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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/4/2016

Guests: Paul Singer, J.D. Hayworth, Stephanie Schriock, Carol Lee, Joseph Cirincione; Ruth Marcus, Michael Tomasky, Sarah Isgur Flores

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 4, 2016 Guest: Paul Singer, J.D. Hayworth, Stephanie Schriock, Carol Lee, Joseph Cirincione; Ruth Marcus, Michael Tomasky, Sarah Isgur Flores

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mayday! Every man for himself.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.

And this evening, President Obama hit Donald Trump when he was down, and boy, did he love piling on in this late-in-the-day press conference. He did so as Trump`s campaign reached a scary new low point today with a pair of alarming poll numbers.

According to the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton leads Trump now by 9 points, 47 to 38 -- 9 points in our poll. But catch this one. The latest McClatchy poll, Marist poll, is even more dire for Trump. The Republican nominee is down 15 points -- not just double digits but closing into 20 points -- against Clinton. Trump gets just 33 percent -- that`s the lowest I`ve seen in a poll nationally -- to Clinton`s 48 percent, 15-point spread there. That`s a huge fall from last month. Catch this. Last month, Clinton had a slim 3-point lead. Now it`s 15 points.

Well, the dropping poll numbers are the latest evidence and most stark yet that Donald Trump has been hurt badly by the events of the last couple of weeks. New polls in several key states also show Trump bleeding bad.

Remember the phrase "battleground states"? You don`t hear that anymore. In Florida, Clinton leads by 6 points. In Michigan, she`s up by 9. Pennsylvania, where I come from, Trump (sic) up by 11. He has to win that state. In New Hampshire, she has a 15-point advantage, and that`s a state he`s been counting on.

Meanwhile, a string of Republicans have recently said they won`t vote for their party`s nominee. They include Congressmen Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Adam Kinzinger and Richard Hanna of New York, who went so far as to say they would cross party lines and vote for Hillary Clinton.

In recent days, Trump has pushed the concern that the election`s going to be rigged. That`s his word he`s using now. Late today, President Obama was asked about that suggestion by Trump.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve never heard of somebody complaining about being cheated before the game was over or before the score is even tallied. So my suggestion would be, you know, go out there and try to win the election. If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on election day and ends up losing, then, you know, maybe he can raise some questions. That doesn`t seem to be the case at the moment.


MATTHEWS: Boy, did he love putting that knife in -- "That doesn`t seem to be the case" now.

Katy -- we`re going right now to Katy Tur. She`s up in Portland, Maine, where Donald Trump just spoke today. Michael Steele is with us, as well. He`s the former chair of the Republican National Committee an and MSNBC political analyst, of course. And Paul Singer is the Washington correspondent for "USA Today."

Katy Tur, tell me about -- does Trump hear it when Trump -- when the president puts the knife in, when he hits him hard like saying, Oh, if he`s up by 10 or 15, he can claim he was rigged if he loses the election, but that doesn`t seem to be the case now? Zing!

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think he does hear it, and that`s why you hear him respond. He`s never been one to take a slight, perceived or otherwise. And that`s why we always say that you see him counter-punch.

I think what`s going on right now behind the -- I know what`s going on behind the scenes of the Trump campaign and outside of the Trump campaign is literally everybody is trying to tell him that he needs to get it together, he`s got to get back on message, he`s got to reset this campaign. I think we`ve said he needs to reset it I think 9 or 10 times at this point during this election season.

But right now, if Donald Trump does not, the issue that he`s facing is that he`s going to go farther down in the polls. That`s what the GOP is fearing. And frankly, Chris, if you`re going to look at poll numbers, that is one of the only things that I think Donald Trump pays such close attention to that could potentially change his mind.

He could have Newt Gingrich, he could have Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Reince Priebus, Don, Jr., Eric Trump all coming in and saying, You got to get it together, you got to, you know, get away from these controversial headlines. When he sees his poll numbers dropping, that`s when I think you`re going to see Donald Trump start to change.

And today, we saw something of that. He did try to pivot. He focused on President Obama. He focused on Hillary Clinton. The issue was he still got tripped up. He still strayed from his message. He still brought up things that were baseless, like the video that he said he saw of the Iranians offloading cash and that the Iranians took this video and sent it to the U.S.

We`re still not sure what he`s talking about. The campaign said they were referring to a video on the morning shows yesterday that seemed to be the video of the American detainees coming off the plane in Switzerland.

He also was talking again about the San Bernardino terrorists, saying that people saw bombs all over their apartment and didn`t report that. That`s a baseless claim. And those are the things that drive headlines that the Trump campaign does not want to see.

The best advice that he is getting, from what I am hearing from folks, is for him to be quiet, don`t make the news, and let the press focus on Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Wow! He`s a long way from that, Michael.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of this -- we`ll get back with Katy, we`ll be back with you on this point, this word "intervention." Now, the word intervention, in my experience, is when somebody`s got a dope problem or a booze problem, to be blunt about it, they`ve got an addiction problem. They`re using something they shouldn`t be using, and it`s changed their life, their marriage, their job, and so somebody has what`s called intervention.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Their friends.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Newt Gingrich has been using that word.

STEELE: Yes, I think...

