Remembering the 9/11 attacks. TRANSCRIPT: 9/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Ben Rhodes; Jill Colvin; Leon Panetta; Juanita Tolliver, John Brabender, Eric Swalwell, Ayesha Rascoe, Joyce Vance
Transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  So who fires Trump.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

 

Donald Trump`s chaotic presidency recalls the words of the great Yogi

Berra, we`re lost but we`re making good time.  Every hour, the president

races from one crisis to the next then back, from Iran`s nuclear efforts to

North Korea`s nuclear weapons, from trade brinkmanship with China to

backing Boris Johnson`s Brexit.  He fires one national security adviser,

John Bolton, one night while he secretly schmoozes with an old one, H.R.

McMaster, on other nights.

 

For a president with nothing good to say about those south of the border,

he behaves most of all like a Mexican jumping bean.  What`s up, who`s in,

who`s out, who`s he got in the loop, who`s he freezing out and who decides? 

Well, I guess he does.  Who else on this planet would be sending perfumed

mash notes to Kim Jong-un while cold shouldering Justin Trudeau, to be

Putin`s puppy dog while suffering hissy fits in envy of France`s President

Macron?  It`s Trump, all right, making these staccato decisions.  Who else,

what sane leader would be making such decisions?

 

And today, on the 18th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, a

reminder of a crucial function of a national security adviser, President

Trump spent the lion share of his day today bad mouthing now former adviser

John Bolton.

 

A day after forcing him out via tweet, the president criticized Bolton for

his hawkish approach to foreign policy, which Trump knew well before he

even hired him.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  He`s somebody that I actually had a very

good relationship with, but he wasn`t getting along with people in the

administration that I consider very important.

 

John wasn`t in line with what we were doing.  And actually, in some cases,

he thought it was too tough what we were doing, Mr. Tough Guy.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump began his day with a series of tweets

complaining about a poll showing him losing to his Democratic opponents,

bashing the media and bragging about last night`s Republican victory in

North Carolina`s special election.

 

Well, speaking of the Pentagon today, the president`s 9/11 comments

included remarks about his failed peace talks with the Taliban.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  We had peace talks scheduled a few days ago.  I called them off

when I learned that they had killed a great American soldier from Puerto

Rico and 11 other innocent people.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, disagreement over those talks was reportedly a major

factor in Bolton`s departure.  One White House official told NBC News that

Afghanistan broke open the bottom of a bag in a relationship that had been

eroding.

 

In the Oval Office this afternoon, Trump blasted Bolton over his reference

to the Libyan model to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  It set us back, and frankly, he wanted to do things not necessarily

tougher than me.  You know, John is known as a tough guy.  He`s so tough he

got us into Iraq.  We were setback very badly when John Bolton talked about

the Libyan model and he made a mistake.

 

And as soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model, what a disaster.  Take

a look at what happened with Gaddafi with the Libyan model.  And he`s using

that to make a deal with North Korea?  And I don`t blame Kim Jong-un for

what he said after that, and he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton.  And

that`s not a question of being tough.  That`s a question of being not smart

to say something like that.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that trash talking was a big part of his day.  John

Bolton, by the way, responded to the president`s comments in a text to NBC

News, saying, I`ll have my say in due course, of course.

 

Well, I`m joined right now by Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the

Associated Press, and Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser

to President Obama.

 

Ben, what do you make of this, I mean, this question today?  He acts like,

as he sits there in the White House, in the Oval Office with reporters all

around him, like he`s running a little business called the presidency of

the United States, and it`s all his.  He has no real structure, no

advisers, no national security adviser, and it`s all him.

 

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I mean, Chris,

because I was a deputy national security adviser for eight years.  I worked

for three of those people who were in that office.  They coordinate a

massive apparatus of the United States government, the military, the State

Department, the intelligence community, ongoing diplomatic negotiations.

 

The dysfunction of having that drastic turnover that he`s had in that

position and these massive shifts in how he looks at foreign policy is

making people around the world wonder where does the U.S. stand?  In the

clip you played, he`s attacking Bolton for something Bolton said like over

a year ago.  If this was such a problem for Donald Trump, why was Bolton in

this job?  And the problem with this –

 

MATTHEWS:  Why would he hire a super hawk and neo-con who did push us into

Iraq, who did fight for that position?  Why did he hire him if he says, no

more both stupid wars?  It`s chaotic.

 

RHODES:  Well, look, and John Bolton gave him the foreign policy that he

had said he wanted.  We pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, we got

more (INAUDIBLE) with the Chinese, right?  So there are pieces of the

Bolton agenda that he liked.

 

But here`s the problem, Trump has told us for some time now his

unpredictability is how he does business.  Well, look at the record.  Iran

is resuming its nuclear program.  North Korea is still building their

nuclear weapons.  The China trade war has escalated with no end in sight. 

We have this authoritarian trend around the world and democracy and our

democratic allies don`t know where the United States stands.  So he doesn`t

have anything to show.

 

And I think where he is he knows he needs to make some deal somewhere to

show some results before he heads into an election year, and John Bolton

was standing in the way of those deals, whether it`s Afghanistan or North

Korea or potentially even Iran.  And so now he`s going to try something

different.

 

MATTHEWS:  You know, right now, because we`re in media, the media does a

lot of preparation for days like 9/11, and there`s a lot of recognition of

that anniversary, the marking of that.  And it`s a solemn day.  It is. 

