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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 2/27/2017

Guests: Simon Marks, Greg Miller, Cornell Belcher, Matthew Belloni, Philip Rucker you, Indira Lakshmanan, Zeke Miller

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: February 27, 2017 Guest: Simon Marks, Greg Miller, Cornell Belcher, Matthew Belloni, Philip Rucker you, Indira Lakshmanan, Zeke Miller

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Eastern promises.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, tonight, with an FBI-led counterintelligence inquiry under way and two congressional investigations just beginning, there are strong signs out there that President Trump has ordered a preemptive strike on those probes of his possible Russian connections.

We learned last week that Reince Priebus asked the FBI to knock down stories about the reported communications between Trump aides and figures in Russia. And how "The Washington Post" and Axios are reporting that the administration`s pushback campaign went further. The White House also enlisted CIA director Mike Pompeo, as well as the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Congressman Devin Nunes and Senator Richard Burr, to counter and discredit those stories in calls with reporters.

Well, in a press conference today, House chairman Nunes emphasized multiple times that as of now, he hasn`t seen any evidence connecting the Trump campaign to Russia.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We still have not seen any evidence of anyone that`s -- from the Trump campaign or any other campaign, for that matter, that`s communicated with the Russian government.

(INAUDIBLE) committee, we still don`t have any evidence of them talking to Russia.

As of right now, the initial inquiries I`ve have made to the appropriate agencies, I don`t have any evidence. I don`t have any evidence that would -- of -- of any phone calls.

What I`ve been told is by many -- by many folks is that there`s nothing there.

We don`t have any evidence right now. The way it sounds like to me is, is it`s been looked into and there`s no evidence of anything there.

There is no evidence that I`ve been presented of regular contact. If you all have American citizens that you know were talking to Russian agents, if you want to come to our committee, be a whistleblower yourselves and bring me those names, I`d be interested in having them.


MATTHEWS: But Democrat say it`s premature to make any conclusions about any potential connections to Russia. Here`s how the ranking of that committee, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, responded in a dueling press conference later today.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The committee has reached no conclusion on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Russian officials or any Russian contacts, nor could we. We have called no witnesses thus far. We have obtained no documents on any counterintelligence investigation. And we have yet to receive any testimony from the FBI on the investigation of potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia. So we`re not in a position to reach any conclusions about that.


MATTHEWS: Well, this comes after the former Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Darrell Issa of California, on Friday called for a special prosecutor to lead an independent investigation.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who was an appointee. You`re going to need to use the special prosecutor statute and office to take -- not just to recuse. That`s -- you can`t just give it to your deputy. That`s another political appointee. You do have to do that.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s how the president reacted today when asked if he`d support the appointment of a special prosecutor.


QUESTION: Do you support a special prosecutor on Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, press. Thank you, press.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t called Russia in 10 years.


MATTHEWS: I didn`t hear the response. I`m joined right now by Democratic senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and yesterday called for a subpoena of the president`s tax returns.

You know, I never heard people say -- I guess before the Watergate investigation, you could say there was no evidence of a cover-up, and then it turns out there was lots of evidence once you went and looked for it.

How do these chairs of these intelligence committees, House and Senate, both Republicans, say there`s nothing there when they haven`t even investigated it yet? What do they mean by "there`s nothing there"? Of course there`s nothing there. You haven`t gotten it yet. Your thoughts, Senator.

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): Oh, I think you`re exactly right. We have to do an investigation, and I think the American people are expecting us to do that. When you step back from this issue, it`s really about, you know, the fact that Russia had their thumb on the scales of an American election. That is something we should never accept. I don`t think the Russians do this to help the Republicans or the Democrats. They always do it to help the Russians, and we should get to the bottom of it.

MATTHEWS: What do you think you can find out -- I know you`re making a heroic effort to get his tax returns. The president keeps saying that he`s under -- he`s being audited, or whatever that cover is. Nobody really believes that. But as long as he keeps saying, I`m being audited, I can`t release my returns, how do you get them?

HEINRICH: Well, on the Intelligence Committee, If we were to subpoena those tax returns, they would not be open to the public. I think this is a fully appropriate way to follow the money and see if there are issues here that are broader than what we know as yet. And as you said, until we actually do the work of investigating, we`re not going to know what the answer is.

MATTHEWS: Well, he keeps saying things like -- his defense is either really broad or very specific, the president. He either says, you know, I didn`t talk to intelligence officials per se, although most intelligence people don`t call themselves intelligence officials. They`re in deeper -- some kind of background undercover. And secondly, he`ll say things -- I`ve never done any business in Russia, when we know he had the Miss Universe context over there. So that can`t be true. He`s had -- Paul Manafort certainly had dealings in Russia and in Ukraine.

We know facts. And yet he has these sweeping denials. What do you think of that?

HEINRICH: Well, I think if you look at the language that gets used oftentimes in the current debate, you hear words like "infrequent" or "inconsequential." I think words mean things, and the fact that they`re using qualifiers like that makes me want to get to the bottom of this.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think the White House has gone out -- there`s Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus -- they`ve gone out and talked to the FBI director, the CIA director, the chairs of the two Intelligence Committees, asking them to call the press and tell them how there`s nothing to it? What do you make of that? And why would they do something like that, if there`s nothing to hide?

