Axios: Trump demands more “executive time” Transcript 1/10/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Chris Coons, Leon Panetta, Donna Edwards, Chris Wilson, Annie Linskey

Date: January 10, 2018
Guest: Chris Coons, Leon Panetta, Donna Edwards, Chris Wilson, Annie Linskey

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Democrats play HARDBALL. Let`s us play

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. In a defiant press
conference late today, President Donald Trump called the special counsel`s
Russia probe a Democratic hoax. He insists that no evidence of collusion
has been found though investigators have issued no such conclusion. And
while the President`s lawyers are negotiating how the special counsel will
ultimately question the President, Trump says it`s unlikely he will ever
sit down with the investigators at all. Here was President Trump today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to meet with him without condition
or would you demand that a strict set of parameters be placed around any
encounter between you and the special counsel?

been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and
Russians, no collusion. I have been in office now for 11 months. For 11
months they have had this phony clouds over this administration, over our
government, and it has hurt our government. It does hurt our government.
It`s a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an
election. Certainly I will see what happens. But when they have no
collusion and nobody`s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely
that you would even have an interview.


MATTHEWS: Well, this comes amid mounting signs that Democrats seeing the
game Republicans are playing in either covering up or distracting from the
truth are taking matters into their own hands. They are now stepping up to
fight Republican efforts to hide and polite size the facts emerging from
the investigations of Russian meddling and potential collusion.

Today Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a
comprehensive report on Russian meddling around the world asserting that
President Trump has neglected to protect this country from Russian
aggression. Report finds that as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections
the U.S. still lacks quote “a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated
approach to deter the Russian threat. It warns that quote “before never
before in American history is so clear a threat to national security been
so clearly ignored by a U.S. President.

And speaking this morning the ranking Democrat on that committee, Senator
Ben Cardin of Maryland, well-known as a national security hawk issued a
chilling opinion of President Trump`s leadership.


Pearl Harbor, 9/11, U.S. Presidents have rallied the country and the world
to address the challenges facing the nation. Yet today the current
President of the United States who barely acknowledges the threat posed by
Mr. Putin`s repeated attacks on democratic governments and institutions.


MATTHEWS: Well, in a related move yesterday, Democratic senator Dianne
Feinstein of California decided to defy the chairman of the Judiciary
Committee and release the testimony of Glen Simpson, the founder of the
research firm Fusion GPS.

In his testimony, Simpson explained how he came to hire former British
intelligence officer Christopher Steele to investigate Trump`s connections
to Russia, producing the dossier. The Republicans have tried so hard to

This morning, the President attacked Senator Feinstein tweeting, the fact
that sneaky Dianne Feinstein who has on numerous occasions stated that
collusion between Trump and Russia has not been found would release
testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way totally without
authorization is a disgrace. Must have tough primary.

I`m joined now by Democratic senator Chris Coons who sits on both the
judiciary and a foreign relations committee, Jason Johnson is politics
editor of “the Root” and an MSNBC contributor and Heidi Pryzbyla, White
House reporter for “USA Today” and an MSNBC political analyst as well.

Let me go to Senator Coons on this. It seems to me that Democrats now, if
they are watching what the Republicans have been up, in terms of
distracting from, undermining, whatever, this probe of the Russian
connection are taking matters into your own hands and saying it`s time to
get the truth out even if the Republicans don`t want it out.

support what senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee did in releasing
the transcript of the Glen Simpson interview. Something, by the way, that
Mr. Simpson urged us to do. Why? Because a number of Republican members
were trying to distract from or undermine special counsel Robert Mueller`s
investigation by misleadingly suggesting that it was because of this Steele
dossier, because of this Fusion GPS funded research that the whole
investigation by the FBI into possible collusion between the Trump campaign
and Russia began.

We now know that`s not the case. That there were other sources from
foreign intelligence, from someone in the Trump campaign that led the FBI
to begin investigating this question. And while the President in today`s
somewhat belligerent press conference insisted, there is no collusion,
there is no evidence of collusion, that conclusion has not yet been

And I think all of us, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, have an
obligation to make sure that we respond to Russia`s attack on our democracy
in the 2016 election. And that we fully prepare for our next elections.

I commend Senator Cardin on foreign relations for releasing this strong and
comprehensive report you referenced that issues a real clarion call to
defending America`s elections.

MATTHEWS: You know, you and I grew up, me before you, I was older than
you, but I have to tell you I grew up with the idea that the Republicans
were tougher on the defense. They were the hawkish party. And they were
the toughest on the Soviet Union although. Good for them.

