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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/18/2016

Guests: Molly Ball, Dina Titus, Garry Trudeau

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 18, 2016 Guest: Molly Ball, Dina Titus, Garry Trudeau

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Last saloon in the desert.

Let`s play HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out at UNLV in Las Vegas.

Anyway, the third and final presidential debate here tomorrow night looms as Donald Trump`s last, best opportunity with just three weeks to go to the election to reverse his downward momentum.

Well, today, on the eve of that debate, President Obama addressed Trump`s most explosive charge of the week, that the election this November will be rigged in Clinton`s favor. Here`s the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is both irresponsible, and by the way, doesn`t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you`d want out of a president. You start whining before the game`s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don`t have what it takes to be in this job.

There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even -- you could even rig America`s elections. And so I`d advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.


MATTHEWS: Wow! According to a new RealClearPolitics polling average, the debates so far appear to have helped Hillary Clinton and hurt Donald Trump. They candidates were virtually tied before the first debate, but Clinton`s margin over Trump grew steadily through the second debate. On average, Clinton now holds a 7-point lead, with 46 percent to Trump`s 39 percent. That`s an average of all the polls.

But as we`ve seen over the last week, there`s mounting evidence that Trump intends to come out swinging in their final showdown. Trump is now alleging, based on FBI documents released yesterday, that the State Department tried to prevent one of Clinton`s e-mails about Benghazi from being classified in a quid pro quo with the FBI. Both agencies deny the charge, but Trump today called it a coverup like Watergate and called for Patrick Kennedy, the State Department`s undersecretary for management, to be fired.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The State Department was trying to cover up Hillary`s crime of sending classified information on a server our enemies could easily access.


TRUMP: The FBI document showed that Patrick Kennedy made the request for altering classification as part of a very, very serious quid pro quo. Not allowed to do it.

This is a felony corruption. This is a bigger event than Watergate, and they practically refuse to cover it. Today, I`m calling for him to be fired!


MATTHEWS: Well, we covered it last night. We`re covering it tonight.

Anyway, the Trump campaign is also foreshadowing potential new attacks on Clinton over Benghazi, inviting Pat Smith, whose son was killed in the 2012 attack, to sit in the audience during the debate tomorrow night.

Joining me right now is Molly Ball, who covers politics for "The Atlantic." Robert Costa is national political reporter with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Howard Fineman is global editorial director at the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst.

I want to go to Robert Costa. You follow Trump every day. Tomorrow night, I said it`s the kitchen sink night because I think he`s going to throw whatever he has because it`s the last chance to speak to 80 million people.

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Speaking to Trump advisers today, debate prep`s been all about aggression. They say Trump`s going to come out there and throw everything he`s got at Secretary Clinton, personal, professional, political. It`s all going to come out.

MATTHEWS: How big will the issue of the e-mail, of the fact that there was this discussion between the undersecretary of state and an FBI agent over how to grade an e-mail which related to Benghazi?

COSTA: Well, at his speech in Colorado Springs today, it was at the top of his remarks. He went on for minutes. It was scripted. So you know, behind the scenes, you got Steve Bannon and others putting that at the top of his list.

MATTHEWS: You can`t bring a prompter into a debate, Molly.

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, that`s the thing, is that we`ve seen that when Trump is on his talking points, he can deliver these attacks very effectively. And I think that Hillary Clinton is going to face some tough questions about this tomorrow night, as she should.

But he gets sidetracked very easily. She got under his skin memorably at the first debate. And it is not always easy for him to stay focused on the things that his advisers would like him to stay on. You know, I agree with Bob that -- you know, Trump and his camp believe he won that second debate handily. They want him to take the same approach...


BALL: ... hammering Hillary Clinton...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) did a lot better.

BALL: ... with everything...

MATTHEWS: A lot better.

BALL: ... everything that he`s got.

MATTHEWS: You know, who was it that said that nothing concentrates the mind like the thought of imminent hanging? And I was thinking that he knows that if he doesn`t win this third debate clearly, triumphantly, he`s got problems. So why not focus on what he knows to be the gold? And I would say it`s the e-mail because that where Hillary has -- that`s where Hillary has to play very complicated defense. She has to defend the bureaucrats, deny anything wrong -- went wrong, and he has to want to just say, No, it smells.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he`s caught the bureaucracy fighting with itself here, which is always good for the other side. But I think the importance of the Benghazi story and this e-mail story is not those issues themselves, but Trump`s larger and largest and I think most successful theme, which is that Washington is hopelessly corrupt.

You may not like me, but I`m the outsider. And if it`s a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and the outsider, and you want change, I`m the only guy who can do it. You may not like it, but I`m the only guy who can do it. That`s really his strongest argument.

MATTHEWS: So if you`re advising Hillary, you say, Don`t play bureaucratic defense on this. Don`t get into who the undersecretary is. Act like you don`t know the guy`s name. Don`t get into whether the FBI is right or the State Department because you`re going to look like you`re defending D.C.

BALL: Well, look, I...

MATTHEWS: Washington bureaucracy, you`re one of them.

BALL: Far be it from me to advise any candidate, much less Hillary Clinton. But I think it is tricky...

MATTHEWS: Well, speculate then, don`t advise.

