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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/29/2016

Guests: Catherine Rampell, Yamiche Alcindor, Azi Paybarah, Azi Paybarah, Lis Smith

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 29, 2016 Guest: Catherine Rampell, Yamiche Alcindor, Azi Paybarah, Azi Paybarah, Lis Smith

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Donald Trump`s major minority outreach speech.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in New York, in tonight for the vacationing Chris Matthews.

Donald Trump is promising a major speech this Wednesday on the subject of immigration. On Saturday, the Republican nominee will held to Detroit, where he will speak at a black church, all of this part of what Trump`s campaign says is an effort to reach out to minority communities.

Last week, Trump continually asked African-American and Hispanic voters, What do you have to lose, by voting for him. Many people took issue with a tweet Saturday morning reacting to the news that the cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade had been shot, Trump tweeting out on Saturday, quote, "Dwyane Wade`s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will vote Trump." And hours later, Trump tweeted his condolences.

Critics of Trump accused him of politicizing the tragedy. The next day, Trump`s running mate and campaign manager were asked about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that was a presidential reaction to a tragedy?

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRES. NOMINEE: Well, right after that, he issued his -- a tweet expressing his prayers and his thoughts and his condolences.

A lot of you people in the media spend more time talking about what Donald Trump said and tweeted in the last three days than you do focusing on what the Clintons have been up to for the last 30 years. Donald Trump has a plain-spoken way about him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it`s right to have that kind of a political response to a personal tragedy?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I was pleased that his next tweet expressed his condolences to the Wade family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And Trump continued tweeting about race today. "Now that African-Americans are seeing what a bad job Hillary-type policy and management has done to the inner cities, they want Trump." And also, this. "Inner city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on. And look how bad it is getting. How much more crime, how many more shootings will it take for African-Americans and Latinos to vote? Trump equals safe."

So what exactly is Trump up to here? I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson. She`s outside Trump Tower. "The New York Times`s" Yamiche Alcindor is here with me, and "The Washington Post`s"` Robert Costa. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

So Hallie, let`s start with you. We`ve got this speech on the calendar now. Apparently, Donald Trump`s going to head to Detroit, talk to a black church.

The message here, though -- It`s not just the idea here that he`s trying to target a message towards the black community. The way he`s choosing to deliver this message, just talking about black life in this country being just a seemingly never-ending series of threats of violence and all sorts of problems in their life.

What is the strategy here behind talking about it this way?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Listen, and that has struck some, as you know, Steve, some of his critics, as sort of an insensitive and tone- deaf way of going about this outreach, particularly because until we see him out over Labor Day weekend in Michigan, Trump won`t have delivered this message to any actual black communities, to any actual African-American voters directly in a way that we have seen other candidates and other nominees speak to these communities in the past.

So the strategy here is to try to go after some of these voters, some of these minority voters, in a way to build up Trump`s numbers with these folks.

When you look at where he stands, it`s about 1 percent, at least in our latest polling. In some battleground states, it`s virtually zero percent support, which is why you`re seeing Trump talk about, for example, economic empowerment. That is going to be one of the issues he will discuss with the minority communities in areas like black churches, black neighborhoods because it ties together Trump`s message that he delivers more broadly, the idea that he`s the one who can, in his words, fix the economy while being able to direct it more specifically to some of these folks we`re talking about.

KORNACKI: Yamiche, let`s talk about the targeting and the message here. There`s a theory out there that Trump maybe isn`t even necessarily talking directly to black voters here, that this is a way...

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Right.

KORNACKI: ... of telling white voters, Hey, I`m actually interested in the concerns of black voters and not having just a white base of support.

But let`s say this is a message aimed at black voters. The way he`s going about delivering this, the messages we have there in his tweets, basically saying, Hey, your lives can`t get any worse, what do you have to lose, why wouldn`t you give me a chance -- is there a chance he could get some traction? Hallie says he`s at 1 percent right now.

Could he get any traction with a message like that? Could he tap into something?

ALCINDOR: It`s hard for me to say that he would tap into something. The voters that I`ve talked to on the trail really feel highly offended by the black life that he`s painting. He`s kind of saying -- he`s stereotyping African-Americans in such a way that it`s almost unrecognizable to people who are African-American. They`re saying, I go to good schools, I`ve gotten an education, I walk down my street and I don`t get shot.

So people really feel like he is talking to white -- in some ways, one (ph), white people who feel as though African-American life is like this.

I spent some time in West Bend, Wisconsin, talking to African -- talking to people who felt this way about African-Americans. A man said to me even while I was interviewing him, you know, that black heritage is that African-Americans don`t want to work hard. So then he was -- and he`s a Trump supporter.

So Trump is telling that man, Hey, it`s OK to think that way. I also kind of think that way. I think that`s what some people think that he`s saying.

