Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/24/2017
Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: April 24, 2017
Guest: Jamal Simmons, John Brabender, Ann Gearan, David Ignatius, Clint Watts, Michael Schmidt, Cheri Bustos
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A hundred days of Donald Trump.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
It`s exam week for Donald Trump, and he hasn`t done his homework. A hundred
days in office, and by traditional standards, he`s got zip to show for it.
He can try to wiggle out of it and say he`s sick or the dog at my homework,
but we`re talking a standard here of presidential performance that goes
back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who began his presidency with both a
declaration of purpose and an early streak of accomplishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only thing we
have to fear is fear itself!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A hundred days into office with massive legislation under his
belt, Roosevelt told a radio audience his first days, quote, “have been
devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal.”
President Kennedy spoke at his inaugural address of 100 days as, at
minimum, a time to begin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All this will not be
finished in the first 100 days, nor will it be finished in the first 1,000
days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our
lifetime on this planet. But let us begin!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump has tried mussing up the 100 days standard. He`s
argued no administration has accomplished more in this time. But he`s also
called 100 days a ridiculous standard.
New polls this week show the president with ocean bottom job approval.
That said, he supporters stick like a bathtub ring. Among those who voted
for him, says “The Washington Post,” 96 percent say they have no regrets
about supporting him. Among Republicans, the president`s approval stays
stuck with 4 in 5 hanging with him, according to a NBC News new poll. But
overall, just 40 percent of voters say they approve of the job he`s doing.
And that compares to 64 percent President Obama had this time in his
Trump, no surprise, rejects the numbers. Even as the president dismisses
the 100 day milestone, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, touted his many
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We feel very good about what
we`ve done as we head up to this first 100 days. But I think when you look
at the totality of what we`ve accomplished on job creation, on immigration,
on trade, it is – it is – it is it`s unbelievable what he has been able
The president has been extremely busy, and I think when you recognize the
amount of issues that he`s tackled and the amount of progress that he`s
made, it is – it is – it is very significant.
We are very proud and the president`s very proud of what he`s been able to
accomplish in the first 100 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, all this week, we`re going to examine President Trump`s
record, his war with the media, his domestic policies, the palace intrigue
of what`s happening inside the West Wing and Donald Trump`s place in pop
On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren will be here. On Thursday, I`m
going to talk to Governor John Kasich. On Friday, historians Doris Kearns
Goodwin and Michael Beschloss (INAUDIBLE) put it all into context and how
this country got this far without Donald Trump.
Well, tonight, we begin with the president`s role in the world, with
special attention to the scary standoff right now in North Korea. In a
recent interview with the Associated Press, President Trump talked about
his relationship with other world leaders, including Egypt, China and
Quote, “People have given me credit for having great chemistry with all the
leaders, including el-Sisi. I think for that, I would be getting very high
marks because I`ve established great relationships with countries. If you
look at the president of China, people said they`ve never seen anything
like what`s going on right now. I really liked him a lot.” He`s talking
about the president of China. “I think he liked me. We have a great
I`m joined now by three “Washington Post” actually writers, columnists
George F. Will and David Ignatius and diplomatic correspondent Ann Gearan.
I mean, I thought there, there was an aspect of pre-K, which, He likes me
and I like him and – it was sort of childish, I mean, for a president of
the United States to talk about probably our largest economic challenge in
the world, China, and how he`s dealing (ph), and also with Korea.
GEORGE WILL, “WASHINGTON POST” COLUMNIST: Well…
MATTHEWS: What do you think of this guy? How`s that for profundity!
WILL: Everything is personal. Not (ph) everything is transactional.
Remember back during the campaign, when he was a candidate, he was asked,
What about Putin? He says, Putin says nice things about me. End of
discussion. So if you believe that the relations between nations are the
relations of the personal chemistry of the two leaders, then he`s on a
MATTHEWS: David, this – this need to start the pressure – and he has
done it more than Obama. Obama was strategic patience with the most
dangerous country in the world, I`m going to argue, I think we all agree,
North Korea. They`re on the verge of getting a deliverable nuclear weapon.
And what are we doing? Are we moving too fast or too slow?
DAVID IGNATIUS, “WASHINGTON POST” COLUMNIST: Well, we`ll see in coming
weeks. I think Trump is right to think that the time to address the North
Korea problem is now. The longer you wait, the more likely it is they will
have a deliverable nuclear weapon that can attack the United States, and
that becomes a different confrontation.
So I think the smartest thing that Trump has done in the first 100 days in
foreign policy is to figure out a way to work with China. During the
campaign, Trump was incendiary in his criticism of China – China`s raping
America, China`s our enemy. It was just really red hot rhetoric.
And he realized when he became president that he was not going to be able
to solve the North Korea problem, even address it, without having a
relationship with Xi, and he set about doing that.
IGNATIUS: And his talk about good chemistry – from what I hear, actually,
there`s some truth to that. They spent a lot of time together, and China
is now to a surprising extent working in tandem with the U.S. to deal with
MATTHEWS: Are they cutting off the coal for real?