BALL: I think it is a tricky issue for her. I mean, think about what the entire -- I`ve talked to so many voters about Hillary Clinton, and it`s not that they don`t agree with her on policy necessarily, it`s not that they don`t dislike Donald Trump, but they look at her and they see not just someone who`s implicated in the system for 30 years, but a politician pursuing personal interests at the expense of public interests, and someone whose motives they don`t trust, someone who when she opens her mouth, they don`t believe what she`s saying.

FINEMAN: Chris, that...

BALL: And that`s why this is such an effective case against her.

FINEMAN: That is the thing about these e-mails. They`re kind of this weird Greek chorus in the background, showing a different -- showing what the public believes, which is that there are two Hillary Clintons. There`s the somewhat worthy -- there`s the worthy public Hillary Clinton with the policy issues you may agree with, and then there`s the ultra-political Hillary Clinton behind the scenes. That`s what those e-mails play into.

MATTHEWS: Well, those FBI documents released just yesterday show that an unnamed FBI employee described a conversation between Patrick Kennedy of the State Department and Brian MaCauley of the FBI as a quid pro quo. McCauley told "The Washington Post" that Kennedy called for a favor, but McCauley interjected and pressed Kennedy to allow the FBI to put more agents in Iraq. In turn, Kennedy explained that he wanted a classification of an e-mail about Benghazi not to be upgraded to secret. McCauley said there was no contingency binding the two requests and there was no collusion between agencies.

Anyway, Patrick Kennedy also said in a statement today the two matters were not linked. There was no quid pro quo, nor was there any bargaining. Furthermore, the FBI and the State Department say the alleged deal never happened.

Anyway, there`s this other guy, the former agent, who hasn`t been spoken to since the first story where he said there was quid pro quo. So Trump`s got that to play with.

COSTA: The question for Trump is he can only have so many headlines coming out of tomorrow night. If he gets dragged into the accusations, the allegations from the women, Clinton`s ready on all that front. But is he ready to prosecute the case or not on the e-mails and the FBI and the way this was all investigated? Is he ready for that, or is he going to be distracted?


BALL: Well, and I think also what -- Trump has to stop this from being all about him. He has to turn the focus onto Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: You say he`s going to be aggressive.

BALL: And he has not been...

COSTA: He`s going to be aggressive, but we`re not sure how narrow that aggression`s going to be. That aggression has to have a focus if it`s going to land and it`s going to actually be the story coming out of the debate.

MATTHEWS: He can`t talk about Bill Clinton. That bounces right back to him.

BALL: That`s right. It makes him the story.

MATTHEWS: He`s got to talk about something today.

FINEMAN: Right. I think if you look at the three debates in sequence, the first one was -- was -- was all -- was all Trump on the defensive completely, and punching himself at the same time. He took himself down.

The second debate, Trump was more aggressive overall, but as Robert says, not really focused. And one reason he didn`t win the debate, but his followers think he did, is that he showed that style. Now I think Robert`s right. He has to go in specifically on something, and this could be it.

MATTHEWS: What about this thing -- Chris Wallace is going to be good. I think a moderator -- some of them -- it`s been uneven so far, but I think he`s going to be very aware and he will have learned from all the other moderators this year, right?

And if Trump says something like, We`re going to have a rigged election come next month, I think he almost -- I`m not going to tell him how do this. He knows his business. But he`s got to say, How are they going to do that? How are they going to rig this? Give me -- you can`t throw that out. And he`s going to force Trump to say how it`s going to be rigged.

COSTA: And Wallace has said he`s not going to fact check, so if Donald Trump...

MATTHEWS: That`s not a fact check. It just says, Give me the information you got.

COSTA: But if you`re a moderator and you have someone say the election`s going to be rigged and the evidence of voter fraud is so small and minuscule, are you going to actually articulate that on stage?

FINEMAN: Well, I know how Trump`s going to answer that. Trump has already said how he`s going to answer it. He`s going to say, Are you kidding me? Philadelphia, Cleveland -- you know, he`s going to say that. He`s going to -- it`ll all be innuendo, and he`s going to say it`s illegal immigrants and he`s going to say it`s the media. It`s going to say -- those -- those three evils...

MATTHEWS: Can he...

FINEMAN: ... are what`s going to rig -- quote, "rig" the election.

MATTHEWS: If he can point to a state senate corrupt -- like we had in Pennsylvania in `93. You know that race (INAUDIBLE) overthrow the whole thing. A federal judge (INAUDIBLE) throw the case. Can he point to a particular case, say that proves the whole...

FINEMAN: Well, I think...


FINEMAN: I think that Chris Wallace -- again, not to tell him how to do his business, but he should ask for a specific or two and see if Donald Trump can answer.

BALL: That`s right. Trump has not had any tough questions on this completely ridiculous claim that he`s making.

MATTHEWS: Can`t he just say Chicago `60?

BALL: And it isn`t about specifics for him.

MATTHEWS: That`s what everybody does.

BALL: It`s about...


MATTHEWS: ... stole the election.

BALL: It`s about resentment. It`s about grievance. It`s about telling people they`re getting screwed. And it`s also about him personally refusing to acknowledge that he`s losing (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, one problem he has is cities like Philadelphia are 85 percent for the other guy, for Hillary.

