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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/13/2017

Guests: Philip Rucker, Christopher Ruddy, David Ignatius, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jeremy Bash, Thomas Friedman

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: February 13, 2017 Guest: Philip Rucker, Christopher Ruddy, David Ignatius, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jeremy Bash, Thomas Friedman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Get me security!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

A capital tonight in turmoil. When someone gets fired these days, the boss presses a buzzer and says, Get me security. But what if the boss is the president of the United States and the problem official is the director of national security himself? All three of the country`s top metropolitan newspapers today led on their right-hand top column with the turmoil over President Trump`s national security chief, Michael Flynn. Is he in or out?

In every one of these stories, you read quote after quote from the civil service under Flynn chopping away at him. Several aides have been encouraging Donald Trump to fire Flynn, though a move is, quote, "not imminent," they say. According to one senior official, however, he`s fine for now.

On Friday, "The Washington Post" reported that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador weeks before President Trump`s inauguration. Now, previously, the White House, even Vice President Pence himself, had denied that conversation. Flynn says he cannot recall if sanctions were discussed with the Russians, though they might have been, he says.

Well, according to "The Washington Post," the attitude in the White House right now has turned against Flynn. One administration official is quoted as saying -- boy, I know this phrase -- "the knives are out" for Flynn.

Another official told "The Washington Post" Flynn is running out of friends. No question. The broad consensus in the White House is that he lied. The vice president feels like he lied in position that needs to be no drama. It`s no drama, no stop (ph) drama. Anyway, it is no stop (ph) drama. Actually, I`d be surprised, he said, if he lasts much longer. That`s a White House official.

Earlier today, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, pushed back on some of the off-the-record criticism of Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: Does the national security adviser right now enjoy the full confidence of President Trump?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Yes, General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.

KORNACKI: By saying he enjoys the full confidence of the president, are you saying you`re satisfied that he did not have those conversations, that he did not mislead the vice president?

CONWAY: No, those are two different questions. You asked me, and I`ll repeat the answer, is does he have the full confidence of the president. Yes, he does. Then you`re asking me what did he talk about with people when I wasn`t on the phone. So the only way for me to answer that is to tell you what he has said, which is that he can`t recall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was Steve Kornacki, sleeves rolled up in his custom way, getting to the hard truth there with Kellyanne.

Late today, press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump is quote -- this is a killer line -- "evaluating the situation." Whoa! According to, Politico, Flynn is not the only senior staff on shaky ground tonight. Quote, "Trump has told several people that he`s particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn. He has mused aloud about press secretary Sean Spicer, posing specific questions to confidants about how they think Spicer is doing behind the lectern. Others have called, talked with the president begun (ph) to wonder about the future of chief of staff Reince Priebus."

All three seem to be hanging in there a bit dangerously. Anyway, this hour, the United States Senate will be voting on another matter, on President Trump`s pick to be treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. We`ll bring you that balloting as it occurs. You`re looking at the chamber now.

But first, I`m joined by "The Washington Post`s" Phil Rucker, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, and Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a friend of President Trump`s.

This weekend, he criticized Reince Priebus, saying he was in over his head. We`ll get back to his pushback, as well.

Phil, let me talk to you about this. What strikes me, having read your paper for years...

PHILIP RUCKER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and struck by a couple things. One is the way the people dump on Flynn and the people dumping on him seem to be the most important people in this administration -- secretary of state secretary of defense and CIA director. They`re all showing displeasure with him somehow.

But the voices that you keep quoting are the people with the -- are the civil servants working for the National Security Council, people like that. They`re -- they`re -- they`re blabbing away, leaking away their dislike for Flynn with impunity, like they`re not afraid of any -- these guys are usually safe people who worked their whole lives to work their way up to a position of influence and scared to death they`ll ever be fired if they talk out of turn, and they`re all talking out of turn.

What is going on? I don`t want to kill your sources, but it`s weird.

RUCKER: And it`s not just them, it`s also political appointees in the White House who are displeased with Flynn and...

MATTHEWS: But why are they talking to the press? Aren`t they afraid of Trump?

RUCKER: Well, no. I think Trump is frustrated with Flynn. He talked to some friends over the weekend about Flynn and they came away with the impression that he was frustrated with Flynn. I can tell you...

MATTHEWS: So he doesn`t care if the guy is being wasted in the newspaper?

RUCKER: Apparently not.

MATTHEWS: His national security adviser?

RUCKER: You, Chris, four days have gone on -- gone by now since "The Washington Post" first broke the story last Thursday, and the president has still not come out to say he defends Flynn or that he has -- of that Flynn has his full confidence. And the issue, according to the reporting I`ve been doing the last couple of days, is not that Flynn had the conversation with the Russian ambassador, it`s that he mislead or even lied to the vice president about it.

MATTHEWS: OK, what would be the motive -- what would be a motive for not telling the truth? If you had the conversation, then you got heat about it, he could have said, Well, we may have passed it over a bit, because to avoid perjury, you`d never say it didn`t happen. You say, I -- we might have, we didn`t -- you don`t ever get out and say black and white, it never happened. And then when it comes out you did talk about it, you`re perjurious.

RUCKER: But Flynn led Vice President Pence to believe that he absolutely did not talk about the sanctions with the Russian ambassador...

MATTHEWS: Why did he give a blanket denial?

RUCKER: To have Pence go out on television and cover for him. And it wasn`t just Pence he did that. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, Sean Spicer, the press secretary -- both of them went out publicly in January to say Flynn never...

