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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/10/2015

Guests: Jake Sherman, Simon Marks, Francesca Chambers, Dana Milbank, Michael Tomasky, Michael Tomasky, Francesca Chambers, Dana Milbank, Malcolm Nance

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 10, 2015 Guest: Jake Sherman, Simon Marks, Francesca Chambers, Dana Milbank, Michael Tomasky, Michael Tomasky, Francesca Chambers, Dana Milbank, Malcolm Nance

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A bump for Trump, a shock for the GOP.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Far from hurting him, Donald Trump`s call for a ban on all those of Islamic faith entering this country has fueled him. All the polls show him now gaining ground among Republicans. He`s even got a marginal edge among the party base on turning away Muslims as a policy.

Well, this has put a scare into the Republican establishment, who now fear Trump may have enough gas politically to get to the convention next summer, keeping any other candidate from coming to Cleveland with a majority. Well, that`s second only to their worst case scenario that Donald Trump himself arrives holding a majority of delegates.

But the notion of an old-fashioned brokered convention isn`t nearly that bad, I think. The notion of three or four or more candidates battling it out day after day on live television would be a ratings bonanza for everyone, even as it jars the instincts of the back room boys who hate nothing worse than uncertainty, especially when it`s right out there in the open for all to see.

Imagine the horror of it -- I`m being sarcastic -- democracy on live television! Well, you can almost hear RNC chair Reince Priebus wailing, "Oh, we got trouble!"

The latest "New York Times"/CBS poll released today shows Trump, however, climbing to 35 percent nationally -- 35 percent among Republicans. His closest competitor -- get this -- Ted Cruz, is 19 points back. Ben Carson comes in third now, followed by Marco Rubio at 9.

In South Carolina -- this is the big story -- a new Fox News poll out today of Republican primary voters shows Trump ahead by -- actually, he`s at 35 percent, 20 points ahead of his closest rival down in the Palmetto State. Anyway, the poll in the field -- polling was in the field when Trump was calling for that ban on Muslims coming into the country.

It turns out that that call to keep the Muslims out of the country helped him with Republican voters in South Carolina. Catch this. Before he made that comment, Trump was at 30 percent. In the two days following the comment saying no more Muslims in the country, Trump rose to 38 percent. They liked it down there!

And there`s a brand-new poll from NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" late today which shows Republicans moderately behind even Trump`s proposal itself to ban Muslims. Forty-two percent say they favor it. Thirty-six percent say they`re opposed. So even on that point itself, he`s winning the argument marginally.

Meanwhile, in a number of television appearances last night and early today, Trump said Republican voters agreed with him on the Muslim ban. And he blasted the Republican establishment which has come out against him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They all pretended I`d never run. Then they predicted I was just going to have fun for a couple of weeks and get out.

I don`t play games. I play to win. But they all -- they looked like a bunch of dopes. They look foolish. Some of them look stupid. Some of them, like, Karl Rove is a fool. I mean, he thinks Romney won the election. I mean, he`s still going around, I think Romney won. I think Romney won.

Look, these people look very bad. I understand it. If I were in their position, I`d feel the same way.

The establishment is foolish. These are foolish people. The establishment seems to be against me, but I`ll tell you who`s not against me are the voters because people in the street...



TRUMP: The people that you interview on the street -- you know, they had one network yesterday that went out looking for people, and they wanted to find people. They couldn`t find anybody against me!


MATTHEWS: Well, NBC`s Katy Tur`s in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, one of my favorite towns, by the way -- what a beautiful town Portsmouth is -- where Trump is set to speak within this hour, within the 7:00 o`clock hour East Coast time.

Michael Steele, by the way, is former chair of the Republican National Committee. He`s with me. And Joan Walsh is national affairs correspondent for "The Nation." Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Katy, thank you for joining us tonight. It`s been a rocky road covering this guy. But I am -- I guess I`m surprised. He`s rocking and rolling on these numbers. No matter what I said or anybody else said, his base looks rock hard.

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Nicolle Wallace describes it as it`s the greatest untold story of this campaign season. The "Time" magazine cover should have been the Trump supporter because they`re coming out of nowhere for a lot of people. The GOP has underestimated its Republican base. The country in general has underestimated exactly what the Republicans were looking for. And trump is what they were looking for.

A lot of them say, despite what popular opinion might have believed before this that they just don`t understand, don`t trust Muslims. That`s why this Muslim ban that Trump is proposing is going over so well with Donald Trump supporters and going over so well with Republicans in this country.

When you speak to his supporters out here at his rallies -- even one woman I spoke with tonight, she was saying, They`re just not like us. They don`t fit in here. They do things differently. They`re lifting weights instead of playing soccer, the kids are, I mean, these things that are a little bit out there or a lot out there.

And his supporters are that extreme, but they`re also much more down the middle, people who say that they`re just a little bit weary, they don`t know what to do, and feel like this is the only way to keep this country safe. And they do take him -- they do give him the benefit of the doubt by saying that they believe this is just a temporary solution and it`s just him trying to figure out what`s going on and how to keep us safe.

MATTHEWS: You know, it reminds me way back when Muhammad Ali became a Muslim and took the name of Muhammad Ali, and a lot of people didn`t like it, but a lot of other people said he`s a great boxer, he`s great American, let`s root for him, even with his new name and his new religion. So we must be getting worse on this.

Let me ask you about Trump himself. Where did he get the idea -- apparently, he had it sort of primordially -- that the Republican voter supports him? Does he do quick polling, or is it just -- you said the same thing the other night, you can just walk through one of his crowds and you have an automatic poll.

