Pentagon probes U.S. casualties in Niger Transcript 10/19/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Sam Stein, Ed Markey, Betsy Woodruff, Eugene Scott, Ginger Gibson, Susan Page, Glenn Thrush

Date: October 19, 2017
Guest: Sam Stein, Ed Markey, Betsy Woodruff, Eugene Scott, Ginger Gibson,
Susan Page, Glenn Thrush

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A soldier speaks.


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. This afternoon in the
White House press room, General John Kelly spoke to the country about how
this country shows its respect for those who give their life for this
country. Kelly told of the steps the military take to preserve the body of
those fallen, how it honors and respects the beloved ones of those who feel
the loss most greatly.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Most Americans don`t know what
happens when we lose one of our soldiers, sailors, and the Marines or Cost
Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens. Their buddies wrap
them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a
routine and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when
they`re packed in ice, typically at the air head (ph), and then they`re
flown to usually Europe.


MATTHEWS: General Kelly spoke in some detail, as you heard there,
including an account of the words his fellow officers spoke in consoling
him, John Kelly, on the loss of his son in combat. And those, he said
today, were the words he advised President Trump to use in consoling the
loved ones of the four soldiers lost in Niger, Africa, that their sons died
doing what they`d signed up to do, to serve their country in harm`s way.

That the president`s chief of staff took this duty upon himself today to
take personal responsibility for the president`s words to the widow of La
David Johnson dramatized the heat that has arisen around this event and the
politics it has exposed. The general said today that nothing is sacred
today, not even the private words of consolation of a president to a Gold
Star spouse.

Let`s listen.


KELLY: Let me tell you what I tell them. Let me tell you what my best
friend, Joe Dunford, told me because he was my casualty officer. He said,
Kell, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He
knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the
possibilities were because we`re at war. That`s what the president tried
to say to four families the other day.

I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and broken-hearted at
what I saw a member of Congress doing. It stuns me that a member of
Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me.


MATTHEWS: Well, the congresswoman he mentioned, Frederica Wilson, said she
listened in to that phone call between the president and the family of the
fallen soldier and described what she heard. It was an account backed up
by the relatives of the soldier. Let`s watch the congresswoman.


REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: He was almost, like, joking. He said,
Well, I guess you knew he – something to the fact that he knew what he was
getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway, you know, just
matter-of-factly that this is what happens. She was in tears! She was in


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Susan Page, Washington bureau
chief for “USA Today,” Jason Johnson, politics editor at TheRoot, and Glenn
Thrush, White House correspondent for “The New York Times.”

Susan, you`re first. And to me, I was overwhelmed by the general today. I
think he looked like a president. He talked like a president. He talked
like a guy who had lost a son in combat and knew what that meant and tried
the best way he could do as chief of staff to this president, who`s
unfamiliar with this whole world of combat and loss – and maybe human
existence sometimes, I wonder about Trump. But he did his best to advise
him on what words to use. He used those words, and he was crushed
politically for doing so. Your thoughts.

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: You know, no one since President Trump was
inaugurated has defended him more effectively than General Kelly did today
because General Kelly has both the personal standing by virtue of his
service and the service of his family, and also by his manner. His manner
was completely matter-of-fact and totally compelling.

MATTHEWS: Authentic.

PAGE: And authentic. And so he did – he did a lot for President Trump
today in trying to explain what happened.

MATTHEWS: You know, Jason, I like the man`s style because – I was never
in the military, but I will say this. He doesn`t flap his arms around. He
doesn`t use these gesticulations that Trump uses, like Jesus`s (ph) and all
those crazy gesticulations Trump does. He doesn`t show off. He`s very
calm and has a command presence, like Colin Powell did, or does.


MATTHEWS: And I thought what he said was authentic. He said, These are
the words I recommended the president use. He used them. Now, when he
goes on to characterize the behavior of the congresswoman, that`s politics.
I accept that. He has a right to make that shot. But up until that point,
I said, God, he was true to form.

JONES: Well, he`s a good soldier, right? And it`s his job to protect his
boss, like a good soldier does. But the problem is he could have stopped
there. I do think it was a problem that he attacked a member of Congress.
It`s not just that there`s a member of Congress there, but she knew La
David. She had mentored this guy since he was a kid. So she had every
right to be there. I really think that weakened the beginning of his

MATTHEWS: OK. I think – Glenn, let`s get to this news story, the news
aspect of this, the fact that it took us until this afternoon, a story that
I think some of the press was running pretty far ahead on. And I – around
here, I think we were restrained last night, but there were some people
were raising (ph) pretty far ahead. One of the papers today, not yours,
was jumping on this as if one side was right and the other was wrong, when
this is one of those murky cases of tremendous emotions. The loss of a
husband in this case, the loss of a son, is so horrible, especially in
murky circumstances in a war we didn`t even know we were in.

What are we doing in Niger? You know, when he gets knocked off in some
sort of ambush, we go, My God, who was looking out for him? Lots of
reasons for anger, not just grief.

