Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/4/2017

Guests:
Denny Heck, Simon Marks, John Dean, Cynthia Alksne, Jay Newton-Small, Mark Jacobson, Nayyera Haq
Transcript:

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: April 4, 2017
Guest: Denny Heck, Simon Marks, John Dean, Cynthia Alksne, Jay Newton-Small, Mark Jacobson, Nayyera Haq

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Moscow nights.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The big news of the week remains the investigations into Russia`s meddling
in our election and the reciprocal role played by the Trump people. Here
are the latest headlines. “The Financial Times” reports that the FBI is
setting up a special section based here in Washington to coordinate its
investigation.

According to “The Times,” the move is a sign of how seriously the bureau is
taking allegations of Russian meddling into American politics and is also
aimed at giving FBI director James Comey greater visibility into the
investigation and its details. There will be more than 20 dedicated agents
working on the investigation. They will brief Comey on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, NBC News has confirmed that bombshell “Washington Post” report
that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January, a week
before the inauguration, between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a
Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to
establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and
President-elect Donald Trump. “The Post” noted that Prince presented
himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump.

The Blackwater founder gave a quarter of a million dollars to the Trump
campaign and pro-Trump super-PACs last year, and he`s been seen in the
Trump`s transition offices in December. A spokesman for Prince rejected
the story and the White House called the suggestion of a back water (ph)
channel ridiculous.

Well, meanwhile, as the investigation of the Trump-Putin connection moves
forward, Trump pushes stories that distract attention from the
investigation. Yesterday, for example, Bloomberg`s Eli Lake reported White
House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser,
Susan Rice, requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence
reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Trump transition and
campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. Well,
today, President Trump re-tweeted a Drudge Report headline about that
story.

In an exclusive interview with Andrea Mitchell, by the way, Susan Rice
today explained there is a big difference between requesting information
about sources in intelligence reports and surveilling political opponents,
as President Trump has alleged.

Let`s watch her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The allegation is that,
somehow, Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political
purposes. That`s absolutely false.

There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person
was referred to – name not provided, just U.S. person. And sometimes in
that context, in order to understand the importance of the report and
assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the
information as to who that U.S. official was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House
Intelligence Committee, said the White House is trying to change the focus
and divert the investigation into his campaign`s ties to Russia. Let`s
watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If anyone in the White House had a
concern about any of these materials, they should have been shared and not
gone through this charade that we saw over the last two weeks.

What prompted that? What was the urgency there, when we`ve already asked
for materials about incidental collection? And I have to think the urgency
was created at that Monday hearing when James Comey said not only there was
no truth to the president`s claim that he was surveilled or wiretapped or
what have you, but also when the FBI director said that the Trump campaign
team was under an FBI investigation. I think this was the response to that
rather breath-taking hearing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state is a member of
the House Intelligence Committee. Simon Marks is the chief correspondent
for Feature Story News, and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for
“Mother Jones.”

Congressman, let me ask you about this. What do you make of this
investigation and now the fact that Comey, the FBI director, is really kind
of focusing attention, creating a special section to go into what happened
between Russia and the Trump people?

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: So one former FBI agent indicated that
this represents a surge in resources. Anybody associated with the Trump
orbit that was involved in Russia financial entanglements probably was
calling their lawyer today, Chris. That`s what I make of it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this other latest bombshell story, that
there was a meeting nine days before inauguration between the Blackwater
founder, who`s the brother of the person – Betsy DeVos, of course, who was
named by Trump to be secretary of education, her brother, the guy who met
over in the Seychelles with the Putin guy, gave a ton of money to Trump.

What is a huge backer of a presidential candidate who has already become a
president-elect doing fishing out there, putting together relations with
Russia? I don`t know whether it`s illegal, but it certainly suggests more
entanglement between the Trump folks and the Putin folks.

HECK: Chris, there`s so much smoke here. Every smoke alarm in the house
is going off. There`s so much smoke here, you can`t see a foot in front of
your face.

Listen, this thing is taking on a life of its own. It`s gathering speed.
It`s the Senate. It`s the FBI with new resources. And by the way, I have
it by word tonight that the House is going to get its investigation back on
track. The chair and the ranking member, I believe, are near agreement on
a witness list so we can enter the auction. (ph)

And as I have said all along, I wouldn`t be the slightest bit surprised if
there aren`t also some local prosecutors looking into some things like
this.

MATTHEWS: Is the chairman of your committee his own man?

HECK: Well, Chris, I`m going to give him the benefit of the doubt of an
opportunity to get this back on track.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me put it this way…

(CROSSTALK)

HECK: I asked him to recuse himself. I think that was the right thing to
do. But right now, let`s focus on getting it back on track.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me – the reason I asked that is obvious, but I also
know from a former member of the House who`s now in the Senate once told me
that when you go into markup and you actually have to write bills, you can
sometimes realize that one of your colleagues is in the tank with some
corporation. They just begin to behave like they`re not really their own
person.

We`ve seen pretty adequate evidence that Mr. Nunes is not his own person.
What`s he doing hanging around, picking up the laundry from the White House
and taking it back to the White House after he`s cleaned it by saying he`s
an investigator? He wasn`t an investigator. He was a delivery boy,
bringing this stuff back that they gave him and saying it was news, and
alarming news.