BALL: Well, because it`s rigged, obviously!

FINEMAN: Can I make one other quick...


BALL: I`m joking!

MATTHEWS: Sarcasm doesn`t work on television!

BALL: I am being sarcastic!


FINEMAN: I got to say one other quick point, which is having the president of the United States in the Rose Garden essentially -- essentially tweaking the candidate...

MATTHEWS: "You`re whining"?

FINEMAN: ... "You`re whining" -- that was an extraordinary moment.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I just think Trump may -- I don`t know if he`s going to -- is he going to go back at Obama and say, Stop saying I`m whining?


COSTA: I just -- every single report I`m getting out of Trump Tower and Trump`s inner circle is that he is just going to go out there, and wherever that line is, he`s going to go over it.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s got Paul Ryan on his side on this e-mail thing, which is unique. That...


COSTA: Paul Ryan`s not on his side generally. He`s...



MATTHEWS: He won`t be seen with him, but he`s with him on this e- mail. Anyway...

COSTA: Is Trump going to articulate anything for the party?

MATTHEWS: Well, he might on that one. Anyway, Trump today...

FINEMAN: Party? What party?

MATTHEWS: ... painted a grim portrait of what this country would look like if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Let`s watch this grim portrait.


TRUMP: Their international donors control her every move. If we let crooked Hillary`s cartel -- and just remember this -- run this government, history will record that 2017 was the year that America lost, truly lost its independence, truly lost its independence.


D. TRUMP: And by the way, this is our final shot, folks. In four years, it`s over. You`re never going to be able to win. You`re never going to be able to win. It`s tilting -- it`s going to be a one-party system. This is your final shot.


MATTHEWS: So we`re Zimbabwe tomorrow morning, right?



FINEMAN: I was going to say Venezuela.


BALL: ... we become Zimbabwe, apparently. Look, this is something that Trump supporters feel to their bones. You talk to those people going to those rallies, they really do believe that the apocalypse is imminent and that it will be the end of the world if they don`t win this election.

MATTHEWS: What`s it look like? What do they see coming?

BALL: Like, visually? Is there an actual, like...


FINEMAN: Venezuela.

BALL: ... landscape. You know, it`s some combination...


BALL: ... of a liberal Supreme Court and maybe, you know, reeducation camps for conservatives and Trump supporters.

COSTA: It`s not a landscape, it`s a hellscape.

BALL: Yes.

COSTA: Listening to Trump in Colorado Springs today, he says the media is colluding with the Democratic and the Republican Party. They`re an international corporation that are running the whole global political system. I mean, it is beyond the normal right/left, Republican/Democrat dynamic.


FINEMAN: And the concern is...


FINEMAN: ... concern is that all of -- even if Trump himself goes away, which I don`t believe he will if he loses, that he`s going to leave a legacy of having pulled the whole political spectrum over to the right and exposed the alt-right to the mainstream of the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe Hillary Clinton`s going to have sing from "Annie," "The sun`ll come up tomorrow" because it`s the bleakest thing I`ve heard.

Anyway, thank you, guys -- Robert Costa, Molly Ball and Howard Fineman.

Coming up, Melania Trump defends her husband and dismissed his accusers, a risky strategy that undercuts Trump`s own attacks against the way Hillary Clinton dealt with her husband`s accusers. By the way, we`re going to show the comparison between Melania and Hillary over the years in defending their husbands. We`ll see (INAUDIBLE) It look -- I think Melania is going to help a little bit.

Anyway, plus, tomorrow night`s debate is Donald Trump`s last chance, as I said, best chance to get back in the race. We know there`s going to be fireworks on that debate stage, but how ugly could it get? Will Trump come at Clinton with everything he`s got? You betcha!

And the great Garry Trudeau`s coming here tonight. The creator of "Doonesbury" gives us his take on Trump versus Clinton. I think he`s for Clinton.

Finally, my "election diary" from Las Vegas tonight on the eve of the third and final presidential debate for 2016.

And be sure to tune in for our coverage of the debate tomorrow night. Join me for a special edition of HARDBALL here tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. Then at 8:00 Eastern, I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for a preview of the debate.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off on the debate stage at 9:00 Eastern. And then at 10:30, it`s full debate coverage and analysis. We`ll be here all night. That`s all coming up tomorrow right here on MSNBC.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



MATTHEWS: Well, another big battleground poll is in tonight, and it`s from right here in the key state of Nevada. That`s how you say it, Navadda.

Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."


MATTHEWS: According to a new Monmouth University poll, Hillary Clinton has surged to a 7-point lead in Nevada, Clinton 47, Trump 40, with Gary Johnson still down at 7. In the previous Monmouth poll, taken just before the debate, first debate, Trump led Clinton by 2 points. So he`s gone from up to down.

And look at this one. A new poll from Texas has Trump leading by 3 points. It`s Trump 41, Clinton 38, with Johnson at 4, and lots of undecideds in a new poll from the University of Houston.

And we`ll be right back after this.



MELANIA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP`S WIFE: 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 boy talk, and he was lead on, like, egg on 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. Yes.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas tonight. That`s Melania Trump, of course. She says her husband was egged on to say, quote, "dirty and bad" things about women in that leaked 2005 audio recording. She also said she believes her husband that it was just, quote, "locker room talk," and went on to blame her husband`s opposition.


