IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/22/2015

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/22/2015

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 22, 2015

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do we want?

SUPPORTERS: Trump!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want him?

SUPPORTERS: Now!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Trump is right, and Americans know he`s right.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump is acting in a very old and shameful American tradition. Every so often, like a fever, anti- immigrant feeling arises.

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: Mr. Trump, I have a question...

TRUMP: Excuse me, sit down. You weren`t called. Sit down!

ROGER STONE, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL CONSULTANT: What you see is what you get. He`s genuine. He`s the real deal.

TIMOTHY L. O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMP NATION": He has tapped into a part of the electorate that is, I think, deeply angry about the state of the economy.

TRUMP: How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?

MIKE TYSON, FMR. PROFESSIONAL BOXER: You know, this guy is just saying what people are thinking.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump`s statement is a dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law, and the foundation of America itself.

OMAROSA, FORMER "APPRENTICE CONTESTANT," TRUMP SUPPORTER: You`re pitting Donald Trump, full throttle, ready to destroy anyone who gets in his way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews.

I don`t think this country`s establishment politicians, the media, ever got this guy. They certainly underestimated him -- not going anywhere, can`t last. You know, with each week and each provocative statement, he held to his lead and went a bit further, saying President Obama was foreign-born, an illegitimate president, calling for a wall along our southern border, making fun of women`s looks, talking down to a top Latino journalist, saying thousands of Muslims in New Jersey had cheered 9/11.

And each time, the knockout verdict came loud and certain. That`s it. This guy`s finished. And each time, the national public opinion polls said differently.

Well, then in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. And while most people rejected the idea as un-American, Trump fans held firm. They liked what he said.

But what about the man himself? Who is this guy so many people have told pollsters they want as our next president? What`s he done to get where he is? What allows him to say things that would kill anyone else in public life? What`s he got hold of?

Well, over the next hour, we`re going to look at the Donald Trump story as a whole. You`ll see him as a young man, as a budding business tycoon, and as an entertainer. You`ll see that the experts have been counting him out for decades.

(voice-over): In the movie "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles plays the newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane. Trump told "The New York Times" it was his, quote, "all-time favorite movie."

ORSON WELLES, "CITIZEN KANE": It`s also my pleasure to see to it that decent, hard-working people in this community aren`t robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates!

MATTHEWS: Trump the candidate echoed those sentiments for months in a roiling campaign. But in December, many believed he went too far.

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: It played well with some of his supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, we are civilized people. These people, these -- with their beliefs -- are not civilized and that we can`t change them. They`re not willing to change.

MATTHEWS: But many in his own party criticized him. The White House spokesman said it disqualified him from the presidency. And experts questioned its feasibility and whether it`s the right way to fight terrorism.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He`s hurting the best tool that law enforcement and people in both parties believe we have to fight terrorism, which is the help of the Muslim American community. And this hurts us abroad, too.

MATTHEWS: As he had with his campaign kickoff, it once again displayed Trump`s readiness to conquer by dividing.

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best, they`re sending people that have lots of problems and they`re bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

OMAROSA, FORMER "APPRENTICE CONTESTANT," TRUMP SUPPORTER: No one was really focusing on immigration policy, and then, suddenly, it is the issue that America is obsessed with.

ALTER: Trump is acting in a very old and shameful American tradition. It goes back to the 1850s, when there was a party that had the name "Know Nothing." And it was an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant political party. It didn`t last that long, but then every so often, like a fever, anti- immigrant feeling arises.

TIMOTHY L. O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMP NATION": He has tapped into a part of the electorate that is, I think, deeply angry about the state of the economy. It`s a group of people who are still suffering from the downturn in 2007 and 2008.

MATTHEWS: As Trump`s numbers rose in a crowded field...

SUPPORTERS: Go, Trump, go! Go, Trump, go!

MATTHEWS: ... the Hispanic population reacted with anger.

On June 26th, 2015, Univision canceled its broadcast of Trump`s Miss Universe pageant. NBC then announced it would not air the Miss Universe or the Miss USA pageants, and Macy`s removed Trump merchandise from its stores. But Trump stayed resolute in his message.

TRUMP: We are taking Mexico`s problems. Mexico is beating us on trade, and they`re beating us at the border. But Mexico doesn`t want to take these people.