If that isn`t show-boating for the president, I don`t know what is. What
do you think it was?

HECK: Well, I think the best thing that can be said about it is that it`s
ham-handed.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true.

HECK: As I`ve said all along, I feel like I`m watching a 3-D movie –
deception, deflection and distraction. That`s what he`s trying to do. But
it`s not going to work.

MATTHEWS: One of your colleagues on the committee, Joaquin Castro, another
Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said on CNN just late today he
thinks some of President Trump`s associates – that`s a nice word for them
– could end up in prison or in jail, he said. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), CALIFORNIA: I guess I would say this, that my
impression is I wouldn`t be surprised after all of this is said and done
that some people end up in jail.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Really? And how high does that go, in your suspicion?
That`s all we could call it right now.

CASTRO: Well, that`s yet to be determined.

BLITZER: You`re confident that at least some Trump associates will wind up
in jail.

CASTRO: If I was betting, I would say yes.

BLITZER: Including some who are still – who are working in the new
administration or people who worked or advised the president during the
campaign and maybe during the transition.

CASTRO: As you can imagine, Wolf, I`ll have to comment on that later. But
again, if somebody asked me my impression, I would – my impression is that
people will probably be charged, and I think people will probably go to
jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Congressman, last question to you. What do you make of Michael
Flynn, the general who was head of national security, asking for immunity?
Immunity means immunity from prison, basically. He must think something`s
coming his way.

HECK: Well, I can only quote General Flynn, who said nobody asks for
immunity that hasn`t committed a crime.

Can I just respectfully disagree…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.

HECK: I want to – I want to – I want to respectfully disagree with my
dear friend, Joaquin Castro, next to whom I sit on the Intelligence
Committee. He said he would not be surprised if people ended up going to
jail. I will be surprised if people don`t end up going to jail.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Congressman Denny Heck of Washington
state, right?

HECK: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

Anyway, let`s go back to these other folks. Let me go to Simon first and
then David. This thing is getting coherent. Comey is taking it seriously,
by outward effect. What do you make of it all?

SIMON MARKS, FEATURE STORY NEWS: Well, look…

MATTHEWS: And people are talking about immunity. We`re getting more
information about the Seychelles. You don`t meet in the Seychelles if you
want the people to know about it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) way in the Indian Ocean as you can go to meet
anybody!

MARKS: Look, I`m not that – I`m old enough to remember when Sean Spicer
was standing behind that lectern at the White House just a few weeks ago
assuring everybody there`s nothing to see here, time to stop digging.
Everybody that`s looked into this…

MATTHEWS: That`s before Melissa McCarthy…

MARKS: … has found nothing…

MATTHEWS: … took over his podium there.

MARKS: Now you`ve got the FBI surging resources, according to “The
Financial Times.” That is a very, very clear indication that they think
there`s something there to dig into and to get their teeth into.

MATTHEWS: And Trump gets more and more – for a man that you would think -
- well, I don`t think he`s totally innocent of any of these relationships
(ph). There`s no reason to believe he doesn`t have Russian connections.
But every time this gets tighter around his neck, he starts going crazy
with the tweets over the weekend.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: … shooting up the fireworks.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look at this.
He keeps calling this a hoax. That`s his word, it`s a hoax. It`s a hoax.
Fake news, fake news. You have the director of the FBI, that he oversees
as president, saying, actually, this is not a hoax.

And this is getting more intense, less intense after looking at it for nine
months (INAUDIBLE) It shows me that Comey is not dismissing it. He`s
finding more to focus on. You have Republicans who lead the intelligence
committees, even Nunes, saying this is real. You have Nikki Haley saying
this is real. So what does it mean that all these Republicans…

MATTHEWS: Nikki Haley has said that, as well.

CORN: Yes. All these Republicans, people in his own cabinet say it`s
real, and he keeps saying it`s a hoax.

MATTHEWS: I think Nikki Haley sees herself having a future. That`s why
she`s keeping herself clean.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Have you noticed the opera aspect of this? First of all, he
goes after Donna Brazile. OK, Donna Brazile passed some stuff she
shouldn`t have back there in the day she worked at CNN as a contributor,
but also as primarily DNC chair at the time, passed, apparently, some
questions from a debate to Hillary. That shouldn`t have been done.

But why is he going back after that? Why is he going after Hillary`s
performance in the debate, which he did the other day, this weekend. Why
is he going after Susan Rice? It`s like he pulls out – he`s like an old
deejay. He pulls out the old records from 20 years ago and plays them
again.

MARKS: Well, he`s like the magician who`s saying, Don`t look over here,
look over here. He`s desperate to get everybody to divert their attention
today. I do think Susan Rice…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch that. As soon as reports about Susan Rice`s
role in unmasking the names of Trump associates emerged, many Republicans
pounced. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe Susan Rice
abused the system, and she did it for political purposes. She needs to be
brought in and questioned under oath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She did an interview 12 days ago. Was she forthcoming
in that interview, Senator?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no idea.
But when it comes to Susan Rice, you need to verify, not trust.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Susan Rice is the typhoid Mary of the Obama
administration foreign policy. Every time something went wrong, she seemed
to turn up in the middle of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, Bates Motel. Anyway, Mike Huckabee tweeted yesterday,
“Donald Trump will await apology from the media now that he has revealed
Susan Rice unmasked names. Orange jumpsuit in (INAUDIBLE) “

CORN: Oh, God.

