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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/26/2017

Guests: Ruth Marcus, Haley Barbour, Laura Bassett, Yamiche Alcindor, Heidi Przybyla

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: January 26, 2017 Guests Ruth Marcus, Haley Barbour, Laura Bassett, Yamiche Alcindor, Heidi Przybyla

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Party crasher.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, less than a week into the new administration and President Trump has already made it clear he will fight on anything, fight anyone, friend, foe or fact, anything that stands in his way.

His defiant interview on ABC News last night, along with his executive orders, shows a new gung-ho president ready to defend and implement many of his most divisive campaign promises, regardless of how it jibes with his own party`s agenda. As Trump said last night, he intends to implement version of his proposed immigration ban and doesn`t care about the backlash it might provoke in the Muslim world. Let`s watch.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Are you at all concerned it`s going to cause more anger among Muslims around the world?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anger? There`s plenty of anger right now. How can you can have more?

MUIR: You don`t think it`ll exacerbate the problem.

TRUMP: Look -- look, David, David, I mean, I know you`re a sophisticated guy. The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.


MATTHEWS: Well, despite the word of his secretary of defense, Trump refused to say he`d take waterboarding off the table, saying that this country needs to, quote, "fight fire with fire."

Trump also doubled down on his call for an investigation to back up his charge that the votes of millions, 3 to 5 million of them, of illegal immigrants supposedly cost him a popular vote victory. It`s a move that many see as an attempt to re-argue the outcome of the 2016 election.

Here`s what Trump said about that last night.


MUIR: Do you think that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country...

TRUMP: No, not at all.

MUIR: ... without presenting the evidence?

TRUMP: Not at all because many people feel the same way that I do and...

MUIR: You don`t think it undermines your credibility if there`s no evidence?

TRUMP: No, not at all because they would -- they didn`t come to me, believe me. Those were Hillary votes.


MATTHEWS: But the president might want to begin that investigation at home in the White House amid the breaking stories that a number of people close to Trump are registered to vote in two states. They include Steve Mnuchin and Steve Bannon, in addition to Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter, Tiffany.

Trump`s tough talk on his proposed border wall also provoked a very public showdown with the president of Mexico, who today canceled a meeting planned for later this month with the president.

It came after Trump this morning issued this ultimatum on Twitter. Quote, "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."

Tonight, we`re seeing an emerging battle between Trump`s agenda, as advertise in the 2016 campaign, and the Republicans` age-old push to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and give businesses tax cuts.

By the way, there`s also a battle in Trump himself between his agenda and his personal sort of odd focus on crowd size and the 2016 popular vote. We`ll get to that tonight.

It all comes as gathered today with the president in Philadelphia to discuss a path forward. There to cover it is NBC`s Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, thank you. You know, I think the Republicans in the House have probably gotten used to having their own a plan because they didn`t have a president. Now they have a president who`s come in the door with his plan. How are the two meshing today in Philly?

KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the problem, Chris, is that Republicans have no idea day to day what Donald Trump`s plan is until he tweets about it or his spokesman says something about it. Even though they may be trying to convince him behind closed doors, they may think they`re on the same page, they`re being constantly surprised.

I mean, take what happened today over how this wall with Mexico is going to be paid for. The White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, made comments about how this was going to be a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico. There`s immediately, basically, cheering from Paul Ryan`s office, who thinks that this is them embracing a key part of Paul Ryan`s tax reform plan, only to have Spicer take it back a few minutes later and say, No, this is just one part of what we have on the table. That`s what Republicans are dealing with. And it`s why it`s been so uncomfortable to watch them try to answer questions about Trump`s agenda over the course of the last two days.

Trump is talking about a lot of things on top of that that they don`t want to be talking about all. They don`t want to be talking about torture. They don`t want to be talking about the election in 2016. They don`t want to relitigate it. They don`t want to open an investigation into voter fraud.

And so this is not typically how the relationship goes between the party that controls both the White House and Congress.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t there a bigger problem? They have different focuses -- like, for example, not just the crazy stuff about crowd size and illegal voting and all that stuff, but Trump wants to do something serious to stop illegal immigration. Do the Republican regulars, the people in the Congress -- do they have a plan as an alternative to the wall? Secondly, do they even go along with big spending on infrastructure? I wonder if those, two, just those two issues alone are going to cause a clash down the road pretty soon?

HUNT: Well, there`s a couple things there, Chris. Yes, I mean, a lot of Donald Trump`s populist agenda contrasts directly with what conservatives in Congress have really been championing for years now. And big spending - - these guys are fiscal conservatives. They`re also -- yes, they`re big on border security, but they don`t necessarily want to alienate Hispanics because they still believe that in the long-term, that`s the future of the party.

