Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/4/17 Tillerson doesn’t deny calling Trump a moron

Guests:
Nayyera Haq, Jonathan Swan, John Ralston, John Lewis, Rob Reiner, Annie Karni, Eugene Scott, Shannon Pettypiece
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: October 4, 2017

Guest: Nayyera Haq, Jonathan Swan, John Ralston, John Lewis, Rob Reiner,
Annie Karni, Eugene Scott, Shannon Pettypiece


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Moron.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington where the United States
secretary of state is now on record calling the president of the United
States a moron. This rift between the president and his top diplomat,
secretary of state Rex Tillerson, is deep and dangerous.

Tillerson and the State Department are now in damage control after an NBC
report offers details of the tension and terrible words passing between
Tillerson and the president. Multiple senior administration officials tell
NBC that Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid
mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House.”

The report goes on to add, quote, “Tillerson had openly disparaged the
president, referring to him as a moron after a July 20th meeting at the
Pentagon with members of Trump`s national security team and cabinet
officials.”

Vice President Pence has said to be intervening or trying to intervene to
smooth things over, and today Secretary Tillerson tried to push back with
this remarkable public statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The vice president has never had to
persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered
leaving this post. I serve at the appointment of the president, and I am
here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his
objectives.

QUESTION: Can you address the main headline of this story that you called
the president a moron? And if not, where do you think these reports or…

TILLERSON: I`m not going to deal with petty stuff like that. I mean, this
is what I don`t understand about Washington. Again, you know, I`m not from
this place. But the places I come from, we don`t deal with that kind of
petty nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Tillerson didn`t deny threatening to quit, nor did he deny
calling the president a moron when he could have, given two opportunities
to do so. President Trump tweeted, “The NBC News story has just been
totally refuted” – no, it wasn`t. You heard it – “by Sec Tillerson and
VP Pence. It is fake news. They should issue an apology to America.”

Well, as I report again, Secretary Tillerson has not refuted calling
President Trump a moron.

And in Las Vegas, the president addressed Secretary Tillerson`s comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I`m very honored by his
comments. It was fake news. It was a totally phony story.

Thank you very much. It was made up – it was made up by NBC. They just
made it up. Thank you, all. Thank you.

Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence. Thank you very much,
everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For the latest, I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson. Hallie, why
do you think the president is dealing with it this way? He obviously
doesn`t went a tiff at this point to break out to the point of a true
estrangement between him and his secretary of state. Is that what`s going
on, he just wants to do damage control?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, this also allows him to get shots
in at the media, Chris, which is something that the president has
repeatedly done not just in his administration but also on the campaign
trail.

Listen, here`s the thing. We know this president prizes two things,
loyalty and strength. What you saw from Rex Tillerson in that impromptu
news conference was what you could call strong loyalty, right? He came out
and he very vehemently denied the reporting, some of it, as you point out.
He also emphasized that he believes that the president broke the mold, as
he said, when it comes to foreign policy.

And this is, the backdrop of this, after months of what you described as a
rift between these two men, at least when it comes to policy and at least
when it comes to what has been said publicly. I think of, for example, the
crisis with Qatar, the crisis in North Korea, you have Iran, for example,
places where – in particular on North Korea, you heard the president say
one thing, you`ve heard Secretary Tillerson say another.

And there`s a question from world leaders, from others about who is really
speaking for the president besides the president himself? So it`s not
surprising at all that that would be the president`s response to this
story. It is also an indication, at least at the moment, that perhaps the
president is not leaning toward eliminating his secretary of state from the
administration.

I just think back to moments when others had been on the line a little bit.
Their jobs had been in a little bit of trouble, and the president did not
rush out to defend them. And I think of, for example, Attorney General
Jeff Sessions, who obviously remains in his position, but as has been
widely reported, including by us, there have been issues between him and
the president.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s also been widely reported with a lot of sources, a
single report by Carol Lee of NBC but lots of sources here, up to 10 cited,
in the fact that he called the president of the United States a moron. But
here`s the interesting thing…

JACKSON: Three sources on that particular point, Chris, but to your point
– you`re right.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. What about the larger question of the White House
antipathy towards Tillerson? I just read before I got over here, three
White House staffers were cited as saying they want him to quit, they hoped
he`d quit today after this.

JACKSON: I had an interesting conversation. I`m here on Capitol Hill this
afternoon talking about a different story, Chris, in my other role also
covering the White House. And I had a conversation with the head of the
Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, who actually spoke to some of what
you`re talking about.

I asked him about whether he had confidence in Rex Tillerson to lead this
administration`s foreign policy, and he said he believes in Rex Tillerson.
His concern is what he views as the president essentially not giving enough
support to his secretary of state, bringing up other voices inside the
administration.

