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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/19/2016

Guests: Stephanie Schriock, Michael McFaul, Margaret Talev, Joe Cirincione, Ken Vogel, Francesca Chambers, Ed Goeas

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 19, 2016 Guest: Stephanie Schriock, Michael McFaul, Margaret Talev, Joe Cirincione, Ken Vogel, Francesca Chambers, Ed Goeas

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Has my way hit the highway?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, just days after Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon took the helm of the Trump campaign, the Republican nominee has modulated his tone, cleaned house and rolled out his first TV ad of the general election.

It`s the clearest sign yet that Trump, who`s been hoping for a game change, is actively trying to win back the voters he needs to have for a path to victory in November.

In a staff shakeup this week -- amid that -- Paul Manafort today resigned. He`s gone, his post as campaign chairman. Sources tell NBC News that Manafort`s relationship with Trump had turned adversarial, and he didn`t want to be a distraction for the campaign. Well, the move follows numerous investigative reports questioning Manafort`s connections with Russian oligarchs and the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine.

Anyway, sticking to the teleprompter at his rally last night, Trump showed a rare moment of contrition, expressing regrets for some of the things he`s said that may have caused -- and he used the word -- "pain." Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don`t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s also out today with his new TV ad of the general election, the first one of the TV ad of the election, an attack on Hillary Clinton on the issue -- no surprise here -- of immigration.

It comes after Trump the last couple of months, two months, in fact, effectively ceded the airwaves to Secretary Clinton, who`s spent $60 million already on general election advertising. So she`s owned the airwaves.

All of a sudden now, these Trump campaign changes aren`t coming soon enough for a campaign that for weeks now has appeared to be headed downward. And we all agree on that. This is the transparent fact. We`ve all watched Trump`s campaign crumble quite a bit for the last three or four weeks.

Anyway, late today, Trump also made a hard pitch to African-American voters -- at least seeming to be doing it. Let`s watch what he said.


TRUMP: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those, I say the following. What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?


TRUMP: What do you have to lose? You`re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?

And at the end of four years. I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote! I promise you.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by MSNBC political analyst Robert Costa of "The Washington Post," national political reporter for that newspaper. Michael Steele is former chairman of the RNC and an MSNBC political analyst, and Stephanie Schriock is the president of Emily`s List.

Stephanie, I`m going to let you up to the plate first. You`re lead-off batter tonight. First of all, what do you make of Trump`s changes? What do you make of the regrets? It was almost like, I did it my way, regrets, I`ve made a few, but yet again, too few to mention. He won`t mention them, clearly. But he is trying to be -- I think, trying to be nicer so he`ll get women Republicans to vote for him.

I think that`s what he`s up to, especially on the racial stuff. I don`t think that`s aimed at black people, African-Americans. I think it`s aimed at white women in the burbs who don`t want to be -- see themselves as racists, so he`s talking to them. Your thoughts.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST: Well, it seems to me that, really, the only thing he regrets is that he`s losing.


SCHRIOCK: And that`s precisely what we`re seeing...


MATTHEWS: That`s politics.

SCHRIOCK: Yes, this isn`t so much fun anymore. I liked this better when other things were happening. I mean, here`s the thing. He has spent his entire campaign and arguably most of his adult life offending particularly women in this country.

Seven out of ten women voters do not like him. They did not like him yesterday, they do not like him today, and I`m quite confident they`re not going to like him on election day. His offensive comments have gone too far...


SCHRIOCK: ... and he`s clearly proven he`s unfit for the presidency.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Robert Costa for another (INAUDIBLE). Robert, what do you think? It`s -- he obviously saw the abyss this week. I mean, we all have our own takes on what`s going on. I think he looked into the abyss and said, I`m going to humiliate myself, I`m going to become a loser, a giant loser, and I better make some changes. On comes -- in comes Kellyanne, in comes Bannon, out goes Manafort. Your thoughts

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, it started over the weekend. Trump was in the Hamptons meeting with donors, friends. He was furious about leaks he saw from within the campaign. He saw Manafort as becoming a distraction.

Trump`s family, which had grown close to Manafort, supportive of him in the last couple of months, they started to see Manafort`s issues with those pro-Russian forces in Ukraine as another political distraction.

And this whole time, he`s talking to Kellyanne Conway behind the scenes, he`s talking to Steve Bannon, an informal adviser, and he`s meeting with Roger Ailes. And he`s saying, We got to kick-start this thing in the next 80 days.

MATTHEWS: And is he -- and do you think that he`s committed to this new approach of kinder gentler to women, kinder gentler to African-Americans, kinder gentler to flood victims by flying down there? It does seem to be of a piece, I`m not the SOB some people think I am, I`m changing or I`m going to look different now.

He seems to be trying. Is this real, or is it PR? I mean...


MATTHEWS: That`s a terrible question. I take that back. Just answer whatever you think. We can never do that on television, figure out what`s true and just selling. But go ahead.

