Texas Church Shooting Transcript 11/6/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Joaquin Castro, Larry Sabato, J.C. Watts, Susan Page, Darlene Superville
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 6, 2017
Guest: Joaquin Castro, Larry Sabato, J.C. Watts, Susan Page, Darlene Superville


ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR…not just people who work here. Our viewers,
you guys, have strong opinions. Douglas posting, “Anything for a pen.”
Michelle adding, “Really enjoyed the show, I want a pen.” And Bill wrote
in to say, “Would love a pen, how about one of those nifty mugs?”

Well, guess what, folks, if you go to our Facebook page and you tell us a
guest you want to see on The Beat, any guest nomination, you will be
automatically entered into the pen contest. That does it for our show and
taking a turn here, I`m told we have some breaking news law enforcement
officials have an update about the Texas shooting. We`re going to listen
in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: …expertise and we`re using that expertise to do a
very, very thorough investigation. As far as the investigation, we`ve
collected a substantial amount of evidence to piece together what happened
here.

Bodies have been removed and transported to the medical examiner`s office
for autopsy. A substantial amount of evidence – physical evidence has
been collected including hundreds of shell casings, more than 15 magazines,
30-round capacity magazines have been recovered. The suspect vehicle has
been processed with the suspect`s body inside.

Multiple interviews have been conducted in numerous cities and other
states. Victims have been identified and next of kin have been notified.
What needs to be done from this point, we need to finalize the list
identified in the deceased victims and complete the notifications of next
of kins. We plan to have that done and release the victim`s names as soon
as possible.

Tonight, we hope to finish the evidence collection process and we will
begin forensic mapping and trajectory analysis tomorrow. What I can tell
you is today the autopsy was performed on the shooter and if you noticed, I
used shooter instead of the suspect`s name, we do not want glorify him in
what he`s done.

But the autopsy was conducted this morning and what I can tell you is he
sustained three gunshot wounds. Two gunshot wounds were from the armed
citizen, one of those was in the leg and the other one was in the torso.
And he had a gun – a third gunshot wound which the medical examiner
describes as being consistent with being self-inflicted.

There`s no change regarding the victims. We still have four in serious
condition, ten in critical condition, and the number of deceased has not
changed. Texas DPS Victim Services continue working with the victims and
their families through this horrible tragedy. And with that, you know, I`d
like to thank you all for coming. We`ll entertain any questions, I believe
the FBI Special Agent in charge has some brief comments, Chris Combs.

CHRIS COMBS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Good afternoon. So I just want to commend
the commander from DPS for not mentioning the shooter`s name. We certainly
don`t want to glorify what has happened there. There`s a couple of
campaigns out there, one is called Don`t Name Them. We don`t talk about
the shooter. We don`t see his name out there in the press, so it doesn`t
encourage other people to do horrific acts like this.

I can tell you that the scene in there is – horrific is not even a word to
describe it. I certainly want to commend the first responders who went in
there, from Fire, EMS, and the Police Department, and the FBI, and the DPS
Ranger evidence teams that are in there now taking care of this. I think
that`s an important part, we should always remember.

I know there`s a lot of questions about the FBI NIC System and how did the
person get the weapons. I can tell you that for four purchases that he
made, the NIC System did their required checks and there was no prohibitive
information in the systems that we checked that say he could not have
purchased that firearm.

The three checks that are conducted, one is of NCIC, one is a criminal
history check, and another one is in indices on the NIC System itself. So
in all three of those databases, there`s not information that we would`ve
said it was prohibitive for that man to get the firearm. Thank you very
much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question was – the third gunshot wound was to the
head, the one that was self-inflicted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that failure of the US military to not (inaudible)?

COMBS: So obviously everybody`s taking a look at what happened there. I
believe the Air Force released a statement about 30 minutes ago, so we`re
working with them to try to figure out what happened there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, was the shooter`s grandmother-in-law among the
victims?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, was the shooter`s grandmother-in-law among the
victims?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he fired from the Army?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, I couldn`t hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he fired from the Army?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know he was released from the Army and we would have
to refer to the Air Force on that. It was the Air Force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was the self-inflicted gunshot wound?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been unconfirmed reports that the suspect
may have taken a hostage in the car (inaudible). Is there any truth to
that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is – that is not public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible) today mentioned, apparently he thought
that the shooter might have attended the same church, is that true?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not aware of the shooter attending this church. He
had family members that attended. His spouse attended this church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry, Commander, did you say that the grandmother-
in-law was not a victim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the grandmother-in-law? We`re not aware of that at
this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, earlier you told us that the suspect had called
his father, can you expand on that conversation a little bit and tell us if
the family has been cooperative and if –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have been cooperative and I really can`t expand on
that because of that cooperation and communications and out of respect for
the–

