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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 5/12/2016

Guests: Marsha Blackburn, Charlie Dent,Jack Kingston, Francesca Chambers, Michael Steel, John Feehery, Steve McMahon

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 12, 2016 Guest: Marsha Blackburn, Charlie Dent,Jack Kingston, Francesca Chambers, Michael Steel, John Feehery, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Charm offensive.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Arriving in the nation`s capital early today, Donald Trump loomed as the triumphant general, having beaten 16 Republican rivals, now on track to win more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history. With only Democrat Hillary Clinton now lying between him and the White House, the New Yorker accepted the freedom (ph) of the city.

If there was something of the Roman army in today`s entrance here, it was the sense of the inevitable. Either the Republicans in Washington line up with Trump or they`ll be seen rooting for the enemy -- that enemy being, of course, Hillary Clinton.

Amid a crush of reporters today, loud protesters -- we heard them -- and live television cameras, the nominee-to-be met with a bored (ph) -- actually, a bored (ph) Republican -- I should say that on-board Republicans, of course, not bored, and quiet skeptics.

Trump was again the master showman. Cameras captured his every move, from his arrival at the Republican National Committee headquarters to his plane taking off later in the afternoon. There it goes. There was spectacle, tension, and ultimately a crude resolution.

Even though Speaker Paul Ryan stopped short of a full endorsement of Trump, he said he was heading in that direction. And for the first time, Republican leaders were singing the same tune, all praising the positive nature of today`s meetings.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today. I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified to bridge the gaps and differences...

QUESTION: Do you expect to endorse him?

RYAN: Yes, I think this is going in a positive direction, and I think this is a first, very encouraging meeting.

QUESTION: What did you think of his personality?

RYAN: His personality I thought was -- I thought it was a very good personality. He`s a very warm and genuine person.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We had a very constructive meeting. I think everybody felt that it was quite good.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: It was a positive mood. It was a mood of cooperation and a -- and a -- and a feeling that It`s time to unify the party. And I think both -- both parties wanted to do that. And it was great. I mean, it was really a positive step toward unification. It only can be described as very positive and -- let me just say this. Very positive.


MATTHEWS: I guess we know the talking points. Senator John Cornyn tweeted this with photo Trump after meeting today, with Trump giving the thumbs-up. There it is. And Trump tweeted, quote, "Great day in D.C. with Speaker Ryan and Republican leadership. Things working out really well." That`s Trump`s view.

NBC`s Katy Tur and Hallie Jackson covered it. Katy, what did you make of today, as somebody who`s watched Trump from the day one of this campaign? Are you surprised at the relative sparkle of today`s event?

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I`m not surprised. I think that the fact that he was followed every moment of the day from the moment he landed here in D.C. to the moment where he flew out is unsurprising. This has been a non-traditional campaign. It`s been almost -- Donald Trump said you need to add a little bit more show business to politics, at least at the convention, and he certainly got that today, almost as if it was the reality show of what`s going to happen with Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

And ultimately, not much came out of these meetings other than that they were encouraging or they were very positive. Paul Ryan did not endorse. Nobody expected him to endorse today, but Donald Trump got wall-to-wall coverage on this because everyone is trying to figure out what`s going to happen with the Republican Party. Is it going to completely splinter in two? And if it does, what will be left if Donald Trump does not win the presidency.

So certainly, come -- it`s expected that he would get as much attention as he did today, and I`m sure he enjoyed every moment of it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over to Hallie. Hallie, it seems to me that Mr. Ryan, the speaker of the House, didn`t say he`s endorsing today, but he said he will endorse. It was, like, I`ll give this guy a kiss on the cheek some day, but not now, but I am going to eventually be there. I mean, it wasn`t like he was holding off that hard.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right, or, like, I`ll hold his hand today and then I`ll bear hug him in couple of weeks from now, you might say. Yes...

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

JACKSON: ... the E word was not "endorse," the E word was "encouraging," right? That`s what we heard Paul Ryan say over and over and over again, I think 10 times in the course of that press conference here on Capitol Hill, where they`re doing some work behind us here, if you can hear it.

Sources familiar with the meetings this morning say that Ryan was able to talk with Trump about a couple of topics that are important to him, specific issues where there is a bulk (ph) between where he is and where Trump is, number one entitlement reform, number two pro-life issues, as well.

The tone of this meeting, I`m told, was very courteous. There was a sense that Trump wasn`t getting up there with either the meeting with Priebus and Ryan and the bigger one with House leadership and giving an attitude of, yes, I know this already. I get it. He was listening. He was attentive.

That said, there was a moment, I`m told, as it was put to me, where Trump made it clear he was well aware of the polls and well aware of how he`s doing. And that is kind of the inherent tension, right, of what`s happening right now. Trump feels that he has this mandate from voters. But he may not and he doesn`t have mandate yet from everybody in his own party here on Capitol Hill.

There is that contingent of "never Trump" folks who do feel like the party is unsettled at the moment. And that was a point that was made to Trump this morning, too.

In a sign that he`s trying to bring the establishment together, you know that Jim Baker, Secretary James Baker, former chief of staff for President Reagan, President Bush, was meeting with Trump today, his office confirming the news that NBC broke that, in fact, Baker was there at the request of Trump, has held meetings with other GOP candidates who have requested it, and we`re told at the moment will have no further comment on it.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s smart meeting for Trump.

