U.S.- North Korea diplomatic efforts in peril Transcript 10/25/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Astead Herndon, Erica Werner, Jackie Speier, Nayyera Haq, Susan Del Percio

Date: October 25, 2017
Guest: Astead Herndon, Erica Werner, Jackie Speier, Nayyera Haq, Susan Del Percio


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

President Trump is fighting back hard today against his Republican
detractors, trying to hold the new Trump-dominated party together.
Yesterday, Arizona senator Jeff Flake announced he would not run again and
warned his fellow Republicans the conduct of the president must not be
counted as normal. The president responded in predictable fashion.


before he ever knew me. He wrote a book about me before I ever met him,
before I ever heard his name. I mean, he came out with this horrible book.
And I said, Who is this guy? In fact, I remember the first time I saw him
on television, I had not really been – nobody knew me in terms of
politics. But the first time I saw him on television, I said, I assume
he`s a Democrat. Is he a Democrat? They said, He`s a Republican. I said,
That`s impossible.

So look, his poll numbers are terrible. He`s done terribly for the great
people of Arizona, a state that likes Donald Trump very much, as even you
will admit. And he would have never won. So he did the smart thing for
himself. This way he can get out somewhat gracefully.


MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard a sentence with so many first-person
personal pronouns – I, me, again and again? In a “Washington Post” op-ed,
Senator Flake asked, “How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star
families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced? How
many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry
and shrug it off. How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled
at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of

Well, Flake said today when it comes to the president`s behavior, enough
is enough.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The problem is it seems now to be
conservative, you have to be angry. I think if we are waiting for that
pivot, we ought to quit waiting. After nine months, I think it`s not

No president, Democrat or Republican, in recent memory has exhibited the
kind of behavior that this president has. And so I – - I – you know, I
am a Republican. I`m a conservative. I would love to have a Republican
president. But not at any cost.


MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, the president bragged about his meeting with
Republican senators yesterday, bragging that they gave him standing


TRUMP: I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a
lovefest. But we – standing ovations. There is great unity.


MATTHEWS: Well, yet Senator Flake offered a different view of his
Republican colleagues, as people who at least privately agree with his
assessment of the president. Let`s watch.


FLAKE: I can just say that a lot of my colleagues share the concerns that
I raised on the floor yesterday. And I believe that more of them will
speak out in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But those colleagues that you`ve had those
conversations with behind the scenes that you believe will speak out –
what are they waiting for?

FLAKE: Oh, I think they will. And I think we`ve hit the tipping point,
you know? There is – at some point, just the weight of it just causes
people to change and to say, I can`t take this anymore.


MATTHEWS: Well, Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist, Ron Reagan`s
an author and also MSNBC contributor here. Eugene Robinson is a columnist
for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor.

I want to talk with Gene, but first of all, I`ve got to share this because
I think this has is the craziest thing I`ve heard a president say, which is
saying something. President Trump, a man who has picked fights with war
heroes, Gold Star families, disabled journalists, even beauty pageant
contestants, said it was the media that created the narrative that he
wasn`t civil. Let`s watch him.


QUESTION: Should you be more civil as the leader of this country?

TRUMP: Well, I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know,
people don`t understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice
student. I did very well. I`m a very intelligent person. I – you know,
the fact is, I think – I really believe – I think the press creates a
different image of Donald Trump than the real person.

QUESTION: When is it OK for you to pull your punches? When will you

TRUMP: Well, I think it`s always OK when somebody says something about you
that`s false, I think it`s always OK to counterpunch or to fight back.


MATTHEWS: Gene, I do not understand why a president of the United States,
with a normal psychological condition, would brag in saying that, I went to
an Ivy League school. Here`s the guy that ran with the regular people,
that didn`t like the academic, et cetera, elite. And there he is saying,
Hey, I went to Penn!


MATTHEWS: Hey, I`m civil. I was nice in school. I`m waiting for Amy
Gutmann, the president of Penn, to just say, He didn`t really go here.


MATTHEWS: I am tired of him saying – he went there for two years. I`m
waiting for – Fordham never claims him, by the way. Fordham had him for
two years. They never claim the guy. Your thoughts.

ROBINSON: Well, you qualified those remarks, “with a normal psychological
condition,” right? And I don`t think that`s what we`re dealing with here.
I`m not sure he knows what the word “civil” means or “civility” is because
clearly, that`s something he ain`t. And…

MATTHEWS: He walks around with his tie hanging out four feet down, the
coat open like he wants to look like a bully. He swaggers and then he
says, of course, I`m a nice person who went to an Ivy League school…


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) beauty school or whatever the hell…

ROBINSON: It`s very weird to hear…

MATTHEWS: Finishing school.

FINEMAN: … the president of the United States talking like that, but
it`s been weird since inauguration day. But so far, we got, what, three
senators who have actually come out publicly? We`ve got Flake, we`ve got
Corker, we`ve got John McCain most of the time, some of the time. Where
are the others?

