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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/23/2016

Guests: Ruth Marcus, Jennifer Rubin, Heidi Przybyla, Stephanie Schriock, Richard Fowler, Boris Epshteyn, Ann Coulter

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 23, 2016 Guest: Ruth Marcus, Jennifer Rubin, Heidi Przybyla, Stephanie Schriock, Richard Fowler, Boris Epshteyn, Ann Coulter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary`s guest list.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump has opened up a new front against Hillary Clinton, going after her ties to the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state, while newly disclosed e-mails show donors getting what appears to be special access.

And now today, the Associated Press reported late today that more than half the people from inside -- or outside government, rather, that Hillary Clinton met with as secretary of State were people who donated to the Clinton Foundation, more than half.

According to the AP, at least 85 of the 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars release so far to the Associated Press.

Well, combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each and 20 gave more than $1 million each.

Well, today, Trump`s running mate called it, quote, "further evidence of pay to play politics." Well, Clinton`s spokesman responded to the AP report late today. Brian Fallon said, "This story relies on utterly flawed data. It cherry picked a limited subset of Secretary Clinton`s schedule to give a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation. The data does not account for more than half her tenure as secretary and it omits more than 1,700 meetings she told -- or she took with world leaders, let alone countless others she took with other U.S. government officials while"...

That`s an interesting comment, but it doesn`t really challenge the actual numbers. We`ll get to that in our conversation.

Anyway, yesterday, Trump called for a special prosecutor to look into her actions.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: No issue better illustrates how corrupt my opponent is than her pay for play scandals as secretary of state!


TRUMP: As the evidence has become public over the last several months, I`ve become increasingly shocked by the vast scope of Hillary Clinton`s criminality. It`s criminality. The amounts involved, the favors done and the significant number of times it was done require an expedited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, immediately, immediately!



MATTHEWS: Well, the latest batch of e-mails were released after a lawsuit from the conservative group Judicial Watch. They include 725 pages of e- mails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Anyway, the Clinton campaign said in a statement, quote, "No matter how the group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation." But today`s Associated Press report shows that she makes a point to meet with its donors.

Stephanie Schriock is the president of Emily`s List. she`s a Clinton supporter. Heidi Przybyla is senior political reporter for "USA Today." And Michael Steele`s the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst.

Michael`s the one on the right in that three-picture.


MATTHEWS: I`m just teasing.

So Heidi, let`s get to the facts of these latest developments and what they bear (ph). The Clinton campaign has challenged these numbers, but they are fascinating. First of all, it seems like a paltry number of private sector people that (INAUDIBLE). If you count four years she was secretary of state, that`s about 200 weeks. In that entire 200 weeks, she met with only, like, 153 people. Of them, 86 people were donors to the Clinton Foundation.

But my question -- that`s a scanty list of people to meet with to start with, isn`t it?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY" Yes, well, that`s why the Clinton campaign is saying that this is not representative of all of the meetings, what she had, but...

MATTHEWS: But it`s all the private sector meetings.

PRZYBYLA: Right. It`s the private sector meetings. But even private sector, the Clinton campaign is saying that this is cherry picking. That`s up to them to say that, but...

MATTHEWS: What does that mean, cherry picking?

PRZYBYLA: But here`s what the whole narrative means, Chris, including what`s come out today from AP, including what came out from Judicial Watch, which is that this is not classic pay to play, but what it is, is it`s classic evidence of influence buying and the type of influence buying and access that everyone at this table knows goes on all over Washington.

In this case, it has an extra layer of being problematic because it`s involving foreign governments and not just your classic millionaires and billionaires.

MATTHEWS: Well, wait until -- we`re going to go through these cases, guys. Your first reaction (INAUDIBLE) But I`m going to go to -- because I think the cases -- I agree about the access. It reminds me of how you get a meeting. If you give to a Senate campaign, either party, male or female, whatever, if you pay the -- or contribute to a campaign, you will get an appointment with that person once they`re elected. That`s the way it works. And you may not like it, right, Michael?


MATTHEWS: Right? That`s the way it works. If you make a contribution to a politician, you get access.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that`s where it ends, though.

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s where it ends.

MATTHEWS: That`s what bothers -- well, it does bother people. Let me ask -- let`s go through these cases. One example being used by critics of Secretary Clinton is an e-mail exchange over a meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain, whose family donated millions to the Clinton Foundation.

Doug Band, a Clinton Foundation executive, e-mailed Huma Abedin of the secretary of state`s office saying, quote, "Crown prince of Bahrain in tomorrow -- to Friday asking to see her. Good friend of ours."

Huma at first responded that Clinton didn`t want to commit. And then eventually, she wrote, quote, "Offering Bahrain crown prince 10:00 tomorrow for a meeting with HRC. If you see him, let him know. We have reached out through official channels."

Now, there they`ve said they`ll let the guy in, but they`re doing -- because he`s also pursuing the regular channels of -- and by the way, it seems to me appropriate to meet with the crown prince of Bahrain if you`re secretary of state. Just a thought.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, EMILY`S LIST: Precisely. And all of these meetings were scheduled through official channels of the State Department. And she`s secretary of state. Her job, in fact, is to meet with world leaders and government leaders, which the vast majority of her meetings over her tenure were exactly that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Your reaction?

PRZYBYLA: I -- it`s just another example of the broader problem in the first place, which was -- this reminds me of e-mails, reminds me of the paid speeches, which is, Why did you have this connection in the first place...