TUR: Well, his campaign and he himself have been adamant about not having pollsters on their payroll. They do not pay pollsters.

Sorry, there`s a train.

They do not pay pollsters. I`m louder than that train, so I think it`s OK.

They don`t pay pollsters. They`re not wasting their money on that. Trump is being himself. And I think Trump is, in fact, being himself. I think he has an innate ability to read a room, to read a crowd, to get a sentiment and to go -- go -- take that the distance.

But the reality is, I think there`s just a lot of people out there who generally like Donald Trump. They liked him on "The Apprentice." They like his -- the idea that he`s a great billionaire and that he`s a great businessman and that they like these extreme ideas that he has.

There`s a good portion of the country that doesn`t like it, but the one that -- the ones that he`s speaking to at these rallies are embracing him. They`re putting their arms around him and they`re saying, Yes. More. Give us more.

MATTHEWS: You know, that`s not consistent with our history because people really liked Franklin Roosevelt back in the `30s, but when he went to pack the court, they didn`t like him. They told him, and he didn`t do it.

When Jerry Ford -- everybody liked Jerry Ford. When he pardoned Nixon, people said, We don`t like it, and it really hurt him in the polls.

You know, most politicians are vulnerable to making mistakes that hurt them. I mean, this guy doesn`t -- makes mistakes that even people disagree with, but it doesn`t seem to hurt him. That`s fairly new, isn`t it? I think it is.

TUR: I mean, I certainly think so. I think that -- I`ve asked them, Do you agree with Donald Trump? And they say, I don`t always agree with Donald Trump, but I`m -- I like him. He`s going to get my vote.

Even when he says things that they don`t agree with or they think is too far or language that he used is just too extreme, Donald Trump -- his supporters say, It`s OK. We trust him. We give him the benefit of the doubt. We think he`s going to do this -- do this well. We think he`s going to get in there and he`s going to fix things. We think he`ll iron out the details of his plans and smooth down his rhetoric and talk to foreign leaders in a nicer way...

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

TUR: ... and figure things out. They`re giving him the benefit him of the doubt! They`re giving him a pass where they would give nobody else a pass.

MATTHEWS: I know exactly what you think (ph). We do (INAUDIBLE) of our politicians all the time. We hope that they`re not really going to do what they say they`re going to do, but we get the gist.

Anyway, I want to talk about hat with our other people here. Joan, the trouble with the gist of this one is, if you`re willing to kick out people of say they don`t get in the country because of their religion, you seem to me going through another door here. It`s not a question of what the monetary policy should be...


MATTHEWS: ... or the jobless policy...

WALSH: Tax, right.

MATTHEWS: ... or what the unemployment -- whether the minimum wage should (INAUDIBLE) $7 or $8 or $10. Those aren`t moral issues, necessarily. But whether you have a religious test for getting into America.

WALSH: It`s about who we are as a country.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

WALSH: But we`ve gone through these things before. I mean, you know very well the Irish Catholics were once looked at this way. They were subjects of a foreign power. I mean...

MATTHEWS: But we got in at least...


WALSH: ... and then they hated us.


WALSH: So we got -- everybody was getting in back then, Chris...


MATTHEWS: Well, another crack (INAUDIBLE) had to be slaves.


MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: ... a little bit different, but...


MATTHEWS: That`s not the same deal. By the way, my wife has her grandfather -- great-grandfather. We have his indentureship papers at our summer house.

WALSH: Right.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) it`s nice to have those indentureship things on the wall...


WALSH: ... when you have a summer house.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you got it. (INAUDIBLE) it`s nouveau.



WALSH: They`d be very proud. They`d be very happy to see her there. But seriously, I do want to make one point. When you talk about FDR or when you talk about Jerry Ford, they were president. He is not president. And even if he is at 35 percent of the Republican base right now, that`s about 17 percent of voters.


WALSH: He is -- he represents a sizable minority that has always squawked.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re ticked off -- OK, let me make a point about your party, the center left or the left. Let me talk about the center right. It seems dead. It doesn`t seem like there is an establishment left.

STEELE: It -- it...

MATTHEWS: I mean, Tom Ridge came out the other day and said, I`m not going to vote for this guy no matter what. Nobody else is saying that. Jeb Bush is me-too-ing the guy.

STEELE: I think there`s less that they`re dead, it`s more that they don`t know what the heck to do.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have a candidate.

STEELE: They don`t have -- they don`t have a candidate that they can -- they can congeal behind to give him the kind of -- or her the kind of momentum to go toe to toe now, right now...

WALSH: Right.

STEELE: ... in this moment. You got 50 days left, folks...

MATTHEWS: Who`s Mitch McConnell`s candidate? I mean, does the establishment have a candidate?

STEELE: But they won`t tell you. They won`t tell you who they -- they -- they don`t want to see...

WALSH: It would be the kiss of death!

STEELE: They don`t want to be in a position where they`re alienating this -- this -- this energy that he has right now. And trust me, I get the math. Everyone likes to dumb it down to 17 percent is a small -- this thing goes much beyond what you see happening inside the GOP. That national poll that showed that 56 percent of Americans thought Islam was not compatible with American values -- that wasn`t just conservative Republicans. That was a swathe of people -- 43 percent of Democrats supported...

MATTHEWS: That could mean any number of things.

STEELE: ... that idea.

MATTHEWS: That could mean...


MATTHEWS: ... doesn`t mean keeping them out of the country!


STEELE: Chris, if you want to bake it and shake it any way you want...


STEELE: The question was very straightforward.


STEELE: Very straightforward.

MATTHEWS: How about a question to everybody before they`re polled? Do you know anybody who`s Muslim personally?

