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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/8/2017

Guests: Ayesha Roscoe, Laura Bassett, Chris Murphy, Carol Lee, Philip Rucker, Joaquin Castro, Ken Vogel

Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: March 8, 2017 Guest: Ayesha Roscoe, Laura Bassett, Chris Murphy, Carol Lee, Philip Rucker, Joaquin Castro, Ken Vogel


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, tonight as we meet, Donald Trump`s unfounded claim that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower by President Obama flips around like a fish out of water. Republicans in the Congress refuse to pick it up off the floor and either put it out of its misery or throw it back where it came from.

And since Friday, President Trump has offered zero evidence to back up that absurd accusation. Instead, his people say Congress should investigate.

Here`s Sean Spicer today.


QUESTION: Is the president the target of a counterintelligence investigation?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE House PRESS SECRETARY: I think that`s what we need to find out. Part of the reason that we have asked the House and Senate to look into this is because of that. The concern that the president has, and why he asked the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, to look into this, is to get to the bottom of what may or may not have occurred during the 2016 election.

QUESTION: The president said he was tapped.


SPICER: I understand that. And that`s why we were very...


SPICER: No, no, that`s not what I said. What I said was that...


SPICER: Hold on...

QUESTION: He said he was the target of an investigation, that his wires were tapped.

SPICER: Hold on. One at a time. I said the president made clear on Sunday that he has asked the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees to use their resources and their processes to examine the facts and come to a conclusion.


MATTHEWS: That`s not what he asked, it`s what you asked, Sean. He said the president wiretapped him.

Anyway, the charge, worthy of a third-world troublemaker, that somebody wiretapped him undermines the credibility of the American democratic system and certainly the peaceful transfer of power between presidents in this country.

Republicans in the Congress have a responsibility to say yea or nay. Is the president speaking the truth or not? Well, the two Republican leaders of the Intelligence Committees, Congressman Devin Nunes and Senator Richard Burr, have issued sort of swishy statements saying their committees, quote, "will make inquiries" or "will follow the evidence."

Senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse, however, who lead the Judiciary subcommittee that has oversight of the Justice Department`s criminal division, sent a letter to that department today asking about any wiretapping warrants against the Trump campaign. Good for them.

Senator Graham said today the country needs answers on this. Let`s watch him.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump claims that President Obama`s administration targeted his campaign, Trump Tower, in the tweet. I have no knowledge of that, but he`s challenged the Congress to help him, so let`s help. I`m not trying to compromise classified information, not trying to compromise an investigation. The question is, has there ever been a warrant issued? This is a major deal for the country. I want to get to the bottom of it.


MATTHEWS: He knows what he`s talking about. And what`s at stake is the reputation of the U.S. country -- U.S. of America, you might say. The president has accused the U.S. government under his predecessor of tapping his phones. Wow.

Well, Senator Tim Kaine said today that kind of behavior coming from the White House has its effect. Let`s watch.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ... so that he`s saying he was wiretapped or that his, you know, inaugural crowd was bigger than it was. It shouldn`t surprise us, but it is shocking. You don`t want to see that behavior in the president.

And I`ve wanted Congress to up its game in the previous administration, and we definitely have to up our game in this one because, you know, our citizens and folks around the world -- they`ve got to see some adult behavior. They`re not seeing it out of the White House right now.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, I know you hear this. I`m hearing it from my family, I`m hearing it from Paul Kagame today in Rwanda. Countries all around the world that look up to us, even if they`re left, right or center or corrupt or clean, they do look up to the United States as a good model for how to run a democracy, a representative democracy, and they`re changing their minds now. Kagame said yesterday -- it was in the paper today -- this is Rwanda talking, Rwanda, saying they`re no longer going to look to the West because we don`t know how to run a country anymore.

Family members over in Vietnam hearing the same thing from the communists. It`s unbelievable what this president is doing with this wiretapping nonsense!

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes. Listen, this isn`t the cold war on longer, where you only have two suitors. You have the Soviet model and American model, right? You have a lot of people who are affectionate for the alliance of free agents today, whether it be Russia, whether it be China, whether it be Brazil.

And the United States, you know, just isn`t a very attractive ally any longer. So you know, this really does have consequences for us as we`re trying to build alliances, we`re trying to build coalitions around the world to fight extremists, to fight challenges like global warming. We can`t do that if people feel embarrassed to be associated with the United States.

You combine that with the fact that the State Department has essentially been neutered, eviscerated by this administration thus far, and we are watching in real time as America and America`s image withdraws from the world.

MATTHEWS: Do you know any Republican senator or member of the House who`s a Republican or any party member of either party who believes the president believes he was wiretapped, who even believes he believes it?

MURPHY: I don`t think anybody knows exactly what Donald Trump believes and what he doesn`t believe. I think what`s scary to many Republicans is that they`ve had the opportunity to walk this back, and they`re putting not only the presidency and the reputation of the presidency, but the reputation of the entire country at risk the longer that this floats out there.

The reality is, is that Congress can ask the Department of Justice as to whether there`s a wiretap, but if there`s an active investigation, the Department of Justice may not tell us. So it`s difficult to get to the bottom of this...