MATTHEWS: Controversy didn`t seem to hurt him. By mid-July, he passed the great establishment hope, Jeb Bush, in the polls. He was finding his audience.

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, I like this guy. He`s saying what we`re saying in the pool hall, or he`s saying what we`re saying around the coffee table in the morning. So he`s tapped into something.

MICHAEL WOLFFE, COLUMNIST, "USA TODAY": I think it is both a bit of populism, a bit of racism. It is also real.

MATTHEWS: On July 11th, 5,000 people showed up for a Trump rally in Arizona, a state at the epicenter of the nation`s battle over immigration reform.

TRUMP: These are people that shouldn`t have been in this country! They flow -- they flow in like water!

ALTER: He`s playing on our aspirations to be rich, which most Americans have. And he`s playing on our disgust with politics as usual. And that`s a pretty potent combination for him in certain parts of the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Trump led in the polls by a wide margin heading into the first Republican debate, hosted by Fox News on August 6th.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: You`ve called women you don`t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account...

TRUMP: Only Rosie O`Donnell.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

OMAROSA: When he gave the line about Rosie O`Donnell, and Megyn, I think, was very surprised, that the audience didn`t boo, but instead they cheered. They laughed. They rallied. They were supportive. That changed everything.

KELLY: You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. And honestly, Megyn, if you don`t like it, I`m sorry. I`ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based the on way you have treated me, but I wouldn`t do that.

ROGER STONE, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL CONSULTANT: She wanted to talk about, you know, whether he was sexist. He flipped this into a discussion of whether he`s politically correct. And what did he say? You know what? I`m not politically correct. If you don`t like it, that`s too bad.

TRUMP: You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her -- wherever.

MATTHEWS: Comments during a phone interview with CNN`s Don Lemon got Trump uninvited from a Republican RedState event. Critics roared, but his poll numbers held strong. Later in August, Trump held a campaign rally in Alabama, 30,000 people showed up.

TRUMP: We`re going to build a wall.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: And at a press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos stood up to ask a question without being called upon.

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: Mr. Trump, I have a question about immigration (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: OK, who`s next? Yes, please.

RAMOS: Mr. Trump, I have a question...

TRUMP: Excuse me, sit down. You weren`t called. Sit down!

COULTER: Again, exactly what we`ve been waiting for. People did not fly all the way to Dubuque to listen to you read from your little speech, and that`s exactly what Jorge Ramos was doing. He was reading from a speech. Trump had him thrown out. It was great. And then Trump invited him back in and took his question.

TRUMP: Yes. Good. Absolutely. Good. Absolutely. Good to have you back.

RAMOS: Thank you very much.

TRUMP: OK.

BROKAW: There`s an illusion within the American press that we cherish what we do. I got news for you. You know, if they find somebody who`s going to give us a punch in the nose or a black eye, they`re turning (ph) them on. And that`s what happened. Trump knew what he was doing.

ALTER: So the Jorge Ramos confrontation, you know, worked well with his base. That represented why it is very possible for Trump to win the nomination but impossible for him to win the election. Any Republican candidate needs to get at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to have a chance electorally.

OMAROSA: The more controversy, the higher his numbers went. The more people criticized him, the higher the numbers went. The more provocative he was, the higher his numbers went. Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing. He was strategic. He was brilliant. And it was the summer of Trump.

MIKE TYSON, FMR. PROFESSIONAL BOXER: I would vote for Donald Trump (INAUDIBLE) Definitely. This is very new. This is the equivalent to Obama new, you know what I mean? First black president, first interesting president.

STONE: Now, suddenly, the summer of Trump is becoming the autumn of Trump. Trump`s not going down, he`s going up.

MATTHEWS: When "Citizen Trump" continues...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM FUGAZY, TRUMP FRIEND: I joke and I say, there`s only one rogue in every family. Donald`s the rogue (INAUDIBLE) He`s a pretty good rogue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump was born in Queens, New York, in 1946. He`s the second son of Fred and Mary Trump. Donald grew up with four brothers and sisters in this 23-room house that his father built.

GRAU: My father was a seven-day worker. He loved -- that was his hobby. He was a task master. He was, you know, a strong man in business. But successful.

TRUMP: My father would take me -- he used to call it the rounds. He`d take me on the rounds. He`d go around to construction sites. Every penny counted, every penny in construction and every penny in rent.