MATTHEWS: It`s a killer word.

STEELE: Well, I think because Newt sees this as that serious, where he sees someone...

MATTHEWS: Why is he telling the press he`s doing an intervention?

STEELE: Well, that`s what`s irritated -- that`s what`s irritated the Trump campaign, and quite frankly, some other folks around town, was getting that out in front because now that`s just one more layer that they`ve got to deal with...


STEELE: ... in trying to right this ship. And of course, you know Donald Trump well enough to know that when you start talking about him that way, he gets defensive.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, who wouldn`t?

STEELE: And -- right. And it`s, like, intervention? (INAUDIBLE) intervention. You know, we don`t do no...

MATTHEWS: Remember...


MATTHEWS: ... Paul, remember when Reagan was so kind to go after, well, Mike Dukakis saying, I understand he had some counseling...


MATTHEWS: ... and that 20, 30 years ago, you couldn`t even talk about mental illness.

SINGER: Right. No.

MATTHEWS: You still can`t in many circles. Most people are sophisticated about it, understanding. But they say if you had counseling, there`s something wrong with you.

And there`s this old theory that the Kennedys had this on Nixon. You know, he had gotten some counseling back in the `50s, which is -- what Nixon went through, I can understand it. But this idea that he needs counseling, he needs best friends to come in and put him down, get his head straightened out?

SINGER: The problem for Trump at the moment really is -- and this has been through the campaign -- is that conflict is his brand...


SINGER: ... and his success.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s almost like Triumph, the comic insult dog, you know? I mean, he makes his brand off of being in your face.

And Katy is right, people are telling him, You need to step back from conflict, be a little quiet and sit still for a while. That`s not his brand. It`s not his strength. How do you tell a guy who`s made his whole career, even his business career, out of conflict, that the way you`re going to succeed now is to take conflict out of this for a while and sit still? I don`t see how you get him to do that.

MATTHEWS: Well, speaking of conflict, Rudy Giuliani today -- he`s no calm customer, either -- downplayed reports that he and Gingrich were going to hold this intervention. Here`s the former mayor. Let`s watch.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: First of all, I find the word "intervention" completely out of line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I -- I agree with you on that.

GIULIANI: I -- that word I think honestly -- and I love him dearly, but I think that word was used by Newt in a memo that got around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what was this meeting about?

GIULIANI: There wasn`t a meeting. I meet with Donald Trump all the time. I was with him two days ago, spent two-and-a-half hours with him. We talk. We talk about issues. Sometimes, we make changes. Sometimes, he makes changes.

It`s an evolving campaign. He`s a new candidate. That adds a little bit of more of a learning curve than would normally be the case. But you get bad weeks and good weeks.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s for sure.

Let me get back to Katy. You`re on this guy like nobody. What do you think he thinks of the word "intervention" when he catches that on -- catches Rudy talking about it? By the way, dearly in love with Newt Gingrich? Nobody`s dearly in love with Newt Gingrich, my thinking. Maybe his wife is (INAUDIBLE) But dearly in love with him is an amazing statement from Rudy Giuliani!

Anyway, what do you think Trump thinks when he hears his friends talk about, like he`s got an addiction problem or whatever it is, the fighting (ph)?

TUR: I don`t think he likes the word "intervention." I don`t think he likes the word "addiction." I mean, that does imply some sort of substance abuse. But you may not be able to say that.

But ultimately, Donald Trump does have something of an addiction to headlines. He`s got an addiction to creating controversy, to drama. He likes dominating the newscasts. He likes dominating the newspapers. And that`s why you`ve seen him jump from one controversy to the next.

Chris, we`ve just seen him extinguish a controversy by creating a new controversy. In the past two weeks, I think there`s five or six, maybe seven now, and taking the past two days into account. There was the Melania plagiarism, Donald Trump again trying to link Cruz`s father to JFK, then there was the -- not the Benghazi, the Russian hacking stuff, Trump calling for that...


TUR: ... and then we`re getting into the latest headlines with Trump fighting with the Khan family and now not endorsing Paul Ryan. This is a campaign...

MATTHEWS: How about going after Melania`s immigration -- how about Melania`s immigration papers? I don`t know if there`s any truth at all to this reporting, but it seems like that`s the very thing to drive him off the handle. This drives Trump crazy when you go after an immigration issue with him.

TUR: Potentially. And the reason -- normally, spouses are off limits, but the reason that she`s getting a little bit more focus on her is because Donald Trump has been so fervent about his immigration stances, about building a wall, about being strong about the borders.

So naturally, reporters were going to start looking into Melania`s status and her past, and now there are questions surrounding when exactly she came to the United States.

Those photos that came out over the weekend in "The New York Post" were dated 1995 in the U.S., and that`s a year before she and Donald Trump say that she came here. We asked the campaign if they dispute that date, and they said -- they basically did not dispute that date. They just referred me to Melania`s statement that she never did anything wrong, that she came here legally and she followed all of the rules.

MATTHEWS: This is the kind of thing that happens in the press when you`re down, by the way. Not knocking the press, but when you`re down, they start to eat on your bones.

Anyway, House Speaker Paul Ryan also commented on Trump`s stumbles since the convention. Here`s what he had to say to a local Wisconsin radio interviewer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would there ever be a bridge too far, where you...