MATTHEWS: What do you mean, an active investigation -- wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let`s narrow this down.


MATTHEWS: You`re saying if they wire -- if -- who? What active investigation? I`m talking about the simple question, did President Obama order a wiretap on candidate Trump? There`s -- what active investigation would that be, would involve that? You mean if there`s an active investigation as to what his role was with the Russians, you mean?

MURPHY: No. Correct. So no, I don`t think there`s any doubt that either the covert agencies or the Department of Justice could answer the question as to whether President Obama ordered it. But the question of whether there is a wiretap or was a wiretap, that`s something that Congress often asks and doesn`t get answers.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the reaction, by the way, of Senator John McCain, to the president`s charge.


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 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.


MATTHEWS: Well, Senator McCain, I think, is from the sane era of politics.

Here`s how some other top Republicans reacted, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chair of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think we have an existing committee, the Intelligence Committee, looking at all aspects of what may have been done last year related to the Russians or the campaigns. And we`ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence of that?

QUESTION: Mr. Leader...

MCCONNELL: No, I haven`t.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We don`t have anything today that would send us in that direction, but that`s not to say that we might not find something.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I have not seen that evidence. As you know, I think a lot of that was maybe a little bit - - the multiple tweets were perhaps a little bit strung together.

As you all know, the president is a neophyte to politics. He`s been doing this a little over a year. And I think a lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally. Sometimes he doesn`t have 27 lawyers and staff looking at what he does.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? That`s a cover? That`s explaining the guy`s behavior? It`s like he`s -- he`s treating the president as if he`s in a crib and that wants his passy (ph). I mean, it`s -- he talks about him like he doesn`t know what a tweet is. He knows how to tweet better than all of us. He gets up at 6:00, does it. He says it`s hard for him to unscramble all his tweet -- no, it isn`t! He accused the previous president of wiretapping him.

There`s nothing complicated about this. Why doesn`t Mr. Nunes -- he`s chairman of the committee -- call up the FBI director, said, Was anybody asked for a FISA warrant on this? Did anybody ask permission to wire this guy or not? End it.


MATTHEWS: ... out there for months and years.

MURPHY: Yes, listen, I mean, I wouldn`t tweet my 8-year-old like that. I mean, the fact is, is that we would hope that an adult would occupy the Oval Office and we wouldn`t expect that he has to have a team of 27 lawyers around him to decide whether he should falsely accuse the previous president of the United States of tapping his phones. That`s a ridiculous standard.

And in the end, yes, it is pretty simple to get to the answer to this question. There`s no evidence that Barack Obama tapped Donald Trump`s phones because it didn`t happen. And Republicans right now could ask the questions necessary to get at least that answer. Maybe we won`t know if the FBI was or is investigating Trump, but we can get the answer to that question, Republicans can.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Well, there was troubling reporting in "The New York Times" today about President Trump`s mood swings last weekend. According to "The Times," Mr. Trump, advisers said, was in high spirits after he fired off those posts, if you will, those tweets. "But by midafternoon after returning from golf, he appeared to realize he had gone too far with his tweets, although he still believed Mr. Obama had wiretapped him, according to two people in Trump`s orbit. In some conversations that afternoon, the president sounded uncertain of the procedure for obtaining a warrant for secret wiretaps on an American citizen." So he didn`t know how you would do it but said Obama did it.

Anyway, meanwhile, we`re getting some reporting on former president Obama`s reaction to the news. According to NBC, our network, a source close to the former president tells NBC News Mr. Obama "rolled his eyes."

And "The Wall Street Journal" report -- "He was livid over the accusation that he bugged the Republican campaign offices, believing that Mr. Trump was questioning both the integrity of the office of the president and Mr. Obama himself." Of course he was! Anyway, "people familiar with his thinking said." That`s the former president`s thinking.

I`m joined right now by "The Wall Street Journal`s" Carol Lee, who co-wrote that article -- good inside stuff, good tick-tock -- and of course, "The Washington Post`s" Phil Rucker, who`s been all over this thing.

Carol, this -- did you notice the way that this young -- relatively young member of Congress who`s chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Nunes from California -- I don`t know much about the guy -- treating the president like he`s a little baby? And you know, he gets a little upset once in a while and he says things he really shouldn`t, and he really doesn`t have the help of advisers like lawyers around him, so he does things that really -- really don`t make much sense, but we shouldn`t blame him because he`s a neophyte. He`s a neophyte.

CAROL LEE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes. There`s definitely...

MATTHEWS: That`s a defense. That`s a defense. Well, that`s what a criticism looks like.

LEE: There`s -- that`s the Republicans -- the Republicans...

MATTHEWS: Why are so they so pusillanimous?

LEE: They`re grading him on a curve.

MATTHEWS: No, they`re hiding from him. They`re helping him hide. By the way, Boehner, when Trump was running around saying Obama was an illegal immigrant from Kenya and people asked him, Why don`t you tell your members of the Congress, your fellow members, that it`s not true, he said, I don`t tell them how to think.

This is the way they behave in the Republican Party today. They`re so intimidated by this guy, Trump, that they just cover for him. Your thoughts.

LEE: Well, I think, yes, the Republicans don`t want to get crossways with the president.