MATTHEWS: Susan, thank you for joining us tonight. I keep thinking of one
of my favorite movies, not my most favorite, that`s “Lawrence of Arabia” –
but do I think of “The Godfather” and poor Fredo, who ended up in the lake
there, of course, saying the “Hail Mary.” And poor Fredo had to go to
Michael, who`s about to kill him, and says, I`m smart, Michael, I`m smart.
Why don`t you respect me? I`m smart.

That`s what it sounds like with Trump! What is he talking like this for?
I went to an Ivy League school. He`s president!

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There`s no explaining it, Chris.
I`ve never seen someone who graduated 50 years ago talk so much about their
alma mater. What it does is it goes to show Trump`s insecurities. And
that`s why he`s always attacking. That`s what – that`s the sign of a
bully, his own insecurities. It`s almost like he can`t accept that he`s
one and anyone who questions him is just wrong.

And that`s what`s so depressing about the conversation that we`re having in
this country. And Donald Trump is just working to divide us more and more,
whether it`s internally in the Republican Party or as a nation.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the president bragging today. Of course, his
bragging today is just about a pattern with what he`s done before, again
about his intelligence and memory and how it fits the pattern. Here – I`m
warming up for the cleanup hit of Ron Reagan to come on here. I want Ron
to have this as his sort of pre-game. Here`s Trump bragging about his


TRUMP: I went to an Ivy League college. I`m a very intelligent person.
(INAUDIBLE) right from the beginning. There`s no hesitation, one of the
great memories of all time.

So here I am, great schools, great brain, great success.

I went to an Ivy League school. I`m very highly educated. I know words –
I have the best words.

I was a good student. I always hear about the elite. You know, the elite?
They`re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was a better
student than they were.

They say, There`s Donald Trump, an intellectual. Trust me, I`m, like, a
smart person.


MATTHEWS: Ron, how can Alec Baldwin outdo that on Saturday night?


MATTHEWS: I know words! that`s the president of the United States, the
leader of the world, and he`s talking like he`s an 8-year-old trying to get
into second grade. I don`t know what to make of it.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I`ve known a few smart people in my
life, and I`ve never known any of them to tell you how smart they were.
That just wasn`t necessary.

Listen, all three of you have touched on something that I think is really
central here. You know, we get all outraged for a few days over the latest
incivility, if you want, coming from Donald Trump, whatever tweet or remark
he made about a Gold Star family. And it`s fine. We should note these
things and catalog them.

But you three have already touched on the central problem here. And that
is that Donald Trump is a deeply damaged human being. He is a sociopathic,
malignant narcissist, and he happens to be the – you know, the electoral
system, not the American people, but the Electoral College has sort of
vomited this thing up. And it landed in the Oval Office.

And it needs to be removed. It`s a stain. It`s a big glob on the carpet
there. It needs to be removed. And that means impeachment or the 25th
amendment. This man is a danger to the world.

MATTHEWS: Well, that brings me back, Gene, to my Yiddish as I began the
show with. I`m not Jewish, but I am philo-semitic and I don`t mind using
the terminology because it`s a rich language. Mishegoss means absolute
confusion, hell gone to earth, everything`s wrong. This is the Republican
Party. He`s their leader! They`re dropping off not like flies, but
they`re flaking off, if you will, one at a time saying, This guy is not fit
to serve, like Ron did.

ROBINSON: Well, and meanwhile, if you haven`t noticed, the Republican
Party has big majorities and also – statehouses and everything – but
can`t govern. The party is a mess, really. But it`s a very successful
mess. And that…

MATTHEWS: Well, they haven`t done anything. They got rid of the
filibuster rule to push through Gorsuch. That`s all they did.

ROBINSON: Successful in getting elected, not successful in governing.
That puts the country in a really perilous state.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, let`s talk about how the Republican Party – and I
want Susan to explain this anthropologically, sociologically. The
difference between – you know, I went to Democratic conventions
(INAUDIBLE) watching them and going to them and all, and I always heard
somebody yelling from up front, Please clear the aisles. Nobody ever
cleared the aisles. It was always mass confusion, but that`s the way
Democrats are.

Republicans, when you say, Please clear the aisles, they do. They deal
with their tow (ph). They fall in line, not in love. We`ve said that

Here`s Senator Flake. He`s had little support, however, not surprisingly,
from his Republican colleagues, at least not in broad daylight. Let`s


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think people should settle
their differences personally. I think it`s better that way. I think it`s
in our interests to have party unity so that we can continue to work
forward on an agenda.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: … because we`ve made this about
personalities and less about policy. I think if we can stay on policy –
look, I have had honest disagreements with the president, and yet I`m still
on very good terms with the president.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: This president has his own way of
communicating, and look, it`s worked.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think Jeff Flake and Bob Corker
will do what they think is best for the country. The one thing I would say
to both of these – of my colleagues – I admire you, I like you, you`ve
got guts. To the president, you won, you beat me, I want you to be
successful. To all three of you, knock it off.