MATTHEWS: That`s what Bill Clinton did...

(CROSSTALK)

RUCKER: ... and in fact, he did, according...

MATTHEWS: Let other people lie for you, which I dearly (ph) detest, making other people lie for you.

Let`s bring in Gene and let`s bring in Chris Ruddy. Gene, this is -- you know these papers. It`s like the synoptic gospels today. All three major metropolitan papers, "The Wall Street Journal," "The "New York Times," "The" -- all say the biggest story is right here on the right-hand side, that this guy`s in trouble. And he is the guy who goes to the president if something -- if something hits the fan, North Korea, Middle East, Russia, he`s supposed to be sitting with the president with the charts and the logbooks and tell him, This is where we`re at here, and it`s really tricky, but -- he doesn`t have anybody to sit with him now.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: (INAUDIBLE) evolved into one of really the key posts in Washington, one of the key jobs in Washington because the secretary of state is off in Foggy Bottom, the CIA`s out in Langley, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It started with Kissinger.

ROBINSON: ... out at the Pentagon...

MATTHEWS: It started with Kissinger. He`s the guy.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And -- and the national security adviser is supposed to sort of synthesize what`s coming from all these directions and present it to the president in a sort of cogent and digestible way that gives him options, right?

And so Flynn is in a key post. And the fact that all these people are leaking, you know -- in a funny way, I think a lot of -- some of the political people who are leaking are leaking because that`s their way of speaking to the president. The way they get a message to the president is through the press.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go -- let me go to Chris Ruddy, who knows the president well. Chris, just tell us what you think is going on and how you know it. Go ahead.

CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX: Well, I think the president is a very loyal guy and he`s a lot more deliberate than everyone in the press is giving him credit for. I saw in "The Washington Post" today, they said there was a certain chaos at the White House. The president is new to this job, he`s new in governing, but he`s been in business for a long time.

I`ve seen how his businesses operate. They usually operate very flawlessly. There is very little turnover in his companies. His staffs are there for a long time.

But one of the things I noticed about him is he`s always looking for feedback about people. And he`s not going to, just because there`s leaks in the press, fire Mike Flynn. He`s going to look at all the evidence and make a solid decision. And if all the guys don`t -- you know, Flynn has so many enemies, Chris. You know that he was not liked in the Obama administration, the national security guys -- he`s an outside-the-box guy. He wanted to be a lot more abrasive in dealing with ISIS and Islam.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RUDDY: Trump loves that part of him. But if there is some serious thing that he did wrong, Trump will cut him. But I`m not -- I have not been told that he`s going to be doing something like that, but I can tell you he`s going to act very deliberately here and be careful what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... stay with you on this. Let me stay with you. You know the job of the NSC director. As Gene was just pointing out, it`s an incredibly -- it`s almost like a concert conductor. You have to bring in what State is giving you. You got -- which is important stuff. You got to bring in what the Defense Department has as capability. And you got to get the (INAUDIBLE) the intelligence community to bring in what they`ve got. And you got to weave it all together and hand it to the president and say, Here`s the situation. Here`s the skinny. This what you`re facing, Mr. President. You got a couple choices here.

It`s that important a job, even for a guy like Trump, who does operate on his own. Doesn`t he have to make up his mind pretty quick about Michael Flynn?

RUDDY: I think he`s going to make a determination we`re going to hear pretty soon. Now, the fact that Kellyanne came out and said "full confidence," that`s pretty powerful. I don`t think that the president says that type of thing unless he`s serious. And I think you would have had some more -- I think he`s going through a period, from what we`re seeing in the White House, where they`re deliberating and they`re reviewing the data and information...

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s Spicer, who does speak for the president. "The president is evaluating the situation. He speaking to Vice President Pence relative to the conversation the vice president had with General Flynn, and also speaking to various other people about what he considers the single most important subject there is, our national security."

Now, Chris, here`s the question. Do you think if it comes out that he lied to the vice president and he lied to Spicer, if he said, I never had any conversations about sanctions, Obama`s sanctions, against Russia, the sanctions which came about because of Russia`s fiddling in the election, in the campaign -- do you think if he lied about that, if he told an untruth, is that a mortal sin, as we say, or not? Is that the end or not?

RUDDY: It sounds like a very serious offense. But I always say my job as a journalist is not telling who the president should hire or fire.

MATTHEWS: OK.

RUDDY: I`m here to make criticisms -- if that -- if he lied, that`s really serious. I think it undercuts his complete credibility if that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go back to a lighter subject, Sean Spicer. And I think he`s doing -- you were saying off camera he`s done a good job, Phil. He`s working very hard. This president -- this is the thing about leaking -- and Chris, you`re going to get in here, too.

I don`t understand the leaking thing. Here a confidant of the president, quoted by a metropolitan paper, said the president is concerned that his press secretary doesn`t own a dark suit. Now, why is Trump talking like that about -- why is he calling Spicer and says, Get yourself a blue suit or a navy suit? Or get -- why does he have to share it? Why does he have to pee on the guy with some confidant? And they does that confidant feel - - or he or she -- the have the right to call a press person, say, Oh, by the way, Trump`s dumping on the dress -- the clothing decisions of press secretary? I know this is light stuff, but it`s weird.

RUCKER: Well, I can`t...

MATTHEWS: Presidents usually honor their confidential relationship with their flacks.