LEE: They also don`t want this...

MATTHEWS: Why are they afraid of him?

LEE: ... to continue to be a distraction. Because they have things they would like to actually get done in Congress and they don`t want to pick a fight with the president. And they also are taking -- you know, they`re aligning with the White House in terms of the cleanup of this, where you have the White House saying, Well, we don`t -- you know, look at it, we`ll look into it, and you know, Congress, take a look at this and...

MATTHEWS: But that`s not (INAUDIBLE) look into it!

LEE: And then you have -- but what`s happened is -- more importantly, what the Democrats are doing, which this winds up being a gift to them because you have people like, you know, Schiff saying that, We`re going to oblige him on his request, and we`re going to look into this. And so the White House is going to wind up getting all of the things that they didn`t really want, like hearings on this and a further investigation into this.

MATTHEWS: Well, Congress loves hearings. Let`s face it. They go on and on and on, they get on TV, on and on and on. And when do they get to a conclusion?

LEE: Well, they have a big one on March 20th.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see what it -- see where it ends. Yes.

PHILIP RUCKER, "WASHINGTON POST": And Chris, when you talk to White House officials, as we were doing this week, this is the last thing they want to talk about. They want to be talking about health care, about tax reform, about Angela Merkel`s visit next week, about all these other issues, and they`re stuck having to defend...

MATTHEWS: How long have you been around? Let me ask you a question about having to flack for a president. I`ve often thought about what kind of a job that would be. I would think it would be a very difficult job. But certainly, people like Mike McCurry and Josh Earnest know how to do the job well. And it`s doable.

But I`ve never seen a press secretary have to deal with a president who`s saying stuff that he or she doesn`t believe. I mean, really. Spicer has - - ever since the crowd measurements back in January 20th -- he had to lie for the president, which is a terrible word to do, but he had to do it. He had to say, Oh, yes, it was 3 million to 4 million out there, and all this.

This time around, he doesn`t want to do that. He says, Well, I`m just telling you what the president says. I`m just -- I`m just telling -- I`m not -- and then somebody asked yesterday, Do you believe him? And he said, Well, that`s a cute question. Well, it`s not a cute question! You ask -- you ask the president`s spokesperson if he or she believes what the president is saying. It`s a reasonable question!

LEE: He has really distanced himself from that. It`s interesting to watch. He said -- you know, if you ask him, what do you think? Well, he says, Well, it doesn`t matter what I think.

MATTHEWS: It does matter!


LEE: And he`s the spokesperson. He said, I speak for the president. And we haven`t seen that...

MATTHEWS: And then he says, It`s above my pay grade.


MATTHEWS: Boy, that`s a tired old line. You`re the spokesman for the White House. It`s not above your pay grade.

RUCKER: It`s his job. And you know what? He got into the job. He decided to be the spokesperson for this president...

MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t want to get...

RUCKER: ... knowing...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t want to have his career ruined, I can tell.

RUCKER: But knowing that this is somebody...

MATTHEWS: He is pulling away from Trump. He is not lying for him.

RUCKER: This is a pattern...

MATTHEWS: Not now.

RUCKER: ... though, in Donald Trump`s life. He inserts things that are got necessarily true, and then tries to find evidence for it, wants people to defend him for it. All the times, we see, People are telling me, I`m hearing this...

MATTHEWS: Did you see Kellyanne`s little...

RUCKER: It`s the pattern.

MATTHEWS: ... little pivot the other day? Her pivot was, Well, he knows so many things we don`t know. She didn`t say he knew this. She just said, He knows so many things. She`s covering for herself in this case.

Thank you, Carol Lee. Thank you. It`s a tough time to be a straight reporter. This is not a straight world. Phil Rucker, thank you.

Coming up, the rolling disclosure on Trump`s potential Russian connection continues. The disclosure, I mean. Today, we learned Trump`s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, gave adviser Carter Page leave to go to Moscow last summer. We`re going to get to everything we know about Trump`s relation with Russia. It just keeps growing and growing.

Plus, on this International Women`s Day, the Trump administration`s considering separating women, or mothers from their children if they try to enter the country illegally. That`s going to be wonderful. I mean sarcastically. It`s going to be terrible.

And the HARDBALL roundtable`s here tonight to talk about the challenge of separating fact from fiction today and trying to get to the truth during the Trump era.

Finally, let me finish with the "Trump Watch." You won`t like this one, either.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, when he was a candidate, Donald Trump said he loved Wikileaks, the Web site that collaborated with Russian intelligence to help defeat Hillary Clinton. Well, in fact, he repeatedly professed his love for Wikileaks.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, did you see another one, another one came in today! This Wikileaks is like a treasure trove!

This Wikileaks is unbelievable!


TRUMP: What we`ve learned about her and her people...

Oh, we love Wikileaks. Boy, they are really -- Wikileaks!


TRUMP: They have revealed a lot.

Boy, that Wikileaks has done a job on her, hasn`t it?


TRUMP: I`ll tell you, this Wikileaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.

Now, this just came out, this just came out. Wikileaks! I love Wikileaks!



MATTHEWS: Well, now Wikileaks, the beloved Wikileaks, released a trove of what it says are CIA documents showing how the agency broke into smartphones and even TVs for spying. And today the CIA said it had no comment on the authenticity of those documents.

