Trump sketches out tax reform plan Transcript 10/17/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: October 17, 2017
Guest: A.B. Stoddard, David Catanese, Rosie Gray, Boyd Matheson, Bob
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It won`t be pretty.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. It`s Chris Matthews in Washington. In fact, I`m Chris
Senator John McCain, the maverick, had a message last night, and it looked
directly aimed at the man in the Oval Office. McCain accepted the National
Constitution Center`s Liberty Medal up in Philadelphia, an honor previously
given to U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, and presidents Jimmy
Carter, Herbert Walker – or George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton,
Here was part of what the Arizonan said in his acceptance speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized and led
for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced
around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and
our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-
baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find
scapegoats than solve problems…
MCCAIN: … is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of
the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what he`s talking about. He`s talking about
Steve Bannon. He`s talking about Steve Bannon`s protege, President Trump.
Anyway, the president was asked about that speech today and didn`t hold
back. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You heard what he said yesterday, Senator McCain.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Well, I (INAUDIBLE)
People have to be careful because at some point, I fight back. I`m being
very very nice (INAUDIBLE) very nice, but at some point, I fight back, and
it won`t be pretty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Again, it won`t be pretty.
Earlier today, NBC`s Kasie Hunt asked Senator McCain to respond to that
threat. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don`t comment on what the president says.
I comment on what he does. And I will say that I have – I have faced some
pretty tough adversaries in the past. I`m not interested in confronting
the president. I`m interested in working with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last month, Senator McCain announced he had been diagnosed
with an aggressive form of brain cancer, yet he hasn`t been shy about
criticizing the president or casting votes against his agenda.
But what does President Trump get out of attacking McCain – that`s the
question – and promising a fight that won`t be pretty?
Heidi Przybyla`s White House reporter for “USA Today,” Michael Steele is
the former chair of the Republican National Committee and Eugene Robinson
is a columnist with “The Washington Post.” All are MSNBC political
So in order of this, Heidi, why would this president attack McCain when
it`s so clearly McCain will win this moral fight? People will root for
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Why does he attack anyone?
Because we`re on a sandbox and somebody hit him, so he`s just punching
back. And that`s how he interpreted that speech. And frankly, that was an
attack on the president because he – McCain didn`t make up “America
first.” He is being aggressive about trying to warn this country that
we`re at a very pivotal moment right now. And I think particularly, it`s
no mistake that McCain is of this ilk of these GOP foreign policy advisers
and former officials who have been warning us since the campaign – you
remember, the one group that was completely unified in being resistant to
this president were these foreign policy – the 50 foreign policy
PRZYBYLA: … who signed the letter, and that`s McCain. That`s who he is.
MATTHEWS: But Michael, he also got to the heart of Trumpism, which is this
ethnocentric white America basic – nationalism`s based on ethnicity, not
on ideas or values, and he really hit him.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He hit him hard,
basically saying this is all trumped up, to apply the phrase. And I think
STEELE: Half-baked. And I think that that`s important to note.
To Heidi`s point, he`s drawing a very bright line for the country right
now, and he`s saying that with these big issues that we have to confront,
from health care to certainly questions of war and peace, we need to be
smart about this and we cannot fall prey to this ideology, this made-up
ideology, this made-up sort of nationalist approach.
You know, I was talking with some Republicans today who were saying, Well,
that`s always been a part of the Republican brand. Like, I`ve been a
Republican for 40 years. I never had that conversation. I chaired it for
two. We never had a meeting on Republican nationalism.
So this is made up. And this is a fight that I think McCain is prepared to
take to the president. And to Heidi`s point, I don`t think the president
knows that this is one he doesn`t want to take.
MATTHEWS: Why “it won`t be pretty”? I mean, that sounds like Roger Stone
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s just ridiculous, and…
MATTHEWS: It`s not bluster. It`s frightening. I think he means it.
ROBINSON: Never pick a fight with somebody who`s got nothing to lose,
right? And John McCain`s got nothing to lose here. So it won`t be pretty,
but it won`t be pretty in a way that I think the president doesn`t
And you know, it sounds corny, but it`s not. John McCain and a lot of
people who come to Washington to work in these jobs, whole – you know,
it`s terribly hard work for not a lot of money. Maybe they can get rich
later or whatever, but they come here because they believe in the idea of
America. And they believe in the idea of America as a credal (ph) nation,
as a nation founded around these enlightenment ideas that were set out by
the founders, including natural rights given by the creator. And that`s
the way people here think.
And Donald Trump doesn`t understand that. He just does not get the idea of
America, as someone like John McCain gets it. So McCain`s not going to
back down on this. I mean, this is as important as it gets to him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why does it take a Republican who`s a conservative to say
what liberals, progressives people of the center-left should have been
saying for a year with Trump, carving out exactly what he`s offered the
American people and rejecting it and saying it in ideological, or rather,
philosophical terms like McCain did last night with the Constitution – why
can`t a liberal – I`m sorry to use the old term. Progressive. Why can`t
a progressive speak like McCain. I don`t – I hear it in your columns,
Gene, I hear it. I don`t hear it from politicians. Where`s Schumer?
Where`s Nancy Pelosi? Why aren`t they talking like McCain?