OMAROSA: That was how they bonded as father and son. Donald learned the business by following and shadowing his father from a very, very young age.

MATTHEWS: During the 1940s and `50s, Fred Trump built housing in Queens and Brooklyn for returning veterans. And soon he owned 39 apartment complexes throughout the city and was a multi-millionaire.

ALTER: I think the important thing about Fred Trump is he gives the lie to the idea that Donald Trump is somehow some kind of self-made man.

MATTHEWS: Friends and family say that Trump was a tough-to-handle teenager.

SAMUAL J. LEFRAK, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: (INAUDIBLE) very young. He was wild. He was incorrigible. He was difficult, highly spirited.

FUGAZY: I joke and I say there`s only one rogue in every family, and Donald`s the rogue (INAUDIBLE) He`s a pretty good rogue.

GRAU: He was a brat!

(LAUGHTER)

OMAROSA: You know, after enough of this kind of misbehaving and not following the rules, his dad packed him up and sent him away to military school. And he actually says it`s the best thing that happened to him. He really did need the discipline.

TRUMP: I loved it. It was terrific training. It was tough, but it was good.

COULTER: So he was tough to handle, had to be sent to the New York Military Academy. Excellent! He`s an alpha male!

MICHAEL D`ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "NEVER ENOUGH": He`s given a uniform and a belt with brass buckles that he`s told to keep shiny and subjected to very intense discipline.

TRUMP: Those were days where it wasn`t like today. I mean, they hit and they did whatever the hell they had to do. They were a tough lot.

MATTHEWS: Trump thrived at New York Military Academy. He was a star on the baseball team, was elected captain, and led the honor guard in New York City`s Columbus Day parade. During the summer, Trump began working for his father.

TRUMP: We used to have contests, and he used to always respect the fact that I always had the record. I was able to have painted with two painters, six hallways in one day. We used spray. That`s the all-time Trump Organization record. So it was great. At the time, that was like the greatest achievement of my life.

MATTHEWS: Trump graduated in 1964 and went to Fordham University for two years before transferring to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1968, and after all his military training, a medical deferment makes him ineligible for the Vietnam-era draft.

Trump went to work for his successful father, Fred, but the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens were not enough for him. He`ll take Manhattan.

TRUMP: From the time I was very young, I`ve been fascinated with the New York skyline.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, Trump moves across the river to Manhattan, and the New York real estate business will never be the same.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

D. TRUMP: When I graduated from college, I went to work with my father, and he built housing in Brooklyn and Queens. And it was dangerous stuff. You would knock on the door, and there would be bullet holes through the door.

I would say to the people, what are those holes? And they would say, those are bullet holes, from knocking on the door and collecting rent.

And I said, you know, I think I would rather sell apartments to Johnny Carson and Steven Spielberg. It`s much easier.

MICHAEL D`ANTONIO, JOURNALIST: As a kids from Queens, Manhattan was always the emerald city in the distance, a real beacon that drew him.

MATTHEWS: In 1971, Trump moved to his first apartment in Manhattan, a studio in the Upper East Side. He was 24 years old and family and friends say he was enjoying himself.

ELIZABETH GRAU, SISTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He always went to what he called the "swingle" bars. He checked out the women.

WILLIAM FUGAZY, FRIEND OF DONALD TRUMP: Donald was a high flyer when it came to that.

D`ANTONIO: He joined some private clubs, and that`s where he rubbed shoulders with George Steinbrenner and Roy Cohn, the infamous lawyer and former McCarthy aide.

ROY COHN, ATTORNEY: Wherever I hear that people have been failing to act on FBI information about communists...

He said, listen, I followed your career, and you seem -- you`re a bit crazy like I am, and you stand up to the establishment. Can I come see you? And I said, sure.

MATTHEWS (voice-over): Cohn was one of Trump`s first really influential connections.

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: He had no scruples whatsoever, none. Just get the deal done and whatever it takes to get the deal done. So, Trump used him as his lawyer and to go in and cut deals.

TIMOTHY L. O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": I think Donald likes associating with people who are brass-knuckle, tough characters, uncompromising characters.

MATTHEWS: Young Trump`s ambition was reflected in his early business ventures.