But now, it seems to me that this Republican Party led by Trump could be
accused as Ben Cardin, your neighbor from Maryland suggests, that sort of
appeasing the Russians. Why does Trump again and again cover for the
Russians and say, yes, they maybe - but I`m not going to look into any of
this stuff and they are going to screw with people`s elections around the
world. I`m not going to do any of that. Don`t look at that. Why is he
doing that? Why is he covering for Putin?

COONS: It is really hard to come up with any coherent or positive
explanation for why President Trump, as candidate Trump repeatedly
complimented Vladimir Putin and aggravated or annoyed our democratic allies
in Western Europe. And why as President Trump, he has failed to lead our
allies in the western democracies and to defend our nations against
Russia`s provocations and Russia`s interferences in the elections of so
many countries, not just in the United States, Chris. Also Germany, also
France, also the U.K. and a dozen other smaller countries across Western
Europe. In this thoroughly detailed report by Senator Cardin, he lays out
the case. That our President, for the first time in our modern history,
has utterly failed to respond to a direct attack on what makes America a
democracy, credible, free and fair elections.

MATTHEWS: What do you think it might be in to him on a financial end of
things, that he may owe then something for past promises and financial
help, for his hotel and for his son-in-law`s hotel and chain? Is there
money behind all of this niceness?

COONS: That`s not yet been proven, but it certainly raises questions
because the President`s behavior and his conduct is dramatically out of
step with a long tradition, bipartisan tradition of standing up and
defending America`s democracy.

And as you put it, going back to our childhood of Republicans being the
tougher party on standing up to Russian aggression in particular. Why he
is doing this, we don`t have an explanation in detail or proven yet, but it
certainly raises very troubling questions about whether there are financial
complications or there is some sort of a relationship that was started in
the course of the campaign that has led him to take these unprecedented
positions and to fail to protect the United States and our democracy.

MATTHEWS: Well, I hope we can follow the money.

Anyway, attacking Senator Feinstein of California so personally, President
Trump may be barking up the wrong tree. In her decades long public career
she has been known to be a force to be reckoned with. From her early days
on the San Francisco parole board she upheld law and order and public
confidence when Mayor George Musconia (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) assassinated out
there. And more recently one applauded her dogged pursuit of the truth
about the CIA`s torture program.

However, Senator Feinstein was very control in her response today in the
President`s tweet. Here she goes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we just get your reaction to the President
tweeting about you saying that your actions about potentially releasing
these transcripts are illegal?

are. And obviously I wouldn`t have done it if I thought they are. The one
regret I have is that I should have spoken with Senator Grassley before it.
And I think the American people have a right to know. I don`t think –
there`s something that is classified. I don`t think there is anything
that`s highly problematic. But at least it`s a clearing of the air so that
the facts are out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it offend you when the President calls you shady
in a tweet?

FEINSTEIN: Well, he tends to call people names very quickly so I`m not


MATTHEWS: Heidi, this is the first time I have heard somebody being called
sneaky for getting the truth out. I mean, she is not hiding it. She is
putting out in bright out there at the public. She said you want to know
how the CIA – rather, the FBI got involved in looking into the Russian
probe. Well, they got a heads up from the Australian guy. They got a way
before they got this dossier. And for some reason, while we know what the
reason is, Republicans still want to say it`s all about the dossier.

down the argument that somehow this was a witch hunt, you know, funded by
Hillary Clinton`s supported backers. And it goes through that including
where the seed money comes from.

The seed money from this investigation came from the Washington free
beacon. And who funds that? Paul Singer, the GOP mega donor.

And it shows that the orders that were given to Steele were pretty simple.
They were, don`t draw any conclusions, you know partisan conclusions, just
get the facts about what Trump`s relationship is to Russia. And it also
has some embarrassing stuff in there, too. You know, Trump has always said
I don`t have any ties to Russia. Well, this shows actually pretty
elaborate financial ties to some of the surrounding countries where Russia
parks a lot of its money. And so, there were a lot of things in there that
probably Republicans don`t really want out there.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, Glen Simpson`s testimony which Dianne
Feinstein put out, undercuts the Republican argument that the Christopher
Steele dossier was intended as part of a hit job just because it was funded
by the Clinton campaign originally.

As Simpson explains in the transcript which we know have, Steele felt
professionally obligated to bring his findings to the FBI, not because of
politics but because quote “he was very concerned about whether this
represented a national security threat.”

Jason, in the real world if you find that somebody is screwing with your
elections and is involved with all kinds of hanky-panky, you bring it to
the authorities, you know. If you see something, say something. We are
all taught that taking Amtrak, you know. I`m sorry. It isn`t kind - and
they are making this into something that shouldn`t be talked about.