What does that mean? The other voice who is loud on foreign policy inside
this administration is Jared Kushner. And it is no secret to you, Chris,
that there has been perhaps some tension there as Jared Kushner takes on a
portfolio that includes, for example, peace in the Middle East, something
that would more traditionally fall to the State Department.

MATTHEWS: I`m sure he`s the perfect guy for the job. Thank you very much,
NBC`s Hallie Jackson. Great reporting.

For more, let`s go in to Nayyera Haq. She`s a former State Department
spokesperson, and Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios.
Thank you, both of you.

This discussion, these reports don`t come from nowhere, three sources at
least, I have to tell you. I`m sure more people know about it than are
admitting it. You call the president of the United States a moron, you got
to take it back or you got to live with it. What`s this guy going to do,
live with it?

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, clearly, that
audience was for an audience of one, and that audience was Trump and the
White House. It wasn`t a press conference for the rest of the world, other
than to show unending loyalty to Donald Trump.

And Tillerson is not somebody who has had really any public profile. He`s
barely given any interviews and certainly hasn`t spoken or been public on
any of the world issues that would be in his purview, whether it`s troop
deployment to Afghanistan, the Iran deal or North Korea negotiations. So
this is indicative of the U.S. diplomacy being hijacked by the chaos
personality of the president.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I think the other thing here that`s going on here is
the decision by the president to call this guy Rex. It`s like he`s calling
his dog, you know, when he says, Oh, don`t waste your time, Rex, in dealing
with the North Koreans. I mean, he`s secretary of state. He`s entitled to
have communications with hostile forces. He`s obviously been told – like
a dog, pulled back on his leash. Hey, Rex…

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Save your energy, Rex.

MATTHEWS: Yes. What`s the point?

SWAN: Well…

MATTHEWS: I mean, I think this moron talk is not isolated. It seems to me
it`s part of their attitude towards each other.

SWAN: I reported six weeks ago that the president had said to at least two
people in the White House that, quote, “Rex just doesn`t get it. He`s
totally establishment in his thinking.” Trump has been criticizing Rex
privately for some time. The relationship is frayed.

He has, as far as I can tell, approximately two allies in the
administration, General Mattis and to probably some extent General Kelly.
If you can find me one other person in the White House, Chris, one other
person who will go on the record and say nice things about Rex Tillerson,
I`ll give you a substantial sum of money.

MATTHEWS: Well, that jibes with what I just heard, the sources I
(INAUDIBLE) three sources in the White House…

SWAN: I`m telling you I`ve tried…

MATTHEWS: … they want him to quit.

SWAN: I`ve tried to find people.

HAQ: Well, we`re all waiting for Rexit. It needs to happen sooner, rather
than later, given the state of U.S. diplomacy because, frankly…

MATTHEWS: Rexit?

HAQ: Rexit.

MATTHEWS: That`s what you`re calling it.

HAQ: Rexit. Frankly, what Rex Tillerson said about the president of the
United States is something world leaders have been saying for quite some
time. It may be undiplomatic, but it`s frankly what they`re thinking
because…

MATTHEWS: Yes, the world leaders aren`t working for the guy, either.

HAQ: No, but unfortunately, Rex Tillerson is. And so what – when – in
public statements like this, what ends up happing is you undermine the U.S.
position around the world, and everybody else is now setting the agenda in
the Middle East and Asia because Rex Tillerson has not been given, because
of these petty personality disputes – has not been given a staff. We
don`t have ambassador…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know. He can`t get anything confirmed.

HAQ: He can`t get anything done…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He can`t even – he can`t even get it to the Senate. He can`t
get the White House to agree to people.

HAQ: We do not have an ambassador to South Korea that either one of them
can agree on right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Hallie Jackson just mentioned, Senate Foreign Relations
Committee chairman Bob Corker addressed the Tillerson controversy this
morning. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: He ends up not being supportive in the way
that I would hope a secretary of state would be supportive. And that`s
just from my vantage point.

And – but I`ve never – you know, I no knowledge of the comments or
anything else. I think he`s in a very trying situation, trying to solve
many of the world`s problems a lot of times without the kind of support and
help that I`d like to see him have. I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary
Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our
country from chaos. And I support them very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s an astounding moment in the film “Game Change,”
which reenacts a moment in which John McCain is told by one of his staff
people – I think it`s Steve Schmidt – that the person he just picked for
a running mate, Sarah Palin, quote, “doesn`t know anything.”

And now we have this scene in July where the president is being briefed
about the world, being told, Now, this is Afghanistan here, this is Iran,
this is Iraq, being told where all these countries are that are troubling
to us and why we have to play a role in keeping our forces in Afghanistan.
And out of the meeting comes the secretary of state and calls the president
at that moment a moron. This is serious business. He`s saying the man in
charge foreign policy, the president, doesn`t know what he`s talking about.