RUCKER: I can`t get in the minds of Trump`s confidants, but I can tell you that the job that Sean Spicer has is the most critical, in many respects, in the minds (ph) of President Trump. He cares about branding. He care about image. And Spicer is the person every day live on cable television...

MATTHEWS: Is Hope Hicks sitting there...

RUCKER: ... for an hour representing him.

MATTHEWS: ... in the on deck circle? Is she sitting there waiting to get that job? Let me as Chris. I think she is. I don`t think she`s sitting there to support Spicer. I think she`s getting ready for that job and sitting there every day in that side bench. What is her role except to be the next spokesperson? Go ahead.

RUDDY: Chris, I think that Spicer has done a good job in a very difficult environment. He`s on a learning curve. We have a extremely hostile press vis-a-vis the president. I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: Do you think the White House press corps...

RUDDY: ... anybody`s seen anything like this.

MATTHEWS: ... is hostile?

RUDDY: Oh! Extremely hostile!

MATTHEWS: But not national -- the people in that room -- the people in that room, really?

RUDDY: Are you watching the same press conferences I am?

MATTHEWS: Well, I know they`re tough, but I don`t think hostile.

RUDDY: They don`t want to give this president -- I mean, even your discussion about the president`s comments about his suit -- maybe he was joking. I don`t know. You know, this president`s different. He says what he thinks. People like that. There`s an authenticity to it.

MATTHEWS: I know.

RUDDY: He is the first non-politician, the first citizen president in the history of the United States. He`s on a learning curve himself. He`s a very quick learner. I think that it would be really bad optics for them to fire Spicer. The guy`s been there, and he`s -- he`s -- he`s...

MATTHEWS: OK...

RUDDY: ... learning the job. And I think it would be a mistake to fire him.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m going to ask you an easy question now, Chris. It was great to have you on. I want you to come on again and again.

Trump I think had a wonderful ability to campaign. Whatever you think of him -- in our view, there`s a lot who don`t like him, and for good reason, in many cases. They -- they -- I see in the guy what you called stand-up comics and an Irish phrase, actually, the ability to listen with your tongue. It means when you`re out there on the stage and you can get the reaction to what you`re saying and you pick up on the reaction, what works, what doesn`t work, and you tune into the zeitgeist that way. And that`s how I think Trump figured out all the stuff he did, the bad stuff, the good, the bad and the ugly, the wall, the birther, whatever thing he was doing, the good stuff about infrastructure, the good stuff about knocking stupid wars -- he seemed to pick up on the audience.

How`s he going to do that as president, stuck in the White House? How`s he going to keep his -- his -- his synchronicity with the zeitgeist while he`s sitting in that office as a bureaucrat himself? How`s he going to do that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s going to have to start having rallies again?

RUDDY: Well, we have never had a president as accessible to the media and to other people. While he`s out...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but the people.

RUDDY: ... seeking out discussions -- he`ll be out and about. He loves to going out to those rallies.

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting for that.

RUDDY: He loves going out -- he doesn`t seem to want to spend all the time that every other president -- weekends sitting in the White House. He`s already getting out to Florida. He`s gone up to New York. He`s moving around. And every time he`s out meeting people, ordinary people or important people or even people in the media, he`s asking them questions about specific things...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RUDDY: ... for feedback. That`s his whole modus operandi. I think it`s a good thing. I think he -- and you know, ignore some of the things he says because a little bit of it is show biz. He comes out of the show biz world. Look at his results. I think the first...

MATTHEWS: OK...

RUDDY: He put an A-plus cabinet. You may disagree with the politics. He`s had some good executive orders to protect American jobs. Give him a chance. I mean, it`s only two or three weeks...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I am not conclusive. If you watch this show, you know I`m not. Thank you, Chris Ruddy, for coming on.

I want to go back to the group here for a second here, Gene especially. Don`t pay attention to everything he says.

ROBINSON: Yes, I...

MATTHEWS: Now, the problem -- reporters are -- we call ourselves "scribes" for a reason. We write down words we hear...

ROBINSON: Yes, I`m...

MATTHEWS: ... and it`s very hard to say, Delete that, ignore that. That`s the problem.

ROBINSON: I`m not down with that, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: I mean, you just can`t do that. You have to pay attention to what the president of the United States says. You have to.

MATTHEWS: I know.

ROBINSON: You can`t not pay attention to what the president of the United States says!

MATTHEWS: Take him seriously but not literally, but you have to take literally to get to the seriously usually.

ROBINSON: You have to take him literally.

MATTHEWS: Phil, you`re a guy who takes him literally.

RUCKER: Yes, his word is policy. And when he tweets at 6:00 in the morning, that`s a policy statement. That is a statement of opinion from the president of the United States, and we take it seriously. We report it as news. And I think it`s up to the American people to judge him based on what he`s saying.

MATTHEWS: And you know what -- here`s something to give to the president, Chris, since you`re close to him, and I think you are. Jefferson once said that if you -- Before you say something, count to 10. And if you`re angry, count to 100.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: I totally agree they should have -- I`ve told people my feedback was, have a process where there`s a couple hours before a tweet (INAUDIBLE) I think they`re going to throttle back over time.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RUDDY: He`s gone from campaign mode into presidential mode. It`s taking a little -- there`s a transition period. I think it will happen, and I think it`ll be good and positive.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I think -- we used to call it on our network the seven-second delay.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But I think it takes more than seven seconds to calm down, and I mean it!