M. TRUMP: I believe my husband. This was all organized from the opposition. And with the details that they got, did they ever -- did they ever check background of these women? They don`t have any facts.


MATTHEWS: Mrs. Trump`s defense of her husband sounds very similar, many think, to another political spouse whose husband faced accusations about his private behavior. Watch this interesting comparison.


M. TRUMP: They want to damage the campaign. And why now? Why -- after so many years, why three weeks before the election?

HILLARY CLINTON, FIRST LADY: This is part of a continuing political campaign against my husband.

M. TRUMP: This is the media. It was NBC. It was "Access Hollywood." It was left-wing and -- left-wing media.

CLINTON: ... is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.

M. TRUMP: He`s kind. He`s a gentleman.

CLINTON: He is kind. He is friendly.

M. TRUMP: I believe my husband. I believe my husband.

CLINTON: I`m not only here because I love and believe my husband. I`m also here because I love and believe in my country.

TRUMP: It`s a lot of backlash on the media, the way they treated him.

CLINTON: This is deliberately designed to sensationalize charges against my husband, because everything else they tried has failed.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now are two of our campaign reporters.

Hallie Jackson is an NBC News correspondent covering Donald Trump. And Kasie Hunt is an NBC News correspondent covering Hillary Clinton.

I want to start with Kasie, who is with me.

I think that was a good piece of work by putting those two together, because the defenses are very similar.

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: They are, quite frankly.

And, look, I think the Clinton campaign has really not wanted to engage on this at all. I think, if you put the question to them, they immediately want to say, well, off the record, and they sort of push back. There`s sort of a stiffening in response to that, and I think it`s a place that they don`t want to go. They have steered clear of this.

They have steered clear of talking about her, even though I wonder if there`s any sympathy there from Hillary Clinton to Melania Trump, having gone through something similar.

MATTHEWS: Well, I feel something for her, because she`s obviously not into the political conversation we`re all in all the time. She`s a regular person. Right?

And I just -- I don`t know about you, but I think -- I will start with you and I will go to Hallie with the same question. Inevitably, I get criticism from people on the hard left saying, how come you`re not tougher on them on this private stuff? They`re the same exact people that said move on when Clinton got into trouble. The same exact people said this is great, focus on this, focus on this, who said, why are you talking about a guy`s private life?

Is anybody even-steven about this thing, anybody you meet?


HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, look, I think it`s a difficult and delicate...


MATTHEWS: Have you ever come across the person who has the same standard for Democrats as Republicans? Is that a rhetorical question?

JACKSON: The same standard for Democrats as Republicans?

MATTHEWS: And Republicans in terms of misbehavior in private life.

JACKSON: Look, I think that Republicans have often been judged differently on this because they have probably had a different set of policies publicly.

I think there`s been a lot of sense among Democrats that Republicans who say you should live X, Y, and Z way, they shouldn`t be judged for it in the political realm.

At the end of the day, I think it`s -- all`s fair in love and politics?

MATTHEWS: Democrats advocate loosey-goosey, that they can behave any way they want? I don`t know about that.

Hallie, I`m thinking about it. Hallie, what do you think about this thing about Melania? I think it`s like chicken soup. It can`t hurt. And she`s a sympathetic figure, a likable figure, and she`s not a pol. She`s not a politician.


JACKSON: Correct.

And she also -- she is not like -- she hasn`t oversaturated the media airwaves, if you will. She`s not a surrogate that the Trump campaign deploys almost ever, frankly, unlike, for example, Ivanka Trump, who, by the way, is going to be appearing publicly tomorrow morning for this Fortune summit, which will be interesting to watch.

But I think of Melania, Melania Trump, obviously Donald Trump`s wife, I think that there is a sense of, why not put her out there? But here`s the question mark, Chris, timing. Why wait? Why wait until they did, when the story had been sort of simmering away, if you will? It had taken a bit of a back burner compared to some other news about like Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, about the WikiLeaks releases, et cetera.

Why not put her out there when this was really sort of hot and heavy, if you will, the day that Melania Trump issued, for example, that public apology statement not on camera?

MATTHEWS: You know why. Hallie, you know why.

JACKSON: Yes, it`s media strategy, sure.


MATTHEWS: The reason why -- you know what they say about real estate? The best time to buy this lot was 20 years ago. The second best time is tomorrow morning. You know? They have to act now. It`s getting tense out there.

JACKSON: I get what you`re saying. And I think that this is a story obviously that Melania Trump is -- what`s the word? She`s sort of clinging to her husband`s line on this. She`s embracing what her husband is saying, of course, that this is a media conspiracy against him. And they are presenting a united front, as I think the campaign would want them to.


Some people think she may have hurt herself with this. Melania Trump also said in these interviews yesterday she sometimes feels like she has two boys at home. Let`s listen to this. Let`s watch.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: He described it as locker room talk.

TRUMP: Mm-hmm.

COOPER: To you. I mean, you sort of alluded to that as well. Is that what it is to you, just locker room talk?

TRUMP: Yes, it`s kind of two teenage boys. Actually, they should behave better, right?

COOPER: He was 59.

