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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/17/2016

Guests: John Feehery, Jamal Simmons, Al Cardenas, Mary Jordan, Sabrina Siddiqui, Eli Stokols

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 17, 2016 Guest: John Feehery, Jamal Simmons, Al Cardenas, Mary Jordan, Sabrina Siddiqui, Eli Stokols

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mrs. Trump to the rescue.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, down in the polls, the Trump campaign is turning to a surrogate who hasn`t been heard from a lot, Melania Trump. Mrs. Trump is now speaking out, defending her husband in the wake of that "Access Hollywood" videotape. Here she is tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: I said to my husband that, you know, the language is un-appropriate. It`s not acceptable. And I was surprised because that is not the man that I know.

And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mic. And I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on because they were kind of a -- a boy talk. And he was lead (sic) on, like, egg on (sic), from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on.

M. TRUMP: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a note about the clip Mrs. Trump is referring to. As we recently reported, the audio was recorded on an "Access Hollywood" bus tour in the presence of others. "Access Hollywood" is an NBC Universal program.

Anyway, Melania`s defense comes as several new polls show how far back Trump is -- Clinton is in the lead right now, showing Clinton leading Trump 4 points nationally. And that`s the best he`s doing. That`s "The Washington Post"/ABC poll. He`s only down by 4. She`s up 9 points in a new CBS poll out tonight. She leads by 11 points in a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. That`s our poll. And she`s ahead by 12 points in the new Monmouth poll out today.

Meanwhile, Trump has spent the last week complaining about a rigged political system, electoral system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Instead of being held accountable, Hillary is running for president in what looks like a rigged election, OK? It looks to me like a rigged election.

The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton.

The process is rigged. This whole election is being rigged.

We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected, that the vote counts are 100 percent. I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us.

So important that you get out and vote! So important that you watch other communities because we don`t want this election stolen from us. We don`t want this election stolen from us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Trump`s allies explained he was referring to the media when he talked about a rigged system. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRES. NOMINEE: Well, I think what Donald Trump is talking about is, frankly, what appears to be the monolithic support of the national media for Hillary Clinton`s campaign.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: I believe the rigging is at the level of the national establishment. I don`t think it`s at the level of stealing votes at the precinct level.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: It`s pretty clear what he means (INAUDIBLE) He`s never talked about cheating at the polling place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, they all said it was about the media -- Trump didn`t back him up. He contradicted his supporters here. Here he is tweeting -- catch this, he`s tweeted -- keep going -- later Sunday. Quote, "The election`s absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing crooked Hillary, but also at many polling places. Sad."

And today, Trump tweeted, "Of course there`s large-scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive."

So why is Trump calling foul three weeks before election day? And why is Melania making the rounds now? I`m joined by NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell.

Kelly, let me talk about Melania. Why do you think she has been brought up? She`s sort of an unknown figure. We`re not used to hearing from her. And there she is talking about an area -- well, she didn`t really -- interesting, she said she didn`t think her husband knew that he was being taped. Well, I think we agree on that. We all assume he wasn`t aware he was going to be taped for later use, but he was.

Your thoughts about her defense?

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Melania Trump is the greatest character witness that Donald Trump can have right now because she is someone who has been by his side. You can imagine that in their home life, this has been a key topic. And there is no one who can speak to his character better than his wife or his children. And so for her to come forward and to support him after these kinds of allegations and all of the fallout from that can be powerful.

The fact that we see so little of her probably enhances the value of her coming forward and speaking. We know that she has been a very private person, that politics is not something she ever imagined would be part of her life.

And you can argue that there`s perhaps no one in Donald Trump`s world who has been more negatively affected by participation in this campaign than Melania Trump -- her privacy gone, her husband put through this kind of scrutiny, which for political families of any party, whenever crisis hits, it`s always tough on the spouse, on the children. So having her come forward can be powerful -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was just wondering whether it`s not the same thing. And maybe it is the same thing. I think in broad brush terms, you`re dead right. The question is, though, with the case of the Clintons, it was infidelity which was the issue, I think. In this case, it`s just sort of general bad behavior, you know, awful behavior that really didn`t have much to do with seduction or anything like that. It`s just what was -- but you were laughing because it is so absurdly bad that it`s like even not credible to even have a conversation about. So because we don`t even actually talk about it.

But infidelity was something we`re more familiar with, and of course, that was the -- where Hillary was able to just come out and say, I`m still with him, leave me alone, it`s my business.

I`m not sure it`s the same now, is it, same question?

O`DONNELL: Well, and times are different. I don`t think the country is as innocent as it might have been 20, 25 years ago. So that always changes the lens through which we look at these things.

Also in the Clinton case, with respect to Monica Lewinsky, that occurred inside the White House with an intern, and there was sort of an employment situation there. And of course, with Paula Jones, there was litigation.

And so with Donald Trump, in most cases here, we`re talking about new people coming forward with old accounts, and it has not had time to be litigated yet. Are these believable accounts? Is there corroborating information? All of that is being reported out.

