Former Presidents appear to rebuke Trump Transcript 10/20/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Eliza Collins, Brian Bennett, Chris Buskirk, Karine Jean-Pierre, Seung Min Kim, Joyce Vance, Anita Kumar, Clarence Page
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: October 20, 2017

Guest: Eliza Collins, Brian Bennett, Chris Buskirk, Karine Jean-Pierre,
Seung Min Kim, Joyce Vance, Anita Kumar, Clarence Page


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: War cries.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The president`s chief of staff delivered a powerful defense of his boss in
a surprise appearance yesterday before the White House press corps. He
attacked the Florida congresswoman who criticized the president`s call to
the family of a fallen soldier.

Of course, Donald Trump couldn`t let his chief of staff have the last word.
Pulling defeat from the jaws of victory, he tweeted, “The fake news is
going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson, a Democrat who was secretly on
a very personal call and gave a total lie on content.”

In one tweet, the president stirred up the fight all over again, misstating
facts, politicizing the issue and doing exactly what General Kelly knocked
the congresswoman for doing, misusing something as sacred as the death of a
fallen soldier.

Meanwhile, that Florida Congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, is pushing back
against Trump and Kelly, who both knocked her for listening in on that
conversation with the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FREDRICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: I wasn`t listening in, I was in a car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to allow today that it`s possible
that you misinterpreted what the president`s intentions were in that phone
call to Sergeant Johnson`s wife?

WILSON: There`s nothing to misinterpret. He said what he said. I just
don`t agree with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president accused her of lying, but Congresswoman
Wilson and General Kelly seem to agree on the content of what President
Trump told the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: 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.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is White House correspondent for
McClatchy newspapers Anita Kumar and “Chicago Tribune” columnist Clarence
Page and author Charlie Sykes.

Why don`t we start with Anita. This is tricky stuff because you have two
people interpreting what they heard on the phone, and then all this other
after-fire. It seems like Trump definitely wants this fight. He wants to
keep it hot. And I think the congresswoman is quite willing to oblige him.
Let`s go.

ANITA KUMAR, MCCLATCHY: Right. I mean, you were right. He – General
Kelly was put out there in the White House yesterday to end the sentence,
period, it`s over. And the president couldn`t help himself but tweet last
night. And this is going on and on and here we have another day and such a
disservice to the family because this is how they`re grieving is this back
and forth.

But you know, General Kelly did misstate the facts yesterday, and that`s
what`s…

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) explain.

KUMAR: Yes. That`s what`s kept this going. General Kelly referred to or
recalled a 2015 incident where he was – event where he was in Miami and
Congresswoman Wilson was there. But he got the facts wrong. It was to
dedicate an FBI building in Miami. And he said she was grandstanding and a
showboat, as the president likes to say, and that she was taking credit for
getting the funding for the building. She wasn`t doing that.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he escalated the battle, like advancing into
Cambodia during the Vietnam war? Why expand the war into something that
before – anyway, here it is yesterday, General Kelly did criticize
comments that Congresswoman Wilson made in that 2015 dedication of the FBI
building named after two slain FBI agents. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: And the congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty
barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked
about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building and
how she took care of her constituents because she got the money. And she
called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the
$20 million to build the building. And she sat down. We were stunned,
stunned that she`d done it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the problem is that General Kelly got his facts wrong
there. Wilson did speak at that dedication, but she never took credit for
getting the funding, something that happened before she was even in the
Congress. Wilson did talk about working to speed up the process of naming
the building.

Let`s watch part of what she said that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: I went to the speaker, Speaker Boehner. And I said, Mr. Speaker,
I need your help. The FBI needs your help. And our country need your
help. And we have no time to waste. He went into attack mode, and in two
days, pulled it out of committee, brought it to floor for a vote. Senator
Nelson and Senator Rubio, who I believe have representatives here today –
they hotlined it to the Senate floor in just two days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the bulk of her 10-minute speech was delivering praise,
actually, for the FBI agents, themselves and the FBI generally. Sarah
Huckabee Sanders said today that General Kelly stands by his comments.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Most of it was her effusively praising these FBI acts, when she
was talking about what she did in Congress, she was not talking about
getting (ph) security (ph) of $20 million. She was talking about naming
the building.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: She also mentioned
that and she also had quite a few comments that day that weren`t part of
that speech and weren`t part of that video that were also witnessed by many
people that were there, what General Kelly referenced yesterday.

QUESTION: Tell us specifically because…

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Exactly what he said. There was a lot of grandstanding. He was
stunned that she had taken that opportunity to make it about herself. If
you want to go after General Kelly, that`s up to you. But I think that if
you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that
that`s something highly inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is – I mean, if I were coming from another planet, I`d be
saying, What are you people fighting about? Are you fighting about what
somebody said two years ago in a ceremony, and what is all this about?
What it`s about, it`s this damn culture war in this country that both sides
seem to be getting into right now, clearly. This thing about how dare you
question a general – what is this, a junta running the country? You can`t
question a general? Of course you can!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What kind of – that`s culture war talk.