TRUMP: Correct. And sometimes I said I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband. So -- but, I know how some men talk, and that`s how I saw it, yes.


MATTHEWS: Do you think that was scripted? I have two boys at home. One is my son, and the other is a 59-year-old husband, in this case 70- year-old husband.

HUNT: I do think there have been a lot of women who have told pollsters that -- I think what -- they would sympathize with that, and that they think that this is how men talk in private, that that`s what a lot of people have told us in our NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" polling.

I think that`s probably something that there are probably a lot of women in America who can relate to the feeling.

MATTHEWS: Well, some of this stuff is beyond locker room.

Anyway, one of the -- Trump`s accusers, former "People" magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, is now speaking out. She says -- quote -- "Women are talking about this, and they need to. We cannot be silent anymore. I didn`t tell my story for politics. I told it for women."

Well, today, "People" magazine has reported that six colleagues of her, of Stoynoff, and close friends can corroborate Stoynoff`s account of being attacked by Trump and are coming forward. Stoynoff confided to these friends and co-workers about the attack shortly after she says it occurred.

NBC News has not verified these new accounts, and Donald Trump has vehemently denied this and all other allegations of sexual misconduct.

Hallie, that`s usually a way we judge if something actually happened, whether a person who experienced something, who was the victim of it, if you will, shared that information at the time it occurred, rather than waiting until there`s a political key moment to bring it out.

JACKSON: So, two points to make on this.

One is that, as you note, Trump himself, his campaign has denied all of these allegations, these five people who say they had the accounts corroborated to them at the time that they happened by Stoynoff, another who was with her when she later, apparently, she says, ran into Melania Trump in New York after the incident allegedly happened.

And here`s why that is significant. In that same CNN interview that you`re running with Melania Trump, Trump specifically is asked about that moment, running into this writer on the street. Melania Trump says it never happened. She says, who could believe her? She made it all up. It never happened.

What "People" magazine is saying is, well, now we have not just one, but two people who have vivid details, who remember down to the shoes that Melania Trump was wearing that moment when they did, in fact, interact, memorable to them, according to "People," because Melania Trump at the time was a celebrity.

So, it is putting into stark contrast what Trump and his family are saying vs. what this one woman is saying.

MATTHEWS: Someone in the news who everybody knows what they look like can meet people in that kind of a fashion and not remember it as well as somebody who has covered them.

I can imagine. Look, it`s always possible people don`t remember an encounter like that. But we`re not in court.

Anyway, thank you, Hallie Jackson. Thank you, Kasie Hunt.

Up next: Tomorrow night may be Donald Trump`s last, best chance to turn his struggling campaign around. What can he do? What can we expect to see on the debate stage here in Las Vegas? The HARDBALL roundtable is going to join us next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

A judge is telling angry Volkswagen owners he is likely to approve a nearly $10 billion settlement over the carmaker`s emissions cheating scandal.

It feels more like summer than autumn. Record-breaking temperatures are expected to surge across the Northeast until the middle of this week.

And President Obama and the first lady are hosting the Italian prime minister and his wife tonight at the president`s final state dinner. Celebrity chef Mario Batali is cooking, and singer Gwen Stefani is performing -- back to HARDBALL.


PAT SMITH, SON KILLED IN BENGHAZI: I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son, personally.



Welcome back.

Of course, that`s the mother of someone who was killed in the Benghazi incident. That was a passionate Pat Smith during the Republican Convention blaming Hillary Clinton personally for her son`s death in Benghazi.

Anyway, tomorrow night will be -- she will be Donald Trump`s personal guest for the third and final presidential debate. She`s also invited President Obama`s Kenyan-born half-brother, Malik Obama. He endorsed the Republican nominee back in July. So, he`s for Obama -- his half-brother.

Earlier this afternoon, we learned that Hillary Clinton has invited billionaire Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman to come tonight. We are going to have her on, I think, at some point tomorrow night.

So, just what can we expect from these candidates?

We`re joined right now by some experts, Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus. She is right here in this district. She`s a Clinton supporter. No surprise. And political analyst and MSNBC Jon Ralston, he`s our contributor here and he writes locally here, and former RNC Chair and MSNBC man about the country Michael Steele.


MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, let me ask you about this election.

Hillary Clinton tomorrow night, I think she is going to be on defense tomorrow, but she may come out and needle Trump, people think, on the rigged election thing, because he doesn`t have much evidence.

REP. DINA TITUS (D), NEVADA: Well, I don`t think she...

MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a clean election?

TITUS: Well, we are.

And you have heard Republican even chastise Donald Trump for talking about it being rigged. If you undermine our election process, that`s kind of the end of democracy. So, you have had...

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he`s doing it?

TITUS: Because he`s not going to win. If you can`t win by playing by the rules, then you say the rules are fake.

MATTHEWS: So, he expects to lose, you say, and this is hedging his bets, so he can blame it on the system?

TITUS: I think that`s exactly right.

If you look at the poll numbers across the country, here in Nevada included, where Clinton is up seven points, I think the handwriting is on the wall.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re saying he`s smart to do this.

TITUS: Well, I don`t think he`s smart to do anything that he`s been doing.


MATTHEWS: You make it sound like the numbers match up to his thinking. I think it`s depressing his vote.