HEINRICH: I don`t know why they`re doing that, but I can tell you it`s completely inappropriate. And the American people expect our Intelligence Committees to conduct fair and impartial investigations. And as soon as you have collusion between the chairs and the White House trying to spin news stories, or for that matter, selectively leak information while they`re condemning leaks on the other hand, I think that`s a real problem.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about the White House, the way they`ve been doing this? Spicer, the press secretary -- he`s got a tough job. We all know that. But he`s out there telling people, I want to see all your phones to make sure -- he`s collecting the phones in a big pile and asking the people to let him examine the phones to see if they`re leaking anything. And of course, then he says, Don`t leak the fact that I`m asking you through your phones to see if you`re not leaking, and then we immediately read about the fact he`s collected all the phones.

This is -- this is a gang that can`t shoot straight even when it comes to cover-up.

HEINRICH: There`s a little bit of a...

MATTHEWS: Or investigations. What do you make of it?

HEINRICH: There`s a little bit of a Keystone Kops...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I was thinking of that.

HEINRICH: ... aspect to that. That said, you know, there`s a lot of blaming the fire alarm instead of dealing with the fire. And I think as a member of the Intelligence Committee on the Senate side, I think we need to get to the bottom of this, get the facts, establish what they are, and if necessary, declassify them and share them with the American people so that we can address the root issues and not who`s leaking what or when.

MATTHEWS: You are great, Senator. You`re one of the best people I`ve had on this show ever because you answer the questions. You do not do anything else but -- and I like that! It`s called...

HEINRICH: It`s the down side...

MATTHEWS: ... question, answer!

HEINRICH: ... of being an engineer instead of an attorney, I think.


MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. Well, maybe that helps.

HEINRICH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You know -- you know how to get to the important parts. Anyway, thank you, Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

In his briefing today, by the way, press secretary Sean Spicer, the aforementioned -- he questioned the need for a special prosecutor and effectively said there`s nothing more to investigate when it comes to their involvement with Russia. Here he is.


QUESTION: Should there be a special prosecutor? Darrell Issa`s called for a special prosecutor to look into this.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right. And I -- and I guess my question would be a special prosecutor for what? I think that Russia`s involvement in activity has been investigated up and down. So the question becomes, at some point, if there`s nothing to further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate? I mean, Chairman Nunes spoke very clearly today when asked over and over and over again about elevis (ph) and said that he has seen nothing that leads him to believe that there`s there. (sic)


MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Robert Costa. He`s national political reporter with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. Greg Miller covers the intelligence community for "The Washington Post" and is right on this story. And Simon Marks is a chief correspondent with "Feature Story News."

I want to go to Robert. What do you make of this way -- I mean, I`m watching poor Sean Spicer there on the nannycam, basically being watched every minute by the president, and the president clearly wants Spicer and he wants Priebus to go out and tell top intelligence officials to quash this story before it starts.

What do you make of it, as a technique politically because we all know about it now. There are no secrets. We know he`s trying to shut down any interest in his Russian relations, such as they were.

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s not only a message to the media, it`s a message to these congressional Republicans. Nunes from California is certainly a major ally for the White House. He`s out in front defending the administration.

But the bigger question, Chris, is what are these Senate Republicans going to do, Senator Burr, others on the Intelligence Committee who are moving forward with an investigation on Russia? These -- the view of the White House has not stopped those investigations from moving forward.

MATTHEWS: So it`s happening. Let me go to Greg. You`re right on top of the story, Greg. This -- where`s it going, this story?


MATTHEWS: What`s the mars (ph) word (ph) for you?

MILLER: Well, I think the -- you know, as Robert just alluded to, the big question now is what happens now to these investigation? There`s been a lot of effort by Republicans and the White House to keep these investigations confined to these two committees and under that sort of control. And you know, the appearance that these chairmen are operating with the White House to some degree makes it harder to keep that contained and fend off that pressure to have an independent investigation that`s more bipartisan.

MATTHEWS: These -- these -- Select Committees on Intelligence -- they`re called select committees. They`re supposed to be non-partisan, right? They`re not supposed to be part of the leadership.

MILLER: Yes, by tradition, they are supposed to be very bipartisan. And in fact, they have been through much of their history. They`ve become increasingly partisan over the past 10 years or so.

MATTHEWS: It`s very had to say there`s nothing there.


MATTHEWS: Well, explain that because everybody watching this program, or programs like it, keep up with news, and one of the bits of news that we picked up during the campaign -- Russia had its finger, or its big, fat thumb on the scale for -- against Hillary. At least that we know. We don`t know if they wanted Trump, they certainly didn`t want Hillary.

MARKS: You can`t say there`s nothing there if you haven`t answered three basic questions. Why did you keep national security adviser Michael Flynn in place, in high classified meetings, two-and-a-half weeks after you were told he was a national security risk?

