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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/20/2016

Guests: Ed Goeas, April Ryan, Carolyn Ryan, Hendrik Hertzberg, Charlie Dent, Scott Desjarlais

Show: HARDBALL Date: April 20, 2016 Guest: Ed Goeas, April Ryan, Carolyn Ryan, Hendrik Hertzberg, Charlie Dent, Scott Desjarlais

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: As goes New York?

Well, let`s play HARDBALL.

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

It was a big night for the home teams in New York last night, of course. Donald Trump cleaned the clocks of both his Republican rivals, putting another roadblock in front of the so-called "stop Trump" movement.

But we begin with the changing dynamics of the Democratic fight. Hillary Clinton took a big step forward in her path to the nomination last night, winning big over Bernie Sanders in her adopted state. Her victory is major setback for Sanders, of course, who after returning to Vermont late last night, took the day off today from the campaign trail to recharge.

Well, Clinton has now won a total of 19 states across the country, spanning from the Sunbelt through the South -- look at the map here -- and up the East Coast, where she hopes to build upon her success of last night next week. The race turns now to five Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states which hold their primaries next week.

And new polls and two of them today show Clinton ahead. No surprise there. That`s her strength. In Pennsylvania, a Monmouth University poll shows Clinton ahead of Sanders by 13 points, 52 to 39. A Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton up by 9 in Connecticut, where her lead is bolstered by the support of women voters.

And the Clinton campaign is hoping to widen that margin in that state with a new ad on gun control -- gun safety, as we say it now -- which features the daughter of the Sandy Hook elementary school principal who very courageously gave up her life in that 2012 massacre. Let`s watch the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom was the principal of Sandy Hook School. She was murdered trying to protect the children in her care from a gunman. No one is fighting harder to reform our gun laws than Hillary Clinton. She is the only candidate that has what it takes to take on the gun lobby. She reminds me of my mother. She isn`t scared of anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "She reminds me of my mother. She`s not scared of anything." What a line.

I`m joined now by Carolyn Ryan, senior editor for politics at "The New York Times," Hendrik Hertzberg, writer for "The New Yorker," and MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post."

In that order, starting with Carolyn -- Hillary Clinton -- if you look at the map -- and I`ve begun to be fascinated with these maps as the begin to shape -- they shape up almost now as they -- as they fill in, I should say, like crossword puzzles -- or, no, I`m sorry. Puzzles. They`re filling in, and you`re seeing where people sort of enlarge on their strength, rather than jump around.

Hillary Clinton is really strong in the East, very strong in the East, and now she`s sort of closing in on those five states in the Northeast. It looks to me like she`s in a clean-up situation right now.

CAROLYN RYAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": She`s in a very good situation. She`s feeling good. They are feeling confident. I mean, we do have this kind of moment in the campaign you saw that Sanders took the day off. He`s tired. He`s a little cranky. And there`s some assessment going on probably (ph) in the Democratic Party about what his future is.

Hillary Clinton is looking beyond Sanders, even though they won`t say that publicly. And it feels like this is a moment where he`s got to decide. I think in his heart of his hearts, he`d really like to go to California, keep fighting, keep bringing the money in. But does that make sense more broadly?

MATTHEWS: Rick, do you think Bernie Sanders can run a campaign effectively from now through June through California by focusing just on philosophy and his differences with Hillary Clinton on issues where he is to her left and very popular for being that, and avoid this sort of hitting her with a crowbar with her speeches and things like that?

Can he run that campaign, or does it necessarily have to be vicious?

HENDRIK HERTZBERG, "THE NEW YORKER": Well, it depends on what you mean by effectively. If you -- by effectively, you mean something that`s going to get him the nomination, no.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HERTZBERG: But if it`s -- if you mean something that is going to strengthen the him in the future, that`s going to strengthen the Democratic Party, that`s going to strengthen Hillary Clinton, for that matter, as a side effect of all this, sure, he can do that.

He has every right to continue through California and to make his issue arguments and just -- and what I hope he`ll take from his day off is stop with the character suggestions that there`s something unqualified or corrupt about Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Jonathan, I agree with that, by the way. But we`re talking as outsiders about a campaign that`s very much in his heart.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: He`s almost -- I can`t keep talking about his age, but it does matter. This is his chance.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s his time.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he`s almost 75, and here`s his last chance to do anything nationally like this, probably. Who knows. Reagan came in later. But if he wants to end on a positive note, he can do that. But choosing that, he also seems to be having to choose, I`m not going to win this thing.

CAPEHART: Right.

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure he`s willing to give it up.

CAPEHART: Right. Having never run for president myself, I can only imagine that this is a decision that Senator Sanders is going to have to make himself not just here, but here, in his heart. He has to decide...

MATTHEWS: High road, low road.