And there are many people are looking at this and saying these women appear credible. And then there are others who are supporters of Donald Trump who say this is politically timed to undercut his candidacy. It`s the kind of land mine everywhere situation politically.

And you`re right, it is uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about these things. They`re salacious. They`re uncomfortable. He says he`s embarrassed. I think the country`s embarrassed, as well.

And voters who want to look to a presidential candidate for character, this certainly undercuts his character. If people believe these allegations and the stories brought forward by these women are believable and truthful, that hurts him.

Then you find supporters who say he may have misbehaved, he may have said things he should not have said. I`m not looking for that in a president or a presidential candidate. I want change, and he`s the closest in the two- person choice of this election -- of course, four candidates, but the binary choice that most people are considering.

So times have changed. I think the country is wearing down in its sort of threshold of what strikes people with horror. And there`s also the timing of this. This has come one after another after another very late in the campaign, and it`s something that Trump has had some difficulty responding to.

MATTHEWS: A little reporting here also from you tonight, Kelly. What about this Christie interview you did, with Governor Christie, where he said something about this case, regarding the "Access Hollywood" and the way that the candidate for president has handled or failed to handle it?

O`DONNELL: Well, I was able to see Governor Chris Christie here in Manhattan tonight. He was attending an event and we were able to stop him on the street, and he spent a few minutes talking with us.

And he told me that on a couple of things, he felt that Donald Trump did not sufficiently apologize for the recording, the "Access Hollywood" recording. He thought that those words were defenseless. I also asked him, given their long relationship, had he ever personally witnessed any inappropriate conduct? And he said he had not.

In addition to that, he said that he believes that Donald Trump has told him privately that these are false allegations, and he is willing to accept his friend`s account of that, that these are false allegations. And so he is standing by Donald Trump.

He has not been as visible in the last week or so in the campaign, and that certainly raised questions. And I think in talking with Governor Christie, he would say that he was not pleased that Donald Trump did not do more to be more contrite publicly, to express his embarrassment and his sorrow over those words recorded. That`s, of course, before the women came forward.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARDENAS: This is a complicated set of facts for anybody involved in Donald Trump`s world and supporting his campaign. Governor Christie tells me he is not going to the Las Vegas debate, but he continues to support him and continues working as the chairman of his transition team -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Kelly O`Donnell for NBC News.

Well, anyway, a spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan reacted to Trump`s charge of a rigged election. Quote, "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."

Meanwhile, the Ohio secretary of state, a Republican and a Trump supporter, also took issue with Trump`s rhetoric. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUSTED (R), OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: We have so many safeguards in place in our election system. It`s bipartisan. It`s transparent. And there`s just no justification for concern about widespread voter fraud.

I actually intend on voting for Donald Trump, but I`m just remorseful or regretful that he`s saying things like this, which really undermine the potential that he has as a candidate. They are not the kinds of things that he should be saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump`s talk of a rigged election might be having an impact. According to a new poll from Politico and the Morning Consult, 41 percent of registered voters now agree the election could be stolen from Trump. That`s two out of five think this could be rigged against Trump.

Joining me now, the former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Al Cardenas. He`s also a former senior adviser to Jeb Bush. Also David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.

We spent a lot of time on reporting, a little time for comment here.

AL CARDENAS, FORMER fLORIDA GOP CHAIRMAN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Al, what do you make of these charges that seem so third world?

(CROSSTALK)

CARDENAS: You know, the operative word is access. He had a softball pitched at him. He could have talked about campaign shenanigans in the Clinton campaign. He could have talked about the e-mails. He could have talked about the chairman`s resignation. He could have talked about everything, but yet and say, Hey, it`s coming our way, be careful. But oh, no, he had to add electoral fraud.

And you heard the secretary of state. We`ve had 200-some years of democracy in America. We have never in our history had to deal with that kind of conversation.

Our country -- what sets me off is that we`re the example to the world what an election is like, peaceful transfer of power, orderly process, electoral process. Everybody in the world comes to see how we do it so they can do it like we do it.

And all of a sudden, with these remarks, all you do is just throw a whole bunch of crap into the fire.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and we...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We had a case in `93 in Philadelphia, a state senate race. There was some vote stealing. You know, they broke the rules about absentee ballots. The judge threw the guy out, put in the Republican guy - - dealt with. It`s taken seriously.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it happens once in a while, but Donald Trump can`t -- you can see that he might legitimately lose.

MATTHEWS: Is this a hedge?

CORN: It`s a hedge because he wants open rebellion should he lose. He`s setting up a situation where Republicans will have to pick and choose between two sides. One side, Well, he lost, let`s get on with life. The other side is, It was stolen from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is illegitimate, you must impeach her.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: You can`t work with her.

MATTHEWS: This is what he did with birtherism.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He said Obama was illegitimate, and now he`s going to say she`s illegitimate before she`s elected.

CORN: And listen, there is no ounce of truth coming out of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk politics, not ideology, for three seconds.

CORN: This isn`t ideology.

MATTHEWS: Well, just think for a second. How`s this help his band of excited people out there? Aren`t they going to -- it looks like he`s thrown in the towel. Al, if I`m out there in the country...

