Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/13/2016

Guests: Heidi Przybyla, Michael Crowley, Rand Paul, Paul Murphy, Susan Page, Eric Lipton, Anthony Scaramucci, Jay Newton-Small

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 13, 2016 Guest: Heidi Przybyla, Michael Crowley, Rand Paul, Paul Murphy, Susan Page, Eric Lipton, Anthony Scaramucci, Jay Newton-Small

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m an oil man!

Let`s play HARDBALL!

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Huge news this morning and bigger news tonight. Start with the appointment of Exxonmobil CEO Rex Tillerson to the premier cabinet position, secretary of state. How much trouble is this going to cause? Will Republican senators agree to having as our country`s top foreign policy officer a man so cozy with Vladimir Putin? Will they?

Speaking of cozy, "The New York Times" reporting tonight that a Moscow hacker calling itself Cozy Bear -- you know, like in the Russian bear -- has been hacking into the Democratic National Committee for months. It`s been joined in the hacking, going back to September of last year, in tilting (ph) the U.S. presidential election in the direction of Donald Trump by fellow hacker Fancy Bear, the one connected to Russian military intelligence.

So why didn`t the FBI tell the country this was going on last September? And why does Donald Trump keep denying that Russians were doing the hacking? And why didn`t the White House blow the whistle on the Russian hacking in the first place? Cozy Bear was, after all, going after the White House, as well.

So we begin tonight with the news about the secretary of state. After weeks of public auditions that took on the air of reality TV, Donald Trump has made his pick. In the end, it wasn`t Rudy Giuliani, his loyal defender, or Mitt Romney, who Trump had taken to dinner, or General Petraeus or John Bolton, thank God. The rose (ph) ultimately went to Rex Tillerson.

And now the drama moves to Capitol Hill. Tillerson`s ties to Vladimir Putin have raised alarms among Democrats and top Republicans. Senator Marco Rubio said today, "I have serious concerns about his nomination." Senator Lindsey Graham said, "There are many questions which must be answered. I expect the U.S./Russian relationship to be front and center in his confirmation process."

And here was Senator John McCain yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I also, as a hundred of us, have to exercise our best judgment. But when he gets the Friendship Award from a butcher, frankly, it`s an issue that I think needs to be examined. And again, that does not mean we should prejudge Mr. Tillerson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Tillerson certainly has his heavyweight supporters. Among them, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who said today he was an excellent choice for secretary of state. "He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience."

Former secretary of defense Bob Gates said, "I strongly endorse the president-elect`s selection of Rex Tillerson to be the next secretary of state."

Well, both Rice And gates, it should be known, have done consulting work for money for Exxonmobil.

Another voice of support for Tillerson was the former vice president and former CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney. He said, "The selection of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state is an inspired choice. I have known Rex for many years, both in his role as the chairman and CEO of Exxon and as a personal friend. I`m confident he will do a superb job promoting our national interests in dealing with the complex and difficult choices that are on the agenda for the next administration." That`s Dick Cheney.

I`m joined right now by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Thank God you`re on that committee.

Let me ask you, what does Dick Cheney push this guy for? He`s an oil guy with Halliburton. Now he`s pushing a fellow oil guy. Do the neocons have their arms around Tillerson already? What`s going on here? Why has he got the love of Cheney, the hawk?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, I just hope he didn`t get a friendship award from Dick Cheney.

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.

PAUL: That might be a problem. But you know, I`m keeping an open mind on Tillerson. I want to know what his world view is more than where he`s traveled or who he knows. And I think it may be overblown. I mean, he`s made deals in many, many countries. You know, some award -- you know, I don`t know that this mean that he`s skiing and fishing with Putin, some award. So let`s hear at least a little bit about what his world view is.

Does he believe in intervention ad nauseam in the Middle East? Does he believe in regime change, nation building? You know, some of the things that I`ve been encouraged about Donald Trump -- we haven`t agreed on some things, but I have been encouraged that he thinks that regime change in the Middle East hasn`t made us safer or more secure, that he hasn`t been for nation building, regime change, and he thinks that -- I honestly believe he`s learned the lesson that the Iraq war didn`t help us as a country.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know who hasn`t learned his lesson because it`s who he is, essentially, and that`s John Bolton. That guy won`t quit. His desire for power and to wheedle his way into every Republican administration is relentless. The neocon network helps him.

Here he is, John Bolton, the man NBC reports as being -- I love this phrase -- actually, I hate it -- eyed for deputy secretary of state, has advocated for bombing Iran.

Here he was just last year. This is Bolton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO U.N., FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Just as Israel twice before has struck nuclear weapons programs in the hands of hostile states, I`m afraid, given the circumstances, that`s the only real option open to us now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now? Or are you saying leading into the future?

BOLTON: No, I would have done this five or six years ago because the earlier you strike, the more damage you can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. Bolton on Fox. Unbelievable combination. That was a strong booster, of course he was, of the Iraq invasion, still is. In 2002, Bolton peddled bad information about that country`s weapons program. Quote, "We are confident," he said at the time, "that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq."

Well, last May, Bolton continued to defend the invasion -- that`s last month (sic) -- telling "The Washington Examiner," a conservative newspaper, "I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct." I love the way -- it`s so prissy, "correct."

