psychological

Reagan pushed that out there. This is an old dirty trick.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Malcolm Nance.

I will talk to you about this stuff we planned to talk to you about later.

Coming up: About the intelligence briefing, Donald Trump says the
intelligence officials who briefed him on national security evidenced an
unhappiness with President Obama. We are going to ask the former director
of the CIA about Trump`s claim and what to make of it.

Plus, a big campaign blunder for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. You
probably know it by now. Did Johnson kill himself politically with his
response or lack of it to a question about Syria from Mike Barnicle this

And Hillary Clinton response to Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus
hitting her for not smiling during last night`s forum. Is Secretary
Clinton being held to a different standard here? She`s supposed to smile
about national security? Since when is Mr. Reince Priebus, by the way, Mr.
Happy Face?

Finally tonight, with two months to go, I will have my election diary for
today and where this race now stands after last night`s commander in chief
forum here on NBC and MSNBC.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, we`re still two-and-a-half weeks until the first big
presidential debate, but the first voting actually begins tomorrow, believe
it or not. The battleground state of North Carolina begins early voting
tomorrow with the availability of mail-in absentee ballots.

Roughly two-thirds of the state`s vote is expected to be early or absentee.
Believe it, North Carolina.

We have got new polling, by the way, from the state now. And let`s check
the HARDBALL Scoreboard.

According to a new poll from Suffolk University, Donald Trump has a three-
point lead over Hillary Clinton down there in North Carolina. It`s Trump
44 percent, Clinton 41 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson a distant
third. But those numbers are reversed in a new Quinnipiac poll of the
state. In that poll, it`s Clinton with the lead over Trump 47-43, just the
other way.

We are going to have more swing state polls later in the show.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Let`s review what Donald Trump said at NBC`s Commander-in-Chief Forum last
night, particularly when it comes to Russia and that classified
intelligence briefing he received as the Republican nominee.

Last night, Trump said that he could tell that the intelligence officials
were – quote – “not happy” – close quote – with President Obama.
Here`s Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I did learn is that our
leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly,
when they call it intelligence, it`s there for a reason, what our experts
said to do.


TRUMP: And I was very, very surprised in almost every instance. And I
could tell. I am pretty good with the body language. I could tell they
were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.


MATTHEWS: And here`s how Hillary Clinton today reacted to Trump`s
characterization of those briefings.


was totally inappropriate and undisciplined. I would never comment on any
aspect of an intelligence briefing that I received.


MATTHEWS: And we saw Donald Trump heaping more praise last night on
Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing Putin`s popularity, so-called, in
Russia and calling him a better leader than President Obama.


TRUMP: Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating. The man has very
strong control over a country. Now, it`s a very different system and I
don`t happen to like the system, but, certainly, in that system, he`s been
a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.


MATTHEWS: Well, when it comes to polling in this country, the USA, Putin
is among the most unpopular figures NBC has ever polled. According to an
NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll in May, just 8 percent, one in 12, say they
have a positive view of Putin, while 59 percent say they have a negative

I`m joined right now by an expert, Leon Panetta, the former CIA director
and former secretary of defense who supports Hillary Clinton for president.

Mr. Secretary, first of all, the body language, is this Trump`s way of
getting across something about the experts not agreeing with Obama, not
respecting, without giving away a briefing? Why would he talk about –
well, what is body language in the context of a briefing by professionals?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: You know what? I have no idea what
he`s reading into that presentation.

All I know is, every intelligence briefing I have ever had is done by
professionals. They provide objective intelligence. As a matter of fact,
it would be a violation of their responsibility and tradecraft if they even
suggested anything related to whether policy decisions were right or wrong.

So, my view is that Trump didn`t hear any of that. He was basically
listening to the intelligence. And the intelligence is probably pretty
rough intelligence about what`s going on in the world. And he decided to
read into that the failures that he sees in the policies that were applied.

But this is a guy who, as president, is going to get a PDB every morning,
an intelligence briefing, every morning. He`s got to listen to what`s
being presented. He can`t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what
the body language is of those making the presentation.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of – I got a comment on this, but I want to
hear from you, an expert, because you have dealt with the world as defense
secretary, as Pentagon chief.