PRZYBYLA: ... of even having the foundation while she was at the State Department because it`s going to be hundreds of examples like this where people will make these charges.

SCHRIOCK: If I may, the foundation actually went above and beyond in setting up its arrangement so it was very, very transparent and ethical from the very beginning, the 2009 foundation.

STEELE: Clearly, it wasn`t transparent and ethical enough.

SCHRIOCK: Moreso than any foundation has been (INAUDIBLE)

STEELE: Look, Chris, you make the point -- you play off the number, you know, because it`s so few people, out of 156, 80-something, but they gave $156 million to the foundation after (sic) those relationships.

You didn`t put on the table the fact that the foreign dignitaries, a Nobel Prize winner and others who had those (sic) same access contributed $170 million to the foundation. So you line up the duckets (sic) here, and you see that even if there is no -- you could say it`s transparent -- there is...

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m trying to get all the information on the table. What are you bringing to the table that I don`t have? I mean, help me here, Michael.

STEELE: Well, no. No -- you know, the -- you know, the Bangladeshi Nobel Prize winner, who was being charged by his government for the way he ran their bank -- their foundation in his country, sought out Hillary Clinton, all right? So Hillary Clinton -- you know, he wants her help. He gives -- he -- she gives him some help, all right? Then subsequent to that, not him but organizations that he has a direct tie and oversight of then contributed $100,000 and $250,000.

Now, it may all be very innocent...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

STEELE: ... but the fact of the matter is, how does that -- how does it pass a smell test when everything else doesn`t...

MATTHEWS: OK, OK. A couple things come through. First of all, we don`t know all kinds of reasons why they accept somebody into their office. A lot of these people have been friends forever. The Marine wife, wife of Steve (INAUDIBLE) they`ve been giving money to the Clintons, hanging out with them for years. There`s all kinds of motives for letting a person have an interview, right?

SCHRIOCK: Plus, some of these people...



SCHRIOCK: Some of these people, like the Slimfast executive, have positions outside of their corporate role, such as he was the head of the Center for Peace and Security, whatever the name...


MATTHEWS: Doesn`t he lend his plane to Clinton, that guy?


SCHRIOCK: You know, I mean, one, we have to remember this is the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. This is an organization that is doing massive amounts of charitable work...


MATTHEWS: I`m not challenging that point.

STEELE: That`s a distraction. That`s not the point!

SCHRIOCK: No, I think it is actually the really important...


MATTHEWS: ... good works.

SCHRIOCK: Well, except this is -- this is what...

MATTHEWS: Why is...


MATTHEWS: Why is Bill Clinton saying, I`m not going to be head of it anymore if she gets elected president? Why is he pulling out if it`s not a problem?


SCHRIOCK: Well, they were always going to try to figure out -- it`ll be the first time that he will be...

MATTHEWS: They just announced this week, Stephanie...


SCHRIOCK: ... first spouse. He`s got to figure out what his role`s going to be.

MATTHEWS: ... they`re not going to take money from overseas anymore. They`re not going to take money -- they are admitting there`s a conflict.

SCHRIOCK: If by chance -- and I`m political so I`m always afraid I`m going to, like, jinx the campaign, or jinx the election. But if she becomes president of the United States, he will be for the first time ever a spouse of the president of the United States. Of course, the circumstances...


PRZYBYLA: Whether that is good enough, given everything that`s coming out -- because then there`s still lingering (ph) questions. What about Chelsea? Is she going to divorce herself? And what about the contributions that might be made between now and the election?

STEELE: And November.

PRZYBYLA: Why not end it now? That`s why you have even "The Boston Globe" editorial board saying, cut it off, you know, cut ties.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I got to say -- I`ve said this before many times (INAUDIBLE) complete (ph) believe what Stephanie says about -- it`s a great organization. It does great work.

My son worked for it, like, 10 years ago. He got the job himself after he graduated from Brown. He talked to (INAUDIBLE) magazine or somebody up there. He didn`t want do the Peace Corps for two years because I`d done the Peace Corps. He has a girlfriend.

He wanted to limit it, so he did five months in Rwanda right after the genocide. He went over there and worked with the people, made sure the AIDS money or the AIDS drugs did not go into the European black market.

And what the Clinton people do, which is really tough, they say, Look, give to us, the drugs, pay for them, and we`ll make sure the local government doesn`t steal it." And this is a big thing in aid. Most aid gets stolen.

What the Clinton people do is, We`re going to make sure if you give to them, if you give to the -- the money will get to the right people. It will benefit people. It won`t be another one of these jokes most foreign aid is.

Michael, it`s a good cause.

STEELE: No, I -- look...


MATTHEWS: ... conflict of interest here.

STEELE: All the more reason, to your point, they should cut it off now. All the more reason to ask the question...

MATTHEWS: Well, who`s going to pick up -- who will pick it up? I`ll take (INAUDIBLE) who`s going to do what Bill Clinton`s been doing?


STEELE: Well, I mean, it`s not like Bill Clinton is the one standing there handing out the aid himself. He`s got an entire team.

PRZYBYLA: Still be his name (INAUDIBLE)

STEELE: It will still be his name.

MATTHEWS: He`s making it happen.

STEELE: It`s still going to be his organization.

MATTHEWS: He`s Mr. Charm.

