Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/21/17 New North Korea sanctions

Guests:
Sam Stein, Philip Elliott, Anita Kumar, Glenn Thrush; Jennifer Rogers, Nayyera Haq, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jeff Bauman
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: September 21, 2017
Guest: Sam Stein, Philip Elliott, Anita Kumar, Glenn Thrush; Jennifer
Rogers, Nayyera Haq, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jeff Bauman


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: White House surrounded.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Boston.

We know that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of federal
investigators are looking at all the president`s men, but it`s now clear
that Mueller has a bigger fish to try. He`s zeroing in on the president
himself.

Mueller`s requests for documents from the White House reveal he`s keenly
interested in the president`s behavior in office, specifically what steps
Trump might have taken to derail, impede or otherwise obstruct an ongoing
federal investigation. Mueller has requested extensive records and
correspondence. As “The Washington Post” reports, quote, “White House
lawyers are now working to turn over internal documents that span 13
categories that investigators for the special counsel have identified as
critical to their probe. The requests indicate, among other things, that
Mueller is digging into the president`s role – in president`s role in
crafting a misleading statement that was put out this June to defend his
son.

After it was discovered Donald Trump, Jr., arranged a meeting with Russians
during last year`s campaign, “The Washington Post” reported that Trump
personally dictated a statement in which Trump, Junior, said that he and
the Russian lawyer had primarily discussed a program for the adoption of
Russian children. Now Politico is reporting that Mueller wants the phone
records from aboard Air Force One, where that statement was reportedly
drafted by the president.

Another incident under scrutiny is the president`s meeting with Russian
diplomats in the Oval Office this May, just one day after he fired former
FBI director James Comey. It was there that Trump told the Russians,
quote, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nutjob. I
faced great pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off.” Wow.

All signs indicate that Mueller is building a case for obstruction of
justice. Joining me right now is Ken Dilanian, an investigative reporter
with NBC News, of course, Glenn Thrush, White House correspondent for “The
New York Times,” and Jennifer Rogers, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

Jennifer, talk about obstruction of justice. Is that an impeachable
offense?

JENNIFER ROGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: It is. Of course,
impeachment is kind of what the House makes of it. It`s not like a
criminal statute, where the definitions are clear. But historically,
obstruction is one of the crimes that has been central in impeachment
proceedings. So if the Mueller team makes out a case that Trump actually
obstructed justice, then certainly, I think it could be impeachable.

MATTHEWS: So if the president`s caught trying to rewrite history about a
meeting his son had with the Russians, would that be covering up? Would
that be hiding evidence? Would that be obstruction?

ROGERS: You know, it could be. It really depends on kind of the totality
of the circumstances here. There`s no question that Mueller`s team is
going to be looking at all the facts, but they would have to show that the
president intentionally obstructed this investigation, or tried to do so.
So the piece of evidence about the dictating of this statement on the plane
is just one piece of this, but it could show that the president was trying
to kind of divert attention from what his son was doing with the Russians,
which could kind of play into this whole larger case when you look at what
the president was doing with respect to James Comey.

MATTHEWS: Well, how about the other piece, Jennifer? How about the
president basically telling the Russians, who were obviously seen by
prosecutors as party to this whole thing – telling them how relieved he is
that he got rid of Comey and the threat of a Russian probe seemed to have
been relieved, in his thinking. Does the president`s open perception and
admission that he has removed himself from some justice action by the
Justice Department, by the prosecutor – does that in itself admit to
obstruction because he`s saying, Look, I did something to remove a problem.
I obstructed an investigation.

ROGERS: It doesn`t by itself get you there. I mean, you wouldn`t want to
put that in as your only piece of evidence. But again, you`re trying to
prove what the president was intending to do. So this, like a lot of other
things, shows that he really was very concerned about this issue and that,
certainly, his statement indicates that removing Jim Comey took some
pressure off of him.

Now, he would say, Oh, it`s just because he was doing a terrible job with
it, I wanted it to move more quickly, you know, things like that. And you
know, ultimately, it would be up to either a jury or the House to decide
whether that`s believable. But these are just all kind of pieces of the
puzzle that Mueller`s team is trying to put together.

MATTHEWS: We also know that Mueller`s team is interested in speaking to
several current and former White House aides. Mike Allen of Axios shed
some light on why Mueller might be particularly interested in Sean Spicer,
reporting today that the former press secretary took copious notes that
could be a treasure trove for investigators.

Quote, “Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled notebook
after notebook during meetings at the RNC, later at the Trump campaign, and
then in the White House.” However, when Allen reached Spicer for comment,
Spicer wrote, “Please refrain from sending me unsolicited texts and e-
mails. Should you not do so, I will contact the – if you keep it up, I`m
going to contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your
harassment.” Wow.

