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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/5/2016

Guests: Ann Coulter, Barbara Lawton, Bob Woodward, John Nichols

Show: HARDBALL Date: April 5, 2016 Guest: Ann Coulter, Barbara Lawton, Bob Woodward, John Nichols

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Will Wisconsin make history?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Milwaukee.

Well, tonight, we learn whether Donald Trump has withstood his week of trouble or that his trouble has only begun. Tonight, we learn whether the Democratic presidential race is trending towards Bernie Sanders or that Hillary Clinton is holding strong.

If past is any guide at all, Wisconsin will matter. This state has been a political weathervane. In 1960, John F. Kennedy battled it out with Minnesota`s Hubert Humphrey here, who attacked Kennedy on his good looks and charisma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HUBERT HUMPHREY (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a chance in this primary if we insist upon this primary contest being a sober and serious discussion of the issues and not a beauty contest or a personality parade! The Wisconsin presidential primary is not a Hollywood talent contest!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Kennedy won in Wisconsin, only to have Walter Cronkite and others dismiss the victory as Catholics simply voting for the Catholic candidate.

In 1968, another eventful year, polls showing anti-Vietnam war candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy beating him in Wisconsin, forced President Lyndon Johnson to quit the race, creating a future primary contest between McCarthy and Senator Robert Kennedy.

On the night of the Wisconsin primary, McCarthy knocked Kennedy for his late entry into the presidential race, though RFK had joined the fight two weeks earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EUGENE MCCARTHY (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even though there may be a few late entries in the race...

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: ... or one, that I don`t think it would make any difference. We know what the contest is. We know what our strength is. We`ll have no defections beyond Wisconsin, and I think we can go on to certain victory.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Eight years later, in 1976, U.S. Congressman Morris Udall claimed victory in the Wisconsin primary only to have upstart Jimmy Carter overtake him in the final count. It was so close that "The Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper printed that Udall had won, giving Carter this memorable photo op.

Anyway, tonight, the question is, can Donald Trump pull off an upset? He`s been campaigning in Wisconsin and insisting there`s going to be a surprise tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We feel great. I mean, the turnout`s been fantastic. I think we`re going to have a great day.

I really believe tomorrow, we`re going to have a very, very big victory.

I`m doing very well, and I think we`re going to have a surprise tonight. I think we`re going to have a great day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go right now to NBC`s Chris Jansing. She`s at a polling place in the village of Jackson, Wisconsin, tonight. Chris, thanks for joining us.

I`ve got a very interesting question for you. If Donald Trump`s going to win tonight, why isn`t he going to be in Wisconsin? What`s he going to be doing back in New York?

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe he`s hearing what we`re hearing here, which is -- this is one of what they call the WOW counties. There are three of them that are critical to Republicans. In fact, they have some of the highest turnout right here, and you can see all the people.

But if you go down this line, Chris, they`re going to get about a 52 percent turnout here. It has been absolutely fantastic. He said to me, look, that`s one of the reasons he thinks he`s going to potentially win here.

The problem for him is that this is heavily Scott Walker, and that this is the place where he made his comeback both in terms of the recall and in terms of his second election.

So the reasons that Donald Trump came here and sounded as though he was so positive about his prospects here -- it doesn`t look good for him when you have the kind of turnout in these heavily Republican areas that have in the past (ph) of favorite Scott Walker, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a new report out, Chris, in Politico this afternoon you know about. It says Donald Trump`s campaign is increasingly falling into disarray. "Since March, the campaign has been laying off field staff en mass around the country and has dismantled much of what exists of its organizations in general election battlegrounds, including Florida and Ohio. Multiple staffers and advisers left the campaign last month in protest of the way its management was treating its staff, a source familiar with the departures told Politico."

Chris, you had a back-and-forth with him. Let`s watch a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As far as women are concerned, nobody respects women more than I do. Not even close. Nobody respects women more than I do. And I get...

JANSING: So why aren`t they getting that message?

TRUMP: I`ll tell you why, because I get a very unfair press. I`m going to do very well with women. We just had a big meeting, many women at the meeting, and they like me best because they say, You`re best with the military. You`re best with the borders. You`re best for security. And I said, I`m going to be best for women`s health issues, much better than Hillary, much better than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Are you hearing anything from Republican women who are going to be voting today, or did vote today, about their attitude towards Trump? And does it differ from the way men look at him?

JANSING: Yes, look, I`ve been talking to them all week, ever since you had your town hall, Chris. He made his comments on abortion. Many of them not only were upset by what he said, but the fact that, in their mind -- this goes for men and women -- thought it indicated that this was something he had not thought through. That`s not something you do when you are running for president in a Republican primary.

