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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/24/2016

Guests: Susan Page, Matt Schlapp, Richard Trumka, Shawn Henry, Anne Gearan, Tim Mak, Heidi Przybyla

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 24, 2016 Guest: Susan Page, Matt Schlapp, Richard Trumka, Shawn Henry, Anne Gearan, Tim Mak, Heidi Przybyla


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Mark today, March 24th, as the day the Republican presidential fight went nuclear. First, literally, John Heilemann asked front-runner Donald Trump if he would rule out using tactical nuclear weapons against the terrorist group ISIS. Trump refused to rule it out.

Then on the domestic front, Donald Trump escalated his fight with Ted Cruz, retweeting an unflattering photograph of Heidi Cruz, his wife, beside a shot of his own wife, Melania, a former model. Anyway, it`s the latest in a pretty ugly fight between the two candidates involving their spouses -- not a good idea.

It began late on Tuesday evening, of course, when Donald Trump tweeted a warning to Cruz about his wife. "Lyin` Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a `GQ` shoot in his ad. Be careful, lyin` Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife."

Well, Trump was referring to an ad circulated on line by an anti-Trump super-PAC in advance of Utah`s caucus showing Melania Trump posing for "GQ" magazine. The caption reads, "Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady. Or you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday."

Well, Cruz today responded to Trump`s latest tweet with a scathing critique of the Republican front-runner.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald does seem to have an issue with women. Donald doesn`t like strong women. Strong women scare Donald.

Let me be absolutely clear. Our spouses and our children are off bounds. It is not acceptable for a big, loud New York bully to attack my wife. Real men don`t try to bully women. That`s not an action of strength, that`s an action of weakness. It`s an action of fear. It`s an action of a small and petty man who is intimidated by strong women.

It`s not easy to tick me off. I don`t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that`ll do it every time. Donald, you`re a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s why nobody believes politicians anymore, that performance (INAUDIBLE) cheap theater.

Anyway, Matt Schlapp`s the chairman of the American Conservative Union, Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

I want you all to react to what you just saw. I have my own opinions. I am very skeptical if who the good guy is, if there is a good guy in this piece, Jonathan. I don`t think there is a good guy here.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, look, this is -- I mean, all politics is theater, but this has become the theater of the absurd, from the tweets to the back-and-forth, you know, comments. Ted Cruz -- I`m sorry, it`s just -- it`s just not believable. You showed how many -- how many -- what, like, three bites from the same long comment. Why not just -- why can`t Ted Cruz just come out and say, you know, Leave my wife alone?

MATTHEWS: Theater.

CAPEHART: And leave it at that.


MATTHEWS: ... crocodile tears and the righteous indignation when they put out the picture of Melania by that group that was supporting him, that PAC that was saying, Vote for Cruz? He never complained about that.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Hey, no heroes here.


MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

PAGE: Right? And you know who the winners are? It will be the Democratic Party because one of these two guys is likely to be the nominee, right? Most likely Trump, but possibly -- possibly Cruz. Who are the key voters in a general election? It`s several voter groups, but a lot of it is women, women in the middle. And...

MATTHEWS: You mean most voters are women?

PAGE: Most voters are women...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, that`s...


MATTHEWS: I`m just kidding because the arithmetic is so precise.


PAGE: But also women tend to -- women are less -- are more likely to be in the swing group, more persuadable, more in the middle. So we know they`re a very important voter group. And you know, this kind of stuff, it`s offensive to women.

MATTHEWS: You know, the idea, Matt, of -- we`re both guys, of course, but throwing pictures up of two women...



MATTHEWS: No because it`s always tricky to talk about this stuff with two guys. But putting up sort a -- sort of an on-line beauty contest...


MATTHEWS: ... which Trump has now set up between a very unflattering picture -- I mean, she`s a very attractive woman to have her picture (INAUDIBLE) like, horror (ph), banshee kind of picture of her...


MATTHEWS: ... yelling.

SCHLAPP: She`s...

MATTHEWS: That -- put that next to a very attractive picture of his wife, obviously just trying to say -- trumping the argument with his looks-ism.

SCHLAPP: Yes. I don`t like anything about this. You know, this is a bad moment for us. I think Heidi Cruz is a friend of mine. She`s a delightful human being. She`s smart as hell. And I think the super-PAC that ran that picture of Melania Trump -- I think that`s garbage and tacky and they shouldn`t have done that. And I would like to move on from this moment, and I would encourage these two campaigns to get right back on the issues. If we don`t...

MATTHEWS: No, Trump -- I mean, Cruz loves this! He loves this! This is righteous indignation!


MATTHEWS: Reminds me of Bill Clinton with Jerry Brown. Remember, You can say anything you want about me, but you don`t deserve to be on the same stage with my wife. Remember? He doesn`t do it as well, but Trump -- Trump -- I mean, it looks like Cruz is trying to do the old Bill Clinton line!

PAGE: Well, and...

MATTHEWS: Righteous indignation.

PAGE: ... and of course, it is -- he is defending her in saying that she and the children, who actually haven`t been part of this...

MATTHEWS: Why`d he bring up the children?

