Democratic candidates go head to head. TRANSCRIPT: 9/13/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Ron Reagan, Jaime Harrison, Susan Page, Michael Steel, David Fahrenthold

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  She makes her debut appearance on The Beat.  We

also have opening arguments with Neal Katyal, so a lot to get to that we

will be excited about.


So I hope you have a great weekend and I hope you`re going to rejoin us. 

Come back Monday at 6:00 A.M. Eastern.


But don`t go anywhere right now because HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up



CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The joker is wild.  Let`s play HARDBALL.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.


Well, two events last night, 1,200 miles apart showcased the dramatic

difference between the Democrats and Donald Trump.  In Houston, the top ten

Democrats met for their third debate jousting to become their party`s

candidate in 2020.


Meanwhile Republican members of Congress met in Baltimore to hear from

their party`s unchallenged leader.  It was a battle for America`s attention

from a president who can`t stand a moment from the spotlight.


And true to form, Trump unloaded a series of attacks on the Democratic






early.  I thought she was gone.  She`s emerged from the ashes.  And now, it

looks like she could beat Sleepy Joe.  He`s fallen asleep.  He has no idea

what the hell he`s doing or saying.


And here is Sleepily Joe, what, where am I?  Just sign here, Sleepy Joe. 

Just sign here.


Crazy Bernie, he is a crazy guy.


I think it was Buttigieg, they said think of it as boot and edge, edge,

because nobody can pronounce this guy`s name.




MATTHEWS:  Well, actually, that is the way to pronounce it.


Anyway, the Democrats sharing the stage in Texas may have differed on the

issues but they were unified in their purpose, of course.  They all trained

their sights on the man we just heard from, Trump.





problem.  We have a guy there that is literally running our country like a

game show.



when I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and

said he`d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping.  I`d like to see

him making a deal with Xi Jinping.



supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of

color all across this country.



defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country.



enormous, enormous opportunity once we get rid of Donald Trump.



Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.




MATTHEWS:  Well, while the Democrats start to earn the support of rank and

file voters, Trump spoke as a president who has the Republican Party

already in his clutches.




TRUMP:  I go to audiences, I was joking one time recently.  I walked up to

him and I said, listen, I don`t have to make a very long speech.  You

really have to elect me, whether you like me or not, it makes no difference

because our country will go to hell if any of these people get in.  It will

go to hell.


But I said, you know, I was joking but I`m really not joking.  You have no





MATTHEWS:  He sounds like Louie XIV or XVI.  As The New York Times put it,

intended as counterprogramming, the president`s speech last night hit

virtually everyone of his usual political lines as he careened between

prepared remarks, ad-libbed attacks and boasts about his record.


At times, Trump`s address felt like an act from an old Borscht Belt (ph)

performance, even using wind turbines as setup material.




TRUMP:  Try dropping a windmill someplace close to your house, try selling

your house.  They make noise, they kill all the birds.  The energy is

intermittent.  You happen to be watching the Democrat debate and the wind

isn`t blowing, you`re not going to see – Charlie, what the hell happened

to this debate?  He says, darling, the wind isn`t blowing.  The goddamn

windmill stopped.  That windmill stopped.




MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump complaint here, his latest complaint is about

energy-efficient light bulbs.




TRUMP:  The bulb that we`re being forced to use, number one, to me, most

importantly, the light`s no good.  I always look orange.  And so do you. 

The light is the worst.




MATTHEWS:  Mr. President, actually some would say it`s not the light bulbs.


And while Trump has criticized Baltimore as a rat and rodent-infested mess,

the only rat that was apparent during his visit last night in Baltimore was

an inflatable one, there it is, meant to look like him, aAmong the many

demonstrators who gathered to protest the president`s appearance.  That`s

pretty well-done there.


I`m joined right now by Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief of USA Today,

Jamie Harrison, Associate Chairman of the DNC and a Democratic candidate

for the United States in South Carolina.  Sir, I love men in the arena and

women as well.  Michael Steel is a former spokesperson for House Speaker

John Boehner, Ron Reagan, there you are, he`s the author and (INAUDIBLE).


You`ve got the smirk.  I can`t resist the smirk.  I`ve got to ask you about

Trump and his joker.  It was just like Jack Nicholson.  He can`t stand

somebody else on television.  Here can`t stand people watching the

Democratic debate.  So here he is careening from light bulbs to wind

turbines.  There wasn`t a topic last night he didn`t find something to

fight about.  Your thoughts about Trump`s interruption of our lives again. 

Your thoughts.


RON REAGAN, AUTHOR:  Well, you know, Donald Trump sees this presidency

obviously as a reality television show, and that`s how he relates to all of

this.  How am I doing in the ratings?  How are the polls?  Are people

applauding?  Am I getting laughs here?


But the whole thing is beginning to spiral downward in a very alarming sort

of way.  Again, we can laugh about his behavior, but the fact of the matter

is he`s sitting in the Oval Office and that makes his behavior a very scary



MATTHEWS:  You know, it reminded me Borscht Belt, these old comedians with

one line after another, a lot of these snappers one after another, like

take my wife, please, those (INAUDIBLE) lines.  It was like that last

night, take my presidency, please.  Your thoughts, Jaime.