Anyway, let`s take a look at Carville because I think Carville is always incredibly honest. You don`t have to believe that he`s bipartisan, but he`s honest. Here he is. On "MORNING JOE," Clinton ally James Carville was asked whether the foundation should have stopped taking foreign donations when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, a great question. Let`s watch.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The good would be we wouldn`t be gathered about (ph) here. The bad would be you would be out hundreds of millions of dollars that are doing good. What the Clinton Foundation does, it takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But should they...

CARVILLE: And most people think that`s a pretty good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shouldn`t they have done that from the beginning, though, not going to take foreign money?

CARVILLE: If you ask me as a political adviser, of course. If you ask me as a human being, I`m not too sure. As a human being, I think...


CARVILLE: ... does an enormous amount of good.


CARVILLE: From a strictly political standpoint, yes -- my 6th grade teacher, Mother Robert (ph), from the Sisters of (INAUDIBLE) somebody`s going to hell over this because somebody, (INAUDIBLE) here or somewhere is -- this is saving people`s lives.


MATTHEWS: Do you like to have those U.N. (ph) earphones (ph) that he`s talking (ph)?


MATTHEWS: But he basically said it`s a good cause, and politically, it`s a state (ph) problem.

STEELE: Yes, but...

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s take a look. The Trump campaign put out a statement from former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani about the Associated Press story, which we just broke here.

It said in part, "From the facts revealed today, it is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and The State department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office. They sold access and specific actions for money. In other words, they merged the two into the Clinton family racketeering enterprise."

Way over the top!

SCHRIOCK: That is completely...


MATTHEWS: First of all, I don`t see the criminality here.


MATTHEWS: I can see ethics. I can see all kinds of conflict, which is what we live in Washington. Everybody watching now knows that when you give to a political -- a politician, you expect access. When they call up and say, He wants to meet with you sometime this week, you get the meeting!


SCHRIOCK: Hillary took no action and that -- she made that clear and that is very true. She took no action as secretary of state...


MATTHEWS: You`re right.

SCHRIOCK: ... none whatsoever.

MATTHEWS: Just meetings.


PRZYBYLA: We`re being very legalistic, and that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

PRZYBYLA: We`re being very legalistic...

MATTHEWS: But when you talk about special prosecutors, you ought to be legalistic. Has a law been broken?

PRZYBYLA: Well, it`s true that there`s nothing -- it doesn`t violate anything and there were no favors. But when you present this to the average American, it doesn`t ring true...

MATTHEWS: We`re doing it.

PRZYBYLA: ... that this doesn`t lead to corruption. But let me just point out here that that is exactly what the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 with the McCutcheon v FEC case when it said that ingratiation and access does not lead to corruption.

Now, tell me, bring that to the American people and ask them if they really believe that. But that is, unfortunately, the system that we`ve been given.

MATTHEWS: OK, we have this system. And it -- basically, there`s two kinds of politicians (INAUDIBLE) like there`s two kinds of everything. There`s the rich person who can pay their way right through. Trump was doing that pretty effectively, other people -- the Rockefellers, Corzine in New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg. They can write the checks. Do you want those people running the country?

Or the other kind of people, like the Clintons -- and I don`t like this smarming up to a lot of people, either, but they basically live off of the friendship of people, and the money they give to them, and those people are still their friends when they get elected.

STEELE: They are. OK, two things. One, to the idea that this is a noble foundation -- and it is -- the inference is that but for, you know, this relationship, those people who gave that money wouldn`t give that money. Well, if the foundation is that noble, they would have given it under their own volition without some connection to Hillary Clinton.

Two, the idea that because, you know, you have the situation where Hillary Clinton is, you know, in office as secretary of state -- it`s not the same thing. It`s not that they gave to her political campaign, they gave to a foundation that has all kinds of ties and relationships to foreign governments.

That`s a big difference for a lot of people out there. If we were talking about donors to her campaign, like you`re talking here, that we all know it happens in this town, different conversation.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, you put it all together there. And I thank you all. This is murky. I think we can agree it`s murky. And it`s a great opportunity for critics to make -- but I tell you, the criminality question and calling it racketeering?

I don`t think she became secretary of state so she could help the Clinton Foundation. I think she accepted it as a public service, I`m telling you, and an honor. And an honor. But as Martin Luther King said, sometimes when you do the right thing, it has political benefits, OK?

Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Stephanie Schrirock (sic) -- Schriock -- and Heidi Przybyla for the reporting at the heart of all this.

Coming up, Donald Trump has been making his case to minority voters, a bloc that polls show are resistant to his candidacy. I`d say! Is Trump truly trying to go after minority voters? Then why doesn`t he meet with African- American audiences? That would be my question. There`s one way to show you want somebody to vote for him, you meet them. He hasn`t done that yet.

Plus, coming up later in the show, Ann Coulter makes the case for Trump. The conservative author is out with a new book making the case for the billionaire businessman, and tonight, she tells us why skeptical Republicans, independents and even Democrats should take a second look.

Speaking of Trump, why is he promoting the idea that Hillary Clinton isn`t healthy enough to be commander-in-chief, that she lacks -- I love this word, I don`t know where it came from, but it sounds gender-related -- stamina? What`s stamina all about? Anyway, his critics are calling that attack sexism. The roundtable delves into that.

By the way, look at all the women who won gold medals and won medals. It`s unbelievable. The American women, basically, are the fourth biggest country in the world in terms of the Olympics, just by themselves.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a governor`s determination to bring people who`ve served their time for doing bad things back into society. I`m talking about Terry McAuliffe of Virginia.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: President Obama today toured the flood-ravaged section of Louisiana, where at least 13 people have died as a result of the storms down there, and at least 100,000 have suffered home damage. And in his remarks this afternoon, the president urged Americans not to forget about those affected.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just remind folks, sometimes, once the flood waters pass, people`s attention spans pass. This is not a one-off. This is not a photo op issue. This is, how do you make sure that a month from now, three months from now, six months from now, people still are getting the help that they need?