So it`s really hard, I think, for people to really hear this. It`s really hard for me to see him get traction this way. But of course, there are African-Americans out there who support Donald Trump. There are people out there who I`ve talked to who think that he`s a good businessman, who think that he has a message of economic equality.

So it`s hard -- but it`s hard to say that this new message is going to add to those people.

KORNACKI: One of those African-American supporters of Donald Trump, Pastor Mark Burns, this afternoon -- Pastor Mark Burns -- he`s an African-American adviser and surrogate for the Trump campaign -- he tweeted a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface. Just a warning here, some viewers might find this image very offensive. Burns adding a caption of sorts. He wrote, "Black Americans, thank you for your votes and letting me use you again. See you again in four years."

Pastor Burns defending that tweet earlier today here on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR MARK BURNS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: The tweet is a frustration that I have as a black man here in America and how I see African-Americans in many cases -- not every case, but in many cases are suffering throughout this country, and to see how en masse we have been voting for the Democratic Party en masse, and yet we have very little to show for it.

The picture is designed to do draw attention to the very fact that Hillary Clinton do pander after black people! She do pander! And the policies are not good for African-Americans! It is doing exactly what it`s designed to do! We are not playing the political PC game!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Pastor Burns also telling our Hallie Jackson that he would apologize to anyone who was offended. By the way, Mark Burns will be on HARDBALL tomorrow night.

Robert Costa, the place of Mark Burns in the orbit of Donald Trump -- a lot of people looking at the messages Donald Trump is sending right now to black voters, the way he`s talking about black life in this country right now, asking the question, Where`s he getting these notions from, where is he getting the description from, who is in his ear? Is Mark Burns the answer to that question?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Mark Burns is certainly someone who is well liked by the Trump campaign. And you see throughout Trump`s orbit when it comes to this outreach to African- Americans and to the Latino community an openness with inflammatory rhetoric.

We saw Trump on the campaign trail use the term "bigot" when it comes to Secretary Clinton. We see this today from a Trump surrogate. So this is a non-traditional, to say the least, kind of outreach from a Republican campaign to a minority group.

KORNACKI: And Hallie, something else that struck me. We put that tweet up from Donald Trump over the weekend about Dwyane Wade, about his cousin, and Donald Trump immediately jumping to this statement that, Hey, this is why black voters are going to end up supporting me.

It struck me -- Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager, the clip we played of her reacting to that, saying, What I liked was the tweet he put up immediately after that -- and that was what Kellyanne Conway was supposed to bring to this campaign, was basically supposed to get him to stop tweeting excessively, needlessly inflammatory things on Twitter. She seems to be trying to deliver a message there.

But can we read anything into the freedom I guess he still enjoys to tweet as he pleases?

JACKSON: Well, listen, I think anybody who`s going to come into Donald Trump`s campaign and who would say to Trump, Put down the phone and stop tweeting, would walk back out of Trump Tower without a job pretty quickly, frankly, Steve. Donald Trump tweets. It`s what he does. You can`t stop him.

What you can do is do what you have seen happen over this last week. Yes, Donald Trump may tweet something that raises a lot of eyebrows, but then he immediately follows up or at least within a few hours with something that his supporters would view, as Kellyanne Conway did, as perhaps more appropriate. And I think that Dwyane Wade tweet is a good example of that.

The way (ph) tweet (ph) -- remember, it was something that critics looked at and said Donald Trump here is doing exactly what he accused Hillary Clinton of doing, which is seeing members of the African-American community simply as votes. So Trump, as he continues to work on -- listen, I hate to say it. I hate to even call it a reset, right? But obviously, something is different with his campaign with this new leadership. That is one thing that has been clear.

So as that has happened over these last couple of weeks, you have seen perhaps the team begin to try to moderate some of the messaging he`s putting out on line.

And I realize that I`m using a lot of waffly words, pal (ph), but I think that`s where you got to go when you look at what Trump`s doing. We`re told that after Labor Day, he`s going to make a turn, he`s going to be -- you know, he`s putting a lot more time and resources into traditional battleground states and not, like, for example, where he`s headed tomorrow in Washington. But I think we will see this outreach to minority communities continue, even when it raises eyebrows, as we`ve been seeing.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Yamiche, does Hillary Clinton have vulnerability here when it comes to black voters? I mean, we saw in the primary this year, she really owed her margin over Bernie Sanders to the support of black voters, their support for her over him.

You got Donald Trump basically saying in the message from this very crude cartoon that Mark Burns is tweeting out is basically saying to black voters, Hillary Clinton has a very transactional view of you. You give her votes, she shows up once every four years, collects your votes, you get nothing for that. Is there any -- is that a sentiment that`s prevalent at all?