He echoed that sentiment as recently as yesterday. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOLTON: I was a member of George W. Bush`s administration. He supported the Iraq war. Of course I supported the Iraq war. I`ve written on the subject, some people would probably say endlessly, about what the lessons are to be learned from it. I`ve put it out on the record. I`ve never hidden my views from anybody, and I absolutely don`t back away from them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator Paul, isn`t it interesting that the ones who backed the Iraq war also backed going into Libya, also backed going into Syria. And they always have one -- like in a little Pez dispenser, little candy dispenser. They always have the next war they want us to fight. There`s always one -- they push the button, another war comes out. They always want a new war, and Bolton`s classic.

Your thoughts.

PAUL: Well, this is...

MATTHEWS: Will you be able to stop this guy if gets in the door?

PAUL: Well, this is why learning the historical lessons are important. This isn`t the Iraq war from 15 years ago or 14 years ago that we`re concerned about. We`re worried about whether or not he learned the lesson from that war. But he didn`t. He advocated for regime change in Libya -- turned into chaos and ISIS actually became strengthened. And I think we`re more at risk now for a terrorist attack from Libya than we were before the war.

He`s also advocated for regime change in Syria. And as bad a guy as Assad is, I don`t know that that`s helped us because I think it actually has created a power vacuum where ISIS has filled that vacuum.

But even moreso, advocating for regime change in Iran is a real problem because it shows this naive understanding of the world that he thinks, Oh, everything`s going to be great. We`re going to drop a few bombs. They`ll have a new government there. Thomas Jefferson will be elected, and there`ll be no more problems in Iran.

Well, it didn`t work out that way in Iraq, and I think Iran`s a bigger, much stronger country than Iraq ever was. And I don`t think he`s learned any of the lessons of the Iraq war, and he wants to reinstitute a new war in Iran.

So no, I think this person, John Bolton, should never have any position in the State Department. I will vote no, and I hope my vote will be the deciding vote to keep him out of the State Department.

MATTHEWS: Or maybe we put him out on point in the next conflict, he`ll change his mind. Make him go out in front.

Anyway, Senator Rand Paul, one last thought. Do you think there`s any possibility that if we do establish a working relationship with Vladimir Putin in Syria, that somehow, we can perhaps partition the country, put Bashar Assad into an Alawite area, just the area where they`re very loyal to him, break up the country, give the Sunnis some leadership over there so they can grab most of the country from ISIS?

In other words, a hopeful -- I don`t see anything happening now as long as Assad`s there. What can we do -- do you think the selection of Tillerson and working with Putin might work, some deal that gets us to a closer place to peace?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think this is a very important question, even with regards to Iraq, as well. I think Iraq has disintegrated into at least two countries, maybe two countries and a civil war region. Syria`s the same way.

And will they ever be put back together? There are a lot of smart people who look at foreign policy who don`t see those countries ever being put back together. The Kurds are advocating for their own country.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAUL: You know, Joe Biden, many years ago -- and he and I don`t agree on everything, but he did talk about dividing Iraq probably 15 years ago. The Turks ruled it from the Ottoman empire with different provinces. So I think it should be entertained.

And actually, I`m supportive of the Kurds. They fought the best and the hardest. I`m supportive of them having their own homeland. They seem to be good allies and friends of ours. And in fact, I think they would actually do more for liberating us from ISIS if we were giving weapons directly to them and not sending the weapons through Baghdad.

MATTHEWS: Well, it ultimately worked in Europe. We divided Europe up. We divided The Balkans up and Yugoslavia up. And sometimes people live better when they divorce from each other and they don`t have to deal with each other every day.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Rand Paul, for coming on tonight. I agree with you. I hope we can stop Bolton.

Anyway, this morning, Trump`s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus defended Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, against charges he was too close to Putin. Let`s watch Reince.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can somebody who has a friendship plaque in his office be tough on Vladimir Putin?

REINCE PRIEBUS, TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF DESIGNATE: Well, Rex Tillerson`s a really tough guy. And you know what? Athletes, astronauts, musicians, other Americans, Canadians, a lot of folks have gotten that award.

But the truth is, is that having relationships with people is not a bad thing. I don`t know how we got to the place where having an actual functional relationship with someone who might not be a person that we`d first think of to have that relationship with is suddenly a bad thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Chris Murphy is a United States senator from Connecticut, of course. He`s also, most importantly, on the Foreign Relations Committee.

I can`t think of a better committee to be on right now, Senator!

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s the center of a lot of action right now.

MATTHEWS: Because it`s -- what is -- what`s the ratio of Republicans to Democrats?

MURPHY: Yes, it`s a two-vote majority for Republicans. So if one Republican on that committee votes against one of these nominees, it`s a deadlocked vote. And in the committee process, the vice president doesn`t break a tie,

MATTHEWS: So Marco Rubio`s the man on the horse here?

MURPHY: I think everybody on the Republican side`s going to have a lot to say here. And listen, I just don`t know how these Republicans, who have been eviscerating President Obama for the last two years for being too soft on Vladimir Putin, can turn around and vote for a nominee who is widely advertised as someone who has been an ally of Putin and who will be an ally of Putin in the Department of State. I don`t know how you do that pivot on that committee.

And so I would be surprised if Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Marco Rubio vote for Tillerson because they have been really consistent in their belief that the worst thing the Trump administration could do is turn to this new fictional alliance that they believe is going to happen with the Russians. Ultimately, the Russians...