MATTHEWS: Yes, there they go, Susan. They`re telling the guys who
question this president to behave like little North Koreans and strut in
line, as they`re supposed to, saluting, applauding, actually applauding,
with a standing o, preferably, the president of the United States, like his
cabinet does, like the Senate caucus did yesterday.

They don`t want – in other words, every time someone gets out of line,
they say, It`s your fault. You`ve got to get in line with this president.
What`s that about your party?

DEL PERCIO: Well, there`s a few things. I think one is that the party`s
trying to get something done. So there`s that. And it is – does go to
Eugene`s point, if we`re not governing, then we`re not going to be
successful. But there`s a lot being made of Corker`s comments and Flake`s
comments in the last 24, 48 hours. But hat I think the real sea change
could have happened back in Charlottesville, when Corker came out then
because that was an issue that everybody, all Republicans were beginning to
be very wary about Donald Trump. We were talking about race, we were
talking about how Donald Trump was supporting neo-Nazis. Senator Corker
came out with a comment questioning his stability.

But what happened? Steve Bannon left, and all the Republicans got to hide
and take cover under Steve Bannon leaving. So now we`re going to have to
find another moment, which I am unfortunately pretty sure Donald Trump will
create another moment where all Americans can really say, This is
unacceptable behavior. We cannot get behind someone who is a – who
supports neo-Nazis and calls them fine people.

MATTHEWS: Explain the silence of the lambs, Ron.

REAGAN: Well, apparently…

MATTHEWS: Why are they so silent?

REAGAN: Well, apparently, a lot of the country can get behind somebody who
supports neo-Nazis. We`ve already seen that. Republicans in Congress are
making two calculations. One involves a tax cut for the top 1 percent.
This is their – they want this more than anything. If they think Trump
can help them get there, they`ll stay with him.

And the other is simply their re-election as individuals. They`ve got a
divided party now. Roughly half of their party is all-in on Trump and will
crucify anybody who doesn`t take his side. The other half is, you know,
the establishment party.

But you can`t win with just half. You know, you`ve got to somehow put the
two halves together there, and that`s the dilemma for all the Republicans
now and why the party is coming apart, in what is really an historical
moment here in this country.

MATTHEWS: Well, Gene, if it is an historic moment, then we`ve seen parties
actually split.

ROBINSON: We have seen…

MATTHEWS: The Republican Party began as a party, the abolitionists, the
sort of radical, anti-slavery people and the establishment whig party, the
sort of Bush party, right?


MATTHEWS: And that`s coming apart now.


MATTHEWS: The right-wing, crazy Steve Bannon types are breaking up with
the people like – well, like we`ve been talking about, like Flake and the
rest of them who are sliding away.

ROBINSON: Yes, but you know, I think the party is basically going to
continue in this sort of fractious condition until it gets defeated, until
you know – a drubbing at the polls is what reforms a party generally

MATTHEWS: Susan, you agree with that?

ROBINSON: … gets it back together.

DEL PERCIO: That`s absolutely right. There`s also another problem on hand
is that a lot of donors and people don`t know where to go right now because
they`re afraid to get behind any institutional person because they don`t
know where the next tweet`s going to come because most of those donors have
business in front of Washington.

So it`s going to be – I think Eugene`s right. It`s going to come when
they lose. In 2008, they took a thumping. And what happened was, is they
almost got back too early. They didn`t have a long enough walk in the
woods to really redefine themselves. And now we`re here. We went from the
party to (ph) no to a party that`s in control, but not governing, which is
almost worse than being the party of no.

MATTHEWS: I hope your party comes back some day.

DEL PERCIO: I do too, Chris. I really do.

MATTHEWS: The party of “The New York Herald Tribune,” the moderate
Republican Party. We`ll see if it comes back.

Susan Del Percio, thank you. Ron Reagan, as always, welcome back to the

REAGAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I always can tell you when you just hit landfall. And Eugene
Robinson thank you, sir, as always.

Coming up, we have now learned that the Clinton campaign and the DNC picked
up the tab for that opposition research funding that produced the infamous
Russian dossier on Donald Trump, despite their year-long denials of being
involved in the funding. But even though President Trump calls the dossier
“fake,” some of its claims line up with known facts about Trump and Russia.
And that`s ahead.

Plus, diplomatic talks have broken down with North Korea after Trump`s
increasingly belligerent rhetoric against Kim Jong-un. It`s what Bob
Corker warned about when he said that Donald Trump was leading us to World
War III. Trump`s tough talk is making us less safe.

And the HARDBALL roundtable on the growing split in the Republican Party
and whether Democrats can capitalize. We`ll see.

Finally, a big part of the show tonight, “Let Me Finish” with what we might
see tomorrow when the government finally releases the John F. Kennedy
assassination files. Stay with us to the end tonight. It`s very exciting
what might happen tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, “The Wall Street Journal” is reporting that the Manhattan
U.S. attorney`s office is now investigating former Trump campaign chairman,
you guessed it, Paul Manafort.