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have always said, of course, there are moments in that -- I`m not going to get into the speculation or hypotheticals. None of these things are ever blank checks. That goes with any situation, in any kind of race. But right now, I think it`s important that the voters -- you know, he won the delegates. He won the thing fair and square. It`s just that simple.


MATTHEWS: Wow, but they`re all going around the place. What do you make of this, Michael?

STEELE: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: Because it seems like people are talking about him to the media. They`re not talking to him.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: They`re talking about, like he`s a case.

STEELE: Yes. And that`s rubbing a lot of people raw at this point. And I think for Paul Ryan and a lot of other folks, you know, asking them, "Is there a bridge too far" is just actually getting to the point of ridiculous because here`s the rub. He made it. Donald Trump won 13-plus million voters in the primary. He went through the process. He`s the nominee.

To sit there and think that Paul Ryan, who is the titular head of the party in many respects, is now just going to go, Oh, I`m sorry, we can`t do that -- it`s just not -- it`s just not real. It`s not realistic. It`s not...


MATTHEWS: ... he wants to get the nomination under rule 9?


MATTHEWS: Because people tell me the only person that could replace Trump, if there was ever some dramatic overstep by him and they said, This is enough, a bridge too far, to use that interviewer`s question...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... the only guy that could unite the party would be Ryan.

STEELE: Yes, but that`s just not going to happen because that will not unite the party because all those Trump voters are going to not sit back and go, Oh, OK, we accept that. This is not realistic.

So here`s the thing. Everybody now -- and this is where Trump needs to help the rest of the party. They`re trying to help make him a better candidate, to try to inform him and get him up to speed on national security so he doesn`t -- so he understands the nuclear triad...

MATTHEWS: Did you see what the president said to him?


MATTHEWS: If I give him classified briefings, he`s got to keep them secret...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... as if he`s not capable of it!

STEELE: And that`s the concern.

SINGER: But Michael has that...

MATTHEWS: They treat him like he`s, like, a kid, like he`s a juvenile delinquent or something, like, this guy can`t control himself!

SINGER: Michael would understand this better than any of us, I think, that part of what an election involves is organizing the party at the grass roots and through the states. And the Hillary Clinton campaign, if you watched that convention, the Democratic convention, was stacked with political leadership within the party, all willing -- you know, governors, senators, all willing to go out in the field and mobilize...

MATTHEWS: Do boring stuff.

SINGER: ... mobilize their fund-raising networks and move the ground for her. Donald Trump needs to grab that party`s infrastructure...

STEELE: That`s right. That`s right.

SINGER: ... and have it enthusiastically embrace him. At the moment...


MATTHEWS: So the Democrats are the organized political party this year. What a weird turn-around that is...


STEELE: The smart politics for Donald Trump -- and this is what he has to understand. Paul Ryan is his biggest ally right now.

SINGER: Absolutely.

STEELE: Paul Ryan is not your enemy here. Paul Ryan is the guy...

MATTHEWS: Nor is...

STEELE: ... who will muster all those forces to go work through the RNC and the states to help you win this race.

MATTHEWS: So why is Trump haywire?

STEELE: Because Trump -- Trump is still in a defensive crouch, in my view. He`s still listening to people say this stuff about him, infer stuff about him, and he`s defensive about it. He needs to thicken the skin...


STEELE: ... and recognize you`re running for president. You`re now in the thick of this. This isn`t a business deal anymore.

MATTHEWS: The interesting thing, it`s all about temperament, guys, because...


MATTHEWS: ... in the IQ testing, I think he`s ahead of most of these guys. It`s temperament. He just gets really ticked off.

SINGER: Yes. He`s an outsider, and he has to become an insider now.

MATTHEWS: This is the hardest thing about politics, by the way, is putting up with the stuff thrown at you.



MATTHEWS: I don`t think I could do it.

Anyway, Katy Tur, thank you very much for being out there with the latest on the -- you are -- you got to write a book after this. You have to write one, Katy. Anyway, Michael Steele and Paul Singer...

TUR: You tell me every time. I`m going to have to do it now.


MATTHEWS: I just think you have all this stuff, all those notebooks.

Anyway, coming up -- we keep hearing it from Donald Trump about how the presidential election might be rigged. President Obama recently actually certainly popped a hole in that balloon late today, made a lot of fun of this guy.

Anyway, plus, Trump is hoping to turn things against both President Obama and Hillary Clinton over that $400 million payment to Iran this January. This January, by the way -- this is August, and we`re talking about it. The story might sound like a political winner for Trump, but when you dig into it, it`s not exactly what Trump makes it out to be. It`s not ransom. It was part of an overall arrangement or a deal. It wasn`t fresh money coming from somewhere to pay off kidnappers. We`ll get the facts on that coming up.

And President Obama`s making good on his promise to do whatever he can to help Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump. And with Trump`s allies pushing the birther line again -- that`s Corey Lewandowski pushing that again -- it`s a reminder that for this president, this thing`s personal. Never forget what Trump did to Obama, made him show his papers, like he`d stopped him in his car, Let me see your stuff.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the matter of nuclear weapons. Boy, that is not a Trump strong suit.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this new advertisement, TV ad, from a House Republican running for reelection out in Colorado.


REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: People ask me, What do you think about Trump? Honestly, I don`t care for him much. And I certainly don`t trust Hillary. I`m a Marine. For me, country comes first. My duty is always to you. So if Donald Trump is the president, I`ll stand up to him.


MATTHEWS: I guess he wants people to vote for Gary Johnson. We`re going to have Gary Johnson on tomorrow night, the Libertarian candidate. That`s Colorado Republican Mike Coffman promising to stand up to Donald Trump, but not clear where he`s actually going to end up as a voter. Who`s he going to vote for?

Anyway, it`s the latest example of a Republican office holder running away from his party`s nominee. Not clear who he`s running to. Yesterday, by the way, GOP congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said he wouldn`t be voting for Trump this November, either.

We`ll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Our country needs change, and she will never give us change! Never, ever, ever! The fact is, she helped create our rigged system.

And I`m afraid the election`s going to be rigged. I have to be honest.

It`s a crooked system. It`s a rigged system.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Actually, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump likes to make the claim -- he is right now -- that the election is rigged, the whole system is rigged. He`s pointed to several court cases nationwide in which restrictive laws requiring voters to show photo identification have been thrown out of court. He said those decisions open the door to fraud come November.

But, tonight, President Obama said he isn`t buying Trump`s claims of a rigged election.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is a conspiracy theory that is being propagated across the country, including in places like Texas, where, typically, it`s not Democrats who are in charge of voting booths, that`s ridiculous. That doesn`t make any sense.

And I don`t think anybody would take that seriously. I have never heard of somebody complaining about being cheated before the game was over or before the score`s even tallied.

So, my suggestion would be, you know, go out there and try to win the election. If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, then, you know, maybe he can raise some questions.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined by Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY`S List, and J.D. Hayworth, former Republican congressman from Arizona and host of "Newsmax Prime."

J.D., it`s good to see you.

J.D. HAYWORTH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It`s good to be with you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about how this charge and how it`s hit you, J.D.?

Do you have any -- is there any evidence out there that -- rigged is the kind of term they use in Third World countries. Every -- if I lost, it`s rigged. If I win, I arrest my opponents.


MATTHEWS: Are we at that level?

HAYWORTH: Chris, Chris, are you suggesting there`s not hyperbole in politics? Perish the thought.


MATTHEWS: OK. Well, tell me about this one.

HAYWORTH: It might surprise you a little bit.

Let me begin here in Florida, where I`m now a voter. I have absolute faith in what happens here in Florida. I have been a voter. I have been impressed with photo I.D., checking signatures. They do it right here.

Now, here`s what`s surprising, and it`s not the traditional Republican/Democrat breakdown. I was alarmed to hear today that out in Arizona -- has the same date for the primary that Florida does -- August 30 -- Secretary of State Michele Reagan, a Republican, and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Pursell, also a Republican, are not going to enforce the ballot harvesting laws on the books passed by the legislature, signed by Governor Ducey. They say they are not going to enforce them.

But to the presidential election, yes, there are real concerns, court cases. And Terry McAuliffe, the guy who could raise all that money from the Chinese in the Clinton/Gore `96 campaign, first, he tried to issue that blanket pardon or the change in status for felons. The Virginia Supreme Court said no. So he`s going to sit down individually and sign 200,000 changes in status?

That is one guy intent on putting Virginia in the Democrat column.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about the Republican open statements in places like Pennsylvania, where two top Republicans who run the state said that they believe that photo voter I.D. laws would help them win elections?

Let`s try -- let`s let them speak here. Here they are. We have heard, as I said, from several Republican officials up in Pennsylvania in recent history who have revealed the intentions, the motivation of the voter I.D. laws. Let`s listen to these guys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter I.D., which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

QUESTION: Do you think all the intention drawn to photo I.D. affected last year`s elections?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think a little bit. I think we probably had a better election. Think about this. We cut Obama by 5 percent, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won. He beat McCain by 10 percent and he beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably photo I.D. had a -- helped a bit in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butts. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks, that wants the government to give them everything, so be it.

QUESTION: And it just so happens a lot of those people vote Democrat.



MATTHEWS: Well, J.D., I`m not going to vouch for that third guy, but I will vouch for the two top Republicans, because they are serious leaders up there. And they are saying...


HAYWORTH: Hey, why don`t we vouch for your old boss, Jimmy Carter?

MATTHEWS: What about this?

HAYWORTH: President Carter, on the bipartisan commission with Secretary of State Jim Baker, 2005, ballot reform, they both came out saying photo I.D. is a valid way to get that done.

MATTHEWS: Fine. That`s their opinion.

HAYWORTH: That`s bipartisan.

MATTHEWS: That`s fine. That`s their opinion, not mine.


HAYWORTH: So, you`re just going to discount, well, there`s bipartisanship, and somehow it doesn`t count?


MATTHEWS: Because I wanted to let the Republicans speak for themselves in Pennsylvania. They offered up honestly their candid fact. It was political motivation that led them to be for photo I.D., not cleaning up elections, but winning elections.