MATTHEWS: And you can say that about Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey so hard four years ago.

We`ll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Poor Hispanic and African- American citizens are the first to lose a job or to see a pay cut when we don`t control our borders. Hillary Clinton`s plan amounts to total and absolute total open borders, open borders.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump, of course, last night in this case in Akron, Ohio, making another pitch for African-American voters.

Well, Trump continued his plea for minority support by asking what black and Hispanic voters have to lose by supporting him.



TRUMP: The Democrats have failed completely in the inner cities, poverty, rejection, horrible education, no housing, no homes, no ownership, crime at levels that nobody`s seen.

You can go to war zones in countries that we`re fighting, and it`s safer than living in some of our inner cities.

To the African-Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people, what the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance.



MATTHEWS: Well, but Trump isn`t campaigning in the communities he wants to win over, apparently. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that -- quote -- "Supporters of the New York businessman say they have asked him to speak at black colleges and black churches and at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation`s largest black advocacy organization, but he`s declined. Mr. Trump has delivered some of his appeals, in fact, to African-Americans in communities that are overwhelmingly white."

He is struggling across the board with minorities, according -- according to our latest NBC News surveys. Anyway, Clinton leads Trump -- these numbers are amazing -- by 80 percentage points among black voters; 80 percent is the difference. She leads him by over 50 percentage points among Hispanic Americans, and she is up 43 percent -- these are differences -- among Asian Americans. Trump only leads Clinton among white voters 50 percent to 40 percent, which is not enough for him to win this election.

Boris Epshteyn is a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and Richard Fowler is a radio talk show host.

Brian -- Boris, rather, is this campaign of Trump`s aimed at getting the number up among white moderates, or is it aimed actually at encouraging African-Americans to vote for him? Who is it aimed at?

BORIS EPSHTEYN, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Chris, the campaign is absolutely aimed at bringing on or bringing in people of all communities, of all backgrounds, and, of course, specifically, at African-Americans.

If you look at where African-Americans are in this country, 26 percent poverty among African-Americans, double unemployment among African- Americans than that of white people. If you look at a city like Chicago, 4,000 murders from when Barack Obama became president.

So, of course, Donald Trump is speaking to people in African-American communities, saying, give me a chance, look at what you have had under Democratic leaders. Are you any better off? And the answer is absolutely they are not.

MATTHEWS: What has Trump done for African-Americans politically or in his private life so far?

EPSHTEYN: Well, politically is not a fair question, right, Chris? He`s been a businessman.

MATTHEWS: I know, or his private life, his private life.

EPSHTEYN: He`s employed a lot of African-Americans, a lot of African- American leaders in his businesses. And now he`s running for president and he`s saying that, when elected president, he will revitalize the inner cities, make them safe, make them economically successful again, like they used to be.

The city of Detroit used to be a shining city on a hill. And now it`s a terrible place, except for the businessmen that are trying to revitalize it like Dan Gilbert. Chicago, again, is a war zone.


MATTHEWS: I`m with them. I`m with them.

Let me ask you about politics, which is my field. If you want a community to vote for you, you go to that community and you stand in front of the church or you go to a community center and you invite -- or you go to the Congressional Black Caucus, which is always ready to meet with somebody like Trump. They will certainly meet with any presidential candidate.

And you make an appeal to them face-to-face, where you establish good or bad chemistry, but you make an appeal to the person. Why hasn`t he done that yet?

EPSHTEYN: Well, Chris, the appeal is made personally every night, every time he speaks. And it`s carried on all of the networks.

MATTHEWS: No, to African-American audiences. Why is he not going to African-American audiences?

EPSHTEYN: It`s not about the location. It`s about the message.


EPSHTEYN: And the message is carried on every network, including this one.

And if you look at the polls, actually, he was at 1 percent.


MATTHEWS: Are you serious, Boris? Are you making an argument to me that, if you want a community to vote for, you don`t have to go to that community?

This is a new kind of politics I have never heard of. You don`t have to go to the community that`s going to vote for you?


EPSHTEYN: My argument to you, it`s almost revolutionary for a Republican candidate to be speaking about the issues that are affecting the African- American community. And we should be celebrating this.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he`s doing it in front of all-white audiences.

EPSHTEYN: He`s doing it -- yesterday was in front of Akron, Ohio.

MATTHEWS: I`m looking at the audiences.

EPSHTEYN: Akron, Ohio, is actually a very diverse area, diverse city.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. OK. We have got the video to show.

Anyway, let me go over to Richard Fowler.

Why do you think Donald Trump, a -- it`s hard to put him politically. I wouldn`t call him conservative. It`s more -- he`s an outsider. Let`s call him that. Why do you think he`s making this dramatic apparent appeal to African-Americans for the last several speeches? Why is he doing it?

RICHARD FOWLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don`t think he`s really making an appeal to African-Americans, Chris.

I think he`s talking at African-Americans, not to you.

MATTHEWS: For what purpose? Yes.


FOWLER: And the reason why is because he wants to drum up support amongst the quote -- his base of voters, white men. Right?