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, one of the – one of the victims was
reportedly pregnant, will that change the number of murder counts charged?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That number was included. One of the victims was
pregnant. I`m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this intended to be a revenge shooting (inaudible)
that came to the church regularly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t comment further on that. We know there was
conflict between the families…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: …and whether that was revenge or not, would be
speculation on my part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you say (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not aware of – if – we`re unaware if she`s one
of the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re unaware but you can`t say no for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, can you speak to the messages that the shooter
sent to his mother-in-law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t. Those – the phones are being explored at
this time. And I don`t have that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer, officer, officer. If the crime – if the
crime was not racial, not, you know, religious motivated, can we say right
now that he came to kill the mother-in–law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are many ways that he could have taken care of
the mother-in-law without coming with 15 loaded magazines and an assault
rifle to a church. I think he came here with a purpose and a mission. And
I have, you know, that`s not–

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many magazines? Can you clarify the weaponry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many magazines? You said 15, earlier you said
four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were 15 magazines collected here at the crime
scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of those magazines were empty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming out, ladies and gentlemen. That
will be the last question. We will have a briefing for you tomorrow.
Continue to follow us on Twitter and we will also through email as well.
Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time do you think…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll announce that through email and Twitter as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask you a question about the timeline
(inaudible)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)

MELBER: On the joint federal and state law enforcement briefing in
Sutherland Springs, Texas on the shooting there. As I mentioned, we will
continue to bring live updates when warranted. We return now to an edition
of Hardball already in progress.

MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR, NAVY SENIOR CHIEF/JEDI MASTER: …offer you
something and get you to do a favor. What we`re seeing and what is so
consistent about all the players here is that they were all eager to take
the bait so to speak, these dangles that were put out in front of them,
about information and access to Russia.

You noticed that there are no financial connections here other than Turkey
which we may understand Flynn may have actually had, Turkey`s connection
was through a Russian but, you know, this isn`t like they have lots of
South African financial contracts or Brazilian. They`re all consistently
Russian.

The Russians put a lot of emphasis on this election and they clearly
decided this was their Super Bowl and they were going to go after as many
people as possible and every one of them may have bitten. And we`re going
to find out from the Mueller investigation if in fact some of these people
are just unwitting assets or if some of these people might be actual agents
working for Russia, in their employ, knowing what they were doing.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Is that what you see?

NANCE: Oh, I – what I see – as I see many people who just see Russia as
this financial pot and that all of them may have had some stake in future
financial holdings, whether it`s Michael Cohen`s email about the future
Trump Towers, whether it was just, you know, about getting Hillary Clinton.

But all of them seem to understand that raising the sanctions and getting
rid of the Magnitsky Act would make these oligarchs in Russia very rich,
and that`s an inducement for them to be rewarded. And if that`s the case,
then it clearly spells out why everybody took on all of these meetings,
from Sessions to these low level guys.

There was going to be something financial in their future for it. And it
wasn`t just for good relationships with the United States and Russia but
it`s all very, very suspicious, you know, especially when you consider the
amount of effort they did.

MATTHEWS: That`s when I begin to think RICO and a RICO charge, anyway,
running a criminal operation that they`re all doing it together. Anyway,
despite being portrayed as a low-level volunteer, NBC is reporting now that
George Papadopoulous who has pled – pleaded guilty in connection with the
Russian probe had a more public role in behalf of the campaign.

Those activities include a panel discussion at the Republican National
Convention along with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Senator Bob Corker
and other lawmakers. He also spoke on behalf of the campaign to the
Russian news agency Interfax in September and met with Israeli leaders
during the inauguration as a foreign policy advisor. What do we make of
that, Tom Hamburger? What do you make of this guy, this nobody being
presented as a somebody throughout the campaign?

TOM HAMBURGER, WASHINGTON POST, REPORTER: Well, George, there is that
seeming contradiction, the president and the campaign staff, the Trump
campaign staff tell us George Papadopoulos was a nobody, had no influence
on the campaign.

And that may in fact be the case. He wasn`t paid. He was named by then-
candidate Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisors. But the fact
is, he was not paid by the campaign, he wasn`t active in the campaign and
wasn`t well-known at least in Trump Tower.