HAQ: Well, the president hasn`t been able to explain why several countries
are on the Muslim ban list when – from the travel ban. Specifically, no
one in the national security community can really understand why a partner
like Chad in counterterrorism is on the list for not being – allowing any
visas or refugees into this country. So – and the president was directly
asked that question and couldn`t explain it, has yet to come forward with
what the real strategy or intention in behind the – sending 8,000 troops
to Afghanistan. What is the end goal? And we still don`t know, other than
some bombastic statements, what the end game is for him with the Iran deal
coming up and the recertification.

What you have instead are the people who work for him making statements and
making policy, but then getting undermined by him. And Corker said it
best. These people in the cabinet are supposed to be the vanguard against
chaos. Chaos in this case is Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, by tomorrow morning, Jonathan, everybody who pays any
attention, reads any newspaper, watches “MORNING JOE,” does anything is
going to know the president`s been called a moron by his top foreign policy
guy. And that guy hasn`t taken it back.

What are the dimensions of the horror here? What does this mean to the
world? Somebody said a moment ago that the president`s been called – you
mentioned the world thinks he`s a moron, but rarely do you hear a cabinet
secretary, a secretary of state call the boss a moron.

SWAN: In order to be – your power as secretary of state depends entirely
on your relationship with the president. So when you`re a foreign leader
and you observe this man, you`re making a calculation. Does he speak for
the president of the United States? Objectively, he doesn`t. I mean, he
literally doesn`t. Like, he says things, and then 24 hours later, the
president says, Don`t worry, Rex. Save your energy.

I mean, we are literally seeing a secretary of state being diminished by
the day, and it`s very hard to see how people could take his word as
gospel.

MATTHEWS: This crowd`s having problems. They`re coming apart. This isn`t
the first time tensions between the secretary of state and the president
have spilled out into the open. Here`s what Tillerson said about the
president`s handling of the white supremacist rally down in Charlottesville
in August. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president gets into the kind of controversy he
does and the U.N. committee responds the way it does, it seems to say they
begin to doubt our – whether we`re living those values.

TILLERSON: I don`t believe anyone doubts the American people`s values or
the commitment of the American government of the government`s agencies to
advancing those values and defending those values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the president`s values?

TILLERSON: The president speaks for himself, Chris.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Whoa! Anyway, thank you, Nayyera Haq, for joining us tonight,
and thank you, Jonathan Swan.

Coming up, President Trump meets police, victims and first responders out
in Vegas, but the big debate here in Washington after 58 people lost their
lives is about guns. U.S. Congressman John Lewis, hero of the Civil Rights
movement, is one of the Democrats ratcheting up the pressure for Congress
to actually do something. He`ll be joining me here right at this table in
a moment.

Plus, the Russian investigation. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, one Republican and one Democrat, say collusion between the Trump
campaign and the Russians is still an open question. Did the Russians have
inside help when they interfered to win the election for Trump?

And President Trump`s very spotty record responding to tragedies and
disasters, from tossing out rolls of paper towels in Puerto Rico yesterday
to blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville. He doesn`t
always rise to the occasion.

Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.” He will not like it.
You will.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: According to a new investigative report by Pro Publica, Ivanka
Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., were nearly indicted in 2012 on fraud charges.
The report says that for two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan district
attorney`s office had been building a criminal case against them for
misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump Soho, a hotel and condo
development that was failing to sell. It wasn`t until President Trump`s
long-time lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, got involved that the case was finally
dropped.

Also according to Pro Publica, in 2012, Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the
reelection campaign of that Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr.,
making Kasowitz one of Vance`s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass
the lower level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the
president – actually, the investigation be dropped.

Shortly thereafter, Vance dropped the case, telling Pro Publica, “I did not
at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been
committed.” The district attorney`s campaign returned the $25,000
contribution, but months later, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to
Vance`s campaign and helped raise more from others, eventually a total of
more than $50,000 in contributions to Vance, the DA.

In a statement issued today, a spokesman for the DA told NBC News no
outside attorney influenced any decision in this matter. Kasowitz said his
contributions were unrelated to the Trump case.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just have to tell you that I just met some of the most amazing
people. We met patients that were absolutely terribly wounded. And the
doctors, the nurses, all of the people at the hospital have done a job
that`s indescribable.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) gun violence problem?

TRUMP: We`re not going to talk about that today. We won`t talk about
that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We don`t want to talk about gun violence today.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump visited Las Vegas today, the site of Sunday`s horrific
massacre at a country music festival. And while he met with survivors,
first responders and local leaders and offered actually warm words, he
actively avoided any talk of action on gun violence or even gun violence
itself.