IGNATIUS: They seem to be. They have said clearly if North Korea has
another nuclear test, they will move to another Security Council
resolution, this one more punishing. So – so they are acting in the way
that we would want them to act, and you got to say Trump helped make that
MATTHEWS: Or today, President Trump had what the White House called a
working lunch with the United Nations Security Council and ambassadors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the United
Nations has tremendous potential, tremendous potential, far greater than
what I would say any other candidate in the last 30 years would have even
thought to say. I don`t think it`s lived up – I know it hasn`t lived up
to the potential. I mean, I see a day when there`s a conflict, where the
United Nations – you get together and solve the conflict. You just don`t
see the United Nations, like, solving conflicts. I think that`s going to
start happening now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, afterwards, Ambassador Haley said the message from the
White House was the United Nations needs to be reformed. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: And so I think they heard that
loud and clear today from the president. I think that they are thrilled
with the engagement that they had. And I think it shows that the president
is very engaged on foreign policy. And they see that. The idea that he
would sit down and want to talk to them about each of their countries and
the Security Council collectively is massive for a president to be able to
do this, and it was certainly helpful for the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ann, this guy is all over the place. And it just – it has
nothing to do with ideology or point of view. He was against NATO. He was
against dealing with the Chinese in a positive way. He – I never heard
him say a good word about the United Nations. And here he is talking like
Adlai Stevenson or Eleanor Roosevelt.
MATTHEWS: I mean, how did he get that religion?
ANN GEARAN, “WASHINGTON POST” CORRESPONDENT: He`s becoming an
internationalist, apparently. I mean, I think it`s not a lot different
than what David said. Once in office, he figured out that he actually
needs the cooperation of other leaders, other countries and the diplomatic
processes and all kinds of complicated, annoying things that go with that
in order to get anything done.
And I don`t believe he`s got some radically new view of how valuable the
United Nations is, but he knows that trashing the United Nations isn`t
going to help. And if he wants to get sanctions, new sanctions on North
Korea, which could happen as soon as Friday with Chinese help…
GEARAN: … he`s going to say reasonably nice things about the United
MATTHEWS: Well, (INAUDIBLE) North Korea again, George and David, most of
the time, I worry about Kim Jong-un. I just worry about the guy. I don`t
know – the question of mental stability is not so important as perhaps
emotional knowledge of what would happen if – just knowledge of life even.
I mean, if we scare him too much, if he looks like we`re coming in to get
him, if he mishears some of Trump`s rhetoric for, We`re coming in, he might
launch the artillery, George, on – on Seoul and destroy that country.
WILL: Every administration, starting with the Clinton administration of
the mid-`90s, and Bush and Obama, has looked at this as a military problem,
and all three administrations have backed off saying it`s not worth the
The technology of nuclear weapons has been around for 70 years. Pakistan
and now North Korea demonstrate any country that really wants nuclear
weapons can get them. The ballistic missile technology is another manner,
but again, that`s not beyond the capabilities.
People say that the North Korean regime is irrational. It may be
irrational in its fixation on one goal, that is preserving this family
dynasty. But in the way of maximizing North Korea`s presence on the world
stage, with no resources, a tinpot economy, they`ve done the right thing.
And as long as they think they can preserve their regime, I`m not sure they
are in danger of a spasm.
MATTHEWS: David, the theory has always been – as much as we`d think about
this, which means for months, at least, thinking about this guy – he
doesn`t want to end up in a spider hole like Saddam Hussein, being dug out
by his enemies and hanged. He doesn`t want to be – end up in a sewer pipe
like Gadhafi. And those two gentlemen have one thing in common. They
didn`t have nuclear weapons.
If he gets nuclear weapons, the argument is his own people won`t dare turn
on him. I don`t know how that works. Explain. Why does it secure him in
leadership to have a weapon, a nuclear weapon against the world?
IGNATIUS: I think he`s seen by his people, by more to the point, perhaps,
by the other leadership cadres as beings strong as he moves toward this –
toward this goal. I think North Korea is just such an erratic country,
such – such an unpredictable variable. I think the Chinese are as worried
about it, maybe even more than the United States is.
If you read the Chinese press now, there`s some startling things. The
leading Chinese military historian has now said he thinks South Korea is a
better friend to China than North Korea. He thinks that North Korea is a
bad ally for China. He`s writing this in the Chinese press for a Chinese
audience. That tells you that the Chinese leadership is worried.
MATTHEWS: That`s a hell of a standard. Anyway, on the bench (ph) warrant
(ph) TV ratings, President Trump sees a huge victory. He told the AP,
quote, “I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go,
they go double, triple. Dickerson had 5.2 million people watching him.
It`s the highest for “Face the Nation,” or as I call it, Deface the Nation
– it`s the highest for Deface the Nation since the World Trade Center,
since the world Trade Center came down.”
Meanwhile, according to “The Washington Post” today, the president had this
reaction when someone suggested press secretary Sean Spicer might be the
first out from the White House. According to someone familiar with the
encounter, the president said, I`m not firing Sean Spicer. That guy gets
great ratings. Everyone tunes in. The president even compared Spicer`s
ratings favorably to daytime soap operas and – you know, there`s nothing
wrong with soap operas. I mean, “General Hospital,” whatever, “Life is” –
I don`t even know the (INAUDIBLE) I was about to give an old Bishop Sheen
title, “Life Is Worth Living.” I don`t know all the titles!
