Show: HARDBALL Date: March 7, 2017 Guest: Christopher Ruddy, Susan Hennessey, Jim Jordan CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Dawn patrol.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
This isn`t like covering politics anymore, it`s more like doing guard duty in a jungle. There are strange noises in the night these days, but dawn brings the real danger when the large animals come out to feed. Donald Trump likes to get up early and roar. Since getting up Saturday morning, he`s roared about President Obama wiretapping him during the campaign, though no one around him, from his press secretary to the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee will confirm it ever happened.
He, Trump, tweeted -- now, this is the president of the United States -- some vindictive crap about Arnold Schwarzenegger losing his job on "The Apprentice." And then today, still at dawn patrol, Trump roared about President Obama releasing 122 terrorist from Guantanamo Bay who then went out and rejoined the cause. Well, it turns out that more than 9 out of 10 of those once and future terrorists released before Obama ever came to the White House. Fact.
What`s happening is that this thing has gotten so haywire that his people, his very spokesmen in the White House, and his Republican colleagues in the Congress, will no longer play dittoheads. They don`t say they believe the guy. Sean Spicer refuses to now lip sync what Trump said about wiretapping. Now he edits the president as if his boss were speaking English as second language, fixing his math, trying to fix what Trump has just said.
Here`s how Sean Spicer explained the tweet on Guantanamo when asked about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, the president meant in totality the number that had been released on the battlefield, that have been released from Gitmo since -- since individuals have been released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Nice try, Sean. The only problem, the president specifically said in his tweet that the prisoners were released by the Obama administration. That`s a fact. Check it.
Meanwhile, Spicer continued to deflect questions about President Trump`s weekend tweet-fest in which he accused President Obama of tapping his phones at Trump Tower before the election. It was allegation that originated on conservative Web sites like Breitbart and conservative radio host named Mark Levin. Over and over today, reporters asked Spicer for hard evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: We put out a statement on Sunday saying that we would have no further comment and we were asking the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees to look into this concern and report back.
QUESTION: Can`t the president just ask the FBI director...
SPICER: Well, I think...
SPICER: Look, I think...
QUESTION: Has he asked him?
SPICER: No, the president has not.
QUESTION: Will the president withdraw the accusation? Does he have any -- any...
SPICER: Why would he withdraw it until it`s -- I mean, until it`s adjudicated?
QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence yourself?
SPICER: As far as me? No. I`m not in a position that that would be regularly part of my daily duties.
QUESTION: Is the White House position that the president can make declarative statements about a former president basically committing a crime and then the congressional committees should look into that and basically prove it?
SPICER: It`s not a question of prove it, is that they have the resources and the clearances and the staff to -- to fully and thoroughly and comprehensively investigate this.
QUESTION: No, but -- but President Trump`s Twitter statement shouldn`t be taken at face value about what...
SPICER: Sure, it should be.
QUESTION: Why would the president want Congress to investigate for information he already has?
SPICER: I think there`s a -- there`s a separation of powers aspect here, as I mentioned to Jonathan, that we think it`s...
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) resources and time. Why waste that?
SPICER: Well, it`s not a question of waste it. It`s a question of appropriateness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While many Republicans avoided responding to the president`s assertions, Senator John McCain again today called on him to provide evidence for his serious charge. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that the president of the United States, who has stated categorically that Trump Tower was wiretapped, that he should forth -- come forward with the information that led him to that conclusion. It`s a very serious charge against the previous president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
What do you make of the president of the United States tweeting that the previous president, his predecessor, illegally wiretapped him? What do you make of that?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me back, Chris. This president is no longer credible, and there`s no one that he is willing to spare in defaming to distract us from the uncomfortable questions around Russia.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of it? What do you make of him. Do you think he just made this up? That`s what I think. What do you think he did?
SWALWELL: Yes. Yes. There`s no evidence of it. And Chris, if there was any sort of wiretapping, it`s because the FBI and the Department of Justice got a federal judge to sign off on it, which means he`s in real trouble.
MATTHEWS: But none of that happened. You`re on the Intelligence Committee. You know that none of that happened.
SWALWELL: There`s no evidence right now out there. And Chris, again, this president has crossed all lines. He`s attacked the judiciary. He`s now attacking the peaceful transfer of power. And President Obama, who was so gracious to him, and you know, pretty measured, more measured than I think most of us would have been during that transition. And he`s attacking the independence of our law enforcement.
So there`s no line he would cross to make sure he distracts us from these questions around Russia.
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump is president of the United States. I have hard time, actually, calling him President Trump right now because when he gets up at dawn and starts tweeting, that doesn`t seem like an official statement from a president.
It strikes me as the guy who used to say Obama was an illegal immigrant or that Ted Cruz`s father killed Kennedy. I mean, it seems like that guy, like he`s some blogger, he`s not the president -- what do you think when you hear...
SWALWELL: He`s that uncle...
MATTHEWS: When he makes these claims, what do you make of them? Who is he? Is he president when he`s doing this, or is this some weird extracurricular at dawn he practices?
SWALWELL: He`s that armchair uncle after Thanksgiving dinner who`s just letting his unfounded opinions fly. And we need a president who`s focused right now. And Chris, I always step back. He`s entitled to his opinion. But if his opinion is making us less safe or giving Americans less opportunity, that`s when people need to start speaking up around here.
MATTHEWS: Well, when`s the Intelligence Committee on which you serve in the House going to put out a statement saying this is nonsense? What`s the wait? All you have to do as a committee -- I`m sorry, I know how it works -- call the FBI director to the stand tomorrow morning, put him under oath and say, Was there any evidence why you`ve been director all the way months and years go -- any evidence of any attempt to bug Donald Trump? What`s so hard about that?
