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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/16/2017

Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Philip Rucker, Eli Stokols, Jason Johnson, Tom Barrack, Tamara Keith, John Heilemann, Michael Shear, Angus King

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: February 16, 2017 Guest: Yamiche Alcindor, Philip Rucker, Eli Stokols, Jason Johnson, Tom Barrack, Tamara Keith, John Heilemann, Michael Shear, Angus King

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The day of the rant.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Four weeks into his presidency, surrounded by turmoil and controversy, President Donald Trump delivered an epic rant today, "epic" being Kellyanne Conway`s word for it. For an hour and 26 minutes, he defended his administration, boasted about his electoral win, called reporting on his administration`s ties to Russia fake, and slammed Democrats and the media. He blamed President Obama for the problems the country now faces.

Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To be honest, I inherited a mess. It`s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, as he has done countless times since the November election, the president returned to the topic of his electoral victory.


TRUMP: I put it out before the American people, got 306 Electoral College votes. I wasn`t supposed to get 222. They said there`s no way to get 222, 230 is impossible, 270, which you need, that was laughable. We got 306.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump called reports about dysfunction at the White House false.


TRUMP: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos. It`s chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can`t get my cabinet approved.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump bragged about his new administration`s early achievements.


TRUMP: There`s never been a presidency that`s done so much in such a short period of time.


MATTHEWS: But more than anything else, he attacked the media, calling it dishonest, biased and mean.


TRUMP: The press has become so dishonest that if we don`t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.

The media is trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made.

I sort of enjoy this back-and-forth, and I guess I have all my life, but I`ve never seen more dishonest media than, frankly, the political media.

You have a lower approval rate than Congress. I think that`s right. You know, this whole Russia scam that you guys are building so that you don`t talk about real subject, which a illegal leaks.

(INAUDIBLE) "New York Times" wrote a big, long, front-page story. It`s a joke.

I watch CNN. It`s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.

Where are you from?


TRUMP: There`s another (INAUDIBLE)

And I have to say, "Fox & Friends" in the morning -- they`re very honorable people. They`re very -- not because they`re good because they hit me also when I do something wrong. But they have the most honest morning show.

The public doesn`t believe you people anymore. Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don`t know.

They`ll take this news conference -- I`m actually having a very good time. Tomorrow, they will say Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I`m not ranting and raving, I`m just telling you, you know, you`re dishonest people.


MATTHEWS: We`re saying it tonight, actually.

Joining me right now, "The New York Times`s" Yamiche Alcindor, Politico`s Eli Stokols and "The Washington Post`s" Phil Rucker.

I want to -- first of all, this attack on the media -- he does it generally. He -- I`m going to get to this at the end of the show. He`s not attacking a reporter for making a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. And there are no angels in the press, there`s no devils. They`re just people doing their jobs under the 1st Amendment.

What is he up to? Why is it attacking all media all the time, except his faves like "Fox & friends" and Krauthammer, the neocon writer, a smart guy, but -- he only picks out those few that he things have been selling him lately.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "NEW YORK TIMES": This is really about delegitimizing the press, and I think a lot has to do with the idea that later on, if we uncover something like maybe more -- that there is more to the Russia story or that there was some issue with coordination between his campaign and Russia, that people aren`t going to believe us. He wants to believe that - - he wants to make the media seem as though we`ve been attacking him, and anything that we write, it`s really just to take away -- take away the presidency from him.

And I think he`s -- he -- I think, in some ways, it`s working, but in a lot of ways, it`s really just making the media want to dig even deeper.


ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO: Well, I mean, it`s just passing the buck. He takes no responsibility, says, We inherited all of this. He says that, We didn`t -- our executive order wasn`t botched. We just got a bad court. Asked about the Russia thing, he basically, Well, I don`t know. I didn`t talk to any of them. I mean, he has no answers to these questions. And so he has to create this motive for the press...

MATTHEWS: But what about what Yamiche said? It seems like he`s against the idea of reporting, not just a reporter is imperfect...

STOKOLS: Well, he`s against the idea of leaks, too, when the leaks are negative for him...

MATTHEWS: And true!


MATTHEWS: And he actually did say they`re true today.

STOKOLS: Right. And when people pointed out that during the campaign, you seemed to like Wikileaks quite a bit, he didn`t have an answer for the hypocrisy. He wants to undermine anything that can be a check and balance on him. And basically, every day, that is the mainstream media, so that`s what he`s doing.

ALCINDOR: Especially when people are trying put his presidency into context, which is what I`ll say at "The New York Times" and I would say at "The Washington Post" and at Politico, we`re doing. We`re telling people, Look, this is not normal. There are things that this -- this presidency is doing that breaks norms and that could be dangerous. And he doesn`t like that idea, and he wants people to really look at "The New York Times" and CNN and say, We`ll, they`re not real media. They`re not really doing the work.