WALSH: Right, and...


MATTHEWS: Just a starter. Just a starter.

WALSH: If you know them, you like them better.


MATTHEWS: ... guys on the wanted posters.


STEELE: This conversation is exactly why Donald Trump is where he is!

WALSH: What?

STEELE: Because you`re not understanding the fundamental -- again, you want to discount 43 percent of the Democratic Party that answered that poll...

WALSH: You know, Michael, I don`t...


WALSH: That poll is an outlier.


STEELE: Keep saying that.

MATTHEWS: You think he`ll be the president?

STEELE: Keep saying it.

WALSH: Absolutely not.

STEELE: Keep saying...


STEELE: ... and you`re saying President Trump next year.

MATTHEWS: What are his chances, 1 to 10, of being the next president?

STEELE: 50-50, baby, 50-50 right now, as of (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Five out of ten.

WALSH: 75-25.


MATTHEWS: Of being president?

STEELE: This is wish...

MATTHEWS: Of beating Hillary?



STEELE: Wishful thinking.


WALSH: No, he`s not going to beat Hillary Clinton. He`s not going to...


STEELE: Wishful thinking.

MATTHEWS: OK. As I mentioned, the Republican Party is a lot higher percentage than it was two months ago. It`s preparing for a contested convention. "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa, who`s often here, reported this afternoon that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican Party chair Reince Priebus and other Republican officials convened in a dinner last night -- actually, Monday night this week -- where much of the discussion focused on the possibility of a brokered convention.

According to the Costa, quote, "McConnell and Priebus did acknowledge to the group that a deadlocked convention is, indeed, something the party should prepare for but constitutionally at the RNC and politically at all levels in the coming months."

NBC`s Kasie Hunt talked to a participant at that dinner gathering, who said the possibility of a contested convention was more likely this year than at any time in modern history.

Let me go back to Katy Tur. What -- where is Trump now in terms of being a Republican and in terms of blowing the whistle on a foul against him? He says, If I`m not treated right, I`ll jump and do my own thing. What does "not being treated right" mean right now?

TUR: I think not being embraced, not being told that he`s the best and right in all of his various ideas. I think that`s what he believes. I think that -- he keeps dropping the hint that he could run as an independent. He tweeted it. He`s been asked about it. He won`t rule it out despite that pledge that he signed a couple months ago.

But I do think that Donald Trump knows that his best chance of winning is on the Republican ticket. He wants to stay on the Republican ticket. Running as an independent means that he`s not going to win the general election. If he can win on the Republican, take it to the general, I think he believes that he has a really good shot at beating Hillary.

Whether or not, you know, you guys back there believe that or Democrats believe that, Donald Trump tends to believe that he`s going to be able to do it. So he`s threatening it, but I don`t think it`s an empty from Donald Trump because I would never say that, but I think that it is a mostly empty threat because he would like to remain as a Republican.

MATTHEWS: I know one thing. I don`t know many people that wouldn`t like to see that contest.


MATTHEWS: How about you? Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton.

TUR: It would certainly be interesting.

STEELE: It would be fun.

MATTHEWS: Come on, Joan.

STEELE: It would be fun.

MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t you like to see-

WALSH: No, I wouldn`t.

MATTHEWS: ... that contest? Why not?

WALSH: No, no. I`m too earnest. I`m sorry. I`m giving you the wrong -- the absolute wrong answer.

MATTHEWS: Give me a wrong answer.

WALSH: Because there`s a chance that he could become president, and that would be...

MATTHEWS: Beat Hillary.

WALSH: ... a disaster.

STEELE: That was my point!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, yesterday -- Bill O`Reilly asked Trump to respond to Republicans like Dick Cheney who have come out against his proposal to ban Muslims.

Let`s watch.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: They`re all saying that this is an extremist point of view. You`re going to alienate the Muslim world. That`s going to come back to hurt America. How do you react to a guy like Cheney?

TRUMP: Excuse me. Extremist point of view? I was against the war in Iraq. In 2003, 2004, I said...

: But let`s keep it here.

TRUMP: ... Don`t do it.

O`REILLY: Let`s keep it here.

TRUMP: No, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Cheney`s the one that started the war in Iraq! You talk about an extremist?


MATTHEWS: You know what O`Reilly`s problem was then? He was with Cheney! That`s his problem. He was caught off base in that one!

WALSH: I`m with Trump there.


WALSH: They didn`t talk about riling up Muslims...


MATTHEWS: I don`t mind being inconsistent.

WALSH: ... extremists...

MATTHEWS: But trump was right there.


STEELE: Yes, he was right there, and it goes to...


MATTHEWS: ... much more dangerous.

STEELE: You have -- you have a lot of neons right now...

WALSH: Absolutely.

STEELE: ... who are pushing this drumbeat to reengage in the Middle East in a way that we have...


STEELE: ... in the past, and Trump and others are saying no. And it`s much more reflective of where the base as a whole is. And that again fuels some of this energy behind him, and people don`t want to acknowledge it.

WALSH: But the idea -- I mean, OK, a brokered convention, contested convention, all fascinating. But the idea that Dick Cheney was at this meeting that Robert Costa reported on has to raise the hackles of every grass roots person in the party.

MATTHEWS: OK, all I can tell you is the neocons always have another war they want to start. They always got one they want.

Anyway, thank you, Katy Tur. Thank you for being out there all the time for us. It`s great to have you out there on the front line, if you will. Thank you so much, Katy Tur, for MSNBC and NBC. And Michael Steele, what was your argument? All people are guilty, right? We`re all guilty.

