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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/18/2016

Guests: Paul Singer, Kellyanne Conway, Josh Green, Dave Weigel

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 18, 2016 Guest: Paul Singer, Kellyanne Conway, Josh Green, Dave Weigel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The charge of the Trump brigade.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump`s cavalry is (INAUDIBLE) taking to the field against Hillary Clinton. It`s boots and saddles, with a bugle calling charge. The only question is which direction. Will Trump head back to his winning message of standing up for the country, the nationalist and populist excitement that won him all those primaries?

Can he focus his attention on Hillary Clinton? Can somebody keep Trump Trump, the phenomenal figure who did defeat every rival to win the Republican nomination?

Well, tonight, we have as our lead guest, the somebody Trump picked himself to do just that, his brand-new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne, thanks for joining us.


MATTHEWS: Here`s the question. Well, you probably have a lot on your mind, but the question I have tonight is, how do you do it? You`ve so many weeks between now, starting at Labor Day, right to the finish. You got to turn this baby around. You got to remind everybody why they like Trump, get him back to 50-50 where he was pretty much before the conventions, and then go on and get a majority. How do you do it?

CONWAY: Chris, sounds like you`re in our strategy meetings. You`re exactly right. That is part of our focus. And I`m glad that you added something to, how does he do it, and you talked about getting him to be Trump again, the person that 50 percent of the country, you know, went for.

It`s important that he be authentic. I think we see with Hillary Clinton what happens when you try to be something you`re not. This guy has to feel comfortable when he`s out there on the trail.

But I think it`s a combination of things. It`s taking this campaign away from content-free conversation into a debate on the issues. We feel the issues benefit us. When he talks about radical Islamic terrorism or terrorism on Monday, when he talks about middle class tax relief last week, when he takes his debate right into the communities of color on Tuesday and challenges Hillary Clinton to show why and how after decades in public service, some of these measurements are not any better for all of us in our inner cities, then why should we have more of that.

And I believe when he takes the case right to Hillary Clinton, he looks at it as a tennis match, lobbing, lobbing, lobbing at her, not picking a fight with the ref, not booing the crowd. And he focuses that way, he`s able to do two things. He`s able to be himself stylistically, he`s able to be Trump and authentically, and yet he`s able to move this conversation into a general election contrast with Hillary Clinton.

Chris, we have two new ads going into rotation this week in our first major ad buy as a campaign.


CONWAY: You`re going to see that in our ads.


CONWAY: It`s contrast. Here`s what Hillary Clinton has said, here`s what we`re saying. You make the choice as the voter.

MATTHEWS: How do you talk to him? Maybe you can`t tell me this, and we`ll talk years from now about how it worked out. But you know, I don`t buy this there`s been a problem of Trump being Trump. I think the problem is he has not always been Trump, that he has gotten involved in these side fights with the Khan family, things that have not been helpful to the constituency you and I know is attracted to him, getting fights with Megyn Kelly didn`t help him, having this thing with me about abortion, women having abortion should be punished. He`s made mistakes.

How do you discipline a guy who`s worth $11 billion? He says, Well, you`re not worth the kind of money I`m making, how can you tell me what to do? Is he willing to be helped to be himself, the part that wins? How do you do it?

CONWAY: So -- yes, it`s a great question. And first of all, he has never talked to me that way. He listens and he hears a bunch of us, a multitude of counselors.

And I`m very happy to report that Donald Trump promoted a woman to his campaign manager. I think it says a lot about him.

MATTHEWS: First time.

CONWAY: But -- that`s right, first time for the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: For the Republicans.

CONWAY: Thank you. And three wonderful women, by the way, on the Democratic side, Susan, Donna and Beth, all of whom I respect a great deal. And I`m very happy to be in that small class, Chris, with them.

The way we do it is not telling him -- my approach is not to tell him what to do and who to be. He doesn`t ask a pollster for focus group results about how to say this word or that word. That`s actually very refreshing to a professional pollster.

What I do is I present him with information. And basically, I said to him, If you want to win, there`s a path. This is one of the easiest races you and I have ever seen, correct? We have two very complex candidates and a very simple, almost binary choice between them.

Is she going to own "Obama care," the Affordable Care Act, and take it a little bit further? Will it be single-payer? What does she think about Aetna pulling out of 11 of its 15 exchanges this week, and United Health Care doing it last year in 30 days for $1.5 billion in losses?

MATTHEWS: That`s good news.

CONWAY: You know, it`s huge.

MATTHEWS: It hurts Obama. I agree with you...

CONWAY: That`s right, but again...

MATTHEWS: ... but you`re not running against Obama. Let me...

CONWAY: No, no, no, no! I want to -- I want to know from her what will she do with the Affordable Care Act?


CONWAY: Does she think it`s working? Does she -- you know, will she own these (ph)? We want to take it to a substantive debate, and I know you`ll go there with us.

MATTHEWS: Why do you -- of course, that`s a very important debate. That was very confounding news that Aetna`s pulling out. There`s no way you can have a successful health care plan when the major companies aren`t participating under this plan.

Let me ask you about the -- the question of focusing on Hillary`s health, though. There`s been this disconcerting, I think unpleasant focus on Hillary`s health and stamina. Is that something that`s really part of this campaign?

Here`s what your candidate had to say on that. Let`s watch. We`re talking health.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She doesn`t really do that much. She`ll give a speech on teleprompter, and then she`ll disappear. I don`t know if she goes home -- she goes home and goes to sleep. I think she sleeps.

Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face.


MATTHEWS: Well, he`s been doing it, did it again last night in a recorded comment. Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: Many things are relevant to...

