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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/22/2017

Guests: Elizabeth Dennis, Mark McManus, Montel Williams, Trip Gabriel, Heather McGhee, John Brabender

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: February 22, 2017 Guest: Elizabeth Dennis, Mark McManus, Montel Williams, Trip Gabriel, Heather McGhee, John Brabender

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A presidency in its infancy.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

Well, eight years ago, we witnessed the Tea Party mobilize against the president, his agenda and his allies in Congress. Well, now Republicans, as the new governing party controlling the Congress and the White House -- they`ve become the target of anger from progressives.

Right now, at least 2,000 people are packed into a high school theater down in Arkansas where Republican senator Tom Cotton is holding a town meeting. It`s pretty lively. Let`s look at how he`s handled the very lively crowd so far. Here`s Senator Cotton addressing a question from the audience on immigration just moments ago.


AUDIENCE: Tax returns! Tax returns! Tax returns!


MATTHEWS: And by the way, they`re yelling "tax returns." That`s a crowd maybe Republican, maybe Democrat, maybe progressive, we don`t know, but they`re yelling they want Trump`s tax returns. So that`s not what Tom Cotton wanted to have that meeting about.

Meanwhile, similar scenes are playing out at Republican town halls across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last I heard, these coal jobs are not coming back, and now these people don`t have the insurance they need because they`re poor! If you can answer any of that, I`ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you tell me that you`re going to take care of me when I come home, no matter what my injury, you have failed, sir!

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Two things I want to correct that you said. You may have said more than that wrong, but I can`t verify it. So here...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not fake news. I listen to Trump lie every single day!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys just want to investigate everybody!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys wasted a lot of money on Benghazi. Waste a little on Trump!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, Senator, we should all have good health care.


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Taxpayer funds ought not to be used for abortion service.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alternative facts!

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Let me tell you something you`re really not going to like. You want to hear this. Hold on. You`re really not going to like this part. The president, under the law, is exempt from the conflict of interest laws. He`s exempt!



MATTHEWS: A lot of boos out there. You`re watching, by the way, grass roots resistance at the doorsteps of these events, where protesters have mounted demonstrations outside, as well as inside. And while the issues in dispute are nothing new, mainly real kitchen table issues like health care, these groups are voicing their concern in a way that`s hard to ignore for anyone.

"The New York Times" reports that for some, it`s become so heated that, quote, "Many Republicans have chosen not even to hold events at all, wary of protests that might greet them."

Anyway, last night, President Trump tweeted, quote, "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually in numerous cases planned out by liberal activists. Sad."

Well, Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the protests at these meetings saying, "If you can`t stand the heat, get out of the Congress." That was an old Harry Truman line.

All this comes as the Conservative Political Action Conference gets under way in Washington today. And just one year after Trump as a candidate canceled his appearance at the conservative forum, the agenda in 2017 now reflects the new nationalism that his campaign heralded. As "The Washington Post" affirmed today, quote, "The conservative movement in America now belongs to President Trump."

Joining me right now is John Brabender, Republican strategist. Heather McGhee is president of the progressive policy group Demos. And Trip Gabriel has covered these town hall events for "The New York Times."

Trip, I want the facts first. These hearings -- these meetings are being held by members of the House, members of the Senate, mostly Republicans we`re talking about. Who is out in the crowd there making the protests so loud and so effective so far? Who are they?

TRIP GABRIEL, "NEW YORK TIMES": They`re constituents in the districts of the congresspeople and the senators in the states. I mean, you just showed 2,000 people or so in Arkansas. Those were, you know...



MATTHEWS: So they`re not, as we used to say back in the `60s are the bad people, the outside agitators. They`re not that.

GABRIEL: They`re inside agitators.


MATTHEWS: And how do we know -- then how do we know about the groups like Indivisible, that group, I`ve been reading their material. I thought it was fascinating. Just read this. Maybe you should answer this, Heather. Quote, "If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama then, we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump." Pretty clear voice there.

HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS: This was a guy -- this is what`s amazing about this. It was basically a Google Doc, right? Like, it turned into a PDF, and it`s been downloaded over a million times.

MATTHEWS: These instructions.

MCGHEE: These instructions. And in some ways, it`s just open source to what we all should know, which is how to be effective citizens and have our voice heard by our representatives. So it`s basic tactics about how -- from inside folks, people who used to be congressional staffers saying this is what counts.

It`s a phone call. Its not a petition. It`s an in-person meeting. Here`s how you frame a question well. We should all know that, right?


MCGHEE: Democracy shouldn`t be a spectator sport. And now because of this administration, it`s not.

MATTHEWS: There`s a couple purposes. One purpose is to get your voice heard on issues like you want to keep "Obama care," or something like it. The other one might be you don`t like big business tax cuts. You want -- well, we just saw that down in Arkansas with Tom Cotton`s group. They want -- they want Trump`s tax returns out. They just want it because they have concern, the progressive interests, in that.

But it`s also, according to documents I`ve read, to embarrass the Republican member of Congress for his positions or her positions. Explain that part.

MCGHEE: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: To hurt them.

MCGHEE: Yes. I mean, this is the thing where you`ve got to actually recognize how fragile some of these members of Congress are. They spend most of their time with their donors, and you know, walking the halls of congressman in D.C. And they don`t actually get a ton of face time in between elections with their constituents.