SWALWELL: It`s not hard.
MATTHEWS: Get it over with! Why are we waiting months of this nonsense?
SWALWELL: It`s not hard. And I was encouraged that FBI Director Comey was attempting to have the Department of Justice clear this reckless statement by the president. But we should do that this week in the Intelligence Committee. We shouldn`t have to continue to let the American people be confused about what really happened here because the president is so reckless with his tweets.
MATTHEWS: Well, Nunes`s playing ball as Republican. He`s out there saying, Well, we haven`t heard anything yet so far about it. We`re going to keep our eyes open and ears open, and maybe something will come across our desk. He`s basically saying there`s nothing to it, but he`s not going to blow the whistle and say, Let`s stop this focus on nothingness.
Anyway, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California...
SWALWELL: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... thanks for coming on.
President Trump`s surrogates have struggled, as I`ve been saying, for the last few days to try to cover for their boss`s weird statements on wiretapping. Listen closely to how they distance themselves. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that the Obama administration may have tapped into the phones at Trump Tower.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is his information that President Obama tapped his phones based solely on something he read in the media, yes or no?
SANDERS: Look, I haven`t the chance to have the conversation directly with the president, and he`s at a much higher classification than I am. So he may have access to documents that I don`t know about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does he know that his phone was actually tapped?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer that globally. He`s the president of the United States. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not, and that`s the way it should be for presidents.
QUESTION: Do you believe that President Obama (INAUDIBLE)
SPICER: You know, I -- I -- I get that`s a cute question to ask. My job is to represent the president and to talk about what he`s doing and what he wants. And he`s made very clear what his -- what his goal is, what he would like to have happen. I`m not here to speak for myself. I`m here to speak for the president of the United States and our government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He sounds -- Sean Spicer sounds like a public defender with an obviously guilty defendant, and he`s not going to say the guy`s innocent or the woman`s innocent, he`s just going to say, Hey, look, I`ve been assigned by the state to defend this character, I`ll do my best.
Anyway, I`m joined right now by "Washington Post`s" Robert Costa and "USA Today`s" Heidi Przybyla. Both are MSNBC political analysts.
I want to go to Robert on this. You know Trump pretty well. Why is he getting up at 6:00 in the morning and spouting this nonsense?
ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he always...
MATTHEWS: He`s president!
COSTA: He is the president, and he has always gotten up early. I`ve noticed this throughout my reporting on then candidate Trump and now President Trump. He`s up usually at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, turns on cable news, reads the print edition of newspapers and the printout of articles that sit on his desk. And he goes through them page by page.
MATTHEWS: Why does he do this?
COSTA: It`s who he is. He doesn`t use a computer...
MATTHEWS: No, you`re missing my main point here. Why does he get up on Saturday morning to trash his predecessor, then do it again, two out of, what -- Saturday then Tuesday. First of all, he said he -- he`s a felon because he wiretapped him. Of course, in the past he said he was worthy of deportation because he snuck on the country illegally.
And now he`s saying he let all these the bad guys from Guantanamo, when, in fact, 93 percent of them -- I did the arithmetic -- were released previous to Obama becoming president.
It was an unfair charge in both cases. Why is he attacking Obama at dawn?
COSTA: It`s a great question. The answer, based on my reporting, is he truly thinks day-to-day about President Obama and he compares himself to how much President Obama was able to accomplish in his first few months in office. Why? He is somewhat haunted, as some put it to me, by President Obama`s first term. I`m not sure. I`m not a psychologist. But he does often talk about what President Obama was able to do with a Democratic Congress back in 2009.
MATTHEWS: Well, one thing, he was a rational man and he was a gentleman. How`s that for any argument? Anyway, that`s a point of view.
Heidi, what do you make of this?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... looks like it`s going to continue.
PRZYBYLA: As somebody who spent a year saying, Oh, gee, isn`t it crazy that he`s tweeting this or he`s saying that, when you start to see that there`s a pattern to something, not just in terms of the news cycle when we`re talking about Russia and things that he wasn`t want us to be talking about, but also just in terms of the time of the day, at dawn, setting the news cycle in the morning, that there is some intentionality to this. In terms of Obama, that`s strategic, too, because regardless of whatever personal issues he has...
MATTHEWS: What do you mean "strategic"? If it comes out, as it really is coming out already, that there`s nothing to this charge of wiretapping...
PRZYBYLA: Well, this tweet wasn`t strategic...
MATTHEWS: ... he would be seen as having -- being a blowhard who`s saying nonsense at dawn...
PRZYBYLA: I don`t think he...
MATTHEWS: So how is that strategic?
PRZYBYLA: Well, I don`t think he thought...
OK, what about the -- what about blaming Guantanamo recidivists for Obama, when, in fact, he had a very small role in this and...
PRZYBYLA: Well, I think that was just popping off, again, like Robert said, going on...
PRZYBYLA: ... morning shows and saying, What can I put out this morning to get people like us talking about something like Gitmo instead of talking about the fact that Rod Rosenstein, who could be the deputy AG investigating him on Russia, is having his confirmation hearings today?
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to -- let me go back to Robert. One of the stories that`s come out is this kind of a haywire situation in the White House. We saw pictures through the window of Steve Bannon being eruptive a bit last week. We`re hearing about how Reince Priebus, who`s trying to be the hall monitor over at the West Wing, isn`t succeeding very well. In fact, he`s being blamed for everything.
Trump comes out and says this is all fake news. What do you make of it?
COSTA: Well, there`s certainly some disruption inside of the White House. And it`s important to remember that Bannon and Priebus were not with the president in Florida on Saturday morning when he started this cascade of tweets. He was, in essence, alone. Some of his family was down there, but he was a president alone at Mar-a-Lago, reacting to news covering, reading Breitbart, reading about Mark Levin.