PAGE: Well, because they should also be off-limits because...

MATTHEWS: Well, they are!


PAGE: Because it`s the kitchen sink theory of political discourse.

MATTHEWS: You`ve got it. You know so well! In other words, defend yourself against stuff that hasn`t even been thrown at you.

SCHLAPP: That`s right.

CAPEHART: But the other thing, though, is, by doing what he did, Senator Cruz ensures that he is a part of the news cycle that Donald Trump since June 16th has been very successful and adept at -- at riding the wave of the news cycle. And so by saying, you know, I`m defending my wife, you come after -- come after my wife, you come after my kids, I`m coming after you -- that allows -- that allows him to be a part of the story, whereas otherwise, we wouldn`t be talking about him.


CAPEHART: ... this other thing that`s...

MATTHEWS: This is pretty Runyonesque. Anyway, let`s -- do you have a thought?

SCHLAPP: Well, you don`t defend your wife. I mean, that`s absurd...


MATTHEWS: Anyway, as I told you earlier, the serious stuff. Now, Bloomberg`s John Heilemann asked Donald Trump if he would rule out ever using tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS. Let`s watch.


JOHN HEILEMANN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: You were asked about whether you would -- you would rule out using tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS. Have you ruled that out, or is that something you contemplate?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I`d probably be very, very late, compared to my opponents that are running.

HEILEMANN: So you would rule in the possibility of using nuclear weapons against ISIS.

TRUMP: Well, I`m never going to rule anything out.


TRUMP: And I wouldn`t want to say -- even if I felt it wasn`t good, I wouldn`t want to tell you that...


TRUMP: ... because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the question there. First of all, just journalistically, he asked the question maybe none of us would have asked, but he asked it. Once asked, it`s the responsibility of the politician to answer the best way he can. My argument (INAUDIBLE) Trump`s best answer would be no comment. No world leader or any leader of a country should talk about using nuclear weapons. Just -- I don`t ask the question. But yet he played the mad bomber, number, which is the old Nixon number. Yes, I might do it, keep them guessing.

CAPEHART: Well, and...

MATTHEWS: That was a tactic he used.

CAPEHART: Well, it`s a tactic he used which is freaking out the international community.


CAPEHART: I was in Brussels for the Brussels Forum, hosted by the German Marshall Fund, and everyone was talking about Trump. Everyone is...


MATTHEWS: ... talk about this.

CAPEHART: ... extremely concerned about this person who could possibly become president of the United States for a whole host of reasons, and that clip there is not going to lend them any comfort whatsoever.

A president of the United States should, or a candidate, should never even hint at the possibility of using a nuclear weapon on another group of people, especially against ISIS. Where`s ISIS even located? There`s no country! So there are a whole host of questions that are now raised by that one suggestion by Donald Trump. Where are you going to drop it? Who`s going to pay for it?

HEILEMANN: It comes in the context of the long meeting that he had with "The Washington Post" editorial board, where he suggested maybe it`s time to end -- pull out of the NATO alliance and a whole series of things that were at odds with longstanding U.S. policy in both parties.

You know, this is a time when he -- that Donald Trump is pivoting from debates where you talk for 60 seconds to extended interviews on discussions -- when you`re a general election candidate, nominee, if he is, to discuss some of these very serious issues. And we`re not seeing the kind of pivot I think that a lot of Republicans hoped to see, where he comes across as a little more tempered.


SCHLAPP: I disagree with that. I think we`re seeing a pivot. Look, I think the AIPAC...

MATTHEWS: What do you think he -- what do you think he meant with this thing about tactical nuclear? What...


CAPEHART: What is the standard answer that every consultant tells a candidate? You say, "All options are on the table."

MATTHEWS: Not on nuclear.

CAPEHART: Not on nuclear.

SCHLAPP: You don`t go to that -- you don`t go to that specific. And to Jonathan`s point, to say that we would never use nuclear weapons ever, well, that`s obviously...


CAPEHART: The question was specifically about ISIS, not in general.

SCHLAPP: Fair enough. And I`m not so sure there is such a thing as a tactical nuclear weapon. We`ve never really done that. I know...


SCHLAPP: But look, the point is, is this, which is I actually think we are seeing a pivot. And I think the AIPAC...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk politics.


MATTHEWS: Barry Goldwater, who I actually liked as a kid -- I liked his libertarianism -- on the questions of the use of military, he was sort of a Curtis LeMay guy. He was a little scary because he didn`t quite get it, even though he was a military man, the difference between nuclear and conventional. You drop a nuclear bomb of any kind, you`re -- it`ll be the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki! You don`t talk about it!

CAPEHART: That`s right. And the whole point of that was to, hopefully, never, ever have to it again.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s what the umbrella`s about. That`s what the whole mutual assured destruction`s about. You don`t say, We`re going to use it occasionally or -- Goldwater`s mistake was far worse, by the way. Goldwater said, I`ll leave it up to the field commanders to decide when to use nuclear weapons.

SCHLAPP: Can I just say -- let`s talk politics real fast. The fact is, is that the American people are growingly (sic) more concerned that the terrorists don`t fear us, and that this Obama policy towards ISIL, ISIS, whatever you want to call it, this acronym game, it`s clearly not working. They`re winning, we`re losing.