MATTHEWS: I mean, Huckabee has no shame. These guys are trooping along
like camp followers of Trump.

MARKS: They`re looking for a pinata.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARKS: They found one in Susan Rice. I do think…

MATTHEWS: Notice it`s always a female? Just a thought.

MARKS: That`s also true. But I do think she slightly played into their
hands.

MATTHEWS: Typhoid Mary?

MARKS: No, clearly not. But the best things…

MATTHEWS: OK, look…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Susan Rice`s job is to watch national security. As she told
Andrea today, our colleague, she made it very clear that what she was doing
is making sure, when she saw an American name show up in a surveillance of
a foreign perhaps agent, she wanted to know who that was. What`s wrong
with that?

CORN: There is nothing wrong with that.

MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with that?

MARKS: I don`t think there`s necessarily anything wrong with it. I think,
unfortunately for Susan Rice, she`s given two contradictory interviews, an
interview to PBS a couple of weeks ago where she said nothing to see here
and…

MATTHEWS: Well, she said there was no surveillance. She wasn`t saying she
didn`t pick up some names by asking through proper authority who are they
talking about.

CORN: You know…

MATTHEWS: And by the way, this is all after the election. This wasn`t
politics. Go ahead.

CORN: At the end of the day, we need some element of decency. When Rand
Paul gets out there and says she`s abused this right – there is not an
iota of evidence that she`s abused anything. Calling her Typhoid Mary –
she – all we know now is that she did her job.

Did she do something wrong? There is no information indicating that. So
they are making her – you know, basically, they`re defaming her without
any reason to do so because she`s a woman, maybe because she`s a black
woman, maybe because they didn`t like her during Benghazi. This is all
about the…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: … a little British commentary from me right now. Remember
that great scene in “Man for All Seasons” where Henry the 8th, Robert Shaw,
steps into the muddy water when he gets off the boat and all the courtiers
jump in the muddy water with him? That`s what we`re watching, led by
Huckabee.

Anyway, Simon Marks, thank you, David Corn.

We have some breaking news right now to report. The South Korean military
has confirmed that North Korea has just fired a ballistic missile into the
Sea of Japan. It comes just days before President Trump is set to meet
with the Chinese president.

Well, NBC`s Lester Holt is at the Osan Air Base in South Korea, where these
missile launches are tracked. Lester, what can you tell us about this
disturbing news?

LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: Chris, we`re getting confirmation
now not only from South Korean officials but also U.S. Pacific Command.
This missile was launched on the east coast of North Korea. This would be
the seventh in the last two months, a ballistic missile that traveled about
37 miles before going down in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

This comes just on the heels of the North Koreans issuing more statements
against the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises going on here. We
were on some of those exercises yesterday. They continue to train together
for eventualities here, including – a lot of what we saw was dealing with
the possibility of weapons of mass destruction.

Now, we can tell you that that missile would have been tracked at the air
operations center here at Osan Air Base. It`s about a 10, 15-minute walk
from where we are. It is underground. It is very secure. And we had rare
access there a couple of days ago. U.S.-South Korean operators – they
have just moments to react when these things happen. They`ve got to
identify the launch point and do the math or the computers do the math very
quickly to figure out where it`s going to come down. In other words, is it
an attack, or is it going to be a harmless test, as this turned out to be?

But it is a time of rising tensions, certainly, on this peninsula. We`ve
spent the last four days with various military units. They continue to
train to the standard they always do, and their slogan is “Ready to fight
tonight.” In other words, things could flip, they know, on this peninsula
at any moment, and their posture is to be ready to go at any moment, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Lester Holt at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
Lester, of course, is an anchor of the “Nightly News” for NBC News.

Coming up – should President Trump`s former national security director,
Michael Flynn, get immunity? He says he has a story to tell to pay for
that immunity, but would that story net the bigger fish? Well, Donald
Trump perhaps? That`s the question everyone`s asking. Former Watergate
whistleblower and Nixon White House counsel John Dean joins us in just a
minute.

Plus, today`s Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into a new
year women must earn to catch up with men from the previous year. Ivanka
Trump says we need to close that pay gap, but her dad rolled back an Obama
regulation last month that ensures federal contractors pay women the same
amount as their male counterparts. So what gives?

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here to talk about how Trump can deal with
Russia when Russia continues to prop up a murderous regime down in Syria.

Finally, let me finish tonight with the same story (INAUDIBLE) from
history, actually, past and present tied to the top college basketball team
in the country, UNC.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump is blaming his predecessor`s policies
after a suspected chemical attack in Syria killed at least 83 people,
including 25 children. The pictures are horrible. We want to warn viewers
that the pictures from that attack are very graphic in nature, to put it
lightly.

Syrian activists say the attack happened in a northern rebel-held region,
and hours later, a field hospital in the area was also hit. Eyewitnesses
say the attack was launched by an air strike from Syrian and Russian
warplanes and activists say it bears all the hallmarks of the Assad
government. Both Damascus and Moscow deny responsibility.

In a statement today, President Trump condemned the attack, calling it a
consequence of the Obama administration`s weakness – that was his word –
on the war in Syria back in 2012 when President Obama said chemical weapons
used in Syria would cross a red line. A year later, the Assad regime used
chemical weapons against civilians, and President Obama didn`t act.