MATTHEWS: But he seems to have a particular -- it`s often you guys, "The New York Times," right? You don`t have to respond. I`m just saying it. And it`s often CNN. And then he has his favorites, obviously, Fox and "The New York Post," I guess he likes.

STOKOLS: That`s exactly right. And what we saw today was an angry and frustrated president.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I thought.

STOKOLS: I mean, he`s angry and frustrated that his agenda...

MATTHEWS: What got to him today?

STOKOLS: ... that his...

MATTHEWS: Phil, why did he -- Phil, why did he get there today? Why -- what was it, E.J. Dionne`s column this morning that said he shouldn`t be president? I mean, what is -- what has got to him?

RUCKER: I can`t read his mind, but it`s been one problem after another and he`s only four weeks in the office. His executive order, travel ban, has been blocked. It`s not being enforced. you`ve got the Michael Flynn controversy. He had to resign in scandal 24 days into the presidency. This is not going smoothly, and he`s looking for people to blame, and the media is an easy foil for him.

STOKOLS: Well, he`s frustrated -- he`s blaming, in part, his own team. He`s frustrated, I understand, with surrogates, the other people who`ve been going on TV for him...


STOKOLS: ... not getting...

MATTHEWS: So he has to do it.

STOKOLS: So he feels like, I`m going to do this. Watch me. I mean, he loves to mix it up. He loves to have that foil and he relishes the combat. He seemed flat at the beginning, but by the end of that, 76 minutes into it, he seemed -- you could see the adrenaline coursing through him, just like during the campaign because he was doing -- he was, you know, engaging in that give-and-take...

RUCKER: He had fun.

STOKOLS: ... and muddying the waters.

MATTHEWS: There was something -- there was something -- I don`t know if it -- not quite manic. I`m not going to go that far. But there was sort of an element of, you know -- you know, Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," like, you know, "You can`t handle the truth." And he comes out and it`s almost id is showing, you know, a lot of id, a lot of just psychic, This is what I can`t sleep at night about. This is what`s bugging me. It was very -- there was no BS to it tonight. He honestly, obviously, believes everything he said today, the way he said it was so manic.

ALCINDOR: Well, the...

MATTHEWS: Or almost manic.

ALCINDOR: The thing that also struck me was the fact that if you had -- you could take parts of this press conference and you could have been in October 2016. You could have been -- he`s still talking about Hillary Clinton...


ALCINDOR: ... people talking about all of the ways that people said that...

MATTHEWS: We`ll get to the rear-view mirror. He cannot get out of that rear-view mirror. He`s driving a car, looking in the rear-view mirror.

Anyway, the most of the media, after going after that, especially "The New York Times" and CNN (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump had praise for some journalists. As you saw, he called "Fox & Friends" the most honest morning show and he cited "Washington Post" columnist Charles Krauthammer`s defense of Michael Flynn. Let`s watch him.


TRUMP: In all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night say he was doing his job. And I agreed with him.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump singled out CNN head Jeff Zucker over and over again for special criticism. Let`s watch that.


QUESTION: You know, for the record, we don`t hate you.



TRUMP: Ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job.

I sort of understand there`s a certain bias, maybe by Jeff or somebody, you know (INAUDIBLE) you know, whatever reason. But -- and I understand that. But you`ve got to be at least a little fair. That`s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it`s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred -- and the public is smart. They understand it.


MATTHEWS: Well, you know, we have opinion shows on this network, and I`m opinionated. And it`s part of journalism today, not the straight reporters, like you guys. You`re allowed (ph) to have an opinion? A little bit. But you two are straight reporters.

And what I think he`s going after -- I agree with Yamiche. He`s not fighting with people that (ph) opinion, like Dr. -- you know, Charles Krauthammer or George Will or anybody else. He -- that`s part of the business of being in politics, being criticized. Like, writing a book, you get criticized. You get reviewed. He seems to want to knock out the guys doing the real straight front page reporting. That`s who he goes after.

RUCKER: And delegitimize it as fake. And we saw this yesterday from the president and then again today, where the actual reports, the leaks, the information that`s being reported in "The New York Times," in "The Washington Post," that his administration says is true, Trump is out there saying it`s all fake news, it`s all a ruse, it`s all fake...

MATTHEWS: So I think -- back to Yamiche. You say, you know, since everything`s not to believe, then nothing`s to believe. Then don`t read the newspaper. By the way, your paper is doing great.

ALCINDOR: Well, thanks.

MATTHEWS: I mean, would somebody please point out -- I will (INAUDIBLE) "New York Times" has 200,000 more readers or something on line. So something`s going on. People are paying attention to this network, I can tell you. People are really paying attention to Trump, and they`re in wonder of him. And some on the progressive side think he`s lot it, or he never had it. Others are just depressed. And other people are still open- minded enough to say, I hope he gets his act together.