D. TRUMP: Well, my first big deal in Manhattan was probably the convention center.

MATTHEWS: In 1973, Trump saw in the newspaper that the Penn Central rail yards were filing for bankruptcy.

D. TRUMP: I got an option to the Penn Central land and was able to convince then Governor Carey that this is the place to build the Convention Center.

MATTHEWS: Trump did not build what becomes the Jacob Javits Convention Center, but he did make more than $1 million brokering part of the deal.

In April of 1977, Trump closed a more personal deal. He married Czech model Ivana Zelnickova. Roy Cohn drew up the prenup.

D. TRUMP: The thing that first attracted me was her beauty. She was very beautiful. And I liked her because she was also very solid, you know, everything very boom, boom, boom, very orderly.

MATTHEWS: On New Year`s, 1977, the couple had the first of their three children, Donald Jr.

Trump set his sights on another troubled Penn Central property, the Commodore Hotel next to Grand Central Station. He had to convince the bankruptcy overseers that he could make a deal with banks reluctant to invest in New York City real estate.

D`ANTONIO: Donald told the Penn Central folks that they should meet him at city hall and he would introduce them to Mayor Abe Beame.

BROKAW: In New York, real estate is about tax abatements. It`s about making deals with political people. It`s about zoning. And it`s about getting the public, and especially the public officials, on your side.

D`ANTONIO: The Penn Central executives arrived at city hall. Mayor Beame invited them in. There was Donald and the mayor said, what the Trumps want, the Trumps get in this town.

D. TRUMP: They really didn`t know what the future of New York City was. And that was both good and bad. It was good, in that I was able to get tremendous tax advantages and tax abatements. It was bad, in that it wasn`t easy to get financing.

MATTHEWS: After obtaining multimillion-dollar tax abatements, Trump received the necessary financing to develop what would become the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

D. TRUMP: People ask me, how come how is it that you got 40 years of tax abatement? And I would always say, because I didn`t ask for 50.

BROKAW: I interviewed him when he was an unknown on "The Today Show" many years ago.

You bought some prized properties at the bottom of the New York market in the 1970s.

D. TRUMP: Yes, I had a great faith in New York. Primarily, our purchases have been in New York. And about five years ago, New York was not considered very hot and cities in general weren`t considered too hot. I see the inner cities as being sort of a wave of the future now.

MATTHEWS: Trump was on "The Today Show" to talk about his next big project, Trump Tower.

BROKAW: Well, the Trump Tower now was Bonwit Teller. And he had -- they had beautiful bas-relief carvings, and he just wrecked them. And I said, how could you have done that?

Couldn`t you have just saved just those sculptures that you had...

D. TRUMP: Well, it would very, very dangerous to have saved them. They weighed two tons. They were 15 feet high. They were about two-and-a- half-feet thick, and if they would have fallen, people could have been very badly hurt and killed. And just to me, it was not worth it.

ALTER: He just ripped those out without any consideration for their historic value. And the people he had doing the demolition were illegal immigrants.

MATTHEWS: In an interview with "The New York Times," Trump said he did not know they were undocumented workers on the site.

BROKAW: Mr. Trump, what`s left in your life? You`re 33 years old. You`re worth all this money. You say you didn`t say that you want to be worth $1 billion.

D. TRUMP: No, I really don`t. I really am not looking to make tremendous amounts of money. I`m looking to enjoy my life. And if that happens to go with it, that`s fabulous.

MATTHEWS: In 1981, there was heartbreak. His older brother, Fred, an alcoholic, died.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT-STALLWORTH, FORMER CONTESTANT ON "THE APPRENTICE": His brother was so young when he died, 42 years old, and his brother told him, Donald, don`t ever drink. Don`t ever get involved with alcohol. And that`s why Donald, to this day, has never had alcohol, never smoked. Doesn`t touch the stuff.

MATTHEWS: A few weeks after the loss of his brother, a happy moment for the family. Donald and Ivana welcomed daughter Ivanka. Trump rode high in the 1980s, bought a yacht, an airline, a professional football team, and Palm Beach Palace Mar-a-Lago. With 118 rooms, it is one of the largest homes in the nation.

ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: People of modest means look at that, and they say, wow, if I were rich, that`s how`d I want to live. People love the way he lives, because he symbolizes the American success story. He symbolizes the way you would live, the bling.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: winning and losing with Donald Trump.