I think, in addition to that, a number of people unprompted brought up Corey Lewandowski and the charges against him, the fact that Donald Trump has not said anything negative about him, in fact has backed him up.

And I asked him about both of those things today, and he simply denied it. He denied that women don`t like him, in spite of the fact that, as you know, polls show that anywhere from 70 to 77 percent have an unfavorable view of him.

And so when you look at some of these reports today, the one you mentioned in Politico, the won that was on the cover of "New York" magazine, reporting -- reporting that our own Katy Tur has done, you can see that when you have this bad week that he has had -- which, again, he denies -- when you have the polls that show that for the first time, the establishment may beat Donald Trump in a state as important as Wisconsin, that there would be some back and forth in the campaign, especially between the people who have been with him for years, Chris, and the new ones who are coming over just the last couple of months.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much, Chris Jansing.

And by the way, anybody that wants to see and actually hear what Donald Trump said last week in our town hall in Green Bay, all about what he thought about abortion, how it should be punished, how it should affect women, it`s all there on the record. Just go to MS -- Hardball.MSNBC.com and watch the whole discussion, which was raised by that young woman.

Anyway, a new national poll from NBC shows Trump holding steady among Republican voters at 45 percent. That`s a pretty good number, 45 percent. Cruz is 17 points back at 28. And despite a number of controversies, Trump is down just 3 points since last week.

So where does this stand right now? I`m joined by two conservatives with very different views about that subject. Radio host and author Charles Sykes, says he`s in the NeverTrump camp, and author Ann Coulter`s a Trump supporter.

I want to start with you, Ann, about this whole -- how do you see Trump coming out of Wisconsin? You think he`ll be strong going to the Northeast, where he will be strong?

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I don`t think it will have much effect on voters in New York. I mean, I love Wisconsin. It`s the home of Joe McCarthy. But no one says, you know, as goes Wisconsin, so goes New York.

And we have -- the way the primary calendar is set up, we`re now heading into a whole slew of states that are very good for Donald Trump and not good for a preacher type, like Donald (sic) Cruz -- or like Ted Cruz.

I also think this woman thing is a little overblown. I mean, I just -- it`s so much coming from the media, as if Trump has made these horrible comments about women. He made -- he sent out a retweet about one specific woman, his opponent`s wife, after his own wife was attacked by that opponent. So I just think it gets repeated so much, and women can be very suggestive and following of trends.

MATTHEWS: What did you mean about Joe McCarthy? I can never tell when you`re just trying to provoke.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... kind view of Joe McCarthy or are you just causing trouble here?

COULTER: It`s -- I have, you know, half a book about it in my book, "Treason." No, I love -- I love Wisconsin. I love Joe McCarthy.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you for saying that. Anyway, Charlie Sykes, where are you on your favorite son out here, Joe McCarthy, now that she`s raised it?

CHARLIE SYKES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually, I love Gene McCarthy.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SYKES: What I loved about your -- your sound bite before was my father was Gene McCarthy`s Wisconsin campaign director in 1968. So I was there the night...

MATTHEWS: Well, the apple fell far from the tree.

SYKES: ... that McCarthy won that primary. I know. Well, we all grow with the times.

MATTHEWS: Well, actually, Hillary Clinton and I were both for Goldwater as kids.

SYKES: Right.

MATTHEWS: We were both for Gene McCarthy, now we are who we are. You went some route like that.

SYKES: I`m a recovering liberal.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about...

SYKES: I`m a recovering liberal.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- you`ve been the toughest critic from the conservative point of view of Donald Trump. Tell me about the way your listeners -- I mean, you know this people.

SYKES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You talk to them for three-and-a-half hours a day.

SYKES: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: So what are they saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SYKES: I think Wisconsin`s very different. And Wisconsin has a different culture here, about civility and decency. We also have a better BS meter, quite honestly.

And Donald Trump has been able to get away with just sort sloganeering. And I think in the last week -- and I -- by the way, I do think that Wisconsin`s going to change the trajectory of this. I think that your conversation about abortion is going to change because not so much he`s a liberal or he`s a conservative, but because when you drill down, what he found out was this a man who is literally thoughtless. He has not spent 30 seconds thinking about these major issues, whether it is, you know, nuclear weapons, abortion, any of these issues. And I think he`s going to be exposed.

I also think that Wisconsin is going to expose the fact that he is vulnerable, that when, in fact, you begin to talk about his record, you talk about what a demagogue is, you talk about what a fraud he is on some of these issues...

MATTHEWS: Give me an example of why you think he`s a demagogue.

SYKES: I think he`s...

(CROSSTALK)

SYKES: Well, I think he`s a demagogue when he says that he`s going to do things that he`s not going to do, when he says he`s going to build a wall and the Mexicans are going to pay for it.

