Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/5/17 Trump hints at “calm before the storm”
Date: October 5, 2017
Guest: Alex Carter, Ed Rendell, Glenn Thrush, Anne Gearan, Joe Hoeffel,
Susan Page, Astead Herndon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Furious.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington with some breaking news.
NBC News is reporting tonight that President Trump was furious after our
report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron.” Vice
President Mike Pence and Tillerson talked, and that led to Tillerson`s
remarkable press conference yesterday morning, when he denied threatening
to quit. But not that that called – but that he did not call Trump a
moron. He didn`t deny that.
This morning, President Trump aimed his fury, publicly at least, at NBC.
He tweeted, “Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is fake news
put out by NBC News, low news and reporting standards. No verification
(ph) from me.”
Well, this afternoon, President Trump`s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee
Sanders, was asked about NBC`s reporting that Tillerson insulted the
president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Was the president upset that his secretary of state didn`t deny
calling him a moron in his public remarks yesterday?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, as well as the
secretary of state said, this is a petty, ridiculous accusation. And
frankly, I think it`s beneath the secretary of state to weigh in on every
rumor out there. His spokesperson, however, did come out and clarified
that the secretary of state had never used those words.
QUESTION: And what`s your response to those who say the president has
undercut the secretary of state, Sarah, just quickly?
SANDERS: I think the premise of that question is absolutely ridiculous.
The president can`t undercut his own cabinet. The president is the leader
of the cabinet. He sets the tone. He sets the agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by NBC`s chief foreign affairs
correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. Also joining me, “The New York Times`s”
Glenn Thrush, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele and
“The Washington Post`s” Ann Gearan.
First to you, Andrea. Your reporting on this – it seems to me like there`s
high dungeon (sic) at the White House.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: There`s certainly anger. The president was
already angry at Rex Tillerson because of what he said Saturday in China
about being open to direct talks with North Korea. Then when he had
tweeted out tweets objecting to what Tillerson said, then he was hit with
our report and was furious about that report as he was preparing to go to
So for a variety of reasons, according to the White House – namely that
John kelly, the chief of staff, had to work on other management issues at
the White House, but also, according to our reporting, that he wanted to
manage this firestorm – he stayed behind. He did not take that trip.
He later in the day met with both Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis at
the White House to figure out how to go forward with so much turmoil and
with the president so angry at his secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: How does one go forward when your top diplomat in the world, in
fact, your top cabinet member, apparently has insulted you in the company
of a number of people?
MITCHELL: It`s hard to understand how that is going to work because he has
been so badly damaged. Some of this is self-inflicted because over these
last eight months, he has isolated himself, according to critics, has not
filled key posts. Diplomacy is almost paralyzed by this, foreign officials
saying they can`t get meetings with the secretary of state, foreign
ministers from major allies having difficulty getting through. There just
aren`t enough people handling these relationships.
That said, the core relationship between the president and his top diplomat
is deeply troubled, has been for months and months. The White House view
is that Tillerson lectures the president, doesn`t agree with him, is rude
and not respectful enough.
Mike Pence, on a number of occasions, according to our reporting, has tried
to intervene. They did talk yesterday, Pence, who was also very angry
about a number of the details in our report, details that have not been
challenged, and the fact is, Pence did talk to Tillerson. Tillerson then
came out and gave that extraordinary news conference, a man who does not
welcome contacts with the news media, having that news conference and
basically praising the president and trying to get things right.
MATTHEWS: You`re the best, Andrea. But how do you find out who`s right
and who`s wrong here? Is there any to – is it just a bad marriage, or
what would you call it?
MITCHELL: It`s definitely a bad marriage. It`s a relationship that I
don`t think can be repaired. But divorce is not really an option right now
because according to most people in and outside of the White House,
political advisers, the politics of losing his secretary of state right
now, when he`s already lost his national security adviser, two
communications directors, his press secretary, his chief of staff – I
mean, there have been – Tom Price, the HHS secretary – he does not have a
Homeland Security secretary because John Kelly moved to the White House, so
there`s an acting secretary there. No one has been nominated yet. There`s
just too many vacancies.
And the optics of losing your top cabinet official, the secretary of state,
fourth in line to the presidency, as you`re preparing for a major Asian
trip, as you`re preparing to announce a new Iran policy next week, and that
you`re facing a continuing North Korea nuclear crisis, would just be
For all the criticisms of Rex Tillerson, most of the assumption in most
foreign policy circles, certainly what Foreign Relations chairman Bob
Corker is saying, is that best that he stay and that he and Mattis and
Kelly try to shore up the White House going through all of these crises.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, hang in there. Let`s go to Carol Lee, who broke this
story about the moron charge the other day.
Carol, you know, an old phrase in Washington was the walls have ears, and
meaning, like, when you say something that gets heard – you seemed to get
the story first, what got heard. This fury that the president has seems so
– one of the most normal things I`ve heard about Donald Trump is he
doesn`t like being called a moron.
CAROL LEE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No, but who does, you know?