And so they know that if they have a viral moment, where, you know, they can catch someone in a lie or flat-footed, it will be spread beyond the town hall.

MATTHEWS: A member of Congress.


MATTHEWS: Let me get -- let`s take a look. Here`s some more from Senator Tom Cotton`s town hall happening right now. This moment just happened a minute ago. A voter confronted the senator about the Affordable Care Act - - as I said, health care. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could tell you three members of my family, including me, that would be dead, dead and homeless if it was not for ACA!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am an angry constituent! You work for us! I`ve got a husband dying, and we can`t afford -- let me tell you something. If you can get us better coverage than this, go for it.


MATTHEWS: John Brabender, this is strong stuff. I do agree with what Heather just said. Most members of Congress survive for decades in office because the only people they have to deal with generally are the few activists on their side who share their philosophy -- if they`re right- wing, their right-wing supporters -- and the people who give them money to get re-elected. And then they talk to a few TV interviewers and put out some newsletters, and they`re back in two years later.

This is opening up something very noisy here, John. What do you make of it?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, but I -- I think we have to be careful not -- first of all, I applaud anybody that will go to a town hall meeting. They`re great Americans because they`re participating.

But this is more like a support group for those who lost the election. I mean, they`re all standing up saying "Obama care," "Obama care." Let`s be honest that there wasn`t a single Democrat that ran for the Senate or the House that ran an ad saying, I voted for "Obama care." Why? Because people wanted to get rid of it.

A broad -- Donald Trump won on saying he`s going to get rid of it. He won Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, all these states with a lot of Democrats because he said he was going to get rid of "Obama care."

And so understand this is not a cross-section of America. This is a lot of progressives who are now unified because Donald Trump unified them, just like President Obama and Hillary Clinton unified the conservatives.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s the bottom line on these meetings and this noise that we`re hearing and the excitement in the crowds? I mean, I`m seeing people -- I know it`s dangerous for any politician to challenge an individual member of a town meeting because the crowd there, who came there to make noise, to be truthful, to make their voices heard, don`t want to hear some politician telling them to shut up because they`re really saying that to everybody.

How do you handle this if you`re a Republican? This is a pretty impressive group of grass roots people. You can say they`re liberals and progressives -- well, they are, but they`re local. They have the local accent. They seem like they ought to be at these meetings.

BRABENDER: Yes, look, I believe they`re local. I believe it`s organized. But I think, congratulations to those organizers. That`s what they should be doing. This is the new world of politics. This is where you get rid of one election, and it`s not like everybody takes a breath. This is about the 2018 elections. Let`s not -- let`s not lose any doubt about that. And this is going to continue on both sides.

I will say this, though. when conservatives, and frankly, blue collar Democrats see this type of action from the progressives, all that does is inspire them to want to vote for Republicans in 2018.

MCGHEE: I don`t...

MATTHEWS: What do you make? Do you think that bounces the other way, there`s a ricochet here and they don`t like the -- the right wing gets mad at this?

MCGHEE: I think...

MATTHEWS: I don`t think they get mad at people asking about health care.

MCGHEE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: That`s not renegade -- that`s not bandit behavior. That`s, I need health care for my three family members who would have died without it. How can you be mad at that person?

MCGHEE: I think at our peril, we in the political world just minimize this to Republicans and Democrats and progressives. This woman said, I would be dead without health care.


MCGHEE: This is the bread and butter stuff. Now, our country does not pay a lot of attention to politics, right? A number -- you know, I think it was about 30 percent of folks didn`t know that the ACA and "Obama care" were the same thing. But what they do know is that...


MCGHEE: ... for once in their lives, right, they actually have a tangible benefit that`s changed their lives. And here these Republicans have been saying for eight years, basically, that they want to take it away, and they have no replacement. That`s real life. We can`t make it just about partisan politics.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the politics...


BRABENDER: They can`t take it away until there is a replacement!

MATTHEWS: OK, John, let me go back to -- let me go to Trip first, then to you. It seems to me the logic of people that are putting these demonstrations together, who are making a point of getting people to get out of their homes at nighttime -- which is a hard thing. Most people would rather stay home, cook dinner, hang out with their family, watch a little tube together, bed. If you get people to go out on a cold night and show up somewhere, a strange place -- it`s hard enough to vote -- Oh, I don`t want do that. (INAUDIBLE) these people. I feel kind of embarrassed.

No, they`re showing up -- that they believe they can move something in history. They can go to a regular Republican and say, Buddy, be careful here. Your vote with Trump on getting rid of health care, that may be fine with your right wing, but you`re going to pay a price. It seems to me they`re trying to peel these members of the -- Republican members of the House away from Trump and what he`s doing. There`s a logic to it.

GABRIEL: Yes, and John is right. This is about 2018. And you know, in off-year elections, Democrats -- traditionally, the constituency does not show up. So if this kind of furor continues not just this year but into next year and the year after that, this is exactly what the Democratic Party is going to need to flip some seats in the House of Representatives. I`m not sure that -- Tom Cotton is not up then (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Brabender. John, what do you make of the women`s march? Because a lot of this started with that woman in Hawaii. It wasn`t a bunch of lefties per se or people that raise money by getting people jacked up, it`s a woman out in Hawaii, a private citizen, a civilian, if you will, who said, You know what? I don`t like this guy Trump. I want to make some noise. How about we women get together?