According to “The Wall Street Journal,” the investigation, quote, “is being
conducted in collaboration with a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller
into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering.” It adds that, quote,
“The probe is unfolding at the same time that the Brooklyn U.S. attorney`s
office pursues an inquiry involving Kushner companies, owned by the
president`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “The Wall Street Journal” also
notes that President Trump has personally interviewed candidates to head up
both of the attorney offices in New York City.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. NBC News has confirmed reporting by
“The Washington Post” that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the Democratic
National Committee, helped fund that research that ultimately produced the
now-infamous dossier on Donald Trump. According to a source familiar with
the situation, the lawfirm Perkins Coie, which represented the Clinton
campaign and DNC, retained Fusion GPS in April of 2016 to conduct
opposition research.

Fusion then hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to
further the work that Fusion had already begun on behalf of a previous
unknown Republican client to dig up stuff on Trump. Steele went on to
produce a collection of raw intelligence reports that allege, among other
things, that the president and his associates engaged in a well-developed
conspiracy of cooperation with Russia during the 2016 election.

“The New York Times” further reports that the Democratic attorney who
retained Fusion GPS, Marc Elias, was not forthcoming about his involvement
– quote – “Earlier this year, Mr. Elias had denied he had possessed the
dossier before the election.”

Maggie Haberman of “The New York Times” went further, saying: “Folks
involved in funding this lied about it and with sanctimony for a year.”

President Trump seized on the news today to assert that Steele`s findings
in the dossier were made up.


they`ve done with this fake dossier. It was made up. And I understand
they paid a tremendous amount of money.

And Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And
now only because it`s going to come out in a court case, they said, yes,
they did it. They admitted it. And they are embarrassed by it.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier,
who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and by Glenn Thrush, White
House correspondent with “The New York Times” and an MSNBC political

You`re both here.

So, let me go to the congresswoman.

I was, I guess, vaguely informed, people tell me that the Democrats,
Democrats, somebody had something to do with funding this dossier, the
whole intel, the oppo research that came up with all of this on Trump, some
of it raw, some of it useful, some of it not.

Did you know that Democrats were behind paying for the dossier?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: No, I didn`t know that. In fact, we
were first made aware…

MATTHEWS: Should you have known? Should they have told you? Should the
Democrats have come clean on this months ago?

SPEIER: Well, you know, truly, Chris, it`s op research. It`s what any
campaign engages in.

MATTHEWS: No, but should they have come clean during this massive
investigation, with all the focus on the Russian connection of Donald

Why wouldn`t the Democrats come out and say, OK, we paid for it, instead of
letting it leak out now, when it now brings into question the whole effort?
Why weren`t they clean? Why did they hide this? Why did Hillary Clinton
hide this?

SPEIER: Well, I don`t know that Hillary Clinton hid it, or was it just her
attorney who was…


MATTHEWS: She paid for it.

SPEIER: Well, maybe she thought of it – or her attorney thought of it as
a client – attorney-client privilege.

MATTHEWS: No, no, the result, the product. You mean, oh, it was a
privilege to keep secret that Democrats paid for oppo on their opposition
opponent, for their opponent in the campaign. They want to keep that

Even after this investigation began, they sat on it. I don`t think it`s in
her book. How come everybody is – this is how you get in trouble with
politics. You know, Jackie. I know you`re a good Democrat, but can`t you
come out and say, this is one time that Democrats blew it? They should
have come out months ago and say, we paid for that damned document, but
it`s true.

Just say it like that. We paid for it, but it`s true, instead of now
saying, blah, blah, blah. Did you hear in the paper today the Hillary
Clinton campaign won`t even respond to questions? That makes them look
really honest, doesn`t it? Go ahead. Your thoughts.

SPEIER: Well, I would just say that it would have been great to have them
come forward with it.

But it`s not the basis on which the Intelligence Committee is looking into
the issue of whether or not there was coordination by the Trump campaign
with the Russians. It really is a separate and really not a very specific
area that we`re looking at.

That`s something that I would think the Mueller operation through the
special counsel is looking at. But we really haven`t invested time or
energy into it.

MATTHEWS: Glenn, there`s something called rolling disclosure. It`s when
you put out the information when you absolutely have to. Apparently
because the subpoena`s here, they had to. They didn`t put it out because
they wanted the public to know.

GLENN THRUSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there`s another factor here.

When this was an issue that was Mueller – not Mueller – Comey was talking
about it, the FBI looked into this, remember, President Obama hedged up
president-elect Trump during the transition period about this. The
Democrats clearly wanted this information coming from the intelligence

If people believed that it was coming from Democratic sources – and Marc
Elias was definitely behind this, we have confirmed – it wouldn`t look as
good. It wouldn`t be as good of a story. So, clearly, they obfuscated
this, so that they could…


MATTHEWS: Well, how`s it look now?

THRUSH: I think it looks – it doesn`t look great for them.

But the bottom line is, none of this has a bearing on what is or – has or
hasn`t been proved by…


MATTHEWS: If you were a Trump supporter, wouldn`t you think it did?


And, by the way, any Democrat – if Hillary Clinton were president, and the
roles were reversed, she would be saying the same thing, that this is a
hatchet job by the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

I want people to watch it right now, to get it. You have got to look at
things from both sides once in a while, especially when you get caught
hiding something.

