IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/6/2017

Guests: Paul Singer, John Brabender, Mark Warner, Glenn Thrush, Katty Kay, Jennifer Daskal

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: February 6, 2017 Guest: Paul Singer, John Brabender, Mark Warner, Glenn Thrush, Katty Kay, Jennifer Daskal

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A "so-called judge."

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Is the country on a collision course? Are we seeing the early steps of a battle over presidential power that could lead, if it continues on its current course, to a constitutional crisis?

The 9th circuit court of appeals is set to determine whether President Trump`s executive order on immigration remains effectively frozen or whether it will resume. It began with a sweeping decision late Friday, when a federal district could judge in Washington state issued a temporary restraining order blocking key provisions of the policy. For now, that decision lifts the travel ban imposed on seven mostly Muslim countries pending a final decision on its legality.

Well, in the wake of that ruling, President Trump took to Twitter to attack the federal judge`s decision, as well as his legitimacy. Quote, "The opinion of this so-called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned."

Well, now we await a decision from the reliably liberal ninth circuit court in San Francisco, where the Department of Justice has filed brief asking that court to reinstate the president`s policy. They argue that, quote, "The president has expansive constitutional authority over foreign affairs, national security and immigration."

Well, this could be the beginning of a constitutional showdown expected to test the limits of executive power and is expected to end in the Supreme Court itself. Anyway, additionally, nearly 100 technology companies have filed a brief opposing the travel ban, including, among others Apple, Facebook and Google.

I`m joined right now by NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams. The state of play, sir? Where are we at?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: OK, where we are now is there`ll be nothing tonight. Nothing will change. This executive order will remain on hold for at least another 24 hours.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco has ordered the two sides, the states and the federal government, to give an hour of oral argument, 30 hours (sic) apiece, in a telephone conference call. So the a judges and the lawyers will all be together on a conference call -- it won`t be in a courtroom -- tomorrow night at 6:00 PM Eastern.

And then at some point after that, the court will decide whether to allow this judge`s ruling to remain in effect, which would keep the immigration order on hold, or stay the judge`s order and let the government begin enforcing it again.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your constitutional law, your own constitutional law. Do you believe, based upon what you`ve been able gather over the last week or so -- does the president of the United States have expansive authority over immigration? Can he do (INAUDIBLE) DACA, with the -- what President Obama did, we can single out young people in this country who were brought here by their parents and say, We`re going to give priority again (ph) -- we`re not going to go after them, we`ll go after people like felons. We`re going to leave them pretty much alone. That seemed to be a broad use of presidential authority. Where do you stand on that power?

WILLIAMS: Right On the Obama order, there were two questions there. One is, no one contested that he could change the enforcement policy. The question was, could he on his own or would it take an act of Congress, let people stay here, let them work, let them apply for Social Security and that kind of thing. And that`s what hung up the Obama issue.

This is a mixed question not only of the Constitution, but also a federal law. And that`s the problem for the opponents here because federal law, on the one hand, says you can`t ban anybody -- any class of aliens just from a single country from coming in. You can`t discriminate like that.

On the other hand, there`s a separate federal law that says president, when acting in the interests of national security, can restrict an entire class of aliens -- I`m using the word of the federal law, aliens -- from entering the country.

So the government has a plausible legal argument here. That`s what the courts are going to have to sort out. But I must say, Chris, that`s not the question before this federal appeals court. That`s -- the federal appeals court has an entirely different task, and that is to decide right now which is best, which -- who gets the hurt more? The states say, Well, we get hurt more if you let government continue to enforce the travel restrictions. It hurts our universities.

MATTHEWS: I see.

WILLIAMS: The faculty can`t travel. Students are hung up. Companies are hurt economically. They can`t recruit the best talent. The government says, No, we`re hurt more because if we can`t enforce this, potentially, bad people can come into the country.

So that`s the balance that the appeals court has to decide right now. And by the way, Chris, I should add in this reply brief that was filed tonight by the television, they raise an interesting fallback. They say to the appeals court, Look, you should wipe this judge`s order out completely because we think it`s wrong, we should be able to enforce the immigration restrictions.

But if you had to, we could say that people who were previously admitted who are temporarily abroad now and want to come back or are here and want to travel and come back -- in other words, immigrants that are here now -- if you want to exempt them from the order, well, you could do that.

MATTHEWS: Is that the 5th Amendment protection of the equal -- equal -- equal process, due process?

WILLIAMS: Well, that does -- you know, that argument has been made about due process. And that`s ultimately -- the lower court`s going to get into that when they get into the constitutionality and the legality of this down the road.