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE” COLUMNIST: I was waiting for Sarah
Huckabee to break her cool. She`s usually is smarter than this, but that
was really an inappropriate statement. I mean, obviously, the retired
general, the chief of staff is just as accountable to the public and the
press as any other public official, but – and she will admit that she
misspoke, I`m sure. But she`s directly contradicting how Kelly described
the congresswoman`s speech.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: And there`s is no evidence to back up what she`s saying. Or if
she`s got some, I`d like to hear it.

MATTHEWS: Charlie, explain the culture was going on here because it`s all,
Whose side are you on? In the next segment, I talk about the 38th
parallel. As long as Trump can hold his 38 percent, it doesn`t matter, but
it`s all about holding that 30 percent. We`re pro-Army. We`re basically a
pro-majority race, if you want to be blunt about it. That comes into the
factor an awful (ph) times. It`s all about being culturally conservative
on the usual fighting war issues. It`s the same old ramparts we`re getting
into all the time here.

And the congresswoman from Florida has taken on the fight from her side,
and it involves somebody – people were killed and they weren`t respected
properly and all this. Explain. Because this is something that everybody
out there listening on the radio or reading in the paper tomorrow – they
all get it. Everybody in this country gets what`s going on here.

SYKES: Well, first of all, this is a travesty and a tragedy. I mean,
think about the misdirection that we`re talking about here. We should be
focusing on the dead heroes who gave their lives. We should also be
focusing not on the congresswoman and what she said, which was apparently
accurate, but how about the fact that the Gold Star family had this
reaction?

You know, the White House has succeeded in a certain amount of misdirection
here. They needed somebody they could beat up on. They needed a target.
They settled on Congressman (sic) Wilson, and then they misrepresented what
she said.

But again, can we just, like, take back – you know, step back, take a deep
breath and realize that the White House has got us talking about the
congresswoman, rather than the grieving family of these men who gave their
lives? And I think that`s something that we all ought to – you know, that
we ought to put this in some context here.

Donald Trump spent two weeks not talking about the death of these soldiers,
two weeks. Then when he`s asked about it, he gets defensive. He is the
one who politicized it. Then he lies about – he accuses the congresswoman
of lying, but again, it`s the misdirection.

When Kelly came out, he essentially confirmed everything she said. So why
are we still talking about her unless, of course, again, in this culture
war, you have to have somebody you can beat up on, so that we don`t focus
on the fact that the president apparently botched this rather sensitive
phone call.

MATTHEWS: I know. I agree, that`s true. And also botched the fact that
he took defeat from the jaws of victory. I think Kelly helped him out a
lot yesterday. Didn`t win the battle. He had inaccuracies. But he
certainly looked better than the president. So why did the president keep
the battle going? Why does he always – like Frank Sinatra, he meets
somebody in the men`s room, they say something he doesn`t like, and he
brings in Jilly Rizzo and they start fighting. It`s always a war with this
guy. He loves to fight!

KUMAR: He cannot help himself. He wants to. His staff is trying to help
him end controversy, and it just gets under his skin.

PAGE: This is that deja vu. Remember, the same thing happened during the
Democratic convention, when Trump got into this shouting match with the
Gold Star family there at the convention.

MATTHEWS: Khizr Khan.

PAGE: Khizr Khan, yes.

MATTHEWS: Let it go!

PAGE: Cut your losses, brother!

(CROSSTALK)

SYKES: He`s incapable of apologizing.

MATTHEWS: And admitting he may have not said it the right way. I think
the general told him what to say because it was said to him when he lost
his son. And there`s – probably, you need a little dramatic coaching to
get it right maybe. Maybe he didn`t know what it meant to say, he knew
what he was getting into, in the way a soldier or even a soldier`s parent
would understand. Anyway – because they know the young guys – in most
cases, the guys – love to get into the military. And he wanted to be a
soldier for his country. Help wanted to do that. This is what he really
wanted to do!

PAGE: I can tell you, Chris, as a veteran, we all knew that. You know, we
knew what we signed on for. But as we know, Donald Trump approaches the
English language kind of like a second language. I mean, he`s still
figuring it out as far as the language of empathy is concerned. Just
imagine how he heard – it`s like the game of telephone, he heard the
general say one thing, and then he tried to say it the whole different
time.

MATTHEWS: Yes, like J. Edgar Hoover telling Bobby his brother`s dead.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, yesterday-…

KUMAR: General Kelly said that. He basically said yesterday, He did the
best he could.

MATTHEWS: That`s a pretty good answer.

KUMAR: Yes. And you know, it was such an easy way to get out of this.