And then the president walked into it. Of course, he had to. This is an
area that`s so fraught with trouble, especially in the environment we`re in
right now, where everybody is on one side or the other. They`re for or
against this president. That`s clear.

GLENN THRUSH, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, there`s so much to unpack in this –
in this one, Chris. First off, let`s just get it out there. The main
function of him coming out there was to say that the president essentially
misspoke or articulated himself in a way that could be misunderstood. He
gave the predicate by talking about Dunford in that incredibly moving
passage of what the president probably intended to say. And in that
instance, I thought that was extremely clarifying (ph).

MATTHEWS: Well, how did the president misstate what he was advised to say
by the general?

THRUSH: Well, first of all – by the way, we have to say Kelly completely
contradicted what Sarah Sanders said the day before and what Trump had
said, that there was nothing to what had been said. Kelly gave you kind of
the pre-translated version of what Trump had been expected to say, that
this is the kind of thing…

MATTHEWS: What was the differential? You got to help me here. What did
Trump change from what he was advised to say by the general? Just help me


THRUSH: Well, we don`t know. But in the way that Kelly described talking
to Trump, really putting Dunford`s words into his own mouth so that Trump
can understand the predicate, essentially what he was saying is, You have
signed up to do this at a time when many people in your country aren`t.
This was your job. You`re surrounded by the greatest people on earth, and
this is the potential price when you put yourself in that position.

Trump, it appears, if we`re just going by what the family said and what the
congresswoman said, did a shorthand version of that that fell flat. That
is not – that is not, by the way, an outlier. We`ve seen that a ton of
times before. Donald Trump…

MATTHEWS: Well, could it be – how about giving some edge to the
president? Could it be it fell on ears that weren`t particularly receptive
to the mouth of President Trump?

THRUSH: All of those things. I thought – I thought there was a
tremendous – I think there has been a tremendous rush to judgment on this.
We`ve not gotten a clear…

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

THRUSH: … sense of exactly what has happened. And Trump didn`t help
himself saying he had proof in terms of the tape of the call. I think

MATTHEWS: I know, all that…


THRUSH: … was exactly right, yes.

MATTHEWS: You know, Glenn and everybody, I think – I remember – I
immediately thought when I heard this the other day because I`m a Churchill
buff – when Churchill talked to Harry Hopkins, who was Roosevelt`s top
guy, a really great American – he had lost a son in combat. So Churchill
quoted from Shakespeare about your son has paid a soldier`s debt. It
sounds rough, but it is, in fact, the way it is. It`s the horror of war.
The young man or young woman walks into harm`s way knowing that could
happen. And that`s what – for whatever good great reason they had to go
there, they did. It isn`t like they stumbled into something. I know what
he was trying to say, but it is rough. The whole situation is rough, and I
don`t know if there is a nice way to say it, especially to your political
enemy, as the congresswoman is clearly – she has already accused him of
being mentally unstable. She said he should be impeached. She`s very
clearly at the other end of the spectrum. Nothing wrong with that. A lot
of my friends are. But That wasn`t going to be a great conversation.

JONES: I got to be honest with you, Chris, like, if you separate – and I
thought this myself. If you separate the actual words from the president,
if George Bush or Barack Obama had said this, we wouldn`t think it was
strange. But remember, this is a president known for his tone. This is a
president known for occasionally shooting off the hip. So it`s highly
possible that he came off…

MATTHEWS: A lack of empathy, too.

JONES: A lack of empathy on a regular basis. So that`s – it`s perfectly
reasonable for people to see it that way.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s General Kelly. He said he was stunned that a
member of Congress – this is the political part. We`re going to say that
– would listen to the president`s conversation with a grieving military
family, something he said was sacred. But she was in the car when it
happened! It wasn`t like she`d called in, Put me on the party line, or
something, you know?

Let`s watch.


KELLY: And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid
growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred,
looked upon with great honor. That`s obviously not the case anymore as we
see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, was sacred. That`s
gone. Religion, that seems to be gone, as well. Gold Star families, I
think that left in the convention over the summer.

But I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die
on the battlefield – I just thought that that might be sacred.


MATTHEWS: Well, critics, of course, say it was the president, of course,
President Trump, who first politicized the issue of fallen soldiers by
invoking President Obama. Let`s watch what the president said just last


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

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.


MATTHEWS: Well, look, guys, I thought the general, when he stayed within
his position, in his lane, he was fantastic, talking about what it`s like
to lose a son, what the protocol is, he went through the icing of the
bodies and all – I mean, how can you beat that? That was so authentic.

But this thing about the sacredness of women – I think of Trump, I think
of “Access Hollywood,” I think of all that, I think of Harvey Weinstein. I
think of the whole thing that`s going on right now. And I have to say I
thought that was a shot, a culture war shot that he didn`t have to take in
this case.