Anyway, thank you for coming on. Please keep coming back, Christopher Ruddy. Phil Rucker, great reporting. You and "The Post" -- you, "The Post" and "The Times" are in one great reporter campaign. I love it!

RUCKER: We`ve got a lot to cover, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I love the competition. It`s the good old days. It`s back with Ben Bradlee and Abe Rosenthal and all that stuff. (INAUDIBLE) be back. Thanks so much.

The Senate right now, by the way, is voting on the confirmation of Steve Mnuchin to be the next secretary of Treasury. He needs a simple majority, of course, under the nuclear rules, 51 votes, and he`s expected to win confirmation.

And coming up tonight here on HARDBALL, President Trump`s senior White House policy adviser Steven Miller is going to come here. (sic) Actually, he said this weekend that the powers of the president will not be questioned. I wish he would come here. Well, see, I think the president does get questioned, even here.

Plus, why is the president of the United States running his response to North Korea`s missile test this weekend from the dining hall at Mar-a-Lago, a full view of that club`s guests? Is this any way to run a government? Hillary got in trouble for e-mail. This guy`s having these meetings in public!

And the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the White House - - is coming on Wednesday. We`re joined tonight by the great "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman to talk a bit about that.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we continue to watch the United States Senate floor -- there it is -- which is holding a confirmation vote on President Trump`s pick for Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. And after that vote, by the way, the Senate will move on to the confirmation of David Shulkin to be the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin is currently the VA`s undersecretary for health and was nominated to that post by President Obama -- that post.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Will Donald Trump position himself from here to November as a candidate against those policies of regime change?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR TRUMP POLICY ADVISER: Donald Trump tonight positioned himself as a candidate who on the issue of trade and foreign policy sides with the great, broad heart and soul of working people in this country in both parties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was then candidate Trump speechwriter Stephen Miller following Trump`s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer.

Well, now Steve Miller is the senior policy adviser in the Trump White House helping to shape the president`s most controversial moves, the wall between us and Mexico, pulling out of the TPP trade deal, and, of course, the travel ban.

Well, this weekend, Steve Miller mounted an aggressive defense of the policies coming out of the White House and took on the three branches of government, the press, also the issue of voter fraud. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER: We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.

We have equal branches of government in this country. The judiciary is not supreme.

There`s no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did, both at the Ninth and at the district level, was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States.

And the bottom line is, the president`s powers in this area represent the apex of executive authority. The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, many people believe he was looking at a teleprompter there, but he wasn`t, which is even scarier.

Following Miller`s Sunday shows circuit, anyway, President Trump tweeted: "Congratulations, Steve Miller, on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job."

Well, "The New York Times" profiled Trump`s 31-year-old aide, writing": "The ascent of Mr. Miller from far-right gadfly with little policy experience to the president`s senior policy adviser came as a shock to many of the staff members who knew him from his seven years in the Senate, a man whose e-mails were, until recently, considered spam by many of his Republican peers. He is now shaping the Trump administration`s core domestic policies with his economic nationalism and hard-line positions on immigration."

Heidi Przybyla is senior politics reporter at "USA Today." She writes all the big front-page stuff, and an MSNBC political analyst. And Jeremy Peters again with "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor.

Thank you for this.

There`s a certain iron-like or steel-like way he talks that is scary. He basically says the president is the boss. In fact, he said he will not and must be not questioned.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s almost like he was competing with the other aides to Trump for saying, in the most brazen way possible, the untruths that have been told and repeatedly debunked, but then going further than that in terms of going after, actually making a threat against the courts.

And you know that the affirmation of this was that Trump took the unusual step afterwards of actually praising him for it and for talking about him in very kind of autocratic terms, that he is 100 percent, and I will go anyway on any show at any time and repeat over and over that Trump, whatever he says is 100 correct.

MATTHEWS: It was authoritarian.

JEREMY PETERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It`s jingoistic.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is this the Trump soul?

PETERS: Trump is not being insincere in that tweet. They really think that he did a good job.

MATTHEWS: But no charm. There`s no charm in that voice. There`s no winning, come on, we`re leading the country to a better place. There`s no make America great again. There is, you will do this.

PETERS: I got an e-mail from a source this morning saying that -- this is something who grew up in Russia -- who said, this guy reminds me of the communist youth leaders who would go on television to spew propaganda.

This was, I think, for a lot of people, kind of take your pick of which authoritarian regime it reminded you of, but it did not look American.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s skin this down a little bit.

Heidi, we all know that the president`s draft of his order, which was called by enemies the Muslim ban, and some people say that is what it is, because it was intended -- he can fix it. In a sense, he can take out any reference to people with green cards because they have standing in the Constitution under the Fifth Amendment to the Due Process Clause.

He can take out that with reference to religious minorities, which is another indication this is a religious ban. He can fix it in those ways. But he is still left with the history of having listened to Giuliani. And Giuliani went out that bragging and said, this is really a Muslim ban with different language, and his own words on the campaign stump, so that any liberal judge -- maybe not a conservative judge -- any liberal judge at that appellate judge will get ahold of this and say, sorry, buddy, it`s still a Muslim ban. It`s a breaking of the Establishment Clause.

PRZYBYLA: He himself called it a Muslim ban. And the Ninth Circuit...

MATTHEWS: After it was written?

PRZYBYLA: Not after it was written, but when he first introduced this concept to the American people, he called it a Muslim ban.