MATTHEWS: I tried.

(CROSSTALK)

KUMAR: I tried my best.

MATTHEWS: I tried. I`m not that good at this.

Anyway, yesterday, General Kelly mourned the loss of things he said the
country once considered sacred. The message might have been lost on his
boss because – well, let`s listen to General Kelly and Donald Trump and
how they might be clashing here in their values and empathy department, as
Clarence said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our
country. Women were sacred and looked upon with great honor.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when you`re a star, they let
you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab `em by the (DELETED)

KELLY: Religion, that seems to be gone, as well.

TRUMP: Now, when I take – you know, when we go in church and when I drink
my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little
cracker, I guess that`s a form of asking for forgiveness.

KELLY: Gold Star families – I think that left in the convention over the
summer.

TRUMP: If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing
to say. She probably maybe she wasn`t allowed to have anything to say.
You tell me. But plenty of people have written that.

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

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
calls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Charlie, I don`t think he`s on the same page as his general. I
mean, he abuses and takes advantage of and exploits everything that General
Kelly says we shouldn`t be doing, and he`s doing it all himself, leading
the way.

SYKES: Yes. This is literally cringe-worthy when you play the
juxtaposition. And you know, I – you know, General Kelly is an honorable
man who I think believes that he is upholding all of these, you know,
sacred values. But he`s working for someone who on a regular basis is
degrading all of these kind of norms. I mean, on a regular basis! You
know – but the last person in American politics that you would describe as
treating women as sacred or, you know, showing respect for some of these
institutions and these values and these traditions that we ought to respect
– so you do sort of wonder, was there a little lack of self-awareness
there? Do you know who you work for, General Kelly?

MATTHEWS: I know. Clarence, last word from you…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you think the general thinks of Trump`s personal life?

PAGE: The general`s reminded of – and every day, I`m sure, and he must
think like he does when he sees a young recruit come into basic training
who hasn`t been conditioned to the norms of behavior yet. Trump is all
about defying norms here in Washington, and the general is there to try to
bring him back into line.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s a nice way of putting it, as always, from you.

PAGE: I try.

MATTHEWS: You`re such a jack (ph). Anita Kumar, thank you, and Clarence
Page and Charlie Sykes. Charlie, you`ve been great tonight.

Coming up – you can bet Trump loves this fight with Congresswoman Wilson.
It`s the latest from in the endless culture war he`s using to divide and
distract the country. Trump just keeps stirring the pot because it feeds
his base, his 38 percent, his 38th parallel, to use a Korean expression.
That`s all he wants to do, keep the 38 now and then beat the hell out of
the person he runs against in 2020, get up to 42 where he can win.

Plus, new reporting that Trump is personally interviewing candidates to be
U.S. attorneys. Guess why? The very people who could bring indictments
against Trump (INAUDIBLE) he cares about New York and Washington, D.C.
Wonder why? Does he think the federal prosecutors he appoints actually
work for him? I guess so.

And from George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Joe Biden and John McCain, we`re
hearing a lot of criticism of Donald Trump`s toxic influence on politics in
this country. The HARDBALL roundtable will be here with that.

Finally, “Let me finish” tonight with tomorrow`s big anniversary in the
anti-Vietnam war movement. I was there.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: House speaker Paul Ryan was the keynote speaker at last night`s
Al Smith dinner up in New York. In keeping with the tradition of the
charity event, Ryan poked fun at himself and his colleagues on both sides
of the political aisle. Most of the punchlines, however, were directed at
one man, Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Enough with the applause, all
right? You sound like the cabinet when Donald Trump walks in the room.

(LAUGHTER)

Just might as well get (ph) off to it, right?

I know last year that Donald Trump offended some people. I know his
comments, according to critics, went too far. Some said it was unbecoming
of a public figure and they said that his comments were offensive. Well,
thank God he`s learned his lesson!

(LAUGHTER)

Every morning, I wake up in my office and I scroll Twitter to see which
tweets that I`ll have to pretend that I did not see later on.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he didn`t write those jokes. He`s not a funny guy. I bet
you Landon Parvin (ph) wrote those jokes because he writes for a lot of
those guys.

Anyway, Speaker Ryan may have been joking or trying to tell jokes, but
plenty of the prominent politicians there are taking serious shots right
now at President Trump. We`re going to have more on that later in the
show, lots of shots at Trump these days from the grandees of both parties.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Trump loves a good fight,
and he knows the voters who put him in office like one, too. Whether it`s
raging against the Congress or professional athletes, the president does so
with one audience in mind, the good old base. Plagued by chaos and a
legislative agenda that has stalled, he seems to keep his base engaged by
waging culture wars against the media, the NFL, and of course, Hollywood,
to name a few. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers
are killed. 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
calls.

Wouldn`t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects
our flag, to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out.
He`s fired.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: They don`t use the word Christmas because it`s not politically
correct.