LEE: He certainly does not like being called a moron. He didn`t like
that. He didn`t like the story. He was very angered by it. He spent a
lot of time venting about it, according to our reporting. And he actually
wasn`t quite satisfied with Rex Tillerson`s statement because he didn`t
give a full-throated denial of – that he – denied that he said that the
president was a moron.
So I mean, I agree with Andrea, who`s been reporting on this extensively.
You know, it`s hard to see this relationship getting repaired. It looks
like they may try to muddle through, for a little while, but these two have
never really managed to hit it off. And I think at this point, it`s very
much in doubt that they will in the future.
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in some other reporters. Glenn, every time I see
the president there – I don`t know who put those pictures together – I
see Nikki Haley. Is she in the on-deck circle? Is that what`s – he wants
her to have a little bit more training before she becomes secretary of
state? That`s what it looks like.
GLENN THRUSH, “NEW YORK TIMES”: There have been rumors to that effect.
There was a rumor that swept about seven days, ten days ago that he was
dissatisfied with Nikki Haley.
I will underscore what Carol said. I don`t think this is a president who
particularly likes being called a moron, but it is also noteworthy that
Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not – again did not completely deny the charge.
MATTHEWS: Well, how could she? She wasn`t there. These denials don`t
mean anything unless you get the secretary of state to say, I didn`t say it
or I take it back.
THRUSH: But it was – look, Heather Nauert denied it yesterday. It`s
MATTHEWS: And was she there?
THRUSH: Exactly – that Tillerson himself still hasn`t put out a statement
MATTHEWS: These denials mean nothing. They`re flackery.
Anne, what`s going on here? This is a strange White House when the
president – the president of the United States is head of our foreign
policy. The secretary of state is our foreign minister. They are at odds,
and personally so at odds.
GEARAN: Yes, I mean, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that it`s
ridiculous to presume that the president could undercut his cabinet
secretary – that`s not ridiculous at all. That`s exactly what Trump did,
you know, multiple times. I mean, he basically cut Tillerson off at the
knees on the Middle East diplomacy surrounding the Gulf breach with Qatar
and he cut Tillerson off at the knees about North Korea. Now, that may be
Tillerson`s fault, Tillerson misunderstood what the president wanted him to
do and say and went out and said something that the president hasn`t
approved, then that`s on him.
But it`s certainly possible for the president to undercut the diplomacy
that Tillerson`s trying to do, and he`s done it multiple times.
MATTHEWS: Trump is spitballing his foreign policy. He just says, Well,
I`m not going to talk to North Korea. I`m going to cut off – I`m going to
not – I`m going to decertify the Iranian arms deal. It doesn`t seem like
he`s sitting and studying the papers, studying – he`s got his secretary
and an entire State Department studying this stuff and he ignores them.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He does. That`s
the problem. If you want to know the frustration down in Foggy Bottom, it
rests around the fact that this has been a State Department that has
largely been marginalized from day one. Remember, you have heads of states
come into this country that the State Department didn`t know were here.
They didn`t get…
MATTHEWS: I like it when he goes to another country (INAUDIBLE) meet with
STEELE: Right. So – so you – so this was the beginning of the
relationship totally set by the president himself. At a certain point, it
is expected that an individual like a Rex Tillerson is going to have
enough, or have too much of it. And I think this is what…
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s a rich man, but he`s a proud man.
Another tweet this morning by the president was aimed at the news media, no
surprise here, blame the messenger. Quote, “Why isn`t the Senate Intel
Committee looking into the fake news networks in our country to see why so
much of our news is just made up, fake.”
President Trump frequently demonized the media or at least a large part of
the media, with a couple of glaring exceptions, of course. Let`s watch his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the most part, honestly,
these are really, really dishonest people. And they`re bad people. And I
really think they don`t like our country. I really believe that.
“The Washington Post” is terrible. The failing “New York Times,” which is,
like, so bad (INAUDIBLE) Or CNN, which is so bad and so pathetic and their
ratings are going down.
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. Where are you
TRUMP: OK. Here`s another beauty.
And Hannity! How good is Hannity? And “Fox & Friends” in the morning is
the best show, and it`s the absolute most honest show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, Steve Doocy is the new Walter Cronkite. I figured that one
out a long time ago.
Let me go back to Anne on this and then to the other reporters out here
because it seems to me that Trump doesn`t care about opinion from people
like me or anyone else. He cares about straight front-page news reporting.
It drives him crazy. He hates facts.
GEARAN: Well, I`d love to think he was reading the front pages every day.
He certainly gets a lot of his news from what`s on television. And he
processes information visually and I think on a gut level. And if he likes
what he hears, if he thinks it has a positive spin about what he`s doing,
he likes it. And he – and if he doesn`t, he blasts with equal opportunity
at anybody who has…
MATTHEWS: Glenn, what do you – I`m sorry. Glenn, what do you think of
this big investigation by the intel community? I think you said earlier
today you wouldn`t mind if he did investigate…
MATTHEWS: So what?
THRUSH: It would be hideous from a constitutional perspective.
THRUSH: But I think there are a lot of reporters in that briefing room who
wouldn`t mind having the entire panoply of West Wing staff being forced
under oath to testify that all these stories are incorrect. You know why?