I`d like to see him get his act together. We don`t need a failed president. I`ve been through a couple of those, and they`re not good for the country. I saw a good guy go down, Jimmy Carter, politically, and I saw a guy with all kinds of problems, Nixon, go down. It`s -- the a mood of the country drops when a president begins to fail.

Eli, you`re shaking your head.

STOKOLS: Well, I mean...

MATTHEWS: It`s not good for the country to have a failing president.

STOKOLS: And it`s interesting, though. He talked about the tone. He was kind of admonishing the media, you know, Your tone is so negative. And there`s something in that. I mean, what he does with his tone is he, you know, sounds like a guidance counselor. He sounds like someone who`s trying to help you. It`s a little patronizing. But he sort of takes the edge off a little bit about what he`s saying...


STOKOLS: ... so he doesn`t sound like Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men." And in so doing, you don`t notice the authoritarianism in the -- like, undermining the media. He`s telling the media, Stop coming after me.

ALCINDOR: But I think that also, there`s something to be said about -- about president that says, There`s nothing to -- there`s nothing here. Everything`s going smoothly. You shouldn`t even be worried about this...

MATTHEWS: "Fine-tuned machine"!

ALCINDOR: By the way, I`m on my way to Melbourne, Florida. I`m going to have this rally. It`s going to be great. For journalists like me, and I think for all of us, it makes you think, We need to go deeper. We need to dig deeper. And that`s why I think you`re seeing journalism thrive right now because so many people are saying, Please explain to us what`s going on.

MATTHEWS: Research is good.

RUCKER: But at...

MATTHEWS: Let me -- go ahead.

RUCKER: It works for him because we`re all here talking about the media instead of the controversy.

MATTHEWS: OK. Fine. And after attacking the media for an hour today, the president openly solicited what he called "friendly reporters." He`s like a teacher looking for friendly -- here he -- Could you give me a friendly question? He actually did that today in his press conference. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I want to find a friendly reporter. Are you a friendly reporter?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) talk a little bit about what first lady Melania Trump does for the country and unique level of interest in your administration, so by opening the White House visitors` office. What does that mean to you (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Now, that`s what I call a nice question. That is very nice. Who are you with?

QUESTION: UNF (ph) News. It`s an independent (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: All right. Thank you very much. Melania is terrific.


MATTHEWS: So you`re allowed to ask questions about the opening of the White House visitors` office.


STOKOLS: I would say, though, this isn`t really -- I mean, we said this sort of works. He`s dominating the news. We`re all talking about it here. But every time he goes out on a limb with this blanket denial, says something that is -- that is provably, you know, false, what happens? Today, he said, Well, Flynn didn`t do anything wrong. And a couple hours later, there`s a "Washington Post" report saying that Flynn probably misled the FBI.


STOKOLS: I don`t think it`s an accident that two hours or so after he said that...

MATTHEWS: You know, you don`t capture...

STOKOLS: ... someone comes forward with the information.

MATTHEWS: ... the zaniness of today without watching the whole thing. So wherever you can, go find on YouTube or whatever -- if you watch the whole thing, you go, What is going on with this guy! It was like a guy almost like on a couch explaining his problems to his shrink! It was, like, These are my personal problems. It was strange!

ALCINDOR: The thing I think for (INAUDIBLE) when I think about Phil`s point about this idea that he has everyone talking about him and has everyone talking about him going after the media -- in some ways, he`s a showman, too. It`s someone...

MATTHEWS: OK. Don`t give him too much credit. Come on! That was...


MATTHEWS: That was not helpful.

RUCKER: ... today, and I think...

MATTHEWS: You think he was performing? I don`t...


RUCKER: I think his supporters are going to like it.


MATTHEWS: I have a higher expectation. I`ve been wrong before. Yamiche Alcindor, thank you so much, Eli Stokols and Philip Rucker. We always say Philip, not Phil.

Coming up, much more of President Trump`s news conference today. He calls the reporting on his campaign`s connection with Russia, as I said, a ruse and fake news. And despite what he said today, big questions do remain, and Congress is pushing for answers, not just the media, members of his own party went the answers, like John McCain.

Plus, the president whipped through a list of his top achievements today. He says his administration is "running like a fine-tuned machine." Can`t you hear the hum? Well, what we heard today wasn`t the hum of a fine-tuned machined.

And after today`s rant, one thing`s clear, Trump is still not over the 2016 election. He spent a lot of time today on the attack against Hillary Rodham Clinton. And he said he inherited a mess from President Barack Obama. He`s blaming the Democrats for whatever.

Finally tonight, we talk to a close Trump confidant about the president`s situation today.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Still to come, President Trump praises the man he fired, makes some over-the-top boasts and seemingly can`t let go of that 2016 election campaign.

Our HARDBALL special report, "Day of the Rant," continues right after this.