But what we do know as you just suggested is that he led some seminars both
at the time of the Republican convention, led some in Europe and in Israel
and would discuss when doing these seminars, would represent himself as an
advisor to the Trump campaign. Did the same when he met with some foreign
government leaders. And some of those meetings we think set off some
alarms and may have led the FBI, the Justice Department to become
interested in George.

MATTHEWS: And I just wonder whether we shouldn`t all be buffaloed by this
nonsensical distinction between unpaid and paid. I don`t think Henry
Kissinger gets paid. It`s all about influencing, getting in close to
somebody who may be president of the United States. That`s a tremendous
asset for people in their business.

Anyway, we`ve learned now – as we`ve learned now, the attempt to downplay
Papadopoulos`s role in Trump`s orbit fits the same patter we`ve seen from
Trump`s defenders in the case of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page,
and JD Gordon. Let`s take a look back at some of those moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: They weren`t even a part, really. I mean they were such a
minor part. They – I hadn`t spoken to them – I think the one person – I
don`t think I`ve ever spoken to them…

SEAN SPICER: But even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign. And
then obviously there`s been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very
limited role for a very limited amount of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the case of Mr. Page and Mr. Gordon, some others
that they really had very attenuated contacts to the campaign that I
managed for the last three months.

TRUMP: I know Mr. Manafort. I haven`t spoken to him in a long time but I
know him. He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period
of time.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: I never heard of Papadopoulos. He never showed up at
Trump Tower, never had any interaction with any of the campaign leaders
around me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember George Papadopoulos during that March
meeting?

TRUMP: I don`t remember much about that meeting. It was a very
unimportant meeting, took place a long time. Don`t remember much about it.

You know, Paul was not there very long. What people don`t mention, Paul
was not there for a very long period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it that convinced you that he had to be let
go?

TRUMP: Well, I think we found out something about he may be involved with
certain nations and I don`t even know exactly what it was in particular.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, he headed up the campaign the entire summer. Anyway,
let me get back to Julia. What do you make of this “I don`t know nothin`”
approach to all these people?

JULIA AINSLEY: Well, of course, it makes sense that the Trump
administration would want to be distancing themselves from this, but it
also makes sense that the Russians would want to go after people who might
be at a low level who might be able to exert – who might be looking to
exert their influence like a George Papadopoulos, knowing that they could
pinpoint these people, you know, it is a way for them to sort of cozy up to
the boss and move up.

MATTHEWS: Yes, make their bones.

AINSLEY: …That is the pattern – right. And it`s…


MATTHEWS: Yes.

AINSLEY: And, of course, that`s a pattern that Mueller wants to show that
even people who may not have been directed by the boss, is it was
understood within this campaign or this administration that this is how you
please your boss, that shows something there.

And so I think it makes sense that the Russians would start with lower
level and the Mueller investigation would start with lower level. But when
we get to someone like Michael Flynn who was appointed to be the National
Security Adviser, I think it`s a hard argument to make that he was some low
level person that had no contact with the president.

MATTHEWS: Julia Ainsley, we rely on you so much day-to-day, so much for
your great reporting. Tom Hamburger as well, thank you, sir, from the
Washington Post. And Malcolm Nance as well.

Coming up, President Trump says the gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas
church was deranged and the issue he says isn`t guns, but mental health.
He says predictably it`s too soon to talk about guns even though, once
again, Americans including children were gunned down by a man with a
military-style rifle.

Plus, it`s the night before the big election for governor down in Virginia.
Now polling shows a – new polling shows a very tight race now. Democrat
Ralph Northam has a slightly, I mean slight. But will Republican Ed
Gillespie`s campaign using Trump tactics pay off in a state that Trump
lost?

And Trump`s not backing off his fire and fury talk against Kim Jong-un.
He`s over in Asia right now, we know. And he says, weak rhetoric has
gotten us nowhere with North Korea. It has now been revealed that the
Pentagon has determined that the one sure way to destroy all of North
Korea`s nuclear sites would be by a ground invasion. And that is scary.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a right – the right and wrong way of
dealing with a possibly nuclear conflict. This is Hardball, where the
action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Senator Rand Paul is recovering right now after being physically
assaulted by a neighbor at his home in Kentucky on Friday afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint, the neighbor, Dr. Rene Boucher, walked
onto Senator Paul`s property and tackled him to the ground.

The senator suffered five broken ribs and bruises to his lungs. Given the
severity of his injuries, it`s unclear when Senator Paul will be able to
return to work. Dr. Boucher was arrested and charged with assault. His
lawyer released a statement today saying that the altercation had quote,
absolutely nothing to do with either politics or political agendas, it was
a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most
people would regard as trivial. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. We`re following the latest from
Sutherland Springs, Texas, the site of another horrific mass shooting; 26
people were shot dead as they prayed inside their church yesterday.