It`s just as you`ve seen it in a way people go through the day.  And the

president acts like a bull in a china shop today, like that never happened,

like he`s going to engage in this stupid war, this bullying exercise to

trash John Bolton he fired at midnight.

 

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  It is so jarring when

you wake up in the morning on September 11th and pullout your phone and

look at Twitter and the president is blasting members of the Fed as bone

heads and complaining about everything that he`s watching as he flips

through the television channels.

 

I want to make that the president is somebody who grew up in New York.  He

talked today in a speech he gave about the fact he could see, he claimed,

the second plane hitting the south tower, claiming that he`d gone down

there to help.

 

MATTHEWS:  Did he?

 

COLVIN:  There`s evidence that he was resent there.  Reporters saw him.  He

was interviewed by a news outlet.  It`s unclear if he was actually helping,

if he was just going to survey the site.  For somebody to have gone through

that, the way that New Yorkers experienced just makes it all the more

jarring.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk about – let`s talk about this bullying.  Why does

he have to trash – I know it`s a set of question, because you can smile

because you know how much we all know what he`s up to.  He fires Bolton

because Bolton was willing to resign.  So he wants to make sure it`s

official.  He kicked him out the backdoor.  And now, he`s afraid that

Bolton is going to come back at him.

 

RHODES:  Bolton is going to come back at him.  But, look, Chris, part of

what`s going on here, right, is all of the main initiatives of his foreign

policy are flailing.  And now, he`s seeking to shift all the blame for that

onto John Bolton, right?  I mean, it`s Barack Obama one day, it`s John

Bolton the next.  He finds people to blame.

 

But what we see now, Chris, is he has been president for almost three

years.  It`s on him.  People can see the results of the approaches that

he`s taken.  And so he`s just constantly looking to shift blame.  Right

now, it`s Bolton.

 

Bolton will fire back at him.  He likes that fight.  He likes that give-

and-take.  But you know what, that`s the reality show.  In the real world,

in the actual reality, what are we going to do to deal with the fact that

the Iranians have restarted their nuclear program?  What are we going to do

about it?

 

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  What`s really wrong with Trump besides his mind and all,

the person and all, the personality and wackiness?  You cover him a lot

(ph).  Is it that he thinks a business deal, I want to buy that building, I

don`t want to buy that building, I don`t have to buy that building, he`d

walk away.  But foreign policy, you can`t walk away from china, you can`t

walk away from North Korea, you can`t walk away from Iran or the Middle

East or Netanyahu.  All these people – it`s not like a business deal.  You

can`t say, I`m not going to do it.  You`ve got to do it, you`ve got to deal

with people.  Does he not get that?

 

COLVIN:  I mean, look, this is a president who basically hired his national

security adviser because he saw him on T.V. and like watching on

television.  He`s somebody who likes to surround himself by these people.

 

MATTHEWS:  What`s he ever done?  What`s Trump done?  What has Trump

accomplished in any of these deals?  No, there are no deals.

 

COLVIN:  For him – I mean, the way he sees it is that if he can build

personal relationships with these leaders, then he`ll be able to create

moments like what we saw in North Korea where he became the first sitting

president to step over that line and step into North Korea.  And he sees

those as victories in themselves.

 

RHODES:  And that`s exactly the problem, Chris.  North Korea –

 

MATTHEWS:  We have basketball players that have done this before.

 

RHODES:  Well, North Korea keeps building nuclear weapons.  There is no

actual deal.  It`s just – it`s photo-op, right?  And so he sees foreign

policy as spectacle, as the people around him, as the photo-ops he can get

with people.

 

MATTHEWS:  Is that the deal, to put on a show?  Is that it?

 

RHODES:  And every other leader has figured this out.  And they`re taking

advantage of the chaos.  The Iranians say, okay, we`ll just resume our

nuclear program because you pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and want to

have this show.  We`ll do that.  The Chinese say, oh, you want a trade war? 

Well, we`ll slap tariffs on you, we`ll squeeze you and we`ll go around the

world and pick-off all your allies and make trade with them.

 

Everybody else is taking advantage of the chaos United States of America

essentially withdrawing from its global leadership position with a

president who doesn`t want to dig in to understand these issues, does not

have a consistent world view.  He picked John Bolton because he was

belligerent, because he would be confrontational to Iran.  John Bolton came

in, pulled out of the Iran deal.  Now –

 

MATTHEWS:  I think he did because Sheldon Adelson told him to do it.

 

RHODES:  Well – and now, suddenly, we hear Trump is asking for a meeting

with the Iranians.  It makes no sense to what he`s going to do.

 

MATTHEWS:  And he went to meet with Rouhani in the U.N. general assembly. 

Yes, thank you.  Who knows what`s going on crazy land.  Thank you, Jill

Colvin, and thank you, Ben Rhodes.  Great to have you both.

 

The New York Times reports that Bolton`s dismissal leaves President Trump

as his own national security adviser.  Think of that.  Bolton`s – here`s a

quote from The Times, Bolton`s exit the west wing on Tuesday removes one of

the last constraints on Mr. Trump`s sense of the possible and world

affairs.

 

Joining me right now is former CIA Director and former Secretary of

Defense, former everything, Leon Panetta.  Mr. Panetta, thank you for

joining us.