TRUMP: And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don`t have any deals in Russia.

QUESTION: You definitively say that...

TRUMP: Well, I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia! I told you, I have no deals there. I have no anything.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Donald Trump`s total denial when he was asked twice by reporters whether members of his campaign had dealings with Russia during the campaign. However, when asked a third time, the president answered the question more directly, finally saying that to the best of his knowledge, none of his advisers made contact with Russia during the campaign. Let`s watch that exchange.


QUESTION: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that`s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been...

QUESTION: During the election?

TRUMP: No, no. Nobody that I know of.

QUESTION: So you`re not...

TRUMP: Nobody...

QUESTION: ... of any contacts during the course of the election.

TRUMP: Look, look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question?

QUESTION: Can you just say yes or not?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. Yes, I know you have to get up and ask a question -- so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia, haven`t made a phone call to Russia in years, don`t speak to people from Russia, not that I wouldn`t, I just have nobody to speak to. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.


MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s press conference today comes as lawmaker on Capitol Hill begin to investigate Trump`s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. According to Bloomberg, Senator Joe Manchin expects the committee to begin calling in witnesses starting later this month. It`s pretty near the end of the month already. When asked specifically whether he directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, the president said he did not. But he went on to say he would have directed him to call the ambassador if Flynn hadn`t initiated call himself.


QUESTION: I just want to clarify...

TRUMP: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: ... an important point, I think.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador...

TRUMP: No, I didn`t.

QUESTION: ... prior to your...

TRUMP: No, I didn`t.

QUESTION: ... inauguration?

TRUMP: No, I didn`t. But Mike...

QUESTION: And would you have fired him...

TRUMP: Excuse me...

QUESTION: ... if the information hadn`t leaked out?

TRUMP: No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it. I didn`t direct him, but I would have directed him because that`s his job.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by independent senator Angus King of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee that`s investigating Michael Flynn.

You know, to the best of my knowledge, that -- that dodge was something Alger Hiss used in the old hearings back in 1948 when he get caught eventually as a spy for the Soviet Union -- not to the best of my knowledge, not to my best recollection. These are ways to avoid perjury. They`re not truth telling generally.

SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE: Well, this is one of the things that we`re going to be looking into on the Intelligence Committee.

I didn`t see the press conference. Oddly enough, I was on a call with constituents in Maine. But then I was in the Intelligence Committee. And we`re going to be working on this question.

One of them is -- the bigger question is, what did the Russia do, how did they do it in terms of our elections, but, then, secondarily, were there contacts between either of the campaigns and the Russians during the period of the campaign?

And that`s an important part of the investigation that I think we owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of. And the president said today not to his knowledge were there such contacts.

There are now indications -- they are unverified -- that there were such contacts on an ongoing basis during the campaign. We want to know what they were, what the content of the conversation were, and what the motivation was.

MATTHEWS: How do you find it out? How you got the ability to go into the National Security Agency? Can you get information from all the data being collected, electronic data of e-mail, telephone conversations, the works? Can you get access to everything?

KING: Yes. Yes, we should. And we also have subpoena power.

And we`re going to have access to individuals as well. So, we should be able to. We have already identified a lot of groups of various documents that are various part of the intelligence agency.

And, by the way, when we gather that information, those aren`t leaks. That`s what we`re supposed to be doing. One of the things that concerns me is all this focus on, the leaks are real, but the story is a ruse.

MATTHEWS: That`s what he`s saying, yes.

KING: And I think leaks are -- that`s an issue. That`s a legitimate issue, and it`s one that should be investigated and should be of some concern.

But that doesn`t negate the fact that there`s a real story here. We have known this, Chris, since October, that, in an extraordinary statement from the director of national intelligence, the director of the CIA and homeland security issued October 7, saying the Russians were involved, it went to the highest level of the Russian government.

And they were trying to, I think the word they used was interfere with our elections. This is serious stuff, and it demands a serious response.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine.

I`m joined right now by Michael Shear, White House correspondent with "The New York Times."

Sir, there was a little bit of ambiguity today when the president said that he would have done it anyway. He would done what his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did, and made a call to the Russian ambassador. But it`s not clear he said, by the way, check out and let them know we`re going to calm things over on the sanctions front.


I think he was clearly -- in this kind of rambling, extended news conference, in which he was not very disciplined about most things, he was kind of disciplined about that, right? He was careful not to talk about sanctions and to say that he had sanctioned a discussion about sanctions, which could potentially have violated the law.

And he was also careful, as you pointed out in the opening, not to -- to use those weasel words, right, to use those words...


MATTHEWS: To the best of my recollection.

SHEAR: Exactly, because, look, there are going to be hearings, as the senator just said. There`s more information to come out. And he could get caught.

MATTHEWS: Let`s me give you a black-and-white one.

His son recently talked about all the money they made out of Russia. He says, I have never had any dealings with Russia.