MATTHEWS: Right. I know.

PRZYBYLA: And the Ninth Circuit among -- it wasn`t the only court to rule against this. There were several others courts that did this.

And so there -- he can try and fix it, but...

MATTHEWS: Well, what happens when he fixes it and they still say no?

PRZYBYLA: Exactly. Does he appeal it to the Supreme Court? I don`t know.

PETERS: Is he going to defy the courts? No, I don`t think so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Bannon -- this guy Miller talks like what Trump says. Whatever you think of him, he says, I will see you in court, which implies it will be up to the judge. I will see you in court; therefore, the judge will rule at some level.

PETERS: They are still figuring this out.

I spoke with someone very senior in the White House last night who said that they`re not going to defy the courts on this. I think that...

MATTHEWS: Even Nixon didn`t defy the courts.

PETERS: No, because you can`t. And as much clamoring as there may be on the far right -- I mean, you have Pat Buchanan and Laura Ingraham and these types saying, no, Trump should just do what Lincoln said he was going to do, and lock the chief justice up in jail.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why do they want him to do that?

PETERS: Because there`s this whole idea of judicial supremacy, which Miller was talking about.

MATTHEWS: It`s called judicial review.

PETERS: He`s really speaking conservatives` language right there, because there`s a sense on the right that the courts have usurped too much power.

MATTHEWS: Well, some have. They have seen in the Constitution -- in every landmark decision, whether it`s Brown or it`s the one on Roe v. Wade, they have found in the Constitution an inherent purpose, because we didn`t know about airplanes back in the 18th century, but we have an Air Force.

There`s a lot of things we had to interpret. And they said there is a privacy implication in there in the rights to women, for example. And they did think that separate but equal was never equal, because they found that young black kids, when shown pictures of white and black dolls, said the whites are better-looking or whatever. And they discovered this discrimination sent a note of inferiority to people.

And they decided to make these implicit -- these judgments about implications in the Constitution. It took thinking. And if you just go by the wording, if you just go by the wording in the Constitution, we`re back in the 18th century.

PRZYBYLA: You said they`re not going to defy the courts.

But I actually obtained an e-mail that is from a spammer similar to what Stephen Miller was. Now, I don`t know what is paying attention, if they`re actually a spammer.

MATTHEWS: What`s a spammer?

PRZYBYLA: An e-mailer, OK, a conservative e-mailer. Bannon is on the e- mail link. And they talk actually about the fact that they believe that the Supreme Court ruling that established the court`s oversight over the executive...

Marbury vs. Madison.

PRZYBYLA: ... Marbury vs. Madison, was wrongly decided. So, there is this fringe element.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS: Because there`s so mistrustful of the courts.

MATTHEWS: If you have the courts and you have the Congress and you have the president, who can be the umpire, if it isn`t the courts?

PETERS: Well, it has to be the courts. That`s the thing.

And that`s what is so odd about Stephen Miller`s reasoning here, is, he talks about in one breath equal branches of government, and then talks about the executive being supreme.

PRZYBYLA: Which makes you think there`s going to be an exception in this case because they say it`s a national security issue -- a national security concern. And, in this case, he has, in his words, absolute power.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of -- now, this is unfair, because I don`t know Sean Spicer. I got no problem with him. He`s a tough guy. He can take this.

What was he getting his picture taken Sunday morning rolling the lint off of Steve Miller? They treat Miller like he`s a debutante or something. Who is this guy that is showing himself in public and has to cleaned up for the camera?

PRZYBYLA: It`s a pecking order. I don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERS: Yes. If Trump cannot...

MATTHEWS: I want everybody to watch this. This picture captures White House Press Secretary Sean rolling the lint off Steve Miller`s suit. What is that about?

He`s got a picket kerchief, too, a sign of authority. The whole thing. This is Sunday.

PRZYBYLA: I think he`s giving more material for "Saturday Night Live."

PETERS: I hope it`s a joke. Yes, if Trump can`t unsee a woman playing his press secretary, he is not going to be able to unsee that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s brutal. Somebody told me that -- I was saying on a radio interview in San Francisco today it was the first time they sort of switched the gender. But the look is very similar.

Melissa does -- she`s got the Irish red face and everything of Spicer. But the gender switch, I said that`s got to be first time that`s ever been done as part of parody.

Apparently, Will Ferrell played Janet Reno.

PETERS: He did, yes. He was great at it. Janet Reno`s dance party.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That will shake you but up a little bit.

PRZYBYLA: I think this is what they are doing to get under their skin, though, because did you notice Sessions was played by a woman? And then you see Rosie O`Donnell is openly competing -- intending to play Bannon.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: She wants to be Bannon.

PRZYBYLA: They know how to get inside Trump`s head.

MATTHEWS: Why would anybody -- Rosie is tough.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: She`s really tough.

Anyway, well, thank you, guys.

It looks to me like this is strange. This guy does have a scary mettle to him, don`t you think, Steve Miller? He`s not the musician.

PRZYBYLA: Those comments, I think, are scary.

MATTHEWS: I think they`re scary.

You will -- this language is, the president will not be questioned, he will not be questioned.

PETERS: It`s a tad hyperbolic.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Heidi Przybyla. Thank you, Jennifer -- Jennifer...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We`re all doing that -- Jeremy Peters.