Go ahead, Stephanie.


And what we have seen, Chris, in the last many election -- or last legislative cycles, is that the Republicans know that, if the voters actually have access to voting, they are in trouble. So the best way to do that is to change all of these laws through the legislature, add all these barriers, tear apart the Voting Rights Act to prevent people from voting.

And it should be as free as possible.


HAYWORTH: We could say the same thing -- we could say the same thing about California, where Jerry Brown and the Democrat-dominated legislature has changed things to make it easier to sign people up without I.D.

We can recall the words of Selwyn Duke in "The American Thinker," where the Democrat strategy is not get out the vote, but bring in the vote, give pardons to illegals.


SCHRIOCK: Well, J.D., let`s keep in mind that voting is a right in this country, though. You are talking about a constitutional right.


HAYWORTH: Same-day registration. Let`s not have any type of documentation, and, ta-da, that makes for a very curious situation.


MATTHEWS: Let`s find something we can agree on here. Why would a candidate four months before an election claim that an election was rigged, unless he thought he was going to lose?

HAYWORTH: No, I will tell you the real reason why.


MATTHEWS: Why is he talking about a rigged election now? Go ahead.

HAYWORTH: Well, you had a rigged nomination on the Democrat side, and you had three senior officials take a powder.


MATTHEWS: ... Donald Trump. Stay on this point.

HAYWORTH: And you don`t want to hear it, but that`s the case, Chris.

MATTHEWS: No, I want to stay -- I just try to -- I try to ask these questions.


HAYWORTH: Oh, so, now you are going to redefine the terms. You asked a question about rigging. There`s a legitimate concern.

I know it`s not in the interest of the Democrats. You wanted to collapse that news cycle. But let me tell you why those three people left. Not for the e-mails that have already come out, but the e-mails that are coming out ahead. They are looking to try to inoculate the situation.



MATTHEWS: Why is Donald Trump raising the issue that this election is going to be rigged now?

SCHRIOCK: Well, Chris, it`s clear. He feels like he`s losing. That sounds like somebody who is already losing.

And President Obama is exactly right. Maybe you should play out the election first. This is the United States of America.


HAYWORTH: Sure. When I hear President Obama today, spoken like a true denizen of Cook County, Chicago, where we know the elections always go right down the line.


Just a question. Why is Trump talking rigged elections at this point?

HAYWORTH: Because there are legitimate concerns.

You can define rig I guess the way Mr. Clinton asked for the definition of what is, is. But I will tell you this. There are legitimate concerns that efforts are made, for example, in North Carolina last month, where three federal appeals court judges said they could determine the intent of the legislature?

I don`t know how they can move into clairvoyancy, but they have done so. And that stinks to high heaven. It`s partisan and it`s wrong. People need to be who they are when they come into vote.

MATTHEWS: I guess that`s why we heard -- I like the political leaders to admit their motives, like the guys in Pennsylvania.

Anyway, thank you, Stephanie Schriock.

Thank you, J.D. Hayworth.

HAYWORTH: Excuse me. Democrats don`t want to win elections? Now, wait a minute. We are all in this and everybody wants to win elections.


SCHRIOCK: No. We just want voters to be able to vote.

MATTHEWS: Up next...


HAYWORTH: Well, that`s what I`m saying. Voters who are documented can vote.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

HAYWORTH: What`s wrong with being who you are and who you say you are?

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

We have been over this so many times.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: But we will go over it again. Thank you.

Up next: Donald Trump keeps slamming President Obama and Hillary Clinton over that $400 million payment to Iran. When we come back, the facts about that payment by the person who wrote the story for "The Wall Street Journal."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

The woman killed in a stabbing spree last night in London is identified as Darlene Horton, an American from Florida. Five other people were wounded in that violence.

Charleston Church shooting suspect Dylann Roof was assaulted by an inmate at the South Carolina jail where he is being held. Roof is accused of killing nine people at an historically black church last year.

And President Obama says Zika is a serious threat to Americans. He is urging Congress to approve funding to fight its spread -- back to HARDBALL.


OBAMA: What we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January. And the only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash.

The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions, and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran, that we couldn`t send them a check.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, President Obama late today defending the administration`s decision to send $400 million in cash to the Iranian government around the same time that four Iranian American prisoners were released to American officials. Coincidence or not?

While the news of the deal was reported back in January of this year, the form of payment was reported in "Wall Street Journal" today. They reported that -- quote -- "wooden pallets" -- those are boxes, wooden boxes, basically -- "stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran in an unmarked cargo plane."

Anyway, the story has become a political gift for Donald Trump, who has been desperate to change the subject after a week of stumbles.

Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That probably was hostage money to get hostages out for $400 million because it was exact timing. Our leaders are incompetent.


MATTHEWS: Well, the shipment of cash is part of the settlement of a dispute over a failed arms deal dating way back to the days of the shah. Iran paid us money for weapons, but after the Islamic Revolution of `79, we never delivered the weapons.

Anyway, still, the administration is trying to defend the optics of something that for many Americans is reminiscent of the Reagan era Iran- Contra deal, when the American government traded arms for hostages with Iran.

For more now, I`m joined by one of the authors of that "Wall Street Journal" article, White House reporter Carol Lee.