CARDENAS: Oh, because, see...

MATTHEWS: ... I`d say, This guy`s already given up. He`s already blaming people.

CARDENAS: Because they believe...

MATTHEWS: She`s blaming Billy Bush. He`s blaming a crooked election.

CARDENAS: Because they believe -- he`s gotten a populist movement going who believes beyond this election that they`ve got a movement going, that they`re going to turn America around Trump`s way. And so he needs to -- he believes needs to fuel that fire every single day and get -- and he also believes that this crowd is going to go and vote 90 percent range and overwhelm the polls.

MATTHEWS: It`s 7:00 o`clock Sunday morning. This is Monday. These things move so fast. But yesterday morning, I must have been somewhere -- and I get up in the morning and I`m reading -- I`m reading his tweets -- (INAUDIBLE) not 4:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the morning, but at 7:o`clock 00 in the morning, he`s tweeting at least three tweets attacking "Saturday Night Live."

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What`s that about?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It was a pretty brutal picture of him Alec Baldwin did.

CORN: I know we have three weeks to go until election day, but I think we have to dispel the notion, dispense with the notion that he does things in a rational, sane way.

MATTHEWS: I got to put this on...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But it`s idiotic for him to do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, another target, as I said, for Trump on Twitter this weekend was "Saturday Night Live." Trump wrote, quote, "Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election." So "Saturday Night Live`s" rigging it against him.

CORN: If he can`t handle Alec Baldwin, how does he handle Vladimir Putin?

CARDENAS: Listen, weeks ago, he praised "Saturday Night Live." He was a special guest at "Saturday Night Live." Same thing he does with CNN polling this morning. He had a tweet about that. He said, Oh, boy, it`s great (INAUDIBLE) I`m ahead. I don`t think he -- I don`t think he thinks. I think he pulls the trigger and doesn`t remember what he said.

CORN: There`s a mental health issue here.

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are you getting into this game now? He said she`s taking drugs, you`re saying he`s got a mental health...

MATTHEWS: No, but he acts in an unhinged, erratic fashion all the -- he wants to attack Iran because their soldiers gave us the finger, some of our ships. He is erratic-...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... and I feel sad for Melania, who comes out and says, Those are bad words.

MATTHEWS: You know what I liked?

CORN: It was what he did.

I thought Emily Blunt`s (ph) monologue the last night, when she sang the other night, was absolutely perfect. The talent on that show is unbelievable.

Anyway, thank you, Alex Cardenas.

CARDENAS: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, David Corn. I don`t think "Saturday Night Live" is really focused on him. They`re focused on being great.

Anyway, coming up -- there`s a debate within the Clinton campaign over whether to try to win big or just play it safe and grab the 270 votes they need, electoral votes. It seems like the "win big` crowd`s winning out. Today, the Clinton campaign announced they`re expanding their efforts to flip red states like Arizona, Missouri and Indiana to not just win the presidency, but win it with a mandate. I think they`re up to something. It`s also good for -- this is good for morale when you tell your people, We can win a big one. That gets people to go out and vote.

Anyway, plus, what`s behind the accusation of quid pro quo between the FBI and a top State Department official close to Hillary Clinton? Anyway, Trump`s jumping all over it, and tonight, we`re going to get the facts of the case.

And after a week that saw multiple women come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, he`s playing the political price at the polls with women voters jumping ship. We`ll show you the numbers tonight.

Finally, my "Election Diary" for tonight, October 17th. With just three weeks left -- just three weeks and a day -- and Trump has an uphill challenge ahead of him. He can still win, but it`s getting a narrower and narrower and narrower route to get to victory. But it`s not impossible.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump`s holding a rally tonight in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in Paul Ryan`s home state. And ahead of tonight`s rally, Trump continued to go after the speaker of the House. He tweeted, "The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee." And quote, "Paul Ryan, a man who doesn`t know how to win, including failed run four years ago, must start focusing on the budget, military, vets, et cetera." That`s all from Trump in his tweet.

Polls in the Badger State -- that`s Wisconsin -- show Trump trailing Clinton in that state by an average of just under 7 points. He`s not winning there. We`ll be listening to what Trump has to say tonight.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With the race appearing to break in Hillary Clinton`s favor the last week, her campaign announced today that Clinton will now target three traditionally red states, real Republican states, Missouri, Indiana, and most notably, Arizona, where they say a Clinton victory would foreclose any path for Trump to win the White House. They`re trying to cut him off where he needs the base support of the conservatives.

The move`s intended to help boost Democratic candidates down the ballot. But "The Washington Post" also notes -- quote -- "Clinton aides say they see the advantages to running up the score in the Electoral College, where 270 electoral votes win the White House. Victories in unexpected places could boost that total, holding her more of a mandate come January and decreasing the potency of Trump`s complaints of a rigged election."

I`m not sure about that. Anyway, he will claim it`s rigged no matter how much she wins by.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters today that one of their top surrogates, first lady Michelle Obama, will appear in Phoenix on this Thursday -- that`s three days from now -- and that the campaign will devote an additional two million bucks to turning Arizona blue come November.