But the idea of saying your guy is doing a good job educating the country
as to what the administration is up to based upon people watching him like
they would watch a stock car race waiting for the accident.
GEARAN: Well, I mean, it`s government as entertainment, and entertainment
is judged by ratings, right? He is – this isn`t the first time we`ve seen
him say out loud that he views his own performance and that of the
government through the lens of news, specifically cable news, and we know
from his Twitter history, specifically morning cable news. I mean, that is
MATTHEWS: OK, what about of grotesquery, David, of comparing your impact,
your size, to use one of his concerns, with the 3,000 people killed on
9/11, the worst tragedy we`ve all watched together and felt? And here he
is saying, I`m bigger than that.
IGNATIUS: You know, he – in hyperbolic, inappropriate language, I have
never seen a president who remotely approaches Donald Trump.
I just would note there is such an interesting difference between what he
says and what he does. In the reaction to the Syrian use of chemical
weapons, there was a measured response. It was done quickly. It was done
over two days. It was done fairly cleanly. He has chosen a support team
in national security that I think people generally…
MATTHEWS: Who do you like…
IGNATIUS: … admire.
MATTHEWS: … McMasters? (sic)
IGNATIUS: I think McMaster is solid. I think Mattis, the defense
secretary, is solid. I think Tillerson is becoming a solid performer. I
think Pompeo, from what I hear, is getting good reviews at the CIA. The
point is, he chose good people. The domestic policy area, to me, has been
a car wreck. But in foreign policy, you`d have to say a lot of these
decisions have been cleaner, crisper…
MATTHEWS: Is he like a guy in a bar who says, Let me at him, while he
waits (ph) for people to hold him back, one of those guys – Let me at him,
and he puts his arms back? It`s like he`s restrained himself by the
company he`s chosen, knowing his own nature.
WILL: Well, I think you`re – you`re postulating a kind of forethought
here that really doesn`t fit. I think this…
MATTHEWS: Well, David points out his selections have not been irrational.
WILL: The selections have been fine, and to the extent that he`s deferring
to them – and I think you rightly infer that he is deferring to them –
he`s behaving very well.
The problem is presidential words are deeds. And you can`t take them back
and can`t pretend they didn`t happen. So he is conditioning the atmosphere
in which these sober, measured men that you just talked about have to
operate in. It`s going to complicate it sooner or later in a dangerous
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re passed almost 100 days, and we`re all here. So
maybe that`s good news. Thank you, George F. Will, David Ignatius and Ann
Coming up, the Comey effect, a new look at the unprecedented way FBI
director James Comey – well, he certainly did – affected the 2016
election, that 11 days before announcement. He came forward about Hillary
Clinton`s e-mails in attempt to shield his agency, they now argue, from
accusations of politics, all the while, of course, staying silent about the
FBI investigation into Trump`s Russian ties. It`s a decision that
Democrats say cost Clinton the election.
Plus, President Obama makes his return to the public stage tonight. I want
to know what the strategy is to get a Democrat back in the White House.
And Trump hits the wall. He`s pressuring Congress to include funding for
the border wall with Mexico as part of the big spending bill to keep the
government going. Democrats are against it, but so are some Republicans.
Could the government shut down over Trump`s wall?
Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.” He`s not going to like
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The far-right anti-immigrant
candidate Marine Le Pen made it to the final round of voting in France.
She`ll face off next month against Emmanuel Macron, a centrist and
political novice who beat her yesterday.
Well, the DailyBeast`s Christopher Dickey is in Paris for us tonight.
Christopher, thank you so much. This election – how did you figure it?
Did this surprise you that Macron came through from the center and
outpointed Le Pen?
CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, DAILYBEAST: Well, yes, it is surprising in the sense
that a year ago, very few people had heard of Emmanuel Macron. He created
this movement, not a political party, but a movement that`s supposed to
take people from the left and the right. And he steamrollered everybody
else and came out number one in the first round of these elections.
But he`s an interesting guy, and a little bit of a Governor Moonbeam kind
of guy. You sometimes watch him and you think, Is he really in touch with
the world? Well, I guess enough to get where he is.
But I think it`s going to be tough campaign for the next two weeks before
the final round of the elections. And he`s not a very good debater, as
we`ve seen. Marine Le Pen is, and I think she has kind of a rhetoric that
really speaks to the French people, and I`m not ruling her out as the next
president of France.
MATTHEWS: Really. Well, thank you very much, Christopher Dickey over in
When we come back, new information on the role that the FBI director, James
Comey, and why he played the role he did in the 2016 election. Why did he
keep quiet about Trump and Russia while going very public right before the
election about Clinton`s e-mails and Anthony Weiner and the whole rest of
HARDBALL back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you might have heard
today, the FBI…
TRUMP: … after discovering new e-mails, is reopening their investigation
into Hillary Clinton.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
You all remember that. Just 11 days before the 2016 election, Donald Trump
got an unexpected boost when FBI Director James Comey notified Congress and
the country that newly discovered e-mails warranted the reopening, the
public reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s server.