Because they`re not! They`re totally true.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, you work for a major news organization I`m lucky to
serve in a different capacity. The seriousness with which the news
industry at the high level, like NBC and “The New York Times,” is so
serious and so grown-up. And to be criticized by this president, who says
things like Obama is an African, says things that don`t mean anything, is
MITCHELL: Well, we have systems, all our news organizations have systems,
have people in charge of standards, in charge of legal review. Everything
gets reviewed. And mistakes can happen. Everyone is human. But we double
But to compare that with the false statements that are made on a daily
basis by government officials is pretty astounding. And I do think it
undermines the credibility, and in this – in this environment, it is
directed at, I think, undermining the credibility of the news media,
particularly on the Russian probe because that will, I think he believes,
and is probably having its effect make a lot of people not respect the
findings of either Robert Mueller…
MATTHEWS: That`s the plan.
MITCHELL: … the committees or the reporting.
MATTHEWS: That`s the plan. Don`t you think that`s the plan?
Let me go to Carol on this because, Carol, I think that I`ve watched now
for three days now, ever since your reporting on the word “moron,” which
maybe isn`t the most important thing ever reported, but it is fascinating,
the way nobody has denied it, not Huckabee Sanders, not the secretary of
state, not the president. Any one of those guys could have come out with
their mouths and said, He didn`t call me a moron. They haven`t.
LEE: That`s right. And that`s because it`s true. The only two people who
have denied it are R.C. Hammond (ph), who`s the…
MATTHEWS: Who doesn`t know.
LEE: Well, who also, you know, had – said something to NBC that the vice
president`s office said was absolutely, patently false – and Secretary
Tillerson and the press secretary at the state department. They`re the
only two people who have come out and denied that Secretary Tillerson said
that. So I think, you know, the secretary had multiple opportunities
yesterday to knock that down, and he very specifically chose not to.
MATTHEWS: The next time the president talks about siccing investigators on
the news media, the prominent news media, I think we should all recall, his
friends, enemies, critics and neutralists, if there are any, how he was
sending down investigators, top investigators out to Hawaii to check into
the president`s birth certificate. And they were developing what he said,
some very interesting information. All nonsense. Made up. That`s the
fake news coming from the president.
Anyway, “The New York Times” added to the reporting on the relationship
between the president and his secretary of state. According to “The New
York Times,” aides and Trump associates who have been in the room with them
said Mr. Tillerson`s body language, eye rolling and terse expressions left
little doubt that he disapproves of Mr. Trump`s approach.
Mr. Trump, they said, has noticed how Mr. Tillerson slouches in his
presence, slouches particularly when he disagrees with a decision. When
overruled, Mr. Tillerson often says, “It`s your deal,” to the president`s
irritation, according to two – I love this stuff! This is high school
crap! If I were Trump, I`d be mad at the (INAUDIBLE) In any way he can, he
THRUSH: I had four people – the “it`s your deal” thing apparently drives
Trump completely nuts.
MATTHEWS: Well, it implies bonehead.
THRUSH: It`s, like, well, if you want to go with that, it`s your deal.
STEELE: Well, what do you expect from a guy who makes a big deal about
being a deal maker. And so again, this gets back to the earlier point that
Tillerson has had enough. He`s fed up, and he`s pushing back. And I think
he`s pushing himself out the door.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Anne. You are a solid reporter. And I`m
thinking this is almost like going into a funhouse mirror situation.
GEARAN: I certainly never covered any secretary of state like Rex
Tillerson, any president like Trump or any relationship like the two of
them have. It`s completely – it`s completely new and it`s completely
bonkers. I mean, you can`t do diplomacy like this. I mean, you can do
foreign policy, but you can`t do diplomacy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, the North Koreans are laughing at us. No, that`s too much.
I won`t go that far. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell, Carol Lee, Glenn Thrush,
Michael Steele and Anne. Congratulations to all the amazing reporters,
print guys, and Andrea, of course, and Carol, who`s not a print person
anymore. She`s one of ours. But doing great! Doing great!
LEE: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, coming up – after Las Vegas, will Congress finally act
on guns or at least on these things that make guns into those tommy guns?
We`re going to talk tonight with some key Republicans and how they might
open up to action. They`re actually talking about actually doing something
about these bump stocks that turn semi-automatics into, well, tommy guns.
And we`re going to talk about that. So let`s find out how serious those
Republicans are. Will they do something, or are they afraid once again of
the slippery slope to gun control?
Plus, breaking news tonight in the Russian investigation. More of that
coming tonight, a lot. NBC News can report that investigators from special
counsel Robert Mueller`s office have interviewed, catch this, Christopher
Steele. They got to him in London, the British spy who compiled the
dossier. I wonder if they asked about the bathroom. I`m sorry, the men`s
room. I`m sorry, the bedroom.
And the HARDBALL roundtable and the country at the crossroads. Americans
are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but very pessimistic about
the direction of the country as a whole. That`s never happened before.
Usually, when the economy`s getting better, people are happier. They`re
not. And Who do they blame? The man in the White House. Big surprise.
Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.” He won`t like it.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: According to a series of new reports, Russian hackers stole
highly sensitive spying tools a from a U.S. government contractor. Anyway,
the “White House Journal” says the stolen material includes, quote,
“details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends
against cyber attacks.” According to the experts, the theft is one of the
most significant security breaches in recent years.
The contractor, who worked for the NSA, put the highly classified material
on his home computer. The Russian hackers were then able to access his
computer because he used a popular anti-virus software made by a Russian-
based company. That was smart. Unbelievable.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Despite Republican efforts this week to put off a debate on gun control,
pressure is mounting on Congress to do something in the wake of Sunday`s
deadly massacre. And now there are signs of a potential bipartisan
consensus in Congress, at least when it comes to these bump stocks, the gun
accessory that effectively turns a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun,
right out of the 1930s.
Anyway, those rapid-fire devices were among the 12 rifles found in Stephen
Paddock`s hotel room where he massacred 58 people from his window in
roughly 10 minutes.
Here`s what Speaker Paul Ryan said today when he told – he talked about
how he`s going to allow legislation addressing the sale of bump stocks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I didn`t know what they were
until this week. And I`m an avid sportsman. I think we`re quickly coming
up to speed with what this is.
Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time. Apparently, this
allows you to take a semiautomatic and turn it into a fully automatic, so
clearly that`s something we need to look into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do you have say – why do you have to say you`re an avid
sportsman when you`re talking about automatic weapons?
Anyway, today, the NRA released its first statement since the massacre in
Las Vegas – quote – “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow
semiautomatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be
subject to additional regulations.”
Isn`t that clever?
But rather than support new legislation, the NRA is calling on the ATF to
review whether bump stocks comply with existing law. According to NBC
News, the ATF has already concluded that bump stocks do not violate
currently federal law. So it`s all nonsense from the NRA.
I`m joined now by former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and
Columbia Law professor Alex Carter.
Governor, thank you so much.
You ran against the NRA on issues like this in Pennsylvania, a real gun
state. Now, what do make of this by Paul Ryan? Do you think he is serious
about anything that sounds like the slippery slope to the NRA?
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: You know, I think the heat
is so great from around the country.
People are saying, this is it, enough is enough, finally, that they`re
going to do something. They`re going to throw us a bone.
RENDELL: Bump stocks, solving that problem by making them illegal will
solve maybe 1 percent of the problem.
What I hope our Democrats do and some progressive Republicans do is amend
that bill and make them vote on reinstating the assault weapons ban, which
never should have been allowed to sunset, because semiautomatic weapons, if
that guy had semiautomatic, as opposed to automatic, if he had no bump
stocks, he would have hit at least 400 people, maybe not 600 – 400 people
is 400 too many.
Secondly, we ought to put universal background checks, which, as you
pointed out on your show last night, 90 percent of the country believes
ought to be enforced. And we ought to limit magazines to 10 shots a
Imagine if that guy had to reload after every 10 shots. Imagine the
difference it would have made. And I don`t care if they say it won`t stop
it from happening. Sure, it won`t stop it from happening. But it would
get the death count down dramatically. It would get the wounded and
injured down dramatically.
And one person is too many. Let`s get real in this country. You don`t
hunt with semiautomatic or automatic weapons. You don`t need a magazine
that has more than 10 shots to shoot a deer or an elk. Let`s get real.
Let`s do something to protect our people.
Well, in a letter to the editor of “The New York Times” today I happened to
read today, Alex wrote today, Alex Carter – she`s a professor of law at
Columbia Journalism – you have to understand why this shooting happened.
It`s much less – much more important than how – less than it happened.
Anyway, find how it happened, not why this guy did it.
“When we feel we understand why someone did something terrible, we can
blame that why and understand how we are separate from it. The critical
question, the more difficult one to ask is, how? How does someone like
Stephen Paddock obtain 47 guns and bring 23 of them into a hotel suite?”
Professor Carter, I love that argument, because it`s the heart of this
issue. If you can hand out 100 automatic weapons to somebody or modify 100
automatic weapons, someone is going to use one in a crazy way. It`s just a
number of – it`s about selection and random nature and the way people are.
If guns get in the hands of people, someone`s going to use them. We have
got to figure out how to keep the guns out of the hands of people. Your
ALEX CARTER, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Yes, absolutely, right?
Asking why, I think, is at best a distraction and at worst a diversion from
the real issue, which is, how are we going to prevent this and other
tragedies like this from happening again?
And even if, you know, some of the sensible regulations that the governor
proposed, right, universal background checks, or even an assault ban or a
limit on the total number of guns that one can purchase, even if it
wouldn`t have prevented all of the carnage in this prior incident, it might
prevent the next one. Isn`t that reason enough?
MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like it.
Republican lawmakers have voiced varying degrees of support for a ban on
these bump stocks that create actually automatic weapons.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told Politico that, “If that actually gets
on the Senate floor, I would vote for it.”
Isn`t that nice?
Congressman Bill Flores of Texas told “The Hill” that: “I think they should
That`s soft too.