STEELE: We`re all guilty.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) and Joan Walsh, thank you for that.

We`re going to take you live tonight to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when Trump takes -- there he is, that`s the room -- takes the stage there.

Coming up -- it`s Trump versus the world. He`s canceled his trip to Israel after Bibi Netanyahu`s diss. And now Britain wants to keep Trump out of the country as a law. Who else can Trump offend?

Plus, more details from the San Bernardino shooter. It`s a lot of news coming there. Was that marriage between those two just a step in their march to mayhem? Was it all part of it?

Meanwhile tonight, divers are searching a nearby lake out there after a lead came in to the FBI. What do you think they are looking for, more hardware, more guns?

As Trump takes the political spotlight tonight, keep an eye on Ted Cruz. He continues to rise out there. He`s drafting right behind Trump, and he may well end up the under-the-radar Republican front-runner.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the difference between great politics and gamesmanship.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got new national numbers on the Democratic race for president. Hillary Clinton earns a majority of Democrats` support in a "New York Times"/CBS poll just out today. She`s on top with 52 percent now. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is at 32, Martin O`Malley of Maryland at just 2 percent.

Clinton`s got a strong lead in South Carolina, as well. A new Fox News poll from down there has her with nearly two thirds of the vote down there -- do you believe that? -- 65 percent for the former secretary of state to Sanders`s 21 and O`Malley`s just 3.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump vs. the world, that`s the story tonight. The global community hits Trump`s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. And, of course, Trump hits back.

U.K. -- that`s the United Kingdom -- Prime Minister David Cameron slammed Trump as -- quote -- "divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong." Well, that`s an understatement.

An online petition to ban Trump from entering the U.K., Great Britain, is now the most popular campaign ever on the government`s Web site. They have got over 250,000 signatures.

Trump responded today with an op-ed in a Scottish newspaper -- quote - - "The U.K. politicians should be thanking me, instead of pandering to political correctness."

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned Trump as a man who entertains all combinations of hatred. Egypt`s official religious body called Trump`s comment hate rhetoric and totally erroneous.

And after being skewered by Israeli lawmakers, Trump canceled his trip to Israel to meet with Bibi Netanyahu later this month. According to "The Jerusalem Post" -- quote -- "A source that was involved in planning the trip, the Trump visit, attributed to the cancellation to a petition signed by 37 lawmakers calling on Netanyahu to cancel the meeting and lawmakers` demands to bar Trump from even entering Israel`s legislative chamber, the Knesset. Everyone on his campaign went completely berserk," the source said.

Well, Jake Sherman is a reporter with Politico. And Simon Marks is a chief correspondent with Feature Story News.

Jake, you first.

The American people are used to getting their news about America, focus on America. It`s a country that is insulated in so many ways. We really care more about an NFL game than what`s happening in most of the world. We just do. It`s a fact.

Does the American people, do the conservative Republican electorate, do they give a damn what the world thinks of Donald Trump or not? Am I missing something?

JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO: Probably not. You`re absolutely right.

Actually, this whole brawl between Donald Trump and foreign leaders probably helps him with the conservative electorate with whom he is already doing very, very well. We`re in a kind of xenophobic time, obviously. And this is him showing -- trying to project strength. And his supporters see it as strength.

People don`t know about obviously the intelligence sharing agreements we have with the Germans or the Saudi Arabians or all these countries that Trump is slamming kind of recklessly. And they just see a guy who is standing up to leaders.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

SHERMAN: And they think that that has not been done for the last couple years.

MATTHEWS: Let Simon have a shot. We may have to go away quickly.

So, what is your thinking about the world vs Trump, quickly?

SIMON MARKS, FEATURE STORY NEWS: I think, from a European perspective, what he`s saying, what he is proposing is inconceivable. He`s gone from being a figure...

MATTHEWS: What is it about religion that makes the world obsessed with how bad the idea was? Why is it this issue? With all he`s said before, why this one?

MARKS: Because it`s viewed as a complete overreaction to an issue.

We went through all sorts of difficulties in Britain in the 1970s with Northern Ireland. At no point did any leading serious contender in British politics say, right, we need to close the doors to everybody from Ireland. That`s not seen...


MATTHEWS: Thanks for joining us, Jake. And thank you, Simon.

We`re going to go right now to himself, Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s just the beauty of some of the greatest people that I know.

No matter where I go, I just -- the first people I see -- even when I come in through all the towns, first people I see are the police. And I always feel safe. And I always feel good.

And I was invited up here, I think for a reason. I don`t know 100 percent for a reason, but I think I was invited up here for a reason. They tell me they have a big surprise for me. I don`t know what the surprise is. I know my two friends just left the stage for a reason.

If they give me a bad vote, I`m going to go crazy.


TRUMP: But a lot of things are happening. And I believe that right now, you`re in the forefront of just being even more important than you ever were.

You know, no matter where I go, I say call your local police. When you look at what happened in California with those two people that were horrible, radicalized, looking to do tremendous damage, and you look at the way the police took them out, that was tough stuff.


TRUMP: Tough stuff.


TRUMP: And you know what? Yes, we`re going to do -- I`ll tell you what. We are going to do a lot. And we`re going to -- they`re taking way the military equipment now. They want to take away military equipment now.

And yet every time I see a conflict, I see a van pull up. I see an armor-plated Humvee pull up. I see almost a tank in some cases pull up. We have got to let our police have the finest equipment and the finest training. And if we don`t, we`re making a tremendous mistake as a country, a tremendous mistake.


TRUMP: So, I traveled up from New York.