And all of a sudden, a million women are marching through Washington in probably the most joyous day for progressives in years, and that includes the Hillary campaign, and -- you`re laughing, but it`s true.

BRABENDER: That`s funny.

MATTHEWS: It was a lot more positive than defending a candidate that they didn`t get too excited about. And my question is, aren`t the Republicans a little worried that this grass root things will catch on by next November big-time?

BRABENDER: Well, here`s where I think Republicans have to be very careful, and that is to just ignore this. For example, we keep hearing at these town hall meetings, they say Republicans are going to take away health care. I don`t know where anybody`s getting this. They`re not taking away health care. They`re taking a system that`s imploding and they`re going to come up with a system that`s more affordable, gives better care. And they got to prove that to people.

But if they just let the message and the branding being that we`re taking away health care, we`re going to fail and we`re going to lose in 2018.

So the key is understanding what people are saying and having a good answer and not certainly criticizing them for participating because, like I said, I think they`re great Americans for taking the time out of their day and show up for a town hall meeting.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you. Anyway, many have said the grass roots anger toward Republicans is a progressive version of the Tea Party. Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator and current president of the Heritage Foundation, rejected that comparison yesterday because he says the protests are organized. However, he also acknowledged that these confrontations may hurt the Republican agenda. Here he is.


JIM DEMINT (R-SC), FMR. SENATOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION PRES.: Greta, it`s not really like the Tea Party. I was going through this document today, Indivisible. These folks are very well financed, very well organized. They`re being bused around to go to these different town halls to disrupt them.

I`m concerned that all of this pushback has delayed the repeal of "Obama care" and certainly other agenda items that need to be taken up.


MATTHEWS: Well, on the other side of the political world, Senator Bernie Sanders also rejected comparisons to the Tea Party in an interview earlier this month. Here`s Senator Sanders.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not a Tea Party because the Tea Party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers family. This is a spontaneous and grass roots uprising of the American people.


MATTHEWS: You know, sometimes I think we make a mistake in journalism of asking people on the hard left or the hard right for a straight middle-of- the-road objective answer. Bernie doesn`t want to have anything to do with the Tea Party. He`s willing to say the Koch brothers owned them all. And we all know there were grass roots Republicans who hate taxes, middle class people, regular people, who hate big government. They don`t need to get funding from the God-damn -- any right-wing group. Well, Bernie won`t admit that because it`s all a big conspiracy to him.

In the same way, Jim DeMint doesn`t want anybody doing his thing, right? I mean, come on. There`s a similarity here. It`s called grass roots anger at the way things are going.

GABRIEL: Well, "New York Times," colleagues and I attended four town halls yesterday, Louisiana, Florida, Iowa, as you showed a minute ago, and Tennessee, where I was. None of us saw any buses.

MATTHEWS: Yes, this busing -- I think Republicans love to talk about busing.


MCGHEE: ... mid-`60s.

MATTHEWS: Well, where -- wouldn`t you like to see a -- do you think Jim DeMint ever saw a bus? Do you think he had any evidence there was a bus? But the idea -- they do this with voter registration, voter -- illegal voting. Oh, they`re riding around in buses dropping people off, same people voting in all the places. They have this image in their head, right?

MCGHEE: Yes, well, because, frankly, they`re afraid of democracy. Listen, we live in -- excuse me -- a very divided country...

MATTHEWS: By the way, you can stop right there. That was brilliant, "They`re afraid of democracy."


MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Go ahead.

MCGHEE: We live in a very divided country, right? I mean, you know, President Trump won the Electoral College by virtually a handful of votes. He lost the popular vote, the biggest mobilization in the history of this country...

MATTHEWS: Don`t put it down. Don`t put it down.


MCGHEE: ... day after his inauguration.

MATTHEWS: He carried states, real states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio. That`s not a handful.

MCGHEE: Yes, but by not that many votes, right? I think that there is a...

MATTHEWS: Does this get you to bed at night, saying stuff like this? Oh, he only won by a handful.

MCGHEE: It`s true!

MATTHEWS: Hillary`s up in (INAUDIBLE) she up in Chappaqua.

MCGHEE: Listen, a third...

MATTHEWS: And he`s in the White House!

MCGHEE: A third of young people voted for a third-party candidate. We are right now at a moment of great political...

MATTHEWS: You teach them...

MCGHEE: ... realignment.

MATTHEWS: You teach them it ends up being binary. Where are all the young people? In the end in November, the first Tuesday after the second Monday, inevitably, it comes down to a binary choice. And if you want to have your vote count, pick for the one you want to win the presidency.

MCGHEE: Well, that`s why we have to look at the Tea Party. The Tea Party was started out as a grass roots movement, I agree, but then it did get electoralized (ph) with a bunch of hard money. I don`t think we`re going to see that on the left. I don`t think we`re going to...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, we`ll see.

MCGHEE: ... see to see Tea Party primaries in the same way.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, they -- we`ll see if some of the godfathers come along.