JAIME HARRISON, DNC ASSOCIATE CHAIRMAN:  Well, listen, I hope there aren`t

a lot of people going to a lot of these speeches because I know they`re

losing brain cells.  I mean, you have a president who is talking about

light bulbs.  And it`s just – Chris, it just doesn`t make any sense.


MATTHEWS:  It makes them yellow.


HARRISON:  I guess it makes them yellow.  But in the end, he`s going to be

red because he`s going to lose the election.


MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, I`ve been corrected.  It is orange.  He insisted it.


HARRISON:  Well, in the end, he`s going to be red because he`s going to be

very upset when he loses this election.  He`s not talking about the issues

that people are dealing with right now.  The people that are rubberstamping

his election, like my Senator Lindsey Graham, are not focused on the issues

that people are dealing with right now.


MATTHEWS:  There`s setup material on that on everything he does.  It isn`t

just jokes.  All the jokes with the expensive – anybody concerned about

energy, anybody concerned about climate change, they`re sort of against

modernism, against reality, against facts, and his audience has to laugh at

all that.  We don`t like these new light bulbs, we don`t like wind.  Why

wouldn`t you like wind and saving the planet?  What is his problem?



the beginning.  Just to be clear, this is not a change of position.  He was

against wind turbines even in the 2016 election.


Well, here`s what I think was interesting about his speech last night. 

This is the argument he`s going to make against whoever wins the Democratic

presidential nomination, which it is dangerous to elect these Democrats. 

These are socialists.  These people will take your country away.  And that

is an argument that worked for him in 2016.  So I think Democrats have to

be careful to be aware of it.


And, you know, the other thing, he makes this argument with a lot of

energy.  You know, he spoke for 78 minutes last night.  What candidate goes

out – what president goes out and speaks to a crowd for 78 minutes?


MATTHEWS:  Could he wear out a Biden?


PAGE:  I think –


MATTHEWS:  On a platform, could he wear him out?


PAGE:  I think he could wear out a candidate, Biden or other candidates as



MATTHEWS:  I mean, Castro used to go – Fidel Castro would go four hours at

a time.  So it`s not a test how liberal or conservative you are, it`s just

if you can talk a lot.


But he does have this obsession with the moment.  The thing about this

president is, I used to say to people, think about radios every two hours

has to refresh.  This guy refreshes his act every minute.  He wants to own

every minute, including last night.



the news cycle every single time.  And I think the way to think about it is

he`s never polled above 50 percent.  He cannot win this presidential

election.  Democrats can lose it.  And he`s going to be out there –

whatever candidate you guys nominate, he will be out there saying, this

candidate will take your healthcare, take your guns, raise your taxes,

wreck the economy.  I`m the only thing standing between you and –


MATTHEWS:  Well, he got some help last night from Beto, didn`t he?  We`re

going to confiscate all the AR-15s –


STEEL:  He got help from Beto.  He got help from Bernie Sanders.  He got

help from every –


MATTHEWS:  Fawning over the president from the Republican retreat in

Baltimore yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy invoked the name

of Ronald Reagan as he praised the current president.




REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  The Republicans have never been more united. 

Don`t take my word.  Take for the members on the stage.  Actually, look at

the polling itself with this president.  No president, not even Ronald

Reagan had as much support within the party as President Trump has.




MATTHEWS:  But not everyone is as united behind the president, McCarthy is

claiming there.  Senator Mitt Romney, for example, the party`s nominee in

2012 told CNN the other day, I`m not planning on endorsing in the

presidential race at this stage.  I`m not planning on endorsing in the

primary or in the general.


Ron, let me ask you about this guy.  I`m not sure the loyalty behind this

president, which is sort of lemming-like and mechanistic and regimental, is

something to brag about.  There`s something non–intellectual about these

people.  They don`t praise Reagan.  They follow him in a kind of way that

doesn`t suggest individual thinking or anything.  It`s just we`re afraid to

buck this guy because the people at home are much more right wing than any

officeholder in the party, it seems.


REAGAN:  You meant praise Trump not Reagan?




REAGAN:  Yes.  There`s no genuine affection for this guy and throughout

most of the party.  He may have his base, he may have his cult-like base

among the public and electorate, but elected officials are wise to him for

the most part.  They know that he`s a reckless, erratic, dangerous

individual but, you know, they got their tax cut.  And if they cross him,

they know what happens to him when they go back and get primaried.


MATTHEWS:  What makes Lindsey Graham, for example, who`s the classic

toadie?  No, really, it`s your state.  I didn`t create these people.  What

makes his tail wag when the name Trump is mentioned?  What makes him run

around after him like he loves him?  I mean, he doesn`t love him.  I know

Lindsey.  Lindsey is a good guy in many ways, but why are they all behaving

like him today, Ron?


REAGAN:  Oh, me.  I`m sorry.




REAGAN:  Yes.  It`s surviving (ph).  We went to South Carolina.  No, but I

think it`s survival for them.  The bottom line is they need to get re-

elected and they need him to get re-elected.  They can`t afford to have him

tweeting to their base as well as his some bad stuff about them and next

thing you know they don`t win the Republican primary and they never get

into office again.  That`s the real bottom line.


MATTHEWS:  Jaime, you`re going to run if you win the nomination.  You`re

going to be running against this guy in, Lindsey Graham, South Carolina.


HARRISON:  I`m running against him now.