MATTHEWS: The health of the other candidate, why is that a focus of your candidate?

CONWAY: Well, they think that his tax returns are so relevant, so both of their health is not relevant? But I`ll say this. He has a very...

MATTHEWS: I think they`re both relevant...

CONWAY: He has a very -- great...

MATTHEWS: ... if there`s a health problem. But is there a health problem of Hillary`s?

CONWAY: Oh, I have no idea because...

MATTHEWS: He keeps saying she`s got a health problem.

CONWAY: I have no idea because I`m not a doctor. Let me make that very clear. I have not examined her...

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not, either.

CONWAY: ... nor would I be qualified to. But I want to say something about that. You know, somehow, she and Senator Warren and the whole lot of them at the Democratic convention, where we were in our hometown of Philly together, Chris -- somehow, it`s OK for them to insult this guy six ways to Sunday every chance they get, and if he shoots back with one comment, it`s, Oh, look at him! He`s attacking a woman! He`s taking on her health! Have you seen the way they speak about him?

Listen, I would lay it all down tomorrow if she actually wants to have a debate on the issues because she can`t.


CONWAY: She can`t defend the millions more in poverty, the fact that 81 percent of the country feels less safe than they did a few years ago. She can`t defend against "Obama care." She can`t defend against the fact that she pretends she`s here to help people in our communities, and yet is against charter schools and school choice, which frankly, has helped so many Hispanic and African-American students right here in New York and elsewhere in this country.

So I`d put it all aside if she actually would come out of hiding and have a debate on the issues. I want to say something else. I feel...

MATTHEWS: Well, there will be debates, won`t there? There will...


MATTHEWS: And there will be debates.

CONWAY: Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: There`ll be three of them.

CONWAY: Record ratings, right, Chris? I think we`ll all be very, very excited for those debates.

MATTHEWS: But you can...

CONWAY: But those are formal debates...

MATTHEWS: ... say that, as the campaign manager, there will be three debates, right? There will be the big ones we`re all looking for, hour- and-a-half debates, right?


MATTHEWS: They will happen?

CONWAY: Absolutely. We are going to...


MATTHEWS: Just take a look. An hour ago, news here, Trump campaign spokeswoman, actually, Katrina Pierson, said Hillary Clinton had a condition called dysphasia, which is a loss of the power to use or comprehend words.

Here`s what she said.


KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SPOKESWOMAN: He has said that she doesn`t have the strength or the stamina for a very long time. That part is nothing new. What`s new are the other reports of the observations of Hillary Clinton`s behavior and mannerisms, specifically with what you just showed in those previous clips, as well as her dysphasia.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not a doctor. You`re not a doctor, Kellyanne. Your candidate is not a doctor. Neither is Hillary Clinton. But your people are putting out the word that there`s -- you`ve seen this with Michael Dukakis. You see how politics works. You put out the word there`s something wrong with the guy or something wrong with the woman, and the people start buzzing about it.

Is this a tactic you appreciate, that you like?

CONWAY: Oh, I don`t like it as much as just taking her on on the issues and taking her on on her record.


CONWAY: You know, Chris, I think it`s very relevant today that the Clinton Foundation said if, in fact, she`s elected president, they would stop taking money from foreign entities. Why do we have to wait that long?

MATTHEWS: Good point.

CONWAY: Or are they admitting some kind of guilt there? I think it`s more relevant to talk about the fact that just today, the State Department confirmed that the $400 million paid to Iran was, quote, for leverage, which, of course, to lots of Americans means ransom, no matter how people want to wordsmith it. This was -- talk about pay for play for exchange. So I think there are so many things...

MATTHEWS: Well, you got a good point there, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: ... yes, to really examine...

MATTHEWS: Don`t bury your lead because that`s a very good point.



MATTHEWS: Until now, they`ve been denying linkage. And now they`re admitting linkage.


MATTHEWS: Linkage between the $400 million and the hostages getting out, and everybody`s looking at that, going, Wait a minute, you said there was no linkage. Good point there.

Let`s take a look at something that you were pretty good at before you got this big title. And I congratulate you on the...

CONWAY: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... the career opportunity. And this is history that you`re actually the first woman to run a Republican presidential campaign.

You know Pennsylvania. We`re both from there. Look at this most recent NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll up there, Marist poll. Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump among women voters by 25 points. Now, you know, down in Florida, men -- he`s got a 40-point lead among white men. This is a strange election.


MATTHEWS: It`s almost like balkanized, women here, white men here, all over the place. So I don`t like talking like it`s apartheid land, but it is like that. What are you going to do about women in Pennsylvania? Because I think he needs Pennsylvania. That`s my judgment. It may be yours.

CONWAY: No question.

MATTHEWS: He needs that state.

CONWAY: We`re fighting hard for Pennsylvania. Chris, actually, Pennsylvania`s one of the five states where we`re starting our first ads, and it`s a state that the last couple of presidential candidates did not fare well in at all. It wasn`t even close.

But we`re competing there, and I want to tell you, I want to talk to America`s women (INAUDIBLE) we will compete on health care, on education, on economic prosperity, on national security and homeland security and the many different issues that women care about.

I have to tell you I`m already so thrilled that we have heard so little about, quote, "women`s issues" this cycle. Why? Because we believe at the Trump campaign that all issues are women`s issues. I have never, not once in 28 years of being a pollster, heard the phrase "men`s issues."


CONWAY: There`s a reason for that, Chris. Everybody thinks men can talk about all the issues, but we`re supposed to only talk about a couple, a few.