In contrast, the Trump campaign intends to spend just $22,000 in advertising in Arizona through Election Day. And a former aide to Governor Jan Brewer -- and, of course, she`s a Republican -- told NBC News -- catch this line -- "`Barring something unforeseen,` the governor said, `Trump is going to lose Arizona.`"

Anyway, an aide to her said that.

Anyway, the Clinton campaign says they`re not taking any core states for granted. It comes as a new Quinnipiac polls show the race is still competitive in three crucial backgrounds. Catch these numbers. In Ohio, Clinton is tied with Trump at 45 all. In Florida, Clinton has a four-point lead 48-44. In Pennsylvania, which Trump also needs, Clinton leads by six, 47-41.

I`m joined right now by Republican strategist John Feehery and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

What`s this about rolling up? We have seen football games where people get 50 points, 56 points, and you go, well, they will pay for that. But this is only a one-game walk-off. This is it. It doesn`t hurt anybody`s feelings if she runs up the score, so why doesn`t she do it? What`s she got to lose?

(CROSSTALK)

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think she is trying to run up the score.

I think what she is doing is saying, OK, you know what? If these are the battleground states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, whatever it is, let`s expand the map, especially because Hillary has so much more money than Trump has, so she can afford to expand the map, go to some different places, make Trump plays defense, which then probably lessens the amount of work he can do in the states that he really needs to win in order to...

MATTHEWS: He has to play defense.

SIMMONS: That`s right.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Listen, I think there`s a...

MATTHEWS: Do you think she`s got the money and the time to start talking about 350, 400 electoral votes? Can she do that?

FEEHERY: I think this is a very unpredictable election.

I don`t think it`s done yet. I think, if you look at Minnesota, for example, it`s almost a tossup. She`s only at 45 percent in Minnesota, Wisconsin, 45 percent. This is -- I think she has to expand the map because...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you buy this theory that the -- somebody was pushing this today somewhere, that the undecided voter always goes to the challenger. I`m not sure about that. Do you think that?

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: She is seen as the incumbent.

If you`re at 45 percent, and you`re the incumbent, you ought to be pretty nervous. And I think she`s nervous. I think she`s also doing this because I think she wants to help Evan Bayh in Indiana, whose campaign is failing, and she wants to see if she can get Roy Blunt, which is -- that`s going to be a tough one, although I think Roy Blunt is going to -- the Arizona thing, I mean, Arizona, Georgia, these states are all starting to change.

And Republicans better take notice that, if they don`t do a better job with the Hispanic vote, they`re going to lose those states, not this time, but soon.

SIMMONS: Well, look, President Obama, he won Indiana in his first election. So, Indiana is a state that could go for Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Missouri, I don`t know. Missouri might not happen.

FEEHERY: I don`t think Missouri is possible.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s no election in Missouri.

SIMMONS: Missouri`s like Lucy with the football. You always try for Missouri, but you never get it.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Pennsylvania, because, in the end, they have to get -- for Trump to come back, he has to win Pennsylvania.

I looked at his list today where he`s running. He needs to win Pennsylvania, Ohio. He needs to win -- God, I wrote this all down -- New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, and Nevada. Those are the states he`s putting all his money into.

He`s really fighting -- he`s really fighting like an army that`s losing a war. And he`s, like, encircled, and he has to win certain areas.

SIMMONS: That`s right.

And Pennsylvania is to Republicans what Missouri is to Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SIMMONS: You always try it, but it never quite works out in the end. I just don`t see him pulling it off.

FEEHERY: You know, Pennsylvania -- you know this better than we do because you`re from Pennsylvania -- but Pennsylvania is -- the core of Trump supporters in the western part of the state is really energized.

And this is not only a vote about polls. It`s a vote about who`s going to come out and vote. And they`re energized for Trump and against Clinton. And I think that`s why she should be worried.

MATTHEWS: But she`s putting out -- they`re putting out the word in the Trump that -- I like the way -- I hate to be ethnic, but I`m going to be ethnic.

SIMMONS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: He says, going into those other communities and make sure they don`t steal your vote.

So, he`s talking about the white part of Pennsylvania is going to go into the urban part, big city, Philadelphia, where it`s 50/50 black and white, but go in there, because that`s where they steal the votes.

That seems to be what he is saying.

SIMMONS: Yes, I would like to see that happen.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Where you going, dear?

Well, I`m going down to North Philly, and I`m going to walk around Columbia Avenue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And I`m going to make sure that everybody there is doing what they`re supposed to do. And I`m going to wait around the polling station and tell people how to behave.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: I`m not from Philly, but I`m from Detroit. And I couldn`t imagine...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But it`s so outrageous an idea.

FEEHERY: But, in all fairness, Romney did the same thing four years ago. They had poll watchers.

MATTHEWS: Well, marshals are OK. Marshals know what they`re doing. But the average person doesn`t know how to do this.

FEEHERY: That would stupid.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, according to the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Clinton leads Trump by 20 percent points among women. See, this is where Trump is trouble, real voters.