And Congressman Senator Tom Rooney of Florida called for leadership from
the president, telling Politico that: “Trump needs to take the lead on this
bump stock issue. He`s the only one that can.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders also signaled today that the White House is open to
regulating or banning bump stocks. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does the president support legislation that would ban or
regulate bump stocks?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, we`re certainly
open to that moving forward, but we want to be part of that conversation as
it takes place in the coming days and weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, let`s talk about the politics, because there`s so many
states, as I said last night, from New York, all the way across the middle
of the country, until you get there, like California, that are pro-gun.
Pennsylvania is well known to be pro-gun. Yet you have been elected twice
governor in that state by pretty comfortable margins by being a gun control
guy. How do you do it?
And, Chris, remember, Pennsylvania has the second highest number of NRA
members of any state in the country. And, by the way, the majority of NRA
members don`t agree with the NRA on a number of positions, as we know from
universal background checks.
Look, I won three elections where the NRA was against me by 10 points, 12
points, and 21 points. Those are considered landslides, particularly in a
purple state like ours.
The NRA is a paper tiger. What they do is, they pick on one state
representative or one congressman, and they pour all their money into that
one race and defeat that one person and say, see, we can do it to you.
But if everyone stands up and has the guts and the courage of their
convictions and everyone votes the right way, the NRA will be powerless to
do anything about it. And any senator, Democrats included, any senator who
doesn`t support this commonsense gun legislation ought to be ashamed of
themselves. How much more does it take? What will it take to get Congress
MATTHEWS: Professor, I looked at the Republican platform today. You don`t
have to be partisan. I know you`re a professor.
But let me tell you, the Republican platform protects magazines. It
protects AR-15s. It protects everything that is even discussed. They
haven`t gotten to this bump thing yet, this thing that changes the gun into
But they clearly – when they hear something`s coming their way, they put
it in their platform and say, leave it alone. They are fanatics. The
Republican Party, as a party, is a fanatic party on guns.
CARTER: Well, Chris, last I checked, the Constitution, and not the
platform of either party, was the supreme law of the land.
And we know that other constitutional rights, like the right to free
speech, are subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what the Republicans say in their platform? That
the right to bear arms precedes the Constitution. It`s a God-given, sort
of theological right.
They treat this like religion, Governor. I don`t know how to explain it.
It`s a religious, essential notion to them that everybody should have any
kind of gun they want, any – a bazooka, a tank. They never put a limit on
RENDELL: And which is ridiculous.
And, look, Chris, I have a message to everyone out there who`s a
commonsense person. Don`t get fooled by this willingness to do something
about bump stocks. Bump stocks will take care of 1 percent of the problem.
We need them to do something about assault weapons, semiautomatic assault
weapons. We need them to do something about the capacity of magazines.
And we need universal background checks. Come on, America. You know
This is a time to stand up and give them a loud and clear and deafening
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania.
And, professor Alex Carter, I loved your letter to the editor today. And I
really tuned in on it. That`s why you`re here tonight. Thank you so much.
CARTER: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Up next: breaking news on the Russian investigation. NBC News
has confirmed that special counsel Mueller`s team has interviewed, has done
it, the British spy behind the Trump dossier. They have gotten to
Christopher Steele, even if the Senate committee hasn`t.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
NBC News tonight confirmed that investigators working for special counsel
Robert Mueller have interviewed former British intelligence officer
Christopher Steele. That`s according to – that`s according to a source
close to Steele himself.
Steele is the author of the now-infamous dossier on President Donald Trump,
a collection of raw intelligence reports that allege, among other things,
that the president and his associates engaged in a – catch this – “well-
developed conspiracy of cooperation” – close quote – with Russian
intelligence during the 2016 election.
It comes after the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday said they had
been unable to reach Steele, but suggested that they had corroborated parts
of his dossier.
I`m right now joined by Ken Dilanian, investigative reporter with NBC.
Ken, give us the full feel on this. I think Trump won`t like to hear this.
He will see how serious Mueller is taking this, even to the point of
arranging a meeting with Christopher Steele. What do we know?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think this is
really going to get under Donald Trump`s skin, Chris.
You`re absolutely right, because Trump and the White House have been
denouncing this dossier, above all other things in this Russia
investigation, from the beginning of his presidency.
You will recall his first news conference, he took time out to denounce
this dossier. And, you know, what most people probably remember about this
are the salacious sexual allegations about Trump…
DILANIAN: … that he absolutely denies.
But, as you just said, there is much more in this document. This document
lays out a road map for what it says is a conspiracy of collusion between
the Trump campaign and Russia.
And much of it is unproven. I mean, for example, it says that Paul
Manafort sort of coordinated between Russian intelligence and the Trump
campaign. That is not proven, although Paul Manafort is under
But there are some things that have been corroborated. I mean, Richard
Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in so many
words yesterday, that they had been able to rebuild, as he put it, the
timeline of the dossier, parts of it. They won`t tell us which parts,
though, because it`s classified.
So, this is a document that investigators from both the Congress and now we
know special counsel Robert Mueller are taking very seriously. And the
White House doesn`t like it.