MATTHEWS: Last question. Why so urgent? I noticed the way you talk about it there has to be -- we`re expecting to get action as early as tomorrow evening...

WILLIAMS: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and we thought this whole thing seems to be very fast- forward.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What`s that about? Why is this sense of -- how does it work in the courts that they moved so fast? This could go right to the Supreme Court, it seems, pretty quickly.

WILLIAMS: Yes, and this is very unusual from the federal courts who are not normally noted for speed. But this is an emergency appeal. The judge granted this temporary restraining order. That`s what`s unusual about this. The states sued on Friday, and they said, Look, Judge, we`re getting hurt right now by this. We want you to issue an order that sort of freezes things as they were before the executive order went into place, and then we`ll duke it out later on whether it`s constitutional or legal. So that`s kind of an extraordinary remedy, and then the government rushed up to the appeals court and said, Oh, no, don`t do that. So that`s all an on emergency basis.

MATTHEWS: So interesting. Justice correspondent for NBC News Pete Williams. Thank you, sir.

WILLIAMS: You bet.

MATTHEWS: In a preview of the coming showdown between the White House and the courts, President Trump said that the court system would be to blame for any future terrorist attack in this country.

Here`s the president. Quote, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad."

I`m joined right now by Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, as well as Jennifer Daskal, who is associate professor of law at American University.

I want to go to Steve on this, on the politics of this thing and your general sense -- I mean, there is a background here. Trump has called one judge, a Mexican-American guy, unreliable because he might have a prejudice against him. In this case, he refers to a "so-called judge."

I want to ask the professor whether that`s going to make some of these judges a little bit less happy to go along with the government position here. But what do you make of this challenging the courts, this sort of Andy Jackson sort of thing going on here?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it`s totally inappropriate, Chris. Look, less than three weeks ago, Donald Trump stood on the west front of the Capitol, he raised his hand and he swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

We have an independent judiciary in this country. He`s not a "so-called" judge. He was nominated by a president of the United States. He was confirmed by the United States Senate. He`s a judge, period. End of discussion.

And the attacks on the judiciary are undermining to fundamental fabrics of American institutions which have lost confidence in the eyes of the American people. There`s a frightening survey release recently by a Harvard professor, 80 percent of people -- 78 percent of people born in the 1930s believe it is essential to live in a democracy, 25 percent of people born in the 1980s believe it`s essential to live in a democracy. I think that`s terrifying.

And when you look at his actions, you look at the statements out of the White House today about negative news is all fake, we`re reaching Orwellian dimensions with some of this stuff, and it`s disturbing, frankly.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at somebody who shatters that argument, which is sound (ph) -- of course, yours is sound. Let`s watch how former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee defends Trump`s tweets about the court. He did it today. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a sign of what`s to come in the years ahead, where we have the executive branch fighting head to head with the judicial branch?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: In a word, yes. And frankly, I`m glad to see it. I think we have had an executive branch that has emasculated itself by surrendering constantly to the idea that once the court says something, that`s it. It`s the law of the land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Professor, I have never heard anybody talk like that. I keep thinking of Little Rock back in the `50s and the federal troops coming in. Yes, the courts have a right. Even Richard Nixon, whatever you say about Nixon, he buckled to the Supreme Court and turned over the tapes because he knew they were the boss.

JENNIFER DASKAL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, and the good news is that the Trump administration is now finally doing that. So they`re abiding by the order. They`re following lawful process despite what the president is saying. They`re appealing to the 9th circuit, exactly the process that we would expect and want to happen.

MATTHEWS: What would be a judge`s reaction to being -- first of all, we had the Mexican-American judge attacked because of his heritage, and Trump, I think, was suggesting, He must not like me -- is really -- he was really saying -- but now referring to a "so-called" judge.

DASKAL: It can`t possibly help his case. I don`t see how this could be a good thing for him going forward if he`s insulting the judiciary. That`s not going to put them in a favorable position for him.

But there is something that is concerning that happened up until this point. Before this court order was issued, there were other orders that required the administration to basically let in aliens to Boston and to LA. And despite those orders, up until this court`s ruling, the administration had still -- basically torn up the visas, left people stranded overseas, people weren`t being able to board planes until finally, this ruling came into effect and the Trump administration started abiding by what the judge.

MATTHEWS: You know, Steve, we`re going to get to it later in the show because it`s fascinating, this crazy stuff that`s going on inside the White House, this battle of people inside for his ear.