And look, there`s a majority personality clash going on here, two. I mean, for the most part, you know, McConnell and Ryan are people who refer to each other by their titles. You know, they typically wear ties to work, you know, every day. And Donald Trump -- I guess he wears a tie to work every day, as well, but he refers to people by their first names. He was on stage today calling his commerce secretary "Wilbur."

I mean, the way that these people interact is just like oil and water sometimes.

MATTHEWS: God, he sounds like Mr. Ed. Anyway, thank you, Kasie Hunt -- "Wilbur"!

Anyway, rather than focus on their agenda, Republican lawmakers have instead faced new questions on issues that they say are already settled. For instance, Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the aforementioned leaders, today spoke out against waterboarding after Trump reopened that debate on torture.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe virtually all of my members are comfortable with the state of the law on that issue now.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And torture`s illegal. And torture`s not legal, so -- and we agree with it not being legal.


MATTHEWS: Well, "The Washington Post" reports that Trump`s actions since becoming president have surprised those who viewed his campaign rhetoric as just political expediency.

Quote, "During the campaign, many of Donald Trump`s supports and even his advisers said they took many of the candidate`s more -- most far-reaching promises seriously but not literally. Now in his first week at the White House, President Trump is show that at least some of them were indeed meant literally" -- that`s an old Biden line, too -- "putting him at odds not only with the critics but also with some members of his own party."

I`m joined right now by former Mississippi governor and former RNC chair Haley Barbour Haley, you`re an expert, and I know you know all this stuff. I`m going to try to get the truth out of you because you know Trump is Trump. (INAUDIBLE) his own guy. He wants to put up a border wall. He wants to really deal with infrastructure, build stuff. Republicans are historically hesitant to spend money, and I don`t think they`re that hot on the wall.

But tell me how these two guys get together, Republican regulars and Trump.

HALEY BARBOUR (R), FMR. MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR, RNC CHAIR: Well, the media, particularly the liberal media elite, want to focus on these little nicks and knacks, and you know, voter investigations and all that...

MATTHEWS: You mean that little thing called the $20 billion wall, that little thing?

BARBOUR: Well, I will just -- let`s just -- let`s just talk about whether there has to be anything close. I`m for border security. We need a secure border. It`s the first indicia of nationhood.

But a wall is not the best way to get it. There`s variety of technologies ought to be used from boots on the ground to cameras to drones to helicopters. And yes, there may be a few places where a wall is the best thing, but I think as this goes through, we`ll get the kind of border security that people wanted and voted for and thought they were going to get way back in 1986, by the way, as you remember.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Hey look, I was (INAUDIBLE) if they`d enforced it.

BARBOUR: It was -- you know, Alan Simpson, who`s the bill`s named for, said we -- the first thing we promised the American people in 1986 was a secure border. And no administration, Democrat or Republican, has produced that. Now Trump`s determined to produce it.

I think that when he talks in terms of a wall that that`s a metaphor, but - - mainly because I believe that`s not the most effective way. But we need border security.


BARBOUR: But again...


BARBOUR: ... that is not -- the thing that Donald Trump got elected because of that those Republicans in Philadelphia want to help him with is to grow the economy.

MATTHEWS: OK, you know...

BARBOUR: More jobs, better-paying jobs, whether it`s in infrastructure, or tax reform that brings home trillions of dollars...


BARBOUR: ... of assets stranded overseas so they can be put to work here. That`s what this is all about. Gets very little attention from the media, unfortunately.

MATTHEWS: Well, I focus on it. Let me tell you this. You know, I think the problem with the `86 bill and the problem with illegal immigration is that you or I, if we needed a job for our family, we`d find a way to get here.

And the problem is that the white guy, if you will, the working class guy who voted for Trump and he was angry about illegal immigration -- why don`t the Republicans and Trump get together and say, We`re going to stop -- as part of our overall effort here on immigration, we`re going to stop illegal hiring of cheap labor that just got across the border. Now, in the `86 bill, it was supposed to deal with that. It didn`t effectively deal with it. Is that part of the package? And if so, why does Trump never mention illegal hiring?

BARBOUR: Well, I think you will see as we go through this Congress, there will be efforts to do in individual pieces of legislation things that secure the border, things that make it much, much, much, much harder to hire somebody illegally and much, much easier and more likely that the Congress government can catch people that are doing that and that they will be punished.

But look, this is what`s going to be worked through with this Congress, I think successfully. And the main thing is we need it to grow our economy. We can`t stand eight more years of 2 percent economic growth.


BARBOUR: I mean, Barack Obama`s the first president since Herbert Hoover who never had a year when economic growth was 3 percent or more. And post- World War II, it averaged 3.1. After the last great recession that ended in `82 in the Reagan and early Bush years, the economy grew 4-and-a-half percent a year! Think where we would be...