 

This is a rock `em, sock `em crazy moment.  This president is like one of

those guys who used to work in 17th and Penn with all the musical

instruments.  They have the drum and the horn they`re blowing.  He wants to

play all the instruments.  What`s going on?

 

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Well, whatever is going on is not good

for this country because we`re living in a very dangerous world and this is

a president who`s now gone through three national security advisers.  He`s

somebody who has a national security council that is dysfunctional, that

doesn`t work.  There`s no deputies meetings, there`s no principle meetings.

 

And in the end, after three years of being in office, this president has

not accomplished any major foreign policy objective.  And the result is

that we have a very dangerous world as a consequence.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the behavior of this presidency and this

almost cartoonish decision that he had to say that Alabama was exposed to

the hurricane, to Dorian.  And even to the point of having his Chief of

Staff, Mulvaney, while he thought he had his head screwed on, telling

Wilbur Ross over commerce and those people there to lie and say that, in

fact, Alabama was vulnerable to the hurricane.  This is abuse of his

authority.  He`s like a third world guy.

 

PANETTA:  Well, the problem, Chris, you know, most presidents that I`ve

served under and that I worked for, those presidents have advisers around

that president who are basically telling the president, you know, when you

approach an issue, this is what you should do, this is what you shouldn`t

do.

 

I mean, most presidents really do relish having advisers who may say things

that the president doesn`t agree with.  This president is not surrounded by

any advisers who are willing to not only challenge him but to discipline

how he behaves.  I mean, the chief of staff in this situation, rather than

being somebody like, you know, a doggy running after a bone should be

standing up and saying, Mr. President, the last thing you should do is call

the secretary of commerce and ask them to change what science tells us was

a reality.  That`s the role of a chief of staff.

 

And so if you don`t have people like that around the president, then this

president is going to basically operate by his own instincts.  And what

we`re learning is that his instincts stink.

 

MATTHEWS:  He`s also – Mr. Panetta, he`s also sending signals on how to

behave.  I remember Mike Dukakis once said that the fish rots from the head

because the leader sets the course for how things are done.  The word seems

to be in the White House, the vice president`s office, all around

Washington, to foreign diplomats, if you want to win the love of this

president, spend money in his resorts.

 

Air Force officers deciding they`re going to go out of their way to stop a

off in the right place in Scotland so they can expend some federal taxpayer

money to make him feel that there`s pocket money being made in the White

House.  Your thoughts.

 

PANETTA:  Well, you know, again, this is a presidency that distorts the

priorities that the president should be focusing on.  I mean, we`ve got the

series of flash points around the world.  What are we going to do with

Iran?  We`ve got Iran now basically enriching nuclear fuel.  Afghanistan, a

failed effort at trying to work out a deal with the Taliban, North Korea,

failed summitry, Russia basically doing their own thing in terms of being

aggressive, China, we`re in a trade war.  These are the things you ought to

be focusing on.  Instead what they`re looking at is how do we continue to

make money for the Trump operation?

 

And to have the military be part of that possibility here with the Air

Force, being – landing near Turnberry and then having people go to

Turnberry to stay.  I mean, that`s something that ought to be clearly

investigated as to whether or not it violates laws.  But more importantly

it creates a perception that the Pentagon is actually trying to cater to

the president of the United States.

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Leon Panetta, for reminding us on how a

president should speak and behave.  Thank you, sir, very much.

 

Coming up, Speaker Nancy Pelosi visibly angry about the Republicans` lack

of action on gun legislation.  Watch her here.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Don`t ask me what we haven`t done.  We have done

it.  And if you are (INAUDIBLE) the patience, it`s because people are dying

while Senator McConnell hasn`t acted.  Why don`t you ask him if he has any

regrets for all the people who died because he hasn`t acted.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is Mitch McConnell and he defiantly says nothing is

going to happen on guns until Trump says so.  And while a Republican

Senator says there`s not even a hint of what Trump might support, which is

probably nothing.

 

Plus, breaking news, a source tells NBC News tonight that the Manhattan

District Attorney`s Office is looking into whether the Trump organization

falsified business records in paying off porn star Stormy Daniels and model

Karen McDougal and that Trump`s former fixer, Michael Cohen, is ready to

testify and help this investigation.  This is real, it`s hot and it`s

dirty, and this could be interesting.

 

We`ve got more much tonight to get to.  Stick with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

It`s been more than a month now since 31 people were murdered in El Paso,

Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio.  In late August, of course, seven were murdered

during a shooting rampage in Odessa, Texas.  And today, we`re nowhere

closer to knowing what President Trump is going to do about this scourge of

gun violence that still plagues our country.

 

And earlier today, he did reassure Americans that he`s working on, his

word, something.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re seeing if we can come

up with something that`s acceptable to everybody. 

 

It`s a subject that`s been going on for decades.  Decades, we have been

talking about it.  So we`re looking at background checks.  And we`re

looking at putting everything together in a unified way, so that we can

have something that`s meaningful.  At the same time, all of us want to

protect our great Second Amendment. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

 

Well, NBC News reports that he`s working with a bipartisan group of

senators, who were told to expect something from the White House by

tomorrow.  That`s Thursday.  But they say the president didn`t specifically

signal what he would actually support. 

 

Additionally, according to “The Washington Post,” the White House

dispatched today to debrief Republican senators yesterday on similar

talking points with zero indication again yesterday of what Trump would

actually do or be willing to do. 

 

One Republican senator told “The Washington Post” – quote – “There was no

hint as to where the president is going to come down.”