Why haven`t you shown the public not just the outside cover of Michael Cohen`s passport, Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, but the inside pages so people can see where he went and when he went there?

And thirdly, if you don`t turn over the tax returns, it will be impossible to know whether the Trump organization of Donald Trump personally in any way benefited from the 19.5 percent of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, which has somehow disappeared?

MATTHEWS: Do have evidence that he had a piece of that?

MARKS: Well, it`s a question. We don`t have -- we don`t have evidence-


MATTHEWS: What makes you think that?

MARKS: Well, we know that 19.5 percent of Rosneft was sold to a mystery buyer or was passed on to a mystery recipient. There are questions about that that have to be answered before you can say there`s nothing here (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, well, Politico reports that in an effort to plug the many leaks coming out of the White House -- here they are -- Sean Spicer held an emergency meeting last week. Quote, "Staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a phone check to prove they had nothing to hide. Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media." Well, that didn`t work. We`re talking about it.

Robert, Trump must be either going wacky now because this isn`t the way the press handled him in New York City, where he worried about getting in Page Six of "The New York Post," had these business relations with the press, and that was it. Now he`s got people in his White House staff he doesn`t trust, doesn`t trust his press office, doesn`t trust the FBI, doesn`t trust the -- anybody, it seems. Everybody`s circling him, as he sees it. How does Trump adjust to this?

COSTA: It`s an impossible task for Sean Spicer, for the president -- what they don`t recognize, perhaps, is that this whole town, Washington, especially those on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats, are talking 24 hours a day, it seems, to the press, background, on the record. Everyone`s talking about what`s going on inside of this White House.

So you may have a meeting, where you put phones on the table in the communications office and try to plug the leaks, but this is a bigger ship than that.

MATTHEWS: But behind it -- you know, behind that public display of lack of trust is a boss. Everybody thinks politics is complicated. It`s as simple as where you go to work, whatever your job. You have a boss to please. And the boss here is one guy elected by the American people, the Electoral College -- we got to be careful here -- and you`re worried about him because he`s (INAUDIBLE) What`s going on? Who`s leaking? Spicer, get in here! Who`s leaking this stuff (INAUDIBLE) is it somebody in your shop?

Well, now we know it is because the only people that knew about the phones being collected were people in the shop whose phones were collected. I don`t want to give away your sources, but maybe they`re that close, but this president getting much more than Nixonian here.

MILLER: (INAUDIBLE) you raise the point (INAUDIBLE) in New York, he was a boss, a complete boss of an organization. But here when you`re boss of the federal government, I mean, you have entities like the CIA and that FBI that are part of your administration, part of the executive branch, but they also have a certain degree of autonomy...


MILLER: ... and independence, and they`re supposed to. And so when you try to enlist them to do your bidding for you on a sort of a PR campaign, it just compromises their integrity.

MATTHEWS: He sees this as PR, doesn`t he.

MARKS: Look, I think...

MATTHEWS: He sees everything as PR.

MARKS: Absolutely, but the problem he`s got is not just with the press and it`s not just with the Democrats. It`s with Darrell Issa, based on what he said on Friday. It`s with...

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s running for the hills, Issa! He`s worried about his reelection, too.


MARKS: ... George W. Bush on "TODAY"...

MATTHEWS: That was impressive.


MARKS: ... saying...

MATTHEWS: What do you make of...


MATTHEWS: What do you make of W coming out and making a pro-1st Amendment argument?

MARKS: A pro-1st Amendment argument, as well, and saying that he believes that where there is smoke, there should be an investigation. So as much as the White House and Sean Spicer today said again and again and again...


MARKS: ... Absolutely nothing to see here, stop digging, the problem they`ve got is there are some Republicans now digging...


MATTHEWS: History`s teasing me right now, isn`t it? We`re going to start singing the praises of W? I mean, is it -- it`s teasing. It hasn`t gotten me yet. Anyway, I`m going to hold off on that one before I start saluting that guy.

Anyway, Robert Costa, thank you, as always. And Greg Miller, thank you. Great reporting. You are at the heart of this story, reporting, and Simon Marks.

Coming up, Democrats pick their path forward, and the Bernie Sanders wing falls short again. Can the new party chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, unite Democrats to defeat Trump next time? Because I think that`s what the Democrats want to do.

Plus, nightmare at the Oscars. Why did Warren Beatty, one of the great stars of Hollywood, get handed the wrong envelope at last night`s -- boy, that was Murphy`s law last night, snafu of all times.

Anyway, then President Trump made the media his number one enemy. Now some top Republicans, including, as we mentioned, former president George W. Bush, are fighting back.

Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch" tonight. And by the way, tomorrow night, MSNBC will have complete coverage or President Trump`s address to a joint session of Congress starting at 8:00 Eastern. I`ll be joined by Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow for the president`s speech.