MATTHEWS:  Okay.  You`re running against him now.  What is his reason?  Why

does his tail wag whenever the name Trump shows up?  He`s embarrassing.


HARRISON:  Listen, the most important thing to Lindsey Graham is Lindsey

Graham.  He wants to be relevant.  He said it so in his own words in a The

New York Times article recently.  Two objective, getting re-elected and

being relevant.  If there was a gang that won in the United States Senate,

Lindsey Graham would want to be that person in that gang.  He wants to be

relevant and Donald Trump makes him relevant.


I call him the world`s most powerful golf caddy because that is what he is. 

It is –


MATTHEWS:  Okay.  I`ve got another theory.  Those southern Democrats, the

old grandees, the bore buds (ph) who were around forever, their dream was

to get appointed when the other guy died, serve until they died and then

some are trying to transform in death into some building, like the Richard

Russell building.  That`s what their dream was, never to leave the Senate,

ever.  Isn`t that what Lindsey wants?  Help me.


HARRISON:  The Senate allows Lindsey to be relevant, to be on television

every night.  But in the end of the day, Chris, it`s not about the people

in South Carolina.  This is a guy – and you tell me whether you think that

(INAUDIBLE) would have ever done this.


Hurricane Dorian coming up the coast, coming up Florida, targeted towards

South Carolina, we evacuate Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Charleston. 

Where is Lindsey Graham?  Is he in Charleston putting sand in bags?  Is he

on phone with the governor?  No, he`s in Montenegro palling around and

smiling with –


MATTHEWS:  That was a campaign commercial right here.  Thank you.  You will

never take a (INAUDIBLE) if you`re elected to the Senate.  You will never

go on foreign trips.  You will never go one of these trips.


HARRISON:  It`s not about that.  If you got a hurricane – you saw what the

hurricane did to Bahamas.


MATTHEWS:  I know.  Thank you, thank you.  My guests are sticking with me.


Coming up, after the Democrats` big night, who`s leading and who`s

bleeding?  And what about that cheap shot from Julian Castro?  Here it is.




JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Barack Obama`s vision was not

to leave 10 million people uncovered.  He wanted every single person in

this country covered.  My plan would do that, your plan would not.


BIDEN:  They do not have to buy in.  The do not have to buy in.


CASTRO:  You just said that.  You just said that two minutes ago.  You just

said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.  You said they`d have

to buy in.  Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?  Are you

forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?




MATTHEWS:  An attempt to show dementia on the part of the leading

Democratic candidate, Julian Castro caught himself looking incompetent. 

We`re going to show you that in the tapes when we come back.  He was wrong

in this case.  Vice President Biden was correct.  He did not say what he

accused him of.


Plus, Trump`s corruption in plain sight right now.  We`re all learning

right now the Air Force crews who have stayed at Trump`s Scottish resort

dozens of times in recent years.  He promised he wouldn`t profit from the

American presidency, he is.


We`ve got much more coming on that front.  Stay with us.






BIDEN:  I know that the senator says she`s for Bernie.  Well, I`m for




debt to President Obama.


KLOBUCHAR:  What I favor is something that what Barack Obama wanted to do

from the very beginning.


HARRIS:  I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us

this far.


CASTRO:  And, of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to President Barack



BIDEN:  I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad and

indifferent.  That`s where I stand.




MATTHEWS:  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.


That was the Democratic candidates last night, of course, making a point of

embracing the Obama legacy.  That was nice to hear.


And while the storyline heading into last night`s debate centered on Joe

Biden sharing the stage for the first time with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie

Sanders, it wasn`t the battle between the moderate and the progressive

wings of the party that brought the most contentious moment of the night. 

That came when former HUD Secretary Julian Castro took a shot, a nasty one,

at the former vice president, falsely accusing Biden of saying his

healthcare plan wouldn`t automatically enroll people in its is public

option and hinting that Biden was old and forgetful.  He was charging him

with short-term memory loss and dementia.


Let`s face it and let`s watch.




CASTRO:  You just said that.  You just said that two minutes ago.  You just

said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.  You said they`d have

to buy in.  Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?  Are you

forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?


I mean, I can`t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy

in.  And now, you`re saying they don`t have to buy in.  You`re forgetting



BIDEN:  I said anyone, like a grandmother who has no money, you`re

automatically enrolled.


CASTRO:  We need a healthcare system that automatically enrolls people

regardless of whether they choose opt in or not.  If you lose your job, for

instance, his healthcare plan would not automatically enroll.  You would

have to opt in.  My healthcare would.  That`s a big difference.


I am fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you`re not.


BIDEN:  I`ll be surprised at him.




MATTHEWS:  A short time ago, Secretary Castro told my colleague, Chuck

Todd, it was a disagreement over healthcare policy and not Biden`s age, he





CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  You repeated the word, forget, so many times that

a lot of people thought this was a planned hit and that this was –


CASTRO:  It was not.  Look, I respect Vice President Biden.  I`ve known

Vice President Biden now for years, of course, served in the Obama

administration with him.  I think that, in many ways, he`s a good

candidate.  That`s going to be up for the voters to decide.  What I was

pointing out was that he had denied saying the words buy in, even though he

did say the words buy in. 




MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Susan on this.


I think everybody heard what they saw, and they heard him use the word

forget again and again, short-term memory loss.  He was going after him,

saying, you don`t remember what you just said. 