The president rarely does media attacks. He did one today, saying that your piece was manufactured, that it was a six-month or seven-month-old story. He was saying, why did it run today?

CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think, as you outlined, what`s new here is we -- is the fact that this payment, which we all knew was going to go to Iran, happened to land in Iran at around at the same time that the U.S. was getting back four Americans that were detained in Iran and that it came in the form of cash, obviously not American dollars, because that would be illegal, but euros, Swiss francs and other currencies.

And that has created a political firestorm and is raising questions once again. And these questions were raised in January from critics of the Iran deal about whether this settlement with Iran that coincided with the release of these Americans was, in fact, ransom.

And when you talk to administration officials, they vehemently, as the president did today, say that it was not, the U.S. did not pay ransom, but there were some in the Justice Department, as our Justice Department reporter reported today, that raised concerns about the optics of this, that it would be seen by Iran as a ransom payment. And Iran is describing it as a ransom payment.


MATTHEWS: Iran has been saying it was a deal.

LEE: Exactly. Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask the old cutter question, which I try to come up with. And you try to come up with it all the time too.

Would our people have gotten home if the money hadn`t been paid?

LEE: That`s the question that has been asked of the White House and to other administration officials. And they say yes.

But what`s clear is that Iran wanted some sort of deliverable up front. There were three things that were happening that weekend.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no, you`re -- I`m not clear. Would we have gotten our people back if we hadn`t made the payment of $400 million? Would we have gotten them back, yes or no?

LEE: Well, that`s -- the White House says that, yes, they would have, that these were things that all happened on separate tracks.


MATTHEWS: Why were they so coincidental? Why did they happen within days -- within one day of each other?

LEE: These are all the questions that members of Congress are asking and reporters are asking.

And, you know, in terms of what -- the method of payment and the timing of the payment, those are also questions that members of Congress have been asking since January and have not gotten the answers to.


Well, listen to the rest of this, because I think you will want to learn some things from Mr. Cirincione.

Joe Cirincione is joining us right now.

But thank you, Carol Lee from "The Wall Street Journal."

Here`s president of the Ploughshares Fund. Here`s the question. Assuming reasonability that the Iran hostages deal, getting the hostages back, the Iranian nuclear deal, and this deal over this debt that we had to settle after all these years, were all related, there`s the old thing they say in negotiations, there`s nothing that is decided until everything is decided. It happens all the time.

Until everything is agreed upon, nothing`s agreed upon. That still doesn`t make it ransom, because ransom is when you go into the bank and you grab some money from somewhere and pay it to get somebody home. This is what was part of a deal.

Now, I don`t know why somebody at that press conference today didn`t say, wasn`t this all part of a deal, an arrangement before Zarif and John Kerry or whatever, and, therefore, it seems reasonable, and it doesn`t break our precedent? What do you think of not paying ransom?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: I`m not surprised that Donald Trump thinks we paying a debt we owe is ransom.


MATTHEWS: Because whenever he paid a bill, it was a surprise.

CIRINCIONE: Right. He doesn`t want to do it. He doesn`t want to pay it.


MATTHEWS: Remember, that is part of his pattern. Don`t pay bills.

CIRINCIONE: Right. And there are a lot of people who didn`t want to make any deal with Iran, so they object to any deal. They objected to the Iranian nuclear deal. But that was a success. We stopped their program. We stopped a war.

MATTHEWS: So it`s not ransom? Or is it?

CIRINCIONE: Of course it`s not ransom. And it`s idiotic to think that this would be ransom.

We do not pay ransom for a very good reason. If we start paying, you can`t stop. That`s what happens.

MATTHEWS: Or was it part of the deal, though? Was it part of the deal?

CIRINCIONE: What we had is an opportunity that was opened up by the successful Iran negotiations, where we had new channels and we had a moment where we could...


MATTHEWS: OK. Same question the average guy or woman out there watching now wants to know. Would we have gotten our people back if we hadn`t paid the money?

CIRINCIONE: Yes, because what the Iranians were interested in most of all...


MATTHEWS: Why did it happen within a day if it wasn`t connected? If it wasn`t connected, why did it happen the next day?

CIRINCIONE: Because we had a moment where we could take care of all this business at once, and you don`t know if it`s going to happen again.

We got a very good deal in this repayment. We owed them $400 million. Adjusted for inflation, that`s $1.4 billion. We paid them $300 million interest on top of that. They were asked for $10 billion at the court where this was being adjudicated. So, Obama really knows the art of the deal. He struck a great agreement here. We got our prisoners out.


MATTHEWS: Suppose we had said, we want the nuclear deal, we want our people back, but no deal on this? Would that have worked?


CIRINCIONE: Yes, because...

MATTHEWS: Would that have worked? If we said we`re not paying the money, but we want our people back and we will make the deal with you on nuclear arms, would that have worked?

CIRINCIONE: Yes, and here`s why. Because we got the nuclear deal back in July. Remember, it was already a done deal.


CIRINCIONE: January 17 is when the whole thing is implemented, when they had ripped out their centrifuges, destroyed their plutonium reactor, fulfilled all the obligations.


MATTHEWS: But they could still be difficult.