BARBOUR: Think of where all these blue collar workers would be if that had happened in the last eight years!

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Governor Haley Barbour.

In his speech to the Republican lawmakers, President Trump predicted that this Congress will be the busiest ever.


TRUMP: This Congress is going to be busiest Congress we`ve had in decades, maybe ever. Maybe ever. Think of that.

Now we have to deliver. Enough all talk, no action. We have to deliver.


MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman is global editor of the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC political analyst. Howard, I still see a conflict, no matter what Haley Barbour said. Republicans are skinflints. They don`t like spending any money. Democrats are always ready to spend a little money on domestic issues. And Trump wants to spend money, I think, and build stuff.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`m sure they were sitting there thinking, He`s the one who`s saying all talk? I mean, how do we deal with it?

The problem is they`re surrounded by this cloud of mats (ph), i.e. tweets, in which Donald Trump is dealing with everything but the meat and potatoes things that Haley Barbour was talking about.


FINEMAN: And Donald Trump, I thought his best line in Philadelphia today was, The thing I do best is build things.


FINEMAN: That was great. I think even people who oppose him say, OK, yes, you build things. Build some things and stick to the economic message. That`s what the guys in that -- and gals in that room wanted to do. Instead, he`s picking fights, infantile fights with Mexico over who`s going to visit whom, on phantom five million fraudulent voters, on a whole laundry list of cultural, hot button...


FINEMAN: ... that are aside from the point of what Haley Barbour -- and Haley`s a shrewd guy -- said is the key thing, which is growing the economy and growing jobs.

MATTHEWS: OK, there`s where the argument would be. If you asked the average Tea Party Republican, ask them (INAUDIBLE) mostly men from rural areas, Would you rather cut spending in entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, or would you rather start building stuff, what would they say?

FINEMAN: Well, I think -- I think -- I think if you were able to convince them that the building stuff thing was real and you were going to make the other part of it lean, I think you could sell that.


FINEMAN: But that would take all the salesmanship that Donald Trump is allegedly famous for.

MATTHEWS: Do don`t waste it.

FINEMAN: Don`t waste your salesmanship on all this other stuff!

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right.


MATTHEWS: Doesn`t he need -- Jim Baker was able to keep Ronald Reagan on track. I think he deserves credit. Remember that?


MATTHEWS: Back in the `80s, Reagan could have talked about all this religious stuff, the cultural stuff, all this -- you know, all the stuff he read in "Reader`s Digest." He could -- but it was always cut taxes, cut spending, build the military, those three things over and over again. And Reagan stuck to his guns.

FINEMAN: Yes. And the thing about Donald Trump is he knows that he`s able to make news on any topic.

MATTHEWS: That`s true.

FINEMAN: He knows that he can respond to anything that he sees on "MORNING JOE" or sees at night on television or whatever. And he has...


FINEMAN: ... power and he does it! You know, if he can touch the wet paint, he`s going to touch it! But what he needs to do is focus on what I think -- and I talk -- you know, I went to all those rallies, and even at the inauguration, I talked to a lot of supports.


FINEMAN: And I said, Well, why are you here? Why were you here for Donald Trump? You didn`t hear sanctuary cities. You didn`t hear voter fraud. You didn`t even hear the wall. What you heard was regular Republicans saying, I think he can get jobs and build the economy.


FINEMAN: That`s ultimately...

MATTHEWS: Build, build, build.

FINEMAN: That`s the -- that`s the generous notion of what he was elected to do, and he should go to that. And I think that`s what Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan want him to do.

MATTHEWS: Yes, when we begin to smell the cement and the earth moving -- remember David Garth (ph)...

FINEMAN: I`m for it.

MATTHEWS: ... once said, Replace the smell of decay with the smell of construction. You know how people like to watch construction sites?


MATTHEWS: They want to see it.

FINEMAN: And he said also -- he said, you know what? The pipelines for the gas, they`re going to be fabricated from America...


FINEMAN: There`s a guy from Pittsburgh. I said, Great. Make them here.

MATTHEWS: Steelers, right?

FINEMAN: Well, let`s not talk about the Steelers.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Howard Fineman.


MATTHEWS: Coming up -- just kidding. Coming up, President Trump has called for an investigation into voter first. He might want to start with some of the people closest to him. We learned today that his daughter, Tiffany, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon and his Treasury secretary nominee all are registered to vote in two different states. Corruption!

Plus, Trump`s very public zeal for torture. He said it again last night, torture works, even though the experts say it doesn`t. He also wants to take Iraq`s oil. We`re going to ask General Barry McCaffrey about all this stuff.

And inside the Trump resistance and the hopes among progressives that what we saw over the weekend, the protest in cities around the country of the women`s march, could eventually lead to a movement bigger than the Tea Party.

Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch." It`s good tonight.

And this HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Today at the Republican retreat in Philadelphia, President Trump raved about his flurry of executive orders this week, which he said is putting power back in the hands of everyday Americans.

But it`s worth remember what Trump said in 2012 when then president Obama used executive orders. Trump tweeted, "Why is Barack Obama constantly issuing orders that are major grabs of authority?"

Republicans spent eight years complaining about Obama`s use of executive actions. They`re Trump`s executive actions tonight. We`ll be right back.



MUIR: You brought in congressional leaders to the White House. You spoke at length about the presidential election with them, telling them that you lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes.

TRUMP: That was supposed to be a confidential meeting and you weren`t supposed to go out and talk to the press as soon as -- but the Democrats viewed it not as a confidential...


MUIR: But you have tweeted about the millions and millions...


TRUMP: And I mean it. I said it and I said it strongly because what`s going on with voter fraud is horrible.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last night defending his call for a major investigation into voter fraud.

Fact-checkers disagree with his claim that three to five million people voted illegally, actually people from outside the country. According to the president, that doesn`t matter.


TRUMP: You know what`s important? Millions of people agree with me when I say that. If you would have looked on one of the other networks and all of the people that were calling in, they`re saying, we agree with Mr. Trump, we agree. They are very smart people.

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Did you think that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country?


TRUMP: No, not at all, not at all, because many people feel the same way that I do.


MATTHEWS: Well, the last time Donald Trump launched an investigation, it didn`t go very far. Back in 2011, he announced he was looking into the authenticity of President Obama`s birth certificate.


TRUMP: I have people that actually have been studying it. And they cannot believe what they`re finding.

QUESTION: You have now people down there searching in Hawaii?

TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they are finding.


MATTHEWS: Well, this time, however, he is presumably spending federal resources, not personal ones. The president said the investigation will look at the improper voting registration. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They`re registered in New York and in New Jersey.


MATTHEWS: Well, funny he should say that. As I told you earlier, the investigation might want to stay close to the White House to get some pay dirt.

It turns out his incoming treasury, Steve Mnuchin, his daughter Tiffany, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his chief adviser, Steve Bannon, and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, were all registered in two states.

Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican National Committee. He will explain all this. He`s an MSNBC political analyst, after all. And Ruth Marcus is deputy editorial page editor of "The Washington Post."

Michael, I don`t why know we keep putting you in this position, but here`s a guy who says, I`m going to go out and find those people who registered in two states. And we`re going to catch them because they`re all Bandidos.

Give me a break.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They don`t exist. They don`t exist, except...


MATTHEWS: Except his family.

STEELE: His family.

Look, be careful what you wish for here.

MATTHEWS: The Chinese curse.

STEELE: It could be pulling up a lot more than you want.


MATTHEWS: You`re an expert. Is there a serious problem of voting cheating in this country?


There are incidences. There are occasions. There are occurrences. It happens at ballot boxes all across the country. It`s not widespread . It`s certainly not orchestrated, where it would involve three to five million people.

That is a level of coordination that is beyond anything we have ever done in this country. So, the reality of it is, it`s a talking point. It is a driving point. And, as he said, as the president said, when I say that, a lot of my supporter agree with me. Well, yes, OK.

MATTHEWS: They feel that way. That`s the way he said it.

STEELE: They feel that way.

MATTHEWS: They feel that way.


STEELE: But the reality of it is, the country cannot afford and this government, in its infancy, cannot afford this type of waste of dollars to investigate something that we all know doesn`t...

MATTHEWS: You`re a Washington hand. You know this city.

For every call to action, somebody is going to get paid. These are not volunteers they`re going to -- this isn`t going to be vigilantes to see who voted illegally. Somebody is going to be hired. They`re going to be detailed out of agencies, Labor Department, Census Bureau.

Who are these people? He is going to sign this order, I guess, Friday now it is. When is he going to tell us who going to pay for this nationwide check on the 2016 popular vote count, is really what he`s after?

MARCUS: Well, I think the cost of it, with all due respect, is the least scary part to me.

MATTHEWS: But it is government money, people`s money.

MARCUS: It is government money, and so when we rail against waste, fraud and abuse, fine. You can throw that in the basket.

But the scarier part is -- first of all, let`s be serious. Not only has Pew Research and all sorts of news organizations, including my own, looked at this. The government itself has looked at this through an organization, entity called the Election Assistance Commission. And guess what? They did not find widespread evidence of voter fraud.

I will be very interested to see who it is he is instructing to do this, because the Justice Department investigates crimes. They usually need to have a predicate for investigating a crime. Be interesting to be see what he does. Interesting to see what he comes up with.