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to do anything without

the president`s sign-off. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  My members know the very simple fact that, to

make a law, you have to have a presidential signature.  Until that happens,

all of this is theatrics. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Has already sent two

pieces of bipartisan gun legislation to the senate majority leader, ripped

McConnell for his action. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Lives are at stake.  Senator McConnell is

standing in the way. 

 

We passed our bill in February.  Members had events all over the country to

ask him to bring up the bill.  Don`t ask me what we haven`t done.  We have

done it. 

 

And if you are annoyed with my impatience, it`s because people are dying,

while Senator McConnell hasn`t acted.  Why don`t you go ask him if he has

any regrets for all the people who died because he hasn`t acted?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, her members aren`t waiting for President Trump or Mitch

McConnell. 

 

Late last night, the House Judiciary Committee moved three bills to the

House floor.  The bills ban high-capacity magazines, of course, for

firearms – there`s of no use, except to kill a lot of people – to give

incentives to states for red flag laws to look at people who mentally

shouldn`t have the guns.  It also ban sales to people convicted of hate

crimes. 

 

Good for them. 

 

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California,

a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Ayesha Rascoe, NPR White

House reporter.

 

Thank you, Congressman, for this.

 

I get the feeling that Trump is worried.  Can you give me the analysis,

what`s going on with him, because he – I was amazed that five, six weeks

after the shootings, the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, he`s daring to

say the word background checks again, like he`s still afraid of the

suburbs. 

 

What do you think? 

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Chris, good evening. 

 

He is worried.  He should be worried, because he only cares about public

opinion.  And the public opinion has dramatically changed on this issue in

just the last few years. 

 

However, VICE News just broke a story.  Liz Landers, one of the reporters,

says that Michael Williams is a lawyer for the American  Suppressor

Association who is now in the White House advising the president on guns. 

 

The people around him are from the gun industry.  He cares a lot about

where the money comes from, $30 million from the NRA.  That is also very

persuasive.  I don`t think he`s going to do anything.  I think he`s too

beholden to the NRA, and that`s very, very sad. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What`s the Suppressor Association?  What the hell is that? 

 

SWALWELL:  They represent gun silencers, so they represent…

 

MATTHEWS:  Oh.

 

SWALWELL:  … the device that would silence a firearm.

 

And the Republicans, they actually, after a mass shooting last Congress,

tried to put legislation forward that would make it more widely assessable. 

That`s where they are on this issue. 

 

So, we just have to keep the drumbeat going and show the frustration that

Speaker Pelosi showed, which is that we cannot wait.  And it`s time for

Mitch McConnell not to wait for the president, but to put forth

legislation, particularly on background checks.

 

MATTHEWS:  Guys, I forgot that people need silencers on their guns to

defend themselves in their homes. 

 

SWALWELL:  That`s right.   

 

MATTHEWS:  You need a silencer to shoot deer.  The only reason to have a

silencer is to commit crimes. 

 

SWALWELL:  Yes.  That`s right, Chris. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Ayesha.

 

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR:  Yes. 

 

And this is one of those things where the White House is clearly being

pulled in a whole bunch of different directions.  But the White House is

making a big show of bringing a lot of people in, saying they`re talking to

all these different voices and that they want to see what everyone can

agree on.

 

Of course, the issue is that Congress…

 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Since when does everybody have to agree on

something? 

 

RASCOE:  Yes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  If you say that, then the NRA has to sign on. 

 

RASCOE:  Well, that`s the issue, because the Congress is saying, what is

the president going to do?  We can`t do anything until he gets in line. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Leader?  Who is the leader?

 

OK.  Let me ask you about this issue, because this is a cutting issue.  And

I want to go back to the congressman after you.

 

The NRA wins these political fights because they have got people that will

vote on the gun issue and only the gun issue.  They don`t worry about

climate change or the economy or anything.  They vote on their gun rights,

the Second Amendment rights.  That`s all they care about. 

 

Can you get suburban women and men to start voting with the same intensity

on the gun safety issue on that front? 

 

RASCOE:  That`s the real question. 

 

It did seem like, during the midterms, that there were people that really

ran very hard on enacting more measures for gun control, and that they were

successful. 

 

But the question is whether that would actually play in a presidential

year, when you`re going to have huge amounts of people.  I mean, Trump is

going to be able to turn out his base. 

 

MATTHEWS:  So many issues.  Yes. 

 

RASCOE:  And so – and that idea of taking away your guns is a very

powerful message that the president and the White House is very aware of,

and that he uses against his opponents. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, during yesterday`s House – that was well said, I think.

 

Yesterday`s House Judiciary Committee marked up gun legislation.  Georgia

Democrat Lucy McBath, whose son was murdered at a gas station seven years

ago, called on her colleagues to do something.  This a personal plea.

 

Let`s watch.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. LUCY MCBATH (D-GA):  Nearly 100 people every single day die in this

country as a result of gun violence.  And, yes, I will never let you forget

that my son Jordan was one of them. 

 

I know the pain of losing a child to gun violence and that anyone in this

room, anyone in this country should ever be faced with that pain.  And for

every single day that we fall into not taking action, mothers and fathers

across this country will live through the same nightmare that I did. 

 

It is our responsibility to prevent this suffering, to bring an end to this

constant heartbreak. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  That was one of the – her child was killed, by the way, by

somebody who didn`t like the noise, the loudness of her radio – his radio

in the car.