Anyway, while Republicans agreed that today`s vibe was positive, there`s little evidence the policy chasms between Trump and Ryan were narrowed at all. Here`s Speaker Ryan today on that topic.


RYAN: There are policy disputes that we will have. There`s no two ways about it. Plenty of Republicans disagree with one another on policy disputes. But on core principles, those are the kinds of things that we discussed, and again, I`m encouraged.


MATTHEWS: Well, Katy, of course, you asked Reince Priebus about it today. Let`s watch that interview point.


TUR: What is one issue that Paul Ryan and Donald Trump were able to come to an agreement on?

PRIEBUS: Well, I`m not going to get into the specifics. I hate to spoil the fun, but you know, it was a private meeting, private conversation. But certainly, everything you`re hearing about is accurate, that it was all positive and it was -- it was -- it was cooperative. It was great.


MATTHEWS: Katy, I`ve heard a story I wonder if I can verify because it`s a wild one. But did the speaker really bring in charts and explain to Donald Trump how difficult it is to reduce the debt and that there`s big elements like entitlements you have to deal with. Like, it`s almost like a scene from "Dave," the move, where the guy pretending to be president has pictures of the cabinet members put up all around the table so he knows who he`s talking to.

Was it that bad?

TUR: He did bring charts, and anybody who`s covered Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill -- Luke Russert will tell you, as Alex Moe (ph), one of our producers will tell you this -- Paul Ryan likes his charts. And yes, he did bring charts, and they were about entitlement reform, but it was also about national debt. So he brought that with him.

We`re also told that this meeting was supposed to be just between Paul Ryan, one of his aides, Donald Trump, one of his aides and Reince Priebus. But the subsequent meeting ended up having a lot more of Donald Trump`s aides come in. So Paul Ryan brought his posse, if you will...


TUR: ... in with him, as well. So yes, he did bring charts. Unclear if Donald Trump was impressed by those charts. We do know he likes Rachel Maddow`s graphics. It`s not clear, though, if he likes them as much as Paul Ryan`s charts.


TUR: Bad joke.

MATTHEWS: It`s not bad. Anyway, thank you, Katy Tur, and thank you, Hallie Jackson.

I`m joined right now by real U.S. Congress people, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Thank you both.

Well, I guess you both have the same question before you. You both have districts that were carried by -- your district was carried by whom in the primaries?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Trump carried my district.


MATTHEWS: ... right. So that -- what does that say to you when you realize Trump`s carried (INAUDIBLE) does that make you feel -- and the new poll numbers are pretty close in the general and in state-by-state.

BLACKBURN: Sure. They are. I`ve said it was going to be an outsider year. I think that`s good and healthy for the party. And quiet frankly, I`m energized by all the new voters that are coming into the Republican Party this cycle. Change is good, and having somebody who is going to come in and shake up the way governor works -- I think that`s a very healthy thing for us.

MATTHEWS: The hate -- hate Hillary cotillion is out there. I noticed that the first line in this joint communique today between Trump and Ryan was, We want to stop Hillary. Is that -- is that a deciding factor for most Republicans, middle of the road, left and right -- or right and far right?


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think surely that`s a consideration. None of us are supporting Hillary Clinton, obviously. But for people like me and some of my other colleagues who I would say are more center-right, we do have concerns about the lack of policy specifics, plus all the incendiary remarks, whether it would be on the disabled or POWs or Hispanics, Muslims, the David Duke debacle. (INAUDIBLE) long list, your exchange with him on abortion. So I mean, these are the concerns that a lot of us have, and that`s why we`re not prepared to support Mr. Trump.

MATTHEWS: What`s the best you can say about those, Congresswoman, that you don`t really mean it, that he didn`t really mean it when he said that, you know, John McCain`s not a war hero because he was caught? Hey look, the plane crashed in the middle of Hanoi! He didn`t have many moves left at that point.

BLACKBURN: Well, you`re right about that. And I don`t know -- I haven`t discussed any of that with Mr. Trump. I think, though, when you look at the issues that are in front of this country -- national security, jobs and economic security, retirement security, which is huge with women -- I think people are saying, We want somebody who is going to make decisions, who is going to provide some leadership to...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want to lead on entitlements. He`s taking the safe Democratic position, which is, Leave things alone, which is very comforting to retirees, leave it alone. Right? That`s his position.

BLACKBURN: Well, I think sometimes you get into what did somebody say and what did people hear on that.

MATTHEWS: You think he`s for entitlement reform?

BLACKBURN: People want -- what people want to see done with entitlements is to stabilize Medicare and Social Security for seniors and near seniors and then to look at it, you know, and do something...

MATTHEWS: Is he willing to do that?

BLACKBURN: I would hope so, that we can get things straightened out so that there is stability and continuity and so that we stop spending all that money...


MATTHEWS: ... Trump is a really smart politician on some things. I think he looks at state like yours, Pennsylvania, and he goes, You have a lot of people in Pennsylvania are retirees. They don`t have the opportunity. All they want is enough to survive (INAUDIBLE) and keep their kids from moving away. That`s all they want. Their future is, Hold what you have. Keep the kids in the neighborhood because there`s jobs for them here, and not a lot of fancy stuff. Is Trump -- that`s what I think Trump seems to be offering. No more trade deals.

