Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/14/2017

Guests:
Christopher Hill, Max Baucus, Kelly Magsamen, John Pomfret, Ned Ryun, Paul Singer, Clarence Page, Ginger Gibson, John Lithgow
Transcript:

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: April 14, 2017
Guest: Christopher Hill, Max Baucus, Kelly Magsamen, John Pomfret, Ned Ryun, Paul Singer, Clarence Page, Ginger Gibson, John Lithgow

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A trim for Kim?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

President Trump faces rising tension on the Korean peninsula right now.
The question is, what`s his strategy to deal with Kim Jong-un? The world`s
attention is on North Korea, which is celebrating the 105th birthday of its
founder, Kim Il-sung.

It`s already morning over there right now, and some observers expect that
the country, which promised a big event, will use the anniversary to test
another nuclear weapon, like right in the next few minutes.

Anyway, the Pentagon ratcheted up pressure by sending an aircraft carrier
strike group to the area. In fact, Chinese – China foreign minister – he
warned storm clouds gathering over the peninsula there.

Well, for the past few weeks, President Trump has toughened his rhetoric
toward North Korea. He said, quote, “North Korea is behaving very badly.
It is looking for trouble.” He referred to the “menace” of North Korea,
and he tweeted, “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with
North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S. with its allies will.
USA.”

Well, here`s what he told reporters just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, North Korea`s vice foreign minister responded to the
president`s rhetoric. He told the Associated Press today, “Trump is always
making provocations with his aggressive words.”

Well, meanwhile, Japan`s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, warned there is a
possibility that North Korea is already capable of shooting missiles with
sarin gas warheads. There is no more serious threat in the world, by the
way, facing President Trump today.

What does his reaction say about what kind of commander-in-chief he is?
Christopher Hill is a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former
assistant secretary of state for East Asia. He`s in Seoul, South Korea,
right now. John Pomfret is the former Beijing bureau chief for “The
Washington Post.”

Max Baucus is, of course, a former U.S. senator and former ambassador to
China. And Kelly Magsamen is a former senior Pentagon official in charge
of Asia in the Obama administration.

Let me start with Ambassador Hill over there. What are the options? Let`s
start with the options of our president, President Trump. What can he do
to shake Kim Jong-un off the course of going to an active nuclear power,
for lack of a better phrase?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FRM. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: Well, as everyone
says, the options are pretty bad. The issue is not to choose even worse
options. So I think what we need to do is to continue to work with the
Chinese. That sounds like, you know, an example of hope over experience,
but clearly, China has more leverage than anyone else. They`re doing some
things, as the president suggested.

The question is whether the things they`re doing in terms of the sanctions
– whether that train is going to move along as fast as the North Korean
development of nuclear weapons. So in China`s case, it may be, with
respect to sanctions, a little too little, too late.

MATTHEWS: Senator Baucus, do the Chinese have the same intense interest in
preventing North Korea from getting – using a nuclear weapon?

MAX BAUCUS (D), FORMER MONTANA SENATOR: I think that China at all costs
wants stability in China domestically, as well as on the peninsula.

I think there`s still time for a diplomatic solution here. China does not
like instability on the peninsula. They don`t like Kim Jong-un. I`ve been
in many meetings where President Xi himself speaks very disrespectfully,
President Xi. I`ve spoken to the Chinese ambassador to the six-party talks
many times. They don`t like him. They`re trying to find a solution.

My view, though, is that Trump has kind of done the right thing here by
stepping up the pressure, the carrier group and the – signaling China with
the strike on Syria. But we have to take advantage of that pressure now
and work with China to find a joint solution to (ph) North Korea. China
wants this solved, too. There`s no question about that.

But we have not been sufficiently creative. I think the past practice of
strategic patience was wrong. It was naive, frankly. U.S. policy has been
feckless. We haven`t been focused on the real problem here. But now the
strategic patience is gone. We`re faced a new – we`re working on a new
reality here, which is a new reality about Kim Jong-un.

And we have to take advantage of the tension now and the additional
pressure, working with China to find a solution. There`s no solution to
this problem without working with China.

MATTHEWS: Do all these people clapping – we`re looking at stock footage
here of all these people clapping like robots. Is that the way they are,
Senator? Are they robotic mentality people? Because they don`t seem –
they all have a certain facial expression. They all have to act – I mean,
it`s frighteningly controlling. Is this who they are, or are they all
faking? How would you describe the culture of that country?

BAUCUS: I think they`re scared to death of the paramount leader
(INAUDIBLE) Kim Jong-un. They`re scared to death. He`s killed many
people. He`s assassinated many people. They know which side their bread`s
buttered. They`re scared. They`re going to follow the line.

MATTHEWS: OK. In an interview last night I did with former secretary of
defense Leon Panetta, and here`s what he told us about our options with
dealing with North Korea. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: 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 options.
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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, he`s a great man, Leon Panetta. I`ve known him
forever. But he used the word “pull the trigger” there, an unfortunate, I
think, metaphor.