PAGE:  That`s right. 


There are legitimate questions you can raise about Joe Biden and his vigor

and his age and his tendency towards gaffes.  That is not inappropriate. 

But this was an inappropriate hit.  This came across as mean-spirited and

pre-cooked and toxic. 


And I do not think that Julian Castro is going to be the either the nominee

or a member of Joe Biden`s Cabinet if he…






PAGE:  … the White House.


MATTHEWS:  Was he gunning for vice president under Elizabeth Warren?


That`s what I think he was doing.


PAGE:  I think he is a 1 percent candidate who thought, I have got to do

something to shake this up, or I`m not going to be relevant at all going



And that`s – it seems to me that is probably the calculation he was



MATTHEWS:  Alexi McCammond was sitting pretty much there the last night at

7:00.  And she said, there`s going to be a hit directly from Julian Castro

on the vice president.  It`s all planned.  It`s going to happen.


So somebody leaked the fact he was planning to do that.


PAGE:  You know, this will stun you, but a lot of the lines last night were

devised before they got on stage.


MATTHEWS:  You`re smiling.




PAGE:  I just think that is how it works.




MATTHEWS:  Houston, we have a problem?  Like, Houston, we have a problem? 


PAGE:  You might possibly have drafted some of those lines in the past.






MATTHEWS:  I knew how to do them. 


Anyway, let me go to Mike.


Leaders and bleeders.  Julian Castro is bleeding.  Who lead – who won last

night, to use the crude phrase in the game of politics?  Because it is

somewhat a game.  Who won? 


PAGE:  So I think Biden wasn`t perfect, but he was good enough.


MATTHEWS:  Did he save himself for the next fight?


PAGE:  I think he did, yes. 


And I think Elizabeth Warren continued to do exactly what has brought her

success so far, which is make her progressive case, but get above – stay

above the fray. 


MATTHEWS:  She was untouched last night.


Anyway, former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke got a lot of attention on

the issue of gun control, defending his mandatory assault weapon buyback

program.  Watch this.  This is going to have a short-term reaction among

Democrats, and you bet – and he will be the poster boy by next summer for

the NRA. 


But let`s watch. 




BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If the high-impact, high

velocity-round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your

body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death

on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.


When we see that being used against children – and, in Odessa, I met the

mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother

watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other

people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren`t enough

ambulances to get to them in time.


Hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.




O`ROURKE:  We`re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow

Americans anymore.






MATTHEWS:  Did you see those people in the first row literally jumping up

and down?  It was amazing. 


In response to that comment by Beto O`Rourke, Briscoe Cain, a Texas state

representative, tweeted: “My AR-15 is ready for you, Robert Francis,” using

Beto`s legal first and middle name.  Ready for you.


O`Rourke responded with a tweet of his own, saying: “This is a death

threat, Representative.  Clearly, you shouldn`t own an AR-15.  And neither

should anyone else.”


Apparently, he has turned it over to the FBI, this thing, Beto O`Rourke



But let`s get back to Beto O`Rourke, because he`s an active political

figure on the national stage.


STEEL:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Talking about confiscating, mandatory buybacks of AR-15s. 

There`s 10 million of them in the country right now. 


STEEL:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  What`s that going to be politically?  What will that mean by

next summer? 


STEEL:  Well, I think it means that Beto O`Rourke is not running for Senate

and – or anything else in Texas anytime soon.  I think it means that the -

- he is reinvigorating the gun rights lobby.  He`s reinvigorating

Republican and other fears people in rural areas` fears that Democrats are

not in favor of commonsense, steady gun reform.


They`re in favor – they`re going to come, break down your door and take

your gun.  And that is a real fear on a part of a lot of people.  And he

just made that a lot more legitimate. 


MATTHEWS:  Ron, your thinking about, is this beyond where the country is

right now in terms of gun safety? 


REAGAN:  I think the problem I have with that – and I agree with what was

just said – this plays into the Republican NRA meme of Democrats coming,

kicking down your door and taking your gun away. 


I think the problem for me with Beto O`Rourke`s proposition here about the

buyback that`s mandatory, so it will be a confiscation, eventually, is that

it`s not part of a larger comprehensive anti-gun violence strategy. 


It sort of – it seems like sort of a one-off thing.  Well, we`re going to

take your AR-15s away. 


Well, I got news for you.  You can take all the AR-15s away, and that might

be a good thing, but it won`t stop mass shootings.  So unless you embed

this in a larger comprehensive sort of program, I think you`re missing the



MATTHEWS:  Right, like going after those multi-ammo magazines, 30 or 40

bullets in each one.


Anyway, this is one moment that reminded a lot of people about human being

behavior.  Here`s Mayor Pete Buttigieg last night when he was asked to talk

about resilience in life.


Here he is talking about his personal experience as a gay man coming out,

as we say, saying what he is, overwhelming his setbacks that came his way

and ones he thought were going to come this way.  It`s very powerful. 


Let`s sit and watch Pete Buttigieg.





deployment and realized that you only get to live one life.  And I was not

interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I

just came out. 


I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially

because inconveniently it was an election year in my socially conservative



What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job

that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with 80

percent of the vote. 




MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Jaime, rare moment of, well, human reality? 


HARRISON:  Yes, it was a great moment for Pete. 