And Bannon has this worldview that Trump has in many ways adopted. But Bannon -- and (INAUDIBLE) is a confidant of the president. But it`s always Trump, Trump himself making decisions, reacting. This idea of President Bannon or Priebus being these major influences, it never bears out in my reporting. It`s Trump alone reacting, sometimes taking their counsel, but really running on his gut instincts.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve been in Washington a while, guys, and I want to tell you what I think is going on among his people, including Kellyanne, and of course, Spicer. I got nothing against any of them. They`re trying to do their jobs.
What I sense is people trying to distance themselves from this president now. Kellyanne did not back him up. She did not play dittohead on this claim about wiretapping. She said he -- give me -- let me give you a global answer. I can give you a global question! Anywhere in the globe, do you have evidence of Obama wiretapping Trump, anywhere in the globe?
But the question went to her in a way that she could dodge it. Spicer said it was a cute question by a reporter today to ask him if he knew -- if he believed Trump.
PRZYBYLA: Well, they all...
MATTHEWS: That`s not a cute question! It`s a job that a flack has to answer! What they`re doing now, after -- after covering for him over the crowd size on inaugural day -- when Spicer really broke his pick and defended all that -- I think Spicer knows now if he`s ever going to work again and with any credibility, he has to stop being a dittohead out there. I think Kellyanne already knew that.
MATTHEWS: They`re not going to say his -- his...
MATTHEWS: Robert, you want to get in here because I don`t think they want to be caught in this trap anymore.
COSTA: It was very revealing to me reporting on Saturday afternoon when the suggestions were made about some kind of FISA warrant and this kind of government surveillance of then candidate Trump, a lot of people inside of the White House were going forward with these suggestions without evidence.
But then they started to get backed against the wall, and White House counsel Don McGahn, I`m told, told a lot of people inside the White House, Be careful. This is sensitive. Don`t start talking about things we don`t know anything about in terms of an investigations or what wasn`t done.
So you see the White House not only reacting now to Trump, you can say they`re distancing themselves from the president, but they`re also getting legal counsel from McGahn to stay away from these kind of issues because it could get the White House in legal hot water if they`re seen as interfering with investigations.
PRZYBYLA: I mean, there -- there`s -- at this point, there`s no more evidence for this than there is that Ted Cruz`s father was involved in JFK`s assassination, which is another thing that he put out there and never corrected. So what he does is he -- he puts these things out there, and then he expects the people who work for him to support them and to put -- to create the facts behind them. Well, in this case, they have been burned and they have to kind of parse that and walk that line.
MATTHEWS: This is a frightening thing for our republic, and I mean it. I don`t usually say this, but around the world -- I know this for a fact -- people are hearing this, and they just don`t believe that the greatest country in the world has got a leader behaving like this now. And can it be stopped? Can it be stopped?
Robert Costa, thank you, Heidi Przybyla.
Coming up, President Trump is on board with the House Republicans` plan to replace "Obama care," but are Republicans on board? There`s already a lot of pushback from the right and the Tea Party that the new GOP plan is just watered down -- a watered down version of "Obama care." And that`s ahead.
Plus, we heard from one of Trump`s closet friends that the president is not a happy camper these days. That friend, Christopher Ruddy, is going to be with us here tonight live.
And a new trove of documents released by Wikileaks includes details they say show the CIA`s plans to hack iPhones and smart TVs, to listen in on conversations. And given President Trump`s ongoing fight with the intelligence community, the timing of this dump is raising big questions tonight.
Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch," another disturbing feature of the program.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, the doors of the White House reopened again today for public tours following a hiatus during the presidential transition. One of the today`s first tour groups received the VIP treatment when President Trump himself welcomed them to the White House. He surprised the group and proceeded to choose a young boy from the crowd to personally greet.
Ironically, Trump`s surprise appearance took place in front of a large portrait of Hillary Clinton which hangs in a stone hallway -- there she is -- on the ground floor of the White House.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After lobbying fact-free tweet bombs at Barack Obama over illegal wiretaps that never occurred and Guantanamo Bay prisoners that had nothing to do with Obama, the Trump administration got down to the tough task of legislating today. Today, President Trump dispatched his top officials to make the had sell on behalf of the American Health Care Act, the Republican repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress of the United States has an opportunity to keep a promise to the American people by repealing and replacing Obamacare. Obamacare has failed.
TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We need a system that`s affordable for folks, a system that`s accessible for individuals, that is of the highest quality.
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The program that we have talked about today that the House rolled out last night is a program that puts people in charge of their own coverage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But not all Republicans in the Congress are on board, of course.
Here is what a few conservatives had to say about this legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: We are divided on replacement. We are united on repeal, but we are divided on replacement.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: This is instead a step in the wrong direction. And, as much as anything, it`s a missed opportunity.
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do we need to lower the bar in what we believe as conservatives simply because a Republican is now in the White House?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, proponents of the bill can`t afford to lose more than two GOP votes in the Senate, or about 20 in the House, and still pass the bill for the basic reason there will be zero Democratic support for getting rid of Obamacare.
Joining me right now is Republican Congressman from Ohio Jim Jordan and former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele.
Congressman Jordan, let me ask you about your sense. Are you good vote- counter on the Hill?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Well, we will find out. We have our House Freedom Caucus meeting here in about 10 minutes, so we will know better then.
But the draft -- the leaked draft, our folks were -- our team was against that. I don`t see much significantly different in this particular piece of legislation. So, my hunch is, there`s still strong opposition amongst our members, but we will know here in a little bit when we have our meeting.
MATTHEWS: Well, Obamacare did a number of things. It created Obamacare, but it also extended coverage of Medicaid for poor people up to a higher percentage -- or a percentage higher, of course, than 100 percent of people in the poverty line.