So when you say, I`m the law and order candidate, these areas are war zones, that`s exactly what white men want to hear all across the country. So he`s -- quote, unquote -- "talking to black people," while actually talking at them and talking to his -- the white Caucasians that he needs to come out and vote for them.

If Donald Trump was serious about getting black voters, he would go to a black church, he would go to historically black colleges. Hell, Chris, he would go to a black city.

Last week, he spoke in Lansing, Michigan. About an hour away from Lansing is Detroit. You could talk about Detroit all you want, but if you are not going there and talking to the people of Detroit about what you are going to do for them, it`s a failure.

MATTHEWS: OK, Richard, you`re on here. I know you are liberal or progressive. I am in many ways myself.

But let me ask you this. What would be a Republican pitch, not a pretend to be Democratic pitch, but an actual conservative pitch to a black audience? What would be effective, if you wanted to make one?


FOWLER: Here`s the thing. I think Donald Trump has the...


MATTHEWS: ... black audience?

FOWLER: He has the raw materials to make a good pitch to African- Americans.

Detroit, Flint, all these cities were impacted badly by NAFTA. They will be even worse impacted by the TPP. He should go to those communities and talk about what he`s going to do for trade and how he`s going to bring jobs back to America.

But yet he would rather talk about law and order and calling their cities war zones. He`s doing -- he`s...


FOWLER: ... opposed to what he`s actually trying to do.


EPSHTEYN: He talks about the economy all the time.

MATTHEWS: Boris, Boris, is he going to go to black neighborhoods and talk about jobs?

EPSHTEYN: Of course he will be talking about jobs. He`s already been talking about jobs throughout this campaign.

MATTHEWS: In black neighborhoods.

FOWLER: He has to go to black neighborhoods first, Chris.

EPSHTEYN: Again, Chris, it`s not about the location, about the process.


MATTHEWS: Why do you keep saying that?

EPSHTEYN: These speeches are carried across the networks, including this one.


EPSHTEYN: Across the country.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know what, Boris? I have heard weak arguments. That`s really weak, because you know you go to people. All politics is local.


EPSHTEYN: I care about what`s in the speech.


EPSHTEYN: Listen, he will be all over the country over the next 77 days. There`s no question about it. Liberals want to knock down everything Donald Trump does.

FOWLER: No, no, no, no, that`s not true.


MATTHEWS: That`s not what we`re doing here.


EPSHTEYN: ... everybody.

MATTHEWS: That`s not what we have been doing the last five minutes here.

Go ahead, Richard?

FOWLER: We have talked about what -- I actually think Donald Trump has a great message on trade.

Sadly, that message is not penetrating. Donald Trump panders to voters all the time. He goes to -- he went to Reading, Pennsylvania, he goes to Pittsburgh because he`s trying to get blue-collar white people to vote for him.

EPSHTEYN: Does Hillary Clinton go into inner cities?

FOWLER: Sadly -- wait a minute, wait a minute, Boris.


FOWLER: He`s not going to Miami to talk to Hispanic voters. He`s not going to Detroit or Chicago or Flint or Cleveland to talk to black voters, because he doesn`t care about them.


EPSHTEYN: But the question is, what is Hillary Clinton doing about them?

FOWLER: He doesn`t care about them.


EPSHTEYN: Hillary Clinton is absolutely AWOL.


MATTHEWS: Richard, give me a list of politicians that don`t pander sometime, will you?


MATTHEWS: It`s called campaigning.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Boris Epshteyn, Boris Epshteyn, Boris...

EPSHTEYN: No, Donald Trump is -- wants to build his message all over his country. He will be in Florida tomorrow. He will be in Nevada later this week. He`s all over the country.


FOWLER: Not talking to black people, Boris, not talking to black people.


Thank you, Boris. You have had a weak hand, but you made a good case. Not really. But you made a good effort. Thank you. Please come back on.


MATTHEWS: Richard Fowler, you had a good argument tonight. In fact, I like the trade argument in the inner city., because I think they have been hollowed out for manufacturing jobs.

And where I grew up, in a big city, there were jobs for everybody coming out of high school, real jobs for guys and women. They ain`t there anymore. And somebody has got to deal with that.

Up next: Conservative author Ann Coulter makes her case. Well, she is going to come here and argue for Trump. She`s coming here next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

North Korea fired a submarine-launched missile into the Sea of Japan just a short time ago. The launch comes two days after the U.S. and South Korea began their annual joint military exercises.

More than 10,000 firefighters are battling a wildfire in California two weeks after it started. It is only 35 percent contained.

And new reports show Mylan executives gave themselves hefty raises as they hiked EpiPen prices about 400 percent. Now senior lawmakers are asking the company about their decision to increase that price -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, Donald Trump`s presidential campaign has defied critics and skeptics alike. Let`s face it. For his supporters, Trump is bucking the party establishment of the Republicans and finally channeling the outrage Republican regular voters have felt for a long time.

In her new book, "In Trump We Trust" -- there it is -- Ann Coulter points out Trump`s success is due to the fact that -- quote -- "He`s beholden to no one, except the millions of ordinary Americans showing up at his speeches, following him on Twitter."

But since winning the nomination, Trump`s trailed Hillary Clinton in the polls and RealClearPolitics` average has Clinton behind -- or ahead, rather, by a little over five points right now.

So, with 77 days to go until Election Day, how does Trump turn it around?

For more, I`m joined by conservative columnist and author of "In Trump We Trust" Ann Coulter.