Anyway, thank you, John Brabender, Heather McGhee and Trip Gabriel. I really like your stuff. Thank you for the great reporting. And John, thank you (INAUDIBLE) for putting this perspective and a lot of help there.

Anyway, at tonight at 10:00 PM, by the way, join me along with Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for a full two-hour special as we examine the first month of the Trump presidency. This is going to be some unpacking job, what happened in 30 days, 33 days now.

Coming up, President Trump says he inherited "a mess" from President Obama. But the economy he took over was on strong footing, don`t you remember? And now there`s optimism on Wall Street and the markets continue to climb to record highs. Still, the big question for Mr. Trump, can he deliver on his big campaign promise, to me, the only one that really, really matters, jobs. That`s ahead. Real jobs.

Plus, what happens when you have a town hall with your congressman and he doesn`t show up? Mr. Toomey, where are you? That`s happening more and more across the country as members of Congress duck their angry constituencies. They can run, but they can`t hide.

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here with a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Donald Trump`s first month. I`m calling it the infancy of the Trump presidency, including today`s executive order on transgender bathrooms.

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

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some breaking news to report tonight. President Trump has just rescinded the rules that allow students to use the bathrooms of their choice while at school, leaving it up to the states to decide how to interpret federal anti-discrimination laws and determine whether students should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with and not just the gender they were biologically born with.

NBC`s justice correspondent Pete Williams is with us now. Pete, explain all this.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So two points about this, Chris. One is the practical effect. And the practical effect in the short term is none because the letter that the Obama administration sent out last May to public schools saying you could lose your federal funds unless you let students use the bathrooms that match their gender identity -- that letter was almost immediately put on hold by a federal court. So even though it was issued last May, it has never had the force and effect of actual education policy.

But in the long run, it`s a big shift from the Obama administration`s position, and the real question here was, you know, Title 9, the law that says that schools have to provide equal educational access for men and women -- this was the one that basically revitalized women`s sports. The question is, does that law cover transgender rights? It says you can`t discriminate on the basis of sex. The Department of Education`s position had been that gender identity amounts to sex. It`s the same thing.

Tonight, the Trump administration has withdrawn the Education Department policy on this. It says, We want to study it more, that they felt that the original guidance that came out last May didn`t get into what (ph) -- and in the process, they say, While we`re withdrawing the guidance, all schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment. They stress in this letter that even though they`re withdrawing the administration guidance from a year ago, that does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying or harassment, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Wow. We will learn more as time goes on.

Thank you so much, NBC`s Pete Williams.

We also learned today from a senior White House source that President Trump will issue his revised executive order on immigration early in the part -- early part of next week. That`s next week, probably the middle of next week.

That order was initially expected this week.

And we will be back right after this.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The stock market has hit record numbers, as you know.

And there has been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world. We have withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans-Pacific Partnership. We have directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and called for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last week in his press conference boasting about action he`s taken, actions he`s taken to improve the economy and create jobs.

Well, over eight years ago, President Obama was handed an economy that was truly in crisis. But, last month, he turned over a stable economy to his successor, don`t you know? Everybody knows this.

In his first full week in office, President Trump held meetings in the White House with corporate executives, manufacturing CEOs and labor union leaders. He also issued executive orders cutting regulations, withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as you just heard him say, moved ahead with the Keystone pipeline, and promised millions of new investments in infrastructure spending.

Well, since his inauguration, the markets have reached record highs. But now it`s time to deliver an economic growth and his campaign promise, which is real jobs.

Stephanie Ruhle is an MSNBC anchor. Mark McManus is general president of the Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs, who met with President Trump last month.

Mr. McManus, I got to get to you because I want to talk to a real person about real jobs. And what do you think is the timetable for the president to get going on infrastructure spending, getting money from moving the tax money back home from overseas, squeezing it out of perhaps entitlement savings, but, in any way, whatever way he does it, getting money to spend, capital to spend on creating big job-creating projects like fixing railroads, bridges and perhaps building new rail lines?

MARK MCMANUS, PRESIDENT, UNION OF PLUMBERS, FITTERS, WELDERS AND SERVICE TECHS: Well, I think the time frame, Chris, is -- and thanks for having me back on -- is as quickly as possible.

The country needs to continue to work as quickly as possible in this direction on the failing roads, bridges, the dams that we`re seeing in California. It takes more than one person, though.

I think Senator Schumer is a very good adversary and very good partner in this specific thing. I think the problem is the Republicans in Congress. And I think that the president may have to go to Mitch McConnell and twist some arms over on that side of the aisle there.

MATTHEWS: But, politically, I want to get to the politics first. We will get over to Stephanie in a minute.

The politics of this, he`s not going to get a united party behind him on the Republican side, because they`re tight-fisted about money. That`s why they`re Republicans. They don`t spend government money. That`s why they`re trusted to spend it, because they don`t.

He has to get some Democrats to help him. He`s going to need some help from Chuck. He can`t just go to Mitch McConnell and say please give me 60 votes to get something going here. He`s going to have to go to the other guys, through Chuck and the rest of them, and Dick Durbin and Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer.

He`s going to have to get them to release Democrats to help spend some money, so you guys can get some work. How`s that going to happen?