 

Anyway, Republicans who oppose the legislation warned that passage of gun

laws are an infringement of Second Amendment rights, while not addressing

the root causes of violence.  That`s what they say. 

 

Here goes. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  Today, we have more politicians, encouraging

jealousy, covetousness, and we have divided the country.  And it needs to

stop. That will do more than any of these bills. 

 

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  What we have before us tonight is another

attempt to make people feel good without helping a thing. 

 

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  We all want to stop gun violence.  We all know

these terrible, evil things that happened are just that, terrible and evil. 

 

But doing it – trying to do something what – that this bill seeks to do

in this manner is so fundamentally wrong. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  You know, you would think, Congressman, they`re talking about –

or your side was talking about collecting everybody`s rifles.

 

You`re talking about a background check to keep people who shouldn`t have

guns from getting them.  Why do these people – is this the slippery slope

argument?  What is their argument with all this stuff about how this isn`t

going to work? 

 

Of course if you keep the gun out of a dangerous hand, it`s a good thing. 

It`s a safety measure.  Your thoughts? 

 

SWALWELL:  No one wants to take a gun from a law-abiding individual. 

 

So, shoot for sport, go to – take your kids out to go hunting, protect

yourself with a shotgun in your house, but keep the most dangerous weapons

for the most dangerous people. 

 

The views you just played from my Republican colleagues, those are the

views of a going-extinct species.  What you did not see behind or in front

of Lucy McBath as she was speaking – and she`s the ultimate mom who`s

demanding action – she ran for Congress on this issue – were other moms,

dozens of moms in the audience who are demanding action.

 

And, politically, in 2018, because they joined the students in the Giffords

group and the Brady group and Everytown, we beat 17 NRA-endorsed members of

Congress. 

 

So you should fear the moms and all of the groups with them today more than

you should fear the NRA. 

 

MATTHEWS:  It seems, Ayesha – I`m now asking you to play political

consultant – that for this to become an issue, where the safety issue

actually wins or stands a chance, the Democratic nominee for president,

whoever it is, he or she, has got to address this president in the debates

next fall right, before the election and say – challenge him right there.

 

Because, otherwise, it`s only going to be the NRA that keeps the issue

alive on their side.  Everybody else will be talking about climate, the

economy, all kinds of – incarceration rates, all that stuff.  Meanwhile,

the NRA stays focused on protecting our gun rights. 

 

RASCOE:  Well, Democrats could definitely challenge President Trump and to

say what they exactly are going to do.

 

They have a bill that passed the House.  And so they have to say, this is

what we`re going to do.  And why won`t you act? 

 

Right now, the president seems to be betting that maybe if they don`t take

action, or if he can just kind of say, the Democrats, I tried to do

something, but we just couldn`t come together.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, he will do the mental health thing. 

 

RASCOE:  Yes, or say that it`s mental health.

 

And a lot of those talking points from those Republicans, you hear some of

that from the White House.  We want to do something that doesn`t just make

people feel good.  We want to do something that will really change things. 

 

So that`s – those are the arguments that they`re making. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think he gave it away, guys, Congressman, especially

when he said, I want something that everyone can agree on. 

 

Well, the NRA is not going to agree on anything.  What, are you kidding me? 

 

It`s great to have you back, Congressman, any time.

 

SWALWELL:  Thank you.  You too.  My pleasure. 

 

Thanks, Ayesha.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Eric Swalwell of California and Ayesha Rascoe, thank

you both. 

 

Up next: some breaking news.  Prosecutors with the Manhattan DA`s office

have interviewed Michael Cohen.  There he is.  His former fixer, the

president`s fixer, is part of their investigation into whether the Trump

organization falsified business records when they paid off Stormy and they

paid off McDougal, the two women they paid off after those relationships. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

This is dirty.  It`s going to be interesting. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

We have some breaking news tonight right now involving Trump`s former

lawyer Michael Cohen. 

 

NBC News is reporting now that, according to a source familiar with the

situation, Michael Cohen has signed a proffer agreement with the Manhattan

district attorney`s office, and that that agreement stipulates that he will

cooperate in their investigation of the Trump Organization. 

 

According to a source, the DA`s prosecutors, who met with Cohen in prison

late last month, are investigating whether the president`s company

falsified business records. 

 

And, last February, Cohen shared several checks – there they are – signed

by the president and other company executives to reimburse him for the

payoff he made to silence Stormy Daniels on Trump`s behalf.  We know all

about that story.

 

Cohen testified that the reimbursements he received were disguised by the

president and his company as payments for routine legal fees. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP:  The payments were

designed to be paid over the course of 12 months.  And it was declared to

be a retainer for services that would be provided for the year of 2017. 

 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD):  Was there a retainer agreement? 

 

COHEN:  There is no retainer agreement.

 

CUMMINGS:  Based on your conversations with him, is there any doubt in your

mind that President Trump knew exactly what he was paying for? 

 

COHEN:  There is no doubt in my mind. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Right now, I`m joined by Joyce Vance, former federal prosecutor.

 

Let`s talk about Michael Cohen`s cooperation here.  He has sort of a point

of view, it`s fair to say, about Trump and what he thinks of Trump and what

they did together, sneaky, dirty, et cetera, et cetera, the payoffs. 

 

Where could there be a criminal violation here by the president in regard

to how he paid off Stormy Daniels? 