DENT: Well, I hear that, but I see (ph) -- what troubles me, I guess, is that there`s a lack of policy specifics. And the few policies that we`ve heard so far have been contradictory or conflicting. For example, you mentioned entitlements. On the one hand, he says that he wants to balance the budget in a fairly short period of time. On the other hand, he says we`re going to ignore the entitlements. Well, we know you can`t balance the budget unless...

MATTHEWS: Did he learn that today?

DENT: Well, Paul Ryan brought the charts out. I`m sure he went through this in great detail, and nobody can do it better than Paul.

MATTHEWS: I know. It`s a terrible thing where every year, members of Congress try to reduce the budget, and they look at these three big factors. Interest payments are huge in $19 trillion in debt. You have to pay the T-bond holders. You`ve got the entitlements because people keep getting older and there are just more people that are older.


MATTHEWS: And third, you`ve got defense. We have the largest defense establishment in the world.

BLACKBURN: Yes. Now, Chris, I think Medicare and Social Security -- people segment that. They want to make certain there`s stability there. But they look at the mandatory spending components and what needs to be done for reworking Medicaid and the delivery systems on that and the mandatory spending, and they really want that addressed because they see a lot of waste, fraud and abuse in those systems. And they`re going to insist that we do that, plus they want these federal agencies dealt with because they`re too bureaucratic.

MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump`s past comments about women will surely come up again and again over the next six months. We all know that. Earlier this year, an anti-Trump super-PAC put out this ad quoting the New York businessman this way. Let`s watch.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Real quotes from Donald Trump about women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had the height. She had the beauty. She was crazy, but these are minor details.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like kids. I mean, I won`t do anything to take care of them. I`ll supply funds, and she`ll take care of the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it doesn`t matter what they write as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED)


MATTHEWS: How do you explain that at home?

BLACKBURN: Well, I think for a woman like me...

MATTHEWS: In Tennessee.

BLACKBURN: I`ve heard things that and worse said about me.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but this guy`s up for the presidency...


MATTHEWS: He wants your endorsement for the presidency.

BLACKBURN: I`ve heard it from guys that I`ve worked with. I`ve heard it all my life. And you know what?

MATTHEWS: Would you hire some -- a guy...

BLACKBURN: Let me tell you what...

MATTHEWS: Would you hire a male that talked like that for your office?

BLACKBURN: No, let me tell you want I think...

MATTHEWS: Would you hire one?

BLACKBURN: Let me tell you where I think people are, women are on this.


BLACKBURN: They have heard that all their life. They`ve had people condescend to them. They`ve had people call them names. They are more worried about keeping their community safe, making certain we don`t have terror cells, having jobs for their kids coming out of college, making certain that a comfortable retirement is there not only for them but for parents...

MATTHEWS: Isn`t there anybody around...

BLACKBURN: ... their elderly relatives...

MATTHEWS: ... like that, that you describe, that doesn`t have this -- this reputation that he`s got?

BLACKBURN: There are things that he has said I wish he had not said, but I think people are more worried about the fate of our country. And they`re saying, OK, here we go.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, my hunch is -- everybody has a hunch about who`s going to decide this election. I think Pennsylvania`s going to decide it, but moderate Republican women, many Republican women. What are they saying in your district, which is around -- Pennsylvania, southeastern Pennsylvania?

DENT: Well, a lot of women are concerned. I mean, everybody sees the polls. You know, 70 percent of women have an unfavorable view of Mr. Trump. And you know, I think it`s hard to take these words back. And when you`re a presidential candidate, you know, every utterance you make is policy. At least that`s the perception. And I think that`s one of the challenges. And really, it causes me a lot of heartburn, you know, when I heard those kinds of statements. You know, I`m not naive. I`ve heard all this, too. But I don`t hear it, you know, stated from the podium. It`s a problem.

MATTHEWS: Didn`t it bother you when he called his opponent`s father part of the Kennedy assassination team?


MATTHEWS: Rafael Cruz? Wasn`t that an amazing statement?

BLACKBURN: There are things -- there are things I wish he hadn`t said.


BLACKBURN: You know, and...

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not going to stop. Do you think he`ll stop?

BLACKBURN: I do think you`re going to see a more presidential decorum.

MATTHEWS: So man`s changed...


MATTHEWS: You`re an optimist. Thank you. Great to have you on.

BLACKBURN: I am an optimist, you`re right.


BLACKBURN: President Trump, here we come!

DENT (?): Thank you, Congresswoman.

MATTHEWS: It`s always great to have you on. We`ve had you on for many -- even though you`re young, we`ve had you on an awful lot lately over the years.

BLACKBURN: There you go.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Congressman Charlie Dent, a guy that thinks sort of like I do, a little bit to the right of me (INAUDIBLE) safe here, a little bit to the right.

Coming up -- Paul Ryan is inching closer to supporting Donald Trump. He actually said a quick yes when somebody said, You going to get around to endorsing him some -- anyway, he`s really eying, many people believe, his on presidential prospects four years from now. But every move Ryan makes right now with Trump is going to have an impact on his own political options down the road. I personally think he`ll have no options if Trump wins.

Anyway, plus, Republican reaction to today`s big meetings. Can Democrats capitalize on the divisions in the Republican Party when they`re still fighting their own primary battle between Hillary and Bernie?