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m more hopeful than you. But let me ask about -- you know this better than I do, and I`ve heard this. Who controls U.S. foreign policy region by region? I`m told it`s the National Security Council, that the experts on the National Security Council meet with the president -- in this case, it will be Trump -- and tell him or her every day what`s going on, and that`s what guides our policy.

The ambassadors carry out the policy. The regional assistant secretaries carry it out. But U.S. foreign policy is set in the National Security Council. Is that true, or will it -- could it conceivably be set in the State Department?

MURPHY: I think it`s different under each president. Under President Bush, it was the Defense Department. In the Obama administration, it`s been controlled within the White House by Denis McDonough...

MATTHEWS: No, the NSC.

MURPHY: ... and the NSC. So I don`t know what Trump`s structure is going to look like. But you`re right, we have largely outsourced foreign policy away from the Department of State to the Department of Defense. Whether that continues under Trump, I can`t tell you.

MATTHEWS: How do you see this balancing act between -- what`s this -- what`s the guy called, "Mad Dog" Mattis, and this guy, the new secretary of state, Tillerson? Is it going to be a hawk versus dove thing there? What`s going on there?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, the fact that you see Condoleezza Rice and bob Gates wrapping their arms or Dick Cheney wrapping their arms around Tillerson...

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re all hawks.

MURPHY: ... right -- suggests that this guy may be more in their camp. We know that Mattis views the world still through a military...

MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a question...

MURPHY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... which gets to your mail? Do you get a lot of push from the neocons -- you know who they are, the very hawkish people, on the Middle East and other policies. Are they pushing for Tillerson? Because when I see names like Condi and I see names like -- like Dick Cheney involved, I go, What are they up to? What do they want?

MURPHY: Yes, I think they see him as a friend.

MATTHEWS: The neocons do.

MURPHY: Yes. I think we have to ask what his views are on the issues that Rand raised. But to the extent that within hours of his nomination, it gets these guys...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Will you vote to block a John Bolton for anything?

MURPHY: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Anything?

MURPHY: Yes, John Bolton would lead us back into war. He can`t be in the State Department.

MATTHEWS: I love to hear that. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Chris Murphy. (INAUDIBLE) anytime.

Let`s go back -- let`s go to my expert here, Susan Page. You just heard from two senators, one a libertarian, one a traditional, I guess, foreign policy Democrat. Are we going to have Tillerson? Looks like he`s going to get through. I don`t think Bolton`s going to get through.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Yes, it`s interesting. Even Rand Paul, who`s been a critic on Russia policy, did not signal he was going to oppose Tillerson. He said you can`t judge him just by accepting that decoration, that order of friendship, from Putin.

But pretty hard line from both these senators on John Bolton. So that could well be a nomination that has more trouble. You know, Democrats are not going to be able to block a lot of Trump nominees, we don`t think, but they may be in a position to make a case against a few, and maybe Bolton is going to be the case study.

MATTHEWS: It often devolves down to somebody at the relatively lower level where you have your real battle royal, I`ve noticed, even when there`s fights on the Hill.

What is Trump? Is he the dove who ran against the Iraq war and said it was a stupid war over and over and over again, even though he had back then not quite been against it? Is he that guy now? Why is he playing footsie with the neocons?

PAGE: I`m not sure Donald Trump has traditional ideological...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is he going to be loyal to those constituents who voted for him?

PAGE: I think he`s got a businessman`s outlook. I think he has an attention span that`s focused on a lot of different things, not in depth on anything in particular. I think Mike Pence is coming out to be the most powerful vice president since Cheney during Bush`s first term. So it`s a different -- I think it`s a different sort of foreign policy than we`ve seen, certainly, in the last few presidents.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) to the senator on this. Senator, it seems to me that one interesting thing is, you can pick an agent for foreign minister or secretary of state, someone who`s a staffer type, who will do what you tell them and you`re in constant phone contact with them or have them back all the time, or pick you can a heavyweight. It looks to me like in Tillerson, he`s picked a viceroy, a big -- like -- like President Obama picked Hillary Clinton, a real partner, a big-time person. Your thoughts.

MURPHY: But doing oil deals in the Middle East is not the same thing as trying to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. I think...

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re not going to do that in this administration.

MURPHY: No, but I think what`s dangerous to me is this is the first president we`ve ever had with no government experience who`s picked a secretary of state who will be the first with no diplomatic or government experience. And learning on the job, both at the executive and at the secretary of state`s office, dangerous at this moment in time.

MATTHEWS: Why are we moving the embassy to Jerusalem at a time that the whole place over there could blow up? Why do we something that`s right in the face of the Palestinians, right in the face of the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Egyptians? The one thing they say is, Leave, you know, the Dome of the Rock alone. Leave our -- the hopeful capital of a Palestinian state alone. Don`t desecrate it by saying it`s the capital of Israel at this point.

MURPHY: Well, George Bush...

MATTHEWS: Why are we doing it?

MURPHY: Well, remember, George Bush said he was going to...

MATTHEWS: They all do it for political reason.

MURPHY: ... up until he made the decision not to move the embassy.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t do it. You say you`re going to do it to pander a little bit. Fine, that`s politics. But you don`t actually do it. Doesn`t Trump know this?

MURPHY: Well, he hasn`t done it yet. And I don`t think we know...

MATTHEWS: OK. Would you fight it?