MATTHEWS: How do you use a nuclear weapon in the Middle East, by the way?


MATTHEWS: Have you ever looked at a map in the Middle East?

SCHLAPP: I`m not advocating...


MATTHEWS: You kill one ethnic group, you kill a lot of ethnic groups. You don`t isolate the Sunni from the Shia or the Jewish from the Arab. Everybody`s near range in that situation.

CAPEHART: I don`t think the American people are frightened enough to even contemplate the possibility of the United States dropping a nuclear weapon...

SCHLAPP: Nice try, but pull back from that. Don`t you think that short of a nuclear weapon, there are things we should be doing?


HEILEMANN: You can take a -- you can have a position that we need to be tougher, we need to do less (ph), we need to do more without saying, I`m not going to rule out use of a nuclear weapon.

SCHLAPP: I agree with that.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about something that`s not so scary because nuclear weapons are scary, and they`re not metaphors.

Let me ask you about this fight. Your party. You call it your party, so I`ll let you do it this way.

SCHLAPP: It`s my party.

MATTHEWS: Yes. This new coalescing around Cruz, it is really holding your nose sort of stuff because people will even say things like that. I like Lindsey Graham. Most people do. Lindsey says things like, Oh, you know, I`m not a big (INAUDIBLE) I`m holding my nose, I`m going to back him against...

SCHLAPP: What`s going on...

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch -- let`s watch Lindsey. Oh, it`s the elites lining up behind a guy they don`t like!


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Would John Kasich make a better president than Ted Cruz?


BRZEZINSKI: How can you raise money for Ted Cruz when you don`t believe he would be that good a president?

CRUZ: I think he`s a Republican. I think he`s conservative. I think Donald Trump is a con man. I think he would destroy the Republican Party. I have differences with Ted Cruz that are well known, but I think we share the same political DNA. And at the end of the day, I think he`s a reliable Republican conservative and Mr. Trump is not. I think John Kasich would be the best nominee, but he doesn`t have a chance.


MATTHEWS: Imagine somebody getting married with language like that. You know, I`m not really a fan of this...


MATTHEWS: ... the process of elimination...


SCHLAPP: Well, first of all, you should get plenty of sleep before you go on "MORNING JOE." Second of all, they need to have an emergency communications talking point meeting for the never -- for the #Trump movement.

Here`s what`s weird. You have Romney going to a Republican front-runner earlier this week and Trashing both Trump and Cruz, while at the same time, he`s telling some people to vote for Cruz.


MATTHEWS: ... in Utah, but in Ohio, vote for Kasich.

SCHLAPP: He`s pimping himself out as a potential candidate come Cleveland. He`s the Cleveland candidate.

MATTHEWS: Oh, aren`t you good! You`ve rousted this guy. You`ve outed him. He is -- he`s the phantom candidate.

SCHLAPP: It`s the truth. That`s what he`s doing, and he -- I think he thinks he`s being...


MATTHEWS: What`s your organization called?

SCHLAPP: American Conservative Union.

MATTHEWS: Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, just said on HARDBALL that this is all a ruse, this is all about Mitt Romney trying to get it himself.

HEILEMANN: So can it work?

SCHLAPP: It will not work. As a matter of fact, I think if there`s even an attempt to try to wire this to make this happen, we are going to -- we will not recover from this in the foreseeable future. This would be a disaster for us.

CAPEHART: But wait. When you say "wire this to happen," is it wire -- the "this" being Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee, or wire it so that anyone but Trump becomes...

MATTHEWS: No, he says Romney.

SCHLAPP: No, I think Romney. Look, the rules are -- we`re going to have a set of rules going into Cleveland, and you`re going have to get to the minimum of delegates to get that. And Trump has to get there. He`s got the best chance to get there. And by the way, he might get there before Cleveland. But the rules are going to have be transparent. (INAUDIBLE) if Mitt Romney thinks he can insert himself in this process when he`s not a candidate -- let me tell you, my party`s made up of insurance salesmen and small business people.


SCHLAPP: Even they are going to be rioting...

MATTHEWS: OK, what happens if...


MATTHEWS: What happens if Trump gets, say, 1,230, not 1,237, and a guy who has no delegates runs against him in the second ballot?

SCHLAPP: Well, you might not be able to...

MATTHEWS: Is it conceivable your party will nominate a guy who has done nothing with the American people or the Republican electorate and yet beats the guy who`s been out there winning?

SCHLAPP: Well, the fact is, is this, which is you -- you -- unlike the Democrats, we actually are going to have rules, and they will be strictly followed. And you`re going to...

MATTHEWS: So the Democrats could argue, unlike the Republicans...


SCHLAPP: Every Democrat I talk to, I say, What about your convention? They go, We don`t really worry about the rules so much.


MATTHEWS: ... Rules Committee guy named Curly. I think that`s a great name.


MATTHEWS: Always trust the Rules Committee guy (INAUDIBLE) Curly. Good see him.