When we come back, we`ll talk to U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of the Intelligence Committee about the latest Wikileaks dump and what we`re learning about President Trump`s relationship with Russia.

Back after this.



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

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

QUESTION: So you`re not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

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


TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, last month, President Trump denied that anyone in his campaign, as you just saw, had any contacts with Russia during the election. But in making that statement, the president directly contradicted the word of Russia`s deputy foreign minister, who said just days after the election that, quote, "There were contacts during the campaign."

We now know that thee members of Trump`s national security advisory committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, J.D. Gordon, and Carter Page, all spoke with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

Additionally, just before the Republican Convention, Carter Page traveled to Moscow, where he delivered a commencement address criticizing Western democracies for their approach to Russia.

Ken Vogel of Politico now reports that -- quote -- "Page e-mailed campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval for that trip and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip to Moscow," but not as an official representative of the campaign.

Lewandowski, however, says he doesn`t recall that e-mail, telling Politico: "I don`t remember that, but I probably got 1,000 e-mails a day at that time and I can`t remember every single one that I`m sent. I wouldn`t necessarily remember if I had a one-word response to him saying he could do something as a private citizen."

Well, Page left the campaign in September. And Trump campaign officials later distanced themselves from him.

Late today, a source close to former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman tells NBC News that Huntsman was offered and has accepted the position to be the next U.S. ambassador of Russia.

I`m joined right now by U.S. congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, who serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Also here is Ken Vogel, who wrote that story. He`s the chief investigative reporter for Politico.

Congressman, you`re in there. And I guess my question is, we know an awful lot, thanks to the 17 intelligence agencies, about the way Russia wanted Hillary to lose and, if they could be really lucky, get Trump to win, how they wanted to undermine our democracy. That`s all on the record.

We also have a lot of other things on the record, how Trump romanced or bromanced the Russians all through the campaign, said wonderful things about their little instrument called WikiLeaks, said wonderful things about Vladimir Putin, about everything over there, and how he was going to be their allies in the world against ISIS, et cetera, et cetera.

It seems to me a lot of information is out there about that symbiotic relationship between Trump and the Russians. What do you know more, or can you hint at, where you think this story`s going?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, you know, Chris, I have said very clearly, as have others on this committee, that we need to get to the bottom of one question: Did any Americans conspire with the Russians who interfered with our 2016 presidential election?

And, specifically, did anyone associated with the Trump campaign help those who interfered with the 2016 presidential election? And we keep seeing more and more connections between Trump advisers, at least that are coming out in reports, these Trump advisers and the Russians.

And so, of course, this just speaks to how important the investigation is.

MATTHEWS: Well, doesn`t the -- I mean, my experience over the years is the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort in this country, which all other countries have, they have all kinds of electronic wiretaps and information, electronic information on all communication involving certainly the Russian ambassador and certainly any other Russian officials that look like they might be undercover.

Why don`t we just get that information out? Why do we have to sit around and wait for it? When is it going to come, all that information? It`s there. It`s in -- the NSA`s got it. The CIA`s got it, certainly the FBI. What`s the wait for?

CASTRO: Well, that`s a great question.

You know, I have been critical of the pace of the investigation, at least in the House committee. I said last week that there is a gap between what the intelligence agencies know and what the committee has been told. Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member, has essentially said the same thing.

So, I`m with you on that. I think we should be moving at a brisker pace. You see that there`s a few hearings on this issue that have now been scheduled and publicly announced. And so, hopefully, we`re going to start moving at a quicker pace, because all Americans deserve an answer to these questions, and getting to the bottom of it really is fundamental to our democracy.

MATTHEWS: Well, we now know that Russia did -- what they did to help get Trump elected, of course.

We also know that, as a candidate, Trump repeatedly made overtures to Putin. Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I would get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so. Wouldn`t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia? And what`s wrong if Russia wants to drop million-dollar bombs on ISIS? I say good.

Putin said Donald Trump is a genius, he`s going to be the next great leader of the United States.

My attitude, when people like me, I like them, even Putin.

Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country`s so innocent?


MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to a couple things that do matter here, certainly our policy towards Ukraine, our policy towards Crimea.

I think either administration, Democrat or Republican, Obama -- or normally a Republican administration, would say, Russia, big bear, hold back, don`t be grabbing back those countries on your border so easily. You got back Crimea. We will fight about that. But certainly don`t make any moves on the larger part of Ukraine.

Now we get the sense that the platform in the Republican Convention this year, the plank dealing with that, was changed. And look at this. During the same week that Trump aides spoke with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland during the Republican Convention, the Trump campaign watered down an amendment to the party platform that supported Ukraine against Russian aggression.

Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, at the time denied responsibility for the change, as did Trump, himself. But Trump also defended Russia`s right to seize Crimea from Ukraine.

Here he is.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Everybody on the platform committee had said it came from the Trump campaign. If not you, who?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, it absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.

TODD: So, nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

MANAFORT: No one. Zero.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?

TRUMP: I wasn`t involved in that. You know, the people of Crimea, from what I have heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.