At the time, Trump repeatedly urged Obama not to use force. Well, he
agreed with Obama not to use force in Syria at that time. Well, today,
White House press secretary Sean Spicer says Bashar Assad`s government in
Syria is a political reality, but McCain says Trump needs to take a more
forceful stand against the Syrian president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to hear him say we`re going to arm
the Free Syrian Army. We`re going to dedicate ourselves to the removal of
Bashar Assad, and we will not sit by and watch chemical weapons being used
to slaughter innocent women and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not the Trump view. We`ll get much more on what
Trump may do about the war in Syria, especially given Moscow`s support for
Assad, later with our roundtable tonight.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You only give immunity if you`re going to get the big
fish. And the big fish here is the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The big question about Michael Flynn and his request for immunity is
whether his testimony can bring down the president, of course. In his
statement last week, Flynn`s attorney suggested his client might possess
information that could be useful to investigators, saying: “General Flynn
certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should
the circumstances permit.”

That`s how he put it.

Well, does the story have to tell have to do with Trump`s dealings with
Russia? Flynn`s lawyer is certainly no friend of the president. According
to BuzzFeed News, he once describes Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate,
questioned his ties to Vladimir Putin, and queried his unwillingness to
release his tax returns.

Flynn also had good reason to trade what he may have on Trump to save
himself from a potential prison term. If it`s found he lied to the FBI,
for example, that could otherwise mean a felony charge.

Well, back in 1973, former White House counsel John Dean – there he is –
the key witness who exposed President Nixon`s Watergate cover-up was
granted what is called use immunity. That meant what he said to the
committee, the Watergate Committee, could not be use the against him in a
criminal action.

Well, today – well, anyway, Dean`s testimony was corroborated, of course,
by the White House tapes. He proved to be very good at his testimony in
terms of accuracy and honesty. And ultimately, those tapes led to Nixon`s
resignation, as we all know, in 1974.

There`s Nixon heading to the helicopter.

I`m joined right now by former White House counselor to President Nixon
John Dean himself, and Cynthia Alksne, who is a federal – former federal
prosecutor.

Mr. Dean, thank you for joining us.

I – when I hear immunity, I hear food chain. I immediately think, who
above him would the public and the prosecutor like to get their hands on to
have for dinner that night? In this case, it`s Trump.

How do you read it? When you first heard he was asking for immunity, what
do you think he was fishing for?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, you certainly have to have
something to trade.

And as they said back in the Nixon days, and it`s on the tapes, immunity
was traded for the big enchilada. And that`s pretty accurate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, what did you think at the time about the motivation behind – well,
your motivation was pretty clear, because they basically hung you out to
dry. They were going to kill you, the Nixon people, from what I know. You
were not going to escape their clutches. So you didn`t have much choice.

But do you think this guy – I think this guy may be afraid of prison,
because I`m looking at these disclosure forms he may not have filled out
accurately. It may not seem like a big deal, but he never explained the
Russian money he got, for example. I would think that might be felonious.

Your thinking how exposed he is – as lawyers like to say, exposed?

DEAN: Well, with use immunity, of course, Chris, they can collect evidence
before he testifies, and have that evidence in their possession and still
prosecutor him even if he testifies about it before the Hill.

So, it`s a very limited statute.

MATTHEWS: Suppose he gets an immunity bath.

DEAN: Well, that`s different.

Transactional immunity, that`s going to have to be granted by the
prosecutors. The Congress doesn`t have that power.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I see.

Let me go to Cynthia.

You know all this from every side, as a prosecutor and everything. What do
you think is in the works here, just inside, inside what`s going on the
committees? What are they really fishing back and forth for?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s way too early for
them to give anybody immunity, and I don`t think they will.

And the more information he has, the less likely it is they are to give him
immunity, because it messes up a federal case down the road.

MATTHEWS: But who cares about Flynn?

ALKSNE: Well, everybody cares about winning and about knowing exactly what
their case is, and they are not going to throw it away.

Here`s the deal.

MATTHEWS: Would a prosecutor give up a chance to get somebody bigger, like
the president, in order to nail somebody lower down?

ALKSNE: Yes, but there`s no reason to do it now.

And you`re more likely to mess up the whole case. What happened after
Ollie North was prosecuted was that, because the – he had gotten immunity
in the Congress, it messed up the federal case, and it changed the law.
And now everybody is gun-shy.

So no one is going to give him immunity and agree that he should have
immunity at the congressional level. My hunch is, what`s happening is, his
lawyer would love for him to get immunity, so he can mess up the federal
case. And that`s the game he`s playing. And it`s just not going to work
this time.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, John. Your thinking.

DEAN: I agree with that a hundred percent, that the lawyer is trying to
mess up a federal case.

We don`t know if there is or is not a grand jury at this point. But
getting immunity at this stage would certainly make it harder for the feds
and rely on the precedent in the District of Columbia that Ollie North set,
where you really won`t let the government get two bites out of the same
Apple. So, that`s – clearly, that`s what the lawyer is doing.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALKSNE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, shortly before you were fired by Richard Nixon as his
counsel, President Nixon was heard on the White House taping machine
fretting over whether you would turn on him and whether you possessed any
damaging information.