Matt Schlapp, thank you for making news tonight. Susan Page, thank you for laughing at some of this nonsense!


MATTHEWS: And thank you, as always, Jonathan Capehart.

Coming up -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting for the next big prize, Wisconsin, April 5th, and the union vote that comes with it. Richard Trumka, president of the powerful -- the powerful, all-powerful AFL-CIO hasn`t endorsed either of the candidates. He`s coming here next.

Plus, the growing threat by ISIS against the West. How do you track the ISIS-trained radicals who are now plotting attacks on Europe, and how dire is the threat here at home?

And the HARDBALL roundtable, much more on that ugly fight between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over their spouses, or with their spouses. By the way, Trump`s picking on Cruz`s wife and Cruz is calling Trump a sniveling coward, powerful words in someone else`s mouth.

Anyway, finally, "Let Me Finish" with President Obama`s opening to Cuba.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, as the GOP establishment schemes ways to rip the nomination away from Donald Trump, Republican voters aren`t seeing eye to eye with their party`s elites. According to a new Bloomberg poll, 63 percent of Republican voters say the candidate who collects the most delegates before the convention should win the nomination. Only 33 percent think delegates at a possibly contested convention should select the nominee.

If Trump does emerge from the nomination battle, his prospects to win the general look bleak, however. According to a new Bloomberg poll, Hillary Clinton crushes Trump in a general election matchup by 54 to 36. That`s impressive. Clinton also bests Ted Cruz, 51 to 42. Only John Kasich leads Secretary Clinton in a potential matchup. He wins at 47 to her 43.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re at a time in the primary season where very vote, every delegate and every endorsement is prized more than ever. In the Democratic race, for example, Bernie Sanders is pitching for union support by knocking Hillary Clinton on trade. We all know that. But here he is again yesterday.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another issue that Secretary Clinton and I disagree on, and that is the issue of trade. Now, trade is not a sexy issue. It`s not an issue that the media covers virtually at all. It is an enormously important issue.

Secretary Clinton has supported virtually every one of these trade agreements! After telling us how great the TPP was, she eventually, under pressure from the trade union movement, finally said no to it.


MATTHEWS: Well, so far, Hillary Clinton has received the largest share of union support in the primaries. She`s touting her long association with organized labor. Here she is.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was made an honorary machinist some years ago.


CLINTON: And so I feel a particular connection here to my brothers and sisters in the Machinists and Aerospace Workers union. I have fought for the right to organize and bargain. I have fought for the middle class. I am no person new to this struggle! I`m not the latest flavor of the month. I`ve been doing this work day in and day out for years!



MATTHEWS: Well, according to an article on Vox -- quote -- "Clinton received the lion`s share of labor union support even though Sanders has clearly been more consistently aligned with labor`s political priorities. Most labor leaders` approach to politics is fundamentally transactional rather than ideological. Clinton is willing to make enough labor-friendly commitments -- oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, back Cadillac tax reform, back away from education reform, hike the minimum wage -- and most unions were willing to proclaim themselves happy with that on the grounds that, whatever they did, Clinton was going to win, so they might as well be team players."

But not all the labor leaders might agree with that assessment. The largest affiliation of unions, of course, the AFL-CIO, withheld its own endorsement of a nominee after its council could not come to a consensus at their February meeting. Anyway, the AFL-CIO were unified on one 2016 nominee, complete opposition to Donald Trump.

They have started a digital campaign against him for what they say is his anti-union stance as an employer.

Joining me right now is the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka.

What is the way you guys see in the union movement, the labor movement, you see Trump as an employer, businessman? What kind of guy is he? Is he a union buster? What is he? How would you see him?

RICHARD TRUMKA, PRESIDENT, AFL-CIO: Well, he`s been particularly anti- union.

He is 100 percent in favor of right-to-work. He thinks outsourcing is good. He believes our wages are too high. After 40 years of us having flat wages, he thinks they`re too high. He thinks that a guy that wanted - - that destroyed companies and pensions like Carl Icahn would make a great treasury secretary, and he has been against us.

His own employees, when they tried to organize, and they have organized, at a number of his plants, he fights us just like every other anti-union employer does.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of his anti-trade stance, which is coordinate with your thinking? Maybe it`s a coincidence. Why is he so anti-trade, where you guys are right now, anti-trade deals, I should say?

TRUMKA: Well, I guess I should say even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

He is right on trade. The trade bills have been wrong. But when you look past it, he has been able, Chris, to tap into the anger and the frustration of 40 years of bad policies. But when you look at his policies, all he is doing is doubling down on the policies that got us here, and he is a house of cards.

Once you explain that to people, the house collapses.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about...

TRUMKA: That`s what we have been doing.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about two kind of new kinds of politicians, left and right, or whatever Trump is. Bernie Sanders is on the left, Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist.

He`s got -- how would you contrast the appeal to working folks, men and women, who have the real heavy jobs in this country, the hardworking jobs? They seem to be drawn to both Bernie and to Trump in different ways. Explain why, what is going on there in terms of their alienation from the center, if you will, or whatever is going on.

TRUMKA: Well, I think both of them have tapped in successfully into the frustration and the anger that people legitimately feel out there.