So I think what`s really dynamic about female voters this time is how many different issues they`re putting into the voter (ph) cauldron. The numbers you showed where Hillary Clinton is at 55 percent among women in Pennsylvania -- we want to go out and earn their votes and speak to women directly.

But I still am confounded, I must admit, how the first female presidential candidate, nominee is not doing better among women. If Donald Trump really is this awful person who took the wings off of butterflies, as they say every day...


CONWAY: ... then how is she not at 65 percent? Why aren`t women excited to vote for...


MATTHEWS: Kelly, we live in the same universe. And last night, when Ron Reagan said your candidate was a sociopath, I don`t like that, either, OK?

CONWAY: No, it doesn`t...

MATTHEWS: I think he ought to make -- you got a make (ph) opinions. But did you, as a woman -- you`re also a Republican, you`re all the things -- we`re all complicated -- what did you think back in March when I interviewed your candidate and he said women should be punished for having abortions? What did you think when he got in that fight with Megyn Kelly?

Now, I don`t think anybody is an innocent here. We`re all combatants. We`re all in the field, so there`s no good guy and bad guy. But what do you think when you heard his comments? Didn`t you think this guy has got to get an education, or what? He needs to be taught some things.

CONWAY: Well, when you talked to him about abortion, I was very disappointed and expressed it at the time, Chris, for a very simple reason. I`m pro-life and I`m proudly pro-life. And the pro-life community has worked hard for decades to make very clear that we don`t believe in punishing the woman.

MATTHEWS: I know you don`t.

CONWAY: We don`t look at her as the perpetrator at all. And let me make that very clear.

I think it comes from -- I think it was a very fair, you know, assessment, but I think it comes from him not being this focus-group-polished politician. He`s pro-life and he has said so, and he has said much, like many Americans, by the way, that he came to that opinion over time...


CONWAY: ... maybe in his adult years through a very personal experience. He`s told the story many times publicly.

MATTHEWS: I`ve heard it.

CONWAY: And so I -- so when I hear things like that, I hear -- you know, I want to introduce him to members of the pro-life community, the leaders who have toiled in the vineyards for years to make sure that we feel there are two victims of abortion, that the woman is not a perpetrator.

Number two, talk about crisis pregnancy centers. You and I can both agree they do fabulous work in every state in this nation. I want to be part of a party that says women facing unplanned pregnancy deserve our compassion and our support, not our judgment and our condemnation, and that we can all support that woman in her unplanned pregnancy. So anyway, there is -- you know, I`ve discussed this with him, and I`m also...

MATTHEWS: By the way, there`s a sign right at our...

CONWAY: ... very honest...

MATTHEWS: ... church does that.


MATTHEWS: Our church has a sign right at Blessed Sacrament for that.

CONWAY: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: So what about -- what about Donald Trump and women? A 25-point gap in Pennsylvania. I think it`s fair to say that -- by the way, today`s the anniversary -- I brought up for a good reason -- it`s the 19th -- it`s the anniversary today of the 19th Amendment having passed. I know we all agree that`s a really good thing. That was passed after World War I, that women can vote. Some states allowed women to vote before that. I didn`t know that. But everybody has a right to vote now.

What is your pitch for Donald Trump for women?

CONWAY: My pitch...

MATTHEWS: They`re listening right now. A lot of them moderate, some, a lot of progressives, some conservatives are watching right now. What do you want to tell them about why they may have been wrong about Trump and women?

CONWAY: I want to tell them two things. In practical terms, I want to tell them this is a man who just promoted a woman without ever using the word. He never mentioned my gender to me when he asked me to run his campaign, and he never mentioned the gender of the voters, either, meaning -- this is someone who has a history of promoting women on their merits.

You see in the Trump Corporation, you`ve heard from people like the wonderful Lynn Patton (ph), who`s worked for him for a number of years, his daughter, Ivanka, obviously is testament to -- she`s talked about all the women he`s promoted.

So I think we should judge people by their actions not just their words on a political campaign trail.

Number two, on the issues, he does not think "Obama care" is going well. And women are -- we women are the chief health care officers of our household. We control two out of every three health care dollars spent in this country.

And we also tend to be the majority not just of consumers but providers, Chris. We are the home health care aides. We are 90 percent of nurses. We are a growing number of the pharmacists and the physicians.

So lots of women out there still have great concern about "Obama care," which -- the Affordable Care Act, which should be a tough (ph) word (ph).

And also, we know security is a huge issue this time. Yes, it`s national security and homeland security, terrorism, no doubt.


CONWAY: But it`s also job security. It`s everyday affordability. I think he should take his message of everyday affordability...


CONWAY: ... and he should also say, Hey, Hillary Clinton, great (ph), you`ve been a -- you`ve been in political life for decades. How can you really say to women that they`re better off now and that they should have four more years of what`s happened?


CONWAY: We have more million -- millions of women in poverty. We have people who feel less safe, really take the case to her and ask women if they want a change maker or they want more of the same. It`s a very simple construct.

MATTHEWS: OK. Do you have 270 electoral votes in your head? You know where you`re going to get them?

CONWAY: I do. We do. I`ve go one that`s got us at 284, one that`s got us at 270-plus. We have different situations...

MATTHEWS: Not a lot to spare.

CONWAY: Not a lot to spare.

MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania in there? Pennsylvania in there?

CONWAY: Yes, it is. It is in there. And you know what, Chris?