But the question I think a lot of us worry about, and he talked about
earlier, is what happens if this guy over there, Kim Jong-un, gets nervous
and he hears talks coming out of this country about preemptive strikes or
whatever, and he says, Well, there`s my excuse. I`m going to unleash my
artillery on Seoul. I`m going to level that South Korea – and This is my
pretext for doing so. To me, that`s scary.

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FMR. ACTING ASST. SEC. FOR ASIAN SECURITY AFFAIRS: Yes.
So I think a lot of people right now are focused on whether or not North
Korea is going to do a nuclear test or…

MATTHEWS: Tonight.

MAGSAMEN: Tonight, or potentially an ICBM test, which actually…

MATTHEWS: An underground test, the sixth they`ve had.

MAGSAMEN: This would be the sixth test they`ve done. Of course, the last
one was in 2016. I think that is less of a concern than their testing an
ICBM successfully, a rogue (ph) – you know, a KN08 (ph), for example,
something that could reach the United States homeland. So that is
concerning to me.

But also, besides just, you know, demonstrations of their nuclear
capability, the North Koreans could also do a provocation, an actual
provocation, as you suggest, as somebody sending artillery over the edge or
sending a naval force out, for example, to potentially confront our Navy
forces.

I mean, there are other means, conventional ways that Kim Jong-un could
test the U.S. alliance relationship with Korea.

MATTHEWS: John, how do you – John Pomfret, how do you deal with the fact
that you basically – I`m going to use this phrase at the end of the show -
- grab the cheese without snapping the trap? I mean, we want something
done. We want this guy to get off his course. But it`s very tricky.
We`ve got to get Kim Il – Kim – Kim Jong – Kim Jong-un to do something
he wants to do. We got to stop him – he wants to be the big shot and have
nuclear weapons that look like they`re ready to go.

How do we get him back from that sort of Defcon One of his, or whatever
that he`d like to be on?

JOHN POMFRET, FMR. “WASHINGTON POST” BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: I think right
now, the only option we have is China. And clearly, Trump is putting all
his eggs in that basket again, but he`s also trying to be transactional
about it. For example, he offered China a better deal on trade if the
Chinese would play ball on North Korea. But it`s very clear that he`s put
significant pressure on China and also that he used the strike on Syria as
a way to show the Chinese that he means business.

So from that perspective, I agree with Ambassador Baucus that he`s playing
this relatively correctly right now. The question is whether the Chinese
take him seriously enough to actually put the added pressure that is needed
to be put on the North Koreans to get them to begin to change their
behavior. That`s a big question.

MATTHEWS: Let me go over to Soul again to Ambassador Hill…

BAUCUS: Sometimes…

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead.

BAUCUS: Sometimes, it`s important to think out of the box. China very
much wants Kim to realize that there will be no regime change. If Kim is
guaranteed no regime change, and if somehow, we could figure out a way for
us to guarantee no greater nuclear capability – nukes are frozen, or some
way that we`re more assured that the peninsula is going to be more stable -
- that might be the beginning of a result here.

If somehow, we can guarantee that to Kim – I know that`s unconventional,
but somehow, if we could, at the same time make sure that our interests are
protected, that could be an approach.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Ambassador Hill because a couple questions keep
coming to mind. One is my – I`ve been thinking a lot, researching the
Cuban missile crisis, and the danger there was Khrushchev decided to put in
offensive weapons, offensive weapons capable of reaching pretty much every
capital in North America on Cuba, not defensively. He saw it as a chance
to grab the strategic advantage and equalize the two strategic arsenals by
getting this close to us.

He got it all wrong. Castro told somebody I know once, Big mistake. Why
did he do it? So mistakes are made even by reasonable people like
Khrushchev. How do you find reason from Kim Jong-un? How do you get him
to make a rational decision about the future of his country and his own
life?

HILL: Well, first of all, as everyone said…

POMFRET: Want me to answer that?

HILL: … this is – this is very tough.

POMFRET: Go ahead, Chris.

HILL: And the big problem is Kim Jong-un – the big problem is Kim Jong-
un, unlike his father, seems to have zero interest in negotiations. His
father had some interest in it, and his interest was because he cared about
the relationship with China. Kim Jong-un has essentially no relationship
with China. They`ve never even invited him during his five years of rule.
So there`s a real problem getting to Kim Jong-un.

I`d also like to point out that some of these – the ideas of preemptive
strikes – I think we need to remember that our relationship here on the
Korean peninsula is not with North Korea. It`s with South Korea. It`s
with our ally. And so for us to get into a kinetic strike against North
Korea without full understanding, full consultations with the South Koreans
could create a lot of problems, especially if North Korea were to fire back
as – in retaliation.

So I think we need to be very close to the South Koreans. Right now, we
have no ambassador here. We have no ambassador in the pipeline. I think
there`s a real problem in terms of our ability to communicate out here.

Finally, I`d like to say that I understand why some people say we ought to
freeze in return for something that we would give the North Koreans. I`d
be careful of that stuff. We did a lot of that. In fact, we set out a
whole agreement in September `05, a whole issue of giving them assistance,
of assuring mutual recognition, and they walked away from it. It`s clear
they want nuclear weapons, and I think we need to be very tough on this
issue.