COSTA: So it`s not apples and oranges, Chris. Based on my reporting, what we`re going to see is a hybrid approach, a little bit of this Kellyanne Conway influence, reaching out to suburban women, the trip down to Louisiana, the regret expression last night in Charlotte.

Then you got the Bannon approach at the same time, which is this pugilistic populism going hard after Secretary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. This morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked about whom Trump was addressing last night when he said he regretted some of the things he`s been saying. Let`s watch this moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was he talking about?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He was talking about anyone who feels offended by anything he said. And that`s all him. I hope that everybody who`s criticized him at some point, David, for being insensitive or for mocking someone, at least shows some recognition and some forgiveness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will he reach out to the Khan family personally?

CONWAY: He may. But I certainly hope that they heard him last night.


MATTHEWS: Well, I think she`s saying, Accept it if you feel it.


MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, but I think the important thing, you`re talking about a man who`s made it very clear he doesn`t apologize. He doesn`t see a need to express what he did, express regret. So that for him -- again, I give that credit to Kellyanne. I think she`s had an immediate impact on the campaign.

I think Trump is probably now, for the first time in a while, in a more comfortable space. He, along with they, are beginning to figure out how to do what Robert just touched on, be the pugilist and can go into a battle head to head against Hillary but also have in place the message, the structure...


STEELE: ... and the conversation beyond just going on attack.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it`s interesting.

Anyway, Donald Trump today released his first TV ad of the general election in a $4 million ad buy. It comes two months after the Clintons, Secretary Clinton, launched her first ad back in June. Let`s watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Hillary Clinton`s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay. Donald Trump`s America is secure, terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out, the border secure, our families safe.


MATTHEWS: Well, Stephanie, you dance with the one that brung you. He`s back to where he started with the battle against illegal immigration added to the battle against what he considers dangerous refugees coming to this country.

SCHRIOCK: Right, and it`s one shade away from his statement of Mexicans being rapists. I mean, I don`t see this as a change. I see it as a continuation of the campaign, the entire campaign he`s run. And as...

MATTHEWS: What do you think, illegal immigration is popular in this country? You think illegal immigration is popular? You think there are refugees...

SCHRIOCK: No, I think he`s...

MATTHEWS: ... coming to this country...


SCHRIOCK: No, that`s why we need immigration reform.


SCHRIOCK: And we don`t have a debate about immigration reform. But I think it`s important to note, with these changes, you know, bringing on Steve Bannon is not exactly a warming feeling for particularly women in this country because...

MATTHEWS: How about Kellyanne? What do you think of her? What do you think of Kellyanne?

SCHRIOCK: You know, I think it`s going to be really interesting to see what she does here. I just want to remind folks, interestingly, on the anniversary of Akin`s statement about -- remember, she was the one who defended Todd Akin, so...

MATTHEWS: Well, she was working for him.

SCHRIOCK: ... I think be prepared -- yes...


SCHRIOCK: ... and she`s working for Donald Trump.

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


SCHRIOCK: I`m pretty sure she`s going to defend him.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to get to you in a minute. I`m working on you. I want you to say something you think might be a smart political move, whether you like it or not. Going out and saying, I`ve made mistakes, things I regret saying -- what do you make of that? I think that`s got the Kellyanne fingerprints on it. What do you think of that last night, Trump doing it?

SCHRIOCK: It may. It may have her fingerprints. I just don`t -- you know, he also said, Believe me or not. I don`t believe him! And I think I am with the vast majority...

MATTHEWS: Fair enough. Fair enough. Let me...

SCHRIOCK: ... of women in this country who just don`t believe it now.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s true.

SCHRIOCK: It`s too late.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Robert on the cultivation of the vote he needs. My hunch is that before you win a general election, you first have to win back the Mitt Romney vote from last time. He is in trouble in states like Arizona. He`s in trouble in North Carolina. He has to fight for Florida at this point. He has to get back to avoid humiliation.

Winning women Republicans back seems to be the goal. Kellyanne seems to be the perfect professional to help him. Am I right?

COSTA: Well, that`s a fair argument to make, but based on the reporting I had today, they`re severing the arm they had to the Republican establishment in Paul Manafort. He`s gone. He`s the one with the links.

Bringing in Steve Bannon -- Breitbart has been very much opposed to Ryan, the House speaker, and McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in their primary contests in recent years. And you have Bannon advocating this populism nationalism that`s detached from the Republican Party. This is an attempt to make wholesale change of what the GOP is.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the area you came from, Bucks County, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, suburban Republican women who vote Republican, basically -- I don`t want to cut them short, but basically because of their tax brackets. They`re a little better off. They think the Republican Party`s better for them.

Are they in trouble? Is Trump in trouble with them still, those women?

COSTA: When we look...

MATTHEWS: They read the papers, they know the issues, but they tend to be Republicans, if soft Republicans. Can he win them enough to win the general -- to win Pennsylvania? Can he win them back, in fact?

COSTA: The way I`ve had it described to me, Chris, is the Trump people have to get economic unrest for suburban voters to outweigh these temperamental concerns that have been lingering there for many months.