MATTHEWS: I got to cut off just because -- I`d love to have you come back, of course, because you`re a big get now. You know you`ve become a big get. We want you on (INAUDIBLE)

CONWAY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: But here`s the thing. Here`s the thing. A lot of people think that what Trump is doing now in bringing you aboard and bringing Bannon aboard, the two new leaders of the party -- of the campaign, what he`s really going to do is, like Ted Kennedy did when he knew he was losing, he brought in and gave his Georgetown speech. He wanted to go out with a cris de guerre, a bang. Go out with a bang. OK, I`m going to lose this thing, but I`m going out and I`m going to let everybody know where I stand.

Is this to win now or to create a big bang on the way out the door?

CONWAY: I`m there to win it, I can tell you that. And I walk around Trump Tower every day at our campaign headquarters, Chris, and everybody in there is there to win it from, you know, the fabulous volunteers we have...


CONWAY: ... all the way up to the candidate himself. You know, I feel -- I think this week, he seems very buoyant. And one conversation I had with him last week, which I`m sure people don`t mind -- he doesn`t mind me sharing, is you know, I told him how remarkable it is that millions and millions of people actually who always say, I hate politicians, I want somebody who`s outside of politics to run, and yet they never really vote for that person, right? We have third party candidates. We have people saying, I`m a businessman.

He`s been able to actually build a movement...


CONWAY: And people have relied upon him for 14 months, and he`s got to see it through. He`s got to do it for them. They`re relying on him to do it.

No, this is a guy who doesn`t like to lose. And we know if you look at the polling, one thing is very clear. There are a lot of people in this country who have decided they have a reason to vote against Hillary Clinton. There`s some reluctance there. They now need reasons to vote for Donald Trump. And that`s why I`m there. I`m going to think about that every day and try to earn every vote.

MATTHEWS: I hear what you hear. Thank you so much. Kellyanne Conway, thank you.

CONWAY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And congratulations for being...

CONWAY: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... the first woman ever to run a Republican presidential campaign.

I`m joined right now by Republican strategist John Feehery. What do you make of this thing, this big shake-up, and bringing in Kellyanne, who I`ve known forever -- young lady, but I`ve known her a long time -- and certainly this guy Bannon from Breitbart. They look like people that are going for the jugular. They`re going to play really tough. They`re going to hit tough. Well, she said she`s going to discipline him and keep him focused on his issues, but...



FEEHERY: She`s going to bring a lot of great messaging to the campaign, hopefully, a lot of discipline. I`m not so sure about this Bannon guy. He`s kind of -- seems to be out of right field. But I think if Kellyanne - - you know, when you saw of Kellyanne, if she`s the one the stump talking about this with Trump, that could be a very powerful combo.

MATTHEWS: Because the problem is -- there`s all this talk about, Let Trump be Trump, like it`s like a line from "La Cage aux Folles," I am what I am. It`s stupid. It`s not about being who you are. It`s about not screwing it up.

Reagan knew who he was and Reagan focused on the key Reagan stuff of economics, didn`t get off into all this social stuff.

FEEHERY: You can be authentic, but you don`t have to be stupid at the same time.


FEEHERY: You know, with all these mistakes that Trump has made...

MATTHEWS: Yes, fighting with the military family, the Gold Star family...


FEEHERY: Kellyanne certainly knows that.


FEEHERY: She`s not going to pick these stupid fights, like Hillary`s health. Health care`s a better thing for us to deal with than Hillary`s health. The health care system...


MATTHEWS: ... she was averting there.

FEEHERY: She`s right and...


MATTHEWS: ... because Hillary`s in good health. It`s a stupid argument. What I was amazed by, she didn`t jump on like a lioness and hang onto the news that just broke tonight, which is they weren`t given the full story about the prisoner release, that the prisoner release was connected to the money we sent over in those unmarked ships!

FEEHERY: One man`s ransom is another man`s contingency. I think this is really unbelievable...


MATTHEWS: ... top of the fold, and it`s going to hurt...


MATTHEWS: ... the State Department and everybody.

FEEHERY: It`s going to hurt Obama. As long as the Trump campaign doesn`t get in the way of the story. Let`s not make any other news, guys!

MATTHEWS: Why in the world didn`t she -- I would. If I was Kellyanne, I would have talked about it for 10 minutes.

But here`s the problem. And you can lay it out from your point of view. Don`t ever say something can be disproved later.

FEEHERY: Right. I mean...

MATTHEWS: There`s no point in it. You don`t save yourself anything. And if you can say there`s no connection between the $400 million we sent over there in currency, in cash, had nothing to do with releasing the prisoners, our POWs over there, our hostages, and then it turns out we were giving them the money, what is it, only after they released the hostages, so there was a connection.

FEEHERY: Well, you know, Mike McCurry used to say during the Clinton administration, telling the truth slowly. This is not -- - this is just a huge blunder by the Obama administration and by the State Department. Get it out there. Everyone knew what it was...

MATTHEWS: When in doubt, put it out.

FEEHERY: When in doubt, put it out.

MATTHEWS: And everybody -- and Mike Murphy`s here. Michael, you know, I don`t know if you know about this breaking news, but the State Department, John Kirby, put out the word tonight that we released that money after the prisoners came back, the hostages came back.

There is a link. Now you have to argue were we going to give the money anyway, would the prisoners have gotten out if we hadn`t given them the money? And most people say walks like a duck, talks like a duck, this is a deal.

Your thoughts. By the way, your president, Ronald Reagan, did the same damn thing. He got caught trading money for hostages. In his case, it was TOW missiles to Iran to get our hostages out. Your thoughts.

MIKE MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I was screaming at traffic trying to get here, so I didn`t -- I don`t have the latest information on this, but there`s no doubt there`s all kinds of linkage in this Iranian payola. You know, they`re going to argue it was money that we owed the Iranians as part of the deal, to release Iranian money back to Iranian, but the...