MATTHEWS: Well now Politico is reporting that a Ukrainian operative with suspected ties to Russian intelligence consulted with Paul Manafort during the campaign and told political operatives in Ukraine that he played a role in changing that platform language.

So, Ken, what do we make of this? If they softened up the Republican platform -- that`s usually the more hawkish party -- softened them up because they got inside operatives in the Republican operation here, we ought to know about that.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Well, they`re quick to say that, in fact, the language in the platform ended up being tougher than it was before this amendment was proposed. It wasn`t as tough as this amendment.

MATTHEWS: Well, not thanks to them.

VOGEL: Right. Oh, certainly.

And we have reporting that does suggest that, in fact, there were representatives of the Trump campaign who did play a role in watering down that proposed amendment that would have been much tougher. So, it`s yet another example where they come out with a blanket denial. They say, we didn`t have anything to do with the platform.

Turns out they did. We didn`t -- Flynn says to the vice president of all people, I didn`t talk about the sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Turns out he did. Sessions tells the Judiciary Committee, I didn`t talk with any Russians.


VOGEL: Turns out he did.

The biggest problem for me is that they just cannot get their stories straight here.

MATTHEWS: And if it comes out, Congressman, that -- and you might be one of the first to know it on the Intelligence Committee -- that there was a positive role by the Trump people in getting the Russians to do what they did in terms of screwing up the Democrats in the general election, with all the hacking and everything, if it comes out that they played a role in that, would that be impeachable?

CASTRO: If, at the end of the investigation, it`s found that the president`s advisers played a role in aiding the Russians who interfered with the election and that the president knew about it, then that is historically significant and it`s a betrayal of our democracy.

And, certainly, I think many people would move for impeachment.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.

Thank you, Ken Vogel, for your amazing reporting these days.

Up next, it`s International Women`s Day. And while they have rallies around the country right now, they`re going on, the homeland security secretary is considering a plan that would actually separate mothers from their children -- remember "Sophie`s Choice"? -- if they cross into this country illegally. A debate over that proposal is coming up next.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Around the world, people are celebrating International Women`s Day today. Here in the United States, organizers of January`s Women`s March on Washington used this occasion to plan a national demonstration called A Day Without a Woman -- or women. It`s plural there.

Thousands of women abstained from their -- there`s a great word -- abstained from their day jobs and took to the streets.

That`s a live picture we`re looking at right now, right now, from New York outside the Trump SoHo hotel. They`re rallying against the discrimination and division that they say the president espouses.

Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s important that the country know that women are standing together against hate and division and discrimination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, what we have to do now is do what we can, which is protest and stand up, and let the country and our elected leaders know what`s important to us. And so that`s what we`re doing.


MATTHEWS: Well, in the capital, here in Washington, several female Democratic lawmakers symbolically staged a walkout in support. There they are in red, 21 members of the Congress.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We know one thing for sure, that, when women succeed, America succeeds.


MATTHEWS: Well, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump honored the day by dropping in on his wife`s luncheon and tweeting: "On International Women`s Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America and around the world. And I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy."

Well, the tweets drew immediate criticism because of Trump`s record on women.

His administration is also under scrutiny for its lack of gender diversity, its intention to defund Planned Parenthood, and the plan floated by the homeland security secretary to separate women and children who cross the border illegally.

In an interview earlier this week, Secretary John Kelly confirmed the administration was considering that proposal. Here he is.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Our Department of Homeland Security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads?

JOHN KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Yes, I am considering -- in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now for more is Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino, and Republican strategist and former campaign manager for Mitt Romney Katie Packer. Both are MSNBC conservative.

So, you have the tough job now.


MATTHEWS: How do you -- I mean, I guess we have to talk about it, because it sounds like "Sophie`s" -- not "Sophie`s Choice." It`s not Hitlerian.

But the idea of separating children from their mothers, obviously, they have broken the law. They`re alleged to have broken the law, come across the border. They may be asylum seekers. We don`t know. They may be just poor people looking for a job. We don`t know, or trying to meet some relative here. We don`t know.

But the idea of putting out the word, hey, we`re going to separate you from your kids as a way of saying, we`re going to make you pay for this.

KATIE PACKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly, the notion of separating children from their parents...

MATTHEWS: As a punitive action? As a punitive action?

PACKER: ... has a very unseemly -- as a punitive action, is very unseemly.

What I understand, though, about what he`s talking about is, there is an angle to this that`s trying to address the child trafficking issue, that it`s not just separating children from their parents.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what he said, though.


PACKER: Separating children from adults.

MATTHEWS: But he said parents from...

PACKER: I understand that.

MATTHEWS: Well, are you helping him here? Are you helping him? That`s not what he said.

PACKER: I`m saying that there might be -- there might be an angle there that could be sort of salvageable. But this notion of taking children away from their parents is...


MATTHEWS: That is the -- you`re very good at this, Katie.

But I got tell you, for flackery, that may work, but I think we`re talking about the mothers carrying a baby, carrying an 8-year-old.

PACKER: Well, adults carrying a baby. How do you know whether it`s a parent?


MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s interesting is, what -- what you`re referring to is Secretary Kelly is also looking at this idea that, if a parent has someone bringing over their child, that they`re going to charge the parent with human trafficking.