You go to department stores and they will say, happy new year. We`re
saying merry Christmas again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: What the prosecutor should be looking at are Hillary Clinton`s
33,000 deleted e-mails.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I
think there is blame on both side. You also had people that were very fine
people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was the Klan rally down in Charleston he`s talking about
anyway – or Charlottesville.

And while he keeps his base fired up, it`s unclear if these battles will
help him enact his agenda.

According to Politico – quote – “The seeming distractions are the
president`s substance, and the legislative agenda his predecessors have
approached with a singular focus is, for him, largely a diversion.”

For more, I`m joined by Chris Buskirk. He`s editor and publisher of “The
American Greatness,” an online journal, and Karine Jean-Pierre, who is
senior adviser for MoveOn.org.

So, let`s talk about the fact that Donald Trump relishes a good fight. We
know that. And Franklin Roosevelt does too – or did too in the old day,
and Kennedy did too, and Nixon, all politicians. And even Reagan liked a
good fight.

But his fights are almost always on cultural issues, whether it has to do
with who was demonstrating down in Charlottesville in Virginia, who is
saying the wrong thing or protesting the wrong way at an NFL game, or an
issue he is having now with this congresswoman down in Florida.

And it seems to me that he would rather do that, get up in the morning and
argue a culture issue, than argue about what`s in Medicaid expansion, or
what`s going to be in the tax package, or anything that do with foreign
policy even. He just relishes the culture fight, and then sometimes the
ethnic fight. It`s an ethnic fight, too.

CHRIS BUSKIRK, AMERICANGREATNESS.ORG: Yes, he relishes the fight, for
sure.

There is a sense in which the bigger battle is cultural, not political.
Right? This is the idea that politics is downstream from culture. And I
think Donald Trump innately senses that. And so he goes right for that.
Why? Because he`s trying to appeal, sure, to his base, but to a broad
middle class.

And I think he senses that on these issues like the flag or some of these
other things, that there is a constituency out there that is listening to
him. And so, sure, he is going to engage that.

But you start to talk about the details of Medicare Part D or something
like that, people tune out.

MATTHEWS: Why does he need to keep that the war, the range war, the
frontier hot all the time?

He gets up in the morning and he starts the fights again. He doesn`t want
it to settle down. He never seems to want a calm front, where he can talk
about taxes or talk about health care. He seems to want the culture war.

And fighting with this congresswoman, he loves this fight. She may like it
too, for all I know. I don`t know the woman, the congresswoman. But they
both seem to want it to go. And I see with over the NFL players.

He`s not going to stop. He`s talking about Christmas and merry Christmas.
Look, I don`t mind that argument. That`s a – I can see that culture war
on both sides.

But why is he fighting about merry Christmas in October? He`s just looking
for trouble. What do you think?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Chris, I call at the tribal
cultural war, because it`s really speaking to his – that very distinctive,
small and shrinking base.

MATTHEWS: White Christians?

JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. Right?

And that`s what he`s doing. And what he`s trying to do is, he wants to
anger enough, right, that those folks, those white males, who feel like –
who – and tapping into their anxiety, right, and ginning up racism,
ginning up Islamophobia, ginning up anti-Semitism.

This is what he does.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anti-Semitism, I`m a little – I`m not sure about that.

Where do you see that?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he doubles down on it.

Just when you look at Nazis stomping on the streets of Charlottesville and
in Florida and when – when the Charlottesville happened, he said, oh, very
fine people.

I think it`s all – it`s all connected into that as well.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s unintentional. I don`t think – the other I
think is intentional many times.

JEAN-PIERRE: But the other point I was wanting to make is the day – that
Monday when he talked about Obama and past presidents and how they treated
fallen soldiers, we got to remember what happened the day before.

Rex Tillerson was doing Sunday interviews. The moron story started again.
It was about the adult centers. And so he was trying to also distract. He
was trying to change the narrative.

MATTHEWS: You are an expert on this, Chris, because you write to people
that are interested in this.

And I was thinking that Trump wants to get 38 percent and hold onto it. In
all the polls, he has about 38 percent, pretty much. It`s like true north
for him, about 38. And he knows, if he keeps them with the red meat
flying, and there is always a hot cultural issue, and sometimes – not
always, but about nationalism, patriotism, do you kneel, do you stand, the
whole thing.

He likes this fight. If he can hold 38 percent with that, then come 2020,
he can pick up another five by attacking and destroying his opponent. And
that`s all he needs is the low 40s, we know that, to win these things in
the Electoral College.

I think it`s calculated. Fight the culture war, and people won`t worry
about taxes or infrastructure or Medicaid exactly or health care, because
they are going to be with you on the culture side. I think that`s his
calculation. Do you agree?

BUSKIRK: Yes, in part, because I think he does – you always want to dance
with the those who brung you, right? So, you want to keep the base on your
side.