What do you think, Jon? Do you think people more likely to vote when their candidate says, I`m going to lose?

JON RALSTON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, I don`t think he cares.

But I do think that his people were going to vote no matter what, and I think they`re going to vote...

MATTHEWS: I agree with you on that way. They would like to have 10 votes each.

RALSTON: Right. And they are going to vote just to show that the election is not rigged and that they`re going to win it for their man. That`s the Trump mentality.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, during his press conference with the prime minister of Italy, President Obama warned Donald Trump that the peaceful transition of power should always supersede politics. Let`s watch President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he got the most votes, then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from an effective government.

And it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to this Capitol, in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power.

That`s what Americans do. That`s why America is already great.


MATTHEWS: If you had to go to a boxing match tomorrow night with Mr. -- with Secretary Clinton, although it`s male/female, so you got to be careful about boxing metaphors, but...


MATTHEWS: ... would you go after her on open borders, her line when she was talking to the Brazilians for money that day? Would you go after her on this e-mail thing, where there`s apparently some kind of conversation that doesn`t look too pretty right now between State and the FBI about whether they`re going to downgrade or something some e-mail about Benghazi, doesn`t look too good, or would you talk about rigged elections?

What would do you if you`re Mr. Trump?

STEELE: I would lead with the e-mail.

MATTHEWS: Well, me too.

STEELE: I would give a left hook on the open borders. And I would do the uppercut on everything else.

And that`s pretty much the strategy. I mean, Donald Trump has -- if he stays in the game, he has weapons that he can deploy against Hillary tomorrow night. There`s no doubt about that.

But so does she. And the greatest weapon she has is getting under his skin.


STEELE: And, once she does that, his game plan goes out the window.

MATTHEWS: And she doesn`t touch him on Bill -- I mean on his behavior.


MATTHEWS: Because if she touches him on his behavior...

STEELE: She won`t open that door.

MATTHEWS: ... he hits -- he punches right back at Bill.


RALSTON: Well, the issue for her is the dishonesty question, right? And Trump`s numbers on dishonesty are even higher than hers.

MATTHEWS: Marginally.

RALSTON: Marginally.

STEELE: Marginally.


RALSTON: That`s why I think he uses -- yes, I think that`s why he uses the e-mails, though, because that goes directly to that. And then he can pivot off that to all kinds of other issues, including the quid pro quo that you referred to.

And I think, if he uses that, and if he can stay disciplined, which is like it`s going to snow here today, then he`d have a shot.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, how does Hillary Clinton defend the conduct of the State Department, which she led for four years, and the conduct of the FBI in this sort of meeting they had, without looking like part of the Washington problem?

If she starts playing defense on the system, he wins.

TITUS: Well, both of them have said that that wasn`t true. And she said that her campaign...


MATTHEWS: No, but this excellent FBI agent is still saying quid pro quo, isn`t he? I don`t know where he is right now.

TITUS: And she said it`s not.

But she doesn`t have to talk about those e-mails. She`s just got to change the subject and talk about him. And I believe that`s what she will do.

MATTHEWS: You think he will let her do that?

TITUS: Well, he`s been getting good advice from people like you all for a long time that he could pivot, he could turn, he could be presidential.

He`s not going to be any of those things. It`s too late. He`s running out of time. The Donald Trump that you see is the real Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Who is going to win out here?

TITUS: Oh, Hillary Clinton is going to win here.

MATTHEWS: I noticed that your numbers...


MATTHEWS: Jon, I hear your numbers here are same as the national number, seven points for Clinton. Right?

RALSTON: Well, the last two polls here have showed her up by about six points.

And he`s starting to slide here. He was even. He was ahead for a little while.

MATTHEWS: What has hurt him?

RALSTON: Well...

MATTHEWS: All the women stuff?

RALSTON: Yes, that has hurt him, plus just the inevitable coalescing of the vote here.

Nevadans are notoriously late deciders. And polling here has always been terrible, Chris. It`s undercounted the minority vote, which is going to be huge for Clinton. So, I think she is going to win by between five and 10 points. And the higher it gets, the more it affects the really important U.S. Senate race.

MATTHEWS: What does open borders mean to you? Hillary Clinton used that phrase. They dug it out because of WikiLeaks. She said it in a group of businesspeople from Brazil. She said, I`m for open borders and private and public whatever. Let me go with -- I will just stick with the open borders right now.

TITUS: I don`t think she meant literally open borders. You have to have borders to be a country.

MATTHEWS: What did she mean?

TITUS: I think she meant more cooperation around the globe. She`s the face that has the experience as secretary of state.

MATTHEWS: Is that what open borders means? Is that what open borders means?

TITUS: Well, it may be a poor choice of words.


MATTHEWS: It`s English. We should be able to handle it. What`s open borders mean?

STEELE: Open borders you are for a full-blown amnesty and that you have a policy in place that mitigates the kind of scrutiny that Donald Trump and others have been talking about.


STEELE: So, I don`t think people, when they hear those two words, think that, oh, yes, well, she`s secretary of state.


MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t use those words on the floor, would you, in a debate over immigration, I`m for open borders?

STEELE: Right. You wouldn`t use that term.

TITUS: Well, I think that her position in wanting comprehensive immigration reform...