First of all, the sacredness of a woman sounds like women up on a – these
fragile little deers, you know, that all kind of thing, you know, the
better half and all that old nonsense. It`s harmless, you could say,
unless you`re fighting for equality.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And then you go, We don`t need that.

PAGE: And I`m…

MATTHEWS: And also about choice and life, an old shot in there. And I
just thought it was a general cultural attack line against all the enemies
of Trump.

PAGE: I`m not sure women were treated so fantastically well in some
previous golden era. We`ll leave that. You know, here`s what we could
probably all agree on…

MATTHEWS: Don`t put me in this box!


MATTHEWS: I know what – I`m trying to take your side of this. This
fragile little deer thing isn`t what people want to hear today.

PAGE: Right. That`s exactly right. However, maybe we can all agree that
the issue of Gold Star families – can`t we get it out of this political
debate? We`ve a partisan debate about every single thing in this world,
and maybe this is an area where both sides, the congresswoman and the
president, could take a step back.

MATTHEWS: DMZ (ph). Pull back. Thank you. Well said. I`m glad you said
that. You always say the right thing. Or almost always.

Thank you, Susan Page of “USA Today.” Jason Johnson, sir, thank you, and
Glenn Thrush. Glenn, you`re tough.

Coming up, the real fake news. Senior members of the Trump team, including
Kellyanne Conway – would you believe it? – Donald Trump, Jr. – of
course! – trafficked in Russian propaganda during last year`s election by
retweeting messages that came from, you guessed it, Russia, a Russian troll
farm. That`s ahead. Yes, they were, I think, colluding.

Plus, what were those four American Green Berets actually doing in Niger
over there in Africa? What was the mission? Lawmakers want answers, but
let`s put this straight. Have they ever put in Congress any limits on
where a president can send our troops? I never hear of them drawing the
line. Presidents seem to be able to do whatever they want, send people
wherever they want to.

And plus, Obama is back. We like that. Former president hit back in the
campaign trail early today in New Jersey, and tonight, he`s set to stump
for the Democrat running for governor down in Virginia. He`s back. Our
boyfriend`s back. It`s a tight race down there in Virginia, by the way.
Does Obama still have the political weight to tilt it his way?

Finally, the star and director of the new movie “LBJ,” Woody Harrelson,
who`s fantastic in this movie, and Rob Reiner are here tonight to talk
presidential power from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Former president George W. Bush seemed to take a thinly veiled
shot at President Trump earlier today. Speaking at a forum in New York
City, Bush condemned the current state of politics in this country and
warned about the threats to our democracy. Let`s listen.


public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class
has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs.
Bigotry seems emboldened. Out politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy
theories and outright fabrication.

We`ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem
like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us
together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement
escalates into dehumanization. We`ve seen nationalism distorted into
nativism. We`ve forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought
to America.


MATTHEWS: Well, you took us into war that cost the lives of 100,000
people. That had something to do with this country`s division.

A spokesman for George W. Bush told NBC News that the president was not
criticizing Trump, insisting these are the same things President Bush has
spoken on for the last two decades. Hmm.

Be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here`s a truly disturbing statistic.
Nearly half of all Americans, 46 percent, believe news organizations like
this fabricate stories about Donald Trump and his administration. That`s
according to a new Politico Morning Consult poll just this week. The
number is significantly higher, no surprise, among Republicans. Three
quarters, 76 percent, of Republicans believe that what`s said about Trump
isn`t true.

President Trump likes to call news he doesn`t like fake news, of course,
but real fake news is pervasive now and has real consequences – real fake
news. Today, the Daily Beast reports that some of President Trump`s family
and closest aides promoted tweets from professional trolls paid by the
Russian government. According to this report, a Twitter account using the
handle @10GOP called itself the unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee
Republicans, but was actually operated from the Kremlin-backed Russian
troll form or Internet Research Agency. Kellyanne Conway, Don, junior,
Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn, Jr., and of course Roger Stone all promoted
tweets from that Russian account, which has since been shut down.

“The Washington Post” reported the same thing. And yesterday, the attorney
general was asked about Russian election interference. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think we`re doing enough to prepare for future
interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Probably not. We`re not. And the matter
is so complex that for most of us, we`re not able to fully grasp the
technical dangers that are out there.


MATTHEWS: Well, today President Trump refused to even acknowledge Russian
influence in our election. Here`s what he said instead.


TRUMP: Uranium is a big subject. If the mainstream media would cover the
uranium scandal and that Russia has 20 percent of our uranium, for whatever
reason, and a lot of people understand what those reasons may be, I think
that`s your Russia story. That`s your real Russia story, not a story where
they talk about collusion and there was not. It was a hoax.