CAPEHART: Right. He has to decide whether what he does from now on out is going to be something that is -- that is not only beneficial to him but also beneficial to the nominee and to the Democratic Party and for its chances in November.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CAPEHART: He has a ton of money. He has millions of dollars, and he can raise millions of dollars. So there`s no reason for him to get out of...

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART: ... all the reasons that Hendrik pointed out. He`s got -- he has the money to go around the country and do exactly what Hendrik says, which is exactly...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... there`s three races going on. The money race he`s winning, probably. He`s winning the national polling numbers. He may well pass her soon. But he`s losing in the delegate fight.

Anyway, in a victory speech last night, Hillary Clinton offered a conciliatory message to the Sanders supporters, who she, of course, will need to win the election in November. Here she is making the college try at bringing the party together even now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To all the people who supported Senator Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Sanders gave no indication that he intends to slow down or concede his fight for the nomination. Secretary Clinton`s communication director, Jennifer Palmieri, told reporters that his campaign is damaging the part. Listen to this. Quote -- this is from Jennifer -- "Sanders needs to decide, and as he closes out the Democratic primary, if he is going to continue on the destructive path he started down in New York, or if he`s going to end this primary the way he promised, to run the kind of campaign he said he would, that was focused on issues."

Well, today Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine said his candidate can win the upcoming primaries and blamed Clinton for the negative tone of the recent campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAD DEVINE, SANDERS CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: There`s a lot of states ahead that we can win and a lot of delegates we can win in these states. And he`s energizing the party. I think we saw yesterday in the exit polls. Two thirds of the Democrats said that this campaign was energizing the party.

And by the way, a plurality of voters, 46 percent, said the Clinton campaign was the campaign that was being -- you know, the one that was really making a negative case. You know, and that`s in a state that she won overwhelmingly.

So -- so I think they should take a step back and maybe restrain some of the rhetoric that we heard from some of the spokespeople last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Carolyn. You know, one of the problems with (ph) Bernie changing the tune to a more positive statement of, I`m to her left on some of these issues, darn (ph) it (ph), about certain student loans and the future of Social Security in terms of higher benefits and -- and the right to a health care -- health care in your life -- these are philosophical differences he has with her. They`re not just money issues.

The minute he signals that that`s how he`s going to run the rest of the campaign, doesn`t he endanger the excitement about his campaign? He becomes like Ted Kennedy giving his Georgetown speech back in `80.

RYAN: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: You know what I mean, those kind of speeches.

RYAN: Yes. I mean, I -- and I think where you really see this is on social media, the fights that are breaking out between the Sanders supporters and the Clinton supporters. And the Sanders supporters really feel like this is a movement and this is a sweeping, scathing critique of the Democratic establishment and their coziness with Wall Street and with business. And they feel like they`ve unleashed something that`s much bigger.

So if you`re asking him to sort of give up what they see as this kind of moral critique in this foundation from which they have run, you`re sort of taking away the energy, the breath and the force of this whole movement.

MATTHEWS: Well, how can he ever endorse Hillary Clinton, who is tied to the establishment? She is the establishment.

RYAN: I mean, I -- I -- if you watch that Vermont press conference which he gave, which was really interesting, he was pretty grudging even in his congratulations toward Hillary Clinton. If you recall, he also started attacking the New York results voting irregularities. He almost seemed to be delegitimizing...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RYAN: ... the result. So it does not feel like a moment where these feelings are going to go away. And he does not seem like just constitutionally a uniter and someone who`s going to be comfortable as a subordinate surrogate to Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Rick, you know, I think we`re not used to, in American politics, coming across someone who has true ideology, true philosophy. We`re used to people that are -- it`s always matter of degree. Well, I can move a little right, a little left. We`ll get together. It`s always -- it`s calibrated. We can fix it.

He may be that rare exception who`s the guy who has an ideology. He`s a democratic socialist. He`s made a decision all his life not to become of a regular Democratic political organization. He doesn`t want to hang out with the pols, the kind of people that just like to vote Democrat. He wants to have a separate philosophy.

It may well be -- well, you tell me. You think he`s the kind of guy to join the gang, to join the gang at the end?

HERTZBERG: I think he -- well, I certainly hope so. And I don`t see why he shouldn`t. Being a democratic socialist or a social democrat, if you look at the way social democrats behave in Europe, they`re perfectly willing to get together with people to their -- a little bit to their right and get something done. And I don`t see why Bernie should be any different once he calms down.

I mean, I truly think that Hillary would be well advised not to attack him. And the commercial you showed a little bit earlier, it wasn`t an attack. It wasn`t an attack on Bernie or any -- at all. But it was a jab. You know, it was a jab because of the -- of his alleged opposition to gun safety, which is greatly exaggerated. It`s just -- it`s a point where -- where he had to actually play the political game to survive in Vermont, and she -- she`s the one who should be calm and loving, you might say.

MATTHEWS: Jon?