What do you make of his love affair with Putin? He seems to clearly
respect his leadership swag, as if he`s, like, judging best dictator in the
world contest. Like, he`s not looking at him as a guy who is a potential
adversary of ours, where most Americans do see him as a potential

What do you think he means when he says, “I think he`s a better leader than

PANETTA: You know, I think this is the real estate developer coming out in
Trump, that, you know, he loves to sit down with people, even though he may
not like them. If they`re tough and they`re good businesspeople, then he
loves to sit down and talk with them.

And he`s got – he`s applying that same kind of standard when it comes to
somebody like Putin. Putin is an adversary. Putin is somebody who has not
only invaded the Crimea and gone into the Ukraine, gone into Syria,
continues to come at us in a lot of different ways.

He`s an adversary. And as president of the United States, Trump has to be
smart enough to keep his feet on the ground and be able to weigh this guy
based on what he`s doing to the United States, and protect United States`
interests. He can`t get enamored by the fact that Putin is nice to him and
plays to his ego.


It`s almost like it`s Dick Nixon talking about John Connally, you know? I
like the cut of his jib, rather than, how are we going to deal with this
guy? Anyway…


PANETTA: You and I know politics – politicians love to be praised by

But when you`re president of the United States, you got to be very careful
about being praised by Putin or the head of North Korea or Saddam Hussein,
because you got to protect the United States` interests first and foremost.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about that, because I think you are a moderate
centrist, a progressive, but you are pretty close to the center in terms of
national security.

And I have always wondered how you see Hillary Clinton, because my hunch
about her, watching her from a bit away, is that she`s going to be a notch
to the right of Obama in terms of readiness to use force. Is that correct?

PANETTA: Chris, I think that at least my experience in the National
Security Council and dealing with a number of decisions that had to be
made, that she is somebody who feels strongly about advancing our

And if it requires that we use some of our power in order to be able to do
that, I think she`s willing to do that. Does that mean she`s not cautious?
No. She is cautious. She`s thoughtful. She uses good judgment.

But when it comes to protecting our interests, I think she`s a little more
willing to try to engage in the kind of power moves that you sometimes have
to do if you want to protect the United States` interests.

MATTHEWS: Well, compared to President Obama, because I know you respect
President Obama. But in your book, you said, he avoids the battle,
complains and issues – and misses opportunities.

So, where would she move where the president hasn`t, do you see, I mean,
generally? What would she be like, as compared to him?


No, well, I think she has been pretty – I think she has been pretty with
that. For example, she has said that she would increase the number of
airstrikes in Syria. She`s talked about establishing a no-fly zone in
Syria. She`s talked about adding additional special forces on the ground.

She`s talked about trying to increase our intelligence capabilities. So,
what you`re looking at are some of the key Obama steps, but she would just
be a little more energetic in terms of the effort to try to go after ISIS.

MATTHEWS: That`s very helpful. Thank you. That`s the way I sort of see
it as a hunch, but you know it as an expert.

Thank you so much, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Up next: a big stumble by a candidate, a serious stumble, who needs every
break he can get. Libertarian Gary Johnson blanks after being asked about
a battlefront city in Syria. He`s apparently never heard of the place.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s not just the major-party candidates who are on the defensive today.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who did not participate in last night`s
forum, was asked by my colleague Mike Barnicle earlier this morning what we
do about a battlefront in Syria if he was commander in chief.


MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: What would you do if you were elected about

is Aleppo?

BARNICLE: You`re kidding.


BARNICLE: Aleppo is in Syria. It`s the epicenter of the refugee crisis.

JOHNSON: OK. Got it. Got it.


JOHNSON: Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it`s a mess. I think
that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to
diplomatically bring that at an end.


MATTHEWS: Well, since mid-2012, Aleppo has become a key battleground, of
course, in the Syrian uprising.

Johnson`s response immediately went viral today. And it comes at a time
when the governor is trying desperately to reach the 15 percent in the
polls that he can be allowed to be included in the presidential debates at
the end of the month.

For more on all this, I`m joined by Democratic strategist and Warschaw
professor of politics at USC, Bob Shrum.

Bob, this is one of those moments in a campaign where a candidate is asked
a question and he comes up blank.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He certainly did come up blank. I was
watching and I was tempted to say that Donald Trump is the second worst
informed person in this campaign. It is unbelievable that a serious
candidate and he wants to be a serious candidate for president, wouldn`t
know what Aleppo is. But worse than that, if you listen to the rest of his
answer, it was pretty incoherent. It was pretty confused. It said we have
to join hands with Russia and that will solve all this.