Spicer was also unresponsive to the questions about his involvement in the
investigation in an interview that aired this morning. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the Mueller team reached out to you at all?

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m not going to discuss
that issue at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you hired a lawyer?

SPICER: I`m not going to discuss that issue at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you haven`t been subpoenaed?

SPICER: I`m not going discuss that issue at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever hear inside the White House that Mueller
should be fired?

SPICER: I`m not going to discuss that issue at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Glenn, put this together, what they`re trying to find out about
Trump, what he said on the airplane in dictating that cover story, if you
will, for what his son was up to in that meeting last June, and also what
the meeting with the Russians were about in terms of expressing relief that
he was no longer under the pressure he thought he was under when Comey was
FBI director, and now this going after Spicer for seeing how good a Boswell
he was, keeping records of everything he witnessed. I mean, he could end
up being the John Dean of this case. What do you think of it all? Put it
all altogether.

GLENN THRUSH, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, I don`t think – you know, likening
Sean Spicer to John Dean might be a little bit of a stretch. You know,
having been a colleague…

MATTHEWS: All right, Boswell.

THRUSH: Having been a colleague of Mike Allen`s for seven years, he can
text me any time he wants, by the way.

Look, I think the issue here, particularly with the cover story that Trump
was discussing on Air Force One – and I should say my colleague, Maggie
Haberman did a lot of really good reporting on that at the time – that
cover story about the adoption conversation, remember, had a lot to do with
the sanctions themselves. So that might be a little bit of an out for
Trump, that, in fact, discussing the adoption issue was, in fact, talking
about sanctions because remember, Putin`s government put a ban on American
adoptions of Russian kids as a way to get the sanctions lifted. So the two
things are a little bit related.

The stuff with Kislyak was just – and a lot of that stuff was reported in
real time, by the way, not by the American press. We were not allowed in
the room. There was not an American photographer in the room, but by the
Russian press.

MATTHEWS: Right.

THRUSH: So I think all – you know, all of those things add up.

But Chris, in terms of the obstruction of justice question – you know,
it`s funny. We`re talking about subpoenas and we`re talking about Mueller.
For me thus far, the most compelling data point was his on the record
conversation with Lester Holt in which he essentially blew up his own cover
story about Comey and Hillary Clinton and said essentially that he intended
to fire him all along. So I think, you know, I wonder if Mueller`s going
to talk to Lester Holt.

MATTHEWS: You know, another thing on this while I have you on, Glenn –
and you`re a reporter and you`re sort of the aggressive person trying to
find out what`s going on inside the White House. That`s your job
description, find out what`s going on. You know, from the other end, I was
told that White House staffers were told by just evidence over the years
now, ever since whatever, Watergate, stop keeping records, stop keeping any
kind of diary because it all could be subpoenaed.

THRUSH: Look, Sean is a guy who has always done it his own way. I mean,
like, Sean Spicer is a very idiosyncratic fellow, you know? I had a – you
know, I had a conversation with him the other day, right after his
appearance on the Emmys, and he denied essentially having the conversation.

Sean, I think – I know that when I had conversations with Sean over the
course of the years, he always – he did also keep notes. I heard similar
things from sources in the White House about him keeping notes. I don`t
know if they were sort of the day diary kind of things. I do know I`ve had
conversations with any number of people in the White House who have
emphasized to me – actually, some of whom have had conversations with
Clinton folks who were around during the impeachment in `97 and `98 who
said that they were counselled not to do that.

The question, though, Chris, becomes this. The reason why Sean got very
angry at Mike Allen isn`t because of a personal thing, it`s because he
understands the implications of this are dire in terms of his own
pocketbook. We have not seen a lot of lawyering-up yet. I think as this
moves closer to the president, a lot of these lower-level staffers that get
paid 70,000, 80,000 bucks a year are going to start having to pay $20,000
and $30,000 to lawyers.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me go – let me go to – let me go to Ken
Dilanian on all this. Ken, put it together. You`ve been listening to this
conversation attentively. And we have what looks to be an attempt by the
prosecutors, led by Mueller, Bob Mueller, to try to find out what they got
on Trump. I mean, this is really getting close to him, what he did
possibly to obstruct justice with regard to that cover explanation of what
his son was doing in Trump Tower last year. What he was doing is
expressing relief about what looked to be the success of his firing Comey.

These are sort of elements to me – I`m not a lawyer, I say it all the
time. But as Jennifer said, they seem to be pieces of a puzzle. What do
we need here in terms to see something that could be presented to the House
of Representatives for impeachment, devoted (ph) to the end game here?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Here`s what
we need, Chris. As Jennifer said, obstruction of justice is a crime of
intent. It`s about the president`s mental state. And so it wasn`t enough
that he told Lester Holt that Russia was on his mind when he fired James
Comey. They`re looking for evidence that he told somebody in the White
House, preferably in writing, that he did this to make the Russia
investigation go away. And in that sense, the documents are going to be
much more valuable than the witnesses because, after all, these are
witnesses who are predisposed to be sympathetic to Donald Trump. They may
shade their testimony. You can`t count on them necessarily to tell the
full story.