It`s going to hard to come up with this massive evidence. But I`m very worried, not just that this really destabilizes voters` trust in people, but that it`s going to be used to argue in favor of in additional impediments to voting, because the problem we have in this country is not too many people voting. It`s too few people voting.

MATTHEWS: By the way, the one argument I made the other night, it`s just numbers. And I owe it to David Corn on our show.

If you take the 11 million people we accept as the number of people in this country without papers, illegally, and you assume that the numbers of them who are 18 or over and credibly can walk into a voting booth and go to vote is about 10. It`s pretty high.

But then you say three to five million out of that 10, in other words, up to half the people who are scared to death of ice, scared to death of being picked up and deported, would venture to go into a voting booth, find a name or somebody whose identity they could steal, basically, to vote for, know that person is going to vote that day, all the collaboration, the conspiracy behind the idea of, as you said, five million people figuring out how to vote for somebody else who agreed not to vote that day, and they all voted for Hillary.


MARCUS: And didn`t do it in the right states.

STEELE: That`s what I was going to say. They all voted apparently in California or New York and forgot about Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. So, that`s what makes this so ludicrous.

But it is a rabbit hole.

MATTHEWS: We`re running down it. You`re right. We`re running that rabbit hole.

STEELE: And everybody is going to go down the rabbit hole while the administration...

MARCUS: It`s a dangerous rabbit hole.

STEELE: I agree.

MATTHEWS: Numbers, numbers, numbers. In that ABC interview last night, President Trump again and again came back to defending the size of his inaugural crowd. Here he goes.


TRUMP: We had a massive crowd of people. We had a crowd. I looked over that sea of people, and I said to myself, wow. And I have seen crowds before, big, big crowds. That was some crowd.

Here is a picture of the crowd. Now, the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes.

MUIR: And just before we leave, the president tells us he wants to show us just one more image.

TRUMP: But one thing this shows is how far over they go here. Look. Look how far this is. This goes all the way down here, all the way down.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president also bragged about his speech to the CIA on Saturday, the one criticized by some for its political message.


TRUMP: That speech was a home run. That speech -- if you look at FOX, OK -- I`ll mention your network -- read -- see what FOX said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. People loved it. People loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time.

They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room.


MATTHEWS: Well, according to a transcript on ABC`s Web site, the president also said: "In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl. And they said it was equal."

Michael, what do we make of that?

How would -- who would these they be, and how do you measure the sound at a Super Bowl stadium, which is a roar, which something said or yelled over at the CIA headquarters?

STEELE: I refuse to play in the sandbox.

I have no idea where this comes from. And I just -- the image of the president, instead of talking policy with reporters, showing pictures of, see how many people are in the crowd, this is -- it`s unsettling, I guess, for a lot of people, but it`s also entertainment. And it`s also confusing.

MATTHEWS: Something is not entertainment, because I know you have got something to talk about.

MARCUS: I`m seriously not entertained.

MATTHEWS: As he talks loud, he tells the press to...

MARCUS: Not shutting up, Steve Bannon, not me, and not my colleagues.

MATTHEWS: To shut up. He says we should shut up.

MARCUS: He told -- called "The New York Times" and said, the press should just shut up.

MATTHEWS: Steve Bannon did this?


And there`s a Constitution he might want to read. It kind of envisions a role for the press.

MATTHEWS: I guess it`s going to be a monologue.

Thank you so much, Michael Steele. You have got a tough job these days.

Ruth Marcus.

Up next: Donald Trump says torture works and that we should have taken Iraq`s oil supplies.

Anyway, General Barry McCaffrey says that, when it comes to torture, Trump doesn`t have a clue. General McCaffrey is coming here next.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



TRUMP: Well, I have a general who I have great respect for, General Mattis, who said -- I was a little surprised -- who said he is not a believer in torture.

But I will you, I have spoken to others in intelligence,and they are big believers in, as an example, water-boarding. But I have spoken, as recently as 24 hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question, does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was, yes, absolutely.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Actually, Donald Trump says he has been told by people in the intelligence community that, yes, torture works.

Of course, it was also something Trump repeated frequently on the campaign trail. Here he is.


TRUMP: They asked me the question. I said, I`ll answer that question. They said, what do you think about water-boarding? And I said I like it a lot. And I don`t think it`s tough enough.


TRUMP: You have to fight fire with fire. Would I approve water-boarding? You bet your ass I would approve it. You bet your ass, in a heartbeat.


TRUMP: And don`t tell me it doesn`t work. Torture works. OK, folks? Torture -- I have these guys, torture doesn`t work. Believe me, it works. OK?


MATTHEWS: But Trump`s own CIA director, Mike Pompeo, says he won`t comply even if Trump orders him to reinstate torture. And Republican leaders in Congress also say it`s illegal and should stay that way.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: If you were ordered by the president to restart the CIA`s use of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside of the Army Field Manual, would you comply?

REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), KANSAS: Senator, absolutely not. Moreover, I can`t imagine that I would be asked that by the president-elect or then president.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe virtually all of my members are comfortable with the state of the law on that issue now.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And torture is illegal. And torture is not legal. And we agree with it not being legal.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is retired four-star General and MSNBC military analyst Barry McCaffrey.

General, thank you for joining us.

Just your general reaction to this whole thing and how you should think we should at the issue of water-boarding, torture generally, and the Geneva Convention?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Chris, look, I have seen a lot of combat in my time.

I think those statements by President Trump are shameful. They`re harmful to our image. It`s a violation of international law and U.S. federal law.

We went through this terrible chapter with Secretary Rumsfeld. At least they were in a panic in those days to explain why we issued these terrible orders. We have now cleaned that up. And we`re not going to go back.

So, I`m astonished at President Trump`s position on this issue.

MATTHEWS: Well, General Mattis seems to agree with you. And I just wondered, if you were to talk to people of your field rank and people who have really had experience in combat at any level, what do you think the general -- is your view the general view, and Trump is the odd man out, would you say, or could you say that?

MCCAFFREY: Absolutely. No question. It`s not going to happen.

Mattis is an adult. He is disciplined. He is the Marine. This is not values of the U.S. armed forces. That issued during the Rumsfeld era did us incalculable harm. It puts our own troops at risk.

I had a son and a daughter in uniform.


MCCAFFREY: For God sakes, we don`t want enemy forces doing that to them.

It`s also been an incentive for jihadists. The abuse at Abu Ghraib was a terrible visual image that we won`t escape for a hundred years. So, again, this is the wrong way to go. It`s not going to happen. And it`s a shameful position to take by the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Trump takes sort of a -- he is not a military guy, but he takes sort of a business guy`s view of warfare.

He talks about how we should have grabbed the oil. And then he talks about, if we go into Iraq again -- I don`t know what circumstances he`s talking about -- we will grab the oil this time.

Can you imagine -- well, just tell me -- you`re the expert -- giving young men and women the job of guarding an oil field or set of oil fields over in Iraq, and somehow protecting that oil grab by us with your life and limb?

I just wonder what kind of military mission that would be, even if it were legal, internationally.

MCCAFFREY: Chris, this is, to be blunt, a fantasy.

If we invaded Iraq with 150,000 troops, stomped out their government, destroyed their armed forces, and stole their oil, that would be a coherent, illegal, stupid plan. But the notion that you can take somebody`s oil, I can`t even imagine where he comes from with this position.

MATTHEWS: A businessman`s thinking.

Anyway, you`re a general. Thank you, General Barry McCaffrey, for putting that one to bed.

Up next: We saw millions of people take to the streets over the weekend. Protests have continued all week, actually, some places. Could the women`s march turn into a movement that rivals the Tea Party? How is that for a comparison?

The HARDBALL Roundtable is going to come here to talk about it.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Last weekend, nearly 3 million people gathered around the globe to march in behalf of women`s rights. In the wake in the massive turnout, many have been left wondering, what`s next?

Well, this week, "Time" magazine wonder how a march could become a movement. And "USA Today" went further, saying that they are already signs of the historic women`s march on Washington was start of the growing grassroots resistance to President Trump`s agenda. The newspaper reported that nearly 60,000 people dialed in to a call to chart a path forward, over 4,000 are set to march on April 15th to call on Trump to release, what else, his tax returns.

For more, I`m joined by a roundtable. Laura Bassett, senior politics reporter with "The Huffington Post", Yamiche Alcindor, MSNBC contributor, and national reporter for "The New York Times" and the author of that "USA Today" article today, Heidi Przybyla.

We`ve got to start with you, Heidi. This thing, how big is this? Is this the start of something big what happened last week?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: We`re seeing a lot of follow-on protests and that`s the first sign, that`s the first contrast that we see with the Tea Party, which as you all remember, many of us missed the rise of the Tea Party because it was so subtle. So, that`s one big contrast.

But the biggest contrast is the global nature of this, that so many countries and people seemed invested in what happened here, that it really is about something much bout bigger than just our domestic politics, that it`s about trying to preserve our ideal of western liberal democracy. And that`s why you see interest internationally, Chris. Another anecdote is that people from 80 countries have now donated to the most recent Planned Parenthood drive to raise money. So, people are participating from all corners.

MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, Yamiche, what`s unifying all this, it`s a person.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it`s definitely a person, and to add to that, well, there`s this idea that it`s not just domestic policy. What I`m seeing that`s different from Black Lives Matter protest or Occupy Wall Street, is that people are really getting intersectionality. I talk to a lot of women who came here last week who were talking about the fact that they were very concerned about immigration rights, even if it wouldn`t affect them personally, or they were really concerned about Black Lives Matter, even if they were white women from rural Pennsylvania.