For their part, Democrats are stepping up calls to reform gun laws.
Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill today to ban devices that
convert semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic machine guns, basically.
Twelve of those devices were found in the hotel room of Sunday`s shooter
himself.

For more on the president`s visit today, I`m joined by Jon Ralston, editor
of “The Nevada Independent.” Jon, what do you think? Is Nevada one of
those states that just is never going to do a gun control bill?

JON RALSTON, NEVADA INDEPENDENT: You know, it`s interesting you mention
that. I`ve been talking about that, obviously, a lot, Chris. There`s a
huge gun culture here. You`re very familiar with Nevada. You know,
there`s this wide swath between the two urban areas, and they love their
guns in rural Nevada.

We actually passed a background checks bill, Chris, in 2016, but all – 16
of the 17 counties voted against it except for Clark County where I`m
standing, and that`s how it barely passed because as you know, Las Vegas
has all of the population.

And yet – and this is so consummately Nevada – it hasn`t been implemented
because the Republican attorney general and the Republican governor, who
are gun rights advocates, have refused to implement it. They`re now under
threat of a lawsuit because of that.

Whether this changes anything or not – it`s hard – I`m as cynical about
things changes in Nevada on guns as you are about Washington.

MATTHEWS: What about a guy who brings 23 guns into a hotel room? I mean,
if he carried all them up himself, that`s one thing.

If he got help from, you know, somebody, even the hotel worker of the
hotel, had them carried up, somebody would have noticed. There`s metal.
There`s guns. These are heavy bags.

I guess it doesn`t matter, though. If the guy who carried them up thought
they were guns, it wouldn`t matter, because it`s all legal. All 23 guns
are legal.

RALSTON: But that`s only part of the point. Chris, you`re right. It
seems unfathomable that this guy goes up on the 32nd floor of this place
right behind us here, had all those guns, had those bump fire stocks.

They found dozens of guns at two other locations, his homes here and then
in Reno. But how does a guy get all of those guns up to the casinos, up to
the hotel room inside the casino resort? What are they going to do?

I have mentioned this before. I interviewed Steve Wynn last year, Chris.
and he said he was worried enough about the concentration of people at
events here that he actually essentially has hired ex-Navy SEALs and ex-CIA
guys to patrol the casino floor, look at registrations.

He has metal detectors hidden all over the place. That`s the debate now
that`s going to go beyond what Steve Wynn has done. Are these guys going
to have to do that? How do you do the balance between security and not
scaring people away from Las Vegas after what`s happened?

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Jon Ralston.

By the way, Jon, when I see those two holes where those broken windows on
the 32nd floor, it does remind me of 9/11. Those two big penetrations on
the same floor, it`s just – it`s iconic. It`s terrible.

Anyway, thank you.

Democrats held a press conference today calling for action on gun violence.
Among the speakers was former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot
herself outside a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.

Let`s watch her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Stopping gun violence
takes courage. Now is the time to come together, be responsible,
Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight,
fight, fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m angry, angry that we are here yet again.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This Congress has failed the American
people.

What is the number? How many more dead bodies will it take to wake up this
Congress? I have been around too long. I lost colleagues in Mississippi
and Alabama to gun violence. We lost Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to a man
with a rifle. We lost Senator Robert Kennedy to a man with handguns. I
have seen too many gun deaths, and I am here to say right now, this must
stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Congressman John Lewis of Georgia joins me now.

You went through the – you were the personification of the civil rights
movement starting with the Freedom Riders. You have been through all of
this.

This fight – you won that fight, at least in the law. Is this ever going
to be won, the battle for some kind of gun safety?

LEWIS: Chris, we will win this fight. The American people will not stand
to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because
the lack of action on the part of the Congress.

We have to do something. You know, it`s 50 today, 58 or 59. How many
tomorrow? It made me very sad to see what is happening.

MATTHEWS: Right.

Do you think this number will do it? I remember when Bob Kennedy was
killed, your friend, and I wrote my congressman, and maybe the only time I
ever did, and something happened. There was the Safe Streets Act or
something there.

But nobody has really done anything. Dianne Feinstein`s bill was allowed
to elapse. It doesn`t – the – what do they call it, the assault rifle
ban is gone. Toomey and Manchin, they`re not going to reintroduce their
thing on background checks.

Except for you, a lot of people seem like they`re falling – they`re
falling back. They`re not willing to show courage on this right now.

LEWIS: Well, we must show courage, nothing short of raw courage.

As Gabby said, we must be brave, bold, and we must fight. We`re going to
organize on the House side. As Democrats. We`re going to organize. We
would like to do something in a bipartisan fashion. But we`re going to
organize all across America.

MATTHEWS: What`s your message to Republicans?

