Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/13/2017

Philip Rucker, Leon Panetta, Jonathan Swan, Karen Bass, Margaret Carlson, Jeff Mason, Sahil Kapur

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: April 13, 2017
Guest: Philip Rucker, Leon Panetta, Jonathan Swan, Karen Bass, Margaret Carlson, Jeff Mason, Sahil Kapur

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bannon to Siberia.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump ran for president pushing “America first” – no more illegal
immigration, no more bad trade deals, no more stupid wars. The trifecta
won him the election.

Now, as might be expected, some of his backers on the far right say they`re
losing their faith he will pursue his hard-nosed nationalist agenda. The
big sign yet is the sidelining of Steve Bannon, his chief strategist and
the beating hart of the nationalist movement in the West Wing.

There are indications he`s been put in a refrigerator, or in the usual
Russian parlance, sent to Siberia. He`s still alive in the White House,
but so far from the action, it doesn`t much matter.

Well, “The New York Times” reports that President Trump complained that
Bannon is not a team player. Those were his words. And “The Washington
Post” suggested Bannon`s days may be numbered at the White House. Quote,
“One Bannon friend likened Bannon to a terminally ill family member who had
been moved into hospice care.”

Well, President Trump himself has publicly rebuked his chief strategist.
He told “The New York Post,” “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was
not involved in my campaign until very late. I`m my own strategist.”
That`s Trump talking. And he described Bannon to “The Wall Street Journal”
as “a guy that works for me.”

Well, former Trump adviser Roger Stone told Chuck Todd today that Bannon is
alone and surrounded by what he calls “globalists.” Let`s watch.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Well, I think Steve made an error by
not spending any of his political capital to bring other Trumpites and non-
globalists into the White House circle. So now…

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: He didn`t do a good job staffing
the White House.

STONE: He`s alone.

TODD: Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner did.

STONE: Yes. And so therefore, now he`s alone and he`s surrounded. I
think unfairly, perhaps, he takes the rap for the fiasco surrounding health
care. Maybe Reince should be wearing a bit more of that.


MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, in the past few days, there`s been a breathtaking
amount of 180-degree policy departures from the Bannon position. The
president has softened his rhetoric on China. He said the Export-Import
Bank is a good thing, that NATO is no longer obsolete, that he likes and
respects Fed chairman Janet Yellen, and that Vladimir Putin is partly to
blame for the Syria conflict.

Well ,could it be the biggest development out of President Trump`s first
100 days is not an achievement, but the change in him personally.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Kristen Welker, “The Washington Post`s”
Philip Rucker and Jonathan Swan from Axios. Thank you, all.

Kristen, you first. It is interesting. In all these directional changes
that we`ve been seeing, and particularly the last couple of days – in
fact, week, I guess – all of them seem to be moving toward the center,
into the more conventional presidency.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s right. I think you are
seeing a president who is transforming from being a campaigner to actually
being someone who inhabits the Oval Office and all of the realities that
come with that, Chris.

These challenges that he`s facing on the world stage, for example, in terms
of the fight against ISIS, Syria, Russia, recent provocations by North
Korea, and he`s realizing, just to use one example in terms of NATO,
calling NATO obsolete doesn`t help him to achieve the types of things he
wants to achieve in terms of dealing with some of those foreign policy
crises. So he is moderating to some extent.

In terms of the makeup, though, here at the White House and this struggle
that you and I have been talking about for days now, Steve Bannon has been
sidelined, certainly, but I`m also told there is a detente going on within
the White House, as I think he tries to salvage his standing here.

I wouldn`t be surprised if the president used this holiday weekend to
reassess the situation behind the scenes, but I also wouldn`t count Steve
Bannon out, Chris, for one simple reason. Not only is he a check on the
president`s populist message and all of those campaign promises that he
made to his base, but he could be a lot more dangerous outside of the White


WELKER: … criticizing the president.

MATTHEWS: … I`ve heard that expressed, an old LBJ expression, Better
have them doing it out than doing it in, I think it was. Go ahead, Phil

PHILIP RUCKER, “WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, that`s exactly right. And Bannon -
- you know, he`s still at work. He was in the meetings with President
Trump yesterday in the Oval Office, acting like business as usual. And
there wasn`t a sense of negative tension between the two of them, according
to the people I was talking to, even though his portfolio has been
diminished and his standing externally (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s left for him?

RUCKER: … is damaged.

MATTHEWS: If you look at the – if you look at the president, he got
elected for the three things I talked about. You know, illegal immigration
to the point of really almost zealotry, losing all those manufacturing jobs
to bad trade deals, again to the point of zealotry, and relentlessly making
fun of W. for these stupid wars, as he called them.

All those appealed to the white working class. They were the trifecta. Is
he loyal to any of those right now?