Which is it? Those are different statements.

SHEAR: Look, and I`m sure that what he will try to do is parse it to say he was talking about himself and not the extended members of his family.

MATTHEWS: You mean he doesn`t talk to his son about what they have been doing over in Russia?

SHEAR: Well, he didn`t say he didn`t have any conversations about deals.

MATTHEWS: He had the Miss Universe contest over there.

SHEAR: That`s true. He did. I think that`s right.

MATTHEWS: Obviously, he has had some business dealings.

SHEAR: Right. Look...

MATTHEWS: You have got to run a hotel room. You have got to put together a Miss Universe contest. That`s a lot of -- and, by the way, in a country like that, that`s a lot of money under the table.

SHEAR: I assume it is. I wouldn`t know, but I assume it is.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, the president also said the media has made it harder for him to improve his relation with the Russia -- he is blaming us, I guess -- which he said he still wants to do. He wants good relations. but the press has already screwed it up, he says. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia.

And probably Putin said, you know -- he`s sitting behind his desk, and he`s saying, you know, I see what`s going on in the United States. I follow it closely. It`s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he`s got with this fake story, OK?

That`s a shame.


MATTHEWS: So, Michael, as far as you know, "The Times" is standing behind the big story of two days ago?

SHEAR: Absolutely. We`re standing behind that.

And the thing that strikes me about that answer is that it`s sort of a double reverse. Trump -- Putin thinks this, so he is going to do that.

The truth is, he -- this man is the president of the United States. He doesn`t have to buckle to any pressure that the news media puts on him. If he wants to act in ways that he thinks is appropriate vis-a-vis Russia and Putin, he can do that. He is setting up a rubric so that he blames us for actions that he might or might not...

MATTHEWS: And he`s done that in other cases.

SHEAR: I think so, right.

MATTHEWS: The blame game can somewhat -- can oftentime be preparatory.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Shear of "The New York Times."

NBC News is reporting tonight that President Trump`s pick to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser, retired Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harward, has turned the job down.

Well, according to a senior U.S. Official, Harward was offered the job last night by the president and expressed concern that he would not be able to staff the National Security Council the way he wanted to. And, today, a White House official told NBC News that Harward was unable to overcome both financial and family commitments to take the job.

Well, two different reasons are given.

Up next: President Trump`s bizarre boast today and his laundry list of accomplishments. He says no president has never done as much in so little time. And his administration, he said again, is running like a fine-tuned machine.

That`s ahead when our special report continues. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



TRUMP: I`m here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don`t think there`s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we`ve done.

Plants and factories are already starting to move back into the United States, and big league.

I have also worked to install a Cabinet over the delays and obstruction of Senate Democrats. You`ve seen what they`ve done over the last long number of years. That will be one of the great Cabinets ever assembled in American history.

This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The president was feeling pretty confident today, you might say, boasting about what he says he has achieved so far in his first few weeks in office. And he did so in obvious detail, listing each of his victories one by one.


TRUMP: Let me list to you some of the things that we`ve done in just a short period of time. I just got here.

We`ve withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We`ve directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and called for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure.

We`ve imposed a hiring freeze on non-essential federal workers. We`ve imposed a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations.

We`ve issued a game-changing new rule that says for each one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. Makes sense. Nobody`s ever seen regulations like we have.

We`ve directed the creation of a task force for reducing violent crime in America, including the horrendous situation -- take a look at Chicago and others -- taking place right now in our inner cities.

We`ve ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We`re becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.

We`ve undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe, and are now in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border.

We`ve ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities.


MATTHEWS: John Heilemann is a political analyst and author of "Game Change." And Tamara Keith is the White House correspondent for NPR.

Tamara, you first.

And I have to believe that he thinks that tweets have not done the job and Sean Spicer hasn`t done the job, so here he is walking into the East Room and reciting all this stuff, this middle-grade stuff, that is he making into -- he says that we have to know.

TAMARA KEITH, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, that was the list of executive actions that he`s taken, the executive orders.

And, clearly, he wanted a reset. He has not had the chance to publicize his accomplishments or the things that he sees as his accomplishments, because there`s been so much of that drama and so many distractions.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well...

KEITH: And so other presidents have done rollouts, like real rollouts of these types of just sort of basic signature items. And he hasn`t been able to do that.

So, in part, it feels like he held this press conference to say, look, I have done these things. Somebody, please pay attention.

MATTHEWS: Yes. His fine-tuned machine hasn`t done the job of selling anything.

Anyway, the president also launched into his frequent routine of highlighting his Electoral College victory of last November. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I`m here following through on what I pledged to do. That`s all I`m doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn`t supposed to get 222. They said there`s no way to get 222, 230 is impossible; 270, which you need, that was laughable.

We got 306, because people came out and voted like they`ve never seen before, so that`s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.