MCMANUS: Well, I think it`s going to happen because it`s politics, politics 101.

We got a lot of Senate members up, Democratic Senate members up that are defending spots that they have to defend. There`s some horse-trading that`s got to go on there. It`s politics 101. He needs to get right to what you saw in the previous segments of the town halls.

He needs to get to the people and say, this affects you locally. These bridges, these dams, these waterways, these airports affect your way of living. And I think he needs to use the bully pulpit and get right into the Congress and get bipartisanship on it.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.

Let me get to Stephanie on this now.

The whole question is a big deal. I want a big deal. I admit it. I want to see him bring some of those trillions of dollars home overseas. They`re being tucked away over their by the corporates, the internationals, the multinationals. I want to see him squeeze some money where he can out of government spending.

And then I want him to spend some money, some capital spending. He`s got to protect it. He can`t pee it away. He has got to actually spend the money on actual construction, not paying off interest groups.

Now, the Democrats are not particularly good at protecting money in that way. Republicans are good, but they don`t do it. How does he put together a real program that gets this country moving again, like Kennedy said, get it moving again?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: All right, let`s look at the markets -- let`s look at the markets for an example.


MATTHEWS: They anticipate he is going to do it.

RUHLE: Well, President Trump loves to say -- you mentioned it in your intro -- that President Obama handed him a pile of garbage. He absolutely didn`t, if you look at the economy, 4 percent unemployment.

When you think about college-educated people, they`re almost at full employment. So, President Obama handed him...

MATTHEWS: How many have barista jobs?


MATTHEWS: No, seriously.

RUHLE: Some have barista jobs.

MATTHEWS: How many people are underemployed, underemployed?

RUHLE: Underemployment is a real, real issue, without a doubt.

MATTHEWS: I think it is.

RUHLE: But...

MATTHEWS: These are good people that would like to have a bigger job, a tougher job, but they take what`s available because they care about their families. And they do it. They take the work that is available.

RUHLE: Well, the...

MATTHEWS: But the problem is, a lot of people would like to be working for 30 bucks an hour, 40 bucks. They want to make the big money.

RUHLE: Well, that`s one thing President Trump hasn`t spoken about.

If you look at the disparity between CEO pay and worker pay today, it has never been greater. You have got people with two jobs who are saying, I can`t make ends meet.


RUHLE: That`s why I want something different. I`m going to vote for President Trump.


RUHLE: Now, the question is, is President Trump going to be...


MATTHEWS: Why does the market look so good? Why do they think -- I`m looking at the market. I`m in the market. Everybody is in the market in some way, 401(k)s. It`s going up way over 20000. Who ever thought it was going to make 20000? It was at 7000 when Obama came in.

RUHLE: But here`s the point. You said everybody`s in the market.

Not everybody is in the market. Many of Donald Trump`s supporters are not in the market. They`re looking for a change. But those who are, animal spirits are out. President Obama handed a slow and steady economy, in large part because he put so much cushions of regulations.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re getting my attention. Animal spirits are out? What does that have to do with the economy?

RUHLE: Animal spirits.

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean?

RUHLE: Because this means investors are saying, great, deregulation, cutting taxes.

MATTHEWS: It`s a bullish market.

RUHLE: And, remember, Elizabeth Warren having the position that she had over the last eight years, CEOs didn`t like that. They didn`t want to be called fat cats.

That regulatory overhang, whether President Trump delivers or not, he has said to those CEOs, I want to cut your taxes. I want to help you do great things.


RUHLE: They`re believing it.

MATTHEWS: Back to one question. Are they confident that he`s going to do what he said?

RUHLE: Right now, they`re believing it.

But, remember, the market can turn on a dime. You can sell. Buying the market isn`t like building a plant. Building a plant is saying, I`m confident.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask Mr. McManus.

How long you guys going to wait for action?

MCMANUS: Well, we will wait as long as it takes.

But I think -- I think we`re missing a point here, to the previous speaker there. Sixty -- on pipelines, Chris, 60 percent of the cost of a pipeline isn`t the labor, isn`t the pipes, isn`t the materials. It`s the permitting process. It`s the lawyers that are being tied up in court. It`s all about that.

So, 60 percent of that, you cut that part away, you attract the Republicans and you attract the Democrats. You get the regulations down on the permitting process. Sixty percent to do a pipeline is everything but the pipeline. I think that`s where savings is. That`s where the savings is.

RUHLE: It`s a great point. And we shouldn`t look at regulation as a black or white, good or bad. Dodd-Frank, it`s not about ripping it apart. It`s about tweaking it. And so far as...

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what Trump says. Say yes or say no, but stop muddling along with a big yellow light that doesn`t get anything done.

RUHLE: But he says that, he`s a guy who negotiates. He talks tough, and then he does soften up.


Well, you took a shot at the lawyers, Mr. McManus, on behalf of the working guys. I that will be popular heard out -- that will be a very popular message out there. I hope you succeed. I`m rooting for you. Please keep coming back, Mark McManus of the big unions.

MCMANUS: I would love to come back.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

And Stephanie Ruhle.

MCMANUS: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- my colleague -- up next: What happens when you try to organize a town meeting with your congressman and the guy won`t show up? In fact, he won`t even say it`s his town meeting.