The Senate has enough votes now to put Steve Mnuchin over the top. That wasn`t a surprise. He is the next -- he is now the secretary of the treasury. He got the 51 votes he needs as the vote continues beyond that. Mnuchin is expected to be sworn in later tonight.

Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable on the growing pressure tonight on National Security Adviser Mike Flynn -- we have been talking that -- and the strange show this weekend at Mar-a-Lago after North Korea`s missile launch. It is strangest family dinner with all these club members talking about, what are we going to do?

This is -- and Hillary got knocked around a lot over e-mail. And here is an open discussion at a club about what we`re going to do because of a North Korea missile shot.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s new scrutiny of President Trump`s so-called winter White House in Palm Beach, Florida, as we saw with the visit of the Japanese prime minister this weekend. Trump`s use of his private club, Mar-a-Lago, for presidential business allows the club`s members to have unprecedented proximity to power.

Pictures have surfaced on social media since the weekend showing that certain members of the club of Mar-a-Lago who were near the president`s dinner table on Saturday night were treated to a rare view of diplomacy in action, actually foreign policy in action.

While we have not yet independently verified the timing of the photos, they appear to capture the scene some time after the news broke that North Korea had test-fired a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

As "The Washington Post" described it -- quote -- "Trump and Abe turned their dinner table into an open air situation room. Aides and translators surrounded the two leaders as other diners chatted and gawked around them, with staffers using the flashlights on their cell phones to illuminate documents on the darkened outdoor terrace."

Well, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today that the president had already been briefed on the launch and the only thing discussed at the dinner table was the logistics of their joint press conference.

Well, another photograph on social media showed a member of the club poising alongside one of the several military officials who he says is responsible for carrying the nuclear football, which allows the president to launch an attack on a moment`s notice.

I`m joined right now at the Roundtable by David Ignatius, columnist with "The Washington Post." Sabrina Siddiqui is a political reporter with "The Guardian." And Jeremy Bash is a former CIA chief of staff and MSNBC national security analyst.

Jeremy, what do you make of this? I keep referring to the Romanovs because they do everything as a family. It`s like a king at court. All these people sitting around having dinner the other night, and they`re talking about attacking -- that mission to Yemen that didn`t work out so well.

Then we have them sitting around talking with the prime minister of the -- the prime minister of Japan must say, what kind of country is it? They`re sitting around. It`s like, I don`t know what, all this royal family trappings with people coming in listening, bringing their cameras.

And then Hillary gets practically booted from the Earth for sending out some e-mails. And these guys are -- they`re doing it all in public.

JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That`s right.

I think it actually OK to have dinner in a restaurant with a counterpart, have the spouses there. That`s OK. But national security decision-making should not be spectator sport. You don`t want to confuse dinner theater with diplomacy.

And if they`re talking something sensitive, by God, you don`t want people waving around these cell phones and potentially photographing or recording things that are in the documents.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this? Twice, this has happened where dinnertime seems to be decision time.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Right.

And Sean Spicer is saying that no classified information was discussed when they were out in public. But we just have to take the White House at its word. That`s proven to be problematic in the past.

MATTHEWS: What were these documents? And why were people looking over people`s shoulders to get shots of this stuff?

SIDDIQUI: Well, in addition to the fact that we don`t know what kind of security screening is in place for these members, it`s also that they`re...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You pay $200,000 to get in the club. That`s the security screening.

SIDDIQUI: You pay $200,000 to get in the club to have access to the president, as well as the fact that they`re also allowed, if you`re a member, to invite guests.

So, what is the security in place for them to bring people from the outside? We don`t know if they`re foreign -- they have ties to foreign governments, if they`re trying to influence the president on policy. There`s a whole host of unanswered questions.

MATTHEWS: Well, David, you know espionage better than anybody I know.

Wouldn`t you think the Russians would say, we`ve got to get somebody into Mar-a-Lago now?

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: The Israelis, everybody, the Arabs, they all want membership cards now.

IGNATIUS: This is the hottest intel job going, to be a waiter at Mar-a- Lago.

BASH: West Palm Beach station chief, right?

IGNATIUS: I have to be honest.

MATTHEWS: You`re always honest.

IGNATIUS: My outrage meter is not...

MATTHEWS: What do you make of dinnertime decision-making then?

IGNATIUS: Stuff happens. And sometimes it happens at dinner.

What I do know about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The Situation Room, you can`t get in there with electronics. It`s completely shut off by lead, right, isn`t it?

IGNATIUS: So, they have SCIFs. And the White House says that the president was in a SCIF, which is a secure, compartmented facility that is secure, talking about North Korea before they went up to dinner. We don`t know the details.

The point I want to make is, from the perspective of Japan, which is a crucial ally, this weekend that Prime Minister Abe spent at Mar-a-Lago was a fantastic thing. The Japanese will feel, I think, buoyed by it. The Japanese love golf. The fact the prime minister was playing golf...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about the velvet glove? Do you think that works when he ran against trade with Japan and China all these months?

IGNATIUS: I think he was off on completely the wrong course. I think he`s reversing that course. I think this weekend was really good for our most important relationship in Asia.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I hear you.

What about this Flynn thing? NBC News tonight, it`s all over, this guy`s future hangs in the balance. The guy he most trusts, he has to trust to give him the info from State, Defense, CIA, it`s all got to come through his brain to the president. And this guy is on very fragile ground.

IGNATIUS: I think the White House is in disarray.