MATTHEWS: Except, that`s not true. President Obama -- Presidents Obama, Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Ronald Reagan all enjoyed Electoral College victories that were greater than President Trump`s. Look them up. Hold those numbers up. Everybody, absorb them.

By the way, NBC`s Peter Alexander, to his credit, attempted to correct the president and asked him how he can be trusted when he doesn`t provide correct information even on this to the American people.

Let`s watch his reaction.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan with 304 -- 306 electoral votes.

In fact, President Obama got 365...


ALEXANDER: President Obama 332, and George H.W. Bush 426 when he won as president.

So, why should Americans trust you...


TRUMP: No, I was told -- I was given that information. I don`t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.

ALEXANDER: I guess my question is, why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they`ve received of being fake, when you`re providing information that is...

TRUMP: Well, I don`t know, I was given that information. I was given -- actually, I`ve seen that information.


MATTHEWS: Now, John, you have begun covering for a couple of decades, almost as long as me.

And I just want to ask you this. Why would a president say something that`s manifestly untrue in front of people who are all watching? And these numbers are not the most important things in the world, but why is he bragging in a way that is so untrue, and manifestly untrue?

Why is he -- look at these numbers. Why would he keep saying -- Alexander did a great job of bringing up the simple question. If you can`t believe a guy on the basics, why believe him on the complicated?


Look, it`s not just the last 37 years, Chris. If you look over American history, his Electoral College victory ranks in the bottom 10 percent of all American presidents in terms of its impressiveness.

And yet he has been saying this since Election Day. So, it`s not like he just said this. Somebody put a piece of information in front of him, and he made a mistake, although that wouldn`t even be an excuse for a president of the United States.

He has been repeatedly making this claim of a giant, historic landslide now for four months. And I`m not a psychologist, so I don`t like to use words like pathological, but he has a systemic problem with the truth.

And it undermines -- as Peter Alexander suggested, it undermines his credibility on a variety of fronts. We all feel compelled to call out misstatements, lies, falsehoods. And we should call them out.

And every time he makes another one, it just -- it gives us something else to talk about, rather than the things he wants us to talk about, although I will say the list of accomplishments that he went through earlier, some of those things, task force, those are -- he`s doing -- he`s reading like a press release boilerplate.

He`s made no progress on the big things that he really cares about, things like tax reform, immigration reform, the infrastructure bill, repealing Obamacare. They`re nowhere on those things.

So, look, I don`t think it serves his cause well, but he seems to do it almost every day, says something that is totally false.

MATTHEWS: If you really want to think about a hack politician, they talk about task forces.


MATTHEWS: They talk about commissions. They talk about stuff that everybody -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That`s not an achievement.

KEITH: Well, and they all do it.

MATTHEWS: But he is not supposed to be one of the hacks. He`s supposed to be the man of the people come in from outside the country -- outside the capital, to clean up this place, the swamp.

KEITH: Well, and right now, all he has are these executive orders, because he hasn`t sent any legislation up to Congress.

MATTHEWS: And he keeps dumping on Chuck Schumer, the guys he ends up -- he is going to have to sit down with him and Paul Ryan and makes deals.

And instead they having this sort of peeing contest, if you will. It`s ridiculous, making fun of him, calling, you know, fake tears Schumer. I don`t get it.

Well, John, you`re laughing too. It`s not funny. Why isn`t he preparing himself to achieve?

HEILEMANN: Well, I think partly, Chris, because the fundamental thing that he said today, which is that his administration is running like a well- oiled machine, is the biggest falsehood of all.

And if you listen to what he said today, the biggest piece of evidence that that is not true is the thing he complained about most today, which is the profusion of leaks. What well-oiled administration that you have ever covered has leaked like this? No administration we have ever covered has leaked like this.

And if it were a well-oiled machine, it presumably wouldn`t be leaking in the way that irks him as much as it does. So, look, it is chaos in the White House. The administration is basically in disarray. He is not prepared to move legislation because their basic house is not in remotely close to order right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn`t you be worried about leaks if you were captain of the Titanic?


HEILEMANN: Yes, I might be. Yes.

MATTHEWS: John Heilemann, Tamara Keith, thank you.

Up next -- anyway, this much is clear. President Trump still isn`t over that 2016 election. He keeps going back to that rear-view mirror. He spent a lot of time today attacking Hillary Clinton, even though he came out as the Electoral College winner in November. Why is he going back and beating that story up?

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.



President Trump veered into an old campaign attack lines today in his freewheeling, grievance-filled press conference. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDEN OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates. Can you imagine seriously, can you imagine if I received the questions? It would be the electric chair, OK? He should be put in the electric chair. You would even call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, OK?

I didn`t do anything for Russia. I have done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium.

Hillary did a reset. Remember with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks.

I will say this, if John Podesta said that about me and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast, your head would have spun. He said terrible things about her.