And then, after the speech, join me for a special late night edition of HARDBALL. I`m going to have -- what a cast, what a cast -- Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Kathy Griffin -- wow, that`ll be something -- Rob Reiner, Bradley Whitford (ph) and Nancy Giles. They`re are all going to be talking about what they thought of the president`s speech. You saw their pictures there. It is a great line-up, so get some sleep tonight. They`re going to have some interesting reactions to Trump`s speech tomorrow night at midnight. And that`s HARDBALL late night tomorrow night at midnight Eastern, only 9:00 o`clock out West.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at President Trump`s latest job approval. According to our NBC, our new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 44 percent approve the president`s doing (sic), versus 48 percent who disapprove. That doesn`t surprise. That`s the lowest start, however, for a new president in the history of our NBC/"Wall Street Journal" polling.

Then again -- put this in context -- 44 percent is higher than his polling right before the election. I still think Trump people don`t speak openly to pollsters.

And look at how his numbers, however, compare and how they break down ideologically. 86 percent of Republicans -- about 9 out of 10 -- approve the job Trump`s -- that`s Republicans, almost 9 out of 10. And an equal amount, another 9 out of 10, 86 percent of Democrats disapprove. This is a partisan atmosphere.

As for the independents voters, this is one (INAUDIBLE) tell you the tie- breaker. Trump`s underwater with them, 38 percent approve and 47 percent - - so he`s worse off, you know, among independents than you`d think.

Anyway, we`ll be right back after this.



DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It is my great honor -- it is now my honor -- it is my honor now to present the gavel to the next chair of the Democratic National Committee to Mr. Tom Perez.

Mr. Perez, congratulations.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was outgoing chair Donna Brazile announcing the new leader of the Democratic National Committee over the weekend, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the first Latino leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Anyway, the contest for party chair turned into proxy war, you might say, between the Obama-Clinton wing -- how is that for a wing -- of the party represented by Mr. Perez and the Bernie Sanders wing, which backed Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

And, at times, it turned contentious. Politico reported that New York Congressman Greg Meeks, a DNC voting member, was repeatedly threatened by supporters of Ellison and Sanders with a primary challenge if he backed anyone else.

Well, Perez, however, had a big hand to pay, former President Barack Obama, who, along with Joe Biden -- quote -- "called DNC members himself to push for his former labor secretary."

In sign of unity, however, Perez named Ellison his deputy.


REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: If you came here supporting me, if you`re wearing a Keith T-shirt or any T-shirt, I`m asking you to give everything you have to support Chairman Perez.


TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We will all be able to say, whether you`re sitting here, whether you`re sitting outside, or whether you`re sitting you`re looking on across America, we will all be able to say the united Democratic Party led the resistance, ensured that this president was a one-term president and elected Democrats across this country from the school board.



MATTHEWS: Well, progressives saw the 2016 election results as an opportunity to move the party further to the left. And now that the Sanders and Warren wing, if you will, has been dealt another blow at party control, what will progressives do next? Great question.

Cornell Belcher is a pollster who worked for President Obama. And former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is former chair, of course, of the DNC. He`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

I find him a fascinating guy to try to figure out.

Governor, you were rooting for Buttigieg, the young mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And I thought he was a fascinating guy. I didn`t endorse him, like somebody people did. I don`t think we should be endorsing people in this kind of position, but I did mind him interesting. Has youth lost out, just to get that part out of this thing?


The problem is the Democratic Party has lost out, not because Perez is a bad choice. I think he is great. He is a progressive. I would have supported Keith if I had had a vote, once Pete Buttigieg was out, because I really think we need change.

Here is the problem with the Democratic Party. The base of the Democratic Party was in the airports all over America, with the women`s march, and in these town meetings. And the DNC is completely divorced from all that. And that`s what they have got to rebuild.

You can`t just do the 50-state strategy anymore. Now you have got to do a 50-year strategy. This first global generation that is out there that supported Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton, they are not Democrats. They vote in the presidentials. They don`t vote in the down-ballot races and they don`t vote in the off elections, which is one of the reasons we`re in such bad shape.

And Tom Perez has got a really big job. First of all, he`s got to rebuild the Democratic Party. And, second of all, he`s got to figure out how to reach out and bring these people into institutional politics, which they don`t really want to do right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, let ask you, Cornell, where is the big -- if you have to just slice the pie right now and said the outsiders, the youth, the minorities maybe, and they have a different vision of what the Democrats should stand for, as opposed to the people in the inside who raise money, the usual people that have been running the party for years.

What are their issues? Let`s talk about foreign policy. Are people younger, outsiders, more on the left, more against war? How would you describe them? Are they more skeptical about military involvement? Give me some areas.

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, first of all, I always worked for Howard Dean before I worked for Obama.

I think we are making too much of the ideological rift. The truth of the matter is...

DEAN: I agree.

MATTHEWS: You mean I`m wrong? You mean I`m wrong to ask the question?

BELCHER: Yes. Well, I think it`s missing the point, because there`s not 15 cents worth of difference ideologically from a policy standpoint from where Congressman Ellison is and where Perez is. So, this ideological purity test, I think we are missing the picture here.

I think there`s a segment of the left here who wants these ideological litmus tests, but they are missing the bigger picture. Right now, as we talk, you know what Jeff Sessions is doing? He`s pulling the U.S. attorney`s office out of the Texas voter identification.