So, Ann, the reason I find you interesting as a guest at this point, besides your usual provocative manner, is maybe you have a sense of how the guy to get this ship right again. This guy was running on three great cases. One is people don`t like illegal immigration. OK? Number two, they don`t like our jobs going to Mexico and to China.


MATTHEWS: They don`t like our hollowing out of our big cities, especially the poor people who live in those big cities in many cases.

And they damn as hell don`t like these stupid wars. On all three points, Trump was hitting them.


MATTHEWS: But lately he keeps getting distracted in these sideline arguments. Now, you can blame the media all you want, but if he`s a pro, he`s got to be able to direct the conversation.

Can he get back to the winning arguments and maybe give Hillary a run for her money at the end?

COULTER: I think so. And I think what you said is exactly right. It is those three issues.

I`m starting to worry that he`s panicking and talking to the wrong people, because he`s sounding a little bit more like the candidates he defeated with the talking points about softening on deporting the ones who are, oh, they have been here a long time and they are law-abiding.

Yes, that`s true, but how about you just say, no, my policy is consistent? People who are here illegally have no right to be here. We will decide whether they stay or not in our national interest. Yes, if they`re good for the country, we might keep them, but this is going to be an America- first immigration policy, trade policy and war policy.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about nationalism. And that`s what I have always thought. Do you think he gets it? Is he the monkey that will tell you merry Christmas? He got nationalism.

Does he see how it all fits together? Because I don`t know if he does, because sometimes he wanders all over the place.


COULTER: No, I think what -- look, he`s not a politician. People always say they don`t want a politician to run. But when he gives these speeches -- you have been -- have you been to one of his speeches?

MATTHEWS: I watch them every night here. We get pieces of them. We try to go in and out.

COULTER: To actually be there, they`re even more fun.

MATTHEWS: Because we can`t -- we can`t just let him entertain us here. So, we try to go after the meat and leave the...

COULTER: No, but they are very, very entertaining speeches.


COULTER: And a lot of people come just because they want to be entertained. He`s hilariously funny.

MATTHEWS: That`s not the country.

COULTER: I mean, people are driving for five hours to come here, and you start listening to him, and you`re laughing, and then you start thinking, oh, I agree with that. I agree with that.

MATTHEWS: But every politician gets completely taken with who`s in his crowds and thinks that`s the country. They all make that mistake.

COULTER: But that isn`t -- what I`m saying is, that is his style.


COULTER: He`s getting a little too distracted by that. But the speeches he`s given since the convention, oh, my gosh, the teleprompter speeches are unbelievable. They are fantastic. They are perfect. If he just keeps doing that, that`s how he can win.

MATTHEWS: Will he stick to what is on the prompter? Will he stick to the message?

COULTER: He has been. He`s really good at it. And actually he -- well, he goes a little bit off, but not too much. But he doesn`t start wandering off and start talking about something that, like I say, was fun and...


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this.

For over a year now, Trump has insisted that illegal immigrants have got to go. According to "The Texas Tribune" today, Trump told Sean Hannity in a pretaped town hall that he was open to softening in laws that deal with illegal immigrants.

He said -- quote -- "There certainly can be a softening because we are not looking to hurt people."

It comes after an interview with Bill O`Reilly last night in which Trump said he would mimic President Obama`s policies. Take a listen.


TRUMP: We are going to obey the existing laws. Now, the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we`re going to do if and when I win is, we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones.

As far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process. What people don`t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I`m going to do the same thing.


MATTHEWS: What`s Trump saying to the American people right now about immigration? What did all that add up to? How is it different than Obama?

COULTER: How is it different from all the candidates he just beat? I go through. That`s one of the five talking points every politician says.


MATTHEWS: Deport the felons.

COULTER: Well, it`s very different from the actual policy, but they all say that. And it just sounds very consultant to me.


COULTER: This could be the shortest book tour ever if he`s really softening his position on immigration. But I don`t think he is.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question about illegal immigration.

I think we don`t do it anymore, but NBC News would always show those pictures from down in Texas or Arizona, somewhere on the border, the Canadian -- Mexican border, and they would show people, desperate people racing across when the lights were off. And they would see them coming in. They would see them running across the road to try to get a ride in a truck somewhere or something.

How do you stop that? How do you stop that? Because what that is are men, mostly, racing across the border to try to get a job in the United States which they know is going to be there somewhere. Somebody in Chicago in a restaurant or somewhere says, I got a job for you if you can get up here.

How do you stop the illegal hiring? Because he never mentions that. Trump never mentions it.

COULTER: No, I wish he would. And that is...

MATTHEWS: Isn`t that the heart of it?

COULTER: That`s what I wish he were talking about now, and plus H-1B visas, plus people losing their jobs, plus Kate Steinle again.

Why -- there are only so many things you can talk about. Why are we talking about softening the lives of lawbreakers? I just -- I think this is a mistake. It sounds like it`s coming from consultants.

MATTHEWS: Has he lost heart? Has he lost his confidence?

COULTER: I don`t think so. But to answer your last question...

MATTHEWS: But you`re saying two things. You think he may have softened up here on what got him this far.

COULTER: No, I think this is a mistake.

I thought he`s made other mistakes, and I have given him constructive criticism when I think he makes a mistake. I think this is a mistake.

MATTHEWS: Does he take it?

COULTER: But I want to ask -- answer your last question.

MATTHEWS: Does he take your criticism?

COULTER: I haven`t had a lot, but yes.


COULTER: No, he does listen to people.

And I`m not advising him or anything, but I did write this magnificent book.

But to answer your last question...