If the mainstream media would cover the uranium scandal, and that Russia
has 20 percent of our uranium, for whatever reason – and a lot of people
understand what those reasons may be – I think that`s your Russia story.
That`s your real Russia story, not a story where they talk about collusion
and there was none. It was a hoax.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has yet to implement punitive actions on
Russia overwhelmingly passed by Congress. He hasn`t put them into action,
which he begrudgingly actually signed in August, but won`t do anything

Senators Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar, and John McCain have introduced a
bipartisan bill now that would seek to curb foreign governments` influence
on American elections.

For more, I`m joined by Betsy Woodruff, who wrote the piece on the Trump
campaign staffers for Daily Beast.

Tell me about the – just give me the reality here. How did this stuff get
from Moscow through this Tennessee front group thing online into the words
and the messages put out by the Trump people?

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Essentially, Kremlin operatives
masqueraded as a nonexistent group, @Ten_GOP. They were pretending to be
grassroots conservative activists.

And in some ways, the tweets that this account put out sounded like typical
Tea Party talking points. But there were a lot of signs that it was fishy.
For instance, @Ten_GOP was frequently quoted in Russia Today articles.

And one piece of this that`s important to understand is that @Ten_GOP was
operating long after Election Day. And that points to something quite
sobering about Russian influence operations, which is, it`s not just about

@Ten_GOP actually tweeted that they thought Michael Flynn should have been
reinstated as national security adviser after he was fired, which is
exactly the kind of thing you would expect to hear from the Kremlin, not
necessarily from Tennessee Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK, what is the umbrella of all? R.T., you say, was using some
of this stuff.

WOODRUFF: They frequently cited @Ten_GOP.

MATTHEWS: And that`s on television, all over the place. It`s here. We
have it.

So, somebody is the puppet master that says put this out online on this
phony group, this front group, this Russian operation online. Then have it
picked up on R.T., to give it more reverberation. And there`s somebody
with the puppet strings saying, let`s get this out into the mainstream
media. Let`s get it out there, so people will think it`s real.


And I can`t necessarily point to the specific individuals in Russia who are
the puppet masters. But what we can say, with proof, is that many high-
level folks in the Trump campaign amplified the message of @Ten_GOP.

Now, to be clear, we have seen zero evidence that those Trump campaign
people, including Kellyanne and John Jr., knew that @Ten_GOP was affiliated
with the Kremlin, but they helped it push its message.

MATTHEWS: What led them to it then, if it wasn`t being directed by some –
why would they just happen to pick up this crap that is coming in that is
obviously – I always wonder, by the way…

WOODRUFF: It`s a good question. It`s a good question.


MATTHEWS: It`s just about language and interpretation.

How good is their English that they`re able to fake us with what sounds
like American English?

WOODRUFF: Some of the English is not great.

MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

WOODRUFF: If you look at some of the Russia propaganda efforts,
particularly in a previous story, we have highlighted…

MATTHEWS: Well, why wouldn`t they spot that and say, this is bogus, they
don`t sound like Americans?

WOODRUFF: One Republican data analyst who I spoke with said that he
followed @Ten_GOP for a long time and noticed that it didn`t seem quite
right, it seemed fishy.

And a really important thing about this @Ten_GOP account that I think
people have to understand is one of the tweets that it tweeted that Donald
Trump Jr. retweeted baselessly accused Broward County, Florida, of voter
fraud. That`s a lie the Russians…


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.

If you don`t want to call it collusion, fine. But it looks to me like hand
in glove, that the Trump people knew where to go, they got it, it suited
their purposes, the Russians` purposes. They were on the same team.

Thank you, Betsy Woodruff. Great reporting.

Up next: President Trump has faced criticism over his handling of the
deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger, Africa, but the mission itself is
also raising questions. What do we know about that ambush over there and
what about those operations and – well, who put us over there?

Under what authority did President Trump or President Obama before him send
our service people into harm`s way in the middle of Africa? What war are
we fighting?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


what`s happening.

The wildfires that killed 42 people in California caused at least a billion
dollars in damage and destroyed nearly 7,000 buildings. The state
insurance commissioner says he expect both of those number to rise.

Apple`s stock fell 2.5 percent amid speculation over poor demand and
production cuts of the iPhone 8 ahead of the November launch.

Former President George W. Bush received the Thayer Award from West Point
graduates today. It is presented each year to someone who embodies the
West Point motto of duty, honor, country. His father, former President
George H.W. Bush, received the award in 1994, making them the first father-
son pair to be honored – back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The deaths of four soldiers in Niger, Africa, two weeks ago on October 4
has not only prompted questions over President Trump`s response to the
American loss of life, but questions over what happened in the first place.

NBC News reports that the Pentagon has sent a team to Niger itself to
answer questions, such as, where were U.S. forces when the attack occurred?
Did they have adequate personal protective equipment? And were they even
prepared for the attack? And was there adequate intelligence in advance of
the mission and adequate response to the attack when it occurred?

Republican senators are also asking for more information from the

Let`s watch them.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: We have a little bit of information, but
not what we should.