MATTHEWS: You don`t believe he believes that.

SYKES: No. I don`t believe...

MATTHEWS: Do you think he believes that?

SYKES: No. I don`t -- I think that...

MATTHEWS: He said today, by the way, he`s going to pay for it by threatening the government of Mexico with cutting off the remittances.

SYKES: Right.

MATTHEWS: Apparently, $15 billion goes down to Mexico every year from people who are living here, legally or not.

SYKES: I think he`s made it clear that every...

MATTHEWS: You don`t think that would work?

SYKES: I think -- of course. And I don`t think he thinks it`s going to work. And I think that, basically, everything he says is an opening gambit in a negotiation, in a bid. And there`s almost a wink there. It`s, like, I have to say this, this is what I think conservatives want to hear. But does he actually have a plan to implement it? No. And here`s the thing about...

MATTHEWS: But you say this, Charlie, as if you are omniscient.

SYKES: No.

MATTHEWS: Forty-five percent of the Republican Party nationwide prefers him to the other candidates.

SYKES: Well, let`s see what happens in Wisconsin because here in Wisconsin, we`ve actually started to expose it.

MATTHEWS: So you`re...

(CROSSTALK)

SYKES: Well, we pay more attention, and I think that`s what he`s running up against. Our voters are battle tested. Our voters have actually seen conservatives. We`ve actually seen leadership. We actually know the difference between an actual leader and a clown car.

MATTHEWS: I know. Let me -- yes, we`ve used that phrase, too. Ann Coulter, you`re an expert in this field. Why do you think the radio guys like Charlie, who`s very successful, all the way from Rush Limbaugh to the rest of them, they`re all -- they`re all anti-Trump? What is that about? I think Laura Ingraham, too. I think they`re all anti-Trump. Why is that?

COULTER: I can`t speak to them specifically, but what I do notice is just the absence of substance. I keep hearing that, you know, the anti-Trump people -- well, it`s because we think more deeply, and we don`t fall for this demagoguery.

I`m glad you asked for examples. I mean, if you want someone who is lying and demagoguing, Ted Cruz goes around saying that today Donald Trump is pro-choice. That is from a quote he gave in 1999 that he took back the next year. He is clearly pro-life now. Ted Cruz goes around saying that Donald Trump is for socialized medicine, and he thinks -- he wants Bernie Sanders`s socialized medicine.

Well, no, he just said he won`t let people die on the street. If that`s the new Republican position, it`s a shocker to me.

And as for your question on abortion -- I mean, I know that`s a big thing for you. I`ve been pro-life since high school and talking and writing about it. I`ve never thought about that. It`s not the job of the president. It`s the job -- I mean, if Donald Trump were running for state legislature in the year 2060, after Roe V. Wade is overturned and happens to be in a state that`s going to pass those laws, that`s a relevant question.

But to be upset about that -- I mean, I think I`d be more upset that women are going to need a lot more abortions if we don`t close our border with Mexico and bring in all of Latin American rape culture!

SYKES: I think that Ann`s a little bit in denial, for example, on a number of issues, including the problem that Donald Trump has with women. I think that we`re going to see that. It is not just one tweet. It is not one- off.

When you have -- here in Wisconsin, 77 percent of the women disapprove of Donald Trump. Nationally, it is 70 percent. At some point, Ann, you need to have an intervention and point out that you have to address this. You cannot be elected president when you do these kinds of things. And I think what Donald Trump has done is he`s tried to replace juvenile insults and sweeping promises...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SYKES: ... about how fabulous he is for actual substance on issues.

MATTHEWS: OK. Ann, take a minute and respond to that.

SYKES: Well, I think it`s more important. I mean, I suppose you can judge someone on, you know, whether you consider them gauche or their supporters Walmart shoppers, but I think there are more important things.

And Donald Trump is the only one who will build a wall. He`s the only one who will stop the Trans Pacific Partnership. He`s the only one that will ever consider deporting any illegal aliens. And I mean, unless you`re going for fashion and style, and, Oh, no, he`s too gauche and his voters are too gauche for me, which maybe a lot of women fall for that kind of thing -- but if you care about women and care about the women of this country, Trump is definitely your guy!

MATTHEWS: You`re amazing, Ann Coulter. Thank you for coming on. And Charlie, thanks. It`s nice to meet you out here.

SYKES: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You seem to be a powerful man out here.

When we come back, a new interview with Bernie Sanders is raising questions about his grasp of the issues, including his signature issue of saying he`s going to break up the banks. He apparently has no idea exactly how to do that. And Democrats are criticizing what Sanders had to say about guns. That`s ahead, too.