CAPEHART: You know, I find it kind of hilarious that Senator Sanders is upset about the commercial you just showed from Hillary Clinton, given the commercial his campaign released just before the New York primary about money that folks in Washington...

MATTHEWS: Who are all crooked.

CAPEHART: ... who are all crooked, and yet he is, you know, holier than thou.

I mean, I just think his fit of pique here is -- is -- I don`t know, what`s the right word to not enrage the Bernie Sanders supporters? But it`s frustrating and it`s annoying. And I can understand why Jen Palmieri put out that statement that she put out.

I think that, ultimately, the Clinton campaign, Clinton allies, Clinton supporters need to step away from Senator Sanders and give him the time to go through the process of grieving and healing and coming to the point where he becomes a sincere and true ally in keeping the White House, instead of setting up a situation where if Hillary Clinton does, indeed, become the nominee, she is so crippled that the Republicans in this environment could actually become elected president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you don`t want to be what Gene McCarthy ended up being after that great run in `68, the guy that wouldn`t support Humphrey in the end. You don`t want to be that guy.

Anyway, thank you. I have a long memory for bad behavior, especially from my heroes, unfortunately. They`re the ones you do remember. And it hasn`t helped Ralph Nader to run third party and cost -- oh, now he`ll call me. Let me just drop that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Ralph, I won`t say it again. I`ll drop that. I`m not doing that for a while.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Carolyn Ryan.

RYAN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on tonight. Hendrik Hertzberg, my friend, thank you, and Jonathan Capehart, my -- he`s also my friend.

Coming up -- with a huge win in New York now, can Donald Trump now clinch the Republican nomination before Cleveland, or can the "stop Trump" movement still force him out at a contested convention?

Plus, the growing likelihood that November`s general election matchup will be the heavyweight bout we all want to see, Trump versus Clinton.

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here tonight to tell me things -- well, at least three things I don`t know about the 2016 presidential race. You`ll want to stick around for that.

And finally, "Let Me Finish" with a big problem with politics. We don`t build anything anymore because we don`t trust the Democrats with our money and the Republicans don`t want to build anything.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Bernie Sanders`s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who`s been on this show a lot, was asked this evening on "WITH ALL DUE RESPECT," the program before us, whether his candidate, Sanders, would remain in the Democratic Party if he does not win the nomination. Here`s what Weaver said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Senator Sanders is not the nominee, will he stay in the Democratic Party forever now?

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, he is a Democrat. He said he`s a Democrat. And he`s going to support (ph) the Democratic nominee, whoever that is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he`s a member of the Democratic Party now for life?

WEAVER: Yes, he is. Yes, he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s interesting, a member of the Democratic Party "a vie," for life.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the reasons I had this incredible victory last night -- and everybody`s talking about it. It`s really nice! You know, it`s great feeling.

Our victories are so big -- like last night, when you get more than 61 percent of the vote with...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Remember this, with two people running. Now, they`re not the best people, but they`re people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Everything you were told by your mother not to do, this guy does, and he won again last night.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. After a big win in New York last night, Donald Trump today spoke to a large rally in Indianapolis. It was vintage Trump, going back -- going after "crooked Hillary and "lyin` Ted." Forget all this reform thing of his, a la Paul Manafort. He is Trump first and foremost. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love running against crooked Hillary. I love that! I mean, so much.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: In the case of lyin` Ted Cruz, lyin` Ted lies. Oh, he lies! You know Ted. He brings the bible, holds it high, puts it down, lies.

Build a wall. He wants to build a wall. We`re going to build a wall, believe me.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Look at all those cameras zooming. They are the most dishonest people in the world, the media!

(BOOS)

TRUMP: They are the worst! Do we like the media?

AUDIENCE: No!

TRUMP: Do we hate the media?

AUDIENCE: Yes!

TRUMP: We need that kind of thinking in this country because our country is going to hell!

Believe me, we will get rid of ISIS so fast that your head will spin, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This man sees himself in Lincoln`s chair. Just get used to that. I can`t.

Anyway, Trump`s two remaining opponents insist the race will now come down to the delegate fight in Cleveland at the convention. But can the party deny the front-runner, even if he`s within a few dozen delegates of the magic 1,237, the win?

Steve House (ph), the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party -- he`s an unbound delegate -- told Politico, "I think a lot of people think he gets within around 50 to 100, he`ll be able to carry it."

And Ron Kaufman, a real establishment Republican, a member of the Republican National Committee from Massachusetts, said, quote, "If he`s close after June 7th, there`ll be a compelling reason for folks to say he`s won the most delegates by a lot, and he`s won the most voters by a lot, by a ton. And in the end, we want to make sure all those millions of people who voted in a Republican primary understand their votes were worthwhile."

Well, that`s thoughtful.

U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania`s a supporter of John Kasich and U.S. Congressman Scott Desjarlais from Tennessee is backing Donald Trump.