It`s evident to me that they`re not even fully certain what has happened
there, or they wouldn`t be having this – quote – “inquiry,” not
investigation, inquiry, into what`s happening.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: So, we all most certainly want to learn not
just about what happened in this particular event, but more importantly
about the broader mission and how it`s being executed.

QUESTION: Do you feel the administration has been forthcoming up to this
point about what happened there?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Of course not.

QUESTION: Will you wait for the Department of Defense, their own
investigation, to carry out (OFF-MIKE) ground?

MCCAIN: That`s not how the system works. We`re co-equal branches of
government. We should be informed at all times.


MATTHEWS: Well, Senator John McCain, who is chairman, of course, of the
Armed Services Committee, also said that he talked to National Security
Adviser H.R. McMaster about setting up a briefing for the Congress, and
said he wouldn`t rule out subpoenaing the administration on this matter if

Defense Secretary James Mattis said today that this is under investigation.

Let`s watch him.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And the loss of our troops is
under investigation.

We in the Department of Defense like to know what we are talking about
before we talk, and so we do not have all of the accurate information yet.
We will release it as rapidly as we get it.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, when we lost those people, including Chris Stephens, our
ambassador, over in Benghazi, the Republicans spent years, enjoying it
politically, embroidering it with every possible conspiracy theory.

What do we know now about the four soldiers that were killed in Niger,
Africa, two weeks ago?

SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, obviously, we don`t know

We don`t know what their mission was. We don`t know what the intelligence
was that they were acting upon. We don`t know what the support was that
went in to help them once they came under attack.

And that`s the reason why Senator McCain and General Mattis in the White
House are both saying that they`re going to be conducting investigations,
because the American people and the families of these fallen soldiers
deserve to know the answers.

MATTHEWS: Can this president or any president send soldiers to Timbuktu in
Africa, anywhere he wants to or she wants to, without authorization of

Is there anything that authorizes, let alone mandates, sending troops into
Africa, into a country like Niger, where we have had no real history?

MARKEY: Well, you`re right. We were invited there into Niger in 2013 by
the Niger government to provide military support, training of personnel
that could help their government to thwart al Qaeda or ISIS or any other
radical group.

But, in truth, the authorization for use of military source that was the
justification for going into Afghanistan has now been used very loosely to
move us into country after country, although it was not the basis for

But, ultimately, we need to have public hearings. We need an explanation
from the president, from the White House on why we are in each one of these
countries, what our mission is, what the exposure of our troops are.

In each and every one of these instances, we`re long past the point where
we need a national debate on a new authorization for the use of military
force, so the American people can understand our mission overseas.

MATTHEWS: Give me a sense of how you grasp this new president`s position
on foreign policy?

He ran as basically a dove. He said, we`re involved in too many stupid
wars, as he put it, especially the Iraq War and the Afghanistan war, and he
thought we shouldn`t be getting involved with toppling governments in
Libya, trying to go after the government in – the Assad government in
Syria. He said, basically, don`t be a neocon. I`m not going to be one of
those people.

And yet he`s out there trying to break apart the Iranian deal, which does
keep us from war with Iran. He`s now – he doesn`t seem like he`s a dove
anymore. How do you read him? He seems more like a neocon with the people
around him. What do you make of him?

MARKEY: Well, I think, ultimately, what he`s doing is, he`s reflecting
upon what President Obama did in Raqqa, in Mosul, in Niger, in other

And he`s come to a deeper understanding of what those decisions were. And
he is not fundamentally reversing those decisions.


MARKEY: And I think it`s probably a reelection of hiring a General Mattis,
hiring a General Kelly to be his adviser.

But, nonetheless, that still does not in any way mean that it`s not time –
and it is – to have a full-blown debate in our country on a new
authorization for the use of military force.

This is something that is happening, and in many ways, on an ad hoc basis,
with each president almost ignoring the Congress, ignoring the American


MARKEY: And it`s time for it to come to an end. It`s time to give the
American people the answers to the questions they`re asking.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you, Senator. I think it`s great thinking you just
gave us. And I think we have got too many Gulf of Tonkin resolutions out

Anyway, thank you, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Up next: President Obama returns to the campaign trail. Obama is back
tonight to stump for candidates in New Jersey today, Virginia tonight.
Will it be enough to drive voters to the polls, especially in an odd-year,
off-year election?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Former President Barack Obama, Obama, is back on the campaign trail today
for the first time since leaving the White House.

This afternoon, he stumped for the Democratic candidate for governor up in
New Jersey, Phil Murphy.


election or any election for granted. I don`t know if you all noticed


OBAMA: But you can`t take any election for granted.



MATTHEWS: He`s going to make a pitch in Virginia for Ralph Northam. He`s
the Democrat running for governor against Republican Ed Gillespie in what
is clearly the most closely watched race in the country this year.

Recent polls of likely voters are mixed down in Virginia. The latest FOX
News poll down there shows Northam, the Democrat, with a seven-point
advantage over Gillespie. But a Monmouth University poll shows Gillespie
on top by one.