MURPHY: ... what of this rhetoric is going to...

MATTHEWS: Would you fight it?

MURPHY: ... turn into reality.

MATTHEWS: Would you fight it?

MURPHY: (INAUDIBLE) see the proposal he makes. I don`t think it`s the right moment to do it.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Thank you, Senator Chris Murphy. Thank you, Susan Page.

Coming up, a big bombshell in "The New York Times" about -- I mentioned it before -- the scope and sophistication of Russia`s interference with our election. You won`t believe this huge story. The FBI -- it`s coming in the paper tomorrow. The FBI knew the Russians were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, as early as last September, September 2015. So why did it take a year for the government to call Russia out on it? And how come Donald Trump keeps denying Russia`s involvement? And why -- oh, just all whys! Why didn`t we know this?

Plus, Trump`s other cabinet pick today is Rick Perry for secretary of energy. Remember, energy was the department Perry couldn`t remember, the one that he said he wanted to eliminate but couldn`t remember the name of the department when he ran for president. What a hoot, if that`s what you want to call it. Anyway, Trump`s giving a cabinet job to someone who wants to get rid of that cabinet department. That`ll be interesting.

And the HARDBALL roundtable tonight`s going to be here. They`re going to tell me some things I don`t know about, three of them. I don`t know about this transition team.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the naming of Rex Tillerson and what it could mean to the Middle East.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Another cabinet appointment to report from the Trump transition. NBC News can report that Trump has tapped first-term congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana to be the next secretary of the interior. Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, was an early supporter of Trump`s.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

"The New York Times" is out, as I said earlier, with a detailed account of Russia`s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election by hurting Hillary Clinton`s chances and tipping the election to Donald Trump.

According to "The Times"` article out tomorrow morning, the FBI alerted the Democratic National Committee back in September of 2015 that -- quote -- "At least one computer system belonging to the DNC had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named the Dukes, a cyber-espionage team linked to the Russian government."

Well, "The New York Times" goes on to report that -- quote -- "The low-key approach of the FBI meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee`s network for nearly seven months before top DNC officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyber-experts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the DNC, including Mrs. Clinton`s campaign chairman, John Podesta, whose private e- mail account was hacked months later."

Well, joining me right now is one of the reporters who broke this huge story for "The Times," Eric Lipton.

Eric, thanks for coming on today especially.

What I couldn`t get -- well, I could get, but it bugged me. I will just say it bugged me. This I.T. at the DNC got a call from the FBI that they were being hacked and just sort of sat on it. And then the FBI never got in a taxi or whatever and drove over to the DNC -- it`s only 15, 20 minutes away -- and told them what was going on. It was so weak, the effort at communication.

I wonder who`s responsible, the failure of the DNC kid or whoever it was to bring it to the attention of the chair, or the failure of the FBI to show any earnestness in pursuing the party?

ERIC LIPTON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it`s a collection of missed opportunities that has real consequences.

And I think that, clearly, the DNC I.T. guy did not take the threat seriously enough, mostly because, when he first gets a telephone call that comes into the front desk and gets passed to him, at first, he doesn`t believe that he`s actually speaking to an FBI agent, because the FBI agent can`t e-mail him, because, if he e-mails the I.T. guy, he`s going to reveal to the Russian hackers that the FBI is on to them.

So he simply calls them and says, look in your system. And the I.T. guy thinks it`s just some hoax. So, he -- and then the FBI guy keeps calling him again and again and again. It goes on for like two, three months. And still he doesn`t necessarily believe him. So, he isn`t seriously looking within the system. And this drags on for months, unfortunately.

MATTHEWS: Well, is this person, this I.T. guy, a political person? A political person would know this was very important. This would be -- this is hot stuff, that the Russians are trying to get into your system.

I guess that`s the hard part, that somebody wouldn`t think it was politically frightening that you`re getting -- you`re getting hacked during the middle of -- the beginning of a presidential campaign, that that wasn`t news.

LIPTON: And there was multiple problems.

First of all, this was not a cyber-security guy, but it was essentially like the I.T. help guy.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Why did they call him? Why did they call him?

(CROSSTALK)

LIPTON: The DNC did not have -- right. The DNC did not have the money to have a proper cyber-security team, or at least they hadn`t budgeted the money for that.

And he was the guy who was -- he`s a consultant. And he was the guy who got the phone call, and he handled it, he fielded it. And the other problem was that, I mean, the FBI was not very specific with the information. They didn`t give them a great amount of detail that could help them look within their server to find where the hackers were.

And the DNC didn`t also have particularly advanced monitoring software that would allow them to detect it. When we spoke with some of the experts who then were hired once they realized that they`d been hacked, they wondered, why didn`t the FBI essentially just walk over?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LIPTON: I mean, they`re a half-a-mile away -- knock on the door, call Debbie Wasserman Schultz, say, we see a problem here?

And it`s hard to understand. I mean, we`re talking about the DNC, which is helping run the presidential primaries, and, you know, is involved in the 2016 campaign in a fundamental way. You would think that the FBI would realize they need to evaluate.

MATTHEWS: I would think, evaluate from the ground up.

Let me ask you about the White House position. Can you tell from your reporting when they got the word that this was going on, that there was a real problem here with hacking going on from the Russians of the Democrats and that -- because, in your piece, you point out that they were trying to hack into or did hack into the White House system as well.