Plus, "The Washington Post`s" Bob Woodward`s coming here, and Robert Costa of "The Post," as well, on Donald Trump`s revealing interview where he predicted the country is headed for a massive recession.

Trump now has a plan, by the way, as I said, on how to get Mexico to pay for that wall. You heard that theory.

and this is HARDBALL, the live coverage of the Wisconsin primary. More from Milwaukee after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a beautiful day. We are hoping that here in Wisconsin, there will be a record-breaking turnout. If people come out to vote in large numbers, I think we`re going to do very, very well. And that`s what we`re hoping for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Bernie Sanders earlier today, campaigning here in Milwaukee, where he`s expected to do well in the state tonight.

Sanders recently sat down with "The New York Daily News" for an editorial board interview, and they pressed him on many things, including his plans on how he would actually break up the big banks. He struggled to give a clear answer.

"The Daily News" asked Sanders, "How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?" Sanders said, "How you go about doing it is having legislation passed or giving the authority to the secretary of the Treasury to determine under Dodd-Frank these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too big to fail."

Anyway, when "The Daily News" pressed the senator, Sanders, further over whether he has the authority as president to break up the banks, Sanders said, "Well, I don`t know if the Fed has it" -- that`s the Federal Reserve -- "but I think the administration can have it."

Anyway, "The Daily News" continued, "If you look at JPMorgan, just an example, or you can do Citibank or Bank of America, what would it be? What would that institution be? Would there be a consumer bank? Where would the investment go? And Sanders responds, "I`m not running JPMorgan Chase or Citibank."

MSNBC correspondent Kasie Hunt is covering the Sanders campaign. White House correspondent Kristen Welker is also covering -- well, she`s covering the Clinton campaign, rivaling (ph) it for NBC News, and Barbara Lawton is the former lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, who is backing Bernie.

Anyway, let me go to -- let me go to Kristen, first of all.

Kristen, this race, I don`t know. Everybody out here seems to think Bernie has got a bit of a lead.

KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Clinton campaign certainly thinks so. They`re bracing for a loss, Chris.

And it could be a significant loss. They think it could be double digits. Of course, they`re trying to lower expectations, because if they in fact lose by five or six points, then they can say, well, that`s not so bad.

But, look, that editorial that you just cited, a little bit of political gift on day a when they`re bracing for a loss. They blasted out the entire transcript. They have been tweeting out sections of it. I have been talking to Clinton campaign officials.

You can expect them to use that as they campaign here in New York. This is, of course, a critical state for Secretary Clinton. It`s her adopted home state and it has more than 200 delegates. And they`re particularly, I am told, going to hit the issue of guns hard.

Of course, he said that he doesn`t support victims being able to sue gun manufacturers. So, a lot of Democrats jumping on that, by the way, today, Chris. So, they`re planning to really use that editorial and run with it, as Secretary Clinton vigorously campaigns here in New York.

I would just point out, she is not in Wisconsin right now. She had an event here in Brooklyn earlier today and she has a fund-raising event this evening. That tells you all you need to know about what they think their chances are in Wisconsin -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: So, Kasie, will Senator Sanders now get through the night? He will probably win here, go to New York, and go through a brainiac session with the experts and try to figure out what authority he would have or need to get to break up the banks. Apparently, he doesn`t have an answer now.

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: A really difficult interview for him, Chris.

And I think one way to think about it is, were Secretary Clinton to give such an interview, how her answers might be picked over. And in this particular case, this interview walked through policy issues that he is both comfortable with and that he is less comfortable with, foreign policy as well. He was pressed on exactly what kind of position he would take on Israeli settlements in Gaza and in the West -- in the West Bank, excuse me -- and what he would find acceptable.

And he was not able to say, you know, what exactly he would do in that regard. So I think part of this is that he, of course, has crafted an image as somebody who is very strong on policy. He is the cool wonk, if you will, somebody who gets down into the weeds, sticks to the issues, doesn`t get into the nastiness of politics.

I think this contradicted it a little bit. And I actually asked his wife, Jane Sanders, about this in an interview today. She did, of course, defend him. She said, you know what, he did fine. He knows what he needs to know on foreign policy.

But as Kristen said, something of a gift to the Clinton campaign on an otherwise difficult day for them looking into Wisconsin, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go back.

First of all, Kasie, while I have you, where is Sanders going to -- Senator Sanders going to be tonight if he wins out here? Is he going to receive the victory somewhere?

HUNT: Well, we`re here in Wyoming, where, forgive me, the winds are like 65 miles an hour today. And they have got I-80 shut down because the trucks are blowing around.