We ought to know why there was an FBI probe, why Comey was probably fired,
because he was getting to something, and here Dianne Feinstein did a public
service of putting out the transcript so this guy, Simpson, could tell us
how it all started.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Well, and here is the thing.
This is why she is not concern. This is - I mean, you know, she was very,
very nice in that sort of interview right there. But she was basically
come at me. I just did what the American public needs, which is find out
what this gentleman is talking about. The fact that Republicans keep
wanting to keep this behind closed doors and then leak what they want to
leak when it`s convenient to them is what leads this into being such a
problematic situation overall. And the important thing –.

MATTHEWS: It looks like a cover up to me.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, following his attack, that`s the President`s on Dianne
Feinstein, the President went after the probe itself saying, the single
greatest witch hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion.
Everybody including the Dems know there was no collusion yet on and on it
goes. Russia and the world is laughing at the stupid at this they are
witnessing. Republicans should finally take control.

Senate chairman Chuck Grassley was asked about that tweet today. Let`s ask


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, the President said that the Republicans should
take control of the investigation in light of the release of this
transcript. Are you losing control of this investigation and should you
regain control?

what the President has in mind. And I don`t think I better comment until I
have a discussion with the President on that point. I don`t intend to have
a discussion with the President on that point. And I hope he doesn`t call
me and tell me the same thing that you said he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, senator.


MATTHEWS: Senator, it looks like your older partner there is wise enough
to stay away from this one. What is – what is the situation now as you
see it, the lay of the land in terms of this probe? Are the Republicans
now worried that this thing is getting somewhere in terms of the finances
of the President? This is going to go beyond possible collusion to the
question of what Trump`s business relationships were that may have preceded
it and given it context and perhaps affected how he has been dealing with
the Russians as you were talking a few moments ago? Or is it because they
really think they have won the game, there`s nothing there. Which is it
that causes them to try to cover this thing up now?

COONS: Well, there`s a lot of different republicans actors here in
Congress and in the administration. So I think it`s a mix of both, Chris.

I am genuinely concerned about special counsel Robert Mueller. His ability
to complete this investigation, to see it all the way through and a number
of Republicans have joined in efforts to try and protect Robert Mueller,
make it harder for him to be fired by the President because I think all of
us recognize – many of us recognize that it`s really in President Trump`s
best interests. It`s in the best interests of the rule of law and our
society and democracy for this to be seen through to the finish. And for
us to know once and for all whether there is evidence of collusion.

For the Judiciary Committee, our jurisdiction covers the department of
justice, the FBI. And I would hope that chairman Grassley would change
direction and be willing to work more closely with ranking member Feinstein
and that we could reengage in a constructive way.

Their staff counsel have been disagreeing and they have been fighting now
for several months over which witnesses to bring in, which direction to
take this. I think there has been serious efforts by some Republican
senators to take us off track by focusing on things that date back many
years. Allegations about Hillary Clinton rather than focusing on what is
right in front of us, whether or not there was obstruction of justice and
the firing of the FBI director and whether or not we are adequately
prepared to protect our democracy from meddling in the next election.
That`s what we should be working on. There are real threats to this and
there are some here I think in the capitol who are throwing sand in the
gears and trying to distract and there`s others who I suspect genuinely
believe that there`s nothing to this at the end of the day.


COONS: Regardless of their views, I think it`s in our best interests to
make sure that it gets to the end, that Robert Mueller is able to finish a
full investigation.

MATTHEWS: Only a few minutes left, Heidi and Jason. Do you think the
Democrats have said, we are going to sit around and let the Republicans
hide this thing?

PRYZBYLA: I think they have realized that they have given them now well
over a year. We have another election coming up. Not only do we not have
a strategy for tackling what may happen with the Russians. We don`t even
have an autopsy, for example, what happened with the social media

This stands in contrast not just to Pearl Harbor and major events like
September 11th, but even just to smaller investigations like Watergate,
like Whitewater which didn`t have national security implications when
committees actually staffed up and deployed the resources.

MATTHEWS: Why are the Republicans backing Trump on this cover up or
refusing the Russian threat in the same way they went along with on the tax
thing? I know Republicans love to cut taxes for the rich. That`s sort of
endemic. But why are they going along with this Russian cover up? Why are
they so pro-Moscow all of a sudden?

JOHNSON: Well, two things.

MATTHEWS: Never were.

JOHNSON: One, because the pro-Moscow thing is sort of happening under
Obama. Remember was like they thought he was a stronger leader because
this hostility towards sitting president. But the other thing to remember
is this, and this is what you always see with Trump. It`s not just the
Russian collusion. Because remember, collusion may or may not be illegal.
That`s impeachment issue. They are concerned about obstruction of justice.
Because that is where this is really about. Trump keep saying (INAUDIBLE),
you call me a liar and a thief, I`m not a thief, right. But he is really
concern about obstruction of justice. And that`s where the Democrats –

MATTHEWS: I don`t see the party of Ronald Reagan here anymore. I mean, it
is the part of Reagan that was anti-communist.