The victims range in age between – well, from 18 months to 77 years old.
As many as 14 of the victims were children. Another 20 people were
injured; 10 are in critical condition.

The suspect, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, fled the scene. Authorities
say it appears he shot himself a short time later. He had three firearms,
including an assault rifle. Police say a domestic issue may have been a
motive here. His mother-in-law attended that church, and he recently sent
her threatening texts.

The church`s pastor Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri, were away
yesterday, but their 13 – their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was
killed in the attack.

Well„ today, they spoke to reporters. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK POMEROY, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: We have had a long night with
our children and grand-babies we have left. And she is going to share this
with you.

SHERRI POMEROY, MOTHER OF VICTIM: Our church wasn`t comprised of members
or parishioners. We were a very close family. We ate together, we laughed
together, we cried together, and we worshiped together. Now most of our
church family is gone. Our building is probably beyond repair. And the
few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday.

As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able
to deal with losing so much family yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by NBC`s Steve Patterson, who is in
Sutherland Springs.

Steve, these children – do we have any idea what it seemed like, the
horrible incident? So, was it just a guy going into the church with a
semiautomatic weapon, an AR-15 or whatever, and just spraying the room,
including the children? Was he targeting the children?

STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And keep in mind, he was clad in
all black as he entered there. It must have been a terrifying situation
for the parishioners who were inside the church.

What we do know, Chris, is that I can tell you, just being on the ground
here in Sutherland Springs, that if the homesteads and the mom and pop
shops and the farmsteads are the lifeblood of this community, that church
was the beating heart here of this community.

The community members now dealing with the fact that if it`s not broken, it
has at least now fractured, this sense of community, because of the terror
that was inside that church.

What we do have is seemingly a clearer portrait of the shooter pretty early
on in this case and, as you mentioned, the motivations here, which are
becoming apparent.

We have been speaking to authority figures who have been telling us those
threatening text messages were sent almost as early as Sunday morning to
that mother-in-law who is believed to be a member of that congregation,
ironically, not in the church at the time of the shooting.

So we know immediately right off the bat here that this was not a shooting
based on radicalization, on racial motivations, on religious motivations,
that this may have been a targeted shooting based on an ongoing domestic
situation from family members.

That`s the word that we`re getting from authorities. That`s who we believe
he may have been targeting inside that church. We`re also getting a
clearer portrait of Kelley himself, who was a member of the Air Force, was
on an Air Force base in New Mexico from 2010 to 2014, with his wife and
infant son, court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and stepson,
fracturing his skull, court-martialed for that violent incident.

Investigators now are trying to piece together how he was able to buy that
weaponry that was on him seemingly almost every year up until the shooting,
including the piece of weaponry they believe he used to bring inside the
church and commit mass murder – 20, as you mentioned, injured from the
gunfire, 10 of them still in critical condition, clinging to life after
that shooting – Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, NBC`s Steve Patterson in Texas.

Well, President Trump, who was in Japan today, called the shooting an act
of evil. He blamed – quote – “mental illness,” not guns. He said that.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mental health
is your problem here. This was a very – based on preliminary reports,
very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time.
We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other
countries.

But this isn`t a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it. But it`s a
little bit soon to go into it. But, fortunately, somebody else had a gun
that was shooting in the opposite direction. Otherwise, it would have been
– as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.

But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It`s a very,
very sad event. It`s a – these are great people and a very, very sad
event. But that`s the way I view it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of
Texas.

Congressman, we live in North America. We have got two other countries in
North America, Mexico and Canada. They don`t have it like this. They
don`t have mass shootings regularly. They don`t have assassination
attempts or assassinations throughout their history. What makes us
different? And why do we allow it?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, most of all, the government`s
unwillingness and Congress` unwillingness to do anything about it at this
point.

And, you know, it was an incredibly sad and tragic event yesterday, but,
unfortunately, one that we`re not unfamiliar with at this point in the
United States.

And for me to think that the gunman bought that weapon in my hometown of
San Antonio is very sickening and sad. It`s also for Texas another
haunting episode of mass violence. You know, in 1966, we had the shooting
at the U.T. tower.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

CASTRO: When I was in high school, we had the 1991 Luby`s killing in
Killeen. And now this generation has suffered through this.

MATTHEWS: And Lee Harvey Oswald, of course, got his rifle by mail order.
Why not? It`s easy.