I worry, however, that sending a carrier strike force up there and then
having it come back without having done anything may also create the
impression that somehow, Kim was somehow tougher than we are. So we have
to be very careful. You know, big powers don`t bluff, as they say. So
have to be very cautious about that.

MATTHEWS: Kelly, let`s talk about the problem that`s just addressed there
by Ambassador Hill.

MAGSAMEN: Right.

MATTHEWS: That is, if he wants true reciprocity, he wants mutual assured
destruction, basically, to the extent he can do it, that he wants to be
able to reach us with an ICBM because he feels that`s the only way to
protect himself from being invaded, right?

MAGSAMEN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: That seems to be on his brain. Does that sound right?

MAGSAMEN: That`s right, but it`s not just hitting our homeland, it`s also
hitting our allies in the region. So…

MATTHEWS: He seems to think he needs that to protect himself, or is there
some other goal besides self-protection?

MAGSAMEN: I think he certainly feels he needs that for self-protection and
to demonstrate a capability that cannot be undone and to give him a better
set of negotiating – if he was going to negotiate, a better set of
negotiating…

MATTHEWS: OK, part of our promise to get missiles out of Cuba – then
going back to the Cuban missile crisis – was to promise not to invade Cuba
again.

MAGSAMEN: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Can an American president promise the durability of
the stability of North Korea, a country we really have no respect for, and
say, We will never try to unstable you – destabilize you?

MAGSAMEN: Well, destabilization has never been our objective, certainly.
Denuclearization has been our objective.

BAUCUS: Chris, could I jump in on that?

MATTHEWS: Just one second. Go ahead.

MAGSAMEN: Sure. So denuclearization has been our stated diplomatic
objective…

BAUCUS: Chris, if I could jump…

MAGSAMEN: … but I do think there is something to what Ambassador Baucus
is saying in terms of taking a look at what might be necessary to engage on
short of denuclearization. Is there something that we could live with on
the peninsula that our Korean allies could live with? I don`t know if
there`s an answer to that, but I think looking creatively at a diplomatic
roadmap of negotiation is worth the shot.

I think Donald Trump is clearly running a play here. He is going to double
down on the China play, which is something, frankly, that the Obama
administration did quite a bit in the last two years. I`m deeply skeptical
that the Chinese will really, really engage the way we need them to with
North Korea. And I also think there are questions about whether or not
China really does have the level of influence over Kim Jong-un that they
had…

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we`re going to find out very soon. Go ahead, sir.

BAUCUS: I might say I was over there the last few years. We did not
pressure China as credibly and as strongly as we could have. This is –
our strategy, American strategy, of strategic patience was really no
strategy. You won`t believe the meetings I attended where it`s kind of
like a drive-by. We talked to China about North Korea and earnestly, but
it was not well thought through, not creative. Now we have an opportunity
to do so.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen…

POMFRET: But also to…

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, John.

POMFRET: To Ambassador Baucus`s point, there were a panoply, an enormous
number of Chinese companies who were involved in helping North Korea break
sanctions. And under the Obama administration, I think only one of those
companies was sanctioned. That should be clearly on the table, and under
Trump, you know, for better or worse, it is.

So I think you see the Trump administration putting significantly more
pressure on the Chinese on this issue than the Obama administration has.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be interesting. It looks like Trump may be – his
aggressive strategy may be a real change from the past. We`ll see if it`s
safer.

Anyway, Ambassador Christopher Hill over in Seoul, John Pomfret, thank you,
Senator Max Baucus. By the way, Senator, I always call you senator because
you were elected to that. Ambassador is for guys who haven`t been elected
yet. Anyway, and Kelly Magsamen, thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up, President Trump has shown a willingness to use military force
lately. Remember what he told us – or told me last March at our HARDBALL
town hall? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time
when it could be used? Possibly.

MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is when you said that…

TRUMP: Possibly.

MATTHEWS: … the whole world heard, David Cameron in Britain heard it,
the Japanese – well, we bombed them in `45 already. They`re hearing a guy
running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear
weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president!

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why do we make them if we don`t want to use them? That is
strange. Anyway, the political dangers of Trump`s new, well, interest in
firepower. That`s next.

Plus, progressives are fired up. Democrats are raising record levels of
money, actually, and Republicans can`t escape those angry town halls. Wait
until you see some tonight. The latest one happened last night in Arizona,
where Republican senator Jeff Flake, a fairly reasonable guy, got hammered
over “Obama care.”

And tonight a real treat, actor John Lithgow on the Trump effect in the
movies. He plays a guy like Trump in this new movie. Alec Baldwin`s
Trump, by the way, has become must-see TV on “Saturday Night Live.” Now
Lithgow plays a very Trumpian character in that new movie, and he`s with us
tonight.

Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.”

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is disturbing. The Trump administration`s ending a
policy of releasing White House visitor logs. The practice began with the
Obama administration in 2009, but the Trump administration says grave
national security risks and privacy concerns are behind their decision to
stop putting out the logs.