Anyway, thank you Chris Coons, senator from Delaware. Thank you so much
Jason Johnson, sir, and Heidi Pryzbyla, so much.

Coming up, author Michael Wolff describes a White House where President
Trump weeks havoc on willing to accept advice from those around him. How
much does that scare those who have been in the inside of the White House?

I`m going to talk to former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta
who himself served as chief of staff to a President. His reaction to that.

And to Trump`s bloody nose strategy on North Korea. Does Trump really
think he can launch a military strike against Kim Jong-un and he is just
going to walk away and take it on why do you hit me so hard?

Plus, President Trump yesterday said that the Congress should pass a bill
of love to protect the DREAMERS. But today, he took in silent different
tone, didn`t you notice? Is Trump worried about alienating his base when
it comes to immigration? You bet.

And who is afraid of the big bad Wolff, that`s Wolff with two Fs. That
tell-all book had purge questions about Trump`s basic mental stability. So
is the President now painting a new picture of himself, one that he thinks
he needs to paint?

And finally, let me finish tonight with Trump, watch more like this when
this is “Hardball” where the action is.


MATTHEWS: In January of last year Texas congressman Sam Johnson became the
first House Republican to announce that he would retire at the end of 2018.
And later that month Kansas congresswoman Lin Jenkins called it quits. In
April came the news that Ileana Ross-Lehtinen of Florida was also retiring.
Then it was Tennessee congressman John Duncan.

By September there were three more big names, Pennsylvania congressman
Charlie Dent as well as Congressman Dave Reichert, (INAUDIBLE), all of whom
represent swing districts.

In October, Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas throwing the towel. By the
end of 2017 six more Republicans announced their plans to leave the House.
And they continue to fall in 2018. Three more, including California`s Ed
Royce have called it quits as of last night. And today, an 18th House
Republican announced that he will retire at the end of his term, California
congressman Darrell Issa. Issa was considered particularly vulnerable
heading into this year`s midterm election having barely won reelection in

So the dominos continue to fall. And today, Issa made it number 18.
Democrats need just 24 seats to regain control of the U.S. House. And we
will be right back.



people around him have no illusions. They know who this guy is. They know
what trouble he can wreak.

And one of the reasons that they are there and that they continue to stay
there is the hope that they can mitigate this, they can stand between him
and the havoc and chaos that he is inevitably prone to.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, author Michael Wolff on HARDBALL last night.

In his new book, “Fire and Fury,” Wolff paints a picture of an isolated
president, treated like a child by the people around him, and who doesn`t
seek or accept advice from anyone.

Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: Is there anybody who is in the White House as a general adviser,
someone in the loop, in the room when there`s something critical going on,
that he trusts as a brain, as a consigliere, if you will?

WOLFF: No, absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: Anybody?

WOLFF: Absolutely not.

The one thing you cannot say to Donald Trump is, you can`t praise somebody
else`s intelligence. He`s been repeatedly asked this question, who do you
turn to? Who do you get your advice from? Who`s your who`s – who`s your
mainstay? And he–


WOLFF: – always says: It`s me. I`m the person I turn to for advice.



MATTHEWS: Well, is this any way to run a White House?

I`m joined right now by someone who would know. Leon Panetta served as
chief of staff to President Clinton. He also served as secretary of
defense and CIA director under President Obama.

Mr. Secretary, thank you. It`s honor to have somebody on who`s a public
servant who has some willingness to talk about what it takes.

What did you make of this portrait we have here of – I said it was like a
“Twilight Zone” episode last night, where this little kid is scaring this
whole town because he has all this power, and they`re all afraid of doing
anything but please him?

have known for a long time now that we have a very unusual president who is
erratic and very unpredictable, and obviously is pretty focused on who he
is and how to basically please him.

You know, I think the book, in large measure, confirms what the press and
others have been saying about the president and this White House for the
last year.

The problem is, he`s now using people from the inside. And that makes it
more worrisome. But, at the same time, look, the American people will
ultimately judge this president for who he is.

MATTHEWS: You know, you and I have had presidents, in reading our history,
like FDR, who made sure he had a brain trust smarter than him. He always
had real eggheads around him.

Kennedy too had really smart people like McNamara around him. And you were

The idea of a president is, you can pick anybody you want, so pick people
smarter than yourselves.

Trump – and I`m not knocking these people as individuals – Hope Hicks and
Steve Miller, these are young people with no real background in public
life. They`re apparently his consiglieres. They`re the ones he goes to in
a fix.