Anyway, the president further told Lou Dobbs with FOX Business Network that
the dossier has been discredited. See what they`re going to do, watch,
because of the way this was handled.


TRUMP: What I was amazed at, it`s almost $6 million that they paid. And
it`s totally discredited. It`s a total phony. I call it fake news. It`s
disgraceful. It`s disgraceful.

LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS: Right. I think her word that she likes to use, it`s
so serviceable, about that dossier, debunked.

TRUMP: Yes. Yes, right.

DOBBS: It`s been debunked.


MATTHEWS: Well, however, the Republican chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr, suggested earlier this month
that his investigation had corroborated parts of the dossier up until a
certain date. Here he goes.


SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We`re investigating a very
expansive Russian network of interference in U.S. elections.

And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild
backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point
has been somewhat impossible.


MATTHEWS: Well, NBC News has also reported this month that investigators
working for the special counsel have interviewed former British
intelligence officer himself Christopher Steele, the MI6 guy.

And we also know that the FBI considered paying Steele to continue his
information-gathering, but that never came to fruition. So, the FBI
believed in the quality of this guy`s work.

And while the president says the dossier cost almost $6 million, and he
just did, “The Washington Post” reports of Clinton`s legal fees that it`s
impossible to tell from the filings how much of that work was for other
legal matters and how much of it related to Fusion GPS.

Of course, it would help, Congresswoman, if the Clinton campaign, its
remnants, would simply say, a lot of that money went to, you know, FEC
requirements and filings and all that, only a small portion of it went to
paying for the dossier.

But since they`re not talking, Trump can run up the score today.

SPEIER: Well, he can run up the score for a while.

But the truth is, we already have 17 different agencies within the
intelligence community saying that the Russians interfered in our
elections. Our job is to find out how and why and make sure it doesn`t
continue to happen.

That`s why we`re focusing on the election machines in particular. That`s
one of the areas I think we are most vulnerable to, and why we have to
redouble our efforts in that regard.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Glenn on this.

How good is the – after these months of looking at, is the dossier –
especially with regard to the alleged behavior in the hotel?

THRUSH: I think, on that end, nobody knows. And there hasn`t been any new
reporting on this.

And the bottom line is, we`re not going to be able to determine anything
until all of these investigations are concluded. And I presume that`s what
Burr was talking about.

The one thing I will tell you, the time period that this took place, April
– the April, May, June time period in 2016, the Clinton campaign was
borderline freaked out by the notions that Russians were casing them,
Russians were tapping their phones.

I had numerous conversations with them at that point in time, where they
expressed that anxiety in the most extreme terms. So it is not
inconsistent with the way that they were feeling at that point in time, and
them hiring – having Perkins Coie be the cut-out.

MATTHEWS: And just to confirm everything here, whatever the questions are
about the genesis of this dossier, in the end, Mueller`s team will check
every line and verse.

THRUSH: That`s their job.

MATTHEWS: So, in other words, nothing is going to be proven from this, but
this will lead us to different directions anyway. So, we know where we`re

Anyway, Jackie Speier, thank you, Congresswoman. You`re great to come on.
This is HARDBALL. I reminded you of that today.

SPEIER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Please, please come back again, despite


SPEIER: I will.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, anyway, Glenn Thrush of “The New York Times,” Jackie
Speier, U.S. congresswoman from California.

Up next: President Trump threatened North Korea with fire and fury. He
mocked – he has mocked Kim Jong-un, calling him Rocket Man. Well, today,
there`s new reporting that all that tough talk or crazy talk has crippled
our diplomatic efforts at possibly avoiding trouble over there.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.



TRUMP: We will see what happens.

Now, with that being said, we`re prepared for anything. We are so
prepared, like you wouldn`t believe. You would be shocked to see how
totally prepared we are if we need to be. Would it be nice not to do that?
The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows?


MATTHEWS: I think he`s talking about war.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump with a cryptic assessment of his administration`s
plans for dealing with North Korea.

NBC News reports today that the president`s actions are leading to a
breakdown in talks with North Korea, writing: “Diplomatic efforts between
the United States and North Korea are in peril, with Pyongyang shunning
talks in response to President Donald Trump`s increased public attacks on
Kim Jong-un.”

The report adds that one top American diplomat has warned officials that
“diplomatic efforts are on their last legs.”

That same diplomat has told congressional aides that the president has
handicapped diplomatic efforts.

That helps explain this dire warning from Senate Foreign Relations Chair
Bob Corker.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: When you send out tweets into the region
to raise tensions, when you kneecap, which is what he`s done publicly, when
you kneecap your secretary of state, whose diplomacy you have to depend
upon to really bring China to the table to do the things that need to be
done, back-channeling, in some cases, to North Korea, when you kneecap that
effort, you really move our country into a binary choice, which could lead
to a world war.

So, yes, I want him to support diplomatic efforts, not embarrass and really
malign efforts that are under way.