Why didn`t they go to war and say publicly, the Russians are -- we`re putting you on guard right now, on notice, stop this now in its tracks or we`re coming at you?

Why didn`t they do like that a year ago?

LIPTON: Well, it was not until the end of April that the DNC finally formally confirmed that they had this malware in the system and that they had been compromised.

And so -- and then it wasn`t until June 15 that it became public, because they spent six weeks trying to make sure that they were out of their system before it became public.

The White House appears to have gotten more engaged starting in the early summer, and then began a series of deliberations to decide, what should our response be? Should we attribute it publicly to the Russians? And if we attribute to it Russians, should we take some type of retaliatory action, maybe sanctions or some other action, to make it clear that this was an unacceptable activity?

They hesitated to do either of those things. It wasn`t until October 7 that they put out a public statement from the intelligence community, you know, blaming the Russians. And they waited and waited and waited because they -- for a variety reasons, including they didn`t want to be seen as tipping the scale in the election.

And they also didn`t want to, you know, produce a retaliatory action by the Russians that they feared could escalate things. So, the White House was unsure what to do. And so they delayed. And it actually quite angered the Democrats inside the DNC, who were saying, we need the administration to make a public stand, to say, we were attacked, our country was attacked, this is not, you know, a small matter.

MATTHEWS: And, of course, you can watch -- all the people watching right now, listening right now who are partisan, whatever direction, they will say, wait a minute, that wasn`t the position of Comey and the FBI. They had no problem coming out a week-and-a-half before the election with something that really hurt Hillary Clinton badly, in fact, perhaps existentially in terms of her campaign. So, different judgments there.

Eric Lipton, fabulous piece, "New York Times." You guys are going to get some awards for this baby.

Anyway, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly reluctant to place blame at the doorstep of the Russians over the cyber-attacks. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

I notice, any time anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians -- she doesn`t know if it`s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. From everything I see, has no respect for this person.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that`s because he would rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it`s pretty clear...

TRUMP: You`re the puppet.

CLINTON: It`s pretty clear you won`t admit...

TRUMP: No, you`re the puppet.

She has no idea whether it`s Russia, China, or anybody else.

CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.

TRUMP: She has no idea.

CLINTON: I am quoting 17...

TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

CLINTON: ... 17 intelligence -- do you doubt 17 military and civilian...

TRUMP: Our country has no idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Not a great moment in American history.

I`m joined right now by Anthony Scaramucci, executive board member of the Trump transition.

Anthony, thank you for coming on again this week.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM MEMBER: Hi, Chris.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this FBI story, "The New York Times" story today about the FBI`s looking at this hack going back to September of `15, more than a year ago, the DNC`s apparently faulty effort to react to it, the FBI`s lack of zest in pursuing it, I must say, and the White House`s failure to move on it, and your guy Donald Trump`s denial that it was, in fact, the case?

Is he going to keep up that denial after "The Times" hits the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... hits the top floor tomorrow?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I`m with him all day. And so I -- it`s not that he`s denying it. He`s just waiting for more evidence to come out.

Listen, we stand alongside of everybody else that thinks that hacking the DNC or hacking any American organization, corporations like Sony or the American government, is not something that we want happening.

We denounce all hackers out there. I just think -- I said this to you last week and I will say it again today. Even John Clapper today said that there`s some conflicting information that`s come out between the CIA and the FBI. So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you mean? Conflicting about whether -- no, just a minute there, because we have got Cozy Bear and we have got Fancy Bear.

We have got Fancy Bear associated with defense intelligence in Russia. We have known about those babies for years. And we know about Cozy Bear, which apparently was active as recently as -- as long as ago as September of `15.

If that is true or not -- the question is, is it true or not? Does Donald Trump accept the reporting of "The New York Times" on this matter? Does he or not?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: No, I would say that we want to wait for more official information. But let`s say that that is true, Chris. Let`s accept everything that the report...

MATTHEWS: Well, why say it`s true if you don`t want to say it? If you don`t believe it`s true, don`t say it`s true.

SCARAMUCCI: I`m trying to make a bigger point to you and your viewers.

The bigger point is that we absolutely and unequivocally denounce the hacking of American organizations and American institutions. And so...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

You know, this is a ploy. Anthony, this is a ploy that your candidate -- and not you, but your candidate did back when he was saying, we don`t know whether Barack Obama was American-born. We don`t know. We`re going to get more information. I have got people out looking in Hawaii. I have got inspectors down there coming up with really fascinating stuff.

SCARAMUCCI: I just gave you the point, though, Chris.

MATTHEWS: This ploy has been going on.

Do you or not? Does your candidate officially read "The New York Times" and the -- will he read this account?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, he reads "The Times" every day. He reads all of these papers. Some of them, he likes. Some of them, he doesn`t like.

But...

MATTHEWS: Well, does he believe this account?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let`s -- Chris, you`re not letting me talk.

Let`s accept that the account is 100 percent true. We denounce it. We don`t want people hacking our institutions, governmental institutions or otherwise.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SCARAMUCCI: So, what are you upset with about that, what I just said? Why is that a ploy?

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not upset. It`s because he said that -- he`s been showing things like -- and we could show the tape a hundred times. We probably will -- it could be a 400-pound person lying in bed somewhere.

What`s with the -- with that kind of imagery? Why does that do when we`re involved in a serious discussion? Why does he say things like, it could be a 400-pound person lying in bed somewhere? What does that mean?