What do you make of that?

PANETTA: Well, I think this president, having no experience in Washington,
no experience with politics, basically brought the standards that he used
as a developer in New York.

And his basic approach as a developer is that he was the one who knew
everything about everything, and that he could basically tangle with
anybody because he felt that he was the person who had all the answers. I
think he`s pretty much brought that same series of values as a developer to
the White House, and that`s the way he`s serving as president.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s one I don`t think he brought with him.

Earlier this week, Axios reported that the president isn`t spending as much
time in the Oval Office as most presidents do. According to Axios:
“President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the
early days of his presidency, often around 11:00. And this is largely to
meet Trump`s demands for more `executive time,` which almost means TV and
Twitter time alone in the residence.”

What do you make? I mean, suppose – I was kidding last night. It`s not
the 3:00 a.m. phone call you worry about. It`s the 10:00 a.m. phone call.
Where`s the president? He doesn`t even come downstairs to meet people
because he`s watching “FOX & Friends” and God knows what else and


MATTHEWS: I don`t know. You have got nobody like this you know, I know,
but go ahead.

PANETTA: You know, based on my experience, usually, you set up a schedule
to kind of fit the president`s rhythm and make sure that, you know, he can
he can basically do some of the things he needs to do in order to handle
the responsibilities of that office.

But we`re looking at a schedule that, at least on paper and as reported,
runs from 11:00 to 4:15 in the Oval Office.

And, you know, my concern is that there are just too many issues that
confront this president, any president during the day. And whether or not
they have worked out a way to ensure that the president is made aware of
these issues in the middle of this kind of schedule is what concerns me.

I just – I just think – you know, I understand you want to keep the
president calm and cool and be able to do the things he wants to do, but he
also happens to be president of the United States and commander in chief.
And as a result, he has some very huge responsibilities that have to be

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s one, Mr. Secretary.

Even as South Korea and North Korea have opened up their diplomatic
communications, “The Wall Street Journal” reports that White House are
considering a risky approach in terms of North Korea.

According to “The Journal”: “U.S. officials are quietly debating whether
it`s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korea sites
without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula. The idea is known
as the bloody nose strategy. React to some nuclear test with a limited
strike against a North Korean facility to bloody Pyongyang`s nose and
illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior. The hope
would be to make that point without inciting a full-bore reprisal.”

How dangerous would that be, to humiliate Kim Jong-un by blowing up
something he has just built, something that is state of the art in terms of
technology, nuclear technology, and hope that he won`t fire all or any of
his artillery on the South, on Seoul?

PANETTA: Well, I just think that whoever came up with that approach really
doesn`t understand the risks involved with the North Korean leader.

First of all, it violates a principle that the president himself has talked
about, which is that you don`t openly talk about whatever military options
you`re thinking about. Obviously, this is now out in the public, and North
Korea is going to be more than prepared to deal with any kind of response.


PANETTA: Secondly, there are huge risks here. You can`t just give North
Korea a bloody nose and expect that they`re going to hold back in terms of
retaliating against the South.

They have got thousands of artillery pieces, thousands of mortars that are
set up that can do incredible damage to Seoul. So it`s a risk that,
frankly, is just one that no president has been willing to take because of
the consequences.

I just think this is a situation where the better course for this president
is to keep the pressure on North Korea, keep the sanctions on, keep
building up our military presence, develop a missile shield to protect our
country and South Korea, and continue to try to see whether or not the
South Koreans have been able to open up some further discussions here to
talk about the nuclear threat that all of us want to deal with.

MATTHEWS: Well, last week, the president bragged about the size of his –
quote – “nuclear button,” of all things, and today he gave a thumbs up to
what he called good talks going on between the North and South in Korea,
though he also blamed previous administrations for handing him the mess

Let`s watch the latest shot from him.


I like it very much, what I`m seeing.

I just spoke this morning with the – as you know, with the president,
President Moon of South Korea. He had some really great meetings. His
representatives had a great, great meeting.

And I had some very good feedback from that, so hopefully a lot of good
things are going to work out.

I think it is much better to work with Russia. It`s very much better
having to do with North Korea, where we currently have a problem that never
should have been my problem. This should have been a problem solved many
years ago, when it was much less dangerous.

But it was given to me, along with a big mess of other things.


MATTHEWS: Well, he`s so partisan.

Let me ask you, Mr. Secretary, about this line he gave out today. He
referred to Dianne Feinstein, your long-term – longtime colleague – and I
know you respect her a lot, as we all do, who work worked out there –
sneaky Dianne Feinstein.