We have had a pretty interesting couple of days. We have people talking, I will tell you that.


TRUMP: And we have them talking very positively, because people are saying, you know, Trump is right.

When I did my announcement at Trump Tower in June, I mentioned illegal immigration. The heat I took was unbelievable. It was unbelievable. The heat was incredible. I have never seen anything like it, by the way, far greater than what`s happened over the last couple of days.

You know that. He`s shaking his head. You better believe it. But the heat was incredible. And then, within two weeks, all of a sudden, people started saying, wow, he`s right. This is a bad problem. We have people pouring across the border. We have drugs and crime and everything else just pouring across the border.

Not even talking about the economics and the jobs and everything else that are being taken away. And all of a sudden, the other candidates who were criticizing me started saying, well, actually, I think -- and then they started saying, we need border. We need border.

But when I came across it, then I said, we`re going to have a wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. I`ll tell you what. I do that, I get these unbelievable applause from everybody, from everybody. We have to have a border. We`re a country of laws.

If you don`t have a border, you don`t have a country. I know the Border Patrol guys. I went there to Laredo. And I met a lot of them. They`re terrific people. And they`re out there. And they can do the job.

Now, they want the wall. And they know the right wall, not these jobs that we build right now. They build a ramp and trucks go over the ramp and come down. Load it up with drugs. They sell the drugs. So, we get the drugs and they get the money. It doesn`t work that way anymore. It`s not going to work that way anymore.

So, we`re going to be very tough. We`re going to be very smart. I went through this so much. And now I see the same thing happening. When I said, illegal immigration, all of a sudden, people started thinking. And two weeks later, three weeks later, it was really a nice conversation.

When I talked about what I said the other day, all of a sudden, I`m watching the shows this morning and I`m watching the shows tonight, well, you know, Trump has a point. The visa system is not working.

This woman came in on a marriage visa. And she was totally radicalized. And she came in. And all of a sudden, they`re saying it`s not working, the visa system. And then another show was talking about something else not working.

We have got to get down to the problems. We can`t worry about being politically correct. We just can`t afford anymore to be so politically direct.


TRUMP: There`s nobody in this country, if I wanted to be, that could be more politically correct than me, nobody. I have a high education, went to an Ivy League school, the whole -- I know everything. It`s perfect. I could be so good. You would all fall asleep.


TRUMP: No, no, you would fall asleep, and it would take a long time to say everything.

But there`s nobody. And I will say this. We`re going to get down to brass tacks. You look at what happened. So many people, so many people knew that those two in California were up to no good. They saw bombs sitting on the floor. They had one guy who bought the guns. They had another person that said, oh, I didn`t want to report them because I didn`t want to go racial profiling.

Oh, OK. Sees pipe bombs sitting all over the place, didn`t want to racially profile. How stupid do they think we are? Now, the person that said that, to me, I would call you, folks, they`re under investigation, because that was probably some lawyer said, listen, they have you called. They know you saw it. Say that you didn`t want to racially profile.

That`s where we are. That`s where we are as a country. And we can`t allow it to happen. People have to be vigilant. People have to keep their eyes open. If they did that, you wouldn`t have had the World Trade Center. Of course, if they did what I said, you would have had Osama bin Laden killed before he ever got to the World Trade Center. You know that.


TRUMP: He would have been killed.

I wrote a book in the year 2000. And I write about Osama bin Laden. That`s two years before the World Trade Center came down. And people said, wait a minute, he wrote about Osama.

What happened is, I would see this guy on television. He was very threatening. And I said, you better watch that guy. That guy is a bad guy. And I wrote about it in my book. And some of the commentators actually said, Trump wrote about Osama bin Laden before the World Trade Center came down.

I get a lot of credit for it. Big deal. Credit. I don`t want credit. I want to have a safe, great country. So...


TRUMP: So, normally, I wouldn`t make this trip, but I had to make it because of my love and respect for police and law enforcement.

And I will come back here in a couple of minutes, because, I don`t know, it`s going to be -- can you imagine if they don`t vote positively and -- look at all the press.

(LAUGHTER) TRUMP: That will be headlines: Trump rejected. Can you believe it?


TRUMP: But I feel confident. I don`t know. I feel confident.

But we`re going to -- thank you, darling. We are going to be back in a couple of minutes. I guess you`re board is voting right now. And put a lot of pressure on your board, please, OK?

So, we will be back in a few minutes.


TRUMP: I want to you all. We love you. We will be back in a couple of minutes. Thank you.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Donald Trump, of course, up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I`m joined right now by our HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Michael Tomasky to my left, special correspondent with The Daily Beast, Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail," and the great Dana Milbank, columnist with "The Washington Post."

I have to start with you, because you have been the most outspoken on Trump. Are you flabbergasted? Now, you have been really tough, calling him a fascist, et cetera. Now, you`re not the only one to use that term. And you defined it, I thought, rather well the other way. I think you might want to do it again what a fascist is.

Do it for our audience that didn`t read "The Post." Why does he meet that description of a fascist?

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, because he`s exercising outside of what is the democratic system, when he`s saying, OK, we`re going to ban all people from entering this country based on religion.

Well, our Constitution, our tradition doesn`t allow that. Well, he`s beyond our Constitution and our tradition. So, he`s using democratic means as an attempt to get power, in which we would exercise it presumably in a way that`s unconstitutional.

MATTHEWS: You said something else about the definition. You said the belief in the strong man leader, that the leader can beat any other problem in the world. Like Mussolini could somehow bring back the Roman Empire just because of the force of his ridiculous personality.

MILBANK: I did say he`s sort of a modern-day Il Duce.