When I read -- and I can`t believe this. I read it in "The Times." We`re going to get to this later -- that Steve Bannon wrote an executive order himself, wrote an executive order putting him on the national security staff and then had Trump sign it like he was some old dowager who had a lot of money, was going to sign away her money -- I mean, I couldn`t believe that he got the president to sign an order giving him National Security Council authority and position without telling him what he was doing!

SCHMIDT: Well, certainly, it`s clear that he didn`t brief him on what the blowback would be this evening, a "New York Times" editorial by Admiral Mike Mulllen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, who talks about how wildly inappropriate it is for the president`s political adviser to be on the principals committee of the National Security Council.

And I also think that what does not get enough attention is the utterly absolutely radical foreign policy views that are so far outside the mainstream of both Democrats and Republicans over the last 72 years. This is somebody who roots for the unraveling of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an unraveling of the American-led liberal international order that prevailed in the cold war, that came to life after the Second World War and has maintained the peace and prosperity of the world, preventing another global catastrophe.

And so it`s remarkable that someone with that radical a point of view is on that committee and that that committee will now be politicized. And what President Trump should do is show that he is capable of acknowledging error, making a course correction, sign another executive order restoring the chairman and the director of national intelligence to regular membership of that committee and removing Steve Bannon from that permanent seat because it is inappropriate.

MATTHEWS: Well, in his speech tonight, U.S. Central Command today, President Trump said the terrorists attacks -- this is unbelievable -- have gone unreported because the media doesn`t choose to cover them. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it`s happening. It`s gotten to a point where it`s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn`t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Because he refers to a couple incidents, horror incidents, terrorist attacks that were well reported, in fact, over the days and weeks.

Let me ask you about the president`s authority. Sweeping or limited? Does he have to make a case it`s national security, which he`s making or is that just superfluous and got him into trouble? If he`d simply said nobody from these seven countries gets in for three months, left it at that, would he have been better off?

DASKAL: He might have been better off, but he still would have had problems. He has an enormous amount of power as the president to set immigration policy and determine who comes and who comes out. But there`s limits. It can`t be arbitrary. There has to be some justification for what he does. And even on the face of the order, putting aside all of the rhetoric about banning Muslims and things he`s said before and since the order -- the order itself discriminates based on religion. It establishes a preference for minority religions from these predominantly Muslim countries.

MATTHEWS: In the -- in the reference to the what to do after the ban on refugees ends, where he specifically says minorities, Yazidis or Christians, yes.

DASKAL: Right. And also with -- with respect to potential exceptions to the ban, as well. So the order itself clearly seems to violate the establishment clause, which prohibits the favoring of one religion over another.

MATTHEWS: That was a good clause, wasn`t it.

DASKAL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Steve Schmidt, and thank you, Professor Jennifer Daskal.

Coming up -- President Trump`s refusal to say a bad word about Vladimir Putin is baffling to Democrats and Republicans alike. And latest, Trump defended Putin`s use of political violence by saying America has its share of killers and our country is not so innocent after all. It`s certainly a dark view for a president to take about our country. I mean, really.

Plus -- inside Trump`s uneven first two weeks. One former staffer said it`s like D-Day but the president and his team are storming the beaches without plans for a longer war. This a "Saturday Night Live" lampoons the president`s top spokesman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA MCCARTHY, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": The travel ban is not a ban, which makes it not a ban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you just called it a ban.

MCCARTHY: Because I`m using your words! You said ban! You said ban! Now I`m saying...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tweeted, and I quote, "If the ban were announced with a one-week notice"...

MCCARTHY: Yes. Exactly. You just said that. He`s quoting you! It`s your words!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Killer! Anyway, now the president and his team are making changes, supposedly. The Super Bowl LI, by the way, had a very political feeling, don`t you think? The ads at halftime I`m talking about, and also some of the music. Politics were everywhere, and there`s a real sense that the masters of pop culture now exploiting -- get it? -- the anger against President Trump and his policies.

Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch" tonight.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats in the U.S. Senate are still hoping to derail the confirmation of President Trump`s pick to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos. She`s expected to be confirmed in a vote tomorrow, but by the tightest of margins. Republicans hold a 52 to 48 majority in the Senate, but two of them -- Maine`s Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- say they`ll vote against DeVos, leaving Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie, first time this will ever happen -- ever has happened, a vice president stepping into get a confirmation for a cabinet appointee.