MATTHEWS: That`s the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Bob Corker.

For more, I`m joined by Nayyera Haq, former State Department senior
adviser, and Howard Fineman, global editorial director for The Huffington

Let me start with Nayyera, first of all.

What`s the danger in this not talking because they`re so mad at Trump for
making fun of their leader?

outsourced our diplomacy in foreign policy to every other country in the
region, and not what is in the best interests of the United States.

In fact, it is now all about what is Donald Trump`s personality and what he
wants. There`s not a strategic play or vision for what should happen in
the region.

By underfunding the State Department, by only having 50 ambassadors in
place out of 197, by publicly rebuking his own head diplomat, Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson, it has come down to Trump vs. Kim Jong-un.

And that is not a scenario that allows much room for any of the typical
things in diplomacy, which is listening, empathy, helping people save face,
and leaving room for discussion. None of those play to Trump`s strength.

MATTHEWS: Howard, could this president of ours – and he is our president
– taunt this North Korean leader into a war, just taunt him into a war?

only Bob Corker, but the entire diplomatic community in the United States
and in and around the world, is concerned about.

I have talked to Bob Corker about it. He understands Donald Trump`s
personality and the dangers of Donald Trump in this kind of setting. This
is not a negotiation over a zoning project variance in New York.

Trump personalizes everything, as you were saying. He wants it this way.
Frankly, if he could have no ambassadors, he would prefer that. He wants
it all about him. And he believes that he is the guy who has to be the
story and the person who confronts or negotiates.

If it`s not binary – not only binary, but binary in the mind and the
personality of Donald Trump, it`s not the way he wants it.

MATTHEWS: We didn`t understand Japan before World War II fully, when they
went to war with us.

But the emperor, Hirohito, was profound. If he said, we go to war, we go
to war. Even more, he had the right prime minister at the time.

This guy, suppose he feels that he`s been humiliated, and all the generals
around him feel he`s been humiliated, their Dear Leader? They could go to
war on that.

HAQ: Absolutely. And this is not a democratic system we`re dealing with.

MATTHEWS: Look at these guys. They got – by the way, what wars did these
guys fight in? Look at all those war medals, these battle ribbons.

How many wars did they fight? Look at them. Geez, I`m just kidding. I
don`t want to make fun of the guys. They will get – they will start a war
over it, but big hats, too.

HAQ: Right. There`s no opposition to rely on in North Korea to check the
leader there.

And what we`re looking at now throughout the region is China being the
check on North Korea, potentially Japan, and South Korea. And, hopefully,
now, with Donald Trump going to Asia on his first trip, it will be more
like a show-and-tell, and you hear from the people directly on the ground,
and it will have some impact on him, because, clearly, experts, any of his
own people in his inner circle have not been able to temper his rhetoric.

FINEMAN: And he doesn`t want…


MATTHEWS: Can Russia help here? Can his friend Putin help?

FINEMAN: I think so. I think so.

I think any back-channel can conceivably help.


FINEMAN: China`s almost too close, in a way.

And Vladimir Putin has made some efforts over the years to try to
reestablish some ties in North Korea.

And Rex Tillerson, by the way, is close to Vladimir Putin, because of all
the business deals that they did with Exxon. You don`t want to leave any
avenue untried, except that Donald Trump doesn`t want any avenue that he
doesn`t directly control. That`s the problem.

MATTHEWS: Well, it was Russia, by the way, that gave the OK to Kim Jong-
un`s grandfather to go war in Korea.

FINEMAN: By the way, it`s Russian – it`s Russian – a lot of it`s Russian
technology, and the missiles as well, which is more important, in a way,
than the trade with China.

HAQ: Which is important to know that even Russia wants the rhetoric to
dial down and is not looking for war…


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hope Russia will come through here for once.

Nayyera Haq and Howard Fineman with a hopeful thought there.

Up next: Despite the very public split within his party, President Trump
insists that there`s great unity among Republicans. But are Republicans
unified enough to get anything done? I don`t know. We are going to get to
that with the HARDBALL Roundtable coming up in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Despite the intensity of the criticism by retiring Senators Corker and
Flake, Donald Trump still owns the Republican Party, we think. Corker and
Flake made their issues with the president public this week, which some
reports say is privately echoed by others within the party. Get that word?

But if you hear President Trump tell it, everything is just fine.


in the Republican Party. We have great unity. There is great unity.

I mean, if you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary
Clinton, that`s a mess.

There`s great unity. There was tremendous unity in that room. There`s
great unity. Honestly, the Republicans are very, very well united.


MATTHEWS: He`s got words. He told us, he`s got one word there, unity.

Anyway, tax cuts may be the reason so few Republicans are following their
colleagues` lead in criticizing the president.

Listen to what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday.


all Republicans think are important to the country and to our party, it`s
comprehensive tax reform.


MATTHEWS: Well, “The New York Times” writes that most Republicans are
willing to look past some actions and pronouncements by Mr. Trump, in the
hopes of pushing into law some of their long-sought goals. The most
important of which is tax cuts. That necessity ties them tightly to Mr.
Trump, at least for now.