But the documents will tell the story. If Sean Spicer took detailed notes,
those notes will tell the story, the phone records. That`s what Mueller is
digging into right now, and they`re hoping for a piece of evidence that
sheds light on Donald Trump`s mental state and him suggesting that he fired
Comey and he did these other things because he wanted to make the Russia
investigation stop, Chris.

MATTHEWS: This is fascinating stuff, guys. Thank you all for joining us,
Ken Dilanian, Glenn Thrush and Jennifer Rogers.

Coming up, President Trump announces new sanctions on North Korea and is
leaning towards – this is NBC`s reporting – pulling out of the nuclear
deal, not certifying it. That could be really wild. What happened to his
campaign promise of not getting America into stupid wars, however? What`s
he want to go to war with Iran for?

Plus, the 11th-hour last gasp effort by Republicans to kill “Obama care,”
their one last stop at the saloon. Their plan is coming up for a vote next
week. It`s got a shot to actually pass. I can`t believe this. But even
his supporters can`t get their talking points straight.

Anyway – and “Stronger,” the new movie about one man`s battle to overcome
the loss of his legs after the Boston Marathon bombing. Actor Jake
Gyllenhaal`s going to be with us tonight, along with the bombing survivor
he plays in the movie. I`m up in Boston, by the way.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Amid growing pressure, Facebook has announced that it will turn
over to Congress more than 3,000 political ads that were bought by Kremlin-
linked accounts during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook`s CEO Mark
Zuckerberg made the announcement earlier today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: We are actively working with the U.S.
government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We`ve
been investigating this for many months now, and for a while, we had found
no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russian – linked to Russia running
ads. And when we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that
information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress. And this
morning, I directed our team to provide the ads we found to Congress, as
well.

We will continue our own investigation into what happened on Facebook in
this election. We may find more. And if we do, we will continue to work
with the government on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: God, he sounds like Jesse Eisenberg, who played him in the
movie!

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has great
strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies,
we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is
on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump, as you just heard,
threatened to wipe North Korea off the map. He also nicknamed its leader
again “rocket man.”

Well, today, President Trump announced he was slapping new sanctions on
North Korea and companies that finance trade with that country. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: North Korea`s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave
threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that
others financially support this criminal rogue regime. The regime can no
longer count on others to facilitate its trade and banking activities.
Many countries are working with us to increase economic and diplomatic
pressure on North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this week, President Trump also had tough talk for Iran
and the nuclear deal the U.S. signed with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions
the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an
embarrassment to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, the president said a decision on whether to
stay or leave that deal with Iran would come soon. NBC News reports he is
leaning toward decertifying the nuclear deal and putting the decision of
whether the United States withdraws from the accord in the hands of
Congress.

Well, on two major issues, North Korea and Iran, the president is showing
how unpredictable he can be, but what does the world think of all this?
Sam Stein is politics editor at the DailyBeast and Nayyera Haq is a former
national security official in the Obama White House.

Sam, let`s start with North Korea. Of course, that was one of the “axis of
evil” that George Bush talked about, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. What will
additional sanctions – I just don`t know how anybody thinks a little more
of this incremental war is going to work, economic war is going to work.

SAM STEIN, DAILYBEAST: Well, what are the other options is the question.
I mean, every president prior to Trump has been hamstrung here, too. You
can do a military option, you can do a diplomatic option, you can try to
find something in between. And sanctions is basically the primary tool
that you have in the something in between zone.

The problem that Trump has is that sanctions have to be a means to an end.
And the means to an end is some sort of agreement that would take away
North Korea`s nuclear capability or pause it or something of the sort. And
what the template for that is the Iran deal.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: And we know that Donald Trump obviously thinks the Iran deal was an
embarrassment to the United States. So he has to find a way to be as much
carrots as sticks, or at least some carrots in addition to sticks. And
right now, it`s primarily sticks. And I don`t know how that works, but
he`s trying to thread that needle.

MATTHEWS: Let me go – let me go to Nayyera on that one. What is the
stick that works with this guy who seems to be concerned primarily with his
own survival as dictator of North Korea?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, let`s not
pretend that Donald Trump is doing sanctions because it`s actually good
policy, or it happens to be the tactic of the day. He`s doing it because
it`s something he can put his name on because as our colleague mentioned,
if he wanted to continue a sanction regime with the threat of military
force following and move to a peace deal, that would be the Iran template.