Administration officials say they`ll decide whether to release the names of
those who visited the president, vice president and their staff. They`ll
decide.

A coalition of watchdog groups filed suit this week to force the release of
those records, which were published on the White House Web site during the
Obama years, but not anymore.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As a candidate, Donald Trump campaigned against what he deemed pointless
wars and predictability.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must, as a nation, be
more unpredictable. We are totally predictable. We tell everything.
We`re sending troops, we tell them. We`re sending something else, we have
a news conference. We have to be unpredictable.

As a country, we have to be more unpredictable. Everything we do, they
know.

I`m the most militaristic person in this room. I am. I mean, I believe –
I am all in. But I don`t want to have wars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, eight days ago, in response to Syrian President Bashar al-
Assad`s deadly chemical attack on his own people, Trump ordered a targeted
Tomahawk assault on the Syrian airfield that was the home to the airplanes
that carried out that chemical bombing.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in
Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. Years of previous
attempts at changing Assad`s behavior have all failed, and failed very
dramatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s foreign policy about-face won him positive reviews
from some. They called his actions decisive and presidential.

A senior administration official tells Axios news group that this was the
beginning of his “leadership week” – in quotes.

Well, yesterday, in an even stronger display of American force, the United
States military dropped the – I can`t stand these phrases – the Mother of
All Bombs on a network of caves used by ISIS in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did you authorize it, sir?

TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened. So – and what I do is I
authorize my military. We have given them total authorization, and that`s
what they`re doing.

And, frankly, that`s why they have been so successful lately. If you look
at what`s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to really
what`s happened over the last eight years, you will see there`s a
tremendous difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The Associated Press reports the Trump administration is now
exerting maximum pressure to engage with North Korea, so that they can give
up actually their push for nuclear weapons. We talked about that last
segment.

Well, taken together, all of this shows an evolution of President Trump`s
military posture. The question is, does he have the ability to pull it
off?

I`m joined right now by Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for “The
Washington Post,” and Ned Ryun, the CEO of American Majority, a former
speechwriter for George W. Bush.

I guess the concern here is, the guy is commander in chief, with tremendous
authority, even in decision-making about attacks on countries. He can
always pick his country. We saw that with Afghanistan. We saw that with
Syria.

He – I`m not saying he has an itchy trigger finger. We don`t know that,
no reason to believe that yet. But during the campaign, he talked rather
loosey-goosey about nuclear weapons. We could use them perhaps in Europe,
which is almost unimaginable.

He seemed to have the idea that you have this ordnance to use it, not as
deterrence, but to use it. And now there seems to be a growth in his
willingness to use it. We will see.

I see dot. I see a dot. I see Syria. I see a second dot, Afghanistan.
And then I see all this talk about North Korea. I worry about the dots
connecting at some point with activity.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the thing here, though, is,
what`s it all going to lead to? What are…

MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m asking. What`s the answer?

CAPEHART: But that`s the question. What is the – really, what is the
foreign policy underpinning – underpinning of all this?

MATTHEWS: Is he getting more militarist? He ran as an anti-militarist.
He ran against going to war in stupid wars.

CAPEHART: Well, he said in stupid wars, but he also said on the campaign
trail, I`m going to bomb the blank out of them.

(CROSSTALK)

NED RYUN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MAJORITY: The crap out of ISIS.

MATTHEWS: Well, put that together, Ned. What is it? How can you be
dovish on actual on-the-ground troops, but hawkish on use of airpower and
artillery or whatever?

RYUN: I mean, here`s the thing. He definitely knows how to draw a bright
red line in regards to Syria. Used chemical weapons, 63 hours, we respond.

Dealing with ISIS, I`m going to bomb the crap out of ISIS. He`s been
saying that for two years. Also realizing that we – do we really want a
crazy fat kid in North Korea with nuclear weapons?

MATTHEWS: Why don`t you keep calling him names? That`s going to help.

RYUN: Well, no, I`m merely quoting – I`m merely quoting John – Senator
John McCain here. And so I think what I`m seeing here is, a lot of Trump
supporters, we don`t want to see nation-building.

MATTHEWS: How do you do – how do you go in – and, look, everybody in
this country – Americans are pretty similar about this. They like neat,
bite-size wars, quickies in and out, get out of it – accomplish a goal,
send a message, and get out.

RYUN: Right.

MATTHEWS: But, sometimes, they`re sticky situations.

You start bombing somebody, they might bomb you back. Then you have to go
in. Vietnam was the great example of an escalating thing that we thought
was just an air attack. It became a half-million troops.

CAPEHART: Right.

RYUN: No, and I think what we want to see here and what we are seeing up
to this point is setting – a reset of America, coming back to the
international stage, saying you will accommodate us. You will accommodate
our interests.

I think the real breaking point will be, though, if for some reason we go
towards this, we`re going to send in 10,000 troops for regime change and
nothing-building. He will lose a lot of supporters.