MATTHEWS: How about Steele`s credibility, Christopher Steele? Is he
considered a crackpot, fringy, or someone who is a real serious spy?
DILANIAN: Not in the least.
My intelligence sources tell me this guy is a serious person. He was
stationed in Moscow. He worked for the British secret intelligence
service, MI6. He`s known as a Russia expert, and he has credibility.
Moreover, the FBI worked with Steele in their investigation of corruption
in international soccer before he began working on the Trump thing. And
then the FBI was prepared to pay Steele to allow him to continue his fact-
gathering on the Trump-Russia stuff.
That didn`t come through. But the FBI has been working with Steele all
along. And now we know that Mueller has some additional questions for him.
MATTHEWS: Well, is this going to be like he meets – if Mueller meets with
the guy, he gives him a template, sort of a blueprint for what to check
out. In other words, he can give him a guideline as what to look for.
Then Mueller has the opportunity now to prove a lot of it.
DILANIAN: Yes, I actually think that has already happened.
So, what this would be is probably follow-up questions. There are things
that the FBI can`t answer, wants to understand better, where Steele got it,
how – you know, what`s the timeline around a particular meeting.
And that`s probably the kind of thing they`re asking now, because don`t
forget they have had this Steele information since last July, some of it.
So, it forms the basis of the FBI`s investigation in many ways.
MATTHEWS: Ken, do you ever wonder what`s in Bob Mueller`s attache case?
That is a heavy, heavy bag.
DILANIAN: Every day, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And he walks around with it, like it unbalances him.
I keep thinking, what has he got in that bag that Trump ought to – look at
him. There he is. He carries it like it`s got something heavy in there.
And I just wonder. If I were Trump, I would be scared to death of that
case. This is a serious guy.
DILANIAN: I mean, look, this is a Marine combat veteran.
I don`t know that he`s the kind of guy to write books, but if he ever does
a book deal some day, when this is all over, I will be first in line to buy
MATTHEWS: He looks like a pro to me.
Thank you, NBC`s Ken Dilanian.
Up next: more on top story this evening. New reporting on just how furious
President Trump was after learning that Secretary Tillerson, his secretary
of state, his foreign minister, called him a moron.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Let`s go back to our top story tonight. So, it`s a dozer, reporting
tonight from NBC News that President Trump was furious, that`s the word,
upon learning that his secretary of state had called him a moron. The vice
president was also fuming about that and talked to Tillerson about it,
leading to that extraordinary news conference yesterday where Tillerson had
to come out and face the music.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL round – Joe Hoeffel is a former Democratic
congressman from Pennsylvania and the author of “Fighting for the
Progressive Center in the Age of Trump”, Susan Page is Washington bureau
chief of “USA Today” and Astead Martin – I`m sorry Astead Herndon is
national political reporter for “The Boston Globe.”
Astead, let`s talk about this. I guess you remember high school. You`re
closer to it than I am, but this fun and games. The president of the
United States and his foreign minister basically fighting over name-calling
and now, Trump apparently a few minutes ago tonight talking about it`s the
calm before the storm, maybe there`s more coming, maybe a firing tonight,
ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: We`ve seen
this throughout the presidency. We`ve seen name calling. We`ve seen these
kind of little fights between cabinet members.
But I think there`s something new to this word “moron.” We have Rex
Tillerson, the secretary of state, in front of other White House officials,
other State Department officials, going so far as to say that about the
president, in a public setting. That seems like an escalation. And that
really speaks to, I think, the depths at which there is real in-fighting,
real inability to govern amongst this White House.
MATTHEWS: Of all the gross public figures in our lifetime, Susan, and me,
the guy who uses the worst words from other women, women are ugly, they`re
bleeding from their face, they`re sweating, you know, they`re little Marco,
they`re short. Every physical thing you can go after a person on, he goes
after them on, and now, he`s upset somebody called him a moron?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, wouldn`t that be a
firing offense in any other White House? And the only reason it`s not a
firing offense here is because they are concerned about what happens to
U.S. foreign policy, to U.S. standing in the world if Tillerson –
MATTHEWS: Are they that grown-up to worry about those things?
PAGE: Well, I think the chief of staff Kelly is, and I think Defense
Secretary Mattis is, and that`s why they were getting together as NBC News
just reported, to discuss how in the world they can go forward. Does
anybody in Washington think Tillerson will be secretary of state, say, by
PAGE: I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, let`s talk about politics and grown-up politics
and, you`re a political moderate to progressive guy. And it seems to me
that this is a clown show, bluntly stated. And the only people that defend
Trump are those who are very right wing and very pro-Trump. Because all
our polling shows two-thirds of the American people think we`re heading the
wrong direction right now. Two-thirds.
FORMER REP. JOSEPH HOEFFEL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think those two-
thirds or those people that believe we`re in the wrong direction think it
about Trump, not the country.
HOEFFEL: He`s divisive. He`s insulting to people. He can`t get a program
together. He hasn`t drained –
MATTHEWS: Why`d your state vote for him?
HOEFFEL: That`s a great question!