Instead, he`s interested in undoing the Iran template, which would lead to
nuclearization of Iran much sooner, in the next year, rather than the next
10 or 15 years. He would rather have that outcome and have his name on a
deal or his name on an executive order than actually follow something that
would work with the international community and bring these rogue actors to
heel.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`ve said something I haven`t thought of, and that is
the fact that when it came to Iran, our threat, of course, was we`d bomb –
we`d have bunker-buster bombs that we`d put into play and blow those –
whatever nuclear weapons he had ready over there, the ayatollah – we`d
blow them to smithereens and hope for what was coming next.

But in the case of Korea, North Korea, is it credible that we would have a
weapons system capable of surgically hitting those weapons?

HAQ: The challenge we`re going to have with North Korea is the proximity
to other allies and other people we care about.

It`s a very densely populated peninsula. And so South Korea needs to be –
and the South Korean population need to be taken into account when we deal
with any threat of military strike.

MATTHEWS: Sam, your thoughts on this?

Is there any way to use the threat of force to get them to the table
together with sanctions? Does the combo work this time?

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I suppose, in a theoretical universe,
yes.

The problem is, it doesn`t seem to be the case right now. And also the
problem is that Donald Trump has what seemed to be sort of contradictory
approaches here. So, on the one hand, he`s upping these sanctions. He`s
proposing secondary sanctions. He wants to completely cut off the regime
in an attempt, ostensibly, to isolate its leader, so that its populace
turns on him.

On the other hand, though, he does things like these rhetorical devices,
Rocket Man, which, while they may be good for domestic political
consumption, effectively elevate Kim in his own country, into the villain
of the United States, who gets a stage alongside Donald Trump.

So there are nuances to this approach that I believe the administration is
missing.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HAQ: Yes.

STEIN: And, you know, I have talked to a professional longtime North
Korean diplomats about this, and they think the Rocket Man approach is just
plain old dumb. They think it`s counterproductive and they`re not sure why
he does it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I can`t believe – we have got to quit here.

But I have got to tell you, I cannot believe he`s going to destroy the
Iranian nuclear deal. He ran on a promise of no more stupid wars. We
avoided a war with Iran. Why does he want to open up the possibility of
one? It makes no sense whatever. Pottery house rules apply. You break
it, you bought it. And he doesn`t want a nuclear Iran.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein.

STEIN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Nayyera Haq.

Please come back.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Republicans are making a last-ditch effort, as
everyone knows, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but can they win over
holdouts, holdouts like McCain, who I think likes being a holdout, and Lisa
Murkowski, who is quite courageous up there in Alaska/

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.

Breaking news from Mexico, where more than 270 people have died in that
massive earthquake. Rescue efforts are ongoing at a primary school, and
there are conflicting reports about survivors.

Mariana Atencio is live in Mexico.

Mariana Atencio, what`s the latest?

MARIANA ATENCIO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Milissa, we have been live here since
the very early morning bringing you the dramatic minute-by-minute
developments on the ground here as search-and-rescue teams continue to try
and search for bodies, for possible survivors in that elementary school
behind me here in Mexico City.

The stories of the people possibly trapped inside have changed dramatically
since the morning. We got here and we started hearing about a young girl
named Frida Sofia. That theory was debunked.

People on the ground, first-responders telling us that they believe one to
three children were here trapped inside on the ground. And, in fact, I
spoke to Colonel Ruiz (ph), who is leading some of the efforts here, and
that is what he corroborated.

Right now, search-and-rescue teams have identified one to three bodies
possibly alive or dead here on the scene, and search-and-rescue missions
will continue overnight here in Mexico City – Milissa.

REHBERGER: Mariana Atencio in Mexico City – back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”: So, last night on our show, a
senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy, I took him to task for promising to
my face that he would oppose any health care plan that allowed insurance
companies to turn people with preexisting conditions away and any health
care plan that had an annual or a lifetime cap on how much they would pay
out for medical care.

But, unfortunately and puzzlingly, he proposed a bill that would allow
states to do all the things he said he would not let them do. He made a
total about-face, which means he either doesn`t understand his own bill or
he lied to me. It`s as simple as that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans have until September 30 to repeal and replace Obamacare, and
they`re working overtime to get the votes. The bill needs 50 votes to
pass, plus the vice president, of course. And with Senator Rand Paul
already a no, Republicans can only afford to lose one more.

All eyes are on Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain, who voted no in the
last repeal effort.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley has this to say about the legislation:
“Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to
carry out what you said in the campaign. That`s pretty much as much a
reason as substance for the bill.” He says more important that you
promised than it`s a good bill.

The urgency is apparent in Republicans` defense of the bill, which the
Congressional Budget Office will not be able to score before the deadline.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This doesn`t fix everything with Obamacare. It can`t.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You can have different opinions
about the quality of this bill. At the end of the day, this is the only
process left available to stop a march towards socialism.