ALCINDOR: There`s a vulnerability in Hillary Clinton in the idea that people look at the crime bill or at they look at the fact that they -- that she used the term "superpredators," so people have that question about Hillary Clinton.

However, if you look at the primaries, you know that Hillary Clinton is very much embedded in the African-American community. She`s really made it a point to show up and continue to show up even before she was running for president and now as she`s running for president.

So against Donald Trump, I don`t think those vulnerabilities do anything and don`t give him really anything to get from her because he just has -- his outreach is so offensive in some ways, at least seen as offensive in some ways, that he really I don`t think can take away from the African- American votes because Bernie Sanders -- he -- I think people say that he felt that he was genuine, they felt like he was really trying to reach out to African-American voters, and he could not make any headway.

So I think that teaches us that even if Donald Trump had a winning message, that it would be really hard to take those voters away from Hillary Clinton.

KORNACKI: And Robert Costa, quickly, a separate but important issue here, as well -- I know you have some reporting on this -- there`s a couple independent candidates in this race. One of them is Evan McMullin. He may be making some inroads out in Utah, a state Donald Trump is struggling in, maybe hurting Donald Trump in Arizona, and now some word of Mitt Romney -- people in Mitt Romney`s orbit having communication with Evan, as well.

What can you tell us about that?

COSTA: Earlier today, Steve, Evan McMullin and his campaign advisers met with Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 presidential campaign. This was here in Washington downtown, talked through the last 70 days of the election. And there`s a sense that McMullin, of course -- he`s an outside shot in every state in the country, but if he could get his margins up in a high-Mormon population state like Arizona or Utah, maybe he could hinder Trump from winning those states and depress Trump`s number in the Electoral College. That`s the thought. That`s what Stuart Stevens was talking about today.

KORNACKI: Could be an interesting dilemma for Mitt Romney, of course, because one of the other third party candidates, the vice presidential nominee for the Libertarians, Bill Weld, guy who helped bring Mitt Romney into politics 27 years ago back in Massachusetts.

COSTA: That`s right. And I hear Romney right now is in Utah and in Boston, wherever he is, which home he`s in, thinking through his decision. He`s been on the sidelines. He`s been very quiet. He`s thinking about does he go with McMullin, someone who also went to BYU, shares his faith, or does he go with Weld and Johnson on the Libertarian ticket, or maybe he just sits it all out.

KORNACKI: Very interesting dilemma for him and potentially consequential in a very unlikely state, Utah. Thank you to Hallie Jackson, Yamiche Alcindor, Robert Costa. Appreciate the time.

And coming up, Anthony Weiner back in the news. The former congressman married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin has made headlines again after a new sexting report in "The New York Post," Abedin announcing today that she is separating from Weiner. And Donald Trump also weighing in. We`ve got the latest details on that story next.

Plus, we are just weeks away now from the first presidential debate. Already, both sides are preparing for battle. Two campaign veterans coming here to advise on strategy.

Also, Donald Trump calls on Hillary Clinton to release more of her medical history, this coming just days after Trump`s doctor, the one who wrote that he would be the healthiest individual elected to the presidency ever, reveals that he wrote that letter in just five minutes as a car waited to whisk it away.

And finally this Monday evening, the HARDBALL roundtable is coming here to tell me something I don`t know. That is the easiest job in this business, folks.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We got some new numbers on the Rust Belt and how three key states are faring for Trump and Clinton. Let`s check out of the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to new polls from Emerson, in Michigan, Hillary Clinton has a 5- point lead over Donald Trump, 45 to 40 there, Libertarian Gary Johnson coming in third with 7 percent.

In Pennsylvania, it`s Clinton by 3, 46 for Clinton, 43 for Trump, Gary Johnson sitting at 7.

And in the battleground state of Ohio, it is a tie, 43-43. Notice that Gary Johnson hits double digits there, 10 percent for the Libertarian in Ohio.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Hillary Clinton`s long-time aide, Huma Abedin, today announced her separation from her husband of six years, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. Abedin said in a statement this morning, quote, "After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy.

Now, this comes in the wake of a "New York Post" report alleging that Weiner has once again exchanged sexually suggestive photographs with a woman over the Internet. The story also includes what appears to be an inappropriate photo of Weiner in his underwear lying next to a young child who "The Post" says is his son.

Asked for comment, Weiner said he and the woman in question, quote, "have been friends for some time," adding that, "She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son, and were always appropriate."

Joined now by Azi Paybarah, senior political reporter for Politico here in New York, and Beth Fouhy, senior editor of politics here at MSNBC.

So Beth, the connection to the presidential race is Anthony Weiner is married to Hillary Clinton`s basically top aide, somebody who if she`s elected is going to play a major role in the White House.

Donald Trump is trying to turn this into an issue, basically saying, Hey, this is a national security issue because Hillary Clinton trusted Huma Abedin with national security information, and therefore, it could somehow have gotten into the hands of Anthony Weiner.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Does this resonate with anybody on that level?