 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  So it`s early times in this

investigation, Chris.

 

But what prosecutors seem to be focusing on is the idea that there would

have been false business records that would have been submitted.  Normally,

that`s a misdemeanor.  But if you submit false business records in an

effort to conceal up another crime, here presumably a federal crime

involving campaign finance fraud, then it becomes a felony, and you`re –

and you`re really in hot water.

 

MATTHEWS:  Because no one, it seems to me, would write into an accounting

document for the IRS or anyone else paid off porn star for a night in

wherever, wherever the hotel was.

 

It doesn`t seem you would ever put that kind of record together.  So, you

come up with something like, what, entertainment costs?  I mean, what would

you do?  How would you file that kind of information?  This is a lot of

money we`re talking about here.  It is a quarter million he paid off to –

in fact, he paid up to almost $400,000. 

 

He packed it up there, as they say, to pay tax costs and everything else to

make Michael Cohen happy. 

 

VANCE:  Right.

 

By the time they paid Cohen the $130,000 payment for the payoff money had

turned into $400,000.  And what we`re hearing in this testimony is that

there was an effort to convert that into legal fees, and that that was

likely how Trump`s organization recorded it in business records, as legal

fees, when, in fact, it wasn`t legal fees.  It was hush money. 

 

So that would be the gravamen of the offense. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is as sort of the tail end in many ways.  If we do

have impeachment, I`m wrong.  But if this is the tail end of this whole

operation of going after Trump, it seems to me that the Manhattan DA –

that`s a political office, that`s an elective office – Cy Vance, the son

of a former secretary of state – of course, we all know Cyrus Vance.

 

This case could be a big case, if you`re taking the president of the United

States down into a criminal matter.  The questions I have, I guess, as a

non-lawyer, what`s the penalty for this kind of case? 

 

VANCE:  So that really depends on how it`s ultimately structured. 

 

If they were able to make some sort of a tax charge here, which we don`t

know – we don`t know if they have tax records – we could be looking at a

lengthy violation for a felony.  It`s certainly not a misdemeanor. 

 

The felony crime is a serious one.  It carries a lot of collateral

consequences, but most significantly is the threat that there is jail time

involved.  And any amount of jail time in the state system in New York

would be very unpleasant for the president of the United States. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about Michael Cohen.

 

Can he get good time out of this?  Can he get relief on his own sentence if

he plays ball with the DA`s office? 

 

VANCE:  You know, Michael Cohen is in custody on federal prison.  It`s not

unheard of for federal prosecutors to agree to give someone who`s in their

custody good time or, rather, time off of their sentence, in exchange for

work with state prosecutors or local prosecutors. 

 

But it`s not usual.  I would expect that to happen more if Cohen`s

cooperation had been with federal prosecutors.  And, of course, we know the

origin of this investigation that`s happening out of DA Vance`s office is

the fact that federal prosecutors in Manhattan terminated any further

investigation into the allegations that were raised by Cohen, whether that

was campaign fraud or a look into the Trump Organization in July.

 

Then, suddenly, we learn prosecutors from Cy Vance`s office took the trip

up to Otisville a couple of hours from Manhattan a month later in August. 

So it seems that the two are related in that way. 

 

Whether Cohen`s getting credit in the federal system, I think, looks

unlikely at this point. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m so glad we have you on this short notice tonight with this

story breaking so late today.  Joyce Vance, thank you for your expertise

tonight, just as a witness to this whole saga.

 

It`s amazing if what it all ends up, after all these months of following

the bad behavior of this president and his people who worked with him in

the bad behavior, like Michael Cohen, ends up in a case in the New York

district attorney`s office.  Wow. 

 

Up next:  A new poll shows President – Democrat – actually, Democrats

beating Trump.  Almost of them are repeating him.  

 

His response?  It`s fake news. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I saw some fake polls put

out by the fake news media. 

 

You see these phony polls, that`s another form of fake news.  You know,

it`s called suppression.  They suppress the feelings.  They`re called

suppression polls. 

 

You know, polls are fake just like everything else. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

President Trump has a long history of calling polls he doesn`t like fake. 

Today, he went after the latest “Washington Post”/ABC poll, calling it a

phony suppression poll.  The poll shows all the top Democratic presidential

candidates beating Trump.  Well, look at them all. 

 

Among registered voters, Biden is ahead of Trump by 15 points, with Bernie

Sanders ahead by nine.  Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris both ahead by

seven.  Look at them, all the leaders ahead of them. 

 

Trump tweeted: If it weren`t for the never ending fake news about me, and

with all that I have done, I would be leading the partners of the

lamestream media by 20 points.  Sorry, but true.

 

He also claimed, quote, I haven`t started campaigning yet.  He hasn`t? 

Well, that`s news. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

Trump said today that he hasn`t started campaigning for president yet.  Oh,

yes, but he filed his reelection paperwork on the same day he was

inaugurated, back in `17.  He also mentioned his 2020 campaign multiple

times during rallies all this summer. 

 

Let`s watch him not campaigning. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second

term. 

 

We`re actually here today to officially launch our campaign to win the

great state of New Hampshire in 2020. 

 

The 2020 election is about one thing.  It`s about you.  We begin our

campaign with the best record, the best results, the best agenda and the

only positive vision for our nation`s future. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m joined by Juanita Tolliver, campaign director for the Center

for American Progress Action Fund, and John Brabender, Republican

strategist.