QUESTION: Will people who currently have coverage, medical coverage, lose
it under your plan in the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen, millions of people lost coverage under
Obamacare.

QUESTION: Yes or no, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no guarantees, other than – other than the
fact that premiums have already doubled. They will continue to skyrocket.
And we are going to have to continue to throw money at a failing program.
It just simply doesn`t work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent
Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, this has the looks of a three-game playoff in which the Republicans
have to win two of the three games. That means McCain, Collins or
Murkowski, they have got to win two of them.

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It looks like they`re probably not going to
get Collins` vote, Chris. I would be extremely surprised if that happen.

The focus is really honing in on Lisa Murkowski. They`re trying really
hard behind the scenes to scrape together some sort of deal for Alaska that
could help her get to where she needs to be. John McCain has kept some
remarkable distance from this, considering he and Lindsey Graham are
basically best friends in the Senate.

He keeps saying, hey, I want regular order. This is technically regular
order, but it`s very unusual to have a bill of this magnitude forced
through in a week-and-a-half.

So, I think they still have a long way to go. Their – the mood has
definitely shifted among Republicans. They went home. They talked – it`s
not just big donors, Chris. It`s people they have known for their whole
careers, their local Chamber of Commerce, a lot of people who said to them,
hey, why can`t you get anything done?

And I think that`s what`s really motivating this new push.

MATTHEWS: Are they worried about the pottery house rule that – Pottery
Barn rule that Colin Powell used to talk about?

HUNT: Break it, you buy it.

MATTHEWS: If you break it, you own it, you bought it?

HUNT: I think – look, I think that the concern about that is lower than
it was the last time around, which I actually find a little striking,
because experts say, and having read through a lot of this bill, it really
makes sweeping changes to the health care system.

In some ways, they`re more sweeping than the last Obamacare bill. It would
really redistribute, pick winners and losers, and potentially jeopardize
people with preexisting conditions. Officially, that ban that says you
have to issue coverage is going to still be there, but states would be able
to opt out of the requirements that they not charge sick people way more
money than they charge healthy people, which could really effectively put
insurance way out of reach.

So, I don`t get the sense that there`s really been a lot of thoughtful
thinking about how this might impact people. I think as – Chuck Grassley
really got to the heart of the matter, which is that this is really about
politics and needing to show that they`re following through on a campaign
promise.

MATTHEWS: That sounds right. It sounds political.

And, of course, the Democrats may have become the Energizer Bunny if this
thing does pass, because they will have something to run against between
now and next November.

HUNT: They sure will.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, NBC`s Kasie Hunt up on Capitol Hill with the
latest.

Up next: The new cover of “TIME” magazine just out poses the question, can
anything save the Democrats? The party is more divided on issues like
health care, foreign affairs and Wall Street than it`s been in decades.
Democrats can`t agree on whether or not even working with the president
makes sense, whether working with Trump makes sense.

So, how does the party rebound? We will get to that with the Roundtable
tonight.

You`re watching it, HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We disagree with him on a
lot of things. But it`s not a question of our saying, well, we agree on
DACA and we agree on lifting the debt ceiling for three months, therefore,
we must agree on something else.

We have a conversation going, and it will be legislation by legislation,
issue by issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Minority Leader, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on working
with President Trump.

Well, some new NBC News poll numbers show that relationship could be
benefiting the president himself. Forty-three percent approve of President
Trump`s handling of his job right now, his highest rating since the first
month of his presidency. And most popular among his actions, 71 percent,
seven out of 10, approve of his deal with Democrats on hurricane relief for
Hurricane Harvey and also government funding, keeping the government
running.

Only 39 percent, however, approve of his handling of immigration and border
security issues.

That same bipartisan spirit that represents that 70 percent could have
mixed results for Democrats, however, as Philip Elliott writes on the cover
of “TIME” magazine this week – quote – “On the surface, the Democratic
Party has been united and energized by its shared disgust for Trump. But
dig an inch deeper, and it`s clear that the party is divided, split on
issues including free trade, health care, foreign affairs and Wall Street.
They even disagree over the political wisdom of doing deals with Trump
himself.”

Well, let`s bring in the HARDBALL Roundtable.

Philip Elliott is here. He`s the correspondent for “TIME” magazine who
wrote the cover. Anita Kumar is the White House correspondent for
McClatchy. Jason Johnson is politics editor for TheRoot.com and an MSNBC
contributor.

Thank you all.

Let`s just, each person in their own way, analyze this.

Phil, I want to talk to you about the fact it seems to be from your piece,
at least from the poll numbers, I should say, that Democrats and
Republicans like the idea of the two parties working together, the
Democrats and Republicans, Republican president included, when it comes to
maintenance stuff, dealing with hurricanes, like they did in 2008 dealing
with Sandy.