BETH FOUHY, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, that`s a big stretch. And let`s just get back for a second to what Huma represents in this campaign. I mean, I think people have always been very intrigued by her. She was a prominent figure on the trail in 2008 while secretary of state then was secretary of state -- she was with -- at her side then, too, and now in this presidential campaign.

Huma`s a very glamorous woman. She`s very mysterious. She`s incredibly unflappable. People have just been intrigued by her, and that marriage to then congressman Weiner was sort of a Cinderella story. It was fun. It was exciting. It was certainly covered a lot in New York by the tabloids.

Then it all just kind of came crashing apart. It`s a personal story. It`s a very sad story. We saw more of it in the documentary that -- on the Weiner documentary that, you know, has been very well received.

So is it -- have any relevance to Hillary Clinton`s campaign and presidential prospects? Probably not, but it`s a distraction. It`s not a day that they spent talking about Donald Trump. It`s a day that they had to do damage control.

KORNACKI: And it was, speaking of Donald Trump, we mentioned he tries to make the national security argument. He also weighed in with a statement saying: "Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well. She will be far better off without him. I only worry for the country, in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. It is just another example of Hillary Clinton`s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this."

A Clinton aide, by the way, later telling NBC News that we are not dignifying that with a response.

It is obviously a stretch, Azi, to make that, but there is -- and Beth was just getting at this -- this story I think at its heart to people -- at its heart to people is fascinating, because the mystery of the relationship.

People saw this happen five years ago with Anthony Weiner. And she stuck with him, then he tried to make a comeback. And for awhile, it looked like he might actually get elected mayor in 2013, and it came out again, and she still stuck with him. I think that`s the documentary. That`s the fascination.

AZI PAYBARAH, POLITICO: He is a wonder. People were scratching their heads at how this couple got together. Then they were scratching their heads at how they stayed together.

And this is a very sad story, a very personal story. But what it`s not is a policy story. In all the e-mails that we have seen come out from the State Department, you see Huma Abedin playing the role of the gatekeeper. You don`t her playing the role of policy-maker.

So, for Donald Trump to say we are in jeopardy because of Huma Abedin`s relationship to Anthony Weiner is a stretch. I think it was David Weigel who had tweeted something along the lines, well, how does this conspiracy work? She`s away from Anthony Weiner, and, therefore, he goes gallivanting along, and then at some point, they communicate to such a great extent that secrets are shared.

It doesn`t make any sense. But for Donald Trump, this comes at the perfect time. This is almost like the trifecta for him. He gets a sex scandal, he gets to attack the Clintons, he gets to enroll Huma Abedin, who some in the tabloids have tried to stir up this idea that she`s a Muslim extremist.

So, in all of these, so in this one story, he gets everything he wants to talk about while he`s avoiding talking about immigration, the issue that he`s trying to pivot and potentially losing huge parts of his base. This is a story that helps him secure that.

KORNACKI: And I also think there is, Beth, here, this is maybe the final postscript on the -- maybe -- on the public life of Anthony Weiner.

He also lost today his column in "The New York Daily News." He has a deal with a television station here in New York that apparently they have now suspended, it is under review. So, it looks like he had sort of recast himself in public life after the first fall. Maybe that could be coming to an end here.

FOUHY: Yes.

And the fact that he -- there was this photograph with his son, it sort of places him in a whole other category. He`s no longer just a laughingstock. He`s got some significant problem that hopefully he will address.

From a political standpoint, though, those of us who were in New York and watched him run for mayor and have the kind of political talent that he had, it`s amazing that, in fact, at the same time this guy is so, so gifted, he`s also so flawed. He`s got this secret that was hiding there, only to come out in the most public and embarrassing of ways, only to embarrass his way, who is the closest aide to Hillary Clinton. It`s a Shakespearian tragedy, practically.

KORNACKI: It is amazing. Five, six years ago this time, I was sure he was going to be the mayor of New York City.

FOUHY: Yes.

KORNACKI: And this is where it ends up.

Thank you, Azi Paybarah and Beth Fouhy.

And up next: homework time. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton quietly prepping for the presidential debates. We have got two insiders to share the secrets of how these rehearsals play out.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Zika cases continue to rise in Miami-Dade county with 43 local transmissions reported. Florida theme parks like Walt Disney World and SeaWorld are now offering visitors free insect repellent to prevent the spread.

Meanwhile, parts of Florida are bracing for heavy rains and flooding, as Tropical Depression Nine swirls in the Gulf of Mexico.

And some sad news to report. Actor Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83. The star of comedies including "Willy Wonka" "Young Frankenstein" died from complications of Alzheimer`s -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, this guy`s a choke artist, and this guy`s a liar.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This is a tough business to run for president.