So, this idea that when one community is attacked or when one community has issues that it`s somehow also affects you and also something that you should really be concerned about, that to me is different than the protests I`ve covered in the past.


Well, let me tell you something about you. We`re talking about this. I was trying to figure out with our producers here, the various wings of the Democratic Party right now. Just -- there`s the extreme wing, the Occupy people you mentioned. There`s also the progressive wing, led by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. Then you got somewhere in the middle of the liberal wing, that would be Tom Perez, who may be the DNC chair. And then on the more moderate, well, they`ve got, not even centrist. That`s not fair, the governing part, like probably Schumer and people like Al Franken.

You really want to get something, agreed to and pass, right? So, how do they get together because the push seems to be now, go left?

LAURA BASSETT, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Exactly. I think that the leaders, obviously, women are leading the resistance right now, as we saw with the women`s march. And there were also these women senators who spoke at it. And I think that it`s going to be Elizabeth Warren wing of the party that`s taking it into the next, sort of generation.

I think in 2020, it`s going to be the Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, got some people who are looking too for leadership now.

MATTHEWS: So, a notch to the right of at the anarchists who were out there the other weekend, just the people who were very left in their attitudes, but they want to do what, do they want to stop Trump in his tracks, undermine him or force him to the center or what, what`s the goal?

BASSETT: They want to stop him in his tracks and they want him to lose the next election.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s fair.


MATTHEWS: Because of the objective, yes.

BASSETT: And I think progressives are really frustrated to see that Hillary lost. And I think that everyone assumes that the reason she lost is because she was too far to the right. And so, people are trying to usher in a new generation of leaders that actually inspire millennials.

MATTHEWS: Too far to the right is, what? Because she was supportive of the Iraq war, or what, she was really believed to be pro-trade? Some of those things?

BASSETT: Yes, pro-trade, in the pockets of Wall Street and oil.

PRZYBYLA: I do think that some Democrats, though, are concerned about taking on the obstructionist label that the Republicans have over the past eight years, because Democrats fundamentally believe that government can do good things for people. So, I do think you`ll see leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi saying, OK, President Trump, put your money where your mouth is, we`re willing to work with you on infrastructure, maybe on renegotiating some of these trade compacts and really trying to triangulate a bit with the more institutional Republicans in Congress and daring him to work with them.

MATTHEWS: It sounds like me talking, because I`m talking, Yamiche, that even though you don`t have, you don`t like Trump to deal, we have Stalinist our allies, and we`re working -- you don`t have to like these people. But you can maybe get something from them.

ALCINDOR: Well, it is true that you have Bernie Sanders basically saying that we should not obstruct Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: On trade, he likes him on trade.

ALCINDOR: Yes, on trade, there`s some issues that Donald Trump really ran to the left of Hilary Clinton on. However, I think the unifying thing that maybe we can all agree on is that Donald Trump is their unifying factor, that people who voted for Hillary Clinton, people who voted for Bernie Sanders, they`re all kind of getting along now, because they have so many things to fights that they really can`t get into this idea that you`re going to say, well, I`m about climate, and that`s my most important thing. And now, they have to kind of work together.

But I think the other thing that`s important, I`m not ready to say that the progressives are going to win this battle. Hillary Clinton didn`t lose by some landslide and it proved that everyone wanted to be progressives. It was a very tight race.

So, I think that there`s Nancy Pelosis and those people in the party aren`t ready to just say, oh, no, we should have run Bernie and that`s how we could have won.

MATTHEWS: Anything could have turned in that last couple of weeks in any direction, the wind could have turned it, because there`s been no Comey thing. There`s all kinds of evidence that this election was to be won in the last couple of weeks, Comey helped them win. And I think everybody knows that, maybe not on purpose, but he did.

PRZYBYLA: I think they all cast all these progressives, even Hillary Clinton said, I`m a progressive who likes to get things done. We`re getting enough progressives.

MATTTHEWS: All right. Everybody is -- OK, now, everybody is for Reagan in the Republican Party. Everybody is, they want at that time. Anyway -- people like to be with winners.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, late today, we heard from our friend, the great singer songwriter Carole King. In honor of the women`s marches around the world, she`s re-released this song she first recorded back in 1982. The song is called "One Small Voice".

Here`s a piece of it.


MATTHEWS: The great Carole King. You can listen to the whole song on our website,

By the way, Carole King marched this weekend in a snowstorm, in the tiny town of Stanley, Idaho.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: I`m back with the HARDBALL round table.

Heidi, tell me something I don`t know. You got time by the way.