Ever since that bombshell announcement, Democrats have blamed Comey for
tipping the election to Trump, especially since we know that Trump and his
campaign were also under investigation at that same time, which Comey did
not confirm publicly until just last month, until March of this year.
Now “The New York Times” is out with a play-by-play account of Director
Comey`s decision-making in the heat of that election.
Quote: “In the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script, partly based on
the FBI`s expectation that she would win, and fearing the bureau would be
accused of helping her.”
I`m joined right now by the reporter who wrote that piece, Michael Schmidt
of “The New York Times.” Also, Clint Watts is a former FBI agent and with
the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Clint, thank you.
Michael, Democrats around me, when I talk to them, blame Comey. They said
11 days before the election, he changed everything. It was a game-changer.
She was winning in all the polls. Suddenly, for 11 days, people are
thinking, what`s the FBI got on her? It brought back all the sleaze of
Anthony Weiner and all the Huma connection. All the bad stuff came flowing
And, all of a sudden, I start hearing from two days before the election, I
hate Hillary. I hate Hillary. Never heard it before from these people.
What happened? Why did he do it?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: So, what happened at the FBI is
that Comey thought that, if they didn`t tell Congress, then – and Hillary
won, they would be accused of suppressing this information and not telling
them about this.
What happened was, Comey had told Congress the investigation was over. He
testified under oath. He said it was done. And he said, I have to go back
to Congress and I have to tell them that we are looking at this stuff
The FBI thought they had found the Holy Grail in the e-mail investigation,
which was e-mails from the first three months that she was in the State
Department. They had never found those e-mails, and they thought they
found them at that time. And the thing is, they thought if they were
MATTHEWS: So it wasn`t the Weiner e-mails?
SCHMIDT: No, no.
So, what happens is, they start the investigation on Weiner into him
texting with a teenage girl. And they`re going through his laptop looking
for different things. And they say, oh, wow, what are all these Hillary
Clinton e-mails doing here?
And the problem is, is that they can`t just start looking at those e-mails
at that point. This is in October. This is early October. They can`t
just look at them, because they only have a search warrant to look at
certain things on there. So, what begins is this slow process. And
there`s so many e-mails.
MATTHEWS: Why couldn`t they get another search warrant and get it over
SCHMIDT: Well, they did, but that`s why Comey went to Congress. Comey
went to Congress before they got…
MATTHEWS: Here`s what bothers me. And I`m trying to be totally neutral in
thinking about this from either side.
Why didn`t Comey just say, look, this is an election coming up in a week-
and-a-half, I shouldn`t say anything about anything until it`s over, so
what I`m going to do is – and move the procedure up to get this stuff
It turned out, when they did go look at those e-mails, it took them a few
hours, and they were done. So, he could have taken a few hours and said,
we will notify the Congress after we`re done.
SCHMIDT: It wasn`t a few hours. It was several days. It wasn`t a few
MATTHEWS: All right, two days.
SCHMIDT: But it didn`t take as long. They thought this was going to be a
months-long process, and it was going to involve the interagency and they
were going to have all these new e-mails and have to go to the CIA.
MATTHEWS: OK. Who…
SCHMIDT: But hold on.
But on the critics` side, what the critics would say is that Comey should
have followed the DOJ guidelines, which say that you don`t do things before
an election. And then Comey could have – if he got into trouble, could
fall back on the…
MATTHEWS: Clint, what do you think? Based upon your experience with the
agency, what would have been the right thing? Did he do the right thing?
CLINT WATTS, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: I think he was caught in
an interesting trap.
If you remember from Michael`s great article, two months before, he was
worried about the Russian meddling. The secondary line of Russian
influence during this time was that the election was rigged, the vote was
rigged. And so I`m sure that was weighing on his mind.
The other thing is, we were talking about maybe a leak, if you remember at
the time, that this could be leaked out of the FBI. So, I`m sure that
Comey was both weighing inside the FBI, what if this comes out some way
unnaturally, other than through official channels, and then also, if this
comes out after the election – and President Trump at the time was pushing
that the election was rigged – this would look like a conspiracy and would
also undermine democracy.
It would undermine President Clinton`s, had it turned out that way, mandate
to govern. So he was caught between two or three different traps. I don`t
know, if he had to do it over today, he would do the same thing, though.
MATTHEWS: Clint, how many Hillary lovers are there in the FBI, do you
WATTS: I would say that you might be surprised.
There are splits in all of the ranks, both inside the intel community and
inside the FBI. But I don`t really see this as a conspiracy. I sort of
see this as force/counterforce.
And everything you see in Michael`s article, you know, whether it`s Loretta
Lynch at the DOJ, or it`s Trump now pushing against Director Comey, he`s
trying to balance himself in a nonpartisan way. But he`s getting caught in
these political traps one way or another.
And the one that`s playing out right now is that you hear these sort of
taunting from the president about leaks. Well, if there`s a leak that
comes out of the FBI regarding this Russia investigation, that might be
grounds to fire Director Comey.
WATTS: Now that could be a replacement by Republican Donald Trump of the
FBI director, if there`s some sort of grounds for his firing. So, he`s
been caught for the last year-and-a-half in unbelievable political
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. You`re saying he went public out of fear that a
leak – he`s saying he went public out of the Obama administration before
the election out of fear that a leak would be blamed against him in a
subsequent Republican administration.