Would you like to get rid of all of that and just basically wipe the slate clean?
JORDAN: We would like to do what we told the voters, Chris.
There was an election on November 8. This was a huge issue. We told the voters we were going to repeal it, not what this bill does, which says -- we didn`t tell the voters we`re going to repeal it, but keep some of the Obamacare taxes. We didn`t tell the voters we`re going to repeal it, but we were going to keep and expand the Medicaid expansion.
And we certainly didn`t tell the voters we`re going to repeal it, but we`re going to start a new entitlement program with this long, fancy name called advanced refundable tax credits.
So, that`s not what we told the voters. We make this job way too complicated. Our job is to do what we told the voters we were going to do. We told them we were going to repeal it and replace it with a patient- centered plan that would actually bring down the cost of health care, which Obamacare has taken just the opposite direction.
So, that is what our focus is, bringing down the cost of premiums.
MATTHEWS: Well, back when you didn`t have the White House, it was easy for you to pass these measures. You could pass it over and over.
How many times did you vote to repeal just to get rid of Obamacare? About 60 times? You weren`t able to get -- you were able to pass repeal measures. Can you do that now? If you had to straight up-or-down vote on the House right now, could you vote to repeal Obamacare, plain and simple?
JORDAN: Chris, 15 months ago, we put on President Obama`s desk a repeal piece of legislation.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking about now.
JORDAN: What we`re saying -- what we`re saying is, put the same legislation on President Trump`s desk.
So, what, are Republicans going to put their first major...
MATTHEWS: So, you would have votes to do that? You would have votes to do that?
JORDAN: I think, if you put the bill on the floor, you would probably have the votes, because every single Republican in that Congress, last Congress, voted for that same exact same...
MATTHEWS: I know what they did last time, but now it`s -- but that one is when you knew it wasn`t going to be signed.
You know the reality has changed. Now you have a president who will sign it. It has consequences now. It isn`t just posturing.
JORDAN: Chris, yes, you`re describing what Americans hate, politicians who say one thing when they`re trying to get elected and then get in office and do something else.
MATTHEWS: You don`t think that is going on? You don`t think that was the case?
JORDAN: What I`m saying is, it shouldn`t go on. And that`s not the position of the House Freedom Caucus.
The House Freedom Caucus is, let`s do what we told the voters we were going to do. Let`s do what they sent us here to do when they gave us the privilege of serving them. Let`s do what we told them we were going to do.
MATTHEWS: I like the purity of your thinking. And I think a lot of people in the Freedom Caucus have that purity of thought.
But I don`t think the majority of your caucus has that, because I think politicians posture when they don`t have to suffer the consequences. You know that.
MATTHEWS: The best bill to vote for is the bill that doesn`t pass. Then you`re covered, because you voted to posture.
JORDAN: But, Chris, it`s not just purity of thought.
We don`t think this proposal is actually going to bring down the cost of health insurance. We don`t think it`s going to bring down the cost of health care. We have got working-class families, middle-class families who have fewer choices and higher cost. We want to change that. We`re convinced this bill doesn`t do it.
And our plan, repeal it, replace it with a different -- with a replacement piece of legislation. That does it.
MATTHEWS: Well, obviously -- obviously, Michael, that`s not going to be the position taken by Paul Ryan, because he`s afraid as hell to be standing out there naked with no bill to replace it, haven`t gotten rid of all those people on Medicare expansion -- Medicaid expansion, all the people that are on health care who never had health care before, and take it away from them?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s the cold reality that Paul Ryan and the leadership has, because, in a real sense, they have to listen to Congressman Jordan as well, because they made the case to the American people it is part and parcel of why the election turned out the way it did.
So, you have on the one hand using this whipping boy of going out and repealing Obamacare, but then you put forth legislation that doesn`t actually do that. So, now if you`re going to try to keep the caucus in place, you are going to also try to deal -- reconcile the fact that, for example, 20-year-olds are going to be worse off under this bill in terms of what they were getting from Obamacare.
STEELE: Those are the harsh realities that the speaker and the other Republicans in the House are going to have to deal with, after eight years of going down this road.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, let me ask you a couple questions. I know where you stand, and you are a purist. And I agree with -- I completely accept your position, because I think it`s -- I don`t think it`s going to pass, but it`s got a lot of courage behind it.
What do you make of this president right now, how he is performing, getting up at dawn with these tweets, accusing Obama, President Obama, his predecessor, of having illegally wiretapped him? What do you make of that kind of charge?
JORDAN: Well, look, I think the president is off to a start that I think the American people appreciate when it comes to the executive orders he`s issued, the idea that he`s doing what he told them he was going to do.
Relative to the tweet and the wiretap issue, look, I saw a friend of mine, former colleague of mine, now senator, Senator Tom Cotton, who said on Sunday that he doesn`t think there was a wiretap there.
I don`t know. What I do believe is, there`s a deliberative process in place. You let the Intelligence Committees do their investigation on this whole big issue. If in fact more investigation is warranted, I`m on the Oversight Committee. We have never been shy about looking at issues. And no one, frankly, has ever accused me of going easy on my own party.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
JORDAN: I`m willing to do that if it gets to that point. But, right now, let`s let the Intelligence Committees do their job.
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. You think it`s all right for the president of the United States to make an declarative indictment of a private citizen, or former president, like that, accuse him of a felony, and then you casually say, oh, we will look into it?
You have to have probable cause to investigate.
JORDAN: Chris, no, I didn`t casually -- I didn`t casually say anything. And I`m not commenting on the president`s tweet.
MATTHEWS: Why don`t you?
JORDAN: What I`m saying is, let the process work.