And, look, there are superficial comparisons when you look at the man speak. But how do fascists come to power? They create an overwhelming sense of crisis in the country that only a huge personality can overcome. They create the sense of victimhood and that certain...

MATTHEWS: Righteous indignation. MILBANK: Right, but victimhood among the people who are following him and saying they are others, they are alien, they are foreigners, they are people not like who are victimizing us.

MATTHEWS: Scapegoating.

MILBANK: And then it comes down to this huge personality that`s needed by extraordinary means to overcome this...


MATTHEWS: OK. A lot of people saw a big difference in what he said a few days ago about keeping Muslim people out of country based upon religion from some of the other nonsense he had said all along. That was just nonsense. This to me strikes me as really un-American.

And I think it`s a sea change. What do you think? Because it doesn`t affect the polls. The polls haven`t shown any sea change against the guy.

MILBANK: Probably helps.


No. And that`s something the White House has pointed out too. In the past, the White House has not commented on the things that Trump or any of the other Republicans have said. They feel like it would be punching down for the president to do that. But this week, you saw a stark change from the Obama administration.

You had White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest hitting him really hard on the Muslim ban.


MATTHEWS: Netanyahu hitting him.

CHAMBERS: Yes. You had Netanyahu, who is a friend of Trump, saying, no thanks, I reject this proposal.

I do think that you`re kind of seeing a turn even within the Republican Party, all these candidates coming out against this proposal distancing themselves, House Speaker Paul Ryan.

This could be the moment, at least within the Republican Party, where they say enough is enough. MATTHEWS: See, my theory is, Michael, that supporting Trump now is to make a statement in support of what he`s been saying.

I don`t think you can say I like Trump except for this. I really do think that is tricky. I think, if you think it through, anybody that would say we`re going to keep people out of the country based on religion, that`s a hard one to say, well, that`s just something over here. No, it`s front and center about our country. He can say what he wants, as I said last night, but what you say matters to you. If you say you`re for a guy who wants that, then you`re for that.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Of course you`re for that.

But he also tipped it off long ago. His deportation policy is fascist too. That`s breaking up families. That`s going into homes and breaking up families.


TOMASKY: Yes, but there`s a lot of families where there`s somebody who is legal and there`s somebody who is undocumented and so on and so forth.

MATTHEWS: I know the cruelty aspect. You`re right.

TOMASKY: This could be a turning point against Trump.

But what`s necessary to happen here is not just his opponents and others saying, I disagree with his policy. They need to call him out and say, no, he`s not acceptable. He doesn`t speak for conservatives.


MATTHEWS: But none of them will say that. None of the R`s will say, I will not support him if he`s the nominee.


MATTHEWS: They`re saying, if it comes down to it, I`m with him, on the boat with him.


CHAMBERS: Yes. I have actually been -- we have been trying to press the candidates on that.

And that`s why I`m actually looking forward to next week`s debate, because it`s easy to not respond to e-mails, to bypass reporters at events. But if they get asked on the debate stage -- and I hope that they do -- will you support Trump if he`s the nominee?


MATTHEWS: Why won`t they break with him? Because he says, if you don`t treat me fairly, I`m going third party.

TOMASKY: I`m going to go third party, right.

MATTHEWS: And they`re afraid he is going to take his people with him.

Anyway, the roundtable, I think -- we will go over that. But, anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. They just got here.

Up next, Cruz control. Who`s the real guy sneaking along behind Trump who is hoping to win, pick up all the marbles when Trump, if ever, fails? Texas Senator Ted Cruz is quietly rising to the top, well, to the anti- Trump spot in the Republican race.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump has just been endorsed by that police organization up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Here he is again on stage.


TRUMP: The job they do and the job that all of you do in this room is second to none, and everybody in our country knows it. Just remember that. They don`t always speak up. But everybody in our country knows it.

So, I want to thank you guys. Thank you very much. What a great honor.

Thank you, Jerry. That`s really great. Thank you. I appreciate it.


TRUMP: One of the things that I was -- we were just discussing -- and I was back with the board.

And I said -- and the question was asked, because -- and they have had a hard time. Police forces throughout the country have had a hard time, a lot of people killed, a lot of people killed very violently sitting in a car waiting, sitting in a car watching. And somebody comes from behind, and I said that one of the first things I would do in terms of executive order, if I win, will be to sign a strong, strong statement that will go out to the country, out to the world that anybody killing a policeman, policewoman, police officer, anybody killing a police officer, death penalty.

It`s going happen. OK? Can`t go. We can`t let this go.