And the spectacle of it all -- we`ll be seeing the Trump show on a nightly basis now through November. No matter what you think of Trump, he`s dominating the pictures, the headlines. The Democrats hardly get into the tent. How to put on a good show from Donald Trump.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the spectacle we did see today in Washington, the sight of Donald Trump assuming leadership.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Former vice president Dan Quayle -- remember him? -- has spoken out on the 2016 race, telling the "TODAY" show he thinks there`s one aspect where Trump is more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he as qualified as she is?

DAN QUAYLE (R-IN), FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, on paper, you`d say, Well, she`s more qualified. But you know what? He`s more qualified in the sense that the American people I think want an outsider. And they want an outsider this time. She is not an outsider. So if you`re looking for an outsider, no, she`s not qualified and he is.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today. I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified, to bridge the gaps and differences. And so from here, we`re going to go deeper into policy areas to see where that common ground is and how we can make sure that we`re operating off these same core principles. And so yes, I am -- this is our first meeting. I was very encouraged with this meeting. But this is a process. It take a little time. You don`t put it together in 45 minutes.

Look, here`s what we agree on. A Hillary Clinton presidency would be a disaster for this country.


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the agreeable point for Republicans: Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for the country.

That one thing, they seem they could ally on today.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Speaker Paul Ryan earlier today on his meeting with Donald Trump today. rMDNM_Ryan is still holding on our endorsing the presumptive nominee so far, but he says he will get around to it. But how is this affecting fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill?

NBC correspondent Kelly O`Donnell joins me from Capitol Hill.

I thought it was fascinating today, when somebody -- one of our reporters, correspondents, interviewed rMDNM_Ryan. And it was like a quick yes, I will get around to it, but not now, but not today.

What do you make of that?

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s been a bit of the war between the passions that Paul Ryan feels. Then we see a different approach, sort of the pragmatism of Mitch McConnell.

And I think what some of these lawmakers experienced today was not the rally, big arena Donald Trump, but more of the negotiator, business meeting Donald Trump, where he was able to look them in the eye, talk about some of the concerns that they have and soften some of the rough edges.

For Paul Ryan, he has committed his whole public life to really fighting for principled ideas that he believes in for conservatism and trying to be that head of the party nationally and not wanting to back off of those principles right away.

So, he makes a reasonable argument that you can`t turn it all over and come together in just 45 minutes. But Mitch McConnell is farther down the path along that line. He`s already saying he endorses. The two chairs of the committees that help members of Congress get reelected, they`re endorsing and trying to move forward.

So, Paul Ryan has some time. It also gives Trump some time later a chance to say he got a win if he can in fact persuade Paul Ryan to come over to his side -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Tonight, your beat was the biggest beat in the world. Congratulations, Kelly. It was all here on the Hill. Thank you, Kelly O`Donnell, who covers the Hill.


MATTHEWS: Ryan, actually, the Speaker Ryan hasn`t been so shy about weighing in on the GOP`s nominating contest and calling out Trump for his ply proposals, like his ban on Muslims coming in the country. Here is Ryan.


RYAN: Normally, I do not comment on what is going on in the presidential election.

I will take an exception today. This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly it`s not what this country stands for.


MATTHEWS: You can tell that was an earlier picture when he had the beard.

Anyway, rMDNM_Ryan also lashed at Trump for being slow to disavow former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke.


RYAN: The conversation over the last few days has been about white supremacist groups.

I try to stay out of day-to-day ups and downs of the primary. But I have also said, when I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country, I will speak up. So today I want to be very clear about something: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people`s prejudices.



As Ryan slow-walks unifying his party right now, he`s balancing the GOP`s chances in 2016 many believe with his own ambitions to be the nominee of the party in 2012 (sic).

Michael Steel is a former spokesman for Speaker John Boehner. And John Feehery is a former spokesman for Dennis Hastert. Both had jobs very, very similar to my own over the years.

Let me ask you, what do you think? Everything has their suspicion of self- interest. Does this fellow think that he`s going to be nominee?

MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER JEB BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: No, no, his interest is protecting his House Republican majority this year.


MATTHEWS: The 245 people, keep them there.

STEEL: Exactly. These are guys, some are never Trump. Some have already endorsed. A lot are skeptical, hoping they can support the nominee. And that`s the process that the speaker is leading them on right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s follow that up, couple things there, John.

He pointed out today he`s pro-life. He wants to make sure Trump is, right?


MATTHEWS: He wants to make sure that he believes in the core principles and the limits of the executive power of the president, right?

I think the Republican Party when I worked up on the Hill was more of a political party, a regular coalition of some moderates, some middle of the road, some conservatives. Now it seems to be very much a philosophical party and that rMDNM_Ryan is sort of the high priest. He says this is dogma and this isn`t.

He sort of describes it. I thought that was the role he was playing today. You must subscribe, Mr. Trump, to the belief system of this party.

FEEHERY: I think there`s a little bit of worry that Trump doesn`t really have appreciation for the Constitution and worry that he might overreach.

There`s been a lot of worry that Obama has done that as president. They are sick and tired. And I think that`s a good discussion to have. Congress needs to reassert itself.


MATTHEWS: They don`t want the man on horseback then. They don`t want the guy riding into town like John Wayne and saying I`m giving the orders.

STEEL: No. They want somebody who is going to work within our constitutional system, respect Article 1, as well as Article 2.

MATTHEWS: Which creates Congress. Yes.