MATTHEWS: Since 1978.

FEEHERY: ... it`s totally connected to the hostages. Now we know more. And I think we need a lot more disclosure from the administration. They`ve been playing this thing way too cute.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Thanks for coming in, Mike Murphy. Come on time next time. We`ll give you more time when you get here, Mr. Murphy! So thank you for coming on.

MURPHY: LA traffic. What can I tell you?

MATTHEWS: That`s a true case. Anyway, thank you. Allow for it next time. Anyway, thank you, John Feehery. I`m not easy. But Murphy, you`re a heavyweight. Act like one!

Still ahead -- meet the new boss. New Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon has been described as a fighter`s fighter. He`s not afraid to take on fellow Republicans. He`s not afraid to let Trump be Trump -- an inside look at the man now

running the republican campaign for the White House.

Plus, is Hillary Clinton ready for the onslaught that`s coming? A new era of `Let Trump be Trump` means she`s going to be facing an even nastier fall in autumn or autumn than she`d imagined or we imagined. So what tactics will the Clinton campaign use to counteract the assault that`s already on tonight?

This hour, Donald Trump has a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hallie Jackson will give us the live report as it begins in a few minutes now. And, the Hardball Roundtable is coming to tell me here tonight -- they`ll tell me and you something I don`t know about this presidential campaign. By the way, we keep getting news. This is Hardball. The place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s that big story. State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, today, said the delivery of that $400 million the United States paid to Iran has been withheld as leverage until the American prisoners held in that country were released. So there was a connection. This comes after the White House said there was no connection between the payment and the release of those Americans. I`m joined now by NBC`s Andrea Mitchell with the latest.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Basically, John Kirby is a straight shooter and he`s not going to lie to the Press Corps. He was asked at the briefing, Did you sit on the money which the Wall Street Journal first reported? Did you sit on the money until the prisoners got out?

And he said yes. He said it wasn`t simultaneous. We sat on the money until we knew that the prisoners were out because that`s when we had the maximum leverage and we would have been faulted if --

MATTHEWS: Would we have gotten the prisoners out without delivering the money?

MITCHELL: He said that they had concerns that they had not --

MATTHEWS: Would we have ever -- would we have gotten our prisoners out if we didn`t give them the money? Some other way?

MITCHELL: He said -- well, we don`t know. He said that they had concerns that they wouldn`t get out so they sat on the money until we knew the prisoners were out and then delivered the money. They claimed this is still not ransom because --

MATTHEWS: It is linkage.

MITCHELL: Because -- it`s linkage. He says I`m not going to deny the linkage, but I`m telling you it`s not ransom because it was Iran`s money, not our money.

MATTHEWS: They are going to pay for this. P.R is truth.

MITCHELL: It`s -- I mean already --

MATTHEWS: Tell the truth. When in doubt, put it out.

MITCHELL: This is when State Department Spokesman, well like most that I have dealt with who is not going to lie.

MATTHEWS: Good for him. He`s a public servant.


MATTHEWS: He serves us. The truth will set you free, we hope. Anyway, Andrea Mitchell, thank you for that. You have been doing all these stories tonight.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Hardball`s back after this.


MATTHEWS: What a news night. Welcome back. Now we`re talking about Donald Trump`s hiring of Steve Bannon as his campaign Chief Executive, signals the Republican Nominee`s doubling down on the brand of provocative right wing populism he`s become known for. As a newcomer to the presidential campaigns, Bannon`s a former banker for Goldman Sachs. I guess Goldman Sachs is ok. Who later found common cause with conservative activists, first as a documentary filmmaker and more recently as the top executive at the right wing website Breitbart News. Well, Bannon has long been a hostile figure toward the Republican establishment as Bloomberg`s Josh Green reports. He`s here. He even called for a Republican -- asked the committee, he called it a failed brand.

Well, back in 2013, that`s three years ago, Bannon described the insurgency he saw inside the Conservative Movement, and it`s a description that closely fits the profile of a Trump voter today. He was -- he saw Trumpism before there was Trump. Watch him.


STEPHEN BANNON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It`s really an insurgent and a pop -- center-right populist movement that is virulently anti- establishment and is going to continue to hammer the sitting and the progressive left and the -- and the institutional republican party day in and day out. And, I think it`s galvanizing a which is really a majority of the people, the working people and middle class in this country to really have a voice.

Everything that we see and everything that we trend that we see is very strong to really an outsider`s voice and an outsider`s movement to really take their country back.


MATTHEWS: All the phrases are so Trumpian. Anyway, the voters described back then also comprised the readership of Breitbart News, which Bannon managed for the last four years. Well, the New York Times describes the website under Bannon`s leadership as a hybrid between a news organization and opposition research operation aimed at discrediting, guess who, Mrs. Clinton.

I`m joined now by Josh Green of Bloomberg Politics and Dave Weigel of The Washington Post. Let`s talk about this. Let`s talk to somebody who hasn`t been living in America. By the way, how about a regular person like me who doesn`t know who this guy is. Stephen Bannon, what is he? A force of nature? He looks like he likes steaks obviously. He looks like a big guy


He looks like he doesn`t kill himself by restraining from the table, but by -- good for him.

JOSH GREEN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: He`s a bit of a wild man. In a lot of ways, he`s a lot like Trump. He`s a guy who comes out of the media world, he`s an investment banker as Goldman Sachs, but what he did was Hollywood, like MNA deals. He was an Oscar-winning producer in Hollywood, started doing his own documentaries. Did one on --


--brought into the tea party.