MATTHEWS: Well, remember Muhammad Ali? Muhammad Ali said he floated like
a butterfly and stung like a bee. That`s great policy, if you can do it.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: Well, look, if you think about it, the Obama administration was
all about covert action. We will send SEAL teams in.

MATTHEWS: Drones.

CAPEHART: SEAL teams, drones. And President Trump is all about the big,
ostentatious show of power.

MATTHEWS: Big hands.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: Yes, 59 Tomahawks, Mother of All…

RYUN: MOAB.

CAPEHART: Yes, MOAB, Mother of All Bombs.

But the question here is, what comes after that? What`s the policy after
sending in 59 Tomahawks, after dropping…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the other point is, these other sides are not disarmed
nations either. They have the ability to wreak havoc the other way.

And I just wonder. North Korea has got enough conventional firepower along
the 38th power to eliminate South Korea. They could just – they could
just start – you have seen these pictures of all those guns firing at
once.

They could just do it. And they can do it because we said the wrong thing
in a press conference.

RYUN: But…

CAPEHART: Or a tweet.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RYUN: There`s a certain amount – you know, this unpredictability – and I
think…

MATTHEWS: You like that?

RYUN: I do like it, because I think it`s throwing our enemies off-balance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you ever take a look at the other guy on the other side? Do
you want to confront him with unpredictability, that guy with the haircut?

RYUN: But here`s the – well, here`s the deal. It`s, he`s off-balance.
We will see what happens. I think to solve the North Korea…

MATTHEWS: Would you be unpredictable with a person you thought was off-
balance?

CAPEHART: No.

That`s the – no, you wouldn`t, Ned. You know you wouldn`t.

RYUN: No, I think – right now, I think we`re throwing him off-balance. I
think…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. A guy is standing there with a gun pointed at you, Ned.
Would you call him a fat kid? Hey, fatty. You would be done.

RYUN: If he had a gun pointed at me? Of course not.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what we`re talking about.

RYUN: No, it`s not.

MATTHEWS: That`s what we`re talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: That`s where we are right now.

RYUN: We`re taking a strong stance. China is going to have to be a part
of this. We`re hearing talk of them cutting out 90 percent of – they
provide 90 percent of…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We had the experts on a few minutes ago.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: And the experts seemed to say that China, under Max Baucus, who
was our ambassador there for three years, they`re not really willing to go
all the way and put the pressure on.

There`s a lot of skepticism that they want to take on their communist ally
in North Korea and really push them.

RYUN: But I think Trump is pushing it to say we have to deal with this
now. We know that he has nuclear weapons. We know that he has not gotten
to the point of putting those on an inter – ballistic missile.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

RYUN: So we have got to stop it right now.

MATTHEWS: Ned, one question for both of you. I don`t know your answers
yet.

Ready? Tell me something I don`t know. Is he smart to gin this up, to
heat it up, rather than go the slow, strategic waiting thing that went on
before? Is it better to push this thing now, before they get strategic
weapons that can reach us, push it now, bring it home now, force the
reckoning now, rather than wait? What`s better, now or later?

RYUN: We have taken eight years. We have tried that path. Let`s take
this path and say we`re not going to get to that point.

MATTHEWS: Jon, where are you? Pressure him now? Pressure him now, or
wait?

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: It`s a gamble. And, look, we`re pressuring him right now.

MATTHEWS: What would you do?

CAPEHART: And the – I would still keep – I would ratchet up the pressure
a little bit, not like he`s doing now.

But here`s the one thing we have to keep in mind, Chris. In the last
interview that Susan Rice did as national security adviser with
journalists, the Wednesday before inauguration, she was asked, what`s the
number one thing President Trump is going to have to worry about? North
Korea. And so I think that`s…

MATTHEWS: I think that, too. But you and I know that. We all know that.

I mean, we`re all reading the papers. It`s scary, because we don`t have a
Khrushchev or a Brezhnev, somebody on this side who may be an ideologue,
but does have interests.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: We don`t even know what Kim Jong-un`s interests are. We can`t
even figure that out. Is it survival? We don`t even know that.

RYUN: But here`s the thing. Do we deal with them now, before they get to
that point, or do we let them get to that point?

MATTHEWS: I think you make a good point. I think it might be the right
point.

Jonathan, I think, may agree.

CAPEHART: It`s scary.

MATTHEWS: It`s scary. It`s a little scary.

CAPEHART: It`s a scary point.

(CROSSTALK)

RYUN: At some point, you got to make a decision.

MATTHEWS: Who wants to wait for him to have his full arsenal ready?

RYUN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway…

CAPEHART: All you need in that gun is one bullet, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Frighteningly true.

Jonathan Capehart, that`s why you write the big stuff. Ned Ryun, thank
you, sir.

Up next: Republicans back home are facing angry town halls. Wait until
you catch these town halls. Of course, talk about a catch-22. If you have
a town meeting, they come and attack you. If you don`t have one, they come
and attack you.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

AUDIENCE: You work for us! You work for us! You work for us!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Senator Flake, and he`s fairly reasonable compared
to some of these other guys. “You work for us.” That`s Republican
Senator, as I said, Jeff Flake taking the heat last night in Arizona.