They have gone through 40 years of economic policy that has denied them chances, denied them raises, put them in a hole, and given them nothing to hope for. What they`re looking for in this election, because we`re at a crossroads, is someone who is going to give us a path to shared prosperity.

Trump talks the lingo, but when you look at his policies, they don`t match that. Bernie talks the lingo, but when you look at his policies, they match -- will help us get out of the morass that we`re in.

MATTHEWS: Well, Bernie talks about society, about the competing demands and needs of people, older people for Social Security benefits to go up, the people who owe big college debts. He talks about those needs.

Trump talks about the country. He talks about this nationalism, screw the Russians, screw the Chinese, screw the Mexicans. Why does that appeal to working guys and working women, that attitude? I didn`t make a lot of money last year because the country is getting screwed. That seems to be the Trump argument on trade and a lot of things.


Well, it`s masked in bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, and it`s dangerous for the country. And he masks that with a populism by saying, I`m going to make it right, I`m going to make it better. People are looking for hope. They want somebody to make it better.

But when you look at his policies, they won`t make it better. They will double down on what has got us here in the first place. MATTHEWS: Why don`t you guys -- I shouldn`t be so casual. It`s a big decision. Why don`t you back Hillary or Bernie and make the best of it?

TRUMKA: Well, you know what? We`re in the process of doing that. We have a process. Here is what we have done.

We have encouraged our affiliates to go out and give all the relevant information on every candidate to their membership. Find out who their membership wants to support, so we have a real consensus and a groundswell.

Some unions have done that .

MATTHEWS: What happens if it is a split?

TRUMKA: Well, eventually, it won`t be. Eventually, the primary will be over and there will an endorsed candidate on both sides. We will look at those two candidates and say who is the best for working people.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about it. Let`s make a supposition. I`m not asking you to commit yet.

If Hillary Clinton is the nominee by, say, June, you know, she`s won the most -- she is going to get the delegates, do you trust her on trade?



TRUMKA: I have known her for a long time.


MATTHEWS: But she was known to be -- Bill Clinton, of course, President Clinton was for NAFTA. It wasn`t like a big cause of his, but he did sign the bill.

TRUMKA: No, it was a big cause of his.


MATTHEWS: I`m trying to let him off the hook here.

TRUMKA: He had a couple of them out there that were terrible.


MATTHEWS: And Hillary was known to be and Bill was known to be for TPP, the Trans-Pacific one. And now she has turned back. She said it`s not the gold standard and Bill Clinton hasn`t said a word about it.

You`re comfortable with their position now, right now?

TRUMKA: Look, I think any candidate, trade has a very, very powerful effect on the electorate, not just in the Midwest, but all through the country.

People know that the trade deals that have been negotiated...


MATTHEWS: I know. North Philly. I have it everywhere, I know, in any big city. But how do you get back to where we were?

Everybody has a memory of their uncle and their grandfather. How do we get back to where we were, where you could come out of high school and support a family with a manufacturing job?

TRUMKA: Well, you negotiate good trade deals.

If you eliminate currency manipulation that has cost us five million jobs, Chris, you get a bunch of those jobs back, because they`re getting an unfair, artificial, illegal advantage over American producers and services.

You eliminate, we will compete...


MATTHEWS: OK. When you watch something like Nabisco -- he`s always talking about Nabisco or this cosmetics company moving over to England, or any -- Boeing, anybody.

Any time somebody moves to Mexico or goes to China, what do you think is going on in the heads of those CEOs? What are they thinking, cheaper labor? What are they thinking?

TRUMKA: Absolutely.

And then -- well, here is another example where Trump is a hypocrite, because while he talks about doing that, he makes 870-some products that are under his name, and they`re all made overseas, 248 of them made in China that he talks about all the time.

So he ought to -- he doesn`t have to be president to start the process. He could bring those products back right now. But what is he doing? He`s trying to get away from what he is actually doing on the ground.


Thank you, Richard Trumka. It`s always an honor to have you on.

Up next: new developments in the Brussels terror investigation, including two of right attackers plotting to assemble a dirty bomb, this as the Associated Press reports hundreds of fighters have been trained by ISIS an already sent to Europe.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

French authorities say a French citizen with suspected ties to a terrorist network was arrested earlier today. The country`s interior minister says a raid at his home in Northwest Paris foiled a planned attack and that plot was in the advanced stages.

Meanwhile, six people have been taken into custody following a raid in Brussels. It took place at the same neighborhood where police discovered a nail bomb, explosives and an ISIS flag following this week`s attack.

And comedian, actor and former late-night TV host Garry Shandling has died at the age of 66. He was taken to an L.A. hospital earlier today -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, there are new signs today of just how serious and scary, if you will, the ISIS threat against the West remains.

According to "TIME" magazine, recent weeks have brought growing evidence that ISIS is actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear material. NBC News is reporting that the two brothers who carried out Tuesday`s bombs in Brussels previously -- quote -- "spied on a top nuclear researcher and hoped to build a so-called dirty bomb."