TRUMP: We can`t let this go. (APPLAUSE) Again, I want to thank everybody. Such great honor. I guess over the period of time, I`ll be given other honors. But honestly, there will be nothing that`s more important than this night. Thank you all very night, board, and thank you everybody else, police. Thank you. Great evening. Great honor. Thank you. MATTHEWS: Well, we`ve been hearing -- I was talking to Robert Costa of "The Washington Post" today, the roundtable, and he was saying that Trump is going to be low key until next Tuesday night, the next Republican debate, which is in Las Vegas. They expected all the attacks will be on him, all the focus of the cameras, all the story will be on him. He wants to save his ammo. MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, he`s going to have to defend the position that he took on the Muslim. MATTHEWS: He`s ready. He knows it`s coming. TOMASKY: He`s going to be ready for whatever attacks. It`s going to be interesting to see who goes after him hardest. MATTHEWS: What happens when the leader goes after him? What happens when Chris Christie throws his round house punch and Trump is waiting for him and knocks him right dead? You didn`t know about the bridge, too, Christie. You didn`t know. TOMASKY: Yes, exactly. MATTHEWS: I mean, I think he`s waiting for it. I think he wants it. It brings him to the center of the attention again. FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: I think that`s part of the reason why he released this plan when he did. When you see someone like Ted Cruz starting to do better in the polls. MATTHEWS: We`ve all focused on Trump and I admit I`m focused on him because he is the name of the game right now. But around him, circling him, sort of getting ready to move up is Cruz, who`s not a lot more attractive to most people in the political center or left than Trump. But what he`s done, if you look at the polling up there, the Monmouth Poll in Iowa where he has real good chance with the home schoolers up there and the very religious right, he`s basically taken the thunder completely from Ben Carson. Carson has lost. He`s won. He`s now in the decent -- he`s now in first place ahead -- DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: You`re right. He`s not necessarily the savior consensus candidate. MATTHEWS: No, I don`t think he`d be. MILBANK: It`s like Joe McCarthy as oppose to Benito Mussolini. So, I`m not sure that`s going to help him. Yes, he`s completely deflated -- MATTHEWS: Joe Franco would be the alternative. MILBANK: He`s completely deflated Carson. I don`t think that Trump and Cruz are necessarily looking at the same voters there in Iowa. There`s that very strong evangelical component. That`s who Cruz is going after. Trump is in his lane looking for that angry disaffected older white male voter. MATTHEWS: Also in the favor of Trump, I think he`s more secular. No one has ever accused him of being homophobe or anti-gay or -- you know, a big deal about one marriage per person. He`s not in that league. (CROSSTALK) MILBANK: I don`t see them as going head to head with each other because they`re not competing. Cruz is waiting as sort of a scavenger for Trump`s voters if and when he ever falls, but he`s not a predator who`s going to go after Trump. He`s determined not to do that, at least in public. CHAMBERS: No, he`s definitely not going to go after Trump. It wouldn`t be very smart for him to go after Trump, because then Trump would probably start attacking him and then he would as Trump as suggested, see his numbers go down. So, if Ted Cruz is smart, I think he`s very smart man, he keeps doing exactly what he is doing and he`ll probably either come in first or second in Iowa. TOMASKY: Cruz has benefitted a lot from Trump being in this race because Cruz actually does sort of look like the reasonable, quote/unquote, "non-establishment". MATTHEWS: Well, he`s at 24 in Iowa and Trump is at 19. So, he`s ahead. Rubio is Carson is down to 13. As I said, Carson has lost 19 points and Cruz has picked up 14. Explain. What has happened? TOMASKY: Well, because he`s the obvious choice. Carson, they decided that Carson is probably not very electable. Trump, they`ve decided maybe he`s too toxic. Cruz is the place they can settle on. That`s why Cruz benefits from Trump being in the race. MATTHEWS: If you`re Hillary Clinton, and go back to gamesmanship because I believe in it. If I`m Hillary Clinton, I`m probably rooting for Cruz, although he`s a great debater, a brilliant guy in my ways in terms of tactic, he`s not likable at all. TOMASKY: Yes. CHAMBERS: Well, you know, if you`re Hillary Clinton, she keeps saying she`d like to debate Donald Trump as well because -- MATTHEWS: Well, that`s easy to say it. Would you really think she`d like to debate Donald Trump? CHAMBERS: Maybe not necessarily debate him but I don`t think she would mind running against him. MATTHEWS: I`ve seen her debate really well, like the first debate, when she`s ready -- CHAMBERS: When she gets fired up. MATTHEWS: When she`s prepped and she`s confident and then she`s really good. Anyway, I`m sorry. I don`t want to overwhelm you. I can`t set you straight. What`s your opinion? CHAMBERS: No, I was just saying that I think when she`s fired up, she`s very -- (CROSSTALK) CHAMBERS: Ted Cruz isn`t bad debater either. That`s actually why he`s doing so well now, because he had break out debate appearance. MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. I`ve seen fired up guys that have lost the debate. The roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these people tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable. Michael, tell me something I don`t know. TOMASKY: In January, after the holidays, there`s going to be a big effort by some Republican money people to put together some super PACs and put a lot of money behind it and try to finish Trump off. I don`t know how they`re going to do it. And no attack has worked so far. MATTHEWS: Who is the leader of the band? TOMASKY: Well, I can`t really say. It`s going to be big money. MATTHEWS: You can`t say because you don`t want to tell me or you don`t know? TOMASKY: It`s going to be big money and they`re going to try to hit him hard and they`re going to try to tae him. MATTHEWS: Why are they being so secretive, they`re so nervy? If they`re so gutsy, don`t they -- (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: If they`re so courageous, don`t they tell us who they are. TOMASKY: It`s not time yet. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Francesca, I hear you got a good one. CHAMBERS: As you may have noticed on Sunday night when the president gave his address, he spoke behind a lectern in front of the resolute desk. And typically, the president would sit behind the resolute desk to give that sort of address. Well, I looked into it and I do have to give credit where it`s due, to the White House Historical Association helping me with this -- it`s not unprecedented what he did. JFK actually stood behind a lectern as well to give an economic address once. MATTHEWS: But he gave the civil rights speech from behind the desk. CHAMBERS: Well, Typically presidents sit behind the desk. MATTHEWS: Did you think it looked great Sunday night? CHAMBERS: Well, I asked the White House -- MATTHEWS: Did you think it looked great? CHAMBERS: I thought it looked a little interesting because -- MATTHEWS: I keep thinking who else is in the room. He`s standing a lectern. It`s like people before him but there`s nobody before him. There`s a couple of camera guys bored to death. I just thought that`s -- CHAMBERS: It was noticeable. Lots of people noticed it. MILBANK: It was like a belt and suspenders, all the props at once. Well, I`ll give you a preview of my Sunday column. Iowa is going to make news on February 1st with the vote. But they`re going to make news on January 1st because they are launching the most radical and rapid privatization ever occurred of the Medicaid program. Next week, the Obama administration has to decide whether to block it or not. If they block it, then we`re going to be talking about -- in Iowa, at least -- about a fight between the Republican governor and the Obama administration. If they let it go, we`re going to see -- MATTHEWS: Just quickly, how does the privatization affect the average person in Medicaid, how does it affect you? MILBANK: They`re being kicked off the traditional fee for service program and got to go into this managed care system. And the problem is, they haven`t lined the managed care system. So, it`s going to be -- (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Thank you, everybody. Thank you for the round table tonight. Michael Tomasky, Francesca Chambers, good work, and Dana, as always. You`re making noise, Dana. Up next -- has he come after you yet -- new details emerging in the San Bernardino investigation, including an FBI search of lake looking for evidence. What are they looking for? Is it more guns, more ammo that may be linked to the two killers? HARDBALL returns after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Investigators out in San Bernardino, California, say that one of the shooters, Syed Farook, discussed staging a terrorist attack in the L.A. area with his friend and neighbor Enrique Marquez, a convert to Islam, as early as 2012. That`s three years ago. But Farook got cold feet at that time. Today, the FBI had four dive teams searching a lake near the shooting scene -- look at that -- following a tip that the shooters may have visited the area either before or after the attack itself. NBC`s Blake McCoy joins us tonight from San Bernardino. What`s the evidence that people are looking for? Blake? BLAKE MCCOY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s the big question, Chris. I just got back from the lake. The FBI held an impromptu press conference because a lot of people in that area, a lot of neighbors have come around and are gathering and are concerned about what they`re looking for in the lake. The FBI says they have leads that place the couple in this park around this lake around the time of the shooting. Now, they won`t say what evidence they`re looking for but we do know that in previous searches around the home, they found two crushed cell phones that had been tried to be destroyed by this couple. They`re working to see if they can get any information off of those cell phones. So, it is very possible, and they`re working under the assumption that there could be more evidence that this couple tried to dump or destroy. You can see one of the dive teams there. And I`m told that water is very, very murky. That`s why you see them even just on the shore there feeling around with their hands to see if anything`s in that water, Chris. MATTHEWS: I can`t see anything. What about Enrique Marquez? What`s his explanation publicly for why he bought them the two rifles? Semi-automatics. MCCOY: Well, he purchased the two rifles, 2011 and 2012. He`s being interviewed by the FBI. We`re told he`s been interviewed several times, is being cooperative. This is a childhood friend of Farook. He checked himself into a mental hospital right after the shooting, was released sometime on Sunday and has been cooperating with authorities since. Now, the FBI today at that press conference, Chris, would not answer any of our questions relating to him, just saying that he is being questioned. One interesting thing to come out of the press conference, though, is they said even though the two shooters are dead, they`re being very careful about evidence gathering and what information they share with the media because the potential that this could go to trial, that potentially charges could come against somebody at some point. We should point out, though, Marquez is not a named suspect. MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much for that, Blake McCoy. Malcolm Nance, of course, is executive director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project. Malcolm, give us a sense. I mean, the mystery here, it`s not romance exactly but I think everyone would like to find out how did this pair get together? What was the sequence of events? Was it radicalization first, getting together first? What -- do we know anything about that, how it happened? MALCOLM NANCE, TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: I think the preponderance of evidence is starting to point to the direction that there was radicalization first and then he went out onto the marriage network, which is very overwhelmingly seen everywhere in the Middle East. You see online Web sites for wives and brides and things like that. And so, they were two people of a like mind and they came together and after a period of time here, felt that they had to take action. But I don`t believe that this was a situation where they infiltrated an agent through a marriage bureau. That`s just -- MATTHEWS: So, there`s no reason to believe that she was ready to participate in a terrorist act before the marriage? NANCE: Well, it`s quite possible that she was radicalized in the sense that she felt that things that were going on in the Middle East weren`t to her liking and that they were not as religious as they could have been. And she was living in Saudi Arabia -- very, very orthodox society. MATTHEWS: Sure it is. NANCE: But you have to understand, ISIS`s ideology and the ideology of al Qaeda and groups like that is far more orthodox. And they consider that a more perfect society. So, for her, she probably did get radicalized at some point. But the question is when they came together, when did they decide to transition from that to attacking the nation that they had lived in. MATTHEWS: Let`s keep trying find out. Malcolm Nance, thank you as always for your expertise. When we return let me finish with the difference between great politics and gamesmanship. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the difference between great politics and gamesmanship. Politicians should propose what they believe is good for the country. Is that too simple a notion? The people running for office should stick to advocating the policies they actually believe in. And does anyone really believe that Donald Trump thinks it would be good policy for the United States to deny entry to this country anyone who follows the faith of Islam? How would you possibly decide? Would a U.S. immigration official be responsible for separating the true believers from those who simply look like they come from a country with a large Islamic population? And what about those who come from a largely Christian or Buddhist country? How would the person at arrivals at the airport know the person standing next in line is a Muslim? So just off the bat it would be impossible to carry out Trump`s latest nostrum. And if he can`t carry it out, why is he proposing it? And this is all apart from the rightness or wrongness of what he`s pitching. As much as I don`t like following the crowd on much of anything, as you know, in this case, the crowd is right and Trump is wrong, worldwide. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "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. END