RUCKER: Well, it`s a great point, and it`s one of the reasons why the
Bannon allies on the outside are putting a lot of pressure on President
Trump to keep Steve Bannon empowered because they see him as the conduit to
this base and the person who`s going to keep the president focused on those
issues that he campaigned on.

MATTHEWS: Well, Politico recently interviewed nearly two dozen Trump
loyalists, and according to their reporting, quote, “Donald Trump`s true
believers are losing the faith. He`s failing, in their view, to deliver on
his promise of a transformative `America first` agenda driven by hard-edged

Breitbart News has also thrown a few gentle jabs at the president. A
headline today read, “Is Bannon in peril? Trump comments worry his
populist base.”

And Ann Coulter – you know, she`s pretty fringey – criticized the
president for his bombing in Syria. Quote, “We want the president of
America back, not the president of the world,” making it very clear that he
seems to be betraying that anti-globalist view.

And Steve King – we know him – from Iowa tweeted this message to the
president. “Steve Bannon is the linchpin of your energized base.
Conservatives are an endangered species in your White House.”

What do you make of that?


MATTHEWS: These people are not – I wouldn`t call them the base, but
they`re the fringe.

SWAN: Well, it`s also…

MATTHEWS: I mean King and Coulter. They don`t want to be the base. They
want to be fringe.

SWAN: I think it`s also – I mean, polling shows that Trump voters
actually aren`t disapproving with him in huge numbers. So you have to
distinguish between the noisy people on social media and people who`ve

MATTHEWS: I agree.

SWAN: … large platforms and actual voters. I don`t think we`ve seen any
evidence yet, any real evidence that the base has turned on Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: I get a sense – let me stick with you because I think it`s
attitude they like, the voters. His attitude is anti-establishment. It`s,
We`ve been kicked around too much, taken advantage of. You know what?
We`re going to be tough Americans now. And whatever way he can dramatize
that, whatever way he can act that way, be that way, they`re going to like
whatever he decides to do.

SWAN: And he dropped the “mother of all bombs” today. I mean, I…

MATTHEWS: Well, he didn`t do it, he said.

SWAN: The military did. I`m just saying that some of his more muscular
foreign policy moves – I think we shouldn`t assume necessarily that
because there is an anti-war element in the base that they`re all going to
be monolithic about that. I think some people will see this is Trump being

MATTHEWS: Phil, I agree with that. I think if he comes off as macho man
on the weekends, you know, people are going to – - be a macho man, even if
he seems to be dragged into that Middle East quagmire – so you know, he`s
on the edge of it. One bombing raid doesn`t make him a neocon, but he does
– takes that risk. He takes that risk.

RUCKER: Yes, and I think Jonathan was exactly right. And the difference
here is we`re not – he did the one raid, the bombing exercise in Syria.
He`s done the one bomb today. He`s not marching to war necessarily.


RUCKER: And I think he can tell the base, Look, I`m doing targeted
executions here that are in America`s interests. I`m not leading us into a
quagmire again (ph).

MATTHEWS: Tell me, Kristen, from the inside point of view about Bannon
because he was the tough guy in the campaign. He personified the
nationalist, “America first” movement that really did energize a lot of
Republican base and certainly the fringe. And my question is, what is his
job now compared to what it was a month ago? Because he set out the
agenda. As I remember, he was the one that ticked off – what was the
first – couple hundred – certainly a 100-day agenda at the outset?

WELKER: You`re absolutely right. Now, remember, he was put again in
charge of trying to revive health care. That didn`t go anywhere. He`s
still in a lot of these meetings, but of course, he`s not on the National
Security Council anymore, so to that extent, he has been significantly

But look, we were looking to see if he was going to be in that press
conference yesterday. He was. So again, I don`t think the president`s
completely ready to cast him aside.

At the same time, I think what you`re seeing, what is underscored by what
the president said – he`s not a team player. I don`t think anyone who
really knows Steve Bannon had any illusions that he was going to be a team
player. That`s not how he operates. He operates essentially in a state of
battle. He picked a battle with the wrong person, the president`s son-in-
law. And so in this instance, he`s not winning.

But again, it goes back to that sort of the president learning to navigate
the realities of the office, Chris, and dealing with some of these crises
as they come at him and having to pivot.

MATTHEWS: I`ve worked for politicians, Jonathan, and one thing I`ve
noticed, to an extent, they don`t mind you becoming a bit of a star
yourself, to an extent. You go past that line, you`re in big trouble.

Has he gotten a reputation for getting his face on the cover of “Time”
magazine, for “Saturday Night Live” putting him in the big chair in the
White House Oval Office and putting the president in a little kid`s chair
to the side? Does that get to Trump at some point?

SWAN: A source of mine who`s worked for Donald Trump for some time said to
me the worst thing you could ever do in Trump world is to be described in
print as the brain behind Donald Trump.


SWAN: That is…

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true of anybody!

SWAN: … the ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong.