MATTHEWS: Why don`t you comment? Do you agree with...
JORDAN: And what I`m saying is, Senator Tom Cotton, a guy who served our country, says he sees no evidence of a wiretap. That doesn`t mean it didn`t happen or did happen.
All I`m saying is, based on what I know now, I don`t know that it happened. Let`s let the investigation work. Let`s let Chairman Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee do his work. Let`s let the Senate Intelligence Committee do their work and proceed in a deliberative fashion.
MATTHEWS: In other words, it was fair? In other words, it was a fair charge by the president? It was fair for him to make that charge?
JORDAN: I didn`t say that either.
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you saying?
JORDAN: I`m saying let`s have a fair investigation. I`m saying let`s let the investigation unfold, and we will get to the facts.
MATTHEWS: Why would you want to investigate something -- without evidence, you want to investigate. Why do you want to investigate?
JORDAN: Because, Chris, this is part of the bigger, broader issue of this whole issue of what Russia, what kind of involvement they may or may not have had in our election, what took place there.
This is part of that. That leak that surrounds General Flynn, let`s get all that out there. Let`s get to the truth.
JORDAN: I`m all for doing that.
JORDAN: And, frankly, that`s what we did on issues that impacted the former administration.
It took a couple of years before there was a select committee on Benghazi, which I happened to sit on. It took a couple of years before I called for a special prosecutor in the IRS targeting of conservatives. So, let`s let it be known.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that President Trump is telling the truth when he said he never met with any Russians during the campaign?
JORDAN: I believe he president when he -- I believe -- he`s the president of the United States. I believe him.
MATTHEWS: You believe him?
JORDAN: But I`m -- but I`m -- I want to see the investigations unfold, and we will see what happens.
MATTHEWS: So, you take him at his word? You take him at his word he met with no Russians?
JORDAN: I like -- yes, I do take him at his word.
I like to take the president of the United States, whomever that individual may be, and from whatever party that individual may be, I like to think that, in this great country, we take them at their word when they first make their statement.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan.
JORDAN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And, Michael, what do you think about this?
STEELE: Look, I think the president has opened up a box he had no business opening. There`s no conceivable, let alone real evidence to back up the statement.
MATTHEWS: Why does this fellow say we should have an investigation by both Intelligence Committees, when there`s not a grain, a grain of evidence to have an investigation?
STEELE: I took what the congressman was saying was not just specific to this issue, but the broader issue of Russia, because all of this feeds into that same pipeline.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe Republicans want to investigate the Russian connection.
STEELE: Well, they should. They should. You have to put this stuff in context and get it behind you, because it`s eating away at the fabric of what they`re trying to get accomplished on big issues like health care.
MATTHEWS: You know, we have a system in this country of indictment.
STEELE: This is true.
MATTHEWS: When you accuse somebody of something, you have to have probable cause. You don`t just...
STEELE: But you don`t need an indictment to investigate.
MATTHEWS: You don`t have to go to trial.
STEELE: But you don`t need an indictment to investigate.
MATTHEWS: This has become like a trial.
Up next: From the unsubstantiated -- by the way, I said it earlier on this show. If the Intelligence Committees wanted to get this over with by tomorrow...
STEELE: They could.
MATTHEWS: ... they call the FBI director, put him under oath, and it`s over.
STEELE: It`s over.
MATTHEWS: But they`re going to sit on this out of good soldierdom.
Anyway, unsubstantiated and false attacks against President Obama, to the early struggles of his presidency, what is going on right now with Donald Trump`s mind? We`re going to try to get some answers from a close Trump friend who knows the guy next.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It was Saturday morning when President Trump fired off tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping his phones during the 2016 campaign, a charge he made without evidence and one his own FBI director has said to ignore. His own FBI director said, ignore this.
But Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of President Trump`s, spent time with the president shortly after those tweets on Saturday and again later Saturday night.
Ruddy wrote on Sunday: "I spoke with the president twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven`t seen him this ticked off" -- I changed the word to ticked off -- "in a long time, When I mentioned Obama`s denials about the wiretaps, he shot back: `Well, this will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right."
Well, Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative publication Newsmax, joins me now.
Christopher, thank you for joining us.
If you have any color about just examining, trying to understanding a president who would feel the need to get up and tweet on something as important as this without talking to anybody who knew what they`re talking about, I wonder.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Well, breaking news: Donald Trump likes to tweet what he thinks and feels and what`s going on in his mind.
And he has been doing it for a long time, so there`s no surprise here. Obviously, a lot of people were caught very much off-guard by this.
But in my conversations with him Saturday, he was extremely confident about the information. He was angry. This did not seem like something he was just sort of bantering about, like something about Ted Cruz`s father or something like earlier you folks were -- this was something very serious.
MATTHEWS: No, he spent any number of years, Christopher, talking about Obama being illegal an immigrant. So, don`t say that those were casual remarks. When we refer to them, they were serious charges. He was on birther patrol for years.
RUDDY: Well, let`s make it clear, Chris, I`m not here to represent the president, nor the White House. I`m just speaking as an individual who is friends with the president, but also runs an independent media agency.
RUDDY: I took it seriously. I think we should take the allegations seriously.
I also think the president should produce some evidence at some point that produces -- that supports the allegation. But let`s remember, for all the talk about this, the FBI director has yet to make any official statement.
And all of the denials, 95 percent of these denials, nobody is denying that the Trump campaign was surveilled. What they are denying is that President Obama ordered the surveillance. That`s a big difference, and I think a very important difference.
And if that campaign was surveilled, and a lot of those campaign officials have -- I have spoken to all believe they were surveilled at one point or another, that`s a very serious matter.
MATTHEWS: Who are those people? Who are the people that said they were surveilled?