Anyway, tonight Democrats are speaking through the night in opposition to DeVos, hoping to ratchet up the pressure on their Republican colleagues ahead of that vote tomorrow. Later in the week, the Senate will hold up (sic) the confirmation vote on Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. That won`t happen until after the DeVos vote, as Republicans need Sessions`s single vote for DeVos before he leaves the Senate in order to get DeVos through.

We`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The key word there was carnage.

That was President Trump, of course, in his inaugural address a few weeks ago painting a dark image of life in America. That grim view was evident in the president`s Super Bowl interview with FOX News Channel`s Bill O`Reilly, when he seemed to say our country`s leaders are not morally superior even to Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Do you respect Putin?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do respect him.

O`REILLY: Do you? Why?

TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn`t mean I`m going to get along with them. He is a leader of his country.

I say it`s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight, that is a good thing.

O`REILLY: Right.

TRUMP: Will I get along with him? I have no idea. It`s possible that I won`t.

O`REILLY: He is a killer, though. Putin is a killer.

TRUMP: A lot of killers. We have got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent? You think our country is so innocent?

O`REILLY: I don`t know of any government leaders that are killers.

TRUMP: Well, take a look at what we have done too.

We have made a lot of mistakes. I have been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.

O`REILLY: Mistakes are different than.

TRUMP: There`s been a lot of mistakes. OK, but a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a dark view of America, which reminded me of this scene from "The Godfather."

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GODFATHER")

AL PACINO, ACTOR: My father is no different that any other powerful man, any man who is responsible for other people, like a senator or a president.

DIANE KEATON, ACTRESS: Do you know how naive you sound?

PACINO: Why?

KEATON: Senators and presidents don`t have men killed.

PACINO: Who is being naive, Kay?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I thought of that immediately after I heard Trump the other day.

Anyway, Trump`s view of Putin and Russia were undercut by Republican leaders making the rounds on the Sunday morning shows. Here`s Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse reacting to what Trump said there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I`m not going to critique the president`s every utterance, but I do think America is exceptional.

America is different. We don`t operate in any way the way the -- the Russians do.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I don`t know what the president is trying to do with statements like he already has on "O`Reilly."

Putin is a mess. He has committed all sorts of murderous thuggery, and I`m opposed to the way Putin conducts himself in world affairs. And I hope that the president also wants to show moral leadership about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks there`s something more to the relationship between Trump and Putin. At least she is saying so. Here she is yesterday on "Meet the Press."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia. And we want to see his tax returns, so we can have truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Joining me right now, Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence.

Senator, what do you make of what former Speaker Pelosi just said about she can`t fathom why this president, our president is so defensive about Putin personally? He would not back up Bill O`Reilly. Bill O`Reilly can say what he wants, but he wouldn`t back up the notion that Trump -- that Putin was a bad guy.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Well, Chris, it`s a pretty extraordinary circumstances.

Now, the idea -- America is an exceptional country. And, frankly, America has been exceptionally good to Donald Trump. And somehow he doesn`t seem to understand that.

And the idea that he would somehow compare Putin, who, let`s face it, not only takes out and kills political opponents, kills journalists, has one of the worst human rights record in the world, to American leadership is, frankly, unconscionable. And, luckily, you`re seeing these outrageous comments actually get agreement with Democrats and Republicans that this just goes beyond the pale.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of his attempt after -- I think he was -- I don`t know what he was up. He doesn`t want to take any shots against Putin before he meets him, obviously. He wants to work with him, which makes sense geopolitically.

But what do you think about his comparison between, say, knocking people off in politics, like they apparently do over there, and our decision to go to war in Iraq, which cost the lives of over 170,000 people over there? He suggested that they are pretty much morally the same.

Stalin once said, you kill a million people, nobody pays attention. You kill one or two, they do.

But this difference between macro killing and murder, he seemed to say there was a moral equivalence. Your thoughts.

WARNER: Yes, I take a huge exception to that.

During the Iraq War, we sent National Guard troops over there. I saw those men and women go off. And to somehow compare those troops who served in Iraq or any of our military with some of the Putin thugs, I just think it`s -- if you didn`t hear and see the visuals, you would say this is just all unbelievable.

But we`re in a very strange time at this point. And I think these comments don`t make us stronger, frankly, are fodder for our opponents, whether it`s ISIL in terms of the immigrant ban and the refugee ban. These kind of comments, what kind of message does that send to our American military who is still defending us?

And you have got a bunch of questions, I have got to tell you, the Senate Intelligence Committee has got to look into in terms of what we already know in terms of Russian -- unprecedented Russian interference in our election, but frankly what we don`t know at this point in terms of contacts between campaigns and Russian operatives.