Congressman Desjarlais, thanks for joining us. What do you think will happen if we`re watching Cleveland -- and all eyes will be on gavel to gavel for the first time in 50 years, right, they want to see it gavel to gavel, people`ll be watching CSPAN. What`s actually going to happen with rules? What`s going to happen with the role call and all that stuff and credentials and all those fights.

What would happen if you see Trump at, say, 1,100 and he`s not -- it`s not a gimme like in golf. He`s not a few inches from the cup, but he`s close. What happens then?

REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS, R-TENNESSEE: Well, I think what you`re seeing...

MATTHEWS: And you`re for Trump.

DESJARLAIS: Yes, what you`re seeing across the country in all the polls are that people are used to -- if you`re watching a sporting event, the team with the most point at the end of the game wins. And I think that`s the way most people see Trump.

Now, I personally think he is going to get to 1,237. And, hopefully, it`s a moot point. But if it gets there and they deny the person with the most votes, with the most delegates and who has won the most states the nomination, then I do feel like the American people are going to be upset. And I think we`re seeing that on both sides of the aisle a little bit.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the near future. And I believe in maps and geography. Here is a map of the states that voted so far in the Republican race.

Donald Trump, look at this number here in the Northeast and the South. Look at Ted Cruz has done well in the Midwest, sort of the west of the Mississippi. But look at that. Close in now as you`re watching now. Look at the red and where Trump has really done well. He`s basically now going to close in on that open spot, that gray spot there in the Northeast.

Congressman, he`s ready to just wrap it up in that part of the country after winning New York.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the guy who doesn`t like Trump, so then we can -- he can fight me here. He`s going to win five next week, I think. He`s winning Pennsylvania.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Pennsylvania -- he`s ahead in Pennsylvania. I`m not going to deny that fact.

But I`ll tell you what. These delegates are going to have to make a choice in Cleveland. I don`t believe Donald Trump is going to get the number before Cleveland. And we`re going to start talking about electability, who can actually win in the fall. And I just don`t see how, given all Donald Trump`s many statements over the last several months, in particular in the last few weeks, with your exchange with him, it`s called into question his fitness to serve in the highest office in the land.

MATTHEWS: I understand all that. But people like the -- it`s not rabble- rousing. It`s some kind of weird excitement he creates.

What happens if he says two days before Cleveland I`m going to have a meeting on Monday in Cleveland with all my delegates across the street at some arena? And he says if we don`t get treated right, in other words, if I don`t get the nomination, we will all walk together. What happens if he threatens to do that, a walkout with all his delegates?

DENT: He may do that.

But I will also tell you, if he`s the nominee, there are estimates that as many as 30 percent of Republicans will walk away from his candidacy. There`s going to be hurt feelings no matter what happens here. If Donald Trump gets it, there are going to be hurt feelings. If he doesn`t get it, there are going to be hurt feelings. We just have to accept that fact.

We`re in a pretty tough spot right now. Yes, he could walk away. With Donald Trump, everything is negotiable, including his party affiliation and apparently his ideology.

So, yes, I accept that, but I don`t know how we get out of this. But that`s why I keep pushing for John Kasich. I believe he`s the one guy whose negatives aren`t that high.

MATTHEWS: What happens if Donald Trump pulls a Reagan like he did with Schweiker in Pennsylvania years ago and declares two -- because all these things are possible. Trump could get up tomorrow morning. We had Harriet Tubman on the $10 bill. Things are just -- all of a sudden, something happens.

Suppose he gets out tomorrow morning and just like Jack Lew did down in -- he just says, I`m picking Kasich for my running mate? What happens then? Where are you stuck then?

DENT: Well, yes, I guess I would be stuck. But John Kasich has made it pretty clear to me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He hasn`t been offered it yet. He hasn`t been offered it.

DENT: But if he`s going to try to pull a Ronald Reagan and Richard Schweiker, we are going to need a Drew Louis, because you remember Drew Louis was the guy.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s an issue of democracy too.

According to NBC News, it would take now Ted Cruz winning 98 percent of the remaining delegates to get to 1,237 himself Well, today, Donald Trump tweeted, he`s still tweeting, "Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race. Now all he can do is be a spoiler, never a nice thing to do."

After weeks of saying he`s the only candidate who can beat Trump at the ballot, Cruz has come out with a new message today, the race is headed to a contested convention. Let`s watch Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody`s getting 1,237. Donald knows that. We`re headed to a contested convention. And at a contested convention, the only way you become the Republican nominee is to earn the support of a majority of the delegates elected by the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In the past, Cruz had argued that John Kasich should get out of the race because mathematically Kasich can`t win. Let`s watch him doing what he`s refusing to do now, get out when you can`t win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: Well, I think any candidate that doesn`t have a path to winning, that`s the time when you should suspend your campaign.

At this point, Kasich has been mathematically eliminated. He needs more than 100 percent of the delegates to be the nominee. That`s obviously impossible.