D. TRUMP: A major business magazine came out with a story, everything he touches turns to gold. And I started to believe that myself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS (voice-over): The `80s were very good years for Trump. In 1982, he bought a prized piece of real estate along the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

To get Holiday Inn to make a deal with him, he invited their executives to the site and made it look like construction was well under way.

D. TRUMP: I had every truck available in the area moving on that site. We had trucks going back and forth and working all over the place. They saw that action, they were immediately impressed, and we made a deal like right then on the spot.

MATTHEWS: In 1984, the same year Harrah`s at Trump Plaza opened, Donald and Ivana welcomed their third child, Eric. A year later, Trump Castle opened.

D. TRUMP: Beautiful, beautiful.

O`BRIEN: They were cash cows, particularly Trump Plaza. It was the first casino that anybody driving into Atlantic City hit when they arrived there. It was essentially a license to print money.

MATTHEWS: Closer to home, actually across the street from his home, the Wollman skating rink in Central Park had been closed for years. It`s 1986.

D. TRUMP: They had spent over $20 million over a seven-year period. And then, finally, I said, this is ridiculous. This thing shouldn`t take years to build. And I was able to convince everybody to let me build it.

O`BRIEN: Donald, as the gifted self-promoter, went out there and pitched this as, I got the project done, what the New York City government couldn`t get done.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "GODLESS: THE CHURCH OF LIBERALISM": I think you see the same instincts coming out now that you did with the Wollman Rink, with Trump being frustrated at how inept and useless government is and jumping in and saying, I`m going to fix this.

MATTHEWS: Across the street from the Wollman Rink, Trump won a crowned jewel of New York in 1988, the Plaza Hotel, for $400 million. Ivana was put in charge and spent millions more to renovate.

QUESTION: Is there anything you wouldn`t support your man in?

IVANA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: Oh, sure. Oh, sure. I wouldn`t support if Donald would be running around and fooling around, you know, and, that, I couldn`t live with.

MATTHEWS: In 1990, the tabloids were reporting that Trump was doing just that with a young actress named Marla Maples.

COULTER: One headline I think everybody remembers was, "Marla Maples, best sex i ever had."

(LAUGHTER)

D`ANTONIO: Marla denies ever saying that. But it`s telling that the tabloids in New York would be so accustomed to Trump craziness that they`d run with it.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Divorce is a challenging and terrible thing for anyone. We`d see our parents on the cover of "The Post" every morning walking to school. And they really -- I mean, I have to give them both credit. They did everything in their power to, you know, help us through it.

MATTHEWS: While the divorce proceedings plaid out in the tabloids, at the office, it was business as usual. Michael Jackson performed at the star-studded opening of Atlantic City`s Trump Taj Mahal in 1990.

D. TRUMP: There`s never been anything like this built in this country. And I think that`s why you see the huge crowds today, and that`s why you`re going to see the huge crowds for many years to come.

MATTHEWS: It was the most expensive casino ever built, costing more than $1 billion, most of it borrowed money.

D`ANTONIO: This was a time when borrowing money was easy. Junk bonds were created and refined during the 1980s.

O`BRIEN: Every marquee purchase, from the Plaza Hotel to the Trump Shuttle, and later to the Trump Taj Mahal, the construction of that and the purchase of that was all built on debt.

D. TRUMP: I was taking things a little bit too for granted. A major business magazine came out with a story, everything he touches turns to gold, and I started to believe that myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you owe the bank a little, it owns you. If you owe the bank a lot, you own the bank. And that`s essentially what happens.

D. TRUMP: I never worked so hard. Convincing those banks to give me more money, so I could keep going, and ultimately get them paid back, was one of the best deals I ever made.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: new opportunities and a new audience.

D`ANTONIO: His currency is not really real estate. It`s the name Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS (voice-over): For Trump, the roaring `80s were fading into memory. It was 1990, and with the national real estate market in decline, Trump`s empire was on the brink of collapse.

MAN: Well, this week, the bankers took over Donald Trump`s life. I mean, did they take over. From now on, almost everything he does and every penny, it spends needs their approval.

D`ANTONIO: As real estate nationally and even globally goes down, Trump goes down with it. And he loses the Plaza Hotel, but he also wound up being $900 million in hock to the banks.