SCARAMUCCI: I think he likes rhetorical flourishes like that because they have a greater dramatic effect on the viewer.

I think he`s basically trying to tell people, listen, we honestly don`t know what is going on. We denounce whatever -- if you think it`s true, and it is true, Chris, we denounce it.

MATTHEWS: I believe it.

SCARAMUCCI: But let`s -- OK. And I know you believe it. I can tell by the way you`re interviewing the reporter that you believe it.

And it probably is true. And if it is, we have got to put a stop to it, you, me, the American government. We have to come together and solve these issues on behalf of the American people.

If it`s happened before, it will happen again, and we have to come up with ways through cyber-technology and anti-cyber-piracy to stop it. And the president is meeting with a whole group of technology leaders tomorrow -- or the president-elect, I should say -- to discuss this sort of stuff.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I just wish -- since you`re speaking for him, I just wish, Anthony, you would lose the subjunctive and get to the reality here, which is not if, if, if, if.

You have to say, now that we know, we`re going to say something on it. Let`s -- I just think Trump ought to say something.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: But, Chris, you and I are writing the same English composition or having the same oral exam. I just said that it`s a terrible thing if it happened.

MATTHEWS: If it happened.

SCARAMUCCI: And you don`t like the word if.

And you know what? When you`re part of the American government or part of the American transition, you want to be very definitive about these things.

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

SCARAMUCCI: I don`t want to fly off on the handle and say something that may or may not be true. And I know you respect that about me.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

Well, thank you, Anthony Scaramucci, for coming on the program.

Up next: Trump`s other Cabinet decision today is to put former Texas Governor Rick Perry in charge of the Energy Department, the energy -- well, it`s actually the agency he forgot even existed when he was listing the departments he wanted to eliminate. Remember that? Oops. That`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DARA BROWN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Dara Brown. Here`s what`s happening.

President Obama signed a $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act earlier. It provides nearly $2 billion for cancer research and $1 billion to fight opioid addiction.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has vetoed a bill that would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. However, Kasich did sign another measure that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.

And the State Department says it cannot confirm reports of a cease-fire in the Syrian capital of Aleppo -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

By naming Rick Perry as his secretary of energy, president-elect Donald Trump is choosing someone who said he wants to abolish the very department he`s now set to lead. In fact, when Perry was a candidate for president back in 2011, the Department of Energy was the third agency he wanted to kill, the one he famously, or infamously, forgot when he promised sweeping cuts to the federal government.

Here it goes again, Rick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY (R), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education, and the -- what`s the third one there? Let`s see.

(LAUGHTER) The third agency of government, I would -- I would do away with, the Education, the...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commerce.

PERRY: Commerce. And let`s see. I can`t. The third one, I can`t. Sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Perry now joins a growing list of appointees who have expressed beliefs that are at odds with the purpose, you would think, of the departments they`re out to lead.

Scott Pruitt, for example, Trump`s choice for EPA, is a global warming skeptic and has called the EPA a Byzantine regulatory regime.

Trump`s pick for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, has argued against raising the minimum wage and has championed replacing human labor with machines, not exactly the idea of labor as we know it.

Betsy DeVos, who`s set to lead the Department of Education, has fought to deliver tax money to private and parochial schools through vouchers, rather than the public schools.

And Trump`s pick for Health and Human Services, Congressman Tom Price, has made repeated attempts to replace Obamacare.

Anyway, I`m joined right now by Jay Newton-Small, contributor to "TIME" magazine.

Jay Newton, it`s been called the anti-government, because it`s all there. But talk about Rick Perry. He`s known, unfortunately, for wearing nice blazers and looking good, but he does have this problem with oops.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME": Oops.

MATTHEWS: And now the department he wanted to get rid of, which is far more important, he`s now being asked to lead.

Why would he want to lead a department? I mean, I remember Reagan named somebody, Bill Bennett, to run Education. But what`s the point?

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, I think it`s a bit of a sabotage from within, right? That`s exactly what Reagan did, is, he couldn`t get rid of these departments. Every president in modern history has promised to get rid of departments of government. And none of them have actually succeeded, because it`s such a massive mass of bureaucracy.

It`s so difficult to change Washington, change the federal government, that, in fact, the only president who`s managed to change the federal government`s footprint was George W. Bush. After 9/11, he added an agency to the government, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

NEWTON-SMALL: And so -- and so what Reagan did is, since he couldn`t get rid of them, he kind of put in people who changed the culture from within.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the problem. You`re a journalist. You know this story.

If you pick somebody to run the EPA, then all the reporters who are the beat reporters for EPA are kind of into environmentalism and climate issues. That`s why they chose that beat, if they could choose it. So they`re going to write for the next year about what`s going on at the EPA.

And the constituents of the EPA are environmental groups, wildlife, all kinds of groups, Sierra. They`re all there. So, all the constituency groups and all the journalists who cover the constituency groups and cover that department and its purposes will be out to make life very unpleasant for Mr. Scott Pruitt.

So, he`s creating these nests of trouble for himself, it seems to me. You can argue about vouchers, but it`s very hard to put somebody in there who`s anti-environmental in the Environmental Protection Agency, or anti-labor, who wants to have machines and robots.