Well, guess what? The administration`s been trying to do a deal with
Russia for a long time. It`s not been able to do that. So, I don`t think
Gary Johnson knew what he was talking about at all, in addition to
forgetting Aleppo. And, by the way, I don`t think he`s –

MATTHEWS: Forgetting? I`m not sure forgetting is the right word. Are you
sure he knew about it?

I think there`s something going on here. I don`t read everything in the
papers. I don`t know much about hockey. There`s a lot of things I know
nothing about. I admit it.

SHRUM: Right.

MATTHEWS: But I think we have a problem with Sarah Palin, who got a
problem with Katie Couric when she asked her very good question, what
papers do you read? If you don`t read the newspapers, if you don`t
recognize names in the news, then you got a problem.

Jack Kennedy said the newspaper reading habit is key to leadership. You
have to have your eyes on what`s going on in the world as an instinct. You
can`t just do it because you try to do it. You have to really want to do

Does this show that Mr. Johnson, the former governor of Colorado doesn`t
keep an eye on the news? New Mexico rather. I have missed that one

SHRUM: I think he has – that was just a slip of a tongue.

I think you`re right about him. I don`t think he knows what`s going on in
Syria. I don`t think he`s serious about following foreign policy.

I think he`s kind of a libertarian doctrinaire person who is out there
running for president. He knows he`s not going to get 15 percent and get
into those debates. He wants to get 5 percent so that Lord help us, the
federal government will finance the Libertarian Party in 2020. That`s his

But that was a stunning moment. You don`t know when they`re going to come,
you can`t predict them. They happen in every campaign. That was just

MATTHEWS: Well, we are still hoping to get him on the air soon. That
would be the governor of New Mexico, former governor, of course, of
Massachusetts, Bill Weld. They are running as the libertarian team. They
do have an outside shot still at getting into the debates, but it`s
becoming more outside.

Thank you, Bob Shrum, for your expertise.

SHRUM: You`re welcome.

MATTHEWS: Up next, let`s get back to Rudy Giuliani, what he said at the
top of the show, that Donald Trump now believes that President Obama was
born in the USA. That`s a big one. It`s been a long time coming, if it`s

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close supporter of Donald
Trump, told me just a few moments ago here on HARDBALL that Trump, who led
the birther movement, now believes President Obama was in fact born in the

Let`s watch.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Donald Trump believes now that
he was born in the United States. But that issue –

MATTHEWS: When`s he going to say it?

GIULIANI: That issue was raised originally –

MATTHEWS: When is he going to say that this president is legitimate? This
is a fundamental question, Mr. Mayor. Is the president of the United
States legitimate or not? Do you believe it? If you believe it, why
doesn`t your candidate state it?

GIULIANI: I believe it, he believes it, we all believe it.

MATTHEWS: He does? Are you speaking for him now? Are you speaking for
him? Are you speaking for Donald Trump tonight, on live television? Are
you saying for him, I`m saying he`s about to buckle and say finally, that
Barack Obama is a legitimate president of the United States?

GIULIANI: He is the one who got him to finally produce the birth


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Cornell Belcher
is a Democratic pollster. Ruth Marcus is opinion writer for “The
Washington Post”, and Michael Steele, former chair of the RNC and MSNBC
political analyst.

Michael, you first. All three of you, I want to hear from you all.

Rudy Giuliani, under a little pressure there, came out and said Trump has
changed his position, he now believes the president is legitimate. He
didn`t sneak in the country, there wasn`t a conspiracy, birtherism was
nothing, he`s a president like any other president, dutifully and
constitutionally elected. That`s new.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Gee, what does it say that that`s


MATTHEWS: What does it say about Trump?

STEELE: But no, I think you created a box and the mayor found himself in
it and it will be interesting to see what`s going on right now, whether or
not in the next 12 hours, 24 hours, there`s going to be more on this from
Donald Trump himself. I`m sure the press tomorrow is going to pick up your
lead on this and ask the question. I think for Donald Trump, though, just
looking at it from a political standpoint, given the efforts that he`s been
making to have a conversation with African-Americans, I know that they have
said that`s a problem for us.