MATTHEWS: Well, it left critiques wondering if the president was really made that presidential pivot to actually being president.

Joining me right now are Michael Steele, former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst, and Jason Johnson, politics editor for

Gentlemen, thank you. Before we went, we were enjoying the strangeness of today.


MATTHEWS: There was an element of manic, get it off your chest kind of thing. And another thing I thought he starts saying, Michael.

STEELE: Yes, it was one of those things where I was locked out through most of it because you`re sitting there going, why are we relitigating the past again? Why aren`t you focusing on these critical initiatives by the administration to do X, Y and Z. And it went everywhere.

There are no words. There are no words to really give it context, Chris, at this point. I can`t say this is something we should get used to, because we shouldn`t, in my view.


STEELE: But I think the White House --

MATTHEWS: Do you remember Jackie Gleason?

STEELE: Oh, very well so.

MATTHEWS: Remember Ralph Crandon when he would go into rants about everything.


MATTHEWS: Do you remember that?


MATTHEWS: It`s like your spouse after 30 years remembers everything you did wrong.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And here it comes reeling out.

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: When he talking about Hillary, he is like the guy that who`s like, did I ever tell you about when I won the state championship in `88 and I`m the one who feel the -- we heard that. Can you talk about what`s next? Like that literally and it`s so disappointing because he does have things to do --

MATTHEWS: OK. He is president. That should be it, right?

JOHNSON: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: Why is he going over the electoral count, wrongly?

JOHNSON: Because he needs to. He needs to do. It`s a sense of validation.

STEELE: It`s a sense of validation. It`s a sense that you don`t appreciate how I won and why I won because he kept talking about, you know, the American people elected me to do this and that. Well, let`s talk about those things that they elected you to do.


STEELE: And I think there`s a good narrative for the administration to go out to the public with. The media is not -- the media is always going to be the media. Look, they make muppets of you, they do SNL, all kinds of stuff happens. But if you say true to what the core mission is, which is to bring about the change you talked about.

JOHNSON: Well, but here`s the thing, first off, you got the muppets.


JOHNSON: But here`s the thing, it`s like talk about the work. You know, what I notice is amongst my friends back in Ohio, my Midwestern people are quiet this week. They`ve been quiet last week. Why? Because he is not doing anything.

They elected him to be different than every other politician and bring some jobs back and all he`s doing is getting in trouble.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a press conference today, which went on for an hour and a half basically. President Trump was an equal opportunity attacker. Here he is going after the rival party.


TRUMP: So, if the Democrats who have -- all you have to do is look at where they are right now, the only thing they can do is delay, because they screwed things up royally. Believe me.


MATTHEWS: Well, here is President Trump goes after his favorite new foil, New York Senator Chuck Schumer.


TRUMP: I`m going forever, and I still have a lot of people that we`re waiting for me. That`s all they are doing is delaying. And you look at Schumer and the mess he`s got over there, and they have nothing going. The only thing they can do delay.


MATTHEWS: Jason, if that`s what he had come in there to say and said it a couple of times he`d gotten off the stage, it would have had power, because you can argue, guys, that they have been slowing -- they have been slow walking, the Democrats.

JOHNSON: Talk about your job, right? Talk about what you are going to do. Say, look, we have just decided that we are going to rewrite our ban, we have just decided that I`m going to move more jobs in. I took care of Flynn because I have an honest administration, I don`t like people lying to Mike Pence. That`s your job. You don`t go in there and scream and yell about what you haven`t accomplished and ask people asinine questions that would just leave to these kinds of discussion.

STEELE: I think that`s such a critical point, because it goes back to what I was saying. If you come in and you layout this is what we`re trying to do, and, yes, Schumer, we need you to get on the stick, because you`re stopping progress here --

MATTHEWS: Yes, that would work. Narrow your attacks.

STEELE: Narrow your attack.



MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, I have never seen anything like this. I`ll talk at the other side, I have never seen like it. To get it full, you`ve got to go on C-Span to watch the whole thing.

Michael Steele, Johnson, thank you, gentlemen.

When you return we`ll make sense of what we saw from President Trump today. Tom Barrack, Trump`s close friend and confidant, will try to explain what happened today, as a friend.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got more coming up. But if you missed any of our HARDBALL special report tonight, just check our website, You`ll be able to watch the highlights from the show President Trump put on today.

And don`t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Our special report on President Trump`s bizarre press conference today will return with someone who may explain what Trump was up to.

Back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So, just what was President Trump up to in his news conference today? It`s great a question.

Joining us now for the answer in Los Angeles is a good friend of President Trump, Tom Barrack. He was recently the chair of the presidential inaugural committee. He`s going to help us understand what we saw today.

Tom, I`ve been playing offense. I want you to play offense and defense both.

Tell us, if you can in a few minutes, why Donald Trump seemed to be on a rant today.