 

John, you`re great to come on and talk about this but these polls suck. 

These are terrible. 

 

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Look, Vegas had Cleveland Browns

five and a half points favorite.  On Sunday, they lost by 30 points. 

 

You know, the point of the matter is, stuff this far-out in a ballot test

does not matter because it`s really – it`s really the president against

mythical people –

 

MATTHEWS:  So, if Trump by 15 – you`re telling me if Trump was ahead he

wouldn`t be bragging? 

 

BRABENDER:  I think it would be great.  I believe that.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND:  then the polls

will count.

 

BRABENDER:  But what I`m saying is, I do believe the Democratic primary

polls are relatively accurate.  A general election poll where we`re going

to have two more World Series before people even vote, they don`t know who

these Democrats really are at this point, they`re not defined.  I think

that they`re mythical. 

 

TOLLIVER:  I mean, I`ll give it to you, a quarter of the electorate is not

plugged in or more is not plugged into the race just yet.  But the fact

that Trump is polling so poorly atop – with the top five Democratic

candidates I think is reflective of the tone of the country given the

negative trend and the economy fact that Americans are willing to blame

Trump for that. 

 

BRABENDER:  But you guys are like Charlie Brown with the football. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m just asking, doesn`t this (INAUDIBLE) is a negative.  The

fact that all five leaders are –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

BRABENDER:  Let`s be fair.  Every poll in 2016 was very much like this

poll.  I will say this, though, the real secret to look at these things is

the in the cross taps.  That`s –

 

MATTHEWS:  So, explain.  For the first time, please explain the word – 

 

TOLLIVER:  Cross taps, OK.

 

MATTHEWS:  Cross taps.  You tell me.

 

BRABENDER:  OK, it`s all the demographic and segmentation stuff, where they

live, their ages and breaking down, you know, whether they have a college

degree or not. 

 

MATTHEWS:  White women in the burbs are turning against Trump. 

 

BRABENDER:  That`s the one thing when I look at this thing he`s actually

winning among men, but the gender gap is a little bit on steroids right

now. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Is it #metoo?  Is it guns?  What are the issues that are driving

away from white women?

 

BRABENDER:  Here`s what I think and the president said, look, with

everything I accomplished, if you really polled right, this should be

great.  But what I think the president has to understand is,

accomplishments is only part of the story in an executive position.  They

actually also want to like, respect and feel comfortable with that

president. 

 

So, sometimes process stands on top of his own message and takes away what

he wants to be talking about and I think that`s something that they –

 

TOLLIVER:  You think process takes away what he wants to talk about versus

Trump taking way what he should be talking about. 

 

BRABENDER:  Well, and I`m saying that president doing that.  For example, I

always said a candidate, why are you talking about polls anyhow?  That`s

not your job.  That`s the job of people that work on campaigns for you. 

 

I don`t think he has to be talking about polls. 

 

TOLLIVER:  But he is because he lives and dies by this.  It means so much

to him.

 

BRABENDER:  I don`t agree with that.

 

TOLLIVER:  His ego is so weak that he will move as he did today on

September 11th of days, he`s going to make it about himself and polls. 

 

BRABENDER:  Here`s the thing, the president did it his way, and he won in

2016.  And that the lesson there is, well, I`m going to do it the same way. 

However, what I believe is for example the tweeting he does, it goes to a

group of people who either are already supportive of him or never going to

vote for him –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about tomorrow night because I`m going to move ahead. 

I`m going to be in the spin room trying to get the right questions and

right people tomorrow night, in other words when they`re vulnerable. 

 

Here`s the question, Biden is ahead.  He doesn`t get much ahead.  He gets

about a third of the vote roughly all the time.  He only gets a third. 

Does that once somebody on the left moves up and knocks out the other

person on the left, if Elizabeth knocks out Bernie, for example, does that

mean he`s in trouble? 

 

BRABENDER:  I do.  I think that his numbers, first of all, are creeping

down.  Elizabeth Warren`s are coming up.  And I think where they`re going

to – I think where the Democrats are going to come, they`re going to say

Elizabeth Warren is a better general election candidate than Bernie

Sanders.  And I think at some point, you`re going to see a lot –

 

MATTHEWS:  Who`s winning it?  Looking at the numbers we`re looking at right

now.

 

TOLLIVER:  Elizabeth Warren is coming into this with a surge in money, in

polling, in just energy.  And people are going to latch onto this and she

can leverage tomorrow morning to really differentiate herself from the

field. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What`s stopping Kamala Harris with the black vote?  There`s

something going on.

 

TOLLIVER:  I don`t think it`s what stopping Kamala Harris with the black

vote.  It`s a reality and a resetting in the summit, like her team admitted

there was a summer slump, they`re coming out of it.  If she wants to be

successful tonight, it`s going to be important for her to drill down what

her message is and communicating that succinctly and positively. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Does she have a positive message? 

 

TOLLIVER:  Absolutely.  She has a positive message. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What is it?

 

TOLLIVER:  She`s fighting for Americans.  She`s fighting every single day. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What separates her from the other candidates? 

 

TOLLIVER:  I think what separates Kamala from the other candidates, one is

the historic nature of her candidacy in and of itself, and two, she`s going

to reach a demographic that I think needs to be reached in –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  OK, look at me.  You know what I`m asking these questions

because I`m stunned at the fact she hasn`t caught on yet. 