So, we`re joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable, Ashley Parker, an
MSNBC contributor, and White House reporter for “The Washington Post”,
Astead Herndon, reporter for “The Boston Globe”, and Erica Werner,
congressional correspondent with “The Associated Press”.

Down the line here, let`s start with the Republicans. I sort of think they
no longer say the word tax reform. They`re getting pretty blunt about it.
They want a cut. They want a cut for the rich, the people that are paying
their way, Ashley?


MATTHEWS: Corporate tax cut is number one.

PARKER: Yes, they`ve been pretty clear about that. But at this point,
what they want is any sort of legislative achievement or a win or a deal.
And if it ends up being a tax cut for the rich, they`ll take it, I think.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re in the trough. They`re heading for it. They`ve
got a stock market which is booming based on the discount or the
expectations they will get this tax cut. They almost have to deliver.

– I don`t know if that`s true. I don`t know if they`ll absolutely get it.
But I know certainly they`re all trying to rally around that. And even
more than that, they know that Donald Trump has the party and its base
still loyally to them personally.


HERNDON: And so, this is both the legislative aspect where they want to be
able to go back to voters in 2018 saying they have some legislative wins.
But there`s a political aspect, too, where they know who just came out of
that primary and they know that those voters still, even though the country
at large may have an approval rating problem with him, that`s not true
among his base.


them – I mean, on both of those aspects, a lot of them literally fear for
their political lives. If they don`t get tax cuts done, they have zero,
zero to show, as far as House members in the 2018 midterms. And they think
they`ll lose the House. That`s what they predict privately and publicly.

MATTHEWS: They ran the party of the common person. They ran as the party
of the working class, non-college-educated regular person.

WERNER: Trump did.

MATTHEWS: Trump did. How do they deliver on that when they get rid of the
estate tax, get rid of the – lower the corporate tax from 35 to 20? Lower
the top rate from 39.5 to 35? How – that`s trillions of dollars. How
does that help the working stiff?

I know I`m being rhetorical, but it`s a good question, isn`t it?

PARKER: It`s a fair question. I think they`re still arguing that their
tax plan, while it does have certain notable benefits for the wealthy, that
it is a middle class tax plan. And I think that they`re hoping that sort
of the public will buy that.

But I also have to say, again, it just comes back to what Erica said, which
is they need some sort of deal to go to people, even if it`s imperfect,
even if it`s more skewed towards the wealthy.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the fly in the ointment. What happens if all the
Republican senators, Congress people in New York, there`s a bunch of them
upstate, and a bunch of California Republicans in the House, what happens
to all of the people in these big tax states, like those two states in
Massachusetts, they go – there are not many of them – but if all of those
people say, I cannot go home to my voters and say, I have gotten rid of the
tax deductions for our state taxes which are through the roof. Those
people are gone. They can`t defend that.

WERNER: They have a rebellion on their hands over that, at this very
moment. I mean, the House is trying to pass the budget tomorrow –


WERNER: – that paves the way for tax reform. They`re having an emergency
meeting at 9:00 p.m. tonight with Paul Ryan.

MATTHEWS: Because that`s in it.

WERNER: Because that`s in it – on this issue, to try to come up with some
kind of compromise that they`ll craft in the weeks ahead.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re filing your tax return and you`re itemizing. And
you take off what your church contributions. You take off your mortgage
payments, your interests payments. And then you go, God, this god-awful
state tax, I got to pay here. You`re right. And you say, that`s not so

But if you can`t take those things off, you`re paying through the roof.

WERNER: Right. Well, they keep some of those deductions in. And there
could be a compromise around a hard cap on those levels, on the state and
local, but, yes, they have solve that. And that`s –

MATTHEWS: All right. Let`s talk about the Dems for a minute. The
Democratic Party. I don`t see a leader yet. I could defend the Democrats
and say it`s too early in the process. Barack Obama is still looming over
as the most popular guy out there, Hillary is in defeat, Nancy Pelosi, not
so much a big deal. Chuck Schumer seems to be playing an inside game. Tom
Perez, I guess, he`s head of the party.

Where`s leader?

PARKER: It`s a good question. There is not a clear leader. And one thing
that Democrats have benefitted from, but I think it will hurt them in the
long term is they continue to sort of define themselves as an opposition to
President Trump. And so, they haven`t had to grapple with, who is the
leader? Who is our best candidate in 2020?

MATTHEWS: Astead, quickly?

HERNDON: I think – I think that`s a great point. Republicans have
success in that strategy, but we don`t know if that`s going to be the same,
that`s going to be true for Democrats. In local places, we have seen some
candidates try to rally around stuff, but we don`t know.

MATTHEWS: When we come back, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up
next, these three will give me some scoops for tomorrow that we can all
talk about and dine out on tonight.