However, according to your article, Michael, he thought Hillary was going
SCHMIDT: Well, they were playing as if she was going to win.
MATTHEWS: No, he said – no, your article said…
SCHMIDT: No, no, they were afraid that 2017 would be House Republicans
hauling Comey up there all year long, to the point that he has to resign,
and that he would have been accused of suppressing this information.
MATTHEWS: The bad stuff on Hillary.
SCHMIDT: And they don`t think they could have gotten past that. They
think that would have been debilitating to the FBI.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this Loretta Lynch thing, because
your piece is so complete. And it has in there that he thought Loretta
Lynch was tilting the whatever to the Democrats. He thought she was a
SCHMIDT: In the fall of 2015, Comey and Lynch realize that they`re going
to have to address this publicly. And Comey goes over to meet with her at
the Department of Justice. And she says, call it a matter. Don`t call it
MATTHEWS: And this was before the 11th-day-out announcement.
SCHMIDT: Oh, this is in 2015.
SCHMIDT: And, at the time, that lined up directly with the Clinton talking
So, Comey says to his deputies, he says, well, why is she asking me to not
call it what it is?
MATTHEWS: Is this before which announcement?
SCHMIDT: This is in 2015. This is a year before everything happened.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. So, he thinks she is in cahoots or tilting to Hillary.
SCHMIDT: Well, he wants to know, why is she asking me to line up with
Hillary`s talking points?
Let me ask you, what about the meeting? Put it together. You have done
the great reporting here. Put it together. Why did Bill Clinton get on
the plane with her, with Loretta Lynch in a way that put a kibosh on her
credibility, fairly or not? Everybody on the right says, oh, they`re
dealing with each other.
SCHMIDT: Well, Lynch thought he was going to meet her at the bottom of the
stairs. And so she told her guards, her FBI agents that protect her to let
him, to say, oh, yes, send him over.
And they thought that meant, OK, come on. And then he comes on. And then
her staff is sitting there in the vans on the tarmac going, oh, gosh, this
is awful. How do we get him out of there? How do you pull the president
of the United States out of a thing like that?
Are they going to go in and say, sorry, Mr. President, you have to leave
right now? It was an impossible situation. It`s just one of the…
MATTHEWS: But they knew there was a problem right there?
SCHMIDT: Correct. Of course.
MATTHEWS: I`m glad everything somebody is sane these days.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Schmidt. Congratulations, another big – Clint
Watts, thank you for your knowledge of the agency, and a lot more time with
you next time.
Up next: President Obama returned to the public stage today. My question
tonight, what are Democrats doing to win back the White House? A little
early, I know, but let`s get some early thoughts from a smart, successful
Democrat from Illinois.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, in his first public appearance since he left the presidency, former
President Obama hosted a discussion on civic engagement, calling on young
voters to mobilize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single most
important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next
generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack
at changing the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats are sensing an opportunity, of course.
In the past two special elections in Kansas and Georgia since Trump`s
election, Democrats have performed 10 to 20 points better than they did as
recently as 2016. And at the same time, Republicans are sounding some
alarm bells ahead of the 2018 midterm congressional elections.
According to Politico: “Senior Republicans are expressing early concern
about Trump`s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record low approval
ratings, and the overall dysfunction that`s gripped his administration.”
Democrats are obviously trying to capitalize on the wave of anti-Trump
momentum, hosting massive training operations for aspiring candidates,
campaign managers and field directors. In Illinois, Democrats have picked
up seats in places they have never won before.
Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos represents Illinois`s
Northwestern 17th Congressional District, there it is on the Iowa border,
in 2016, which she won by 20 points and Donald Trump won by a point. By
comparison, in 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney there by 17 points.
The congresswoman knows a little bit about winning in a moderate district.
She joins me now.
Congresswoman, what is so impressive is about your district, they voted
heavily for President Obama, voted heavily for you, voted narrowly by a
squeaker for Trump. And so you`re interesting, because people want to
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m surrounded by a lot of progressives, not just in
this industry, but socially. And they seem to think, at least in the short
Just resist, hate Trump, talk about how much you hate Trump, and that`s
going to do it. And I`m also looking at these latest numbers that the
Trump voters haven`t fallen. They`re 96 percent where they are last
November. The Republicans are heavily for Trump, four out of five.
So, that resistance ain`t going to change history. What will change the
history back for the Democrats, your party?
REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: Well, in a district like mine, it can`t
just be this total resistance.
You have got to have a plan. You also have to talk about what you`re going
to do. And I would argue why I won by 20 and why President Obama is, I
talked about jobs and the economy nonstop.
I have done that from the day I announced in 2011. And I have done that
for all three of my elections as well, talk about jobs and the economy.
That`s what people want to know you`re going to be fighting for.
MATTHEWS: What`s the Democratic plan to create more jobs?
BUSTOS: Well, we have got to talk about that.
MATTHEWS: What is it? Is there one?
BUSTOS: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What is it?
BUSTOS: There`s a make it in America package that has been around actually
for several terms now.