That`s just as bad. So, this idea that we are -- and the majority of the people that are coming right now from South America are fleeing sexual violence, violence themselves.


MATTHEWS: What countries?

KUMAR: El Salvador and Honduras primarily. And they`re not only going to the United States.

They`re also going to Costa Rica. They`re going to Belize. They`re going to places where they mostly already have family members. And that`s why they`re making...


MATTHEWS: What do you make of this proposal that -- to punish people for crossing the border illegally, that we separate them from their children?

KUMAR: It`s cruel. It`s cruel. And it`s anti-American. It`s not what...


MATTHEWS: Do you think that will discourage people from coming here? That`s what he`s saying. He`s saying it`s a deterrent.

KUMAR: Right. That`s he thinks.

But, at the end of the day, if you`re a mother, you`re trying to get to safety for your family, America has always been that beacon of hope. Most of these folks are actually refugees. And they`re saying, you know what, even if I have to get separated, I will do it.

The problem is, is that even Amnesty International has found that a lot of these detention systems are completely abhorrent. They`re anti a lot of international rights.

MATTHEWS: So, what should the U.S. government do?

KUMAR: They should actually process asylum seekers and they should have those conversations.

MATTHEWS: Well, if they`re not asylum seekers, if they`re not, what do you do with the ones who are not seeking asylum?


KUMAR: The majority of them are.

MATTHEWS: But what about the ones who aren`t? What do you do with them?

KUMAR: Well, you should still -- you should still process them and basically send them back.

I think everybody can believe that -- everybody believes that we need to have secure borders, but we have to do it in a way that is not cruel.

MATTHEWS: Let`s do -- you`re always good at this.


PACKER: It`s not going to happen. It`s not going to happen, because it`s not good policy and it`s not good politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask her about the difference between a -- can I talk to you for a second, ask you a question?

What`s the difference between a Republican view of International Women`s Day and a Democrat`s view? What`s the difference, from your point of view, from a party point of view?

PACKER: Well, I think that, for Republicans, everybody`s feeling a little sort of protested out.

Like, every day, there`s some new protest. And at some point, you say to yourself, you know, when is there going to be sort of a general discussion of the things that you actually object to, instead of just this daily protesting of everything that Trump does? And you can`t hear anything, because...


MATTHEWS: What was your reaction to -- what was your reaction to Trump`s comments, first of all, rapists, Mexicans are rapists, and Islamic people are terrorists, and women -- let`s talk about what he talked about.


PACKER: Look, I don`t think that Donald Trump is a great vessel for...


MATTHEWS: Well, no, Billy Bush, was who listening and fluffing him on, you might say, gets fired. Trump gets elected president. Doesn`t that sort of amaze you?

PACKER: Right. It does amaze me.

MATTHEWS: After that conversation about women?

PACKER: Absolutely, it amazes me.

And it makes him a very flawed vessel for a comment like he made today.

MATTHEWS: Did you vote for him?

PACKER: There`s a lot of work that he needs to do.

MATTHEWS: Did you vote for him?

PACKER: I have very publicly said I did not vote for him.


MATTHEWS: Yes, I know you didn`t. But go ahead.


KUMAR: Well, and I think what he brought on, the way he brought on sexual violence into a conversation allowed people to have for the first time a conversation between their spouses and their loved ones. But, at the same time, what he signals was that it almost didn`t matter. And as...


MATTHEWS: Because he won.

KUMAR: Because he won.

MATTHEWS: And 42 percent of women voted for him.

KUMAR: And there was no consequences; 53 percent of white women voted for him, too.

And so it`s like -- so, there was no consequences to those actions. And I think the reason that people keep marching is that they are -- these are folks that may not have voted and, all of a sudden, are coming into the political process and saying, wait, what do we do next? And so our job is to harness that.

MATTHEWS: You know what I learned?

KUMAR: What did you learn?

MATTHEWS: A couple women I work with around here, not closely, but I hear them in the hallway when they talk. And they say, men are all like that.

And I go, no, they`re not.


MATTHEWS: They`re not like that. They`re not like that.

PACKER: More are like that than you think.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s possible, because you just defined the possibility of it. Than I think? Yes, you win the argument. Thank you.


KUMAR: But you know what?

But back again, for the very first time, Trump lost young white men.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, millennials have good values. Millennials have good values. Maria, we all know that one.

Anyway, Maria Teresa Kumar and Katie Packer. Katie Packer, what a great name. Up next -- Katie Packer.

Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable will be here, and, tonight, separating fact from fiction and getting at the truth in the Trump era. That`s what we`re going to talk about, finding the nonfiction in the fiction.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.

The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.

REPORTER: I guess my question is why should Americans trust you when you`ve accused information they receive of being fake when you`re providing information --

TRUMP: Well, I don`t know, I was given that information.

REPORTER: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Actually, I`ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory.



Covering the president can be a challenging thing, especially when trying to distinguish the truth from the alternative facts in a White House where its occupant has called the press the opposition.

Well, yesterday in the White House briefing, "Reuters" correspondent Ayesha Roscoe asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer whether the president`s tweets should be taken seriously. This after the White House wouldn`t provide evidence that former President Obama wiretapped President Trump`s phones during the 2016 campaign -- as Trump claimed Saturday morning.