LEWIS: Come and join us. Let`s do it together. We should do it.

The American people are demanding action. I went to the speaker the other
night on the floor of the House and I asked the speaker to join us in a
bipartisan fashion. And he said, is it going to be about policies, about
law? He said he couldn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I would like to believe what you say, but I have
seen Ronald Reagan almost killed. If he, effectively, hadn`t gotten the
hospital in three minutes, he would have been dead.

Jack Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, all these people getting
killed. No country in the world lives like we live. There`s no country in
the world like us.

LEWIS: Sometimes, Chris, I`ll tell you…

MATTHEWS: And we keep putting up with it.

LEWIS: Yes.

Is there something in the food we`re eating?

MATTHEWS: We`re cowboys. You know it`s the cowboy mentality.

LEWIS: Is there something in the water we drink or the air we breathe?

Something is wrong. We have got to fix it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LEWIS: We have got to be brave and courageous. And the voters must stand
up and speak up and speak out and do what I call, they got to get in the
way.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump, the president? I should call him
President Trump.

Why does he say don`t talk about gun control or even gun violence now?
Today, he said, let`s not talk about gun violence. In Las Vegas, he said
that.

LEWIS: But the time is always right to do what is right. We have waited
too long. How many more people would die? Would it be a few hundred? A
few thousand or several thousand? We have to act. We cannot wait.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this.

As a candidate – well, we`re out of time. Unfortunately, we`re out of
time for you, too, Congressman.

You`re one of my heroes, sir.

LEWIS: Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for coming on.

LEWIS: Good to see you.

MATTHEWS: That`s John Lewis of Georgia.

Up next: The top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say that
Russia is determined to strike future elections in this country. We`re
going to make to filmmaker Rob Reiner. He`s launched a new group to help
Americans understand this threat posed by the Russians in getting into our
electoral politics.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What I will confirm is that the
Russian intelligence service is determined, clever.

And I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this
very seriously, as we move into this November`s election, and as we move
into preparation for the 2018 election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Republican Senator Richard Burr, warning that the Kremlin`s
ongoing influence campaign continues to pose a threat to democratic
elections this country.

As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Burr and Ranking
Member Senator Mark Warner today held a press conference on the progress of
their investigation.

They made it very clear that the possibility of collusion remains an open
question, despite the president`s insistence it`s all a hoax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURR: The committee continue to look into all evidence to see if there was
any hint of collusion.

QUESTION: At this point, is the president right? Was this a hoax?

BURR: I`m going to let you guys quote the president and ask him questions
about what he says.

It`s not going to be the committee. We`re going to through a very
different process.

QUESTION: Do you have any evidence to suggest, to rule out that the
president knew anything about any of these contacts that occurred between
any of his associates and the Russians?

BURR: Let me go back and say – because I thought I was pretty clear, that
the issue of collusion is still open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined by MSNBC national security analyst Clint Watts, and
Rob Reiner, a renowned filmmaker and director of the Committee to
Investigate Russia, a nonprofit intended to help Americans understand
Russia`s influence. He`s also the director of upcoming film on former
President Lyndon Johnson entitled “LBJ.” Can`t wait for that.

Let me go to Clint on this.

How did you read Chairman Burr`s statement that it`s an open question
whether there as collusion? Does that mean they don`t have anything hard
yet, or he doesn`t want to say what it amounts to? I couldn`t discern the
distinction there.

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think he doesn`t want
to say yet. He`s probably going to try and keep his cards very close.

That is in their mandate. But I also have to wonder how this is being
deconflicted with the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation has
got way more experience in this case and in terms of pursuing with criminal
charges. Anything in terms of collusion is going to fall to a criminal
charge.

And so I`m curious as to how those two, the committee and the Mueller
investigation, are working this through. I think it`s still very much on
the table and something that shouldn`t be ruled out.

MATTHEWS: Rob, thanks for coming on.

It seems to me that the admonition from the chair and the ranking member
just today was, if you see something, say something, like they say on Acela
here on the East Coast. Point out dangerous signs you see.

And yet the Trump administration never pointed out anything last year. We
never got a whiff of it from them.

ROB REINER, COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIA: Yes. And that`s the big
problem. And it`s why we started the Committee to Investigate Russia,
because, in the past, whenever the United States has been attacked, whether
it`s Pearl Harbor or 9/11, we have always come together as a country to
fight against – you know, like the cliche that politics ends at the
water`s edge.

But we are so divided,that Putin was able to exploit it. And we have a
president who doesn`t acknowledge that we have been attacked. And we`re in
a new kind of war, a cyber-war.

And Clint can certainly tell you about it. Clint is on our advisory board,
along with James Clapper and Mike Morell and Michael Hayden and Leon
Panetta. We have got some of the best national security experts in the
world, basically shouting from the rooftops that we have been invaded, and
we have to understand this, because, if we don`t, we`re going to have our
democracy fray at the edges.