MATTHEWS: That would be trouble for most anybody…


SWAN: But particularly with Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: A vain man…

SWAN: So he did not enjoy the “Time” magazine cover, and we`ve been told
that he did not enjoy that “Saturday Night Live” skit.

MATTHEWS: Of course, he`ll say he didn`t see it. Anyway, Sean Spicer was
asked today about the president`s changes in policy, the big stuff –
China, NATO, Janet Yellen, keeping her on at the Fed, and others. Spicer
focused on NATO and argued the president hasn`t changed his views, but
rather, NATO has shifted closer to him. The mountain has come to Mohammed,
I guess he`s saying. Let`s watch.


issues evolve that it`s not just a clear and fast statement that this is –
this – that the entity itself is moving towards his or the issue is
evolving towards the position that he articulated. And that can`t be
proven more true in the case of NATO, where he laid out two very clear
positions that he had an issue with NATO and as far back as September of
last year, started to recognize that that institution was moving much more
towards his position…


MATTHEWS: Well, his position – that would be the president`s – on NATO
was that it was obsolete because it did not fight terrorism, he said.
Well, according to Politifact, that`s false. Quote, “In reality, NATO has
been actively dealing with terrorism since the 1980s, and since 9/11, it
has played a significant role in the war on terror, including deploying
troops in Afghanistan for more than a decade.”

So Phil, why is Trump changing? Is it all Jared? Is it just experience?
Is it a learning curve?

RUCKER: I think…

MATTHEWS: Is it just knowing stuff now he never knew before?

WELKER: Donald Trump is someone who`s constantly changing. He`s not an
ideologue. He doesn`t have rigid beliefs on things. We`ve seen this
throughout his career of many decades, and certainly through the campaign
and right now as president. He`s always adapting. He`s always flexible.
He sees that as a good thing, actually. And you know, when the environment
changes, as he gets new information, as he gets new sort of political
objectives that he wants to achieve here, in terms of deal-making and
working with some centrists and Democrats, he`s going to start to shift,
and he sees it as advantageous for him.

MATTHEWS: Kristen, it reminds me of a married couple that has this big
spread on their bed, and they – when it gets cold out, one pulls it over
and the other side starts to get cold. I mean, the fringe – now to
include Ann Coulter – they`re getting cold right now and even Bannon`s
getting cold. What happened to that spread I had on top of me? The middle
is grabbing it. Jared Kushner is grabbing it. And that doesn`t make him
too happy because somebody`s got to get – well, they all have to have the
spread, but that`s pretty hard if you`re Trump because he`s got to make
movements. Your thoughts on that interesting metaphor.

WELKER: It`s a good point, Chris, but I`m not sure how many of his voters
– I mean, is it just the fringe who`s becoming really frustrated with him?
Because remember, so many of his supporters said, We don`t take him
literally. You in the media take him literally.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

WELKER: We don`t. We support what he stands for, which as he is trying to
prove, is strength on the world stage and someone who is able to adjust
when needed.

So we`ve been out at some town halls, some of our producers, talking to
some of his supporters, and they`re not expressing the same level of anger
that you`re seeing in an Ann Coulter.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

WELKER: What`s also interesting is, could he actually win over some
moderates, some Democrats with this flexibility?

MATTHEWS: You know what? I think he should on some of these issues. I
said last night the monkeys type merry Christmas. You know, sometimes he
says things that make perfect sense for three or four minutes at a time,
and he did last night. And I do think you can`t knock the guy for being
wrong and (INAUDIBLE) he`s right to say he`s – he`s a flip-flopper. One
side is right, in most people`s perspective. The other side`s wrong. If
he adjusts to your side, accept it and move on.

Kristen Welker, you`re always discerning. Thank you so much for giving us
that report…

WELKER: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: … and the analysis. Philip Rucker, thank you, and Jonathan


MATTHEWS: Coming up – one week after launching cruise missiles against
Syria, the Pentagon dropped the biggest conventional bomb. It`s called
“the mother of all bombs” – where`d they get that name from – on an ISIS
stronghold in Afghanistan. Most of us didn`t know ISIS was that big in
Afghanistan to deserve that kind of bomb.

Anyway, when President Trump was asked whether he authorized the Pentagon
to drop that bomb, he referred to one point in the – at one point, in the
military as – this is not good for the president – “my military.” It`s
not yours, Mr. President.

Of course, he`s talking about the United States military, and I`m going to
ask former defense secretary Leon Panetta about Trump`s sense of

Plus, “The Guardian” reports that British spies were first to spot links
between Trump`s campaign and the Russians back in late 2015, and they
passed that intelligence on to the U.S., kick-starting the FBI`s
investigation into the Trump campaign`s connections with Russia.

And if Steve Bannon falls out favor, so does Trump`s nationalism. He`s
finding out that things on the world stage are more complicated than he
made them sound during the campaign.

And finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.”