MATTHEWS: That`s what most people want. I want a deal. I want to end the fight over this. I want it off the table for the next 20, 30 years.

STEELE: Yes, exactly. Exactly.


MATTHEWS: I want to deal with it fairly and progressively in a court. And don`t pass any law you don`t intend to enforce. Don`t pass another B.S. law like the one they did back...

STEELE: The `86 bill.

MATTHEWS: The `86 law that they never intended to enforce.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

We will be right back.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Las Vegas for tomorrow night`s debate.

We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable. UNLV, by the way, right now.


Anyway, tell me -- Michael, tell me something I don`t know.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The sleeper issue that`s just beginning to bubble is the whole question about voter fraud and Project Veritas is going to gather a little bit more steam, as more and more people look at these videos, start want to --

MATTHEWS: What`s the project video?

STEELE: Project Veritas is a group of students who went in, young people who went in and talked to some Hillary Clinton supporters and, you know, poster type folks who sort of exposed some of the shenanigans they were engaged in.

MATTHEWS: Give me one.

STEELE: Well, one was in terms of the rallies, at the Trump rallies paying people to actually go and protest start fights at the rally. They admitted to that on camera. So, it`s a big issue. It`s just beginning to break. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the guy who brought down ACORN, you like that group.



STEELE: I call them as I see them.

RALSTON: Something you didn`t know Nevada is the bellwether in this country. Did you know, you go back a hundred years and Nevada has chosen the winner of the presidential race every cycle except one? Do you know which one it was? What do you think?

MATTHEWS: Goldwater.

RALSTON: That`s close though, `76. That`s it, every year.

MATTHEWS: You guys voted for Gerry Ford.

RALSTON: Yes, exactly. And we voted for every winner.

MATTHEWS: Wow, you`re very important then.

REP. DINA TITUS (D), NEVADA: Yes, we are.

MATTHEWS: You`re the bellwether.

Tell me something I don`t know, Congresswoman.

TITUS: Well, you`re in the heart of district one and in this district, we have the state`s largest employer, MGM, and the smallest, lots of taco trucks. In both cases, a Republican CEO and a very energized Hispanic community are going for Hillary Clinton. So, despite the conventional wisdom, what happens here doesn`t stay here. It goes to the White House.

MATTHEWS: That ladies and gentlemen is a perfect example of wonderful high level flackery.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Congresswoman Dina Titus. Anyway, Jon Ralston, as always. Michael Steele, as always.

When we return, the great political cartoonist, Gary Trudeau is going to come here. He`s the guy who gave us Doonesbury. He`s going to come and talk about the collection.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Tune in tomorrow for all day coverage of the third and final presidential debate. At 7:00 Eastern, join me for a special edition of HARDBALL tomorrow night, right here from the campus of UNLV.

Then, at 8:00 Eastern, I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for a preview of the debate. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off at 9:00 Eastern, and then at 10:30, it`s full debate coverage and analysis.

Of course, we`ll be into the night and that`s all come up tomorrow here on MSNBC.

And we`ll be right back.



STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW: Now, sir, because we are on a network television show, I cannot allow you to endorse a candidate right now. But I would like to ask you about your choice of snacks. Could I do that?


COLBERT: All right, great.

I have two choices for you here. Would you care for an extra fiber nutrient bar, which traveled to more than 100 countries, or this shriveled tangerine covered in golden retriever hair filled with bile that I wouldn`t leave alone with the woman I love?

OBAMA: Well, I think I`ll go with the fiber nutrient bar.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`re back.

That was President Obama with I think Steve Colbert last night. This campaign might be testing our political system, but it has been a bonanza for comedians and humorists.

"Saturday Night Live" has used the two previous presidential debates to create masterpieces of satire this year. Let`s watch them again.


KATE MCKINNON AS HILLARY CLINTON: Number one, insurance companies can`t deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. Number two, no lifetime limits, which is a big deal if you have serious health problems, and number three -- sorry. And number three, women can`t be charged more than men for -- I thought I -- women can`t be charged more than men for health insurance, OK?

And number four --



MATTHEWS: That`s Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin.

Anyway, Garry Trudeau, the creator of comic Doonesbury actually made it out ahead of nothing. He`s been ahead of curve when it comes to satirizing Trump. He`s been drawing Trump, believe it or not, since 1987, that`s 29 years. He released a book of those cartoons this summer "Yuge!" spelled with a Y, "30 years of Doonesbury on Trump".

Garry Trudeau joins me now.

You know, as a character, you know, I`ve always thought of Trump since I`ve watched him become this figure, as sort of a if he were in a superman comic, he`d be downtown business tycoon walking around looking -- Trump with his khaki raincoat on, you know? He`s like a -- did he create this thing or did you, I mean, this idea of Trump as a brand?

GARRY TRUDEAU, "DOONESBURY" CREATOR: No, he arrived that way in New York. And he was representative of the big honking hubris of New York City in an extreme way. He was like a cartoon character -- he was like born a toon. He was a natural toon right out of the box. So, I just took him as he was and --

MATTHEWS: What were his reactions over the years? Were they ever biting?

TRUDEAU: Oh, yes, he trashed me for -- initially he said he was flattered.

MATTHEWS: Of course.

TRUDEAU: He totally should be flattered, which is what any politician would do. Thereafter, he just trashed me regularly.