MATTHEWS: Rob, are you conducting an investigation alongside the Mueller
investigation and the two House Intelligence Committee investigations and,
I guess, generally, the FBI? Are they all complicit together?

REINER: Well, no.

Our – what we`re doing is, we`re an aggregate. We`re trying to bring
together all of the elements. It`s a very confusing situation. You have
got, you know, cyber-security. You have got possible money-laundering.
You have got three investigations in the Congress.

And then you have got Mueller and you have got the FBI. So, we tried to
give people an overview, plus the history of what the Russians have been
doing.

I mean, Chris, you know. We`re the same age. We ducked under desks when
we were kids.

MATTHEWS: I remember.

REINER: You know, we worried about the atom bomb.

There`s no desk to duck under now. We have been invaded, and we have to
understand the nature of this kind of war.

MATTHEWS: Although Senator Burr said the committee has been unable to
interfere – interview former British intelligence officer Christopher
Steele and cannot assess his credibility, he suggests that Senate
investigators have corroborated at least some parts of the dossier going
back to June of `16.

Let`s watch the chair here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURR: We`re investigating a very expansive Russian network of interference
in U.S. elections. And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our
ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date,
getting past that point has been somewhat impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Clint, since the beginning of this republic, we have
worried and argued and debated and feared and worried about politicians
getting involved with other countries, whether it was the French or it was
the British. That went on in the early parts of our country, who were you
allied with.

The Declaration of Independence, it seems to me, is the abiding document
for this, just independence. How independent are we, as far as you know,
in our politics from abroad? Are we independent? Or is there serious
influence going on?

WATTS: I think there was – the point that Chairman Burr made today about
we have an upcoming election season, what everyone is kind of forgetting
is, Putin`s plan wasn`t about one election. It was about winning audiences
and then influencing them.

What we see going on today is a continuation of that plan. He has pulled
off an amazing fete. He`s unified audiences in Germany, France and all
across North America under a common nationalist, rather than globalist,
agenda, which he will use to then influence politicians.

Remember, active measures is about the force of politics, rather than the
politics of force. He`s going to use our politics, our divisions, our
divisiveness against us to try and push candidates in one way or another.

And what I think Chairman Burr was alluding to is, whether it`s the
integrity of elections, whether you think your vote counts or not, or
whether you`re being shaped by opinions that are coming from abroad, we
have not responded to this. We have no counter to this.

And it`s still a vulnerability of our country. And so Putin right now
still influences an audience in this country, which he can wield against
any politician, if he so chooses.

MATTHEWS: Rob, why do you think – I know you have been interested in
politics since you were born. I think you started reading “The New York
Times” when you were 3.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But, anyway, why do you think Putin, who is a nationalist –
whatever else he is, he`s the Russian nationalist – he wants the old
empire back again.

And Steve Bannon, who is sort of like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of this
administration. They both are nationalists. Why do they have something in
common? It would be seem to be competitive on the part of the Russians if
we became more nationalistic. Why do they want us to be nationalists?

REINER: Well, they – they`re not interested in that.

They want, as you say, regain the strength they had when they were the
Soviet Union. At the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union collapsed, and
it collapsed largely because we were in a nuclear arms race, and it sunk
their economy.

Now he`s using a relatively inexpensive tool of warfare to do what he wants
to do, which is to regain that power. He is sowing all kinds of division
in Europe with the European Union, NATO. Brexit was a part of that. And
any kind of division he can sow and tear away at the fabric of democracy,
he`s going to do it, because then he emerges. His power then emerges.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Thank you so much. I will call you citizen Reiner, out of great respect.
Citizen Reiner, thanks for coming on, another great cause.

Thank you, Clint Watts, for your expertise.

WATTS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The HARDBALL Roundtable weighs in on President Trump`s
response to tragedy.

From tossing paper towels out like that in Puerto Rico, to his divisive
response after Charlottesville, he hasn`t always hit the right notes, don`t
you think?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In the face of crushing tragedies like Las Vegas and natural disasters like
Hurricane Maria, Americans turn to the president for reassurance, stability
and sometimes unity. Well, the public wants a president who can share in
the country`s grief but also offer a sturdy hand forward. It`s a role that
all presidents have been called upon to play and one that President Trump
has had to perform in an increasingly number of times.

Here he was in Las Vegas today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The message that I have is
we have a great country and we are there for you. And they`re there for
us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But in reflecting on national tragedies, the president has often
fallen short. There was Charlottesville, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display
of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think he added that on many sides. There was Hurricane
Harvey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. I just want to say we love you, you are
special, we`re here to take care. It`s going well. And I want to thank
you for coming out. Thank you everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a crowd, what a turnout.