(CROSSTALK)

NEWTON-SMALL: But all of these things they do, I mean, there`s only so much you can do, right? So, when you do rule-making in any of these agencies, there`s a whole sort of very staid process, where you have to introduce the rule, you have to have public hearings and you have to have more public hearings. And then, once the rule is passed, you can sue it, right?

So, you can -- you can bet there`s a ton of environmental lawyers.

MATTHEWS: You have to put it in the federal digest for X-many weeks and all that stuff, yes.

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, exactly.

You have to publish it.

And so then you can bet there`s a ton of people who are going to -- you`re going to see Pruitt -- Sierra Club vs. Pruitt. Like, all of these groups are just going to sue over every single thing they try to change. And it`s just going to be total litigation.

MATTHEWS: You`re right. That`s what is going on. Let`s get ready. We`re giving them a great forecast of things to come.

Jay Newton-Small, thank you .

Up next: the HARDBALL roundtable on all of Trump`s moves today, the bombshell report in "The New York Times" about the Russian hacking, which is now on the record, Mr. Scaramucci. It`s part of our world now. We all know it. It`s up to Trump to admit what we all know.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`re giving them a great forecast of things to come.

Jay Newton-Small, thank you.

Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable on all of Trump`s moves today. The bombshell report in "The New York Times" about the Russian hacking which is now on the record, Mr. Scaramucci. It`s part of our world now. We all know. It`s up to Trump to admit what we all know.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As I said, there`s two big stories out tonight. First, Donald Trump picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson -- you love that name, Rex -- to be the next secretary of state. Tillerson`s Russian ties could cause some problems for his confirmation especially among Republicans hawks like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. They don`t like Russia.

Anyway, tonight, "The New York Times" has a bombshell report about the scope of Russian hacking. The FBI knew that Russia was hacking the Democratic National Committee as far back as September of last year.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. There`s so much to talk about, Heidi Przybyla, senior politics reporter for "USA Today", Hugh Hewitt is the host of "The Hugh Hewitt Show" on Salem Radio Networks and an MSNBC contributor, and Michael Crowley is senior foreign affairs correspondent for "Politico".

Heidi, let`s talk about Tillerson. I never thought about the guy or never heard of him. He`s not on my scope.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: No one has.

MATTHEWS: I don`t -- I do think -- I learned one thing that the Rockefeller family still has a role in Exxon. I forgot about that old relationship. And that he was almost kept from having both titles, CEO and president and all of that. Who is this guy? I mean, what`s he got to do with taking -- he`s going to fill the role of Thomas Jefferson and James Baker and George Shultz?

PRZYBYLA: He`s going to have to answer those questions before Congress, because they have some serious questions. And it`s not even so much about Tillerson. It`s about what he represents in terms of potentially monumental shift in terms of our policy, vis-a-vis Russia, which has been since World War II, to create a whole global institutions and diplomacy, to serve as a bulwark against Russian aggression.

If you look at what we do know about Tillerson, it`s that he supports easing those sanctions against Ukraine. And this comes at a time, or against Russia, in terms of Ukraine, and their aggression against Ukraine. This comes at a time where we are just at the very beginning of scratching the surface of what this cyberattack on us really looks like and what it really means. And there may be a time where we need somebody who is going to have a really stiff, strong policy towards Russia depending on what we find.

MATTHEWS: You know we get in trouble over the years, we all know this, it`s (INAUDIBLE) draws a line of defense in North Asia that doesn`t include Korea. So, all of a sudden, Koreans get invaded, because we said we aren`t going to do it. April Glaspie somehow tells Saddam Hussein, well, it`s a border, we`re really not. And next thing you know we`re in there with everything we got with Desert Sword because we blew it. Because the diplomats didn`t make it clear, this is what we`ll fight for.

So, what you really want is a guy that can tell Kim Jong-un, that guy with the weird haircut, tell him up front, don`t play with nuclear weapons on our watch, because we`ll find a way of blowing you up, personally. We will get to you and you will wish you hadn`t done this.

So, how do we send this -- is this guy capable of that type of diplomacy, Tillerson?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: The answer to that question is yes, but you have Donald Trump with his Twitter account and who knows that he`s going to say there. So, that`s going to be a very complicated situation.

But by all accounts, yes, Tillerson is a competent diplomat. I mean, he`s been a corporate diplomat. But this guy is a top flight when it comes to negotiating with foreign governments, doing deals with them, making clear what he means.

I mean, I don`t think anyone is doubting his expertise, his qualifications, his intelligence. I think Heidi is exactly right this is going to be a kind of proxy war for Donald Trump`s desire to reshape our relations with Russia. So, people are really focused on Rex Tillerson`s relationship --

MATTHEWS: OK. Does he understand, Hugh, I`ll get into a fight with you, because I know it`s coming. Does he understand when you`re trying to cut a deal with the Saudis and you`re trying to deal with the Saudis and Jordanians and al-Sisi in Egypt and Emirates, you`re trying to cut something with the quartet over there, and then you move the American embassy to Jerusalem right in their face. The one thing they`ve always said, please don`t do, because we care about that holy site as much as the Jewish people do. Don`t take sides.

What happens then? Does he understand this fragile relationship deal we have over there?

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Before he took over Russian operations, he ran Yemen operations, which is like going to Apache country in 1890s. So, I think he has got great depth in the operation.