So, we have our communities under siege right now.


BELCHER: These are the issues.


MATTHEWS: OK. But I think that`s ideology. I think either you care about voter rights or you don`t.

BELCHER: No, because you know what? Perez is going to fight for voter rights. Ellison is going to fight for voter rights.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I thought you meant there`s a more conservative part of the wing that wasn`t even in the running here.

BELCHER: But we do need a big tent party.

Governor Dean was the most successful chairman in modern history, but it wasn`t about ideology.


MATTHEWS: Look, Governor, I was for you back when you ran for president overwhelmingly -- everybody knew it -- because you were the only guy that came out there and came out against a bad war. And you said it was a bad war.

All the establishments candidates, worried about raising money, and being all scared to death like rabbits that are going to be accused of not being patriotic, all backed a lousy war. You stood out and said it was a bad war when you ran.

And I just think the other issues, voter identification and the issue of a person`s right to vote in this country -- and it`s your right to vote. And anything that stops you from voting is wrong.

And I do think these are passionate issues. And I`m with those two issues, not every single left-wing turn of the party, but those two. And I think they do matter.

Is it ideology or is it -- what is it? I think the outsiders want a change. They`re sick of the regulars, because they support wars and they don`t really get angry about voting -- stealing of the right to vote by people -- minorities and other people.


DEAN: Chris, Chris, this is now how first globals think. When they are 35 years old, 30 years old, they don`t think ideologically.

You`re right about the issues. But they don`t see this as a right/left thing. They see this an establishment, old generation, old top-down stuff vs. grassroots organization.


MATTHEWS: How come Bernie is the youth -- obviously, it`s ideology because a lot of young people like Bernie.

DEAN: No. Obama -- they all voted for Obama too.

They voted for Bernie because Bernie told it like he saw it was, and he`s an authentic person. These kids are not as left as the hard-core Bernie people. But they`re happy to support Bernie, because Bernie is a fresh voice telling the truth.

But what I`m trying say here -- and I think Cornell has got his finger -- and I will turn it over to him, because he`s the pollster. This generation is not like our generation. It`s not polarizing.

We think they are left because they believe in social justice and fairness. But the truth is, they want to rebuild society in their image, not our image.

MATTHEWS: I want to rebuild the country. I don`t know. Somebody said the other day, don`t ever say the word infrastructure. I don`t like the word, but I do want to rebuild the country. And I think that`s a unifying thing for Democrats, because I think, in the end, the Republicans won`t do it.

DEAN: I agree.

BELCHER: It`s some big, unifying values. And I think what the party must become is more values-based.

When Democrats -- and this is what chairman Dean did very well. When Democrats put their values first, we can go and compete anywhere. And I think that is what the Democratic Party has to be less transactional, more transformative.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think youth is, Governor? It`s riding the Vamoose Bus from New York to Washington. It`s about 25 bucks. And it`s a lot cheaper than Amtrak and anything else and certainly cheaper than owning your own car. And it`s loaded with millennials.

Anyway, the president was up and tweeting over the weekend -- that was a little push for Vamoose -- about the DNC race, saying: "The race for DNC chair was of course totally rigged. Bernie`s guy, like Bernie himself, never had a chance. Clinton demanded Perez."

Well, here`s how chairman Perez reacted to that nonsense.


PEREZ: Congressman Ellison and I got a good kick out of that, Donald Trump up again in the morning tweeting about us.

You know, our unity as a party is our greatest strength. And it`s his worst nightmare. And, frankly, what we need to be looking at is whether this election was rigged by Donald Trump and his buddy Vladimir Putin.

And I`ll tell you, having Jeff Sessions oversee such an investigation, it`s really unfair to any foxes across America to say that would be the fox guarding the henhouse.

We need an independent investigation, because that is a serious, serious issue.


MATTHEWS: Sometimes I think the Democratic Party is the anti-Trump party. And it`s got to be more than that. It`s got to be more than that. We got to get something. We got to look out for this country, not just look out for dumping that guy, because he`s going to be around for four years. We just got to make the best of it and pursue the right goals.

Anyway, Cornell, thank you. You know so much.

Howard Dean, governor, thank you.

And newly minted DNC chair Tom Perez will be our guest here tomorrow night on HARDBALL. We go for the winners around here. We get the big ones. And he`s the winner. He`s going to be here at 7:00 Eastern tomorrow night. We`re going to get ready for the president`s speech with him. He will give us the preview.

And the Senate has just now voted to confirm Wilbur Ross as President Trump`s commerce secretary. Wow. Anyway, voting continues out there. And Ross will be sworn in tomorrow.

Up next, how did it happen? That`s what everybody wants to know about something that really is kind of an embarrassment for a great man, Warren Beatty. Somebody gave him the wrong envelope. What`s the problem? You only got one job, hand him the envelope for best picture. And they gave him the best actress award question.

Unbelievable, how somebody can -- well, that is an awful thing to do. The guy is already probably miserable.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The past few months have been one surprise after another, from Donald Trump`s shocking win, to the Patriots` incredible Super Bowl comeback.