TOM BARRACK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Chris, I think -- I think it`s just Trump being Trump and doing what he believes he was sent there to do. So, you know, the dialogue is upsetting to many constituencies on one side, and settling on the other, but at the end of the day, the parry and thrust of what`s going on is actually a great thing, right?

There`s never been a greater interest in journalism. There`s never been a greater interest in the First Amendment. There`s never been a greater understanding how does a White House administration move legislation. What is an executive order? What`s actually happening?

And he`s doing in a cadence and a vocabulary that`s disturbing.


BARRACK: And in his mind, that`s what he was sent there to do. You`re too young to remember but --

MATTHEWS: I remember everything, Tom. Go ahead. It`s nice for you to say it.

But I do remember Reagan, and he was a conservative and he had a lot of revolutionary ideas. But he came in, he was very seductive, he got along with the press. He memorized people`s names. He had a chart to make sure he had everybody`s name right. He didn`t go to war with the press.

He got along with the Democrats. He developed friendly relations with his adversaries on the Hill and he got a lot done for the conservative cause. I just think, wouldn`t that be a good template for your friend Donald Trump?

BARRACK: Absolutely, and it`s what we all hope for, right? It`s what we`re all praying for.

But Reagan had -- at the beginning of his administration, he had exactly the same problems. He was Californian. He was divorced. He was an outsider.

He had some Californians, some Reaganites, some not. He had to learn how to use the mechanisms in the White House. He had James Baker, Mike Deaver, Ed Meese and Richard Allen. You remember Richard Allen?


BARRACK: National security advisor he had to fire in the fist seven months of his regime, saying death by leaks, right? Even though the bureaucratic death by leaks which we know happens is another good thing, right?

MATTHEWS: Do you think the government is out to get the new president, the bureaucrats, the people, the long serving civil servants, do you think they`re out to get him?

BARRACK: I don`t. I don`t.

MATTHEWS: He thinks so.

BARRACK: I think the bureaucrats and the establishment does what it needs to do, which is protect itself from people like us, right? And I was going in and trying to move the deck chairs for two or three years, it stabilizes things. And so, inertia is a kind of protection mechanism.

Now, what this president was centered to do is to get rid of inertia, to push it, to change it, to influence it, and that`s unsettling to everybody. So, I think the president is right when he says the attacks of leaking is what`s happening.

Of course, it`s impossible to stop. It doesn`t have anything to do with the adjudication of the facts. You still have to look whatever the fact was.

But, you know, bureaucratic death by sabotage and leaks is an old form of survival for the establishment. It`s the same in media. I don`t think the media is out to get him either. But it`s a new cadence and dialogue that we`re learning of a man who`s talking in real time, just like a normal man, not with the consideration and the slow-thoughtfulness of eight years of President Obama.

The problem there was efficacy.


BARRACK: We got considered thought and not much action. Hopefully here, you`re going to get a lot of action.

MATTHEWS: Well, you got your shot in there. Thank you, Mr. Barrack. Thank you. Come back in a month, we`ll talk about it. We`ll do an update every once in a while, OK?

BARRACK: Yes, glad to be with you.

MATTHEWS: You`re a charmer.

Anyway, when we return, let me finish with Trump watch.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, February 16, 2017.

I watched along with the rest of the media the president`s news conference early this afternoon. Let me say that Kellyanne Conway had it about right when she called the event "epic", because epic it was.

I`ve watched many of presidential press conference over the years, from Eisenhower`s mystifying syntax through Jack Kennedy`s wit, and unto the most recent president smooth displays of "no drama Obama".

And I can recall only one event like today`s. It was when Richard Nixon under assault over Watergate said, quote, "People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I`m not a crook." Well, that one was hard to beat and today`s will prove even harder. I hope.

I`m in wonder of this new president`s lack of discipline. More than that, the lack of a coherent administration. There`s a good deal of action, I`ll give him that, but not the reassuring rhythm that lets people, even his fans, sleep at night.

This presidency rattles the nerves and fails at the most important job of any chief leader, to spread confidence down through the ranks, to give the people soldiering on for him the feeling that the man at the top knows exactly where he`s taking us and has a solid grip on how he`s going to get us there.

I have to offer a small confession here, like anyone who`s ever served in big time politics, there are times when I wish I was in the room with this new president and could say, you know, Ronald Reagan was a strong leader and he knew some things you should know. He knew he got so much done not by barking at people but by finding ways to work with them, to quietly and courteously build the ties that get things done.

And that includes showing respect for those whose profession and honor it is to tell the American people what and how you`re doing it. Mr. President, with all due respect to your office, the media that you call us, certainly the straight reporters in the East Room with you today, are neither angels nor devils, they`re just trying to get the story. Why don`t you help them get the Trump administration story straight instead of damning their right under the First Amendment to tell it.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.