Christopher Newport University, which is a great poll, found Northam with a
four-point lead. I think that is where it`s at. Northam is hoping the
former president can help lock up the race in his favor. Here goes.


20 days left until the election. And our job between now and November the
7th is really to energize our voters, to make sure that they`re
enthusiastic and that they get to the polls on November the 7th.

And Barack Obama coming into Virginia tonight is just very exciting. And
he`s going to energize our voters and just kind of close that loop for us.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL Roundtable.

Ginger Gibson is political correspondent for Reuters. Sam Stein is
politics editor at The Daily Beast. And Eugene Scott is a political
reporter at “The Washington Post.”

All of you, give me a call on this. Is this going to be a close race?

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS: Virginia is going to be very tight, but I think
we`re going to see a real test of how angry Democrats in the northern part
of the state are about Donald Trump and whether or not they turn that anger
into votes.

MATTHEWS: So, this is a negative vote?

GIBSON: I think that it`s an enthusiasm question. Are people really riled

MATTHEWS: No, but you`re saying they`re coming in to vote against Trump.

GIBSON: I think that that`s a motivation, and they`re engaged in the
process because they`re unhappy with Trump.

MATTHEWS: Factors, Sam?

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, certainly, Trump is the main factor.

And you have a history of these elections going against the person who is
sitting in the White House.

MATTHEWS: Because it comes the year after every election.

STEIN: Correct.


MATTHEWS: It`s buyer`s remorse.

STEIN: But there are other factors, obviously, as well. And we can get
into them, but I think top of the list is immigration for Gillespie, health
care for Northam.

MATTHEWS: Negative on immigration?

STEIN: Negative.

MATTHEWS: Negative on crime.

STEIN: Well, you see all of these MS-13 ads being run in Northern
Virginia. And for Northam, he is running a lot of abortion-themed ads.


Interesting. It always seems the same in Virginia. Northern Virginia is a
lot of single women who come to Washington to work. They work, they
commute every day. They`re pro-choice. They`re pro-social issues. They
tend to be liberals.

You get down in the south of Virginia, it`s like we grew up with Virginia.
It`s rural. It`s conservative.

EUGENE SCOTT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes. It`s coal country.

MATTHEWS: It`s a bit old-time religion in a way, right?


And Gillespie is actually wrestling with how to respond to this right? And
so he supposedly made some promises to some of those suburban moms in
Northern Virginia that he`d be a little more progressive in the areas that
they would like.

But he`s also made it clear to some of the more traditional voters that
he`s a little closer to Trump than he`s let on in some other places.

MATTHEWS: So, how is he nuancing it? Is he with Trump, but Trump has not
been invited in?

STEIN: Right.

SCOTT: Right.


MATTHEWS: I hear he`s with him on issues like immigration, which he can
get the conservative vote on, but not with him personally.


MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

EUGENE SCOTT, THE WASHINGTON POST: He nuanced them with Pence, bring in
Mike Pence. But everyone knows that Mike Pence isn`t Donald Trump and
doesn`t get the same type of reaction that Trump would get –

MATTHEWS: Well, more religious, let`s face it.

SCOTT: Sure.

GIBSON: I think we`ve seen a difficult balance that Gillespie is trying to
strike. You know, Trump talking about Gillespie on Twitter but not showing
up with him to campaign.


GIBSON: Gillespie hoping that some of that rub off without having all of
it –

MATTHEWS: He wants what Trump has to give.

GIBSON: He does.

MATTHEWS: This is why I think Gillespie might win. Ed Gillespie has also
lagged in the polls in his last statewide race. He ran for the Senate
three years ago. In the month leading up to the election, incumbent
Senator Mark Warner held a nearly 10-point, he`s about 10-point, here it
is, 10-piont advantage. Look at it.

But the final result was Warner defeated Gillespie by less than a point.
So, whatever Gillespie does, he underpolls, Sam.

that 2014 was a terrible year for Democrats and Obama was the anchor on the
party in this time.

MATTHEWS: Why do the pollsters get positive results for Senator Warner?

STEIN: Well, I wouldn`t – you know, the thing is I wouldn`t trust any of
the polls. What we`ve reported in “The Daily Beast” is that the campaign
internals which are probably better reflection of where things stand have
Northam at a – in the margin of error type lead. So, we`re talking about
two to three maybe four at the most. But mostly, a two to three point

I trust those more than the public polls to be honest because that`s what
the campaign is operating off of, not making them public.

MATTHEWS: I expect a lot of negative stuff the last two weeks.

STEIN: What? You cynic.

MATTHEWS: Women are going to lose the right to abortion. It`s going to be
a lot of scare tactics on the left.

And on the right, it`s going to be some ethnic stuff. It`s going to be
about immigration, criminals who are here, illegal immigrants who are
criminals and saying it`s all the fault of Northam for voting against this
ban on sanctuary cities.

SCOTT: Yes, I certainly think so.