STEELE: They`re trapped by the politics. To Eugene`s point, McCain is not
trapped by that politics anymore. And he is free on so many levels.
They`ve come after him in his campaigns for reelection, so he`s done that
STEELE: He`s been in that room and he`s won. So to that extent, he has
nothing to lose here. He can put it on the line in that…
MATTHEWS: And I thought…
ROBINSON: … but the politics that a liberal politician could not have
MATTHEWS: Of course!
MATTHEWS: I`m thinking back to Watergate. Nothing`s parallel, but it took
a Sam Rayburn. It took – not Sam Rayburn, Sam Ervin, an old seggie, to
stand up for the Constitution. Talk about ironies.
Anyway, on leadership, humility and bipartisanship, President Trump and
Senator McCain present very different fronts to the American people in
their careers. Let`s watch the differential.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I am aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me
in. I`m humbled by it, and I`ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of
TRUMP: I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in
particular, with most Republican senators. But we`re not getting the job
done. And I`m not going to blame myself. I`ll be honest. They are not
getting the job done.
MCCAIN: We didn`t always agree on the issues. We often argued, sometimes
passionately, but we believed in each other`s patriotism and the sincerity
of each other`s convictions.
TRUMP: Frankly, the Democrats have terrible policy. Terrible. Their
policy is no good, and I`m not even sure they`re very good politicians
because they don`t seem to be doing too well. That could be because of
their bad policy. But they`re great at obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the two men have a history, of course, going back to
Donald Trump`s attack on McCain`s war record, of course. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Five-and-a-half years…
TRUMP: he`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that
weren`t captured, OK?
QUESTION: Did he ever apologize for saying you`re not a hero?
MCCAIN: No. But I also understand that we`re very different people,
different upbringing, different life experiences.
He is in the business of making money, and he has been successful both on
television as well as Miss America and others. I was raised in a military
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, to remind everybody, the reason he was captured – and
I`ve been in Hanoi. Some of us have been there. His airplane was right
down over that lake, right in downtown Hanoi, dropping bombs. That`s how
you get captured. His plane was hit and he went into the water, and they
broke all his bones and dragged him up there, beating him up. It`s not
like that would happen to Donald Trump on 5th Avenue. That wouldn`t happen
PRZYBYLA: That`s why this won`t end well because as we all know and we
haven`t mentioned yet, McCain is very sick. And as we get closer to him
potentially, you know, exiting or maybe not being on the stage so much,
those are the stories we`re going to be hearing about John McCain and it`s
going to be a juxtaposition against these insults that have been hurled his
way by the president.
STEELE: I think that`s – I think that is profoundly the point, that this
is a fight for a whole lot of reasons the president doesn`t need to engage
in. And I guess for me, at the end of the day, I keep asking myself, is,
What is your point? What are you trying to get to? What are you trying to
achieve? Here you`re alienating the majority leader. You are…
MATTHEWS: Why does a skunk squirt?
STEELE: Yes, because that`s his nature.
MATTHEWS: OK. Yesterday, President Trump made this false accusation about
his predecessor, Barack Obama – again the reference to the skunk. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other
presidents, most of them didn`t make calls. A lot of them didn`t make
QUESTION: Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families
of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?
TRUMP: I don`t know if he did. No, no. No.
TRUMP: I was told that he didn`t often, and a lot of presidents don`t.
They write letters. I do – excuse me, Peter. I do a combination of both.
Sometimes it`s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I like instantaneous fact checks, don`t you gentlemen? Anyway,
President Trump`s claim is not true. President Trump called, wrote letters
and met with the families of fallen soldiers. So did President Bush, W.
Bush, before him.
And today the president invoked the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly,
Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
Here`s what Trump said today. This man has no sense of decency. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as other representatives, I don`t know. I mean, you could
ask General Kelly did he get a call from Obama. You could ask other
people. I don`t know what Obama`s policy was.
I really speak for myself. I`m not speaking for other people. I don`t
know what Bush did. I don`t know what Obama did. You could find out
easily what President Obama did. All you have to do is ask the military
people. But I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, a White House official told NBC News that Obama did not
call Kelly after his son`s death. Kelly and his wife did attend, however,
a private event at the White House for Gold Star families and were seated
at Michelle Obama`s table. Gene?
ROBINSON: Yes, I was just going to point that out…
MATTHEWS: This is (INAUDIBLE)
ROBINSON: … that, in fact, President Obama had General Kelly in with a
group of Gold Star families. This is just reprehensible. You know, this
is man, Donald Trump, who is incapable of saying, I made a mistake. I`m
sorry. Has anyone ever heard him say those words?
ROBINSON: My mistake. I`m sorry. He can`t say that. So instead of
saying that, when he`s caught in a situation where he has not done
something he should or has done something he shouldn`t, he attacks and
makes stuff up. And you know, and this is just particularly offensive
because we were talking about Gold Star families.
PRZYBYLA: Just like with Puerto Rico.
ROBINSON: We`re talking about soldiers.
MATTHEWS: What has this got to do with the job of commander-in-chief,
chief executive of the United States government running the Republican
Party, running the government, basically? What`s this got to do – why are
we involved with this crap? Why is he involved with all these fights? I -
- I – I don`t – he`s not – I`m not calling him a skunk, but why does he
act like that? Why does he always have to squirt at people?