It`s mathematically impossible for John Kasich to become the nominee.

I think any candidate, if you don`t have a clear path to winning, it doesn`t make sense to stay in the race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I have just been inspired. I think that Ted Cruz is going to end up on the radio duking it out with Mark Levin at some point. That`s going to be his career move at some point.

Anyway, today, Kasich tweeted: "Now that Cruz is mathematically eliminated, the only difference between him and Kasich is Kasich can defeat Clinton," because he`s got a better general election outlook.

Congressman Desjarlais, let me ask you about this. Why did Cruz -- how did you guys find such an unlikable opponent as Ted Cruz? It`s like Reince Priebus. These people that Trump is able to find as his opponents, his bete noires, are all less popular and less impressive than he is.

DESJARLAIS: There was a field of 17 candidates.

And as Charlie was saying, people are going to be disappointed because everybody bets on their horse. And now we`re at the end of the race. Trump has got a big lead, and I think he is going to take it to the finish line. It`s time for the party to unite. We have got to get behind our candidate and we have focus on the general election.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Pennsylvania. You know it well. You come from Lehigh Valley, which is the swing part of the state, which defines every victory in that state, right?

We have an executive producer here named Court Harson. He knows all about it. He explains this. We talk about that. I have watched that part of the state. You should be able to tell us. Will Trump win or will your guy win?

DENT: In Lehigh Valley?

MATTHEWS: No, in the state of Pennsylvania next week. Will your guy win or will Trump win? This is HARDBALL.

DENT: Well, I`ll tell you, right now, Donald Trump is ahead. But John Kasich is within striking distance. He will do extremely well in the collar counties of Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, the capital region, and suburban Pittsburgh.

He will do well. He will hold his own both in a primary and especially in a general election. He`s beating Hillary by 16 points in Pennsylvania head to head, which is quite different than Senator Cruz or Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: How come that doesn`t make headway with your party? I agree with you. I think of all the candidates who could give Hillary a tussle, it would certainly be John Kasich.

DENT: It frustrates me too, because, look, primary voters, let`s face it, they are much more concerned about I think ideological purity than they are electability.

But I keep telling people that it`s not only about sharing values with a person who is running, but you also have to look at electability and particularly in the swing states. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Kasich is beating Hillary by solid numbers in every one of those states.

MATTHEWS: I know. No, you`re right. You`re a reasonable Republican, which is probably a putdown. to you at home. So, I will say you`re not a reasonable Republican.

Anyway, Congressman Charlie Dent of the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee.

Up next, some tricky politics for President Obama, who is in Saudi Arabia right now just as members of Congress are pushing legislation that would allow Americans citizens to sue foreign countries, i.e., i.e., Saudi Arabia, for attacks on U.S. soil. In other words, you can sue them over what they did or didn`t do with regard to 9/11. I`m skeptical about what they did. I don`t think they did it, but we will see.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. Here`s what`s happening.

Three officials are facing felon charges related to Flint, Michigan`s contaminated water crisis. Governor Rick Snyder says his office is cooperating with investigators looking into the matter.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham met with President Obama`s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, earlier, and he called Garland a fine man, but said the next president should name a nominee to the court.

And celebrations began a day early for Queen Elizabeth`s birthday. She turns 90 tomorrow -- and now we`re going to take you back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia today to meet with Gulf leaders and the visit comes amid new speculation over Saudi Arabia`s role, yes, maybe, but I don`t think so, in the September 11, 2001, attacks here.

Earlier this month at an in-depth interview with "The Atlantic," Jeffrey Goldberg reported that President Obama has sharply questioned "the role that America`s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism."

Legitimate question. Also clouding the U.S.-ISIS relationship is an effort by 9/11 families who want to sue the kingdom for an institution for restitution. As "The New York Times" reports -- quote -- "Suspicions have lingered partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living here in the U.S. at the time had a hand in the plot for 9/11."

Those conclusions contained -- and 28 pages of the report still have not been released publicly. We don`t know what`s in those 28 pages.

Joining me right now is David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for "The New York Times," and Nayyera Haq, a former senior adviser at the State Department under the Obama administration.

I want to show you now an exchange I had many years ago with Prince Bandar, who was ambassador here from Saudi Arabia. I asked the then Saudi ambassador to the U.S. whether his government turned a blind eye to radicals in Saudi Arabia so that as long as they didn`t mess around and cause trouble at home in Saudi Arabia, they really didn`t care what they did outside. And here is how he reacted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The sense in this country is that -- that your government has been very smart to sort of buy off the younger generation.

PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Give them all the money they need to go proselytize around the world and do their dirty will and leave them alone, that they`re paying protection money in a sense, your government.