MATTHEWS: OK. Trump today also took on Hillary Clinton when it comes to the African-American vote. So he`s going to a vote he`s not going to get, but I think he has to look like he`s trying in order to get the white moderate vote. That`s my thinking. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Hillary Clinton would rather provide a job to a refugee from overseas than to give that job to unemployed African-American youth in cities like Detroit, who have become refugees in their own country!


MATTHEWS: How does that ring, Michael? Is that for somebody else or...


STEELE: I don`t think that resonates effectively in the black community at this point. I think that...

MATTHEWS: You mean the guys in Detroit don`t think he`s on their side?

STEELE: They`re largely detached. There are those who want -- who like the idea, and I`ve heard that expressed to me by a number of, you know, entrepreneurs, and you know, folks like that who say, Look -- yes, I liked that message originally, but everything else has now clouded that in such a way that they`re not buying it. He may be able to open up a little bit of a conversation there, but not much.

This was for a broader audience. This was for greater Michigan. This was for Arizona.


STEELE: Absolutely. This was for the rest of the Rust Belt. This was for parts of Pennsylvania, for example, where you know, he`s trying to say, Look, I do care about the people you care about, and I am concerned about, you know, their station in life, and so that should be enough to...

MATTHEWS: OK. Caring -- "I care" seems to be the theme of the last 24 hours. We`ll see if it lasts.

But certainly to highlight that and visualize it, he took a surprise trip, Trump did, last night. Trump today toured the flood zone in Louisiana, where thousands have been forced out of their homes, horrible stories down there. It comes after a Louisiana newspaper called on President Obama to cut short his vacation up on Martha`s Vineyard to visit the state.

Well, in an exchange today with a local resident, Trump today took a jab at the president for, as he put it, deciding to play golf. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re not playing golf in Martha`s Vineyard! That`s all we can say. We`re glad you`re not playing golf!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for showing up here, buddy.

TRUMP: Somebody is. Somebody is that shouldn`t be.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make America great again.


TRUMP: Build it back, right? Build it back.


MATTHEWS: Robert Costa, you got to like somebody like that who just yells out what they`re thinking. That woman has got it! I tell you, she was saying -- she was saying, You got -- why are you -- what`s he playing golf for up there? Talk about a nice partisan shot while the cameras are running. What did you make of that?

COSTA: Well, Trump loves golf. He spends most of his weekends at Bedminster (ph), Trump National, having these policy meetings. But I think you see Trump -- this meeting, this trip to Louisiana, I hear, Chris, was recommended by Bannon. And Bannon has these ideas, same with Conway, of going to Democratic towns, places where President Obama may not be, to try to change the perception of Trump not just in these interviews...


COSTA: ... and these speeches, but in his trips and his itinerary.

MATTHEWS: It`s like George Bush, Sr., going up to Boston Harbor and showing how dirty it was, remember?

STEELE: Yes. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Right under the eyes of Michael Dukakis.

STEELE: Exactly. The conversation is about Trump being in a space where the president is not.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, you never look good when you`re not in a spot. The president, by the way, is going to catch up. He`s going to tag base Tuesday, going down to Baton Rouge, you know, on his schedule. It`s not so good as going now, but -- you can argue this is all showmanship, it`s all PR. We can argue that, but that`s what we cover. It`s called a campaign.

Thank you, Robert Costa...


MATTHEWS: Go ahead. What did you say? Go ahead.

COSTA: Well, I was saying this whole campaign now for Trump is showmanship. This is not a campaign that`s going to be as competitive as Clinton on grass roots, on fund-raising. So it`s all about public perception.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think -- and his pictures -- you get your -- Ronald Reagan did quite well, and Sig Rogich and Michael Deaver and those guys, they knew how to put him in the right place at the right time, whether it was Normandy on the 40th anniversary or it was in front of the -- out on the Liberty Park in New Jersey, rediscovering the Statue of Liberty. It all worked. I don`t know if it`ll work as much for Trump. There`s some scar tissue right there on that guy`s -- by the way, notice he...


SCHRIOCK: ... Ronald Reagan.

MATTHEWS: Did you like Ronald Reagan, Stephanie?

SCHRIOCK: I disagreed with him, but I`ll tell you, Donald Trump...

MATTHEWS: Did you like him? Did you like him?

SCHRIOCK: Well, I`m going to be honest with you. I was in elementary school.


MATTHEWS: But did you like him? Did you like him? I need to know.


MATTHEWS: You can`t get away with this. You can`t say he`s no Ronald Reagan without saying whether you like him or not.

SCHRIOCK: Well, he was -- he was a -- he really, truly was a great communicator, and...


SCHRIOCK: ... wouldn`t make it through a Republican primary today.

MATTHEWS: OK. Great. Thank you. You are discernible in your politics. Thank you for coming on for that reason, Stephanie Schriock, thank you. And Robert Costa, thank you, and thank you, Michael Steele. Have a nice weekend, everybody, with all your divergent and diversive (ph) opinion.

Coming up -- and divisive, too, by the way.