Steny Hoyer, who is our number two ranking Democrat in the House, he`s the
architect of this. We all have several bills in this. But it`s looking at
things like, I have got a bill in there called Boosting America`s Exports.
So, what that does is, it goes into some of the small towns like I
represent, talks with manufacturers, and says, you have got a product that
you could sell overseas, but you`re not like a John Deere. John Deere is
in my district, the world headquarters.
They have lawyers sitting around the table, and they can find countries to
export to. These smaller companies can`t. So, we`re saying, let`s put
these export assistance centers in these smaller areas, work with
businesses, and find a place where they can – so they can sell their
MATTHEWS: You mean the government is not doing that now?
BUSTOS: Well, they do it, but…
MATTHEWS: I thought every trade mission, every one of our embassies has a
commercial attache whose his or her job is just what you said, to create
opportunities for American business oversees.
BUSTOS: Well, we need to do better. And we need to focus on some of these
small towns where we as Democrats have not been successful.
MATTHEWS: What about the cultural piece? The economic piece, I can see.
I think the Democrats have always been trusted, always, they created Social
Security, they`re going to keep it. They created Medicare, they`re going
to keep it. They created Obamacare, they`re going to refine it and make it
better. They`re going to fight for it. People know that.
But the sense that people are really being talked down to, you know what it
is, a sense of the Democratic Party being the Ivy League party, the party
that is sort of a little sniffy towards regular people, and they get it and
they don`t like it.
Explain that. How do you? They vote for Trump. Trump is playing them
that all the time.
BUSTOS: Well, I`ll tell you what I do. And this is something that I`m
sharing with people who are members of Congress currently and those who are
looking for run for Congress.
I`m sharing these ideas with them. When I`m not out in Washington, I`m at
home. And I do a couple things that I think are somewhat unique. One is,
we do what is called supermarket Saturdays.
So, on Saturdays, I walk up and down the aisles of grocery stores all over
this congressional district I represent, 7,000 square miles, 14 counties.
And while grandmas are buying their Corn Flakes, and grandpas and dads are
buying their tangerines, I`m introducing myself.
MATTHEWS: I like it.
BUSTOS: And I say, what do you want me to know when I head back out to
Washington next week?
MATTHEWS: Do you keep notes?
BUSTOS: I have a staffer with me, so, in case we have open a case, then we
can do that, too.
BUSTOS: But we listen, and then we go back out to Washington, and we do
MATTHEWS: So, you meet the people and hear them?
BUSTOS: Absolutely. Listen to people. Listen. Show up.
MATTHEWS: I like that.
By the way, when I ran for Congress in my 20s, I developed one technique
for supermarkets, because I didn`t have any money, so I would campaign – I
always worked against traffic in the supermarket.
BUSTOS: Yes, that`s smart.
MATTHEWS: I know how people start to the right and go around. I would
start from the left and go around the other way, because I would only bump
into the person once that way, once.
I would be meeting them as they came at me, and then I would be going
through, and I would always meet everybody that way.
BUSTOS: I will use that at my next supermarket Saturday. I like it.
MATTHEWS: I`m sure you know that. You`re just being – you`re being
MATTHEWS: You know that. You work against traffic. That`s how you meet
people face to face.
BUSTOS: I like it.
MATTHEWS: You don`t want to come up behind somebody. You want to – you
will spook them.
MATTHEWS: But thank you. You sound like you have got a winning message.
BUSTOS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
Up next: Democrat – actually, Republican President Trump is pressuring
his own party to pay for the border wall.
Good luck. Mexico is not going to pay for it. Neither is your party.
But will the government shut down over this thing? That`s ahead.
And you`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I`m very hopeful we can get a
budget done by Friday. We`ve asked the president not to interfere. If he
doesn`t interfere, we can get this done. If he demands things poison pills
like the wall, which not only Democrats but Republicans oppose, every
single Republican on the border – Texas, Arizona, New Mexico oppose it –
we can get this done. We`d ask him to let us do our work and not throw in
some last minute poison pills that can undo it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That was Senate Democratic Leader Chuck
Schumer warning the president not to interfere with negotiations over
keeping the government open this week. The lights will be turned off at
midnight this Friday unless Congress passes the spending bill. Otherwise,
the money runs out, the door is closed.
But as Republicans and Democrats hammer a deal this week, President Trump
is trying to force Congress` hand by taking a harder line on insuring
funding for his campaign promises, including the one he campaign hardest on
the border wall with Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will build a great wall
along the southern border.
And Mexico will pay for the wall.
We`re going to build the wall. We have no choice. We have no choice.
We`re going to build the wall. It`s going to be built. It`s not even,
believe it or not, it`s not even a difficult thing to do.
The wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me. It just got 10 feet taller.
Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall.
Build that wall.
I`m going to say, Mexico, guess what, this is not going to continue, you`re
going to pay for the wall. And I`ve said they`re going to pay for the wall
and they will pay for the wall.
And who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: And who is going to pay for the wall?
TRUMP: And who is going to pay for the wall?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump promised his base of supporters that he would build
a wall and he promised Mexico would pay for the wall. And now, he`s asking
Congress to pay for the wall.