BIN SULTAN: You know what? This is -- this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to be honest with you.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BIN SULTAN: Don`t -- you should not -- America is too great and American media is too important to be ignorant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nayyera, am I ignorant or did I make a point there? I said they don`t mind how proselytized, how radicalized their young people become, through Wahhabi education and the whole thing, as far as they just don`t mess with the royal family situation back in Saudi Arabia.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, and the Saudis have a very different world view and very different goals in the world in the United States.

And so even though we have a very strong military partnership, the Saudis are the number one purchaser of U.S. military equipment, to the tune of something like $100 billion. There`s a relationship there that will continue on. But the priorities of what we`re doing with the relationship are fundamentally different.

And it`s going to be very difficult increasingly going forward for a democracy like the United States to continue to deal with the personality conflicts that happen when a family essentially runs a country.

MATTHEWS: Back to my question. Do you believe there`s any argument to be made by the left, right or center of this country that Saudi Arabia as a country had something to do with 9/11? Is that a legitimate theory or a conspiracy theory?

HAQ: I think there`s reason to be concerned, given the Saudi population and certain elements of the Saudi population have supported extremism. As a culture, Wahhabi, Salafi, really extremist literal interpretation of Islam, it`s something that the Saudis have passed on throughout the world.

So, I can see why there would be concern. But I highly doubt it`s an actual government policy to try to take down American institutions.

MATTHEWS: They`re talking about getting the right to litigate, to sue. Is that going anywhere, even if they get the right to do it? What have they got?

DAVID SANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, right now, it`s clear that they have got enough evidence to make a suit work.

MATTHEWS: Any evidence?

SANGER: There`s what is in those 28 pages.

MATTHEWS: But that`s not evidence yet.

(CROSSTALK)

SANGER: Which is not evidence yet, and also I`m told sounds more like a police report than something that`s got confirmed data in it.

But you just saw the Supreme Court rule just today that in the case of Iran for the survivors of the Beirut bombing they could at least pursue suits. And I think President Obama`s argument as he landed in Saudi Arabia today was that once you allow that, then there are a ton of suits against the United States around the world, and you have got to think about what happens when you begin to lift all of the sovereign immunity.

But I don`t actually think that`s the central issue, Chris, that`s bothering the Saudis during this visit. It`s President Obama`s comments to Jeff Goldberg, as you noted before, that they have got to learn how to share the Middle East with Iran. It`s his line about how they have been free riders in the war against ISIS.

MATTHEWS: Those are two great questions, because this president, as long as he`s president, and his legacy will be to try for rapprochement with Iran. He`s dedicated to that. We know that.

That`s never going to be popular with the Saudis.

HAQ: And supporting the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt wasn`t something that the Saudis supported either.

I think we`re seeing now a more honest relationship with the Saudis that`s going to be based, frankly, on U.S. counterterrorism needs and less on the oil relationship with the family.

MATTHEWS: Are we keeping him alive, Mubarak?

SANGER: Are we Mubarak alive?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Do we have a little message to those? Because it`s really the right wing now running the country, the military. They probably feel some sympathy for the guy. But I have noticed he`s been in police custody now for a long time.

SANGER: He has.

My guess is that it`s General Sisi, who is now running the country, President Sisi...

MATTHEWS: He`s keeping him alive.

SANGER: ... who is probably keeping him alive.

In the case of the Saudis here, you said it`s a more honest relationship. And I think there`s something to be said in favor of that. We went through years and years in which the Bush administration and then the Obama administration basically said in response to our questions, no problem here. Let`s move on from the Saudis.

And I think the fact that both less oil dependence, but I think also more of a sense after the Iran deal that the United States can`t get involved in the middle of every Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East. And actually I think that`s relatively a healthy conversation to have here, healthier than ignoring the evidence.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HAQ: Bringing it back to the 28 pages that we were talking about on the domestic side of this...

MATTHEWS: Of the congressional report, which may offer evidence of a role by Saudi Arabia in 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

HAQ: Or may not.

The important thing to note is that up until about a year or two ago, before you had a change in the family, who is ruling the family now in Saudi, the Saudis were also calling for these pages to be released. There`s an interest on their side.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. I don`t think there`s anything there.

HAQ: There`s interest on their side to be transparent.

MATTHEWS: You want to clear the air too, but especially -- although they did have the 14 thugs on the plane, the tough guys.

(CROSSTALK)

HAQ: There`s a problem there.

MATTHEWS: And I mean the guys that did the physical violence on those planes were Saudis. We keep forgetting that. I don`t.

Anyway, thank you, David Sanger.

SANGER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Nayyera.

Donald Trump is on stage at a campaign rally in Maryland right now. He`s on attack -- there again an attack on Hillary right now. He`s going directly for the general.