PRZYBYLA: Look, I was there in the Rose Garden when this happened. And
the question – even the fact that it had to be asked why he hadn`t been in
touch or even mentioned these soldiers yet reflected poorly on him. So his
immediate instinct in every one of these incidences – for instance in
Puerto Rico, to blame the Puerto Ricans. Whenever he looks bad, whenever
the Trump brand looks bad, is to immediately find a foil. Obama is his
MATTHEWS: … the Republican Party going to say, This guy is off base,
that the whole thing, his whole repartee, his whole conversation, his whole
shtick is not Republican, if it`s not?
STEELE: I`ll start with that.
STEELE: I`ll start with that right now. It is not about anything that we
have advocated or represented in the past or will represent in the future,
and that`s the unfortunate part. The leadership is – is caught themselves
in protecting something that they can`t protect themselves from. You can`t
protect yourself from that. The bottom line is you go out and lead and you
call it what it is. And the moment you do that, you will realize just how
freeing it really is.
MATTHEWS: I think McCain is going to look very good.
STEELE: And that`s where John McCain is.
PRZYBYLA: It`ll happen after (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: And I did think the time would come when someone would stand up.
I think it`s going to be McCain. I think it should have been Schumer or
Pelosi. It`s going to be McCain. Somebody`s going to stand up and say,
This guy is wrong. He`s not American in a sense that we believe in us. A
credal purpose is not being honored by this guy.
Former vice president Joe Biden, by the way, slammed President Trump today
as someone who doesn`t understand how the government functions. He said
foreign leaders have reached out to him to help understand what is going
on, and he relayed the criticism from one European prime minister. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At one point, this
prime minister said, And did you see what he did? We`re sitting on the
same side of a conference table, sort of as close as you and I are. And he
said – he stood up. He said – he took the president of Montenegro and he
shoved him aside, stuck his chest out and his chin. And all I could think
of was El Duce.
BIDEN: Not a joke. Not a joke. That`s what people are thinking. That`s
what people are thinking. Violating the norms of personal conduct
generates more anxiety and fear than any policy prescription that this
president has enunciated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll let it go at that. Thank you, Heidi Przybyla.
Thank you, Michael Steele, and thank you, Gene Robinson.
Up next – so much for that show of party unity we heard yesterday between
President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell. Remember the loverboys
together there? Anyway, the president`s henchman, Steve Bannon, is still
out there crusading against Republican incumbent senators. He wants to get
the McConnells of this world. He`s campaigning tonight for Arizona`s Kelli
Ward. She`s a piece of work, the same woman who called Senator McCain old
and weak and told him to step down so that she could have his job. That`s
Plus, Trump ran for president promising to fight for the middle class.
We`ll get ahold of his tax plan he`s pushing. By the way, it`s written for
the rich. It`s all for the rich. Wait`ll you see the numbers. Can
Republicans get it passed? I don`t think so. And how do Democrats use
And another lousy appointment for the Trump administration. The
president`s nominee for drug czar, of all people, was forced to withdraw
today after a damaging report. Why is Trump so terrible at picking people?
Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump watch.” He won`t like it.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Politico is reporting that former White House press secretary
Sean Spicer met with members of the Mueller team on Monday. That`s
yesterday. According to Politico, the interview lasted much of the day.
The report goes on to say that Spicer was grilled about the firing of
former FBI director James Comey and his statements regarding the firing.
Spicer was also questioned about Trump`s meetings with Russians, officials,
including one with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office.
Spicer declined to comment, of course, on this report.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, BREITBART.COM: Let me give a warning to you. Nobody can run
and hide on this one. These folks are coming for you. The day of taking a
few nice conservative votes and hiding is over. There`s a time and season
for everything, and right now, it`s a season of war against the GOP
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Trump enforcer Steve Bannon
this weekend declaring a state of open warfare against Republican
incumbents in Congress. So Trump is going after McCain. He`s going after
the other Republicans. Backed by the wealth of the Mercer family, Bannon
says intends to challenge every Republican lawmaker with the exception of
that sweetheart, Ted Cruz of Texas.
So far, he`s targeted a half-dozen senators who he views as close allies of
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and promises to recruit more
challenges to come.
However, a costly civil war could jeopardize the Republican majority –
they only got 52 seats – in 2018 and even further devalue or derail the
It comes as the president tried to make amends with McConnell yesterday,
so-called, saying he will ask Bannon to call off the mob. Let`s see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you support the plan by people who previously served in your
administration, such as Steve Bannon, to primary Republican candidates in
the 2018 elections who do not support your election?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Steve is doing what Steve
thinks is the right thing. Some of the people that he may be looking at,
I`m going to see if we talk him out of that, because, frankly, they`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, according to reports, Bannon will continue to – keep
going with the prompter here – back insurgent candidates who pledge to
usurp Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Anyway, tonight, Bannon is set to headline an event in Arizona for Kelli
Ward, who is challenging Republican Senator Jeff Flake.
I`m joined right now by Rosie Gray, White House correspondent for “The
Rosie, thank you.
What is the bottom-line consequence of all of this? This guy looking like
a bruiser, going out and saying, I`m going to tough-guy, I`m going to push
people around, I`m going to rid of them, we`re in war?
Trump, meanwhile, going to war with McCain, saying it won`t be pretty.