That`s ahead. And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: And I have always -- I have always believed, whether it`s a president or whether it`s another senator or another congressman, what Abraham Lincoln said. I will -- I will stand with any man when he`s right, for as long as he is right.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s more from that boisterous town hall going on right now down in Arkansas with Republican Senator Tom Cotton. He just told the crowd he will stay for another half-hour.

Well, Republicans across the country are facing fierce opposition right now at town halls in their home districts. Some Republicans from swing districts are avoiding in-person town halls altogether.

Well, the White House is giving them backup, however, brushing aside the uproar. Here goes.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there`s a hybrid there. I think some people are clearly upset, but there`s a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there.

Just because they`re loud doesn`t necessarily mean that there are many.


MATTHEWS: But that skepticism sounds dangerously familiar. Back in 2009, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi discounted the growing Tea Party movement.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This initiative is funded by the high end. We call it Astroturf. It`s not really a grassroots movement. It`s Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America.


MATTHEWS: Well, duck-and-cover strategy didn`t work for the Democrats. Will it work for the Republicans?

Joining me right now are Howard Fineman, of course, global editorial director for The Huffington Post. And Elizabeth Dennis is a Pittsburgh native who organized a constituent town hall because Senator Pat Toomey or Congressman Keith Rothfus wouldn`t do it themselves.

I have got to start -- Howard, I have got to start with Elizabeth here.


MATTHEWS: Because it takes a lot of guts and citizenship to do this.


FINEMAN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Tell us what you`re aiming to do in terms of calling -- it`s going to be, I understand, this Friday night in Pittsburgh.

ELIZABETH DENNIS, ORGANIZER, PITTSBURGH CONSTITUENT TOWN HALL: Yes. It will be this Friday night from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

And what I`m aiming to do is, I would love it if either of the representatives attended. And, beyond that, I would like to spread the word about the messages that the constituents would like to give their elected officials and hope that, in the future, the officials will hold regularly scheduled town hall meetings.

MATTHEWS: What issues did you recommend they bring to the table? Did you suggest any?

DENNIS: I shared a few from the Indivisible Guide, which I know has been brought up in previous segments, and I would be happy to talk about, as well as a few issues that I feel are of concern.

With these issues, I have shared the event, and...

MATTHEWS: No, what are the issues you care about, just so people know what you`re -- what animates you.

DENNIS: Oh, Sure. OK.


DENNIS: I care about affordable health care. I care about comprehensive immigration reform. I care about Black Lives Matter. I care about the -- oh, gosh, so many things.


MATTHEWS: That`s -- so you are -- it sounds like you`re a progressive. Is that fair to say?

DENNIS: Yes, but that wasn`t -- I am a progressive, personally.

But the motivation for organizing the event wasn`t a progressive agenda, so to speak. It was because I believe that representation is a crucial part of a functional democracy.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

DENNIS: And the ability to bring grievances and redress grievances with our elected officials is a fundamental part of that.

MATTHEWS: Thank so much.


MATTHEWS: So, we -- I got to go, Elizabeth. Hold on. Hold on, because I want to bring Howard in for some reporting.

DENNIS: Right.

MATTHEWS: Howard, put this in a reporter`s context.

FINEMAN: Well, I know what a professional, you know, hardboiled, high-paid organizer looks like, and Elizabeth isn`t one of them.

She`s grassroots Pittsburgh. And I know it because that`s my hometown, too.

And the point here is that Senator Toomey can avoid doing what Senator Cotton is bravely doing right there and is necessarily doing, not having town halls. But I think, eventually, that will catch up with him and local congressmen in Western Pennsylvania, if two things don`t happen over the coming months and year, if Donald Trump is unable to deliver on his economic promises to Pennsylvania, which is all about pipelines that the pipe fitter guy was talking about, all about coal, using more coal, using more -- digging more pipelines, laying more pipelines.

That`s going to be hard to do. He made big promise in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and so forth. He`s got to deliver on them, or Senator Toomey`s going to be in real hot water.

And also the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans have to say, as John Brabender was saying earlier on your show, what they`re going to do to improve the system, not just remove the one that exists.

If they don`t do those two things, if Donald Trump can`t deliver on those two things, if the Republicans can`t deliver on those two things, then the ducking and dodging by the Republicans now are going to have greater consequences later. Right now, it`s early in the ball game, Chris. We`re only a couple months into the cycle of 2018. But, come next year, it`s going to be big.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. The grass is always greener politically, Howard. You and I know that. And the other side always looks good when we`re stuck with this side.


MATTHEWS: Elizabeth, congratulations. You ought to get some sort of award for being a great American for doing this.


MATTHEWS: We need -- people got to get off their butts and go to some meetings and make some noise. The country is not going to take care of itself.

When we return, we`re going to come back here in a moment with some breaking news from the White House this hour. President Trump has rescinded the rules that allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice while at school. That means it will be up to the states and the school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination laws and determine whether students should be allowed to use the restroom of the gender they identify with, and not just the -- well, not just the restroom of their biological gender.

Anyway, more on that, as we take a closer look at President Trump`s first month in the presidency, the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly. We have got all the bases covered tonight as we examine what this president has and hasn`t accomplished since taking office.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is tonight.