The brothers set up a hidden camera outside the home of the researcher and recorded hours of footage showing the comings and goings of him and his family.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Associated Press reported -- quote -- "The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum chaos."

Well, according to the AP, there are camps right now in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere where attackers are being trained to target the West right now.

I`m joined now by Malcolm Nance, an MSNBC contributor and the author of "Defeating ISIS," and Shawn Henry, a former executive assistant director to the FBI.

Shawn, Mr. Henry, let me start with this right now. What does this tell us? We have had two attacks, November and this week. One seemed to be serial, the second one because -- I say that because Ibrahim, in his will, said that he was afraid of getting arrested. I wonder if that expedited the action there in Brussels.

What does this tell us? Is this going to get geometric, exponential this summer where they`re going to have a series of attacks over the next several months? Can we tell?

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, you know, I think that you`re right.

I think that this was expedited because of the arrest of Abdeslam and that they were afraid they might get caught. They wanted to go out and have an impact before they were taken into custody potentially as the Belgian authorities moved in.

But I think that you`re right. When we think about what is happening now in Iraq and Syria, the foreign fighters that are coming back into Europe, whether they`re slipping in through some refugee program or they`re coming in through other means, and the proliferation throughout Europe, the epicenter seems to be Brussels now, but the concern has always been that these actors, as they continue to grow, looking to fight where they are, rather than pulling people over into Syria and Iraq, fight where they are, and create as much disruption, as much chaos as they possibly can, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Shawn.

Let me go to Malcolm on this question that you raise here; 5,000 European passport holders, 5,000 people from Europe, they may have roots in North Africa or in the Middle East, but they live in Europe. They have European passports. They have been to Syria. You don`t go to Syria generally on tourist reasons.

You have to wonder how many of them are up to bad stuff. Your thoughts, Malcolm.

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, certainly, a large quantity of them are up to bad stuff, and, fortunately, they have been at war for the last two years with a very high level of intensity and they have lost quite a few.

But let me address this report by the AP on the 400 fighters; 400 is a pretty large number. It is quite possible that they were training together. We know from intelligence that when they would come to Syria and Iraq, they would train together as national groups. There was always a French group. There was always a Belgian group and Germans.

MATTHEWS: Linguist groups.

NANCE: Yes, that`s right.

And that`s just for ease of training and fluidity. And we know that many of them were killed in action. Now, it`s very difficult to flow back into Europe very large quantities of people, although some people have left the jihad. If you want to train -- send trained agents, people who are agent provocateurs, who have been trained all together for mischief, mayhem and terror, then you want to flow those guys two or three at a time.

And I`m sure Shawn agrees with that. The counterintelligence mission of finding people who coming back in 20s, 30s, 40s is much easier than finding groups who are coming back in twos or threes.

But I agree with also there is a constellation of units who are already in place in Europe. It`s just a question of whether they`re going to be directed or whether they`re going to enable themselves and carry out these attacks.

ISIS is in a strategic campaign with us. And they`re throwing punches. And they`re going to continue to throw punches whenever they get the opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Well, Shawn, we`re seeing the power of course every day in these bombings of TNT just generally available, dynamite, if you will.

So, they don`t need dirty bombs. But a dirty bomb is putting together some nuclear together and then exploding it conventionally so that it spreads over a whole area, and it contaminates an area, to start with, and probably kills a lot of people in the process. Are you impressed, or not, by the fact that Khalid and his brother, Ibrahim, the two killers, the two suicide brothers in Brussels, were tying to put this guy under surveillance, this expert at dealing in this kind of -- this researcher, and they were apparently trying to learn how to get ahold of those materials, those radioactive materials?


It shows another level of attack, another vector, Chris. We have been worried in the intelligence community for 15 years, since 9/11. We have talked about terrorist groups, typically A.Q., but now increasingly ISIS, looking to obtain a WMD, weapon of mass destruction, and how that would impact a major city, that one of those devices in a major city would have catastrophic impact and kill people and render that area inhabitable for many years.


HENRY: To see that they were actually following somebody, conducting surveillance, for what purpose, to kidnap him or what have you, to see that they have moved into that realm, and that there appears to be actual operations in place, that should be very disconcerting for law enforcement and the intelligence services.

MATTHEWS: Quick answer from both of you.

I know this is political, but I have got it to ask it because I want to, Shawn first, then Malcolm.

What do you make of Trump`s statement, he doesn`t know whether he would use a nuclear -- a tactical nuclear weapon on ISIS? What do you think of just that statement to a reporter today? Your thoughts first, Shawn, then Malcolm?

HENRY: Well, you know, that`s -- you`re talking about a statement that is fraught with peril, making a statement like that.

I don`t know that I want to comment on what Mr. Trump says, but I think that that statement is somewhat irresponsible.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm?

NANCE: Yes, as a war fighter, my views on this are pretty well known.

The control of nuclear weapons is the penultimate response ability of the president of the United States. You cannot play with the words. You cannot use rhetoric like that.

And what he would have to expect is, anyone who chooses that, who can think that they take that option and put it on the table will have to deal with the Department of Defense. We have the right to resist unlawful orders or orders which could completely destabilize the security of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Thank you so much, Malcolm Nance, for your expertise.