The Roundtable joins us next to talk about it.

Look it, he`s got his hands down. He can`t even talk back.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This is amazing. Republicans may be home for spring break, but they
certainly don`t get to relax. Those who have chosen to hold town halls
continue to face the consequences of having control of the government.
They`re being held responsible.

Trumpcare is one of those hot-button issues out there with members of both
parties actually concerned the Trump administration wants to kill
Obamacare. We`re talking about constituents of both parties, not members.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAN: I`m a registered Republican in your House district. I`m sorry to say
I was shocked that you declared your intention to vote for the American
Health Care Reform Act, so-called Trumpcare bill…

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MAN: … and to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That`s not
the way we do things here in Colorado.

The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land now.

(APPLAUSE)

MAN: Please tell me specifically what you`re going to do going forward,
what you intend to do to revise, strengthen, and bolster Obamacare, so that
it will support the health care needs of your constituents here in House
District Six.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Politicians are also facing anger from the left on Judge Neil
Gorsuch`s nomination to the Supreme Court, actually his confirmation now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAN: If Neil Gorsuch was the first to be filibustered, what happened to
Merrick Garland`s vote?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And while congressmen hold town halls so they can have face-time
with voters, they could also run the risk of saying something unfortunate
on camera that provides fodder for future attack ads.

Let`s watch Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: And, by the way, if I choose not to
get insurance, I take that risk. That`s my risk.

(CROSSTALK)

MULLIN: I get that. Guys, I get that. But it`s still my decision. I
want to make that decision.

You said you paid for me to do this. Bullcrap. I pay for myself. I pay
enough taxes before I ever got there and continue to through my company to
pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go. I do it
as an honor and a service.

WOMAN: Pays you to go where?

(CROSSTALK)

MULLIN: I`m just saying, I`m just saying…

WOMAN: Pays you to go where?

MULLIN: Don`t – don`t – this is a service for me, not a career, and I
thank God this isn`t how I make a living.

WOMAN: Oh, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring in the HARDBALL, “Chicago Tribune” columnist
Clarence Page, Reuters political correspondent Ginger Gibson, and “USA
Today” Washington correspondent Paul Singer.

Ginger, you`re right. I mean, I just think this is unbelievable. These
guys, they`re earning – I think they are earning their pay. They`re
getting whacked.

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS: Markwayne Mullin made a big mistake when he said
that he – they didn`t pay him.

I mean, these are his constituents.

MATTHEWS: And $170,000 a year, to a lot of constituents, that`s four times
the average income in this country.

GIBSON: And he clearly got complacent. He walked into a room that looked
like constituents. It was mostly senior citizens.

And he thought that he was going into a friendly territory. It`s the
biggest risk many of these Republicans are making, going into these events.

MATTHEWS: Is that going to hurt him, that scene?

GIBSON: That scene is likely going to get played over and over again.
He`s in a fairly safe Republican district, got elected by big margins. But
no doubt that will haunt him for a long time.

PAUL SINGER, “USA TODAY”: And the fact of the matter is, Mullin already
had a problem with the Ethics Committee because he made his money working
for his family plumbing company, which he then was advertising for while he
was still a member of Congress.

So, he`s got other issues beyond this.

MATTHEWS: Clarence, this is a catch-22. Right?

Do you go out and meet your people, get slammed in the face? Because
there`s a lot of – by the way, Republican congresspeople have Democrats in
their districts, and senators definitely do.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Yes. Yes.

Well, no, this is the problem. If you`re in a swing district, then you
have got to really be brave to go out there these days.

TownHallProject.com, they surveyed members of Congress and especially in
the swing districts. They found only two Republicans, Congressman Leonard
Lance of New Jersey and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, who were going to
have town halls with live people there.

The rest have found other things to do during the Easter break here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But this is called district work period, isn`t it?

PAGE: Yes. Yes, that`s right.

GIBSON: The important thing to remember, this is how they campaign in off-
years is holding town hall meetings. It`s the way they get face-time with
their constituents.

And everyone who is not out there holding town hall meetings, they`re, in
effect, delaying their reelection campaigns. And that could come back to
them next year.

MATTHEWS: Everyone has told me that the best thing – let`s take a tricky
issue like abortion rights.

It couldn`t be trickier as an issue, moral issue, with a lot of people. If
you take a position and you stick to it – you answer to this, Paul –
people will respect it. If you say, OK, excuse me for living, but I`m pro-
choice, or excuse me for living, I just value life, once you say that to
the voter, there`s not much they can do with it. They can yell at you, but
they can`t debase you.

SINGER: And part of the problem that the Republicans are facing now is
that their answer on Obamacare particularly is so murky.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SINGER: I will be interested to see…

MATTHEWS: They`re chicken, you mean.

SINGER: … how Mr. Palmer, Congressman Palmer down in Alabama, who has
got this problem where he`s a member of the Freedom Caucus, and he opposed
the Obamacare repeal bill. How does he explain that to his constituents.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is his position?