And it was one of those moments where I constantly try to remind Democrats,

not only those running for president, but also on the down-ballot, that

Democrats win when we`re hopeful and we`re aspirational, when we talk to

people about where they are, and relate to them on that level. 


Bill Clinton was a master at doing that.  Barack Obama was very good at

doing that as well. 


And the key for us, the key for the nominee of our party, the key for folks

like me running for the United States Senate, is to go into these

communities, rural communities and urban communities, and talk to people

where they are, talk to their hearts, because, when people vote, they`re

not just voting with this.  They`re voting with this and this.


It the heartness and the guts.  And that`s what we have to be.


MATTHEWS:  That`s what LBJ said about civil rights.  You got to go to the

heart on that. 


HARRISON:  Exactly right.


MATTHEWS:  You got to go to the deep values of the country. 


Thank you so much, Susan Page, as always, front-page Susan.  rMDNM_


Jaime Harrison, thank you.  Good luck in your race down there… 




MATTHEWS:  … against that tail-wagger down there.




MATTHEWS:  Anyway, and Michael Steel, thank you, sir. 


And, Ron Reagan, we wait for you.  Every time we hear you`re coming on,

we`re excited about it.  Thank you. 




MATTHEWS:  No, really.  You`re one of the stars of this show. 


Anyway, up next:  The sentence is handed down against actress Felicity

Huffman, but not a really nasty sentence, a couple of days.  This is about

the college admissions scandal. 


We`re going to learn about sort of this kind of crime and how it gets paid

for.  Not extensively or expensively.  Fourteen days for all this?


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


Felicity Huffman, remember her, star of “Desperate Housewives”?  Well, she

was sentenced today to 14 days in prison for her role in the college

admission cheating scandal.


Huffman and 13 other parents pleaded guilty to bribery and mail fraud

charges.  She initially faced up to 20 years in prison, but received a more

– well, more lenient sense, two weeks, because of her guilty plea.


In a statement today, Huffman said: “I accept the court`s decision today

without reservation. I have always been prepared to accept whatever

punishment the judge imposed.  I broke the law.  I have admitted that.  And

I pleaded guilty to this crime.  There are no excuses or justifications for

my actions, period.”


Well, 50 people, also included “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, were

indicted back in March of this year in a massive FBI investigation, which

revealed that paid parents – or parents paid millions of dollars in bribes

to get their children into elite universities. 


Part of the scheme involved cheating on standardized exams, like the ACT,

and falsely designating some kids as athletes to get preferential treatment

at various – because – even if they weren`t athletes at all and had

nothing to do with those sports. 


In Huffman`s case, she paid $15,000 to have a college counselor correct

answers on her daughter`s SAT test, resulting in a higher score.


For more, I`m joined by Katie Phang, MSNBC legal contributor, Tom Winter,

NBC News correspondent.


Tom, in this case, what did she pay the test moderator to do to get her

kid`s numbers up?  What did he actually do for the money? 



was – it was kind of two things, one, that she would be able to have her

daughter take the test with no time limit whatsoever. 


So there was no – as we know from taking the college boards, you have a

certain amount of time to complete certain portions of the test.  She would

be able to take as much time as she wanted.  In addition to that, what she

pleaded guilty to and what we saw in the charging documents is that the

person who proctored the test, basically the instructor for the test, went

back and was able to correct some of her daughter`s answers.


It led to an approximately 400-point increase on her college boards, so not

an insignificant increase.  And on top of that, her daughter had a

significant amount of time to get it right in the first place.  So, that





WINTER:  … scheme.


MATTHEWS:  How does a proctor get to squirrel away themselves with a test,

somebody`s test, and change enough for the answers to get four points up? 


In other words, do they know the answers because they`re smart?  Or do they

have a guidebook which has all the right answers?  And how do you cheat? 

I`m just curious about technically how you do this thing, this scam.


WINTER:  Well, I think what was – what came across in the initial charging

documents in several instances – and it wasn`t just for Felicity Huffman`s

daughter who was able to get some of these benefits. 


But according to the charging documents, Chris, basically, you have people

that are – that are educators. These are not people that are just off the

street.  God knows it`s not myself, but it would be people that are

educators, that are professors, that are involved in the school – in the

schools and schooling system. 


So they would presumably have that higher level of knowledge to be able to

correct these answers and jack up the scores. 


MATTHEWS:  Katie, what do you make of two weeks, 14 days?  Is that jail

time in a real prison?  What kind of a situation will this defendant, this

convicted person, have to face?


Real – what will the situation be for two weeks? 


KATIE PHANG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  So Felicity Huffman is not going to be

doing hard time in a maximum security federal prison.


But two weeks is a lot of time for somebody who is an otherwise glamorous

Hollywood actress.  You know, 14 days doesn`t sound like a lot, but for any

defendant who`s looking down the barrel of having to go to jail, that is

day for day. 


We do not expect Felicity Huffman to get any good time served, as you have

heard before.  She will do those 14 days.  But, frankly, Chris, by the time

she actually gets into the federal prison system, basically gets acclimated

to it, she will be out of the system. 


So you look at her, you see that she gave $15,000 in order to get her

daughter to test better with that proctor`s assistance.  But if I were

somebody like Lori Loughlin, who gave $500,000 with her husband for her two

daughters to get into USC, I would be whipping out those prayer candles

tonight, because she has decided to plead not guilty, take the risk of

going to trial against the biggest law firm in the world, which is the

federal government. 