But he is here because this caucus is coming up on April 9. That`s Saturday. And he of course has taken this tactic over and over again of pushing to the next state. So, he is not going to be in Wisconsin to celebrate a victory there, but he will of course be giving what we expect to be a victory speech.

And it`s a question, of course, the margin of victory. And they, of course, still feel like they need to prove that he does have a path to the nomination. I think that`s one of their greatest frustrations. And I talked to Jane Sanders about that as well today. She, of course, is a close political adviser to her husband, in addition to being spouse, surrogate and all of these other things.

And she said that that`s really what they have to convince people of, especially older Americans, that you know what, he does have a path to this nomination. And, of course, there was some reporting in "The New York Times" how they might have done things differently in 2015 if they had in fact thought Sanders had a plausible path to win and wasn`t just a cause candidate.

She disputed that very aggressively with me. She said, you know what, Bernie has -- Bernie Sanders has always been convinced that he can win. If anything, she suggested it was she who wasn`t sure that he actually had a path, and that he was the one who came back and said, no, I can win this, and that he really is in it to win, and that they still see a path open.

Wisconsin, of course, helping with that potentially, but New York really the big prize.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Kasie.

I have got to go to the governor right now.

Governor, tell me about -- why are you for Bernie?

BARBARA LAWTON (D), FORMER WISCONSIN LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Because I believe that he is somebody who can lead us in this moment that feels very urgent to us in Wisconsin, and I think with people across the nation, that we have watched the middle class be hollowed out.

We feel like our Democratic system is crumbling beneath our feet. And we need somebody who has the courage to lead that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LAWTON: And he is somebody who feels -- he is unfettered by special donors. He has drawn us into this process, somebody -- I feel like, with Bernie Sanders, he is not asking us to campaign for him. He has a vision for who we should be as a nation.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how he...

(CROSSTALK)

LAWTON: And he is taking us there.

MATTHEWS: You`re a politician. You`re not some 20-year-old college kid that is gung-ho or...

LAWTON: Close, though.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re smart. You know politics. So, here`s the question.

He is talking about free tuition at the University of Wisconsin, wherever the campus is, free for everybody. Free at University of Michigan. Free Berkeley. Free Penn State. Free for every state university.

And I keep asking myself, where is all that enormous amount of money coming from? And do you think he has a way of getting that money?

LAWTON: Of course he does.

MATTHEWS: How?

LAWTON: Well, start with there is the vision that our public education system, which grew from, what, one to four, to one to six, to K-12 eventually. Now it`s the price of admission to this 21st century economy is post-high school education.

So we as a nation have to address that question. And unless you put out a bold vision, you`re going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You say we, but who is going to pay for it? Who?

(CROSSTALK)

LAWTON: The people of Wisconsin. And he has put out a plan -- or the people of the United States -- and he has put out a plan for where that is going to come from.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The people that are watching now, they`re parents who help the kids with college. They can`t help them all the way. Young people coming out of college who owe a lot of money, tell them where the money is coming from that they don`t have.

LAWTON: When everyone is paying their fair share of taxes, and when we set the priorities as a nation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, you don`t know where it`s coming from?

LAWTON: I don`t have to right at this moment.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You have to tell me where the money comes from. Where is it coming from?

LAWTON: It will come from the government budget where we have money...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What is the deficit right now? It`s coming from the same government that has got this huge deficit. And you think it`s -- where is it going to come from? It`s a reasonable question, isn`t it?

LAWTON: Well, Bernie Sanders has talked about taking it from the financial industry.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, I get it. So if you invest in the stock market when you retire and your 401(k) or your mutual fund, you are going to pay taxes so the kid can go to college. That`s what`s going to happen.

LAWTON: And if you`re hoping for Social Security, and you don`t have young earners coming into this market, you`re in trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody pays. And I think we ought to know who it is, OK?

LAWTON: Yes, but it is a matter of setting priorities in a budget. And that`s what has drawn people to Bernie Sanders.

MATTHEWS: Governor, thank you for coming on. I love your ideals.

Any way, Kasie Hunt, Kristen Welker, and Governor -- Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton. You call a lieutenant governor "governor" for life, by the way.

Up next: Does Donald Trump pass the commander in chief test? He`s warning of future economic calamity should he not be elected. I`m going to speak to two top reporters, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, about their sit-down with Trump.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics live from Milwaukee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Milwaukee for the Wisconsin primary tonight.

Donald Trump some made dire predictions in an interview with "The Washington Post" reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa over this weekend. In an hour-and-a-half-long conversation, Trump warned that the country is facing a -- quote -- "massive recession" on the stock market.

He said that we`re sitting on a big bubble right now and that it is a terrible time right now to invest. In a follow-up to that interview today, Trump sent "The Post" the policy memo outlining how he would force Mexico to pay for the wall he has proposed for this country`s southern border.