But like you, I have never seen him on television. I`ve never actually heard him. So what I don`t know of someone, and perhaps you guys are -- I look to their references. You mean this earlier, Bob Gates, Condi Rice, Jim Baker, Dick Cheney.

MATTHEWS: They all work for him. They all got paid by him.

HEWITT: I dismiss that. I think the fact that he would stand up and say, Dick Cheney`s a patriot. Jim Baker`s a patriot. Condi Rice isn`t going to recommend someone who doesn`t know the world.

MATTHEWS: I know.

But you would say this if it was the liberal doing this? If a progressive, if I will, had hired somebody and had recommended somebody, say, yes, but they`re all on the payroll. You wouldn`t rate that an issue?

HEWITT: And the very best recommendation I got was from the Dep Sec in the Obama administration who says he`s been dealing with him for years. He`s tough, smart, conservative --

MATTHEWS: Who`s the dep sec?

HEWITT: Dep sec of energy, Dan Poneman, told me, a wonderful, wonderful --

MATTHEWS: What`s dep sec mean?

HEWITT: Deputy secretary. Told me, a great man, absolutely the best we can do.

MATTHEWS: You`re the supreme bureaucrat.

PRZYBYLA: How do you pivot from overnight from being really since the Reagan administration, a business diplomat, who is mostly concerned about profits and about cutting deals, you`re very transactional. You have billions of dollars of money tied up in these sanctions in Russia, and overnight, all of a sudden, you have a totally different set of --

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: You have 70,000 employees around the world.

MATTHEWS: Let her finish.

PRZYBYLA: No I was just going to say, that have to do with national security interests. And the interests of -- in terms of public policymaking, on behalf of our country, versus a company`s profit.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

And tomorrow, join me for a special discussion with the stars of the new movie "Hidden Figures." It`s the story of three African-American women scientist who is help launch John Glenn into orbit. I`ll be joined by actors Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Kevin Costner, along with director Ted Melfi and Pharrell Williams, who composed the film`s soundtrack.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Coming up in the next hour, Donald Trump`s "Thank You" tour will resume. This time, from West Alice, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Trump`s set to appear with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Trump, of course, won Wisconsin, the first time a Republican won the state since 1984.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Heidi, tell me something I don`t know.

PRZYBYLA: We`re getting no indications that Trump is actually going to divest as the ethics experts are urging him to do, so what does that mean in terms of day one? What`s the worst possible scenario here? Both in terms of national security and potentially violating the Constitution.

All of these Trump buildings are going to need added security. They immediately become terrorist target, potential terrorism targets.

MATTHEWS: Why?

PRZYBYLA: Because his name is on the building, and if somebody wants to make a statement that becomes an obvious target, they may need additional security. Foreign governments have to provide that security. That becomes a constitutional issue and obviously national security issue.

MATTHEWS: Trouble, trouble.

HEWITT: Three for one, John Bolton will be confirmed, Rand Paul is a party of one. Number two --

MATTHEWS: He will be confirmed for what?

HEWITT: He will be confirmed for either the director of national intelligence or deputy secretary of state. Number two --

MATTHEWS: He won`t be. I make a prediction, he never will to anything. Go ahead.

HEWITT: Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, is not a climate skeptic. He is a federalist, an extraordinary constitutionalist (ph). He`ll be confirmed.

And number three, Andy Puzder got the most blowback, and not from the people who are worried about robots, because he`s not actually for robots. He said that what will happen with if California doesn`t change their laws. He`s getting blowback from anti-immigration hardliners and franchise world, which numbers in the tens of thousands will rise up to get him confirmed.

All three will be confirmed.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CROWLEY: We`re focused on Rex Tillerson`s relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. It`s -- his confirmation would be taken as a positive signal by the Gulf, Arab, Sunni oil producing states, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, those countries which had rocky relations with President Obama. They see a U.S. tilt toward Shia Iran. We`ll be very reassured by the idea that this guy who`s done a lot of business with them --

MATTHEWS: They`re seeing a shift toward Iran?

CROWLEY: Under Obama, they are concerned and Tillerson is the signal of friendship and he`s a guy they know and that would be a first step toward repairing those relations which --

MATTHEWS: Interesting stuff, Michael.

Thank you, Heidi Przybyla, Hugh Hewitt, and Michael Crowley.

When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch for this Tuesday night. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, December 13th, 2016.

I continue to hunt for the pony in that pile of stuff on the barn floor. It`s what Ronald Reagan would say about the boy on Christmas morning, the optimistic one. So, here`s what could happen with Donald Trump in the White House and Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. We could finally find our way out of the horror in Syria, and into the killing by the government of Bashar Assad, the global danger of ISIS. We could meet the need for strong unifying leadership among Sunni Arabs, the desire for the Kurds for a country of their own.

The answer, of course, is to remove Assad from control of Syria, partition his control into an area loyal to him that would allow the Sunni Arabs to lead the country at large, allow the Kurds to make their own way. None of this is possible as long as Bashar al Assad fights to the death which is unlikely to come his way as long as the Russians hold fast to their alliance with him.

I`m no Middle East expert, but I can see the obvious. I can see that we, the United States, is led by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, are in a box, we can`t get rid of Assad, we can`t unite the Sunni Arabs of Syria. And because we can`t do either, we cannot rid the land of ISIS.

How do you push ISIS off the land if you don`t have someone to give it to? Perhaps Russia is the key. Perhaps. Right now, we don`t have a key.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END