TRUMP: Oh, I know. You`re a tough guy, Jeb. I know.

BUSH: And it`s -- and we need...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: ... to have a leader that is...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You`re tough.

BUSH: You`re never going to be president of the United States by insulting your way to the presidency.

TRUMP: Well, let`s see. I`m at 42, and you`re at 3. So, so far, I`m doing better.

TRUMP: Don`t worry about it, little Marco. Don`t worry about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Gentlemen.

TRUMP: You ought to chill.

I have given my answer, lyin` Ted. I have given my answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump going after his rivals during the Republican primary debates. The first general election debate is now just weeks away, set for September 26 at Hofstra University out on Long Island here in New York.

Trump and Hillary Clinton will meet again on October 9 at Washington University in Saint Louis. They always have one debate there, it seems. And, finally, October 19, at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. So, what can we expect from these two candidates as they prepare to take the stage?

Well, in an interview with "The Washington Post," Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser, said: "Not only does he want 100 million viewers. He wants to be a showstopper at the Roman Coliseum, the main event at WrestleMania."

And perhaps that WrestleMania comparison comes from Donald Trump taking on the WWE`s Vince McMahon back in 2007. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hostile takeover of Donald Trump on Vince McMahon!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Jeb Bush might be having some flashbacks watching that, too.

Joining me now is Republican strategist and MSNBC analyst Ben Ginsberg, a veteran presidential debate adviser, and Lis Smith, Democratic strategist who advised former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley in his presidential campaign.

So, Ben Ginsberg, let me start with you. We played a montage there of Donald Trump vs. the Republican field. A lot of memorable moments in those Republican debates this year. And, basically, it was Donald Trump trying to dismiss their attacks with a putdown, with an insult, with sort of a very alpha line of attack.

In a one-on-one debate with Hillary Clinton, does that same strategy work?

BEN GINSBERG, MSNBC ANALYST: Probably not.

And I think they are obviously aware of that. What you have seen with Donald Trump`s positions on immigration, his outreach to the African- American and Hispanic communities, give you a hint that there is going to be sort of a different approach to these upcoming debates.

KORNACKI: And part of that, I guess, is the challenge of any campaign and any candidate approaching these debates is to study up on the issues so you`re not blindsided, you can give 90-second, two-minute answer on whatever policy question you are thrown at.

Really doesn`t seem that reading the briefing books has been Donald Trump`s strength. You think his campaign can get him to do that?

GINSBERG: Oh, I think so.

I mean, every candidate before a debate has a moment of recognition that they are out there flapping by themselves on a not-very-strong limb in a very stiff breeze having to answer questions in front of 60 million people.

So, candidates do tend to study up. But it`s also important to remember there are two parts to any debate prep. One is the substance, as you mentioned, but there is a performance art to these debates, and that`s different for the primary debates than the general election debates.

KORNACKI: Yes.

Lis Smith, let me ask you, if you were behind the scenes with Hillary Clinton getting ready to go out there with 100 million people or whatever it is watching, she`s got to stand on the stage with Donald Trump for 90 minutes, no commercials. What are you telling her to do?

LIS SMITH, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Whew. Wow.

Well, as you can imagine, I get asked this question a lot. How do you prepare for a debate against someone like Donald Trump?

And I always joke, that would be like preparing for a duel against a chimpanzee with a machine gun, because you have no idea what the heck is going to happen.

KORNACKI: Sounds dangerous, in other words, yes.

SMITH: Right, very dangerous.

But, look, to the extent that Donald Trump has a playbook, we did see it in the primary debates. Number one, as that -- as the video showed before, his first resort is to go to personal insults. And Hillary Clinton and her team, they can view this as, OK, how do we get back at him like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush did, or they could use it as an opportunity.

And I think the opportunity they have there is that Hillary Clinton isn`t Chris Christie. When Donald Trump is throwing personal insults at her, it makes him look like a bully. It makes him look bad.

And then, number two, I think she can turn around and make him look temperamentally unfit to be president. That`s something she has been doing. And I think she can use it to underscore the main message of her campaign. So, it`s a big risk.

And I don`t have Ben`s faith in Donald Trump that he won`t resort to personal insults. His campaign has been very, very heavy on them recently, making insinuations about Secretary Clinton`s health, attacking her female staffers.

So, I think he will go there. And I think the Clinton campaign needs to be prepared for that and to take that and turn it into a winning moment for her.

KORNACKI: Ben, that`s -- it`s interesting, because I have been thinking about that. I think Hillary Clinton is an excellent debater. I think back to 2008, when she ran against Barack Obama. I thought she beat him basically across the board in the debates they had. She didn`t win the nomination, but I think she won those debates.