O`BRIEN: What that allowed him to do was to cut a deal where they could pay the fees he needed to pay as part of his divorce settlement, the money he needed to retain Trump -- his condo and Trump Tower, which was really an enormously symbolic security blanket. So, he escaped personal bankruptcy, but he essentially became a shadow of the guy he was in the 1980s.

MATTHEWS: Trump`s downturn extended to his personal life. In December, his long-expected divorce from Ivana became official. He was single again.

QUESTION: Just this past weekend, you had a big party in Palm Beach. You invited just a few of your close friends, like the Miami Dolphin and the Buffalo Bill cheerleaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is Hugh Hefner of the `90s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For an older person, he`s very attractive.

MATTHEWS: He was seen in public with Marla Maples, but he was not ready to tie the knot. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, when is the big day? MARLA MAPLES, ACTRESS: It`s, truthfully, one of those things we`ve planned probably a dozen times, and we`re very much committed to each other. There`s just a little fear, I think it`s more on Donald`s part now. MATTHEWS: In October of 1993, they had a baby girl, Tiffany Trump, and two months later, Marla Maples became Mrs. Donald Trump. Over the next few years, the real estate market rebounded and Donald Trump was back on top, valued at $450 million on the Forbes` wealthiest Americans list. But Trump said it was more than like $2 billion. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald is one of the few people, and I think the researchers at "Forbes" have always said this, who personally lobbies them to not only be included on the list, but to constantly push himself upward in the ranks. OMAROSA, REALITY TV STAR: What people think of Donald Trump is important to him. He may or may not admit it, but it`s important to him. All of his this, poll numbers, "Forbes" lists, you name it. His position matters to him. MATTHEWS: In 1997, he filed for divorce from Marla Maples. And less than a year later, Trump fell in love, this time with a 23-year-old Slovenian supermodel Melania Knauss. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As soon as I saw her, I said, that`s a very special person. I knew what I wanted as soon as I saw her. MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: He was very charming and it was the energy between us when we started to talk. And that`s important, that we both felt the same way. MATTHEWS: 1999 was a presidential campaign year and Trump discussed running. Give me a scenario, as we say in the movies, of a perfect Donald Trump run for president. All the way to November next year. TRUMP: Well, I think a perfect run would be, I do no campaigning. I run, only on Election Day. I get at least 51 percent in a three-way race. Trump ultimately decided not to run, but that did not mean he faded from view. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He essentially became somebody who licensed his name, ultimately, on an array of products that included vodka, underwear, mattresses, clothing, an online university and basically anything anywhere that you could glue his name on, he did and he took the fee. MATTHEWS: In 2004, Donald Trump got the brass ring of publicity, a network prime-time television show about what else, Donald Trump. "The Apprentice" premiered on NBC. TRUMP: You`re fired. TARA DOWELL, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: "The Apprentice" is Donald Trump`s baby. I mean, he is heavily involved. He`s actually there quite a bit. It is something that he clearly takes a lot of pride in. MATTHEWS: The show was a hit for NBC and things were going well at home, too. In January 2005, Donald Trump married Melania. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you guys sign a prenup? TRUMP: Absolutely. I won`t need it, but we did sign -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t believe I just asked you that. TRUMP: It`s a terrible thing. MATTHEWS: A year later, Melania gave birth to Trump`s fifth child, a son named Baron. TRUMP: There`s nothing more important to me than fatherhood, than family. And I have great kids. They`re really hard-working. MATTHEWS: With a hit TV show, a new family and his name everywhere, things seemed to be going well. But in this decade, there were two more bankruptcies. Trump Hotels and Casinos accrued an estimated $1.8 billion in debt and went bankrupt in 2004. Trump Entertainment Resorts hit hard by the recession went bankrupt in 2009. Tim O`Brien began writing "Trump Nation" in 2004 with Donald Trump`s cooperation, and attempted to find out what Trump`s net worth really was. TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMP NATION": When I went back and started doing the math around various statements he gave me about how much he said he was worth, the numbers weren`t adding up. MATTHEWS: The book came out in 2005, and in 2006, Trump sued O`Brien for $5 billion. He claimed that he was defamed. To win, Trump had to prove O`Brien acted with malice. However, the presiding judge denied Trump`s claim and ultimately dismissed the lawsuit. O`BRIEN: We deposed Donald for two days and that deposition is one of the great Rosetta stones of understanding the real Donald Trump. Because during the course of that deposition, he really couldn`t give a practical and reliable assessment about how he determines his net worth. MATTHEWS: In 2011, Donald Trump also began throwing around the accusation that President Obama was not a U.S. citizen, that no one even knew him growing up. TRUMP: You are not allowed to be a president if you`re not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country. TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: I just thought, come on! You know, by now we`ve all seen the birth certificate. When everybody else had given it up, he was still hanging in there on it. TRUMP: At the White House correspondents` dinner in 2011, President Obama struck back with humor. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump is here tonight. No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that`s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter. Like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? (LAUGHTER & APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: When "Citizen Trump" returns, Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEWS: If some of the experts thought Donald Trump would not have the political staying power to endure in a crowded field of Republican candidates, so far, they are mistaken. Trump is savvy about spending almost all attention, negative or positive, to his advantage, while attacking his rivals anytime they gain ground. In the middle of September, the second Republican debate aired on CNN. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re trying to get the Republicans to mix it up. Carly, Trump says you have an ugly face. What do you think of that? CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said. (APPLAUSE) TRUMP: I think she`s got a beautiful face and I think she`s a beautiful woman. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I keep hearing, oh, she totally won -- no, she looked like a little sourpuss. TRUMP: So, this is a plan that`s simple -- MATTHEWS: Voters and candidates look for a shift in focus to issues, and when September arrived, Trump announced that he had a detailed proposal for something -- a tax plan. TRUMP: No business of any size from a Fortune 500 company, to a mom and pop shop, to a freelancer living from week to week will pay more than 15 percent of their business income in taxes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this tax plan he offers something for everybody. But the most for those who have the most. If you`re concerned about the national debt, it`s not a plan that you would favor. CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: What you`re saying is you make it all up with growth? TRUMP: No, no. Not all up with growth. We also start cutting, because the waste in this country is unbelievable. TODD: Do you know how many politicians have said this over the years -- TRUMP: I know, but I`m not a politician. TODD: -- waste, fraud, and abuse? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will that happen? Management. He`s a great leader. He`s going to give it to us, he doesn`t have to say how. He`s just going to say he will. MATTHEWS: On October 28, another debate, this time hosted by CNBC. The moderators were repeatedly attacked by the Republican candidates. MODERATOR: You`ve been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who has wanted to increase the number of H-1B -- TRUMP: I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all. In fact, I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley. MODERATOR: So you`re in favor of increasing -- TRUMP: I`m not at all critical of him. MODERATOR: Why did I read this and come up with this that you were -- TRUMP: Probably, I don`t know. You people write this stuff. MATTHEWS: Fact-checkers quickly pointed out Trump was wrong. His own Web site criticized Zuckerberg. And the moderator herself also noted this later in the program. OMAROSA: They were intimidated, afraid, not bold enough. But that`s not how you handle Donald Trump. He can see the fear in your eyes and he pounces on it. BROKAW: The country has kind of bought in. I don`t know what it`s going to take to change him, but something will come along. I believe the unforeseen will occur, the UFO theory. Something will happen. MATTHEWS: In a controversial tryst of politics and celebrity, Donald Trump hosted "Saturday Night Live." TRUMP: Jimmy, how is our economy? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing, sir. In the words of our new national anthem, it`s huge. OMEROSA: Putin has withdrawn from Ukraine, and believe me, he does not want to be called a loser again. He cried for hours. TRUMP: Keep up the good work, Omarosa. You`re doing fantastic. MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Myself, I`m Mexican. I`m not a rapist. I`m a student, right? So, I just want to make sure he listens to the stories and stops his racism that he`s spreading around the country. MATTHEWS: At the Fox Business Republican debate on November 10th, opponents challenged Trump on how he plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. JOHN KASICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If people think we are going to shift 11 million people who are law abiding, who are in this country, and somehow pick them up in their house and ship them out to Mexico? Think about the families. Think about the children. TRUMP: Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him, I like Ike, right? The expression, I like Ike. Moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, just beyond the border. JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You need at least 100,000 buses to take them back to Mexico. Has he thought about that? Has he explained how that is going to happen? It`s a totally impractical idea. MATTHEWS: When Ben Carson was a threat, Trump went, well, ballistic. TRUMP: How stupid are the people of Iowa, how stupid are the people of this country to believe this crap? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unacknowledged part of the Trump mystique is he`s kind of funny. He`s a draw himself. You look at these other mooks and they seem to be suffering, Jeb Bush not least of all, as Trump has pointed out. Trump is having fun. When somebody is having fun, you start to have fun. MATTHEWS: But not everybody was laughing as Trump impugned the patriotism of American Muslims. TRUMP: I watched surveillance of certain mosques, OK? I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. MATTHEWS: And after CNN aired footage of a Black Lives Matter protestors being beaten up by supporters at a rally, Trump tweeted extreme right propaganda exaggerating racial crime statistics. Despite inaccurate and controversial claims, Trump continued to sit atop the GOP polls. TODD: You`re running for president of the United States. Your words matter. Truthfulness matters. Fact-based statements matter. TRUMP: Chuck, take it easy, Chuck. Just play cool. REPORTER: Are you worried that sometimes he bends the truth? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bends the truth? You know, what? He may. But he`s still going to get things done. REPORTER: So you don`t care? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t care. MATTHEWS: After a presidential address on terrorism following the San Bernardino mass shooting, Trump read his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. TRUMP: Donald Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: Reaction was swift and loud. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it`s not what this country stands for. JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do believe that it disqualifies him from serving as president of the United States. BROKAW: Trump`s statement even in this season of extremes is dangerous proposal that overrides history, the law, and the foundation of America itself. MATTHEWS: But Trump actually rose in the polls after this. A large part of the Republican base seemed to support the idea. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m supporting him and I`m supporting what I believe he meant when he said ban Muslim immigration. I don`t believe he`s racist. I think he`s talking about, you know, we need to step back and reexamine the vetting process. MATTHEWS: But many saw this as a game changer. Many thought even proposing the idea gave ISIS a propaganda victory. Maybe this time he had gone too far. ALTER: Do you think something changed in the media`s reaction to him and the reaction of the America`s public? Remember, two-thirds of Americans don`t like him. So he already has a very steep climb to actually becoming president. And I think that many of those people went from seeing this as a kind of entertaining joke to being a dead serious political situation. MATTHEWS: And it was topic number one when CNN aired another debate on December 15th. WOLF BLITZER, CNN MODERATOR: Governor Bush, you called Mr. Trump unhinged when he proposed banning non-American Muslims from the United States. Why is that unhinged? JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, you know, is great at the one-liners. But he`s chaos candidate. And he would be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe. BLITZER: Mr. Trump? (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) TRUMP: Jeb doesn`t really believe I`m unhinged. He said that, very simply, because he has failed in this campaign. It`s been a total disaster. Nobody cares. BUSH: This is the problem. Banning all Muslims will make it harder for us to do exactly what we need to do, which is to destroy ISIS. We need a strategy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a natural force. He`s a phenomenon. What`s propelling him? Two things, I think. He`s independently wealthy. People are fed up with the system. They`re fed up with career politicians. They`re all beholden to somebody. In Trump, they see a guy who`s got a few money. ALTER: They say that politics is show business for ugly people. So, in his case, whatever his looks, he`s bringing those entertainment values directly to politics. MELANIA TRUMP: He will be the best president ever. We love you. BROKAW: Donald Trump is a top level New York real estate guy. You`ve got to have big cojones to do that and promote it constantly, reality television star. I don`t have to talk about his ego. I mean, it sticks out of every pore of his body. He knows how to take a simple, quick message and drive it home. Can he make it last? Good question. MATTHEWS: Poll after poll shows the heart of Donald Trump`s appeal lies with the American voter who didn`t go to college, who doesn`t have the money, hasn`t had the breaks. He is the one rallying to the billionaire from New York who rages against illegal immigration, against bad trade deals that cost us jobs, that derides wars he says we shouldn`t be fighting. Trump seems to be tapping into an injured sense of nationalism, especially by those most threatened. For a number of reasons, good, bad, and many would say ugly, Donald Trump has connected. Label him, attack him, condemn him, but the immense failure of this country`s political establishment, right, left and center, to deal with deep national problems, has left the door open in this brash businessman from the big city has come barreling through. I`m Chris Matthews. Thanks for watching. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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