MATTHEWS: Ha! I come from there, too, and I am stunned that a reasonable
state, like Pennsylvania, is not a right-wing state, voted for Trump.
HOEFFEL: I think Hillary lost touch with her working class roots. The
party`s working class roots. I think that`s why she lost Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the scary stuff, North Korea because we don`t
know. Trump is a little unsteady, but Kim Jong-un is really unstable, and
we wonder whether the combination of these two could cause trouble.
PAGE: And you wonder why if people think the economy is getting better,
which they do, are they still so concerned about the direction of the
MATTHEWS: Because they read the papers.
PAGE: And because of things like the secretary of state is calling the
president a moron and we seem to be steaming towards a confrontation with
North Korea. So, I think it is not irrational for people to be worried
about exactly what`s going to be ahead.
MATTHEWS: Astead, you know, we have problems with North Korea on the
nuclear front, you know, they`re talking about building a weapon that could
reach us, San Francisco, or whatever on the coast, and now he wants to
reopen – rip the scab off the Iranian nuclear deal and get them building
nuclear weapons again. It`s like he wants a two-front war. It`s crazy.
HERNDON: And it`s interesting because the president has always talked
about unpredictability as his friend, but in issues like diplomacy and
foreign policy, there can be a problem and a miscalculation. You want the
North Koreans, the Iranians to know what they can expect from the
president, from the White House.
HERNDON: And when you have a president who`s tweeted one thing, who`s
undercutting his secretary of state and the U.N. ambassador, that creates a
problem in which what can these actors who may be irrational, what can they
expect from the White House? And if they can`t, if they don`t have a sense
of – if they don`t have a sense of what to expect, then what do they do
next? And that can get –
MATTHEWS: Guess what`s coming tonight. Take a look at President Trump,
just moments ago, as I said, dining with the first lady, members of the
military and their spouses, catch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys know what this
represents? Maybe it`s the calm before the storm.
REPORTER: What`s the storm?
TRUMP: Could be the calm before the storm.
REPORTER: Iran, ISIS, or what? What storm, Mr. President?
TRUMP: We have the world`s great military people here in this room, I will
tell you that. And we`re going to have a great evening. Thank you all for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s the calm before the storm, Susan?
PAGE: Well, I think he might be talking about coming to a decision on the
Iran nuclear deal and decertifying, I mean, because that`s coming up next
week, we know there are final meetings at the White House dealing with
that. So maybe that`s what`s on his mind.
MATTHEWS: He wants a storm?
PAGE: I don`t know. The real answer is, I don`t know, but if you want to
speculate about what he could be referring to –
MATTHEWS: The one thing he said I like during the campaign, he said, two
things I like in the campaign Trump. But I`ll admit, I said it before. I
like the infrastructure, because I think we need to rebuild this country,
including mass transit, fast transit across the country, and also stupid
wars, let`s stop him. And here he is opening up the war again with Iran.
HOEFFEL: Yes, it`s crazy. And he`s evaluating that deal all wrong. This
is just about stopping Iran from getting nukes. He`s complaining about the
terrorism, and he should, but he`s talking about apples and comparing them
MATTHEWS: That would require he read the document and he hasn`t. Thank
The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Joe, tell me something I don`t know.
HOEFFEL: Well, Congress and the president have to get our fiscal house in
order. And if they don`t, if we can`t come up with a sustainable budget,
we`re not going to be able to invest in people or grow the economy.
MATTHEWS: And we`re about 900,000 in deficit right now.
HOEFFEL: It`s a terrible $200 trillion national debt.
MATTHEWS: And a good economy.
PAGE: New “USA Today”/Suffolk poll out today, 56 percent of Americans say
they want the Congress elected next area to confront Trump –
MATTHEWS: I saw that.
PAGE: – including one out of five Republicans.
MATTHEWS: So they want – so the Democrats look healthy right now.
PAGE: They do.
MATTHEWS: If they`ll vote. If they show up.
PAGE: The door is open.
HERNDON: You were mentioning bump stocks and certainly, that legislation
could come banning them, but that`s actually helping their sales right now.
MATTHEWS: I heard.
HERNDON: The company has sold out wall to wall on them –
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that heartwarming?
HERNDON: And they are triple the price.
MATTHEWS: So, all the people are running out to get guns, turn their guns
into automatic weapons, so they can be, what, be able to shoot automatic
weapons. They want to be machine gun Kelly.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former U.S. Congressman Joe Hoeffel is here. He`s back with us, along with
Susan Page, and Astead Herndon.
Well, Democrats are at a harsh reality check after they lost in 2016, as we
all know, and they have a tough battle ahead to win back American voters
and win back the Congress and the presidency. In Joe`s new book, “Fighting
for the Progressive Center in the Age of Trump,” he writes: Progressives
need to fight for the political center of our civil arena with policies
that are both socially liberal and fiscally responsible, if we are going to
win the battle for public support against Donald Trump.
He also warns progressive always need to have the courage of our
convictions. We must be willing to defend our records and define and
explain our accomplishments, if we don`t, the right wing will do it for us,
and we know how distorted that will be.