In January 20th, of course, Donald Trump stood on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, he put his hands on two bibles, two better than one, and took the oath of office. And 33 days later, that has been some wild ride.

Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

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

TRUMP: No, not at all.

INTERVIEWER: Without presenting the evidence?

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

It`s not a Muslim ban but we`re totally prepared to work it out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. It`s working out very nicely.

MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As of today, we`re officially putting Iran on notice.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The action taken in Yemen was a huge success.

TRUMP: I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears. I`m going to ask him who was his acting coach.

The failing "New York Times" wrote a big, long front-page story. It`s a joke.

Where are you from?


TRUMP: Here`s another beauty.

The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.

To be honest, I inherited a mess. It`s a mess. At home and abroad. A mess.

You look at what`s happening in Germany. You look at what`s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden.

I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.


MATTHEWS: That was my favorite.

Anyway, late today, some breaking news: President Trump rescinded the rules that allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice while at school.

We`ll be taking a closer look at the president`s first month all together tonight at 10:00 Eastern on a two-hour special here on MSNBC. It`s going to be a hell of a two hours.

But right now, I`m joined by tonight`s roundtable on HARDBALL. Montel Williams is a former talk show host and naval intelligence officer, NBC`s Katy Tur. Trump`s campaign, by the way, nobody did it better.

And Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with the great and flourishing, I must say, "Washington Post," which is in a nose to nose battle to the finish line with "The New York Times" these days. He`s also one of our MSNBC contributors.

So, I want to start with Jonathan because he`s dying to say something good about Trump. Now, here`s what I want to do. This is going to be a summer hill, wide-open school here, right?

What can you say about the first month of Donald Trump`s presidency? Flat- out?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: Chaotic. Horrendous. Unfocused. Undisciplined. You want me to keep going? I think --

MATTHEWS: Did he say I think before he thought -- you just say I think. Was there a thought behind this first month? Was there a rational choreography to it?

CAPEHART: I cannot see any evidence that there is any rational choreography to anything that he`s doing except he had a basket of campaign promises and he`s trying to --

MATTHEWS: A basket of deplorables perhaps.

CAPEHART: I didn`t say that. I`m just saying a basket of campaign promises that he said he was going to keep and just executive order after executive order --


MATTHEWS: It sounds like Steve Bannon said, now, you`re going to do this you promised, going to do this as you promised.

CAPEHART: Yes. But I mean, you put out an executive order but what change -- what actually changes?

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS: He didn`t want to be accused of not fulfilling his promises. He didn`t want to be accused of saying one thing and doing another. So, he gotten into office, he went one by one on all of his major campaign offices so far, signed executive orders.

Now, it`s up to Congress to fund them. If they don`t do it, he can say, listen, I did my part, I tried, I did what I said I was going to do, and this is what happens when you put things in government. Congress is not working. Don`t blame me. Blame them.

MATTHEWS: Montel, your thoughts. Give me some deep thoughts now about -- you`ve been thinking about this. I talked to you before.

MONTEL WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I`m a guest. I`ve kept my mouth shut. I look at the television and I watch reporting and I blow up. I call people. And then I write op-ed pieces.

And I`m thinking in terms of what he said yesterday about the fact everybody`s jumped aboard. He is 100 percent decrying any form of racism.

Well, if he was, why do we not see him standing on television saying we are going to use the power of my office to hunt down everyone who turns over any tomb, or any grave, any gravestone? I`m going to hunt down every single person who attacks or has filed a false complaint against any synagogue in America. He`s not doing that.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want to shake apart his coalition. This is his voter group.

WILLIAMS: Twenty-five percent of his voting group understands that they agree with him and all the nasty rhetoric. You got to remember something, very recently --

MATTHEWS: So the dog whistle was heard by the dogs.

WILLIAMS: Yes. The campaign is all about protecting America. Let`s remember something that nobody has reported on yet. Up until Miami, or Orlando shooting, there were more people killed in this country by white separatists and cops killed.

He`s now going to change the office that goes after terrorist attacks and call it the office of --

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he`s doing that?

WILLIAMS: Because, again, he doesn`t want to --


WILLIAMS: -- offend that side of the -- of his following that right now wants him to be more anti-everybody. Look, I jump aboard this not because I`m trying to say one, we start with Muslims, now we`re with Jews. Tomorrow, it`s blacks. Already --


MATTHEWS: He started with blacks. Birtherism.

WILLIAMS: You`re right. Sorry. Started with blacks.

So, now, all of his rallies, recently, there were some people who were handicapped. Different people that will be screaming down.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to my point here. How much of he -- how much of him is show? In other words, I wondered about the decision in the Ninth Circuit to say this is motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.

I don`t think he has any sentiment about blacks, Jews, anybody. I think he`s all about Trump, getting ahead where he wants to get, which is the biggest guy in the history of -- every table, every restaurant, every kitchen table is talking about him. I think that`s his goal, to be the biggest guy in the universe and I don`t think he really does have these negative attitudes about groups of people.

Do you think he does?

TUR: Part of me wants to say he`s 100 percent show, but I know a lot of folks who know Donald Trump really well. And, you know, I do these check- ins with them, tell me about who he is, what does he believe?


TUR: Do you think this is fundamental to his ideology?