Coming up -- this is (INAUDIBLE) quid pro quo. The State Department says that $400 million payment to Iran was, quote, "leverage," close quote, to get those American prisoners back, those people being held over there. Critics are calling the payment ransom because money for people sounds like ransom. The White House is on defense. Let`s watch that one next.

Plus, is Vladimir Putin -- first of all, you hear a guy named Vladimir, you don`t really like the guy right off the bat, do you -- all in for Trump in 2016? Vlad the impaler? I`ve got the former ambassador of Russia here to tell us why that country and its president, Putin, appear to be meddling -- actually, I think I wrote getting into our presidential election.

And game change. Trump`s attempted reset this week -- pivoting to foreign policy, shaking up his campaign people and heading to Louisiana to tour flood damage. Will that work? Can he win back wary Republicans who went for Mitt Romney? Can he just win back the Republican base? That`s his game now. Get a single before you hit a home run. The roundtable is weighing in.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the Trump-de-dump. He likes to fire people, doesn`t he.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got new numbers tonight on how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fare in two toss-up states. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

Hillary Clinton holds a 2-point -- these are nothing, these edges -- out in Nevada. It`s Clinton 44, Trump 42. That could be close, certainly. That`s within the poll`s margin of error, obviously.

And in Georgia -- there`s a state -- Clinton and Trump are tied at 43, and that`s great news for Hillary Clinton. That`s a state that hasn`t gone for a Democrat since when? Since 1992.

And we`ll be right back.



JOHN KIRBY, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: First of all, this was Iran`s money, OK? It was money that they were going to get back anyway.

And so we negotiated with The Hague this interest payment that was much more advantageous to American taxpayers. So, to the degree it was a quid pro quo, it was they got their principal back and we got a much more advantageous interest payment schedule.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was State Department spokesman John Kirby today, earlier today, defending the administration`s decision to reimburse -- there`s a word for you -- Iran $400 million at the same time that country released four American prisoners.

Well, the deal is under new scrutiny now because Kirby acknowledged just yesterday that the administration, the Barack Obama administration, withheld the release of cash until they knew the prisoners had left Iran. Listen to that.


QUESTION: In basic English, you`re saying that you wouldn`t give them the $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released. Correct?

KIRBY: That`s correct. Because we already had concerns about the endgame in terms of getting our people out, we didn`t want to take any chances. And so we believe that, as much leverage as could be had, we wanted to have.


MATTHEWS: Well, the administration has had to defend that deal since "The Wall Street Journal" reported on August 3, that`s this month -- quote -- "The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran."

Well, Republicans, of course -- and they should have -- that`s what we do in politics -- jumped on that report, describing the deal as a ransom for hostages. President Obama pushed back the next day. Here he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The timing of this was in fact dictated by the fact that, as a consequence of us negotiating around the nuclear deal, we actually had diplomatic negotiations and conversations with Iran for the first time in several decades.


MATTHEWS: Well, for more on this, I`m joined by Margaret Talev, who -- she is senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. And Joe Cirincione, he`s the president of Ploughshares Fund.

My question, I might as well start with the tough one, the cutting question. Who told Zarif, who told Iran that if they gave us our people back, they would get the money? Because that statement, they knew that they would get the money if they released our people, who told them that? And once telling them that, isn`t that a trade? Isn`t that a linkage?

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: You think we will find out in the congressional hearings that are going to happen in a few weeks?


MATTHEWS: Who told them, you will get the money if you release our people?


MATTHEWS: That sounds like quid pro quo. It just sounds like a deal.

TALEV: The U.S. has...

MATTHEWS: Part of a bigger deal, but part of a deal.

TALEV: The U.S. has apparently owed this money to what used to be Iran since 1979.

MATTHEWS: Since `97. So, 37 years later, we are repaying a bill exactly on the day that prisoners are agreed to get out.

TALEV: Right. And we are repaying a deal because the U.S. agreed to it several months after Jason Rezaian was already taken captive by the Iranians.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, why do you think the administration denied there was a linkage of any kind? It was all part of a deal.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: As we discussed before, last week, these were clearly connected. Because we had made the deal with Iran, new diplomatic channels opened up. We were able to solve this debt that we owed them for 37 years, and we were able to make a prisoner exchange, and it all happened together.

Was there a connection? Yes. But was there a quid pro quo, was this ransom, was it secret? No.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this. This is common sense.

We are saying that they wouldn`t get the money if they didn`t release the prisoners. But that`s not the same as saying you will get the money if you release the prisoners. These are interesting questions of how things work. If I say to somebody, if you do that, I will give you the money. Who said that?

CIRINCIONE: But he didn`t say that. That`s not what Kirby said. In what fantasy world does the criminal gang release the hostages, and then wait for the money to be paid? This is ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: Well, they made -- we made the commitment.


CIRINCIONE: We got nervous at the end that this was all supposed to be synchronized. The plane with the passengers -- with the prisoners was supposed to be taking off. The plane with the money was supposed to be there, two separate negotiated deals happening at the same time.

MATTHEWS: That sounds like a ransom.