What`s the bottom line? Are they going to lose their 52-vote majority out
ROSIE GRAY, “THE ATLANTIC”: Well, Bannon`s ultimate goal is to eventually
get rid of McConnell as leader. So, that`s really kind of the overarching
goal of this.
MATTHEWS: And put in who, John Cornyn? What`s the point? What is the
point of all this deck chair moving?
Who is going to be the leader of the Republican Party? Some other
GRAY: Well, I don`t know if that`s the part – I don`t know if that part
has been really thought through actually.
But the point is, you know, something that really animates Steve Bannon is
this sort of like internecine war in the Republican Party that he`s now
sort of leading his side on.
In terms of consequences, this is the type of thing that could
theoretically put the Republican Senate majority in jeopardy. And that`s
something that the leader I think is pretty worried about.
MATTHEWS: These guys, they are going after all 90 percenters, with voting
records around 90 percent conservative. What do they want, 100 percent
conservative voting record? They want actual right-wingers in the Senate?
Is that what they want? Is that what Bannon wants, right-wingers, alt-
GRAY: Well, I wouldn`t necessarily use the term alt-right, but I think he
certainly wants sort of like avatars of the Trump base.
He wants kind of anti-establishment candidates. He wants outsiders and he
wants people I think who are going to sort of support him in his goal of
getting rid of Mitch McConnell.
MATTHEWS: Why does he want to get rid of Jeff Flake? Why does he want to
get rid of Orrin Hatch? Why does he want to get rid of Deb Fischer?
These people are all conservatives. They`re hard-righters, pretty much.
What does he want?
GRAY: Jeff Flake in particular has kind of made himself persona non grata
among the Trump movement for being so critical of the president.
MATTHEWS: This is an ideological war on the farthest frontier.
Thank you, Rosie Gray of “The Atlantic.”
As I mentioned, Steve Bannon is encouraging a slate of challengers to run
against Republican senators. Among them is Boyd Matheson, who is looking
to challenge longtime Senator Orrin Hatch out in Utah. Hatch appears
undaunted. His spokesman told Politico earlier this month he should decide
to run again – if he decide to run again, he will win.
I`m joined right now by himself Boyd Matheson, a former chief of staff to
Senator Mike Lee, currently weighing a run.
Are you going to run for the Senate against Orrin Hatch, sir?
BOYD MATHESON, FORMER SENATORIAL CHIEF OF STAFF: Just thinking about
thinking about it right now.
We have had a number of people say, from the Trump loyalists from people
who were the never-Trumpers. I think I may have found the one thing that
unites them all. And it`s their absolute frustration and disdain with the
United States Senate and the fact that things aren`t getting done.
And so I will think about. I will look it through.
MATTHEWS: Boyd, Boyd, you seem like you know your stuff. You were a chief
of staff and you know your stuff.
Are you expecting the people who watch this show right now to believe that
you`re sort of waiting for the people to tell you to run?
MATHESON: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: Look, I remember student council races where guys who always ran
would say a bunch of the guys got together and thought I ought to run.
No, that`s not the way it works.
MATHESON: Yes, I agree.
MATTHEWS: Ego and ambition drives politics.
Do you have the ego and the ambition to take on Orrin Hatch? Do you have
the stuff, first of all? Do you have the stuff?
MATHESON: So, first of all…
MATTHEWS: Do you have the stuff to take him on?
MATHESON: Sure. Sure, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: That`s a simple question.
MATHESON: Very simple.
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you mean by that?
MATHESON: So, the question to me – and you know this as a former chief of
staff, playing the gatekeeper. I would always ask candidates who wanted to
see my boss, what is the vision or agenda that you`re willing to run on
that will make all of this crap and garbage of going through an election
worth it, even if you run and lose?
And so my decision, and what I think the stuff is, we have got way too many
people in Washington whose only vision is a vision of themselves in office.
And so I will either say I have a vision and an agenda that is worth having
a conversation with the people of Utah and the people of the country. And
if I have that, then I will get in regardless of who gets in.
MATTHEWS: Give me one big difference between you and Orrin Hatch.
MATHESON: Well, 42 years in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: No, one big different issues, on issues, one big difference
between you and Orrin Hatch. That`s all I`m asking for, one big
MATHESON: Sure. Sure.
I think the size and scope of the government that has continued to grow as
he`s been in the Senate I think is a big thing and a big discussion we have
got to have.
And there`s too much of this maintaining the status quo. The big shocker
to me going to Washington as a business guy was that most of the battles
aren`t left and right. It`s those in power against everyone else. You
can`t get $20 trillion in debt through conflict. It`s not conflict in
Washington. It`s collusion.
And that`s probably the biggest difference.
MATTHEWS: Has he colluded with the liberals?
MATHESON: It`s all of it. Again…
MATTHEWS: No, has he colluded with the liberals?
MATHESON: Yes, sure.
MATTHEWS: You want to knock this guy out of his seat after all those
years. Tell me what he`s done wrong. Help the voter here.
What has he done wrong? Has he colluded with Ted Kennedy? Has he been
part of the big government movement in the last 20 or 30 years? Yes or no?
Has he been part of that? Is he guilty of that?
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
MATHESON: Anybody who has been sitting in that long. Yes, absolutely
anyone who has been sitting in that long is part of the problem.