But I`m thinking of the moment I think that was most memorable from those debates. It was when Barack Obama said something negative toward her personally, when he said, "You are likable enough," and it sounded mean to people. It sounded nasty to people.

And a lot of people think that, at that moment, the way that came across rallied Democrats around Hillary Clinton. It was why she was able to win the New Hampshire primary in `08. That dynamic, I think Donald Trump has got to be aware of, just given his style.

GINSBERG: Yes.

Look, I think that`s right. I think that his people are telling him you need -- you don`t get a second chance to make a first impression. And this is your chance to reach beyond the 13 million primary voters.

I think it is a challenge which they are aware of, but it is a matter of him -- the polls, for example, say that his main problem with voters right now is that he comes across as scary and may not have a presidential temperament.

So, that`s what you have to go right after in a debate. And the reality is, you probably have to do that in the first 45 minutes of the debate, is to show you have got substance and show you have the temperament to be president. That is a tall order.

But he`s also got Roger Ailes helping him out, who is the real master of being able to frame up debates correctly.

KORNACKI: Right. We are less than a month away, Clinton vs. Trump, the political debate you never thought you would see, but we`re going to see it.

Ben Ginsberg, Lis Smith, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks.

KORNACKI: Up next: The doctor is in -- what Trump`s doctor has to say about that infamous letter proclaiming his perfect health.

Plus: Trump challenges Clinton to reveal even more medical details. The roundtable is coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face, not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn our great country around.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump has been questioning Hillary Clinton`s health and stamina, as he says, for weeks now.

Last night, he issued a challenge to his rival, tweeting: "I think that both candidates, crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so. Hillary?"

A Clinton aide told NBC News they will not be releasing more medical records and that it is up to Trump to produce a legitimate and detailed letter from a doctor.

They are referring to the Friday disclosure by Trump`s physician to NBC News that he wrote a four-paragraph letter calling Trump`s health "astonishingly excellent" in just five minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, TRUMP PERSONAL PHYSICIAN: I guess he called. And he said, the Clinton organization was going to publish a letter on her health. And I know her physician. And I know some of her health history, which is really not so good. So I said, why not? I would do that for you, too, if you needed me to.

QUESTION: And so the car was waiting outside?

BORNSTEIN: At the end of the day, they came to get their letter.

QUESTION: And so just tell me about the time crunch. Like, five -- or you wrote it quickly?

BORNSTEIN: No, I thought about it all day. And, at the end, I get rushed, and I get anxious when I get rushed. So, I try to get four or five lines down as fast as possible that they would be happy with.

QUESTION: But it was based on your evaluation?

(CROSSTALK)

BORNSTEIN: It`s all true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.

Joan Walsh is national affairs correspondent at "The Nation." Raul Reyes is a contributor for NBC News.com. And Catherine Rampell is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post."

So, Donald Trump, he has been trying to go down this road for a long time now.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

KORNACKI: He wants these -- this whispering campaign to be out there about Hillary Clinton.

I guess my question is I have, looking at that video we are playing there from the Trump doctor, the letter that was put together in five minutes --

WALSH: Typo-riddled.

KORNACKI: Saying it would be the most excellent health of anybody ever elected president.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Unequivocally.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: But is the wind out of the sails of that argument because of this doctor or Trump still have potential to get some kind of traction here?

RAMPELL: Yes, he has no ground to stand on, right? I mean, by saying that Hillary is hiding something, that she hasn`t disclosed enough information. Hillary`s doctor has actually released much more information about Hillary Clinton. I`m sure it`s not comprehensive. We haven`t seen her MRIs or whatever.

But there`s much more detail we know about her certainly than about Trump. And you could probably state unequivocally this is the most ridiculous letter that has ever been written.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: What can Trump get out of this? I mean, he`s still pushing it. The video from the doctor comes out, he`s still out there pushing it. Where does he think he`s catching on with this?

WALSH: He`s got the doctor saying he doesn`t think she`s in good health, although that doctor looks like he`s Hunter Thompson`s doctor. Can we just say that? Not to judge on appearances but also judging by the ridiculous typo-filled --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: That ridiculous typo-filled letter.

But this is I think, you know, what did Paul Ryan call the classic definition of a racist comment? This is a classic definition of sexism. You know, men, bad men, sexist men, basically said for centuries that women can`t handle the rigors of most jobs but most importantly, the presidency, because our tiny little lady brains and -- you know, our proclivity to hysteria and exhaustion just disqualify us from leading the free world.

That`s essentially what he`s saying when you listen to him. It`s not about anything that`s been released about her records or her concussion or anything like that. It`s -- they play on certain, you know, things that we know but it`s basically a straightforward she doesn`t have the stamina.

KORNACKI: Yes. That`s been a message from Trump for awhile now. There is physical health. There is also the issue of mental health that came into the conversation over the weekend.