CIRINCIONE: But they were delaying the prisoners. They were delaying the prisoners.

MATTHEWS: But listen to me. You got a child kidnapping case, and they say give me $50 million. You show with the $50 million and the baby`s there, right? If the baby`s not there, you say you`re not getting the money. That sounds like a ransoming.

CIRINCIONE: This was smart diplomacy.

If Oliver North has made this deal, he would be taking a victory lap.


MATTHEWS: Why did this administration deny linkage?

CIRINCIONE: Deny linkage? Because there was no direct linkage. There wasn`t a quid pro quo.

MATTHEWS: It`s all part of a deal. Look, if you don`t agree to part of the deal, you don`t get the whole deal.

CIRINCIONE: This is smart diplomacy.

MATTHEWS: All right. So you are arguing there`s no relationship between getting the money and the prisoners being released?

CIRINCIONE: There is a relationship, but it`s not that ransom relationship the opponents are trying to make it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch the president on this.

Earlier this month, President Obama defended the deal and pooh-poohed accusations this was some sort of a ransom payment. Let`s watch.


OBAMA: We do not pay ransom. We did not here and we won`t in the future, precisely because, if we did, then we would start encouraging Americans to be targeted much in the same way that some countries that do pay ransom end up having a lot more of their citizens being taken by various groups.


MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why he didn`t say not ransom, but they were not connected. Obviously, it`s all part of a deal. Don`t have to get into magic loaded words like ransom. Just say, you know what, there wasn`t going to be anything decided unless everything was decided. We all did it at the same time.

There was the opening up -- or there`s the deal about -- everything was on the table, the arms deal, the end of sanctions, the money coming back after all this 37 years of us freezing the assets and getting our people back. It was all in this package and it was all contingent on all the other pieces of it. It happens all the time in negotiations. Nothing gets agreed upon unless everything`s agreed upon. Why didn`t he just say that?

TALEV: They probably should have. I think they were too clever by half.

They disclosed the $1.7 billion as part of the agreement, but really not the nature of exactly how it happened. They must have known. But President Obama was already under so much heat, so much fire because of the nature of the negotiations. One would guess...


MATTHEWS: Here`s the problem. Here`s the problem.

Joe, there already were sneaky aspects to this that he had to explain. He might as well explain it ahead of time. When you send over cash, and some of it is in euro, some of it is sterling, whatever, we`re sending it over in some airplane, unmarked airplane, the whole thing had the aspect of subterfuge.

So, it was very important that, ahead of time, I know this is going to look weird, but the only way we get paid, given all the sanctions and all the requirements, the limits of what we`re allowed to do, I have to send over an unmarked plane, I`m going to have to send it in European currencies. It is going to look bad, but this is what we are doing. This is all part of a deal.

By not doing it that way up front, he`s allowed Trump now. Trump is going to pound this baby for weeks. This is a gimme for him.

CIRINCIONE: Yes. The worst that you can say about the administration is they were clumsy in the way they handled it. But there was nothing secret about it.


MATTHEWS: No, it was secretly done.

CIRINCIONE: It was reported by "The Wall Street Journal" at the time that it happened.

MATTHEWS: No, we got it last night at 6:37 on the AP wire, when I got it popped at me. It wasn`t exactly broad daylight.


CIRINCIONE: A year ago today, "The Wall Street Journal" was crucifying Obama because he negotiated an Iran deal that didn`t include the prisoners. Then he gets the prisoners out, and they cry ransom. There`s no pleasing some people.

TALEV: I`m not sure how successful Trump will be at pummelling Clinton about this, because the people who already hate the Iran deal already hate the Iran deal.

But it does allow him to take some of the focus off of Russia, the Ukraine.

MATTHEWS: Credibility.

TALEV: All of the above.

MATTHEWS: Credibility. It`s everything. And I`m pro-Obama on everything practically.

TALEV: But Hillary Clinton was gone.

MATTHEWS: This kind of thing has got to be carefully handled. Ronald Reagan lost 20 points in the polling -- because I studied it back then -- when he went over and sent the TOW missiles over to Iran after, having gotten elected on standing up against hostage-taking.

He stood up and he beat Jimmy Carter on the 50 hostages. What`s he do? He pays ransom to get the hostages out. They`re called TOW missiles. He was guilty as hell on that. And it took him months to admit it. Why not learn from the mistakes of earlier presidents? All I`m saying. I study this stuff.

Thank you, Margaret Talev and Joe Cirincione. And I don`t mean to brag. I don`t like this stuff.


MATTHEWS: Up next: What does Putin gain from helping Trump? Now, this is a great one coming up. What does Putin like about Trump possibly winning? It`s a long shot now, but why would he want him to him? Let`s talk to the former ambassador of Russia, Mr. McFaul, himself, when we return.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is apologizing for giving a misleading account of a confrontation with security guards at a gas station in Rio. Lochte initially claimed that he and three others were robbed at gunpoint. The International Olympic Committee says it has set a disciplinary commission to look into it.