MATTHEWS: well, thank you so much, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who sits on the Intelligence Committee.

President Trump used the war in Iraq, as I said, as a rationale to explain why the United States isn`t -- quote -- "innocent" when it comes to having killers.

Well, the most recent casualty report, as I said, from the Department of Defense says there have been, oh, well, 4,425 U.S. casualties. That`s KIAs, horrible number. Anyway, according to the database IraqBodyCount.org, there have been north of 170,000 documented civilians killed since the start of that war over there.

Anyway, FOX`s Bill O`Reilly argued mistakes are not the same as government leaders who reportedly have people killed personally. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`REILLY: I don`t know of any government leaders that are killers.

TRUMP: Well, take a look at what we have done too.

We have made a lot of mistakes. I have been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.

O`REILLY: Mistakes are different than...

TRUMP: There`s been a lot of mistakes. OK, but a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Mr. Trump continues to argue he was against the Iraq War from the beginning.

However, undercutting that is an interview we have that he did with Howard Stern back in 2002 before the invasion. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Are you for invading Iraq?

TRUMP: Yes, I guess so. I wish it was -- I wish the first time it was done correctly.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Katty Kay is the anchor for "BBC World News America" in Washington.

Katty, not to talk about your old country, but there it is, your country of birth. I was listening to Theresa May. Boy, she is impressive in that question period last night. And I have to ask you about the view of the world. Give me a world view of Trump when he says something like America has blood on its hands, basically.

KATTY KAY, BBC REPORTER: Yes, I think everybody looks to America as an exceptional country, right, a country built on ideals, not just history and monarchy that goes back for centuries.

And the idea you could have a president saying we`re pretty much morally equivalent to Russia, and particularly to President Putin`s Russia, I think people are scratching their heads, Chris, all over Europe and in many of the other countries where I talk to people as well.

And they just don`t know what is going to come out of the president`s mouth. And they`re concerned. They`re concerned about what it means for their relationships with him. Does he value his relationship with Russia more than he values his relationship with European allies? It seems so at that moment, right?

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess the whole business, when you go on television and you get interviewed, people do make mistakes.

But why didn`t he just -- I will try this by you because you do so many interviews. And you both are interviewed and you interview. You do it both ends.

Why didn`t he just say to Bill O`Reilly -- it`s obviously a provocative statement, which is, he is a killer, Putin. React to that. He knew what he was doing. He was setting the guy up for, have you beaten your wife lately kind of thing, because, if he says he is a killer, then he has ruined his political position with Putin. And if he says he isn`t, he looks like an idiot.

So, he was setting him up for a tough question there. But all Trump had to do, if he was skilled enough, would just say, you know, I`m not going to answer a question like that. Let me tell you what. I have got to do business with this guy. I`m not going to -- I`m not an investigative reporter on Moscow killings. I`m going to try to do business with him geopolitically, because that`s what I`m here for. I`m the president. I`m not the local prosecutor -- or something.

KAY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But, instead, he bit right into it and defended Putin morally and said he was no worse than us. I don`t know.

KAY: And as he does time and again, right?

How many times have we heard Donald Trump back away from the possibility of criticizing Vladimir Putin? Every single time he is asked about Putin, his position and his choice that he makes in an interview like that one with Bill O`Reilly is not to criticize Vladimir Putin. It`s one of the most mystifying things about this president at the moment in terms of foreign policy.

And I think it`s going to be the fault line. I think it`s going to be the fault line with Republicans and Democrats and with investigations, is going to be his position on Russia.

MATTHEWS: Well, he is a stubborn fellow.

Anyway, thank you, Katty Kay, for coming on HARDBALL.

Up next: The Trump White House tries for an early course correction. They have got mishegas going on in that West Wing. And that`s coming up next.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, a report today in "The New York Times" paints a picture of President Trump as largely isolated up there in the White House, frustrated by early stumbles and looking for a shakeup.

According to "The Times": "Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign. And from now on, Mr. Trump would be looped in on the drafting of executive orders much earlier in the process. Another change will be a new set of checks on the previously unfettered power enjoyed by chief strategist Mr. Bannon and the White House policy director, Stephen Miller, who oversees the implementation of the orders and who received the brunt of the internal and public criticism for the rollout of that travel ban on Muslim countries."

President Trump hit back on Twitter today -- quote -- "The failing New York Times writes total fiction concerning me. We have gotten it wrong for two years. They have gotten it wrong for two -- and now are making up stories and sources."

Well, joining me right now is the author of that story, "New York Times"` White House correspondent, Glenn Thrush.