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, at a town hall yesterday, Colorado Republican congressman
Mike Coffman was asked about Sean Spicer`s comments this week that seemed
to ignore the Holocaust when he compared Adolf Hitler and Bashar Assad`s
use of chemical weapons on their citizens. Let`s watch.


REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: Spicer made a terrible mistake yesterday,
and he admitted it. If you`re not familiar with what he did, is that he –
I mean, he needs to go, you know…


COFFMAN: … because I just don`t think he`s serving the president well.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today, the United States struck an
ISIS target in Afghanistan with the largest non-nuclear bomb that the
military has ever used on the battlefield. The GBU-43, which is nicknamed
the “mother of all bombs,” was dropped to destroy an ISIS tunnel system in
a sparsely populated area near the Afghan border with Pakistan. Look at it
go there!

According to NBC, the strike was a battlefield call made under the
authority of the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. When President
Trump was asked today if he authorized this strike, he referred to the U.S.
military at one point as being “my military.”



happened, so – and what I do is I authorize my military.


MATTHEWS: He also had this to say about the fight against ISIS under his


TRUMP: We have given them total authorization, and that`s what they`re
doing. And frankly, that`s why they`ve been so successful lately. If you
look at what`s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to what
– really, to what`s happened over the last eight years, you`ll see there`s
a tremendous difference.


MATTHEWS: While the bombing was not specifically ordered by the president,
he did make this promise on the campaign trail.


TRUMP: I`m going to bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them!


TRUMP: It`s true. I don`t care. I don`t care. They`ve got to be


MATTHEWS: “I don`t care.” Great line.

I`m joined right now by Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and former
secretary of defense under President Obama.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us tonight. It couldn`t be more
timely. Do you believe a battlefield commander would have made a decision
to drop the biggest ordnance we have without checking with the president
under President Obama? Would they have done that under your leadership?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don`t think that a military
commander who is going to use this kind of weapon for the first time. He
may have had the authorization to make the decision to use that kind of
weapon, but I clearly think they would have informed the president of the
United States to make sure that he was aware of it.

MATTHEWS: Ahead of time.

PANETTA: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: What about the president`s term of “my military”? He said that
today. He said “our military,” and then he got around to – in a kind of a
way you can imagine him saying it, with a bit of a swag, “my military.”
Does that concern you?

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think this president obviously at some views
use these things a lot differently in terms of the role of a president.
But when it comes to the military, the military belongs to the country.
Our defense system belongs to the country. And it`s not the president`s
military, it`s the military of the United States of America.

And he has responsibility, obviously, as commander-in-chief, to be able to
make decisions with regards to our military, but I think if you ask the men
and women in uniform who they are responsible to, I think their answer
would be, We`re responsible to the United States of America.

MATTHEWS: Well, there are also some new developments, Mr. Secretary, today
about the potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Today, “The Guardian” newspaper`s reported the British intelligence
organization, GCHQ, quote, “First became aware in late 2015 of suspicious
interactions,” that`s the phrase, “between figures connected to Trump and
known or suspected Russian agents. This intelligence was passed to the
U.S. as part of a routine exchange of information.”

Well, sources also told “The Guardian” that, quote, “The FBI and the CIA
were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump`s
team and Moscow.”

What do you make of the – you were head of CIA. You were director of CIA.
And what do you think of what we know? Can you have a conversation – if
you`re a Carter Page, or you`re a Manafort, a Paul Manafort, or someone
connected to an American presidential candidate, can you have a
conversation on the phone or in person with a Russian intel person without
our intel people knowing about it?

PANETTA: Well, you know, I can only tell you from my own experience as
director of the CIA that, clearly, our intelligence was focused primarily
on our adversaries, whether it`s Russia, whether it was Iran, whether it`s
China, whether it`s ISIS, whether it`s North Korea.

Those were the primary targets in terms of our surveillance. And I will
tell you that our allies, other intelligence allies, were focused on those
same targets. So, I`m not surprised that they would pick up that kind of -
- through surveillance, would pick up those kinds of conversations,
particularly if they`re focused on the Russians, and then obviously find
out who those Russians are talking to.

So, clearly, it doesn`t surprise me that they would find that same
information. I think the question of how we reacted to that is one that,
ultimately, I believe the FBI will have to find out.

MATTHEWS: Does it surprise you that there`s so much traffic that we`re
picking up between the Trump people, whether it`s Carter Page, Manafort,
all those people, that keep going back and forth to Russia?

Is that because Russia has a lot of money and can hire U.S. political
consultants sort of so freely? What – doesn`t it – it just amazed me, so
much activity between these – the small group of people around Trump and
the leadership of the Russian intel operation.

What does it – how does it strike you, just in general, looking at it?

PANETTA: There`s a lot going on here in terms of what Russia was doing
during that period of time.

And whether these individuals were operating on their own or whether they
were operating under the direction of the Trump campaign is something that
I think obviously the FBI is investigating, as well as the committees on
the Hill.