STEEL: And that`s what they are hoping to get from these conversations with Donald Trump.

FEEHERY: And, Chris, as you know, a good speaker protects his members. That`s what Ryan is also doing, not only protecting the institution, but protecting his members from a guy who says a lot of things.

Ryan is right on the Muslim ban. He`s right on David Duke. And you need to protect your members. I think you -- done here before. He`s worried about it because he`s not sure how this all plays out.


MATTHEWS: And yet Trump has his own political ambitions. Trump has to be seen as on the offense all the time. He`s always on the offensive. Two, he has to be seen as a guy mastering any interpersonal relationship with anybody. He has to be the bully, the boss.

And, third, he has to be the outsider. Let`s stick with that out -- how can he get along with a Republican Congress which is the heart of the political establishment in this country without becoming an insider like Ryan?

STEEL: Well, part of this is transition from the primary part of the campaign to the general election.

He won the primaries by winning a certain segment of the Republican base. In order to win the general election, to beat Hillary Clinton, which is all of our goal, he`s going to have to unify the party and get votes from every wing of the party, as well as...


MATTHEWS: How does he do it stylistically? How does he stay Donald Trump and do that?

STEEL: I think that there`s a fine line between his outsider status and the sort of hateful comments, the derogatory comments, the...

MATTHEWS: Can he still get a crowd if he doesn`t engage in the wild speech? Because the wild speech is what gets him headlines.

STEEL: I certainly think so.

FEEHERY: Well, but he also can`t...

MATTHEWS: How do you trim in?

FEEHERY: He also can`t be a typical politician. I think there`s way to do this.

He was pretty undisciplined throughout the campaign and, believe me, it worked for him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to the bottom line of skepticism.

Paul Ryan was on the ticket last time. Once you have got that close to it, I have never a guy or woman walk back. They don`t go back.

STEEL: He`s been absolutely clear that speaker of the House has never been elected president and that this is the highest political office he expects to hold.

MATTHEWS: He has accepted this detour, that he`s not going back for the presidency?

FEEHERY: Well, you never know what is going to happen in the future. He`s a pretty young guy.

MATTHEWS: But he ain`t going to get it if Trump gets it. If Trump goes in the White House, he gets nominated for renomination, reelection, it`s over for this guy.

FEEHERY: Paul Ryan is not the kind of guy that is scheming about being president. He`s actually just a policy wonk. He`s gotten to be speaker. Now if he becomes president, fine, but that`s not -- he really wants to move policy.


MATTHEWS: Like Dick Cheney, he got to be vice president not by scheming. He just got to be speaker of the House, not by scheming.

FEEHERY: I don`t think -- you know it better than I do.

Paul Ryan was -- he was begged to do this job by your former boss. And I don`t think he wanted it.


MATTHEWS: How does Boehner like retirement, by the way?

STEEL: He`s having the time of his life.


MATTHEWS: I caught him at the Irish-American Dinner the other night.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steel, who held an important post, and John Feehery as well.

Up next, Democrats seize on this break in the Republican Party. But, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is still trying to fend off Bernie Sanders in the party`s primary. That fight is not over at all.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

A suspect is in custody after sparking a lockdown at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland earlier tonight. A woman walked up to the main gate and claimed to have a bomb, but no bomb was found.

The Navy has reportedly fired commander of the 10 U.S. sailors who wandered into Iranian waters and were held by Iran earlier this year.

And a lawyer for Dennis Hastert says the former House speaker will not appeal his prison sentence in a hush money case that was related to sexual abuse -- back to HARDBALL.


SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: What we`re seeing right now is the Republicans coming forward in a step of unity and really becoming a shill for a reality TV star. We might want to call it congressional apprentice.


MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan actually responding to the meeting today between the presumptive Republican nominee for president. I don`t really like the phrase. How about the nominee to be? And the party`s Republican leadership.

With House Speaker Paul Ryan not yet endorsing but, but saying he will soon, the party clearly remains a house divided, for the day, at least, the situation which Democrats are trying to capitalize on.

Shortly after the meeting, Hillary Clinton`s campaign sent out an e-mail saying -- quote -- "Republicans are continuing to acknowledge that a President Trump would be too big a risk. Today, Speaker Ryan met with Donald Trump and he clearly wasn`t swayed by the nominee, as he again refused to endorse him."

Well, that`s a little rough. I`m not sure that is the message that rMDNM_Ryan put out today.

Anyway, the Clinton campaign also organized a call with reporters this afternoon led by Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who said Trump`s presidency would be "a train wreck for American values and for Latinos."

I think he had to put this in there for sure.

Joining me right now for more, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and MSNBC analyst Jonathan Capehart of "The Washington Post."

Gentlemen, watch this now. Joe Biden is kind of hard to predict sometimes. But Joe Biden said something like this. He`s now talking about that if he had ran, if he had ran, Politico reported today that Vice President Joe Biden, if he had wanted to run, had run, he would have put Elizabeth Warren as his running mate.

People familiar with the situation Politico that -- quote -- "Joe Biden took months to decide he wouldn`t run for president, but he was sold on Elizabeth Warren as his running mate from the start, and he still thinks the Massachusetts firebrand would be Hillary Clinton`s best choice to replace him as the country`s number two in January 2017."

Why is he getting in -- why is he messing with her marmalade?