Well, Glenn, we will get to the "SNL" part, which is really hilarious, but let`s talk to the serious stuff.

Is your reporting that Steve Bannon wrote up an executive order putting himself as a regular member of the National Security Council, and then rushed it through and got a signature from the president without the president actually knowing what he was doing with his pen?

GLENN THRUSH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it might be a little bit more nuanced than that, though we`re not certain.

We don`t know exactly what the president knew about the executive order. But we do know this. Whatever was presented to him was not given to him in the context of what the history and operations of the White House entailed.

It`s very clear to us now, from the reporting that my partner and I, Maggie Haberman, did -- and we talked to 40 or 50 people in the course of the last two weeks for this piece -- was that the president didn`t fully understand the implications of putting a political adviser on the permanent -- on the permanent committee at the NSC and putting the head of the Joint Chiefs and the head of national intelligence on less of a permanent standing.

So, the one -- so, he may have very well read every word of that executive order and understood it to the best of his ability. What is clear, though, is, he was not given the information about how unprecedented it was, how it would change the balance of power or, most importantly, what the backlash would have been.

MATTHEWS: The president, whatever you think of Trump -- and I have a mixed view, obviously, and not always very good, but mixed -- he is a brain. He is a human being.

He sits at a desk and people come in with ideas. They come in with paper. They come in with oral presentations. But the reason you have a strong chief of staff historically is to bring some order to what comes to him, so that he gets the right proportion of the right information.

THRUSH: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t get some guy in the hallway yelling at him, and now all of a sudden that`s his policy.

He gets it after it has been distilled to a point where he can actually weigh it intelligently.

It looks like that is not the way it works with this guy.

THRUSH: But that wasn`t the way it worked on the campaign.

And, frankly, our piece, which was not very well-received in the halls of the West Wing, I should say...

MATTHEWS: Apparently not.

THRUSH: ... really could be viewed as a group who is learning how to do this job.

Chris, you know this. This is the hardest job, the most demanding and reactive institution in the world. I think people came in with a very strong expectation to be able to kind of blow everybody away. I think now they are really understanding just how difficult it is.

And you hit the nail right on the head, Chris. That job is the most restrictive -- or should be the most restrictive information environment in the world.

The last chief of staff, Denis McDonough, took it to an extreme, cutting down the level of information that was flowing to President Obama. But the question we have to ask ourselves now is, how is the president getting information, when is he getting it, is it being presented to him in a way that he could really understand the implications?

And I think a lot of people, when they read our story today, I heard from Republicans outside the administration, were relieved to hear that Priebus was imposing some sort of an order on this system.

MATTHEWS: That does sound good.

Anyway, here is what you write about Press Secretary Sean Spicer -- quote - - "President Trump almost makes time -- always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer`s performance" -- I love that word, performance -- "at the daily briefings, summoning him to offer praise or criticism, a West Wing aide said."

Well, this weekend, "Saturday Night Live" -- I would think spoof is too nice a word. They killed this guy with the contentious nature of Spicer`s early press briefing.

Here is Melissa McCarthy playing Sean Spicer.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: I would like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you to me...

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: ... for how you treated me these last two weeks.

And that apology is not accepted.

Glenn Thrush, "New York Times," boo. Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, I wanted to ask about the travel ban on Muslims.

MCCARTHY: Yes, it`s not a ban.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I`m sorry?

MCCARTHY: It`s not a ban. The travel ban is not a ban, which makes it not a ban.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But you just called it a ban.

MCCARTHY: Because I`m using your words. You said ban. You said ban. Now I`m saying it back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The president tweeted -- and I quote -- "If the ban were announced with a one-week notice."

MCCARTHY: Yes, exactly. You just said that.

He`s quoting you. It`s your words.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: He`s using your words, when you use the words, and he uses them back. It`s circular using of the word. And that`s from you.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Glenn, everybody should watch that on YouTube. It`s unbelievable. It is -- you -- he is mad at you. He should be mad at "SNL" because that is terrible.

They got the Irish right. He does sort of -- they sort of look alike. They got the gender wrong. And they are trying to make a point with her higher voice. It was off -- they were putting this guy down as a person. It was brutal, much worse than you.

THRUSH: Well, yes, I know, I have my own complaints. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

THRUSH: But, I mean, the...

MATTHEWS: Well, that guy is much heavier than you, I must say, much more over...

THRUSH: Chris, Chris, can I just tell you, thank you very much for accepting my $100 check.