Doing – using a term like that, sneaky, on someone who had put out to the
public what`s been going on in terms of this probe, this Russian probe, it
just seemed to me – what do you think of that tone? It`s the kind of
language we have been getting from Trump. And I think it`s bringing us all
down. Your thoughts?

PANETTA: I think the worst thing that this president does is basically
tweet out his emotions and what he`s thinking, and using the kind of terms
that he used against Senator Feinstein.

It really demeans the office of the presidency, and, frankly, it demeans
him. I just don`t see how you can conduct a presidency when, one day,
you`re sitting down with members of Congress trying to see if you can work
out a resolution of some serious issues on Capitol Hill, and then the next
day start tweeting names against senators who are participating in that
meeting, and also beginning to denounce the very things that you tried to
work out.

I mean, it`s that kind of roller-coaster ride that I think makes most
Americans very uncomfortable about how we`re going to operate with this
kind of president.

MATTHEWS: Well, I wish you were running the show, Mr. Secretary.


MATTHEWS: But you`re not. He is.


MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for coming to us tonight. I wish we could
have you on a lot more than we do.

Senator – actually not senator, but former defense secretary, former CIA
director, former U.S. congressman, former chief of staff at the White

Leon Panetta, thank you for your public service in so many ways, sir.

Up next: President Trump says he`s ready to strike a deal on immigration.
But his base, you know, the right-wingers out there, have nothing – they
want nothing to do with it. In fact, Ann Coulter called yesterday`s show
of bipartisanship on the issue the lowest days of his presidency.

Hmm. Maybe he`s doing something good to get her after him.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Yesterday`s freewheeling and at times chaotic immigration meeting with
bipartisan members of Congress left many on the right wing and the left

Many of President Trump`s statements yesterday stood in sharp contrast to
things he had said on the campaign trail. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: And we don`t need a 2,000-mile wall. We don`t need a wall where
you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it.

Oh, we will build a wall. This guy is – don`t worry about it. It will be
a great wall. It will be a real wall, folks.


TRUMP: I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital, because
this should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love. Truly,
it should be a bill of love. And we can do that. But it also has to be a
bill where we`re able to secure our border.

Ted Cruz, who, by the way, is very, very weak on illegal immigration – so
is Rubio, very weak on illegal immigration.

And Bush is so weak that he calls it an act of love, right?

I will take the heat. I don`t care. I don`t care. I will take all the
heat you want to give me.


TRUMP: You`re going to have to. We have to make a whole new set of


MATTHEWS: Can you follow that?

Anyway, yesterday`s 54-minute media availability gave some of Trump`s
supporters whiplash and left many of them wondering what exactly was behind
the shift.

Let`s watch them.


ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “IN TRUMP WE TRUST”: When Kevin McCarthy is the hard-
liner on immigration in the room, I think we can call this the lowest day
in the Trump presidency.

I mean, he was clearly trying to overcome the bad press of this Michael
Wolff book by showing, oh, he`s in command, but, in fact, what he did was
fulfill every description of him in the Michael Wolff book. Lou, this is a
disaster. It was the lowest day of his presidency.



Well, today, President Trump was asked to clarify his position by the
conservative newspaper “The Washington Examiner.” Let`s take a look at
that answer.


QUESTION: Would you be willing to sign an immigration deal that ultimately
did not include funding for the border wall, or would that be a red line
for you?

TRUMP: No. No.


TRUMP: It`s got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We
need the wall for safety.


MATTHEWS: Well, in another interesting reversal, ironically, on the same
day Breitbart ousted Steve Bannon, the White House announced that the
president would be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos,

That means Trump will now be rubbing elbows with the same global elites he
railed against during the campaign.

So, what`s with the president`s newfound goodwill and bipartisanship? And
does the Republican Party`s bleak 2018 prospects have something to do with
it? I think so.

So, stay tuned. We will be getting into all of them with the Roundtable

I think Trump is changing because he`s scared to death he`s going to lose
the House, and lose the House, which has subpoena power, and that means
impeachment. And that`s why he`s decided to be Mr. Reasonable in the last
24 hours.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump made a nod to his lengthy televised discussion on
immigration today during his first cabinet meeting of the year. Let`s


Nice to have you. Yesterday we had a bipartisan meeting with House members
and senators on immigration reform, something they`ve been talking about
for many, many years but we brought them together in this room and it was a
tremendous meeting. Actually, it was reported as incredibly good and my
performance, you know, someone of them called it a performance, I consider
it work, but had great reviews.


MATTHEWS: Whoa. Anyway, what accounts for the president`s shifting views
on DACA, on his new found interest in bipartisan?

Let`s bring in the roundtable for that. Donna Edwards is a former
Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Maryland. Chris Wilson is a Republican
pollster and former executive director of the Texas Republican Party. And
Annie Linskey is a national political reporter for the “Boston Globe”.