 

John, are you surprised of Kamala not catching on? 

 

BRABENDER:  Well, not only catching on.  She has actually dropped

significantly from after the first debate.  And I will tell you people

don`t always give you second chances when there`s these many candidates. 

And so, she better have a heck of a debate either tomorrow night or

sometimes –  

 

MATTHEWS:  But if she – here`s the catch-22.  If she attacks Biden, she`s

back in the old corner again.  Who`s going to attack who tomorrow night? 

Who`s going to go on the offense?

 

TOLLIVER:  I feel like Biden is going to try to go after Warren because

that`s the person who`s surging most.  So, let`s watch that dynamic.  But

here`s the thing –

 

MATTHEWS:  You think so?  Was that smart?

 

BRABENDER:  I don`t.  I think what Biden is going to do is play the why are

we attacking each other, this is about taking back America and our

policies, this is shameful, and I think he`s going to shut it down because

I don`t think he wants to be a punching bag. 

 

TOLLIVER:  Well, it`s not about him wanting to be a punching bag, but the

thing is, if he goes after Warren, he`s also going to get hit by Sanders,

because we saw how they were in the July debate.  Sanders and Warren were

complementary.  They both were tag-teaming on the progressive lane.

 

BRABENDER:  But there`s a reason for that.

 

MATTHEWS:  Elizabeth Warren has been ingenious.

 

TOLLIVER:  Absolutely.

 

MATTHEWS:  Because she loves – there`s a term in politics I learned years

ago, loves someone to death.  She`s saying how great Bernie is, he`s

wonderful, we agree on everything, I`m just younger and I`m going to beat

him. 

 

BRABENDER:  Yes.  No, you know, the why is eventually I`m going to have a

tough conversation with Bernie about why you have to get out and support me

and I can`t –

 

TOLLIVER:  We`ll see what that – 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to new “Washington Post”/ABC News poll,

Democrats say they`d rather nominate the candidate most likely to win than

the candidates closest to them on the issue.  Voters will also want to get

another look at the policy proposal. 

 

A new poll of independents, by the way, shows the more think the Democratic

candidate`s politics would send the country in the wrong direction. 

 

What about this one?  I don`t know if people think strategically, do you

think they do when you say, who are you for?  OK, but who you think will

win, therefore you`re for that person over the person you like?  Don`t

people say at this point in the election, I`m going with who I like?  But

now they`re saying I`m not going with whom I like, I`m going to who I think

can beat Trump.  Is that fair?

 

TOLLIVER:  It`s got to have a balance.  Of course, beating Trump is the

number one goal of Democrats this election cycle.  What Americans have the

opportunity to do in this primary is say, who motivates me, who inspires

me, who`s going to we able to fight for me and be able to make that primary

decision.

 

MATTHEWS:  Who gets the independents? 

 

TOLLIVER:  I think one – let`s be real.  Independents had said in that

same poll, 49 percent of independents said, no matter what, they`re

definitely voting against Trump.  So, I don`t think it`s about who gets

independents in the general.

 

MATTHEWS:  So, it doesn`t matter. 

 

TOLLIVER:  I think it matters because, of course, you`re going to have

appeal broadly. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Who`s got the best chance to beat Trump?

 

TOLLIVER:  Come on, we`ve seen the polls, all five of the top candidates

have the best chance of beating Trump. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me who.  Who`s got the best chance?  Who`s got the best

chance? 

 

TOLLIVER:  At her upward trajectory, I`m looking at Elizabeth Warren very

closely. 

 

MATTHEWS:  You think Elizabeth Warren has got the best chance to beat

Trump?

 

BRABENDER:  I honestly don`t know that.  I do think this – 

 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on, you do.

 

BRABENDER:  I do think once – 

 

TOLLIVER:  Look at (INAUDIBLE) come on.

 

BRABENDER:  It doesn`t matter.  I think once the Democrats say it`s not

Biden, he`s done.  And so I think that`s the real thing to watch. 

 

The other thing to love about Democrats in these debates, they attack

differently than Republicans do.  They always start by saying, you know,

Joe, you`re a very good friend of mine and I respect you a lot, but now,

I`m going to kick you in the groin. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know what Democrats do?  They shoot their wounded. 

That`s what they do.

 

I`ve watched this for years.

 

TOLLIVER:  Ick.

 

MATTHEWS:  I know you hate it, but it`s so true. 

 

TOLLIVER:  That`s rough.

 

MATTHEWS:  Juanita Tolliver, thank you.  John Brabender, but you know.

 

Tomorrow night is the third Democratic debate in the primary season down in

Houston.  Our special coverage begins at 11:00 p.m. afterwards.  I`ll be in

the spin room with all the wounded perhaps.

 

Up next, on the somber anniversary of 9/11, I`m going to show the heroic

first responders.  We have to regularly. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  There was something about powerful about 9/11, of course, that

we must never forget.  It was the courage of first responders.  Remember

that firefighter heading up the stairs of the World Trade Towers with

everyone racing down?  It`s my job, he said. 

 

Hundreds offered up their lives that day to save others.  And let`s

remember too our feelings about those first responders, the cheers that

went up on New York street, street corners in the weeks thereafter, to the

passing fire trucks.

 

And more than that the proud sense of country we felt, so many of us,

knowing he had those among us who would race to their duty on such a day.

 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now. 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

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