MATTHEWS: No, no, don`t be cute. Don`t be cute.
MATHESON: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: Has he been colluding?
MATHESON: Sure, yes, absolutely. Everybody there has been going through
that process, no question at all.
MATTHEWS: Well, not everybody. Ted Cruz, I don`t think he`s been
colluding. You think he has? Everybody? Come on.
MATHESON: All right. All right. You got me.
MATTHEWS: Change is always good, Boyd.
You have got a great LDS name, I must say, Boyd Matheson. That is LDS.
Thank you, sir, for joining us tonight.
MATHESON: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Good luck in your race.
I guess change is good.
President Trump is delivering a speech on tax reform at the Heritage
Foundation tonight. We`re going to monitor that event and bring you
anything – there he is – it`s live – anything he says juicy, I suppose,
we`re going to bring it to you if it`s newsworthy.
Up next: the rich man`s tax bill. Republicans are pushing a tax plan that
overwhelmingly benefits the very, very rich, lower the top corporate – –
corporate – lowers the top individual, gets rid of the estate tax, which
only affects people who have $11 million to give their kids.
It`s really for the rich.
Anyway, are the Democrats going to do anything about it? Can they use it
politically to help themselves? That`s a great question.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the Trump administration from enforcing
the latest version of its travel ban, calling it dangerously flawed. It
was blocked less than 10 hours before it was set to take effect. The
Justice Department says it will appeal.
The NFL`s policy on players kneeling during the national anthem appears
unchanged after a meeting today between the NFL players and owners at the
league`s headquarters in Manhattan.
And Wall Street hit an important milestone today. The Dow hit 23000 for
the first time ever – back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would like very much to see it be done this year. So we won`t go
a step further. If we get it done, that`s a great achievement. But don`t
forget, it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done. I
have been here for nine months, a little more than nine months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump today on the need to pass the tax plan, the White
House`s last desperate hope heading into the end of the year.
Well, today, Vice President Mike Pence made a populist pitch for the one
element – one element slashing the corporate tax rate.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We let Americans keep
more of what they earn. We allow American businesses to be more
competitive by cutting our 35 percent corporate tax rate down to 20
percent. You`re going to see this economy take off.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But “The New York Times”` Paul Krugman says the math doesn`t add
up, writing: “It`s not difficult to see how the plan is tilted towards the
very top. The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every
aspect of their tax plan.”
For more, let`s turn to MSNBC`s Stephanie Ruhle.
Stephanie, I looked at that report today. Lower the top individual rate,
that`s billions of dollars, trillions of dollars. Lower the corporate
rate. Get rid of the estate tax, which only affects people with $11
million to give their kids.
I don`t see where the middle class comes out here at all.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Listen, it`s either a very, very
aggressive, hopeful plan, or, as Paul Krugman or Larry Summers would say,
it simply didn`t make any sense and it`s not true.
There`s no direct link to cutting corporate taxes and then paying people
more. Have you ever seen, when there was a corporate tax break, your
employer say, well, Chris Matthews, today, you`re going to get a bonus for
our tax break.
MATTHEWS: Well, who gets the money?
RUHLE: It doesn`t exist.
MATTHEWS: No, who is going to get the break when it – I hear last night
from a guy, a very wealthy guy at this fund-raiser, this charity thing I
went. He said, it`s all going to go to the stockholders.
MATTHEWS: The people are just going to get higher dividends. The money is
going to pour to the people who have the most money in the company, not the
RUHLE: For Vice President Pence to say you`re going to see corporate
America take off, look at the stock market, the Dow hitting 23000. It`s
already taken off.
It`s doing fine and dandy. Companies have plenty of money. They`re
choosing not to pay their workers more because they`re not forced to. It
will result in share buybacks, dividends or investments that don`t
necessarily result in hiring more people or paying anyone any more.
The last time there was repatriation in 2004, even companies that said they
would pay their people more didn`t. There`s no lever to force that.
Why do they always put estate tax in? Every one of these goody bags, the
Santa`s bag, always includes the estate tax, which only really affects –
you could give your kids $5 million per parent, and there`s no tax.
It`s only when you get beyond about $11 million total that it affects
people`s taxes. And I don`t understand. How can they get vote – there
are not that many people with $11 million to give their kids. So, why
don`t they keep doing it?
RUHLE: Chris, dare I say, it doesn`t even impact those people?
Who are some of the highest paid, most skilled lawyers, the ones with the
biggest beach houses in your neighborhood? Tax lawyers. It`s what they
do. They create offshore tax shelters, so these people don`t ever pay that
And if it`s one thing to make an argument we want to do this, fine. But
the fact that even Steve Mnuchin would say I concede it only helps the
rich, you tell me, what does “I concede” mean? It means, I admit it, you
MATTHEWS: I see.
RUHLE: There shouldn`t be a, you got me. It should be transparent. How
is this plan going to help people?
And if cutting the estate plan helps the rich, simply say it, plain and
simple. And that`s what they haven`t done.
It`s the Trump Tower tax cut.
Thank you very much, Stephanie Ruhle, who always says it great.
RUHLE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: If Senate Republicans hope to get anything done on taxes this
year, they will need to act fast, of course. There are just 37 days
remaining in the Senate`s legislative calender.