While we watched this afternoon, they went from full confidence in Flynn to evaluating Flynn in the space of two hours. It`s obvious the president hasn`t decided what to do. This is potentially really damaging for him. The national security adviser has to be trusted.

Right now, it`s fair to say Mike Flynn isn`t.

SIDDIQUI: And I think that, with Donald Trump, this is someone who is obsessed with his image. And so I think some of the reticence you see on his part to immediately taking any sort of action against Michael Flynn is not wanting to have to let go his top national security adviser right here, three weeks in.

He doesn`t like distractions when it comes to people he surrounds himself with. Michael Flynn has been a distraction since before he was even appointed to this post.

MATTHEWS: OK. Put that against the fact of keeping him.

This is life`s decision. Somebody is a pain in the butt. You got to deal with it, right? You don`t think it`s going to change. I`m looking at Alexander Haig. They had to get -- Reagan had to dump his secretary of state. Bush`s candidate for secretary of defense, a good guy who had a drinking problem, John Tower, had to be booted. He got humiliated.

So, it`s happened before. You can have a shakedown cruise and lose some top people. It doesn`t kill your administration.

SIDDIQUI: It certainly doesn`t.

With respect to Donald Trump, as we`ve seen, there is a lot of dysfunction currently with respect to the White House. You had Kellyanne Conway say that Michael Flynn has the full confidence of the president. Then, only an hour later, Sean Spicer is saying that they`re evaluating the situation.

I think they`re genuinely -- genuinely here being extremely reactive and having it conclude with the best path forward.

MATTHEWS: Jeremy...

BASH: But the one guy with...

MATTHEWS: Sonny Liston was unbeatable, until he was beaten by Muhammad Ali.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And then he could never win again. So, you never know when it`s going to happen, you`re gone.

BASH: That`s right. And the one guy who has national security credentials, who`s in the inner circle, who can`t be fired, who had been dragged into this Russia controversy, Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States. Now, he`s going to be a witness and investigations into how this whole thing unfolded.

MATTHEWS: He looks very serious. There`s the sober-looking guy.

BASH: Yes. And if I were him, I`d be upset.

MATTHEWS: I think though whether he thinks he ever lies. I think this is not the problem, with Pence, he means what he says. Most people would say, oh my God.

The roundtable is stick with us and when we come back, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

David Ignatius, tell me something I don`t know because you know everything.

DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I tell you that in terms of pushback against North Korea, which just conducted this scary missile test, the Trump administration has authorized a major military exercise this month. It`s held every year. This is supposed to be the biggest ever, and North Koreans would be furious.

MATTHEWS: I just hope that Kim Jong-un understands that if he ever launches a nuclear weapon anywhere that he`s finished. He personally will have a very miserable ending. I hope he knows that.

SIDDIQUI: One of the top contenders to the Donald Trump`s ambassador to South Africa is the senior editor at large for Breitbart News, Joel Pollak. He is a native of South Africa, who`s family emigrated to the U.S. Certainly does not have diplomatic experience.

He`s a contender. The White House is staying kind of mum about this. But suffice to say, we`ve seen the growing influence of Breitbart in the White House.

MATTHEWS: What`s the Breitbart attitude towards Africa?

SIDDIQUI: Well, I can`t speak to the whole attitude of Breitbart, but Joel Pollak, one thing I know he has been big critic of affirmative action policies in South Africa.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

BASH: The FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee as you know are investigating the Russian influence in the election. What if they want to interview the national security adviser? Those conversations happen on December 29th. Does executive privilege attach?

I talked to expert on this issue and she reports to me that, no, it does not because during the transition, executive privilege does not attach. Mike Flynn would have to testify.

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting to see those transcripts.

Anyway, thank you, David Ignatius. Thank you, Sabrina Siddiqui and Jeremy Bash.

When we return, "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman joins us.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Late tonight, a federal district court judge in Washington state said the legal challenge to President Trump`s travel should continue in his court even as at Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers a full review. District Court Judge James Robart, who put the initial restraining order that stopped the ban from remaining in effect, says he is not prepared to slowdown the case against the president`s executive order.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Twenty years ago, the United States preferred snail mail over e-mail. And to most people, their vision of reality TV was a home video. Well, the world is rapidly evolving as a place to live on, which we all do, and with new technologies come new battlefields, and nobody has harnessed the power of those technologies better than the first reality TV president, Donald Trump.

In his book, "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist Guy Just Thriving in the Age of Accelerations", is New York columnist Thomas Friedman, who always writes great books, tries to explain our evolving world and assures there`s a way to hang on, or in his words, dance in a hurricane.

For more, I`m joined by the great Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, three times he`s won it, author, Thomas Friedman.

You wrote this book not knowing who was going to win the election and yet this book is about speed, and we have a president who lives with synapses. He lives with something that just happened, he`s there. I said during the show, he`s like a nightclub comic who knows what jokes work, he tells them again that they don`t work. He doesn`t tell them again.

He listens with his tongue. He`s just there with the zeitgeist, you know? And help put that together -- this book, in explaining why a Trump, he`s no regular guy. He`s not a Walter Mondale or a Hillary Clinton. He`s not a regular political-class politician.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, you know, Chris, a couple things have happened. One, I profile in the book, is what happened in 2007. It seems like an innocuous year but, in fact, the iPhone came out in 2007. A dupe, which created Big Daddy, came out in 2007. Facebook went global in 2007. Twitter went global in 2007. IBM Watson came out in 2007. Airbnb started in 2007. Android came out in 2007. The price of sequencing the human genome collapsed in 2007.