When we come back, we are going to look forward toward the general election. If the matchup is Clinton vs. Trump, and I think that is the best bet, what can we expect in that battle between the two of the biggest names in America? This is asymmetric warfare.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are pushing a vision for America that`s divisive and frankly, dangerous. Returning to trickle down economics, opposing increase in the minimum wage, restricting a woman`s right to make her own health care decision, promising to round up millions of immigrants, threatening to ban all Muslims from entering the country, planning to treat American Muslims like criminals -- these things go against everything America stands for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, there you have it.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, Hillary Clinton in her big victory speech last night, setting her sights in the general direction of the election, the general election, her likely opponent. It was all about Donald Trump and you heard it all there in her words.

Secretary Clinton has an early advantage, of course, over Trump in a hypothetical match. Look at this -- according to the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 11 points across the country. She`s got 50. That`s a good number to have in the race against one other guy. He`s got 39, which is not a great number.

As the primary season winds down, the battle of the sexes and genders are shaping up between the brash alpha male candidate, guess who, and potentially, the first woman president in history.

I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Ed Goeas is a brilliant Republican strategist, basically a real good pollster, who knows his stuff. Anyway, he opposes Donald Trump in principle, I guess.

April Ryan is a White House correspondent who`s opposed to Trump without thinking about it. She`s with American Urban Radio Networks.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And David Corn another -- doesn`t have to think about it.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, I think about it.

MATTHEWS: He`s thinking about it. Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" which has already thought about it 200 years ago, and decided he`s not going to be (INAUDIBLE).

Let`s try to be analytical here. Hillary Clinton, that`s a general election speech. Is that smart at this point?

ED GOEAS, STRATEGIST FOR ANTI-TRUMP RNC: It`s smart. She`s pretty much wrapped up the nomination and there may be more contests where she`s going back and forth but the bottom line is she`s done. The Republican side of the equation, I`m still a big believer that this will go all the way to the convention. If you look at the votes that are out there to be had, New York, everyone assumed he would get 95. He only got 90.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about what you`re really good at. You`re a great brilliant, analyst. I know you have a point of view. You already mark it up. You`re against Trump.

I want got you here --

GOEAS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Describe the profile of the voter for Trump, who does show up for him and get excited? Who not tell their wife or their husband, usually not their wife, but they are rooting for this guy. Who are those people in your party?

GOEAS: Well, first of all, the Trump voters are open to say who they are for. The problem he`s had is he`s started off both Hillary and Trump started off with a 55 percent unfavorable rating. Almost universal name awareness. Hers is stayed about 55 percent. There`s a few times it inched down. But his has grown to 65, 66, 67 percent and is strongly disapproved is now over 50.

MATTHEWS: Is that among men and women?

GOEAS: It is amongst men and women.

MATTHEWS: Is that men who care about how women are treated or just guys who don`t like his style? What is it?

GOEAS: What we saw was, first of all, married white women is a group we have to win to win the national campaign by about 16, 17 percent. He`s barely breaking even with them on his favorable, unfavorable at the start of this and has gone south since then. Who has joined them are actually married men and particularly --

MATTHEWS: Because they can`t defend Trump at home.

CORN: Voting for who?

GOEAS: I think it`s something more than that. It tends to be married men with children. I think they`re having a hard time defending Trump this front of their children when they tell their children everybody, this is not the way to act.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they`re saying that beforehand, because, April, everything he does is what we`re told not to do growing up.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Don`t brag. Don`t talk down to women. Don`t do these comments about ethnic groups, the whole thing.

RYAN: Bullying and the dozens. You know, I`ve got kids and they are watching and they are talking among their classmates. My kids are 13 and 8 and saying who would you vote for, like they`re going to the polls and voting. They`re like, no, we don`t like Trump, a vast majority of them. And this is a white, affluent school that my kids are attending.

So, I did an unscientific poll of white and black people. And particularly the African-Americans who are supporting Trump, they like the fact he`s shaking things up. They like the fact that he`s looking at the issue of the border and immigration. But you can shake it up -- there`s a fine line between shaking up and going too far.

So, I don`t know. He appeals to the people I believe who -- the fringe. The fringe of this country, the white male fringe who feels they are disenfranchised, who feel they`ve lost jobs, who feel that they have not, there`s a portion of that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think there`s a lot of people that want this system shaken up.

CORN: I think that`s right. You see that Bernie Sanders side as well. And I think --

MATTHEWS: Well, he wants it changed in particularly direction. I`m not sure Trump has a direction. He`s just shaking it up.

CORN: He just says he will make it great again without telling us how he`s going to get that done or what the policies are. But to me, it seems and maybe Ed can speak to this, that often you have a politician, may have high unfavorables, but you have people kind of undecided. They might be persuadable, they might be won over.

I mean, Donald Trump, because he comes out of TV, what works on TV really well, shtick. He has a shtick. Either you watch "The Apprentice" because you love him, or if you don`t love him, you hate him and you don`t watch him. But that`s OK.