But I think Spicer can sometimes be a little mellower than that. The truth of the matter is, you know Sean. He`s probably been on your show. The difference between Sean in public and private is pretty -- pretty startling. But I do think the point is that maybe he might want to chill out a little bit over time.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he`s being watched closely.

I tell you, that baby -- that nanny cam is on him all the time. And mommy is watching. And that`s Donald Trump. He`s watching this guy with picayune interest in the guy. It`s frightening to have a boss like that.

Anyway, thank you, Glenn Thrush. You are out there. You are the star. You`re going to be attacked all over the place. Your e-mail is going to be brutal from the right.

Anyway, up next:

THRUSH: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Call it up the Trump effect. Yesterday`s Super Bowl was the most political we have seen in years. I`m talking about the ads and Lady Gaga, the whole thing. Everybody had a point to make.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Over 100 million Americans tuned in to watch the Super Bowl last night and it was one of the most -- well, the most drawing contest in American sports history, let`s call it that. But the action wasn`t just on the field, it also played out during the commercial breaks. Viewers saw commercials filled with pointed political subtexts on issues from gay rights to immigration. Let`s watch a bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like you`re not from around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why leave Germany?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to brew beer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not wanted here. Go back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From St. Louis, son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From my family, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Next time there is to beer we drink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And then there was much anticipated Lady Gaga halftime show. Vegas book makers offered odds on whether or not the pop star would politicize the event, well, she did. The singer kept her poker face until show time when she did manage to slip in a few subtle statements, including the famous Woody Guthrie protest song, "This land is your land."

For more on the political undertones or overtones of the Super Bowl, I`m joined by our panel tonight, our roundtable. Paul Singer, back again after a while, reporter "U.S. Today," Yamiche Alcindor, national reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor, and John Brabender, Republican strategist.

So, what did you all make quickly in a ten seconds of the commercials. I thought they were great. Your thoughts? Lots of stuff, gay, LGBT, subtleties that a lot of us missed, but we`re told about certainly pro- immigration, illegal and legal.

PAUL SINGER, USA TODAY: Like most Americans, I was drinking beer watching a football game and occasionally was interrupted by a bunch of ads, you know? They did a fine job and they`re entertaining.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think these companies were weighing on this national conversation and taking I think some risks.

MATTHEWS: OK. John Brabender?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: My only concern is, how does this help their brand?

MATTHEWS: Let`s find out. Here`s what I think does help because I think almost half car buyers are probably women, I don`t know for sure. But here is one that`s pro-woman and appropriately so. Last night, German automaker Audi, I really want to get an Audi now, been wanting to get on, released an ad promoting gender pay equality, talking about a specific cost.

Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, and her intelligence, she will automatically be valued less than every man she ever meets?

Or may be I`ll be able to tell her something different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Physically thrilling. I watched that and I go wow! This is that cute little girl trying her best.

I`ve got a daughter. She`s just like that, much older than her, but she`s just like that. Can do.

ALCINDOR: I thought it was an amazing ad. I think it really went to this idea that women are equal. This idea that also at least from what I`ve heard when men have daughters, their idea of women, they`re idea of what they`re capable of and how they should be treated shifts. So, I think in this age when we`re talking about equal pay, and the fact we have numbers that show women are not valued like men, I think it was an important point to make.

MATTHEWS: Right. Good for Audi, and by the way, a male`s voice. So, interesting. It wasn`t a woman`s voice.

SINGER: But then they got burned, because it turns out their whole board is white men.

MATTHEWS: Probably so too.

Anyway, one of the most talked about ads last night was a Pennsylvania company called 84 Lumber. The 90-second immigration them ad was cut short because it was too controversial for FOX broadcast to put it on. The ad invited the viewers to watch the end online. But here are the last few seconds that didn`t air during the game.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MATTHEWS: Michael Brunner (ph), the CEO of the advertising company that created that spot, told the CBS affiliate that the ad had three goals. Quote, "One was to generate awareness; two is to position 84 Lumber as an employer of choice, and then most importantly is to get recruits to fill the number of position they had open over the course of the year."

Well, the CEO of 84 Lumber itself defended the message of ad, telling "The New York Times" last week, quote, "I am all about those people willing to fight and go that extra yard to make a different, and then, that they have to, you know, climb higher, go under, do whatever it takes to become a citizen. I`m all for that 110 percent. But do I want cartels? Hell, no."

That is so weird because it seemed to me when I saw it, they`re going to recruit people here without papers, without -- that`s what I thought. They were out to do that. So, why is this company running this ad?