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe had some tough words for Donald Trump on "Meet the Press." Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think the assessment was that Donald Trump would try and do some things to appeal to the middle of the electorate, to appeal to suburban college-educated women. He`s not. We basically have a psychopath running for president. I mean, he meets the clinical definition, OK?

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Wait a minute. Let me -- wait a minute.

PLOUFFE: Yes.

TODD: Do you really think -- diagnosing people on air, and I assume you don`t have a degree in psychology. Is that fair? We are jumping to conclusions here. I think this is what gets voters a little frustrated with this campaign.

PLOUFFE: Well, you know, listen, the grandiose notion of self-worth, pathological lying, lack of empathy and remorse. So, my point -- so, here`s I think he does. Right, I don`t have a degree in psychology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: That`s David Plouffe there. I have heard it`s not just David Plouffe. I have heard opinions offered about Donald Trump`s mental health and we could say it`s unfair for him to go down some of the roads he`s going down against Hillary Clinton, but is it fair to be going down that road against Donald Trump?

RAUL REYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, in this instance, I think it is not helpful. If you want to make a case against Donald Trump, there is so much documented behavior. There is his history of Islamophobia, xenophobic remarks, anti-immigrants. Go through all those things. Go through the incoherent policy.

If you want to make a case for Hillary Clinton in terms of mental health, if you are a Clinton surrogate, Hillary Clinton has also a documented history of providing access for veterans and students to mental health care. I believe that she wants to convene a national White House, some type of convention within her first year of office for mental health.

Do all those things. Bring all those up. This is just a distraction.

I will say, I happen to admire him, I think he`s a great strategist. But I think if you want to talk about, if you want to be helpful, this is just a distraction even if he had a degree in psychology, even if he were a doctor. The fact is he`s not Donald Trump`s doctor.

RAMPELL: That would be more ethical.

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: It`s just inappropriate. And I think there is -- I want to say, Steve, there`s a difference between that and talking about certain things in Hillary Clinton`s behavior. Behavior is one thing. That`s apparent, we can call that. But when you diagnose someone, only a doctor can make a clinical diagnosis.

KORNACKI: Quick question. There has been this whole issue out there as well about Donald Trump`s tax returns which he refuses to put forward. He says it`s because of an audit. There are a lot of people that say that`s baloney. You can still put it out anyway.

WALSH: Of course not.

KORNACKI: Is there any possibility here, Catherine, could you see, where Hillary Clinton`s campaign could call his bluff, hey, here`s the medical records, where are the taxes?

RAMPELL: I guess. Honestly, I think the taxes are much more illuminating than whatever medical records her camp could release. So long as medical records or not -- you know, basically a medical assessment is not done by a third party, is not standardized. You know, it`s a family doctor, he or she will release whatever is convenient for the candidate.

Tax returns, on the other hand, you know, everybody knows what a 1040 looks like. You have tax experts out there who can look at the standardized information in these documents. They are much more illuminating.

REYES: The danger with the health information, it`s going down that whole birther road again. If she releases more health information, Donald Trump will want the long form medical records. I could go on and on. So, that`s a danger. I think she`s wise to avoid it.

KORNACKI: All right. These three are sticking with me.

And up next, Maine Governor Paul LePage is facing heat after leaving an explicit voice mail, now he`s facing criticism from perhaps the most famous man in Maine. We will reveal that name next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: You can play HARDBALL all week long online. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook. You`ll get access to interviews, videos and behind the scenes photos as HARDBALL hits the road covering this wild 2016 campaign.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: And we are back with Joan, Raul and Catherine.

Last Thursday, Maine`s Republican Governor Paul LePage left a profanity laced voice mail for a Democratic state lawmaker Drew Gattine. In his tirade, LePage said he was offended because he believed Gattine had called him a racist, which the governor strongly denies.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: Mr. Gattine, this is Governor Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sucker. I want to talk to you -- I want you to prove that I`m racist. I`ve spent my life helping black people and you little son of a bitch socialist (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sucker. You -- I need you to -- just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I`m after you. Thank you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: This morning, Gattine said the governor needs to seek professional help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GATTINE (D), MAINE STATE LAWMAKER: I don`t expect the governor to apologize to me again. That is absolutely not his style. I think Maine people are getting extremely concerned after six years and these kind of escalating events with respect to our governor, that he is now at the point he isn`t fit to be governor, that he really probably needs to get some sort of professional help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: "The Associated Press" reporting today that the state`s top Democratic lawmaker wants the state constitution changed so the legislature could consider recalling the governor. According to the "A.P.", Justin Alfond said Monday that the process of changing the Maine constitution to allow for a recall would be long and arduous but could be worth to it try to remove LePage from office. However, Alfond says LePage should step down anyway. LePage said Friday he would not resign unless several of his opponents do as well.