Joe, I would have thought that was common sense. And then I saw Donald
Trump talking about punishing women for having an abortion and winning. So
explain. How do they win with that dogma?
HOEFFEL: Well, that`s not why he won.
MATTHEWS: Well, he did win.
HOEFFEL: He won.
MATTHEWS: And he did say that.
HOEFFEL: Yes, he did.
MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.
HOEFFEL: But he promised political change. And he promised to end
HOEFFEL: Now, neither of those things has happened. We still have the
swamp in Washington. It`s just different people paddling around in the
muck. And the economic stagnation and income inequality is greater than
That`s why he`s in trouble. That`s why the Republicans I think are going
to get shellacked in the 2018 election.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m asking about. Jump – you can jump in here,
I mean, Republicans won not because rich people voted for them, there
aren`t that many, but regular, regular people voted for them, and they
voted for him because they thought this guy was on their side. Now, we see
the tax bill, excuse me, the estate tax, you have to have $11 million to
give your kids for that to help you out, $11 million. That`s not for the
average Joe or Jane.
PAGE: He also won because people bothered to turn out to vote for him.
And there are any number of Democratic voters who didn`t bother to turn out
to vote. So, the question is –
MATTHEWS: Why not?
PAGE: Because I think they didn`t feel energized –
MATTHEWS: They`re excited by Obama but not Hillary?
PAGE: They were – maybe they weren`t crazy about Trump but they weren`t
crazy about Hillary Clinton either, and a lot of voters stayed home.
So, the question for 2018 is who`s going to have the energy? I don`t think
you can tell right now. I mean, I don`t think this is a slam dunk for
Democrats. It`s an opportunity for Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Astead then back to Joe. I look at all these suburban districts
like Fitzpatrick, in Bucks County, and I look at Meehan in Delaware County,
I go, whoa. How come all these suburban areas where they are pro-choice,
and they are pro-gay rights, they`re all moderate on social issues, are
voting for – you start, why are they voting for Trump? These people are
HERNDON: I think I would be remiss to say he also honed in on racial
HERNDON: And we look at what types of people voted for him, that also
often falls along racial lines and how people feel about other groups. And
so you can`t separate, I don`t think, the economics of Donald Trump, which
certainly promised a form of populism. But for that social rhetoric that
he honed in on, that`s also a key portion of why people turned out.
MATTHEWS: OK, Joe, you respond. Did he pick up on wedge issues?
HOEFFEL: Oh, yes, you`re kidding me? He`s still doing it. He sends out
dog whistles to the Republican base. He did that on Puerto Rico. He
mentioned, well, they`re not quite working on it.
MATTHEWS: He liked Las Vegas a lot more, didn`t he?
HOEFFEL: Yes. Not quite working hard enough in Puerto Rico.
HOEFFEL: Have you ever heard an American president criticize American
citizens in the middle of a natural disaster? I mean, it`s unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he educated us to the fact that Puerto Rico is
part of America. He made it sound like a distant land.
Joe Hoeffel, moderate, well, I don`t want to overdo – a moderate
progressive, author of the book, “Fighting for the Progressive Center in
the Age of Trump.” And I want to thank you, Susan Page, as always. And,
Astead, always, you guys are great.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, October 5th, 2017.
The percentage of Americans who believe the country under Donald Trump is
headed in the wrong direction has jumped 21 percent since he took office.
It`s now up to 64 percent. That`s nearly two-thirds of the country.
But what about the other third? You have to wonder about those people who
claim things are getting better. What precisely could they be referring
He`s got a foreign policy team in complete chaos. The secretary of state
calling him a moron and a lot of people around Trump wishing the man who
called him that would drop the insults and get out of town himself.
But wait a minute, what about the president? He`s out to kill the nuclear
deal with Iran and wants to end all communication with North Korea. For
whatever reason, he seems to want to raise the temperature on relations
with both countries. What`s the plan, Stan?
At home, Trump seems equally without blueprints. He`s pushed an end to
Obamacare with all the desperate and keen collect of Elmer Fudd chasing
hopelessly after Bugs Bunny, and with the same zero effect. Nothing has
On tax reform, he`s going in one direction, his team the other, talking
about keeping the lower rate at 10 percent rather than raising it to 12
percent, as if that`s going to make poor people like him. He has yet to
say what loopholes he`s going to eliminate except to suggest he`s going
after states where they tax the most so that he can tax more. That sounds
Name an area where he`s got his act together. He goes to San Juan and
throws out paper towels. He goes to Vegas and refuses to even mention a
word about gun violence. Isn`t that the reason he was there?
Again, back to the question. Who are these people who think things are
going swimmingly? Have they been down so long it looks like up? What
about the hopes even I had that he`d do something about rebuilding this
country, getting serious about catching up with the rest of the world on
mass transit? What about the more desperate hope I had that he would end
the stupid wars? He promised to.
And now, we`re back in Afghanistan big-time and he wants to heat things up
with Iran. Why can`t he at least get two things done, even his skeptics
had hoped he would? Right direction? Get a compass.
This is HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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