SINGER: Well, again, his position is, it was not conservative enough. It
was not a full…

MATTHEWS: Can he say that?

SINGER: That`s what he`s going to say. Let`s see what his constituents
say about that answer.

PAGE: And that`s the Freedom Caucus position.

SINGER: That`s right.

PAGE: They say that the – Ryan`s plan is still Obamacare. They want even
less support. They want to get rid of it all.

MATTHEWS: OK.

I worked in politics for years. And one thing this is teaching me is,
people don`t ask about Korea or what`s happening in Mesopotamia. They care
about what`s happening on their table when they got to pay the bills.

And so this is all about usually disability payments, Social Security
checks, Medicare problems. Am I eligible for this? Not – what about –
Notch Babies. That`s – this is the real politics in real politics
country.

GIBSON: And it`s personal problems.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIBSON: You`re talking to people who are talking about what directly
affects them.

It`s their health insurance. It`s their Social Security. It`s not talking
points. And it`s not nameless, faceless people you can tell some reporter
on the Hill that you may have met at one point in time. It`s actual people
and interactions.

MATTHEWS: You know what there aren`t anymore? Applause lines.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: These are too close to the gut.

Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, they will tell me
something I don`t know, all three of them.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re back with the round table.

Clarence, tell me something I don`t know.

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, “Financial Times” had an interesting
story today about the FBI is going to set up a special office to deal with
the Russia investigation because it`s gotten so vast, and people tell me
this means this could go on for years actually.

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS: We did an analysis of census data looking at
congressional freedom caucus members and found their constituents have
about the same health insurance rate as the rest of their colleagues, so
they`re not dealing with a different population, the same realities of
people would are uninsured.

PAUL SINGER, USA TODAY: The Congressional Prayer Caucus is concerned that
perhaps Mr. Trump is not moving fast enough to make moves for religious
freedom, particularly appointing someone to run that office of faith-based
programs in the White House.

MATTHEWS: Where is the religious freedom issue cutting right now?

SINGER: Well, right now, they see it as we need to make sure that we are
getting government money available to churches, particularly through school
vouchers, that that is being protected and the government is not going to
try and exclude churches particularly from being involved in social
programs.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Anyway, thank you all.

We`ll be right back. Thank you all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a real world effect of Donald Trump in the White
House. Democrats are shattering fund-raising records. The Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, the group responsible for getting
Democrats elected to the House brought in $3.1 million – or $31 million
over the last three months. That`s $10 million a month. The DCCC hopes
those donations translated into grassroots energy and votes to help
Democrats take the House back next year. They need to flip, by the way, 24
seats to take control of the House.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

From “Terms of Endearment” to “The Sweet Smell of Success” on Broadway,
actor John Lithgow has proven himself in a range of diverse roles. In his
latest film he plays alongside Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner,” which is
out June 9th.

It`s a dark comedy that critics have called the first of its kind in the
Trump era. The story pits Beatriz, a physical therapist who emigrated from
Mexico, against a brash real estate developer whose top concern is his
bottom line. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my dear friend Beatriz.

SALMA HAYEK, ACTOR: Hey, nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beatriz is a healer.

HAYEK: I do massage downstairs. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like birds fly out of the sky and land on her
shoulder.

HAYEK: (INAUDIBLE)

JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: Can I get another bourbon, hon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, Doug, this is Beatriz. She`s staying for
dinner.

LITHGOW: Oh. You were hovering. I just figured you were part of the
staff.

HAYEK: Do I know you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doug`s famous. He has been on the news.

HAYEK: I don`t know why, but I think know you.

LITHGOW: Ever dance in Vegas?

(LAUGHTER)

HAYEK: I would just like to say to Cathy and (INAUDIBLE), thank you for
having me. When I first came to the United States a long time ago –

LITHGOW: Did you come legally?

HAYEK: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tenderloin was amazing. It`s true what they say,
those animals would basically be gone if it wasn`t for the (INAUDIBLE).

LITHGOW: I don`t consider it murder. It`s like this original dance of man
and beast, the struggle for survival.

HAYEK: (INAUDIBLE). I don`t think it`s funny, I think it`s sick.

LITHGOW: The world doesn`t need your feelings. It needs jobs. It needs
money. It needs what I do.

HAYEK: The world doesn`t need you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doug is a great philanthropist.

(INAUDIBLE)

LITHGOW: OK, you`re done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by legendary actor John Lithgow who also
stars in the hit NBC comedy “Trial & Error” as well as “The Crown,” which
everybody loves, on Netflix in which he plays Sir Winston Churchill.

Mr. Lithgow, it`s an honor to have you on in so many ways. What`s it like?
I saw the movie this afternoon. And I have many thoughts about it.

But one thought was, you`re a very likable bad guy, that`s my thought.

LITHGOW: Mm-hmm. Well, when I play a –

MATTHEWS: It was actually perfect.

LITHGOW: When I play a bad guy, I never consider him the bad guy. I
always consider him the good guy. Everybody else thinks of him as the bad
guy. And that`s particularly interesting in this film.

Yes, he`s almost irresistible, a man who is completely self-satisfied,
confident, has absolutely no doubts and no conscience.