PRZYBYLA: The stock market may be riding high but the U.S. has been downgraded. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has democracy index, we`ve been downgraded to a flawed democracy. They base these --

MATTHEWS: This doesn`t conflict with the stock market. It`s just another reading.

PRZYBYLA: Just my opening. You didn`t like that?

MATTHEWS: I don`t want to talk down the market tonight.

PRZYBYLA: They do it based on electoral process, civil liberties and a functioning government. So, now, we`re in good company with other countries like Italy and Japan, which has been downgraded.

MATTHEWS: Who are the good guys? Who wins these things? Who is the best --

PRZYBYLA: The Nordic countries. And I have to say anecdotally, Nordic countries also the countries that have the best policies on women`s like equal pay --

MATTHEWS: Bernie Sanders loves those Nordic countries. He does.


ALCINDOR: So, mine is something having to do with Twitter. Up until today, Donald Trump was tweeting from an account that was linked to a Gmail account. A lot of people think that was a security risk because obviously now it`s the most important Twitter in the world.

MATTHEWS: Are we back to Hillary here?

ALCINDOR: We are not back to Hillary but there was a lot of talk about it and now he`s switched to a

MATTHEWS: Does he actually get up in the bed, and r in the bed, or by himself without staff and tweet? Does he do that himself?

ALCINDOR: From our own understanding, there`s an Android phone that he still has, that he`s tweeting from, within the White House.

MATTHEWS: And there`s no intercept. Nobody to say, "Stop, that`s no good"? Nobody can do that?

ALCINDOR: Not that we can tell. No.



BASSETT: So, my colleague Jason Cherkis just reported the scoop that an interview with Obama`s drug czar was just magically disappeared from the government`s website. It was scrubbed off by the Trump administration. And so, it seems like they`re trying to slowly erase the Obama administration`s legacy from the websites.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Anybody got anymore?

BASSETT: Another day.

Elizabeth Warren quietly posted on Facebook last night to defend her endorsement of Ben Carson for HUD. It seems like there`s tons of outrage among progressives that she`s not completely obstructing everything Trump is trying to do.

MATTHEWS: So, she voted for Ben Carson.


ALCINDOR: I was in the hearing. One of the things she did in that hearing was kind of grandstand about this idea that Donald Trump needed to release his tax returns and that this was all about kind of Trump -- yes, all about Trump but she didn`t go after Ben Carson in that hearing. I was more surprised that Senator Brown voted for him because he was reading off Ben Carson`s issues and all the things he said about public assistance, so I was really surprised.

PRZYBYLA: To hear Democrats saying that we cannot run around with our hair on fire about absolutely everything. If we want to make progress or stop some of the worst stuff that they think is coming down the pipeline they have to prioritize and not be outraged about every single thing that happened.

BASSETT: The progressives that ran the march are furious for not being completely obstructionist like Republicans were.

MATTHEWS: I understand. But if you`re the mayor of Boston, you`d like to get some UDAG Grants.

Anyway, thank you, Laura Bassett. Thank you, there`s still is a UDAG thank you, Yamiche Alcindor and Heidi Przybyla.

When we return, let me finish with Trump watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

There`s something strange in the neighborhood. I`m talking about the area of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue here in Washington. Why would an American president, even a brand-new one, want to say things that are impossible, even for his most committed fans, to believe?

Some examples. You look at a picture of the Washington Mall in January, 2009, at the time Barack Obama was taking the oath of office and then you put beside it a picture of the same wall when President Trump was being sworn in. Okay. With people looking at the pictures you say this is what our new president is saying that his crowd was bigger. His is bigger.

Let`s try another. You look at the popular vote count and see Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by nearly three million votes. Then you hear President Trump saying three to five million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary. What would you make of that? Would you say, yes, up to five million people living in the shadows went to their local voting station and used the name of someone on the registered voter list that they were assured was not going to vote that day. Three to five million, ten million illegal immigrants of voting age did that.

Well, again, do you believe it? Suppose Trump were to say there are 10,000 rapists waiting in Tijuana right now to run across the border. Would you believe that? Suppose he told you the moon was made of blue cheese or whatever. Where would you stand on that one?

After all, didn`t he begin this discussion by talking about immigrants across the Rio Grande being rapists. Didn`t he say for five years that one of the illegal immigrants in this country right now was Barack Obama, the guy he rode to the Capitol with last week?

Before you answer, let me remind you of two statements, one from Ronald Reagan, the other from one of the Marx brothers, both are relevant. President Reagan once said in urging people to pay attention to that their health, "Don`t be afraid to see what you see." I didn`t think of better advise by the way, especially for people afraid to go to the doctor.

The other quote is Chico Marx in "Duck Soup". Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?

That`s HARDBALL for now and thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.