Let me start in that order. What`s he up to? I mean, it seems like the
whole thing is, there`s a Potemkin village, he has to show he`s mister I
listen to all sides, which he doesn`t.

He acted reasonable. He made a show. He made a joke about it. This is
post-modern, however you call it. My kids used that term.

He calls it a studio. He`s calling his cabinet room a studio because it`s
all just for show.

Your thoughts, Donna?

FORMER REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: He talks about his performance.
I mean, I don`t think there`s any real strategy here. What I do believe is
that President Trump doesn`t have any core beliefs and so when you don`t,
you just grab at anything depending on who you`re talking to.

You can see in that meeting he`s talking to Dianne Feinstein. She`s making
a case and he`s nodding and he agrees. No strategy.

MATTHEWS: He`s playing to the one in front of him. I know pols like that.
But is that all it is?

I think it`s all reaction. I think that Wolff book shook him to his core
because it`s true, because the people around him are fearful that they`re
basically baby-sitters and it`s scary to him that he`s being seen by his
own people that way. So, he has to create this whole new reality that he`s
reasonable, he has meetings with people and he listens.

into season two of the presidency I guess is what they were supposed to.
You know, there`s two schools of thought here. One is that he`s taken a
Clintonian approach of triangulating, moving to the middle on immigration.
I would call it more the Jeb Bush approach to the Republican primary which
worked out really well.

MATTHEWS: But Jeb Bush believed it.

WILSON: He did, that`s right. That`s part of the difference. I mean, to
your point.

I think the other aspect of it is, is he is now trying to dial that back
because he recognizes very quickly that the base that elected him, both in
the primary and general election, is now rejecting this action and it has
the – it probably puts the Republican majority even more in peril if it
wasn`t much.

MATTHEWS: I`m a pamphlet (ph) political analyst, I don`t know much about
anything else except movies. But I know one thing, Annie, politics.


MATTHEWS: The other day, he gets a briefing out at Camp David from all of
the leaders of the house and Senate. And their job is to get themselves
re-elected and hold the majority.


MATTHEWS: They said we`re in trouble. We`re losing a member – every day,
they`re jumping ship. There`s the new guy today, Darrell Issa jumping
ship. They`re all leaving the boat.


MATTHEWS: They`re saying to him, we`re going to lose the suburbs. We`re
going to lose the burbs around the big cities. You`re going to lose the
House. That means they have the power of what do you call it – power of

LINSKEY: Subpoena, right.

MATTHEWS: Once you get subpoena power, that`s impeachment, because the
Black Caucus is already, the left, the Democratic Party is already for
impeachment, many of them, and you`re finished.


MATTHEWS: So you better sharpen up and get the suburbs under control.
What did he do yesterday? He acted suburban.


MATTHEWS: Reasonable, tolerant, negotiating, compromising. It was like he
was running in the Philly suburbs.

LINSKEY: Well, I know. I think, you know, you said this is sort of a
post-modern meeting. I would say it`s a post-Camp David meeting.


LINSKEY: I think there`s no question that Republican leaders when they
talked to Trump laid out the map. I mean, the House map, the Republicans
if they lose 24 seats, they lose their majority and that –

MATTHEWS: They`ve lost 18 guys by retirement as of today.

LINSKEY: That is terrifying. And this is something that, you know, the
Republicans that I talk to, whether they are, you know, never Trumpers,
whether they`re libertarians, wherever they come from in the sort of
Republican tent, they are all worried about losing House seats and just the
question is how many are we going to lose? So, 24 is the magic number

But then you go over to the Senate, a chamber which if you look at the map,
it should be a slam dunk for Republicans and suddenly, losing – you know,
losing Alabama, it begins to make you wonder, gosh, could you also lose
Arizona and could there even be two seats up in Arizona and lose both of
them or lose one of the two of them? Because your – the map has changed
so much.

So I think what he saw is Trump perhaps scared by that book certainly, but
Trump scared by what he heard.

MATTHEWS: The big bad Wolff book.

LINSKEY: Anyway, at that cabinet meeting today, President Trump added
another item to his 2018 agenda. It comes in the wake of a publication of
that book, Michael Wolff`s “Fire and Fury”. Let`s listen to his latest


TRUMP: We are going to take a strong look at our country`s liable laws so
that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about
someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts. Our
current liable laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American
values or American fairness. So, we`re going to take a strong look at
that. We want fairness.


MATTHEWS: So much for the First Amendment. First, he wanted to stop
publication of the book and now he wants to sue the people who published it
with the implication that it`s dishonest. That`s how he`s going to win the
case in court.