And so she`s looking at significant jail time, if Felicity Huffman only got

14 days. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you both.


I will start with Tom.  I will give you a chance to think about it, Katie,

because it`s a tough question. 


Will this serve as a real deterrent?  Will this stop parents who`ve got the

wrong values and the wrong, well, crazy ambition without the right values,

instead of teaching their kids along the way from the time they`re

teachable from the time they`re first grade on to 12th grade, when they`re

getting ready for college?


They think about buying them in.  Is this going to teach better values? 

Will it scare the bad guys? 


WINTER:  Well, I think it`s two things, one, that you can get caught,

right, because that`s a big part of this. 


I mean, I think everybody here thought, well, you just pay this guy, and

this guy pays somebody else, and everybody`s kind of wink in on it, and you

can get into the school of your choice, or at least have a better



And I think the fact, when people get caught doing wrong things, and they

are people in positions of power or influence or celebrity, that`s always a

little bit of a wakeup call.




WINTER:  And the fact that Felicity Huffman – I mean, she got a pretty

good deal here.  Four to 10 months is what she agreed to in her plea

agreement.  Prosecutors asked for even lower than that.  They went beyond

their obligations, arguing for only a month.


And now she`s going to do 14 days.  I wouldn`t want to do 14 days.  And I

think a lot of people that are watching us tonight, Chris, wouldn`t want to

do 14 days in a federal prison either.  So I think it is a little bit of a

wakeup call. 


And I think, to Katie`s point, if you`re Lori Loughlin, you`re sitting –

you`re sitting at home and you`re watching this.  She paid a lot more

money, $500,000, along with her husband.  She`s looking at significantly

more jail time, even if she pleads out. 


I think that some folks here are going to be watching this pretty closely

and realize that this honest services fraud or wire fraud is something that

can really bite you. 


MATTHEWS:  Katie, good deterrent here, good deterrent by this?


PHANG:  It is a send-a-message sentence, Chris, and that`s exactly what the

federal judge said she wanted to do in this case. 


To Tom`s point, though, in normally in these types of cases, where you have

this type of – a lot of people involved in the fraud, what happened in to

this specific situation, I want to serve as a reminder, is that the head of

this, Rick Singer, the actual mastermind of his, he was cooperating with

the feds.


He wore wires. He actually wore – everything was bugged.  I mean, this is

how he actually drew that huge net to bring in all of these parents.  And

so, in this particular investigation, this Operation Varsity Blues, it

actually went from the very top in terms of cooperation, which made it

easier to snag people like Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, exactly those



So, yes, it is a deterrent.  But I don`t really know if it`s going to stop

people from the obvious, which is giving the millions of dollars for a hall

or a building named after you for your kid to get into school. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s going to help the reputation of USC, because all this

money being spent to get into Southern Cal is amazing. 


Thank you so much, Katie Phang.  Thank you, Tom Winter.


Georgetown`s different.  We already knew that was a great school. 


Up next:  Donald Trump made campaign promises that he would not focus on

his businesses if he became president, but, more and more, it looks like

he`s cashing in. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Donald Trump said during his presidential campaign that he wouldn`t even

think about his business once he became president.  But, lately, he hasn`t

missed an opportunity to promote his properties. 





but I`m going to have nothing to do with it. 


With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings.  We call them

bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with

magnificent views.  We have incredible conference rooms, incredible



And the ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best.


Such an unbelievable amount of work to be done.  The last thing I care

about is my company. 


I love the U.K.  I own great property in the U.K.  I love the U.K.  I have

no idea how my property is doing, because I don`t care.  But I own

Turnberry and I own in Aberdeen and I own in Ireland, as you know.


I would not even think about this business.  It would be so insignificant

to me compared to making our country great again.


People like my product.  What can I tell you?  Can`t help it. 




MATTHEWS:  That`s the same guy. 


Well, this week, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike

Pompeo both spoke at events at Trump`s hotel here in D.C.


As “The Washington Post”`s David Fahrenthold points out, the speeches

suggest that Trump and his Cabinet are not shying away from events that

drive revenue to the president`s company, even after multiple stories have

brought new scrutiny to the blurring of lines between Trump`s business and

his presidency. 


Well, those stories include the president floating the idea of holding next

year`s G7 at his resort in Miami, the vice president staying at Trump`s

Doonbeg resort, hours away from his meetings in Dublin, and Attorney

General Barr booking a ballroom at Trump`s D.C. hotel for his holiday



And, as a supporter of Trump`s told “The New York Times”: “We want to do

everything we can to make him successful.  If that means having dinner or

staying in his hotel, we`re going to do so” – close quote. 


Well, Fahrenthold tweeted today that the president lately – quote –

“seems more willing to ignore a bedrock promise of his presidency, that he

would never use his power to help his business.  And his aides seem less

afraid of looking like they`re helping.”


And some close to the president are treating the entire situation as a



That`s up next.  You`re watching HARDBALL. 






DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  They talk about, someone bought a

cheeseburger at the Trump Hotel.  It`s asinine. 