MATTHEWS: How do you get to be the voice of the people? How do you get that red-hot rural anger at the elites? Which I do get a little bit. How does he get it? Where did he come from then?

GREEN: He`s a small-town guy from Richmond. He grew up outside of Naval.

MATTHEWS: What`s he mad about?

GREEN: I think he`s mad about a lot of things. I mean, he`s a guy who`s in the Navy when Carter was President. Big, big Reagan guy. Loved Wall Street in the ƒ_~80s. All about, you know, Pro-U.S.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t like anybody, he does -- I know exactly. He doesn`t like the republican wigs, the people that have been running the Bushes, the people who have been running the party for years. They are the country club republicans. He doesn`t like them. He doesn`t like the way they ran the party. It was too moderate, too boring, too stuffy, too old money.

Guy like that doesn`t like that. He doesn`t like the wine and cheese liberals one bit. He doesn`t like the Left one bit. I sort of get this guy. He likes the angry middle of the road -- not middle of the road, maybe hard right. What is he?

DAVE WEIGEL, WASHINGTON POST: Well he -- before he had Trump in his sights he had Sarah Palin. He was casting around for a populist republican figure.

MATTHEWS: But there was nothing there with her. She had the right cut of her jib. She came off great in the beginning, but she didn`t know anything. You have to know something, don`t you?

WEIGEL: He was very arthritic.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you have some content?

GREEN: Well, that`s --

MATTHEWS: The bright side, she`s very attractive politically. I get the whole thing. When she came on the stage people said, Wow. This is a westerner, a woman whose got some style and political point of view and is not afraid to say it. But then when you get into the interviews with Katie Kerry and she thinks it`s a trick question when you say what do you read? That`s not a trick question.

WEIGEL: Well that`s where Hollywood comes in. He makes a documentary in 2011 about Sarah Palin that mythologizes here and tells the story that the media won`t tell. That she`s a great leader. And he does the same for --

MATTHEWS: How do you know that? Who said she was a great leader? And that`s the problem.

WEIGEL: He`s decided in the course of research.


MATTHEWS: And Bill -- what`s his name? -- Bill Kristol, they went out there and they said this is a superstar. We met here up in Alaska.

GREEN: She was. She was a popular republican governor in Alaska --

MATTHEWS: Four years.

GREEN: She was a reformer who came in and wiped out --

MATTHEWS: He could have --

GREEN: Hold on, hold on, -- who came in and wiped out the corrupt republican party in Alaska, got indicted by the FBI. It`s exactly the profile of somebody who Bannon would want support, and that`s where the only thing that Trump --

MATTHEWS: Yes, but take her to Washington to run the country?

GREEN: Well you know, that didn`t work out so well.

WEIGEL: Trump is 2.0 and Trump gravitated to Breitbart because in 2014, no one wanted to talk to Trump.

MATTHEWS: OK, right now, right now forward, we have, what, 11 weeks left. What`s it going to be like because of Bannon and because of Kelly Anne?

WEIGEL: I think it`s going to be different. I think it`s going to be the pure Trump, the most successful Trump when he`s not making a gaffe that throws him off the news. If he makes a gaffe when it`s on what he wants to talk about, right? Like --

MATTHEWS: How do you stop him from streams of consciousness?


MATTHEWS: David, how do you stop him from a stream of consciousness where you never know what`s going to come out next? Doesn`t he have to focus on the populace of nationalism, we are getting screwed on trade, we`re getting screwed in immigration, fighting stupid wars? Stick to that.

WEIGEL: That`s it. You fill his head with that and you think -- he can`t not react to the polling that shows him losing. You got people like Bannon who basically agreed with him and the site that agrees with him and say look, as you see in that clip, this is what Americans believe.

MATTHEWS: How do you stop him from playing Sinatra in a bar? How does -- how come he has to fight with the family of, the Gold Star Family? What does he have to fight with Carly Fiorina? Why does he got to fight with Bridget...Megyn Kelly?

GREEN: Because that`s his impulse. That`s who he is. The role Bannon is going to play is the same role that Mickey played in Rocky. The guy whispering in your ear in the corner. Bannon, remember, is the guy who helped --

MATTHEWS: The guy who turned out to be Jewish in the third movie?

GREEN: Well, maybe we`ll find out a little later in time.

WEIGEL: Bannon helped with the speech not in Milwaukee, but the racism in Milwaukee, Bannon was already helping with that, nudging on that.

GREEN: Right, but Bannon`s big thing is Clinton. He produced that Clinton Cashbook. He wants Trump to focus attacks on Clinton.

MATTHEWS: So Kelly Anne is a Cut Man. She`s a Cut Man. Just like Rocky in the last round, saying you gotta cut me? I`m willing to make a change?

GREEN: We know who Rocky is.

MATTHEWS: I always liked Rocky. Deck at me Rocky. Thank you very much, Josh Green. This is great stuff, David Weigel.

WEIGEL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Last minute changes mean there has been a problem, right?

GREEN: There definitely has been a problem.

MATTHEWS: Now, anyway, NBC`s Hallie Jackson will be here with a live report from the Trump rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, and this is Hardball the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. We got to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Donald Trump is set to rally tonight. NBC`s Hallie Jackson is standing by. Hallie, thank you.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: Hey there, Chris. So Donald Trump took the stage about four minutes ago and we expect tonight, as you hear him talking about radical Islamic terrorism as he often does, about law and order, continuing the themes of the speech that started on Tuesday night, again making the kind of direct appeal to African-American voters as we saw him do to a largely all-White crowd back in Wisconsin earlier in the week.