And tomorrow on HARDBALL, we`re going to have the headlines from the
release of the last batch of the federal government`s files on the
assassination of President Kennedy. Could be interesting, could not be.
We`re going to find out tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Once again today, President Trump defended his controversial
phone call with the widow of Army Sergeant La David Johnson. That widow,
Myeshia Johnson, said in an interview earlier this week that the president
had stumbled over her husband`s name during the conversation.

Today, the president disputed that account, adding that aides had provided
him with a chart that had Johnson`s name on it. Let`s listen.


TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I
certainly respect La David.

He – who, by the way, I called La David right from the beginning. Just so
I understand, they put a chart in front, La David, it says La David
Johnson. So, right from the beginning, there`s no hesitation. One of the
great memories of all time. There was no hesitation.


MATTHEWS: He knows he`s right.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

And we`re going to start with Erica who`s going to give me a bombshell

Go ahead.

WERNER: Well, Chris, something you may not know is that the U.S. capital
has a pest infestation, a real one, mice and rats have infested the
Capitol. There was a rat seen running outside the Senate chamber as big as
a man`s foot. So, call the pest exterminators.

MATTHEWS: Democrats or Republicans? I`m just kidding.

Go ahead, Astead.

HERNDON: When Trump said that the widow of La David Johnson had fabricated
the call, his voters believed him. The poll, poll from “Huffington Post”
says 56 percent of Trump voters says that they thought that the widow and
the congresswoman had totally made that up.

MATTHEWS: But only – that`s only half of Trump supporters.


MATTHEWS: That`s not so great.

HERNDON: I mean, that`s not for the country at large, but still – even
when the chief of staff is confirming that account, that`s a big number.

MATTHEWS: I know. What a world. Go ahead, Ashley.

PARKER: So, we all know that Bannon is going after Mitch McConnell, but
McConnell world has now started dropping opposition research on Bannon.
And they`re trying to make him so unpalatable that Republicans don`t want
to be associated with him in the midterms.

MATTHEWS: What can you say against Bannon besides the obvious? He`s a

PARKER: Well, there`s some allegations of anti-Semitism. There`s some
dirty stuff from his divorce.

MATTHEWS: Oh. Divorces always work in politics, don`t they?

Anyway, thank you, Ashley Parker. Thank you, Astead Herndon and Erica

When we return, let me finish with the release tomorrow as we mentioned of
the John F. Kennedy assassination files.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with tomorrow`s release of the John F.
Kennedy assassination files.

I`m not a conspiracy buff, I`ve long believed that the best argument
against a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy was the basic fact pointed
at years ago by his advance man, Jerry Bruno, that the motorcade route for
that day in Dallas which ended up running just underneath that sixth floor
window of the Texas Book Depository was not publicized until the day
before. How could someone have placed marksman Lee Harvey Oswald in that
job at the Book Depositor all those weeks before if no one knew it would be
within rifle shot of the president`s motorcade?

Bobby Kennedy initially suspected like most people that his brother had
been shot by someone opposed to his civil rights and foreign policy stance.
Quote: There`s been so much bitterness. This press secretary, the
respected journalist Ed Guthman recalled him saying just after getting news
from Dallas. I thought they`d get one of us, but Jack after all he`d been
through never worried about it. I thought it would be me.

In those first hours, Bobby also asked CIA Director John McCone whether
anyone in the agency was involved. Kennedy said he phrased the question in
a way that he couldn`t lie to me. He said he hadn`t.

But months later, on a trip to Krakow, Poland, Bobby Kennedy was asked the
question directly, who killed your brother?

Quote: I believe it was done by a man with the name of Oswald who was a
misfit in society who lived in the United States and was dissatisfied with
our government and our way of life, who took up communism and went to the
Soviet Union. He was dissatisfied there and he came back to the United
States and was anti-social and felt that the only way to take out his
strong feelings against life and society was by killing the president of
the United States.

There is no question that he did it on his own, and by himself. He was not
a member of a right-wing organization. He was a confessed communist, but
even the communist would not have anything to do with him.

Well, Edward Kennedy, the president`s other brother, made the same
determination in the book he wrote just before his own death. I`m well-
aware that many scholars and others have questioned the findings ever since
they were released. There were hundreds soft-called conspiracy theories.
I was satisfied that the Warren Commission got it right. Satisfied then,
satisfied now.

I know how strongly Bobby felt that this inquiry be thorough and accurate
and all my subsequent conversations with him when all is said and done, I
believe that Bobby accepted the Warren Commission`s findings too. But, I
researched enough autobiography over the years to learn that historic
figures like Bobby Kennedy and others say different things to different

Ted Sorenson, President Kennedy`s close aide wrote in his memoirs that none
of the conspiracy theories has produced any credible evidence to prove a
plot by higher ups to hire Oswald to kill Kennedy. But then Sorenson wrote
this: RFK was unable to quash his own suspicions that his brother`s enemies
were behind his death.

When the files get released tomorrow, will we get evidence of other actors
or will the trail end at that Robert Kennedy described in emotional detail
in the months after Dallas? That misfit. That confessed communist, Lee
Harvey Oswald, acting like so many assassins and mass killers before him
and since, alone, in the darkness of his heart.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the