MATTHEWS: Why is he doing this now, telling her he would have picked a woman? Him picking a woman is different than another woman picking another woman, I would think, just a difference in terms of ticketing balancing.

MCMAHON: Although it`s an interesting dilemma for Hillary Clinton. She wants to bring the Bernie Sanders folks into the fold. Elizabeth Warren was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders. And so it would be an interesting doubling down, like Clinton-Gore.

MATTHEWS: Would you do that?

MCMAHON: No, I wouldn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.



MATTHEWS: We all like to be dashing and exciting, but it may be too exciting for some of the voters.

Why is Biden doing this?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I don`t know. I really don`t know.

MCMAHON: He couldn`t stand to be out of the limelight. He`s just having fun.



MATTHEWS: Is he setting himself up in case something goes wrong on the e- mail front?

CAPEHART: I don`t know if that`s what he is actually doing.

MATTHEWS: Nobody stops running for president.

CAPEHART: No. And he`s proving that. This is, what, the third story in as many weeks about Vice President Biden waxing nostalgic for the race he hasn`t run.

MATTHEWS: Who would be the nominee of the Democratic Party? I don`t even know the rules for this. Who would be the nominee of the Democratic Party, since we`re talking all Republicans today, if something happened to Hillary Clinton and she had to withdraw for the e-mail reason or something? Who would the be nominee?


MCMAHON: It would almost certainly be Bernie Sanders.


MCMAHON: Because he had run.


MATTHEWS: Even if it happens after the convention? Who would get it?

The Republican National Committee meets and decides. We saw this with Eagleton. They just -- back in `72.

MCMAHON: That`s right.


MCMAHON: Then it would almost certainly be Joe Biden, but it would have to be after the delegates had met.


MCMAHON: By the way, that`s never going to happen.


CAPEHART: Yes, I was going to say, because imagine the Bernie folks saying, OK, Vice President Biden, go right ahead. We have spent all this time, invested all this energy and money.


MATTHEWS: OK. Well, speaking of stirring the pot, "The Wall Street Journal" wrote in an editorial, and you know what they`re up to, to the case Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic presidential nominee right now, saying -- quote -- "If Sanders sweeps the final 10 primaries and caucuses, he might take the lead among bound delegates heading into the Democratic Convention in July."

What`s the point of saying that? In other words, sweep all the delegates. Hillary is in pretty good shape to carry California. So, what are they doing? Sweeping all of them. And she would still have the superdelegates.

CAPEHART: Well, that`s the point. They didn`t say he would go into the convention as the nominee outright.

MATTHEWS: They implied he would win.

CAPEHART: Yes, implied because...


MATTHEWS: Are they keeping him out there like a fatted calf? Are they keeping him fat and ready to run against in the general?

CAPEHART: Yes. Of course, they would love to run against Bernie Sanders. They have not laid -- Republicans have not laid a glove on Bernie Sanders.


MATTHEWS: Does anybody get this on the left, the progressive left? Do progressives realize that the Republicans have purposely avoided trashing this guy, who they could easily trash as a Democratic...

MCMAHON: No, they don`t get it. They don`t get it all.

This is the journalist equivalent, by the way, of suggesting that Senator Cruz`s father had something to do with the assassination of John Kennedy. It`s utterly ridiculous on its face. And they do it just to stir the pot, just to cause trouble. The fact is, Bernie Sanders would have to win not just the next 10 elections, but he would have to win them with two-thirds of the vote or more in order to even be competitive. There`s no way on Earth Bernie Sanders...


MATTHEWS: How do Democrats grab the spotlight? You write for the papers. You`re in P.R. You know the public relations business. I will start with you.

How do Democrats grab the front page again? Trump is out there. It`s like -- I can`t believe. It`s like Scheherazade. He`s got a new story every day to stay alive. Did you like that reference?

CAPEHART: Yes. It was good.

MATTHEWS: Every day, he`s got a new one.

Hillary is a smart, well-breathed person. But she is not novel. She doesn`t come up with a new Hillary every day, a new interesting comment. She`s pretty solid.


CAPEHART: But the way she wins this thing, in my opinion, is she makes Trump the huckster, the guy who will say anything to get what he wants and whose history is that what he wants comes at the expense of everybody else.

And she`s got to tell that story. She has got to have a narrative for the campaign. She`s not going to win it by having a train wreck every day in the press. She`s going to win it by being slow, steady, tested, trusted, experienced.


You can`t compete with Donald Trump in terms of the spotlight. And sometimes that spotlight is so hot, you don`t want to be anywhere near it. So, let Trump be Trump. Let Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee, if she gets there..


MCMAHON: Prohibitive.


MATTHEWS: Have you guys hated the word presumptive?


MATTHEWS: It sounds terrible to me. Anyway...

CAPEHART: But, no, the point I`m trying to make here is, let Donald Trump be Donald Trump. Let him be the Roman candle on the campaign trail and let Hillary Clinton, as Steve said, just make the pitch, make the case.

Let Donald Trump hang himself by his own words.


MATTHEWS: You`re thinking of candle in the wind, aren`t you?

CAPEHART: No, I`m not.

MATTHEWS: I thought you were.


MCMAHON: You need to create this narrative, so that every time he`s a Roman candle, it actually fulfills the prophecy. She`s got to set a trap for him that he walks into every single day.

CAPEHART: And the point I was trying to make is that in 2008, when the economy imploded and everyone was concerned about what was going to happen, what did John McCain do to steal the spotlight?