What`s interesting, you can see behind me, he`s reading off teleprompters again. This is not a policy speech. It`s been billed as a rally.


JACKSON: You can see there`s a big crowd. People are excited, and this is the second time now this week we`ve seen Donald Trump work off prompters in front of a crowd that`s ready to kind of see unfiltered, off-the-cuff Trump like we all have seen these events. So far, they have been fairly into it, you know, for what that`s worth. But, you got to wonder how comfortable Trump is getting on prompter given that this is something that sources tell NBC News he will be doing more of.

MATTHEWS: On the news tonight, we hear he is going to put out a note on the campaign that he is going to hit hard on this issue. The State Department admitted tonight, late today, that in fact money was involved. We paid the money, $400 million. We shipped it over there. It was part of a linkage with getting our people out, getting out hostages out, having denied that for weeks and months that there was a deal, money for hostages.

We`re now admitting they weren`t going to get the money until we got the hostages. You can argue chicken and egg, but it looks like a connection and they denied it before, now they`re admitting it.

JACKSON: And Donald Trump, according to the senior advisor, was telling us moments ago will discuss that tonight. And, frankly, what you hear republicans say, If he`s smart, Donald Trump will not stop talking about because this is an area where you look at President Obama and Hillary Clinton, they want him to be talking about exactly that.

MATTHEW: Something real.

JACKSON: The Trump Team pounced really quickly on it too, Chris. I mean, Andrea talked about this earlier in the show, but almost immediately you saw his advisors, you saw his team pushing this out, you know, in the oppo world to make sure that, frankly, the media knew that Trump was going to be going after Hillary Clinton and President Obama on this topic.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the administration could have been clearer on this, they could have been honest and apparently they were not. We are going to hear a lot of this noise. This is what you don`t do in politics. You don`t let somebody else bring this story out, and a tough question. Today, they got the truth, why did we have to wait so long for the truth? In anyway, Hallie Jackson at the Trump Event in North Carolina.

Coming up is this new era of the Trump campaign foreshadow a nasty fall campaign against Hillary Clinton? With the new leadership means for the general election matchup, that`s coming up next with the roundtable. We`re trying to talk where this is all headed. You`re watching Hardball, the place for politics.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re back. Let`s go back to Donald Trump in Charlotte.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They are dying on lines waiting for a doctor. We are going to take care of our veterans.


I speak the truth on behalf of the family living near the border that deserves to be safe in their own country but is instead living with no security and no protection at all.


We will build the wall. Believe me. We will build the wall.


Our campaign is about representing the great majority of Americans, Republicans, Democrats, independents, conservatives and liberals who read the newspaper or turn on the television and don`t hear anyone, anyone speaking for them. All they hear are insiders fighting for other insiders. That`s what they do.

These are the forgotten men and women in our society and they are angry at so much and on so many levels. The poverty. The unemployment. The failing schools. The jobs moving to other countries. I`m fighting for these forgotten Americans.


Fourteen months ago, I declared my campaign for the presidency on the promise to give our government back to the people. Every day since then, I have worked to repay the loyalty and the faith that you have put in me.

Every day, I think about how much is at stake for our country in the upcoming election. This isn`t just the fight of my life. It`s the fight of our lives together to save our country.


Thank you.

I refuse to let another generation of American children be excluded from the American Dream which is what`s happening. Our whole country loses when young people of limitless potential are denied the opportunity to contribute their talents because we failed to provide them the opportunities that they deserve.

Let our children be dreamers, too. Our whole country loses every time a kid doesn`t graduate from high school or fails to enter the work force or worse still, is lost to the dreadful world of drugs and crime and so many are. So, so many. When I look at the failing schools, the terrible trade deals, the infrastructure crumbling in our inner cities, I know all of this can be fixed and I can fix it, but I know it can be fixed very, very quickly if we know what we`re doing.


MATTHEWS: OK. Joining us tonight at the roundtable is Howard Fineman, right next to me, global editorial director for "The Huffington Post". Of course, he`s also MSNBC analyst here. Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent, and Paul Singer, Washington correspondent for "USA Today".

Paul, want you to start, go around the table. I was blown away by the news that just came out, the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, a foreign service professional, doing his job, said, yes, there was a linkage to getting our people back from Iran and paying that $400 million.

It was linked. They had always denied it before.

PAUL SINGER, USA TODAY: President Obama gave a press conference. He said this is not a nefarious deal. There was no linkage. It was a debt we owed them from old --

MATTHEWS: Why they hide it?

SINGER: And, by the way, they are still saying, I believe it`s still true this was frozen assets that was owed to the Iranians.

MATTHEWS: From 1979.

SINGER: But now, it is also clear this money sat on a tarmac waiting for our prisoners to be released. If that`s not money for hostages I don`t know what is. They look stupid.

MATTHEWS: And going over in an unmarked boat to deliver the cash and these pallets, whatever they`re called, it had the mark of something like, it reminded me of the Cuban missile crisis where we made a deal to get rid of Turkish missiles but it had to be done later.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Under dark of night. That`s right. And, obviously, it`s given the Trump campaign an opening, Republicans an opening. They have been trying to link Secretary Clinton to this. She was out of the State Department when this happened.

MATTHEWS: Why did they all this? You cover these guys. Why don`t they admit the obvious? It was a deal.

WELKER: Well, well, because bottom line is, obviously, you can`t pay ransom and the language becomes very important.

MATTHEWS: We don`t say ransom.

WELKER: What you said there`s a linkage.