It turns out, that was an amazing technological leap forward and we completely missed it because of 2008. So, right when our --

MATTHEWS: Because of the economy dropping?

FRIEDMAN: Exactly. S, right when our physical technologies took off, all of the social technologies, the political reform, regulatory reform, really froze and a lot of people got caught in that dislocation and that`s one reason for Brexit and for Trump.

MATTHEWS: Trump appeals to people who were disturbed by this. Yet he`s exploited it brilliantly, tweeting at 6:30 in the morning is almost clownish, it is clownish at times, but yet he dominates the news agenda that day when he does it.

FRIEDMAN: There`s no question because we are in an age of acceleration where the power of one has so exploded that we now have a president who can sit in his bedroom, basically, and tweet and communicate directly to hundreds of millions of people around the world without an editor, a libel lawyer or a filter. But here`s what`s really --

MATTHEWS: Filter is the key.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly. But here`s what`s really new -- the head of ISIS can do the same from Raqqa province. That`s what`s really new about this world.

MATTHEWS: And we saw what happened in the revolution in Egypt, where it was done by cell phones, by -- look what happened a week or two ago with the Women`s March. That was put together by a woman in Hawaii, a nonpolitician, a grassroots, classic grassroots, and all of a sudden, the most -- actually most thrilling for the people on the progressive side of things, it`s happened in the long time. People just got up and marched to Washington, women especially.

FRIEDMAN: It was an amazing thing. The thing about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, al these things, they are great for getting out a crowd. But as I profile in the book, a couple of people who are leaders of movements like the movement in Egypt, they are great for getting people in a crowd. They are terrible for actually pursing and building an organization.

You know, Lenin said organization is everything.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: And at the end of the day, these technologies, they are great for arousing people.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: But they`re not good for organizing people.

MATTHEWS: Somebody once said socialism would not make it in this country because nobody wants to go to meetings. Will people go to meetings?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, it turns out that doing that old fashion stuff, getting a group together, going door to door, builds alliances and solidarity that really matter in the end in delivering political change.

MATTHEWS: History, I love it. You know, I write about it. You do it, too.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I`m always thinking what happened with Nixon, what happened with Reagan, how`s that useful today, what happened with W. I see the mistakes that have been made. I see what worked. You know, Jim Baker, great chief of staff, things like that. And then I get the sense with the age of Twitter, with the age of tweetting, if you say that`s history, that`s a putdown.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s history. I wasn`t around then. That`s the one that drives me. Well, I wasn`t around then during Lincoln and FDR. But I do know that they were good at something.

FRIEDMAN: Well, you known, I hear young people saying I`m upset about this. I said, what did you do? They say, I tweeted about it.

So, you tweeted about it? That`s like firing a mortar into the Milky Way galaxy. You have to get out of Facebook and into somebody`s face. That`s how politics actually happens.

And what worries me this moment in particular, Chris, especially the Stephen Miller story you`ve been talking about tonight, you know, driving over there, I was talking to my teacher and friend, Doug Simon (ph). Doug makes an important distinction between moral authority and formal authority.

So, what the Trump now has a formal authority. In fact, they keep telling you, we won. OK? But he has zero moral authority right now. And I think that`s really going to matter in time, OK? Because when he gets into a crisis and has to look into the eyes of the American people and say, "Trust me, believe me, North Korea`s really doing this, I had to act in this way," the fact that he has no moral authority now, they keep telling -- Kellyanne Cconway keeps sayings, we`ve won. Get over it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: That`s not going to do it in a crisis.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the book once again, to thank -- I want to thank everybody for being here. It`s "Thank You" -- strange title, very ironic and brilliant for people. "Thank You For Being Late."

This guy has never let us down. Read this book. Buy it this weekend -- no, it`s not this weekend, it`s Monday night, buy it now, anyway, on Amazon. "Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist Guy Thriving in the Age of Acceleration".

By the way, you`re always going to feel more optimistic after reading Thomas Friedman, which is a good thing in the age of what`s his name.

When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch. That`s the man I`m talking about.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, February 13th, 2017.

As the Trump presidency continues on a shakedown cruise, a pair of major problems have emerged in the troubling waters of these first three-plus weeks. One is up on the bridge where the top officers stand in their command. It remains a question of who was already in charge.

The president makes calls to foreign leaders without checking with those advising him. How does he deal with these important leaders without some kind of guidance from the people he`s brought aboard? How do the people he`s brought aboard now know what he`s going to tweet at 6:30 tomorrow morning? Who`s studying the charts for him? Who`s keeping the logs?

Apparently, no one.

Which brings us to the question of whether he trusts his navigator. Does he? Does he believe Michael Flynn is giving him the straight skinny? Does he believe his J-2 when he says he must have forgotten talking to the Russians about the Obama sanctions? Does he?

And then, there`s the other problem, the one down below. What`s with all of the leaks? Leak after leak after leak? On every bulkhead out there on the overhead, you see the hard spray coming into the ship. Another dreaded side of another leak. When is he going to plug those leaks, Mr. President?

When is the captain going to get off his phone and get up on the bridge and start getting control of the ship? Because the ship of state right now is listing. Can`t you tell?

And why is the captain so obsessed with matters like the sales decisions at Nordstrom`s or his press secretary`s clothing choices? Shouldn`t he be focused on the mission?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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