Also chiming in on this is the horror writer, Stephen King, a famous Maine resident. He tweeted, "Our Governor Paul LePage is a bigot, a homophobe and a racist. I think that about covers it."

Joan, the saga of Paul LePage, though, didn`t just start with this. This has been going on a long time. This guy got elected in 2010. He got re- elected in 2014. He has said things that people consider way over the line before.

So, I`m sitting you here almost ready to ask you the question, is this the end for Paul LePage? But I also feel we`ve asked it a million times already.

WALSH: We`ve asked it a million times. He did win reelection. I mean, the tough thing is that a lot of these Tea Party guys who won in 2010 like Scott Walker and Paul LePage, they`re never going to face the presidential electorate, which is more diverse, larger, more minority, non-white. So, he is a little bit protected and he said things like this before.

I mean, I think Stephen King was completely within his rights to use the words he did, unlike psychopath, because he`s got a documented history of homophobia and racism and bigotry.

KORNACKI: He had too. In 2014, in the reelection, there was that Ebola quarantine that he ordered right before the election and it was very controversial. Though it did poll very well, so that seemed to help him at the end.

A lot of the perils, though, he is a supporter, LePage is, of Donald Trump. There are some clear similarities there, between the styles, the very over the top inflammatory, you know, I`m never going to apologize, you come at me, I will come at you ten times as hard style. And I think there are some people who look at that and say Paul LePage shows in 2014 maybe in that re- election there was a silent vote for him and some question, is there a silent vote for Donald Trump out there?

REYES: I don`t know about that. But Paul LePage has even called himself, he proudly said that he was the original Donald Trump before there was this national candidate known as Donald Trump.

I think the problem right now for LePage`s opponents is trying to do a recall would be so difficult, it requires, the last election when he was reelected, there was high turnout. It requires a high percentage of voters. It`s a great distraction from government.

And, you know, Joan, I know this being from California as well -- when you have these recall elections, there are all sorts of unintended consequences. Gray Davis was recalled in California and that in a sense paved the way for Arnold Schwarzenegger who left the state with many problems. So, a recall election is not always the way to solve this type of situation.

And, by the way, the governor -- you can say that this governor, he`s offensive, he`s racist and he`s clearly bigoted. He hasn`t crossed the line yet into criminality or allegations of criminal behavior. So, it would be hard to see what the grounds are for a recall other than being offensive.

KORNACKI: I remember that California recall. That was -- in terms of a pure fun political -- you had 65 names on the ballot out there, you had Schwarzenegger, Peter was there.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Ariana Huffington was running. That was -- that was a show. California ended up with Schwarzenegger.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three are going to tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. We`re back.

The panel is with me and they`re each going to tell me something I don`t know.

Joan, we`ll start with you.

WALSH: All right. So, today, there were a lot of stories about a big new poll out from the Public Religion Research Institute, which is very trustworthy, showing Donald Trump is losing Catholics by 25 points. But the most interesting thing embedded in the tables of that poll was that he is also losing white Catholics by three points. Mitt Romney won white Catholics by 19 points. This is another disaster demographic group for Trump.

KORNACKI: Remember that Karl Rove idea of the permanent Republican majority. Catholics were such a key part of that. It`s interesting a decade later where we are.

Raul?

REYES: Today, DHS, Department of Homeland Security announced that the government is going to start a process of reviewing its practice of having private contractors for immigration detention. That`s sort of along the lines of DOJ reviewing the contracts with private prisons.

The reason it matters, it will make a huge difference for people who are potentially in immigration detention centers, where there`s a lot of abuse violations and unsanitary conditions, but also it matters because at least for now, this is how we`re going to see immigration policy change in incremental small ways. So, until -- even after the election, we`ll likely not see a broad wave of reform, this is how it`s going to go small pieces.

KORNACKI: And it is -- by the way, Wednesday, we didn`t mention this earlier, Donald Trump is going to give his speech on immigration in Arizona, two months before the election.

(CROSTALK)

RAMPELL: It will be a revelation, I`m sure.

KORNACKI: Catharine?

RAMPELL: So, I have a poll stat that I think even rivals yours, which is that Hispanic voters, or eligible Hispanic voters actually don`t dislike Trump as much as perhaps his inflammatory rhetoric or many pundits might believe, particularly Hispanic voters who are English dominant. So, there`s a big divide.

So, those who are Spanish dominant favor Hillary Clinton, 80-11. Those who are English dominant, she`s only ahead by like 47-41, 48-41. So, it`s actually quite close. I think it`s even within a margin of error.

KORNACKI: Living up to the name, I didn`t know that. But I do now. So do all of you.

Thank you for watching. Thank you, Joan Walsh, Raul Reyes, Catherine Rampell.

That is HARDBALL for now. Thanks again for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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