And thank you, Shawn Henry.

Up next, Trump vs. Cruz. Things got a little nasty once their wives were invoked, with Cruz now calling Trump a sniveling coward. Much more on that fight ahead with the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not easy to tick me off. I don`t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you`re sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.



That was Ted Cruz reacting to Donald -- or acting about Donald Trump`s attack on his wife`s physical appearance. Well, last night, Mr. Trump re- tweeted an unflattering image certainly, certainly unflattering of Heidi Cruz beside his own wife, Melania. The former model, the caption says a picture is worth a thousand words.

Well, responding to Cruz`s broadside today, Trump`s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC News this is his effort to gain attention to try and stay relevant in a race that he has lost. Also adding that Trump has excellent relationships with women.

Cruz also refused to say whether he`d support Trump if he becomes the nominee. Take a look.


REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee?

CRUZ: I`m going to beat him for the nominee.

REPORTER: It`s not the question --

CRUZ: I`m answering the question. Donald Trump will not be the nominee.

REPORTER: He is leading right now. You look in the camera and you said he is a coward. Will you support him as a nominee?

CRUZ: Donald Trump will not be the nominee.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the roundtable, Anne Gearan is political correspondent at "The Washington Post", Tim Mak is senior correspondent at "The Daily Beast", and Heidi Przybyla is senior political reporter at "USA Today". Lots of journalist power here.

What do we make of this? And I wonder if there`s any standard by which to judge these?

It started with Liz Mair putting out this super PAC attack on Trump, saying vote for Cruz, which had a picture of Melania Trump posing in a "GQ" spread. OK. That started it.

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, I know we`ve said this before, but could you have imagine in a presidential race we would be talking about, you know, that tweeting of pictures of people`s wives and doing side by side comparisons of who has the hotter wife. I mean, really, that is actually what we`re now doing?

MATTHEWS: Not getting into looksism, but the most grouchy looking person of one person, perfect picture of another.

GEARAN: Well, right, it really goes to what is out of bounds and what is in bounds now. And I mean, people`s wives and children and spouses and mothers used to be out of bounds, and clearly that --

MATTHEWS: Is this extreme fighting like you see on television? Extreme matches, killing each other?

TIM MAK, THE DAILY BEAST: It makes the 2012 presidential election looks awfully quaint, doesn`t it? Remember when Romney was getting hit for his awkward phrasing of binders full of women, he was accused of being anti --

MATTHEWS: Speaking of binders full of women, that was wholesome.

MAK: Compare to what we`re seeing today. We`re seeing actual, we`re seeing misogyny play out in the Republican --

MATTHEWS: Well, at least looksism, at least that. But when you take an angry picture from Heidi, she seems to be attractive and smart person obviously as an individual, but, you know, bringing everybody into play, and then of course, he does his crocodile tears, you hurt my wife, I`m going to hurt you, Alamo argument. I don`t buy that either.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: Of all of this, though, Chris, and there`s so much to analyze here, but what bothered the most, did you look at the time stamp, it came out at midnight. So, here we are a couple of days after the most serious strike inside Brussels since World War II, and the front- runner for the Republican nomination is trolling -- is going through his Twitter trolls and retweeting Twitter file basically about another candidate`s wife -- and I just.

GEARAN: At 12:30 in the morning.


MATTHEWS: Is this an itchy Twitter finger?


PRZYBYLA: Maybe he needs to be taken off Twitter for (INAUDIBLE). His handlers are going to have to --

MATTHEWS: When I do it, that story of a serious senior producer around, because I think he ought to consider these when they go into the atmosphere.

MAK: OK. But this is -- Donald Trump has risen based on his itchy twitter finger. He spent years putting out this kind of vitriolic --

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is on our stage, anyway, appearing on "The View," Dr. Ben Carson who endorsed Trump early this month was asked whether Trump has gone too far. There`s the phrase -- has Trump gone too far. We`ve been too many too fars.

Let`s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of the fact that Donald Trump just yesterday is attacking Ted Cruz` wife based on her looks?

BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I did not condone any of that. Don`t condone it from anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you endorsed him. Isn`t that implicit in the endorsement?

CARSON: Implicit is not an endorsement of anything that anybody has said or done throughout their lives.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was a cover.

But I think -- do you have -- I was just thinking of standards we have here too. I didn`t want to put that picture on of Melania, because, you know, they had the cover up her breasts and everything, you know, cultured about it and pretending we don`t know what`s being discussed here. And, of course, now, you have the women`s face-to-face.

My view when it first broke, we didn`t do it last night. Let`s push back. What happens now, it gets pushed forward again. You think you can say we`re not going to cover something now, it becomes the main discussion, Heidi.

PRZYBYLA: This is why --

MATTHEWS: It is the main discussion.

PRZYBYLA: This is also why when you look at the polls, 60 percent of Republicans say they`re embarrassed by the discourse that`s taking place in their party right now, and this is why. This is the perfect example. The thing here, Chris, this is not something new, OK.