She leads by 53 points among Latinos and by 77 percent among African- Americans. Trump narrowly leads among men. And this is why I don`t get it. He`s only up by three among men. That includes all men -- and leads among independents by six.

How could be running 40 -- I don`t how he`s up to 40 if he`s got only 3 percent advantage with men. On all counts, Trump is underperforming Mitt Romney, who lost to President Obama four years ago.

SIMMONS: You know, there`s some white voters that are still sitting out. I mean, I think, in one of these polls, he was at 51 with white voters. Hillary was at 40, which is about where President Obama has been, 40, 43.

MATTHEWS: That`s only 91.

SIMMONS: Right. So, 8 percent of white voters are still sitting.

MATTHEWS: They`re not going to go for Jill, I don`t think.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: After the last couple of weeks, everybody`s kind of scratching their heads saying, how can we vote for this guy? But he`s getting a lot of it. And I think that, ultimately, a lot of those people are going to come back. You`re going to do better than plus-three.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that still? This is my big question. Up until this -- all these women have come forward with these pretty authentic- sounding complaints, they`re particular, particular in their...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Well, volume speaks loudly.

MATTHEWS: They also seem very particular, like you would perform in court. OK.

Is that going to change the basic default number? Because, for a long time there, there would be this big screw-up, and something would go wrong with Trump, and then it would go back to basically 50/50 again? The true north seemed to be 50/50. Will it go back to 50/50 after he gets through -- if he gets through this week without more trouble?

FEEHERY: Well, we will see. We will see how Melania`s interview does.

MATTHEWS: Can`t hurt.

FEEHERY: It`s probably going to help a bit.

And the fact is that where he`s getting killed is college-educated white women. That`s where it`s been a disaster for him. So, if he can do better amongst that demographic, he has a shot at winning this election.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And his behavior is not romantic.

FEEHERY: It`s not. And it`s also not helpful.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: He doesn`t have any campaign strategy to go and attract himself to those voters. And if he doesn`t do that, he`s going to lose this election.

SIMMONS: Look, he`s not even trying to talk to the rest of the country.

And the reality is, this is a guy who I don`t think he`s really very patriotic. I think that he is pulling at the threads of our democracy by talking about what`s happening with the voting, that voting might not work out, and then going at all these different communities.

At some point, if you want to love America, like, love America.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He was right in the beginning, when he questioned stupid wars, bad trade policy, and no immigration policy that has ever been enforced. I think he is right on those. You can argue about it from a progressive side, but he was arguing about a real problem that we had in this country.

FEEHERY: And I will say, if he can actually address those issues in the next debate, he might turn some heads again.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he talk about the things that got him there? Talking about rigged elections doesn`t get you a single vote.

(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Jamal. Thank you so much. And thank you, John.

Up next: Donald Trump and his supporters are running with the story of an alleged quid pro quo between a top Clinton ally at the State Department and the FBI. We will get the facts on that. We will give them to you straight next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGI STONE WOODS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Gigi Stone Woods. Here`s what`s happening at this hour.

Iraqi Kurdish forces inflicting heavy losses on ISIS in the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq`s second largest city. More than 80 square miles have been retaken on the first day of the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

Snow is falling in California`s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Chains are now required to drive up Interstate 80.

And 83 percent of high school students in the U.S. are getting their diplomas. President Obama visited a school in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate the fifth straight record-setting year. Some good news there -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is very big, and, frankly, it`s unbelievable.

What was just found out is that the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the FBI colluded, got together to make Hillary Clinton look less guilty and look a lot better than she looks. This is one of the big breaking stories of our time, in my opinion. This shows corruption at the highest level, and we can`t let it happen as American citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, Donald Trump, responding to just-released FBI documents related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s private e- mail server.

One note seems to indicate a quid pro quo suggestion between the FBI and the State Department over the classification of one e-mail. The FBI note cites an FBI official who -- quote -- "indicated he had been contacted by Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state, who had asked his assistance in altering the e-mail`s classification in exchange for a quid pro quo. In exchange for marking the e-mail unclassified, State would have reciprocated by allowing the FBI to place more agents in countries where they are presently forbidden."

But the FBI and State Department both pushed back today. One FBI official told NBC News it was an Facebook agent, not Kennedy, who first brought up a possibly quid pro quo.

For more, I`m joined by MSNBC`s Kristen Welker.

This is a big one, I guess.

KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It is a big one, yes, in the sense that it`s giving a lot of fodder to Republicans.

But here`s the bottom line, your last point. The FBI and State Department say this gets it all wrong. There was a robust discussion about all of these e-mails, Chris, between the different agencies. How should they be classified?

And this discussion pertained to an individual e-mail. It was upgraded to classified and it stayed that way. There was never a quid pro quo. But, to this point, this request came from an FBI official.

And that`s what that document confuses, according to both the FBI and the State Department. Let me just read you the statement from the FBI and then we can talk about it a little bit more.

The FBI says: "Having been previously unsuccessful in attempts to speak with a senior State official during the same conversation, the FBI official asked the State Department official" -- so it came from the FBI official to the State Department official -- "if they would address a pending unaddressed FBI request for space for additional FBI employees assigned abroad. The classification of the e-mail was not changed and it remains classified today."