And when you talk about liberal causes, gay marriage and whatnot, they`ll say, no, he doesn`t really care.

But there is a threat in there about protecting, quote/unquote, "America", and protecting the identity of America.

MATTHEWS: Does he mean northern Europeans? Is it ethnic?

TUR: I will let the audience decide what they think that that means but I think it`s clear. I --

MATTHEWS: It`s clear? I`ll let them decide but it`s --


WILLIAMS: The rest of America --

CAPEHART: I second -- I stand with Katy.

TUR: Listen, I think that he has -- he has -- there`s a reason he came out on the first -- when he announced his run for president -- the presidency, by going after Latinos. There`s a reason he did it. And he feels that immigration is undercutting American values, changing the face of America and he understood that people felt that way, too. It wasn`t just him saying it.


TUR: So, that`s why he --

MATTHEWS: How much of this is -- guys, we`re all in the business of communicating, how much of Trump`s success has been his ear, his ability to hear what works?

TUR: A hundred percent of his success.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan?

CAPEHART: I will give him that but what he`s hearing is some really ugly stuff. I mean, he`s going after --

MATTHEWS: Forty-five percent of the American people buying the ugly? Our latest polling here --

CAPEHART: Some are.

MATTHEWS: He`s at 42 percent.

CAPEHART: Yeah. Some are. You know, to Katy`s point, yeah, people are concerned about immigration and concerned about all of that and, you know, worried about the direction of the country and American values, but American values also are being put to the test as we watch --

MATTHEWS: Who`s the best -- who`s the best proponent right now in this country you would put up on television against him for American values? Who would be in the big debate? I understand what you`re saying, because I agree with it.

Who is out there with the showmanship, the communications ability to deliver the good message against what you think is the bad one?

CAPEHART: It`s the one man who just left the office.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, well said. That is brilliant, actually.

The roundtable is sticking with us, we already forget about -- I mean --

CAPEHART: President Obama.

MATTHEWS: He should have been at the end of our lips.

Anyway, these three will tell me something -- he just did, this guy.

And a reminder, join us tonight with Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow and myself for a special two-hour look at President Trump`s first month in office. It won`t be any better than what he just said.

We`ll be right back with the hits, the misses and the president`s first days in office. What he`s gotten right and what he`s gotten wrong. This is "Trump: The First Month", coming up at 10:00 here on MSNBC.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Montel, tell me something I don`t know.

WILLIAMS: Right now, hourly and payday -- part day child care and child enrollment in CDC centers for our military soldiers has come to a stop. You can`t drop off your children anymore for part time or daycare because we can`t hire new employees to fill some of the centers that are now having to --

MATTHEWS: That`s not helping our troops.


TUR: OK, Peter Popoff, remember him in the 1980s televangelist who was caught conning his audience and exposed on Johnny Carson? He`s back. He`s back on BET, doing the same thing, people are buying it and he has a Bentley now. "GQ" found him.


TUR: Great article on "GQ".

MATTHEWS: What a world.

CAPEHART: OK. So, according to the great "Washington Post," in President Trump`s first 34 days, he has said 133 false or misleading statements.

MATTHEWS: Well, I love the jacket.

CAPEHART: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Explain.

CAPEHART: It`s Brunello Cucinelli, it`s a nice puffy coat cut in the form of a blazer.


MATTHEWS: I`m just teasing him anyway --

CAPEHART: You asked, I told.

MATTHEWS: I know, because I watch you. You`ve got the clothes.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan, my friend, and thank you, Katy Tur and thank you, Montel Williams.

When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017.

Well, tonight at 10:00, we tackle the untackleable, trying to make sense of the Trump presidency one month into its infancy. Just think of all the rabbits Trump has released for us in the media to chase after, the bragging he did right out of the gate about the size of his inaugural crowd.

Who are you going to believe, him or the pictures of the empty space on the Washington Mall? Or his dark claims of millions of illegal voters who gave California and, oh, yes, New Hampshire, to Hillary? Or the crazy grudge match he had with Nordstrom`s or last week`s rant in the East Room that had the whole room thinking we`d elected the headless horseman as our president?

But the rabbits Trump released with such regularity, the numbers, arguments, Nordstrom`s, the rest of it, were only the bedlam backdrop. Looking over the last 30 days, you`ll see headlines divided into two neat halves.

Two weeks of the Muslim ban and the court fights over it, followed by two weeks over the Russians and what kind of footsy Trump and his lieutenants might have been playing under the table.

Finally, there`s the latest story, the town meetings, and with them and other disconnect. People showing up to protest focused on kitchen table issues and still are. Health care, for example, and the poster issues, they`ve ignored, Donald Trump held high on his way to the White House, the wall, for example, the Muslim ban, people weren`t even focusing on them.

So many layers, so many compartments out there, so much to put together in our mind and say, that`s what happened this past month.

Do you think Trump knows precisely how crazy he makes our minds go? Does he know exactly how to mix things up so madly that it`s only the Mad Hatter himself who is setting the table?

That`s HARDBALL. We`ll talk about a lot more tonight at 10:00. Thanks for being with us. Now, a lot more at 10:00 with Rachel and Brian. It`s our two-hour Trump special. "Trump: The First Month".

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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