RUDDY: Well, I have talked to any number of leading people in that campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, give me a name. Give me a name or two. You run a news organization.
RUDDY: I don`t give up my sources. And I`m sure you don`t either.
MATTHEWS: But they aren`t sources. They are people that said they were surveilled. These are figures, principals in the campaign who have charged the Obama administration with being -- putting them under surveillance.
RUDDY: Let`s start with the president of the United States. He said he was surveilled. He said it was McCarthyism. And he says he would like it investigated. He said the truth can come out.
Why won`t the FBI make an official statement about it? Do you have any idea about that?
MATTHEWS: Well, look, I wish he would, because he certainly did make one about Hillary Clinton being investigated. Didn`t have any problem with that, did he, right before the election?
RUDDY: Well, absolutely. And I think it`s time that...
MATTHEWS: What is your reporting at Newsmax tell you about Trump`s relationship with the Russians during the campaign? What do you have?
RUDDY: Well, you know, you and I both know, we have covered...
MATTHEWS: He says he has had no contacts.
RUDDY: We have covered a lot of campaigns.
MATTHEWS: You have covered it. Well, what contacts has he had with the Russians during the campaign, according your news organization?
RUDDY: Well, look, when he gave his foreign policy speech in Washington, the Russian ambassador sat in the front row.
This is not unusual for a political campaign to have dealings with foreign diplomats and officials. It happens all the time. He`s very open that he wanted to reset the relationship with Russia.
MATTHEWS: Sure, he said -- look at a couple things here.
According to a report in your Newsmax, Trump met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. According to Newsmax, your organization, Trump met with Sergey Kislyak himself, the runs ambassador to the United States, at a VIP reception, along with three other foreign ambassadors.
Newsmax reports the meeting came during a foreign policy speech, as you have said, he gave in April.
What do you make of his denial that he has had any relations with the Russians at all? He`s given a blanket denial.
RUDDY: Well, again, he gave a speech where the Russian ambassador showed up, so it`s a little hard to say that he had...
MATTHEWS: You say meeting.
RUDDY: Well, I don`t believe -- and, again...
MATTHEWS: Well, your reporting was that it`s a meeting.
RUDDY: Look, do you know -- we both have been in politics.
You know how many hundreds or thousands of people you meet in a political campaign?
MATTHEWS: No, no, no, you said it was a meeting.
MATTHEWS: I`m just asking you, was it a meeting or wasn`t it a meeting? And if it was a meeting, why has Trump denied it?
RUDDY: Well, again, it`s not unusual. What if the crime if -- even if he did meet with the Russians?
MATTHEWS: No, there`s no -- the only question is why...
RUDDY: You`re creating -- you`re creating a hysteria of -- the very same things you`re accusing Donald Trump of doing, Chris, you`re doing.
MATTHEWS: Christopher, let me just do something.
Here what he said, your candidate for president, Trump, your friend, last month. Here`s what he said about strongly insisting over and over again he never had any ties with Russia or anybody working with have any meetings or tie with the Russians. Watch this. I`m not creating hysteria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing. So that`s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.
QUESTION: During the election?
TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of. Nobody...
QUESTION: So you`re not aware of any contact during the course of the election?
TRUMP: Look, look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question?
QUESTION: Can you just say yes or no?
TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.
I know you have to get up and ask a question. It`s so important.
Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a conflict there between your reporting of a meeting and him saying it`s a ruse.
RUDDY: Well, I`m -- we pick up a lot of wire stories on Newsmax and there`s a lot of reports on Newsmax. So, we -- we -- if there was an official meeting with the Trump campaign, I don`t believe we have ever reported that. The president...
MATTHEWS: No, we just read your wire. I know what you reported. We just played it. But does that conflict with what Trump just said, though?
RUDDY: Chris, we know it`s not illegal for them to have met with foreign diplomats.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s just inconsistent contradiction of what the president said.
RUDDY: And, see, it`s a smokescreen for -- look, Obama holdovers leaked classified, super secret conversations the president had with heads of state.
MATTHEWS: You can change the subject. You`re changing the subject.
Is there a contradiction in those two tapes?
RUDDY: But there was a crime committed. And you guys don`t want to talk about that on MSNBC. You want to talk about a non-crime, which is the Trump campaign having some interest in Russia.
MATTHEWS: What was the crime? What was the crime?
RUDDY: Well, you keep implying there is something criminal about his campaign wanting to reset the button with Russia. I`m not here to defend the...
MATTHEWS: No, I just -- you know the guy. I want you to tell me what your news agency reported and whether that is true or not. Was there a meeting between Trump and these Russian -- the Russian ambassador, Kislyak, or wasn`t there? Because Trump denies it.
RUDDY: Well, you should ask his campaign. You -- NBC has reporters at the White House. Go ask them tomorrow about it. I`m not representing the Trump campaign.
RUDDY: But I don`t see anything wrong if he did have the meeting.
He wanted to reset the relationship.
MATTHEWS: But why is he acting like he didn`t?
RUDDY: I think that`s a positive thing.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. By the way, by the way, I don`t think it proves anything that he met with the Russians.
The question out there in everybody`s mind is, we know the Russians were involved in helping him win the election, because they wanted to defeat Hillary. We understand that. That`s a fact.
And there have been a series of meetings that have been disclosed between his people and the Russian ambassador which they never told us about until we dug it up.
So, there`s a reasonable progression here of information and it`s not coming from Trump or from you. But it did come, ironically, from your news agency when you reported about a meeting between Trump and the Russian ambassador and now you`re pulling away from what you reported in April.
RUDDY: Well, the president gave a speech. Everybody, every major news organization was there when the Russian ambassador showed up to hear the speech.
MATTHEWS: They met with him, though. Why didn`t they just say I met with the Russian ambassador in April? No big deal.