So, that`s sort of the crux of this. The e-mail remains classified. At the same time, an FBI official raised during one of these discussions, can you have more FBI agents abroad?

Important to also understand what 302s are. They are notes that were taken by FBI officials during interviews. So is it possible that those notes were in some ways exaggerated or missed the point? It`s possible. I don`t want to say that`s what happened in this case, but it seems to be that`s the pushback that you`re getting from the FBI and the State Department.

The State Department this allegation is inaccurate and does not align with the facts. They maintain that there was no discussion of a quid pro quo.

But the bottom line, Donald Trump is going to speak in Wisconsin in a matter of minutes, and he is going to get out there and say that this is just another example of wrongdoing.

Now, of course, the Clinton campaign also saying this whole thing is ridiculous. But, Chris, it`s less than a month until Election Day and we`re still talking about Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. And I think, politically, that`s the problem here.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, thank you. So, basically the charge is, if you believe the worst- case look at this thing, is that somebody in the FBI and somebody from the State Department actually initiated a deal, OK, if you would just upgrade or downgrade the classification, so it won`t make Hillary look too bad, because she took it through her e-mail, then we will give you more guys out there in these countries you`re trying to get into, more officials.

WELKER: Right. Right.

And what we learned today is that the request actually came from the FBI, not from the State Department, and that the e-mail was classified, ultimately. So that`s the whole problem with the notion that there was ever a quid pro quo. Nothing changed. The e-mail remains classified.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s like the Clintons never made any money on Whitewater.

(LAUGHTER)

WELKER: Right. I`m not getting into that.

MATTHEWS: Well, no, they never got a nickel out of it, yet it was a scandal, so-called.

WELKER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway.

WELKER: And that`s what -- but Donald Trump, that`s what he`s going to be focused on tonight.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s going to play it big.

WELKER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, NBC`s Kristen Welker.

WELKER: Thank you.

Up next: Donald Trump`s alleged behavior and comments towards women are catching up to him, don`t you think? He`s paying the price politically, as his campaign is being rejected by women voters. It`s showing up in the polls. He`s losing women because of all this kerfuffle and bad -- well, bad press.

Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hopefully, our great movement -- and there`s never been anything like this in the United States.

And the only way they figure they can slow it down is to come up with people that are willing to say: Oh, I was with Donald Trump in 1980. I was sitting with him on an airplane. And he went after me on the plane.

Yes, I`m going to go after them. Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That, I can tell you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Man. You don`t know. That would not be my first choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump Friday denying that he groped a woman on an airplane, because she wouldn`t have been attractive enough to assault in the first place, that`s his argument now. The woman, Jessica Leeds, has said Trump grabbed her chest and put his hand up her skirt on a flight to New York in the early 1980s. Well, Trump landed himself in hot water over his alleged history of behavior and comments towards women.

His wife Melania Trump sat down with CNN`s Anderson Cooper today and said that she thinks her husband was egged on in that "Access Hollywood" conversation on that bus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: I said to my husband that, you know, the language is inappropriate. It`s not acceptable. And I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know.

And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on. It was only a mike. And I wonder if they even knew that the mike was on, because they were kind of a boy talk. And he was lead on, like, egg on, from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You feel the host, Billy Bush, was sort of egging him on?

MELANIA TRUMP: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a note about the clip Mrs. Trump is referring to. As we recently reported, the audio was recorded on an "Access Hollywood" bus tour in the presence of others. "Access Hollywood" is an NBC Universal program, of course.

For more, let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Mary Jordan is a political correspondent for "The Washington Post", Sabrina Siddiqui is a political reporter for "The Guardian," and Eli Stokols writes for "Politico".

So, Mary, why don`t you start on this? Is it a smart move for Donald -- these questions are so lame, but I`ve got to go through them. Is it a smart move for Trump to say, I didn`t mess with that woman, she isn`t good- looking enough for me? I mean, it`s just --

MARY JORDAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean , even people -- even women who say that they`re going to vote for Trump are appalled at how he`s dismissive of this. Now, you can see it on Facebook and Twitter, that there`s a whole offense from women, they call it, today`s hashtag was #gophandsoffme.

MATTHEWS: Are they pro-Clinton or -- I mean, are they pro-Trump or what?

JORDAN: Some of these people, I mean, even people who are going to vote for Trump are maddened with how he`s dealing with women. But even more interesting than all the people that are appalled at his lewd remarks and how he`s dismissive is that 40 percent of women according to "The Washington Post" poll say they`re still going to vote for him. And that`s because not that they like him, but that they dislike her less.

MATTHEWS: By the way, if someone could help me with Hillary hatred. Why don`t you take it, Sabrina? You take a shot and we`ll go back. Will everybody explain to me, can you put your finger on it?

Why do women or anybody hate Hillary? What`s that about? Not everybody hates her, obviously. She`s probably going to win this election, but --

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, the fact of the matter is that she`s been in the public sphere for more than two decades. So people have been accustomed to so many --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So does Joe Biden. Nobody hates Joe Biden.