Let me ask you about Trump, President Trump, and his position. Didn`t he
oppose efforts to make it difficult for someone who has mental problems
from getting guns? And now he says, well, this is just a mental
incapacitation issue. It`s not a gun issue.

Well, they`re related. The guy had a semiautomatic, an AR-15, that was
capable of shooting all those rounds in a matter of a couple of moments.
If he had an old musket from the times when the Second Amendment was
passed, he would be able to maybe fire off one round, not very accurately,
every half-hour or so.

I mean, weapons were – we got the right to carry arms back when they
weren`t that dangerous. Now we`re talking about weapons that can fire in
sprays, basically, killing 7-months-old and 77-year-olds all in the same
minute.

CASTRO: Yes, there is no question that the founders never accounted for
the idea that you would have a gun that could kill 26 people in a matter of
seconds.

And we keep being presented with this false choice that the issue is either
one of mental health or of guns. And, in fact, it`s a combination of both.
What we need to do is two things, first, do everything that we can to
prevent guns getting into the hands of the wrong people.

So, that includes things like background checks, universal background
checks that are supported by 90 percent of Americans, but also…

MATTHEWS: I think this guy got through one. Congressman, I think this guy
got through one…

CASTRO: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: … despite his military record and dishonorable service and
beating up his wife and hurting his child very grievously, and still he
managed to swim right through it.

CASTRO: Well, and that`s why you need the second part or the second
strategy, which is, it`s a fact that some people are going to be able to
get guns illegally or even legally, and still go out and try to kill
people.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CASTRO: So, the second part of this is that you have to do something to
limit the damage that these weapons can impose.

That means either banning assault rifles or limiting the number of bullets
in a cartridge. I think it requires both of those strategies to be
successful.

MATTHEWS: You know, maybe we need licensing of certain kinds of weapons
for certain kinds of people. Maybe if you live out in the boonies and
completely – you`re shooting up old cars or you`re totally safe.

But it ought to be highly restricted to have certain kinds of weapons, I
think.

Anyway, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, we`re still watching your career,
sir. We`re rooting for you, sir.

CASTRO: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: There`s a lot of future up there, way up there, maybe – maybe
in a few years.

(LAUGHTER)

CASTRO: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: We`re down to the final hours in the race for Virginia
governor. And the Republican, Ed Gillespie, has adopted the Trump playbook
by turning the election into a culture war. But is this tactic really
going to pay off? I don`t think so. I don`t.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I`m Milissa Rehberger.

New information coming out of a news conference on the Texas gunman. The
autopsy is now complete. He sustained three gunshot wounds, two from an
armed citizen. One was self-inflicted.

The Air Force says it failed to enter the gunman`s domestic assault charge
into a federal database that would have prevented him from buying the gun
he used to massacre 26 people.

Florida State University has banned all Greek life following the death of a
20-year-old pledge and the arrest in an unrelated case of a fraternity
member charged with the sale and trafficking of cocaine – back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s election evening in Virginia. And as voters prepare to choose their
next governor, a slew of new polls show the race is very close.

Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie have been running neck
and neck for week news. And five new polls out in the last 24 hours give
Northam the edge, but indicate the race is still up for grabs.

A poll by “The New York Times” and Siena College has Northam leading by
three. Christopher Newport University shows a six-point advantage.
Quinnipiac has Northam on top by nine, while FOX News also shows the
Democrat leading by just five points.

The very latest poll, however, from Monmouth University out just this
morning shows a two-point race.

For more, I`m joined by the great Larry Sabato, director of the Center for
Politics at UVA, the University of Virginia, and former Oklahoma Republican
Congressman J.C. Watts.

Larry, tell us what you think of this race overall, the color of it, the
nastiness of it, what the cultural messages should be to the country so far
on election eve.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Chris,
it`s not been a thing of beauty, that`s for sure.

First of all, there have been a lot of mistakes by both sides, and lately
by the Democrat. And then you have those vicious negative advertising,
again, on both sides, but most of the recent ones have been on the
Republican side.

So it`s not a campaign I would recommend for a course in campaigns and
elections. It`s not a model campaign.

Having said that, look, Virginia, as you know well, has been spinning more
and more Democratic. That`s in presidential years, when you have a turnout
of mid-70s in the registered population.

That`s going to drop tomorrow to somewhere in the 40s. And Democrats
disproportionately drop out of the electorate in these off-off-year races.
That`s where Gillespie has upset potential.

I would still say Northam is the leader and the most likely winner. But
Gillespie has put it in a position where he can win. He can upset Northam.