This is an unusual case. We have it all on tape, as you know, John. Let`s
listen to history.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think that kicking
Dean`s ass out here is going to do it. I`m not ruling out kicking his ass
out, but I think you have got to figure, what the hell does he know that he
could do? What kind of blackmail does he have?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the taping system, John, is always better on the
telephone, as you know.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And it not – there, it is kind of a rackety sound in a big
hall. But it`s just the Oval Office.

And he thought that you might hurt him, because you knew – you were in on
the meetings. You knew what he`s up to. You knew his M.O.

DEAN: Well, initially, he said he had no meetings with me, but then it
turned out he`d had 37 on the subject of Watergate.

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN: So, suddenly, there was much more there than he thought.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question on that.

DEAN: And, of course, my conversations aren`t the worst.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Nixon and Trump? What would you compare
them? How would you compare them?

DEAN: Well, they`re different and similar.

They have similar personalities. Nixon, of course, was behind closed
doors, where Trump is right out there, in their hostility towards the
media, their collection of enemies, their desire for revenge. So, they
have that similarity.

But, as I say, Trump`s out front about it, whereas Nixon was rather a shy
public person in many regards.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Who do you think – who do you think had more fun, Trump or Nixon? I get
the feeling Trump enjoys it to an extent, until the sun comes down, and
then he`s totally alone around after 6:00. I just – and then, by 6:00 in
the morning, he`s just nuts to communicate with somebody. He gets on the
Twitter machine.

DEAN: Well, one of the differences, of course, Nixon drank.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

DEAN: And he was pretty – pretty well gone in the early evening. And
that increased as Watergate got more serious.

Trump doesn`t drink, so maybe the tweets will increase.

MATTHEWS: Well, in your column, by the way, in “Newsweek,” John, you
describe how Donald Trump has broken all the norms you have come – we have
come to expect from our presidents.

Quote – here`s your words – “His behavior is so outrageous, it appears
un-American. It`s certainly beyond simply being unorthodox, because
ignorance at this level is neither tolerable nor excusable.”

I can see Trump, John, making all the mistakes that he could possibly make
because he doesn`t know they were all made before.

DEAN: I know.

MATTHEWS: Because Nixon knew everything that happened before. Nixon was
knowledgeable.

Anyway, I want to go to Cynthia on this.

Cynthia, this – what would you recommend Mr. Trump to do right now? Come
clean on all his relations with Russia or let it – or fight it out and…

ALKSNE: Oh, he won`t do that. He`s going to fight it out and stonewall.

That`s exactly what`s going to happen. The interesting thing is…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But it`s not all necessarily criminal, if you look at it from a
certain perspective.

ALKSNE: Yes, but…

MATTHEWS: You can argue he`s just trying to save the country by bringing
peace to the Middle East through Russia`s hands and joining us in helping
us end the fight in Syria.

I mean, he can argue that.

ALKSNE: Right.

It will be interesting to see how Trump – how the prosecution team
eventually actually deals with Flynn. I don`t really agree with you that
he`s worried about his exposure in terms of jail time.

MATTHEWS: Flynn?

ALKSNE: I think – Flynn. I think he`s motivated by revenge.

You know, he treated the Obama people that way when they fired him, and now
he`s been hung out to dry by the Trump people. I think you – as a
prosecutor, I would be appealing to that desire of his to get his
reputation back.

He`s been destroyed. He`s discredited. He has no way to make money. He`s
a liar in the public eye. I think there`s a way to get him to come along.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it could be both.

John, do you think it`s both rules, both motives, self-preservation, keep
yourself out of prison? I mean, if your attorney says to you, you could
face two or you could face 20, we got to be careful here, or here`s your
chance to get even with Trump.

DEAN: Well, that`s an issue. I think it could be some of both.
Certainly, he doesn`t want to – no one wants to go to prison.

Federal white-collar criminals, it`s not the same as a lot of state
hellholes that people get put in, but not a pleasant place.

And I think Cynthia makes a good point about his reaction to his former
firings. He`s a man that seeks revenge, you know, on his – those who have
done him, he feels, wrong.

MATTHEWS: I can imagine someone like Mike Flynn thinking more about those
state hell – state-run hellholes, minimum and heavy security prisons. You
don`t want to end up there. Maybe going to Lewisburg or Allenwood may be
imaginable, but not that.

Anyway, thank you, John Dean.

Thank you, Cynthia Alksne.

DEAN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Today marks Equal Pay Day for 2017, the year –
actually, it`s the day when women need to work up until just to make up for
what they lost last year in 2016.

Ivanka Trump is out there saying we need to close that pay gap between men
and women. But the president is quietly rolling back protections for women
in the workplace. He did it last month.

We`re going to talk about the father-daughter relationship here on this
baby. And that`s next.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
what`s happening.

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the East China Sea, or the
Sea of Japan. The launch comes ahead of the U.S. visit by China`s
president.

An Arizona sheriff is shutting down Tent City. That is the controversial
complex of jails created by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio to ease overcrowding.

LGBT workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace under the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision was made by the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals – now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last month, President Trump rolled back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces
Order, a regulation that ensured federal contractors were paying women
equal to their male counterparts.

Well, fast-forward to today, Equal Pay Day, when first daughter and
assistant to the president Ivanka Trump tweeted: “Equal Pay Day is a
reminder that women deserve equal pay for equal work. We must work to
close the gender pay gap.”

Well said.