And Zika infections are now occurring in the tourist mecca of Miami Beach, where five people have become sick. The CDC is warning pregnant women to avoid the area -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Ever since embarrassing e-mails were stolen from the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, and leaked during the Democratic Convention last month, Russia`s apparent meddling or involvement in the presidential campaign has been one of the stranger stories of 2016.

Security experts say that with, near certitude, it was the hacking -- the hacking was done, it was perpetrated by the Russian intelligence agencies under President Vladimir Putin, directly controlled by him.

In an op-ed in "The Washington Post," former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul explained that: "Putin had rational motives for wanting Trump to win. Trump`s most shocking pro-Kremlin proposal is to look into recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia."

Well, McFaul notes that -- quote -- "Trump also has made clear his disdain for the United States` alliances around the world. A U.S. retreat from global affairs fits precisely with Putin`s international interests."

Well, after the DNC was hacked, Trump went so far as to call upon Russia to help find Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. Trump really did that and has repeatedly praised Putin on the campaign trail. Here he Trump earlier this month.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They say Putin likes Trump, and he said nice things about me. He called me a genius. He said we`re going to win. That`s good. That`s not bad. That`s good.



We are joined right now by Michael McFaul, former United States ambassador to Russia.

I guess we ought to start with the facts that we know. Do we know that the Russians and their security agencies, their intelligence forces hacked into the DNC e-mails and dumped them on us?


Government officials have said as much on background. A public -- a private firm has investigated it. I have talked to very senior people at the White House about it. I don`t think there`s any doubt that they have done that.

And, Chris, let`s remember, that is their job. It`s called spying. It`s called intelligence. We do it, too, by the way. That`s their job. It`s not their job to get caught.


MATTHEWS: Well, why did they dump it? Why did they dump it?

MCFAUL: Well, let`s be very precise what we know and we don`t, right?

WikiLeaks dumped the data, not the Russians. WikiLeaks, they made very clear that they don`t like Secretary Clinton and they want to do damage to her. The part we don`t know precisely is, did the Russians give it to WikiLeaks? And I don`t think we are ever going to know that, because WikiLeaks isn`t going to tell us and the Russians aren`t going to tell us either.

MATTHEWS: What do we know about Russian intentions? The old Churchill line is, you got to figure out Russian interests to figure out what they`re up to. Just figure out, what`s in their interests?

What`s in their interests regarding our election that you can discern?

MCFAUL: You know, I just think it`s simple as day. It`s crystal-clear.

There`s one candidate that says we should look into recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. There`s another candidate, Secretary Clinton, that says absolutely not. There`s one candidate, Mr. Trump, that says we should renegotiate our relationship with our NATO allies. There`s another candidate that says absolutely we shouldn`t do that.

So, I don`t think you need to have a Ph.D. in political science, like I do, to think that Mr. Trump is the preferable candidate for the Kremlin.

MATTHEWS: So, Trump comes off as soft in terms of the -- what would you say, the restoration of the old sphere of influence by Moscow?

MCFAUL: He just supports their views. He says what they have been trying to say, trying to get other people to say.

And just on Crimea, I want to point out I don`t know of any -- maybe you do, because you talk to more of them than I do -- senators or member of Congress that supports that. There`s only six countries in the world that have supported the recognition. So that`s a...

MATTHEWS: And they are not our friends.

MCFAUL: ... policy position.

MATTHEWS: And they are not our friends.


MCFAUL: Syria, North Korea, countries like that.

MATTHEWS: Venezuela. Yes.

MCFAUL: Venezuela.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Russia`s ambitions, because I`m fascinated with the manner in which, the way in which history just seems to be relentless.

Russia has always wanted warm water ports. They want access to oil, like everybody else does. They want access to the south. They don`t like being stuck up in the north. They wanted -- they always seem to like -- like Hitler always wanted to move east, Russia wants to move south, and it also wants to recreate, what do they call it, the near frontier, or the near empire. What is it called? The near abroad.

MCFAUL: The near abroad.

MATTHEWS: They want to bring back into their sphere of influence -- the near abroad -- they want to bring back into their sphere of influence enough of the countries around them, former members of the USSR, that would make them feel strong again. Isn`t that it?

MCFAUL: Yes. That`s right.

I mean, I don`t think Putin wants to recreate the Soviet Union anymore. I think he`s too rational for that. But to have a sphere of influence, to have the countries on his border subservient to him, countries like Ukraine and Georgia, of course, that`s in his national interest today.

MATTHEWS: Why can`t rebuild...


MCFAUL: Defined by him, by the way.

MATTHEWS: We spent most of my growing up in the Cold War, of course, and I remember it was always East-West, us against the East, whether we thought there was a Sino-Soviet bloc, which there wasn`t. But it was always West against East. And the hope was, when the Cold War ended, there would be a North-South thing, where we and the Russians would agree to fight -- not ISIS -- we didn`t know it was going to called ISIS, but we thought it would be some aspect of the Third World.

Why hasn`t that happened? Why isn`t there a mutual interest between us and the Russians in taking on the trouble coming from the world of the Middle East?