But last night`s unprecedented mistake at the Academy Awards still felt surreal, like we were being told Hillary Clinton won, and then two minutes later, the winner was Donald Trump instead, of vice versa.

Well, let`s see watch did happen last night when "La La Land" was mistakenly named best picture of the year.


WARREN BEATTY, ACTOR: And the Academy Award for best picture...


"La La Land."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matt Plouffe, you kicked this off. And, Damien Chazelle, we`re standing on your shoulders. We lost, by the way, but, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry. No, there`s mistake. "Moonlight," you guys won best picture. This is not a joke. This is not a joke.

I`m afraid they read the wrong thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a joke. "Moonlight" has won best picture.

"Moonlight," best picture.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: This is very unfortunate, what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this.


KIMMEL: I would like to see you get an Oscar anyway. Why can`t we just give out a whole bunch of them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from "Moonlight."

KIMMEL: Warren, what did you do?


BEATTY: I wanted to tell you what happened.

I opened the envelope and it said: "Emma Stone, La La Land."

That`s why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn`t trying to be funny.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you to the academy. I don`t know what to say. That was really -- I`m not sure -- I`m still not sure this is real. But thank you to the academy.


MATTHEWS: Well, even the director of "Moonlight" had trouble adjusting to this alternate reality. The crowd was shocked.

And, like me, many were brought straight back to the disbelief of Election Day.

Anyway, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: "Most nights, I have a dream in which what just happened at the Oscars actually happened on election night."

And others used the unique circumstances of 2016 to joke about what happened with tweets like this: "Sorry for the confusion. `La La Land` won the popular vote, but `Moonlight` the Electoral College."

And: "Russian interference in the Oscars."

But the president himself blamed the chaos, of course, on the Oscars being too political, which it wasn`t. He told Breitbart -- I wonder why he would call Breitbart? "I think they were focused so politics that they didn`t get the act together at the end. It was a little sad. It took away from the glamour at the Oscars. It didn`t feel like a very glamorous evening. I have been to the Oscars. There was something very special missing. And then to end that way was sad."

Anyway, to process what happened last night, I`m joined now by an expert, "Hollywood Reporter"`s Matthew Belloni.

Matthew, first of all, I`m a big fan of Warren Beatty. He`s one of the great people in the history of movies. He was given the wrong envelope. It was not his fault. My question is, how did that happen? Do we know?


The accounting firm in charge of the Oscar tabulation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, has admitted there was an error and that Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope.

There are two envelopes for each category, just for safety reasons. And Emma Stone received the first best actress winner. There was a second envelope for best actress. And somehow that envelope was given to Warren Beatty.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about -- first of all, I want to ask about the Oscars last night.

I have got to tell you, I have been a lot critic of some of the guys. I thought Jimmy -- Jimmy Kimmel was fantastic. I think he had just the right tone. I think he put in a little politics, but he did it tongue in cheek. He set the pace for the whole evening. It wasn`t going to be a lot of snarky, lefty, easy cheap shots at Trump, which anybody can do. I can do it. Anybody can do that.

It showed talent and finesse. I love the candy coming down and the donuts coming down. And I guess like the people, the regular people. I don`t like regular people being used that way, but the regular people coming in was an interesting idea.

And I thought the music was fantastic, the "La La Land" music especially. And also it was just a great -- John Legend was always -- well, he`s always great. I thought it was a great night.


MATTHEWS: What did you think?

BELLONI: Yes, up until that ending. Unfortunately, no one is going to remember anything about that show, except for the ending.

But it was actually a great show. I was there in the audience. And it went over really well. It was nice mix of stuff for the people at home and insider jokes for people that were there.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the mistake.

Do we have any systemic way to fix this, so that next time a heavyweight, us a veteran of the movie world, goes out there and does this, somebody like Faye Dunaway or Warren, and they have to go out and take this on, how can they be sure? Do they have to be say, please look at the outside of the envelope and make sure it`s the one you`re supposed to be given?

What`s a guy like Warren supposed to do?

BELLONI: Yes. I know.

You think -- when you go on stage at the Oscars, you kind of have a reasonable expectation of being given the correct envelope. But right now PricewaterhouseCoopers says they are investigating what happened.

They have an 80-year...


MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. How long does it take to investigate?


MATTHEWS: Just ask the guy who is supposed to give him the right envelope. How can you still have best picture in your pile?


BELLONI: Well, there was a lot of other things, like, once they found this out, why did they allow two-and-half speeches to go on before they shut things down and told us the real story?


BELLONI: There are a lot of other things going on here.

But this is an 80-year relationship between the academy and PricewaterhouseCoopers. I would not be surprised if that relationship ended over this incident.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about some of the highlights.

Denzel Washington -- and he`s a superstar. I mean, he`s a leader. He`s the new Spencer Tracy, as far as I`m concerned, in terms of the film industry. He looked very unhappy last night. Didn`t he know that Casey Affleck was going to win?

BELLONI: Well, he lost a very close race.


BELLONI: He thought he was going to win. A lot of people thought he was going to win for "Fences."