Suspended his campaign. He wanted to focus. And Barack Obama was like, what are you talking about? We have got a campaign to run.


MATTHEWS: You never know. Like the chair was a good idea, but it didn`t work.


MATTHEWS: Three seconds.

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart.

Up next, our roundtable tonight, reaction to the big day in Washington and the showmanship of Trump.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Ryan, he`ll meet with me today and he will do what I say.

REPORTER: This morning, the big meeting between Donald Trump and House Speaker Ryan.

REPORTER: Chairman Priebus of the RNC also inside. He`ll be talking with the two of them. Sources say he will act as a truce negotiator.

REPORTER: I`m told those conversations between Priebus and Ryan and Donald Trump continuing in the fourth floor office.

REPORTER: Donald Trump made no secret of attacking Paul Ryan earlier on this campaign.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember the wheelchair being pushed over the cliff when you had Ryan chosen as your vice president. That was the end of that campaign, by the way, when they chose Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, it`s no secret that Donald Trump and I have had our differences.

REPORTER: We just got a joint statement from Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. "This was our first meeting but it was a very positive step toward unification."

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: It was a positive mood. It was a mood of cooperation and a feeling that it`s time to unify the party.

RYAN: I was very encouraged with this meeting. It`s a process. It takes a little time. You don`t put it together in 45 minutes.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Those were in Washington today when Donald Trump, the outsider, came, met and conquered, Speaker Paul Ryan, in Hill passion, continued to reserve the right to object, as a Hill phrase, to a Trump candidacy.

But it was Trump who controlled the offense today. He arrived with the wind at his back, polls show a tight general election race ahead. The latest NBC News online poll shows Hillary Clinton with a five-point lead nationally over Trump. Not a lot, beyond the margin of error there.

Joining me -- it`s even beyond -- our roundtable tonight: former congressman from Georgia, Jack Kingston, is joining us. He supports Trump. Francesca Chambers writes for "The Daily Mail", and NBC presidential historian, Michael Beschloss, joins us.

Francesca, your thoughts about the pictures we saw and we`ll see in tomorrow`s paper and tonight`s news.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: Well, notably, there was no handshake. They did not appear together. That is something that Donald Trump may have wanted because he tweeted out photos of him and other GOP leaders. We didn`t see that today with Paul Ryan.

Why is that? It would have looked like an endorsement. He said he wasn`t endorsing, but it would have looked like an endorsement.


MATTHEWS: He said yes.

CHAMBERS: He didn`t endorse today and it would have looked like an endorsement today if he had been seen photographed with him shaking his hand.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, who look good today? Was this good for Trump today?

JACK KINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I think it was good for Trump. I think it was good for Ryan. I think it was good for the process. As you know, you know, each party sort of has three legs to the stool. The donor base, the establishment, if you will, the elected officials and the grassroots. And I think what Trump was doing today is saying, you know, I`ve got the grassroots with me. I need the elected officials and then I`m going to start talking to the more inside players.

But I think sitting down with Ryan was not just symbolic.

MATTHEWS: Is this a route to the goal he has to collect?

KINGSTON: He has to. He`s got to be able to do it, but he`s got to go through it.

MATTHEWS: That`s interesting. I never thought that the way you get to the donor base, the big shots to the party, we used the call the fat cats, is talk to the elected officials.

Michael, talk about history, because you`re a historian. It had the aspect, I was trying to think, was this like Nixon going up on Fifth Avenue with Rockefeller back in the `60, we had to cut that deal, to get the moderates behind him.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we`ve never seen a presumptive nominee basically go hat in hand into a speaker, essentially begging for his support. So, that is something that really Paul Ryan was in the cat bird seat today.

But no, I think, you know, parallel really applies, but one would be 1960, as you know. Sam Rayburn, longtime speaker, Lyndon Johnson, the majority leader, Democrat, who tried to beat John Kennedy, they had scheduled the session of Congress to go through August, after the Democratic convention, for one reason only. They wanted to leverage on whoever was the nominee.

So, Kennedy had to make sure that Rayburn and Johnson were happy. That`s one reason why Kennedy had to put Johnson on the ticket.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about an other I relished, of course, in history, that`s when Jack Kennedy, another hero, had to appeal to Eleanor Roosevelt, to get the approval of the old liberal crowd, that never like, well, I`m not sure she was good on Catholics, to start with. I just put, I had evidence on that. I have evidence on that.

So, he had to go to her hat and hand and say, gee, will you forgive me for my brother working for McCarthy, will you forgive me for having a father who didn`t want to fight World War II? Will you forgive me the fact my father and your husband never liked each other and you`re the keeper of the keys. Will you please not get in my way?

He was doing that today with Paul Ryan. He`s the keeper of the keys. Congressman, Paul Ryan is the ideological leader of the Republican Party. He basically represents the 245 members of the House and they agree with him.

KINGSTON: And he stepped up to the plate probably during one of the toughest times to be leader in history, because his own party is divided and he`s against a heavyweight in the White House. So, Paul, I think this is one more test of his leadership and he`s done a good job. He`s been tempered with what he reported. I would have expected them both to come out and say we`re united, let`s go beat Hillary.

Instead, they said, you know what, there are things we are at an agreement on. We want jobs. We want to turn the economy around. We want to reduce spending. There`s still things we disagree on.