MATTHEWS: What`s the smart move by Gillespie? I know all – is it not –
being Trump-esque, but not bringing Trump in? Is that the smart move if he
wins?

SABATO: Oh, absolutely. He kept Trump at arm`s length in person. But he
took all of Trump`s issues and put them into some vicious television ads
that were saturated throughout the state.

And, sure enough, the Trump voters have responded, and it`s almost like
Trump had appeared.

MATTHEWS: In a political sense – forget morality or history or any values
– was it smart for Northam to come out for bringing down all the statues?

SABATO: No, it was not.

I understand, as you said, the morality of it. And, of course, I`m here in
Charlottesville. I get it. But, no, from a political standpoint, that was
not a wise move. He backed off of it. But, of course, he`s stuck with the
original position, as politicians always are.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me bring in J.C. Watts, my friend.

J.C., thank you for this. I know you`re from Oklahoma, and that`s your
home and pride.

But looking at this Virginia race, what do you make of this problem on the
Democratic side on an ethnic front, where they basically say, as we say in
Philly, cut somebody from some promotional material, some leaflets? The
African-American running mate was dropped from – his name and face weren`t
even mentioned in this county there in this leaflet distribution.

What do you make of that as a political issue that the Republicans and some
African-American Republicans are trying to exploit?

J.C. WATTS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, Chris, I have seen that happen
for the last 20-plus years.

When I first ran for Congress, you know, my Democrat opponent took a
picture of me and my high school senior picture with the big afro that was
so big you couldn`t have gotten it in your frame here, and then put it in a
commercial and basically said, is that who you want as your congressperson?

And I know that those kinds of things happen, that Northam took his black
lieutenant governor off of his push, some of his mail pieces. That
happens. And my thing is, as I have said for the last 20 years, it`s going
to happen. But when it does happen, just be consistent. If it`s a
Republican that is doing it, you need to beat him up. If it`s a Democrat
that`s doing it, you need to beat him up.

And I think Northam, over the last few days, I understand, from talking to
your producer that, you know, there has been some highlighting of what has
happened. And I saw an article over the weekend where Governor Wilder was
consistent, as I said, that he came out.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WATTS: The former governor, black Democrat governor of Virginia, came out
and was critical of that. And kudos to him. And I hope that when it
happens on the Republican side, you know, black Republicans, white
Republicans ought to be consistent and do the same thing.

MATTHEWS: And Doug Wilder matters in that state.

Anyway, a digital advertisement being run on Facebook now is imploring
black voters of Virginia to oppose Ralph Northam, the Democrat, over his
treatment of his African-American candidate, his running mate, for
lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Ralph Northam`s campaign deliberately took Justin Fairfax, the
only black statewide candidate, off his campaign flyers to appease other
supporters.

If Northam can`t support his black lieutenant governor, why should black
people support Northam? Send a message to Ralph Northam loud and clear.
We won`t be thrown under the bus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Larry, decode the results tomorrow night.

Let`s say Gillespie pulls an upset. What would that tell the country?

SABATO: It would tell the country and tell Republicans running in 2018
that they can do what Gillespie did. Hold Trump at arm`s length, that
they`re in a purple competitive state or a blue state, but adopt some of
the Trump issues. It will cut even in suburbs that normally vote liberal.

MATTHEWS: I think Northam is going to squeak it. I think you do too,
Larry. So, let`s see what happens tomorrow night. I hope you`re around,
Larry Sabato, the great professor at the University of Virginia.

And former Congressman J.C. Watts, a great friend of our program.

We`re going to have all the results from Virginia tomorrow on HARDBALL at
7:00 Eastern.

Then I`m coming back, our whole program is coming back at midnight for an
hour to go through all of it and what it means, especially those assembly
votes that could tell us in Virginia how the rest of the country is going
to vote for Congress in 2018.

Up next: Ahead of his trip to South Korea, President Trump ramps up the
rhetoric against Kim Jong-un. It comes amid a scary assessment from the
Pentagon that the only way for us to destroy North Korea`s nuclear sites is
through a ground invasion, a second Korean war.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s in the middle of a 12-day, five-country trip through Asia
where along with navigating diplomatic relationships, he is focusing on the
threat that North Korea poses, of course. Here is what he said yesterday
about that in Japan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of strategic
patience is over. Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong, but
look what`s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look
where we are right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this comes as the Pentagon said in a letter to Congress
that, quote, the only way to locate and destroy with complete certainty all
components of North Korea`s nuclear weapons programs is through a ground
invasion.