Yesterday, he still insisted in a tweet that in the future, Mexico will
pay. He tweeted, “Eventually, at a later date, so we can get started
early, Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly needed border
But Democrats need to sign off on the spending bills and yesterday, Nancy
Pelosi said her party opposes the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Democrats do not support
the wall and I think that the Republicans on the border state do not
support the wall. The Republicans have the votes in the House and the
Senate and the White House to keep government open. The burden to keep it
open is on the Republicans.
The wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise and what the president
says, well, I promised the wall during my campaign, I don`t think he said
he was going to pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall on to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, with Democrats at odds with the president over his most
famous campaign pledge, who will blink first in the showdown over potential
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL table: Jamal Simmons is Democratic strategist,
John Brabender is a Republican strategist, an imprimatur with truth, Kasie
Hunt, NBC News congressional correspondent.
Kasie, first of all, we`re hearing all through the grapevine that Trump is
about to throw in the towel on the wall, that he`s not going to fight for
it this time. I don`t think he ever will. What are you hearing?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so, the original
plan was to put it in a supplemental spending bill that was slated for the
fall and not have this fight now. Nobody in Congress was expecting the
Trump administration to have this fight now. And honestly, if you listen
between the lines of what was said today, it sounds like what they`re
saying is they`re using words like border security.
So, Sean Spicer said, if we get border security on some of the wall, that
will be OK. And Democrats have never really opposed that. So, I think
there`s just some question as to whether the president fully understands
the acts that he was making by trying to put it –
MATTHEWS: Why would a Democrat vote for spending continuation this year on
the House side? Why would they vote for – why wouldn`t they just say to
the Republicans, you`ve got a huge lead on us here, you come up with the
216 votes, we`re not lifting a finger? I don`t understand, even with
sophisticated surveillance cameras or rather concrete, why they go along
with anything on the wall.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There`s no way the Democrats are
going to vote for this deal if it`s got a wall on it?
MATTHEWS: How about the thing that we`re talking about, sophisticated
SIMMONS: Look, everybody, everybody believe there should be protection at
the border -
MATTHEWS: No, but will Democrats vote for a spending bill that includes
SIMMONS: I can see something like that would happen. For sure, why not?
HUNT: Because they`ve never been against them. It was in the
comprehensive immigration reform plan. People will talk about smart
security and I think they don`t want is a headline that says, we voted for
that big beautiful 10-foot extra higher wall that the President Trump –
SIMMONS: And the president is playing the shell game here. I mean, he
said Mexico is going to pay for it.
MATTHEWS: Look, I`m going back to the basics here, you never want to raise
the debt ceiling because then your opponent in the next election, Democrat
or Republican, says you`ve raised the debt, you`ve increased the debt. You
vote for it, it sounds like you`re increasing the debt.
The Republicans never voted for it for Democrats when they were in power,
why are the Democrats helping the Republicans?
MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why they`re not just resisting it.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What you`re really talking about
the dynamics we now have. You have the Democrats in the House who aren`t
going to go with anything Donald Trump does. I mean, if he says here`s our
plan for cancer, and getting rid of cancer, they`re going to say –
MATTHEWS: Casey says they`re going to vote –
BRABENDER: Number two.
HUNT: You`re putting cameras.
BRABENDER: Tell me the deal that the Democrats are going to go with Trump.
Anything on Trump`s agenda, what are they going to go with him on?
HUNT: This is not necessarily suppose to be a bill that`s about Trump`s
BRABENDER: Well, he got elected president of the United States by the
HUNT: Sure, but members of Congress all before the Easter recess,
Republicans, Democrats, House and Senate, they were all saying, it`s all
going to be fine, we`re not going to shut it down, obviously, Republicans
were taking the lead. They were going to do some major appropriations
But at the end of the day, they felt like the White House was mostly
MATTHEWS: It`s a totally partisan question, right, why should Democrats
help – no, the answer will probably be partisan. That`s why I`m asking
MATTHEWS: Why should Democrats help Trump pass a spending bill, a keep the
government open bill? Because he has enough Republican votes to keep the
government going in the House. Now, on the Senate, once you get over
there, yes, he needs 60. But he doesn`t need them in the House, why should
the House members give him a single vote?
SIMMONS: Listen, Democrats actually care about government working. There
are people who are –
MATTHEWS: But the Republicans have enough votes to do it.
SIMMONS: Yes, it`s a completely different thing. The problem is the
president is erratic and the president is incompetent and they`re trying to
figure out how to do a deal with these guys. But the president is throwing
issues that are going to blow the deal –
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to the wall. During the campaign, I understand
politics, Trump ran with the people out there ticked off, and they didn`t
like illegal immigration. Probably, the Democrats haven`t really pushed
hard with the alternative program lately. They did once in the bipartisan
bill, the comprehensive bill which passed the Senate. But they haven`t
So, Trump has got the only game in town in terms of stopping illegal
immigration. I get it. But do you think he`s going to get a wall built,
paid for by the United States government. Do you think that`s going to
BRABENDER: I think he`s never going to stop talking about it and here`s
MATTHEWS: OK, that`s different.
BRABENDER: If you look – if you look at where he won, he got every vote,
every state Romney did, plus Florida, put that aside, Ohio, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. The Democrats keep saying he`s playing to his
base. You know what? The Trump base includes a lot of Democrats.