And Casey Affleck had won a lot of awards during the season, but did not win the Screen Actors Guild award, which is typically the predictor of the Oscar. And that was a big surprise that Casey Affleck ended up winning. MATTHEWS: But you know that Denzel will do 10 more great performances. And Casey Affleck may play the same guy again 10 more times.

BELLONI: Perhaps.

MATTHEWS: In terms of acting range, it`s definitely Denzel, I think. I have seen him in so many movies. And he`s always big.

BELLONI: Well, he already has two Oscars.


Anyway, thank you. I think "Moonlight" was amazing. I wouldn`t call it entertainment. I would call it important about the human life experience, about what it`s like -- somebody said last night, we`re the only industry and the only profession where you try to explain what it`s like to be a human being. I thought that was really great last night and --

BELLONI: Yes, that was great speech by Viola Davis. She was great.

MATTHEWS: Well, she is a great, and all those people. I thought they got back off from the old white thing too really well. Boy, does Hollywood react quickly to the market. I mean, they really did fix their wagon in about a year. It was amazing.

BELLONI: Absolutely. And that would have been the narrative for the show had they not had this giant fiasco in the end.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s great. It was a good thing in America. I`ve always said what sits it apart from the Germans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Indians, that we can respond to events faster than any country in the world. We know how to react. We get our act together faster when we`re faced with reality. I hope we do it on climate. We did it on smoking. Have you noticed? We quit smoking first.

Anyway, thank you, Matthew Belloni. Great to have your expertise.

Up next, how George W. Bush is pushing back against President Trump`s attacks on the media. Trump says the press is the enemy of the people. What is he, Henrik Ibsen?

Anyway, Bush says the media is indispensible. Well, I think we are. Not me, but everybody in this business. That`s next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Over the weekend, President Trump announced he would skip the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. Boo-hoo. He tweeted, "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents Association dinner this year, please wish everyone well and have a great evening." Hmm.

On Sunday, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC why.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECY.: I think it`s kind of naive of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn`t there. You know, one of the things we say in the south, if a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her? I think that this is a pretty similar scenario.


MATTHEWS: Did they really say that anywhere? Anyway, this is another contentious weekend in which President Trump and his staff continued there attack on the press.

Late Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer barred major news outlets from a media gaggle, actually a briefing in his office. And in his CPAC speech earlier that day, the president spent nearly ten minutes berating the press, retorting that they were the enemy and he would do something about it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you all the know that we are fighting the fake news. It`s fake, phony, fake.


MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" reports that President Trump who was a major player in the New York tabloid media scene has struggled to manage the Washington press corps, according to "The New York Times". The president`s mood in Washington has turned darker and over the last week, he has executed alongside Mr. Bannon and Mr. Spicer what amounts to the most sustained White House campaign against the news media since Richard Nixon`s second term.

Well, tonight, actually tomorrow night, the president is set to address a joint session of Congress, which has grown increasingly unsettled.

I`m now joined by a round table. Philip Rucker, political reporter for "The Washington Post", right in the middle of this fight, Indira Lakshmanan, who`s columnist with the great "Boston Globe" up there in the hub, and Zeke Miller, White House correspondent for "Time".

Thank you all.

And I guess wonder where is Trump going with this, Indira. Because I think he must have a plan, although I don`t know -- I don`t know if he has a plan. How long is this going on?

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, BOSTON GLOBE: Well, I think the plan is, you know --

MATTHEWS: Nixon did it going down the drain.

LAKSHMANAN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: That`s what he did, embrangled with this stuff, this anti-media stuff. But it`s no career builder.

LAKSHMANAN: Well, obviously, this is biggest attack on the media that the White House press corps has seen since Nixon. That`s been said a lot. I think that Trump`s plan here is to set up the media as the enemy. He said that out right, to make us seem as the opposition. That, of course, plays well with Republicans.

All the studies that we`ve seen show that Republicans have a poor opinion of press in general, but there was this Quinnipiac poll last week that you might have seen which actually shows that right now, 61 percent of Americans are displeased with how President Trump has casted the media as the enemy and 53 percent says they believe the media more than they believe President Trump. So, I`m not sure how long he can ride this horse.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, let`s take a look at a movie scene that I love, which this is Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver". I think it`s one of those moments in the movie history that tells you what it`s like to face adversary. Let`s watch because I have an attitude about this.


TRAVIS BICKLE, TAXI DRIVER: Are you talking about me? You talking to me? You talking to me? Who the hell are you talking to? Well, I`m the only one here.


MATTHEWS: Phil Rucker, is he talking to you when he trashes the media? I want to know -- who -- I was thinking of this. Who is going to accept the fact that he is talking them? He is not talking me. He`s talking about them, "The Times" maybe. Maybe he`s talking about CNN. But no, he`s not talking about me.

But isn`t he attacking everybody sitting here right now, Trump?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s right. I think he`s attacking --

MATTHEWS: Who takes it personal, professionally?

RUCKER: He`s talking anybody who is doing, you know, account, holding them to account, doing an investigative journalism, who`s writing about what the chaos inside that administration. We`re all under attack.