AYESHA ROSCOE, REUTERS REPORTER: Is the White House position that the president can make declarative statements about a former president basically committing a crime and then the congressional committee should look into that and basically prove it?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is not a question of prove it, is that they have the resources and the clearances and the staff to fully and thoroughly and comprehensively investigate this. And then issue a report as to what their findings are.

ROSCOE: So, but President Trump`s Twitter statement shouldn`t be taken at face value about what --

SPICER: Sure, it should. Of course -- why -- no. There`s nothing, as I mentioned to Jim, it`s not that he`s walking anything back or regretting it, he`s just saying that they have the appropriate venue.


MATTHEWS: So, how does a journalist get to the truth in the age of Trump?

Joining me in the HARDBALL roundtable tonight, three reporters who cover politics and the White House. Ayesha Roscoe is White House correspondent, you just saw her there, for "Reuters", who asked that question, went back and forth with Spicer. David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Laura Bassett is senior political reporter with the "Huffington Post."

Ayesha, that questioning, like -- I`m not going to be passionate, that`s smart question about a press secretary who`s definitely out of his element. He obviously doesn`t believe his nonsense about the president accusing the previous president of wiretapping him yet he has to say things -- I think you almost caught him there, should we take it as face value? I thought you`d almost get him to say no. But, of course, I take it at face value. Of course we have to submit it to Congress to see if that`s true or not.

ROSCOE: Well, I think --

MATTHEWS: That doesn`t make any sense.

ROSCOE: Yes, that was the point of the questioning. They came out with a statement after the Twitter statements which were declared, you know, President Trump said, "I was wiretapped, President Obama did it basically." Then now, the White House is saying, oh, committees have to look into it and have to see whether they`re concerned.


ROSCOE: So, that`s what I was trying to get at was, well, should we take the Twitter statements which were declarative and didn`t raise any concerns. They said this happened. Should we take that at face value?

MATTHEWS: Laura, where do -- suppose Trump said the president, the previous president snuck into the White House last night and stole my hamburgers. I mean, something really ridiculous. Then say we`re going to let the House and Senate Intelligence Committee examine it.

I mean, the stuff he -- the claims are just -- at what point is Spicer or anybody just says I can`t take this job anymore, this is stupid, this isn`t worthy of my time, I`m going to end up looking like a liar here?

LAURA BASSETT, HUFFINGTON POST: Right. I mean, I think that the problem for, at least for the media, is it`s almost impossible to fact check some of this stuff.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t care.

BASSETT: Because, yes, then Kellyanne Conway can go on TV and say, well, you know, we say, well, did you get this from a Breitbart story or not? And she says, well, he`s privy to intelligence that most people don`t know and information that most people don`t know and the president should be. And so, how do you fact-check that when she says there`s information that we just don`t know?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You can`t fact check crazy. I mean, that`s -- and the thing is, you know, I`ve seen people acting as if they`re surprised by this. You and I know there`s nothing to be surprised about this. He did this for three years about birtherism. He did this about the crowds in the inauguration. He did this about Ted Cruz`s dad --

MATTHEWS: And the 3 million Mexicans who voted against him in California.

CORN: I mean, he does this again and again and again. But then we act as he`s a rational actor and now --

MATTHEWS: OK. So, what are you supposed to do?

CORN: -- we asked reasonable questions. I think -- I mean, maybe --

MATTHEWS: Ayesha, it isn`t like the old Ethiopia where every headline began, lion of Judah said this morning and print it as if it`s true. What are you supposed to do?

ROSCOE: I think you have to keep asking the questions. I think you have to ask tough questions. You have to, you know, if they say things that maybe don`t seem to add up, you have to ask them for clarity and then you have to do your own digging. I think it`s important for us as journalists to make sure that we`re providing readers with the facts.


ROSCOE: With what we know.

MATTHEWS: When do you get a no on this? I`ve been saying the Congress` job is to give him a nay. They can`t just let this sit out there, oh, we`re going to consider six months from now, a year from now. They`re not doing anything, not checking this stuff out. They say, oh, we`re going to buy Xerox machines and hire some lawyers and get officers assigned, and in about six months, we`ll get down to business, ten years later we might have -- Congress does not move lickety-split.

BASSETT: I mean, I thought their response to the whole wiretapping thing was really awkward. All of them were put in an incredibly awkward position of saying, I don`t quite believe what the president`s saying, but he`s still the president, OK, we`ll look into it.

MATTHEWS: One guy had some guts, had some balls to put it bluntly. That was McCain. One guy --

BASSETT: McCain --

MATTHEWS: -- called him on it.

CORN: Yes.

BASSETT: Yes, he`s all but one.

MATTHEWS: As much as he may be bitter against Obama, I think he really has contempt for Trump.

CORN: Well, he said that Trump is obligated to prove this. I think that`s a pretty fair statement. You accuse the former president of breaking the law.


CORN: It just shows you how far the Republican establishment has gone in self-emasculation.


CORN: They will not even -- if crazy is right in front of them and it`s two plus two, they`ll say, maybe it is five because we don`t have all the facts.