But during a business leaders town hall today, Ivanka wasn`t clear on how
her own proposed work force initiatives would empower women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: My father wants to create 25
million jobs in this country, and women need to fully participate for that
to be realized and for that goal to be realized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the question put to her is where she stands and where does
the president stand on getting equal pay for women.

She talked about a number of issues related to women, but we have yet to
see any action there.

For more, I`m joined by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.

Stephanie, this is an unusual situation. She is a well-placed White House
official with an office and a retinue and all the perks that go with it.
She has power. We know that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And the question is, does she have power to use for women?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, there`s one more thing that goes with
it, and that`s accountability.

Ivanka Trump has an extraordinary message, to wake up today and say it is
time to address this gender pay gap and do something about it. But now
she`s got to walk the walk. And she can no longer be part of this fine
line, well, I`m just my father`s daughter.

Remember, when President Trump sent the tweet out attacking Nordstrom for
pulling her clothing line, he said, this is just my daughter. She`s not
part of the administration.

Well, now she truly is one of the most powerful women in the world. So,
while Planned Parenthood is being defunded, so while policies that Obama
put in place to protect women in the work force are being rolled back, the
U.N. Health Fund, which helps women and girls, is no longer being funded,
the question is, Ivanka Trump, when are you going to support your message
with some actual action?

MATTHEWS: Well, when is she? You act like she`s an independent principal,
political principal. Is she, or is she a staffer for her father?

It sounds like she`s a staffer, which means you do what the boss wants, not
a person with an individual voice and point of view. You suggests she
should have a point of view.

RUHLE: She does have a point of view.

MATTHEWS: I mean effect a point of view.

RUHLE: People will say – I mean, just today, I did a panel with Chris
Liddell, who is a senior White House adviser, and he said, Ivanka and Jared
are the two people to bet on.

On the Sunday shows, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said we should be celebrating
that Ivanka and Jared are there.

So, let`s have an open mind and an open heart. Ivanka, to Gayle King,
said, if being complicit is being a force for good, then I`m complicit.

Well, guess what? There`s a huge lane to do good. Giddy up.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

Ivanka Trump sat down with CBS News. She addressed criticisms that she is
complicit with her father and his decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hope to make a positive impact. I don`t know what it means to be
complicit.

But, you know, I hope time will prove that I have done a good job and, much
more importantly, that my father`s administration is the success that I
know it will be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, history shows that nepotism doesn`t work. It works
for the sovereign, as I said last night, but it doesn`t work for the
people.

And that`s why, over time, no matter how many door this guy smashes
through, that has been the practice. Now, there have been exceptions, like
Bobby Kennedy, who spent three years while he ran his brother`s
presidential campaign, his Senate campaign. He was head of the – he was
chief counsel to the Rackets Investigating Committee for three years. He
knew what he was doing in Washington politics.

She`s a newbie. Her husband is a son-in-law. It is like the Romanovs. He
is distributing the – he is – he is distributing the wealth among his
family members, power.

RUHLE: Well, what doesn`t…

MATTHEWS: It`s an unusual, un-American thing to be doing.

RUHLE: Well, what doesn`t line up is the messaging and the policy.

If you think about Jared Kushner for a moment, he`s now charged with
leading innovation. What`s tied to innovation? Science, technology,
research. Well, NIH? No funding there.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

RUHLE: Research? No funding there.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a broader…

(CROSSTALK)

RUHLE: So, how are you going to do it?

MATTHEWS: This is a broader attack.

RUHLE: It`s not an attack.

MATTHEWS: Yes?

RUHLE: We`re saying, listen, if Ivanka and Jared want to choose a lane,
and that lane is to be senior White House advisers, well, that`s a fast
lane, and you`re going to be held accountable.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they should be independent in their voice or
subservient to the president?

RUHLE: I don`t think anything, Chris. I`m just here to observe.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Stephanie. I know I know.

Up next: Trump and the Russian connection. The HARDBALL Roundtable puts
together what we know tonight and how it relates to the horror we`re
watching in Syria. Can Trump cut a deal with Putin that keeps the Assad
family doing what they`re doing, perhaps with poison chemicals on kids?

Wait until you see these pictures.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It appears everything President Trump has done over the course of his
campaign and since he`s assumed the office has been, in effect, to win a
U.S.-Russian alliance to bring peace to war torn Syria. Well, this
effort`s clear from “The Washington Post” report that a secret meeting was
arranged in January, actually nine days before Trump`s inauguration,
between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian ally of Putin. He`s a
major Trump donor and a brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos meeting
with the Putin guy.

Well, “The Post” describes the meeting, which took place in the Seychelles
Islands, that`s out in the Indian Ocean, as an apparent effort to establish
a back channel line of communication between Moscow and the president-elect
and to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its
relationship with Iran, including in Syria.

Well, today, we`re witnessing the brutality of Syria`s government under
Bashar Assad. Under that regime, again, the pictures we`re about to show
as I said before are very graphic. Assad`s regime is now the primary
suspect of a chemical attack killing at least 83 people, including 25
children.

These pictures – I`ve seen them in close-up. They`re something else.
These are people washing people off of chemical weapons, trying to reduce
the damage done to them already. Many of them are not going to make it as
we see in these pictures.