It was fascinating to play it. Makes you kind of sick to your stomach
watching him. But he`s not sick to his stomach. He`s perfectly happy.

MATTHEWS: There`s sort of Trumpian themes here, a guy who is sort of a
real estate developer, what we used to call in the `60s a pig, up against
this absolute, true-believing, somewhat humorless good person. You capture
the human-ness of the bad guy. She doesn`t capture exactly the human-ness
of the good guy.

It`s interesting. It`s an interesting counterplay.

LITHGOW: It`s very interesting. It`s – Mike White is a very ingenious
writer. He wrote the screenplay. Miguel Arteta directed it. The two of
them work together quite often.

Mike is best known as a comic writer. It`s a very witty screenplay. But
he`s also a very smart writer who is after bigger game here.

When he set out to conceive this film, he wanted to write about class
divides, economic inequality, the degradation of the environment, the
future of the human race, big, big ideas. But he all – he reduced it to
this group of seven people at a dinner party.

And it begins very funny. You almost think you`re seeing a comedy. And it
just gets darker and more –

MATTHEWS: It sure does.

LITHGOW: It is an unsettling film mainly because what`s happening all
around us right now.

MATTHEWS: Exactly. I thought you`d throw that phrase big game in there
usefully because one of the obnoxious scenes in there is your character
posing with a dead rhino. And as many times I`ve been to Africa on safari,
I`ve loved it every time, I despise big game hunters.

And I know all the arguments about the economics. And they bring it out in
the movie. And I don`t like the fact that Trump`s kid, although they`re
not politicians, I don`t like the fact of them posing with big game they`ve
killed either.

But here`s something we all can agree on. Here`s your widely praised
scene. You`re depicting the great Sir Winston Churchill in “The Crown” on
Netflix.

Let`s watch this scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your health better now?

LITHGOW: It is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good.

But is it sufficiently better? Fit for office better? I would ask you to
consider your response in light of the respect that my rank and my office
deserve, not that which my age and gender might suggest.

LITHGOW: I look at you now and I realize that the time is fast approaching
for me to step down, not because I`m unwell or unfit for office, but
because of you are ready. And therefore I have discharged my duty to your
father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, I`m trying not to cry. That is one of the great
scenes ever. And you passed muster with the Pommies, I guess, huh, they
liked you. I haven`t heard a word against your performance.

LITHGOW: They`ve nominated me for a BAFTA award. And –

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable.

LITHGOW: – I`m acting there – thank you so much, Chris. And I`m acting
there with Claire Foy, who is just radiant, absolutely superb actress. She
really makes the entire series sing. I`m very, very proud to be a part of
it.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think very little has been said about the second
premiership of Churchill, the part that wasn`t so glorious. It was
difficult for him. He was getting old. He had stayed on too long, you
know? He left –

LITHGOW: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He should have stepped down. And you played it staying on
(INAUDIBLE) – the wonderful thing you did to raise the queen.

LITHGOW: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Great stuff.

LITHGOW: Well, it`s an unexplored moment of history really, the early
1950s, in Britain in particular, a nation that supposedly had won a war and
yet they felt like a defeated country. And Churchill was the old
Victorian, the child of empire. And the empire was slipping away. That`s
his particular drama.

You know, the series has like six concurrent stories. His story is the man
who is growing old and is hanging on too long.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have to congratulate you on everything you`ve done. I
have to tell you, we all love “Terms of Endearment,” where we first met you
in that Safeway checkout counter when you were desperate for sex. And I
thought that was one of the greatest things ever about a guy.

And I also loved your audio recording of “Bonfire of the Vanities.” You did
all the –

LITHGOW: Oh my goodness.

MATTHEWS: Now, you did all the ethnic accents of New York, every accent.
You did, you know, Ed Koch. You did everyone.

(CROSSTALK)

LITHGOW: Yes.

MATTHEWS: – those great lines from the guys in the street.

LITHGOW: That`s wonderful. I never get a compliment for that, Chris. I
was very –

MATTHEWS: Well, you deserve more than that.

LITHGOW: – proud of that.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, John Lithgow.

LITHGOW: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And great movie coming out.

When we return – thanks for coming on HARDBALL.

When we return –

LITHGOW: It`s a real pleasure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch, we had a
hint of it there in the movie.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Friday, April 14th, 2017.

How does the United States get North Korea off its dangerous course toward
nuclear weapons, and how do we convince Kim Il-sung personally that he
should pull off that course?

The enterprise is nothing to take lightly. We get Kim nervous and he could
attack South Korea with all his conventional fire power. We do nothing,
and he keeps heading towards having deliverable nuclear weapons.

What we need is a way to grab the cheese if you will without setting off
the mouse trap. That will take cool nerve and experienced finesse. Both
are rare. A combination of those two, rarer still.

The smart move may be to build an enduring alliance that the North Korean
leader can see will brook no use by him of a nuclear weapon in any way
whatsoever. It`s not to do anything crazy ourselves as well. It`s as
simple as that.

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

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

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