CIRINCIONE: They give us five guys, we give them...

MATTHEWS: I know, but they could still be difficult.

CIRINCIONE: But we got -- we gave them 14 prisoners. That`s what they wanted back out of this.

MATTHEWS: OK. That was the deal. The other thing was unrelated? The other thing was unrelated?

CIRINCIONE: They are connected. And so there`s something going on there, but it`s not a quid pro quo. It`s certainly not...


MATTHEWS: OK. I think they`re related. And I think we`re going to find out over time that everything is related with the Iranians, because they know how to say no. They can be sticky and they can say no.

Anyway, thank you, Joe Cirincione.

And up next: President Obama`s once again going on the attack against Donald Trump. For the president, this fight is clearly personal. Just remember, he stopped this president, as president of the United States, and asked him for his papers. Never forget that. He had to show his birth certificate because of this guy Trump. Don`t think people forget that kind of stuff, that kind of crap, actually.

The roundtable is going to join us next. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would ask all of you to just make your own judgment. I`ve made this point already multiple times. Just listen to what (AUDIO GAP) judgment with respect to how confident you feel about his ability to manage things like our nuclear triad. I obviously have a very strong opinion about the two candidates who are running. One is very positive and one is not so much.


MATTHEWS: He is unbelievable. When Obama`s got the high hand, when you know he`s winning, you see how he threw in the word "triad" because he knew Trump didn`t know what a triad was?

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama at his peak there in a press conference a short time ago, late today. He`s taking an active role, of course, in the 2016 presidential campaign and hasn`t shied away from criticizing Donald Trump. Not at all. In fact, he likes doing it.

Let`s bring in the roundtable. Ruth Marcus, who I agree with every time she writes a column for "The Washington Post," Michael Tomasky is a contributor with "The Daily Beast", and Sarah Isgur Flores is a Republican strategist.

Thank you all.

Look, first of all, he loves this because Trump doesn`t know anything about nuclear weapons. Doesn`t know anything about -- doesn`t even seem to remember us kids hiding under the desks. He doesn`t understand the Cuban missile crisis. He doesn`t understand they are for deterrence, not use. He doesn`t understand you can`t use them in Europe, it`s a crowded little country where they are all allies of ours, you don`t use nuclear weapons.

Trump doesn`t know what he`s talking about.

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: And you don`t think it was a coincidence the president used the word triad? Hugh Hewitt asked Donald Trump about the nuclear triad at one of the debates.

MATTHEWS: And he didn`t know what it was.

MARCUS: In fact, actually Hugh Hewitt was pretty kind to Donald Trump at that debate because he had spelled out what the components of the triad were, and Donald Trump still showed no familiarity with it. In fact, actually it was really interesting, he was at "The Washington Post" awhile after that in March and we also asked him about the nuclear triad and he didn`t actually seem even then to know what it was.

MATTHEWS: The whole approach, I`m going back and I`m studying the `64 campaign and watching it being replayed. The candidate didn`t know what -- you had to wait Democratic (INAUDIBLE) said we shouldn`t have to wait until Saturday to know what the Republican meant on Monday. Everybody in the Republican Party voted for civil rights except Goldwater, except (INAUDIBLE).

So, they are trying to do the same thing. You can`t read the guy correctly, he`s not articulate, not clear, he makes stupid comments and he`s not a typical Republican. They are doing the same thing against Trump now, the Democrats.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, and it`s working according to the polls right now.

Here`s the thing about Trump, Chris. It`s not only that he didn`t know what the triad was and then didn`t know again later with you. He doesn`t care that he doesn`t know. He`s never read a book about this. He`s probably never read a "New York Times" article about nuclear deterrence.

He doesn`t care at all to know anything --

MATTHEWS: Isn`t he worried about winning?

TOMASKY: Yes, he has a different idea about winning. He thinks he can just win by going up there and winning the way he won in the primary. It`s a different scene in the general election. There`s going to be five times as many voters and they`re not all Republicans and they`re not all base Republicans and he can`t do it this way.

MATTHEWS: Michael, you remind me of the way I look at presidents when they dance at inaugural balls and they can`t dance. Obama can`t dance, W. couldn`t dance at all. They think you do the Freddy or some sort of one- step stupid thing. Back in the old days, presidents like Gerry Ford actually take dancing lessons. They actually took it seriously just for that. These guys don`t think they have to do nuclear lessons.


SARAH ISGUR FLORES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Here`s the big difference, though --

MATTHEWS: They don`t seem to need to prepare. Does Trump prepare himself on the policy issues? Does he?

FLORES: It`s pretty clear he doesn`t. But --


FLORES: -- it hasn`t shown that it`s mattered that much. Set aside --

MATTHEWS: Does it matter to you?

FLORES: Of course, it matters to me. It matters to some people.

MATTHEWS: That`s why you`re here. Tell me why it matters to you.

FLORES: But Donald Trump is most effective when making the case that this president knew a lot about foreign policy, he read a lot of books, he went to Harvard. And yet look at ISIS, look at the failures in foreign policy.

So, just because you`re smart, just because you went to Harvard and know what the nuclear triad is doesn`t mean the world isn`t in shambles. He can`t stick to that message.