But the reality is that we have several individuals here who were receiving
money from the Russians or those connected to the Russians, did not declare
their role and the fact that they received that money, are now talking
about declaring themselves as foreign agents.

So, it raises a lot of questions about just exactly what the hell was going
on here.

MATTHEWS: And what good does it do to declare your role with regard to a
foreign power way after the fact? I guess that`s what you`re saying. It`s
a – the cow is out of the barn.

PANETTA: Well, I think – I think their lawyers recommended that they file
as foreign agents.


PANETTA: I do think the one thing that`s interesting is that all of this
gives the FBI the opportunity, by virtue of, I think, violations of the law
that have taken place here that they will have leverage to try to get
further testimony from individuals like Manafort and Flynn and Page and
others, because they will have the leverage of potential legal violations
to use against them.

MATTHEWS: Here`s something I know you`ve been thinking about, even as a
professor and private citizen, this North Korean thing.

That country – Pyongyang appears ready to test its sixth nuclear weapon,
which could come as early as tomorrow night at this time, apparently.

President Trump tweeted this morning that: “I have great confidence that
China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so,
the United States, with its allies, will.”

The president was asked later today whether the use of a large bomb in
Afghanistan today sent any message to North Korea. And here`s what the
president said:


QUESTION: Mr. President, did you send a message to North Korea? Did you
send a message to North Korea?

sends a message. It doesn`t make any difference if it does or not. North
Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.

I will say this. I think China has really been working very hard. I have
really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi. He`s a very
special man. So, we`ll see how it goes. I think he`s going to try very


MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, this is the most confounding thing on our
horizon. How do you stop what seems to be a young, murderous, well, idiot
maybe from using a nuclear weapon in our lifetime?

PANETTA: Well, I think the president, to his credit, is doing the right
thing in trying to put pressure on President Xi to put pressure on North

Look, Chris, there are no good options here. You know, presidents in the
past would have pulled the trigger a long time ago if there were easy

The fact is, we`re dealing with a nuclear-powered nation. If we were to
try to attack them, they would virtually wipe out Seoul and 20 million
people who live in Seoul. And if it became a nuclear war, which is likely,
millions of lives would be lost. And that`s the reason we haven`t pulled
the trigger.

The fact is, we`ve used both containment and deterrence as a principal
policy here. I think, frankly, in the end, that`s we`re left with, whether
we like it or not. And, frankly, it was containment and deterrence that
ultimately resulted in the Soviet Union self-destructing.

I hope that that will happen here.

MATTHEWS: Well, we had a rational leader, set of leaders, the Russian
leadership in the Soviet era. We had people like Khrushchev who actually
had consciences at some point.

How do we deal with somebody who doesn`t apparently have one?

PANETTA: Well, he comes from a long line of very unpredictable and
unstable leaders.

But his father and his grandfather, just as I assume this leader
understands, that if they engage in any kind of peremptory attack here in
that region, that it is committing suicide for their regime. I think they
understand that. And it`s for that reason that we`re engaged in this
period of provocation.

I think the biggest concern I have is that, in engaging in these
provocations, that somebody may miscalculate, whether it`s South Korea,
whether it`s somebody else, whether it`s us. Somebody may miscalculate,
and we could be in a war. That`s probably the greatest danger we face
right now.

MATTHEWS: I hate to hit you with all these questions, but one last one,
Mr. Secretary.

President Trump`s director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, today called out
WikiLeaks, an organization that Trump frequently praised on the campaign
trail for helping him in the election.

Let`s watch this bizarre statement.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It`s time to call our WikiLeaks for what it
really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state
actors like Russia.


MATTHEWS: Well, there he has an acknowledgment. I think it`s a pretty
direct acknowledgment that Russia and WikiLeaks were working together to
help Trump win.

What do you make of that?

PANETTA: Well, frankly, it doesn`t surprise me.

You know, I`m glad the director of the CIA made the point. The fact is
that Russia, I`m sure without question, was involved with Assange and
WikiLeaks, because WikiLeaks had a ton of classified information from the
United States.

And it`s for that reason that they were, I`m sure, collaborating with him
in the effort that went on in terms of the hacking that went on during the
last election.

So, there`s no question that there`s a lot of collusion here between the
Russians and between WikiLeaks.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they had him trapped with the information they had?

PANETTA: I think that WikiLeaks, by virtue of the classified information
they had, and the fact that the Russians knew what kind of classified
information was there, that Russia used that information as part of the
hacking attack on the United States to influence our election.

I would not be surprised if the FBI and the investigations that are going
on confirm that kind of collusion.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, former Secretary of Defense and former CIA
Director and former U.S. Congressman for many years Leon Panetta.

Thank you, sir, for coming on the program.

Up next: President Trump reverses an Obama era rule, now allowing states
to block funding for Planned Parenthood. Wow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When it comes to NATO and China, President Trump is moderating his tone,
but, when it comes to social issues, he`s tacking far to the right again.