But everybody is doing their best here to save the lives of these people
that have been hit by a chemical attack. If confirmed, it would be the
deadliest chemical attack since Assad`s strike in 2013 which killed over a
thousand and nearly pushed the United States to retaliate at that point.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Jay Newton-Small is a contributor
to “Time Magazine”, Mark Jacobson is a former senior adviser to the
secretary of defense, and senior fellow now at the Pell Center for
International Relations, Nayyera Haq is a former State Department
spokesperson.

Thank you all.

This is some foreign for me to think about, but the fact is how do you
square this circle? How do you bring peace to Syria, which just keeps
bleeding and people keep bleeding out of that country, trying to make it
across the Mediterranean and boats that sunk in? The horror of it not just
in terms of social congestion and horror but lives lost under Assad? He
doesn`t seem to have that much of a heart, and yet – and yet he can`t be
removed.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: No.

MATTHEWS: And if Trump gets together with the Russians, even less likely
he`ll be removed.

NEWTON-SMALL: And so this has been the tacit U.S. policy for years now,
basically since the French bombings in Paris, that we are just –

MATTHEWS: What, live and let die?

NETWON-SMALL: Yes. It`s better to have Assad in place because that`s what
the Europeans have said. I mean, the French used to be the most opposed
country in Europe to Assad, and now, they`re one of the almost strongest
supporters of Assad.

MATTHEWS: It used to be their country first of all. Wasn`t it theirs?

NEWTON-SMALL: At one point, yes. Because they`re basically saying that,
look, we`re betting that Assad taking control of Syria is going to mean
less refugees for Europe. And so, it`s the most stabilizing path right
now.

MATTHEWS: If the war ends.

NETWON-SMALL: If the war ends.

MATTHEWS: But who`s going to give up over there? People in the Middle
East don`t give up, do they, Marc?

MARK JACOBSON, FORMER SR. ADVIOSR TO SECTY OF DEF. CARTER: No, absolutely
not.

MATTHEWS: They keep fighting. I mean, Israelis will fight for every –
some of the settlers will fight all of Judea and Samaria. The Arabs will
fight for what they have. And these different groups, the Shia and the
Sunni are fighting, and the Kurds now against the Arabs. It just seems
like nobody ever says, oh, I give up. I`ll let you have what you have. It
just keeps going.

JACOBSON: This is what happens when you cede leadership responsibilities
like the United States is doing. Look, I`ll hold the current
administration responsible for not doing anything against these
reprehensible acts the same way I would hold the Obama administration
accountable for not doing anything in 2013.

MATTHEWS: How do you deal with it? You say hold them accountable, how do
you that?

JACOBSON: Well, first, I think –

MATTHEWS: If Assad stays, what do you do?

JACOBSON: I think there are two ways of going after Assad to get him to
leave. I mean, the one is certainly the political dimension, and Trump`s
given up on that. You know, we`re friends with the Russians. We`re going
to allow Assad to stay. I`m not sure that`s the right way to do it. In
fact, I know that`s not the right way.

The other way is coercive diplomacy. I do think the time is long past
where we should be looking at strikes against Assad`s chemical weapon
facilities, stopping his aircraft from being able to take off and I
understand –

MATTHEWS: What happens if we shoot down a Russian plane?

JACOBSON: We`re going to have be to extraordinarily careful but I think –

MATTHEWS: Do you know how careful the military is? They can be very
careful and still shoot down Russian plane.

JACOBSON: They still make mistakes, but what we can do is reduce the
likelihood that happens by –

MATTHEWS: What happens if we shoot down a Russian plane in Syria?

JACOBSON: Well, when you have a White House that`s attuned to diplomacy,
that speaks to the Russians ahead of time, and that coordinates with them,
I think you reduce the likelihood of that.

MATTHEWS: But I don`t think the Russians are going to help us get rid of
Assad.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: What`s the point of
being friends with Russia if you can`t actually work with them to reach
your own leadership objectives, right? So, we have a White House that is
very close, has longstanding ties with Russia, at multiple levels. This is
its opportunity for the White House, Trump, Secretary Tillerson to actually
be engaging directly with Putin and talking about the human rights abuses
that are going on there, to have Putin put pressure on Assad.

Short of that, there really isn`t much of an outcry in the United States
for intervention. There is an outcry for human rights, horror at the
images, but the same challenge that President Obama had then in going to
Congress, you have people who are in Congress and in the United States, the
general public, making statements condemning the attacks, but not really an
interest to go to war. This is –

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about the reality. We`re looking at these
pictures of these kids, 25 kids. A lot of them dead now to put it bluntly,
but a lot of them suffering obviously. These are kids that just got hit by
a chemical weapon. This is going on and on and on and only one part of the
world we see this, under Assad`s regime. We see the use of chemical
weapons.

Should there be a red line again? Should this administration say no more?
No mas, this is it?

HAQ: This is administration ran – I mean Trump ran on being a man of
brash military action. If he was going to chide President Obama for being
weak or soft on power, then this is an opportunity for him to put his money
where his mouth is and answer the $1 million question, which is what is the
military action going to be?

MATTHEWS: So you`re for all attacks? All of you? Attack Assad militarily
right now.

HAQ: No, I`m not.

JACOBSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Attack Assad militarily?

HAQ: I think there`s other options first.

MATTHEWS: Like what?

HAQ: I would be happy with that conclusion.