They liked Chris Christie standing there with their regular clothes on with
President Obama. They like maintenance stuff, dealing with keeping the
government running, dealing with the debt ceiling.

Where they disagree is where they disagree. They don`t like agreeing on
stuff on which they disagree on, like immigration. Your thoughts.

PHILIP ELLIOTT, “TIME”: That`s right.

I mean, Americans expect the government to work at its most basic level.
When there`s a storm, we should clean up after it. When we have troops
overseas, we should pay them. When we have federal agencies that affect
everything from how our taxes are collected to how our airplanes take off,
that should work.

This really is – to have him getting those numbers doesn`t surprise me,
frankly. What surprises me is that it`s news that the president and
Democratic leaders can get together and hammer out a deal to do the basic
core functions of government.

It speaks very poorly to where we are here in Washington, that this is
considered a headline.

MATTHEWS: Anita?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Sure.

I mean, what I took from that poll is that people – I mean, the biggest
thing I took from that is that Trump supporters still support him, even
after they – he is working with Democrats.

I was talking with people last week, after the last deal with the
Democrats. And they all were just so happy that something was getting
done. The people that are taking the brunt of this are Paul Ryan and Mitch
McConnell, who aren`t getting things done.

So, I mean, I think it`s very telling that Trump supporters, even though
that they philosophically agree on some of these things, are fine with it.

MATTHEWS: Jason, could this be win-win for Pelosi, Schumer and Trump,
perhaps a slight loss for the Republicans? How do you see it?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Chris, I agree.

Look, everybody wins here. The Republicans, particularly Trump, gets to
say, hey, look, I have actually accomplished something. I am being a deal-
maker here with Chuck and Nancy.

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi get to keep the wolves at bay as far as
whether or not they`re doing a good job, whether or not they`re
negotiating. And they`re saving their constituents. This is how
government is supposed to work.

But this doesn`t change the fundamental issues about immigration. This
does not change fundamental issues about the Muslim ban. This does not
change criminal justice issues. So, I think this is just a cute little
honeymoon. Trump will bump up to 42 percent, 43 percent. He may hit 44
one day.

But the moment it`s – he`s back in control, the moment he`s not
negotiating, and he`s being the president he always has been, he`s going to
drop below 40 again.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s be a little more rosy here.

I want to start with you, but I want to go around the panel.

Suppose they find other areas, like not – suppose they don`t get this
health care push they`re doing to repeal Obamacare and the real question
is, how do you keep Obamacare afloat? Isn`t there a deal there in stopping
actions that the president has been playing with to screw up Obamacare, the
advertising for it, the getting people to re-up for it?

There are ways they can – if they can get him to stop killing Obamacare,
isn`t that a possible win-win? Is it?

You first, Jason.

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, it is.

Look, just taking away the advertising is just petty. That`s the kind of
thing that you would think that Democrats could cut a deal with, with the
president.

But, Chris, I will say this. The one area that there was a natural
relationship between what the Democrats want and what this president has
said he wanted to do all the time would be infrastructure. That`s the one
deal you would think that they should be able to pull off.

MATTHEWS: I always thought that.

Let`s take something smaller, you led on this, Anita. What about DACA? It
seems if they don`t get a deal through the leadership of the Republican
Party, which is resistant, the president should do it by executive order
like Obama did. Just say, damn it, I`m on the side of the Democrats on
this one, too.

ANITA KUMAR, REPORTER, MCCLATCHY: I don`t –

MATTHEWS: He can`t send those DACA people back to other countries, I don`t
think. I think once you call them DREAMers, you`ve lost the argument on
the other side.

KUMAR: I know, but if he does that, he`ll completely contradict what he`s
already said, which is that`s unconstitutional and he`s not going to do it.
I just don`t see him doing that. I do see him forcing their hand some way.

The problem with President Trump is that he keeps saying, well, if they
don`t do it, I`ll do it and so now it`s going to be back to him. And so,
that`s a problem for him.

MATTHEWS: Last thought to you, Phil. Is there a chance this can continue,
this agreement with these middle-of-the-road issues where they find an
overlap of common ground, a bit of an overlap?

PHILIP ELLIOTT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: They can. And as
long as President Trump is at the forefront of this, declaring himself the
deal maker, declaring himself the victor, declaring himself the main
character in the drama of Washington, he will do it. And a lot of
President Trump`s supporters will go along with it. There is an implicit
trust among his people to go along with whatever the president decides.

MATTHEWS: Republicans are different than Democrats, I can tell you.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will
tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Philip Elliott of “Time Magazine”, tell me something I don`t know.

ELLIOTT: So, Republicans like to say that the Democrats are just a coastal
party. Well, I once spent part of my summer in the Midwest with Democratic
members trying to suss out how they have survived. Surprisingly, there are
fewer of them and they represent a lesser share of the caucus.
Mathematically in 2007, 37 percent of the Democratic caucus in the House
were from non-coastal states. That number has fallen to 27 percent this
year.