Earlier today, President Trump rolled back on Obama era regulations that
stopped conservative governors from defunding family planning providers
like Planned Parenthood. The president signed the bill rather privately,
behind closed doors, with a few pro-life supporters in the room.

Typically, of course, President Trump proudly displays – look at him –
displays the regulation he`s rolling back to the press and the public, you
know, all those fancy signing ceremonies, like the ones we`re looking at.

Well, Planned Parenthood issued the following statement shortly after the
president signed the resolution – quote – “People are sick and tired of
politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and this
bill is just the latest example.”

Anyway, the resolution signed today does not totally defund Planned
Parenthood, but it could negatively affect low-income families, who often
rely on health clinics like Planned Parenthood.

For more, I`m joined by Democratic U.S. Congresswoman from California Karen

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

Explain, if you can, in regular terms, everyday terms, what this action by
the president he conducted behind closed doors today does to women.


Well, what it does is that it essentially gives a license to states who
have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood to begin with, it allows them
to do that, because what President Obama tried to do in the last few days
of his administration was to prevent states from just defunding Planned
Parenthood because they didn`t like what they were doing.

So, President Obama said it had to be for a specific reason, like the
services were inappropriate or something like that. This, then,
essentially gives a green light to states. It`s just another attack on
women, and especially low-income women.

MATTHEWS: How is this going to affect people that you know in your
district, for example? If you – you`re going to get some constituent
calls on this, I imagine, some case worker problems.

What will be real about the people out there when they see this action that
the president did in secret today?

BASS: Well, what it`s going to do is create a lot of fear in my district.

I have several Planned Parenthood clinics. And a lot of women, especially
younger women and immigrant women, use Planned Parenthood. And so they`re
going to see what the president did today, and they`re going to think,
then, that now Planned Parenthood is defunded.

Of course, that`s not going to happen in the state of California, but it
will happen in a lot of the conservative states that have been looking for
many opportunities to roll back these services.

There`s just no excuse for this. And, you know, Ivanka Trump is supposed
to be the conscience when it comes to these issues. And either, clearly,
she supports this, or he wasn`t listening to her this time around.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think she was in the signing ceremony today, to be blunt
about it.

Let me ask you about – for conservatives watching right now, pro-life
people, I understand that the federal government, under the Hyde Amendment,
doesn`t provide funding for abortion services. That`s correct, right? Is
that still correct?

BASS: Yes, that`s absolutely correct.

And I think that there are so many misunderstandings about what happens in
a Planned Parenthood clinic. Planned Parenthood basically provides your
primary health care services. That means if you have a cold, if you need a
Pap smear, if you need a breast exam, basic health services, so if you
think about HIV services.

And men also can go to a Planned Parenthood clinic too. So, this is really
a general health provider that essentially, you know, will really be
compromised in a lot of states around the country.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

It`s very helpful for women and men as well to hear what`s going on with
Trump and Planned Parenthood, which is extremely popular in this country, I

Anyway, U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, thanks for joining us

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump`s foreign policy. He`s finding out
that it`s more complicated than he made it sound in the campaign, don`t you

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.



our military deals, our trade deals, all of the deals, we don`t put America
first. I don`t think anybody negotiating any of these deals even knows
anything about what they`re doing, and I don`t think they care about
America being first. I care, and you care, and that`s the way it`s going
to be.



That was President Trump campaigning while championing his skills as a deal
maker and promising he`d put America first. But now that he`s actually in
the Oval Office, things aren`t as simple as he thought, or said he thought.

When asked how he`s changed since he became president, he told “The Wall
Street Journal” that, quote, “The magnitude of everything is so big and
also the decisions are so big. You know, you`re talking about life and
death. You`re not talking about you`re going to make a good deal.” That`s
the president admitting his transformation maybe from butterfly to

Anyway, President Trump made dealing with North Korea look easy during the


TRUMP: What I would do very simply is say, “China, this is your baby.
This is your problem. You solve the problem.”


MATTHEWS: Anyway, but according to “The Wall Street Journal,” Mr. Trump
said he told his Chinese counterpart he believed Beijing could easily take
care of the North Korean threat. Well, Mr. Xi then explained the history
of China and Korea, and Mr. Trump said after listening for ten minutes, I
realized it`s not so easy.

Well, the president also promised that Russia and the United States would
get along because of his leadership.


TRUMP: Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I`m
leading it than when other people have led it.


MATTHEWS: And just yesterday, or but just yesterday admitted that their
relationship with Russia and Putin was at a low point.


TRUMP: We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.
This has built for a long period of time.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL round table, “Daily Beast” columnist
Margaret Carlson, “Reuters” White House correspondent Jeff Mason, who was
called upon by the president just yesterday. In fact, he asked the first
question at that press conference. And Bloomberg`s national political
reporter, Sahil Kapur.

Sahil, you`re first. This president came in as an America firster. I
didn`t like the phrase. It has pre-World War II overtones or undertones.
He came in as a nationalist.