SIDDIQUI: But she was at the end of the day, someone who reshaped the role of the first lady, she took a lot of heat for how she talks about everyone, still brings up to this day, the baking cookies comment. And at the end of the day, you also have a situation where there is a trust factor with Hillary Clinton.

And there`s a polling that shows that a slim majority of the American public doesn`t trust her. You can say it might be because of her own behavior. You can say it`s because of attacks that she`s faced, weathered, but --

MATTHEWS: OK, what comes first, the chicken or the egg, Eli? They don`t like her or they don`t trust her? I can`t tell. I think it might be they don`t like her, or something about her. You know, sometimes you automatically like some people and don`t like others. It`s just normal.

ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO: They may be predisposed not to like her because of all of the baggage and because perhaps of sexism. And now in this campaign, maybe ageism --

MATTHEWS: We`re talking about women here. We`re talking about women.

STOKOLS: But I mean, I think that even some women may have -- you know, we`ve never seen a woman president before and I think some women wonder about that and just sort of have maybe a more antiquated idea --

MATTHEWS: You`re so interesting about that because Jack Germond, the great political commentator who`s passed now, he said that no woman -- he used to say this like 20 years ago, no woman over 65 will vote for any woman. That was back 20 years ago. That today 65.

JORDAN: Well, I just spent hours in North Carolina asking this very question. And the older the woman was, the least -- the more likely they are not to like Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: But it`s about trust, isn`t it?

JORDAN: Well, this is what --

MATTHEWS: They are, unless you are trust here?

JORDAN: They say she is unrelatable. She is not like me. And worse, she is not for me. These working class women --

MATTHEWS: Is that because she went to Harvard -- I mean, to Wellesley and Yale Law and this highly educated background?

SIDDIQUI: There are successful women, continue to face a lot of criticism that would not be leveled against a man in those same shoes.

MATTHEWS: Suppose she was a conservative.

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think --

MATTHEWS: If she was a conservative, would any of these knocks be against her?

JORDAN: I think some of them would be, because one of the knocks is, she`s wanted to be president for her whole life.

MATTHEWS: That`s true. I`ve seen that.

JORDAN: You know what? Bill Clinton did, too!

MATTHEWS: I know.

JORDAN: What`s wrong with that. She`s too ambitious. I mean --

MATTHEWS: Can a man be too ambitious?

JORDAN: No.

(CROSSTALK)

STOKOLS: There`s a total double standard. But I also think that part of this is just -- Hillary Clinton just rubs some people the wrong way, and maybe it`s a charisma deficit, also. She, apparently is better in those face-to-face encounters in the rope line, when there used to be a rope line before. Everybody just wanted --

MATTHEWS: She`s very good like that.

STOKOLS: She`s better in that situation, but it hasn`t always translated.

MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton was good in every situation.

Anyway, Donald Trump said over the weekend that he thinks that Hillary Clinton should submit to drug testing before the next debate. Believe it or not, it`s getting this bad. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t know! Maybe, we`re like athletes, right? Hey, look, I beat 17 senators, governors, I beat all these people, we`re like athletes. So, athletes, they`re making them more and more -- but athletes, they make them take a drug test, right?

I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate, I do. I think we should -- why don`t we do that? We should take a drug test prior to -- because I don`t know what`s going on with her! But at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end, it was like, oh, take me down, she could barely reach her car.

So, I think we should take a drug test. Anyway, I`m willing to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Eli, take a shot at this baby.

STOKOLS: Do you remember in September when he was giving those speeches from the teleprompter?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STOKOLS: Neither do I.

OK, what we`ve seen in the last couple of weeks is just -- I mean, as the bottom --

MATTHEWS: This is shtick, though.

STOKOLS: The bottom has fallen out for Donald Trump and there`s sort of this liberation that he feels like, you know, OK, I can`t really make inroads with women and he`s just doing shtick. But it`s so much of this conspiracy theory stuff. It`s just --

SIDDIQUI: And you have to remember that it`s that so-called alt right that`s supporting him that has been propagating --

MATTHEWS: So this is a very --

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: But the reason that what Eli said is so important about doubling down in his base is he was supposed to pivot to trying to appeal to suburban women, Republican women who are skeptical of him, independent- minded women and he`s doing the exact opposite. I think he`s all but conceded that he`s not going to --

MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to my initial question, ladies. Hold on for one second. You can trump all this in a minute.

What do you make about him saying -- imagine doing this to a guy, somebody said the other day in the paper, it was Nick Kristof or someone, said, imagine if Hillary had been accused of what Trump did in terms of the physical come-on to people, if she did that to guys, what would it be like? You would think that she was insane. You know what I mean? And now his big defense is, they`re not good-looking enough for me.

JORDAN: He`s making a joke of it. And that`s why you`re going to see the biggest gender gap on November 8th you`ve ever seen because he`s sarcastic about it. He`s joking about it. And this drug comment is another kind of flame thrower comment.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, "Saturday Night Live" went after him. They did a great job of pillorying him, not satirizing, pillorying, because they have him as this looming monster, looming him behind Hillary during the debates. It was weird satirization.