But I think that Donald Trump does not view politics in the racial terms
that are popular on the left. I think he views them in class terms.

And so he`s looking at the country and saying…

MATTHEWS: So it`s an accident that the players that he fights with at the
NFL are all African-American?

BUSKIRK: I think that`s besides the point.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s an accident this congresswoman is African-American?

BUSKIRK: Yes, I think that`s neither here nor there for him. I think this
is a middle-class issue. He says, this is a middle-class country.

MATTHEWS: That he took the side of the white supremacists and said they
were even-steven with the other side down in Charlottesville wasn`t a
racial statement?

BUSKIRK: No, look, at the NFL. He was talking about the national anthem,
about respect for the flag, period.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I know.

BUSKIRK: Whether…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He was talking about human behavior he didn`t like. Let`s be
honest. He`s not complaining about the flag. He`s complaining about the
players.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

BUSKIRK: He`s complaining about their actions.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BUSKIRK: Not the players as people, but their actions he thought were
disrespectful. And that`s something that I think resonates with a lot of
middle-class…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I agree it resonates, but it has also a racial factor, because
that`s the fact.

Go ahead.

JEAN-PIERRE: That`s exactly right.

Just an example, a week ago, 10 days ago, you had Eminem, a white rapper
from Detroit, just scathingly attack, destroyed Donald Trump. We haven`t
heard anything from Donald Trump going after Eminem, not at all.

But here`s – to your question, Chris…

MATTHEWS: So, your point is, he doesn`t want that fight?

JEAN-PIERRE: He didn`t want that fight. It`s easier for him to dehumanize
people of color. That`s what he does over and over. And you see that with
his policies.

But to your point about the 2020 election, look, the problem there is, yes,
I agree he is trying to hold on to that 38 percent. But he is going to be
president now. He`s not going to be just a candidate. He has to run for
reelection.

I have worked on a few presidential campaigns. And it is hard to be the
incumbent.

MATTHEWS: One thing I want to say. The congresswoman – and I don`t know
her – she`s a woman of the progressive side of politics down in Florida.

I think that thing habit the empty barrels, that is not a racist statement.
I grew up with that in grade school from the nuns. The nuns always said,
always said, your empty barrels make the most noise. That is a phrase I
grew up with. And it`s going nothing to do with ethnicity or race or
anything else. So, I disagree with that point as well.

I will score one point for the other side.

Thank you, Chris Buskirk, for coming on tonight, and Karine Jean-Pierre.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: new reporting that President Trump, himself, is
interviewing U.S. attorney candidates. Why would he care? Well, they`re
the very people who could eventually investigate him and perhaps charge him
with obstruction of justice.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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used.

And in Las Vegas, hundreds turned out for the funeral procession of an off-
duty police officer killed in this month`s mass shooting – now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With the Russian investigation posing a looming threat to President Trump,
Democrats say it looks like Trump is attempting to pick his own
prosecutors.

Anyway, that`s because, according to Politico – quote – “Trump has
personally interviewed at least two potential candidates for U.S. attorney
positions in New York, a move that critics say raises questions about
whether they can be sufficiently independent from the president.”

Well, President Trump is considering the candidates for the Eastern and
Southern Districts of New York state, the latter of which has jurisdiction
over Trump Tower.

And while a president that power to nominate U.S. attorneys, they typically
do not interfere or interview prospective candidates. He does.

As Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told Politico, “For him to be
interviewing candidates for that prosecutor who may in turn consider
whether to bring indictments involving him and his administration seems to
smack of political interference.”

That`s Senator Blumenthal.

Documents show that the president also met with the U.S. attorney for the
District of Colombia before nominating her to the post.

I am joined right now by the author of that story in Politico, Seung Min
Kim, and also Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney.

Seung Min Kim, thank you and congratulations.

I didn`t know this. I don`t know. Can you tell us how you find this out?

SEUNG MIN KIM, POLITICO: Oh. Well, thank you for that compliment on the
story.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I want to know your tradecraft.

KIM: OK.

MATTHEWS: How did you find out that Trump is out there personally,
personally meeting with candidates to be U.S. attorney, prosecutor, in New
York, where it affects all his business affairs, and in D.C., which affects
any possible of obstruction of justice? And they`re the only ones he seems
to be interested in.

KIM: Well, the one part I can talk about is that the Senate Judiciary
Committee, which these nominee do have to go through in order to get
confirmed, has been asking the U.S. attorney candidates who have been
formally nominated, who did you meet with regarding your nomination? Did
you meet with anyone from the White House?

So, with Ms. Jessie Liu, who was nominated for the District of Columbia
position earlier this year back in June, when she had submitted her QFRs,
questions for the record, back to the committee, that was when we learned
about the meeting.