RUDDY: Again, why don`t you ask him that?
MATTHEWS: We will, the trouble is they won`t talk about.
RUDDY: "The New York Times" reported that the Obama shared intelligence on the Trump campaign throughout many agencies in an effort to discredit him. They have been at war. They have been leaking classified discussions with heads of state, criminal offense, nobody is talking about it.
Why don`t you put it in a perspective, and there`s nothing illegal with them having contacts with the Russians if they did.
MATTHEWS: OK, one last thing, what we got coming here anyway. One thing - - I want to ask you about this -- about the weekend. You said the president was ticked off or pissed off, your word. What was this mood following those tweets?
RUDDY: Well, at night, he -- when I spoke to him, he was pretty angry earlier in the day, and he was upset that he felt he had been targeted under those surveillance. He didn`t disclose how he learned about it. He just seemed very confident about it.
When I talked to him later in the day and said there were denials coming out during the day, he said the truth will come out and it will be investigated. So, don`t think it`s something that`s a serious allegation, I`m like you. I want the evidence on this too.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the byline piece in "Newsmax", which we all read, of course, was written by Sandy Fitzgerald, and it was a byline piece not a wire. I just want to make that clear. But it was in April.
RUDDY: It was a wire story that we probably picked up. But I`m not surprised that -- we all know about the meeting where the Russian ambassador showed up to hear a speech.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Chris Ruddy, it`s good to have you on.
RUDDY: Same here. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: We could have a little tussle now and then.
Up next, a new bombshell from WikiLeaks that released documents they say detailed a CIA hacking plans, including ways to use TVs and smartphone for spying. And they`re learning all this, WikiLeaks.
Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As a candidate, Donald Trump said he loves WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that collaborated with Russian intelligence to help defeat his political rival in the 2016 election. We talked about that earlier.
Now, in what could be a major breach of the federal government, WikiLeaks says it`s released stolen documents to describe the CIA`s digital hacking operation against foreign targets overseas. More alarming is that they claim to have obtained the software that the CIA uses to penetrate those targets but say they won`t release it, at least not yet. In other words, WikiLeaks is saying that they now possessed the tools the CIA uses to carry out digital espionage.
NBC News has not yet substantiated those claims, nor verify the authenticity of the materials released today.
Today, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said, however, if true, the material could be damaging and also question the motive of WikiLeaks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA DIRECTOR: If it is what it pretends to be, it looks like a very extensive file of tactics, techniques, procedures, targets, and political rules under which Central Intelligence Agency conducts its computer network exploitation and other activities. So, if it is that, it would be very, very damaging. And isn`t it surprising that WikiLeaks is transparency engine seems to be focused on transparency only about United States and its friends not totalitarians regime around the world?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, WikiLeaks says the material was obtained from a former hacker contracted with the CIA. We also know that the U.S. intelligence community concluded back in January that, quote, "The Kremlin`s principal international collaborated outlet RT has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks."
I`m joined right now by the roundtable tonight. Ken Dilanian is an intelligence reporter with NBC News Investigative Unit. Susan Hennessey is a Brooking Institution national security fellow and former attorney with the NSA itself. And Jeremy Bash is a former CIA chief of staff and MSNBC national security analyst.
Across the room, start with what happened here and what are the consequences and dangers.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE & NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: So, we learned, Chris, details about things we assumed were happening. The CIA has an aggressive hacking operation that can do things like turn smart TVs into listening devices. It can penetrate some encrypted apps and listening on cellphones.
But the implications here are -- the troubling implications are that this stuff leaked. And its one official today described it as like a U.S. lab that has anthrax. You need to safeguard that. You don`t want the anthrax being out in the wild, because then it can be turned against you, against Americans. These are sophisticated hacking tools that could do a lot of bad things in the wrong hands, Chris.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION NATL. SECURIYT FELLOW: Yes, so, the consequences here -- this is some of the most sensitive information, right? Sources and method information. I mean, the risk here is if this is real, if, in fact, these tools have been compromised, U.S. intelligence community is not going to be able to collect against those targets in the future, right? So, the target that had a Samsung TV, he`s going to get rid of it. He`s not going to have a conversation in front of that television.
How damaging that is over the long-run really depends on how important that source was, what information was coming out of it.
MATTHEWS: Technology is progressive obviously, and we got ahead of the other countries. We have drones for a while. We know our enemies are going to have drones, the same way the atom bomb, the Russians got it three or four years later. We know that things catch up to us. It is just something that`s going to happen and we know how to hack now. They`re going to learn how we do it. We`re going to have to come up with better methods because we usually do get there first.
JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIOANL SECURITY ANALYST: I think so, Chris. I think we`re going to have to stay a step ahead of the technology curve. But I want to also remind folks that this is directed at foreign targets to protect American national security interest. The CIA is not listening to the Americans` smartphones or televisions. There`s a lot of crazy theory - -
MATTHEWS: Are we the best at it? At hacking?
BASH: We are very good. Yes, we are the best at collecting intelligence through -- from communications devices and getting into networks.
MATTHEWS: So, we could have done to the Russians what they did to us. We could have hacked into if they had any political parties worth anything over there. We could have hacked into what they are up to.
MATTHEWS: We could have humiliated Putin. We could have humiliated Putin the way they went after, you know, John Podesta and Palmieri.
DILANIAN: Jeremy knows best. But that`s what the CIA officials I speak to tell me. But we`re apparently not the best at those safeguarding our secrets, Chris. This is like the third major leak. And WikiLeaks is making some extraordinary claims about what they have here. They are saying that the CIA is hacking arsenal is out in the wild, is exposed.
That is not confirmed, but if that`s true, that`s a serious problem.