Trump says that unless Mexico makes a one-time payment of $5 billion to $10 billion, he would prevent people from Mexico from sending money home, cutting off billions of dollars that would flow into Mexico each year.

Here is how President Obama reacted to that proposal earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.

The notion that we`re going to track every Western Union, you know, bit of money that`s being sent to Mexico, you know, good luck with that.

Then we have got the issue of the implications for the Mexican economy, which, in turn, if it`s collapsing, actually sends more immigrants north, because they can`t find jobs back in Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by "The Washington Post" reporters Robert Woodward -- Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who is also an MSNBC political another.

Bob Woodward, what did you make of Trump overall? Do you dare to give sort of an assessment of his preparation for the presidency?

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there are lots of things where there were incomplete answers.

I think, overall, he was in the mood of, I`m going to give you the best answer I can. The problem with his -- the business about the economy, he said, as you pointed out, he is telling everyone it`s a terrible time to invest in the stock market.

And I think one of the lessons presidents and even presidential candidates learn is don`t become a stock picker. Don`t become somebody from Merrill Lynch who is saying do this or do that. And I find it interesting, the stock market has gone down a lot, or a little, but certainly not a lot, and so maybe people aren`t listening to his stock advice.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you know, Robert Costa, it seemed to me that he caged the whole thing.

He said, but if you elect me, it won`t happen, this fall in the market, this fall in the economy. And yet, if you elect a president, they don`t really have an economic impact for, say, at least six months. So he is basically saying we`re not going to face this horrendous economic downfall until some time late next year.

It didn`t make logical sense, except that would be how you would have to put it together.

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump`s argument to us was -- quote -- "the aura of personality" will enable him to get things done, whether it`s changing the Patriot Act, and using executive authority to demand remittances from Mexico or to stop remittances from Mexico to pay for the wall.

He thinks his personality on foreign affairs, on domestic policy is going to be the thing that drives his presidency, should he be elected.

WOODWARD: And I think you can...

MATTHEWS: You know, Bob Woodward...

WOODWARD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Bob, I want to ask you about the cultural thing here.

If you have spent time in American politics, you have learned there is a certain language, there is a certain, oh, culture of debating issues, like abortion rights, but also the nuclear thing, that you know that you don`t talk about when to use a nuclear weapon. You just don`t discuss it in terms of engagement for something like that.

I remember, when Spiro Agnew, when you were covering Watergate, said -- he referred to somebody being squishy soft on communism, unaware that you can`t accuse any opponent of being soft on communism. That`s all been used and excused as just bad politics years ago.

Do you get a sense Trump doesn`t know the culture and that`s why he keeps stepping in it?

WOODWARD: Well, he doesn`t know a lot of the history of this.

Your question about abortion, you know, you tripped him up on that, and he said, oh, yes, we should punish women who get abortions. And no one supports that. And he should have known that that is the case.

He also should have known that getting Roe v. Wade overturned is really going to be hard and unlikely. So your question was hypothetical. But I think Bob Costa and I found that the summary of the session with Trump was when he said, I`m the lone ranger. I`m going to do it my way. I`m in charge.

And we tried to discuss with him -- and he had some answers, some very incomplete answers on this question, how do you build the coalition? And, you know, Chris, you know from being in politics, covering it for so long, all successful politics is building a coalition, and he doesn`t have a strategy for that, as best we could tell.

MATTHEWS: Robert, your assessment, your assessment of what he showed in that meeting with you and Bob, as opposed to how he behaves and talks on the road.

COSTA: One thing we`re seeing from Trump is a grappling, an attempt to try to pivot toward a general election, to be perhaps the nominee, should he get enough delegates, but also struggling while still being mired in this protracted primary fight.

And to hear him talk to us about the Supreme Court and to do something unprecedented, and saying he will release a name of 10 to 12 judges he could pick as president, it means he is thinking ahead about the presidency, but he is also doing it in such an unusual way, to almost put judges on the ballot, should he be the nominee.

And I spoke to Dr. Ben Carson earlier today, and he said Trump has been talking behind the scenes a lot about this comment he made about judges.

And it just shows Trump is trying to think things through as a first-time candidate, someone who has never really been on the national stage, at least politically, in this way.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think a lot of people are saying that about him right now.

Bob Woodward, it`s always an honor.

And thank you, Robert Costa.

By the way, again, if you want to watch that interview was mentioned about my interviewing Trump last week, just go to our Web site. It`s right at the top now under HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. It`s very interesting to look at the whole context.