MATTHEWS: How would Trump have prevented ISIS?

FLORES: He doesn`t have a message on that. But he is effective when he sticks to that message. This week, that message is even in the --


MATTHEWS: This is the part of politics I love the most, the personal part. I do believe that this president who I obviously like has pride, maybe it`s not all worthy of the pride but he`s got it. He doesn`t like as the first African-American president to be told by some character like Trump show your I.D. card. You know, you are stopped in traffic, basically he said he stopped him as president, said let me see your birth certificate to prove you`re not here illegitimately.

I have a sense, most people I work with think that, too, the president will never let him go on that. He wants thump this guy.

MARCUS: If you were the president, would you let him go on that?

MATTHEWS: I`m just -- I`m not the president.

MARCUS: He jabbed the president for months and months and months over the birth certificate and actually, Sarah raised an interesting thing because it wasn`t just the birth certificate. It was the question of whether he really was smart. How did he get into Harvard, how did he get into Columbia, where was, where are the transcripts, right?

MATTHEWS: Oh, nobody knew him as Harvard, are we sure he was there? Whacko stuff. I will let you defend that later.


MATTHEWS: Next they tell me something I don`t know. It`s wacky time. And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Tomorrow on HARDBALL, I`ll be talking about the libertarian ticket for president, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and former Massachusetts governor and the man I know well, Bill Weld. This is the option play for people that are worried about Trump. As Donald Trump continues to feud with the Republican Party, some of the right are taking a closer look at the libertarian ticket. And tomorrow, they`ll play HARDBALL. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern right here on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

And, Ruth, tell me something I don`t know.

MARCUS: We all talk about how much -- how well Donald Trump is doing with the non-college educated white guys. A source in Michigan tells me that actually the union polling shows that Trump is doing less well than McCain and less well than Mitt Romney with their members.

MATTHEWS: Union members, yes, but they`re Democrats.

MARCUS: Not necessarily.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s got that group. We`ll see.

TOMASKY: Arizona is the state to watch. Clinton might win it. John McCain could lose in the general election and more interestingly than either of those in some ways, the sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, running for re- election against a Democrat who`s a former police sergeant, the Democrat is ahead in the last couple of polls.

MATTHEWS: You think McCain`s going do lose?

TOMASKY: I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: Do you want him to lose?

TOMASKY: It`s margin of error.

MATTHEWS: Do you want him to lose?

Let`s go to the next, Sara. I`m pushy.

FLORES: So, this is a presidential politics, but check out the letter that the public defender in Missouri wrote to Democrat Governor Jay Nixon. They`re 49th out of 50th in per capita spending for public defenders. I`m an attorney. Everyone deserves fair and legal representation.

So, the head public defender appointed the governor to represent the next indigent defendant because he`s out of attorneys.

MARCUS: That is great. Bravo.

MATTHEWS: Anybody to a traffic situation in this town, or a car theft situation, it`s sad, the people that bring them to court, the defenders.

Anyway, thank you, Ruth Marcus, thank you, Michael Tomasky, and Sarah Flores, thank you.

When we return, let me finish with the matter of nuclear weapons, which does decide elections often. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a matter of nuclear weapons. They can, we know, blow up the world. We saw, of course, what they did in Japan. We know, of course, the power of such nuclear weapons today is far greater than what were at the heart of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And we know also that the reason we had a build-up of nuclear weapons during the cold war was for the purpose of deterrence. No side could use it without knowing the other side would retaliate, perhaps with every nuclear missile in their arsenal.

This is the world people my age grew up in, from the time we went through those air raid drills in our grades in school, to our nervous living through the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. It`s why we were overwhelmed, all of us, by the end of the Cold War, after the coming to office of Mikhail Gorbachev and the historic sit-downs with our President Reagan.

Well, today, President Obama was asked at his late in the day press conference what he thought about Donald Trump having power over the nuclear arsenal. He demurred, he said, we, all of us should rather listen to ourselves to Mr. Trump and make our own judgment. Listen about what Trump has said about when he would use such weapons of global devastation.

Trump stunned me by saying that he wouldn`t take the nuclear option off the table in the Middle East and he wouldn`t take it off the table, use of nuclear weapons even in Europe. Quote, "I would never take any of my cards off the table," he said. When I said that nobody in the world wants to hear an American presidential candidate talk about using nuclear weapons, Mr. Trump said that something you just have to -- well, you just got to call this troubling. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly.

MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, whole world heard it, David Cameron and Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in `45 heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for United States talking about using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that.

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?


MATTHEWS: Why do we make them? Trump asked.

Well, we make them so we keep other people from using them. It`s called nuclear deterrence. Doesn`t everyone know that? Didn`t people our age growing up knowing that?

They don`t like building materials like bricks or cinder blocks or bags of cement or sand or steel beams. Nuclear weapons are built not to fire, but to deter. You don`t have to like the idea of mutually assured destruction to know what it is. Ronald Reagan hated it.

But at minimum, can`t we agree on one basic thing that you sure as hell have to get it about nuclear weapons. They`re not to be used. They`re to deter. And based to what he has said so far, can any of us be entirely sure that Donald Trump gets it? That`s a serious question for all of us.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.