Now, he`s being accused of being a globalist because he wants to work with
China. He loves – he calls him a special man, the head president of the
China getting along with NATO. He likes NATO now. What`s going on?

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: Well, I think the president when he was
campaigning, the people who were running his campaign were from the
economic nationalist America first mindset. They were running his
messaging. They were writing his policies and he deferred to them. That
worked very well for him in the Republican primary and it worked well for
him in the general election as well. It made him president.

Now, he`s hearing from a very different set of people who are dealing with
realities on the ground.

Let me give you a partial list of some things he`s changed on – Bombing
Syria, NATO, getting along with Russia, labeling China a currency
manipulator, Export-Import Bank, DACA, the permits for DREAMers, Janet
Yellen, interest rates, and universal health insurance. Other than that,
he`s doing what he said he would do.

MATTHEWS: That`s a lot. That`s a lot.

Jeff, what`s the story here? I get the feeling is it as simple as the
advice of his son-in-law? Is this Jared Kushner`s, his worldview, that he
has swallowed whole? Is it that idiotic?

JEFF MASON, REUTERS: I don`t think it`s that simple. I think it has to do
with the president came in with a steep learning curve, particularly on
foreign policy. This was a businessman who has been very successful in
real estate but had no background in foreign policy. And a lot of these
other issues that he`s had to deal with.

And he may have presented sort of a simplified view of it as a candidate,
and that went over well. And now, he`s in the White House. He`s
confronted with the realities of governing, and that learning curve is
evening out.

MATTHEWS: OK, Jeff, I want to ask you this question. You make it sound
like he got into first grade but hadn`t done pre-K. OK, my question,
didn`t his parents or anybody around him ever talk about public affairs?
Didn`t they ever talk about world affairs? Didn`t they ever talk about the
issues he`s now confronting as president?

Most of our viewers are fairly familiar with everything he`s had to deal
with and seem to be ahead of him on this learning curve. What`s he been
thinking about all these years?

MASON: I can`t answer that. I mean, I don`t know how he was raised, how
he grew up –

MATTHEWS: Hasn`t he thought about climate? Hasn`t he thought about
women`s concerns?

MASON: I think he has. He`s talked about it, and I think he also said
during the campaign that he learned a lot as he was going. You do when
you`re out campaigning. He learned a lot then about politics. He learned
what was being received well by the supporters and the base of his party,
and of the people who put him into office.


MASON: Now, he`s in office –


MASON: – he`s rejecting a few of those things. But he`s still constantly
learning and changing.

MATTHEWS: Margaret, you know he`s talking about aliens, not a nice word in
this country, but he`s an alien. He shows up as president of the United
States as if he`s not lived in this country for the last seven years, like
he hasn`t picked up a newspaper, hasn`t read a book, hasn`t read anything
about issues he`s confronting. What`s he been doing all his life? Doesn`t
he actually pick up a newspaper out of curiosity?

MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, businessmen are sometimes very
narrowly focused, and real estate developers are really narrowly focused.
And In fact, I don`t think he did pick up anything about “The New York
post” to see what they were saying about him. He –

MATTHEWS: Does he just read mansion sections of the “Wall Street Journal”,
the McMansion part?

CARLSON: The (INAUDIBLE) part, yes. No. And then he said what pleased
his crowds during the campaign without much thought, and Sean Spicer today
said that what`s happening is he`s evolving. NATO is evolving towards
Donald Trump. Trump is not changing.

MATTHEWS: It is scary because some of these things we`ve talked about. I
mean, I`ve been in this business on television and newspapers and politics
for 50 years, or pretty much 50 years.

Anyway, President Trump called the military “my military.” What do you
make of that, Jeff? Mine. LBJ said something like this once. They`re all
my helicopters.

MASON: He`s commander in chief, and he`s taking ownership.

MATTHEWS: What about the possessive adjective there?

MASON: Well, he`s the commander-in-chief and he`s taking ownership.

MATTHEWS: Personally, proprietary relationship, Sahil?

KAPUR: It`s obviously not his military. It`s the people`s military. He
uses a variety of words and vernacular. Maybe he means it. It`s hard to

MATTHEWS: A very sober American guy who knows how the system works in our
country, the way the military works and the job of president works. Former
CIA director, former secretary of defense, former U.S. congressman, Leon
Panetta. Here`s how he reacted earlier in the program to what Trump said
about it being his military.


MATTHEWS: What about the president`s term “my military”? He said that
today. He said “our military,” and then he got around to in a kind of way
you can imagine him saying it, with a bit of a swag, “my military.” Does
that concern you?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, you know, I think this president
obviously sometimes views these things a lot of differently in terms of the
role of a president. But when it comes to the military, the military
belongs to the country. Our defense system belongs to the country, and
it`s not the president`s military. It`s the military of the United States
of America.