WELKER: And he finally acknowledged that. I think this is something that`s going to come up on the campaign trail for Secretary Clinton because remember, she helped lay the groundwork for the broader deal. It had nothing to do with that actual payment. It had nothing to do with the actual payment.


MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan did the same damn thing. Reagan did this.

WELKER: But you can hear Donald Trump and what he will say --

MATTHEWS: I just have to remind the conservatives who are yakking in this, fair enough, yuck over this. Don`t forget Ronald Reagan gave toe missiles to Iran to get our people back. This has been done before, and lied about it for months and months and months.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The annoying thing I think to the American people might be that President Obama was insulting their intelligence. Not their secret intelligence, their brains, because it was obvious, it was obvious to anybody what went down. The pallets of money in the foreign currencies because --

MATTHEWS: The unmarked ship.

FINEMAN: The unmarked ship. Come on.

The president executed one of those maneuvers where he overstated the accusation, then denied it.


FINEMAN: He said this is not a nefarious deal, key word nefarious, it was a deal. And everybody knew it.

And that in addition to the substance of it I think is what gives a political opening to the Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m going to know whether Donald Trump is at least smart politically. If he doesn`t drive that home in a headline tomorrow morning when we get up, he`s blown it. Because he`s been blowing -- the crazy stuff, he`s talking about the Gold Medal family, going after Miss Kelly and all the other people. He`s blown the opportunities. Hillary coming out in these reports, economic reports.


WELKER: Well, I would be surprised if he doesn`t. So far, the headline, though, what`s interesting is he said he regrets some of controversial comments he`s made.

MATTHEWS: That`s not the headline he wants.

WELKER: Well, that`s not the headline he wants. But I think it`s interesting. I will just make this point. You had that big interview with Kellyanne Conway, that might be her stamp on this, walking back some of the controversial comments.

To your point, if he lets this news cycle go by without jumping on it --

MATTHEWS: He has to own this.

FINEMAN: Her stamp, Kellyanne`s stamp has to be that Donald Trump says this in the next ten minutes.

MATTHEWS: That`s her job.

FINEMAN: Because Kellyanne laid out tonight I think what her mission is going to be which is to keep him on Obamacare, on the ransom money, on radical Islamic terrorism, on immigration, on law and order.

That`s above the line focused attacks. He has an opening here. Bannon and the other people will be below, will be the below stage people. She`s got to do this.

MATTHEWS: This is exactly what the smart guys around Ronald Reagan did it in 1980. Get off the social issues, abortion, all that stuff, stop that stuff. Focus on the economy.

FINEMAN: Well, other people will do that. You will not see Trump doing that as much himself.

MATTHEWS: Howard, you are so smart.

The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, they`ll me something I don`t know, even more than they`re telling me that I know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Donald Trump, he`s in Charlotte. We think he`s going to talk about this statement. Let`s watch.

TRUMP: Speaking of lies, we now know from the State Department, just announced, that President Obama lied about the $400 million in cash that was flown to Iran. It was flown to Iran, $400 million in cash.

He denied it was for the hostages, but it was. It just came out. He said, we don`t pay ransom, but we did.

He lied about the hostages, openly and blatantly, just like he lied about Obamacare.

You remember, you can have your doctor, you can have your plan, right? You can have your doctor, you can have your plan. It didn`t work out that way.

Now, the administration has put every American traveling overseas, including our military personnel, at greater risk of being kidnapped.

Hillary Clinton owns President Obama`s Iran policy. One more reason she can never, ever be allowed to be president.


Let`s talk about the economy. Here, in this beautiful and great state, so many people had suffered because of NAFTA. NAFTA. Remember NAFTA, what it`s done to this country.

Bill Clinton signed the deal and Hillary Clinton supported the deal. North Carolina has lost nearly half of its manufacturing jobs since NAFTA went into effect.

Bill Clinton also put China into the World Trade Organization, another Hillary Clinton-backed disaster.

Your city of Charlotte has lost one in four manufacturing jobs since China joined the WTO, and many of these jobs were lost while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, our chief diplomat with China.

She was a disaster, totally unfit for this job. Totally unfit.


Hillary Clinton owes the state of North Carolina a very big apology and I think you`ll get that apology around the same time you`ll get to see her 33,000 deleted e-mails. In other words, you`ll never see the apology.

Another major issue in this campaign, has been the border. Our open border has allowed drugs and crime and gangs to pour into our country and our communities -- so much needless suffering, so much preventable death. I`ve spent time with the families of wonderful Americans --

MATTHEWS: OK, Paul Singer, tell me something I don`t know.

SINGER: Jill Stein told my colleague Susan Page today --

MATTHEWS: The Green candidate for president.

SINGER: -- that she`s willing to chain herself to the door at the debates, get arrested if she has to, to get in the door. And she`s hoping that Donald Trump`s going to help her.

MATTHEWS: They think Donald Trump is going to help her, because he doesn`t want to be on the stage alone with Hillary either.

WELKER: I have to credit Andrea Mitchell for this one, because she broke it earlier tonight, but Bill Clinton has no paid speeches scheduled through November and doesn`t plan to give any when Secretary Clinton`s elected.

FINEMAN: Hillary Clinton`s going to unload with advertising in September that will mimic the way Ted Kennedy went after Mitt Romney on this business record years ago on that Senate race. It`s going to be when Mitt came to town. Now, it`s going to be when Donald came to town.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Totally negative campaign, unfamiliar to us all. Howard Fineman, Kristen Welker, Paul Singer.

HARDBALL`s back after this.


MATTHEWS: Well, back to say goodbye. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.