MATTHEWS: A really hard number.

SCOTT: Those are definitely the issues that many of the Trump supporters
in the areas that you spoke about earlier got on the Trump train in the
south western part of the state. I think they`re going to try to pick up
what was effective, seeing if they can bring some of the votes on,
especially if it`s really tight.

MATTHEWS: Just to bounce this back to your direction, Virginia has not
lately gone crazy right wing. They didn`t put Ollie North into the Senate
thank God. They basically have been Democrat for a long time now. They
voted for Hillary by five points, basically the way the polls said they
would. So, it`s not a crazy right wing. It`s a – I would say, somewhere
near the middle, a little bit to left of center, maybe very little.

GIBSON: It`s very much a swing state and we`ve seen that since Obama won
it for two terms. And I think that what we`re going to see is, you`re
right, a lot of aggressive push on the northern part of the state in the
last couple of days. Gillespie trying to win some of those suburban moms -

MATTHEWS: Will the president – the former president get out the African-
American vote?

GIBSON: He can. He has the ability to and I think it`s going to be a big
test –

STEIN: It really is, it really is – I mean, that`s really why they`re
bringing him to this.


MATTHEWS: – African-American, Eugene?

SCOTT: Yes. That`s the hope, right? I mean, black lawmakers in Virginia,
we have people like Bobby Scott who are definitely hoping to get people on
board who quite frankly did not get involved in the 2016 election to a
degree to the numbers that Barack Obama was hoping they would.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think he`s going to a cri de guerre tonight.

Anyway, the round table is sticking with us, and up next, these three will
give me some scoops. We`ll be talking about tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


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

Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.

GIBSON: NAFTA has made a lot of business community very nervous. We`re
going to see them pump the gas on trying to push back on this Trump
administration which so far they`ve had a good relationship with but I
think we`re going to hear more vocal criticism in the next week as they

MATTHEWS: You think we`re going to keep NAFTA or lose it?

GIBSON: That`s yet to be seen. Sources tell me there`s still a question
of whether or not he`ll pull out of NAFTA. And it`s an if not a when –

MATTHEWS: The Canadians going to keep us, do you think?

GIBSON: The Canadians are going to try but they`re really hoping that the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce delivers big for them in the next couple of weeks.


STEIN: You might not know this but you probably suspect it. I called a
bunch of small dollar donor to the Trump campaign to ask if they`re
comfortable paying a billionaire`s legal fees for the Russia probe, and
they are. They thought it was stupid for even asking.

MATTHEWS: It`s a solid line, isn`t it?

STEIN: Yes. They will not bend.



SCOTT: Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is getting pushback today
for saying that women hold some responsibility in preventing sexual
harassment involved in the Harvey Weinstein conversation. But she did say
that men should be held responsible for –

MATTHEWS: What did she say women did?

SCOTT: She said, they should be aware of how they dress and their

MATTHEWS: That will no go over well.

Thank you, Ginger Gibson, Sam Stein and Eugene Scott.

Up next, actor Woody Harrelson and director Rob Reiner are going to join me
on the set to talk about presidential politics and their new movie “LBJ.”
It`s great.

And you`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s a new film coming out set to release next month about the value of
perseverance and leadership in American politics. It stars Woody
Harrelson. “LBJ”, that`s the name of the movie. It`s the personal and
political story of Lyndon Johnson, the former president and vice president
who as a southern Democrat became an unlikely champion of civil rights. It
portrays a man who as vice president felt overshadowed by the glamour of
the Kennedy family, stifled by his limited role in the administration. He
often butted heads with Bobby Kennedy, the president`s brother and attorney

Yet after tragedy struck in Dallas, it was by advancing Kennedy`s agenda
that Johnson finally emerged from the shadow of his predecessor. Here`s an
excerpt of the trailer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a surprising upset, Senator John Kennedy has won the
west –


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mind if I ask you a question, Lyndon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re out of your damn mind, Jack. All of the
liberals hate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need southerners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No power in the vice presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Power is where power goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m guessing you don`t do a lot of deer hunting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s an embarrassment around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You submit this bill now it will never become law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we waiting for?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t waste any time, you, Lyndon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me? I`d rather not have it this way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now the country needs a man who can deliver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be no compromise. This is about making
President Kennedy`s vision a reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will define your presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can only hope.


MATTHEWS: “LBJ” hits theaters nationwide on November 3rd. That`s coming

Joining me right now, actor Woody Harrelson plays Johnson in the film, and
Rob Reiner, the critically acclaimed director who brought this story.

First of all, congratulations. I am a political nut since I was 2. Same
way this guy is. We read the papers. You are unbelievable in this movie.
The first second I go, oh, I know Woody Harrelson, he`s played Steve
Schmidt. He`s played everybody.

How can he look – you were LBJ. You caught the insecurity of the guy.
The worry about will they love me? Like an 8-year-old. He`s not this big
troll, he`s this boy. Boy-man. And you got him.