And you have seen that.  You have seen where the emoluments suits have

gone.  They`re just trying.  The amount of incoming he`s taken, but,

really, the family and the business, anything in a desperate attempt to

stop him. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was Donald Trump, well, Jr. downplaying concerns over whether his

father is profiting off his presidency. 


Well, meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at an event at the

Trump International Hotel in Washington today, where he mocked “The

Washington Post”`s reporting on Trump`s conflicts of interest. 




MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I look around, this is such a beautiful

hotel.  The guy who owns it must – going to be successful somewhere along

the way. 




POMPEO:  That was for “The Washington Post,” in case they`re in the back. 






MATTHEWS:  Isn`t that funny? 


I`m joined right now by David Fahrenthold, who`s done most of the reporting

that the secretary state was mentioning there, as a political reporter for

“The Washington Post,” and Howard Fineman, of course, who is an MSNBC news



He made fun of you for catching them at this, as if it was a joke… 




MATTHEWS:  … that the president is pumping up sales in his various

properties while he`s president. 


FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, I`m just glad the secretary of state reads “The

Washington Post.” 




FAHRENTHOLD:  So, we had a story yesterday saying that Mike Pence, the vice

president, and Secretary of State Pompeo spoke this week to events put on

by a paying customer of their boss, Donald Trump. 


This nonprofit rented out the ballrooms of the Trump Hotel for – which

pays Trump privately.  Two public officials affiliated with Trump show up

to boost their events. 


MATTHEWS:  The old – was Caesar`s wife.  If you know you`re under

scrutiny, if people are looking for misbehavior, but Trump seems to lately

be expanding on it, and showing it off.


The kid coming on “FOX & Friends” saying, it`s a cheeseburger.  It`s not

about cheese – it`s $1,000 rooms.



it`s a twofer. 


First of all, he loves to brag about how he makes money in any conceivable

way.  It doesn`t matter to him how he does it.  It`s money coming in. 

That`s Donald Trump. 




FINEMAN:  And also, as you say, it has the political effect of allowing him

to talk about that, as opposed to every other catastrophic, constitutional,

legal, and political…


MATTHEWS:  It`s a deflection, yes.


FINEMAN:  … event that he`s got going on all around him. 




FINEMAN:  He would rather talk about that, personally and politically.


MATTHEWS:  So, he`s like a boxer.  If you hit my arms, I can take it.  Just

don`t hit me in the face. 


But, I mean, it`s like – it`s amazing.  This is the – considered less

problem for him to be caught making money off the presidency than other



FINEMAN:  Well, it`s less until it isn`t. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, we will see.


President Trump told reporters last month that his team had chosen his

Doral resort in Miami as the site for next year`s G7 summit after vetting

12 other sites.  Key line there.  Let`s watch.




DONALD TRUMP SR.:  My people looked at 12 sites, all good, but some were

two hours from an airport.  Some were four hours from – they were so far



Some didn`t allow this or they didn`t allow that. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, David, you tweeted today, asking the public: “Has anybody

else out there in the media, government, hospitality industry, anywhere,

heard of any sites being vetted by this administration?  Trump said there

were at least 12.  I`m trying to prove him right.  But, so far, I have come

up short,” you say.


FAHRENTHOLD:  Still come up short.


MATTHEWS:  He`s not – he hasn`t checked out any other prospect.


FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, I don`t know that.


All I – I`m just looking for evidence that he`s right, that he`s – that

he`s telling the truth.  And so I looked for other places that Trump had

vetted.  I have been calling all the authorities in these states where they

say they have vetted sites.


And I can only find one, Hawaii, where there seems to have been any inquiry

made.  And that was where they called up and basically asked, could we have

a conference in Oahu, an island that has Honolulu on it?  And Hawaii said,



And that was it.  That was all they heard from them. 


Maybe there was vetting in other places.  I just haven`t found it.


MATTHEWS:  Was it his idea to go to Miami to Doral?


FAHRENTHOLD:  I don`t know yet.  I mean, that`s what I would like to know. 


Was there a real formal vetting process where they looked at all the

parking and the combinations at all these places, and somebody else said,

yes, Trump Doral was the best, or Donald Trump come in and say, throw out

Hawaii, we`re doing it at my place?


MATTHEWS:  Here`s my question, Howard, always a big piercing question.


Why do the regular Joe guy, woman, man, who makes an average income, who

struggles to pay bills, root for a guy who does this, who takes advantage

of the presidency to make some money off it?


FINEMAN:  Well, you and I, Chris, we`re thinking of exactly the same guy. 

We know who that guy is. 




FINEMAN:  He`s in the outer suburbs of the Pittsburgh area in Western PA. 

He`s in Ohio.  He`s in Michigan.  He`s in Wisconsin. 


As long as he`s got a job, as long as he`s doing great in the so-called

Trump economy, fine. 


But this strategy of Donald Trump`s, this propensity of Donald Trump can

come back and bite him with some of those people the moment that economic

situation for that person turns down a little.


 For example, the United Mine Workers are getting ready maybe to strike

against General Motors.  What are those guys going to think when they think

Donald Trump is using his influence to shovel money in, while they`re out

on the street?


That could put a hitch in their desire to go to the polls for Trump in





Well, meanwhile, Politico is reporting that the Air Force has had crews

stay over at Trump`s Turnberry resort in Scotland up to 40 times since

2015, which started when Obama was president. 