And the senators must first pass a budget resolution before even going to
For more, let`s bring in somebody who knows, Pennsylvania`s Bob Casey.
Senator, you`re a regular bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes Democrat.
You`re not some crazy lefty. You`re the person that usually wins on
How can you not win on this tax bill? Just run against it. Run against
what Trump is doing.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Chris, as you pointed out and
Stephanie did, three basic problems here.
One is the fact that it doesn`t reduce taxes for the middle class, as the
administration proposes or argues.
CASEY: In fact, one estimate, 30 percent of those making between $50,000
and $150,000 will end up paying more taxes.
Number two is…
MATTHEWS: Such a deal.
CASEY: Number two is, it goes to the top 1 percent.
About 80 percent of the benefits, by one estimate, goes to the top 1
percent. If you`re in the top 1 percent, you`re going to get just next
year $146,000. It`s a pretty good deal.
MATTHEWS: How come people on the right think the way to incentivize the
rich is to give them more money? And they believe the way to incentivize
middle class and poor people is to screw them a little bit, cut some of
And that`s what Trump is doing. He`s cutting health care and giving tax
breaks to the rich. He`s incentivizing one group by giving them stuff,
pushing the other ones in the butt by giving them less, taking away what
they have, which is health care.
Why do they think like that?
CASEY: Everything is to the right, the tax bill, the health care bill.
Here`s what they`re also trying to do. You have to look at their tax
proposal and their budget together. In the budget proposal, they`re trying
to reduce Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $1.5 trillion – with a T. -
- $1.5 trillion.
MATTHEWS: Where is that money going, to tax cuts?
CASEY: Absolutely, so they can make some of the math work.
Look, this is – it`s a giveaway to the top. It decimates Medicare and
Medicaid, when you read it with the budget.
CASEY: And, thirdly, it doesn`t do anything for the middle class.
Just think of the estate tax. You mentioned that before. How many estates
in Pennsylvania, do you think, are benefiting from this? One hundred and
fifty, not 150,000, 1-5-0.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know Scranton. You know Lackawanna County. In fact,
you know the state of Pennsylvania, which I said when I was in Ireland last
year, don`t worry, it`s the blue wall. There`s no way it`s going to vote
for Trump. And it did.
So, what`s different now? Is it going to vote for Trump again?
MATTHEWS: Is there something that`s changed in the hearts of the
Pennsylvania voters, in that blue wall?
CASEY: I think that there are a lot of folks that – especially between
now and 2018, that we can talk to in Pennsylvania that will have a
Now, there were a lot of people whose wages haven`t grown.
CASEY: There was a real sense of frustration.
MATTHEWS: When are they going to blame Trump?
CASEY: Well, I think they`re going to have a lot of trouble lining up what
he said as a candidate on what he`s proposed on health care to the right, a
budget to the right, as well as tax reform.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe Trump is pro-life? Really pro-life?
CASEY: Oh, I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, he says he is. Do you believe him?
MATTHEWS: I don`t believe he has any thoughts on the subject.
CASEY: All I know is that…
MATTHEWS: I think he has never given it a thought.
CASEY: What he has said about the tax proposal doesn`t add up in the math,
when you look at the numbers.
When you`re giving 80 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, who
have had a bonanza of tax breaks for many years, I think your credibility
is in question.
MATTHEWS: Senator Bob Casey, thank you, of Pennsylvania.
CASEY: Chris, thank you.
MATTHEWS: It`s great. Anyway, thank you so much.
And thank you, Stephanie Ruhle.
Anyway, up next: President Trump has had a string of lousy appointments,
don`t you think? And now there`s another one to add to the list. His pick
for drug czar, it turns out, was working for the drug company. He
undermined efforts to fight the opioid crisis, didn`t he?
And why is this president so bad at picking people to fill his jobs?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Nine months into his term, another one of President Trump`s nominees has
pulled his name from consideration. That`s a nice way to put it. He`s
This time, it`s Pennsylvania U.S. Congressman Tom Marino who was originally
picked to be, of all things, drug czar. Marino withdrew days after a
report by “The Washington Post” and “60 Minutes” found that a bill he
sponsored, he was the chief sponsor, weakened the DEA`s ability to regulate
the distribution of painkillers across the country, to stop all these
people dying from, you know, drug overdose.
Anyway, this nomination is just the latest in a slew of questionable picks
by the president. They including labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder,
remember him? Who was also forced to withdraw from consideration. As well
as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, short-lived communications director
Anthony Scaramucci, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, of
For more, I`m joined by A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at
“RealClearPolitics” and host of No Label Radio on SiriusXM, Vivian Salama,
an NBC News political reporter, and David Catanese, of course, a senior
politics writer at “U.S. News and World Report”.
First of all, this is one of the horrors of the United States, which is
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: People are dying. They`re getting pills from doctors, somehow.
They`re getting prescriptions. They`re using overdoses. They`re killing
And the attempt to stop them was broken by the DEA`s ability to stop this
stuff was weakened, defanged is the term they use by people working for the
drug company and guess what, they`re getting paid for being in the U.S.
Congress but they`re really working for the drug companies.
Your thoughts, A.B.