What? Nobody is saying this book isn`t true.

EDWARDS: He can take a strong look but he`s not going to find anything. I
mean, the president thinks that he lives someplace else, that he`s not
governed by a Constitution.

MATTHEWS: He lives in London.

EDWARDS: The First Amendment. I mean, he clearly doesn`t understand that.

And, really, if I had a dollar for every time as a public official somebody
said something I didn`t like, that wasn`t true, I`d be as wealthy as Donald

MATTHEWS: Nobody ever criticizes you.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, each of them will
tell us something we don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump said yesterday that he would beat Oprah
Winfrey if she dared to run against him in 20. Well, today, we heard from
the competition on the Democratic side. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a
leading contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, had this to say about
a possible Oprah bid. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oprah Winfrey for president. Your thoughts?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You know, wasn`t that a fabulous
speech? And hearing Oprah`s voice and her energy and her passion and her
determination, it`s inspiring to all of us. And, she shows great
leadership. And I`m delighted that she`s doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Delighted that she may run for president?

WARREN: You know, that`ll be up to Oprah. I don`t think anyone tells
Oprah what to do.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Donna Edwards, tell me something I don`t know?

EDWARDS: Well, if you go to Maryland and you look at Maryland`s 9,800 DACA
recipients –


EDWARDS: – our state, like other states around the country, are going to
realize that this is millions and millions of dollars that`s going to come
out of their GDP. They`re not going to stand for it.

MATTHEWS: You mean, if the people are grabbed?

EDWARDS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Chris? A nice name.

WILSON: Thank you.

The Republicans passed term limits for committee chairman. At this point
of the committee chairman that took over in 2013, five of the six have
announced the retirement with that ruling.

MATTHEWS: Why are they all leaving?

WILSON: They don`t want to serve in leadership anymore. They`re just
done. They`re done. Mike McConnell is the last one standing.

MATTHEWS: Why are 18 Republicans leaving as of today?

WILSON: They don`t want to run in these seats. They don`t want Trump at
the top of the ticket. They don`t want to run in an unpopular environment.
And, frankly, in some cases, they want to move on and do something else
with their lives, which is not a bad place to be.

MATTHEWS: Guys in their early 60s make – and women – make that decision.
If there`s a life to lead somewhere else, they tend to quit at that age.

WILSON: They think they may have something else they can be in their
lives, right?

MATTHEWS: That they`re useful.

LINSKEY: Earmarks, the president started talking about bringing back

MATTHEWS: What`s an earmark?

LINSKEY: It`s a pet project that members of Congress –

MATTHEWS: And you attach it to a bill.

LINSKEY: Attach to a bill, like a purse museum or something like that.

And the interest thing about earmarks is conservative groups tried very
hard to get rid of them and they succeeded. Their biggest ally in that
fight was a congressman from Indiana known as Mike Pence. And his chief of
staff at the time, who was Marc Short, now the legislative director at the
White House.

So, the president has some convincing to do sort of within his own ranks.

MATTHEWS: I think it helps the president to bring in, if it`s a close vote
in the House, he can get a couple votes with earmarks.

Anyway, thank you, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Chris
Wilson, which just joined us, and Annie Linskey, a good friend of ours.

When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Wednesday, January 10th, 2018.

We all know the story of the frog and the pot. You raise the heat ever so
slowly, the frog hardly notices as the pot is climbing in degrees until it
is too late and the frog is part of the soup.

Donald Trump has raised the sleaze in our country`s public life every
moment since he first entered into it. He called the president of the
United States an African-American, a foreigner, someone who had snuck into
the country and assumed an American identity. Well, then he covered each
of his Republican rivals with sleaze, then topped it off by calling his
general election rival “crooked”, crooked Hillary.

And the country let him get away with that. His allies loving it, his
opponents assuming it was a part of the act, another infantilism, the kind
we gotten used to after all those months of wiping the floor with the faces
of those Republicans he dirtied.

And today, he called one of the country`s finest public servants sneaky
Dianne Feinstein. He said that of a person who led her city of San
Francisco with cool and stoic courage in a moment of horror, who as mayor
and then all these years as United States senator with dignity and wisdom
and I say, greatness. I don`t look up to all of those who hold public
office, of course, but I do look up to her, because you cannot fake dignity
or wisdom or greatness.

And with his sleazy attack on Feinstein today for daring to bring to light
information about the Russia investigation, Trump has brought the civil
life of this country to a new level of incivility. He`s made it normal, if
we dare use that term, to call your opponent, no matter who it is,
anything, no matter what it is. Donald Trump, congratulations. You have
made this country a land where sleaze is the political environment itself.
And that`s saying something, sir.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.



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