MATTHEWS: You still trust him?

COULTER: This isn`t the same...

MATTHEWS: You trust him?

COULTER: Well, yes.

This is not the same as either Hillary or Obama. To compare it to what they are doing is preposterous. I don`t know why he just said that. It`s crazy. They are fighting the deportations of rapists. They are fighting the deportations of murderers.

Hillary says she is going to open the border, she`s going to amnesty everyone.

MATTHEWS: And he`s against sanctuary cities, too.

COULTER: She`s going to quadruple the number of Muslim refugees.


COULTER: So, to say there`s no difference, I think, is crazy. I just don`t understand why he`s going to these really tired talking points that both Democrat and Republican politicians use.

No, that isn`t what...


MATTHEWS: Yes. I know why. I would guess why. I`m going to ask you.

COULTER: I think it`s panicking and talking to the wrong people.

MATTHEWS: He looked into the abyss about a week or two ago.

COULTER: That`s right. I think he`s panicking

MATTHEWS: He dumped his people and he got nervous. He said, I better try something different.

Along comes Kellyanne Conway, who is a traditional pollster, and tells her...

COULTER: Well, I don`t know who`s giving him the advice, but this is definitely consultant-led advice. And it`s not good advice.

What he should keep doing is what he`s been doing. You`re right. His three issues are obviously very appealing.

MATTHEWS: I thought they worked for his audience. I don`t know if it works for the whole country.

COULTER: Of course it does. And it works for blacks and Hispanics. They want jobs, too.

MATTHEWS: Well, as the previous guest just said, he should be going out talking about trade.


MATTHEWS: Richard Fowler said he should talk about big cities, where there are a lot of --

COULTER: Yes, his issues are incredibly popular and no other politician --


MATTHEWS: There were jobs.


MATTHEWS: And they were real jobs.

Anyway, thank you, Ann Coulter.

COULTER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I won`t say good luck with your book but thank you for coming on.


MATTHEWS: OK, good luck with your book.

COULTER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, anyway. Ann Coulter, "In Trump We Trust".

Up next, why is Trump going after Clinton`s health? This is a great question. Why the word stamina? I find that word an interesting -- we`re not talking about livestock here. What`s this stamina thing?

I mean, what stamina do you need to be president? I thought it was a desk job.

Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She will never be able to fix the ISIS problem that her policies created. For one thing, she doesn`t have the strength or the stamina coupled with all of the other problems that this country has.


MATTHEWS: Bizarre.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump last week attacking Hillary Clinton, now going after her strength and the key word, her stamina. Well, this kind of attack has veered away from his past name-calling and phrases like crooked Hillary and unstable Hillary Clinton.

Ruth Marcus writes beautifully in "The Washington Post" as always, "It`s obvious what`s going on here. The strength, stamina combo is a gender age twofer, a double whack at Clinton for the price of one, strength, what men have and women lack, stamina. But the intimations of go all night virility."

Wow. You are amazing.

This is for children, this show. "Clinton in depiction is both a weak girl and a dried up old crone." We have definitions later.

So, why is Trump going after his opponent`s health? Is he trying to prove women are the weaker sex? Because if so, this year`s Olympics in Rio could surely be a counter punch. For the second straight Olympics, American women set a record for 61, with 61 medals exceeding the previous high another world record of 58 from London back in 2012.

Had the women competed as their own country, they would have ranked fourth among all nations in the overall medal chart, putting them behind, just behind U.S., China, Great Britain, just the women.

And with that, it`s time to bring in the roundtable. Ruth Marcus is the aforementioned columnist from "The Washington Post," I love that. David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and Jennifer Rubin, the opinion writer from "The Washington Post", who wrote those beautiful lines this morning.

And I grabbed them, I picked up the paper, I`m drinking the coffee, the French roast, I go that had to be said. I have to give you tribute, all right?


MATTHEWS: Because we have been watching these beautiful pictures, these people are all physical wonders, men and women both. Stuff like -- you know, what do they call them, wind surfing and stuff like that but also volleyball. What do you like, court volley or sand volleyball?

RUBIN: I like the sand volleyball.

MATTHEWS: They`re look beautiful.

And all this activity and everybody is in great shape and everybody`s like, it`s like we are Germans or something. I`m sorry. That`s what it sounds like. Everybody looks physically fit and just like winners and the men`s swimmers and women`s swimmers which is now integrated. You have --

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: You might be able to say it`s a great country.

MATTHEWS: You could argue --

RUTH MARCUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: You could say, they have -- the women have strength and stamina.

MATTHEWS: Women have strength, bodybuilding and things like that are also new the last 20 or 30 years, women focusing on fitness, not just beauty and all that stuff, but it`s interesting, this Hillary thing.

Why -- let`s just talk completely Machiavellian. Trump is not winning. Trump is sinking. He sees the abyss which as Elizabeth Warren put so beautifully, he`s losing to a girl.


MATTHEWS: Which is so mischievous, using thought for her.

And he`s going, I got to get her, I got a knockout punch, it`s 15th round, I`m losing, say she`s not fit. Is that it?

MARCUS: I think that`s a piece of it. Now, we have to remember that Trump actually did this back during the primaries. He was on a little strength, she has no strength and stamina back then.

MATTHEWS: To her. To Hillary.

MARCUS: To her, about her. Now he`s revived it. The thing that`s new this time around is he`s got his aides and allies with this ridiculous whispering, not whispering campaign, shouting campaign.

RUBIN: That allies as well, the Russian websites pick this up.