SIMMONS: No, it doesn`t?
BRABENDER: OK, if it doesn`t, how did he win Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
without those Democrats?
SIMMONS: He won Wisconsin because people didn`t show up who were
Democratic voters. If they got –
BRABENDER: There`s a million more Democrats than Republicans.
MATTHEWS: I know the argument and I don`t agree with it. But go ahead.
HUNT: Yes, I agree more with John in this particular instance. I mean,
look, the other reality of this is, what are they asking for as far as wall
payment? It`s like a billion dollars. You know how much of the wall that
would pay for, maybe six inches of the wall. It`s a $30 billion wall in
HUNT: So, this is, more about who can claim a win on hundred days, and
Chuck Schumer and the Democrats think that this is an issue that divides
Republicans. And so, that means that it is win for them, because there are
a lot of Republicans, even along the border, who do not think the wall is
BRABENDER: Here`s what you`re really seeing is, the Democrats are looking
at 2018 while Donald Trump is looking at 2020.
HUNT: That maybe true.
BRABENDER: And so, you have a lot of Republicans in the House who have to
look at 2018. And so, there are –
MATTHEWS: Brabender – Brabender is so smart because I remember in `82,
Democrats picked up huge numbers of seats, Reagan got reelected easily in
`84, because it`s a different question. Who is leading you and what do you
agree on dollars and cents?
SIMMONS: Chris, people want two things. They want courage and they want
vision. Democrats are good on courage. We haven`t figured out vision yet.
That`s how we win.
MATTHEWS: Figure out the immigration issue, and have a Democratic position
I like to hear, because I haven`t heard from many Democrats here. I never
heard a Democrat – I never heard, I ask every night, Democrats tell me
your position on illegal immigration.
The roundtable is sticking with us, and up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, tomorrow on HARDBALL, our look at President Trump`s first
100 days continues. We`re going to go inside Trump`s war on the media with
front line journalists and strategists. Today, he said he gets the best
rating since 9/11. Think about that one.
And our special coverage continues Wednesday with one of the big voices of
the resistance, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts coming to
Ohio Governor John Kasich is going to join us on Thursday.
And we`ll cap off the week with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable.
Kasie, tell me something I don`t know.
HUNT: There`s some really early signs that Paul Ryan`s relationship with
the White House might be on the rocks.
A key thing to watch, tax reform. Their officials are going up to the Hill
tomorrow to talk about it. Paul Ryan has a lot in the line. He really
wants his border adjustment tax to pay for it. It doesn`t balance
otherwise. I think if the White House goes for it, that will tell you
something about how they feel about the speaker and if they don`t, it will
be a major blow.
SIMMONS: The BDC (ph) is the newest hot newsletter in town, it`s following
people of color around Capitol Hill and around Washington, D.C. I`m editor
at large. People are starting –
MATTHEWS: Oh, a promotional.
SIMMONS: Yes, did you know?
MATTHEWS: BDC (ph), and Jamal Simmons is involved in this program?
SIMMONS: Did you know about it?
MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t.
MATTHEWS: Well, yes. When is your birthday?
SIMMONS: July 20th.
MATTHEWS: Just kidding. Go ahead, John Brabender, with some information.
BRABENDER: There`s some fresh data in Pennsylvania that a lot of the
Democrats who voted for Trump are not happy with Bob Casey. There`s a new
push to get one of three congressmen to run in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Let me hear it quick.
BRABENDER: Lou Barletta, Mike Kelly or Keith Rothfus.
MATTHEWS: Barletta, an immigrant guy.
BRABENDER: Which will play very well in Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: I know all about that, but I think Casey will beat him.
Anyway, thank you, Kasie Hunt. Thank you, Jamal Simmons.
When he is your birthday?
SIMMONS: July 20th. I`ll expect a present.
MATTHEWS: That means writing cards for you, anyway.
And John Brabender.
When we return let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. He won`t like it.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, April 24, 2017.
What can you say about a president of the United States, the only with gut,
who says that his press secretary is doing a smash up job his briefings are
beating the daily soft operas.
I`m sorry, is Trump one of those people who buys those thin magazines at
the Safeway check out counter that bring you up-to-date on “General
Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives”? It gets worse.
What can you say about the head of the country that was hit on 9/11 who
says he`s bigger than 9/11? Is that grotesque or what? At least John
Lennon said he was bigger than Jesus. That was garden variety blasphemy.
Trump`s claim takes it to an all new level, what can you say about a human
being who says he`s bigger than the hard deaths of 3,000 of his own country
men? That`s right, what can you say?
A hundred days in to this jamboree of craziness and we`re still wondering,
where this mad, bummer numbers going to take us. Nixon said he could win
the Vietnam War by convincing the enemy he was capable of doing something
truly awful, like bombing the whole country to hell. What`s Trump got
planned for us?
All we know is how he`ll score it. The bigger the ratings, the bigger the
size, the bigger his size. If Sean Spicer got his job security that way,
don`t you think his boss will at least try? Maybe we should all be glad,
given who is sitting in the White House, that we`re whizzing past the 100-
day mark right now at least almost.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the