MATTHEWS: Are they afraid of getting a nickname? What are they afraid of?

CORN: I talked to one House Democrat who`s trying to get a Republican on the bill that Trump wouldn`t like and the guy said I can`t do it, Trump will start tweeting at me. They`re afraid of Trump. They`re afraid of the base has been Trumpified.

And so, they`re running scared. They want him around to sign the Medicare privatization bills and whatever they come up with, anything in health care. So, they can`t -- listen, once you say the president is nuts, there`s no going back from that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but some of this, I would hope, would penetrate to the 35 percent. Do you think it will?

ROSCOE: I think -- I mean, I think --

MATTHEWS: Will it penetrate to objective people that are reasonably objective?

ROSCOE: I think people can be logical and look at what`s happening and draw their conclusions. I think especially when, you know, the rubber hits the road and you have to start looking at policies and what`s going to come out.

MATTHEWS: I wonder if it`s like when you get married to someone, you realize they`re different than the one that courted you and you go, but I`m still stuck.

BASSETT: It`s not different, though. He was like this the whole campaign.

CORN: Yes, that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you smart? Thank you.

The roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. I should have known that.


MATTHEWS: Well, this just in, Hillary Clinton posted a video message to Snapchat urging her supporters to keep up their fight. Take a look.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There`s a lot to fight for, Planned Parenthood, education, health care, jobs, every issue is a woman`s issue. So, stand up, resist, run for office, be a champion.


MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, Secretary Clinton will mark International Women`s Day with a speech at the Kennedy Center ceremony for Vital Voices, a woman`s leadership group that she founded.

And we`ll be back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Ayesha, tell me something. God, you`re amazing, you take on Spicer. Just wrap him. Go ahead.

ROSCOE: Well, in honor of Women`s Day, speaking of one of the most powerful women in international politics, German Chancellor Merkel is coming here to the White House next week. We`re hearing that top on the agenda is going to be Ukraine and Russia, and also that President Trump might press her on getting Germany to pay its fair share on NATO. So, it would be --

MATTHEWS: I will think Germany would have paid early.

ROSCOE: Yes. Well, it will be interesting to see with how she deals with President Trump.

MATTHEWS: She`s his equal by any standard.


CORN: You mentioned John McCain a few minutes ago because he took a strong stand on this wiretapping stuff. He`s also taken a strong stand on the Russian stuff. The White House is enraged about John McCain and they are trying to find ways to politically marginalize him and elevate other voices within the party like senator named Tom Cotton. They want McCain sidelined.

MATTHEWS: I like that. I`m with McCain on that one.

BASSETT: So, I get --

MATTHEWS: By the way, McCain will never be forgotten for what he did with that woman accused Obama of being an Arab.


CORN: That was a great moment.

MATTHEWS: He stood to her. That`s profile in courage stuff. Trump hasn`t done one of those yet.

BASSETT: I talked to health experts about Trumpcare today and what it would do.

MATTHEWS: You`re saying it, aren`t you?

BASSETT: I`m saying Trumpcare. I`m owning.

MATTHEWS: That`s like people wouldn`t say Reagan Airport for years, but you`re saying Trumpcare right away. Go ahead.

BASSETT: Yes. So, it does -- it restricts abortion in four different ways and defunds Planned Parenthood.

MATTHEWS: Explain the abortion piece.

BASSETT: Basically, it would drive abortion insurance completely out of the market so there wouldn`t be an option for women to have abortion coverage anymore and it defunds Planned Parenthood.

MATTHEWS: Totally?

BASSETT: The health experts said it would drive up unintended pregnancies which hit --

MATTHEWS: So it would do away with all birth control help for people.

BASSETT: Exactly. And have the opposite --

MATTHEWS: I think that is a counter effort for the pro-life people. They should back birth control.

BASSETT: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think if you believe in avoiding abortion, anyway.

Ayesha Roscoe, thank you. Please come back.

ROSCOE: Oh, thank you.

MATTHEWS: David Corn, always. And Laura Bassett, yes. I`m out of good words.

When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

We have a man in the White House who thinks nothing -- that`s a phrase to keep handy -- thinks nothing of speaking nastily and outrageously about his predecessor. And why not? When he called Obama an illegal immigrant from Kenya, the Republican speaker of the house said it wasn`t his job to tell people how to think. And with him now calling the former president a criminal, no leader up there in the Congress is willing to come out and throw water on the president`s fish story.

This isn`t about how big he says his hands are or how many people he can see on the Washington Mall or how many elusive illegal voters he says were out there last November. It`s about truth and untruth, the truth that the Russians helped him win the election, the untruth that President Obama had him bugged.

I understand why his people want this accusation of his to disappear on Capitol Hill. It`s an old trick. It`s what Spiro Agnew did when he faced indictment for accepted bribes for Maryland contractors. He headed to the speaker asking him to be tried by the Congress. He figured the case would be buried.

Well, he didn`t get away with it because a big guy named Tip O`Neill blew the whistle and sent him back to the courts who did the right thing and ran him, Spiro Agnew, out of politics.

Let`s hope the leaders of Congress today will have the stuff to tell Donald Trump to take his bugging accusation and stuff it back where he got it.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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