And then there was Puerto Rico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you`ve thrown our budget a
little out of whack because we`ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and
that`s fine, we`ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the – every death
is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you
look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that
died –

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And who can forget the president flicking rolls of paper towels
to a gathered crowd just yesterday.

For more on the president`s response to these tragedies, I`m joined by the
HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Annie Karni, White House reporter with
“Politico”, Eugene Scott, political reporter with “The Washington Post”,
and Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for “Bloomberg”.

In this order, how would you rate the president – the words that we read,
of course, are unfortunate, but they`re his words, you know, on both sides,
hatred and all of this on both sides.

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And a great crowd, great turnout like it`s some sort of
political rally, and all the rest.

KARNI: Well, the best – I talked to a close Trump friend, Chris Ruddy,
over the weekend, the best defense he had was this guy is never going to
take a sensitivity course. He`s not the consoler in chief. It doesn`t
come naturally to him. What we have seen is –

MATTHEWS: But he`s good at, he`s good at gigging people up to anger. Lock
her up. He knows how to work that emotion.

KARNI: He knows how to work that emotion. The other one doesn`t come
naturally to him. We`ve seen him read off of a teleprompter for a day, for
instance, his reaction on the first – his statement on the first day after
the shooting in Vegas. He didn`t make a bad situation worse. His actions
did nothing to inflame the situation.

But it never sticks and he goes off script and says things that don`t feel
appropriate for the moment. This is who he`s been for nine months and it`s
not his natural role.

MATTHEWS: Eugene, it comes with the territory. You`re head of state if
you`re president of the United States. We don`t have a king. We have a
president. He`s supposed or she is supposed to represent the people
personally.

EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, absolutely.
And I think that immediate speech following Vegas was very consoling. He
appealed to many of the values of, not just his base but people in America
broadly. He quoted from the Psalms, he talked about prayer and the need to
be unified by faith, which is significant considering how divisive he was
accused of being just a few days before when he attacked the San Juan
mayor.

So, whether or not he`ll stick to that, we`ll see. If he does stick to
that, though, I think this recovery, this response shall I say to Vegas
could get him to some favorable marks.

MATTHEWS: But there is a touch of narcissism when he talks about the
crowds he`s drawn and –

SCOTT: Right.

MATTHEWS: Even throwing out those Charmin or Bounty paper towel rolls. It
was like he was the big shot.

SCOTT: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He was feeding people that were almost desperate to get anything
and he`s throwing – it`s just weird. It looked like a superior attitude.

SCOTT: Yes.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think
narcissism is key and even people who –

MATTHEWS: It`s an embarrassing picture.

PETTYPIECE: Even people who are friends with Trump, even people who like
him, who support him, they`ll say, well, yes, he tends to be a narcissist.
He tends to perceive the situation as all about him. Any slight, it is all
about him. The Puerto Rican mayor saying, San Juan mayor saying I need
help, send resources, it`s all a personal slight to him. And that that is
how he views the world, and that`s one of the things that inhibits him from
being sensitive to a bigger situation because he can`t step outside of his
own universe.

But he`s been an inarticulate messenger and even his supporters would agree
with a lot of that, that he`s an inarticulate messenger. But the people
who like him and support him understand that about him, acknowledge that
about him and just sort of accept that because they agree with his policies
and his bigger view on things. So, I don`t think any of this is costing
him anything with at least his base.

SCOTT: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Annie, what about compassion?

KARNI: What about it?

MATTHEWS: Is there any here? I mean, it isn`t just the people in front of
him at some rally or at some disaster area. This country has got 330
million people and a good number of them in trouble all of the time. Not
just homeless people you can see, but people at home, sick. You know, you
see a lot – lately I`ve been seeing a lot of people in wheelchairs and
there`s a lot of people with real problems.

Does he care about them?

KARNI: The funny thing is –

MATTHEWS: I`m asking the question, does he have any evidence of caring
about –

KARNI: Well, I`m going to give you an example, which is after we saw the
Syrian president use gas on his own people, Trump was said to be very moved
by images of babies and children being gassed and he talked about the
babies multiple times. These images seemed to, you know, really move him.
That`s the last time I can really remember him being moved.

He didn`t seem moved in Puerto Rico by meeting actual victims. He went
back to Texas after not meeting victims on his first trip to meet people
who had been displaced from their homes. And I talked to some gun control
advocates yesterday who said they didn`t expect him to make any policy on
this visit but they thought there`s value in him visiting the hospital and
seeing what gun violence actually does to your family and to your body and
that maybe it would sink in.