Anyway, up next: must-win. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz both need to win here tonight in Wisconsin to building momentum against the front-runners. It`s a must-win, you might say, for both of those challengers. But can they do it?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Wisconsin for today`s primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This new voter ID law is another way to suppress more people from voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s becoming unnecessarily complicated. Especially, I mean, students have been leaving the line all day, because it`s getting too long with new registration requirements, and needing to leave for classes, work, and so, a lot of people aren`t voting because they have to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely, I think they should show their ID. That`s not much to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is it hard? I mean, it`s like getting a driver`s license, isn`t it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL in Wisconsin.

Those were voters waiting in line today to cast their primary votes in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with varying opinions, as you heard them, on the state`s new voter ID law.

Anyway, "The New York Times" editorial board today wrote at the top of the editorial page, quote, "Voter ID laws are a destructive solution to a nonexistent problem. The Wisconsin law requires the state to educate voters about acceptable forms of ID and how to secure them a particularly important public service for the roughly 300,000 state residents estimated not to have the proper IDs. But despite request from the state`s nonpartisan government accountability board for $500,000 to pay for that effort, the legislature provided no funding." Guess what they`re up to?

Anyway, my colleague Chris Hayes is at Marquette University, where there`s a big line, not for voting, but simply to register today. Here you go.

Chris, take over.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: That`s right, Chris.

So, this is the line behind me. Come with me. This line stretches about two hours, two and a half hours. Now, keep in mind, these are college students registering on the same day. If you`ve ever met a college student doing things at the last minute, sort of a way of life. People -- hey. I was doing that once too.

This is also true, I should note, professional writers. Basically what you`ve got is a situation where because of the new ID law, it has become a multistep process. These folks have to go and get a special student ID that has a signature and expiration date because the normal ID doesn`t count. They also have to enroll, get an enrolment form, print that out, take those two things to another desk over there, then register, and then they can vote.

So this is all come back, these folks are a hardy bunch. They`ve been waiting for two and a half hours. They`ll be here for a while. They brought in some extra tables to process everyone. And this keeps going all the way back here. You can see.

So, the whole thing is definitely causing some bottle necks here at Marquette University. This is, of course, the fear of the opponents of this legislation, which is basically, if you create small hassles, small bottlenecks, you`re just going to increase margins -- wait times and margins, and make it harder for folks to vote.

MATTHEWS: Great reporting, Chris Hayes. Thanks. You`ll be on tonight. Thank you.

Joining us now is HARDBALL, the round table: MSNBC political analyst Rick Tyler, former communications director for the Cruz campaign, Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent, and Wisconsin native John Nichols, a very popular fellow here, is national affairs correspondent for "The Nation".

Joy, this thing here is just mishegoss, chaos. Look at this. It was like South African election of `94 when blacks could first vote.

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s biblical the length of those lines.

REID: It`s biblical and this is a law that was enacted by the Republican legislature and sign into law by Scott Walker. It was the (INAUDIBLE) in 2011. It has been litigated up until last year. One of the cases went to the 7th Circuit, Richard Pozner, who`s a conservative Reagan appointee, said there`s essentially no reason for this law than to stop people who would vote for the opposing party getting to the polls.

MATTHEWS: Is this Walker`s revenge?

REID: The state couldn`t show a single instance of voter ID --

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to, John, look, look, there are places you`ve got to police voting. Where I grew up, big cities, ethnic cities, there`s always been a history of some of these hanky-panky. Texas, for example, Rick Tyler, we`ve had landslide Lyndon elected.

But historically, Wisconsin, Minnesota, they`ve been clean in their voting. Why this bill?

JOHN NICHOLS, THE NATION: Look, the fact of the matter is, we know exactly why this bill exists. In off year elections, Republicans can win. They can win the governorship, and they can even the legislature.

MATTHEWS: Because?

NICHOLS: Lower turnout.

MATTHEWS: Actual voters don`t show?

NICHOLS: That`s right.

In the presidential election, they`ve lost every election since 1988. And so, when Walker and his people came in, they were loaded for this one. This was something they fought for and kept bringing it up. They`d get pushed back, bring it up again. I want to just tell you, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Is this one of those ALEC things? Those things that go around - -

NICHOLS: It has roots in ALEC, yes, it does. I`ve written about that. But it`s more than that.

The fact of the matter is, this is an assault on Wisconsin`s kind of core way of doing elections. The historic premise in this state was they want the highest turnout in the country. They want to beat every other state in every election. What this law does, and also the limiting of early voting in Wisconsin, has just made it so much harder.

Today, Chris, today, for the first time in my life, I voted in a lot of presidential elections, I had to show an ID in order to vote. I never --

MATTHEWS: Normally, you just went in and they knew you.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Voter ID, you could also show proof of residency. For students, 180,000 students, the ID they go to school with is not good enough. They have to go get additional ID --

MATTHEWS: You have to prove you`re showing up for class.