Well, Democratic Congressmen Ted Lu and Ruben Gallego had asked the
Pentagon for that hypothetical casually assessment in a conflict with North
Korea.

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL round table, Susan Page, Washington
bureau chief for “USA Today”, Eli Stokols, White House reporter for “The
Wall Street Journal” and an MSNBC political analyst, and Darlene
Superville, White House reporter for “The Associated Press”.

In that order, Susan, what do we make of the fact that this document, this
assessment of the need to go in on the ground to get those nuclear weapons
knocked out has gotten out into the papers, has reached Pyongyang? Is that
provocative in itself?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: You know, I think it is
actually might have a calming effect on some of the provocative rhetoric
we`ve heard from the president because believe me, Americans do not want to
see a ground war in Korea.

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.

PAGE: – with U.S. troops going into North Korea to secure nuclear
weapons.

And by the way, that report said not only would it require ground troops,
but the North Korea might respond with chemical and biological weapons. So
this strikes me as being something that underscores how very costly the
military option would be in North Korea.

MATTHEWS: Eli, do you think that – maybe you know more about the trade
craft of reporters involved. Do you think that was leaked in an attempt to
do what Susan just said, to forestall such an option being taken?

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Perhaps. But, you know, aside from
that, I mean, the military option – again, there doesn`t seem to be public
support for a prolonged ground war. The consequences of any sort of
military action against North Korea would be probably immediately felt and
devastatingly felt by the 20 million people in Seoul, South Korea.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STOKOLS: And so, what you`re left with in this situation is what you`ve
had all along, and that is diplomatic efforts. And it`s hard to see this
administration engaging real seriously in that. About a month ago, the
president undercut his own secretary of state saying, Rex, don`t waste your
time talking to North Korea, secretly channeling and trying to work
something out with the North Koreans.

And you heard his rhetoric this morning, talking about, you know, my
rhetoric. My rhetoric. Some people say it`s tough. But weak rhetoric
hasn`t gotten us very far.

It`s not about rhetoric. Strong or weak, that`s not a plan. That`s not
true diplomacy. And it just seems that the consensus among foreign policy
folks that I speak to is that this administration has not really engaged
seriously enough in the really detailed conversations with the Chinese,
with other allies in terms of pushing a more unified, a more intense
diplomatic effort in this area.

MATTHEWS: Darlene, what does the associated press, and what do you know
about the possibility of Russia helping, of Putin and our president sitting
down perhaps in Hanoi or Saigon and trying to work out some deal whereby
the Russians really help put the pressure? Because the Russians under the
leadership of Joseph Stalin, were the ones who approved the Korean War in
1950.

DARLENE SUPERVILLE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it`s possible. President
Trump on his way to Japan told reporters on the airplane that he wanted
Putin`s help on the North Korea issue. They`re supposed to meet when they
get to Vietnam later this week. And we`ll see what comes out of that
meeting.

MATTHEWS: What about the whole question of the president? Do you – you
know, normally, I don`t mind – I don`t like politicians who kick the can
down the road. But sometimes kicking the can down the road avoids a
nuclear war. You kicked that can down the road during the entire Cold War
from `47 to `91 and it avoided a conflict between the United States and
Russia, a direct conflict.

And I just wonder, does Trump have a point here? To say you know, we`ve
kicked the can down the road in terms of nuclear development in North
Korea, and look what it`s gotten us? A country on the verge of having all
that it wants and we`re sitting there watching it happen. We better move.

PAGE: Well, that`s certainly true. And it is true that the policy that
his – several of his predecessors have followed did not succeed in
forestalling the continued development of North Korea`s nuclear program.
But some people do look at the Cold War as a kind of example of what can
work in keeping the peace in a positive way because – it urged the
administration to consider a policy of containment, to accept the idea that
North Korea is a nuclear power and to try to contain it the way we
contained the Soviet Union for decades, that is not a policy that Pesident
Trump has been willing to embrace.

He continues to say that a weaponized – a North Korea that has nuclear
weapons is unacceptable to us.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a position he is going to have to fight for. Your
last word from you, Eli. How it is going to end up in the next few days do
you think in the trip? Is this trip going to have a salutary effect,
advantage of having at least move this towards some sort of alliance with
Russia against Kim Jong-un?