STODDARD: Yes, the story is such a powerful illustration of the influence
of the pharmaceutical lobby. And even in the Obama administration who let
this sort of go through. They said, oh, no alarm bells went off from the
This is really facing a backlash on the Congress. They`re going to push
the revisit the law. The Trump administration has got to respond to this
issue. His engagement –
MATTHEWS: Because it`s his peeps.
STODDARD: It doesn`t match the rhetoric from his campaign. This is not a
MATTHEWS: Vivian, this is affecting working people, white people, all
kinds of people who in working towns, where there`s just kind of
hopelessness and they go into drugs. You know this syndrome.
VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. And I`m a firm
believer that a lot of times in crisis comes opportunity. The president
really has an opportunity after the report broke in “The Washington Post”.
MATTHEWS: Does he get it?
SALAMA: Well, that`s the problem. We need to see action right away. We
know that the White House has formed this opioid commission.
MATTHEWS: Did they yank this guy, Marino, did he yank himself?
DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: No.
SALAMA: I don`t –
MATTHEWS: He didn`t yank himself?
CATANESE: I was told he yanked himself.
SALAMA: And you have the situation with Health and Human Services
Secretary Tom Price where he resigned, that`s the word that they used. You
know, the president has to take action. He has to show his voters, he has
to show his people that put their faith in him that he is taking action.
He promised to drain the swamp and one way to do that is to really
crackdown on this. Opioid addiction was something that they really talked
about on the campaign.
MATTHEWS: David, let`s put together to days, all three if you can do this,
all two days. Yesterday, he said something that was great. He talked
about how you can buy the same pill in France, same pill in Canada much
cheaper, a fraction of what you pay here.
Everybody knows that. I don`t know whether it`s subsidies or what`s going
on, price discrimination, the way markets are shared. You know how people
do this. They charge more where they can charge more here.
OK. At the same time, he says he`s going to take on the drug companies,
here he is caught putting a guy in charge of the drug enforcement who`s
working for the drug companies.
CATANESE: But look –
MATTHEWS: He`s caught in the act here.
CATANESE: They cut him loose, so the right solution did occur. The guy
stepped down. They knew they couldn`t afford this fight.
MATTHEWS: The newspapers caught it.
CATANESE: Yes, they did. Good journalism brought this guy down, but Trump
left him hanging out there in a press conference. He did not give him 100
percent backing. He said I`m going to look at that and if there`s 1
percent chance of anything negative, was his quote, I`ll get rid of him.
Marino knew this was untenable and I`m told by the White House officials
that he submitted his resignation, that Trump didn`t force it and that
Trump accepted it, because they knew the administration shouldn`t have a
But let`s be clear. This is an institutional problem. This law was signed
into law by President Barack Obama. Any senator could have stopped this.
This was passed with unanimous consent. Any one senator, so Democrats
across the country passed this.
This wasn`t a Trump administration failure. We can point to a lot of Trump
administration failures. This was not one of them. This was an Obama
administration failure that allowed this law to go through and I think that
says more about the institutional –
MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he jump on it? Why didn`t Trump jump on it?
CATANESE: Well, he`s not a details guy. I don`t think he knew.
MATTHEWS: Details – how about picking people? Vivian, picking people,
he`s been picking people like Michael Flynn, he`s got problems, and Pruitt,
he`s got a problem with him, you can argue about DeVos, but these people
are just going to be trouble. Why didn`t he vet them?
SALAMA: Again, at the same time that he promised to drain the swamp. I
think a lot of it has to do with just the fact that he was politically
inexperienced. He was a businessman and he thought he could construct the
government with the same way that, you know, the kind of experience that he
would have looked for as a businessman was similar to what he would have
wanted as a politician.
MATTHEWS: Because he`s supposed to be smart.
The drug companies know how to write the bills. You know, A.B., you know
the Hill. They write these bills. They wrote that bill, the drug company.
They also know how to create a campaign for somebody.
So, they want somebody run the DEA or whatever, guess what they? They`ll
be the drug czar. They start writing the letters and, all of the sudden,
the president is a new president, I`m hearing all of this great stuff about
Marino. He must be great.
All of a sudden, he picks the guy and it`s the same campaign going on.
It`s the swamp.
CATANESE: But Marino is also a top supporter. So, he was –
STODDARD: I mean, look, David make as good point they was talking about in
the beginning. This passed by unanimous consent. Why did the
administration before let this past, probably the power of pharma. But –
MATTHEWS: Pharma meaning? Explain pharma.
STODDARD: The pharmaceutical lobby.
STODDARD: If Trump is going to hire the best people, which he kept
promising and then these people are not properly vetted, you`re right,
Chris. What he said yesterday and what he said during the campaign about
drug prices, he`s clean. He said, I don`t take that kind of money. I`m
the one person who doesn`t take the pharmaceutical lobbying money.
And he could have made this a pet issue from day one and now, it`s going to
be an issue up in his face. On the opioid thing, he says he`s going to
declare an emergency next week, he said that many times. We don`t know
what it means. But he can`t avoid this any longer and it`s not a partisan
MATTHEWS: It`s on the ground issue. It doesn`t make the front page of the
big papers because it`s not an elite issue. It`s a working people issue of
all ethnic groups.
STODDARD: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: It`s out there. You hear about it once in a while. It`s a
terrible thing. It kills people already have limited hopes.