We`ll see if the visit had any effect on him. But his remarks today were
totally in line with what a president should do in a situation. They were
scripted. But we`ll see if he`ll talk about that extemporaneously and if
it really –

MATTHEWS: Remember that line in Shakespeare, a touch of Harry in the
night, where Henry V meets with one of the soldiers and they get a feel for
him and he gets a feel for them and there`s that sense of Eisenhower did
that before D-Day. He went to soldiers and said good luck soldier, that
personal connection between president and a soldier. It`s not always in a
sick bed.

I don`t know if Trump could do that much. What is your bet?

SCOTT: Well, I think there`s an interesting poll –

MATTHEWS: You got to be able to do it to be a popular president,
accessible president.

SCOTT: Absolutely, especially if you want to be reelected. And so, about
two weeks ago, NBC News did a poll with a Generation Forward about how
millennials felt about Republicans and Democrats open Trump. And most
millennials think neither of these parties or the president actually care
about them. That`s what the answer specifically that they gave.

And so, I think something for the Republican Party has to look at is, if
these voters – this is the largest block, age group in our country. If
they don`t think the president cares about them or the party, what impact
could that have on them in 2018.

MATTHEWS: Quickly.

PETTYPIECE: One on one, people say he does connect with them
empathetically, like he will really see, if you`re in a room with him, he
is connecting with you sensitively. But he`s not translating that and
maybe that`s something he will learn – not necessarily change but learn
how to translate that to a larger stage audience.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you.

The round table – the great round table is sticking with us.

Next, we`re going to get three scoops tonight, we hope. I`m putting the
pressure on scoops you`ll be talking about tomorrow if we`re lucky.

HARDBALL back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Steve Bannon is wading into another Republican primary
campaign, this one on Staten Island, New York. Former Republican
Congressman Michael Grimm tweeted this photo of the two of them earlier
with the caption “game on”. #makeAmericagreatagain.

Bannon is backing Grimm as he tries to win back his congressional seat from
fellow Republican Dan Donovan. Grimm served two terms in the White House
before stepping down to serve a prison sentence for tax evasion. He`s
perhaps best known for threatening to push a reporter off of the balcony in
the Capitol while the cameras were rolling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: All right. So, Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk
about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted
to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about
that. Back to you.

MICHAEL GRIMM (R), THEN-U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Let me be clear to you. If you
ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
balcony.

No. No. You`re not man enough. You`re not man enough. I`ll break you in
half. Like a boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`ll break you like a boy. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Annie, tell me something I don`t know.

KARNI: I`ll stick with Bannon. So, you were just talking about him.
Trump is still smarting over the Luther Strange loss. He hasn`t spoken to
Bannon since then. He takes it personally that Bannon beat him there and
he`s worried about the other races that Bannon is going to get involved in.

MATTHEWS: He shouldn`t. He shouldn`t worry about Long Island (ph)
(INAUDIBLE).

Eugene?

SCOTT: The Arizona Senate race, everyone is looking at who the Republicans
are going to put up to go against Jeff Flake. But I think what`s happening
on the Democratic side will be much more interesting. We have Kyrsten
Sinema from Congress deciding she`s going to run. But I think there may be
some other names that are just going to put –

MATTHEWS: Will the Dem win?

SCOTT: That`s what everyone is hoping and think and have been saying. We
don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Shannon?

PETTYPIECE: On the Mueller investigation, the White House is almost
complete with responding to all of the requests that Mueller has asked for
on documents and information. Next, they`re going to start interviewing
White House staffers, so things should get interesting.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Annie Karni, Eugene Scott and Shannon
Pettypiece.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. As I said, you`ll
love it. He`ll hate it. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, October 4th, 2017.

Confident president surrounds themselves with a cabinet and advisers
smarter than they believe themselves to be. By that standard, Donald Trump
has expanded his horizons. He selected a secretary of state, someone to
marshal U.S. foreign policy who thinks the president is a moron. Moron.
Interesting choice of words. According to the dictionary, Secretary
Tillerson could just as accurately said idiot, blockhead, dunce, ignoramus,
imbecile. Want more? Halfwit, dope, nincompoop, dimwit, dingbat, dumbo,
ditz, numbskull, numbnut, thickhead, jughead, chowderhead, goofus.

These are not words but the dictionary offered synonym for what Secretary
Tillerson has now not denied calling the president. I didn`t, wouldn`t
call this president such a thing. His secretary of state has. And when
given a chance to take it back, refused to do so.

The characterization lies out there on the record now until someone clears
it and that would have to be the secretary of state himself. He can either
deny saying the president is a moron or he can take it back. And today,
and perhaps for posterity, the honorable secretary has refused to do
either. If these were still the days when men were challenged to a duel,
almost had that done to me on HARDBALL once, we could expect to see Trump
and Tillerson meet soon on the field of honor. That would be something.

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
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