MATTHEWS: He`s not mad about opinion people, people like me. I`m mostly opinion, early evening news, analysis, that opinion. He doesn`t go after lefties. He doesn`t go after center lefties. He goes after people producing news on the front page, hard working enterprise reporting. That`s what he`s going after.

Haven`t you noticed?

ZEKE MILLER, TIME MAGAZINE: That`s certainly the case here, but you know, there`s sort of an element here of, you know, looking for an enemy. This is somebody who spent his entire career in negotiations, who can`t have a negotiation with one party. I mean, he can`t have a super hero without a villain. There`s an element of, like --

MATTHEWS: Why would anybody believe Trump when Trump spent years saying that Barack Obama was an illegal alien?

MILLER: His supporters believe him.

MATTHEWS: Why would they believe when they know he was wrong about the big thing he ran on for five years? Why would they believe he`s got some new truth coming out of him?

LAKSHMANAN: Well, the irony is that he has said --

MATTHEWS: Except they hate Obama so much, they love to have him, you know, trashed by saying he snuck into country.

LAKSHMANAN: It`s confirmation bias. The people believe what they want to believe. But the problem here is that it`s ironic, you can`t go around saying, you know, they shouldn`t be unanimous sources, reporters like "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" shouldn`t cite anonymous sources when Trump himself hid behind an unanimous source in claiming the birther controversy. He said, I have a very reliable source who tells me that President Obama was not born in the United States. He didn`t state who that source was.

MATTHEWS: We`re getting a lot of interesting information down here from Hawaii.


MATTHEWS: And, by the way, collecting the phones.

LAKSHMANAN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: What do you mean I really trust my staff people? Bring your phones and I want to analyze them.

RUCKER: It`s really pretty remarkable move this early in an administration. But it speaks to Spicer just doing what the boss wants. I mean, Trump is fixated on these stories --


MATTHEWS: Of course, he is. I don`t hold Sean Spice for anything. I think he is watched minute by minute. I say it`s a nanny cam. They watched him every minute.

RUCKER: Nanny cam.

MATTHEWS: You know what`s going on.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, I mentioned this before. In the middle of President Trump`s fight with the media, George W. Bush to the rescue. The typically reclusive 43rd president was asked on the "Today" show what he thought of the media. Here`s what W. had to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I considered the media to be indispensable to democracy, that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it`s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.


MATTHEWS: Well, put that up there with the Patriots comeback and "Moonlight" winning and Hillary losing.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Philip, tell me something I don`t know.

RUCKER: So, infrastructure, Chris, one of your favorite topics.

MATTHEWS: No, it`s a great topic and a terrible word.

RUCKER: So, President Trump, in almost every speech, you hear him talking about wanting to rebuild roads and bridges --


RUCKER: -- tunnels, airports, all of that.

And here`s the thing, he`s got a budget coming out. He`s got the budget kind of outline out there right now. There`s no way to pay for this yet. The project is not getting off the ground. So, we`re going to have to see what happens.

MATTHEWS: We cannot rebuild this country in the stocking stuffer. It`s a big get. It`s something big. You can`t just put it in there with the apples.


LAKSHMANAN: Something you may not know is the State Department cafeteria is busier now than it ever has been in the nine years that I`ve been in Washington because nobody knows what they are supposed to be doing. There`s no one steering the ship as far as they`re concerned. They are all down in the cast because they don`t know what they`re supposed to be working on.


ZEKE MILLER: And similar fellow just on, and we`ve heard the president talked a lot about pipelines and how he added a line to rebuild them in the United States, they`re gong to find out the next couple of weeks, there`s not enough American-made pipeline.

MATTHEWS: Well, I wish there was. I like him on that.

Anyway, thank you, Philip Rucker. Thank you, Indira Lakshmanan, and Zeke Miller.

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

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, February 27th, 2017.

Well, tomorrow night, we`re going to see President Trump in full. He has the Congress, the Supreme Court, his cabinet and his country watching and listening. And more important, he`s got the people out there who voted for him and those who didn`t, including those who voted very much against him.

Well, nobody on earth gets this kind of audience in real time, in prime time, when everyone else stops to pay attention. So, it would be good for the country if this event by itself gets him to think about the country, the whole country and nothing but.

Talking at rallies is different than talking to the country and the world. Applause lines are good to get people excited to vote for you. It`s time for something more, something about what he wants to do and how he wants to get it done, most important, how he intends to build, how he`s going to inspire this country as an American president.

In any case, we`re going to have a live late-night edition of HARDBALL tomorrow night following the speech, with a lot of reaction. With me is an all-star cast, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Kathy Griffin, Rob Reiner, Bradley Whitford and Nancy Jowls (ph). It`s an all-start cast to react to a big Trump night.

I expect people in that group, you`re looking at it right now, are going to have lots to stay. That`s why we`ll be there at midnight Eastern Time to hear them. So, get a good night sleep tonight and stay up with us tomorrow night for our HARDBALL late night special. Lots of attitude in that hour.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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