So, I think they have left themselves some wiggle room, but I think from Paul Ryan`s standpoint, he`s done that as much for the Charlie Dent and other members of the Republican conference, plus the hard right.

MATTHEWS: OK. I have great respect for you. I have great respect for you, Congressman.

I want to give you some names as a running mate for Donald Trump, all right? I think he`s a mixed bag to start with. Mixed bag.

But here it is, Jan Brewer. Why would you put her on the ticket? You`re already known as an anti-immigrant guy. Why do you wanted two anti- immigrant guys?

I don`t know who -- Newt Gingrich. You want to clean up Washington, you`re bringing him back. These names make no sense.


KINGSTON: As a fellow Georgia, let me say, the most productive time in my 22 years was during the Contract with America.


CHAMBERS: -- the only people who have publicly said that they would be interested. Jan Brewer is one of the only people who said she would be interested in the job.


MATTHEWS: -- called a new castle. You`re already known to be an anti- immigrant.

KINGSTON: Marsha Blackburn, she would be a suspect. I would think Nikki Haley would be as well.

CHAMBERS: But it is a problem that Donald Trump will face is that there`s many Republicans who you might think he would consider who have come out and said, no thanks. I`m not interested in it.

MATTHEWS: That to me is the challenge is, to get one of them to change their mind, like Rubio or --

CHAMBERS: I honestly that --

MATTHEWS: Kasich, how quickly we forget, John Kasich. And I like the guy.

CHAMBERS: Rubio would not join his ticket.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable -- what was your point?

CHAMBERS: That Rubio would not join the ticket because he wants to preserve his own political prospect.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ll see. The best way to become president is to become vice president.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: You can play HARDBALL with us all week long. Follow us @hardball on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook. We`ll find the show`s best interviews, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and the smartest take on politics is the general election keeps heating up.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Congressman Kingston, tell me something I don`t know.

KINGSTON: Well, I made a call to Bruce Lavelle, good friend of mine, somewhat titular head of the Trump campaign in Georgia. And there`s not that much of an organization.

I was shocked because they stormed through Georgia. I was a Cruz guy, they beat us handily. But what I was impressed with when I talked to Bruce Lavelle was how strong their national diversity outreach is. He is excited.

And he was telling me all about what they`re going to do to bring in Muslims, bring in Hispanics, bring in African-Americans.

MATTHEWS: It`s virgin forest for these guys.

KINGSTON: It`s going to be very exciting.

MATTHEWS: OK. Francesca?

CHAMBERS: Well, Chris, we`ve seen a lot of chaos within the Republican Party today, but what about the Democrats?

Debbie Wassermann Schultz, the DNC chair, says that despite the fighting between Sanders and Clinton camps, she does not expect there to be this kind of divisiveness. She thinks that the party will unite before the Democratic National Convention this summer.

MATTHEWS: But she would say that.

CHAMBERS: Well, the White House seems to think that it will be fine too. I asked the president`s spokesperson about that too.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe it?

CHAMBERS: I think there`s a lot of Sanders supporters who are still upset with Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s PUMAs in there. You know what that means? Party unity my --


MATTHEWS: Go head.

BESCHLOSS: Insert a word.

CHAMBERS: Word we can`t say.

BESCHLOSS: Eight years ago this hour, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were monumental adversaries, Democratic primaries. This fall I think you will see President Obama campaigning more intensely for Hillary Clinton, assuming that she is the nominee, than we`ve seen any other outgoing president do at least in modern times.

MATTHEWS: And it`s tricky as it is to stay above from reach from Trump, so Trump can`t grab and pull down. I agree with you.

Anyway, thank you, Jack Kingston, Francesca Chambers. By the way, Republicans already anticipating that -- they`re saying it`s going to be a third Obama presidency and they`re trying to run against it on that.

Michael Beschloss, Francesca Chambers, Congressman Jack Kingston.

When we return, let me finish with the spectacle we saw today in Washington, the sight of Donald Trump assuming leadership.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight by saying what a strange day it was in Washington. Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he came here and took on this bunch of so-called party leaders like a tank riding over a speed bump. The only resistance he got was from Speaker Paul Ryan who said he`ll get to the endorsement, who said he`ll kiss Mr. Hot Stuff, just not on the first date.

Well, it`s amazing what strong poll numbers will do for you. Those what are Donald Trump came to flash just two days before his triumphant arrival here. Not only did he win state primaries, he`s on the road to winning more primary votes than any Republican in history.

And what Republican leaders are slowly getting their heads around is the only obstacle to Donald Trump becoming President Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton becoming President Hillary Clinton. That`s one Trump card when you think about it.

Mr. Paul Ryan may fill himself with notions of Hillary entering the White House next January then screwing her politically ala Barack Obama from the day she gets there, then running in to finish her off in 2020. He may hope for that. It may come to that. But there are many hazards in the meantime.

And what`s more important for the Republican Party right now is the success of the person who will be its nominee this summer and fall. Whatever sugarplum Speaker Ryan and the other personages of this Capitol had dancing and prancing in their heads, the picture produced today was that of a grand partisan genuflection.

Today`s events were a rich technicolored spectacle filled with meetings and salutes, pomp and circumstance that could well be heard someday as a prelude, a reticent recital of ruffles and flourishes. You know, that`s the tune they play right before "Hail to the Chief."

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.