His defense, I didn`t like her looks from behind. That`s how bad it got. I don`t think it`s ever got than bad in politics.

SIDDIQUI: No, it hasn`t. But this also goes back to the argument that Donald Trump is arguably the most thin-skinned candidate that we`ve seen in modern history. Anytime that he`s attacked by anyone, the media, Republicans, or these women who are accusing him, he goes back and he can only level with this criticism against him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s interesting thing about guys and women, when they made that ad against Chris Christie and they showed him sort of the big white shirt, looking overweight coming out of a car, it was clearly aimed at making fun of his any physique. I said, that guy is going to win, I said at the time, because nobody likes -- men don`t like being made fun of physically. Imagine what women think of it.

STOKOLS: Yes, I mean, women are watching this. Think about this, women in the debate, the second debate about a week ago, what was the first thing he said. They asked him about the video, and he said, "I have great respect for women. I have great respect for women."

Well, you watch these rallies and you hear him say, she wasn`t good-looking enough for me to actually do that, doesn`t sound like he has a lot of respect for women. And I think that`s what people --

JORDAN: Yes, the stunner is, still, he has significant support. And this race is the not over yet. That`s really all there is.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: Hillary Clinton has a 19-point advantage among women nationally. That`s historic.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the roundtable is going to stick with us.

And up next, these people will tell us something I don`t know. They`re already doing that.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: HARDBALL is heading to Las Vegas for the third and -- believe it or not -- final presidential debate this Wednesday. Join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. We`ll be live from the campus of UNLV on the eve of the debate.

Then on Wednesday, we`re going to kick off things with a special edition of HARDBALL at 7:00 Eastern out in Vegas. Then, Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow join me with full debate coverage. The debate starts at 9:00 Eastern. And then stay with us for full post-debate coverage and analysis well into the night. We`ll be outside of course.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Mary, tell me something I don`t know.

JORDAN: There`s one state in the union that has a none of the above on the ballot. It`s Nevada, where the debate is, and I was just talking to people today. And it could surprise everybody where this --

MATTHEWS: How high? Twenty?

JORDAN: It could easily be. It was put in at the Watergate era and the controversial thing --

MATTHEWS: What does it accomplish anyway?

Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: So, Mindy McGillivray is one of the women who accused Donald Trump of groping her without her consent. She is a resident of Florida. She says she feels forced to leave the country because that is the kind of threat level she has received from Trump supporters. Some of them have been driving by her house. This goes back to how he`s responded. Instead of showing remorse, he`s actually vilifying these women and that`s the impact of that.

MATTHEWS: If something happens along those lines, everything is going to change.

SIDDIQUI: Right.

MATTHEWS: You can`t keep talking like he`s been talking.

SIDDIQUI: No.

STOKOLS: Hillary Clinton got a 90 percent chance of winning the election. You`d think everything is great in Brooklyn. They`re miserable right now, and the reason, a great report on this in "Politico" by Annie Karni and Glenn Thrust. All this dread because of the WikiLeaks every day that`s hanging over their head and the way Trump has just taken this into the sewer. They are not enjoying this. You think it`s sort of an easy last lap round the track and it`s no fun for them.

It`s gotten under Hillary`s skin and Bill`s. And, you know, Wednesday night is her last real hurdle not to make a big mistake. A lot of people are going to be watching.

MATTHEWS: Great report. It`s really good. I love to hear that because everything seems, you know, wonderful on the surface. When it looks like you`re skating into home base.

Anyway, Mary Jordan, thank you. Sabrina Siddiqui, thank you, and Eli Stokols.

When we return, my election diary just two days before the final presidential debate. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Election diary Monday, October 17th, 2016.

Well, today, Donald Trump brought in the cavalry by enlisting his wife Melania in the battle of 2016, he has escalated the question of who he is. Is he a superior person, building skyscrapers, winning fame, the golden figure of success, or is he the guy accused of grubby behavior on airplanes and in clubs?

In what we`ve seen of her interview tonight, Melania puts the blame for that 2005 conversation in the "Access Hollywood" bus on the host of the show, Billy Bush. She says that Bush egged on her husband, that he was the bad guy in this piece, not her husband.

Well, blaming Billy Bush is probably as good an argument as you`re likely to get at this point. It has the strength of blaming one celebrity over another. In a public relations sense, it might do some good. Even if it doesn`t, if you think about it, make Donald Trump look much like a leader.

The important question is, as I began with, who is the real Donald Trump, the gifted brand man capable of building tall buildings or the guy portrayed by these women who have come forward? Is he the guy on the tape, the guy in the bus, the guy whose voice we heard?

Second question, is Melania going to put a positive face on this race, or is the Trump campaign going to be a complaint that the election is going to be rigged, stolen from him despite his plurality in the votes? Well, Melania is a signal of the first. But if he keeps yelling, we was robbed, all the positive PR isn`t going to help. Who are you going to pay attention to, Melania sticking it to Billy Bush or Donald Trump sticking it to the American political system?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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