MATTHEWS: Where do these names – I`m not familiar. Do they come from the
Bar Association, the Federalist Society for Republicans? Where do
candidates for U.S. attorney come from? How does the president know who to
even think about?

(CROSSTALK)

KIM: So, traditionally, a lot of it is based in consultation with their
home state senators. That`s why…

MATTHEWS: How about if they are Democrats?

KIM: That`s why that does get interesting with the New York positions,
considering there are two Democratic senators there.

But it worked – traditionally, White Houses work with the two home state
senators who then in turn work with their local legal communities. A lot
of these states have different commissions that recommend people to come up
with what they call a consensus list of nominees.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me go to Joyce on this.

What do you make of the president of the United States vetting candidates
for prosecutor?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, it`s a terrible idea, Chris.

It may not violate a law that we can point to, but politics and prosecution
don`t mix. And this is a slippery slope to eroding the Justice
Department`s independence.

This is the type of process that you would expect to see an attorney
general push back strongly against, suggesting to the president that
nothing good happens when the public starts to have questions about the
independence of a prosecutor.

MATTHEWS: So it`s Sessions` job – excuse me – it`s Sessions` to tell
him, you think, don`t do this?

VANCE: You know, you wouldn`t normally expect to see a president to do it.
It`s a longstanding tradition in both Democratic and Republican
administrations that there is no contact.

MATTHEWS: Well, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday that he
didn`t remember whether the interviews had taken place. He defended
Trump`s right to meet with prospective candidates.

Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`m not sure I remember whether he
had interviewed for New York, but if you say so, I assume so.

And he has the right to, but – for sure, because he has to make an
appointment. And I assume that everybody would understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Seung Min, let`s start with you, then Joyce.

It seems to me that every one of these candidate, potential U.S. attorneys,
knows what Trump did with James Comey. They read the papers. I assume
they`re cognizant of the reality.

They know that Trump vetted to see if he was a loyalist, whether he was
going to defend him as head of the FBI. They walk in the room with the
president. They know the question that`s implicitly on his mind. Are you
going to be with me?

Isn`t that already tainted?

KIM: We don`t really know the contents of – especially with the ones that
we reported on. We don`t kind of know the contents of that discussion just
yet. I will note…

MATTHEWS: But we do know what they knew going in.

They knew going in that the president had vetted James Comey on his
loyalty, and then fired him.

KIM: I will note, though, that with that D.C. prosecutor candidate, who
was confirmed unanimously earlier this year, so Democrats did not end up
throwing up objections against her nomination, when Democrats did a follow-
up questionnaire, they asked her very specific questions.

Did you talk – did anyone talk to you about any current ongoing
investigations into the Cabinet, into the Trump family, into the
administration? She said none of that was raised.

MATTHEWS: Joyce, what do you make of this? Because there is a context.

Candidates for U.S. attorneys know what`s going on politically. They are
political people, most of them. And they know the president wants to know
whether you are loyal or not, because he went through this whole process
with James Comey. And when he didn`t get the right answers from Comey, he
sacked them.

They are walking into these interviews knowing this.

VANCE: And that`s absolutely the problem here.

Even if nothing wrong took place in these sorts of interviews, the public
will question, right? The press will question it.

MATTHEWS: I`m questioning it.

VANCE: And we don`t really have the kind of…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If they don`t bring charges against Trump on something like his
business relations and his tax returns and all the rest, it will look
spooky. We will go, wait a minute, he already picked the ones he wanted.
He picked his judge.

VANCE: Prosecutors need to serve the people and not the president. And
that`s what is being eroded here.

MATTHEWS: Joyce Vance, thank you so much.

And, Seung Min Kim, great story here. I mean, didn`t – we didn`t know.
You told me something I didn`t know. And I think we ought to know this.

Up next: Party elders on both sides of the aisle are taking on President
Trump and his divisive brand of politics. We will get to that. Every one
of these four people we`re looking at has been taking shots at the
president on his behavior, not all of them saying they are talking about
him. Of course, Joe Biden, not being nuanced, said he`s talking about
Trump.

That`s next with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

You are watching it, HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: If you have to win a campaign by dividing
people, you`re not going to be able to govern them. You won`t be able to
unite them later if that`s how you start.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Bullying and prejudice in our public
life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.
The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Those were former presidents Obama and Bush taking on President Trump,
obviously, though, not by name. In remarkable display of bipartisan unity,
actually, both men spoke Thursday sending poignant messages about President
Trump`s influence on politics in this country.

Let`s listen to more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: At a time when our politics just seems so divided and so angry and
so nasty, why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be
cruel to each other?

BUSH: We`ve seen our discourse degraded by casualty cruelty.

OBAMA: We got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to
demonize people who have different ideas.

BUSH: Argument turns too easily to animosity. Disagreement escalates into
dehumanization.

OBAMA: Folks don`t feel good right now about what they see. They don`t
feel as if our public life reflects our best.