OK, Rick Tyler, is this to keep it clean or to keep down the Democratic vote?

RICK TYLER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know. You have two standards about Texas should have a law and Wisconsin shouldn`t.

MATTHEWS: Well, just to be historic about it, Wisconsin, to put it positively, is a clean state.

TYLER: To put it into context, the group that you just showed on television there, those are all University of Wisconsin students, and the law --

NICHOLS: Marquette.

TYLER: OK, Marquette. And then the students they`re all from out of state. None of them are from Wisconsin and they`re all registered --

REID: But they live here.

TYLER: No, no, no. You correspondent went up and down the line earlier, and he said, where are you from? Iowa. Where are you from? Florida. Where are you from? They`re all from out of state. They`re all registering today because the law, as you told me, John, was ten days, you`re in Wisconsin.

NICHOLS: Historically that`s (INAUDIBLE), yes.

TYLER: So, they all didn`t plan. So, that`s why they`re in the line.

NICHOLS: Well, let me offer you this.

MATTHEWS: Why do we have this about photo ID?

TYLER: Because it`s a contract between you and your fellow citizens to say, I live in this community. It shows -- a show of confidence, this is who I am, this is who I say I am. You know, you have to show an ID when you get a checking account, when you get a mortgage, when you get an apartment.

MATTHEWS: But if the person doesn`t have an ID card, you believe they shouldn`t vote.

TYLER: No, I think a person can get their family can take them to get an ID, their church can take them there --

REID: Not if they can`t get their birth certificate. You have people older, that they can`t even get their birth certificate. They can`t afford it.

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER: Solve that problem.

NICHOLS: I was at a polling place, I saw a woman in a senior center. A woman came down from upstairs, she has lived there for years, she knew everybody at the table and they said you don`t have an ID, you have you can`t vote now.

TYLER: So, we`re going to change the law for that one person?

NICHOLS: Yes, we will. That is --

(CROSSTALK)

TYLER: Everybody in the community people that are here illegally.

NICHOLS: In my state --

(CROSSTALK)

NICHOLS: My mom and dad took me to vote --

MATTHEWS: Stay with me at the round table. These three will tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Rick Tyler, tell me something I don`t know.

TYLER: If Ted Cruz does well tonight, he will be the nominee at the convention.

MATTHEWS: OK, Joy.

REID: Right, watch this statement.

MATTHEWS: I`ve heard that argument by the way.

REID: Wisconsin is home to a court case, Wilford versus Nichols, that is challenging GOP gerrymandering. Their example 2012, they legislate (INAUDIBLE) Democrats got 186,000 more votes, but they only got 39 seats, the Republicans got 60. They are calling it the potential Brown v. Board.

MATTHEWS: Well, why don`t you go to law school so you can stop showing up.

REID: I`ll do it.

MATTHEWS: Go to law school. Get a scholarship from NBC. Come on.

Go ahead.

NICHOLS: Joy, she doesn`t know. I take my mom`s a party to that.

But Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin said one of the toughest reelection in the country. And yet, in the last week, he`s given several interviews in which he says he doesn`t think Donald Trump would hurt him. He thinks he might help him in northern Wisconsin.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with question before the American people and tonight the people of Wisconsin. Who do you want to be our president? Who do you want with access to the football that hand-carry cash of coats capable of blowing up the world? Who do you want working to keep the United States out of war, keep this country as safe as reasonably possible in the early 21st century? That he or she make the right kind of moves to minimize terrorist threat even as we tougher our vigilance in meeting that threat?

Who do you want setting national economic policy maintaining a budget that pushes the country toward growth? It assembles the right combination of spending and infrastructure, research and development, education that generates a future brighter than the one we have today. That offers the best hope for opportunity for the maximum number of our people.

We have handful of concerns that need to be addressed. How do we regulate immigration into this country? How do we get control of an area of legitimate government that most Americans believe has failed to an outlandish extent? How do we recover the prospect of Americans finding jobs in technical and manufacturing fields where men and women can do a days` work and end up with a solid middle class income? How do we avoid wars that make things worse and have Americans killing Islamic people in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and who knows where else?

How do we protect our environment from the real dangers of climate change? And lest we not forget, lest than not be said, how do we ensure domestic tranquility by building confidence, real confidence that our police and our judicial system serves all of society in fairness to all of society.

This picking of president is a tall order, because having the job is a tall order. Being a good and successful president is hard to imagine what to do, how to choose what to do. Well, here in Wisconsin, tonight, we`ll show how the voters are going about vetting the men and women asking for the job.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Our prime time coverage of the Wisconsin primary begins right now.

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