And the ad person said, "Yes, that was the purpose. We`re recruiting people." And then, the owner of the company who paid for the ads said, yes, we`re for people that become citizens by coming to the company illegally. That was strange. That was an odd way to apply for citizenship, go through the wall.

Your thoughts?

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, whoever talked to 84 Lumber into doing that ad I think did them a disservice. First, the biggest reason, 84 Lumber is only a small part of the country. So, now, they`re paying for this tremendous cost for a lot of people that can`t even go to 84 Lumber, number one. Number two, if you look at where 84 Lumber is located, and where they`re main figure, it`s all Trump country.

So, a lot of people did interpret this as an anti-Trump ad.

MATTHEWS: I did.

BRABENDER: So, I`m not sure I understand from a marketing standpoint. From a film standpoint, it looked beautiful, it was a nice story. But I`m not sure how it --

MATTHEWS: American people don`t support illegal immigration.

ALCINDOR: Well, the thing is, is using the imagery of what Trump said, he said that he was going to build a big wall and have a big beautiful door. So, I`ve seen a lot of Trump supporters on Twitter actually saying, actually praising this ad saying, this is what we want. We want a big wall and that we want the door to open when we want it to open.

So, I -- there are people who don`t see it as an anti-Trump ad.

MATTHEWS: Well, the CEO said that`s the way to get in the country, illegally. That was weird.

SINGER: Yes, it`s --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don`t get to become a citizen just getting on the geographic map of the United States.

SINGER: And also, you know, I don`t understand their explanation, because as a lumber company, you know, I don`t go to buy 84 Lumber. I don`t --

MATTHEWS: They said they were out to recruit workers. I bet --

SINGER: And the workers who watched that ad online --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- would be watching to see if they would hire anybody like the people in the ad.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re into the third week of the Trump presidency and when we come back, we`ve got three things that you or I don`t know.

Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We are back with the HARDBALL round table.

Paul, tell me something I don`t know.

SINGER: Well, the president of the United States is very concerned about voting irregularities. The House Republicans tomorrow are going to start the process once again of trying to defund the Election Assistance Commission which is supposed to help states fix their voting rolls.

MATTHEWS: Well, the vice president will solve these problems. He`s got the commission.

SINGER: Yes, of course.

ALCINDOR: The vice president tomorrow will likely become -- will likely be the first vice president to cast a tie-breaking vote --

MATTHEWS: First time ever?

ALCINDOR: Yes, first time ever to confirm a nominee, a cabinet nominee. So, if he -- if it`s a 50/50 split for Betsy DeVos, he will have to come into the Senate and vote for Betsy DeVos.

MATTHEWS: This is where the Republicans don`t believe in school choice. Talk to the party line.

BRABENDER: I`ve talked to two different Democrat consultants who tell me they`ve already had meetings with their clients asking them to look at the 2020 president race, both from the progressive side of the Democratic Party.

MATTHEWS: That`s -- by the way, everybody is going to join that progressive side because they think that`s where the action is. But one person won`t and that person will win.

Paul Singer, Yamiche Alcindor and John Brabender.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump watch, Monday, February 6th, 2017.

The president now entering his third week is facing a battle on two sides. One from outside, the other from inside the White House. The outside fight is with the court system. It may not sell with him that America`s judges decide what is constitutional but they do. It`s called judicial review and it goes back to the days of Chief Justice Marshall.

Governor Huckabee can say that he`s glad to see a fight between the president and the courts. He can see that the executive branch has been, as he put it, emasculated by obeying court rulings. But even a president facing removal, Richard Nixon, knew he had no choice in such matter.

Governor Huckabee can say that he doesn`t go along with the notion that once the court says something, that`s it, but it is it. And the man in the White House is not getting the right advice if he listens to voices like Huckabees. We don`t know tonight how the Ninth Court of Appeals will rule, but when it does, it will matter.

The second battle facing the Trump team is inside itself. There are two models for presidential power. One is having a strong chief of staff where the president gives authority over the rest of the team. The second model is called "spokes of the wheel", which allows a number of people to meet with the president and for him to decide whose guidance to follow. The second method requires however that the president have a firm grasp on government management. It requires his ability not only to know whom to trust on intuition, but also his ability to reach into the federal bureaucracy itself and even the military to get the key facts he needs to make a decision.

If President Trump chooses the latter, that doesn`t mean he`s wrong. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy used the spokes of wheel model, but it requires a vigilant watch on his people and enduring alert to what his people are up to. It means not letting your chief strategist put himself without your full understanding on the National Security Council. Or worse yet, having you sign the order without you knowing what you`re signing.

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