But Politico notes that the figure does not indicate how many of the stays

have occurred since Trump became president. 


Is this a good issue for anybody?  Is this an important question about

having the Air Force use one of his sites? 


FAHRENTHOLD:  This is something that certainly that – when you say that

original appearance, right, Air Force crews staying in the president`s

hotel, it sounds bad. 


But in this case, it`s a lot more complicated than that.  The arrangements

that caused this, the Air Force crew stopping in that airport, that airport

directing visiting people to Trump`s hotel, all that predates Trump`s



MATTHEWS:  But what about the growth?


FAHRENTHOLD:  Obama signed a contract in 2016 to bring more air crews



So unless I know that Obama said the level was going to be X and Trump made

it 2X, unless we know that Trump stepped into interfere, it looks like just

a continuation of something Obama did.


MATTHEWS:  Do foreign potentates check into the Trump Tower – Trump

International Hotel in D.C. to win his favor?


FAHRENTHOLD:  They certainly check in there.  And they rent out the

ballrooms for embassy events.


The only person I ever heard say – foreign governments say, yes, I bought

in here because I want to influence to Donald Trump, the Philippine

ambassador last year.  They had a big gala.  And he said, look, I`m doing

this because Trump`s a friend and I want to show that.


MATTHEWS:  It looks like baksheesh. 




MATTHEWS:  It looks like they`re paying for love.


FINEMAN:  Well, in the case of the Filipinos, it`s they`re proud.  It`s

like Donald Trump is proud.  They`re proud.  They`re going to be out front

about it.


MATTHEWS:  Expensive rooms.


FINEMAN:  And I can tell you, having had dinner at one of those places,

they`re not doing it for the food. 


MATTHEWS:  The cuisine.




MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 


I can say that I`m clean on having gone to Trump International. 




MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you. 


Thank you, David Fahrenthold. 


FINEMAN:  I was just doing reporting.  Reporting.  Reporting.


MATTHEWS:  I hear it`s nice, but I`m not going there.


I know, Howard.  It`s on your expense account. 




MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard Fireman.


David, congratulations to get the secretary of state to take a whack at you



Up next:  I spoke to many of the Democratic candidates in the spin room

last night, also known as the field hospital, after the debate.  We`re

going to have some highlights of that next, if you missed it at 11:00 last



You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Last night, I was in the spin room at the Democratic debate down

in Houston, Texas. 


I spoke to the presidential candidates about the issues and their own



Let`s listen up. 




MATTHEWS:  I think you were great tonight.


BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  I thought Klobuchar was good. 


I thought you both made a very strong opening appeal for unity and sort of

a quiet admonition.  Let`s not go so far that, even if we win, we divide

the country. 


BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, I`m not out to scold anybody. 


But when I talk about plans that can bring us together, I`m not just

talking about how we can win an election.  I`m talking about how we can

govern the country.  We are dangerously divided, polarized as a nation. 

And bold progressive reforms can be done one of two ways. 


We have got to do it in a way that actually brings people together.


MATTHEWS:  How do you stop the basic way things work in politics?  People

with money get in the door. 



anti-corruption bill is all about.


The influence of money in Washington is huge.  And the point is, it`s just

as you identify.  It`s campaign contributions, but it is so much more. 


So I have a bill that`s a big bill, biggest bill since Watergate.  And it

goes after the influence of money in lots of places. 


MATTHEWS:  Most people thought there was another aspect to this, that you

were suggesting a man of 76 years had lost the ability to remember what he

had just said.


CASTRO:  That was not…


MATTHEWS:  Short-term memory loss, you were accusing him of.


CASTRO:  Not at all.  We were…


MATTHEWS:  It wasn`t what you were doing?


CASTRO:  Not at all.


MATTHEWS:  Because you rubbed – you rubbed it in three or four times.  You

kept saying, you don`t remember?  You don`t remember what you just said?


CASTRO:  We had a disagreement about whether he said the words buy in.


He did say the words buy in, when you go and look at the full transcript. 


Did you think your colleague from Texas, Julian Castro, do you think it was

fair to suggest that Joe Biden has lost it? 




MATTHEWS:  That wasn`t fair? 


O`ROURKE:  No, I didn`t like that. 


MATTHEWS:  But you`re the only African-American in the top four or five? 




MATTHEWS:  And so you should be doing better. 


HARRIS:  I`m still introducing myself to the American people. 


You want to talk about…


MATTHEWS:  I`m urging you to be better.  I`m not knocking you, but I`m

trying to figure out why it`s not happening. 




HARRIS:  But Chris, look, those of us who are in the top tier have been –

two of them run for president, one when many times.  The others have been

on the national scene for quite some time. 


So if you want to believe the polls, though, you should also know that the

polls have been very clear that, on a head-to-head match, I win against

Donald Trump by a significant margin. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.



– I`m the only person in this race and the Senate that lives in a low-

income black and brown community. 


And one thing, you come to my community – and you come from a different

background, but a working-class area – you`re going to find more common…


MATTHEWS:  Northeast Philly.


BOOKER:  Yes, you`re going to find common cause.




BOOKER:  People don`t want a handout.  They want a fair shake.  They want a

job that pays…




MATTHEWS:  So, you figured me out as working class.  Thank you. 


BOOKER:  Yes. 








MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s HARDBALL for now.


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.









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