MATTHEWS: To your face, on the phone?

TRUDEAU: Through the tabloids. The tabloids were the tweets of the `80s.

MATTHEWS: I was watching Letterman one night when Letterman was still on. He had Joe Theismann, some quarterback on, and maybe more recent than Theismann. He wanted somebody on another building, just to stand there and catch the football. A couple passes. He caught it.

It was Trump. He would show up just to be the guy with no big intro or pizzazz. Why did you want it? Why did he come out at 11:00 at night or whatever it was to do that?

TRUDEAU: Well, for the attention. But most politicians, if we can call him that now, avoid that kind of stuff, unless they`re doing what Obama does so skillfully.


TRUDEAU: But to actually subject yourself to humiliation is something that they avoid at all costs. I mean, satire is a kind of social control.

MATTHEWS: OK. Do you think he -- you know, I watched that "Frontline" documentary that said the reason Trump is running, I think it`s dangerous to get into motive, it`s always complicated, is because he was keelhauled by President Obama at the White House correspondents dinner, he sat there, he just laid into all the satire.

Do you think he`s moved by that anger and satire like your business?

TRUDEAU: I think so. But I think they -- I would be surprised if that was the moment that triggered his candidacy --

MATTHEWS: Why is he running? He didn`t think he`d win, did he?

TRUDEAU: I think what probably pushed him was in 2011, the summer of 2011 when he was on his birther campaign, he was getting numbers in the high 30s. And I think he thought then, I can do this. They`re the same numbers he`s getting now.

MATTHEWS: Then he`s sort of gone off his message. He had a message, trade, illegal immigration, stupid wars. It added up to a perfect storm of resentment.

TRUDEAU: Yes, I don`t think the issues have ever been terribly important to him, when he --

MATTHEWS: But they are to voters. That`s where there`s a difference. The voting who are voting for him aren`t voting for all the big showoff from New York. They`re voting for things they care about.

TRUDEAU: No, but what the people who love Donald Trump have really don`t seem to understand, this is very puzzling to me, is that he doesn`t love them back.

MATTHEWS: You think?

TRUDEAU: I think it`s unrequited.

MATTHEWS: Like Nixon.

TRUDEAU: Remember, his demographic are people who are alienated and they feel left behind by the economy. Donald Trump has a name for such people, losers. These aren`t people that he would socialize -- he doesn`t go into their kitchens and ask them what their problems are. They`re losers. He only likes losers in the aggregate.


MATTHEWS: I don`t get a chance to talk to someone like you on television much, a cultural figure. Bob Dylan.

TRUDEAU: How wonderful, long overdue.

MATTHEWS: He`s so great that they gave it to somebody who really was creative and spoke, to me, a couple decades of language.

TRUDEAU: But you didn`t understand him at first, right? I mean, he was so -- the lyrics were so strange and we spent a lot of time deconstructing lyrics.

MATTHEWS: There was sentiment in that voice, though. I thought I heard something there.

TRUDEAU: I thought it was the sound of the words. I thought it was about the music, about the poetry, and he, in fact, said that like 30 years later in an interview. He said, I just wanted to rhyme, man.

MATTHEWS: He`s got a group named after his song, he`s got a magazine. Jann Wenner has the magazine. "Rolling Stone" is something we`ll always know.

Anyway, thank you, Garry Trudeau, an icon himself.

Before we take a break, take a look at moments ago, President Obama and the first lady were hosting a dinner. I guess we won`t get to that. There they are right there, they`re coming up. This is their last state dinner. This is so iconic, coming down those stairs to greet the people with the 41-year-old prime minister of Italy. Wow. Good for him.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Election diary Tuesday, October 18th, 2016.

We stand tonight on the eve of one of the wildest political events of our lifetimes. Donald Trump, who did badly in the first debate, did better in the second, must win tomorrow night at all costs. The reasons were in the numbers. Before the first debate, he was one point behind Secretary Clinton. Before the second, he was three points behind. Right now, he`s seven points behind and fading.

That means tomorrow it is kitchen sink night. He will throw everything he has against Clinton, everything. He will accuse the State Department of trying to cover up a Benghazi related e-mail, of colluding with the media to rig the election. He`ll do everything he can to attack her credibility.

I recommend you watch. Everyone has to vote in three weeks. This is not going to be the most satisfying election we have been through. So, it will make us feel better to make sure we`ve given Trump a very good look, given Trump under pressure, a really good look. Because with all the needed talk about how a presidential candidate would act under pressure, tomorrow night, we`re going to get a giant preview of coming attractions. We`re going to see Trump be Trump, trying to win when it doesn`t look so good that he`s going to win, when he`s seven points down and falling.

The same goes while differently for his rival. Hillary Clinton has a chance tomorrow night in this last debate to show what Ernest Hemingway called "grace under pressure" -- the courage to face her accuser calmly, to hear him attack her at very close range, then look back at him and then say to the country, I am the person to get you through this. If I can take this, I can take the larger test events will put before me. The most vivid case for my election may well be my serene confidence in facing down this guy.

In any case, this is the big one. The last saloon before the desert, the final face-to-face, the last grand chance to sit, watch, listen and decide which of these two you trust to lead the country.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.