MATTHEWS: What`s going to happen? Trump could be president in the next four years, maybe longer. What`s going to happen in the near future with this information in the hands of WikiLeaks?
HENNESSEY: Well, we`ve seen that President Trump has raised WikiLeaks in the past, right, said "I love WikiLeaks". So this is certainly an awkward situation for him. Typically in these kinds of disclosures, the president, who`s the principal consumer of intelligence information, is the principal victim of these kinds of disclosure.
MATTHEWS: Because he won`t be able to get this stuff anymore.
Anyway, in addition to praising WikiLeaks in the campaign, President Trump defended its founder, Julian Assange in January, taking his word over the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community. Quote, "Julian Assange said a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta, also said Russians did not give him the info."
Former Trump adviser, long time confidant Roger Stone also once said that he had communicated with Assange and over the weekend, he further said on Twitter that he, quote, "never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on crooked Hillary." That`s Roger Stone talking, but he deleted the tweet soon after posting it.
So, Trump back then, I guess he -- does he still deny the Russians helped him win?
BASH: He can`t deny that because 17 intelligence agencies made a consensus judgment and presented it to him on January 5th. And don`t forget, Chris, WikiLeaks was the weapon that Russia used to attack the United States. So, for him to embrace it really is to embrace the Russian attack itself.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this report on Newsmax that he did meet with the Russians back in April, he met with the ambassador and all these -- to use Kellyanne`s word, his global denials, his total denials. How does that square?
HENNESSEY: So, look one of the strange things here is sort of this slow trickle of information, right? So, we had categorical denials over and over. Now, we`re learning --
MATTHEWS: Jared was in there, right?
HENNESSEY: Right. But it turns out everybody was meeting with the Russian ambassador. It might be quicker at this point to come up with a list of Trump campaign official who hadn`t met with the Russian ambassador.
The important thing here is not necessarily that those contacts were inappropriate, but more how the U.S. interests are furthered by things like undercutting Russia sanctions, lifting sanctions for Crimea, that`s the one piece of this that the Trump administration has not articulated. How exactly does this place America first?
MATTHEWS: Good question.
Anyway, the White House gave us a response tonight about those reports of Trump meeting the Russian ambassador. It reads in part, "Mr. Trump was at a reception about five minutes and then went immediately to the podium. We have no recollection of who he may have shaken hands with at the reception and we were not responsible for inviting or vetting guests to state they met or that a meeting took place is disingenuous and absurd." Well, according -- blame that on Newsmax.
Anyway, the round table is staying with us. And up next, these three will tell me the number one concern they have when they go to bed at night about national security.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with our national security round table tonight with all the experts.
Ken, what is the top threat to our national security right now? What keeps you up at night?
DILANIAN: Chris, what I worry about is a domestic terrorist attack linked to ISIS. Not because that is an existential threat to the country, but because what I anticipate the response of the Trump administration would be to something like that. Given what we`ve already seen with the travel ban and the rhetoric around Islamic extremism, one can only imagine --
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s why they would launch an attack like that. Hasn`t anybody figured this out? So, we do react.
DILANIAN: Well, I mean, if you read jihadi propaganda, we`re playing right into their hands right now.
HENNESSEY: Look, for the Trump administration`s sort of focus on refugees, the single national security threat is climate change. We`ve seen the ways in which climate change has either sparked conflicts or has made existing conflicts worse again and again. This has been a major DOD --
MATTHEWS: What`s the deal with the weather two weeks ago?
HENNESSEY: Right. So, we`ve seen this --
MATTHEWS: What do you mean? Do you think it has to do with the weather we`ve been having?
HENNESSEY: I don`t think that that necessarily has sparked conflict --
MATTHEWS: Hottest year on record, years in a row now, the hottest years in record.
HENNESSEY: Right, so again and again, we`re seeing a more intense sort of conflict for resources, and we`re seeing more and more displaced people. That causes, that has spillover effects with really dramatic security.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re right about the Horn of Africa, Somalia, and places like that, just horrible what people are driven to.
BASH: I`m a hawk. Last week, 120 retired three and four-star generals and admirals wrote to Congress saying that slashing foreign assistance, diplomacy, and embassy security would undermine our security. I agree with them. I think this is a major problem for national security.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Ken Dilanian, Susan Hennessey and Jeremy Bash.
When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch. It`s a little scary tonight.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, March 7th, 2017.
Look, I`m big on titles. If you haven`t noticed, I don`t call members of Congress or senators or governors by their first names. I believe someone elected by the people in our society deserves the honor of their office. And just as important, the honor of having sought the popular mandate that gives them the moral and public authority that comes with being chosen by the people.
In short, when someone has a title and elected title, it`s my view they deserve to be honored with it. They earned it.
Now to Donald Trump. How should someone like me refer to the man who gets up at dawn and tweets untrue claims about our most recent president? Do I call him the president of the United States, even though he doesn`t seem to be speaking as the president of the United States? Doesn`t seem to be speaking as a public official at all?
Should I say as if anchoring a morning straight news report, President Trump tweeted this morning that President Obama committed a felony during his administration by secretly bugging him? Does that sound right to you? That kind of report? Does it?
President Trump tweeted this morning that Barack Obama is a felon. Look, I know he`s president but this strike you, this kind of conduct, with the office of the presidency? Does it?
Sorry, I don`t hear "Hail to the Chief" when I hear about this banter at dawn. I don`t hear a president going about his sworn duties. What I hear is the guy trying to get attention like that guy back who said Barack Obama was an illegal immigration, that guy who said Ted Cruz`s father killed President Kennedy. I hear the kind of person who calls into right wing radio in the middle of the night with some crazy hate-filled conspiracy theory, something that should be forgotten by dawn, not woken up by it.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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