And he has responsibility obviously as commander-in-chief to be able to
make decisions with regards to our military, but I think if you ask the men
and women in uniform who they are responsible to, I think their answer
would be, we`re responsible to the United States of America.


MATTHEWS: You know, when he says something like, “my military”, that`s not
a faux pas. That`s the way he looks at it now.

CARLSON: He feels that way. I mean, this is something Vladimir Putin or
the Philippine President Duterte would say. It is my military.

And, you know, the most praise he`s gotten is for the drone strikes on
Syria, and I think this is –

MATTHEWS: Did it go to his head?

CARLSON: This is a chest-thumping moment.

MATTHEWS: OK, Jeff, let me ask you about the decision by the battlefield
commander, Nicholson, to strike with the largest weapon we have that`s not
nuclear. Do you think that decision was made with a sense of who our
commander-in-chief is, that he would have checked with Obama? Do you think
going ahead with that kind of a use of ordnance, the biggest one we have,
without checking is a little derivative of who we have as president right
now, that Trump says, when he said bomb the hell out of them or worse?

MASON: It`s hard to answer that. I`m sure there was a lot of intelligence
that went into that decision and a lot of strategic planning. It`s clear
that it`s something that the Obama administration also knew about –

MATTHEWS: Yes, but they didn`t use that weapon, and this guy didn`t think
he should check with the president.

MASON: Well, it`s hard to interpret his thinking on that.

MATTHEWS: Sahil, not even checking with President Trump about using the
biggest weapon we have.

KAPUR: So, earlier today, one of President Obama`s advisers said that
their administration had not considered using that. But the bigger picture
thing here, Chris, I think is that this reflects just how much he has
shifted. In a matter of two weeks, he has gone from opposing intervention
in Syria and the Middle East broadly to dropping a bunch of missiles
against Bashar – to counter Assad`s use of chemical weapons, to using the
most powerful non-nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s on a tear right now. It`s a little scary.

Anyway, the round table is sticking with us.

And up next – I`m burping. I`m sorry. They`re going to tell me something
I don`t know. We`ll be right back.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: President Trump has touched down in Florida again. He`s
spending yet another weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. And the travel
bills are adding up. Trump has spent seven of 13 weekends at his southern
estate and NBC estimates he has spent 28 percent of his presidency
traveling to or from or staying at Mar-a-Lago.

Taxpayers are picking up the tab for those trips, of course, which come at
a price tag as high as $3 million per trip. At this rate, Trump cost
taxpayers as much in travel this year alone as President Obama did for his
entire eight years. And there are additional security costs shouldered by
the city of Palm Beach. Officials there want the federal government – us
– to reimburse them for costs of added security, which are straining local
budgets. Wow.

We`ll be right back.


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

Margaret, tell me something I don`t know.

CARLSON: So, Chris, the sculptor who made Charging Bull, that huge iconic
statue on Wall Street, is threatening to sue the city because of a statue
of a four-foot-tall Fearless Girl. So Mayor De Blasio has said, if I might
quote, “don`t sue just because there`s this girl standing with her hands on
her hips. Men who don`t like women taking up space are exactly why we need
the fearless girl.”

MATTHEWS: I like the fearless girl down there.

Yes, Jeff?

MASON: We talked about President Trump changing his positions. The next
big question in terms of whether he`s moving into that centrist spot is on
climate change. By the time of the G7, he may have to decide or –

MATTHEWS: Is he winnable for the climate people?

MASON: The question is, is he going to pull the United States out of the
Paris agreement?

MATTHEWS: Oh, bad news.

KAPUR: Chris, Congress turns on April 25th after Easter recess, and when
it returns, it will have four days to avoid a government shut down. We
don`t know how that`s going to turn out, but if it does – if Congress
isn`t able to pass a bill to keep the government funded by then, it will be
the first time in at least half a century, a government where one party
runs the White House, the House and the Senate, has overseen a government
shut down.

MATTHEWS: Tough to pass those bills.

Thank you, Margaret Carlson. Thank you, Jeff Mason and Sahil Kapur.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, April 13th, 2017.

Today, the president of the United States referred to the United States
Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – as “my military”. Well,
that possessive adjective is interesting, some say troubling choice of
words “my” as in telling a waiter, I`ll have my coffee now.

As a great comedian Robert Klein once asked, when does that coffee coming
from the kitchen restaurant become, quote, “my coffee”. For Donald Trump,
the answer to that is when the U.S. military became his is January 20th or
was it the day last week he ordered that strike on Syria? Dangerous
thinking going on here. What`s your reaction?

I recall Lyndon Johnson correcting someone when they said, “Your helicopter
is ready, Mr. President.” He said, “They`re all mine, son.” Well, now we
have another president like that, like the one that got us deep into the
Vietnam War.

What do you think about this “my” thing when it comes to the forces
fighting for our country?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN” with Joy Reid, filling in for Chris Hayes, starts right now.


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