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR, “LBJ”: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: When you did it, the nervousness. And, Jennifer Jason Leigh –

ROB REINER, DIRECTOR, “LBJ”: She`s incredible, absolutely incredible.

MATTHEWS: You`re in a lot of bedroom scenes, not sex scenes – there`s
pretty gross scenes in this movie. There`s scenes where you lie in bed
like men do, in bed at night asking their wife, what do you think, how am I
doing? You think I`m all right? That`s the same thing, LBJ.

REINER: That insecurity, that desire to be loved, feeling unloved at times,
that came out. I read Caro books and he`s a brilliant –

MATTHEWS: Caro`s the guy.

REINER: Yes, he`s a brilliant chronicler of LBJ. But in Doris Kearns
Goodman`s book, that`s where I got it. She was very close to him because
they – you know, she worked for him, she wrote the biography.

She talked about – two things I picked out. One was he had this recurring
nightmare of being paralyzed. He also had this fear that his mother didn`t
love him, because she would withhold her love at times. It was
conditional. When he wasn`t doing the things that she wanted him to do.
And that`s what we wanted to get.

Because everybody knows LBJ, the arm-twisting bull in the China shop guy.
But they don`t know this other side to him. And that`s what we tried to
do. That`s what this guy was able to pull off.

MATTHEWS: I like the line in Winter Park where you`re watching Bobby and
Jack run the country, the glamour guys, and you`re sort of in the back
room, you`re not getting any – you`re sitting over in the Old Executive
Office looking across the avenue at the guys running the country, you`re

And then in one split second down in Dallas, you become the leader of the
Western world. You emerge, you stand up, you start giving orders lickety-
split. How do you do that? That was a real switch-on.

HARRELSON: Well, I think that is kind of the way it happened. Obviously
there was the shock of it. But then he just – he had these leadership
qualities that were from all those years in Congress and the Senate and
everything. And so, he just kind of stepped up. And you know, I just – I
listened to what this guy told me to do.

MATTHEWS: You had the accent, too. You got the Texas accent, which is not
exactly a Southern exactly.

REINER: You want to hear the crazy part? He`s from Texas.

MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

REINER: And he agonized over the fact that his accent was from outside of
Houston, and LBJ was from the west Texas country.


HARRELSON: There are distinctive accents so it really plagued me. It`s
just be like –

MATTHEWS: You`re talking to Richard Russell, who`s a real segregationist,
I mean, he`s revered, the Senate building`s named after him. You`re
talking about these statues we argue about today, the name of the building.

REINER: Which I always questioned.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this. He`s the guy who didn`t like what
you did. And the struggle in the past, civil rights. Johnson had to
confront members of his own party. It was the Southern Democrats, not the
Republicans, who opposed civil rights. Here`s the scene between Johnson
and, of course, the leader of the Senate southern bloc, Richard Russell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best leaders of the time, from both our states,
voted for secession. And they were great men who nearly destroyed America.
I don`t ever want a history book to say that about me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you something. When was the last time you
had a meal with a (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s an employee, but if you think I`d have any
objection to breaking bread with her, then you`re a fool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re telling me she`s your equal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That woman spent more time in this house except anyone
except Ladybird, she is family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know how I missed the resemblance. Look, what
I`m talking about here is freedom. I`m talking about the preservation of a
certain way of life, a way of life that you and I both grew up with.
There`s nothing wrong with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then why are we whispering?


MATTHEWS: Great script. I thought the fact that he – that Johnson ends
up calling him a racist, to husband buddy that made him, Richard Russell
was his godfather.

REINER: His mentor.

MATTHEWS: All those years.


MATTHEWS: And now he comes out and this southern guy, I think it`s an
amazing story. How Johnson – I don`t think Kennedy could have gotten the
civil rights – 71 votes they had to get to beat the filibuster. They had
all these Southern Democrats.

You know, when I first came to Washington, the southern Democrats still ran
this city. You could smell the grit in the kitchen and the Southern
cooking. They ran every committee. They were segies (ph). They were.
Now they`re all Republicans, of course.

REINER: What Johnson says there, he knew it, if he`s going to pass this,
he`s going to lose the south for generations. Turns out it was many more
than one generation.

MATTHEWS: They kept Texas, though. I like the fact that Texas stayed
Democrat and voted for Humphrey and voted for Carter.

REINER: For a while.

MATTHEWS: It did for a while. That`s why I don`t think it was stolen. I
don`t buy all those theories. Congratulations.

HARRELSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I thought you were Steve Schmidt in that movie. Name change.
It was unbelievable.

But you are Johnson. You got it. Not just the makeup, I think you
inhabited the guy.

Woody Harrelson, the great actor, and Rob Reiner. The movie once again,
“LBJ”, it hits theaters nationwide, November 3rd.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s see how the general`s words go over overnight as
everybody absorbs them. Certainly, he sounded better today than the
president has at any time.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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