MARCUS: About her health problems.

MATTHEWS: Can we agree there`s no basis to this?

RUBIN: Not that we know of.

CORN: This -- Trump seems to have a pattern of projecting. So, his own weaknesses, listen --

MATTHEWS: If you start attacking his health, he can attack Hillary. OK, you want to play the health game --

CORN: When it comes to putting out information, he put out a statement from a doctor that is completely ridiculous, looks fabricated and one could easily say he`s two years older than Hillary.

MATTHEWS: I know. But that`s tit for tat. OK. My mother had it. Why are you playing tit for tat?

But here`s the funny thing, he puts out a urologist --


MATTHEWS: Jennifer, a urologist to go after Hillary Clinton`s brain injury. I mean, let`s put it together. Is that FOX?

RUBIN: This is the preposterousness of it all. It is the Russians now that are getting in on it. On Russian websites, on the Russian blogs, they are pushing the same story, they`re rooting for Trump so they take super PAC, they take guidance from him.

MATTHEWS: OK, I don`t think Hillary -- I hope we can shatter stupid stories like this. I think the debates will be great. I think in the end it will be a battle, it`s an hour and a half, that`s a lot of mental focus, you know? . You have to really stay sharp for an hour and a half. That`s a good test. They have three of them coming up, so let`s wait.

CORN: If we get to three. He`s shown in his speeches which are not, when they are not on the teleprompter, he seems to have something close to ADHD. He can`t stay focused.


MATTHEWS: That`s fair.

CORN: We saw in the debates, can he answer the question, stay on topic and look like --

MATTHEWS: You know, we`re going to know who`s got a stamina problem.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three tell me something I don`t know. That`s the best part of the show in many ways. In many ways, in some ways not.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We got new numbers on where the race stands between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

In Virginia, Hillary Clinton has a whopping 16-point lead right now. It`s Clinton, 48, Trump, 30 -- that`s not good -- in a new Roanoke College poll. Libertarian Gary Johnson stuck at 8. It`s not working for him yet. Anyway, he has to get to 15 to get in the debates.

In Florida, an online poll has Clinton up by 14. That`s not good for Trump. He needs Florida. It`s Clinton, 52, Trump, 38. Johnson, eight. Anyway, Trump needs Florida and he`s not getting it.

In Missouri, which hasn`t gone for a Democrat since 1968, Donald Trump is up by just a single point over Hillary Clinton. Trump 44, Clinton, 43. That`s tough for Trump. Again, Johnson coming in at 8 there as well.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We are back.

Anyway, Ruth, tell me something I don`t know. Ruth, you are my favorite columnist because I always agree with you. Is that good?

MARCUS: No, it`s very disturbing.


MARCUS: So I don`t know if you`ll agree with this or not, but I`m thinking ahead to after the election, we think about the Supreme Court. Everybody assumes the next president is gonna have a few nominations to make.

MATTHEWS: But Hillary`s not gonna let him do it and lame duck it?

MARCUS: First of all, I don`t think it`s going to get over with. I don`t think that`s going to happen. I think that probably the Senate won`t act. But what I want to tell you that you don`t know, if you`re Hillary Clinton, don`t be so sure you`re going to get additional vacancies to fill after the current one. Because those justices, they`re not sure they`re going anywhere.

MATTHEWS: If they`re going to stick around.

Go ahead.

CORN: OK. In the month of July, the Trump campaign spent $18 million according to the disclosures this past weekend. Of that $18 million, $8 million went to the San Antonio company that does its website, $461,000 went to field work. It shows you what`s happening in that campaign.


RUBIN: One of the reasons Trump is doing badly in the polls is white voters. This was supposed to be his bread and basket. He`s only leading by three in Virginia. He can`t possibly turn out enough white voters to make up for all the women he`s offended, all the Hispanics, all the African-Americans and now, he`s not doing very well with them.

MATTHEWS: And we`re going to go through all the white people that are not going to vote for him too, which is a hell of a list.

Anyway, thank you. I`m not going to do it on the air, but I`ve heard from people who know.

Jennifer Rubin, thank you. Great piece on Title IX.

David Corn, welcome back from our summer vacation.

And, Ruth Marcus, who I agree with all the time.

Back after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this impressive decision by Governor Terry McAuliffe to bring to an end the practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and elsewhere of denying voting rights to citizens who have committed a felony and served their time in prison. By allowing people who have paid their debts to society return to their full rights as citizens, strikes me as meeting a number of goals. One is to officially welcome those who have been punished back into the citizenry.

Dignity is important. Treat a person as an outcast and you`re placing a bet that he will remain so. Treat someone as worthy of full citizenship, and you`re making a very statement. We`re saying, we want you back with us, back participating in the running of our government and making decisions on the kind of society we all want.

Another goal is justice. Crime should be dealt with by the courts. The guilty verdict and the sentencing should involve prison time, not the forfeiture of your effective citizenship. If a sentence is two years, or five years or 20, the punishment should end the day you`re free. Restoring someone`s voting rights should be a way of saying, you paid your debt, move on. Make the rest of your life the best of it.

I like what Governor McAuliffe said in pushing his effort forward. "I personally believe in the power of second chances and the dignity and worth of every human being. These individuals are gainfully employed. They send their children and grandchildren to our schools. They shop at our grocery stores and they pay taxes and I`m not content to condemn them for eternity as inferior second-class citizens." Well said.

Sometimes doing the right thing happens also to be the right politics.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.