BUSH: At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger
than the forces binding us together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Elisa Collins is
Capitol Hill reporter for “USA Today” and Jeremy Peters is a reporter, a
reporter for the “New York Times,” Brian Bennett is White House reporter
for “The Los Angeles Times”.

Eliza, this is – I guess you`re pretty young, but I`ve got to tell you,
this is fairly unusual to have these grandees jumping on the currents
president as if he`s the outsider. He`s the bad guy.

ELIZA COLLINS, CAPITOL HILL REPORTER, USA TODAY: Right. And we saw –
George W. Bush did not criticize Obama and they were in different parties
when Obama was in office, and the fact that he is criticizing a member of
his own party, they doing it the same day, they brought up a lot of the
same points, these using the same words like cruel – I mean, it`s
interesting.

MATTHEWS: What do you think he objects to personally to drive them around
here to do this?

COLLINS: I think some of the divisive comments, things like the way Trump
handled Charlottesville, which is something that Bush brought up, I think
are things that he can really point to. The immigration he brought up, he
was a pro-immigration president and Trump won on and anti-immigration
campaign and the DACA stuff, he removed it.

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Well, how about the fact that the
Trump presidency is a total repudiation of the Bush years? I mean,
literally, this is not George W. Bush`s father`s Republican Party anymore.
Trump ran on getting us out of Bush wars. He ran on withdrawing the United
States from this global community that you know against this idea –

MATTHEWS: His father came up with NAFTA.

PETERS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He did develop NAFTA.

PETERS: Both Bushes had the United States as a leader of a global
community. There are many inside the Trump administration, Chris, who
reject the idea that there even is such a thing as a global community.

BRIAN BENNETT, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Brian?

BENNETT: It`s quite remarkable these two past presidents came out this
way. And the reason is because Trump ran on a campaign to completely upset
the apple cart when it came to the two parties. He has tried to dismantle
the major initiatives under Obama including the Iran deal and Obamacare.
When it comes to Bush, he has tried to repudiate as Jeremy said the Bush
wars and get us out of our –

MATTHEWS: It`s so interesting that the two parties can be capsulized as
something they can agree on across the board, so many things, trade and
everything else, global around the world and our idea of deposit. And the
current president is outside that box.

Anyway, former Vice President Joe Biden, not the most subtle man, also
issued and asses assessment of President Trump, in this case by name.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: There are certain basic norms and he
doesn`t understand them, the ones he understands he tries to break down.
This penchant for self aggrandizement and this penchant for tweeting, this
penchant to focus so specifically and internally on what he does or doesn`t
do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He, he, he`s talking about Trump.

As if to drive that point home this morning, President Trump tweeted, just
out, report, United Kingdom crime rises 13 percent annually amid spread of
radical Islamic terror, not good. We must keep America safe.

On Thursday, President Trump offered this thought on the administration`s
response to the recovery in Puerto Rico.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Between one and 10, how would you grade the White House response
so far?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d say it was a 10. I give
ourselves a 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I mean, it`s cartoonish. I`m sorry, Eliza, it`s
cartoonish. It`s interesting as I said all these grandees of the parties,
these older statesmen are all agreeing on everything that they agree
against Trump on. It`s colossal.

COLLINS: But these older statesmen the base that elected Trump doesn`t
like these older statesmen no matter what R or Ds in front of their party
or in front of their names. So, I don`t think who Trump is appealing to
doesn`t like Joe Biden or George Bush or Obama.

MATTHEWS: So, his 38th percent, I`m calling it the 38th parallel like in
Korea, is going to hold no matter how much he lashes at these guys or
they`re lashing him?

PETERS: I think it goes up. If George W. Bush lashes out at Donald Trump,
I think Donald Trump`s base loves that. I went to an event last night
where Laura Ingraham was speaking, promoting her new book. And first thing
she did was tear in George W. Bush for what he said yesterday and the crowd
loved it. So, those benefit Trump.

MATTHEWS: They were yelping around cheering on that war in Iraq for W. and
Cheney, they were all a part of that. How can they skip away from that,
Brian? How can they escape away from the – they`re probably in large
extent responsible for Trump winning, because stupid wars was one of his
selling points. It worked for me.

BENNETT: It`s out of Bannon`s playbook. I mean, Bannon told Donald Trump
when he became – came into Donald Trump`s campaign, look, as long as you
play on the identity politics field and you can push the Democrats into
that arena, then you`re going to expand your base, and keep your base and
you`re going to win this election.

And Donald Trump has continued to do that. When it came to
Charlottesville, he pushed against the race issue, when it came to the. In
and players kneeling against the national anthem, he pushed against that
this is a concerted effort to try to mobilize his base and keep them
energize and also to every day try to win the news cycle on those terms.