STOKOLS: I think it`s going to be pretty tough to get Russia to move on
this. I don`t see what leverage the Trump administration really has in
getting Vladimir Putin to stop some of the economic relationships and deals
that he has made with North Korea. But I think to Susan`s point, you know,
it`s not emotionally satisfying for this president to accept and to
publicly state that containment may be the smartest policy here.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STOKOLS: He likes – it makes him feel good to talk about how this is the
people who came before him. It`s their fault, and we can do it better. It
just doesn`t betray a fully nuanced understanding of a really complex
situation that really, you know, if you talk to foreign policy experts,
folks who were involved in the last set of talks with North Carolina, they
will tell you, there are no good options here in dealing with the North
Koreans.

I think politically, Trump would like to tell people we`ll handle it. But
at this point, beyond rhetoric, I don`t really see a plan to do that.

MATTHEWS: When we come back, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up
next, all three will tell – well, they give me scoops you`ll be talking
about tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I`m up here in Boston on my tour for “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging
Spirit”.

Tonight, I`ll be speaking to what I`m told will be a sold-out crowd at the
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The book has definitely tapped into
something.

I`ll be back in Washington, D.C. tomorrow for coverage of the Virginia
governor`s race. As I said, I`ll be on HARDBALL at 7:00, the usual time as
the polls close. And then back again for a special hour of coverage
starting at midnight Eastern.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Darlene, tell me something I don`t know.

SUPERVILLE: Well, this is something you probably do know. But I think
it`s something that`s not getting the attention that it deserves. And it`s
the fact that almost seven weeks after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto
Rico, significant numbers of people there are still without electricity and
without drinkable water.

MATTHEWS: I think we all should know that in spades. Anyway, Eli?

STOKOLS: Well, today on Capitol Hill, some people caught this, but the
House Republicans began the markup of their tax reform plan. And we got –
started to get a sense of some of things, the cuts and deductions that are
not going to be – not going to exist anymore if this bill is signed into
law.

The tax policy center also released an interesting study today saying that
by 2018, if this bill goes forward, 12 percent of Americans would actually
see their taxes go up. And in 10 years out, nearly 30 percent of Americans
would actually see their taxes go up and in ten years out, nearly 30
percent of Americans would see their taxes actually rise as a result of
some of the deductions and things that this bill threatens to take away.

MATTHEWS: That`s why they`re rushing it through.

Anyway, Susan?

PAGE: So, we`ve been keeping touch with a panel of Trump voters for the
past year. And since we`re coming up on the one-year anniversary of
Trump`s election, we asked them to name the best thing and the worst thing
Trump has done over the last year. No consensus on the best thing all over
the map.

The worst thing, more than half say it`s his tweets and his provocative
behavior. They say Trump`s mouth is undermining the prospects of him to
actually be able to get things done.

MATTHEWS: The one part that will never change.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page, as always. Thank you, Eli Stokols. And
good to have you on, Darlene Superville.

When we return, let me finish tonight with the right and wrong way of
dealing with possibly a nuclear conflict.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this North Korean danger.

I`m up here in Boston speaking tonight, as I said, at the John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library on the topic of Robert Kennedy. With President Trump
in Asia visiting Korea on the trip, it`s important to recall America`s past
success in avoiding a nuclear war. We are obviously getting close, far too
close to that kind of nuclear standoff this country faced in the early
1960s.

The main thing we learned that time when the Soviet Union was caught
placing intermediate range nuclear missiles in Cuba was to give the other
side a way out. A nuclear standoff is no time for a test of testosterone
to battle over who is more macho, who has the biggest hands.

The trick in the case of Kim Jong-un of North Korea is probably not to make
fun of him, to make him feel diminished, to make him feel he needs to prove
his whatever. The trick here is probably to give the North Korean dictator
a sense of having achieved what he needs, enough stature and importance to
his people to hold on the power.

The trick I would think is to get through this episode and hope we have a
more stable situation in the years ahead.

In 1962, a couple of steps got us through. First, the Kennedy brothers,
the president and Bobby decided not to launch a surprise attack on the
Cuban missile sites. For one thing, it might trigger a Russian drive on
West Berlin, a pressure point which could quickly go nuclear. For another
thing, Bobby Kennedy argued we Americans don`t launch sneak attacks. We
don`t do Pearl Harbors.

What the Kennedys did do is cut an under the table deal to pull our
outmoded missiles out of Turkey in exchange for the Russians pulling theirs
out of Cuba. It worked. When you`re looking at the prospect of nuclear
war, it`s good to have cool hands at the table, people who can imagine
consequences, who act on those consequences and not on their gut. The gut
can be an extremely dangerous guide when dealing in weapons that can
destroy millions in a potential war that could kill billions.

I hope short of having someone like Bobby Kennedy representing us in Asia
right now, that President Trump has someone along with him like that.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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