We need to know where you are on this, because we see our president, not as
a black president, but our American president, as an American. How do you
see him? So, I think that this is an important development in that step.

MATTHEWS: Ruth, it`s been coming this week because Pence, his running
mate, said he believes the president was American-born. And, of course,
Dr. Carson, who has been running with him, campaigning with him, also said
so. I said if those two guys are willing to do it, are you, Mr. Mayor. He
said I am. OK, is your candidate? He said yes. We got it on the record.

Go ahead.

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Rudy Giuliani has read Donald Trump`s
mind and said something that Donald Trump has not been willing to say,
which is that apparently Donald Trump now believes that President Obama was
born in America. But as much as the African-American community has wanted
to hear it, as much as Trump wants to curry favor with them, he has been
absolutely religiously resistant to saying it.

Every time he`s questioned about it, what he says is I don`t talk about
that anymore. He doesn`t say yes, he was.

MATTHEWS: Cornell, your thoughts. Cornell, what do you think? Cornell?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think they`re trying to have it
both ways, Chris. I think, you know, first, Rudy Giuliani is unhinged but
he`s part of an unhinged sort of movement that`s going on. He will say
whatever he wants to say whenever they want to say it and think they will
get away with it. That`s exactly why Americans don`t like what`s going on
right now.

No, Donald Trump is not going to say it because the base of the Republican
Party doesn`t want him to say it.

MATTHEWS: That`s a prediction.

BELCHER: He will lose support.

MATTHEWS: Cornell, you`re a pollster, not a predictor. You don`t know
what he will say tomorrow. I don`t either. I bet through will be
questions tomorrow. Does Rudy Giuliani speak for you, or you`re going to
fire him? Because he`s your surrogate. If he says you said something, you
better say it yourself or say he`s not your surrogate anymore because –

BELCHER: He`s put him in a box. You put him in a box.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. The roundtable is staying with us. Still ahead, a
slew of new battleground polls.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s more polling from the three biggest battleground
states. Once again, let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

According to new polling from Quinnipiac University, Donald Trump has a
one-point lead in Ohio. It`s Trump, 46-45. And you need Ohio if you`re

Next to Pennsylvania where Clinton is up by five points. It`s Clinton 48,
Trump 43, here in the Keystone State. We`re here right now.

Finally to Florida, look at this, all tied up, 47-47. Clinton and Trump
both at 47.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table tonight.

People are going to tell me something I don`t know. Starting with Cornell

Tell me something.

BELCHER: Chris, you may not know this, but as a political consultant in
Washington, D.C., what you don`t want to have is to wake up one morning and
see a confidential memo that you wrote to your client in the pages of “The
New York Times.” It`s not a very good thing. It`s egregious and quite
frankly what it`s about, it is about the cynicism of young voters, and not
so much aimed at one person.


MARCUS: Even while we`re debating whether the current president of the
United States was actually born in America, the transition teams for the
two people who might be the next president of the United States are working
behind the scenes not just to present the nominees or the candidates once
elected, with cabinet secretary, but with slates of under cabinet officials
so we don`t have another “Home Alone” phenomenon in the Obama
administration where people are not confirmed for a long time. We`ll see
how that works.

MATTHEWS: Must see if it works. They`re doing the draperies already.


STEELE: Despite what we`ve heard and seen at the top line about the
inability to really pull the grassroots campaign by the Trump campaign,
there`s a great deal of coordination that`s under way right now amongst the
states and around the country that is getting boots on the ground and
organization in place that is actually going to make this race a little bit
more competitive than people thought originally.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Cornell Belcher, Ruth Marcus, and Michael

I`ll have something to say when we come back in a moment about what just
happened on this show tonight.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Election Diary Thursday, September 8th.

Well, you just heard it here tonight, Rudy Giuliani, the number one
surrogate for Republican presidential nominee, now says Trump no longer
believes that President Obama was born overseas, that he was, in fact, born
in this country. And that`s news. We`ll see in coming days whether Trump
confirms what his surrogate said tonight.

I put this question to Mr. Giuliani tonight because in recent days, both
Governor Mike Pence, Donald Trump`s running mate, and Dr. Ben Carson both,
he`s also a top supporter, both said President Obama was born here and is
therefore a legitimate president. As of tonight, the only person in the
Trump campaign who has yet to follow suit is the candidate.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


Copyright 2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>