MATTHEWS: I agree. I think at Route 40 the cocktail restaurants on the
state roads, they`re cheering him on.

Anyway, a second speech on Thursday, President Bush echoed the words of
Senator John McCain earlier in the week. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To fear the world we`ve organized and led
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.

BUSH: We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that
American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of
distant places.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think, Eliza, that half-baked nationalism, he`s
sticking it to Steve Bannon and the whole sort of think, the thought that
goes behind Trump, that there is one.

COLLINS: Well, McCain is someone who has been critical of Trump all along,
but talk about someone riling up the base and by criticizing Trump, the
base hates McCain. A lot of the Republican Party right now is frustrated
with him, remember, he was that no vote that sunk the Obamacare repeal.

MATTHEWS: At 1:30 in the morning.

COLLINS: Right. So –

MATTHEWS: I think he`s waiting in the bushes to do it to the tax cut. I
think he`s waiting.

COLLINS: It`s a concern.

PETERS: True to form.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not going down as the 50th Republican. He`s going
down as a maverick. That`s my bet.

Brian, you agree? Do you think John McCain wants to be one of the 50 in
the Senate or he wants to be a maverick.

BENNETT: I think he wants to be a maverick.

MATTHEWS: Yes, anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.

Coming up, these three are going to give us scoops for tomorrow, something
to talk about over the weekend. They`re coming up with it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We want to draw your attention to a story out of Florida that
hasn`t gotten a lot of national press. Over the past week and a half, tens
of thousands of Floridians have waited in line for hours, often in this
sweltering heat down there to receive special food stamps available to
victims of Hurricane Irma. And some residents reported waiting in line for
13 hours starting at 6:00 a.m. only to leave empty handed. Several
distribution centers were shut down over concerns about people suffering
from heat exhaustion.

The state agencies that`s administering the federal aid program says it has
deployed more staff members to help deal with the demand. It`s also
extended hours and application sites.

We`ll keep up with that story and we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with our roundtable.

Eliza?

COLLINS: We`re talking about tax reform. Paul Ryan says it gets done by
the end of the year. A lot of GOP members at the House, I talked to a lot
of different aides, there`s some real skepticism about that and I think if
something gets done, it`s going to be really, really narrow, just to say
they got a win.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`m with you. I`m with them.

PETERS: As you know, Steve Bannon and his merry band of revolutionaries
have declared war on the Republican Party. That puts Donald Trump in an
awkward position because he needs to decide whether or not he is going to
endorse some of the candidates who may be more ideologically and
attitudinally in step with him, right?

In the coming weeks, he`s going to be making some endorsements, not sure
exactly where he`s going to come down, but I think there will be some
surprises in there.

MATTHEWS: Pro-Bannon or anti-Bannon?

PETERS: I think it`s going to be a mix.

MATTHEWS: Brian?

BENETT: Watch investigation for Niger ambush. Donald Trump didn`t talk
about this for 12 days after it happened and the investigations are looking
into it. We`re hearing that the military wants to know if French forces
were attacked in the same area but that information wasn`t relayed to the
special forces unit that was operating there.

MATTHEWS: Just like Vietnam. Thank you.

Eliza Collins, thank you, Jeremy Peters and Brian Bennett.

Maybe this is going to be Trump`s Benghazi.

When we return, let me finish tonight with an event that happened 50 years
ago tomorrow. The same day, Saturday too.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with an event that occurred 50 year ago tomorrow,
October 21st, 1967.

That day too was a Saturday. On that day, the National Mobilization
Committee to end the war in Vietnam organized the march on the Pentagon. A
crowd of 70,000 showed up on the Washington mall in front of the Lincoln
Memorial. Among the speakers were Dr. Benjamin Spock, Norman Miller and
poet Robert Lowell (ph). Also the folk singer Phil Oaks famed for his
anti-war ballad such as, “What Are You Fighting For?”

Once the demonstration on the mall ended 50,000 women, men and children
walked across Memorial Bridge to the Department of Defense headquarters.
It was my first large scale anti-war event. What I recall from that
sparkling Saturday was the smell of trampled grass, the low end kind (ph),
the innocence of the young parents pushing baby strollers and the young
nuns I saw with the prevailing good cheer of the vast crowd.

Whatever politics, whether old style new, were being proselytized at the
many tables, one truth was clear, the one success of recruiter there was a
chance to oppose the war. I found myself increasingly engaged at the
Pentagon parking lot. There was something about the crack U.S. military,
the infantry, exercising crowd control that struck me as unnecessarily
provocative. At that moment, I understood how you can find yourself caught
up in mob psychology. I saw good people being treated as if they were bad
people, which they clearly were not and they knew it.

These were the early days of the anti-war movement, when it was innocent
and hopeful. Sadly, for our country, and tragically for those involved,
our leaders kept this in the fighting for five more years, and so many more
deaths and so much more bitterness.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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