MATTHEWS: What`s the other one?

HAQ: No-fly zone. Diplomacy with Russia.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re going to use military strikes against it, they fly in
certain areas.

HAQ: I think you use military threat to reach diplomatic goals.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HAQ: When those are not met, then you have the threat that you can bring
to bear.

MATTHEWS: Europe is always a little bit less moralistic than we are. It
just is. They`re a little older and a little more cynical.

You say they want to live with this guy no matter how he behaves.

NEWTON-SMALL: Not just him. Look, the one point in the debates where
Trump was asked specifically and said, I disagree with my Vice President
Mike Pence, was Mike Pence says Assad has to go, and Trump in the debate
said no. Assad should stay. Assad should stay because that makes Syria
more stable. And so, there`s been this kind of tacit policy, now overt
policy for years that –

(CROSSTALK)

HAQ: Here`s the contradiction.

MATTHEWS: It`s more complicated than he thought.

HAQ: It`s not only more complicated but the Syria we thought no longer
exists. The national boundary, the population that used to be Syria ten
years ago is no longer there.

(CROSSTALK)

NEWTON-SMALL: You never could have counted for them to be back together.
It is completely gone.

MATTHEWS: That`s why I think I`m with Biden in all this. I think
partition is probably the best thing you do like we did in Ireland and all
these other places. We hated it. They hated it in South Asia. Everybody
hates partition but in the end at least it stops the blood.

HAQ: And the Europeans are the ones dealing with this on their frontline.

MATTHEWS: OK. The round table is sticking with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. This is
HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senate Republicans are pushing ahead toward a nuclear
option so-called for President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today filed a cloture motion
setting up a series of procedural votes on this Thursday, that`s two days
from now, that will lead to the changing of Senate rules to allow for a
simple majority of 50 to confirm Gorsuch.

Until now, Supreme Court nominees have needed at least technically 60 votes
in the Senate to be confirmed. But Democrats have enough votes to
filibuster Gorsuch`s nomination.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Jay, tell me something I don`t know.

NEWTON-SMALL: So, Chris, in 2013, I did a profile for time of Bashar al
Assad, and I interviewed a lot of his childhood friends, his – and one of
the people I interviewed when he was in surgery, surgical school, I guess,
surgery, in London talked about how his father had wanted him to be a
surgeon, but he didn`t like blood. So he became an ophthalmologist because
he was afraid of blood.

HAQ: Wow.

NEWTON-SMALL: And the other thing is –

MATTHEWS: Rand Paul and he could get together.

NEWTON-SMALL: And then he got called back to Syria after his brother
Bassel was killed, and his father because his trainer. Ryan Crocker was
asked and has met with ambassador at the time. I interviewed Ryan Crocker
and he was asked to train Bashar al Assad on his father`s behalf in
international relations and Crocker said he was completely ignorant of
international relations at the time, just came –

MATTHEWS: Yes, did you get a nice note from Bashar after your piece?

NEWTON-SMALL: No, we did not.

MATTHEWS: Mark?

JACOBSON: So, everyone is exclaiming that Rex Tillerson has been able to
reduce the impacts of the Trump budget cuts on the State Department and
USAID. But I`m hearing from people that the cuts impact on USAID could be
upwards of 50 percent. That means they`re already starting to plan for
closing missions in exactly the types of places we need them to combat
violent extremism.

MATTHEWS: To avoid war.

JACOBSON: We are in for a world of hurt.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they sometimes think the only people Americans met are
military people or tourist with money. Is the Peace Corps OK?

JACOBSON: I think the Peace Corps in the end will be OK. The politics
behind that are way too strong for Trump to hurt.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Nayyera?

HAQ: Billionaire China branding. It`s actually not Trump. It is Warren
Buffett has for the month of march, he is the biggest investor in Coca-
Cola, his face has been appearing on cherry Coke cans all throughout China.
Interesting considering that we are – the United States government has
been having meetings with China this week.

MATTHEWS: They like rich.

Thank you very much, Jay Newton-Small, Mark Jacobson and Nayyera Haq.

When we return, let me finish with some history, past and present, tied to
the top college basketball team in the country. You know it. It`s UNC.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the University of North Carolina Tar
Heels who last night became for the sixth time the top college basketball
team in the country.

There`s some history here. That name Tar Heel came from soldiers trudging
through the North Carolina pine forest. The same could be said for the Tar
Heels` season this year. They trudged all the way back from last year`s
loss in the last split seconds of the final game to Villanova. They came
back to beat another great team, Gonzaga, with an 8-0 run in the last
night`s final 100 seconds.

I loved the play at the end, especially by Joel Berry, the point guard for
Carolina, who scored as I said, not just all night, just at the very times
it mattered. That`s what championships are all about.

As a grad student, I spent a good year of my life in Chapel Hill, that
southern part of heaven, and UNC is one of the country`s great
universities, an institution, along with NC State and Duke, has helped
bring North Carolina into the 21st century.

Thank God, by the way, for Dean Smith, the coach to whom Roy Williams, last
night`s winning coach paid tribute to as his mentor. To North Carolina,
Dean Smith was so much more, as the state itself can surely be so much
more.

I hold personally to the faith that the Tar Heel State will give up to that
great example of that great man of tolerance and generosity. That`s all it
needs to be perfect.

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

“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.
END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. 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 ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the
content.