We`re covering it like it`s new, but it`s not new. He has been saying things like this and implying things about women for a long time, going back to Carly Fiorina. And I`ll use her face, or her line there, that, you know, every woman in America is going to know what Mr. Trump meant with that tweet.

MATTHEWS: That`s one of the best lines, because it was so profound.

GEARAN: She had the best week in her candidacy.

MATTHEWS: He keeps punching against Rosie, he keeps punching against Kelly, he just keeping punching.

GEARAN: He is about to go up against Hillary Clinton most likely in the general election.

MATTHEWS: You know what we`re going to hear about that, it`s going to be down and dirty.



PRZYBYLA: From a political perspective, the one thing that makes it different, he has gone after disgusting members of the media, left wing pundits and movie stars, but this is a Republican woman who is only in the spotlight because her husband is running for president.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he will need her and him in the general. Come convention time, they`re going to be holding each other`s hands in the air, right?


MATTHEWS: That`s how it usually works.

Tim, thanks for coming on. Thank you, Ann. Thank you, Heidi.

The roundtable sticking with us for the next, they`re going to tell me what I don`t know. A common occurrence here.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: With about a month to go now before Pennsylvania heads to the polls, we have new numbers out from Franklin and Marshall College. Let`s look at the HARDBALL scoreboard.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders in the Keystone State. It`s Clinton, 53. Sanders down to 28.

On the Republican side, the race is tight and it`s Trump, 33, Kasich, 30, Cruz, 20.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Heidi, tell me something I don`t know.

PRZYBYLA: Clinton`s real challenge if she runs against Trump is not on the real issues, it`s how she will deal with the tone, the same tone that failed the other Republican candidates. I have a story coming out tomorrow that says her inner circle is now advising her to look at the 2000, the brief match up with her and Rudy Giuliani there. She also cast him as a bully. That`s what they`re going to do with Trump.

But the biggest thing they said is when you go in with these debates, the way to get at his skin is laugh at him. It drove Giuliani nuts, and it will drive Trump nuts, and that`s what they`re advising her.

MATTHEWS: See how Trump deals with that. I`m sure he`s ready for it.

Go ahead.

MAK: So, we`ve got a great scoopy story on "The Daily Beast" about Newt Gingrich`s efforts behind the scene to help out Donald Trump. What he`s doing to try to convince the GOP establishment behind closed doors that Donald Trump should be accepted. I mean, the GOP establishment is still one of the groups that is most resistant to accepting Trump as the nominee.

MATTHEWS: Where`s Reince Priebus on this one, the chairman of the party? Is he a leader in any way?

MAK: He wants to be neutral. He wants to stay out of actual process. But interestingly enough, it broke today that they begun some preliminary discussions with Donald Trump about using RNC money for the general election.


GEARAN: Well, you mentioned the Pennsylvania primary. But he other big prize in the near term is New York on April 19th. It`s going to be the closest thing to a general election match up that we`ve seen. You`ve got Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump essentially fighting on their home ground.

MATTHEWS: Do you compare their numbers or the Republican Party too small to do that?

GEARAN: In New York, oh, sure. I mean, Trump`s favored there. And --

MATTHEWS: I mean, when you look at the Republican primary and the Democratic primary and see who got the most votes.

GEARAN: Yes. You`ll be able to have something that looks like a general election and also a worrisome state for Hillary Clinton because it`s Bernie`s -- Bernie Sanders --

MATTHEWS: You know what, it`s a great one to watch. Always is a great primary.

Thank you, Anne Gearan. Thank you, Tim Mak. And thank you, Heidi Przybyla.

When we return, let me finish with President Obama`s opening to Cuba.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish with President Obama`s opening to Cuba. When I was young we Americans rooted for Castro, we`re thrilled when he came to power, when the dictator Fulgencio Bautista fled, we believed that Fidel Castro was a democratic leader who would bring freedom to Cuba. Many, many Cubans believed the same.

We were betrayed. Castro was a communist and soon made that clear. He was also a traitor to the cause he has espoused to replace tyranny with democracy, free elections, free speech, the whole bit. He promised it all, delivered none of it. He did something else.

He allied himself with the Soviet Union, the leader of world communism. He became a pet of Nikita Khrushchev, and when the Soviets put medium range missiles into Cuba aimed at New York, Castro was an eager partner.

So, I`ve been through the Cold War, the betrayal of the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban missile crisis, I suppose I can`t expect an American president born in the year of the Bay of Pigs to have the same perspective, the same deep seated attitude. Besides, I`ve seen what happens when a communist tyranny gets invaded by western influence.

I was in East Berlin interviewing people East Germans, about life in the DDR, the German Democratic Republican. And what I learned valuable lesson for what is happening today in Cuba: let tourists in from free capitalist societies and it undercuts the whole deal, when you have people working at hotels and driving those `57 Chevy taxis getting big tips doing it, the word gets to the good communists working for the government and getting peanuts for it that they are missing something.

So, getting our foot in the door in Cuba, getting tourists with U.S. dollars riding through, spending money tipping and soon, the word gets around from comrade this to comrade that that maybe the Castro brothers put their bet on the wrong side, not for the brothers, of course, but for the regular Cuban.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.