MATTHEWS: You know what, we can feel it too. We really can feel the
hollowing out of the Democratic Party in the middle of the country.

Anyway, Anita?

KUMAR: Yes. I am going to talk to you about hurricanes. You mentioned it
earlier and I`m going to tell you that the White House is very pleased with
how things are going with the hurricanes. They can`t brag about it, they
can`t boast about it because of what`s going on, but they feel really good
about it, that their response has been good. It might have been
contributed to that poll that you had earlier.

MATTHEWS: I think people like presidents doing their jobs. I think it was
John Lindsay who said there`s no Republican way to collect garbage. Some
jobs just have to be done and done well.

Jason?

JOHNSON: So, Chris, what you may know, of course, is this week is the
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation`s annual gala, annual event, big
policy discussion. What you may not know is the Black Women`s Roundtable
released a poll this week which should strike fear in the hearts of the
Democratic Party. African-American women`s support for the Democrats has
dropped 11 percent since the election last year, from 85 percent to 74
percent.

That is the strongest constituency for the Democratic Party. If they lose
black women who are now saying they don`t think either party is supportive
of their needs, they`re going to be in a lot of trouble in 2018.

MATTHEWS: Fascinating stuff. I think Elizabeth Warren has learned that
and is trying to work that community.

Thank you so much, Philip Elliott, Anita Kumar and Jason Johnson.

Up next, my interview with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. His latest film is about
the impact the Boston marathon bombing had on one man`s life. I spoke with
Gyllenhaal and the man who inspired his latest role.

You`re watching HARDBALL, up here in Boston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome home. Is it good to be back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A picture is a snapshot of a moment in time. An Oklahoma City firefighter
cradling a baby after a bombing at the federal building. Three
firefighters raising our flag at Ground Zero days after 9/11.

And Carlos Arredondo wheeling a dazed Jeff Bauman moments after the Boston
marathon bombing.

For months following this moment, this person embodied the spirit of
Boston, or Boston Strong. For many, all these images represent so much.
But what is it like for the person on the other side of the lens, the
person whose frozen face is frozen in that picture?

In “Stronger,” an upcoming film based on a memoir written by Jeff Bauman,
the Boston marathon bombing itself is not the central focus but more of a
starting point for the journey of a man caught in the middle of a national
tragedy while struggling with his own.

Here`s a clip from the movie which premieres tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it feel good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All set? All right. When you`re ready, scooch ahead
before you stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to straighten up. Yeah.

UNIENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. OK, scooch ahead. Chest up. Chest up, Jeff.
Chest up. Chest up. Chest up. Good. Good. OK. Good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeff, you are so tall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels like needles on my legs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you look awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job, Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He looks amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep going. It`s the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let him sit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got to sit down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I spoke with the actor and co-producer of the film, Jake
Gyllenhaal, along with the man he portrays, Jeff Bauman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen. You sort of look alike. Is that
something you figured out? You`re better looking, but that`s all right.

This movie, it is sort of like the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used
to say on radio. I mean, this happened. We`ve got the pictures around us
from Fenway here and from the city of Boston. My wife and I and our family
went up to Boston right after and saw the flowers along the finish line,
the way the city responded, the “Boston Strong” feeling. You were a symbol
of that. Tell me about the movie and why you decided to do this.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: You know, when I first read the screenplay for it
and a very early draft, I was surprised by – I had a feeling I`d be moved
by it but I was surprised by its sense of humor, you know? I was laughing
at the same time I was crying while I was reading it. And feel like the
opportunity for film is to delve into the specifics of a situation, to
understand the human experience in a way that, for instance, a photograph
like the one that you showed can`t always do.

You can understand it from afar, objectively. But to get into the story of
such an extraordinary person, which I didn`t know anything about Jeff when
I saw that photograph. And now, two and a half years later, after meeting
him, I know a lot. And I realize truly what a hero he is, knowing the
specifics of his character.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jeff, you were hit hard by history. It just came right at
you.

JEFF BAUMAN, BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: With a bang.

BAUMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You said the smell of Fourth of July.

BAUMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about it.

BAUMAN: You know – it was a horrible day for me. You cut into the
Oklahoma City, the firefighter holding that young child, and 9/11. You
know, I don`t even know if that was the worst day of my life, you know,
from watching all those events unfold. Definitely 9/11, I`ll remember
more.

But it`s just – you know, I`m really proud of this, the movie, and to show
people that it was hard but I`m here and I`m standing up and I`m walking.
And I think that`s what the movie shows. And, you know, I`m really proud.
And you know, that day was tough, that was a tough day. I`m not denying
that. But I got –

MATTHEWS: You`re a Bostonian, right?

BAUMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You`re from Beantown.

What is it about that city? Because we all – I thought New York`s
reaction was a New York reaction, in kind of way. Boston`s reaction was a
Boston reaction. I think it was unique to that city. Some of – I mean,
it`s known as a progressive, liberal city, but we all know it`s not that
simple. It`s a tough town. It`s a tough working-class town in many ways.

BAUMAN: Yes, very tough. I mean, I worked at Costco before up in
Nashville, 45, 50 minutes north.

MATTHEWS: That`s a great company.

BAUMAN: Yes, I love Costco so much. They`ve been so helpful.

But, yes, the city responded amazingly. From saving – everyone that made
it to the hospital that day lived. And I think it was like 250 people that
were hurt pretty bad, and everyone lived that made it to the hospital.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at another scene, Jeff, from the movie,
“Stronger.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You show the world that they can`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
break us no matter what the hell they do. You know, it gave me a little
hope, made me feel a little better, and I just want to say (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) thank you for that, man, that`s all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name`s Larry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I shake your hand, Larry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to shake my hand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It`s going to be all right. I`m going to be OK,
all right? So you`re going to be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Jake, it doesn`t feel like a movie, it feels like
real. The accents, the behavior, the bad language, the real language
people speak in in a bar.

GYLLENHAAL: In a bar.

MATTHEWS: Guys and girls, women and men speak to each other, kind of rough
talk, a little raw. But also in the way the family reacts, they`re not
Hollywood. This isn`t “Ozzie and Harriet,” this is real families, mixed
emotions, current anger going on in the families, still there.

GYLLENHAAL: Yes, I think this is a story about – Jeff may argue
differently but this is a story about a hero. And I believe that people
who do incredible things in their life are not without their complications,
you know. I mean, I do what I do because I love the complexities of human
beings, you know?

I love that you can be a contradiction and you can be an incredible human
being, you know, being stronger than you could ever imagine, at the same
time struggling with other things as well. And I think that`s what this
movie is. That`s why I say, you know, you`re crying but when you see
things in this movie, but I think the irony is you`re laughing as well.

And I think it`s that humor that got Jeff through. I think, talking about
Boston, I think that sense of humor is everything. You know, when you`re
there, I mean – I got it from everywhere, you know, walking around.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GYLLENHAAL: Like, you better do this – you better do a good job.

MATTHEWS: You know, for guys like me who are lucky, people who are lucky,
when we watch scenes of terrorist attacks, boom, you see the word, you see
the word, you don`t know what it feels like when there`s this horrible
boom. Whether it`s roadside – like an IED or something like that. You
say, what`s that like? You know what terrorism feels like. You were a
victim of it.

BAUMAN: Yes, firsthand. When I see stuff everywhere all over the world,
it makes me choke up. It hurts. It actually hurts me. It hurts my
stomach. I know exactly what it feels like. And I, you know, I can relate
to that.

And it`s hard. It`s really tough. You know, my journey`s been tough. And
you know – but I`m here.

MATTHEWS: You`ve got to see this movie about American life today. Jake
Gyllenhaal, producer of the movie, actor in it, plays this guy Jeff who he
sort of looks like, almost as good looking, we`ll be right back.

BAUMAN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch” Thursday, September 21st, 2017.

How would you like to be working in the Trump White House?

Reports say staffers walk the halls, worried that another staffer, one
looking for ammo to protect themselves might be wired, carrying a bug to
pick up dirt they can sell to the Mueller team as a way to protect
themselves. Talk about a hostile work environment. People walking around
afraid to say anything that can be used against them, all the time hoping
to pick up something the prosecutors might find useful to go after one of
their work mates.

Again, nice place to work. It`s everyone for themselves.

Corey Lewandowski on the speakers tour ran through the names of recent
colleagues and what he imagines they could be facing if they did anything
wrong. He said that Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page or anybody
else attempted to influence the 2016 election improperly through collusion,
coordination or cooperation, he hopes they would go to jail, quote, for the
rest of their lives. Talk about throwing the book at someone.

Then, there`s the speculation out there that the folks in the Trump inner
circle might be ready to lay off any and all wrongdoing on Paul Manafort,
citing the fact that he`d been doing business with the Russians for a long
time. Again, nice place to work.

What it all shows, this talk of some saving themselves by throwing the
others to Mueller, is how hot it`s getting behind those White House closed
doors. Everyone`s lawyered up, everyone`s looking to save themselves,
everyone`s wanting to look choir boy cooperative so that Mueller`s people
will think they`re OK and look for crime elsewhere.

All this cat on a hot tin roof stuff is no doubt exactly what the
prosecutors want, the kind of heated up atmosphere that gets people doing
whatever they can to save their skins.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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