He got 26 million people watching.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re always having a fight in this country. It`s not over ethnicity and the usual but it`s this do you want a strong leader or you want somebody who just goes along with the people. And there`s always this part of the American thing, is that men in horseback. We want somebody to come in and tell us what to do, somebody to get this thing going.

A lot of people voted for McGovern, believe it or not, back in `72, because at least he knew what he was doing. They want to have a sense of direction. And Trump --

CORN: Trump doesn`t give a sense of direction. He gives them an attitude. It`s an attitude.

RYAN: You`re right. But he`s -- covering the White House for the last 19 years and watching the people elect three presidents that I`ve covered and even not elect those, they`re still looking for someone who`s smarter, they want someone who`s smarter than them. They want someone --

MATTHEWS: Well, what kind of smart?

RYAN: No, they want people who are able to -- a lot of this stuff, a lot of politics is very cerebral, the whereas, the thus thou art, and people want someone who can --

MATTHEWS: Really?

RYAN: Yes -- who can wade through that. Not only that they want someone who can understand --

MATTHEWS: What do you mean by smart, high SAT scores? I mean, help me out with the smart part. I`ve always been suspicious of that, because guys like Eisenhower, they always look down on him, funny thing. He always seemed to succeed in what he was doing. You know, people like that, and they say Kennedy wasn`t an intellectual. He read a lot more books that Adlai Stephenson. I mean, I`m not sure about that.

RYAN: People who understand the Constitution. People who understand how to make both sides of the government work to unify. People who understand --

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure that`s SAT smart.

CORN: The Trump voters don`t want that though.

RYAN: The Trump voters want someone to shake it up. People want someone who will make change for them. Politics is personal.

GOEAS: That`s why we disagree. This country has been -- two-thirds of this country has said that they feel the country is going off the wrong track for well over a decade now. He`s just touched one segment of voters.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We can do this really late at night and do it for a long time. This is the argument. What is happening? It`s pretty fundamental. We don`t always get to in this show.

What is going on with this Trump? Why is he getting all this noise? What does he make us laugh even when we don`t vote for him? I sit and laugh at him sometimes. I go I don`t know what I`m laughing at.

CORN: Well, he`s a showman.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three people will tell me something I don`t know.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, moments ago, Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton at a rally in Maryland. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Crooked Hillary Clinton will not have a chance. She`s not bringing jobs back. She doesn`t know about the economy. She makes bad decisions.

You know what Bernie Sanders said about her twice, you know that. Number one he said she wasn`t qualified. That`s tough. I mean, that`s tough. But he said bad judgment. She`s got bad judgment.

And it looks to me like she`s being protected, it looks to me like they`re going to let her run and frankly in a certain way, I`m happy about it because we are going to beat her so badly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, HARDBALL is back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Ed, tell me something I don`t know.

GOEAS: The Trump memo today saying he`s going to get 1,400 delegates. I looked at what he`d have to do to do that, he`d have to win all the delegates in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana, Nebraska, West Virginia, Washington, and California.

MATTHEWS: So, he`s not going to do.

RYAN: There`s still smoldering anger in the black community for the lack of a black female U.S. Supreme Court nominee. I asked Hillary Clinton. She says right now, she`s going to support President Obama`s nominee, and she waits until November. But the campaign said they`re looking at the possibility if she`s president.

MATTHEWS: Well, how about Harriet Tubman? That`s news.

RYAN: I love it, $20 bill.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. ATM machines packed with Harriet Tubman.

CORN: People around Bernie Sanders are starting to think about what his demand should be at the convention for supporting Hillary Clinton, one of them structural changes in the nominating process and getting rid of super delegates.

MATTHEWS: How about getting rid of caucuses, too? Thank you. I thought he was going to say structural changes in the economy.

Ed Goeas, great to have you on. April Ryan, great confab there, and David Corn.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s me close tonight with something I said last night from below the Brooklyn Bridge. It`s about building.

This country was building the transcontinental railroad even in the midst of the Civil War. We built the Empire State Building in the depths of the Great Depression. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s because he saw in Germany what you could achieve with the Autobahn.

We are a country of builders, but we`ve stopped. What`s the matter with us? Would we build what we have now, if the decisions were made today, would we build the Golden Gate Bridge today, we would undertake something like the New York City subway system today? Would we build anything today?

China and Japan put our railway systems to shame. They go 200 to 300 miles an hour, and you don`t even know you`re moving. You ride on Amtrak here and it`s a feet of acrobatic balance just to walk up the aisle.

Why can`t we build anymore? The answer is politics. The political party that would like to build and keep up building transportation systems is entrusted by the taxpayer to spend its money officially. Meanwhile, the other party, which is trusted to spend money more efficiently doesn`t believe in investing in the public sector.

And so, we move on, heading backward as the rest of the world moves forward. The one thing a good presidency could accomplish is to look at what we did in the time of Lincoln and Eisenhower and get going in that direction and start now.

That`s HARDBALL for now, and it`s serious business. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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