MCFAUL: Well, you know, Chris, we are meeting today...

MATTHEWS: We are both vulnerable. Are they are more vulnerable than us?

MCFAUL: Right.

Well, it`s actually 25 years ago to the date that there was that coup attempt in August 1991.


MCFAUL: And when it failed, that was the moment of euphoria where we thought we were going to work together.

And, by the way, episodically, through those 25 years, we have worked together. I was at the White House in 2009 with President Obama. We did cooperative things with them, including working against terrorists.

But Putin came back in 2011 and 2012, when he was elected president, and he decided that we were meddling in his election -- remember that -- and he blamed Secretary Clinton for that.

MATTHEWS: Were we?

MCFAUL: No, not in my opinion, but, in his opinion, the statements she made about that parliamentary election sent a signal -- that`s his word -- to Russian protesters to come out on the street.

And when that happened and...


MATTHEWS: Yes. Are you a little worried that Hillary is a hawkish, in the Cold War sense, that she seemed to be -- I have talked to her, and I get a sense that she`s not really shaken by the Vietnam experience or the Iraq experience, that she is still basically hawkish in terms of the East-West relationship.

MCFAUL: I never know what to do with that word hawkish. I didn`t -- I`m not a child of the Cold War. That was before my time.


MCFAUL: I would say she`s tough. She`s going to be tough in defending our national interests.

You have invoked Ronald Reagan three or four times on this show. Peace through strength, that was smart.


MCFAUL: Ronald Reagan did a lot of business with the Soviets.

MATTHEWS: He sure did.

MCFAUL: But he did it not by being weak, but by being strong.


I think he was averse to going to war on the line between East and West Germany. He didn`t go to war over little things. I thought Reagan was very discerning on that kind of thing.

Anyway, thank you, Ambassador McFaul, for coming on.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: Up next, time for a turn-around. Is Trump really gearing up for the fall? Has he got it figured out yet? Step one is winning back those states that Mitt Romney carried four months ago. Can he do that? Can he win back wary Republicans?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those I say the following, what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?

What do you have to lose? You`re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?

At the end of four years, I guarantee you, that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote, I promise you.


MATTHEWS: That`s Donald Trump today. I don`t think he was credible but he was trying to make an appeal to African-American voters. At least he was doing that on the surface. I think he was working moderate whites to be blunt about it.

With a change in tone and overall of his campaign management, Trump is trying to get back in the game, obviously, between now and November. Step number one, of course, is getting nervous Republicans back aboard and those who went for Mitt Romney four years ago. Got to get back the Republican vote from 2012 before you get the Republican vote to win in 2016.

Anyway, he`s also got ground to make up in key states. The latest NBC News battleground match shows Democrats with 288 electoral votes this week, Republicans at 174. That`s about 100 shy. So, can and will Trump pull off the turn-around?

Joining me tonight are some experts, Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for "Politico", Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for "The Daily Mail", and Ed Goeas, an old expert, he`s a really smart guy, a Republican pollster.

So, what -- am I right that when you go -- when you are a Republican, addressing an audience which looks pretty much white, I hate talking like this but it is pretty much white, he`s really selling the suburban person, look, who doesn`t want to think of themselves as racists, that Trump isn`t one?


ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It`s more his tone and tenor in terms of him being open and trying to campaign to a wide audience of people. Democrats do the same thing. So I think it has been interesting --

MATTHEWS: Who is he trying to recruit the next couple weeks? Who`s he going for?

GOEAS: Well, you have to go to his original numbers. I keep going back to both Hillary and he had a 55 percent unfavorable rating when this race started. Hers was driven by the politics of her past. His was driven by his personality.

This is an effort to show a different part of him, much like his children exposed a different part of him during the convention. And it`s tone and tenor and style that we keep hearing from the campaign he needs to stay on message. That`s only half of it. The other half of it is the tone and tenor that he shows the voters out there.

MATTHEWS: It seems hard for him, Francesca. I keep thinking of him as Sinatra all the time. The guy will fight as big as he is, will fight anybody in a bar. And the great line from "My Way" was regrets, I had a few, but too few to mention. He wasn`t going to say what regret he had, just generally, if I hurt anybody out there was the old cover-up. If anybody`s offended, OK.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL: It does seem difficult for him to stay on message and stay disciplined, even today as he went to Louisiana which was supposed to be this visit to make him look very presidential. He took this swing at President Obama.

MATTHEWS: That woman gave the swing. He just punched it. She said he`s up there playing golf.

CHAMBERS: You know, but he didn`t have to do that. He could have just moved on from it but he had to make fun of President Obama`s golf game.

Everybody knew Obama wasn`t in Louisiana. That was very clear. He didn`t have to do that. He has got to stay on message.

You asked who he needs to be winning? He needs to be winning white working class voters. There are states like Iowa which he could be, should be winning and he`s not doing particularly well there. I`m not quite sure why he`s not going up with ads in that state.

MATTHEWS: Sure he`s not close in Iowa?