MATTHEWS: These kids are not going to college, not going to make it and on
top, they get a drug habit.
SALAMA: And drugs are something that you can really support from both
sides. We just saw a terrible tragedy in Las Vegas. A lot of people were
outraged about the guns and, you know, talk about the changing the gun
lobby. Does that ever the gun laws, does that ever happen?
SALAMA: Actually, days later, the argument faded away.
But this scandal is coming at a very interesting time for the Trump
administration where on the one hand you have the president talking – you
know, surrounded by all of these cabinet officials and other members of his
administration who are – who have these issues –
MATTHEWS: Incompetence. Trump is incompetent.
SALAMA: But at the same time, you people like Steve Bannon going after the
GOP establishment. It`s going to have a very interesting effect in 2018
when you have all of these things playing out at the same time.
MATTHEWS: It`s a rump government.
Anyway, thank you. The roundtable is sticking with us.
And up three – and up in a moment, these three will give me scoops of
something you`ll be talking about tomorrow. That`s the standard. Tell me
something that`s worth talking about tomorrow.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump won`t like this next one. According to
“Forbes” magazine, the president the president lost $600 million in net
worth last year, causing him to drop 92 spots in the annual list of richest
Americans. “Forbes” blamed the president`s decline in wealth on a variety
of factors including a tough New York real estate market and an expensive
presidential campaign. Trump now ranks 248th on the “Forbes” list. Bill
Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett occupy the top three spots.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable, beginning with A.B.
Tell me something I don`t know.
STODDARD: Well, a health care deal has come out from the Senate and a lot
of Republicans on the House side, conservatives saying they can`t get
behind it. President Trump is sort of saying it`s a temporary deal and
then later on, they`re going to get their votes together in a year or two
for health care. President Trump is going to push for this, he really
wants it. Not only as we know –
MATTHEWS: Is this a short-term thing?
STODDARD: Not only did – yes. Not only did he tell Lamar Alexander over
the weekend that he doesn`t want people to suffer, but last week in a being
at the White House with a national security foreign policy official, he
spent the most of the meeting talking about trying to get a deal –
MATTHEWS: This is Trumpcare. It`s only to cover until he gets rid of the
SALAMA: Remember President Trump`s big Iran rollout. I think it was last
week. The policy to crack down on Iran? Well, as it turns out, it is not
as easy as you think, because right now, an Iranian general is in Iraq
helping our two allies, the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, try to make peace so
they don`t tight in Kirkuk.
What are we going to do about it? That`s something that remains to be
MATTHEWS: You mean there`s a linkage there?
SALAMA: There is a linkage there, and it`s a predicament for the
MATTHEWS: And to you, David.
CATANESE: So far, the Russia investigation has focused on Paul Manafort,
has focused on Michael Flynn. I`m told the next focus is going to be on
Trump`s digital director in the campaign because the fake ad, his name is
Brad Parscale. He was featured on “60 Minutes” – feature a couple of
weeks ago and that got the attention –
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
CATANESE: He was the digital guy. He decided where to spend all that
digital money, how to target –
MATTHEWS: Therefore colluding?
CATANESE: We don`t know that, but that`s what the Mueller team is going to
want to know in the next phase of this.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, A.B. Stoddard, as always. Vivian Salama and
David Catanese. It was something very hot there.
When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.” It`s about
politics. I don`t know what he`s going to make of this tonight. It`s
something. Anyway, we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Tuesday, October 17th, 2017.
I think we`re about to see a test of strength between presidents past and
present. It`s going to happen in Virginia and happen soon. It`s about the
governor`s chair. President Obama`s going to Richmond this Thursday. I
expect Trump is thinking about whether it`s smart for him to make his own
entry. President or not he`s clearly going to be a factor. Trump`s
tweeted his way into the race making a play for a more conservative
Democratic Party, the commonwealth.
Quote: The Democrats in the southwest part of Virginia have been abandoned
by their party. Republican Ed Gillespie will never let you down.
Well, that`s Trump talking and tweeting.
This Virginia fight is a fascinating contest because it pits the two sides
against each other with both having an edge they enjoy country-wide.
Ralph Northam, the Democrat, has a huge number of northern Virginia women,
many of them single, on his side. They tend to be supportive of abortion
rights and are generally progress on social issues.
Ed Gillespie, the Republican, has the old Virginia tradition on his side.
It`s my guess he will benefit from the passions who hold belief in the old
dominion, including those statues that recognize soldiers and generals who
fought in the civil war. I think there will be a quite backing for holding
that story close. This is a state after all of Washington and Lee.
Virginia will be a battleground again this November as it has so many times
in the war between the states. But the progressives I offer a warning, in
the First Battle of Bull Run, the north thought it was going to be such a
cakewalk that family members and other onlookers decided to make a picnic
of it, heading down to watch the battle from the sidelines. It was going
to be such fun.
Well, that`s not how the history books wrote it up. And hat is tonight`s
lesson. If young people, the millennials don`t show up in good numbers in
Virginia, if African-Americans don`t show up in presidential year numbers,
you better watch out. Why?
Because the people who care about those statues will turn out. They`ll be
out there to protect their pride in the past, their honor as they see it.
So, if you want the north to lose another battle at Bull Run, stay standing
with your picnic basket.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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