CHAMBERS: He is closer there than he is in some other states but he`s not winning there, either.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: To your point, Chris, about it being hard for him, that`s exactly right. We have seen these shifts before. We have seen him pivot and be a little more diplomatic, even read off a teleprompter before. How long does it typically last, a day. Two days. Then he swings right back.

MATTHEWS: He throws in these asides.

VOGEL: He can`t help himself. Yes, some credit to Kellyanne Conway.

MATTHEWS: It`s hard to write for him.

VOGEL: Absolutely. It`s impossible to write for him.

GOEAS: That`s my point. Only half of it is staying on message. The other half is the personality. The persona you are showing.

That`s the thing that the voters who are not supporting him that should be supporting him, the Republicans and some of the independent voters, they just had a negative reaction to his personality in the beginning and they are still reacting that way because he does keep going back to that.

MATTHEWS: Is he too brash?

GOEAS: Too brash, he has an image of too much of being a bully. He is too much off the cuff. Doesn`t mean you can`t be strong.


GOEAS: But you don`t have to be --

MATTHEWS: My Irish American grandmother never liked Jackie Gleason because she knew too many Jackie Gleasons. There are too many guys in the neighborhood. Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.



MATTHEWS: Well, got a big night lined up for you Monday night. We`ve got two editions of HARDBALL. Coming on two editions, tune in for our regular show at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and then we`ll be back at 11:00 for special late night HARDBALL. All that on Monday. We start fast on Monday around here.

Speaking of big nights, I caught the Barbara Streisand show here last night. There we are together. It was astounding. Pure perfection, one classic after another. I don`t know how this lady does it.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Ed Goeas, tell me something I don`t know, because you know so much.

GOEAS: Well, I`m going to key off the last thing you said, talking about Kellyanne and how she`s doing with Trump. I think she`s doing a very good job. I think she`s having some impact in terms of message.

The hidden secret there is she`s been Pence`s pollster for years. So, she has an air of someone that can`t be fired by Trump. I think that`s going to help in driving her message and Pence has a lot of qualities a lot of voters are waiting to see.

MATTHEWS: Yes, she`s here for the duration.

GOEAS: She`s here for the duration.

MATTHEWS: Francesca Chambers?

CHAMBERS: Well, we know that President Obama is in Martha`s Vineyard this weekend. That`s been (INAUDIBLE). Well, Hillary Clinton is also going to Martha`s Vineyard this weekend as well. She`ll be going to Cape Cod. She`ll be doing Nantucket.

MATTHEWS: I know where she`s going.

CHAMBERS: And she`s also, though, on Sunday doing a fund-raiser with the one and only Cher.

MATTHEWS: Wow. She`s doing Nantucket on Saturday for lunch, I think. Yes, go ahead.

VOGEL: So, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump`s former campaign manager who resigned today, our understanding is that about ten days ago, he went to Trump and he told him, hey, a bunch of reporters, a bunch of big media outlets are poking around in my business in Ukraine, could be some damaging stories coming out. We need to bring in additional fire power at the top level of the campaign. That was Kellyanne and this Steve Bannon guy.

MATTHEWS: Did he know he was going to be replaced by them?

VOGEL: He didn`t. He thought they could weather the storm, but we need to have people in place. Obviously, he was wrong. He couldn`t survive.

MATTHEWS: We`ll talk about that at the end of show. There`s a lot about when you cast off people. But there is a sort of thing where he fires his engine by firing people.

Anyway, Ken Vogel, Francesca Chambers, Ed Goeas, great group.

When we return, let me finish with a Trump-de-dump.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the Trump-de-dump. Have you noticed he thrives on getting rid of people? There was Lewandowski, then Manafort. He jettisons people like a train conductor blowing his whistle. Hey, look, the train`s coming. I can hear the whistle.

Well, firing, firing, firing. Corey you`re fired. Paul, you too. This is rough.

But I guess he`s doing what other presidential candidates have done trying to get to the right leader, the right general to lead the army. You know, Like Lincoln relieving all those men including General McCloud (ph) who refused to commit the troops, who just couldn`t bring themselves to take to the offensive. We saw this with Ronald Reagan who letting John Sears going after winning New Hampshire and put his faith in Bill Casey. We saw it with Dukakis pushing the bright gung-ho John Sasso aside for being too aggressive, then bringing him back when it was too late to get aggressive.

I know that Kellyanne Conway knows her stuff. The fact that Donald Trump has recruited her to run his fall campaign says something about Trump`s learning curve. The big question is where she can steer in sharp in the campaign where it needs to go. Can Trump win back the wavering Republicans and independents who were with him before? Can we convince Republican women he has the heart to be president, that he possesses a minimum level of compassion that makes all presidents worthy of our confidence?

We`re seeing signs that he does. His comment last night about hg regrets for things he`s said that have hurt people, for talking positively today about race relations and showing up in Louisiana to show concern for the flood victims in Louisiana. The question that will linger, no matter how successful this turn in the campaign is whether newly expressed sentiments are genuine or not? Why? Because the minimal standard of getting elected president of the United States is not sounding and looking like an SOB.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.